My mother has a birthday in December and I wanted to do something special. This cake is the result. Mom loved it and almost didn't want to eat it because it was so wonderful!—Diana Lopez, Kearny, New Jersey
- 2 paper towel tubes (11 inches)
- 3 packages (1.1 pounds each) ready-to-use primary colors rolled fondant, divided
- 1 new small paintbrush
- Nutcracker Cake Stand
- 1 package (1.8 pounds) ready-to-use white rolled fondant, divided
- Ivory paste food coloring
- 1 package (1.1 pounds) ready-to-use natural colors rolled fondant
- 2 packages white cake mix (regular size)
- 4 eggs
- 2-2/3 cups water
- 1 package (2 pounds) confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 2 cups shortening
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
- 2 cardboard cake circles (6 inches)
- 1 empty frosting can with lid (16 ounces), label removed, washed
- Hole punch
- To make legs: Cut one paper towel tube in half widthwise. Roll out a small portion of red fondant into two 6-in. x 3-in. x 1/16-in.-thick rectangles. (Wrap remaining fondant in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.)
- Dip paintbrush in water; moisten the top 3 in. of one paper towel tube half. Wrap fondant around moistened tube. Moisten seam with wet paintbrush; press to seal. Repeat for second leg.
- For pant cuffs, roll a small amount of yellow fondant into a 1/4-in.-thick rope; cut into two 6-in. sections. Attach to bottom edge of red fondant with water. Place tubes over dowels of Nutcracker Cake Stand. Invert cake stand's round plaque onto dowels; secure with screws according to instructions.
- For boots: Shape white fondant into two 2-in. x 1-3/4-in. x 1-in. blocks; round edges of blocks slightly. Place blocks on base of cake stand in front of legs (arrange legs with seams to the back).
- Roll a small amount of black fondant into 1/4-in. thickness; drape over one block and front of leg. Drape a second piece around back of leg, forming a boot. Press seams to seal. Repeat. Set cake stand aside.
- To make arms: Cut remaining paper towel tube in half widthwise. Using about two-thirds of a pouch of blue fondant, roll a 6-in. x 5-3/4-in. x 1/16-in.-thick rectangle.
- Dip paintbrush in water; moisten one paper towel tube half. Wrap fondant around tube, leaving 1/4 in. excess at the shoulder. Moisten inside of tube with wet paintbrush; tuck excess fondant into tube and press to secure. Moisten seam with wet paintbrush; press to seal. Repeat. (Wrap remaining fondant in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.) Set arms aside.
- For hands: Tint about 1 pound of white fondant with ivory food coloring. Roll out a small amount to 1/8-in. thickness. Using a 3-in. mitten-shaped cookie cutter as a guide, cut out four hand shapes with 1-1/2-in. tabs at the tops for wrists. Wrap remaining ivory fondant and set aside.
- Moisten edges of hand shapes with water; gently press two cutouts together to form a hand. Moisten the wrist tabs; attach to the outside of the front and back of an arm (position arm so that the seam and thumb will face the body of the nutcracker). Repeat. Set arms aside to dry, supporting hands with the handle of a whisk or other kitchen utensil.
- To make cake: In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs and water; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour 2 cups batter into each of four greased and floured 6-in. round baking pans. Pour remaining batter into a greased and floured 1-qt. ovenproof bowl.
- Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans and bowl to wire racks to cool completely.
- To prepare frosting: In a large bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and meringue powder. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, combine the shortening, water and vanilla. Beat in sugar mixture until smooth.
- To make cuffs: Roll out a small portion of black fondant into two 6-1/2-in. x 1-in. x 1/16-in.-thick rectangles. Wrap around arms, covering wrists and forming cuffs. Attach with water.
- For trim, roll a small amount of yellow fondant into a 1/4-in.-thick rope; cut into four 6-1/2-in. sections. Add to top and bottom of each cuff, attaching with water.
- To assemble body: Using a serrated knife, level tops of three round cakes if necessary. Place one cake on a 6-in. cake circle; spread top with 1/2 cup frosting. Insert four 1-1/2-in. wooden cake dowels. Place several dabs of frosting on the round plaque base of the Nutcracker Cake Stand; top with cake.
- Place a second cake layer on remaining cake circle; spread top with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with third cake. Place cake on stand, positioning so that cake is evenly supported by dowels.
- Insert two 5-in. wooden cake dowels into body of cake, near the center and about 1-1/2 in. apart. Push dowels through top two layers, stopping when the cake circle is reached. (Top 1 to 2 in. of dowels will stick out of top of cake.) Frost top and sides of cake layers.
- Open remaining pouch of blue fondant; shape into a ball with reserved fondant from arms. Roll into two 10-in. x 7-1/2-in. rectangles. Drape one rectangle around back of cake, dividing excess fondant (about 1-1/2 in.) between top and bottom of cake. Gently fold excess over top of cake; fold excess around bottom of cake, attaching fondant to bottom of round plaque with frosting. Repeat with front panel; seal seams at sides of nutcracker with water.
- For head and hat: Using a serrated knife, level top of bowl-shaped cake and remaining round cake if necessary. Place round cake on a cake turntable or work surface; spread top with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with bowl-shaped cake, forming the head. Frost top and sides of cake.
- Roll reserved ivory fondant into a 16-in. circle; drape over head and gently tuck edges under. Place on body, allowing dowels to secure head. Roll yellow fondant into a 12-in. x 1/4-in.-thick rope; wrap around base of head and secure with wet paintbrush.
- For domed hat, place a 1-1/2-in. ball of white fondant on the lid of the frosting can. Roll red fondant into a 5-in. circle; drape over ball and lid. Gently moisten edges and secure to can. Roll a portion of red fondant into an 11-1/2-in. x 4-in. rectangle; wrap around frosting can and secure with water. Seal seam. Tuck excess fondant around bottom of can and attach with water.
- Roll a small amount of blue fondant into a 1-in. ball; place on top of hat. Roll yellow fondant into a 1/4-in.-thick rope; trim around ball and around top of hat, attaching with a wet paintbrush.
- To assemble and decorate: Using a hole punch, punch a hole 1/2 in. from the top of the inside portion of each arm. Carefully insert one end of the 8-1/4-in. wooden cake dowel into an arm hole; gently press dowel horizontally through cake. Attach remaining arm.
- Roll a small amount of yellow fondant into a 1/4-in.-thick rope; cut into two 6-1/2-in. sections. Moisten the shoulder edge of each arm; attach trim to ends of tubes.
- For epaulets, roll red fondant into two 1-3/4-in. balls; place on shoulders. Roll yellow fondant into two 3/4-in. balls; attach with a small amount of water to tops of red balls.
- Lightly spread frosting over top of head; top with hat. For hair, cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert #127 petal pastry tip. Fill bag with remaining frosting. Pipe columns around head, forming hair strands.
- Roll yellow fondant into a 12-in. x 1/4-in.-thick rope; attach around base of hat. Roll out remaining fondant as desired to decorate face and jacket. Let stand until set. Yield: 16-18 servings.
Originally published as Nutcracker Cake in Country Woman Christmas Annual 2008, p73
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