Cake decorating is an art through which we share celebrations with our customers, and it is fun to be artistic and creative. Rolled fondant opens the door to even more creativity when combined with airbrushing. Treat the cake as your canvas.
Any airbrush system for decorated cakes will work for this technique. An airbrush system with automatic color dispensers offers the most efficiency. The colors are changed by turning a dial, so you do not need to stop to fill the well, or risk spilling color out of the well onto the cake.
To begin, cover the cake with a thin coating of rolled fondant, and cool it in the refrigerator until firm. Sketch a simple outline of your design on the cake using a fine paintbrush and airbrush color. It is best to work from the top of the cake to the bottom, and from the background to the foreground.
For this scenic mountain landscape, I sketched a horizon with a mountain near the center of the cake just above the horizon, another slightly larger one to the right with the base just below the horizon and a third, the largest mountain, on the left side of the cake.
Then, position three pastry rings slightly to the left side of the cake, equidistant from the horizon and the top of the cake. Airbrush yellow in the center of the smallest ring and yellow and orange around the center ring's perimeter. Then, airbrush orange around the second ring and red around the outer ring.
Mimic the same colors directly below the sun, under the horizon to create a reflection. Remove the rings, and airbrush the area yellow to remove the circles of white. Use a paintbrush to add a white piping gel center in the sun and the sun's reflection. Then, lightly spray the sun's outer red ring with a light coating of black airbrush color extending to the edges of the cake.
Fill in mountains
Spray spurts of black to fill in the outlines of the mountains. On the outer edge of the mountains, move the airbrush closer to the surface of the cake, and press the trigger. This causes the color to "spider," giving the mountains the effect of foliage. Start with the mountain in the center of the cake and work your way to the fore-ground, the mountain on the left. Airbrush yellow over the mountains to fill in between the black spots, adding light to the shadow. At the base of each mountain, air-brush a black shadow, with the darkest shadow on the "nearest" mountain, the left one, and the lightest shadow on the "farthest" mountain, the center one. This creates depth in the design.
Airbrush the area below the horizon blue to create a body of water. Fill in the spaces of the sun and mountain reflections with blue to bring the water into the foreground.
With a brush, pull strips of piping gel from the center of the sun, so the light is radiating down. Blend the rays into the airbrush color. Use tip No. 3 to pipe white horizontal lines over the sunset with white piping gel. Gently work the gel with a brush to create soft puffs of clouds. Airbrush them yellow and orange to reflect the sunset.
Use a fine tip and white piping gel to create mini waves on the water by piping horizontal lines. Use a paintbrush to soften some of these lines. This gives the water movement.
Airbrush the base of the cake black, creating land that extends from the base of the left mountain. Cut trees out of green fondant, and place them at the top of the mountain. Add green piping gel to the trees using a fine tip to give the trees some dimension.
Add life to design
Right below the trees, use white buttercream icing and tip No. 3 to pipe a simple cabin. Tint the roof red using red piping gel, and use brown piping gel to tint the walls. Highlight the cabin with a light colored piping gel, such as yellow, to create shadow and light. Use a gray gel to pipe smoke coming from the chimney. Use a brush to swirl the smoke using a circular motion.
Pipe lines of white gel over the mountains to form peaks, and gently stroke the gel so it fades into the black. Add the gel on the front of the most distant mountain, the center one, to create the reflection. On the right mountain, pipe the majority of the gel on the left side to bring it forward. On the left mountain, pipe grass using a fine tip and green buttercream icing to bring it more into the foreground. Extend the grass down the mountain and along the base of the cake. Make the grass longer as you get closer to the base of the cake. Also, add some tufts of grass at the base of the right mountain.
With thick piping gel, pipe leaves onto the fondant trees with a light, golden green gel. Use a dark brown piping gel to pipe a tree on the mountain to the right. Place fondant blossoms in the grass along the base of the cake to give the cake some dimension.
Lastly, very lightly spray the entire cake with chocolate glaze to give it an oil canvas effect. Using tip No. 3, pipe a bottom border with black piping gel to frame the picture.
Use yellow, orange and red airbrush color to create a setting sun and its reflection.
Airbrush the outer ring of the sun red, and use a paintbrush to apply white piping gel to the center of the sun and its reflection.
To fill in the mountains, place the tip of the air-brush close to the cake surface. This causes the color to spider and look like foliage.
Airbrush the area below the horizon blue to create water. Use a paintbrush to pull rays extending out from the piping gel in the center of the sun.
Use a fine tip to pipe horizontal lines of white piping gel across the sky and water. Use a paintbrush to fluff the lines in the sky into clouds.
Place green fondant greens on the left mountain, and overpipe them with green piping gel. Pipe a cabin using white buttercream. Tint the roof red with red piping gel.
Pipe white piping gel along the mountains, and blend it into the black air-brush color. Use a fine tip and green buttercream to pipe grass along the bottom of the cake.
Scatter fondant blossoms in the grass along the base of the cake. Then, lightly spray the entire cake with chocolate glaze.
Julie Bashore, Master Confectioner, has worked in the United States for almost 20 years, promoting rolled fondant techniques and confectionery arts. Bashore's retail bakery, House of Clarendon in Lancaster, Pa., specializes in European desserts and rolled fondant cakes. She teaches courses and also is a traveling instructor. For further details, visit her Web site, www.houseofclarendon.com