With holiday season in full swing, I’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments about fondant. A lot of people are either intimidated by it, or disgusted by it. I can understand both points…if you’ve never worked with it, it’s kind of scary, and a lot of fondant tastes awful! Well, before I get into today’s post, I do have to say:
1. Fondant is fun! It’s like playing with play-do or clay. Don’t be scared to try it, because you can make things as simple or as elaborate as your patience, time, and skill will let you. And practice really does make perfect.
2. Marshmallow fondant (MMF) tastes nice. I hate “real” fondant. Even when it’s homemade, “normal” fondant is just sickeningly sweet and basically flavorless, but MMF, while still quite sweet, has a nice flavor, and can be altered. I love adding a little lemon extract to mine.
Those two points being made, I know that there are some people who still aren’t interested in fondant, even if they do want something sculpted for a cake or cupcake. It may be that they don’t have time to make fondant from scratch, or they just don’t want to. And if that’s the case, and you hate the flavor of store bought fondant, what can you do? I think I may have an answer, but another reason I wanted to experiment with fondant alternatives is the humidity here. My fondant tends to just melt and sweat…it’s so sad.
I’ve been thinking about those issues for a few weeks now, and I’ve come up with a partial answer. Besides fondant, there is modeling chocolate. I’ve never worked with modeling chocolate, although I have a recipe for making my own, and obviously, it would be more limited than fondant, as it’s already brown, so coloring it is basically out the window. But it can be painted with food coloring and luster dust, so I thought it’d be a good jumping off point to finding fondant alternatives. Whenever I thought of it, my mind kept going to candy. I thought that there might be a fun option, that’s readily available and easy to use: like tootsie rolls.
Admittedly, I couldn’t find them anywhere on my island. Tootsie rolls! Nowhere! But the hubster recently had to do a little traveling, so he grabbed a couple of bags for me to experiment with. Man, am I glad that he did! The results turned out so fun!
See? Didn’t they?! I know it probably made sense to do something holiday themed, but I decided to make steampunk themed cupcakes, because…well…I wanted to! I love steampunk stuff, and there really aren’t a whole lot of steampunk themed cupcakes out there, but also because the brown color wouldn’t be much of a hindrance with them. I kept things relatively simple with just an adorable top hat and goggles, accented with little golden gears. Is it wrong of me to say that I freaking love how they turned out?! Seriously, I just think they’re so cute! Plus, they were shockingly fast, once I figured out just what I wanted to do!
By the way, those perfectly steampunked cupcake cups came from (where else?) Bake It Pretty! I was a little worried at first that they would be too tough to get the cupcakes out of, but they peeled away beautifully (and in one piece)! Plus, you don’t need a muffin pan to use them! Just space them evenly on a rimmed baking sheet, fill them with two tablespoons of your favorite cupcake or muffin batter, and bake normally! Aren’t they the cutest?!
As for the cupcakes themselves, as well as the frosting, I just made my favorite chocolate cupcake (which is also vegan/dairy-free!). **Please be aware that tootsie rolls are not vegan, however they are gluten-free.**
Anyway, back to our tootsie roll “modeling chocolate,” these were really easy to work with, and came ready to be shaped! It’s still nice and warm where I live, so my tootsie rolls were ready to work with, but you may need to soften yours up. I don’t recommend microwaving them, as they melt pretty easily, but simply rolling one between your warm hands is enough to soften them to a workable state.
For my steampunk top hats, I rolled a tootsie roll into a ball (be sure to have confectioners’ sugar on hand to prevent sticking), then lengthened it into a top heavy column shape. To flatten the top and bottom, I just stood the “column” on end and pressed it gently into the countertop with a flat object.
Personally, I like my top hats a little wonky, so I flattened them at an angle, but you could certainly do something a little more traditional. Next, I rolled half of a tootsie roll into a little ball and flattened it completey. This made my hat’s brim. I used a tiny bit of water to stick the 2 pieces together, then I curved the sides of the brim up to give the hat a little more character, but these weren’t done just yet.
What’s a steampunk top hat without goggles? I used the other half of the tootsie roll from the brim to roll out a little rope, then I pressed the rounded end of a modeling tool in to make the “eyes.” You could use a clean pencil eraser or other similar object to achieve the same effect. Next I made two tiny little balls, which I flattened slightly, to press into the eye sockets. Finally, I finished them off with a little luster dust. I used silver for the “lenses” of the goggles, and copper for the straps.
If you’ve never used luster dust, it’s very, very easy. Just add a small amount of clear extract (I used clear vanilla) to a tiny but of dust, and paint away!
Actually, I found it easier to paint the goggles after attaching them to the top hat (probably because I’m impatient and didn’t want to wait for them to dry). If you don’t feel steady handed enough to do this, then you can paint them separately and attach them once they’re dry. You’ll also notice in this photo that I added some little seams and “stitches” around the hat. I just used a toothpick to gently draw the seams in, then pressed it into the hat along the seam to create the stitches.
I also added some little golden gears to my cupcakes (you can see my hat seams much better here…they really finished the hats off, don’t you think?). For the gears, I just followed the same steps as I did for making the hat brim, except I cut little squares out of the edges to give it the gear shape, and little triangles out of the centers to lighten them up a bit and make them a little more realistic. Finally, I painted them with gold luster dust.
I really love these cupcakes! It’s so hard to find steampunk cupcakes anywhere, and I was inspired to make them after reading this post over on Epbot a few weeks ago. If you love steampunk, you have to check out Jen’s other posts! All in all, I had a blast making these! Sadly, the tootsie rolls held up to the humidity here only slightly better than fondant does, but not much, so I’m still on the hunt for the perfect, tasty sculpting media to work with in higher humidity climates, but for everyone else: if you don’t want to make fondant yourself, tootsie rolls are an excellent alternative! I’m thinking starburst candies (or flavored and vanilla tootsie rolls) probably work great too, and they can add so much lovely color! If anyone tries them out, let me know what you think!
Don’t limit yourself to my design either!! Go wild! I’d love to see what you guys come up with! Have fun and enjoy!