Monday, September 27, 2010

Birthday Cake Time!!!

I can't believe it is really here.  My not so tiny anymore son is turning three in a week.  So of course he needs to have three birthday celebrations.  One in Gainesville with his friends, one in South Florida with family and friends, and one in ATL with family, friends, and Yo Gabba Gabba!  So, that means it's cake time.  Yummy, fun to make cake time.  But since I have fallen in love with shows like Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss, I can't make just a boring cake.  Nope, it's gotta be crazy. 
It started last year with Connor's 2nd birthday.  I made him a fun guitar shaped cake (since he thinks he's a rock star).  I used buttercream frosting that I tinted, lost of sugar sparkles to make it shine like a sparkly guitar, twizzlers for the strings, gumdrops, and skittles for the accents.  It was so very yummy.  But I wanted to do better.
My dad's 60th birthday this past June was the perfect opportunity to try something new.  Since he's a hippie, a tie dyed cake was a must (even the cake itself was tie dyed...ask me how, and I'll post that simple recipe too).  So, I made a marbled fondant, covered the two layers (the top layer was vegan for my sister and brother-in-law), and then allowed Connor to cut out the flower, smiley faces, and hand giving the peace sign shapes for the cake out of fondant.  He loved this since it was like playing with play-do, and the shapes being not-so-perfect were perfect for a trippy hippie cake.  And of course it had to be topped with 60 sparkler candles...I'm still amazed we didn't burn down my sister's house when we lit it!  The cake was amazing, and even though I flavored the fondant, it still was not so great tasting (as anyone who has tried to eat fondant knows), and I peeled most of it off.

A month later, at Connor's friend Nico's birthday party, his mom Amanda (who is also a cake making fool...and since she's been doing it for quite some time, has it down pat) made this fantastic space cake.  And guess what...the fondant was equally fantastic.  I asked her the secret and it was so simple...marshmellows!  So, the next two cakes I will be making in the next two weeks will be a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cake and a Toy Story cake...all with Amanda's marshmellow fonadant.  I will make sure to post pics of the cakes as I make them, but for now (and at the request of many), here is the marshmellow fondant recipe:

16 ounces mini-marshmellows
2-5 tbl water
2lbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup shortening

Melt marshmellows  and 2tbl water in a microwavable bowl.  Heat on high 30 seconds, stir, heat another 30 seconds, stir, repeat until completely melted (usually about 2 1/2 minutes).
Pour 3/4 of the powdered sugar on top of the melted marshmellow.
Grease your hands generously with the shortening, and heavily grease the countertop.  Knead the marshmellow mixture a bit in the bowl just so the powdered sugar doesn't fly everywhere when you flip it out onto the counter.
Put the mixture on the greased countertop, and begin to knead it like bread dough.  Knead until it becomes sticky, then add the remaining powdered sugar on top.  Re-grease your hands and counter.  If the fondant is tearing too easily, it means it is too dry, so add about 1/2 tbl of water and knead it in.  Keep kneading and adding water (no more than 5tbl total) until you get a smooth firm elastic ball that stretches without tearing (it usually takes about 8-10 minutes of kneading).
Double wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and let sit overnight (on the counter, not in the fridge!).
Once you have baked your cake, let it cool, and dirty iced it (about 1/4 inch coating of buttercream frosting works great for this), you are ready to use your fondant.
First decide what size you need the fondant to be:
For an 8" 1 layer round cake, roll it out to a 15" circle.  For a 9" x 13"1 layer cake, roll it out to a 20" x 16" rectangle.
Now, sprinkle a little cornstarch on the countertop, and rub it in to prevent the fondant from sticking (you can use powdered sugar instead).  Knead the fondant a bit to soften it back up and to incorporate any excess shortening that may be on the outside.  If it is too hard to knead, you can microwave it for 10 seconds to warm it up and soften it a bit (don't heat it too long, as it has a high sugar content and can get very hot and/or begin to cook).  Add any food gel coloring to the fondant as needed, and knead it well to incorporate the color (unless you want it to look marbled).
Shape the fondant in a basic shape of the cake (in a disk for a round cake, log for a rectangle, etc).
Using a nonstick rolling pin, begin to roll out the fondant on the powdered counter top (or a nonstick roulpat mat).  Roll it out to about 1/8" thick or more (if you go thinner, you may see thru it too much).  When it is to the size you need, roll the fondant on to the rolling pin like a roll of fabric with the end hanging off.  Place the end of the fondant just past the bottom edge of the cake, and then slowly unroll it off the rolling pin and onto the cake.  You should have some overhang over the cake edges.
Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the top (not too much or else you'll have white streaks), and using a buffing motion, smooth out the fondant on the top and sides, leveling it and sticking it to the frosting (very little pressure is needed to smooth out any imperfections).  Make sure to also push the fondant into the bottom sides of the cake into the cake board.
Once you have smoothed it all out, use a pizza cutter at a 45* angle, and trim around the bottom removing any excess fondant.  If you need to do any excess shaping, now is the best time, before the fondant hardens any more.
This fondant will hold in moisture for 3-5 days, but of course it's best to serve as soon as possible to make it as fresh and tasty as it can be.
****BIG MAJOR NOTE!!!***** Due to the nature of marshmellows, don't refrigerate this cake.  When you take it out of the fridge, moisture will condense and destroy the glossy surface.  The best option is to store it in a sealed bakery box.  The cardboard will keep dirt and dust off the cake, and allow the fondant to breathe.

So hope you love this recipe as much as I do!
In the next week, I will post the recipe for chocolate marshmellow fondant (a must have if you are doing a black or dark brown fondant) as well as my recipe for moldable chocolate (great for doing figures & shaping stiffer things than fondant can handle).  I'll also post the finished pictures of the 2 cakes as I make them in the next 2 weeks.  Wish me luck!!!!

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