This tutorial shows you how to make a fairy plaque style cake topper that is great for busy parents or grandparents as it can be made well in advance. The plaque can be placed on top on of a variety of iced cakes (fondant, buttercream, ganache) even a shop bought cake can be dressed up.
I have used a fairy for the tutorial but you can use your child’s favourite TV, movie or book character all you need is a picture. The method can also be used for adult cakes and I have done a truck for a truck driver in the past (see below). The truck is a little more detailed and I built it up in layers however for the fairy I have used an inlaid method for most of it (bar a few little details) and used a simpler design so it is suitable for beginners however you can use either method.
Step1: Find a picture for your design (resize it on your computer if necessary, you want your plaque to be a little smaller than your cake diameter and the picture needs to fit nicely inside the plaque) and print it out. You can draw one up freehand instead if you are feeling creative. Note: Please keep in mind the simpler/ less detailed the picture is, the easier and faster it will be to complete. I found mine by doing a search for colouring pages and fairy on the internet.
Step 2: Cut out your design.
Step 3: Grab some fondant (any colour you like that goes with your design) and knead in some Tylose which will help your plaque to firm up/harden. Tip: Ensure with fondant that you keep it covered with plastic wrap or in a plastic bag when not using it as it will start to dry out.
Note: The amount you use depends on the climate in your area. You need more in humid areas or where there is a lot of moisture in the air. The general rule of thumb is add enough so that you start to feel some resistance when kneading (not as soft) but not so much that it starts to crack.
Sprinkle a little cornflour onto your board and roll out the fondant until about 3 or 4 mm thick and place something round on top and carefully cut around it with a sharp knife.
Step 4: Loosen the plaque from the board (I usually run a small pallette knife around the edge) and place onto foam to let it firm up just a little. Return the plaque to the board and place the paper template on top. Mark out the lines of the design using the back of a knife for the outline and a pencil to trace the internal lines.
Step 5: Place the plaque back onto the foam to dry at least overnight but preferably a few days. You want it to be hard. Note: Do not place the plaque in a plastic container it won’t dry properly, either place it on the foam in a cupboard or cardboard box.
Colour your fondant to match your design and add some tylose (if you use straight fondant it will more difficult to cut).
Step 6: Cut out the different parts of the design. Note: If you want to make a layered design similar to the truck then you may need several templates and you could cut out whole sections e.g. the wings as one whole piece. If you are doing layers start on the background first (e.g. wings first) and work your way to the foreground.
Step 7: Roll out one of the colours and place one of the pieces on top and cut around it carefully with a scalpel or sharp craft knife. Tip: Don’t pick it up straight away as it can distort quite a lot leave it for a minute until to firms just a tiny bit (not too long or it will start to dry out too much and crack).
Step 8: Using a small paintbrush put a very small amount of water on the plaque (the water acts as a glue) where the cut out piece of fondant is to be placed. Using a small spatula/palette knife very gently lift the cut out piece off the board and place onto the plaque into the correct position.
Step 9: Repeat with the remaining pieces fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. You will need to manipulate the pieces a little with your fingers so that they fit together without noticeable gaps. Although you can’t really see it in the photo, I applied some dry lustre dust (available from cake decorating shops) onto the wings with a soft paintbrush before placing them onto the plaque to give them some shine.
Step 10: Continue with all the pieces until the picture is complete. You will note that I simplified the design a little further e.g. with the hem of the dress.
I drew in some lines on the hair and the dress with a veining tool (if you don’t have one you could use the back of a knife or a toothpick), if you want to do this you need to make sure you do it before it the fondant dries out.
Step 11: For the eyes I rolled 2 very tiny pieces of brown fondant into a ball and elongated them a little. I used a small ball of flesh coloured fondant for the nose and cut the mouth shape with a sharp knife. I then cut out a heart for the crown and the dress and rolled tiny balls for the jewels on the crown. I then painted the crown and the wand with a little silver lustre dust mixed with a drop or 2 of clear alcohol (I used vodka) to make a silver paint. Note: if it comes out streaky you may need to do 2 coats (ensure the first coat is completely dry before applying second coat).
Step 12: The plaque is now complete, they last for ages so you can make one well ahead of any event just be sure to store it out of the light so it doesn’t fade. A cardboard box is ideal (don’t put it in plastic).
The plaques can be attached to fondant cakes with a little royal icing. With other icing just apply a little of the same icing to the back of the plaque e.g. buttercream to buttercream, ganache to ganache etc.