Intro: Romantic Skyrim-inspired "Amulet of Mara" Cake!
This is a cake that is topical twice over: just in time for Valentine's Day, but also just in time to celebrate the release of the new Skyrim DLC, "Dragonborn"! RAWR!
For those who don't know, the Amulet of Mara is an item in the video game "Skyrim" that (theoretically) allows you to take the hand of any eligible bachelor/bachelorette of your choosing. My personal experiences with this item were cruel and cutting: the first time I attempted to marry my in-game wife Mjoll, the game glitched and she never showed up to our wedding. I was left standing there in front of half a dozen NPCs, twiddling my thumbs, totally jilted. I reloaded and tried again; this time, after the wedding she wordlessly walked out and disappeared from the game entirely. I ran through Riften looking for her, and only found creepy Aerin walking alone, telling me how he's "never seen Mjoll's this upset," etc. Mmm. Thanks, buddy.
This Instructable will show you how to make your own edible Amulet of Mara to go atop a romantic cake or giant cookie or humongous sweetroll. Give it to your Skyrim-loving sweetie and hopefully they will treat you better than Mjoll did me.
Please excuse the photo quality; my cake workspace is on a desk in the corner of a room in a basement and it's hard to get any natural light!
Fondant (I used about 5oz)
CMC or Tylose
Food colouring (yellow and blue at the very least)
Gold, brown and black luster dust
Vodka or Lemon Extract (or any clear grain alcohol)
A set of clay or fondant modelling tools (optional but extremely helpful)
A very small paint brush and some water
Step 1: Prepare Your Cake!
I didn't put a recipe here because it doesn't really matter what you want to put the amulet on, as long as there's sufficient flat space. If you're looking for recommendations, I trust Dorie Greenspan, Rose Levy Beranbaum, and Deb Perelman with my life. I made a heart-shaped vanilla buttermilk cake and covered it in fondant, gave it a cobblestone texture, and painted it up a bit. (Fondant isn't necessary for covering the whole cake though!) Make sure you have your cake or at least your cake pans so you know what scale to make your amulet. Also, the final assembly of the amulet is done on the cake, so fondant/buttercream needs time to set up before you do that.
Step 2: Decide Your Scale!
Find a reference picture you like. Using a set of concentric circular cookie cutters, the open end of piping tips, or any other circular cutting devices you can scrounge up, decide what sizes you'll need to make your amulet. You need two circles of each of the three sizes of the smaller plates, plus two circles of the larger size for the amulet itself. I arranged mine in the shape of the amulet to give me a better perspective.
Step 3: Colour Your Fondant!
NOTE: This could also be done with gumpaste. If you're using gumpaste, skip the CMC!
You only need two colours of fondant for this project: a brown-y yellow and a turquoise. The amount of fondant you need is highly dependent on the size of amulet you're doing. Think of how many pieces you need to cut out, then roll out a piece of white fondant to see if they'll all fit with that amount. Add about 30% for making the amulet and chain details. You only need the blue to make 3 small-ish gems, so judge it by eye.
If you make the yellow fondant too bright yellow, you're going to get a very bright gold as the end result, and that's not what we want. This is an antique-y type deal, so give it a brown undertone. The turquoise should be as close in colour to the gemstone as possible.
Take about half of your yellow and half of your blue, and start mixing in a little bit of CMC or Tylose thickener at a time. CMC and Tylose are thickeners that make the fondant dry harder and faster. You should start with only half of your fondant for now because CMC reduces the working life of the fondant and can become crumbly and dry as it sits while you're working with only part of your batch, so we only want to add the CMC to what we need right now. Add it in 1/8th of a teaspoon at a time, making sure to work it fully into the fondant before adding more. As soon as the fondant feels a bit stronger, stop adding.
Step 4: Make the Plates!
Sprinkle your work surface with cornstarch. Roll out your fondant to 1/6”-1/4”. The amulet is a pretty hearty piece so it doesn't need to be too thin and delicate. Cut out all your pieces, let them dry for 5-10 minutes before moving them so that they hold their shape. Place them on a tray that you can set aside while you keep working. Feel free to make a couple of extras in case of mishaps.
Take one of your circles for the amulet and cut out a circle inside it, leaving a large open “O” shape. This will go on top of the other circle as a border. You want to make this cut once the piece is already on the tray, because lifting up a hollow O shape made from fresh fondant is just asking for it to stretch out of shape.
Step 5: Make the Connecting Piece!
Because I wanted an exact size, I took some of the yellow fondant and pressed it into a rounded paint pallet to get the rounded shape. Then, I took the piping tip in the size I desired and cut out a section from the rounded piece and shaped it to my specifications. You could probably just roll it in your hands, though.
Using a long, thin tool (even a toothpick could work) score in the curvy vertical lines. Set it aside to dry.
Step 6: Make Your Turquoise Gems!
There are two ways to make the gems. I used both.
First way: Roll a ball of turquoise fondant in your hands and shape it to give you the half-sphere shape of the gem. Let that dry for about an hour until it's quite hard. Then, roll out a disc of yellow fondant and press the gem into that to make the setting.
Second way: If you have a gem or button mold around (I made my own), press just enough of the blue fondant into the mold to not quite fill the gem section. Give it a couple of minutes to firm up a bit, and then take a small disc of yellow fondant and press it in to fill the setting section. Turn the jewel out of the mold and trim off any excess yellow with the small sharp tool of your choice. Let dry fully, 3-4 hours.
The first way is faster and doesn't require a mold, but the second way gives you a cleaner result. Both ways look nice.
With either method, cut out a thin strip of your yellow fondant and use a tiny bit of water to attach four small rectangles around the edges of your centre jewel to “hold it in” to the setting.
Step 7: First Stage of Painting!
The amulet has two distinct colours of gold on it: one, a darker brown-y gold on the bottom pieces, and the other, the lighter gold for the top decorations. Before continuing with making the pieces, it makes it much easier and much cleaner if you paint the bottom pieces now. I used a Royal Gold luster dust and mixed in a bit of brown for my highlight; for the darker one, I added in more brown and a touch of black. Mix in enough vodka or lemon extract to give it a consistency you like painting with. If you add too much liquid, just leave the mixture for 5-10 minutes; the alcohol evaporates very quickly and you can try again.
It's important to see what the colour looks like on the fondant itself, so use one of the extra pieces you cut out to see if the colour needs adjusting. Paint the bottom of the amulet, three circles on each of the plates, and the deep lines in the connecting piece with your dark gold.
Step 8: Adorn the Plates!
NOTE: The next few steps are a bit hard to explain in words, so the pictures probably provide better guidance.
Take half of the yellow fondant you have left and mix in some CMC the way you did with the first batch. Load it into a clay extruder (very necessarily one that is used only for food projects) fitted with a small round tip. Extrude a few inches of fondant and use scissors to neatly cut it off. Snip off a section about two inches in length. Make a small scroll at the end of your little snake, then wrap it around one of the painted circles on your plate and cut off the extra. Repeat this twice more, then add in the miniature scrolls that go in between. I didn't copy the pattern exactly, but continued with smaller scrolls on the other plates. Depending on how dry your fondant and your paint are, you might have to use a tiny bit of water to stick it down firmly. Once all your scrolls are on, set it aside to dry for an hour or so.
Step 9: Decorate the Amulet!
Take the border piece and apply it on top of your bottom amulet piece using a bit of water to secure it. While this is drying a bit, take some of the yellow fondant mixed with CMC, roll it out and cut out thin strips. I would recommend making these thinner than I did because I think it would have looked cleaner at the end. Forming the interlocking infinity symbols on the interior of the amulet is about as fiddly work as it can be; I made my first symbol, then lifted the edge and passed another strip through the loop to make the next one. You can place your jewel in the center as a guide.
To make the pointed loops that sit on top of these infinity symbols, sketch the shape out on a piece of paper, making sure it's to scale with the rest of the amulet. Mix in extra CMC to this portion of your fondant--because it's going to be suspended over the edges, it needs to be extra hard. Cut thin strips as before. Form each loop atop the sketch to make sure that they're all the same size and shape, then slide it off the paper onto a tray. Let these dry *completely*, preferably over night. Impatient me did not do this, and there is slight wilting in the final product because of it.
Step 10: Make Jump Rings and Chains!
This is the final step before you can put it up for the night and let all the pieces dry fully. Cut out more thin strips and form about 15 jump rings—enough that you will have plenty of extra in case of dropping, squishing, etc. They don't have to be firmly closed because you'll be cutting them tomorrow anyway, but they need to dry in a circular shape.
For the chain, I chose to make tear-drop shaped links for convenience. Cut out 16-20 same-length pieces of your thin strips and cover them with press-and-seal to keep them from drying out while you work. Make your first loop and close it fully with a dab of water to seal it. Take the next small segment and run it through the loop, and close it the same way. Repeat as many times as necessary, making two segments of the chain—one for each end of the necklace.
Once this is done, set all the pieces aside and go to bed. Let them dry for about 12 hours (or more!).
Step 11: Finish the Amulet and Final Paint!
Apply the pointed loops to the top of your amulet, securing them with a bit of water. If you are a villain and didn't let the piece dry fully (>.>), you can use small pieces of well corn-starched fondant to keep the pieces up while they continue to dry. Add a drop of water and apply your jewel to the middle.
Using your lighter gold coloured dust, paint all the rest of the details. Any yellow unpainted fondant at this point should be covered with the lighter gold. Don't forget your chains and rings! Once the light gold has dried, you can go back in with a bit of your dark colour to add shading and depth.
Step 12: Steam!
This is an optional step, but it really adds to the final outcome. Steaming fondant helps to lightly blend luster dusts and set the colour, as well as adding a shine. It definitely adds to the metallic glean of jewelry.
To steam fondant, put a pot of water on the stove over medium heat until it's simmering (or be mad lazy and use a kettle.) Hold each piece in the steam for about 3-4 seconds, being careful not to burn yourself. If you can't stand the heat, it's okay to just pass each piece through the steam several times. DO NOT leave the fondant in the steam for more than the recommended time, because it will start to melt and there is nothing you can do to fix it at that point. I didn't bother steaming the chains or the jump rings; that's a bit on the fussy side unless you have a garment steamer, in which case, have at it!
Step 13: Final Assembly (whew!)
Get your cake and all your pieces together. Lay out on top of the cake how you'd like them arranged. Once you have them where you want, lift them and apply a small dab of water and place them back down. You don't need much. Do the same with your chain, draping it to lend a little bit of movement.
Finally, take your jump rings and cut them roughly in half. I poked tiny holes where I wanted the jump rings to "connect" the pieces. but you can mark the points however you like. Using a tiny dab of water, stand the jump rings up with each end touching one of your marks. Cut a tiny piece of the ring and wedge it between the amulet pieces flat against the cake to give the illusion that the ring goes all the way through. (I didn't take a picture of this last step, unfortunately D: )
(You'll notice in the pictures my jump rings were unpainted when I did this step. I wanted to paint them afterwards to avoid fingerprints, but that was a big mistake. Trying to paint them once they were on the cake was a nightmare.)
Step 14: Give to Your Sweetroll OR Devour!
That's it! The gifting part is on you. There's no need to throw the amulet away once you cut into the cake, either; because it's essentially just sugar, it will last for years if stored away from humidity and direct sunlight (although you probably won't want to eat it years later.)
This was the first time I've made this particular project, so while doing it, I sort of jumped around a lot. I tried to organize the steps into the most logical and efficient order but if something isn't clear or you have questions feel free to ask!