Sugar on Top
Scan the websites of your favorite wedding magazines and bridal blogs and you’ll find scores of stunning cakes accented with everything from fresh flowers and real fruit to crushed hard candies and licorice laces tied in elegant bows. You’re welcome to coat your tower of tiers in Cocoa Puffs if that’s your dream, but here’s a primer on preferred decorations.
Although fondant is most often rolled out like pastry and used to cover cakes, it’s also great for cutting, imprinting or molding decorations just as you might use Plasticine, says Joanna Farrow, author of “Wedding Cupcakes” (Spruce/Octopus, 2012). Think everything from geometric shapes to elaborate figurines. “It sets hard after a few hours, so the decorations are easy to secure to the cake,” Farrow says. You also can add dye to make it any color from soft pastels to vibrant tones and deep, dark hues.
A little like fondant icing in terms of its initial clay-like texture, gum paste can be rolled thinner and dries harder, making it ideal for finer, more delicate shapes like colorful bouquets, says Farrow. You can even lift these firm flowers from the cake and keep them as a memento of the big day.
A traditional decoration for cakes, this simple combination of powdered sugar, egg whites and varying additional ingredients can be spread smooth, swirled, used as a glue, and employed to make the prettiest, most delicate details, says Farrow. Bakers with a steady hand can use a pastry bag to create hearts, initials, bows, lace patterns and more. “I love piping royal icing designs on fondant,” says Andrea Carusetta, owner of Arizona’s Sedona Cake Couture and a winner of “TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off.” “Once they dry, I use a brush to paint them with powdered, shimmery, metallic food colors mixed with lemon extract.”
Dark and light versions can be shaved, used as panels, imprinted with a faux bois pattern, rolled into decorative “cigarettes,” and turned into curls and petals. “We’ve made beautiful roses and peonies out of chocolate,” says Carusetta. Farrow suggests going bold and dynamic with rich, dark chocolate-coated cakes finished with deep reds and golds, or keeping the look delicate and pretty with white chocolate.
A sugar substitute derived from beet sugar, isomalt is the go-to for intricate display pieces and candy jewels. “I use it to make shimmering gemstone accents on wedding cakes,” Carusetta says.
A tasty sugar-and-almond-based, clay-like treat, marzipan is great for making edible flowers and cute fruit like pomegranates, apples and pears, says Carusetta. Easy to color with dye or paint, it’s ideal for making buttons, critters and people.