cake dummies in the size and shape of your choosing
fine grade sandpaper (150 or higher)
Crisco (vegetable fat)
quality turntable (we like the Ateco 612
1. Sand the edges. Cake dummies’ edges can be quite sharp, and because they’re not soft and malleable like buttercream- or ganache-covered cakes, have a tendency to tear fondant. Here is our “before” dummy.
To prevent tearing, we use fine-grade sandpaper to gently take the sharp edge off our dummies. We’re not trying to bevel the edges, just round them ever so slightly. Confused about sandpaper grades? Here’s your sandpaper primer.
Sandpaper Primer by Erica OBrien Cake Design
Sandpaper grades can be confusing because the smaller (i.e, finer) the grains of grit (sand), the bigger (higher) the sandpaper grade. But sandpaper grade actually measures the number of particles that would fit within a given space, not the size of each particle. Think of it this way: If you had a one-inch square, the LARGER the particles of grit were, the FEWER particles would fit within the square centimeter. Since we’re counting particles, this sandpaper would have a lower grade, such as 100 or even 60 or 50. Low grade sandpapers, with their big particles, tend to be very rough. The opposite is also true: the SMALLER the particles, the MORE fit in your square inch, so the grade would be higher–say 220 or 320, all the way up to 1000–and the particles will be smaller than 50 grade sandpaper.
To sand your edges, cut a small piece of fine-grade sandpaper, 220 or higher. Gently press and move back and forth on your edge until the sharpness is removed. Here, we used 225-grade.
2. Sand the sides if needed.
I usually purchase my dummies from Guildcraft
. They manufacture furniture, and dummies are one of their byproducts. They ship very fast (albeit expensively) and will cut your dummy to any height (they call it “thickness”) you request. However, they’re furniture experts, not cake experts, and I’ve gotten dummies from that have protruding seams, rough patches, or other imperfections that would be visible through fondant. For these imperfections, you should again use fine-grade sandpaper and sand until smooth. (I’ve gotten into the habit of reminding Guildcraft at the time I place my order that I need the dummies perfectly smooth and they’re generally pretty good about sanding them for me.)
3. Slather on the Crisco.
Yup. I said slather. I’m generally not a slatherer, but the Crisco serves two purposes. First, it fills any cracks, crevices, or indentations that your fondant would otherwise sink into. Second, the Crisco is what adheres the fondant to the dummy. I used to use water, but found that the water evaporated too quickly by the time I’d rolled my fondant out to secure the fondant to the dummy. Crisco is sticky enough to adhere it but slide-y enough to allow some movement. It’s the perfect medium for this purpose.
4. Wipe away the excess. Once you’ve slathered it on, wipe off the excess Crisco so that only a very thin layer remains. Avoid leaving globs of extra Crisco as this will be absorbed by the fondant and make it soft and stretchy. We’re just looking for a thin coating. Your dummy is now ready for covering.
Dummy cake with sanded edges and Crisco layer ready for covering:
5. Cover and cut out the center
of all tiers but the top. I’ve said many times (such as here
) that I’m frugal. Okay, I’m a major cheap ass. That’s why, when I’m doing a tiered cake and no one is going to see the center of the tiers where the subsequent tiers are stacked atop them, I cut out the fondant. My theory (and the way I justify it) is that it speeds the drying of the fondant by allowing more are to circulate. And, since I’m not worried about keeping a real cake insulated and fresh, it has no impact on the cake. But the truth is, I’m as cheap as they get, and so I try not to waste product whenever I can. Feel free to judge.
5. Know that dummies will dry faster than real cakes. The moisture in real cakes (from butter, milk, water, etc.) will be absorbed by the fondant, keeping the fondant soft and pliable. Because there is no moisture in a dummy cake, the fondant will dry faster. As the fondant dries (and the moisture content in the fondant evaporates), the fondant will shrink slightly. Hopefully the shrinking won’t be visible, but if you notice that the bottom edge of your fondant shrinks away, revealing some of the dummy, this is why. Be aware of the possibility of “shrinkage” when covering a dummy, and have a plan in place for correcting your fondant should this happen. The dummies below suffered some shrinkage around the bottom edge.
Have some other tricks or tips for covering dummies? Please leave a comment! We would love to hear them. Best of luck!