I thought up this cake topper after I found a picture of a baby shower cake that a client liked, but said was a little too bare and boring on top. The cake is jungle-themed and the only animal that wasn't part of the design yet was an elephant.
I began by mixing some leftover dark gray fondant with an equal amount of plain white fondant. I had previously dyed the fondant gray using Wilton icing colors; concentrated gel colors in small screw-top canisters that are specifically for baking. They actually make “gray” and “dark gray” color options, but you could always use a small amount of black and add more as needed.
After the color was fully mixed, I took a 2-3 inch round piece for the body. I rolled it with slight pressure into a ball until there were no visible cracks or wrinkles on the surface. Then I pinched one side until the piece became teardrop-shaped. I flattened the bottom on my counter so it sat up straight and placed it on a piece of waxed paper that it would not stick to while it dried.
I took a fairly large piece for the head, almost disproportionately large as compared to the body, so that I could pull a trunk out of it later without it becoming too small. I made two smaller teardrop shapes for the feet using the same technique as the body, and rolled two smaller log shapes for the arms.
I attached the head to the body with one half of a toothpick and laid the entire elephant on its back. I did this so that he would sit up straight on top of the cake, and so that his ears would not fold or curl too far forward. For the trunk, I started pinching the front of the head forward and out until it was long and even enough to bend down and slightly curl around itself.
One thing to be careful of when working with fondant is unwanted nail marks. If your nails are very long, please be cautious about leaving marks in the dough. To prevent this, use your knuckles or pads of your fingers. The heel of your palms work very well for things to; use everything you’ve got!
You can always make a cake topper or sculpture out of gum paste – and some people prefer this medium – but the last time I used it, I found that it was very dry and had to be worked with super quickly. That's not to say though, that the shapes did not dry rock hard and exactly how they wanted them. I just usually like to take my time and not rush, just in case I have to tweak something. I find that gum paste is definitely worth using when you have a pattern laid out or drawn out, or have a mold that you're going to put it in. If you're mixing your gum paste from scratch, you can always decrease the amount of powdered sugar to keep it moister. But more on that at another time.
Just remember, simplifying things into basic shapes will help them seem less intimidating and allow you to create anything you want. Namaste!