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Wednesday 29 April 2015

Step by step how to fondant, and make 3D fondant elephant, zebra and giraffe cake toppers and grass edging!

For recent baby shower, I was asked to make a cake with wild animals as a theme.  So I figured I'd challenge myself by making 3D figurines out of fondant to top the cake. And since it was the first time I made them, well, no pressure right lol? Yeah, sometimes even I question how an insane idea could sound so reasonable until I start and kick myself halfway through it. Anyhoos, the cake baking and cooling took about 1 hour. Then I spent the next 7 hours making a multitude of the 3D fondant cake toppers until I had ones that looked good. I probably could have just taken an hour or 2 making the cake toppers, but I'm bit of a perfectionist (by the 6th hour mark this attribute was starting to wane), and the next time I make 3D toppers, I'll make them the night before and plunk them on the cake the next day instead.

The mom to be requested matcha green tea cake, so I added in 2 heaping teaspoons of matcha tea powder to an angel food cake recipe and baked them into 3 layers of cake. Always try to get your hands on a really high grade drinking matcha tea powder, and not the culinary type. Why? The drinking quality matcha is made with just the tips of the top of the tea plant, while the culinary type uses practically the whole plant, resulting in the culinary variety being significantly cheaper. BUT - unless you like using food coloring, by the time you put enough culinary matcha into a recipe to get a good green tinge, it'll be bitter as I found over years of experimenting, the culinary matcha has a heck of a lot more tannins in it. Just a little bit of the drinking variety gives color and flavor without the bitterness of tannins. That said, use a bit of common sense...don't crazy dump the stuff in. Okay, so I made mango buttercream (subbed out all the liquid with concentrated mango puree from this tried and true buttercream recipe), dirty crumb coated and then cleanly buttercreamed the cakes (no pic, but you can see step by step of how to crumb coat and buttercream frost a cake here).  I was really tempted to invest in a cake carrier-decorating table combo that Wilton makes here, but I had picked up an inexpensive rotating cake stand, so I put the cake on the cake carrier bottom and balanced it on my new rotating cake stand to save from having to transfer the decorated cake later. Then I tinted a big chunk of fondant and fiancé helped roll it out (so he can say he made the cake too hahaha!), and plunked it onto the cake.

Gently pull the fondant wrinkles out. Pull down and outwards towards you with your hands (easier with both, but its hard to take a picture with your chin). Smooth out wrinkles with a fondant smoother device like this one.

Trim off excess fondant with a sharp knife or fondant trimmer (I had one in my Wilton fondant/gumpaste tool set). I was working in full hot afternoon sunlight streaming in from south windows, which started to melt my mango buttercream - it started to seep out, so I closed the blinds, and the buttercream oozing out worked to my advantage when I applied the fondant border later... I didn't have to smear any on to stick the fondant grass border on since there was plenty that gooped out lol!

That said, I hand rolled a small thin green tube, flattened it on my Wilton plastic sheet and using a fondant knife, randomly cut out triangles to create the "grass". My plastic sheet wasn't big enough to hold a fondant grass strip long enough to wrap all the way around the cake so I made a short piece and stuck it on.

With the fiancé's help, transferred the long strip of fondant grass and glued it on with a little bit of butter cream.

Luckily since it was a grass edging, it was nearly seamless and I didn't have to place another flower or animal to hide the seam.

Next up was making the animal cake toppers. I tackled making the elephant first. Roll some fondant into an egg like shape. This will be the body.  For the head, roll out a circular blob of fondant, pinch it gently and using your fingers, gently roll the pinched section until it looks like a trunk and twist trunk into whatever position you feel like. It took me lots of tries before I got one that didn't look phallic but like an elephant head. Attach head with a good squish into the body, or with butter cream, or for extra stability, stab a long pretzel (short enough it won't go thru the head unless you're going for a zombie look) into the body thru the neck and press the head on. For the arms and legs, roll out a stubby thin tube and pinch off a nub - the pinched part tapers and makes it easy to attach to the egg shaped fondant chunk as arms and legs.

Elephant ears - roll out 2 small balls of fondant, squish with your thumb, shape and attach with buttercream. I rolled and smushed out 2 slightly smaller pinky-orange (I was going for pale pink but tinted fondant funny) fondant balls and added it to the ears for extra contrast. You can add in eyes and mouth with a food safe pen, or roll out some more fondant for more depth. I used a fondant shaping tool to carve the mouth in.

I made the Zebra partway through making the elephant as a break (remember, I had probably made about 50 penis shaped blobs of fondant instead of the intended elephant shaped head at this point).  Like the elephant, I started out with rolling fondant into an oval egg like  shape for the body, I pinched off and rolled slightly to taper longer fondant "tube" its for the legs. For the head, I shaped a small egg oval, pressed my thumb into it to get a good indent and gently smushed a round ball of fondant for the zebra's head. Took a few tries as sometimes fondant wants to stick, and othertimes it doesn't.

I then rolled out a small strip of black fondant, cut tinny tiny triangles out, and using tweezers and a thin tiny spatula that came in my Wilton fondant/gumpaste tools kit, I stuck them onto the Zebra. I may try just drawing the stripes on next time as I nearly smooshed some stripes in too hard, nearly necessitating I start over. I added eyes, and a light pastel pink dots around the indented smile just cuz I felt it would make the Zebra cute-er.

The giraffe was a bit of a fail as it didn't stay in the position I wanted it to be propped in. I used 4 balls of fondant as its feet, plunked an oval of fondant on top sideways as its body and had painsakingly wrapped some fondant around a long pretzel which I had pushed into the body, hoping the neck would stay vertical. Once I attached the head onto the fondant covered pretzel (one medium round fondant ball with a small fondant ball for nose and 2 ears), the whole neck promptly leaned backwards onto the giraffe's back. Bright side: at least it didn't face plant! I added ears and a few more details to the cake toppers and then plunked them onto the cake.
Hiiiiiiiiii! :D
Lettering was easily made with a Wilton fondant and gumpaste silicone alphabet and numbers mold set, and I was too pooped and tired of smelling sugar for hours to attempt footprints, so I used a long leaf Wilton silicone mold, part of a Wilton Nature silicone mold set to add in a long chain of leaves to fill in the extra "white space" I had on the cake.  Since I had decorated the cake on the cake carrier bottom, I took it off my spinning cake stand, popped its lid on and it was ready to go for the next day's baby shower!

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