Actually making a fondant covered celebration cake is something I've been meaning to do for at least the last year. This was one of the things on "my baking bucket list" along with swiss rolls, bagels, layered jellies and sour dough bread. All things that I've been really nervous of for some reason - yet when I've actually made the effort, found the nervousness totally unfounded.
The sour dough remains on that list - but I've actually booked a sour dough artisan bread class on the 9th of October. I'm going with my friend Victoria and am really looking forward to the day out !
The thing that worried me most about this was not baking the cake. I made a classic madeira cake which was ok, but nothing special. I'm not going to post the recipe, as I've found a far better recipe since that I would use next time I make a large covered cake.
My concerns lay in how good a job I'd do in fondant covering it. I was worried my fondant would all be cracked or bumpy and not smooth. If I'm going to take on a project, I like to make a good job of it. If I think it'll be a total hash - I'd rather not attempt it in the first place !
Given the fact that I was going to attempt this and also hoped it was something I could continue to do in future, I invested in a turntable. It really is not required, but does make the job of covering a cake so much easier.
On reading, I found that crumb coating is essential for a nice smooth surface. I had made two 8" madeira cakes. I trimmed these to level and used wild blueberry preserve and buttercream to fill. The buttercream needs to be quite soft and smooth to crumb coat. Basically, it involves covering the whole outside of the cake in a thin layer of buttercream. This fills any little air holes in the cake's surface and seals the crumbs in.
After leaving it to dry, I covered with my fondant. I used 1kg of regular pre-made block fondant. It was a bit on the sticky side (brand I've never used before) - so I decided to add a little colour and 3/4 cup of melted belgian chocolate. I simply kneaded the chocolate into the fondant, wrapped in cling film and left it to firm up.
There are loads of good youtube videos that show you how to fondant cover a large cake and I'd suggest watching some before your first attempt. Using a silicone work / rolling mat with a tiny amount of shortening rubbed in made the job easy. I had no need to dust with icing sugar or cornflour - there was absolutely no sticking whatsoever.
After fondant covering, the fun bit of decorating could commence.
I've recently been playing with modelling chocolate. It's basically melted chocolate mixed with corn syrup and mixed to a paste. Once left to harden, this turns into a clay that can be used almost like (or instead of) fondant. It's super good fun turning it into roses !
Corn syrup is not widely available in the UK - unless mail ordered from specialist American online stores.
As an alternative, I tried Agave nectar. That worked pretty well, but took a lot of beating with a spoon and a considerable time to get to a paste consistency. Golden syrup works well. It's thicker and I found I needed a little more of it. The final modelling chocolate is more resilient though and does not melt and stick to my hands at anything like the speed of the agave equivalent.
I used 300g of dark chocolate (54%) and 125ml of golden syrup. Only about 100ml of syrup is needed with white chocolate as this has a higher fat content.
Do have a look at this YouTube video which shows you how to make modelling chocolate and the roses. It really is fab....
I need some practice yet - but these are my first chocolate roses....
Sarah-Jane Nash, September 2011 - www.siliconemoulds.com