When Sweetpea told me she wanted a Peppa Pig cake for her birthday, I immediately wondered if a cake pan could do all the work for me. A quick check on Amazon yielded nada. So then the next stop, of course, was Pinterest.
Everything I was finding was with fondant, and I didn’t know shizzle about working with it. As far as I was concerned, that was for other people, like the Perfect Pinterest Fairies. Not me.
Then, we attended a neighbor’s birthday party featuring an amazing pirate and mermaid cake, complete with fondant sea creatures. I talked to the mom, and she explained how working with the fondant wasn’t nearly as daunting as it seems. It gave me some courage.
I went back to Pinterest to look for designs that weren’t overly complicated and decided I would try it - and leave plenty of time to make a bakery run in case it was an epic cake fail.
I was surprised at how (relatively) easy it was; fun, even.
I don’t bake a ton. I make cakes a few times a year, and lots of cookies around Christmas. Beyond that, it’s an occasional pan of brownies or chocolate chip cookies.
So, don’t think you have to be some sort of baking queen to pull this off.
I call this my Google cake because I largely didn’t know what the hell I was doing and had to Google the whole way through.
In case you’re itching to do something creative and fun for your little’s next birthday, I’ll share what I learned with you. The most important part is fun - if the thought of this makes you want to drive off a cliff, figure out what part of your little’s party will be enjoyable for you, and focus on that instead. This cake was pretty much the only handmade part of Sweetpea’s party. Everything else was bought, or someone did it for me via the party rental (decorations, etc.).
I’ll start with some tips, and then give you instructions for the most difficult part, which is covering the cake with fondant.
Tip #1 (the most important one):
Break it down into manageable steps, and do the cake over several days or even weeks, at times that are convenient for you.
Otherwise, you’ll probably drive yourself crazy and be a mess by the time the party rolls around.
I happened to have a surplus of chocolate frosting from Monkey’s birthday in the freezer, so that was already done.
I baked the cake layers on an afternoon when I had a sitter. Then I wrapped them in plastic and saved them until I could ice the cake (which happened to be naptime the following day). You could even freeze them if you want - just wrap them really well and put the wrapped layers in a plastic bag.
I iced the cake and put on the main layer of green fondant during naptime, then put the cake in the fridge until I could finish it after the kids went to bed at night (read more about fondant and the fridge in tip #2)
Tip #2: You CAN refrigerate fondant.
After I already had the green fondant on the cake, I realized that the cake needed to be in the fridge. I wouldn’t be able to work on it again until at least 6 hours later, and the frosting was made with cream cheese and sour cream. My next thought was:
“Ffffuuuuuuuuuuuu…..Can I even put fondant in the fridge?”
It turns out you can, but you have to do it right, or you’ll ruin your cake.
Thanks to a post I found on this cake porn blog, you can store your cake in the fridge...if you put it in a cardboard box first. The box absorbs the humidity from the fridge and protects the cake. Otherwise, the fondant will literally start to melt off your cake.
I just used an Amazon box and taped it shut with packing tape. When I came back to the cake several hours later, it was totally fine. When I was completely done with the cake, I put it back into the box and kept it safe and sound until the party.
Tip #3: You can microwave fondant to make it pliable
Once I opened my fondant friggin’ brick, I realized there was no way I would be able to knead that shit until it was soft.
(frantic Googling on iPhone)
So you can microwave fondant! Put it in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave at 5-second intervals until it’s at the consistency you want.
Tip #4: Get the right equipment.
Yes, it costs money, but not really any more than what you’d spend on a fancy cake like the one you’re about to make. And then you’ll have what you need to make more cakes (once you start, you can’t stop). I bought almost all of my stuff on Amazon, and found they have a selection that’s cheaper and more diverse than Michael’s.
At minimum, you’ll need:
Fondant punches - I got a giganto set on Amazon for about $20 - that’s what I used for the flowers and leaves. I also bought a letter and number set.
Roller - I used a regular rolling pin for the large main piece of fondant, and a small, specialized roller (that came with the giganto set of punches) for the decorations.
Large offset spatula
Cardboard cake rounds, at least 1-2 inches wider than the cake.
Not necessary, but makes life waaaaayyy easier:
Fondant cutters/tools - mine came with the giant set of punches
Powdered sugar shaker - distributes everything much more evenly and finely than your fingers
Fondant smoother - you could also use the bottom of a glass, but the smoother is way easier to handle
Pastry board - you could also use a clean counter, but I like my board because you can pick it up and move it if you want
Tip #5: buy pre-colored fondant
In the future, *if* I’m feeling up to it, I *might* dye my fondant myself. But if you have more than a few colors on your cake, that adds up to a shit ton of work. No thanks.
Wilton sells multi color packs (small amounts of each color) for this reason - no need to buy 2 pounds of yellow so you can make one quarter-sized sunshine.
HOW TO COVER YOUR CAKE IN FONDANT:
I’m assuming you know how to assemble and ice a layer cake. If not, I learned to do it through this great Real Simple post. The only difference here is that your outer layer should be on the thin side (otherwise the fondant could end up looking lumpy), and you don’t have to be worried about crumbs in the frosting because it will be covered up with the fondant.
Be sure to refrigerate your iced cake (around 30 minutes) so that the icing firms up. Otherwise the fondant will slide off.
Measure your cake to figure out how large to roll your fondant. My cake was 4 inches tall, 8 inches across. So I needed my circle of fondant to be at least 16 inches wide (4 + 8 + 4 = 16). I added a few inches to be safe
Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with cornstarch or powdered sugar
Roll the fondant until your circle is large enough, and about ¼ inch thickness (I eyeballed it)
Dust your rolling pin again, then loosely wrap the rolled fondant around your pin
Holding the pin about an inch or two out from the base of the cake, unfurl the fondant up and over the cake until it’s evenly draped
Using a smoother, start at the top and center of your cake and work your way out.
Continue smoothing down the sides. You might want to first use your hands and then the smoother.
Cut off the excess with a knife or fondant tool. I did it in two passes to avoid mistakes (first pass left some to still cut off, then I refined with a second pass).
If you feel like you just need to SEE this to understand it, this is a good video here, with a British accent and everything! She lifts the fondant with her hands, but I think I’ll have to practice a bit before I get that good.
When I added the decorations, I cut everything out all at once, and then applied them. They started to dry a little, so in hindsight I probably should have put them on a tray and covered them with plastic wrap until I was ready to use them.
I applied the decorations with a little dab of water. I used my finger, but next time I’ll use a brush for more control.
Brown (for the muddy puddles) was the one color of fondant that I didn’t have. I tried to mix and dye the fondant myself, but it looked disgusting. My fix for this was to roll the fondant in cocoa powder, and it worked great.
I attached Peppa and George by dabbing a little water on their feet and then gently pushing them into the puddle.