Happy birthday to my wonderful younger brother 🎉🎂🎁🎈 I could go on about how amazing you are and how lucky I am that you’re in my life, but I’ll spare that sappiness here. At least I could use his birthday for my first lockdown baking escapades, in which I decided to try working with something I never have before: fondant!
In recent times I’ve been really wanting to work with fondant. However, having never worked with it let alone made it before, I was quite nervous about using it. But I also didn’t really want to make a bog-standard cake with a bland fondant layer, because I actually don’t like fondant very much. I much prefer buttercream and ganache, and I try to focus on textures and flavours if possible. And so my main reason for wanting to work with fondant is to be able to create cakes of a certain look.
People had recently posted some pancake stack novelty cakes on the Rate My Cake Facebook Group, and I really wanted to give it a go. But having not worked with fondant before, I thought it’d be the best decision to not only make my own fondant, but to also make a novelty pancake stack cake instead of something more basic. 🤦🏽♀️
But, this cake is a great one to make when using fondant for the first time, and hopefully sharing my own experience will help you to feel less intimidated using fondant and making this fun pancake stack cake 🥞🥰
The finished painted cake 🖌️
First time working with fondant?
My first batch of fondant was going to remain white and was going to be the covering for the cake board. However, it was somehow dry, crumbly, and sticky all at the same time and I just couldn’t roll it out without it breaking or sticking to my work surface. I think I didn’t mix/knead the icing sugar and marshmallows well enough, but I also think that was because my ratios of icing sugar to marshmallow were out.
I then went on to make a second batch of fondant and dyed it light brown/tan. This was using a recipe slightly adapted to my own kitchen environment, which I used to cover the cake and then to make the pancake strips. I popped the cake onto the fondant covered cake board, as you can see in the pictures below, but couldn’t smooth over the awful fondant on the board… so once I had finished the whole cake (except for the blueberries and syrup), I cut the fondant around the cake from the board and transferred it to a plate. I was happy that what I learned making that batch of crumbly fondant, that I’d be able to at least make a smoother covering for a cake board next time (I hope…).
Left: my first batch of fondant! Notice how dry and crackly it is? 😩😭
Right: red velvet cake covered in strawberry buttercream and then tan-coloured homemade fondant, ready for the pancake stack layers to be applied. This is my first attempt at covering a cake in rolled fondant, and not only is that my second batch of fondant (which is much smoother than the first batch in the left picture already), but you can see it’s not a requirement to have a smoothly covered cake to make this pancake stack cake.
But even so, you can see how some of the strips around the cake are quite cracked and dry; this fondant died out quickly, so it’s important to keep it warm and malleable. Once it starts to harden, knead it until it becomes soft. If that doesn’t work, a minute amount of sunflower oil rolled on the outside the fondant, before kneading, worked a treat for me.
Adding dye to the fondant is definitely the fun part! I would suggest adding in a couple of drops at a time, because you may be surprised how different brands and colours dye things to different degrees. And also, instead of dying the entire batch of fondant, if possible, separate the fondant clump into smaller parts to make it easier to knead and make a more homogenous colour. Then you can incorporate all of the fondant clumps if you need much more of the same colour.
When rolling out the fondant, I’ve heard that if the surface is lightly dusted with cornflour then the fondant won’t stick. I found, however, that a thin layer of sunflower oil did just the trick and stopped the fondant from drying out.
And finally, when wanting to store some fondant for later use, I rolled mine into a ball, smeared a thin amount of sunflower oil on some tin foil, and wrapped the fondant in the tin foil.
Making the layers
As you can see, the cake looked like a wreck… it was so messy! You can also see how the paint was too watery, as I was adding too much ethanol to start, and how it just ran through all of the little cracks in the fondant. At this point, I really thought that the cake would come out horribly. But, in the spirit of finishing a project, I persevered.
I really thought this cake was doomed… look how dreadful it looks? But this was one of those rare occasions where perseverance paid off 😁💎
To make the butter, I dyed a small lump of lightly tanned fondant and added yellow. I then rolled it out so it was maybe a centimetre thick, and then cut two oblongs. I softened the edges and then placed them on the cake.
These are the food colours I used for each component of the cake (make sure you use gel food colouring):
• Ivory/caramel/tan for the pancakes. 🥞
• I used a small amount of the pancake paint along with yellow for the butter. 🧈
• Violet, royal blue, and a touch of black were used for the blueberries. 🍓
For the blueberries, some leftover fondant was dyed with violet, royal blue, and some black food colouring and rolled into a ball, which was then pressed slightly so that it was more elliptical in shape. Using the modelling tools, I used a ball to make a little hole in one end, and on the other end I use a pointy cone tool to make another hole. Then I used tweezers to pull out some fondant around that hole and pulled back. I then pressed the fondant I’d pulled out down.
I then brushed a couple of blueberries with some golden tint and cocoa powder, but for some I accidentally used a bit too much, and you can see that in some of the pictures.
The butter and blueberries. A word of warning, make sure they’re 💯% dry before adding the syrup; you can see the ink running ever so slightly 🙈🤦🏻♀️
I also would recommend waiting until every component is 100% dry after using the colours. You can see in the pictures above that there is some slight run of colour from the blueberries (because I was too impatient to wait for them to dry before adding the syrup!).
After posting the cake on the Rate My Cake Facebook Group, to my surprise, I had tonnes of people ‘liking’ the picture and commenting. People even thought the blueberries were real, which I was very, very surprised with.
Preparing the cake
The cake of choice was red velvet. Personally, I think a good chocolate cake would have gone nicely with this, but that’s my personal bias. 🍫 I also quite like how vibrant the red is when you cut into the cake. To make the cake this vibrant, a gel food colouring is recommended. Personally, I use this brand because it comes out that vibrant each time, and you only need a little.
I had some leftover strawberry and white chocolate ganache buttercream in my freezer from the last cakes I made, and that was left to thaw overnight in my fridge.
The beauty of this cake is that it was very wonky and extremely messy when I covered it in the buttercream and the fondant. But that really doesn’t matter at all, because any wonkiness and imperfects actually add to the realism of this pancake stack. And that’s why I very much recommend this cake for beginners. It is a bit time consuming, but certainly worth the results. 🤤
My challenges for the future are to make super straight edged cakes. And to work with fondant more. This is in preparation for a secret super cake I’d absolutely love to make. But it will be difficult to accomplish, so I’d better practice in the mean time (any excuse to bake more, right?) 🥰
Happy birthday, Tim 🥳
Ingredients for the cake
• Favourite cake (I used this red food colouring)
Ingredients for the fondant
• 5-6 cups icing/powdered sugar
• 285 g white marshmallows, cut into small chunks
Ingredients for the fondant decorating
• Ivory food colouring (for the pancake stack)
• Gel food colouring (yellow, blue, violet, black)
• Ethanol (food grade)
• Paint brushes
• Sugar-craft tools
• Piping gel
To prepare the cake:
Cover the cake in buttercream as standard.
To prepare the fondant:
In a large bowl, sift 3 cups of icing sugar.
Put the cut marshmallows into a microwave-proof bowl and add a splash of water (about 4 tbsps). Microwave the marshmallows in 30 second chunks (maybe less, depending on your microwave), mixing well in between. I only have to microwave mine for a minute in total.
Pour the melted marshmallows over the icing sugar, and then sift 2 more cups of icing sugar over the top. Mix well. I usually start with a large wooden spoon then use my hands. Knead well until smooth, and there you have your fondant!
The 6th cup of icing sugar I found made my fondant too dry and crackly and I never needed it. But it may be that you need this 6th cup, or at least some of it.
I made a total of two batches of the fondant for the entire cake.
To make the pancake stack decoration:
First, cover your cake and cake board with fondant; use buttercream to make it stick.
Then, take fondant coloured very light tan and roll it into a long sausage that’s the length of the circumference of the cake. Roll the sausage out so it’s flat, approximately 2-5 mm in thickness. Take a knife and cut lengthways along the flattened sausage.
Take the flat edge of the flattened sausage (i.e. the edge you’ve just cut) and line it around the cake; use water to stick the fondant to the fondant. Press into the tops and sides of the flattened sausage so that it sticks to the side of the cake.
Take a bit of ethanol mixed with the pancake food colouring, and use a brush to paint the top of the pancake strip.
Repeat until you reach the top of the cake.
Refer to the photos above.
When you reach the top, roll out some lightly tanned fondant into a pancake shape, with the thickness of a few mm, and place on top of the cake, sticking it down with a light brushing of water.
Paint the top pancake colour.
Leave to dry.
To make the butter, dye a small lump of lightly tanned fondant and add yellow colouring. Roll out so it’s maybe a centimetre thick, and then cut two oblongs. Soften the edges and use some water to stick to the top of the cake.
For the blueberries, dye some leftover fondant with violet, royal blue, and some black food colouring. Roll into a small ball and press slightly so that it becomes more elliptical in shape. Use the modelling tools: use a ball to make a little hole in one end, and on the other end use a pointy cone tool to make another hole. Then use tweezers to pull out some fondant around that hole and pull back. Press the fondant you’ve just pulled out down.
Stick to the top of the cake using a brushing of water.
When everything is 100% dry, make the ‘maple syrup:’ put about 3-4 tbsps of piping gel into a cup, and add some pancake food colour. Mix until the colour maple syrup is achieved.
Put this into a piping bag and start in the middle, then draw back the pipe to the edges of the cake.
I put a bit too much on, but thankfully, the collection in the bottom of the plate made it look more realistic. A little goes a long way!
(A great video tutorial has been made by Cakes by Lynz; please check it out if you’re stuck.)