So how did I get the texture onto the fondant? I looked at using stencils or a rolling pin, and again, the rolling pin seemed like the easier option. The skirt was made by rolling the fondant into a rectangle. I figured out the width by measuring the height of the tier and then adding 2 inches for the top and 1 inch for drape at the bottom. I rolled the bottom edge thinner so that it would look more like fabric and the rest a little thicker so that it would be easier to handle. After rolling it with a plain rolling pin, I rolled the textured pin over it.
You can see the length was about 20-24 inches, because that seemed to be the longest length I could work with before the fondant would tear or stretch too much. So for my 10-inch layer, I probably needed about 5 feet of fondant. I was surprised that the 2 batches I had made for the tier was enough to do the skirting. Of course, if you want the cake to look nice when it is cut, you should probably cover the tier first in a thin, smooth layer of fondant, and then put the skirting over that, as you can't really serve and eat the skirt (I used buttercream under all of my fondant, but put on a thicker layer on this tier because I knew that it wouldn't be served with the fondant on it.)
You can see that I gathered it one pleat at a time, by overlapping the pieces at the top of the cake. When you get to the end of the strip, though, the edge should be left straight. When you start the next piece you tuck the edge under so it looks like the pleat continues.
When the whole thing is completed, you can put a fondant circle in the center to help make a level top for the tier that will go above.
To finish the skirt, I sprayed it with Super Pearl.
You might have noticed the metal rod sticking up from the center of the cake. I used a support system called Cake Stackers (www.cakestackers.com). While I don't have a great need for making cakes super-stable for transporting, I did have trouble getting everything lined up the last time I made a tiered cake, and I thought this would save me a lot of time cutting dowels and trying to center everything. It is a wonderful system for stacking cakes and well worth the investment.
Here you can see the system in place, awaiting the next tier.
And the next tier gets dropped on. The system comes with cake boards that have holes for the center post and the 4 supports. You only need to locate them with your fiingers as you drop the cake on. It makes alignment perfect every time. If you look closely you'll see that the fondant on the second tier isn't as smooth as it could be. The cake was a little warmer than it should have been, and the all-butter buttercream underneath was squishing around a little. It's a good thing this was a present and not a job! Some of the flaws will get covered by the strips of textured fondant that I'm going to apply, thankfully! By the way, I used clear piping gel to attach both the strips and the pearls.
I had planned to put a simple pearl border around the bottom of the second tier, but the pleating made for too big of a gap, and too uneven surface, so another trim needed to be applied. I opted for a "hemmed" band, which I made by rolling a piece of fondant with the plain and then textured roller, and then folding the edges under to make a hem. The pearls could then be placed on top of the band.
The pearls were made with a silicone mold from http://www.firstimpressionsmolds.com/bordersandropes.aspx
These are the 10 mm pearls. There's a very nice video on how to use the mold at www.cakesuppliesplus.com. I did find that when using my marshmallow fondant I needed to freeze the mold for 10 minutes before popping out the beads, and then refrigerate them for 5 minutes after dusting them with super pearl and just before placing them on the cake. Clear piping jel makes a nice glue for the beads.
I used 5 recipes of marshmallow fondant:
2 recipes kneaded together for the 10-inch tier
1 recipe for the 8-inch tier
1 recipe for the 6-inch tier
1 recipe for trim and pearls
There are several good videos on how to make marshmallow fondant. I make mine in a heavy-duty mixer, using the following ingredients:
10 ounces (1 bag) mini-marshmallows
2 tablespoons water
41/2 cups + 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Place the marshmallows and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds on high. Stir until mixed. Continue cooking until melted (amount of time varies based on temperature of water used and type of container used - anywhere between 1-2 minutes should do the trick).
Transfer the marshmallows to a mixer bowl. Sift in 4-1/2 cups powdered sugar. Mix on medium-low until the mixture comes together. Switch to a dough hook, and knead the mixture for a few minutes. Finish the needing by hand, by putting some vegetable shortening on your hands, but dusting the work surface with powdered sugar. Add in a little more water or powdered sugar, as necessary, to get a dough that is supple but not too sticky. If the fondant tears, it is too dry. Wrap in a sealed plastic bag and store at least overnight at room temperature. If storing more than a few days, refrigerate it but let it come to room temperature before using. You can also microwave cold fondant for 10 seconds to bring it back to room temperature faster.
These I made out of purchased sugarpaste. I figure that no one is going to eat the flowers, so they don't need to taste great or have only natural ingredients in them. I used Scott Clark Woolley's instructions from his dvd " The Amazing Art of Gum Paste Flowers". You can buy it at his website: www.cakesbydesign.cc He also has fabulous molds and tools. The top flower is the cattleya orchid and the sprig is a cherry blossom branch. I wanted different colors, however, so I just found an orchid picture online with coloring that I liked, and used that as a model. My blossoms are also just tinged with pink, and whether or not this exists in nature I don't know, but it was what I wanted for this cake. Once you get comfortable with the technique, you can adapt Woolley's instructions to make the flowers just the way you want. So far, I haven't found any sugar art instructor that I like better than Scott Clark Woolley, but he is very pricey. Think about this - I have made flowers only 3 times in my life, and this is what they look like! I'd say he is a VERY good teacher!!
If you have any other questions that I haven't covered, please feel free to contact me. Happy Baking!