When my dear friend Natalie asked me to make her wedding cake, I reluctantly agreed.
Natalie’s one of my best friends in the whole wide world and she’s very supportive of me and my cake decorating. She easily has more confidence in my cake-decorating skills than I do. I had never attempted a wedding cake before, my fondant cakes were far from perfect, and I really didn’t want to screw up Natalie’s wedding cake.
She’s no Bridezilla
I warned her that I’m no professional cake decorator but if she was prepared to have a seriously flawed wedding cake, I’d be happy to accept the challenge.
Nat was far from a Bridezilla. She wasn’t finicky about having a perfect cake — it was more meaningful for her to have a cake made by moi and she calmed me by saying all she really wanted was a little something to cut into with her husband-to-be, John, at the reception. She didn’t care if the cake was flawed. And so I set out to make the best cake I could make.
Invitation-inspired wedding cake design
It would be a three-tiered white buttermilk cake, plus an extra square cake that wouldn’t be on display but would provide enough servings for all 200+ guests.
Natalie helped take the pressure off this project by making my standby buttercream icing recipe herself — all six or so batches — so I could focus on cake baking and decorating.
The style of the cake was inspired by the neutral color scheme of her wedding invitation: white and champagne-coloured damask, with black lettering.
I bought ivory fondant to cover the cakes, there’d be white fondant accents and a simple monogram with black letters.
Cake design inspiration
With a scan of Natalie and John’s wedding invitation and help from myfonts.com, I found lettering that resembled the font (Bickham Script) on her wedding invitation so I used my word processing software to make a parchment paper template.
Next, I traced the lettering onto parchment paper and placed it on a fondant oval I cut with a cookie cutter. Then I gently traced over the lettering with a modelling tool, removing the parchment paper when I was done and leaving a lettered impression in the fondant oval.
I rolled and hand-shaped the initials with black fondant, I lightly moistened the lettering inscribed in the plaque with water, and I pressed the fondant letters into place, pinching the ends for sharp, elegant edges.
I used Wilton’s baroque fondant and gum paste mold ($10) to make the scrolls and pearl borders. And then I painted the pearls with an edible pearl shimmer.
By the time I finished decorating, I was quite proud of myself. There were no rips or major cracks in the fondant and the sides looked quite smooth. Overall, I’d say it was my best fondant cake to date. Not too bad for an amateur, I thought.
Time to move that cake
With the cake decorating done, it was time to transport it and deliver it to the reception venue. I knew this would be a challenge because typically, I travel with smaller cakes to familiar homes where I can stack the cakes onsite and once stacked, the cakes don’t have to travel very far.
This would be my first time transporting a large, heavy, stacked cake but I’d manage it somehow, or so I thought.
That was until I dented my best friend’s wedding cake…
After struggling with several royal icing issues, I was happy to have a few bunny cookies with relatively smooth surfaces. Their faces are so cute, they distract you from my decorating mistakes.
You didn’t notice them at first, did you?
I learned that I should’ve used a “boo-boo stick” to push down peaks and smooth the icing while it was wet. What the heck’s a boo-boo stick, you ask? First, you should know that I didn’t just make up this device. It really exists! You can buy a boo-boo stick at karenscookies.net. Or you can use a toothpick, a scribe or another modelling tool.
The pink icing I used to pipe the ears and nose was too thick. The ears, in particular, could’ve really used some work with a boo-boo stick.
Royal icing tests my patience. And I failed the test.
I set the cookies to dry overnight but I had places to go, people to see, and cookies to decorate, so after about 14 hours of drying time, I tried to draw on a cookie with an edible-ink marker and I learned something new.
What happens if you try to decorate cookies before royal icing dries completely? You crack the smooth surface and your marker sinks into the icing like this…
Oops! I poked a hole in the icing. Photo by Jennifer Melo
- Use a boo-boo-stick to smooth any lumps, bumps and peaks while the royal icing is wet.
- Wait at least 24 hours before trying to decorate. The humidity in your decorating environment, royal icing consistency and how thick you layer on the icing can influence drying time. My cookies needed about 32 hours to dry completely.
- Use a light touch if you’re using food colouring markers in case the icing isn’t as dry as you suspect it is. The top layers may appear dry to the touch but a little pressure can reveal soft royal icing below the surface.
- Get your royal icing consistency right.
Barnyard animal cupcakes. April 2008. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My niece Lauren’s birthday was a fine time to try some cute barnyard animals. My favourite cake-decorating book Cake Art made it easy with step-by-step instructions and photos.
I struggled with proportions, but I was quite happy with how my barnyard animal cupcakes turned out.
I must say, though, they were time-consuming. I couldn’t manage doing more than a few but that was fine because a few is all I needed to decorate plates of cupcakes.
Fondant is like play dough
This project was really fun. It’s kind of like playing with play dough but you have to work with fondant quickly before it dries out and any moisture will make fondant sticky so it’s wise to keep cornstarch or icing sugar on hand to dust your hands and your work surface.
I hadn’t learned how to make black fondant yet so I used black licorice and it was tricky and tough to work with. See the crazy eyes on that pig? I cut small pieces of black licorice and stuck it to the fondant with water.
Illustrations in Cake Art make it easy to shape and assemble your barnyard animals. Photo by Jennifer Melo
And this is how the pros do it. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Lauren and her party guests loved these cupcakes.
I think my cow’s pretty cute, but the rabbit’s my favourite. Which one’s your favourite?
I went to Homesense in search of bar stools the other day but instead of coming home with seating, I returned with a few extra baking supplies. My favourite find is these FoodWriter edible food colour markers from Wilton ($10).
Green, blue, red, black and yellow food colouring markers. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My piping technique sucks but I have plenty of practise with markers after years of colouring pages with my nieces. So food colouring markers are genius inventions for novice cookie decorators like me.
Food colouring marker tip is fine at the end for details and thick on the sides for shading. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Although these markers are of the bold tip variety, the tip’s not so bold that you can’t use it to draw some detail work. Here’s a shot of the packaging in case you want to find it in stores.
FoodWriter edible colour markers packaging. Photo by Jennifer Melo
I couldn’t wait to try using these markers and I had just the baking project coming up to put these bad boys to use. I soon discovered that cute Easter bunny cookies are adorable when I can draw, rather than pipe, a face.