Monday, March 22, 2010

Fondant is Ruffling My Feathers

School is quickly coming to an end and the final projects are beginning to pile up. We only have 11 class days left, but in that time we still have a written exam, a wedding cake, the final buffet as well as regular class activities. Life has been a tad hectic lately, but I'm really enjoying designing the wedding cake!

I've been fixated on the idea of a peacock wedding cake for some time now and am giddy to finally start bringing that idea to life. We were encouraged to keep the cakes under 12 inches, so that definitely makes things easier. I decided on a two-tier cake (10- and 6-inch) covered in fondant and topped with a peacock and draped in fondant or gumpaste feathers. As per the assignment, I sketched my cake and priced out the cost of the cake based on ingredients. I tend to be a bit mathematically-challenged, so it took some time figuring out what 12 oz. of flour costs if you buy it at about $20 for 50 pounds. Once I dusted off the math part of my brain though, it all started to make sense and calculate quicker.

I started by working on the peacock's body. I first sculpted the shape using rice crispy treats because they are easy to mold, lightweight and strong enough to hold the form and support the bird's vertical neck. Plus it's easy to make and you get a tasty reward with the leftovers! Then I had to drape a first layer of  fondant (adhering it with a light smeary coat of frosting) over the rice crispy body to hide the bumps of the cereal. Once that was set, then I draped the final fondant layer and smoothed it out. It worked beautifully!

Next I carved out the wings in fondant using an x-acto knife and adhering it to the body with vodka (the alcohol evaporates and leaves no flavor or color). Then I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter to create tail feathers out of gumpaste (really fondant with tylose powder added to make it harden stiff) in various colors. However, I've now run into issues of the feathers cracking or not staying glued together in a fan shape. It looks complete in the photo, but if I try to pick it up then things either break or become unattached. I've made more gumpaste feathers —this time even thinner — and will make a second tail to see if it will work better. I'll keep you posted, but I like the bird so far!

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