Now, for the shoe. That is, the shoe on top of the bridal shower zebra cake. I was really excited - but intimidated - to create a shoe completely out of fondant and gumpaste. I'm still new to working with gumpaste, and despite that it still takes a couple of days for a large piece to dry fully, it begins to firm up quickly, so it's not quite as user-friendly as fondant. It will get easier with more experience, I know. Luckily, I had an amazing tutorial to follow. Melissa makes everything seem possible... even easy!
Anyway. Let's take a close look at it and then we can talk some more. (By the way, I love the reflections on these.)
All things considered, I was really happy with it! It didn't fall over, it didn't break in half, the shape of the heel looked pretty realistic, and it was elegant. I struggled with how to give the appearance of a fluffy feathered slipper, and ultimately used a very stiff royal icing that held its shape, though I considered rice paper feathers and cotton candy. (Couldn't get my hands on rice paper and had no experience whatsoever with it, and cotton candy had the right look but became matted and compressed too easily - no dice.)
My favorite part of the exercise was Melissa's suggestion to buy a cheapo pair of stilettos (best $7 ever spent at Payless), cut off the straps, and use that as a template and a mold for the footbed of the shoe. I traced the shape of it, cut out the gumpaste, and laid it on top of the (cleaned, wiped with shortening, and dusted with powdered sugar/cornstarch) shoe. Then I walked away for at least three days and let it dry. Completely. (Full disclosure: I made a sample shoe first, and I used a combo of gumpaste and fondant, and it didn't dry fully after a week. So I tried again, this time with only gumpaste, and it dried in about two days. I gave it some extra time just to be sure.)
After the shoe was dry, I molded some more gumpaste around a lollipop stick to form the heel. I have to say, getting the shape and angle right was absolutely the hardest part. In fact, the heels weren't quite tall enough for the angle of the shoe, which I couldn't tell at first, so I later added a bit of dark gray gumpaste to look like the rubber tip on a heel. It looked pretty realistic and gave me the extra 1/4" I needed. When I later assembled the shoe, I still had to supplement it with fondant to get the heel attached properly, so clearly my heel sculpting needs work. Another thing Melissa made look so easy!! I made the heels and let them dry separately for several days.
About two days before the party, I cut a very thin piece of fondant for the shoe liner, making it just smaller than my template. I laid it on top of the footbed and trimmed very gently with a small knife to get the shape just right. It actually stuck by itself, but I painted on some fondant glue just to be sure. I then cut a rectangular strip of hot pink fondant for the strap, attached it, and propped it up by stuffing it gently with crumpled bits of Viva (unembossed) paper towels. That dried by the next day, at which point I piped on the "feathers" using a grass tip and thick, hot pink royal icing. I wanted to touch the shoe as little as possible once assembled, so it was better to do the piping first, assembly second.
Finally, when I couldn't put it off any longer, I moved the footbed off the model and began to attach it to the heel. I actually had made two heels and two shoe bases, and the one I used didn't fit as naturally, but it was a better shape, so I jury-rigged it with fondant and very gentle smoothing until it was attached. Whew! I'm stressed out just thinking about it. These pictures are of the shoe I didn't use, and you can see if you look carefully at the back of the shoe, where it attaches to the heel, that I wedged (and smoothed) some extra fondant in there to get the shoe to sit better on the heel.
The final touch was to make it shiny. I was going to use the vodka/corn syrup glaze to give it a shine, but I didn't want the shoe to be sticky and I hadn't had time for further experimentation. Instead, I mixed silver luster dust with vodka to make silver paint, and I painted all the grey parts of the shoe shiny silver. I wiped a little vodka on the white fondant to give it just a little sheen. I loved how the silver color looked!
I like pushing myself to try new things with fondant and gumpaste. The only way to improve is with practice, and it's really fun learning from my mistakes. (Let's just say that the second set of heels were much more attractive than the first, which resembled something I would have worn in the early '90s.) I was very excited to try this latest project, and I will happily undertake future challenges. As with dissection in 10th grade biology class, in which our surgical skills improved in leaps and bounds when my lab partner and I were forced to start our project over, I assume the next gumpaste shoes I make will come together more easily and be better-looking than this one. I've got those size-6 Payless shoes at the ready, staying clean in a nice ziploc bag!