I love running. I love cake. Exercise and desserts . . . This presents a conundrum in my daily life, but the stars aligned and brought these two conflicting worlds together when I was commissioned to make this Saucony Running Shoe cake! As my first online tutorial ever, I’m going to walk you through how I made this beauty, as well as share some tips I learned along the way.
- 1 10″ square cake
- Shoe template (photos of your desired shoe in the desired final cake size)
- Viva Paper towel
- Clay Extruder
- Fondant Tools (I used Wiltons): including a rotary “stitching” tool
- Exacto knife, rotary cutter, scalpel–whatever you prefer to cut precise fondant pieces with
This cake was made over the course of 3 days: one day for baking (freezing after), the next day for carving and chilling and beginning the decorating, and the final day for finishing the decorating. First tip: I always begin my work with chilled cakes! For sculpted cakes, make sure you use a nice, dense cake recipe for carving. I bake my cakes a day before working on them, and freeze them immediately after baking to make sure that they stay nice and moist. Once they’ve frozen, that they will be firmer and easier to carve. For this cake, I baked a 10″ square cake, and sliced it in half before freezing. Once I was ready to get started, I layered the cake with a delicious all-butter Vanilla American Buttercream. Make sure you then chill the cake again for at least 20 min.–the buttercream will set up nice and firm, holding the cake in place while you carve.
I found a photo of the running shoe online, and printed off 4 views of it, as close to the size of my cake as possible. I referred to these photos during the entire process, beginning with using them to help me carve my cake into the desired shape:
Tip #1: See this picture below? DON’T do it this way! Flip your image upside down onto your cake, then cut. Or at least check which way to place it before cutting to ensure your printed shoe photos match up the right direction! Mine ended up reversed, which my poor brain really struggled to flip when it came time to carve and apply decor to each side. It would’ve been much easier for me to replicate had I not messed this step up.
Used the same technique to carve the profile, then free-handed the carving from here. I used a couple different sizes of serrated knives to do my carving with. Go SLOW! Like a haircut, it’s easier to take of more, than to put it back! If you do trim off too much, you can mix cake scraps with frosting, and use it as a putty to fill in mistakes. Not ideal, and not as pretty when your cake is cut, so focus more on accurate cutting than repairing.
Ta da! Carving complete. Back to the fridge to chill for a bit before frosting. Much better to frost a firm surface than a soft, squishy one, especially when you need details!
I then applied a full layer of Buttercream frosting to the cake, chilling again. From here on out, I continued to pull the cake in and out of the fridge so that the buttercream would hold it’s shape and not melt as I worked on it for hours.
TIP #2: Next time, I will use whipped Ganache frosting in place of buttercream. There would be no need to take it in and out of the fridge, and since ganache sets firmer, it would help hold the cake shape better, no matter if it were in the fridge or at room temp. The toe of my cake ended up dropping due to the weight of the fondant and the softness of buttercream at room temp. PLUS: fondant does better at room temp–no sweating or shiny-ness when you don’t want it, no shrinking of size, etc. Remember, Ganache. Save yourself a headache!
I prepared my Marshmallow Fondant the night before I used it. You can find a gazillion recipes for this stuff all over the internet, all pretty much the same. Making it ahead of time gives it time to set up and makes it easier to work with–not quite so sticky, I’ve found. I colored it the day of, which leads me to . . .
TIP#3: Color your fondant ahead of time! Baking day would a great day for this! Mixing the colors can take quite a bit of time, precious time I needed to be decorating. For black fondant, add cocoa powder to darken first, then black. Even easier, buy black fondant! I think it’s probably worth it in the time and mess saved coloring it!
TIP #4: For increased durability, strength, and plasticity, I added in a handful of Satin Ice pre-made fondant to my white marshmallow fondant (not to the colored). Still tastes great, and makes the fondant whiter! Marshmallow fondant is naturally more off-white.
TIP #5: Fondant dries out quickly, so be SURE to keep it wrapped tightly when not in use.
Before applying the fondant, I used a Viva paper towel to smooth any lines and ridges to ensure as smooth of a surface as possible. I’m not sure this step was necessary, but it didn’t hurt.
The fun begins! Below are my must useful, must-have tools when it came to this shoe cake. From left to right, top to bottom: Wax Paper, bowl of cornstarch mixed 50/50 with powdered sugar, Crisco (not pictured, but used a lot!), a small bowl of water, my green extruder for laces, small ropes, writing, etc, a fiskars finger rotary cutter for cutting out small shapes, an Exacto knife, paintbrush for smoothing edges, applying water to fondant to help it stick, and my two fondant tools: one for shoe lace holes, shaping, details, and one for stitch lines. Last but not least, my scrap of rubber carpet liner slip-prevention, used to imprint the pattern onto my white pieces of fondant to make it look like a real shoe!
My technique this time, was to use a strip of wax paper pressed gently to the buttercream, then looking at the photo of the shoe, I traced the desired shape onto the wax paper. I trimmed the paper, and used it as a template to cut the shape from fondant and apply it in layers to the cake, using a thin application of water or Crisco on the back of the fondant as my bonder. If your photo printout is the same size as the cake, you could even trace some of the details. My technique was extremely tedious . . .
TIP # 6: Next time, I think I would fondant the whole cake exterior in white fondant, the interior in black, and build it up from there. That way, your shapes don’t need to be quite so precise from the get go, and you don’t have to worry about any buttercream showing through seams that may separate (especially if you used buttercream that is softening and shifting). Plus, that is truer to how the real shoe appeared to have been constructed.
Details make the difference. This clay extruder is the best! It allowed me to apply fine, even details that otherwise would have been impossible! I bought mine on Amazon, and it comes with several different discs giving you many different options.
Taking shape, one meticulous cut at a time . . .
Rolled paper towel helps hold the upper side of my shoe in an elevated position. I should have used the same technique to prop up the underside of the shoe toe while the fondant dried. Instead, the toe dropped down under the weight, losing some classic running shoe shape, and causing some separating of the upper fondant pieces at seams, which had to be discreetly filled in.
For the baseboard, I applied fondant onto my foamboard (using Crisco to bond it), then applied some texture by placing a clean towel over it and imprinting it onto the fondant with my Wilton rolling pin.
To achieve realistic shoelaces, use your extruder! I pierced holes using my blue fondant tool pictured above, then used that same tool to help push in the ends of each lace section into each hole. If you look, you can see that my fondant was ripping, especially at the ends. This was because my black fondant didn’t get wrapped up tightly enough while waiting for use, and dried out! :( It did give the lace edges a ragged look, which I though looked more similar to the fabric laces, so it worked, though it was hard to manipulate due to the dryness. Wrap your fondant up tight!
I used the same blue fondant tool (from the Wilton fondant tool kit) to pierce the air holes into the sides of the shoe. Enter in the final product, and a nicer camera for photographs:
Once again, use your hand-dandy extruder to make rope for lettering.
For the subtle texture on the top of the shoe’s tongue, I used a piece of fine tulle to imprint a pattern onto the fondant using my rolling pin, once again. I used an Americolor food-writing pen to write “Saucony” on the front tag . . . poor writing, but I hoped no one would notice!
Stitching lines made with the green Wilton rotary tool.
The orange shoe treads were cut into shapes from thick fondant, rolled thinner at the top to help it “blend” into the shoe better, scored with my “blue tool” (I’m sure it has a name) and applied on top of the white fondant.
Last, but not least, I gently steamed the entire shoe with my iron–just for a couple seconds, and let it dry for a nice, bright, slightly shiny finish! Be careful though, it’s easy to steam too much or get drips, which will mar your fondant (water dissolves sugar). This shoe was a fun challenge to make; I was happy to be finally finished with it, and delighted with how it turned out! So worth it! I purged any remaining tension with a nice, long, run the next morning. Here’s to cake and to health! May they exist in peace!