It's so easy even an Undomestic Diva can do it! Ha. Truthfully: Y'all know I can't cook or bake (hi, Mr. Fireman) and I am not the least bit artistic yet I can fake a fondant cake. It's no Charm City creation - that's for sure. But it's good enough for my boys and that's my target audience. And if I can do it? You can.
I set out to make a Jack Skellington cake for L-Dub's 7th birthday because Nightmare Before Christmas is his absolute most favorite movie ever. Ever, EVER.
If you're stacking cakes, you will need to 'top' the cakes... make them level by cutting the rounded tops off. You can buy a saw-like tool to do this but honestly, I have one and it's easier to use one of these long serrated cake knives.
Carve your cake. I needed a sort-of round cake (think pumpkin-shaped) so I took that same serrated cake knife and started carving. Yes, it will look like a mess but you're not done so don't be discouraged.
Here's where you start seeing ALL THAT BAKING go to waste as you cut away a ton of cake you won't need. (Tip: save your cake scraps in case you need to 'piece' together shapes or missing chunks later.)
Carefully move your cake from your messy area to its final destination (plate/platter/cardboard wrapped in foil is awesome for bigger, heavier cakes). Yes, it will get messy but you can easily wipe away crumbs, icing, etc.
Ice your cake. This is what is referred to as crumb coating since it will not look pretty and smooth -- it will have crumbs mixed into the icing and be messy. That's ok. It won't be seen. Put an even layer of icing around your entire cake. (Tip: Put store-bought icing in microwave for 10 seconds before using to make it easier to slather on.)
You can spend a bajillion dollars in the one baking aisle at Michael's with all their nifty tools. HOWEVER, if you're like me and lacking a bajillion dollars, you can make do with only buying a few of those tools and faking it with a few items you already have around the house. These are a few tools & ingredients you will definitely need for the next steps.
Fondant: I have made my own (marshmallow), bought the Wilton brand (I do NOT recommend) and this time, tried the new line by Charm City Cake's Duff at Michael's and was very pleased. It was extremely easy to use. (Tip: You can dye fondant use gel colors HOWEVER if you need a color like red or black I highly recommend buying fondant already dyed in that color.)
Fondant rolling pin: Your wooden rolling pin isn't long, smooth or heavy enough. It's worth the investment.
Cornstarch: A must-have. This keeps the fondant from sticking to everything from your counter to your hands to the rolling pin.
Crisco shortening: Good to have on hand if you end up needing to work with the fondant more than a few times. Cornstarch can dry it out and a touch of Crisco on your hands while kneading the fondant will help bring moisture back into it. (I found I didn't need it with the Duff brand fondant.)
Piping gel: Depends on your project and what detail you will need to add but a good idea for details smaller than fondant can handle.
Fondant smoother: Helps smooth fondant/remove air when you apply it on cake.
Wilton decorating tools: You can skip these if you want, but I find them really helpful especially the more cakes I do. (Using one of those Michael's coupons... good deal.)
This is what 4lbs of white buttercream fondant looks like - straight out of the tub. It's hard and unpliable. Read the directions on the tub - microwaving as directed will make your life much easier. Trust me. ;)
And this is four pounds. Doesn't look all that different, does it? I show you this because it's imperative to know that fondant doesn't go far. It seems ludicrous to put FOUR POUNDS! of fondant on a cake but a) you're going to and b) a lot of people peel it off anyway. (And yes, after ALL THIS WORK people will peel it off and just eat the cake beneath it. Know this.
Knead the fondant until it's smooth and pliable.
Roll out the fondant on your cornstarched surface, careful to spread in as round of a shape as possible. This is harder than you think, but, you will not want to have to start over because you end up with a weird shape of fondant that doesn't cover your cake on all sides. The moment the fondant starts sticking to the rolling pin, re-cornstarch it. CORNSTARCH IS YOUR FRIEND!
This will be your biggest challenge: Picking up the fondant to carry and lay it over your cake. Fondant is a) heavy and b) stretches when you lift it and c) is an asshole. Drape it over your rolling pin and be sure your cake is very close by.
If your fondant cracks/breaks/falls apart guess what? You get to start over. Knead, roll out and try again. It always takes me a few tries and several F-bombs.
Be careful cutting away at the fondant. Just like with the cake - you will have lots of scraps of fondant. But you don't want to cut too much because 'piecing' fondant is not as fun as it sounds and doesn't always look seamless. So cut a little, tuck, cut a little more. Lather, rinse, repeat. Except that rinse part -- fondant HATES water. Good to know. (Tip: Never refrigerate fondant or a fondant covered cake.)
THIS is when you can add dowels (see Michael's baking aisle) or kabob skewers for stability if necessary. Make sure they're cut to fall just-below the heighth of cake so they don't show.)
I used my Wilton tools to cut out my accent pieces however you can also use a toothpick or kabob skewer. Tip: Dip your cutting tool in our beloved cornstarch first so that it does not stick to the fondant as you are cutting.
To adhere fondant to fondant, all you will need is water. AND ONLY A TINY BIT! (Remember: fondant hates water - however it does act as a glue.) I used the cornstarch cap to put a tiny bit of water in it and used my finger to 'paint' the backside of the eye with just a little water. (You don't want it to drip.)
I gently pressed the eye on the cake, holding it still for a few seconds, careful not to move it (black fondant runs and leaves color on the white fondant, I learned) before letting go. Tip: Don't press hard - you will change the shape of the very pliable fondant you're adhering.