I had 'zero' experience with cake decorating when I decided that rather than paying $120.00 for a shower cake for my daughter's wedding shower, I would make one myself. The Italian Cream Cake recipe is one I've used for years, but decorating a cake for me was frosting the cake and writing Happy Birthday to You on the top of it with store bought gel! As you can see from the photo, I got a bit carried away with the gum paste flowers and the Royal Icing decorations and even made FABULOUS Cake Balz for the 1st time...this is proof of how easy it truly is to do it yourself! The fondant was Quick and Easy, the other things were time consuming but actually fairly easy to make! This was my FIRST attempt at all of these things...you should jump in and see where it takes YOU!
HINT: IF COLORED FONDANT IS DESIRED, USE ONLY -GEL- FOOD COLORING. REGULAR FOOD COLORING CHANGES THE TEXTURE OF MANY SUGAR BASED DECORATIONS, SO INVESTING IN -GEL- COLORS IS WORTH IT. IF YOU CAN'T FIND GEL AT THE GROCERY STORE, CHECK HOBBY STORES!
Grease a microwaveable bowl with shortening. Add all mini marshmallows, clear vanilla, butter flavoring and water.
Microwave for 60 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir until completely melted. Using a fork is less messy than a spoon or spatula.
If all the mini marshmallows don't melt after stirring, return to microwave for 20 seconds and stir. Do Not Over Heat!
Add the powdered sugar gradually RESERVING enough to dust your work space and to add to fondant if it becomes sticky (1/2 cup should do it) and process at low speed until well incorporated, then increase speed (I don't have a stand mixer, so I used my hand mixer and it worked just fine) Once the mixture becomes more like dough, if you're not using a stand mixer, you will have to start kneading by hand until the mixture is well incorporated.
Drop mixture onto surface dusted with powdered sugar and knead it until it has the texture of soft dough. You can grease your hands if you like to avoid the marshmallow from sticking. Kneading should not take long.
If the mix is too sticky, then add more sugar until it becomes firmer. Just have fun playing with it...remember Play-Doh...it's the same only sweeter!
Knead into a loaf (it will be a little bit soft at this point but don't worry). Wrap in plastic and cool for about an hour, it will firm up as it cools.
You can store on dry place or refrigerator. It will store for weeks if kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap then placed in a freezer baggie. I kept mine in my pantry and 6 weeks later it was still perfect!
I don't know the true shelf life, but was told by a baker friend that the sugar is what keeps it preserved.
*The finished product will be white, soft and have the appearance of an uncooked loaf of bread. The only reason for using the clear or no color ingredients is to achieve a more pure white fondant or truer colored fondant. If your not particular about the color of your fondant then by all means use regular vanilla and butter flavorings. Though my fondant is off to the side in this photo, these are the flowers I made for this same cake.