Most of the cakes I make are a 2-4 day process. The final 2 days are always baking 2 nights before the party (so Friday for a Sunday cake) and then decorating on the day before the party (Saturday for a Sunday cake). I add a few more days prior if I need to make fondant decorations or anything that requires drying time. This Pitfall cake, for as detailed as it looks, took 3 days.
When I got home from work I prepared the base stand to get it to look like a brick wall with a cave by covering it with fondant and scribing a brick pattern to match one from the game.
Day 2: Friday
In the morning before leaving for work I gave the stand a quick wash of color. I needed to fill in the grout lines and give it time to dry before I got home. In a small cup I mixed together 1 drop of black Americolor food gel, 1 drop of brown gel, and 6 ml of water. I used a food-only paintbrush to apply the wash to the fondant, not aiming for any sort of pattern, and allowing the color to drip and run a bit before smoothing it around. I let it set for a minute or two then dabbed at it with a paper towel to remove areas of excess, and then used the same brush with only water to remove even more color. The goal was not to paint or finish the brickwork but to allow the dark color to seep into the etched lines and provide some aging.
At this point it looks like a dark, muddy mess.
When I got home from work I rushed to bake the 2 cakes I’d need. I knew I’d have plenty of time for them to cool before I planned to ice and decorate on Saturday, but I often use the oven for storing fondant bits overnight and didn’t want there to be any residual heat left inside it.
When the cakes were cooled some I wrapped them in saran wrap to set aside for the night.
Then I prepared the table for getting down to some fondant painting. These are the supplies I prepared: in the lid of my color box are a smaller box of Americolor icing colors and a bottle of Wilton White-White, then the contents of the case itself is my collection of Wilton icing gels and some regular, grocery-store-type food coloring. I brought down some cotton balls thinking I might use them for blotting, but testing on a scrap of fondant revealed it stuck terribly to the wet sweet, and I quickly got rid of them. I’ve got a measuring cup of water for rinsing my brushes, a small cup of water and syringe for adding clean water to my colors if I need to thin them any (the syringe gives you way more precision when working with tiny amounts of color than dropping by spoonful or pouring), and a small cup of the leftover dark wash from the morning that I’d kept moist in a tupperware for the day. I’ve got a few sizes of food-safe paintbrushes and some paper towels for blotting, and finally at the bottom is my standard palette, left over from an old pack of hors d’oeuvres.
That’s the palette I use most often, and it works great with larger quantities of color, like when tinting icing sugar/water for the fondant toppers I make. However when using tiny bits and blending a lot of shades I find it’s not as practical, and I eventually switched over to an artist’s style palette with small dabs of the gel colors on it, and a small styrofoam tray for blending. The colors bead up on the tray so I don’t lose any to absorption.
I prepared the stand by putting it on my lazy susan, a wooden one from Ikea. I’ve also got a glass one and a plastic Betty Crocker one, both from the dollar store, but this one is the one I always reach for. I stuck a tub of icing in there to help weigh it down. The stand is pretty heavy, especially with the fondant, but that was a precaution.
The first thing I did was to mix up a color that approximated the bricks I was trying to copy. In the game they look like this:
Now that I had the general shape scribed in and the darker grout lines, I needed to lighten the bricks to a faded, creamy, beige-ish color. I began to mix up a color, testing on the paper towel until I had something that looked right. You can see at the bottom of this next pic where I’d tried out a color that was too pale, and I had to darken it up a bit. In the end I used some Wilton White-White as a base, then some brown and black Wilton gel colors, a touch of Wilton lemon yellow, and some of the morning’s dark wash water to thin it out.
I painted small dabs of the resulting mix onto each brick individually, blending and smoothing until I got rid of the brush strokes and had something that looked like an old brick wall.
For the first time ever I took a short video of my process. If you find it helpful and want more video tutorials, please let me know in the comments. 🙂
After the back was done I moved on to the front. The small amount of mixed color that you saw in the video was enough to paint the entire back and front.
The next step was to add some greenery. I knew I’d have a lot of grass and vines and leaves in the cake, but wanted to add more depth to the bricks so I used more of the dark wash and deepened it up with Wilton gels (leaf green I think).
I used a messy brush to pounce the color in areas where moss would grow, mostly around the bottom of the back piece and around the top and sides of the front. This is a great reason to keep those brushes that get all messed up, so you don’t ruin good ones!
As I added the moss I made sure to keep the brush from being too wet – the effect was supposed to be subtle – and I also periodically touched my brush in different areas of the mix where I hadn’t fully blended, sometimes picking up straight gel from the edge of the palette. This gave me varying shades of green and a more natural look.
Finally I used some White-White and Americolor black and a touch of brown to get a nice varying gray shade for the rock cave. Again I resisted the urge to overmix the color, so I could get depth to the wall. Sometimes I touched in a bit more white, which lightened the grays, and then I’d go back in with a more liquid black, getting into the cracks.
Here’s the finished support, set aside for the night. The front (above) and the back (below).