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Nut-covered chocolate, decorated with autumn-colored fondant leaves.

How to Make a Festive Autumn Cake

Whitney M.

Sometimes a new toy leads to a new cake.

Or maybe a cake challenge leads (a certain baker who shall not be named...*ahem*) to "need" a new toy.

In my case, it was spray food coloring. Have you heard of this stuff? It's exactly what it sounds like: edible spray paint. How fun is that? I'd been looking for an excuse to buy some...and then came autumn with its lovely multicolored leaves, just begging to be made into a cake.

So I thought, hmm...leaves...cake...this would be a great time to finally try fondant. It's got a
reputation for tasting bad and being finicky, but it was the most logical solution to my “how to make spray-paintable leaves” query. That's how we wound up with this month's cake: nut-covered chocolate decorated with autumn-colored fondant leaves.

Rolled Marshmallow Fondant

The fondant sludge
The green fondant sludge which became the leaves.

It turns out that fondant is pretty easy to work with; it's like a stiff play dough. I used the marshmallow kind and it wasn't hard to make at all. There's one stage where you're adding powdered sugar and the whole thing sort of collapses into crumbly little pieces; just keep kneading, it'll come together. You have to knead pretty forcefully. It's a great stress reliever. Oh, and it tastes like really chewy marshmallows.

I colored the fondant green, cut out the leaves, and sprayed them with yellow and red food coloring. I like how they turned out, but for brighter fall colors, I could have dyed the fondant yellow (or left it white) and sprayed green and red and orange.

Spray food coloring

Edible spray paint
The leaves were colored with edible spray paint.

Surprise: spray food coloring stinks! It actually smells a lot like spray paint. The odor doesn't linger long but it's kind of in your face while you're using it. I recommend doing this by an open window if you have allergies.

For the frosting, I started with regular buttercream and added melted bitter chocolate (instead of cocoa powder)...seriously yummy frosting ensued. Chocolate buttercream has a rough texture and doesn't want to stick to the cake easily, BUT it tastes like fudge. I'd say that's worth the roughness.

Cover with crushed nuts

If you, like me, have trouble getting your icing nice and smooth, crushed nuts is a great hack. I've employed various strategies in the past to disguise this flaw, and the crushed nuts solution is just so pretty. Bonus: the rough texture of chocolate buttercream holds the nuts in place nicely.

Autumn Cake
The festive final result.

Doesn't this design look festive? I think it would be nice for Thanksgiving, or maybe for Christmas with poinsettias instead of leaves. You are planning to make at least one cake for the holidays, right? Right??

Well, I'm not. At least, I'm not making a "Thanksgiving" cake. The (wonderful) geek I married is getting something appropriately nerdy for his Thanksgiving-week birthday.

So, that's my theme for November's Cake of the Month Challenge: Geeky Cakes. Feel free to play along with my theme, or make up your own, but whatever you make this month...don't forget to take pictures!

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5 years ago
I asked for cake decorating tools for Christmas. I need some stuff to play with. I have nothing, just a baggie snipped at the corner, pathetic.
5 years ago
BTW, the pictures of this cake look great!
5 years ago
But your wonderful geek husband has a sister who will see you at Thanksgiving and wants to make a cake with you! It's beautiful Whitney!!
5 years ago
Could you post or link to the recipe for the cake and frosting?
5 years ago
Sure thing! I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe: (make the coffee version, you won't regret it) The filling was ganache; directions here The buttercream was as follows: -1 cup softened salted butter -5 cups powdered sugar -1/4 cup cream -1 tsp vanilla Cream together, then add 8 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate. Thanks for asking!
5 years ago
Thank you very much for the recipe. I think I will try it this week.
5 years ago