Sunday, October 31, 2010

my halloween disguise: fondant master!

i recently had an opportunity to apply for a cookie decorator position (i know, can you believe it?) and was asked if i had any pictures of my work with fondant. (i know, can you believe it?) they were really looking for cake decorators who also probably did cookies. i'm finding a sort of friendly bias against cookies among the pretty-dessert fans. i get that a monumental wedding cake, or a complex scene around the birthday cake is no small task, (believe it or not, i watch all the cake shows for ideas. i figure anything they can do vertically, unless it involves motors, can certainly lie flat on a cookie, right?) and that the magic that a cake creator is conjuring involves all the party goers all getting a chance to admire the piece, exclaim that they cant believe it's edible, and what hours it must have taken, and to let all that wonder seep in like they're looking at the thing itself, not the 3 foot recreation in devil's food, ganache and (you know it) fondant. i get that it's about the big ta-da. cookies are more one-on-one, but a cake is for the group's visual pleasure--then the party-goers relinquish its beauty to the knife, and everyone is served something that is only as wonderful as the execution of its recipe. in fact, their portions of the fondant shell are peeled off by those who know, or sampled, then peeled off by those who just figured it out: fondant is just for show.
a funny thing is happening to cakes though--they're shrinking into cupcakes. photorealist painter Audrey Flack (check her out) wrote about how culture is transported over time and space more by the small things we can carry--our totems and ingots and trinkets--than by the megalithic structures that are eventually abandoned or built over. economic pressure makes people take what's easy to carry. and i'm betting that during a recession, a box of cupcakes is way easier to drive around than a cake. they're also way-easy to make at home since a) you can fake it with a boxed mix and b) decorating is more about alluding to the flavors (a sexy swirl of chocolate drizzled with caramel, etc) rather than making the cupcake look like a frog (though the team behind Hello Cupcake are geniuses at that.)
plus, cupcakes are perfectly suited to that urge in humans to have something special all to themselves. that big 3-tiered cake is not yours alone, you have to share it. you only get a piece of it, with a fondant remnant stuck to the side. but a cupcake, with it's flourished whipped peak, and dazzling sprinkles, and perfect gooey bite of something in the middle--that is the essence of a full cake contained in a single serving art-form that you can take your selfish time enjoying.
but cupcakes are more like cake-meets-truffle. when i say "decorated" i mean "to look like something." frosting and sprinkles, though decorative, is really just "frosted and sprinkled." i like the illusions that people are inventing with cake. and if it must be wrapped in fondant to look like a giant birthday frog or whatever, so be it. but what if it could look like multiple whatevers, and be personal servings, and stackable and transportable, and didn't have fondant at all? (pointing obnoxiously to the cookies)
i must wait for this idea to gain momentum. until then, i must make friends with fondant.
i've worked with kneadable media. ceramics mostly, modeling clay, marzipan, all delightful. fondant has been my backdrops for my little scenes, but only as a canvas for icing and sugar. fondant on cookies seemed unnecessary, unless you want texture rolled into the surface, and i've even seen a neat printed effect, but both involve cutting out the same shape in fondant, then attaching it to the surface of the cookie. the whole surface. what do you do when that dries? scrape the cookie off the back with your bottom teeth? or try to look cool while you eat a big mouthful of fondant? maybe, i thought, since it is edible, if not exactly palatable, it were just tiny little bits that you might not notice? so i made a few prototypes. forgive their smudges, these were only for practice...

if you popped in yesterday, you saw my brother's over-the-hill cookies. i thought roses looked more mournful, but during the practice run i made a pumpkin patch. those stems are individual chocolate jimmy sprinkles.

this was a mini fondant ghost on a mini tombstone. i rolled the fondant paper thin so i could almost see through it, and so that it tore lightly at the bottom like a little sheet. a fine tipped brush and food coloring did the details.

paper-thin ribbons were cut and placed on wet white icing. the white icing on top made me think the fondant wasn't necessary, unless you didn't want to make time for layers of piping to dry. the red eyes are fun though.

a worm in an apple.

ruffles on some high-heels.

this was 3 colors of fondant rolled together, cut with a tiny leaf cutter, smooshed a little into a curve, dusted with bronze pearl dust, a little vein line painted with food coloring, then adhered to the "tree" to let the "moon" peek through.

hubby brought these to work. reviews were all positive. i ate a tree, and didn't hate the level of fondant, but i did prefer it picked off. would i do it again? sure. all the time? no. "can i work with fondant?" you betcha.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you get a call back telling you that you are hired! Like you, I'm not a big fan of fondant and usually pick it off before eating a cake or cookie that comes with it.

    Good luck landing the job :)