If you know me, you know that I’m the least fashionable person possible. I have 15 pairs of the same capris in different colours, and I have many nerdy and/or cake-related t-shirts. That’s my wardrobe. If you see me in a dress, chances are someone is dead or getting married or depending on the scale of the drama, both.
So when the Austin cake club had a theme this year for our Day of Sharing of “Fashionista” I thought, “Meh, I don’t know anything about fashion short of being sick of Ridge and Brooke’s constant on-and-off marriage thing.”
But then it occurred to me that I’ve been looking for an excuse to make more of my dark chocolate buttercream cake balls that I made for my friend Kyla’s birthday in the form of wee little Adiposes, so why not make some little purses? They’d be easy, right? Just shape the cake balls and wrap, right?
Yes! It turns out they are that easy! In fact, I had to force myself to stop making them and go to bed so I could get some sleep before the event, because they were also a lot of fun to make. They’re a great opportunity to use any texture mats/pins, small cutters, or other
fun cake toys serious decorating tools you have lying around that don’t get nearly enough use. You can also use scraps of fondant, and then scraps of scraps blended into marbled patterns.
The one caveat I’ll state is that for this application you want good quality fondant. I often use my homemade stuff because nobody pays me to make cakes, so I usually can’t cost-justify commercial fondant. But while my homemade fondant is excellent for figures, it doesn’t do well at being rolled thin and folded. For all of the purses shown below, all of the fondant is Satin Ice. (Disclaimer: the Satin Ice I have is all leftover from our cake show, and it was donated to that show. So I didn’t pay for it, but it didn’t come directly to me for this blog.)
For the cake balls themselves, I used a box mix (Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge) with a couple of large squirts of Hershey’s Special Dark syrup added, and then about half of a batch of dark chocolate buttercream. That made over 60 little purse shapes. Obviously your yield may vary depending on size and shape of the balls you make. There are tons of web sites and videos out there that show you how to make cake balls so Google for more details, but the very basic methodology is you break up the cake and then mix in the frosting thoroughly. I like to use two forks to tear up the cake in a large bowl, pour the frosting in, and hand-knead.
The next step is to shape the balls, which in this case are clearly not balls at all. Purses come in many shapes and styles, so don’t fret about anything being specific unless you’re trying to replicate a particular purse, in which case Google for images and shape it accordingly. Generally speaking you want to make a ball in your hands, gently pinch out the shape as desired, and push it down a little on a flat surface so it has a stable bottom. The basic purse is a ball that is pinched at the top like a point-free teardrop. Backpacks are the same shape pushed flat on one side. Handle bags are the basic shape with a pinky finger or thin tool pushed down in the middle and the sides nudged upwards. Round purses are thick disks pushed flat one one side to stand up. All of these are roughly about an inch and a half wide, but you could go bigger or even a little smaller.
I like to put my cake balls in the freezer to fully harden, although if it’s really humid this can create the problem of the balls sweating out through the fondant as they come out. To combat this, you can either just put them in the fridge (but then they’ll be softer for covering) or pull them out a few minutes before covering and wipe off the frosty condensation, plus build in some time for them to sit and dry out after covering. I did the latter for these purses, sitting them on a bed of cornstarch as they dried so they didn’t stick to the plate I dried them on.
Either way, you do need to cool them after shaping or else they’ll be too soft to cover.
Now here’s something I want to make really clear: I had never made a cake ball purse before. So how did I know how to do it? I didn’t. As I said above, I figured I could just wrap it, so I tried that using another lump of fondant in the right shape, proved to myself that it worked, and then I went to town with it. You don’t always need someone to show you how to do stuff. Once again, the reason for the title of this blog is I want to encourage you all to try things, play with your food, and worst case scenario you end up with ugly cake balls so EAT THE EVIDENCE!
Here are my first three experimental attempts, which are very basic. The backpack turned out kind of weird, but it’s cute and obviously a backpack:
Here’s how to make the basic red purse shown above. First, roll out the fondant in an oval shape much bigger than the bottom of the cake ball. If you’ve used a texture mat or otherwise prefer one side of the fondant to be the outside, be sure that what you want showing is on the underside. Brush on a little bit of water at the sides and where it’ll join above the cake ball as shown in the photo:
The next steps are simply to fold the fondant around the cake ball and pinch it shut. Don’t pinch hard if you want a visible seam to remain as the purse’s opening.
For the next step, you should use whatever you like for cutting fondant. A sharp x-acto or paring knife will work. I found it easier to use these small, sharp scissors that are made for sewing but I always use for small cake decorations (hint: if you make a green fondant cone and make little snips up the sides you get a great mini Christmas tree effect).
The one above is sitting on a bed of corn starch since the ball because of condensation from the frozen ball, but even fondant without that condensation problem is likely to stick, so let it dry up for awhile (overnight is best) on a bed of corn starch. Then when you’re ready for it to go to a plate or package, carefully brush or wipe the corn starch off of the bottom with a dry brush or cloth.
After my first couple of basic purses, I was able to do this simple covering, handle, and dragee in about four minutes. In fact, for this stage you want to move quickly because you don’t want your fondant drying out and cracking as you work it.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do more complex designs. Really, the sky’s the limit on these, and as I mentioned above, it’s a good time to use a lot of tools you have around that you might not get a chance to use often unless you’re committing their patterns to an entire cake. For instance, in one of my cake show prize packs over the years I won a tiny little flower-pattern roller that quite frankly isn’t very useful otherwise. It’s so small that it’s hard to make in even repeating rows beyond its length, and the roughly-cut design sticks to fondant after a couple of rolls over, even with corn starch. I’ve let my daughter play with it but I was meh on it until this application, because it’s perfect for these little purses!
You can also make handles that stand upright, but it takes a bit more skill. The handle should not be too thin or it’ll fold down, or too thick in which case it’ll flop over. Roll out the fondant, bend it, wet the top of the purse, and then push the handle gently down into place, pinching slightly downward and sort of slightly smearing the fondant out to the sides to anchor it. You’ll be able to feel if it’s steady or not as you go and adjust accordingly with some practice. Then be sure to set it aside overnight to dry before transporting or covering.
Here are most of the rest of the purses and details on how they were made:
So there you have it: lots of styles from a few basic methods. These are super easy and mega-cute so go make some! Get some friends together and have a cake ball decorating party!