On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Practice run–a fondant covered cake


I’m loving the Craftsy Classes I’m enrolled in and I wanted to have a go at putting some of the new techniques into practice.

I only ever cover a cake in fondant once a year, at Christmas. It’s an 8” square cake and round cakes covered in fondant scare me.

But I’ve been watching a few videos, and I bought “The Mat” while in Australia (the massive one) and the Mini Mat from CakeStuff the other week (I see it’s sold out, at least that size). I felt ready to tackle a round cake.

Here’s what it looked like when completed. Stick around if you want the blow by blow breakdown of how I got there.


Just about everything I did here is something new.

  • Cake recipe
  • Levelling/flattening the cakes
  • Butter emulsion
  • Ganache filling
  • Reusing previously frozen Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC)
  • Levelling the top of the cake, properly
  • Buttercream beneath fondant
  • Covering a round cake
  • Wax Paper Transfer Method (WPTM)
  • Explosion

“Decoration idea”

  • I used tools I’ve not used before:
  • The Mat
  • Fondant smoothers
  • Sugar Flower Glue
  • Pastry Brush

And not everything went smoothly. Not by a long shot. There are so many lessons to be learnt. But that’s what a practice is all about. Making mistakes and finding ways to avoid them for next time, and ways to hide them for this time.

We start with a cake batter I’ve never used before. It was thick, not like the cake batters I’ve been baking the last 6 or so months. This was the type that doesn’t smooth down in the pan without some help.

Cake batter

I’m still “off” the idea of using a baking spray and then lightly flouring the sides and bottom of the cake pans. There’s nothing more here than baking paper. And I had no problem with the cakes sticking to the pans, or the paper, despite the almost 1 cm gap I had around the side of one pan.

I have spent some time reading Jessica’s blog. I have signed up for (and paid and watched) her Craftsy class and many of the techniques here come from her class or blog.

Jessica had mentioned that she’s never had to level a cake. Had to believe. So I read her post about the method she uses and gave it a crack.

Flattening the dome

As you can see the cake is domed. I used two sheets of paper towel and just dampened them. Then I used the lid of a Sistema container to then gently push he dome down, and when I had the dome down I went around the edges of the cake to try and flatted it all over the top. It mostly worked, but the top was still higher than the sides.  And later the cake had sunk a little, so I wonder how much I really needed to press to flatten the domes. Despite the top still being higher than the rounded sides I went with it.

I figured the ganache would fill in the sides and with the ganache and buttercream both being the same colour (depth varies) I wouldn’t curse too much about seeing a different colour as a “dam”. The ganache had been the original one I used for Riley’s Angry Birds cake, and then thought better of. This one was 72% chocolate, a bit too bitter for kids. I added to the ganache some Orange extract. This stuff smells so intense, but just like orange juice. There’s no artificial smell to it.


I used a 1/2 teaspoon of the Orange extract and the Butter Emulsion to the Vanilla Cake recipe as well. I was going for a lovely Jaffa flavour, one of my favourites.

Our inside freezer is jammed with frozen frostings, citrus juice of every variety, and zest, royal icing, pastry dough and fillings and ganache as well. I removed the chocolate SMBC I had in there from when I made the Double Chocolate Layer Cake for our new neighbours, on Friday morning. The ganache I removed Saturday morning, knowing I was likely going to warm it through enough to be able to whisk.

Ganache filling

I ended up flip flopping between warming it too much, putting it in the fridge to set up a little, finding it again too set and rewarming it. I did this several times and the last I set the timer on the oven for 5 minutes and grabbed it from the fridge after that. I then let it sit on the bench to soften just a little and began playing with fondant and my new patchwork butterfly cutters. I noticed that the ganache was ready and had to put everything aside to make sure I worked with it before it began to set again. You can see how much ganache I had to use to get the sides straight and disguise the slope from the top of the cake down to the sides. And I wasn’t happy with the level of the top. Out came my little spirit level. Its first use.

I was able to immediately cover the cake in SMBC.  The SMBC beat up so nice. I was thrilled.

buttercream layer

But covering the cake was a real pain. Every time I used the bench scraper to get the sides even I’d end up seeing ganache poking through. I didn’t know how I could have so little of the SMBC on the sides for that to happen. I fussed and fluffed about and gave up after having spent way too long. I put it in the fridge and resigned myself to having to do a 2nd layer of SMBC, which hopefully would go on much better with a first coat.

It did. There’s a fine line between getting the sides all nice and straight and dealing with the little bit that raises above the side of the cake that still has to be dealt with. And all that time getting the top nice and flat was pretty much ruined with the SMBC. I couldn’t put the spirit level on it because the frosting was too soft. That was probably my problem. I should have put it in the fridge for a few minutes. The house was too hot. In the end I was reasonably happy with the cake. And I remembered to put the bench scraper into a bowl of hot water and use it around the sides and top of the cake to be very sure it was all smooth. That’s why you can see such a difference between that glossy SMBC in the bowl and the finish on the cake.

That frosting was so good. Even Mr Fussy who’s been recovering ALL WEEK from a gastro bug came out to swipe a little bit more. But not nearly as much as I’d been snacking on. I had it bad!

It had been my intention to cover the cake in fondant Saturday evening. But with the house so warm and the buttercream threatening to smoosh within 10 minutes of being out of the fridge, I decided I’d tackle it first thing, before the fire went on.

My worry was the cake being too cold to put fondant on, and ending up with bulges because the buttercream at room temperature would end up expelling a little air.

Fondant layers

While laying in bed this morning I decided I would tackle an Explosion design. Clearly it was a very last minute decision because I had nothing to explode out of the cake. Since decorating the cake I’ve found a few picture tutorials of other methods. When I explain the BIG mistake I have here, you’ll understand why next time I’ll be using a circle the size of the explosion only, and not the entire cake top.

As you can see I had black and red.  Good Canterbury colours! I had a circle of both the same size as the cake. Between the black and red is a smaller circle of baking paper. I’ll explain what I did, then follow up with what I should have done.

After placing the red circle on the black, covered with baking paper, I rolled out the white fondant, using my new Mini Mat. It took quite a bit of work. The centre is a bit thicker and I was having a hard job pushing it out. When I had my 32cm “round” it was time to hold my breath and see if the fondant would drape nicely over the cake without dragging and tearing and God forbid, ending up with elephant skin. You can see a YouTube of how The Mat works, here.

The Mat worked as it should, but of course I went arse about face (now that I relook at the beginning of the video) and it might have gone much better had I reviewed the video again.

Getting the slits in the fondant wasn’t too difficult. I had a second piece of baking paper cut into a circle which I’d drawn lines (in pencil) as guides to where I was to cut. And I knew to cut from the outside in to reduce and drag from the knife.

Fondant flourishes

Getting the first slit up was the hardest. It was hard not to misshapen the burst.

So here’s what went wrong, and a BIG boo-boo.

As I placed the fondant over the top of the cake, unbeknown to me, the red moved and shifted and was now about 1cm down the side of the cake, on one side. Crap! There’s a couple of things I could do here differently next time. Moisten the edges of the black with water or sugar glue and then stick the red on top and press lightly to adhere. Actually I would also do a little more to adhere the black to the top of the cake also, but I think it was mostly stuck in place. I’d had to go around the red and black with my craft knife to shave over the little bits that were over hanging, and I’d had to press some of the black where it didn’t quite meet the edge of the cake, I think that helped fix it in place.

Or, I’d cut smaller circles, just the width of the star burst, which would mean I had a bulge in the top of the cake, but this would be hidden once the bursts had been turned out. On looking at the pictures above I think I like the bursts laying on the cake. But then by the time you have something exploding from the cake it might look better.

I took a long piece of Gladwrap and scrunched it up into a long thread and then gently lift the bursts up and placed the Gladwrap underneath to give it something to rest on and allow it to set a bit. I had to moisten the red and fix it to the white on a couple. It’s a mucky job and it doesn’t look very neatly done. The white fondant is thicker (it’s the centre which I was having trouble rolling out) and the red is a bit thinner, so the red has some drying and it tore at the ends. So no nice sharp peaks to it. From this distance it looks decent though Winking smile

Top view

I had also only just managed to cut through the black on cut. Getting the baking paper out was really simple though. That’s the bit I expected to spend time fussing over.

Before making the burst, I used the fondant smoothers to get a nice smooth top and sides (and hiding the bulge from the red) I spent a bit of time trying to see how I could get a more crisp top edge. I wanted it to look 90 degrees. I tried the method I’d seen but it just wasn’t to be. I need to revisit those videos to see if I’ve forgotten something in the technique. One technique is to flip the cake upside down and use the smoothers or a bit of acetate to push the fondant to the bottom (which is the top). But I was too scared to do that. Plus I don’t have anything solid enough that would have held the cake perfectly flat to flip it.

Anyway, the other boo-boos. Somehow I ended up with a bit of buttercream on the side of the cake. And there was an unhappy tear in the very bottom because I didn’t lay the fondant over the top of the cake straight, so I had to actually try and coerce the fondant a bit to reach the bottom.  So tears, buttercream, slipped fondant. I pretty much had it all going on.

I hadn’t really settled on an idea for decorating the cake. I had some left over grey from the Angry Bird blackbird and thought I’d use that with the black and the red. I needed something that was pretty random because I had odd spots where I needed to cover mistakes.

I decided to use Jessica’s Waxed Paper Transfer Method (WPTM) to do an edge for the cake. I wish I’d seen the video last weekend before doing Dad’s cake, it would have been a lot easier!

Back view

(the back view) I measured the waxed paper around the cake and cut the piece. I used cellotape to hold the paper to the bench, used some Kremelta on the very edge where I was going to lay the fondant. Rolled out a long sausage of fondant and then rolled it. Then using a ruler and my craft knife I cut a straight edge and moved the fondant to sit over the bottom edge of the waxed paper. Then I used one of my new edging cutter thingees butted up to the edge of the ruler (which was placed over the fondant at a particular distance from the bottom) and pressed it down and along the length of the fondant. Then I put a little smear of Kremelta along the base of the cake and held the waxed paper to line up the bottom edge of it to the bottom of the cake, then pressed gently to adhere the fondant to the cake. The start and end overlapped each other as I hoped it would. I then cut though the overlap, got rid of the one side of excess fondant, then peeled the other side back a bit to carefully remove the other sides excess fondant. Then pressed the sides back against the cake where they met perfectly. And the design also was  perfect match. Woo hoo! The only thing with this cutter tool is that the front has a nice soft bevelled sort of cut to it, where you don’t get that at the back. And it’s the back that is facing out on the cake. Still it’s OK, in fact I’m warming to the idea and don’t mind it at all.

Explosion Cake

So there I was placing the spots randomly (purposefully hiding little indiscretions) and I ended up getting too much sugar glue on the back of a big red spot and before I knew it I had a sticky hand pressing the grey inner circle into the side of the cake and at the same time putting red sticky stuff all over it. I also managed to get a black sticky spot as well, that’s hidden by one of the smaller spots. Just as well I had ways to cover up some of the mistakes.

All that’s left is to slice the cake and decide is the taste and texture completes the whole thing.

And I couldn’t help saying that this was a better design for a male than the cake I made for Dad. But fondant. It’s still scary stuff Winking smile


4 thoughts on “Practice run–a fondant covered cake

  1. its very beautiful! Can you give the SMBC recipe please? it looks so nice

  2. WOW!!!! You did an amazing job, the cake looks fabulous 🙂

    • Hi Ange, thanks for the encouragement. I’m not quite as fearful about fondant now but it can still be unpredictable, or maybe I’m just having an “off day” here and there. I’m sort of missing fondant at the moment since it’s been quite some time now since I’ve made a cake, back in April! When we return from our overseas trip I’m sure I’ll be back in the kitchen lickety split. Take care, Anita

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