I am not new to baking or cake decorating but I'd just call myself a hobbyist. Most of my cakes are made for family and friend's birthdays. I've gotten a few requests to make them for sale but I've only been brave enough once to do it.
That being said - I have been exploring new decorating techniques outside of my buttercream background. I've made MMF and also purchased the Wilton brand. I've never covered a cake but I enjoy making figures and cut-outs. Recently I had a major fail with my niece's birthday cake - garden themed with fondant fence border and sunflowers along cake side and lots of flower fondant decorations on top. Looking back I'm not sure what I was thinking because I put MMF decorations all over a cake iced in cream cheese frosting. Well, all the moisture in that frosting destroyed the fondant and the fence/sunflowers quickly melted off the side of the cake. It was a big heartbreak but big lesson learned. Since then I haven't worked as much with fondant. I always felt like the MMF I'd make was tasty and fun. But I never felt like it would set up well. I'd have to add a ton of tylose powder to the point that it would be hard as a rock but it would roll thin and actually hold its shape when molded. The Wilton rolled fondant doesn't taste good but it does seem to work better for me and dries so much faster. Just to note - I usually work on decorations a week or at least 3 days in advance. Sometimes things likes animals would never dry thru completely when made with homemade MMF. I realize this is understandable because fondant doesn't dry like gumpaste. But figures (again, made from homemade MMF) would often be so soft they would lose shape on me. For larger things I'd have to use marshmallow treats to create the base and wrap them in fondant which works well but is an extra step. I always keep finished fondant decorations in cake boxes because I know moisture is my enemy. I've done a lil reading up and watched tutorials but to me there is still a lot of unknown which makes me nervous.
So here goes - I want to take another big crack at fondant and need advice. My friend's 30th birthday is two weekends away. Her husband is throwing a surprise party and asked me to make the cake. It will mostly be friends and family I know but being an extra special occasion I'm nervous if something goes wrong. I will have to transport the cake an hour away in almost July heat which makes me very anxious. I've never had to transport a cake that great of a distance before. I want to make a two tiered (10" and 7") marble layer cake frosting in vanilla SMBC. I haven't figured out the filling yet but I'm open to suggestions for something non-fruit and preferably doesn't require refrigeration. Because of the drive I am going to assemble the tiers and possibly the decorations once I get to the party. For decoration - I want to wrap the two bottoms of the cakes in a fondant border (about 3-4" tall depending on cake height). I want the fondant borders to be a mosaic tile design. At the very bottom I've posted a picture of the inspiration - I'd like to do mine in red. Note, the cake pictured is covered completely in fondant but I'd like to simply frost mine and apply just the border in fondant. Here are my list of questions:
1. Should I use the tastier but softer homemade MMF
2. Or should I use the Wilton rolled fondant that seems to dry very well
3. I'd like to use SMBC for a smooth finish but would another MBC work better/differently? I just don't want to use American BC. I do have HR shortening and intend to sub some (maybe half but no more) of the butter since I know it will help safe guard me from summer heat and give me a whiter finish.
4. I want to prep the fondant border a few days in advance and here is where I'm not sure which fondant to use - the Wilton brand dries almost too fast and I don't know if the tiles would crack and fall off when I went to apply the border to the cake. I would think I should make the borders and let them lay flat but then what if they dry too hard and now I have to somehow wrap this around the cake. I just picture tiles popping off in every direction, lol. But I can't imagine a good way to wrap the border around, say the cake pans, to keep them rounded while they dry. Then I'd still have to unravel this fondant ring slightly and that stress would probably ruin the mosaic work as well...right?
5. I'm not sure how to address refrigeration and decoration once I get the cake to the party. I'd feel safer transporting the cakes naked (just frosted) and separated. Then when I'd get to the party I'd like to continue refrigerating them (as is) until we are closer to serving. But I realize once I stop refrigeration I am fighting the clock. It's summer and things could get messy fast. And I already learned how moisture/condensation will ruin fondant in no time. When should I wrap the borders around the cake? I'm fearing that heat and moisture are going to be an issue no matter how I plan it. Obviously if the cakes were first covered in fondant this would be less of an issue. But I know a lot of people on here have decorated a BC frosted cake with just borders, stripes and other fondant cut-outs. Once I arrive - should I let the cake come almost to temperature; adhere the fondant borders around each tier; stack the tiers (bottom tier secured with bubble straws/cake plate separator); and keep the cake in an air conditioned room until we're ready to sing happy birthday? I wanna keep the cake at a neutral temperature so it's soft enough to serve but not too soft that it's structure; frosting; fondant become compromised.
ANY AND ALL ADVISE IS MUCH APPRECIATED!!