week 4 fondant and royal icing

Five hours of standing on my feet. I must be getting used to it. Not!

Today we covered 9 inch and 3 inch dummies with fondant as a prelude to making a three tiered wedding cake. Last week we made the middle tier and covered it with a crumb coating. It has been sitting in the French Culinary Institute’s freezers ever since. Today we learned how to make ropes with a clay extruder–that was fun. And how to make bows and ribbons–not terribly interesting, I thought, too fussy.

This is my cake.  I used the extruder with a three hole disc to make a rope that I twisted slightly. I made the daisies from a marguerite plunger that I got at New York Cake and Bake. I used a little royal icing to make the daisy centers. Simple and easy! Here are some of the cakes the class decorated tonight:

week 3 of fondant and royal icing

It’s the halfway point of the course. The fact that a major snowstorm hit the city yesterday didn’t help dispel that feeling of dread, “what am I doing here?” The assignment: to make a white cake and cover it in a crumb coating. My cake’s texture was dense. No doubt because the egg whites didn’t get foamy enough before I added the sugar. <sigh>

We also made our own royal icing and Italian Meringue Buttercream. Now, those were more successful. The buttercream was a delicate balance between meringue and sugar syrup arriving at the same point ready to be joined together. Sounds like a marriage! In fact, after two pounds of  butter had been added it still looked like the consistency of cream soup. (This stuff isn’t heart healthy, that’s for sure.)

Chef Tai said to just put the buttercream in the bowl in the fridge for a while. But Chef Joseph showed me a really neat trick instead. He put the bowl back on the mixer stand. Instead of raising the bowl, he let the whip just touch an inch beneath the surface. Then he switched on the machine and let it go round until the mixture began to look vaguely like cottage cheese. Then he raised the bowl to immerse the whip and continued whipping until a smooth buttercream emerged. A miraculous save!

We were dismissed an hour early on account of the weather. It was still sleeting. I brought back the royal icing and the buttercream to practice making borders at home. I reviewed the white cake recipe afterwards to see where I went wrong. I noticed that the vanilla was missing and the sugar amounts in the ingredients were different from the procedure. Aw nuts. Chef Tai had said it was Martha Stewart’s White Buttercake recipe so I looked it up online and got the correct measurements. That’s my next recipe post!

more fondant and royal icing

More about fondants today with a new teacher, Chef Tai. What I learned is that every cook has a different way of doing fondants. Instead of two whole boxes of sugar, Chef Thai said start with one and a half boxes. Then when the fondant is mixing up, add more as needed until it becomes solid in appearance. What Chef Tai does next is smear Crisco all vegetable shortening on her hands and on the work surface which she blots with cornstarch or sprinkles sparingly. Then I kneaded the fondant on the prepared work surface, adding more sugar as needed, until it was “soft and malleable.” I wrapped the fondant in plastic and let it rest.  Chef Tai recommended at least 10 minutes. We continued the lesson with store-bought fondant which we colored with gel food coloring, about 1-2 drops per pound. It’s best to be conservative.

I rolled out the fondant and turned it to keep it fairly circular until it was about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Instead of rolling it up on a rolling pin to transport to the cake (actually a cake dummy) Chef Tai recommended dusting the backs of our forearms with cornstarch and transporting it that way to the cake. I trimmed off the overhanging fondant. Then gently pulling and smoothing and separating, I covered the edges. I cut away the excess fondant with a pastry wheel, leaving a 1/4 inch edge that could be smoothed and trimmed. Then we moved on to using fondant and royal icing to decorate.

I’ve still got some things to work out. The band is too thick because the fondant was too dry. Some of the things you add to fondant to make it “malleable” like glycerin and CMC (Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose)  sound so terrible, not to mention, unappetizing. I think that elaborately decorating a cake can make one forget that it’s the Ultimate Food, that it’s meant to be tasted and savored, not just have visual appeal.