I don't know about you, but when it comes to frosting a cake, I usually do a horrible job. The frosting sticks to the the cake, but then pulls away a bit and the frosting gets all full of crumbs. Freezing the cake first helps some, but I still end up with crumbs all over. Real cake decorators do another layer of frosting on top of the first I think, but I'm still kind of sloppy when it comes to using icing bags and tips. A few years ago, I looked into using fondant to decorate my daughter's birthday cake.
Buying fondant at the store can be expensive. I looked into making it at home and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make an inexpensive variation of fondant, called Marshmallow Fondant. Click on the link for an easy tutorial on how to make it step by step.
It requires only 4 ingredients to make.
1 bag Mini Marshmallows
1 bag Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup shortening
Add a couple tablespoons of water to your marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the marshmallows are just melted. The next part gets messy, but is fun and clean up isn't too bad. Grease a good-sized area of your counter with the shortening. You won't use it all at once. Make sure your hands are covered with shortening because the next part it sticky. Dump your powdered sugar on top of the greased countertop and dump the marshmallows on top of that. Then start folding and kneading the sugar and marshmallows together. As your hands and/or counter get sticky, just rub on some more shortening. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a tablespoon of water. Gradually the mixture will come together and the final product will be a nice smooth ball of fondant, similar to play dough. You can color it using gel food coloring. The liquid stuff doesn't work very well because it makes the fondant too sticky. You will want to use rubber gloves on your hands when coloring the fondant. Have tooth picks handy to dip into the coloring and rub onto the fondant. Then knead it in. If you knead it a little, you will create a marble effect. The more you knead it, the better the color will be distributed.
To make fun cakes, figure out the shape you want, and then decide what kind of pan will give you the closest shape to what you want to make.
Mr. Pumpkinhead was an obvious shape to make.
Raggedy Ann was too.
The Sun Monkey required multiple circles. A couple of cupcakes in ramekins and a mini cake pan did the trick.
Mario was done using circles as well.
The butterfly was made from a circle cake too. The body was cut out of the center of the circle and the wings were made by cutting the rest of the circle into fourths and flipping them around.
A lot of shapes can be made from a 9x13 pan too. Once you know your desired shape, you can draw out how you want to get the different parts of the cake. These cakes were made from 9x13 cakes.
Sometimes you need a shape that takes a little more creativity. I've used ceramic bowls and tortilla bowl pans, to get cakes that look more three dimensional.
Cupcakes and mini cupcakes are also great when you need small round shapes for eyes, ears, noses or even small faces.
Loaf pans also work great for cars and trains.
Ramen Queen made this super cute train for her son.
One thing that she and I both love is that you can create a super cool birthday with fun memories for cheap. The most expensive thing you will buy will be the colors for your cake, and even that is cost effective because it lasts for several birthdays/years. I'm still using the same box of colors I got 4 years ago.
After you finish baking your cake in a pan that is greased and floured really well, let it cool completely. Make a batch of buttercream frosting. I know I just knocked frosting at the top, but it is necessary to frost the cake first before you decorate it with the fondant.
2/3 cup butter (or margarine)
4 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla/almond/maple/whatever extract
Beat butter and sugar together, add vanilla and just enough milk so it becomes a spreadable consistency. If you add too much milk, then add a little more sugar, until it becomes easy to spread.
Cut the cake into the shape that you want and frost it with the frosting.
To work with the fondant, dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with Corn Starch. This is used like flour is used with cookie dough or bread dough. Roll to the thickness that you want and lift it gently to place over your cake. Smooth it out on the cake. The frosting underneath creates a cushiony layer that helps with getting everything all nice and smooth. Trim away any excess with a knife. Use the corn starch as needed to prevent stickiness.
To store your fondant, grease it with shortening and wrap in plastic wrap and seal it in a plastic bag. It will keep for 3 months in the fridge.
To use, let sit at room temperature for a few hours, or just start kneading it with your hands. It will be quite stiff at first, but the warmth of your hands will make it pliable again as you work it. Keep the fondant you aren't using covered in plastic, or it will dry out. A few drops of water can be kneaded into the fondant to make it pliable again.
For me, it helps to have a picture of what I want to make handy so I can refer to it as I'm decorating.
Happy Decorating! ~Baker