Saturday, June 25, 2011

Step One: Making Miniature Picnic Baskets

Happy Sunday! Today's post is all about the work that goes into making the little sugarpaste pieces that go on a custom cake. One of the most common questions I get about custom cakes is why they cost so much. A "grocery store" cake is typically a standard buttercream and takes all of 20 mins to make...not including baking time. You do a quick icing job then pipe around the cake, using a textured tip, and trim with another textured with buttercream flowers and you are done. A custom cake often has sugarpaste pieces that go on it as well as intricate piping that could take days for the pieces and hours for the piping. Today's project is an example of the work that goes into a custom sugarpaste piece. I have an order for 30 custom cupcakes coming up in two weeks so I'm working on the sugar pieces that go on top. I begin with marshmallow fondant (which is marshmallows and powdered sugar) and add tylose to it so it will dry quickly. I formed a "snake" out of it and cut more or less the same size pieces for my baskets. I rolled them into balls then, using the matt as my flat surface, I gently squared off the sides to make rectangles. Then I used the exacto knife to gently score the "lid" of the basket. Then let them dry overnight.

Step Two: Basecoat of the "paint"

Next comes the painting of the "wood" color. This is just vodka, or any clear alcohol, and gell food dye. In this case, chocolate brown was used for my primary wood coloring. This takes a few coats and you have to let them set up and sort of dry to a tacky finish between each coat. I used the exacto knife to score the center of the lid after the first coat went on so that the color of the second coat would help define the lid opening. Once again, these need to set up and dry overnight.

Step Three: Detail painting

Using a regular brown "paint" I used a detail brush to paint on the basket weave lines. I had saved my paint from the night before to help brush out anywhere the original paint color didn't cover evenly. Then I let it set up again overnight.

Final Step: Adding the "leather" straps

Day three of this project and I'm finally to the "leather" straps of the baskets. This is just a darker colored fondant that's been mixed with a whole lotta tylose so it dries very very quickly. It's rolled out thin and trimmed into a square of 3 inches wide by 4 inches long. Then that is divided into 1-1/2 inch by 4 inch sections and then strips are cut..making each strip 1-1/2 inches long. They are pressed onto the basket and using a skewer I positioned them so that they are in a "carry away" position. Then let them finish drying. You will only have a few minutes to mess with the straps before they are dry to use the skewer to arrange them into whatever position you want them very quickly.

So there are the baskets, completed and ready to go onto the mini tableclothes I made along with the flowers and grass. So before the cupcakes are even baked I have spent at least 3 hours making the pieces as well as 3 days of drying time for the handpainting. I'll post the completed cupcakes the weekend of the 9th! In the meantime all of this has to dry solid so after the cupcakes are baked and iced I can simply top them off with their mini cake toppers for presentation!

Next weekend is the weekend of the 4th...only one cake that weekend but I have grand plans! Can't wait to see how a new technique turns out!


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