Monday, May 24, 2010

How to make fondant flowers

Last summer I made this cake for a friend's bridal shower and took pictures to show how I did it. I used my marshmallow fondant recipe, but you can use prepackaged fondant if you prefer and simply tint it whatever color you like.

Since I was working on a deadline and didn't have the usual petal and leaf cutout set made especially for these types of projects (because it wasn't handy in my town), I had to improvise and used the flower cut-outs.

Always remember that fondant dries out, so only work with a small bit at a time, and keep the rest wrapped up tight in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out too quickly. I rolled out enough to cut six to eight pieces at a time. Also, since I don't have a fondant rolling mat (they can be nice, but really aren't necessary) I used corn starch on the counter and rolling pin to keep the fondant from sticking. This was before I started using shortening on the counter instead--which is really better for me since the corn starch dried out the fondant too much.

I used the large cutout from the set and for the first row of petals cut out every-other petal.

This picture is really bad, but you can see I ran the toothpick through the cut piece, then wrapped it around the tip. Once I had the shape I wanted on the top petals, I pinched off the base part so the second set of petals would be even or nearly even with the inner row.

This is the second row of petals. I cut out one petal from the shape and added cut lines between the petals so they could overlap each other. When I slid it onto the toothpick, I also used a clean paintbrush from a kids' watercolor set that I bought just for fondant. I brushed a thin layer of water over the petals where they would overlap. Fondant will stick to itself easily with a touch of water. Be careful, though, not to let water drip on any parts that are going to be seen on the outside as water will leave marks behind on the surface.

For the third row I didn't cut any petals out, but still split the space between the petals. Then I took a toothpick and separated the petals and curved them back slightly to give them a little more realistic look. This really works best if you use thin pieces of fondant. These were rolled to 1/8 inch or thinner, but there may be some times when slightly thicker pieces will work fine.
I also made over 150 little flowers with the tiniest cutout in the set. Then I used the end of a chopstick (the fondant shaping foam and confectionery tools would have been much easier) and my finger to create a curve in the middle of the flowers.

If you're going to have roses, you obviously need leaves! Again, there were no cutters for leaves in stock, so I used the edge of a glass to cut each edge. If I had to do it again, I would have used a round cookie cutter because the glass didn't leave a crisp edge and they had to be trimmed with a knife to clean them up.

Next I used a toothpick to draw lines on the leaves.

Then I set everything out to dry since I made them several days in advance of the cake. Be aware that some colors fade a lot when the fondant dries. The pink faded to way less than half the original brilliancy as it dried, while the leaves only lightened a little bit.

A few days later I baked the cake, frosted it (crumb layer, then an outer layer), and rolled the purple fondant. Once that was ready, I used the toothpicks on the roses to stick the roses in the cake where I wanted them. If needed, they could have been cut off or trimmed back, but they were handy to create the design I was looking for.

The first of the small flowers were attached to the bottom of the cake with buttercream icing.

Then I used yellow buttercream to put dots in the flowers and the roses.

With a little extra playing, I finished up with the little flowers, tacking them and the leaves onto the cake with more buttercream. The green stems on the roses are also buttercream piped on with a small round tip, probably a #7. A slightly smaller circle tip, like a #4 made the dots in the flowers.

This cake was made using 2-8" round pans and it fit perfectly in one of these boxes. It was a hit!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fabulous chocolate ganache recipe

I'd never used ganache before, though I'd heard people talk about how wonderful it is. On my favorite cake forum,, I'd read posts where people said that they now use ganache under all of their fondant cakes instead of buttercream because it is so much easier to work with. Trying something new I'd never even tasted, though, was a bit scary, until I looked at a recipe, look how simple it is!

Chocolate ganache
3 lbs finely chopped, semi-sweet chocolate
3-1/2 C heavy whipping cream

Slowly bring the whipping cream to a boil, then pour into a bowl containing your chocolate and stir until smooth. The cake needs to chill for a couple of hours after you put the ganache on it so it can set up nice and hard before you start putting on fondant. A warm spatula will help smooth out the rough edges. If you like a thicker ganache, use more chocolate, if you like yours thinner, use less. This makes enough for 2-8" round double-layer cakes, but it keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, so if you have another cake coming up, put it in an air-tight container and refrigerate. It will stay good on the counter in an air-tight container for 3 days.

I used semi-sweet chips, which worked beautifully on my chocolate cake but chips don't melt as well as finely chopped blocks of chocolate (because of size, not melt-ability), so be aware of that. I know my sister says she uses blocks of chocolate and usually uses at least half unsweetened. The beauty of this recipe is that you could use just about any flavor of chips you'd like, or use white chocolate and candy flavoring to complement the cake flavor.

When I used this ganache for the first time, I actually torted both of my 8" circles, so there was ganache between each 1" layer of cake--which is a lot, so you could easily skip the torting all together. Also, I had frozen my cakes before putting the ganache on them, which helped the ganache to solidify much quicker so I could layer a little extra where the sides weren't exactly straight. You'll want to get the surface as perfect as possible before refrigerating because fondant shows every little bump beneath the surface, and only so much fixing can be done with the warm spatula later.

Have fun!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Bar Recipe

I know this isn't actually cake, but since my husband doesn't care much for cake (I know, strange man, but I love him anyway), he asked me to make him peanut butter bars for his birthday instead. Though we went to different schools, we both remember these tasty treats from school lunches, so I was happy to oblige!

Peanut Butter Bars
1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 t vanilla
1 C peanut butter
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/2 C Flour
1 1/2 C oats

Mix together. Put on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes, until it just starts to brown. Cool. Spread with a thin layer of peanut butter. Spread chocolate frosting on top.

This makes a 12" x 18" pan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Make Marshmallow Fondant

When I talk about decorating cakes with fondant, the most common complaint I hear is that it doesn't taste very good, but marshmallow fondant is a whole other issue. This is a very simple recipe and takes only basic ingredients ANYONE can get at their local grocery store--no matter how small the town is that you live in. It has four ingredients:
1-10.5 oz bag of marshmallows (mini is easiest because they melt faster, but you can use large if that's all you have),
2 lbs of powdered sugar,
1 Tbsp of water
1 tsp vanilla (clear is best if you have it unless you're going to color the fondant dark)

I've tried greasing the bowl with a bit of shortening, but that only seems to help for a few minutes, so I've stopped doing it. Make sure you use a microwave-safe bowl, big enough to mix in--a couple of quarts is minimum in my book. You can also do this on a stove top, if you don't have anything microwave safe, but it's easiest in the microwave.

Dump the bag of marshmallows in the bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir the marshmallows with a large spoon. Microwave an additional twenty seconds at a time if you need to until everything is melted. Add the vanilla and water and give it a little stir so it's somewhat incorporated, then add a few cups of the powdered sugar. This is not rocket science--my sister adds all of the two lbs except a cup or so. I prefer mine a little less stiff, so I use less sugar. The important thing is to get it to a consistency that you can work with--not quite as stiff as playdough. You may want to sift your powdered sugar before you add it since it can have little clumps in it right out of the bag, which you then have to knead smooth or pick out.
Before all of the powdered sugar is mixed in, I usually scrub my hands well, grease them up with some shortening, and hand knead in the sugar until it comes to a consistency that I like--still just a little sticky (it is a sugar product, after all), but it forms a smooth ball. I generally knead the fondant a little longer on the counter--which has been scrubbed and greased down with shortening as well. Some people prefer to use more powdered sugar on the counter or corn starch instead of shortening, but I find that makes the fondant even stiffer and if I'm going to be cutting designs for the cake it can become too stiff to work with after a while. Below is my finished ball of fondant.

*Just a note: if the fondant is too sticky, you can always add more powdered sugar. If it gets too stiff and starts to crack along the curves as you knead it, you can melt and knead in extra marshmallows to soften it up.
Next, if you're going to color the fondant it's best to use gel colors. The liquid kind will thin your fondant out and make it sticky again. If all you have is the liquid kind, AND you plan to color the whole batch the same color, add it before you add the powdered sugar, but be aware that it'll take more than you think! I've found I use a lot more color gel with fondant than I do with frosting, so consider that when you're choosing colors. I did black once and I added a TON of the coloring, and it never did get fully black, but I decided dark charcoal was close enough and went with it. Below is a picture with the gel coloring streaked on it. Sorry about the fuzzy picture.
And the next picture is with the green nearly worked into the lump of fondant. Sometimes it's fun to just roll it out streaky like this and use it, but I did continue to work the fondant until I got the color to go through evenly and it made great leaves.
A couple more notes: If you're looking for really bright, vivid colors you may want to consider buying fondant pre-made, especially if it's just going to be a decoration. Black, red, and hot pink, and hot green, and other truly vivid colors are hard to achieve at home, and I know Wilton makes some fondant prepackaged with different colors. I've never needed anything that vivid, so I've been really happy with homemade. You do need to plan a little extra time if you're going to color much of the fondant because kneading in the color can take a while depending on the shade you're trying for and how big the lump is.

I recommend making and coloring the fondant a few days before you do the cake since it stays good for a couple of months if wrapped tightly and refrigerated. I wrap mine in plastic wrap, then put it in a ziplock with the other individually wrapped colors.

Have fun!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Decorating a Table Cake

I've seen some really awesome cakes around that looked like tables set for tea--one in particular that looks like it cake straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Though I'm nowhere near that good with my gumpaste molding yet, so making an edible tea set is out, I thought I'd take the general idea and give it a little twist for Mother's Day. First, I baked my lemon poppy seed cake in 6" round pans, frosted and filled it with vanilla buttercream.

Then after I colored my fondant, I rolled it out and covered the cake. I had to do a bit of trimming--I rolled it large enough to have it hang down all the way around so I could trim as needed. I love this cake design because the fondant naturally wants to hang in waves, just like a tablecloth would, so it was super easy!

Next, I set this aside and rolled out a chunk of white fondant. I used a dinner plate to cut a perfect circle big enough for fondant that size to hang down the sides of the cake an inch or two. then I used a toothpick to mark the edges of the circle so the circumfrence was divided into fourths, then I added two more lines between the quarters so I'd have a dozen semi-even sections. This wasn't perfect--If I had it to do again I would have found some kind of pattern to help me get each of the twelve sections even.

Next I used a paring knife and started making scallops from each of the twelve sections. I didn't get them perfect, and given a chance to do this again, (assuming the sections were all the same size), I'd find a round cookie cutter or edge of glass to leave a light imprint so I could trace it better. The details I piped on later hid most of the ragged edges, though, so it was okay.
Next I used my #8 round tip and poked holes in the fondant to make it look like eyelet lace. You can see the full directions on how to do this here. I put the holes in first because I needed something firm behind the fondant, but I waited until I had the white overlay on the cake before I started piping on the detailing. Oh, I forgot to get pictures of me making the flowers, but I followed the tutorial you'll find here. They were super easy!
Here I'm piping on the details according to the directions on the website above. I used a #2 tip, which is a very small circle. I think next time I'd use the #1 and thin my icing just a bit more to make the lines just a little thinner. I'd also make my scallops a little wider to allow for more space to do the detailing.

And here was the finished product! From beginning to end it took less than three hours and turned out completely cute! My mom said it was too cute to eat--but we sure did enjoy it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lemon poppyseed cake recipe

I've been mulling ideas for a Mother's Day cake for this weekend and decided to try out a new cake flavor. I'm still working on the cake design, but I decided to do a 6" round lemon poppy seed cake. I adjusted a buttermilk cake recipe I've been using for a while, since it makes a lighter cake. I don't plan to do any carving on this one, so the lighter, fluffier cake works great for me. This cake starts out with a yellow cake mix or 3 1/3 cups of my homemade basic cake mix, which I'll post below.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Preheat over to 350 degrees

1 boxed cake mix, suitable for a 9x13 pan OR 3-1/3 C Basic Cake Mix
3/4 C flour
1/2 C (1 stick) of butter, melted
2 beaten eggs
1 C butter milk (or 1 cup regular milk plus 1 Tbsp vinegar, allowed to sit 5 min. before adding)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp lemon flavoring
3 Tbsp poppyseeds

Add all dry ingredients (except poppy seeds) to the bowl and mix, then add butter and mix, then eggs and milk and flavorings a little at a time and mix. Last add the poppy seeds. I baked mine in 2-6" x3" round cake pans and it took about 40 minutes. If you cook it in a 9x13 or 2-8" rounds it'll take a little less time, probably 30-35 minutes. Next time I'm going to add an extra teaspoon of clear butter flavoring to get more of that rich, butter flavor.

Basic Cake Mix (from the Make-a-Mix Cookbook)
This recipe makes about 16 cups, or close to 5 mixes worth. I keep the extra in an old ice cream tub so it's air tight. I've tried using boxed cake mixes in many of my recipes instead of my homemade mix, but I just don't like them as well. I use 3 1/3 cups in any recipe to replace 1 box of cake mix.

8 C flour (not sifted, just scoop it into a large bowl)
6 C white sugar
1/4 C baking powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 C shortening (If you use margarine or butter the mix will have to be refrigerated, so shortening is best. If you used butter flavored you won't be able to make a really white cake with this mix, so go with the standard white.).

In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to cut the shortening into the mix until well mixed. Store in any air-tight container in a cool, dry place. The mix is good for about three months.
If you want to just whip up a cake using this basic mix add 1 C milk, 2 eggs and 2-1/2 Tbspn of butter and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. For chocolate cake, add 9 Tbsp of cocoa--this makes an incredibly fudgey, delicious cake.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Strawberry icebox cake anyone?

On this blog I hope to share all kinds of fun treats (and maybe even some non-sugar-filled fun). While I was blog hopping today, I followed a link to Seven Spoons blog where she gave a recipe for her scrumptious Strawberry Icebox Cake--which isn't actually a cake at all, but a graham cracker, cream and strawberry sauce confection. Doesn't it look yummy?

Her blog page is totally going to go on my links list because she's got lots of great pictures and recipes.