Archive for July, 2009

Stop rolled fondant (sugarpaste) sticking to the work surface!

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Hello everyone!

It’s been quite a tiring week, I was ill for 3 days which was a bit of a downer. But on the other hand, on the days I wasn’t sick I did make a baby shower cake and stocked up my freezer with some more sample cakes for cake tastings. I also met with a lovely couple for a tasting and to discuss design ideas for their wedding cake.

I even had dinner with some of the lovely ladies I trained in cake decoration with. It was great to see how their own cake businesses were progressing and to see some pics of their latest creations. It was also nice to hear that some of them have been keeping up with my blog – thanks guys!

So despite the fact that due to illness I had basically a 4 day week, it was still packed with lots of activity.

Meanwhile, my new non-stick board arrived early in the week, and I absolutely love it! It’s huge and it was expensive but already I think it was definitely worth the money. Rolling out fondant on my current glass topped work surface has been the bane of my existence. Despite the fact I do keep moving the fondant as I roll it out to try to stop it from sticking, and sprinkle icing sugar on the work surface, it always seems to stick at exactly the point when I am ready to lift it onto the cake. Which means after all the hard work of rolling out my fondant so it’s nice and smooth and the right size, I have to re-knead it and start again because the middle is stuck to the work surface. And this usually happens 3 or 4 times, which means I’m quadrupling the amount of time it should take. Having used the new non-stick board several times now, I must say I am really impressed with it. The fondant peels off so easily!

If you can’t afford one of these miraculous boards, there are several other things you can try if your rolled fondant is sticking. Firstly, don’t use a glass surface – believe me, it’s a nightmare. Make sure you knead your fondant enough to stop it from sticking and to warm it up to the right working temperature from the warmth of your hands. Add more icing sugar and knead it in if it is ridiculously sticky after a few minutes of kneading, but don’t overdo it or you could end up with stiff, unworkable fondant. Make sure you keep moving the fondant often while rolling out. Use a little bit of icing sugar to dust the work surface, but not too much as this could end up changing the consistency of your fondant and could leave streaks in coloured fondant. Consider using fat e.g. Trex instead of icing sugar if you are working with a particularly dark coloured rolled fondant.

Hope these tips were useful! Have a good week everybody.

My Panda on a World Globe Cake

Sunday, July 19th, 2009
Panda with suitcases on a world globe cake

Panda with suitcases on a world globe cake

So here is the panda cake I said I would be making in my last blog – it was thankfully a success! Despite the fact I said I was intending to do a “normal” cake with modelled sugar pandas on top, as you can see the shape of the cake is not really typical!

This is because in discussions with the clients about design ideas for a panda cake, I mentioned an idea I’d had to do a cake shaped like half a world globe with a panda holding some suitcases sitting on top. I’d thought of this as the cake was being made as a surprise for their colleague who was leaving on an overseas adventure and a year teaching in Japan. I was just throwing around some ideas and didn’t really think they’d take to that one, but boy was I wrong! They loved the idea and were astounded that such a feat was possible. Mind you, I’d never tried to make a half sphere shaped cake before, but I’m always eager to try new things when it comes to cake making, so I agreed to do the design.

But then of course I had to figure out exactly how to accomplish this! A half sphere cake is no easy thing to make, finding the right shaped cake tin proved to be a challenge. Looking around the internet, the closest thing I could find were the Wilton ball shape pans, but they were way too small at only a 6 inch diameter. The cake had to feed around 30 people so that wasn’t going to cut it. I considered baking a normal round 10 inch cake then carving bits of it from the side to achieve a dome type shape. I wasn’t too confident that I would achieve a nice even and symmetrical shape that way, so decided against it. In the end I decided to try baking the cake in an oven proof pyrex mixing bowl, and that worked a treat!

I used a 3L bowl that I greased and floured, and the same quantity of cake batter as for a 10 inch round cake. This proved to be the perfect amount and the cake rose nicely to almost the top of the bowl. I cooked the cake at about 120 degrees celsius, much lower than usual, and for just over 2 hours, much longer than usual. This is because the middle of the cake was much deeper than the sides, so the sides cooked much faster than the middle. I wanted to avoid having burnt sides and a mushy middle. So cooking at a lower temperature for longer was the solution. Turning the cake out of the bowl was very easy, it slid right out thanks to the greasing and flouring beforehand.

I used my handmade rolled fondant (sugarpaste) to cover the cake and to create the countries on the globe. Geography is not my strong point, but thanks to my wonderful other half, the countries were all placed in roughly the correct places! He also came up with the fantastic idea to put the ‘Good luck Meg’ lettering on the globe. I had originally intended to put it on the cake board which was covered with white rolled fondant, but it looked so much better on the cake itself.

I used modelling fondant to create the panda. Thanks to my practice the previous weekend, I knew pretty much what to do to achieve a nice panda! This time the eyes worked out really well and the modelling fondant created a nice smooth finish. I also created the little suitcases with brown modelling fondant. The handles were pretty tricky, but I got there in the end. I ran a skewer through the centre of the cake then speared poor panda through it to secure him to the cake. A little bit of edible glue ensured he and the suitcases weren’t going to move around.

And voila, a panda with suitcases on a  world globe!

And thankfully, as soon as the cake was presented at the going away party to the lady being farewelled, she exclaimed, “That is the cutest cake ever ! I love pandas!”. So people didn’t make the mistake of thinking I was too stupid to know pandas are native to China and not Japan!

The Panda on Drugs

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
Pandas made from fondant - the little one has HUGE eyeballs!

Pandas made from fondant - the little one has HUGE eyeballs!

It’s been a pretty good week, I made 2 cakes and got stuck into some animal modelling. The first cake was designed for a 21st with 2 tiers of cupcakes underneath it. The colour scheme was pale blue, white and silver with butterflies and flowers – very pretty, take a look here. This design would also be great for a wedding, click here to see how I adapted it to be suitable by adding some elegant white pillars. The other cake was a wedding cake, 3 tiers covered in ivory with white flowers here and there and claret coloured ribbons, bows and brooches at the base of each tier. It was a design I’ve been wanting to create for ages so I was really pleased I was finally able to do it. Click here for a picture.

I also practiced some animal modelling. I’ve been asked to make a panda cake for a farewell and I want to avoid the sitting down teddy bear mold as that feels a bit too childish for the occasion. So I’ve decided to make a “normal” cake with panda figures on the top.

I’ve never actually made a panda from modelling fondant before, but I have made teddy bears. So I decided to use that method and adapt it for a panda. I used some spare fondant I had lying around and practiced making pandas this weekend.

As you can see from the pic, they look pretty much like pandas but have a ways to go yet. The main problem is that the eyes look very goggly, and the little baby panda looks like he’s on drugs. One of his eyeballs is massively huge and the other is really wonky. I didn’t have any royal icing to hand so I just used fondant to try to make the eyeballs, which I now know was not the best idea. I’d love to get hold of an edible decorating pen in black ink so I could just colour in the eyeballs and avoid extra layering, which adds to the “goggle” effect, which we don’t want.

Unfortunately, I really didn’t knead the fondant enough for the first panda I made (the big “daddy” one), so you can see it has some cracks in it. The one that is constructed the best is probably the medium sized “mummy” panda, apart from the goggly eyes.

I’m slightly concerned that people will misunderstand the cake concept. The lady being farewelled is going to Japan to teach for a year. But she loves pandas, so the organisers asked for a panda cake. I’m hoping no one will think that I was too stupid to know that pandas are found in China and not Japan!

The cake is being delivered on Friday, so hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it next Sunday with some pics. Till then, have a great week everyone!

Why I will never use edible liquid gold paint again

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
Purple and gold ribbon cake

Purple and gold ribbon cake

I created this cake for a 30th birthday. The client was someone who liked a bit of bling, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use the edible gold paint I’d bought recently and had been itching to use. She was also not a girly kind of girl, so pastels and pale colours were out. She struck me as someone who would appreciate bold colours so I chose royal purple and gold.

I had quite a limited time scale (2 days) for this project, so I opted to use real ribbons instead of making them from fondant (FYI: Just so you know, in Australia we refer to sugarpaste as fondant, so that’s what I’ll be calling it from this point on). I’d done several cakes previously with fondant ribbons and bows and wanted to branch out and do something a bit different while still retaining the kind of “gift” look as the client quite liked it. Also, I didn’t have enough time to find the right paste colours to achieve a nice deep purple and proper shiny gold, and certainly didn’t have time to experiment with trying to achieve it. The safest option was to find ribbons in the exact colours I wanted. Thankfully, Cakes-4-U is relatively close to my location and they are a wonderful source of ribbons and other cake decorating needs. They had exactly the ribbons I needed.

The client wanted a carrot cake, so I made that then let it cool overnight. The next day I split the cake and filled it with delicious cream cheese icing, which was also spread around the top and sides of the cake. I then made the fondant, rolled it out and covered the cake. I let the fondant dry a little bit then measured the ribbons and placed them on the cake, measuring to make sure they were evenly placed, and used a little bit of edible glue to secure them.

I wanted to use white flower paste to make the detailing on the sides and paint them with the edible liquid gold paint. I find the fondant I make doesn’t eject so well from detailed cutters as it is very soft and tends to stretch out of shape easily. I rolled out the flower paste and cut out the “figure eights”, using paste ejectors to get them out of the cutter cleanly. I let them dry a little bit before attempting the painting.

Now this is where it started to go slightly wrong. Firstly, the edible gold paint was not quite the same colour as the gold ribbons. It had a kind of orange hue to it rather than a yellow gold. Not a huge disaster, though it was disappointing. Secondly, it was the dickens to use! It was very very gluggy and seemed to dry very quickly and form little solid clumps which were impossible to get out without leaving a messy hole where the clump had been. Very frustrating! I had to make several of the figure eights to get perfect looking ones.

The next annoying thing came when I went to clean my lovely sable paint brush. Perhaps naively, I went and ran it under running water from the tap. This made the gold paint completely solidify and cling to the hairs of my brush! It was impossible to get out with water! In the end I had to get a paper towel and literally scrape it off. Not too many of the brush hairs came out fortunately.

All very frustrating. Fortunately, the client loved the cake so it was worth the pain. However I have learned a valuable lesson – stay away from edible liquid gold paint! I’ll definitely be using lustre powder with a bit of water from now on (it comes in a variety of shades of gold too!).