(What follows will be mostly back story. Feel free to skip it.)
I'm new on here, and I've only recently started experimenting with baking. Before I had stuck mostly to basic cakes - nothing fancy. Well the past week I decided to give working with fondant a shot. I recently started volunteering for one of my local community theaters, and there's a potluck party every Friday, which is giving me the motivation I need to get baking on a regular basis and to make my baking awesome. The play that was running for the past three weeks closed this past Saturday, so I thought I'd make a cake that would replicate one of the scenes from the play. Yes, I know - how ambitious (read: stupid) for my first time ever working with fondant! Well the plan was to have a large rectangular chocolate cake as the bottom layer and a carved 'couch cake' on top of it. (This was also my first time ever attempting to carve a cake. Yeah, I'm ambitious.) The bottom layer was supposed to be the stage. Two of the characters were supposed to be sitting on the couch, as they are in the scene. One of the characters was supposed to be holding a fondant camera, filming the two characters on the couch. Another one of the other characters was supposed to be directing the whole thing. The last character, who is the narrator, was supposed to just be standing off to the side.
Set-back #1: The couch cake that I carved out of a basic box mix was a total bust. It didn't hold together at all. I found the "Enhanced Cake Formula" recipe on here, bought all the ingredients, and prepared to re-carve the couch. However, I ran out of time and didn't end up with a couch at all. The recipe was really yummy and everybody loved it, so at least I ended up with delicious cake!
(The actual topic of discussion basically begins here.)
Set-back #2: The fondant was SOOO annoying to work with. I made my own fondant out of marshmallows and icing sugar. I put all of my fondant in Ziploc bags while I was working with it, and it still kept turning rock-hard! I kept having to put it in the microwave for a few seconds and knead it with Crisco. Sometimes I would repeat this process so many times that it would end up super greasy and require some additional icing sugar to fix it, plus more food colouring to get it back to the shade it's supposed to be. How irritating!
Set-back #3: The figures I made were I guess too big (?), so they were a real pain to make stand up straight. They ones that were sitting down were fine, but the standing-up ones were really annoying. I had to keep sticking toothpicks into them, and even then they didn't hold their form (or not for very long at least).
Set-back #4: When I stuck them into the cake, they all fell over and destroyed the cake! I couldn't put them where I had intended to put them because they ruined the structural integrity of the spots I had placed them in. I took drinking straws and made holes in the remaining, somewhat non-destroyed parts of the cake and stuck them in there. I had to cling wrap them together so they could support each other and not fall all over the place.
Set-back #5: How on Earth do people transport such oddly-shaped cakes?! No way was it going to fit into my cake caddy! Was I supposed to take the figures in a bag and assemble them at the party, or what? I'm sure there's a way, but I don't know what it is. I ended up cling wrapping all the figures and wrapping the whole thing in a 'tent' of aluminum foil.
Here are some visuals for you all. Please note that I didn't have time to photograph them properly before rushing off the party (I was super late as it was), so the pictures of the individual figures were taken after the figures were taken off the cake and are somewhat messy-looking. Here they are: http://s1099.photobucket.com/user/mayday_minaj/slideshow/Skin%20Flick%20Cake
P.S.: For any of you who are wondering, the play the 'scene' on the cake is from Norm Foster's 'Skin Flick'.
P.P.S.: Yes, I know the figures are very tanned. I couldn't figure out how to make a skin tone that wasn't too pale or too tanned until half-way through but by then I was committed to the shade I had been using. I couldn't have had them all be different colours when the actors all pretty much had similar skin tones!
If anybody has any tips or advice, that would be very much appreciated!!! I'm considering just making my next figures out of clay! (I've never done that either. People do that, yes?) It sounds like clay would hold together better and probably be less heavy and cake-destroying!
Thanks in advance!!!
Try adding some tylose to your fondant. This will make it firmer to work with and less likely to sag. If you want large figures you could try making a frame from wire for them and building over that. Consider attatching things like large figures to the cake after you arrive wherever so their weight doesn't demolish you cake when it is being moved. If you run a small dowel/skewer through one of the legs and poking out the bottom you can insert this into the cake or into a straw. Just a few things to help get you started.
I couldn't find any tylose powder, but I was using Gum Tex. I guess I should have mentioned that! I was also using lollipop sticks for structural support for the standing figures. They had one up each leg and then another one through their torso all the way up to their head. The lollipop sticks stuck out of the bottom of both of the legs, so I was able to stick the straws onto them, but that still wasn't enough support to keep them standing up straight. The figures that were sitting down just had one lollipop stick stuck up their bum all the way to their heads. The wire does sound like a better idea. It would probably be more flexible and allow for more dynamic poses too. However, I don't think I enjoyed how finicky the fondant was to work with... It took WAAAY longer then I expected it to simply because I kept having to heat up, knead, re-hydrate, and otherwise fix the fondant before I could work with it. :(
AWhen did you add the gumtex? You have to add it in right before you are going to work with the piece in question, it doesn't take very much to turn your fondant hard.
I made two batches of fondant, divided the fondant into chunks to colour each chunk into a different colour, then stuck them all in Ziplock bags. At this point they were just marshmallows and icing sugar with nothing added (except for the 3 tablespoons of water that were added to the marshmallows while melting them in the microwave). When I went to work with a specific colour, I would break off a chunk in the size I needed, heat it up a bit in the microwave because it was already pretty hard at this point, grease my hands with Crisco, and knead it until it was soft and stretchy again. Then I would dip a part of of it in the Gum Tex to add only a little bit of powder, knead it some more, then finally begin to work with it. I have no idea why the fondant which was in the Ziploc bags with no Gum Tex added was getting so hard..
AIt sounds like you may have put too much sugar in your MMF mix. I've had the same thing happen to me, and it is very frustrating. Use the recipe as a guide and always err on the side of adding less rather than more because fixing it up is almost impossible!
Don't know if it will help, but when I put my MMF to the side while I work with other colors, I cover the ball in a thin layer of crisco and then wrap it tightly in saran wrap and then into a zip lock. I used to just toss it into a bag like it sounds like you were doing, but noticed it was getting too hard that way! Good luck!