You will need:
- a round layer cake--~4-5" high and diameter up to you (the one in photo was 8" round) either covered in green fondant (~1 lb + 12 oz) or green buttercream
- fondant for asparagus (this depends on the size of your cake, but ~1.5 lbs--I recommend having an extra lb or more, just in case)
- gel colours: AmeriColor Leaf Green, Sugarflair Gooseberry
- petal dust colours: Foliage Green or Moss Green Petal Dust, African Violet Petal Dust, Flame Red Petal Dust
- fondant work mat (I use Ateco 24 x 36 Inch Fondant Work Mat for all of my fondant work and more), optional
- a small sharp knife
- 3 wire racks or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
- pair of small scissors (such as manicure scissors you designate for food)
- 3 small-medium paint brushes for dusting colour, 1 medium-large brush for water
- ribbon of choice
- cornstarch or icing sugar for dusting work surface (if not using fondant work mat)
Make your fondant asparagus (you can make these as far in advance as you wish):
- Colour your fondant 3 shades of green using the AmeriColor Leaf Green & Sugarflair Gooseberry. Make 1/3 of your fondant 50/50, then make two additional shades: 1 with the slightest bit more Leaf Green and the final with the slightest bit more Gooseberry. Keep all your 3 shades of green fondant well-sealed (I use medium plastic seal bags) while not in use, and only work with small amounts at once.
- Removing only a golf-ball-sized bit of fondant from the bag, soften it by working it in your hands for a moment, and then, on a fondant work mat or clean countertop, roll into a long, even rope, about 1/2" thick or so, using your hands or a cookie sheet (this creates a very even rope) in a back-and-forth rolling motion. *If your fondant sticks to your countertop, use a light dusting of icing sugar or cornstarch. If you use a fondant mat, you won't have this issue.
- Cut into 5" long pieces (you should get 3 or so per rope) and cut remaining "rope" into 2" pieces. Using the palm of your hand, roll "neck' of each piece gently, so that it tapers a small bit and then do the same to the very tip, so it becomes slightly pointed. Don't worry if they aren't all the exact same length, as we'll be trimming them a bit before putting them on the cake.
- Working quickly, and while keeping the pieces on the counter, make many tiny snips the tapered ends of each piece and sporadically along the stalks. *Be sure to not actually cut the flaps of fondant off when using the scissors, as you want the little "triangle" flaps to pull away from the spear, but not come off. So now you have your first spears and tips (woohoo!). Now, simply repeat a few hundred times. Kidding! Sort of. Set each one on a wire rack or parchment-lined cookie sheet (they simply dry faster on rack, but if you are doing ahead of time, use cookie sheets as they are easy to move around) to dry. The quantity needed depends on the diameter of you cake and how thick you rolled your asparagus stalks. I believe I used about 75 full spears (for the outside of the cake) and ~400 tips to fill the center. Let dry overnight (or up to weeks in advance) in a cool, dry place--exposed to air.
- Using small dry paintbrushes, generously dust each spear with green dust at the tip and randomly over stalk (where you snipped), then with hints of African Violet and Flame Red. *Refer to your real bunch of asparagus as much as possible. You will be adding a final round of dust after the cake has been assembled, so you don't need to go overboard with the dusting.
- Pat yourself on the back and celebrate with a fancy beverage of some kind, because the worst, my friends, is over--you have just made hundreds of fondant asparagus + tips!
Assemble the Asparagus Cake:
- Cover your cake in either green vanilla buttercream or vanilla buttercream covered with green fondant. *I used green fondant that I coloured white fondant using leaf green to gooseberry green 50/50. Don't stress too much about your fondant or buttercream job being perfect, because not one inch of this part of the cake will be visible, but do your best to start with a fairly smooth and even surface. Place cake on the plate or pedestal you plan to serve it on, and chill cake for 30 minutes, or so.
- If you finished your cake with green vanilla buttercream, that will essentially be your glue--you can go ahead and places your full spears, one by one, directly around the cake, as close together as possible. You may want to trim the bottom of certain spears before sticking them to the cake, to ensure they all sit at the same height--you want your spears to sit about 2" above the top of your cake (see photo). If you finished your cake with green fondant, you will use a medium-large paint brush or pastry brush and wet sections of the cake before gently pressing the asparagus to the sides--the wet fondant is your glue. You may have to hold each one or few for a moment until it sticks, or tie a ribbon around the outside of the spears and cake to set (see photo).
- Once you have placed spears all the way around the perimeter of the cake, tie the ribbon firmly around the cake to help them set.
- You will now place the tips tightly together on the top of the cake, one by one. Remember that you don't want any of the under-cake exposed, as this is what makes it look so real. Fill every inch you can with the tips, trimming the bottoms before placing on the cake, if necessary (you want them to be as close to the same height as possible).
- Add any last shading with your petal dusts to enhance the tips, bases and spots where you snipped.
- Voila! Now, please, have another fancy beverage and piece of cake to celebrate (Asparagus Cake, anyone?). You did it!
Sweetapolita's Notes for a successful Asparagus Cake:
- Use real asparagus as your guide--this was key for me. Had I gone by memory, I never would have thought to include red and purple shading, which I think makes it.
- Make all of the spears fairly consistent (in terms of length and diameter), but each one should be slightly different (shading, snips, etc)--think organic shapes and colours--not overly engineered.
- Sugarflair Gooseberry green gel is the best I've found for a realistic green shade of base fondant. If you can't find this, try adding a tiny bit of black to your Leaf Green colour gel, or experiment with mixing different shades of green.
- Shading, shading, shading--this gives the cake that real trompe l'oeil dimension that freaks people out (hehe).