Someone Tried to Cake Scam Me!

March 2nd, 2011

Last week, Delicious Cake Design received an email from a William Robinson claiming to be a hearing impaired person who could only communicate via email, not by phone, who required a cake for a date in a couple weeks time in March. I wrote back saying sorry but I have no availability in March. “William” replied saying he was getting married in April, so would I be able to make a cake then.

At this point I was already a little bit suspicious as I have never been contacted by the groom for a wedding before, it’s usually the bride or bride’s mother. But I thought okay, people often ask for a smaller cake as an “audition” cake before booking a wedding to see if they like my cakes and service. So maybe the cake he’d wanted in March was supposed to be the audition cake, but as I was unable to do the cake in March he was thinking about going ahead with the wedding cake anyway. Fine. I emailed back asking what date in April to see if I was available.

He wrote back the following:
Thanks for the reply..I will like you to bake me chocolate and Vanilla cake of 5 tier separate cakes, that can serve approximately 280 to 300 guest, and I want the cakes to be decorated with pink roses ( icing flower or artificial), and the cake should be covered in fondant or in butter cream, there should be an inscription writing on the side of one of the tier as “HAPPY MARRIED LIFE” and you will be packing each tier in different boxes to be ready for pick up at the said time and date.. 9Th of March 2011, 3 O’clock PM.
Reply me back to know how much cost am looking at….??? then i can forward all the details to conclude the order and the picture sample to give you an idea of what i will like you to bake for me.
Thanks and God bless.
William Robinson.

First of all, he’d said his wedding was in April and suddenly he wants this massive wedding cake ready to be picked up in 7 days time at the beginning of March??? No way a chocolate or vanilla cake would keep till April! Secondly, no one has ever asked for a wedding cake to be boxed for delivery, especially a 5 tier one, something that big they almost always want it delivered and set up by me. Thirdly, the way he spoke about vanilla cake and buttercream covering sounded very foreign (possibly American) – no Australians have ever asked me for such things. Fourthly, this rang a bell as I remembered reading about a similar order on another cake maker’s blog in America which turned out to be a scam! So I googled it and sure enough, it was word for word an email scam based in Nigeria. Hence the need to stress he couldn’t talk on the phone as his English wasn’t very good and was heavily accented and might cause suspicion.

If I was the idiot he had taken me for, what would have happened next is that he will say he needs the cake to be picked up by a shipping agent to be sent overseas, which costs $980 USD. He will tell me he will pay the money for the shipping to me along with the cost of the cake and ask me to wire the fee for the shipping to the shipping agent on his behalf. He will then give me a stolen credit card number to charge this amount to, plus he’ll very generously throw in an extra $100 for my trouble. I am supposed to then wire the money to this fictional shipping agent, the stolen credit card charge is later reversed, leaving me out of pocket $1,080 USD + whatever I charged for the cake! Oh, and no one shows up to pick up the cake either.

Luckily I am not an idiot and did not fall for this old cake scam. Unfortunately, others have. So watch out for those scammers everyone!

Sugar Figure Tutorial Video

January 17th, 2011

Welcome to 2011!!! The last few months have been very busy for me, I do apologise for not writing more blog posts recently.

I’ve had many requests for more tutorials on this blog, in particular for sugar modelling and sugar flowers. I’ve also been asked if I teach classes. Unfortunately I don’t have the capacity to hold classes at this stage, but it is something I hope to do in the near future. I do find it much easier to explain how to do certain things by showing how it’s done instead of trying to describe it in words as I do on this blog. To that end, I have created a Delicious Cake Design channel on YouTube with videos of my creations and tutorials.

The Delicious Cake Design YouTube channel can be found at this URL:
http://www.youtube.com/user/deliciouscakedesign

I do find making the videos is very time consuming, I do all the shooting of the videos and editing of the videos myself. With my busy schedule, I’ve only managed 2 videos showing a couple of my creations and 1 tutorial video on how to make a simple sugar person. The sugar figure tutorial has proven to be very popular! Hopefully I will get some more time soon to make some more tutorial videos, I have quite a back log of tutorial requests!

Meanwhile, here is the sugar figure tutorial video for you. Hope you like it!

How to Make a Sugar Gonzo

October 15th, 2010

As promised, here is a post on making my Muppet & Sesame Street Toy Box Cake characters! For this cake I created 7 Muppet and Sesame Street characters from modelling paste by hand and made a chocolate cake toy box covered with fondant. I studied lots of photos on the internet of each Muppet and made them based on these so I don’t have any explicit written instructions. I will try to explain here how to make Gonzo.

My Muppet & Sesame Street toy box cake

My Muppet & Sesame Street toy box cake

There is no need to do the full bodies of the characters, you only need to make the heads, upper torsos and upper arms as these are the only parts visibly sticking out of the toy box. Below is a picture of the characters before they were put in the box so you can see what I mean.

My hand made sugar modelled Muppet & Sesame Street characters

My hand made sugar modelled Muppet & Sesame Street characters

To make the Muppet and Sesame Street characters, I used home made modelling sugar paste (aka gum paste). To do this is very easy, you will need fondant (aka sugarpaste) then just knead in some gum powder to add strength and cause the fondant to dry harder faster. The most commonly used gum powders are gum tragacanth and CMC tylose powder, I used Wilton Gum Tex powder for my characters. These are all readily available from specialty cake decorating supply shops. For coloured modelling paste, you can either buy coloured fondant or use edible paste colours such as AmeriColor or Sugar Flair to colour it with.

If you can get your hands on Squires Kitchen Sugar Dough, I highly recommend it. The consistency, large variety of colours, and ease of use are superb. Even if you just get white, you can colour it. I haven’t found anywhere to buy it cheaply here in Oz so I am making my own modelling paste.

Regardless of what modelling paste you use, make sure to keep it wrapped securely in a plastic bag at all times when it is not being used to stop it from drying out. Just take a small bit that you need to model with and leave the rest wrapped in the bag.

To create Gonzo’s head, colour some modelling paste a mid-blue for his head and body and a little bit of paste a paler more purpley blue for his nose. Roll an oval shape from the mid-blue and rough it up a bit for a fur texture using a small scalpel. Roll the paler paste into a fat sausage, flatten one end to make his mouth area and curve the other to make his nose. Use some sugar glue to stick this part to the bottom of the front of his head. Take a small scalpel and cut in a curved mouth on the flattened area. Below you can see the start of Gonzo’s head plus the finished Kermit and Rolf.

Finished Kermit and Rolf and the start of Gonzo's head

Finished Kermit and Rolf and the start of Gonzo's head

Roll some white modelling paste into 2 balls to make the eyes. Glue them on top of Gonzo’s nose. Roll some black modelling paste out very thinly and cut out 2 really small circles and carefully glue them onto the centre of the eyeballs. Gonzo’s eyelids consist of a blue lid on the bottom and a yellow lid on the top. Roll out some mid-blue paste and cut 2 thin strips. Glue them onto the top of his eyeballs, following the curve of the ball. Repeat with some yellow paste, sticking it on top of the mid-blue eyelid.

Adding Gonzo's eyelids

Adding Gonzo's eyelids

To create Gonzo’s body, take some mid-blue paste and roll it into a long sausage, then flatten the ends to create the torso. Give it some texture as you did for the head to create a fur effect. Cut through the sides to create arms. Roll out some yellow paste into a strip and use a circle cutter to cut a circle from the middle, then glue it onto the body with the circle on the top to make room for the head. This allows a bit of the blue fur of the torso to show above the top of the neckline of his shirt.

Gonzo's body

Gonzo's body

Apply some sugar glue to the top of the torso and stick Gonzo’s head on. If he isn’t staying put, you can take a short length of dry spaghetti and use it to secure the torso and head together by inserting it into the top of the torso with a bit sticking out the top, then sticking the head onto the torso with the top of the spaghetti passing through the bottom of the head. I found I didn’t need to use any spaghetti as the heads stuck on well on their own. Here is the finished Gonzo.

My finished Gonzo sugar model

My finished Gonzo sugar model

Here is a picture to help you get started on making Fozzie. You can see his torso in the background before it’s been roughed up to look furry. His hat is sitting on the board, as are his eyes and nose. His head is sitting in the foam flower former.

Creating Fozzie

Creating a sugar model of Fozzie

My First Cakes in Sydney!

October 6th, 2010
Some of the first cakes I've made in Sydney

Some of the first cakes I've made in Sydney

It’s been a while since my last blog post. I’ve been very busy making the big move to Australia and settling in. There was also the task of setting up the business, sourcing ingredients and equipment, getting used to my new oven, and also tweaking recipes to make them work with Australian ingredients!

One of the hardest things I’ve been struggling with is making my fondant (sugarpaste). Icing sugar in Australia is VERY different to the UK and my fondant has been coming out very sticky and weak. A lot of the equipment so readily accessible to me in London is not supplied here in Sydney such as 12 inch cake drums, Sugar Flower Paste, and Sugar Dough. I’ve had to use cake boards instead of drums and learn to make my own flower and modelling paste. But since arriving 2 months ago, I’ve managed to make some really fun cakes! Here are a few of my favourites.

Almost immediately upon arrival, I started work on a wedding cake which was a massive 9 tier cupcake tower consisting of 144 cupcakes in 3 different flavours plus a 6 inch top cake. Each cupcake had a handmade red sugar gerbera and the top cake had 3 large sugar gerberas. It was a LOT of work and I had red colouring paste staining my hands for quite a while, but the end result was worth it as the happy couple loved it!

9 tier red gerbera cupcake tow

9 tier red gerbera cupcake tow

A lot of my work in the UK involved classic cakes, but so far in Sydney there’s been more demand for novelty cakes which are a lot of fun to make. Here is one of them, a hand carved sugar BBQ cake with snags and burgers hand made from fondant. The “charcoal” marks were made with diluted edible black colouring paste painted on.

BBQ cake with sugar sausages & burgers

BBQ cake with sugar sausages & burgers

The next cake is a pretty simple cake, but it was my first real sugar modelling work with my homemade sugar modelling paste. Plus I had no idea what In the Night Garden was or who Makka Pakka was so it was quite a challenge! I used pictures from the internet and managed to create him, right down to the different coloured circles on the pads of his feet and a pile of his little stones also made from sugar. The little stack of rings on the top and sides of his head were quite tricky on such a small scale.

Hand crafted sugar Makka Pakka with sugar stones

Hand crafted sugar Makka Pakka with sugar stones

I absolutely love to do sugar modelling, so the last cake I want to share with you was such a delight for me to make. I hand crafted 7 characters from the Muppets and Sesame Street for a cake toy box. I studied quite a lot of pictures of each character on the internet and tried to get every detail (even Fozzie’s eyebrows – I never knew he had any!). The easiest was Elmo, the hardest was Animal. I don’t have my sugar gun with me, it’s in a box along with a load of my stuff being shipped by slow boat from London, so I used a garlic press to make Animal’s wild hair. Each character took around 1.5 hours each! The one that took the longest was actually Fozzie. Hand cutting out all the little pink circles for his scarf was quite time consuming, and getting his hat just right took quite a few tries. I might blog in more detail later about making these guys as this cake has proved extremely popular.

Hand crafted sugar Muppet & Sesame St toy box cake

Hand crafted sugar Muppet & Sesame St toy box cake

 

Making a Fruit & Chocolate Stacked Wedding Cake

July 27th, 2010
My final cake in London - a 2 tier double height stacked wedding cake

My final cake in London - a 2 tier double height stacked wedding cake of fruit & chocolate cakes

My final cake order in London was for a wedding, which was such a nice way to leave London! It was a big order too – wedding cake, cupcakes, and mini cheesecakes. The wedding cake comprised of 2 double height tiers, a 6 inch fruit cake tier and an 8 inch chocolate cake tier. I don’t get a lot of orders for fruit cake (or double height tiers) so I thought I’d blog a bit of a step by step guide on the creation of this cake to show the differences between covering a fruit cake versus covering a chocolate or sponge cake.

For the top tier, I baked two 6 inch fruit cakes. The good thing about fruit cakes is that they can be baked and decorated reasonably far in advance as they keep for so long unlike sponge or chocolate cakes, which are the  two most popular cakes I make. I made a HUGE amount of white fondant and coloured it a cream colour, reserving a little of the original white to create circles with later on.

To cover the top tier, I first had to cover each cake individually with fondant (normally I would use marzipan but the bride’s brother has a nut allergy). I’ll go over this process now for the first cake.

The very first step is to turn the fruit cake upside down and secure it on the cake board with some royal icing or wet scraps of fondant. The bottom of your cake always has a nice flat surface with fewer lumps and bumps which is better to cover and decorate. The top of the cake often has a small “hump” caused by the sides of the cake cooking faster than the middle due to contact with the heat from the tin. So when you place the cake on the board upside down, this hump causes a small gap between the cake edge and the bottom of the cake board. To fix this, take a piece of fondant or marzipan, whichever you are using, and roll it into a sausage shape then wrap it around the bottom of the cake to fill in the gap.

Next up, I inspected the fruit cake for any large holes and patched these with small bits of fondant. Then I used my smoothers to make sure the fondant bits and the bottom sausage of fondant were lying flush with the surface of the cake. Doing this should give you a nice smooth surface to cover with the marzipan/fondant.

Patching holes in a fruit cake with fondant

Patching holes in a fruit cake with fondant

After rolling out the fondant I then brushed the cake surface with sugar syrup. This does 2 things – helps to make the cake more moist and makes the surface sticky to help secure the fondant.

Brushing fruitcake with sugar syrup

Brushing fruitcake with sugar syrup

Then I covered the cake with the rolled out fondant and trimmed it to size, then went over it again with my smoothers. I covered the second fruit cake with it’s first layer of fondant as well then left both cakes overnight to dry.

The next day, I stacked one fruit cake on top of the other, using royal icing to secure the cake board of the top cake to the bottom cake, then I brushed the cakes with sugar syrup and covered them both with one big, thicker layer of fondant to create the illusion of one very big cake. White ribbon was wrapped around the base of the cake.Then this was again left overnight to dry.

While the fondant was drying, I cut out some circles from white fondant and let them dry slightly as well. Once the fondant on the cake was nice and set, I used sugar glue to stick on the circles, very carefully measuring the distance between each circle and the distance of each circle from the bottom of the board to make sure they were all accurately spaced and at the same height. This sounds easy but takes quite a while if you want to be exact! I found a side scribing tool very useful in height placement.

Circles accurately placed on the top tier

Circles accurately placed on the top tier

Once all the circles were on, I made a batch of royal icing and filled a small piping bag fitted with a number 2 tube with some of the icing. Then I piped small dots around each circle in a kind of starburst pattern. This can be quite time consuming, especially on a larger cake. By the time I had done both the 6 inch and 8 inch tiers my arms were quite sore!

Piping dots around the circles on the cake

Piping dots around the circles on the cake

Close up of the dots being piped

Close up of the dots being piped

The next day, it was time to bake the two 8 inch chocolate cakes to make the bottom tier. I cut each cake in half, secured one to a cake board with wet fondant, brushed each layer with sugar syrup, then stacked them on top of each other with chocolate buttercream in between each layer. Notice that I did not put a cake board in between cakes or layers, this cake is quite light and spongy so the cake boards were not necessary. Here is a picture of the first 3 layers stacked and buttercreamed (yum):

Stacking and buttercreaming the chocolate cake layers

Stacking and buttercreaming the chocolate cake layers

Then I covered the top with chocolate buttercream, smoothed it out with a large palette knife, then put loads of buttercream on the sides. Using a turntable and a metal side scraping tool, I got the sides as smooth and perfect as possible. I didn’t have to patch any holes here with fondant, firstly because you don’t get as many large holes due to lack of fruit and nuts in the cake, and secondly the buttercream will fill any holes that are present. If you get the buttercream incredibly smooth you don’t have to roll the fondant out as thickly as there are virtually no lumps and bumps to hide with a ghastly thick layer of fondant.

Very smooth buttercream coating allows you to roll fondant thinly

Very smooth buttercream coating allows you to roll fondant thinly

I let the buttercream crust, rolled out a reasonably thin layer of cream coloured fondant, spritzed the cake with water to make the buttercream slightly tacky so the fondant would stick to it, covered the cake with fondant then placed the ribbon around it and left it overnight to dry. I repeated the circle sticking and dot piping process, then inserted dowelling rods to support the top tier. The top tier was a monster, weighing in at 2.5kg, so I decided to err on the side of caution and used my usual 4 dowelling rods near the edges of where the top tier would be plus an extra one in the middle.

As the top tier was unusually heavy I also decided to be cautious in transporting the cake too and transported the tiers in separate boxes and stacked them at the venue. You can see the dowelling rods in the pic of me assembling the cake at the venue below (they’re the white “dots” in the middle of the cake):

Stacking the cake at the venue

Assembling the cake at the venue

Here is a pic of the finished cake along with the cupcakes I made on the dessert table at the wedding reception:

The cupcakes and wedding cake at the wedding venue

The cupcakes and wedding cake at the wedding venue

The bride left a lovely comment about my cakes on my Facebook page the day after the wedding, which was so sweet of her. She seemed really pleased with my work, which makes me so happy! A great way for Delicious Cake Design to end it’s tenure in London wouldn’t you say!

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 5: Flowers

July 16th, 2010
Me, Alan and my sugar peony!

Me, Alan and my sugar peony!

Today was the last day of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School with Guest Tutors and the class was Sugar Flowers with Alan Dunn. I have one of Alan Dunn’s books on making sugar flowers, and in fact use his techniques to create many of my sugar flowers, so I was looking forward to picking up some hints and tips you don’t get in his books. We were all smarting a little after the blitz attack that was the modelling course, so I was a little apprehensive today, but it turned out to be a refreshing, fantastic class with an excellent, world class tutor.

For the sugar flower class we were going to be making a peony. Alan firstly demonstrated to us how to create the peony petals, then it was our turn. We started off by creating some formers out of paper towels. We then coloured some white sugar flower paste pale pink with a tiny bit of a very strong plum coloured craft dusting colour, then kneaded it to make sure it was nice and pliable. Alan had shown us his technique for rolling out the paste to achieve a tapered ridge in the middle. First you roll a bit of paste into a cone, then flatten it slightly before rolling out the top part quite flat. Then you roll at an angle on either side of the middle. It’s a great technique I will definitely use again. Then, using a peony petal cutter, we cut out petal shapes with the ridge in the middle, 10 large and 5 medium. Here’s one of the petals I cut out:

Cut out petal with ridge in the centre

Cut out petal with ridge in the centre

A hooked 26 gauge white wire with a little bit of sugar glue was then inserted into the ridge and the end pinched to secure it to the wire. Using a silk veining tool, we veined the petal on both sides, then frilled the edges. The bottom edges near the wire were softened with a ball tool. The petals were then draped over the formers. Here are some of my completed petals:

Some of my wired petals

Some of my wired petals

Next up we were shown how to dust both sides of the petals using the plum coloured dusting powder and a wide flat brush. The aim was to dust quite a strong colour at the base then lighten it as you moved towards the middle. Here are my petals after dusting:

My petals after dusting

My petals after dusting

After lunch we moved on to making the peony centres. Using green cold porcelain, we inserted small balls onto 26 gauge white wire and rolled them into cones, then pinched a ridge on one side and curled the top. These were then taped together with pale green florist tape:

Peony centre created from cold porcelain

Peony centre created from cold porcelain

We bunched together some double tipped white stamens and glued the bunches together in the middle using non toxic craft glue. These were cut in half then glued to the bottom of the cold porcelain centres. We dusted the bottom of the stamens the same plum colour like so:

Peony centre with stamens dusted with plum

Peony centre with stamens dusted with plum

And then dusted the tips with sunflower yellow and the tops of the green cold porcelain with lime green. Then it was time to tape together the petals. The medium sized petals were placed around the centre first and taped together with green florist tape. The larger petals were placed around these, taping a few at a time. Here is Alan showing us how to tape the petals to the centre:

Alan Dunn showing the class how to tape the flower together

Alan Dunn showing the class how to tape the flower together

The end result was quite stunning if I do say so myself! Here is my completed peony:

My completed sugar peony

My completed sugar peony

Alan also showed us how to cut out leaves, vein them, and stick them together with florist tape. He also showed us how to dust them using aubergine on the tips, overdusting with forest green, then overdusting again with lime green. It was just about time to go after that, and as I already have used Alan’s book to create leaves using these techniques, I decided against staying late to create them in class.

I really cannot praise Alan highly enough. Not only is he a great teacher but he is such a lovely person too! He correctly gauged the pace of the class and offered as little or as much help as each individual needed. He explained everything really well and had lots of tips and tricks for us. It was a relaxed and fun atmosphere. And he has such an amazing talent! It was a great way to end a fabulous (and exhausting) week at Squires Kitchen.

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 4: Modelling

July 15th, 2010

Today was the day of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School that I was most looking forward to – Character Modelling with Jan Clement-May. I love character modelling and I was eager to learn some tricks of the trade from someone as experienced as Jan. She has written several cake decorating books and is a regular contributor to Cakes & Sugarcraft magazine.

When I saw the project we would be making, I was quite daunted. There were a LOT of elements to it! It was a scene set in a flower filled grass field of a mother, her little boy, her baby girl, and the family dog having a picnic complete with picnic rug, picnic basket, plates of sausages, sandwiches, fruit, a cake, a thermos, and a baby bottle, plus a family of ducks. All to be completed in one day! For someone like Jan, that would take her only 3 hours. We had just under 6 hours to learn how to do it and complete it. I had my doubts as to whether or not we would be able to finish the whole lot in that amount of time.

We started off by covering a 10 inch square board with green sugar dough. Then we mixed some dark blue sugar dough with white and created pale blue picnic blankets with hand drawn lines in a checkered pattern. We rolled out some white sugar paste and cut out tiny blossoms to be glued on later. So far so good. Next Jan showed us how to create legs out of a sausage shape. We created legs for the mother and the son and glued them to the board. Next were shoes – shoes are made by creating a pear shape and indenting them where it becomes thinner to create a heel. We glued the shoes to the legs on the board, and it was starting to kind of look like something (sort of):

Legs, shoes, and a picnic blanket

Legs, shoes, and a picnic blanket

It was time to create the bodies. Bodies were made from a cone shape which we smoothed down over a thumb to create a rounded and less flat look. To create a bust for the mother, we indented with our fingers at about the waist and smoothed down. The torsos were placed on top of the legs and wooden skewers gently rotated through the middle to secure them. A little bit was left sticking out the top to secure the head and neck later on. A small piece of flesh coloured sugar dough was placed on top of the torso to create a neck. My mother started off reasonably slim, as you will see in later photos, she somehow seemed to gain weight!

Mother's slimmer torso fitted

Making sure Mother's slimmer torso fits before skewering it

We created arms out of sausage shaped strips of flesh coloured sugar dough. To create hands, we slightly flattened the ends of the arms and cut a slit on one side and separated out the “thumb”.  We also created sleeves out of triangular pieces of sugar dough for the shoulders. The arms were attached to the torsos with sugar glue followed by the sleeves.

Next we created the baby. We mixed red and white sugar dough, rolled a bit into a ball, then smoothed down over a thumb again to create the nappy. A ball of flesh coloured dough was placed on top of the nappy with an indent for a belly button. Legs, arms and booties were created and attached, then the head and a little golden curl. Here is the baby I created:

The baby girl is added to the picnic

The baby girl is added to the picnic

We then made the plates, sandwiches and sausages for the picnic. Plates were round circles indented with the end of small rolling pins. Sandwiches were white triangles and we used red edible ink pens to colour in lines of “jam” around them. Sausages were made by rolling out brown sugar dough into a long thin sausage and cutting it into sections then rounding the ends gently with a finger. Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, we created the heads for the mother and son. We were instructed to give them a more oval shape. These were attached to the torsos through the wooden skewers. Then we made the ducks by rolling balls of yellow sugar dough then pinching the ends up and outward. Little beaks were attached with sugar dough and eyes dotted on with black edible ink pens. Here are my little duckies:

My little sugar ducks

My little sugar ducks

We next made some fruit for the picnic. Round balls of sugar dough for apples and oranges and sausage shapes curved to form bananas. A little cake was made out of round circles of brown sugar dough with a red circle that had been frilled slightly in between to make jam, and a white circle on the top that was also frilled downwards for cream with some little red balls of fruit. Here is all the food I made:

Food for the picnic made from sugar dough

Food for the picnic made from sugar dough

We also made a dog out of sugar dough by rolling out cone shaped pieces for the legs and a big fatter cone for the body. We cut lines in the paws for “toes” then glued the torso onto the legs. The head was made from a pear shaped piece of dough with the small end flattened. Ears were cone shaped pieces flattened and the tail was a small sausage curled up. Dark brown spots were added to the torso.

Next up was a picnic basket made of dark brown sugar dough rolled into a ball then the end of a small rolling pin was pushed into it to create the basket cavity. We cut out a thin-ish piece of pink dough to make a blanket which we put inside, then a thick sausage shape of the dark brown dough was curved and attached to the basket as a handle.

We then glued the food onto the plates and glued the plates onto the picnic rug and around the scene. Some fruit and a plate was also added to the picnic basket. The ducks were glued into place and the blossoms as well. We were fast running out of time, so instead of creating the bottle and thermos, we asked if we could create the hair next for mother and son as they were still completely bald at this stage.

Jan showed us how to use a sugar gun for this. We were also instructed to add quite a bit of vegetable fat to the sugar dough to make it the consistency of chewing gum as this would be easier to push through the sugar gun. We created hair using the sugar gun and glued them to our models.

At this point it was the end of the day and we had to finish up. We didn’t have time to make the thermos and baby bottle. All in all it wasn’t a bad looking bit of sugar modelling though, but as you can see in the below pic, my mother seems to have gained some weight around the middle! Not sure what happened there, too much cake and sausage perhaps?

The finished product

The finished product

While I enjoyed the sugar modelling, I didn’t enjoy the break neck speed at which we were expected to complete everything. I felt under a lot of pressure and if you fell slightly behind it was incredibly hard to catch up.

Part of the problem was that we had so much to do that Jan kept moving us along too fast. Instead of going at the speed of the average person in the class, she was going at the speed of the fastest. Which meant the majority of us would still be in the middle of doing a step and she would show us how to do the next one. We either had to stop what we were doing, watch her instructions, then go back to what we were doing, finish it and try to remember what she said to do for the next step, or else we continued what we were doing while she was giving instructions in an attempt not to get left behind any further and completely miss quite a lot of the detail of what we were supposed to do next.

It would have been preferable to create half as many models and learn to do them properly rather than create a greater range of things where we missed so much of the instructions that we had to muddle through as best we could. It seemed like we were given the bare minimum on how to create each piece, which we could have gotten from a book. The point of going to the class is to get more than you would from a book, all the little tips and tricks, but we didn’t get any of that. Jan didn’t go into any detail about how to get a smooth finish for example. I was lucky as I have done some sugar modelling before, but for many people it was their first time and they had no idea how to achieve this so there were some lumpy models.

So while I liked the finished product I ended up with, I still would have preferred to have a less hectic and more information filled experience.

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 3: Royal Icing

July 14th, 2010
The great Eddie Spence showing us some piping

The great Eddie Spence showing us some piping

Day 3 of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School with Guest Tutors was a day I was really looking forward to, despite the fact the class would be in my least favourite medium for cake decorating, Royal Icing. I really don’t like working with royal icing, royal icing and I don’t seem to get along. Piping is a skill I definitely need more practice in and that I have the most trouble with. BUT, the teacher of today’s class was going to be none other than Eddie Spence MBE, a veritable legend in the cake decorating world and widely considered to be THE master of royal icing. I have Eddie’s book, The Art of Royal Icing and the things the man can do with royal icing amazed me, so I couldn’t wait to see him piping in person and learn from him.

Eddie did not disappoint, he was extremely charming and personable, and watching him pipe calligraphy, flowers, doves, swans, storks and all manner of beautiful decorations with royal icing was awe inspiring. The man certainly knows his art! Here are some of the samples he showed us:

Samples of Eddie's piping work

Samples of Eddie's piping work

We started off the morning with a lesson in how to make royal icing. Afterwards, Eddie demonstrated how to create a piping bag from baking paper then showed us how to drop a line with royal icing. Then Eddie got us to fill small piping bags fitted with a 1.5 tube with some royal icing and asked us to do drop some lines, loops, double loops, and other swirly line patterns to see what we could do. Quite frankly, I couldn’t do much! Eddie showed me how to hold the piping bag really high above the board to get more control and a smoother line when it was dropped which really helped. He was very good about going round to each individual and helping them one on one.

Next up was some pressure piping. Eddie showed us how to create dots, ovals, tear drops, and some simple flowers. Then he showed us some more advanced pressure piping such as grapes, different kinds of flowers, love birds, doves, swans, and a stork carrying a baby. Watching him so quickly and easily pipe such beautiful creations was amazing!

Next it was our turn to try our hand at pressure piping. We started off with the simple shapes he first taught us then gave some of the more advanced piping a try. Here are my best attempts at flowers and a swan:

My piping attempts at flowers and a swan

My piping attempts at flowers and a swan

Eddie also shared with us some tips and tricks not involving royal icing, such as how to create a very quick rose from flower paste using 5 circles.

We covered a 10 inch cake board with sugarpaste then it was time for lunch. After lunch, we embossed the sugarpaste discs with a fuschia flower pattern, then after another demonstration from Eddie, we set about piping using petal, leaf, and 1 and 2 tubes. Here is my embossed disc before piping:

Embossed sugarpaste disc ready for piping

Embossed sugarpaste disc ready for piping

We used the number 1 tubes first to drop lines for the stamens, then the petal tubes to create the flowers, then the number 2 tubes to create the base of the flowers, and the leaf tubes to create the leaves under the flowers. The larger leaves were filled in with green royal icing and a petal tube. Number 1 tubes with green royal icing were also used to drop lines for the stems. Eddie had to help me a lot!

Next up Eddie showed us shells using a number 44 star tube, and some simple barrels, followed by overpiping on the shells and barrels with a number 1 tube. We then piped a barrel design with C scrolls at the base of our sugarpaste discs and shells around the border of the whole disc. Eddie then piped an inscription for us with white royal icing which we were supposed to overpipe in pink but we ran out of time. Eddie very quickly overpiped for us so we could take home a finished product. Speaking of which, here is mine (that’s my Mum’s name on it, this seemed like the kind of thing she’d like):

My finished hand piped decorated sugarpaste disc

My finished hand piped decorated sugarpaste disc

I have to confess that Eddie did a fair bit of the work on mine to show me how it was done, then I did the rest. I did do all the shells by myself though and was very proud when he told me my shells were “very good”. They ought to be as that was just about the only piping skill I had coming into the class!

I enjoyed watching such a world class artist at work, but I have to say, I’m still not a fan of piping or royal icing. Eddie says it’s a dying art and that it’s up to us to keep it going. Sadly, I don’t think I will be perpetuating his art. While his work is very beautiful, I don’t have a lot of demand for this kind of decoration, and I have to give my clients what they want.

On a side note, I also managed to sit on my board of practice piping and got royal icing all over the seat of my jeans! See, me and royal icing really don’t get along.

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 2: Sugarpaste

July 13th, 2010
Me and Paddi Clark with my finished cake

Me and Paddi Clark with my finished cake

Day 2 of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School with Guest Tutors was Sugarpaste with Paddi Clark. Having my own cake business, I already know a fair bit about covering cakes with sugarpaste and sugar decorations, so most of the things taught in the class I already knew. I did pick up a few good hints and tips from Paddi though. Paddi is a senior tutor at Squires Kitchen and has been cake decorating for “thousands of years” (her words lol). She is the author of Sugar Flowers for Beginners and her work is featured regularly in magazines. I found Paddi to be a great teacher, extremely knowledgeable and a lot of fun! Now normally I wouldn’t say ‘sugarpaste’ but fondant or rolled fondant, but out of respect for Paddi I’ll refer to it as sugarpaste in this blog post.

For this class, we were given a cake decorating equipment box, turntable, mixing palette, trex, sugar glue, 4 inch dummy, rolling pin and rolling out board. The sugarpaste and flower paste were also provided. Anything else we needed we had to buy and we also shared some of Paddi’s equipment. There was some waiting around to use the shared equipment which was a little bit annoying, especially since I had all of the items at home but hadn’t known to bring them! It wasn’t really a huge deal though. Here is the equipment each of us was given for the class:

Equipment for our sugarpaste class

Equipment for our sugarpaste class

We started off with a demonstration of how to roll out sugarpaste using spacers and how to cover a cake with it. We all covered 6 inch dummies (which were secured to cake drums) with sugarpaste. Next we were shown how to cover the 4 inch dummies without the aid of a cake drum to hold it still. A bit trickier, but we managed it. Here’s Paddi showing us how to roll out sugarpaste:

Paddi showing us how to roll out sugarpaste

Paddi showing us how to roll out sugarpaste

One neat trick she showed us was to get some sugarpaste and wrap it in cling film and use it as a curved buffer for the top edge of the cake. Handy if you don’t have an edge smoother.

Paddi then showed us how to cover our cake boards and create thin sausages (called a connector) with a mix of flower paste and sugarpaste to hide the unsightly join between the bottom of the 6 inch cake and the cake board, and we all had a go at doing that.

We then moved on to making daisies and butterflies. After lunch, we finished up our daisies and butterflies, then cemented the 4 inch dummies on top of the 6 inch dummies with royal icing. Paddi showed us how to do a little bit of draping with sugar paste to hide the gap between the 2 cakes, but I opted to do the same sausage type connector as on the lower tier. I like the way it looks better, it seems more symmetrical and elegant to me and that is what I usually prefer to do, where as the drapery was intended to give a more rustic feel. Here is my covered cake, ready to decorate:

My cake covered and ready to decorate

My cake covered and ready to decorate

Next we were shown how to dust our daisy centres to give them more dimension and depth, and to paint detail on our butterflies using dusting powders mixed with water and a very fine paintbrush. Here are some of the daisies I made after they were dusted:

Sugar daisies I made

Sugar daisies I made

Paddi then showed us how to mix sugar glue with sugarpaste to secure our flowers and butterflies to the cakes. Once the demonstration was finished, we all went about adding our daisies and butterflies to our cakes. Here is my cake, all finished:

The daisy cake I made in the sugarpaste class

The daisy cake I made in the sugarpaste class

Everyone did their swag draping and arrangement of butterflies and daisies differently, and it was fun to see them all lined up together on display. Here is a pic of the finished products (mine is bottom right):

Everyone's daisy cakes

Everyone's daisy cakes

You can see in the back row in the picture that someone else in the class had the same idea I did and produced a very similar cake! Great minds hey 🙂

All in all, a really fun day even though the bulk of the things taught I already knew. It was nice to try out different techniques though, and I picked up some great tips and tricks. And it was such a delight to work with Paddi!

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 1: Chocolate

July 12th, 2010
Some of the treats I made in the chocolate class

Some of the treats I made in the chocolate class

I started the 5 Day School with Guest Tutors today at Squires Kitchen in Surrey, England. The school consists of 5 full days of classes with a different teacher each day, each famous for a different specialty. I will be blogging about each day of the course, starting with Day 1 – Chocolate with Mark Tilling. Mark is the British Chocolate Master (which basically means he is THE best chocolatier in the UK) and has been every year since 2006.

My course consisted of 10 people, all of us novices to chocolate. There were also 3 large vats of melted chocolate (one dark, one milk and one white) in the room, and the gorgeous scent of melted chocolate made our mouths water!

Mark started off  by telling us how chocolate is made and showing us samples of cocoa at it’s various stages to becoming chocolate. Then he explained to us why tempering chocolate is so important (to keep the “good crystals” that give it a high gloss and that snap when it’s broken and which allow it to set properly and give it a uniform, shiny appearance) and showed us how to temper chocolate in the microwave.

Next he demonstrated how to use moulds for properly melted, tempered chocolate by piping the chocolate into the moulds, and we then created several chocolate bars using moulds and tempered chocolate and different fillings like sultanas, nuts, and coconut. I made milk chocolate with shredded coconut (DELISH!), milk chocolate with almonds, and a special white chocolate bar with lots of dried fruit and nuts for my husband. Here are my chocolate bars after they were set in the fridge:

My handmade chocolate bars

My handmade chocolate bars

We then were shown how to use transfer sheets and had a go at thinly spreading chocolate over a transfer sheet then slicing it and wrapping it around a rolling pin to create beautiful spiral decorations. These were then refrigerated along with the bars, then the rolling pins removed and the acetate transfer sheets peeled off. Mine worked perfectly, but sadly most of the other people in the class had trouble with theirs. Happily, all mistakes were very tasty mistakes as everyone was able to eat any bad bits! Here is a piece of my spiral decorations:

Chocolate spiral decoration with transfer

Chocolate spiral decoration with transfer

After lunch, we were shown how to use cold granite slabs to create thin bands of chocolate that we could use to create fans and other decorations. This had to be done extremely quickly before the chocolate set, and I managed to only create one! It was pretty hard, but I think I also just wasn’t very good at it!

We then did some piping of chocolate onto cocoa powder and coloured sugar crystals to make more decorations, then we were shown how to pipe chocolate onto an acetate sheet over a stencil to create chocolate butterflies. That was pretty easy, it’s not so different to piping with royal icing or buttercream. Here is one of my butterflies, still on the acetate:

Piped chocolate butterfly

Piped chocolate butterfly

Lastly, we were shown how to create modelled roses from cocoform (a kind of modelling chocolate). This was the part I found the easiest as I’ve used the same technique before with sugar flower paste and marzipan. Here are my dark chocolate roses:

Dark chocolate roses

Dark chocolate roses

It was a very enjoyable class and Mark is so very talented, and a patient teacher! I did find working with so much melted chocolate to be VERY messy though, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m uber keen to take up chocolatier-ing. Oddly, I was actually kind of sick of chocolate by the end of the day!