CakeQuake TwentyTen and a Fondant Gopher Tutorial

I made a cake this weekend. A pretty tasty cake, it was, too. It was just plain vanilla, with vanilla frosting, and homemade marshmallow fondant. I made it for an acquaintance’s birthday. He’s a big golf fan, so his wife and I worked together and she came up with a cute idea for me to try out.

Remember the little gopher from the movie Caddyshack? Well, she thought it would be a cute idea to put him on the cake, and I couldn’t have agreed more. I have to admit, though, I was more than a little terrified at the prospect of making fondant here in the Virgin Islands. I mean, I’ve said it before: it is Humid here. With a capital ‘H.’ So far it’s been at a near constant 95%, give or take.

Fondant + high humidity = melting.

Unfortunately, I don’t have air conditioning, which certainly would have helped. As it was, though, I stuck with the routine I’ve used while making fondant in the past, except with the addition of my biggest fan, blowing over shoulder and making the confectioners’ sugar fly everywhere. It was the sweetest snow I think I’ll ever experience.

It was a close one. I very nearly had a really nice cake. But it just wasn’t meant to be. The day I decorated the cake was, I kid you not, the muggiest day we’ve had since moving to this island (ironically, the following two days were almost ideal for using fondant). I was doomed from the start, so I decided to start with what, for me, was the easiest part of the cake: sculpting the gopher.

I did a little google image search for the gopher, and in case you need a refresher, or have never seen him, here he is:

Cute, huh? Plus, really, he’s not too complicated, so I was relatively confident I could replicate him (assuming he didn’t start to melt).

I started by mixing up my colors. I made two colors in the same family, but in very light and darker shades. I also made them a little more orange than brown because it’s just more visually appealing.

Next, I sculpted his little body. I went with a sort of fat egg shape, then dropped it on the counter, lightly, a few times to flatten the bottom.

After giving him some “fur,” I added little arms.

For the “fur” effect, I lightly dragged a toothpick through the fondant in small, quick sweeps. To make it look more accurate, I started at the bottom of whatever I was working on, so that, as I moved up the piece, the fur would take on an overlapping look. Since fur higher on the body lays over fur that is lower, this made it look more natural.

Finally, I sculpted the head. I made it egg shaped, as well, because I planned to add the lighter color of fondant as chubby, little gopher cheeks. Once they’re on, they make the head rounder. This is one place where I had the “fur” go up the body rather than down, since that’s how most animals’ faces are.

Okay, so I skipped a few steps here, but my camera thanked me for it…my hands were very dirty (lots of sugar and food coloring and fondant on them). To complete his head, I first added the eyes, so that I could lightly layer the cheeks over them, which helped make his cheeks look even chubbier. For the cheeks, I just wrapped some of the lighter colored fondant around his head, shaping it to the desired look before really pressing it on. Once it’s really attached, you can’t take it back off easily. I used a toothpick inserted into the body and head to keep the head in place, then I added the fur effect to his cheeks and the remaining details (nose, teeth, hands) went on.

I think he turned out great…really adorable, so I was ready to attempt covering the cake.

Things started out looking promising! The fondant rolled out beautifully, and it went on the cake just as easy as always!

But after applying and trimming the fondant on the cake, as I was getting ready to start smoothing it, things got ugly. It’s difficult to tell in this photo, but you’ll notice that the fondant is taking on a bit of a shine. Yeah…that’s sweat. The cake was sweating! Well, that was pretty much the beginning of the end because you can’t do anything to stop it and when it’s wet like that, you can’t smooth it because anything that touches it will stick. I had to just *gulp* leave the bubbles and wrinkles that were under the surface. But it got even worse!

As I began adding the argyle details to the side of the cake, I noticed the the fondant was melting down the sides! And it only got worse as the day progressed..

By the time the cake was complete, there were wrinkles falling down the sides. It was so sad. Then, as we were leaving the house, the biggest tragedy of all struck.

CakeQuake! A huge crack formed directly in front of the little gopher (you can just make it out in this photo)! It was so sad! I mean, just look at the potential this cake had!! I don’t even have a picture of the poor thing once we arrived at our friend’s house! By that point, the crack had widened, tearing the fondant and causing the two halves to lean slightly away from one another (which, in turn, made the wrinkled fondant on the sides of the cake look even worse)! But, let’s look on the bright side here:

1. It tasted delicious.
2. I learned a lot of lessons that I can pass on.
3. Most importantly, the recipient was still very happy with it, and that’s what really matters!

So, want to know what I should have done differently? I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow morning to go through everything step-by-step. I’ll be explaining how to cover a cake in fondant (the right way), as well as breaking down each of my mistakes, so you don’t have to experience them yourself! Happy Monday, my friends…go have some cake!

P.S. I hope everyone likes the new design of the blog! I’ve been working very hard on it for a couple of weeks and, personally, I’m very satisfied with the cleaner, more streamlined appearance. But the really exciting news behind the design change is that I have officially been accepted as a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher! 🙂

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  1. bttrflybabydoll says

    Ok that cake is adorable! Flaws and all! I love it.

    Also, the new site looks great! Congrats on Foodbuzz as well. I knew it wouldn't take long for people to see your talent here! I'm so super excited for you!