Damask stenciling on two tiers.
On the cake above, I made royal icing with egg white and mixed it by hand. For the most recent cake I stenciled, I made royal icing with meringue powder in my Kitchen Aid. There are a few things to say about this:
a) I thought I was going to love the meringue powder icing. It was glossy and thick, but it turned out that only the surface was glossy. Underneath, it was full of air bubbles. This made it harder to apply to the cake and didn't give as good a finish to the stenciling. I don't know whether that was because of the meringue powder or because I whisked it as stated in the recipe.
b) This royal icing did not stick as well to the fondant (Satin Ice - yuk). I usually scrape over the stencil two or three times to get a good finish and ensure even coverage, but this just pulled the icing that I'd applied off the fondant. REALLY annoying.
Lastly, I used the Crisco brand of shortening to try and stick the stencil to the fondant as I recommend below. However, this just didn't work! Previously, I have been using a store brand shortening and this works much better. Luckily I had some left and it was fine. Maybe because Crisco has no trans fats?
OK! That's all - on with the tutorial:
I didn't take any photos as I was putting the actual Orange Damask cake together, so I hope I can explain it for you. I took some photos since so that you can see what I mean, hopefully!
This cake is royal icing on fondant - I've not tried it with buttercream, or anything else. I bought the stencil from Global Sugar Art and it's by Designer Stencils.
1. Try to make sure your cake has straight sides. This way you'll be able to get the stencil completely flush with the fondant. Any gaps and you'll have royal icing oozing underneath the stencil. We'll come back to that.
2. The stencil I used is 4.5" high but my tier was less than that (most are going to be 4"), so I put the tier on something that was not as wide so that the cake and the stencil would hang over the edge. That way I could place the top of my stencil at the top of the cake, but it didn't matter if the bottom was lower than the bottom of my tier.
I used an upturned cereal bowl here but you could use a can pan of the next size down from the cake you're stenciling. It didn't matter to me that the bottom of the stencil didn't line up with the bottom of the cake as I was putting a ribbon around it. It mattered more that the stencil was straight at the top. (Make sure you sit all of this on something non-stick - I used a silicone mat when I did it so that nothing slides around.)
3. The next thing to do is to very lightly grease your fondant using vegetable shortening. I did this by hand. This doesn't effect the overall finish - in fact the shortening seems to absorb after a while. I had to keep re-greasing the cake when I came to do the next section. You just need to have enough shortening on there so that when you place your stencil on the cake it will stick and create a sort of seal. I used pins right in the corners to hold the edges down, but it might not have been necessary. This really is a vital stage, it's a great way to get a 'watertight' seal on the stencil.
Here's a photo of the stencil stuck to the side of a gift box cake using just shortening. Magic! There are pins too, but they're really not needed.
4. I'm right handed, so this is the way I did it: Holding the stencil against the cake with your left hand, put a little RI on your spatula with your right hand. I used a small, offset spatula, but you could try what works best for you. I started at the left hand edge of the stencil so I was reaching sort of over the top of the cake with my statula pointing downwards. I put the RI in small amounts, doing maybe 3 or 4 inches at a time. I put it on quite thinly, and had to go over some areas again to make sure I'd filled in all the holes. Photo 3 should show you the way I held the stencil against the cake. Just keep lightly pressing the stencil on to your cake as you go around.
4. I put something under one edge of the tub that held the RI, so that it would slowly run down and make it easy for me to scoop out with one hand (see photo 4). The consistency was pretty stiff, it can't be runny at all, but it obviously has to be soft enough to spread. I can only suggest you experiment until you get it right! I've pasted my RI recipe below.
5. Once you think you've got the stencil covered, carefully and slowly and without too much pressure, scrape the excess icing off. I used the edge of the same spatular and started from the centre and worked my way out to both edges, one after the other. There were some times when I scraped the icing off and I could see fondant underneath, so I just reapplied it and tried again.
6. Once this part's done, take a deep breath and remove the stencil. I picked up both edges at once and pulled slowly towards the centre. It's very important that you wash and thoroughly dry your stencil now. You don't want any icing to transfer to the next section of the cake!
7. If you're doing more than one tier, start the next tier now in the same way, because you want the RI to dry on the first one. If not, go and have a lie down and a few more deep breaths while it dries.
8. Once the RI is dry, position the stencil next to the edge of the first one, taking the most care that the stencil continues to line up at the top and you aren't going downhill or uphill. I did that on one join, but I put it at the back and I got away with it! It's best to overlap your join by a fraction and make sure the tier is well-greased again. You might have to reapply your shortening. This will be harder now because the left edge of your stencil won't stick down because it is overlapping the RI that's already dried. I used pins again.
9. The bottom tier of cake (12") took three stencils and I ended up with a 1" gap. AAARRRRGHHH! I just had to decide that was the back and positioned the stencil as best I could to make a join. I didn't use the edge, I chose something symmetrical from the centre of the stencil that I thought would be least noticeable.
10. If you do get a bit of leakage underneath the stencil you can normally clean it up. I used a toothpick to clean out some of my lines. Where the RI oozed along the crisp line at the top, I got a small sharp knife, dabbed a bit of cornstarch on it and carefully scraped and almost pushed the RI back into a straight line. That really worked. Sometimes the stenciling did sort of ooze together (see bottom left of my picture) but it didn't really notice, so I left it.
11. For my very first practice, I used fondant stuck onto the side of a serving dish. You'll see that because the serving dish has a lip on it, I wasn't able to overhang the stencil and there's a big gap at the bottom. This is fine if you're going to use a ribbon or a fondant strip, but it meant that the top was a mess where the stenciling ended in a random place. Definitely best to get your top looking good - you can always cover the bottom with piped buttercream, fondant pearls, strips or really cheat with ribbon, like I did.
Good luck! And let me know if you have any questions
Royal Icing Recipes
I used the real egg white one, but I did have to add about another cup of powdered sugar to it to get it to a consistency I was happy with. This recipe was given as one right for stenciling, so maybe my eggs where too big, or something. The consistency was very firm, not runny at all, but it still did have a little movement in it, but was very slow-moving. The other thing I should mention is that no matter how much black (Wilton) gel colour I shoved in the icing it never got darker than dark grey. I've read elsewhere that other people have had that problem. However, on the cake it totally looked black and not just in the photo. Maybe Americolor would be better.
Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
1 large (30 grams) egg white
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (165 grams) powdered or icing sugar, sifted
Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:
2 cups (220 grams) powdered or icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
1/4 cup (60ml) warm water