Sunday, November 14, 2010

Birthday Bashes with Black Fondant

These cakes are simple chocolate cakes frosted with buttercream, encased with black fondant.  I used mainly #3 and #5 writing tips to pipe the designs on.

Piping buttercream designs or words onto fondant is much easier if you trace an outline of your design on, first.  With both of these cakes, I used toothpicks to lightly draw the design onto the fondant surface.  This is also helpful for writing phrases, so that you don't run out of room.  If necessary, you could use a paper design if you apply medium pressure to the paper as you trace it onto the fondant.

The translation "Happy Birthday" in Dutch, for a Dutch lady who loves owls!  Her cooking blog can be found at

This is the logo for the Industrial Workers of the World, and it was a birthday cake created for an organizer with the NYC chapter of the IWW. 

3 Cakes are Better than 1: Tiered Cakes

If you're like me, maybe you've wondered how one could stack two or three (or more!) cakes together without the layers toppling over or squishing the ones below.  Well, wonder no more!  If cakes are small or light enough, such as the 2-tiered cakes I've included below, you can simply stack the layers together without reinforcing with wooden dowels.  

This cake was designed to be the prize for the winner of this club's card tournament.  The trophy came from a party store as a party favor, and was secured to the top with buttercream.  The bead border was made using a #12 round tip.  This cake was small enough that I did not need to reinforce with dowels.  The bottom tier was 8" and the top was 5".
Another smaller cake that was possible to stack and transport two hours without dowels for reinforcement.  The buttons were made by cutting out fondant circles.  This cake was for Hilari's baby shower which had a "Cute as a Button" theme.

For cakes that are larger, such as the wedding cake below, you'll want to reinforce the layers by inserting support dowels which you can trim to the perfect size with a knife or wire clippers.  As a final measure of security, you can insert a dowel that runs the entire height of all tiers combined through all layers so that they do not shift during transportation.

This was for Andy and Courtney's wedding.  I assembled the layers after transporting them separately since it was a long drive on bumpy roads from Brooklyn to Long Island.  The sizes of the tiers are 8", 12", and 14" as the base.  The cake was mocha flavored with raspberry preserve filling.

Some helpful information about assembling tiered cakes, and advice on transporting them.

Fooling Folks with Fondant Foodstuffs

"Is that really a fruitbasket?"  No, why would I ever put grapes, tomatos, and bananas on top of a cake?!  I had so much fun with these cakes, it was almost like being back in fifth grade art class working with sculpey clay.  I placed some real fruit next to the cake for comparison.

To learn how to create this basketweave look, check out this tutorial.

This fruitbasket cake was requested by Hilari for a vegan "Meat-Out" party.

Aside from the basics of using fondant that I mentioned in the previous post, the best advice I can offer for creating cakes like these are to pretend that the fondant is clay.  Knead it until it is soft and pliable, create the shapes you want and set them aside to dry slightly if necessary before attaching them to cake.  I typically used either water or buttercream to adhere the fondant to the cakes.  Regarding the shape of the cake, I just cut and pieced together various cake pieces to create the right shape for each cake.

I mixed tan and brown fondant together for a marbled, wood-like effect on the side of this drum.  The Vic Firth sticks are also fondant, which I set aside to dry and harden for a bit after forming them, so that they would not bend.

This was for my nephew's 3rd birthday.  It is difficult to see, but I used a silver shimmer dust powder to give the windows and other silver accents a shiny look.  The chest logo and 3 were drawn on with an edible ink marker.

This cake was inspired by my father's 1968 Shelby Mustang that he's had since before I was born.  Everything that you can see, from the windshield wipers to the wheels, are made from fondant.

I cut this cake to size, covered it in pink fondant, and then attached those towers (ice cream cones covered in fondant!)  This was for my niece's birthday back in 2009, and she thought it was an actual toy when she first saw it, so I considered it a success!  The flags are just toothpicks with paper attached, not edible.

Fun with Fondant

Fondant is an easy way to make cakes look elegant.  You can purchase it pre-colored, or buy white fondant and color it yourself with food dye.  It has a texture similar to clay, so it is quite easy to work with and stretches to fit the shape of your cake.  

Some fondant basics can be found here.

Here are some cakes that I decorated using fondant:

Someone asked me to make this for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so I made it bright and colorful to go with their style.

This was the ultimate Valentine's Day cake and probably my most favorite cake that I've ever created.  Black fondant adds a nice touch as it is not a color that you typically see on cake.  The red hearts and outline are fondant that I cut into strips with a roller that resembles a pizza cutter.  The ghost was piped on by drawing an outline with a #3 tip and filling it in with a small #14 star tip. 

I colored this fondant by swirling blue and red fondant into a larger mass of white fondant.

This was for Gina, in celebration of a pinecone she illustrates about named Piney.  The pinecone was made with slivered almonds which I stuck to buttercream frosting on top of the pink fondant.

New Cakes on the Block

If you've ever dreamed of making a cake with a picture of Dan Aykroyd's face on it, then edible photo paper is the thing for you!  With websites such as, it is possible to make that Bee Gees cake you've always longed for.  Just email a graphic of anything you want, and it arrives in edible form at your doorstep within days.  Most baking supply stores also carry a variety of pre-made graphics, typically cartoon or Disney-themed.

NKOTB cake for my friend Cassandra's birthday, graphic ordered from  I think she was the lucky girl who got the Joey corner of the cake. 

My friend Matt requested this cake for a special occasion.  His partner designed this artwork as an engraving, and it translated well to edible graphic form.  The cake itself was mocha flavored with mocha mousse filling.

This cake was for my niece Natalie, and was made with a pre-made graphic purchased from a cake supply store.

Tips for using edible photo paper:
  • Edible graphics show up best on white or light-colored frosting.  This is because any white parts of the graphic will become translucent to clear once they absorb oils from the frosting.
  • Do not remove the graphic from the clear plastic sleeve it is stored in until the very moment you are going to apply it to the cake.  I mean it!  Don't even open it up to peek at or touch the graphic.  I learned this the hard way.  Opening the bag even a few minutes earlier will allow the graphic to quickly absorb moisture from the air, and when you go to peel the graphic off of the paper, it breaks into tiny pieces and then you go into emergency cake panic mode.
  • Once you've applied the graphic, don't refrigerate the cake!  This will cause the graphic to buckle and look all shriveled.  It is best to apply it quickly after the cake has been frosted so that the icing is still moist and the graphic will adhere easily.
  • Graphics can be trimmed to size with scissors, just be careful not to do this until right before you apply it to the cake.
  • If the corners of the graphic begin to lift, you can always pipe a border onto the edge to help the graphic adhere.

Gumpaste is from Space!

Gumpaste may or may not be from outer space.  I don't know where it comes from or how it's made, but its a great material to work with if you want a solid decoration.  I also don't use this technique or material very often and probably won't use it much in the future, as it is expensive, but it was fun to experiment with.  Gumpaste dries solid, and you can make several flowers in one sitting and store them for a few weeks so that you have flowers on hand whenever you're decorating a cake last-minute!

This 5" cake was for my friend Jenna's birthday.  The chocolate cake was frosted with chocolate buttercream and encased in white fondant. I used this technique to create the flowers and leaves, and simply attached them to the cake using buttercream frosting.

Barbie and Buttercream Roses

A great way to make your cake go from basic-looking to fancy and complicated is to include flowers made from the same frosting you use to ice your cake**.  This Barbie themed birthday cake was a special request for Alice and David's daughter, Chaya.  

I made the roses and leaves with buttercream frosting.  You'll need 3 different tips to make a rose out of frosting: 

#12 tip to make base/center of rose

#103 tip makes the petals of the rose

#67 tip is the leaf tip

For a detailed guide to the method for making roses, check out Wilton's step-by-step tutorial or video.  It takes practice, but I promise it's easier than it looks!

**A side note: I include several links to Wilton's tutorials since I learned several techniques from Wilton classes and find their website helpful.  However, some of their recipes call for meringue powder, which is made from eggs and not vegan.  I simply omit this ingredient and my frosting still comes out great.

R2D2: Decorating Star Wars style with a Star Tip!

My parents have had this R2D2-shaped cake pan since the early 80s, and used it to make pink and blue robotic cakes for my brother and sister before I was even born.  I discovered it in their basement 2 years ago and made a neon 80's Christmas version of R2 for a vegan holiday party.