how do I make an art cake?
April 24, 2006 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm making a cake for my best friend's BFA show opening reception. She wants it to match the furniture and jewelry that she's showing-

she uses lots of hard-edged triangular slashes of overlapping colors (hot pink, lime green, electric blue). To me, it's sort of reminiscent of the mid 1980's. Her furniture would look perfectly at home in, say, the diner where the kids would hang out after school on Saved By the Bell.
What's the best way to capture this look in cake-form? I'm pretty handy in the kitchen and I can manage to get a layer cake iced smoothly, but I want to try to get it to look PERFECTLY smooth, almost plastic. For the decoration, is there something edible that can be colored with food coloring, rolled out thin, and cut into shapes? Any links, recipes, tips, or inspired ideas for cake designs are welcome. Just keep in mind that we're in a small town, no fancy baking supply shops or anything nearby. Just a Kroger and a Wal-Mart.
posted by cilantro to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Fondant does this kind of thing perfectly.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:59 AM on April 24, 2006


Rolled fondant will allow you to cut shapes and lay them out on a cake. It's a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad. You can cover the whole cake with it--this is what you frequently see on cakes on the cover of Martha Stewart Wedding.

Googling "fondant" will pull up a gazillion starting points.
posted by padraigin at 10:02 AM on April 24, 2006

What you want is rolled fondant. Here's an example that is circular but relevant to the description you've given.

Rolled fondant can be molded, rolled, sliced, imprinted, and everything with regular kitchen tools or specialized equipment. Here are some instructions for working with it. Wilton is one of the best known brands, you can make your own from a mix or from scratch, as well. I can look that up for you if you want...

(Alternatively, you can go with the near flat regular icing and then add triangles on the top or edges of the cake using royal icing or ice-n-fil.)
posted by whatzit at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2006

Man, i spent too long looking up pictures...
(Royal icing is the stuff that holds gingerbread houses together. If you make a form of it on wax paper and let it harden, you can then remove it from the paper and stick it willy-nilly on your cake. It's edible but not delicious.)
posted by whatzit at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2006

And all of the pre-mixed stuff is shippable - as long as you don't need it tomorrow, you could well get something fancy sent in...
posted by whatzit at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2006

fondant works really well, and while it's perfectly edible, most people don't like the taste enough to eat a whole slice's worth. I certainly won't eat it.
posted by sid at 10:11 AM on April 24, 2006

there is that, sid - fondant tends to just be sweet. You can add flavorings to it, and the chocolate fondant is pretty good (if you wanted a chocolatey base with colored stuff on top of it?)

That remind me, another good possibility, is called chocolate clay or paste. Here's a recipe you could try. This is obviously best with brown chocolates but as long as you can stand the white chocolate flavor, you could certainly use that and color it.
posted by whatzit at 10:16 AM on April 24, 2006

Do you have a Michaels (or possibly another large art supply chain?) nearby? They have a whole cake decorating section with pre-made fondant and tons of other handy supplies.
posted by necessitas at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2006

Here is a really lazy suggestion: If you're fixed for time, you may get passing results by cutting out shapes from Fruit Roll Ups. They certainly have that 80's turquoise and red thing going on. Also for large flat areas of color on cakes, I have used supermarket spray-can icing with paper stencils.

Coeval's wife
posted by coevals at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2006

I agree with everyone's suggestions of fondant.
Do you want the cake itself to be angular and have slashes? Because it could be pretty cool if you baked a standard circular or rectangular cake and then cut it up in to weird shapes, iced them separately with different colored fondant, and then stacked them back up together. You could put in spikes of sugar or wafer cookies too. (I'm getting excited about this!)
posted by rmless at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2006

I'm with Sid, In my opinion, Fondant tastes like circus peanuts. The chocolate clay sounds really good to my lunch-less belly, but so did fondant before I had it.
posted by Brainy at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2006

Fondant is the way to go, but for the kind of intense colors you desire you must using Icing coloring, not regular food coloring.

In order to color the fondant, you'll mix in a bit of the icing coloring and then knead them together well.

A few caveats:

It takes a few hours for the color to develop fully, so its always better to color the fondant the night before and let it ripen overnight. Wrap it very very well as no one likes crunchy fondant.

Its very difficult to get two batches of fondant to be exactly the same shade. If you want several of your pieces to match, color up a bigger batch than you think you'll need. Its always better to have too much in cake decorating, rather than not enough.

If you want the pieces to bend over the edges of the cake (a la Dali) put them on the cake right after cutting them and let'er droop. If you want them stiffer, let them dry on some wax paper for a few hours first. Carefully peel the wax paper off the cut-out never the other way around.

Red icing coloring always tastes bad. Even the ones labeled "no-taste" red. Try to do without it.

I rceommend the pre-made fondant. The cost is not much different and the texture is already perfect. If you don't have a place to buy it locally (check then it may be expensive to ship as it is dense.

To improve taste, you can lay a layer of fondant over a well-chilled layer of buttercream icing. Its the best of both worlds !

Its worth the money to get a special plastic rolling pin for rolling fondant super-smooth. But if you are watching the bucks any kind will do.

Feel free to email me with any questions. Address is in the profile.
posted by AuntLisa at 3:47 PM on April 24, 2006

the final results : Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The cake was sour cream chocolate, the icing was a weird recipe involving cooking flour and milk until thick and whipping it with butter and shortening and sugar (rich, too rich for my taste, but everyone liked it) and the "fondant" recipe I used was an uncooked amalgam of dry milk, sweetened condensed milk, and powdered sugar. It actually wasn't too awful tasting, but I had to use about 5 times more powdered sugar than called for to get it non-sticky enough to roll out. I didn't want to get too crazy with the food coloring, so the colors are more pastel than I wanted, but otherwise it looked perfect with my friend's furniture.

Thanks everyone! :)
posted by cilantro at 9:50 AM on May 4, 2006

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