Harry Harry Potter
I’m a little too obsessed with Harry Potter for a gal who is well out of grade school. And I’ve been waiting for someone to request a Harry Potter themed cake for some time. Sure I have the ambition to make a Horcrux themed cake just for the Hell of it, but staying up all night working on a cake with no party to bring it to, is like getting all dressed up on a Saturday night with no where to go.
I’d planned a recipe to accompany this cake, but I didn’t have time to make butter beer in addition to this cake, so instead I’ll focus on technique. I haven’t really focused on a lesson in technique in awhile. Mostly because after teaching 500 people the basic principles of cake decorating I know its important to have a teacher demonstrating, otherwise we all would have just read a book on decorating and figured it out.
This year when my friend Peter’s daughter Madeline asked for a Harry Potter themed cake, I was obviously thrilled and seeing as I’m goingto focus on the decorating part in this post, I’ll mention a few tricks I’ve learned in the year since the last birthday Madeline celebrated.
The last birthday cake I made for Madeline was topped with a Pegasus. Of course I refused to just pipe one on a square sheet cake which would have totally been a big hit still. Instead I choose to sculpted a winged horse, and though the party guests thought it was cool, I was a bit unsatisfied with my results. So here are a few tips on working with gum paste and fondant, when it comes to crazy cakes.
Lets break it down here is what you have to work with when it comes to sculpting toppers, and decorations:
FONDANT: There are lots of kinds of Fondant. If you’ve read my Marshmallow Fondant post from last year, than perhaps you experimented with different types already. With the popularity of cake decorating shows ready-made fondant is easy to find in craft stores, as well as on the internet. True traditional fondant known as “European Fondant” is boiled sugar that is then cooled and folded (fondre in French means “to fold” rendering the name Fondant). As its folded it continues to cool and become white. There are lots of alternative recipes to making European Fondant at home. Its actually a bit dangerous, as you run the risk of burning yourself. You might come across some resipes for Rolled Fondant which contain gelatin, sugar, and crisco and sometimes cornsyrup. I’m sure this is a great alternative, but I have yet to try it out.
GUM PASTE: is also a sugar dough. It contains gum usually tagacanth gum, talose, or karaya gum to add strength. You can make it at home without the risk of third degree burns. At some point I’ll put a recipe up here, thats easy to make and works well– It will also save you the cost of buying ready-made.
I should also mention that Gum paste is also referred to as Pastilliage, or Sugar Paste. These are similar, recipes vary a little but really they are the same thing.
MARZIPAN Before the Ace of Cakes and Extreme Cake Challenges there was Marzipan. This is a sugar dough used for sculpting and its made from almonds. I’ve used it once or twice– I’m not proficient in it, but it bares mentioning. And if you are interested you can find lots of intriguing books on marzipan sculpting.
Modeling Chocolate is also an option when decorating, but lets stay focused on the sugar doughs.
FONDANT vs GUM PASTE
They can be interchanged depending on the project. Other times you must use one and Not the other.
Fondant is used to cover cakes, NEVER Gumpaste.
If you are using Fondant to add ribbons, or a bow to a cake– or any relatively thin design that needs a little strength — more than what typical fondant can offer, you can use only gum paste or add gum paste to the fondant. A 50 /50 ratio is good. your design will begin to take shape and dry faster with gum paste added.
Gum Paste is best for delicate designs. Its added strength means that you can roll it out very very thin, pull it, vein it, feather it, and it doesn’t tear. Or at least it doesn’t tear and rip the way Fondant can. Beware as gum paste fades in color while it dries, approximately 2-3 shades.
Fondant and Gum Paste will both dry hard, but fondant takes a lot longer to do so.
Sculpting: In my experience fondant is best. I realize that there are folks who might argue, but to each their own. The Pegasus topper I made just one year ago is a perfect example of why fondant is better for sculpted pieces. I’m sure you can see in alot of pictures that the body of horse was smooth and sturdy– made from fondant. The legs crumbled and continued to crumble no matter what– worsening as time when on– they were made from gum paste.
The big factors in sculpting are:
1.What are you making? A rubber duck, a shoe, a sewing machine, a rose. If its thin and delicate use gum paste, otherwise use fondant.
2. Make sure your design can adequately dry on undisturbed propped up or balanced in a way the design won’t sag or get dented.
3. what kind of fondant are you using?
Wilton Fondant is great for Sculpting. It is a bit drier than other fondants, without quite as much elasticity. It has a reputation in the world of fondant for having one of the more unpopular flavors, but its great for sculpting. Duff’s Fondant on the other hand is far more elastic. Its flavor is a little more vanilla infused. And there are chocolate and lemon flavors to choose from. I highly recommend this brand to novice for covering cakes as its stretches and stretches and stretches without tearing.
So lets get the the nitty gritty. You can’t have a Harry Potter cake without a snitch. So I’ll walk you through how I went about sculpting this important feature.
First I pinched off a piece of fondant and began to roll it into a ball. About golf ball size. The longer you roll the more the seams and wrinkles in your fondant will disappear. Try your best to make a spherical shape. You want to beable to view your cake from all angles so if you snitch is really lumpy on one side, your work won’t look as good. Let the ball set. I find the best way is to insert a toothpick in the bottom center. Dipping the tooth pick in a little vanilla extract will ensure the snitch doesn’t slide, as it dries and it makes for an easy way to paint and insert the snitch into the cake later.
If you do your detailed work under a warm light I suggest setting the tooth pick into foam and setting in a cool place away from a hot lamp. This allows your design to dry quicker.
Now for the wings. I rolled out a thin sheet of fondant, though reading all my rules above– gum paste would have done the trick. Like I said Wilton fondant is a little drier and can stand in in some cases. my small sheet of fondant was less than 1/16″ of an inch thick. If you use a Wilton 9″ rolling pin it comes with bands that help you make proper measurements.
I cut 4 wing shapes with a flower petal cuter. Always make extra for the delicate pieces to save from breakage. On a thin piece of shaping foam I “balled” the edges of each wing. Using a balling tool press slightly into the edge of the wing as you move around the edge of the shape. This is important: the balling tool should be half on the wing’s edge, half on the foam. As you trace the shape you’ll notice the edge thins and rises off the foam. (Use a little powdered sugar on the foam and balling tool to save the sugar dough from sticking.)
I left the center and one of the pointed ends of the wing alone, so that it remained thick enough to insert a short piece of floral wire. 2-3″ inches of thin floral wire dipped in clear vanilla will remain relatively hidden inside the wing and will allow you to assemble your snitch when you are finished. Weave it through and try to keep it from poking through.
I then used a veining tool (the larger end) to create a ruffle. Hold the veining tool like a pencil. Press down on edge of the wing and pull away from the wing and in toward your chest. Continue to make indentations consecutively around the under side of the wing. You are using the heel of the vein tool, to press on the edge. Don’t curl your wrist as you do it, else the point of the veiner will pierce the dough.
I then used the viening tool to make impressions laterally across the wing. to create a texture.
Allow the wings to rest on a flower former or the corner of a cookie sheet. This allows a natural shape to set.
When your ball and wings are relatively dry, paint with color food paint. I used my Americolor air brush paint. My airbrushes (Both of them!!) are not working else I would have just sprayed the pieces. A soft paint brush does a great job as well. Paint one side of the leaves and allow to dry, (15 minutes should be good), then paint the other side. Hold the ball by the tooth pick to paint all sides. Allow your pieces to set completely.– Using fondant for the ball piece ensures that the piece will still be soft enough to assemble hours later.
Insert the wings into the sides of the ball. Make any touch ups needed after adhering to your cake.