When you consider our usual Sweets lineups and all the cake shows on TV, you might be tempted to think it's impossible to make an amazing cake without fondant.
But you would be WRONG.
Submitted by Evy M. & made by Cupcake Cafe
This beauty was made entirely with icing. No fondant, no gumpaste, nada. And I will never be satisfied with my icing roses again. Wowza.
A lot of bakeries prefer fondant because it's easier to achieve certain looks with it. It also travels well and helps maintain a cake's freshness by sealing in moisture.
On the other hand, odds are you'll never find someone who just looooves the taste of fondant. In fact, many bakeries will tell you to peel the fondant off your individual slice and just eat the cake and icing underneath.
Which is all fine and good, but... did you know a fondant-free cake could look this good?
Sub'd by Taru and made by Katharina C. & Sara T. of SugarPlum Visions
Those accent flowers are gumpaste, but the rest of the cake? All icing, guys. Booya.
Obviously I love fondant for the options it gives us, but the fact is it can never replace traditional and oh-so-jaw-dropping piping skills like this:
Sub'd by Alison P. & made by Imaginative Icing
Can you imagine the skill level required to make each of those tiny, perfectly-spaced dots? And then carefully layering those hearts and cages on the edge? Even the top swirls are solid royal icing, which is unbelievably fragile. I would bet only one baker in a hundred today has this kind of skill, which is why it's so darned inspiring.
Ok, you're thinking, that's fine for traditional cakes - but surely no one can make a sculpted cake without fondant!
Oh, yeah? (And don't call me Shirley.)
Sub'd by Brittany S. & made by Deviantart user ~Kahlan4
Hot diggity dog! That's fondant-free, folks!
And from the master of fondant-free cake art himself:
Just look at those highlights in Wall-E's eyes, and that cookie crumble "dirt"!
Btw, Don is one of my top ten all-time favorite cake artists, ever. The things this guy can do with icing will knock your socks off.
Think your only option besides fondant is boring ol' buttercream? Think again.
Submitted by Kendra T. & made by Andi B
These fabulous cupcake toppers are made with chocolate candy melts. The melted candy is piped onto a sheet of plastic, and once it's hardened they pop off for instant cake decorations.
I've always loved this technique because it's such a fun pop-art style. Don't these next ones look like they jumped out of the pages of a sketchbook?
Sub'd by Regan & made by Sugar and Cake
There's a similar technique done with icing called a frozen buttercream transfer:
Submitted by Gail L.; found here, but the baker isn't listed. Anyone know?
With the BC transfer you again pipe your design on a clear plastic sheet, but then you freeze it before flipping it over onto your cake and peeling off the plastic. Obviously this takes a lot of time and skill for more complicated designs, but can you imagine the possibilities?! CAN YOU??
I've razzed on edible photo paper a lot in the past - and with good reason - but like most things, it can sometimes be used for good. (Not very often, but sometimes.) In fact, I'm happy to say that this is the best use of edible photos I've ever seen:
By Valarie "Gwen" K.
Brilliant. And perfectly done. It also goes to show that sheet cakes can be just as much a work of art as sculpted cakes.
In fact, here's another sheet cake used as a blank canvas for - I can't believe I'm about to type this - an amazing airbrush design:
By Devin B.
Clearly this was not done with the Airbrush of Atrocity. Color me impressed.
Another icing technique with spectacular results is the run-in, or flooding, method. You see it most often on too-gorgeous-to-even-consider-eating cookies, like this one:
Submitted by Amanda N. and made by The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle
Forget the glass of milk: this thing needs a frame!
And see how pillowly soft and smooth the icing looks? That's done by first piping an outline and then "flooding" inside the lines with the same icing thinned down with water. And while you see this most often on cookies, you can also pipe the icing on - you guessed it - a clear sheet of plastic, and then carefully - CAREFULLY - peel it off once the icing has dried. Then you place the hardened icing on your cake or cupcakes.
For those of you with mad art skillz, you can even use icing like thickened paint, like so:
By Amy Marie
Even her handwriting is gorgeous. Disgusting. (Er, in a good way, I mean.)
And yes, you can actually use a paint brush with icing. In fact, there's a technique known as "brush embroidery" that actually requires it:
This one was done over fondant, but brush embroidery can also be applied over regular icing. You pipe the outlines of your design, and then use a wet brush to drag the lines inward. It sounds simple, but getting it to look as beautiful as this takes bucket loads of skill and patience.
Hoo boy, you guys! This is turning into a marathon post and John's going to kill me for rambling on this long and including this many pictures, but I've got to include just a few more:
Submitted by Jennie S. & made by Some Crust Bakery
Simple perfection - just look at those razor sharp edges!
Oh, and you should know that there are tons of pretty fondant-free cakes out there decorated with fresh flowers, but I didn't include any here because I wanted to focus on the bakers' skill with actual icing.
Besides, putting flowers on a cake is relatively simple. This, on the other hand?
This is simply stunning.
And these will totally fool you:
Submitted by Evy M. & made by Cupcake Cafe
CAN YOU BELIEVE THOSE ARE ICING AND NOT REAL FLOWERS??
Because I'm not sure *I* do.
The fondant vs icing debate will no doubt continue to rage on, but I hope these Sweets have shown you a little more of what's possible in the hands of a talented baker - and maybe even given you aspiring Sweets bakers out there a few ideas to try with your own cakes!
And as always, if you have a Sweet to nominate, please send it to me at Sunday Sweets [at] Cake Wrecks [dot] com.
Happy Sunday, everyone!