I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day and above all that they kept in mind the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. We had a marathon of a weekend that included seeing the Class of 2013 graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was a touching ceremony and there are hardly enough words to express my gratitude for the things the men and women of our Armed Forces do and the sacrifices they make. I’ll talk more about graduation and our weekend in another post, but for right now it’s time to talk about the start of our weekend, O’s six birthday.
With the busy weekend we had ahead of us, it would have been pretty easy to just hand O any cake and skip the special dinner. I was let off of the hook easily when he insisted on Moe’s for dinner so that freed up some time to plan and execute a special birthday cake. When I asked O what kind of cake he might like to have to celebrate turning six, he answered “chocolate!” without hesitation. What I was really interested in knowing is what he’d like that chocolate cake to look like. For his fifth birthday, I made him a Perry the Platypus cake that he’s still talking about. Note to self: Perry the Platypus is a tough act to follow. O’s sixth birthday cake demand was simple. “I want a New York cake with baseball and New York, with chocolate and with baseball.” I should mention that now that he’s playing baseball, baseball is his life. Well, baseball and Star Wars and all things Lego.
I thought of a few different ways to make him a baseball cake. When I decided on a baseball field, marshmallow fondant immediately came to mind. We all know fondant. That stuff we peel off of a wedding or other fancy cake in order to make that cake edible, that’s fondant. Fondant makes any cake look gorgeous, but it isn’t exactly delicious. Marshmallow fondant is the best of both worlds. It gives a cake the same smooth, polished look that fondant accomplishes, except it’s actually edible. I find it quite tasty, and I’m glad that the three other people who sampled this cake did as well. Marshmallow fondant can be a little tricky to make, but I find it easy to work with, and much easier than smoothing buttercream to accomplish the same look. Throughout the tutorial below are some handy tips, but the one I stress the most is to grease all of the hands, utensils, and surfaces that will come into contact with your fondant really, really well. Most methods I’ve seen call for greasing with shortening, but I’ve used butter the past few times I’ve made this and I like the results better. Grease everything, I mean it.
- 16 oz. mini-marshmallows
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1-2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- flavorings or extracts of your choice (optional)
- food coloring of your choice (optional, unless you want fondant in colors other than white)
- butter or shortening (amount depends on surfaces that need greasing, but plan on at least 1/4 lb.)
Grease a large, microwave-safe bowl.
Combine the marshmallows and water in the prepared bowl.
Microwave the marshmallow mixture in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until the marshmallows have puffed up and are soupy (about 2-3 minutes of microwaving, but please don’t microwave all at once or you risk burning the mixture quickly).
Once the mixture is melted, stir in 1-2 tsp. of desired extract. Extracts or flavorings are completely optional, but I do think a little vanilla extract goes a long way here.
If you only need one color of fondant, you can add the food coloring after you’ve melted the marshmallows, but make the mixture considerably darker than you want the final product as the confectioner’s sugar will lighten the mixture up considerably. I needed mainly green, so I put about 2 C. of the white melted marshmallow mixture into a separate greased bowl and added the green food coloring to the remaining marshmallow mixture. If you color the mixture at this point, make it darker than you’d like the final product to be, because the confectioner’s sugar will lighten the mixture considerably. You can also color the fondant later, as described below.
Grease the bowl of a stand mixer, and grease and attach the dough hook attachment. To make the fondant without a stand mixer, grease a spatula and use that to stir in the confectioner’s sugar. Stirring by hand is slow-going, but it is possible.
Place about 1/2 of the confectioner’s sugar into the greased work bowl of a stand mixer and make a well in the center.
Pour the marshmallow mixture into the well.
Knead on low speed until the sugar is mostly incorporated.
When the mixture begins to stick to the sides of the work bowl, add an additional 1 C. of confectioner’s sugar and continue to knead the mixture using the dough hook.
You may or may not need to add more confectioner’s sugar at this point. Depending on the humidity in your area and a few other factors, you may need to add more powdered sugar, 1 C. at a time, kneading with the dough hook after each addition, to your fondant. The finished consistency should be the consistency of modeling clay, smooth, and thick.
If at any point in this part of the process, you notice your stand mixer starting to slow down or hesitate, remove the mixture to a greased work surface and continue to knead in the confectioner’s sugar using greased hands until the desired consistency is reached. Do not burn out your stand mixer’s motor by pushing it too far, the fondant mixture can get very heavy depending on how much sugar you have to add to it.
Form the fondant into a smooth ball, grease the ball lightly with butter or shortening, and wrap the ball of fondant tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then place into a resealable plastic bag. Smooth the air out of the bag, seal it, and let the fondant rest at least overnight before using it.
Divide your fondant according to your best guess as to how much of each color you will need, if you didn’t color the fondant earlier in the process. In this case, I needed mainly green for the field and a small amount of white for the baseball so I colored it earlier in the process. If you need multiple colors, wait until the fondant is mixed and then divide up the fondant and color it now.
To color the mixture once it’s fondant, take the amount of fondant that you need to color, shape it into a ball and flatten it slightly on a well-greased surface (I strongly suggest using a pastry mat or taping down waxed/ parchment paper so that you don’t dye your counter or table inadvertently). Add gel food coloring to the center of the flattened ball of fondant, and knead the color in using greased hands (I also suggest using gloves because no matter how careful you are, you are going to get food coloring on your hands). The mixture will first have a marbled effect, but with continued kneading the color will be uniform throughout the fondant. Add more color as necessary until desired color is achieved.
To roll out the fondant, grease a work space and grease a rolling pin. Roll the fondant out to about 1/4 inch thickness. If the fondant you’re rolling will cover an entire cake (like the two 9-inch square cakes stacked below), try to roll the fondant out in that shape (so a large square for square cakes, a large circle for round cakes). It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just makes it slightly easier to gauge whether or not you have enough fondant to cover the surface.
Spread a layer of frosting over the entire surface of the cake you’ll be covering. The frosting shouldn’t be too lumpy, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth.
Very carefully lift the fondant off of the work space and lay it on top of the frosting, lightly smoothing the fondant with greased hands if necessary. Carefully press the fondant to the sides of the cake as well. Use a sharp knife to trim off any excess fondant around the edges of the cake. Use greased fingers to lightly press the fondant down where the cake and fondant meet the serving plate so that the cake has a nice smooth bottom edge. Alternately, you can pipe decorative frosting around the bottom of the cake to hide this seam.
Continue to mix additional fondant colors as needed, and make fondant details as desired. Cookie cutters or a sharp knife work well to cut out fondant shapes. You can also pipe on decorations using frosting. It is difficult to get candy to stick to this fondant, so if you’re adding candy (or cocoa mix like I used for the dirt on this cake) details, I suggest securing them with frosting.
Making the baseball cake:
To make the baseball cake, I baked two 9-inch square chocolate cakes and gave them a quick coating of my favorite buttercream, with a layer of buttercream in between the layers. I baked the baseball by scooping about 1 C. of cake batter into a small glass prep bowl (oven safe!) and coated that in buttercream as well.
I then mixed the fondant and after letting it rest overnight, separated about 1/8 of the fondant to leave white and colored the rest green using Wilton gel food coloring in Kelley green. I rolled out the white fondant and used that to cover the baseball, tucking the edges underneath. I used black and royal blue food coloring to make the navy frosting to pipe on the NY Yankees logo, then mixed red food coloring with frosting to use for piping on the baseball laces.
I rolled out the green fondant and used that to cover the stacked square cakes as described above. I then secured the baseball to the square cake using toothpicks to keep it secure.
Next, I secured 4 flat, square marshmallows (these are by Jet-Puffed) using frosting to the corners of the cake, for bases. The “dirt” is instant cocoa mix, which I sprinkled carefully in between two pieces of card stock that I used as stencils (next time, I would frost this and then sprinkle on the cocoa).