Saturday, May 7, 2011

My First Fancy Cake

So, I posted a few days ago about making Marshmallow Fondant. Well, I didn't just make it cause I felt like making a tasty mess, I had a project in mind. I was making a surprise groom's cake for Justin's friend Josh's wedding today. It all started as kind of a joke, but then being that I had always wanted to learn how to do cakes with fondant, I figured now was as good a time as any to give it a try.

First, I made 4 batches (Good Gosh!) of my favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery in London. While this cake is delicious, the recipe is in metric measurements (a.k.a. grams and ounces), so in order to make the recipe, I had to first weigh everything - a big pain in the patoot. And I had to do it in 4 separate batches because I had tried doubling the recipe once before and it didn't turn out like it should. So, I would mix a batch, then put it in the pan; mix another batch and put in in the pan with the previous batch. It took 2 batches to make one layer of cake in my 13x9 pan, so it took 4 to have a 2 layer cake, follow me? Anyway, lots of work with mixing, yaddah yaddah. I used my favorite recipe for cream cheese frosting from my friend Angela instead of the one from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe, which is incredibly fickle - besides, Angela's icing is seriously delicious. I wanted to sit with the bowl and a spoon and just eat it all.

So, I layered the cake and put cream cheese frosting in the middle. Then, I cut out the pieces to reveal the neck of the cake. My cake's top needed to be taller, so I pieced an extra bit of cake and attached it with some toothpicks. Here was my cake after it was carved.
Then I covered the cake with the cream cheese frosting to "crumb coat" it. This gives the fondant something to stick to so it doesn't slide around on you. *Speaking after the fact, I put to much frosting on. It was squirting out the sides at the base when I was smoothing the fondant, so learn from my mistake ... make it a thin coat.
Next, I had to roll out my fondant, which was quite the mess and it really does take a lot of space. It literally took up my whole counter.
After rolling out the fondant, I smoothed it over the cake and cut it to fit. I even had to try to smooth out my seams on the corners, which was easier said than done. I was beginning to wonder if this is one of the reasons why most cake makers don't like to use marshmallow fondant...

Next, I had to paint my cake, which was the recommendation of my cake making friend Leigh. She had made this same cake before, plus had lots of experience with fondant, and she said I should just paint it or my colors would not be right. So, paint it I did. I used food coloring gel mixed with vodka - also a tip from Leigh. She said that water leaves the fondant sticky when it dries, but the vodka just evaporates, leaving it dry. She was very right.
Here was my painting set up.
After getting my first coat of color on, I decided the cake needed to be a little more brown, but was having a hard time getting the right color, so I got a little experimental and used some of my favorite Mexican vanilla. For those of you who don't know, vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in vodka, so it also evaporated leaving the surface dry. Plus, it made it taste awesome :)

After I got the cake completely painted, I mixed some black food coloring into some more fondant to at least give it a body color other than white - I didn't want the white to show at all. It took lots of coloring and it still was only a purple color and it was very dry and brittle, so I wouldn't recommend it. I rolled out another piece of fondant and cut out two pieces in the sizes I needed. I put a little bit of icing on the cake where I wanted the black fondant to go so it would stick, and I smoothed it out. Next, I had to paint it black. Man was that a challenge. You have no idea how much food coloring it takes to really achieve black black until you try it yourself. And mine was actually a greenish black unless I coated it on thick. I ended up mixing it with the vodka and vanilla and letting it evaporate a bit into more of a thick goo. This made it so much easier to get it to stick to the sides and it made a nice, even coat. This was the most challenging part of my cake.

After my painting was finished, all that remained was to write on it. I printed out a picture of the real deal so I could try to copy it and did some practice runs on my plates. I've never been very confident in my writing on cakes, so I really didn't want to mess it up. So now, the jig is up, I was making a Jack Daniel's cake :)
Here was the finished product:

It may not be exactly like the real thing, but it was certainly close enough to tell what it is at a glance. I have to admit, I am quite proud of my first cake. I've never worked with fondant before or done anything this detailed in my life, but it really did come out great. It did, however, take absolutely forever! I easily have a full 24 hours in this cake with making all the components and then assembling and decorating the cake. I have a new found appreciation for those who do this all the time and love it. I may have complained like crazy at the time, but I was very happy with the results and I loved everyones reaction at the wedding. Everyone loved it, most especially Josh, which was who I mainly made it for.
So, congratulations Josh and Brittany. I hope you enjoyed your wedding and enjoy eating your cake later :) Congratulations!

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