Sunday, July 29, 2012

Happy Sunday! As promised today, I will be working on a sugar rose. 

I have an upcoming cake that is a "background cake" for Beauty and the Beast. I have the figurines already purchased and ready to go on the cake, now I just need the cake! 

The cake topper for this cake will be "The Rose". Because it will be "suspended" under a dome I need the rose to be rock hard before I assemble the topper piece...thus, even though the cake is not due till the 18th, I need to start work on the rose now. And here is the reason...

I love using Duff's Fondant, bought at Michaels with their 40% off coupon of course, but it is a very "soft" fondant. You have to make adjustments in your timeline in order to get it to dry out enough.
 The first thing you have to do is add tylose or gumpaste. I prefer tylose and use about a teaspoon for a small amount like this. I know, I know, it seems like a lot of tylose for such a small amount of fondant but this is VERY soft needs the tylose or you will be waiting days for the petals to dry up enough just to be able to use them!
 After kneading the tylose in very well I then roll out the fondant to about the thinness of a dime. The top of this cake is only 6 inches so I have to make sure the rose isn't too big for it. Normally I use round cutters but a piping tip worked perfectly for this size of petal.
 Once I cut them all out and removed the excess fondant I used this "ball tool" above to start ruffling the edges. 
 I use a thin foam mat and begin, in a circular motion, from the middle of the circle to the outside edges lightly pushing out and down. As the fondant gets thinner it will begin to ruffle.
 For this rose I cut out about 30 rounds. This is for two reasons. One is that this is a very compact rose style and you never know when you will go to use a petal and it will tear or bend wrong or break so you should always have back up petals just in case. I ended up using about 25 out of the 30.
 Next I made up my "glue". This is just tylose sprinkled over water and then mixed well and allowed a bit of time to "gell" up. When you first stir it into the water it will look "clumpy" like it didn't actually mix in well. Give it a few moments then stir it again. You will see it start to get clear and gell like in texture. Add more tylose or more water to get the consistency of white glue.
 Next I cut floral wire the length I think I need for my rose height. Then I rolled out a small center oval for my rose bud. I dipped the wire into the "glue" and then inserted this into the oval ball. I then let it set up for a small while. Do not rush this process or your rose will fall apart. Especially if you are working with soft fondant to begin with!
 I then began the process of adding the first petals around the oval ball to create my rose bud. I just used a paint brush to brush on a bit of glue onto the petal and then put that around the oval ball.
 This is the center of your rose. You will build up all the rest of your rose based on this center. 
 I added another petal and then let it set up for about an hour. If you rush this process then the weight of the petals and glue will drag your petals down and off your wire and just make a mess.
 Then I gradually started to build up my rose till I had a smallish size group of petals. Once again I stopped and let it dry up for about an hour.
 This is the last step before adding the final larger petals to the outside. I have about 25 petals onto the rose now and this is where I will let it set up overnight and dry.
 Normally I would have hung my rose upside down on a wire rack but I need the wire on this rose to stay straight and not have a loop on the bottom of it. So I used a small box that I put a hole into the top for the stem to poke through and then used a shallow flower cup to hold the rose while it dried overnight.
 The next morning I added the final big petals to the rose. I cut out 5 more circles of thicker fondant and then, using the ball tool, ruffled them out till they were the same thickness as the smaller petals. This makes for a uniform bottom of your rose.
 You can now see the final rose with the larger petals framing the smaller ones. For whatever reason my camera photographed this more orange than red but it is truly red.
 I then rolled out the green fondant and cut out the calyx, or bottom leaves, for the rose. I used a bit of glue in the middle and on part of the leaves and then stuck the wire right through the center. Then I started pressing the calyx to the rose.
 I also used a leaf cutter to cut out the leaf shapes. Then used the ball tool to thin them out and give more realistic edges to each one but leaving the base of the leaf thicker than the tip. I used a veining tool to make the lines. Finally I used really fine wire that I inserted into the thicker end and then let them dry.
 The first thing I did before moving on was to go look at a photo of the Beauty and the Beast rose so I could know how it is supposed to bend and where to put the leaves. It kinks in two places so I slightly bent the wire before starting with the floral tape. I began the floral tape on the top of the wire, where the wire meets the rose, and then wrapped it to the bottom and then back to the top again leaving a tail.
 Then I wired the leaves onto the stem and continued taping the stem all the way to the bottom again helping to secure the wired leaves. 
 Here it is fully wired and wrapped.
Storing this rose, while it dries, was an interesting problem. I finally ended up getting chopsticks that are not broken apart but separated just enough to hold up the rose where it meets the taped wire and then suspended those off a bucket tall enough so the stem doesn't touch the surface and then weighted the chopsticks down to make sure they stay secure. They will sit like this until it is time to assemble the cake top.  When that times comes, more wire will be inserted into the stem from the bottom and then down into a stir stick which will be into the cake. This will hold the rose a small way up from the surface of the cake to give the illusion of it being suspended under the dome on top of the cake.

Hope this tutorial helped you to understand how to make a sugar flower...or at least what goes into the process of making one. If you have ANY questions just leave them in the comments section and I'll do my very best to help!

See you next week with a sugar bear tutorial!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Happy Sunday! This week is all about Baby Showers! The trend for showers in the past 5 years has been "bigger is better". Due to the economy lots of families are using showers and weddings as a replacement for family reunions. So the entire family gets invited, has a great "event" together, usually in an event space with catering, big cake, etc. But not all Mom's-to-be are wanting or needing a huge shower. It may just be a few friends around a coffee table in their mom's house. We don't believe that this means you should have to give up the adorable cake! Just scale it down a bit.

This "Cute as a Button" cake would be the perfect version if you only have 10 people to feed but still want an adorable cake to serve. It is a 6 inch cake which feeds 15 so you would have a few leftovers for later! Lemon chiffon with fresh strawberry preserves filling, covered in vanilla buttercream first and then fresh vanilla marshmallow frosting. So good that everyone will be going "MMMmmmmm" after you serve it!

The "secret" to this cake is the buttons. They are SO easy you are going to wonder why you haven't used this idea before! Just use a small round cutter in the size you want the buttons to be to cut out the colored fondant. Then use a slightly smaller cutter to gently press the inside circle down into the larger circle. Finally use either a fondant tool, which is what I did, or a skewer or a toothpick to make the holes in the buttons. Easy to use royal icing to crisscross them like they are "sewed" to the cake if you want to add that detail. We didn't do that here so you could see the holes clearly. SO easy! Just let them dry for a bit...I think we let them dry for about an hour...then place them on the cake with a bit of water for "glue". 

Today's cake was a "teaching cake". I was teaching how to make fresh fondant and how to use it on a real cake. This did double duty for me as it allowed my student to learn a few new fondant techniques but also allowed my client, the next day, to sample one of my cakes at her tasting. Normally I teach on a styrofoam "dummy" cake which gives the student a more sturdy surface to learn upon but since I need the cake for a tasting I figured this was also a good way for the student to learn how to work with real cake as their base.

Normally, for small cakes such as shower cakes, I don't need to do a tasting. Chances are they are clients who have either attended an event and tasted my cake or have heard from clients how good the cake is and thus don't require a tasting. Wedding cake clients always get a tasting! However, this is a new client and she was dubious about the taste of fondant. All she had tasted, up to this point, is the type of fondant that some bakeries get from a tub. Now the problem with that is the tub could have been sitting on a shelf for months before it was purchased by the bakery and then sitting on the bakery shelves for awhile before it was used on your cake. Think about the taste of freshly baked bread compared to bread that you get at the store, sliced and in bags. The sliced bread tastes ok but the fresh baked bread is amazing! Always ask the bakery or the caker, that you use when their fondant was made. If it has been made in the past two weeks then it will still have that fresh taste to it. Any older and you start to lose that wonderful taste and texture of fresh fondant. I make my fondant the same week as the cake is made. So freshly baked cake with freshly made fondant. It makes all the difference in the world!

The other thing I do is use the best ingredients I can. Unless your health requires you to go gluten or sugar or dairy free, then this is not the time for substitutions. Let your weight loss wait a day and go for the treat. However if you DO have an allergic reaction to gluten, sugar or dairy, make sure to tell your baker. We do have ways to make your cake the way you need it and still taste good. As good as our full fat, dairy and gluten included cakes? Well, no, but still very very good. And everyone should be able to have cake!

See you next week! I am working on "piece work" the next two weeks. I have a few cakes that need figures or flowers so as I work on them I'll be taking photos so that you guys can have tutorials! I'll post the first one of these next Sunday!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy Sunday! I'm on vacation this week so I thought, with no cake to share, I would share another part of Caking...the filling! You can let your imagination fly when it comes to what to put between your cake layers. In fact, you can mix it up from tier to tier even, using the same cake flavor and different fillings!

The cake pictured above is actually a "cake favor". These were packaged up and given as favors for those attending a baby shower. The Mom to Be chose yellow cake with lemon glaze for each guest. I have a 3 inch pan so it was easy enough to bake the mini cakes quickly and then boxed them up in favor boxes tied with ribbon. So you don't even "need" a filling if you don't want to use one!

Glazes are really easy to do. Primarily powdered sugar and milk or juice, a glaze goes together quickly and inexpensively and is almost impossible to mess up. Here is my favorite recipe for this lemon glaze that has real lemon zest in it. 

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice 
2 tablespoons lemon zest

Just mix the ingredients all together with a fork and pour over the freshly baked cake! It makes about a cup and a half so just double or triple the recipe as needed. This will make more than enough for an 8 inch round 2 inch high cake.
Something I do every year is make jam. I just finished this batch of strawberry jam and will be making apricot jam next week. I try to keep fresh jam around for the entire year and have been known to make up new jars when I get an order for a cake with this filling. The one thing you have to be aware of is that jam is very sweet so you have to pair it with a cake that isn't so sweet. I love using my apricot jam to fill a dark chocolate cake. The more bitter dark chocolate along with the sweet apricot is a joy that has to be tasted to be believed...and once you do, you will be hooked! Here is my favorite jam recipe!

Fresh Strawberry Jam

Copyright 2004, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
Prep Time:
10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
20 min
2 pints


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved


Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the strawberries and continue to cook over very low heat for 20 minutes, until the strawberries release some of their juices and the mixture boils slowly. Cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate. (I keep one in the freezer.) This is at about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour carefully into 2 pint canning jars and either seal or keep refrigerated.

A note about making jam. I choose to not use pectin (a preservative) in my jams. I like the fact that my fillings are all natural. To do this, however, you must can them properly. There are a lot of canning sites online that will walk you through this process but here is an extra tip. Often you will be told to just put the jam into the jars and refrigerate it...that you don't need to "process" it. I always process mine. This means that after you put the jam into your jars you then put them into a "water bath" (heavy duty pan filled almost to the top with hot water...submerge the jars all the way or to the lips after putting the lids on) and let them boil for about 15 minutes until the cap "pops". This is when you know your jam is sealed from air and bacteria.  If, for some reason, the lid doesn't pop you will want to use that jam immediately. Otherwise you can leave the unopened jars in your refrigerator for up to six months.  Once you pop the seal make sure you use the jam within 3 weeks.
Lemon curd is another wonderful filling to use when incorporated into your buttercream for the filling. This is not a recipe I have been able to master so far, but I keep trying. Instead I usually purchase a particular jarred English lemon curd from my local tea shop for this filling. So don't feel badly if you don't make your own fillings fresh. I prefer to use fillings from scratch because I want to keep additives and preservatives out of my cakes but it is not always possible. Just be choosy when you do select which jams to use. Try not to use sugar free (which often has some sort of chemical sweetener in it), use seedless and read the labels to keep the artificial additives down to a minimum.
Last word on fillings. When you are getting ready to use a filling like a jam or preserves, and I'll explain the difference in a moment, you will want to make sure that you make a ring of stiff icing to act as a dam between your filling and the outside of your cake. Just mix a bit of extra powdered sugar into your buttercream and then put that into a piping bag without a tip. Go around the outside of your layer and make a complete solid ring. Then put the filling inside the ring.
So, in case you were wondering, preserves are big chunks of the fruit with very little "sauce" used. Jam is where the fruit has been crushed during the process and more "sauce" is included with the fruit into the jars. Jelly is all sauce with the fruit pieces strained from the sauce before it is placed into the jars. This turns out looking see through in the end. 

I hope you will be inspired to make your own fillings but, if not, then maybe just think outside of the box when choosing fillings for your next cake project!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Happy Sunday! Hope all of you here in the USA enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July! This week brought a birthday for a client who was born on the 4th of July. Like being born on Christmas you can either choose to remove your birthday from the holiday or completely embrace it. She completely embraces it! 

She's also a Betty Boop fan. When we were discussing the design of the cake she already knew it had to be red, white and blue. When she said she loved Betty Boop I just knew I had to go find the Patriotic Betty that I had seen awhile ago. I found her and let my client know that if she wanted to use that I could work that into the design. She loved Patriotic Betty and the idea that she could keep a part of her cake after the party.

I've mentioned this before but in case you are just "tuning in" for the blog I'll quickly cover it again. Each character created is copyrighted. I would need to pay licensing rights if I copied the character in fondant or drawings in order to use the copyrighted "image" and sell the cake. Now if I am just making a cake for a family birthday, like my granddaughters Mickey hat birthday cake, then I can make the character...I'm not selling it. But when it comes to a clients cake I have to make what is known as a "background" cake. So that is exactly what this one is.

The cake is a lemon chiffon with raspberry filling. The bottom is an 8 inch, the top a 4 inch. It feeds 32 people. The blue and white fondant covering it is my homemade fresh marshmallow fondant. I never make the fondant more than a few days ahead of time because I want it to taste as yummy as possible. A lot of the fondant you may have tasted in the past is a packaged fondant that is sold in huge tubs and could have been sitting on the shelf for months. As fondant goes stale it ends up being a sort of papery tasting gum. It's stale and chewy. Not good. Fresh fondant tastes like vanilla and sugar. It's delicious. 

Because I'm not a fan of packaged fondant I am extremely picky when I have to use it. Black and red fondant is very hard to make. It takes a ton of food dye which ends up making the fondant taste like chemicals. Not what you want going onto a cake. I have tried several brands and the one I fell in love with is Duff Goldman's. It doesn't taste stale or like chemicals. In fact, the black tastes like really good tootsie rolls! Whenever I need red or black I go to Michael's and use their 40% off coupon, it's $20 for about 3 cups of fondant so the 40% off is important!

A cake like this is labor intensive. All the stars have to be cut out and the lines all made and then comes the rolling of the fondant "marbles" for the trim. It isn't hard, it just takes a lot of time. Unfortunately none of this can be done ahead of time because it needs to be soft and yummy for eating. If fondant is set out too soon it begins to harden up. This is great for fondant items that you want to stand up or stick out but not for fondant you want to cut with the cake slices. 

As you can see, the cake is offset to allow room for Betty to take center stage. This is stacked just like a regular stacked cake with dowels under the cake board. It is also staked with a dowel right down the center to keep it stable for transport. What is different is the "fireworks". Those are metal so they can not come in contact with the cake. In order to use them you have to insert food grade holders down into the frosting and then insert the metal decorations down into those tubes. I use coffee stirrers but you can use cocktail straws or regular straws if need be. Fortunately these are completely inexpensive and come in huge quantities so I always have them on hand whether I need to use 2 or 20. 

The client was very happy with her cake. She loved Betty playing center stage as well. I have to say that, while the cake would have been a great patriotic cake all by itself, Betty made the cake! 

See you all next Sunday!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Sunday! This week brought a different sort of treat! We had a family picnic yesterday and each family was required to bring one type of homemade cookie. This made a cookie bar for the whole family of all sorts of cookies from chocolate chip to lemon bars to my own "Chocolate Crack". Leftovers were divided up and sent home with each family so we could enjoy the different types of cookies when we got home again!

Chocolate Crack started out named Chocolate Crackers because it was made with a base of Saltine Crackers and then got shortened from there to "Crack". Like the drug, it's hard to stop eating these, they are SO good they are almost addicting. It's a toffee bar covered in chocolate on top of graham crackers....YUM! The wonderful thing about them is that they are not expensive and are very very easy to make! Once a year I share this recipe so I'm passing it on again here...

Chocolate Crack


  • 1 foil lined and PAM sprayed cookie sheet
    1 box graham crackers
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1 cup (2 sticks) real butter (if you use unsalted like I do then add ½ tsp salt)
    1 bag choco chips


Place crackers on a large cookie sheet, completely covering the bottom in a single layer. You can break up the crackers to fit. Pre-heat oven to 350. Put brown sugar and butter (and salt if needed) into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir frequently with wooden spoon while butter is melting. Once it starts to boil stir constantly for 5 minutes. Immediately pour over graham crackers. Smooth out as evenly as possible to cover all of the crackers. Bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven and sprinkle the whole bag of choco chips over the hot crackers. Wait about 30 seconds for chips to melt then spread like icing over entire pan of crackers. Place immediately into fridge or freezer and let them cool till rock hard. Once completely cooled break the crackers up into roughly 2×2 pieces. 

As mentioned above, you can use Saltines instead of Graham Crackers. You can also use margarine instead of butter but butter makes it more rich. I used a combo of milk and white chocolate chips but you can use whatever chips make you happy. Make sure you make these when you have a group of people to feed or you will end up eating the whole pan by yourself. 

Next week, of course, is the 4th of July, America's Independence Day. I'm working on a very Patriotic Birthday Cake for a client so you will get to see it next Sunday in the blog. Have a great week and, if you are in the USA, have fun celebrating!