Many years ago, I tried to make vegetarian rolled fondant. It was a complete disaster.
So when my daughter asked for an octopus cake for her birthday, I first wondered if I could manage to do it in buttercream frosting. I quickly decided that, no, it was really only going to work in fondant. So …
I spent a couple of hours on Tuesday scouring the city for the ingredients. They were easier to find this time—vegetarianism has become more commonplace, so gelatine substitutes are now available in some mainstream grocery stores. I took it as a good sign. My fondant would work this time.
I baked the cake (chocolate), and made the filling (peanut butter), and on Wednesday sculpted the octopus’s body. After a night in the refrigerator, the cake was ready to cover in fondant. Thursday morning I got to work.
The first batch of fondant was marginal at best. It had little elasticity, and I had to roll it out in pieces, rather than one big sheet to cover the whole cake. No worries. I managed, and the result was only a little bit lumpier than I’d hoped.
But I’d used nearly all my fondant, and I still had eight legs to make.
So, I made another batch. This one would be better, of course, because it was the second try. And it seemed to be going better for a few minutes. But by the time it was finished, it was clear this batch had even less elasticity than the first.
At least I didn’t have to roll it out thin. It worked fine for the legs, as long as I worked slowly and didn’t try to curl the legs too much.
It took quite a long time to smooth all that lousy fondant into what looked like one continuous animal, but eventually I managed. Then I had a fabulous time painting it, watching the octopus colouration take shape.
It took a bit of trial and error to work out how to make zillions of suckers—thinned fondant piped into balls, partly dried, and then shaped before allowing them to harden. Then it took ages to place them all. I finished up just as my husband was putting dinner on the table.
It was a heck of a lot of work for one cake.
But the final octopus looks like it could swim away any moment. And more importantly, I think my daughter is truly impressed—a rare feat.
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