Notice my contact info to the right, if you want to contact me with any questions. I would also like to say that I do attempt to give credit where credit is due. I do not make any claims to cakes in my blog except the ones in my slideshow. If I show a cake I will try to post some type of identifer with it, however, if I don't know who posted the cake it is impossible for me to do that. I am only using the cake to illustrate a specific technique.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Getting started with Fondant Part 2

You should now have your fondant (either pre-made or from scratch), and your tools. One tool I forgot to mention is either a ruler or yardstick to measure your fondant. So let's get started. What you do with the fondant depends on your cake design. For simplicities sake, we are just doing a simple fondant covered cake.

The first thing you need to do is decide on colors (if you didn't color your fondant when you were making it. This is pretty simple. All you have to do is dip a toothpick in some icing color and poke the toothpick into the fondant. You then knead the fondant until the color is dispersed through the fondant to your liking (either one solid color or less kneading for a marbled effect). If you want it darker simply add more color (use a different toothpick to avoid contaminating your icing colors). If you fondant seems too wet, simply add a little powdered sugar, or if too dry a little shortening or water. Ok, colored fondant ready. Let's go.

If you decided to get "The Mat", great. Place it on your rolling surface. This is very important, so please note, put very little shortening on the mat to start. You may even want to wipe it off with a dry paper towel after applying it to the mat. Too much shortening will make the fondant stick to the mat, and thus, make rolling out your fondant an unpleasurable task.

Knead you fondant until soft and pliable. Flatten out the fondant to a sort of disk shape and place on the bottom part of the mat. Put the top portion of the mat on top of the fondant. Put your rolling pin with one end of the rolling pin in the center and the other facing the outside edge of the fondant. Roll/Push the roller down and back, but only the outside edge not the center. Hold the center firm to keep it from moving. Continue to do this all the way around the fondant.

Occasionally lift the top portion of the mat to release the fondant from the mat. Flip the mat over and do the same on that side. Your fondant should measure at least the width+depth+depth. In other words, if you are working on an 8 inch cake that is 4 inches high you will need fondant that is 8"+4"+4"= 16" both vertically and horizonally. Once you fondant is rolled out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (make sure it is consistent all the way around) you are ready to put the fondant on your prepared cake.

You cakes should have a thin layer of either jam, ganache, or icing to help the fondant adhere to the cake.

It is best to have your cake either on a turntable or something else to elevate the cake off of the table surface (e.g. a coffee can, bottom of cake pan). This will allow any excess fondant to drape off the cake in a "skirt" and not bunch up at the bottom.

Using you fondant smoother, lightly rub the fondant from the center to the outside of the cake. Turn the cake and do the same all the way around.

For the top edge, you can either use your hand (using your index finger and thumb to form an "L" or two fondant smoothers to form a 90 degree angle to go around the top edge lightly pressing the fondant into the cake.

Once the top edge is smoothed, smooth the middle by pressing down gently and pulling out the bottom of the skirt. Do this all the way around the cake. Smoothing the bottom of the skirt is the most difficult. To avoid getting any pleats, work the fondant exactly like you did in the middle (rubbing with one hand while gently pulling down and lifting the skirt away from the cake. If you should happen to get a pleat, don't leave it there thinking you can get rid of it later or cover it. Not going to happen! Just pull the fondant away from the cake and work it down the side of cake again.

Once your fondant is smooth all the way around you can trim off the excess with a knife, but do not cut it too close to the cake. After most of the excess has been removed you can now place it on the countertop. Using your fondant smoother at a 90 degree angle, push the fondant smoother down into the fondant all the way around the bottom of the cake. Using the pizza cutter with the blade vertical with the cake, cut around the bottom of the cake.

To finish the cake, lift it up off the surface and using the other hand with your fondant smoother, gently rub the fondant at a 45 degree angle toward the bottom of the cake. This should leave you with a nice smooth bottom edge.

If you have any difficulty understanding the way I've written this, you can see what I mean by watching the video on the website for "The Mat". The link is posted on my blog "Getting started with Fondant Part 1".

Getting started with Fondant Part 1

Ok...I know what some of you are thinking. FONDANT...yuck. If you have had a bad experience with the taste of fondant, I'm sorry, but there are some really good fondants out there. The issue is to find them, or make your own. From what I have read, there are some really strong favorites that you can buy pre-made or make yourself. Some of these would include:





just to name a few.

I started out using Marshmallow Fondant, and I will tell you this, the chocolate marshmallow fondant tastes like tootsie rolls. Yum. There are many good recipes out there for marshmallow fondant. You could start with this one:


and just add the flavoring you want to it (raspberry, lemon, almond, vanilla, strawberry). If you are making chocolate, simply add your cocoa (about 1/2 cup) to you melted marshmallows and use less powdered sugar. Another issue with marshmallow fondant that you might accidently experience is buying the wrong ounces of marshmallows. Some bags contain 10 ounces while others contain 16. Watch the ounces, believe me, it makes a difference. I know this by personal experience. Also, marshmallow fondant works best if you leave it set overnight to cure after you make it.

Some tools you may want to get to work with fondant include a rolling pin, plastic wrap, gallon-sized food storage bags, shortening (for rolling out your fondant) a food-safe vinyl mat (you can purchase these online), you might want to try


(this isn't absolutely necessary, but it could become your favorite fondant working tool), a fondant smoother, a pizza cutter, cookie cutters for various decorations (circles, stars, squares, etc.), fondant embossers, paint brushes (for brush embroidery), food-safe wire, food-safe "popsicle" sticks and sucker sticks (for standing dry pieces up), rice krispie treats for forming 3-D figures.

Edited to add: You will also need a ruler or yardstick to measure your fondant size.

You can watch all kinds of tutorials online (check out youtube) to help you get started smoothing out fondant.

This should help you get started. If I think of anything else I'll be sure to edit this post.


The Icing on the Cake

Well...for comes the hard part...the actual decorating. Once the icing is on the cake, you have 2 choices...

1) You can either leave it all dumpy and disgusting, or
2) You can try to get that smooth as glass look.

I do hope you said number two. If you did, let's examine our choices on how to accomplish this task. If you have the advantage of years of experience, you are probably rolling on the floor laughing right now. But if you are a newbie like me, you know how frustrating it can be to get your icing smooth. Here are a few of the options I have read about or tried personally:

With your cake on a turntable (believe me, if you are a newbie, you definitely want one of these) and your cake crumbcoated...heat a pan of water to boiling. Dip your spatula or bench scraper in the hot water and wipe dry.

Apply a nice thick layer of icing on your cake's top and sides. Remember you will actually be removing a lot of it. Starting at the outer edge of the cake "sweep" the icing toward the center and lift your spatula. Scrape your spatula clean and dip again if your spatula gets to where it won't glide smoothly over the icing. Turn your turntable a little and repeat.

When you have come full circle, dip your spatula in the hot water again and dry it off. Now hold your spatula level across the cake and turn your turntable to level the center.

Now for the sides of the cake...make sure to hold the spatula or bench scraper at a 90 degree angle with the turntable. This will help insure that you have nice straight sides. Working around the cake do a preliminary leveling, until the icing is pretty smooth. Then go around again checking for straight sides. Once this is done there are a couple of methods for smoothing you might want to try.

I must first give credit where credit is due, the ideas I am about to tell you about I learned from some wonderful ladies on a great website called If it wasn't for all their helpful advice, who knows where I would be. So I am just going to link you to a couple of these methods, so I don't get them messed up.

The first, is called the Melvira Method, and you can find her instructions


The second, is called the Viva paper towel method (sorry, I don't know the original poster), and you can find it


And the third, and you probably won't believe this until you see it


I hope you find these icing tips helpful. I have tried a couple, but I still struggle with buttercream somewhat. I guess that is why I do so many fondant cakes.

But that is another post!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparing cakes for icing.

There are different ways that people do this, and I am sure someone is sitting back shaking their head saying NUH UH. But this is the way I do it, and I may find I am mistaken. If I find a better way, I'll be sure to admit my mistakes.

First I take my cooled and "settled" cakes and place them on the appropriate sized cake boards (attaching with a bit of icing).

Then I level them, and by leveling I mean leveling. I have a small level to check the cakes with. I use the small wilton leveler for small cakes taking off just enough to level, but for larger ones I place enough cake boards in the bottom of the pan to act as a pedestal for the cake.

I then slide the cake back into the pan so that just enough to level is sticking above the pan. Then keeping the knife level, I go around the top of the pan with the knife. I then slide a thin plastic cutting board or cake lifter under the part being cut off and set it off to one side (don't throw these away, I'll tell you why later).

Then I flip the cakes out onto either a cardboard cake board, foamcore board, separator plate, or wooden cake board (with icing to attach to board) that has been wrapped with cake foil. This will depend on style of cake you are doing. You can see instructions for stacking a tiered cake at the Wilton website:


For center column construction:


or Separator Plate Construction:


or globe pillar construction:


or Push-in Pillars:


There are other methods you can also find on the wilton website, these are the main ones.

After removing any dome, you need to tort the cakes. This can be done either with the wilton levelers, the Agbay (expense, but excellent), or by measuring to the middle of the cake from the bottom and putting dots of icing around the cake to follow with your knife. If you do this last method, be sure to keep you knife level at all times. Before separating put a toothpick in the top side and bottom side of cake (one above the other). Separate the two pieces with a plastic cutting board or cake leveler.

Using a basting brush, lightly brush off any crumbs that might "dirty" your icing.

Using a larger round tip, pipe a "rope" of icing around the outside edge of the bottom tier (leave about a 1/4 of cake showing on the outside lip. Fill the inside of the rope with either a firm filling or buttercream. Do not put in so much filling that it oozes passed the icing "rope".

Put on the top cake (making sure that your toothpicks match up). Put a very thin layer of icing (crumbcoat) on the outside of the cake. Let this "crust" (it will taste several minutes). After a crust has formed on the cakes, put on a thicker layer of icing.

Starting at the top, put enough icing in the center of the cake to lay down somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness evenly across the top of the cake.Starting at the outside edge, lightly sweep the icing to the center of the cake and lift. Continue doing this all the way around the cake...then smooth out center.

If you are having trouble getting it to a smooth surface, run hot water on you spatula, dry it off and continue. It is very important to keep you knife at a 90 degree angle when you are spreading the icing on the sides. This will insure you icing is the same thickeness throughout. You can also put icing on your cake with the #789 tips for the before stated reason.

Baking your cakes.

At this point you should already know the sizes of your pans and how much batter it takes to fill them from my previous blogs. You should also know how to prepare your cake pans before adding your batter. Pour in the amounts of batter from the chart into the pans (as I said earlier, if it doesn't give you the height you are looking for make a note of it on the recipe). When batter is in the pans, tap the pan on a flat surface to disspell any air bubbles. These are a bad thing. Place in center of the oven. I personally do not bake on more then one rack, I have never had good luck with this. The heat doesn't distribute well and one usually ends up not baked enough or over-baked. If I am baking a cake larger then 8-9", I most generally will reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake a few minutes longer. This helps keep them from drying out. To check for doneness there are a couple of things you can do. I will usually check with my fingers first by lightly touching the top. If the cake feels spongy, I go ahead and check with a wooden skewer or toothpick. If you place the skewer in the center of the cake and it comes out clean, your cake is done. If it comes out wet or with wet crumbs, it isn't done yet. Once the cake tests done, remove from the oven to a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. If the cake is a smaller cake, you can just turn it out onto a cardboard cake board and then reflip onto a wire rack. If it is a larger cake you may want to turn it out directly onto a heavier wire rack or a wooden cake board. I try not to let my cakes rest on the tops, because if there is a dome the cakes don't set level and will sometimes crack because of this. Once the cakes are completely cool, you can either wrap in plastic and aluminum foil and store in the freezer until you need to use them or wrap them in plastic and let them "settle" for a least a few hours to allow air pockets to settle before icing. If you don't, you could get bulging around the middle of your cake, or if you are using fondant air bubbles under your fondant. When thawing your cakes, just leave them wrapped to thaw at room temperature until completely thawed. I would also let them "settle" also for a while. Generally, I allow mine to thaw at least overnight before decorating.

How do I prepare my pans for baking?

After you know the amount of batter you will need for the size pans you have, you will then have to prepare them before you put the batter into the pans. I do this (and some do it differently) by lightly greasing the pans with shortening and by lining the pan with parchment paper. This is easily done by placing your pan on your parchment paper and going around it with a knife (not to cut it,but to indent it). Once you have scored the paper with a knife, you can cut it out with a pair of scissors. When cutting your parchment paper for the sides, you will want to cut it about 1 to 1-1/2 inches higher then the depth of the pan. So say you have a 2" pan, you would want to cut your parchment paper strip about 3-1/2" wide and long enough to go completely around the inside of the pan. When filling the pans, you would never want to fill them too full. This is why it helps to have the parchment paper extension. If you would get too much batter in the pan, the parchment keeps it from overflowing. My general rule of thumb is not to fill the pans more then 2/3 full until I have used the recipe at least once to determine how much rise you get out of a particular recipe. If you find the recipe doesn't raise a lot, you can increase the batter the next time you bake it. If it raises well, you may not want to add more. Make a note on the recipe for your next baking. You want your cake to bake as evenly as possible. There are a couple of techniques you can do to make your cakes not "dome". The first is to insert a greased flower nail (you know the nail you use to make those fancy buttercream roses with) upside-down in center of your cake pan before pouring in your batter and then baking. The second is to use BAKE EVEN STRIPS. These go around the outside of the pan to help distribute the heat more evenly. Remember the more level your cake the less you will have to level later on.

How much batter?

If you are going to be working with different sized pans with your cake design, the first essential is to know how much batter you will need to fill those pans. Wilton has prepared a chart
which may be very useful to the newbies out there.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm just a cake designing newbie.

It was only recently that I found this new passion.  I have always loved to cook and to bake.  I also have a fondness for the arts in any form whether it be the theatre, painting, sculpture, music.  But I never knew the masterpieces that one could create with food (case in point designer cakes).  So I think to myself, there has to be others like me out there that have this new found fondness for "cake sculpture".  Too bad there isn't somewhere a newbie can show-off their handiwork along with other newbies.  Oh there are sites out there, but no one understands the frustration of having this image in your head but not knowing how to get it to flow out of your head onto the cake.  So this is my little venting and educating place, just for me and my followers.  I'm not promising anything spectacular...maybe a shoulder when things aren't going as expected.  so that is it...for now.  My first ever blog!  We'll see where it goes from here.