Friday, March 20, 2009
for my daughter's fifth birthday, she specifically asked to have a party where every one could make crowns. since last year we already had a castle themed party, i thought this year we could do a Fancy Nancy themed party to go with the crown making idea. many of the fancy nancy cakes i saw online were kind of crazy/messy looking. i imagined something fancy not kitschy. while thinking of fancy, pillows came to mind. so i decided to try my hand at a sculpted cake and making a pillow cake seemed to be an easy way to get my feet wet.
after sketching out the design, i planned out which items would need the longest time to dry and then began to make them first. i spent a day making several batches of marshmallow fondant then i created the tiara. first i created a tiara form out of gum paste (made with fondant and gumtex) and allowed it to dry. then using fondant/gum tex blend, i rolled small balls, about the size of a pin head, used a fluted gum paste tool to hollow out the ball to create the illusion of a facet. then adhered it to the tiara form with a dab of water. i did this 150 more times.
then rolled some larger balls and a tear drop for the 'pearl' accents. when the pieces were sufficiently dried, i mixed some white pearl dust with some silver luster dust and some vodka and painted it on using a soft decorator brush, making sure to fill the hollows.
i had considered using pulled sugar to make the facets, but sugar can appear cloudy and get really sticky if there's any humidity...but i did toy with the idea of using these great cast sugar gems, but for $50, it was just a bit too pricey.
after the tiara, i set to work making all the roses and leaves. there's a couple of ways to make roses...there's the Wilton Method and then there's just making each individual petal and sticking them together one at a time, which is the way i like to do it...so 312 petals and leaves later, i had all the flowers i needed. it was a lot of petals but an easier task than making petals for some hydrangea clusters that i did for my cousins wedding, making almost 4,000 individual petals.
after the decorations were finished, i set to work on the decorative cake board to set the whole cake on. i cut large squares of corrugated cardboard, and stacked 4 of them, making sure to angle the corrugated channels perpendicularly for strength. i taped them together to keep them from sliding apart, lightly misted it with water, and covered it with purple fondant. then trimmed the edge with purple grosgrain ribbon. i decided to decorate it with some royal icing scrolls. i used a press kit to imprint the scrolls and then went over the imprint with royal icing, using tip #2, adding extra flourishes and dots where needed to fill out the design.
to make the cake tiers, i baked two 12 inch square cakes and two 6 inch round cakes. i decided to bake at slightly higher temperatures to get a nice hump on top so there would need to be less carving to get that rounded pillowy look. after baking and cooling on racks, i wrapped them in several sheets of plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours...a cold cake would make for easier carving.
after filling and stacking the square cakes together with the rounded top on top (no leveling needed for the layer on top, but i did level the bottom layer for stability), i used a serrated knife to carefully trim away the edges to create a beveled edge, just eyeballing it as i went. it was a very 'crummy' task, crumbs all over the work table and floor. i thought about saving the trimmed off cake to make into cake balls later, but it was such a mess that i ended up just sweeping all of the crumbs into the trash. it felt so wasteful!
i worked with the cake on a turntable which made it easy to see the cake from all angles while i carved away at it so i could make sure it was all coming out even. i realized then that i needed a smaller cake board to support the cake because the one i had under it was sized for a 12 x 12 cake and once i had carved away the edges, the part touching the cake board probably only measured 6 x 6. so i cut a smaller square and carefully moved the carved cake to the smaller cake board.
once it was carved to a pillow shape (surprisingly, the cake held together), i iced it with a thin layer of cream cheese icing*, thinned with milk, so that it would smooth onto the cake without tearing or breaking it. then i put it in the fridge to firm up the icing. meanwhile i filled and stacked my round cakes, which didnt need any carving since they had baked up a nice rounded top in the oven. i just inverted one so the rounded top became the bottom and topped it with the other with the rounded part on top. this, too, needed a smaller cake board, so i trimmed down my 6" round cake board to a 4 inch round, then iced the cake with thinned cream cheese icing and popped it back in the fridge to firm up the icing.
then i took out the square pillow cake and covered it with homemade marshmallow fondant. i was worried about getting the fondant around the edges and under without tearing or wrinkling the fondant. the fondant i made was quite elastic which i think made it easier to stretch it smooth. it also helps to wrap the corners first because smoothing out excess fondant is easier to do on the straight sides rather than the pointy corners. all in all, it was not difficult. i also covered the round cake with marshmallow fondant.
i had planned to do some icing embroidery on the round 'tuffet' cake, but in the end, i didnt want it to be too busy, so i left it plain.
for the quilted look on the square pillow, i used my rotary cutter tool that has sort of a ridgey edge, and just lightly ran it over the surface to emboss it with faux stitching.
i think the crumb/texture of the cake suffered from being frozen and trimmed away and i didnt want to chance the structural integrity of the pillow cake by putting in a mousse type of filling so i just filled it with a thin layer of cream cheese icing.
*my favorite icing is white chocolate cream cheese icing (i'll post that recipe at the end of this post), but sadly, my local grocer didnt stock a nut free white chocolate (one that wasnt processed in a plant with peanuts), so i had to omit the white chocolate since it for my daughter (severe peanut allergy) and to her friends, many of whom also have nut allergies.