Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nintendo Super Mario Mushroom Cake

Having kids usually means having video games and having video games usually means "Super Mario" and "Nintendo" are common household words. So it came as no suprise when my son came up to me before his 10th birthday, showed me his little mushroom shaped tin of sour candies, and told me "This is what I want my birthday cake to be!" Noooo Problem! What better use of my Betty Crocker Bake N' Fill pan than a mushroom!


Once my cake was baked and cooled, placed it on a round cake board (cut down to size) and set it on top of a wedding cake stand. I coated the cake in a (generous) layer of icing and smoothed marshmallow fondant over the top, tucking it in underneath.

The green was painted on with a mixture of food coloring gel and vanilla extract. The 5 large round circles were cut out of marshmallow fondant and placed on the cake.

To cover the wedding cake tower, I cut out a strip of paper, drew the eyes on it, and surrounded the base of the cake, taping it closed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unicorn Cake

Tia has a thing for unicorns this year. Unicorn this and unicorn that. "Find a story about unicorns!" Guess what...she wanted a UNICORN CAKE! So she got one...
I knew I didn't want to end up with a unicorn with a non-existent muzzle like the Prancing Pony Cake, but I needn't have worried. I found inspiration in the party decor!
I scanned the catalog page, enlarged it, and used the picture as a template for cutting out the unicorn's head.

The unicorn cake is a 2 layer cake carved from a single 9x13 cake (I used Pillsbury white cake mix). This could also be turned into a horse cake - simply leave off the horn!

  1. I first cut out the head, keeping the cut out section as far to one side as possible (since the remaining cake would form the neck and base, supporting the head). The ear should also be part of this piece. The head piece was then carved and rounded to resemble a unicorn head. It doesn't need to be very detailed. Icing will help to round out most of the cut edges and can also be used to add details later.
  2. With the remaining cake, shape the neck area. You need to be sure to keep a large enough piece of cake to go beneath the head, supporting it and creating a 2-layer cake section. I placed the head template on the cake and cut around it adding the neck as I went so the top and left sides of the cake would match the head piece perfectly.
  3. You can't see it in the photo, but I also made a second ear part of this base piece. It sits more forward on the head than the first ear and helps to support the horn.
  4. Place the base piece onto your serving plate and cover completely with icing. I used canned Pillsbury vanilla icing.
  5. Place the head piece on top of the base piece and arrange it toward the top left of the cake aligning the top of the head and the left side of the head.
  6. Ice the top layer and all the sides. Your cake should now be completely covered in icing. If you like, you can make a icing border along the base. It's only needed at the bottom of the neck and along the left side of the cake. The rest will be covered in icing from the mane.
  7. Color a can of vanilla icing pink. Place it in a decorating bag with a large star tip and pipe on the mane. Start at the base of the cake and work your way up. Bring the mane up over the forehead in curls.
  8. Use a small butter knife or spatula to spread a little icing in the ear.
  9. I drew on the eye with black decorating gel and painted in the iris with blue food coloring gel (slightly watered down).
  10. For the nose, I made an indent in the icing and the same blue color used on the eye was swiped on with a paintbrush just at the top of the nostril.
  11. The unicorn's horn was made from marshmallow fondant. I mixed up a batch, rolled it into a long rope with a tapered end and twisted it around half of a bamboo skewer. Start at the end of the skewer with the tapered end and twist keeping the fondant tightly wrapped until you run out of fondant or get to the middle of the skewer - whichever comes first. The entire horn was then dusted with silver Pearl Dust - edible metallic decorating powder.
  12. Insert the uncovered end of the skewer into the unicorn's head just above the ear on the bottom layer but as close to the seam between the cake layer as possible. The horn is heavy. The bottom ear, the length of the skewer and the weight of the top layer of cake all help to hold the horn in place.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bridal Shower Mini Cupcakes

Mmmmm...Cupcakes! And mini cupcakes are even better! They don't come with as much guilt! So when my best friend started taking about desserts for her bridal shower (mini eclairs and such) I was quick to mention mini cupcakes. Of course, I didn't think of how I would transport them before I said I could make them, but I didn't mind the thought of eating the ones that didn't travel well...

I knew well in advance what cupcakes I would make. See below for the different varieties and how to make each.

Chocolate Raspberry was first on the list. I thought of making a chocolate cake with raspberry mousse icing but figured that might not be enough chocolate in one bite for most of this crowd.

I made devils food cake and piped raspberry jam in the middle of each one. That made for a delicious surprise!

Chocolate Raspberry filled - make mini chocolate cupcakes as normal. Once cooled, fill a piping bag with raspberry jam. Going through the tops of the cupcakes, squeeze about a teaspoon of jam into the center of each cupcake. Mix chocolate icing and raspberry flavoring together (how much you use is just a matter of taste). If you plan to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes in peaks, you will need to add powdered sugar to make a stiff consistency.

Lemon - There's nothing fancy about the cupcakes themselves. It's lemon flavored box cake mix. However, the icing is made with lemon juice, lemon peel, cool whip and Knox unflavored gelatin (one envelope dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water). Once the icing is piped on, place in the refrigerator to cool. The gelatin in the icing helps to set it. These would be fantastic on a summer day!

Pink - the easiest of all the cupcakes. This one is yellow cake mix, baked according to package directions. The icing is canned vanilla icing colored pink and made stiff with the addition of some powdered sugar.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rock 'N Roll Electric Guitar Birthday Cake

Sweet Sixteen is a big birthday, but I was not buying a car. No way! My son did say he wanted a guitar, so I got him one - all covered in icing and - (egads!) - FONDANT!
I said I would never use fondant. It tastes HORRIBLE! But this is no ordinary fondant. It is marshmallow fondant make in my own kitchen and flavored with almond. I found the recipe online at What's Cooking America and tried a small batch. Then I tried another small batch. Then I said "the heck with it" and used the rest of the marshmallows up!

Now, there are some guidelines to using fondant. Let me tell you that you should follow those guidelines. I can't tell you how many times I had to peel (scrape) fondant off my rolling mat only to start over. I noticed that as long as I was working with the fondant and didn't let it sit, it stayed moist and did not dry out. I did not use as much Crisco as was suggested. Only when I was actually mixing the marshmallows and sugar together did I add some Crisco to my spatula and my hands. Once the fondant formed a ball, I coated my hands and my work surface with cornstarch (powdered sugar did NOT work) and kneaded the ball.

To make this cake, I first had to create the template. I traced a guitar. It took 4 sheets of 8x11 paper. I scanned the tracings, put them together and shrunk the base of the guitar to fit on one 8x11 sheet of paper. (There was no way I was going to make a life-sized guitar for only 15 people!) The template was in 3 parts - the body, the neck and the head (where the tuning keys are).











I baked and cooled a regular box cake as normal in a 9 x 13" pan.

I placed my template pieces over the cake. I did have to put it together like a puzzle in some places (the cake wasn't wide enough to accommodate the guitar horns so I had to cut those out separately).
Once the cake pieces were together and arranged on my board, I used a piece of regular clean floss to cut the cake in half. It cuts much more cleanly than a serrated knife. I lifted the top layer off (carefully!) and iced the entire middle with store bought chocolate icing.

After replacing the top layers, I iced the top and sides with store bought vanilla icing to seal in the crumbs and level out the cake surface.
This is where the new stuff starts -- the marshmallow fondant. I had already made plenty of fondant. I flavored it with almond flavoring (use in place of the water in the marshmallow fondant recipe). I formed the knobs and tuning keys and other parts of the cake. Some of them were "painted" with Pearl Dust (edible metallic decorating powder) mixed with flavoring and set aside to dry.

I rolled out a large sheet of marshmallow fondant (and after several tries, actually got the sheet to come off the rolling mat without sticking) and placed it over the base of the cake.

The fondant started to mold itself to the cake. I smoothed down the top and gradually started to work my way down the sides doing small sections at a time. The only place that needed some difficult adjusting was the concave areas around the guitar horns. Once the fondant was pressed to the cake, I used my small spatula to trim off the excess fondant.

I repeated the steps for the second sheet of fondant that was used to cover the neck and head of the guitar cake then I tucked the bottom edge of the fondant underneath the cake to create a smooth bottom.
I chose not to color the fondant because after my experiences with red and black colored icing (ladybug cake and grill cake) and the steps I took to make sure the marshmallow fondant TASTED good, I didn't want to ruin it by mixing in a huge amount of horrible tasting food coloring. I decided I would "paint" the color onto the guitar. I had no idea how this would work or what my own results would be. I saw a picture of a guitar cake online where the creator had mixed food coloring and water and painted the guitar to have a wood grain look. I also watched Ace Of Cakes create a guitar cake and they airbrushed the black onto the cake. That was do-able since there are now spray cans of cake coloring on the market at craft stores, but I thought that might be too messy (and just one more thing I'd have to buy).
I mixed some red food coloring gel with some vanilla extract , grabbed a brush and started painting. Note: keep the strokes going in the same direction. I only brushed on the red the first night and let it dry overnight. I put a second coat of red on the next day and it really made the red a lot brighter! The black went on a bit thicker so it didn't need a second coat.

Once the cake was painted, I added the frets, rolled out a sheet of fondant and cut it out for the guitar face, and placed everything that belonged below the strings. The silver balls you see are silver dragees. They can be hard to find but many grocery stores and places that offer cake decorating supplies still carry them.

For the strings, I used silver embroidery floss. I had intended to use beading wire but that just was NOT going to work. I couldn't get it to straighten out and it moved around so much while I worked with it that I thought it may gouge out part of the cake.

I tied ends of the embroidery floss to toothpicks I had cut in half and pressed the toothpicks into the cake. I made the strings a bit longer than I needed so I was able to tighten them once they were in the cake by twisting the toothpicks. Once the strings were in place, I placed a dab of icing on the end of each to act as glue. I had fondant pieces that went over the ends of each string so the toothpicks were not showing.

The rest of the cake went together smoothly and quickly. I glued down the knobs and other pieces with icing and used toothpicks to insert tuning keys and such. It was a great looking cake!

Final Notes: Only one person did not like the fondant. Others kept pulling pieces off the cake to eat like candy. I iced the middle of the cake because I was worried the fondant wouldn't lend enough "moistness" to the cake like icing does (and my group is a bunch of icing fanatics).

I rolled the marshmallow fondant about 1/8 inch thick. It did really well and kept its shape. I think I used a bit too much cornstarch when I was rolling it out because you could see some "dry" areas of the fondant as I painted it. The color REALLY brought out the flaws. Maybe there was too much cornstarch because I had to keep re-rolling the fondant. Experts say to keep turning your fondant as you roll it so it won't stick. Listen to them. They are right.

Working with Marshmallow Fondant

I knew at some point I would have to face it...I would come across a cake that would just be easier, and look better, if I used fondant. My son's sixteenth birthday was fast approaching and I planned to make him a guitar cake.

The problem is, I don't like the taste of fondant. It's like a chewy, blah tasting ball of clay. But I was browsing through cake decorating forums online and saw several posts about Marshmallow Fondant and how people prefer using it to the traditional fondant. I searched for Marshmallow Fondant, found a recipe at What's Cooking America, and decided to try it. I had all the ingredients (3), and it looked simple and quick to make. I also found a small batch recipe in the Wilton online forum very similar to this large batch recipe so I could just try it out.

Marshmallow Fondant Recipe - large batch (as posted on the What's Cooking America website)
16 ounces white mini-marshmallows (use a good quality brand)
2 to 5 tablespoons water
2 pounds icing sugar (please use C&H Cane Powdered Sugar for the best results)
½ cup Crisco shortening (you will be digging into it so place in a very easily accessed bowl)

NOTE: Please be careful, this first stage can get hot.


Melt marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave or double boiler: Put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, open microwave and stir, back in microwave for 30 seconds more, open microwave and stir again, and continue doing this until melted. It usually takes about 2 ½ minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.


Now grease your hands GENEROUSLY (palms, backs, and in between fingers), then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle. (By the way, this recipe is also good for your hands. When I’m done, they are baby soft.)


Start kneading like you would bread dough. You will immediately see why you have greased your hands. If you have children in the room they will either laugh at you or look at you with a questioning expression. You might even hear a muttered, “What are you doing?”


Keep kneading, this stuff is sticky at this stage! Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more. Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant is sticking. If the mix is tearing easily, it is to dry, so add water (about ½ tablespoon at a time then knead it in). It usually takes me about 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.



It's best if you can let it sit, double wrapped, overnight (but you can use it right away if there are no tiny bits of dry powdered sugar). If you do see them, you will need to knead and maybe add a few more drops of water.


Prepare the fondant for storing by coating it with a good layer of Crisco shortening, wrap in a plastic-type wrap product and then put it in a re-sealable or Ziploc bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible.


MM Fondant will hold very well in the refrigerator for weeks. If I know that I have a cake to decorate, I usually make two (2) batches on a free night during the week so it is ready when I need it. Take advantage of the fact that this fondant can be prepared well in advance.

Now for my own personal notes: There are some guidelines to using fondant. Let me tell you that you should follow those guidelines. I can't tell you how many times I had to peel (scrape) fondant off my rolling mat only to start over. I noticed that as long as I was working with the fondant and didn't let it sit, it stayed moist and did not dry out. I have read that you can zap it in the microwave to soften it out but I did not have to do that (I have to admit I was a bit scared I would ruin it if I microwaved it anymore).

I did not use as much crisco as was suggested. Only when I was actually mixing the marshmallows and sugar together did I add some crisco to my spatula and my hands. Once the fondant formed a ball, I coated my hands and my work surface with cornstarch (powdered sugar did NOT work) and kneaded the ball.

The first couple batches I made were not flavored. They didn't taste bad, but they did taste like overly sweet marshmallows. I added some almond flavoring to the last batch and kneaded all the batches together. It tasted really good!

If you have any left over, place it in a ziploc bag and keep it refrigerated.




Only one person did not like the fondant. Others kept pulling pieces off the cake to eat like candy.
I iced the middle of the cake because I was worried the fondant wouldn't lend enough "moistness" to the cake like icing does (and my group is a bunch of icing fanatics).
I rolled the marshmallow fondant about 1/8 inch thick. It did really well and kept its shape. I think I used a bit too much cornstarch when I was rolling it out because you could see some "dry" areas of the fondant as I painted it. The color REALLY brought out the flaws. Maybe there was too much cornstarch because I had to keep re-rolling the fondant. Experts say to keep turning your fondant as you roll it so it won't stick. Listen to them. They are right.
If you have any Marshmallow Fondant tips to share, please post them in the comments section!

Added 07/12/2011:

I just wanted to note that I made a large batch of the marshmallow fondant and kneaded it for a LONG time (about 10 minutes straight). Then I put it in a large ziploc bag and let it sit for about an hour before I pulled it out and kneaded it again for another 5 minutes. The fondant turned out to be much more smooth and elastic afterwards and was MUCH easier to work with. It didn't tear or crack. It stretched nicely.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life Sized Car Cake

Wow! To be able to create this in my oven...




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