Recently I was commissioned to make a cake for a very large, very piratey event. Guild of the Golden Owl was hosting Melbourne’s very first pirate themed cruise, Pirates of the Yarribean. With 300 people in attendance I had my work cut out for me seeing as I had never made a large tier cake before.
The cake was to be ultra chocolate and covered in fondant. Like a lot of others I’m not a huge fan of fondant and knew most people would pick it off, I could not leave the cake bare underneath the fondant as that would create several catastrophe’s (fondant not sticking, cake being dry). Butter cream was out of the question as it is known to melt in Melbourne’s weather and seeing as I don’t have much experience with it I was not about to risk this. I settled on hard chocolate ganache. Perfect. I love working with ganache and it suits what the client wanted.
The next thing to chose was the filling. Should it be Butter cream? Jam? Chocolate frosting? How about a soft chocolate ganache? Perfect, now I’m happy. My love for ganache wins once again. Ganache is very easy to work with and very simple to make. Don’t be scared to try it, if I can do it anyone can.
Time was not on my side (nor was the fondant), I had very limited hours to make sure this would work, I barely had time to find the perfect recipe let alone make a mock design to ensure it would fulfill their needs. Thankfully, Zoe at Zoe Bakes already has a perfect devil’s food cake recipe. It is without a doubt the best devil’s food cake I have ever had and I received many compliments on the night, I highly recommend you try it at least once.
With 5 days to go I have found the perfect cake recipe and the filling. What about the fondant? Oh god, the fondant. Originally I had plans to make my own marshmallow fondant. If I’m making a giant cake, why not go all out and do everything from scratch? Unfortunately marshmallows sold in Australia are very sugary resulting in fondant that was far too sweet. I’m sure it would be great for small details, such as flowers, but not to cover an entire cake. It was a sugar overload. I discovered USA Foods’ bat cave in Victoria and found Jett-Puffed marshmallows. Perfect, American marshmallows are not overly sweet (which surprised me quite a lot) and the marshmallow fondant turned out to be sweet without being overbearing.
Unfortunately marshmallow fondant is a jerk. Thanks YouTube and Internet searches, you make it look so easy. I had high hopes for you marshmallow fondant. It’s sticky and when it’s not sticky it’s too hard, this can be fixed by tweaking the recipe but in the meantime you and your kitchen are covered in the stickiest substance known to mankind. Marshmallow fondant does also not take too well to food colouring, I use AmeriColor gel paste (which is fantastic) but after 2 tablespoons it was still a deep pink. My dreams of making everything from scratch were shattered and I had to give up on marshmallow fondant. I would have blown my budget buying Jett-Puffed marshmallows and food colouring at this rate.
Back to square one. Melbourne is really lacking in baking supply stores. My usual stockist had none and everywhere else had only plain white fondant or was far too expensive. I ended up buying fondant from a company called Cake Art. I’m not sure if they were having a bad day or if that’s how they always make their fondant but what I received was not good quality. I had no other option though, it came 2 days before the event. Throughout the entire mix was large dry clumps where the confectioners sugar had not been incorporated into the mix. I had to pick all of that out and barely had enough fondant left over to finish the design. If anyone has had a good experience with them I would love to know, I’d hate to write them off entirely.
I may be making this up, or I may think I’m more experienced with fondant then I really am, because of all the confectioners sugar which had not been incorporated into the mix the fondant was very soft, too soft even. I was left with fondant that tore easily and when draped over the cake it decided to fall off altogether. Leaving me with a cake that had fondant on the top and chunks missing along the sides where it had torn off. Incorporating small amounts of confectioners sugar with the fondant did not help either, the test batches I did this to resulted in hard dry blobs.
I was a mess. I couldn’t waste any fondant and what fondant I did have was of very poor quality. I had to suck it up and do my best. Thankfully the client was a friend and knew the struggles I was going through. You can see clearly in the photo’s where the fondant has ruffled and folded over itself. The skull’s are masking a few tears where it collapsed underneath it’s own weight. Has anyone else ever had this problem? I am not Iron Chef’s fondant guru yet I’ve never encountered this before, I would love to know how to fix it if it ever happens again.
Gemma:1 Fondant:0, or maybe it’s the other way round. I’ll let you decide. Unfortunately these are the only photo’s I have of the cake. I was too busy rocking back and forth huddled in a corner to take photo’s once it was cut, just know it was delicious. A recipe for the hard and soft chocolate ganache will be included later in another post, the recipe for the devil’s food cake can be found at Zoe Bakes.