Tip #1 - Use Pictures
* Print or use your phone to scan multiple pictures of the character you are working on.
* You will want to look at the character from many different angles so a lot of time I use a phone.
* Sometimes, when I am having a particularly difficult time with a certain area I search for that image specifically, for instance I will Google "Stitch sitting" or "Tigger nose".
* Ok so I am partial to our fondant:). It is called Cake Couture fondant and I find it to be the perfect fondant for modeling because it gives you A LOT of working time. The closest fondants to it are marshmallow fondant or LMF (Liz Merek's Fondant) - see various recipes online. We do sell our fondant in our Etsy shop. To shop click here.
* You will want a fondant that doesn't dry super quickly.
Tip #3 - The Gum
* In order to enable your fondant to firm you will need a gum harder. My gum of preference is Gum Tragacanth. This is not the same as Gum-Tex by Wilton or Tylose powder. A lot of modelers use Tylose Powder, however, I have found the fondant to dry a little more 'rough' and inhibit elasticity.
* It is tough to find Gum Tragacanth in small quantities, however, we have recently started selling this in 2 ounce quantities on our website. Click Here
Tip #4 - The Process
1. Mix your fondant with a good dose of gum. I would say about 1/2 teaspoon per 3-4 ounces. This, however, does depend on the rate of firmness you prefer. The more gum you use the faster the fondant will take to reach hardness. I like for the pieces to be somewhat firm in about 3 hours. However, at this point you can still continue to 'shape' it slightly to get just the right look (I would say this stage is where you can really fix the areas that look quite right, however, do so slowly and carefully). Give it a night or two and it will be much more firm enabling assembly such as positioning the head on the body.
2. Make your structural and largest pieces first in order to allow sufficient drying time. This means the topper body and head, or in the case of a standing topper, its legs. These parts must be very firm (drying time 1-2 days) in order to allow for good assembly.
3. When making heads, body, or other parts ensure to roll your fondant pieces in a ball very firmly prior to shaping. This will ensure you get all those creases out. I also like to use a scale to make sure weights are identical, such as equally sized arms and legs.
4. If you position all of your parts on the body right away sometimes this can lead to the topper getting weighed down since everything isn't firm and dry just yet. To avoid this make sure all of your pieces are dry and firm (especially the body and head) prior to assembly. I also like to dry these pieces on flower cups to maintain roundness or on foam blocks to encourage airflow. As drying continues from one day to another rotating the pieces to allow airflow to all sides is also recommended.
5. If I am making a standing topper (such as the twighlight sparkle shown here) I do use skewers for the legs upon shaping the legs. This also allows for the figure to stand. However, when I make smaller sitting toppers I don't always use skewers that drive all the way through the topper into the cake. For these toppers I usually just use a skewer that goes from the body into the head. Also, I use toothpicks for the ears, however, I have recently discovered that using thin straws would decrease weight and have great structure... but I have yet to try it:-D.
Tip #5 - The Colors
* I would say coloring can be one of the most difficult part of this process! Can you believe it?!
* Pink will fade and purple will turn blue! You can avoid this by adding a little red to the pink, dusting the pieces with luster dust, AND storing the pieces in a dark area (like a cabinet/pantry). However, the problem with the luster dust is that sometimes it can go on unevenly AND it still doesn't completely protect the color. And the problem with storing the pieces in a dark place is that there isn't a lot of airflow so drying time and work-ability can be compromised:-/.
* If anyone else knows what to do with purple let me know! It can be so tricky:-/. You can see the Twilight Sparkle below very nice and purple on the left. I diligently kept her in a dark place. However, once I applied the wings the cabinets' restricted airflow wouldn't let them dry completely. So I decided she had to be left out... which made her turn blue:(. I painted her to try to get her purple color back but it's never quite the same once the purple changes color.
Hopefully you find this tutorial helpful when making your next cake topper!
Cake Couture Designer