Working with fondant
Making figures out of fondant takes practice, but once you begin playing around, you begin to realize that many different characters can be made using a few simple shaping techniques. Click through to see me demonstrate the process by making a fondant turkey.
Avoid exposing fondant to air
Whether you decide to use homemade fondant or you but it from a cake supply store, it's important to remember to wrap any fondant that you're not using at the moment tightly in plastic, and store it wrapped tightly in plastic in an airtight container. Otherwise, it will dry out and have an uneven texture.
Knead until pliable
To begin, dust the workspace and your hands with cornstarch or confectioner's sugar, or grease with vegetable shortening (my preferred is cornstarch) and knead the fondant until it is smooth and pliable.
Divide for coloring
Divide the dough roughly by the amount of color you'll need. Because my turkey will have a large brown body that's double the size of the rest of the colors combined, the big piece will be brown, the rest, the other colors.
Mix a pinch of fondant with a tiny amount of warm water (about 1/4 cup) and dissolve the fondant in the water. You will use this slurry as your glue for adhering pieces together.
Place rubber gloves on your hands. You will need enough for several different colors (make dark primary colors first so you can reuse the gloves for secondary colors that contain them, for example, red, then orange). If you don't have gloves or left them at work like me, place plastic bags over your hands to protect them from getting stained from the dye. Place a few drops of water-soluble gel color on the fondant piece.
Fold the color into the dough
Fold the fondant around the color to begin mixing.
Then, pull the dough like taffy
After you've folded the fondant onto itself, stretch the piece of fondant out again.
Fold the stretched dough over on itself again. Repeat this over and over again, until there are no wet patches of dye left.
Knead to finish coloring
Once there are no wet patches of color, the fondant will be safe to handle without staining your bare hands. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands again and knead until the color is completely even.
Add more color as you go
If you're not satisfied with the color, add more gradually, using the method I just described. Keep in mind that colored fondant will fade slightly as it dries.
Color mis en place
Color all of your doughs, taking care to change gloves when necessary and to wrap each color tightly in plastic as you go.
Shaping by rolling
Many shapes for fondant begin with rolling it into a ball. Since most fondant characters look cartoon-y, bodies of different characters can often be formed by gluing round shapes together. Here is the body of my turkey, a simple round ball. I've scored the top lightly and am applying slurry to attach another, smaller ball for the head.
Score, slurry, and adhere
Score both pieces and slurry one or both, taking care not to apply slurry near the edge where it will squish out.
Cutouts for parts
Another easy and versatile method of shaping is rolling fondant out flat and cutting out shapes. When doing this, be sure to turn the dough as you roll and dust the surface as needed to ensure that nothing sticks.
Cut and smooth
Either trace a template with the edge of a knife or just cut freehand. Try to keep the cuts at a 90 degree angle from the table and aviod dragging the knife, which creates jagged edges. A pizza cutter is also a great tool for fondant. Smooth the edges of cuts with your fingers.
Parts all ready for assembly
Once you have all of your shapes created, it's time to assemble. Take care to use the score and slurry method. You may also reinforce heavier parts, like the beak, with toothpicks stuck inside the pieces, as long as you are confident that no one will be eating the piece.
Once the character is assembled, smooth over any rough parts or dings by rubbing the surface gently with your fingers. Use a small pick to define edges. (To get started making your own characters, always start with a search in Google images. That's always how I get my inspiration, and this turkey is no exception.)