Posts Tagged ‘cakes’

Anatomy of a Cake

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

If you were ever wondering what one of my cakes looks like on the inside, wonder no more! Here is one of my chocolate mud cakes with buttercream filling and Belgian chocolate ganache coating sliced open. The ganache coating allows me to use a pretty thin layer of fondant and still get a lovely smooth finish with a nice sharp edge.

antomy_of_a_cake

This is what one of my cakes looks like on the inside!

 

I very rarely get to see my cakes get cut up and served these days. When I first started my cake business, I was “the cake lady” – I was always bringing cakes to any party or event I attended, usually for free. Now I very rarely have the time to make a free cake as I’m usually so busy making cakes for my paying customers. Fortunately many of the recipients of those free cakes liked my work enough to be converted into paying customers, especially once they had children!

Over the weekend I actually got to attend an event where I made the cake. It was the first birthday party of a friend’s son and she hired me to make the cake. I designed the cake to match the invitations.

The party invitation

The party invitation

The cake I made based on the invitation

The cake I made based on the invitation

And here is the cake after it was cut up and served. My cakes are very tall at around 4.25″ high, so often each slice gets cut in half.

The cake all cut up to be eaten

The cake all cut up to be eaten

 

The cake was a big hit, I got a lot of compliments on how it looked and tasted and a lot of people asked for my business card, including the venue manager! Lucky I always carry a big batch of them with me 🙂

Ruffles, Baby Elephant, and Thomas!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Don’t worry, all the things in the title were not all on the same cake :).

Last week was literally my busiest week of cake making to date. I had five orders that had to go out the door and most of them were anything but simple! It was a gruelling week, every night I’d crawl into bed around 1:30am exhausted and aching, then I’d be back at it again early the next morning. Two orders were picked up on Friday, one was delivered on Saturday, and the remaining two went out on Sunday. On Sunday night I collapsed in bed at 8pm and slept for 13 hours!

But as tiring and hard as the week was, it was also very satisfying. I never thought I’d ever be this busy! And I was very happy with all the end products. Two of the orders were picked up before they could be photographed (a 3D car and a grey ombre cake with fondant bow tie on top) but here are the other three cakes I made this past week.

First up is a pink ombre ruffle cake. I’m getting a lot of enquiries for ombre cakes this year. This particular cake ended up taking a lot more time than I had anticipated. This was a double barrel cake so was 6 inches tall rather than the usual 4, therefore the ruffles took ages. It took around 4 hours to make the ruffles and apply them to the cake. The bunting I made from cardboard, paper straws and baby pink ribbons. Pretty and pink!

Pink ombre ruffle cake

Pink ombre ruffle cake

The cake itself was a sponge cake that consisted of 4 different coloured layers to mimic the ombre effect of the ruffles on the exterior of the cake. It’s always time consuming having to mix up several different colours of batter, especially when you only have 2 cake tins of the correct size so you can only make up 2 layers at a time. And sponge cake is tricky as you can easily overmix when adding in food colouring.

The inside of the cake was coloured to match the outside.

The inside of the cake was coloured to match the outside. Photo supplied by client.

Next is this cute baby shower cake, which I was very fond of as I designed it myself. I love the colour combination of chocolate brown with blue and I think it is a beautiful choice for a boy baby shower cake. I was given free reign on the design of this one which I love being able to do! I opted for chocolate brown and pale blue fondant buttons, fondant ribbon and bow, bunting made from butcher’s twine with fondant flags on wooden skewers, and a super cute hand crafted gumpaste baby elephant with pale blue accents.

Button and elephant pale blue and chocolate brown baby shower cake

Button and elephant pale blue and chocolate brown baby shower cake

 

The elephant was based on a tutorial I saw on http://www.galletilandia.com – it’s not in English but the pictures are easy to follow.

The gumpaste elephant I made for the baby shower cake

The sweet gumpaste elephant I made for the baby shower cake

The last cake I want to share with you is one I’ve been wanting to make for the past 3 years – a 3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake! I was so pleased to finally get my chance. I tried using a book by Debbie Brown to make this one but I had trouble understanding her instructions so I ended up just doing my own thing. Carving it was surprisingly easy and ganaching it was surprisingly hard!

3D Thomas the Tank Engine carved out of cake ready for ganaching.

3D Thomas the Tank Engine being carved out of cake

There were a lot of details which were time consuming, but overall it’s easier than you might think (although maybe I just think that now that I’ve gotten a few carved vehicle cakes under my belt) and it was quite enjoyable to do. It was the last cake I finished of the five I had to make so I was pretty happy with how it turned out, especially considering how exhausted I was by then.

3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake

3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake

And in case you were wondering what the 3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake looks like when it’s cut up, here you go!

3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake cut up

3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake cut up

Oh No, It’s the Pinky Ponk Cake!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
3D Pinky Ponk cake

My 3D Pinky Ponk cake. The balloon and basket are made from cake, all the details apart from the foam balls are hand crafted from sugar

Now that I am a mum, I’ve suddenly found that I am making a lot more children’s cakes than I used to. This is partly because a lot of my friends have also just had children, and mostly because I’ve met so many other mothers recently through mother’s groups, playgroups, swimming classes, etc. And at each party where I’ve made the child’s birthday cake, there is almost always another mother there who likes the cake and wants one for their child’s next birthday party.

But there is nothing quite like making that first birthday cake for your own child. My little girl recently had her very first birthday party and of course I made the cake. I have to confess that part of me thought, oh man, do I have to, I’m so busy and so tired already and it’s not like she’s going to know or even care about the cake at this age! But sooooo many people have said to me that my daughter will have the best birthday cakes with me being her mum that I felt I HAD to do it. And once I got started I ended up loving it and am so glad I made the effort.

I decided to do a cake based on my daughter’s favourite TV show, In the Night Garden. I’d seen loads of cakes with Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. I’ve even made a first birthday cake before with a hand crafted sugar Makka Pakka on it. But I wanted to do something different and a little bit more challenging for my little girl. And as with most of my great ideas, I hit on the idea for this cake while mulling it over in the shower!

I decided to do a 3D Pinky Ponk cake. I had a long think about how to actually do it, and once I thought of a way to construct the cake, I was raring to go and very excited. I studied pictures and watched videos of the Pinky Ponk to get all the details right – I never thought I’d know the Pinky Ponk so intimately! Turns out it’s quite a detailed blimp. Rivets down the ends, little purple propellers scattered around the sides, rows of orange wings, round balls with lights round the middle, pink balls of different sizes on both ends of the balloon, a big pink propeller at the back – it was a lot to do!

The little propellers and orange wings were made from fondant mixed with tylose powder (in other words, gumpaste) so they would set nice and hard and be strong. I also made the large pink propeller from this homemade gumpaste. I decided to use foam balls covered in fondant for the round balls on the top and for the nose as I was concerned about the weight if they were made entirely of fondant.

Gumpaste wings drying

Gumpaste wings drying. I added the line detailing while they were still wet.

 

Gumpaste propellers drying

Gumpaste propellers drying

 

Large gumpaste propeller

Large gumpaste propeller. The hole the dry spaghetti went through to secure it to the cake was made with a skewer while still wet.

I attached the wings using royal icing. All other details were attached using dry spaghetti. The rivets were just small circles of fondant stuck to the balloon with water. The cake board was covered with fondant to look like a blue sky with white clouds (it is a flying machine after all). I cut out a door and window from fondant and stuck them onto the basket also with water. The final touch was to create a banner out of fondant and cut out some lettering for it from gumpaste. This was then attached to the basket with water.

And voila, a 3D Pinky Ponk cake is born!

Back view of my 3D Pinky Ponk cake

Back view of my 3D Pinky Ponk cake

This was definitely a challenging cake to make, but I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of time spent working out how to do certain parts of it, and sometimes the method I came up with didn’t work out and I had to think of another way to do it then start that bit over again. But now that I know what works and exactly how to make this cake I should be able to shave some time off. But it will still be a lot of work!

And I have to admit that my daughter didn’t seem to really notice or care what the cake looked like lol. However some of the slightly older children who were 2 years plus knew exactly what it was and there were many cries of, “Mum, I want a Pinky Ponk cake for MY birthday!” :).

Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

As some of you know, I started my cake decorating career while I was living in England. By the time I moved back to Australia, I was well practiced in the basics of covering a cake with my home made fondant and I could do it reasonably quickly. When we came back to Sydney, I had to start the cake business up again pretty much from scratch and build up a new client base. But that wasn’t the only thing that had to be started again. I practically had to re-learn everything I knew about covering a cake!

What I hadn’t realised is that there is a definite difference in the style of cakes in Australia vs the UK. And the methods to achieve that Australian look are very different to what I was used to. There are some cake decorators here in Oz that do use the British style, but the more high profile ones such as Planet Cake or Sweet Art make their cakes in what I think of as the Australian style. And to be quite frank, I love the Australian style of cake decorating and I much prefer it to the British way. So I was determined to learn this new art.

So what are the differences between Australian and British cakes? One of the most noticeable differences is that the cakes in Australia are taller. In England, a standard cake is 3 inches high. In Australia, the industry standard is 4 inches! This made quite a difference to my recipes and costs, as I had to increase the amount of cake batter I was using per cake to achieve that extra inch. This changed cooking time as well. There was quite a bit of experimenting to find the right ratios for ingredients to get to 4 inches and the correct cooking time and temperature to cook the cake all the way through without over baking or creating a thick crust.

Another big style difference (and this for me was the biggie) is that the cakes in Australia tend to have a sharp edge. Cakes in the UK have rounded edges. What do I mean by this? Take a look at the image below.

Sharp edge vs rounded edge on cakes

The cake on the left has a sharp edge (Australian style), the cake on the right has a rounded edge (British style)

See what I mean? To achieve this sharp edge, there are several things that are done. Firstly, instead of a buttercream crumb coat underneath the fondant, a generous coating of chocolate ganache is used as it is much firmer and stronger than buttercream. Secondly, a much thinner layer of fondant is used to cover the cake. Thirdly, after covering the cake, two fondant smoothers are used to push the top edges of the fondant on the cake out to make a nice sharp edge.

So I had to learn how to ganache a cake. Ganache is great instead of butercream under fondant as it gives a beautifully smooth finish without the lumps and bumps. However, it is quite tricky to use! You are supposed to create a very sharp edge with the ganache coating as a base for your fondant’s sharp edge, not an easy process. It was a pretty steep learning curve for me, especially since I was so used to buttercreaming cakes. It takes me a lot longer to ganache a cake than it ever did to do a buttercream crumb coat. And chocolate ganache is a lot more expensive to make than buttercream! To get a good consistency you really need to use couverture chocolate with 50-60% cocoa solids, which is quite pricey compared to compound or cooking chocolate, and lots of pure cream.

Ganched cake with sharp edge

One of my ganached cakes. Perfectly ganached cakes are essential to achieving a sharp edge with fondant.

The thin layer of fondant wasn’t such a big deal to me. In the UK a pretty thick layer of fondant is used to cover cakes to help hide the lumps and bumps as it is much harder to achieve a smooth surface on a cake with buttercream. But I have always rolled my fondant much thinner than the industry standard in the UK as I got reasonably good at achieving a fairly smooth buttercream crumb coat. A lot of cake decorators who use buttercream don’t spend as much time trying to get a smooth finish and compensate with a really thick layer of fondant. I find cakes taste much better when less fondant is used, so I worked at my buttercream crumb coating so I could use a lot less fondant. Despite already having a pretty thin layer of fondant on my cakes already, to achieve the sharp edge I did have to go a bit thinner.

I did end up having to switch to a ready made commercial fondant. The icing sugar available here in Australia is made from cane sugar. The icing sugar readily available in England is made from beets. They have quite different textures and consistencies. My tried and true fondant recipe just would not work with cane sugar. The humidity and heat in Australia didn’t help matters. I finally had to concede defeat after several months of experimenting with my fondant recipe. It was taking up way too much of my time and was fast becoming commercially unviable. After trying out several different brands of ready made fondant, I chose the one that tasted the best and was reasonable to work with. I was actually quite surprised this fondant tasted as good as my home made one!

Another thing I found was that I had to use a lot more fondant to cover my cakes, as now they were an inch taller. So for some of my larger cakes of 10″ or more, I found my non stick rolling out board wasn’t big enough anymore. I ended up investing in The Mat by Sweet Wise (more on that in another post very soon).

It takes a lot more time to cover a cake when using ganache instead of buttercream as a lot of setting time is needed, up to 3 days. Ideally you make the ganache on day 1 and leave it overnight to set. Day 2 you do your ganache coating on the cake then leave it overnight to set again. Then on day 3 you hot knife the surface and the edges for a perfect finish, then leave it to set for yet another night. With buttercream, it was pretty much a case of making the buttercream then slapping on your crumb coat straight away then covering the cake with fondant all on the one day. I do cheat a little and cut the ganaching process down a day by putting the ganached cake in the freezer for 10 minutes then doing the hot knifing.

It took me aaaaages to learn how to create the sharp edge once the fondant was on the ganached cake. I eventually worked out that you have to kind of pinch the the edge of the fondant with one smoother on the top and one on the side.

So now it takes me longer and costs me more to cover a cake. But I do feel the look of my cakes is more stylish and sophisticated since adopting this style. I love the results, like this cake below!

Anemone wedding cake in the Sydney style

One of my Sydney style cakes with 4 inch high tiers and sharp edges

 

May 2011 – What a Great Month!

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

For some reason May usually seems to be a really good month for Delicious Cake Design. May 2011 was no exception – I was absolutely thrilled and honoured for my Muppets Toy Box cake to be included in the Cake Wrecks Sunday Sweets Jim Henson Tribute. Cake Wrecks is a very famous American blog which normally posts pictures of hilariously awful cakes, but on Sundays they turn “sweet” and post pictures of amazing cakes. And my cake was one of them! Check it out here, it’s the Muppets in a toy chest cake which is about the 6th picture down the page:
http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2011/05/sunday-sweets-jim-henson-tribute.html

Apart from that great honour, in May I had a lot of fun making some interesting cakes and here are my favourites.

Garfield birthday cake

Garfield birthday cake

I’m a Garfield fan from way back and have been dying for an excuse to make a Garfield cake for ages. I was so pleased to finally get the opportunity! The head and body are made of cake. The paws, tail, ears, blanket, and facial features are all hand modelled from fondant. The black stripes on his head, in his ears, and on his tail were hand painted. I’ve been doodling pictures of Garfield since I was about 10 years old, so I knew exactly how I wanted to paint on the stripes. The box is also made of fondant and hand painted for a streaky, wood grain effect.

 

Manolo Blahnik shoebox and high heel cake

Manolo Blahnik shoebox and high heel cake

The shoebox cake with fondant/gumpaste high heel shoe is a very popular design, but this is the first time I’ve actually made it! The shoebox is made of cake and the high heel shoe is made from modelling fondant/gumpaste. Once again the edible printer proved itself useful to make the Manolo Blahnik labels. Here is a close up of the shoe:

Fondant gumpaste Manolo Blahnik high heel shoe

Fondant gumpaste Manolo Blahnik high heel shoe

I modelled the shoe on a real Manolo design and it is entirely edible apart from the diamante brooch. It was my first time to make a shoe and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

 

White peony and white lace Mother's Day cake

White peony and white lace Mother's Day cake

I made this one for my mother for Mother’s Day. I wanted to try lace stencilling with royal icing, it’s actually pretty hard to do on a round cake! In hindsight, I wish I’d attempted it on a square cake first. I was still pleased with how it turned out though. Mum loves peonies so I hand crafted a white peony from fondant/gumpaste. She saved it and keeps it in a vase in her living room. I was so pleased with how much she loved the cake!

Hand crafted white peony made from fondant gumpaste

Hand crafted white peony made from fondant gumpaste

How to Make a Sugar Gonzo

Friday, 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!

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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 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.