Posts Tagged ‘cake decorating’

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 4: Modelling

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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!

Making a 3D Snoopy Kennel Cake

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Last week I made a 3D cake of Snoopy lying on top of his kennel and it is possibly my new favourite cake. It consisted of a kennel made entirely of cake, with a sugar modelled Snoopy a lying on top of the roof with a little sugar modelled Woodstock perched on his tummy.  I had a very similar Snoopy money box as a child which I loved, so I jumped at the chance to re-create it in cake. It was a fair bit of work, but I loved the end result and it was a big hit!

To make the kennel, I baked a 10 inch square madeira cake. I tried creating the kennel at first with butter cake and it was a disaster, really horrible to carve. It seems madeira is a lot easier to work with if you are going to be carving to make a 3D cake. I halved and buttercreamed the cake, then took a sharp, long bladed knife and cut off bits to make a triangular roof shape. I did this quite precisely, measuring length and angles as I went to ensure a uniform and balanced roof. Here is the roof (you can see some of the bits of cake that were cut off in the background):

The roof of Snoopy's kennel carved out of cake

The roof of Snoopy's kennel carved out of cake

I took the remainder of the cake and did a little bit of measuring and carving to create as perfect a rectangular piece as I could for the kennel base. I spread buttercream over the top of the kennel base and stuck the roof on top of it like so:

The kennel cake assembled and ready to cover

The kennel cake assembled and ready to cover

Then it was just a matter of crumb coating and covering the base with white rolled fondant, colouring some fondant red and covering the roof, and using a knife and a ruler to cut some shallow lines along the fondant of the roof and kennel base. I then left this to dry.

While the kennel was drying, I moved on to creating the sugar models of Snoopy and Woodstock. I did each bit of them in separate parts – the head, nose, ears, torso, arms, legs, etc were all done as individual bits. I included little details such as indentations on Snoopy’s paws to show “toes” and “fingers”, and little feathers on Woodstock’s wings. Woodstock was quite hard to make as he was so small and very fiddly! After they had dried a little I used sugar glue to stick Snoopy together and secure him on top of the roof and did the same with little Woodstock. Here’s a close up of the assembled Snoopy and Woodstock:

Close up of sugar Snoopy and Woodstock

Close up of sugar Snoopy and Woodstock

Next I took a tiny bit of fondant, coloured it black, rolled it out thinly and cut out an arched doorway which I sugar glued on one side of the kennel. I then coloured the remaining white fondant green and covered the cake board. While the fondant on the board was still wet, I took an icing tip to it to create grass texture.

And voila! Here is the finished product, a cake of Snoopy and Woodstock on top of Snoopy’s kennel:

Sugar Snoopy and Woodstock on top of a kennel made of cake

Sugar Snoopy and Woodstock on top of a kennel made of cake

Royal Icing Course at Squires Kitchen

Monday, June 28th, 2010
Royal iced cake

The cake I made on my royal icing course

A few weekends ago I went on a 2 day Royal Icing course at Squires Kitchen in Surrey. I had never royal iced a cake before, but my main reason for going was to learn some piping techniques in royal icing from Ceri Griffiths, who is such a marvellous cake decorator and an expert in royal icing. He is a fantastic teacher too, and a very talented singer!

Over the 2 days of the course we royal iced a 6 inch fruit cake, piped blossoms, created a run out, did cornelli scratch work on the sides of the cake, learned to pipe shells, ropes and barrels, then decorated the cake with these new techniques. Piping shells was fine, I’ve done that before, but the ropes and ‘S’ and ‘C’ barrels were pretty tricky. You can see in the picture above how wonky my efforts were!

Quite frankly I don’t see myself using that particular technique a lot. My clientele usually prefers more modern designs, the shells and barrels looked quite old fashioned. As one of the other women on the course remarked, the cakes we created looked like “cakes my gran would like”.

Having said that though, the course was excellent and well worth going on. But I have to say, one thing I did take away from it is that I am never going to coat a cake in royal icing again! It is a very hard medium to work with, and it was a lot harder to get a nice smooth finish compared to fondant. Ceri did point out that it was my first time and it is a skill that requires a lot of practice to get right, which is true. But it is such a time consuming process. For a wedding cake, 3 coats are required with an overnight drying period in between each coat! Plus it dries so damn hard! My husband nearly broke a kitchen knife trying to cut through the royal iced cake I brought home from the course.

To date, I have not had a request for a royal iced cake, hopefully I never will (lol). Fondant is much easier to work with (and to eat!). However if a client wants some nice piped flowers, shells, or cornelli scratch work, I’m happy to oblige!

My Favourite Cakes in May 2010

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My favourite cakes I made in May 2010

Today is the last day of May, and it was a really great month for Delicious Cake Design, one of the best months so far. I’ve made some really interesting and varied cakes, and in this blog post I’d like to share some of my favourites with you. I’ll list them in chronological order here.

First up was the wedding cake I made for myself and my husband. I’ve already blogged about this cake in the post Finally Made My Own Wedding Cake! so I won’t go into too much detail here. Making the huge sugar lilies and smaller calla lilies was so much fun and I loved the end result.

3 tier lily wedding cake

3 tier lily wedding cake



Next up is a cake I made for a keen runner. The design brief was basically, make a sponge cake for a girl who likes to run marathons. So I decided to do this cute little design of a road leading up to a finishing line, with a sugar modelled cartoony version of the marathon running girl sitting on the edge of the cake after crossing the line. The best part of this cake for me was creating the sugar modelled marathon girl as I don’t get to make sugar humans very often! Making the little shorts was a hoot! The client absolutely loved it too, her reaction really made my day.

Little Miss Runner cake



My next favourite cake for May. The design brief was an 8 inch round chocolate birthday cake for a an adult male. That’s it. I have to admit, I don’t get asked for birthday cakes for adult males very often, especially with such a loose design brief (no interests, hobbies or anything!). But I was really pleased with the end result, as was the birthday boy:

Blue and brown circle cake



Next, I was asked to make a cake with black sugar roses as the birthday girl loves black roses. My fingers were stained with black colouring paste for days, but it was worth it to see the look of absolute delight on the birthday girl’s face when she saw the cake. I added some thin, criss crossing black ribbons which were a great effect:

Black Roses cake with criss crossing black ribbons



My last favourite cake in May. This was one I made for a very good friend of mine, so there was no design brief, she said to do whatever I wanted as long as it was a chocolate cake with lots of chocolate buttercream. After making the black and white cake above, I wanted to do something with bright colours and something that really represented her as a person. The design I created was an 8 inch round chocolate cake with quilting pattern on the side (purely so I could try out my new quilting wheel tool), and at the points where the dotted lines crossed I attached a small silver edible ball. On the top of the cake I wrote the birthday girl’s name in funky lettering and painted the letters a sparkly silver. Then I made some simple posies dusted in bright shades of yellow, pink, purple and green, and added more silver edible balls in the flower centres to tie the side design to the flowers. I attached these flowers on the top and sides of the cake. I felt it really conveyed her bright, cheerful yet stylish personality to a T, and she LOVED it!

Quilted cake with colourful flowers



So those are my personal favourites of the cakes I made in May 2010. Hopefully the month of June will be as varied and productive as the month of May!

Air Bubbles Under Fondant aka Cake Farts

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Recently in London the weather has been warming up (shock horror!) which has been causing havoc with some of my cake making. Those of you who work regularly with rolled fondant (called sugarpaste here in the UK) and buttercream know that heat can be your worst enemy when it comes to cake decorating.

Our flat, in typical London fashion, has heating but no air conditioning. The kitchen is near the back of the apartment, as far away from the windows as you can get. So on a warm day, it’s like an oven in the kitchen, somewhat ironically. One of the tricks I use when it’s warm and my buttercream is melting is to put my cake in the freezer once it has the crumb coat on. Just for a little while to let the buttercream get nice and stiff so it doesn’t move around when I put the rolled fondant on it. This usually works really well and helps me achieve a nice smooth covering on the cake.

However, using this method in the heat has meant that recently I have been getting small air bubbles on some of my cakes. This is unusual for me, but not a big deal as I can usually smooth them out without too much difficulty. But then of course, there was the one time this week when it was an absolute disaster!

I made a cake and left it in the freezer for far too long – about 40 minutes! When I covered it with fondant, everything seemed fine. I got a nice smooth covering on the cake and left it to dry. I came back an hour later and found a small air bubble under the rolled fondant. Not a big deal, I smoothed it out and transferred the cake to the fondant covered cake board, cementing it securely to the board. I left it for a half hour then went to put some ribbon around the cake while the icing was still slightly wet. And I nearly fainted when I saw it!

There was not one, but two HUGE air bubbles under my fondant!!! Mice could have crawled under there and set up camp they were so big! (Please note: I do NOT have any mice in my flat). It was a deformed, bubbly  mess. The back of the cake reminded me of a witch’s hooked, crooked nose, and the top of the cake looked like the elephant man. It looked like something that belonged on the Cake Wrecks blog!

I have covered quite a few cakes with fondant in my time and NEVER had this happen before. Which prompts me now to explain how it did happen this time. When you cover a cold cake with fondant, small pockets of air are released as the cake warms up and returns to room temperature. This causes a bubble of air to be trapped under the fondant. It’s what we call in the biz a “cake fart” as the cake is releasing gases! This had been happening a little with my cakes recently due to them being put in the freezer then taken out into a very warm room. A small air bubble is no biggy, but if you have a very cold cake in a very warm room, your air bubbles will be particularly bad and ginormous. Which is what happened in this situation as I’d left the cake in the freezer too long!

So how did I fix the problem? Removing the fondant and re-covering is really a very last resort, especially when you’ve already fixed the cake onto the covered board. So what I do is sterilise a very thin pin or needle, then poke a small hole into the air bubble at an angle. I then get my cake smoothers and push the air out of the offending bubble, then smooth over the area with the paddles. If the hole is very noticeable, you can cover it with decoration such as a flower or ribbon, but if it’s somewhere on the cake that isn’t going to get covered with decoration, you can also mix a small amount of rolled fondant with water and fill the hole in, then smooth with your smoothing paddles. And voila, it’s like your air bubble never existed!

I don’t have any pictures of the cake fart disaster to show you as I was in such a panic at the time that I didn’t even think to grab my camera and document the moment. But here are some pics of another cake which had an air bubble which I fixed with the pin method:

Before – you can clearly see an air bubble has formed around the wooden post

After – air bubble, what air bubble?

 

UPDATED 2016: This is by far my most popular post! I’ve noticed that some of you are confused between cake farts and normal air bubbles. The cake fart is different to a normal air bubble, it’s caused by a dramatic enough difference in temperature between the fridge/freezer and the room temperature and it usually forms some time after you’ve covered your cake if you covered a cold cake. So you’ll cover your cake perfectly and come back later to find HUGE air bubbles that weren’t there before.

Many cake makers cover cakes straight from the fridge or freezer with no problems because the room they take the cake out into from the fridge/freezer isn’t too hot. I usually can’t because it’s so hot and humid in Australia and I don’t have a temperature controlled room (no air con, it’s brutal!). I use ganache instead of buttercream now and always cover a room temp cake so cake farts are a thing of the past.

Normal air bubbles form straight away as you cover your cake. I get these either because I missed a spot when wetting my ganache before covering the cake or the fondant didn’t quite stick down to the surface in a spot when covering the cake, these air bubbles are usually quite small (cake farts can be humungazoid). I don’t know any cake decorator that doesn’t get these kind of air bubbles, but they’re easily taken care of with the pin trick as soon as you cover your cake. Air bubbles are all but impossible to get rid of once your fondant has set hard.

Check out the comments for other people’s ideas and solutions.

Finally Made My Own Wedding Cake!

Sunday, May 9th, 2010
3 tier lily wedding cake

3 tier lily wedding cake made to celebrate my marriage

Those of you who have read this blog before probably already know that I didn’t make the cake for my own wedding overseas a couple of months ago. I made the sugar flowers and leaves used to decorate the cake (see my blog post Sugar Flowers for My Own Wedding Cake), but the actual cake itself I left to a local baker we hired in Hawaii. I don’t regret that decision at all, I was so busy in the week before the wedding that I’d hate to think how I would have coped trying to make a wedding cake on top of everything else I had to do!

But as a professional cake maker, you do feel a bit ashamed if you don’t make your own wedding cake. I wanted to remedy that. We knew we were going to have a small celebration on our return to London for people who couldn’t make it to Hawaii for our wedding. So my plan was to make a proper 3 tier wedding cake complete with hand crafted sugar flowers for that celebration (even though there were only about 40 people going!). I made a 6 inch fruitcake tier (for my husband who loves fruitcake, I loathe it), 9 inch chocolate cake tier, and 12 inch sponge cake tier.

Crumb coating the 12 inch sponge cake layer with buttercream

Crumb coating the 12 inch sponge cake tier with buttercream

Design wise, I wanted to do something different from the cake at our wedding. A style I have always loved is a cascading floral arrangement going from the top of the cake in a diagonal line right down to the bottom, so I decided to do that. I also wanted to steer away from roses – I love roses and think they are perfect for weddings, but we had roses on our wedding cake in Hawaii and roses are the most popular flower I make for Delicious Cake Design. This was an opportunity to make some different kinds of flowers. I chose lilies – beautiful yellow throated white oriental lilies and elegant calla lilies.

Some of my hand crafted oriental and calla lilies

Some of my hand crafted oriental and calla sugar lilies

As I make a lot of cakes, I have developed some tried and true recipes and methods that always work. But I am addicted to cake making so do a lot of reading and research on various other techniques. I decided this would be a good opportunity to try some new methods and play around with some of my rolled fondant recipes, as the cake wasn’t for a paying client so the only person I would be disappointing if things went wrong was myself. So I experimented, and let’s just say that now I know now not to experiment again!

Just kidding. Some of the new techniques worked quite well, others were flat out disasters. The rolled fondant recipe tweaks were filed under the “must-never-do-again” category. But it’s good to try these things out! One great new technique I will definitely use again was covering the wires on the flowers with lots of florist tape to make sure the wires didn’t come into contact with the cake itself then inserting them into the cake without flower picks. Much more secure and flexible!

Placing the sugar lilies on the cake

Working out placement of the sugar lilies on the cake

I was really pleased with how the cake turned out. Perhaps the biggest compliment I got was that the guests all thought the flowers were real! They were amazed when they found out they were actually sugar and I got asked a lot of questions about how they were made. And then of course they were clamouring for the chance to eat one!

And despite having such a huge amount of cake for such a small number of people, there weren’t actually that many leftovers!

Sugar Flowers for My Own Wedding Cake

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Handcrafted Sugar Flowers of Cream Coloured Roses and Frangipanis

Handcrafted Sugar Flowers for my wedding - Cream Coloured Roses and Frangipanis (on a dummy cake)

Hi folks, sorry it’s been such a long time since the last blog post, I’ve been really busy preparing for my upcoming wedding which is now just a week away! It’s been very stressful, particularly in the last 2 weeks, but now most of the work is done and all that’s left is the excitement and anticipation of the big day!

So I am getting married in Hawaii, which is pretty far away from London! Everyone asks me if I am making my own cake. Well, I’m not. There are several very good reasons: I have no access to a kitchen there, nor will I be able to bring over all my cake making equipment, plus I really don’t want the added stress of finishing up a 3 tier cake the morning of my own wedding (see my blog post on Tips on making your own wedding cake). So I have hired another professional cake maker in Hawaii to make and ice my wedding cake. I opted for a rolled buttercream cake, as the only fondant / sugarpaste I like the taste of is the one I make myself. However, I really wanted to make my own sugar flowers to decorate the cake with, as this is something that can be done months in advance. So we hired someone who makes nice cakes but doesn’t do a lot of sugarcraft and usually uses fresh flowers, and I said I would provide sugar flowers.

In some ways, I regret that decision! Being so busy with work and the wedding planning, I didn’t have as much time for my own wedding sugar flowers as I would have liked, and it’s really added to my stress levels in the past 2 weeks! I decided on classic ivory coloured roses for the cake, plus frangipanis as our wedding theme is frangipanis. Frangipanis are very easy to do, however roses are very time consuming (if you want to do them petal by petal, which is how I do them). We were flying out to our wedding destination a week before the wedding, so I was desperately trying to finish all 20 flowers and accompanying leaves right up till the night before we left! I then arranged them on a polystyrene fake dummy cake and photographed them to show my cake maker in Hawaii exactly how I wanted them arranged.

Then came the headache of how to transport them to Hawaii on the plane. To make my flowers look as realistic as possible, I roll the flower paste very thinly. They look great, but it does mean they are incredibly fragile. Sometimes it seems like I just look at them hard enough and they break! So my fiance and I ended up wrapping each individual flower in layers of paper towel and putting them into 2 large tupperware containers filled with cotton wool and carrying them on the plane as hand luggage (along with my wedding dress, my fiance’s suit, the best man’s suit, the cake toppers hand made for us by a friend, and our 2 large backpacks with our laptops and camera equipment!).

The flowers did turn out great, and I’m really happy with them, so in the end I am glad that I at least contributed the hardest and most important part of my own wedding cake!

Close up of hand made sugar cream coloured roses and frangipanis

Close up of hand made sugar cream coloured roses, leaves and frangipanis

Hand crafted cream coloured sugar rose

Hand crafted cream coloured sugar rose

Close up of hand made sugar cream coloured roses and frangipanis

Close up of hand made sugar floral spray of cream coloured roses, leaves and frangipanis