The Super-Cute Mother’s Day Cake That’s Even Better than a Hand-Drawn Card

published May 5, 2021
How to Decorate a Cake with Edible Markers

This step-by-step guide will walk you through selecting the cake, covering it in frosting and fondant, and decorating with edible markers.

Makes1 (9-inch) round cake

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someone is drawing on a happy mothers day cake with edible markers
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

I enjoy baking with my 4-year-old, but as most parents know it’s not exactly a relaxing endeavor. Kids need a lot of supervision, and things can get unbelievably chaotic. It’s the real definition of stress baking.

Then, I discovered food markers, which have become such a great way to work on baking projects with my 4-year-old. The markers, which use food dye as the ink, work well on both fondant and royal icing, so I’ll often bake a cake or cookies ahead of time and then we’ll decorate together. My kid loves doodling on the baked goods, and it keeps him engaged for long periods of time. We have fun, the cleanup is minimal, and the results are super cute —and oftentimes funny.

Because the icing or fondant acts as a blank canvas, this project works great for any occasion. During the winter holidays, we drew faces on iced gingerbread cookies, and my kid singlehandedly decorated a fondant-covered cake for my husband’s birthday. Recently, he created a springtime scene on a fondant cake topper, and this weekend, we’ll break out the markers once again for Mother’s Day.

Here, I’ll walk you through the process step-by-step — but the beauty of this project is that you get to decide how involved to get. You can go into full craft beast mode and bake your own cake, make the fondant from scratch, and cover the cake yourself. Or you can call up your local bakery and order a plain fondant-covered cake. You might decide to get a grocery store cake and cover only the top with packaged fondant. It’s up to you!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Choosing the Right Cake

Ideally, you want to make or buy a firm cake that can hold the weight of the fondant. While you don’t have to use a pound cake (although you can if you want), avoid light cakes like angel food or chiffon. Any standard birthday cake recipe or box cake mix will work. I was also once advised not to use cakes with lots of mix-ins because the texture of the ingredients might show through the fondant, but I’ve made a carrot cake with nuts and raisins and it turned out just fine.

If you need a cake recipe, check out the following list (it includes my grandmother’s lamb cake recipe, which also bakes nicely in round cake pans):

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Prepping the Cake

Classic buttercream is an ideal fondant adhesive. You want a smooth, thin layer over the entire cake — think of it as a generous crumb coat. If you use too much, the icing will bulge and ooze out when you place the fondant on it. If you bought a cake, remove any excess decorations, like flowers or borders. If the frosting is thick, scrape it off until only a thin, smooth layer remains.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell
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Covering the Cake in Fondant

Fondant is amazing, in that you can easily sculpt it and use it to give a cake super-clean lines. I prefer the taste of homemade fondant, which you can make by nuking mini marshmallows in the microwave, mixing in powdered sugar, and kneading the mixture until smooth.

Of course, you can also buy pre-made fondant. Wilton and Satin Ice are the most readily available and roll out great. 

To prep the fondant for the cake, roll it into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a work surface generously dusted with powdered sugar. To cover the cake completely, the diameter of the round needs to be two times the height of the cake plus the diameter of the cake. So for a 9-inch round cake that’s 6 inches high, you’ll need a 21-inch round (9 + 6 + 6). If the fondant starts to crack or looks dry, rub it with a little vegetable shortening (like rubbing lotion onto your skin) to smooth it out.

Before you transfer the fondant to the cake, I recommend watching a tutorial like this one to see how it’s done. The most important thing to remember is to pull the fondant pleats out, not down, which can cause it to tear. If you watch it and are still thinking, “Uh, what just happened?” it’s OK! Another alternative is to simply cut a shape out of your rolled fondant and place it on your frosted cake so that it covers most or all of the top.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Decorating the Cake

The fondant gets a little harder (and easier to draw on) if you leave it uncovered for a few hours or overnight. If you have time to do this, I would recommend it. Now comes the fun part!

Drawing on fondant feels like drawing on slightly squishy paper, but you can still create some sharp details. I had to remind my 4-year-old not to press down too hard and puncture the fondant (which he did), but older kids shouldn’t have a problem with this. You can draw images or write special Mother’s Day messages. Then, give the ink a chance to dry for a few minutes before serving the cake.

How to Decorate a Cake with Edible Markers

This step-by-step guide will walk you through selecting the cake, covering it in frosting and fondant, and decorating with edible markers.

Makes 1 (9-inch) round cake

Ingredients

Equipment

  • Rolling pin

  • Ruler

  • Offset spatula

  • Ruler

  • Kitchen shears

  • Spray bottle (optional)

  • Cake turntable (optional)

Instructions

  1. Assemble the cake, then frost with a crumb coat. Fill and stack the cake layers. Ice the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream, which will act as an adhesive when you cover it with the fondant. Make sure the buttercream is as smooth as possible. Any lumps or heavy spatula marks will make your fondant look bumpy. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm.

  2. Roll out the fondant. Roll out the fondant on a work surface generously dusted with powdered sugar into a 1/8-inch thick round. The diameter of the round will be two times the height of the cake plus the diameter of the cake. So for a 9-inch round cake that is 6 inches high, you will need a 21-inch round (9 + 6 + 6). If the fondant starts to crack or looks dry, rub it with a little vegetable shortening to smooth it out.

  3. Cover the cake with fondant. Take the cake out of the refrigerator and place on a cake turntable, if you have one. If it seems dry, mist it with some water so the fondant will stick to the icing. Gently roll the fondant round onto the rolling pin, then unroll it onto the cake, doing your best to center it. Smooth the top and the sides, slightly unfolding the folded extra fondant on the sides (it will be draped like cloth). Once the fondant is smooth, cut off the excess at the bottom with kitchen shears or a knife. Let sit and dry for a little bit if you have the time.

  4. Decorate with edible markers. Have fun and get creative! Let dry for a few minutes before serving.