Monday, March 9, 2015

Fun with Fondant

I've been on a cake-decorating kick lately.  It's definitely my favorite part of the whole process.  Of course, there's something satisfying about taking a piping hot cake out of the oven and snacking on scraps while it cools, and it's very gratifying to see a buttercream come through the various ugly in-between stages to develop into a fluffy cloud of whipped goodness, but really, nothing beats the beauty of a perfectly executed,  fully decorated cake.

Most recently, I had the fun of putting together my first multi-tiered cake.  My in-laws and my parents were going to be in town, and I wanted something spectacular for the weekend. After some qualms about the wisdom of turning a bundt cake recipe into a 6 inch and an 8 inch round (and baking them at the same time,) I decided to throw caution to the wind and dive right in.  Luckily, (and this happens infrequently) everything cooked appropriately and the process was disaster free. 

For those of you interested in replicating the cake, I used a recipe from Emeril (BAM!) for a Honey Spice Cake, filled it with brandied peaches, and finally topped it with a simple vanilla buttercream.

The teaching point of the post: It's okay to do this over multiple days.

I made the cake and buttercream on a Sunday.  The buttercream went into a ziplock bag and straight to the freezer.  Italian meringue buttercream can be frozen for up to 3 months (I know, right! Fantastic!) The cake was cooled, torted, wrapped HEAVILY in plastic wrap (think 4 layers) and also went into the freezer.  I had heard that cake could be frozen, but I admit, I was skeptical.  Luckily, the rumors were correct -- the texture of the cake wasn't harmed at all.

The peaches were brandied the day before the cake was assembled, and rested in the refrigerator.  The day of assembly, the buttercream and cake were taken out of the freezer early in the morning (before work,) and had defrosted completely by the time I got home.  Frozen buttercream always has to be re-whipped after thawing and before using.  Because it was still cold,however,  it didn't come together very well, and still was lumpy (ewww) even after being whipped for a few minutes.  But, not to worry! There is a fail-proof method of fixing a cold buttercream, which has saved me so many times in the past (and I expect will continue to do so well into the future.)  Heat about 2/3 cup of buttercream in the microwave until melted. Gently whip it into the main mixture.  The buttercream should (will) regain its fluffiness within sixty seconds.

Each tier was filled with peaches, with a wall of buttercream around the edges to keep the syrup in.  The whole cakes were then brushed in the syrup from the peaches, crumb coated with buttercream, chilled,  fully coated, and chilled again to maintain a crisp hard surface on which to place the fondant.

The fondant was rolled out to a large circle, using shortening and glycerin to prevent sticking.  I had read that both could be used in combination to avoid the use of powdered sugar (often used for that purpose, but which simultaneously can dry out the fondant (bad, and the major cause of rips and cracks.)   The other problem with powdered sugar is that it can dull deeper colors, and, since I was using black, I wanted the color to be as true as possible.  In the future,  though, I would use only shortening.  The glycerin is very difficult to evenly incorporate into the fondant, and tends to leave shiny streaks throughout.

It was still bumpier on top than I had wanted, but that would be ultimately covered, so I let it go.  At least the edges were crisp and clean.  Here is the secret to covering a cake with fondant and having NO tears or wrinkles (something that a week ago, I would have sworn was impossible):  Start at the top of the cake and work around the circumference, moving down slightly after each turn, to smooth the fondant in concentric circles.  Horizontally, then vertically.  If you try to smooth the fondant vertically first, and then around the cake periphery, there will be a whole lot of tears (both the ripped kind, and the salty kind) by the time the cake is covered.

For Christmas, my lovely husband bought me all sorts of fun decorating toys, one of which was a "Baroque" fondant and gumpaste mold.  For those of you who aren't acquainted with this type of fun, it's a very easy decorating tool, where you simply squash some gumpaste (or fondant) into the individual silicone molds, clean up the edges, and pop out a beautiful little molded decoration.

It gives those of us with no artistic ability, the capability to feign greatness. . .

So I produced a bunch of little squiggly decorations, and then painted them with gold dust mixed with a little vodka  for the drama factor. . .  I love drama. . . in cake decoration, that is.

What I didn't love was the explosion of gold dust that erupted from the tiny tin as it flew through the air after I tried to pry the lid off. Drama. . . but the bad kind. . .

A little bit of water on the back of each decoration made it very easy to tack these onto the black fondant background.

The pièce de résistance was the cake topper.  (Because, really, why else make a tiered cake?)  I had wanted to try gumpaste flowers for a while, now, but I never had an occasion to use them.  Until now.  Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought it would be. 

Because I didn't have petal cutters  I used different sized circle cutters, and ruffled the edges with fondant stick tool.  You could also use a toothpick. 

When you gently apply pressure while running the stick tool/toothpick around the gumpaste cut out, you get this nice delicate ruffle, which mimics a petal perfectly.

Since I didn't have any flower forming cups, (as you can see, I didn't have the majority of the required elements for gumpaste flowers. . . not that that stopped me,) I went simplistic, and used a 6 inch cake pan for the two bottom layer of petals, and large muffin cups for the next two layers.  To prevent the petals from sticking to the pan, I lined it with saran wrap.  I free-formed the very center of the flower. 

 The layers were left to dry overnight, and the final flower assembled the next morning.  When it was fully formed, I dry-dusted the petals with some rose dust and lined the edges of the petals with gold dust (this time, being very careful as I removed the lid.) 

 Now, a million pictures of the final product:

 I love this flower so much.

It would have probably turned out better with a molding cup, so that the petals weren't quite so vertical, but. . .

Not a bad first effort, if I do say so myself.

Now, nothing left to do but eat it! 

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