My 30th birthday called for another Birthday Cake of Immortality project. This time, we decided to re-create Ghostbusters’ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in – of course – homemade marshmallow. No corners were cut: it was 3D with a little bit of help from my large cutting board to stay upright, with legs made of marshmallow fondant so not to collapse in an immediate heap during the party.
What you’ll need to make this yourself
Ingredients per marshmallow batch (2 batches made a week ahead)
We needed two batches of marshmallow for this project. The first gave us the first dome halves of the head and body plus Mr. Stay Puft’s hat. The second gave us the other halves of the head and body with enough leftover batter for a mini-muffin pan that would mold us cute little arm segments.
- 1/2 cup white/light corn syrup or the equivalent in liquid glucose
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- Two separate 1/2 cup measurements of very (ice) cold water
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 egg whites
- 2.5 tablespoons of gelatin (~47.5mL)
Ingredients for marshmallow fondant (1 batch, split into several colours, made days ahead)
Since we needed a denser base for the legs of our marshmallow man, we decided to employ marshmallow fondant for the legs. We also reserved a bit of this fondant, tinged with the appropriate food colouring, to give us Stay Puft’s clothing and hat detail.
- 1 16 ounce bag of mini marshmallows
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 lbs confectioners’ or icing sugar (~8 cups)
Ingredients for royal icing (1 batch on Assembly Day)
We used royal icing to glue together all the body parts. In retrospect, we should have allowed the body to set in the freezer so that the icing froze or dried before we made the cake upright. Keep this in mind if you re-attempt this project.
- 3 ounces (pasteurized) egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners’ or icing sugar
Most marshmallow recipes call for a 9×13 baking pan, resulting in about 96 cubes of 1″ marshmallow goodness. Since we were creating a monster, we had to figure out how to mold our creation into round shapes instead. This is the arsenal we wound up collecting for this project:
- Parchment paper
- 3 round bowls for molds – we used 2 stainless steel mixing bowl for head + body and a tiny ramekin for the hat
- Mini-muffin pan or piping bag for arm segment molds
- Piping bag for marshmallow fondant / icing detailing
- 2 large cutting boards
- A heckofalot of icing or confectioner’s sugar at the ready (at least one package, but have 2 just in case)
- Cooking spray or vegetable oil
- Vegetable shortening
- Stand mixer with balloon whisk attachment
- Hand mixer
- 3 quart saucepan
- Candy thermometer (one that works!) and knowledge of what the candy soft ball stage looks like
Making the marshmallow
Grease molds with oil and line bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle crazily with icing sugar till it looks like a blanket of snow. Better to have more icing sugar than you need, because marshmallow is extremely sticky.
Pour 1/2 cup of ice cold water into your stand mixer’s bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let bloom while you move on to the next step.
In your (small to medium sized) saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, corn syrup or glucose, and remaining cold water with a wooden spoon. Set element to low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and stop stirring, using a combination of your candy thermometer and cold water tests to stop at the point where your sugar syrup reaches the soft ball stage.
Don’t rely just on a thermometer reading like we did for our first batch. Your syrup should be clear, around the 230-240F mark depending on your altitude, and should form a pliant ball when dropped into cold water. You’ve gone way too far if your syrup turns colour.
Pour your sugar syrup over the bloomed gelatin. It’ll start to bubble and froth so just be careful not to get hit by the candy splatter.
Set your bowl into the stand mixer and gear your whisk up to high (8-10 on a Kitchenaid mixer), starting slowing from Stir and making your way up to high speeds in increments. This will let your super hot sugar cool without splattering you and your home with liquid that will burn your delicate spots.
Once up to speed, whip for approximately 6 minutes until your mixture has tripled in volume, turned marshmallow white, and starts to pull away from the edge of the mixing bowl like chewing gum from the underside of a desk.
During those 6 minutes, whip your egg whites in a separate bowl with your hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Don’t do this step any earlier or you’ll find that your egg whites will deflate or re-liquidate on you.
Slip the vanilla and whipped egg whites into your stand mixer batter and whip just long enough to incorporate the three together into one silky smooth batter of marshmallow yum. It should look like this:
Pour into your readied molds, using a spatula if you need to, but try not to get anything else in the batter — it’ll stick to everything!
If you have extra batter left over, pour it into a prepped rectangular baking pan sized small enough to contain the batter in an inch-high layer.
Dust with another generous layer of icing sugar and place in your fridge, uncovered, at least 3 hours or overnight.
When your molds are set, take out your icing sugar and an airtight container system that you can use to store your marshmallow in the fridge. Dip a small, sharp knife into icing sugar and pry the marshmallow out of the molds. Remove the parchment paper from your marshmallow and dust the areas that were in contact with the mold with more icing sugar. Close your container and place in your fridge until assembly. These babies will keep like this for up to one week.
Making the marshmallow fondant
I don’t have pictures of this process as Jason had followed this recipe and this two-part video tutorial from the comfort of his own home. Hayley, our resident fondant expert, did email the following steps and tips to share with you:
- Prepare a workspace: Using shortening, grease a counter top or cutting board large enough to knead the fondant. Keep shortening accessible and in a container from which you can scoop out additional shortening with your fingers (I usually put about 1/2 c. in a small bowl). Open your bag of icing sugar.
- Put entire bag of marshmallows in a microwave-proof bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water.
- Melt marshmallows in 20-30 second intervals, stirring between each.
- When all the lumps are melted, start adding icing sugar in intervals, stirring gently to incorporate.
- After several additions of icing sugar, the dough will become stiff enough to knead. You will use almost the entire bag of icing sugar.
- You are now ready to start kneading. Grease your hands generously! Front and back of both hands plus in between your fingers.
- Remove mixing spoon and with greased hands, begin kneading in the bowl until all the incing sugar from the bowl has been incorporated.
- Remove dough from bowl and knead on greased cutting board/counter top, adding additional icing sugar as needed.
- Keep your workspace well greased! Until your dough comes together, it will be very sticky and re-greasing of both your hands and kneading area will be necessary.
- If your fondant looks tough or dry, add additional shortening.
- Knead until the dough comes togther and is smooth in texture.
Your end product should be smooth and even in texture, very pliable but strong. Rub fondant with a small amount of shortening on both sides and cover well in plastic wrap until ready to use.
Game Day finishing touches
Piecing together the head and body
Prepare a batch of royal icing using this Alton Brown recipe or something similar. Spread a layer of icing on each of the flat sides of the 4 domes you have for the head and body. Form a large sphere for the body and a smaller sphere for the head.
Unlike what we did, place spheres uncovered in the fridge or freezer to let the icing harden as you assemble the rest of Mr. Stay Puft.
Marshmallow fondant and icing details
Based on the size of your body, warm up and shape flattened discs of marshmallow fondant to create 2 stacks of fondant legs, like above. We used 75% of our fondant batch to form 6 discs.
The rest of the fondant was then tinged generously with blue food colouring and rolled out into a 1/8 or 1/4″ thick layer, from which we cut a large rectangle for Stay Puft’s bib and a long stripe to wrap around the base of his hat. We draped the bib over the top of the body and piped lines of white royal icing to achieve his sailor panache.
We bought a tube of brown gel and red icing paste to paint on eyes, a mouth, and the red ribbon at the bottom of the blue bib. You can do the same or choose different methods to attach these details to your marshmallow man.
On a cutting board wrapped in cling film, we attached the head, body, hat, and fondant legs to each other using the remaining royal icing. We pierced the body with two bamboo skewers where the arms should go, and stacked the arm segments from our mini-muffin molds onto the sticks until we achieved an arm length we liked. The final arm was not skewered through all the way and was stacked with the non-flat side out to imply ghostly fingershapes.
Throughout our house party where we served him up, Mr. Stay Puft remained horizontal on said cutting board until we were ready for dessert. We then used two cutting boards to get him upright for 5 minutes – long enough for our guests to take rounds of photos with him intact.
Before long, our hunger and the non-set state of our royal icing caused our dear marshmallow man to be pulled apart and knifed into 1″ segments, to be served on the cutting board along with graham crackers and mini-Rolos for a s’moretastic cake alternative for my 30th birthday.
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