With autumn upon us and winter fast approaching, customers are looking for a way to bring sunshine back into their gatherings. This tropical sunset is sure to be a popular year-round design. The background uses simple airbrushing techniques and can stand alone as its own design. Or, give the cake drama and dimension by adding a piped tropical flower and sugar decorations.
Cut a circle out of a plastic cake band, and use tape on one side to form a handle. Cut an oval out of rolled fondant, and place it on a piece of cardboard for decorating. Center the plastic circle on the fondant, about 1/3 of the way from the top. Airbrush yellow around the top of the circle.
Continue spraying yellow around the top of the plastic circle, extending the color to the edge of the fondant to create a horizon. Below the sun, spray a widening, vertical band of yellow.
At the top of the fondant oval, airbrush red to fill in the rest of the sky, overlapping the yellow slightly. Outline the band of yellow below the horizon with red.
Airbrush blue in the remaining area below the horizon to create a body of water. Use more color around the edges for a darker blue, as this water is further from the setting sun.
Use a torn piece of paper towel as a stencil for clouds. Place it at the top of the fondant oval, and spray purple around its edges to create several clouds.
Spray a thin black line across the fondant to delineate the horizon.
Then, add a couple of islands along the horizon. Spray several lines extending up from the ground for tree trunks, and add lines radiating out from the tops of the trees for palm leaves. Add fainter lines extending into the water for the trees' shadows.
On a quarter sheet cake with piped top and bottom shell borders, spray a band of yellow around the middle of the cake's sides. Add a band of orange above the yellow. Below the yellow band, spray a line of green, then a band of blue followed by purple that also covers the bottom border. Spray bright pink around the top border.
With bright pink, airbrush several tropical flowers on top of the cake. Don't worry about making the flowers perfect, simply freehand a tropical looking design on the cake.
Lightly overspray the top of the cake with pink, and slide the fondant sunset design onto it. Use a cut paper tube to pipe a black outline of a large palm tree trunk along the left side of the fondant design.
Fill in the trunk using the cut paper tube. Then, pipe several lines at the top of the trunk for palm fronds. Use the lines as the center of the frond, and form the leaves by piping back and forth across the lines.
With green icing and a cut paper tube, pipe several vines at the bottom corner of the sunset to form the base of a tropical flower.
Use a v-cut paper tube to pipe several leaves along the vines. Piping the leaves first helps lift the flower's petals.
Fit a bag with flower tip No. 4. Striate it with lavender icing, then fill it with white icing. Pipe three lines radiating out from a center point to set up the base for the flower's petals.
To form the petals, use the same bag and tip to pipe up one side of the base line, wavering the tip a bit, come to a point at the top and work your way back down. Pipe a petal along each base line.
In the space between each petal, pipe small buds to set up the second layer of petals.
Pipe three more petals over the buds using the same up and down wavering motion used for the first layer of petals.
Use a paintbrush to paint black dots along the tops of the second layer of petals. Cluster more of the dots at the base of the petals.
Fit a bag with tip No. 4, and stripe it with yellow and pink icing. Pipe several small flowers on the piped leaves.
With a cut paper tube, add a green calyx to each of the pink/yellow flowers. To create the calyx, pipe a small ball of icing under the blossom, and then pull up to form the sepal. Pipe three sepals on each flower.
Pipe a white dot border using a cut paper tube along the remaining uncovered edge of the fondant oval. Place tropical-themed sugar decorations (sandals, palm trees, etc.) around the sides of the cake.
Place a cluster of seashells (either sugar ones from suppliers or ones made from chocolate) in the lower corner of the cake, opposite the tropical flower. Sprinkle edible glitter on the flower, and pipe an appropriate message in black using a cut paper tube.
Orlando Serrano is lead decorator at Roeser's Bakery in Chicago. He began decorating at age 17 for an in-store bakery and has worked for Roeser's since 1996. He won the 2000 and 2004 Chicago Area Retail Bakers Association's cake decorating contests and has participated in several Food Network challenges. He received his Pastry Certification from Kendall College in Chicago as well as art training from Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute, both also in Chicago.