Archive for the ‘Rolled Fondant/Sugarpaste’ Category

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


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!

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.

Merry Christmas from Delicious Cake Design!

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

I’ve been neglecting the Delicious Cake Design blog, very naughty of me! But hopefully Santa will forgive me as I have been extremely busy making cakes to celebrate Christmas like the one below.

Christmas cake with trees, snowflakes and snowman

Christmas cake with trees, snowflakes and snowman

I am turning my hand to making Christmas cakes that are NOT fruit cakes. The cake pictured above is actually a butter cake (my most popular cake). Butter cake is fantastic as it is delicious and keeps for a reasonable amount of time (about 3 – 5 days if stored in an air tight container, whereas sponge cake must be eaten on the day). I had a lot of fun making this cake, I am a huge fan of Christmas so decorating this cake whilst listening to Michael Buble crooning Christmas carols was such a joy. The only thing missing was the log fire!

I also got to use my Snowflake edible lustre powder, which is an edible glittery powder in a lovely silver-blue. As the name suggests, it’s perfect for dusting on snowflakes to give them a wonderful glitter and shine. I also used a snow drift tool to make marks in the icing for snow drifts, and I handpainted the snowman in the forefront. Rolled fondant was shaped on the cake board to look like snow piled on the board.

Traditionally fruit cake is used to make Christmas Cakes, but here at Delicious Cake Design, we are not big fans of fruit cake! In fact, I have only ever had one request for a fruit cake this year. Interestingly enough, the majority of people I’ve encountered don’t like fruit cake and will only opt for it out of a sense of tradition rather than because they like it – they think they “have to” as it’s traditional. When I tell wedding clients that these days it’s more than acceptable to serve sponge or chocolate cakes instead of fruit cake, they are ecstatic!

I also made some ultra yummy cupcakes for Christmas. These were for my Facebook Fan competition winners.

Christmas cupcakes

Christmas cupcakes

As I am so full of the Christmas spirit, I ran a competition for all the fans of Delicious Cake Design on Facebook. Two names were drawn at random out of a hat and these lucky winners each received half a dozen Christmas themed Strawberry & Cream Cheese cupcakes with Cheesecake Cream Frosting. These are my favourite cupcakes, so I made a few extra for us to have at home, which my other half Nick was extremely pleased about.

The response to these cupcakes was overwhelmingly positive, with the winners commenting “Beautiful cupcakes!” and “these are the best cupcakes we’ve ever had!”

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning free cupcakes, cakes or cookies, why not become a fan of Delicious Cake Design on Facebook!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

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

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Hello everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hobbyist Days: My First-Time Fondant (Sugarpaste) Making Disaster

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

The first time I made my own rolled fondant (referred to in the UK as sugarpaste) was an absolute disaster.

This was before I started Delicious Cake Design and took up cake decorating seriously. I’d agreed to make a friend’s birthday cake for a party and decided to give cake decorating with fondant a go.

Being from Australia, I was a devotee of the Women’s Weekly cook books. I had a copy of a Women’s Weekly cake decorating book so I decided to use their rolled fondant recipe, which certainly looked easy enough in the book and had only 2 steps to follow.

I thought I’d followed the recipe exactly, but I had a hell of a time using the liquid glucose which was just too damn thick and would not come out of the bottle. The glucose, glycerine, and gelatine-melted-in-water congealed after I mixed them all together so I had a mostly gelatinous lump of goo, and I ended up heating them on the stove to return them to liquid form. Stirring the now liquid (but very hot) mixture into the icing sugar left me with an incohesive, crumbling mess which just would not come together at all.

I tried adding water, which didn’t seem to help all that much, (I now know of course that adding water is the last thing you want to do as it dissolves the sugar). So then I started adding in globs of liquid glucose. This seemed to help, but I kept adding more and more till it resembled lumpy porridge. It clung to my hands in big clumps making them look like a melting wax work. I was nearly in tears.

Not wanting to give up though, I decided the sensible thing to do was to reduce it’s liquidness, so I started adding more icing sugar. Eventually it came together, though it was very stiff and VERY sweet. BUT it was at least kneadable and I could roll it out (though it was a lot of hard work with such a stiff mixture!). Luckily it was just a practice batch. The next batch I made, I decided to ignore the recipe and make my own one based on the experience I’d gained through the disasterous first batch. Being a baker for many years, I also decided to trust my own instincts, and it turned out much much better!

I have now of course developed my own rolled fondant recipe through a lot of trial and error, which makes fondant that is much more flexible and easy to use. And of course, tastes great!

I am curious though, I wonder what other people’s first-time-fondant horror stories are? And has anyone else used the Women’s Weekly recipe successfully (I’m more than willing to admit I could have been a muppet and done something completely wrong!)?