Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy Sunday and Happy 11th Birthday to our son Jack! We had an Angry Birds Party for him at our local pizza place so I made an Angry Birds cake for him.

I sat down with him, like all of my clients, and worked out with him what he wanted and didn't want on his cake. Then I sketched it out for him and after a little tweaking here and there we came up with this design.

A word about copyright. Something like a Disney Character or, in this case, Angry Birds, is copyrighted material. This means that if I want to use the theme I have to purchase licensed merchandise to put on the cake. I am not allowed to make the character out of frosting or fondant or candy. Now here is the loophole. For my sons cake, because I wasn't selling the cake, I could have made the birds. The copyright law states that you can not make the characters FOR SALE. However, because I wanted to be able to share this cake with all of you...and clients who may want something similar to this...I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that I have to work within the copyright laws. The upside to this is the Angry Birds set that I found was actually keychains! I removed the "chain" part, cleaned the birds before placing them on the cake, and then after serving the cake I cleaned the birds up and reattached the chains and gave them out as favors! So cute! 

Cakes like this are called "background" cakes and Supermarkets have been working inside the copyright laws for decades by making background cakes and placing licensed characters on top. With a custom cake we cakers like to take it a step further.

Instead of a sheet cake I built a scene around a sheetcake cake board instead. There were only to be 15 people at the party so I knew a 6x3 would be plenty of cake for everyone. So I made the round, covered it in the green fondant and placed it on one end of the cake board. Then, using KitKat candy sticks, my son's favorite, I built the shelters for the pig characters. I used melted chocolate as my glue for this because these had to be able to stand on their own and be stacked. They also had to be sturdy enough to make it to the pizza place without falling over. The melted chocolate easily made them stick together as one piece and to the board. Once these were built and on the board I used a grass tip and piped all the grass onto the top of the "knoll" and all over the board. This further braced the shelters.

Now to add the birds and a slingshot. I used plain white fondant with a bit of tylose added in to make the slingshot. I just moulded it by hand so it wouldn't have a smooth look to it. Then I used a fondant detail tool to carve the wood lines into the fondant while it was still fairly soft. Since I needed it to stand up to dry (laying it flat would mean one side would be flat) I inserted a skewer into the handle of the slingshot and then curved floral wire and inserted a piece in each side of the top prongs. I then took a small bottle filled with sugar and stuck the skewer into that and let it dry overnight. Then I started painting with brown gel color and vodka to create the wood look. This took several coats to get the right look. The trick is not to make the coats look even. You want a finish that is all different tones of brown. Pay attention to the lines as well when you are painting since real wood would be darker inside those lines. This took two days since the "paint" has to dry between coats. 

One last tip on the slingshot. The handle was made longer than it needed to be in order to look real. This was so it could be inserted down INTO the cake and have the cake to brace it so it could stand up without toppling over. I trimmed the skewer and then a good two inches of painted slingshot were down into the cake. It never moved during the delivery!

I used toothpick pieces inserted into the end of the licorice whips and then into the handle of the slingshot after painting and then used a bit of bent floral wire to hold it down into the cake. I covered that with the "pouch" of black fondant then used frosting to "glue" the bird into the pouch. 

The birds and pigs were either set into frosting or glued on with melted chocolate so that they wouldn't go rolling off of the shelters. They were very solid on the cake and on the shelters this way.

The last touches were piping the yellow wording on and adding a candle for the Birthday Boy to make a wish upon. The cake itself was lemon with vanilla buttercream...his favorite!

The Birthday Boy with his Birthday Pizza. He had a really really good time at his party!

Next week is an early Mother's Day cake! Can't wait to share it with you!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Sunday! Hope your weekend has been a good one. I went on a Boy Scout Camping Trip. Now this may sound like a lot of work but our sons Troop is a "Boy Run" troop. This means the adults are either teachers, helping the boys get achievements, or they are there for safety reasons. This also means that most of the time you are just hanging out on your own...relaxing. Yup...relaxing! Unheard of, right? LOL! So while it was great we had to come back to the real world that includes things like electronics, showers and, yes, cakes!

This "Turntable" cake was for a client's boyfriend. He is a DJ so she wanted to go with that theme. I researched a lot of cakes and the one thing I didn't like about most of them is that they had really rounded corners. This is due to draping the fondant over the cake like a sheet. It rounds the corners and, unless you do a lot of work smoothing them, you don't end up with nice crisp squared off corners. Unless you "panel" your cake instead. 

This is what I chose to do in order to get this to look like a real rectangular turntable. I used Duff's Black Fondant, which is my preferred fondant when I have a black, red or bright colored cake. The issue is that it is a really "soft" fondant so it tends to stretch when you pick it up unless you let it sit and dry out a bit. I didn't want to take that time so what I did was to cut the strips I wanted, lightly dust them with powdered sugar, and then rolled them up and then unrolled them onto the side of the cake. Once I had it smoothed down with a smoothing tool to the cake I then trimmed the top and sides to make them even and straight. After each side was done I finally put down the top panel and smoothed it into place. Finally I added corner "guards" and trim.

There are a few ways to make a cake "shiny". I wanted this to look matt but have a gleam to it so I simply used a teeny bit of crisco and a wide brush to paint it onto the surface. The crisco "melts" any left over powdered sugar and then sinks into the fondant helping to make it have a bit of sheen as well as keep it soft. You can use an edible lacquer to make it really shiny if you are looking for a "plastic" finish. With most cakes a bit of water will help make it shiny as well. Not a high shiny finish like the edible lacquer but more shiny than the crisco method. The problem is that you have to be really sure to get the coating even but keep it really light as well. Too much water and you melt your fondant, not enough and you get blotchy, not shiny. With white fondant I tend to use water, with darker fondant I tend to use crisco. I have yet to need the edible lacquer but I hear it's an amazing finish!

Except for the actual turntable part of the cake I made all of the other pieces a week in advance. That was to allow me time to get them really solidly dry and stiff but also to allow me to paint them in several coats. For all of the silver pieces I did start out with light gray fondant so it made it a bit easier but even so it took about 3 coats of silver to make it really look metallic. The record is still Duff's Black Fondant but I added a bunch of tylose and then rolled it out thin and cut it into the circle. I then used other circle cutters to make the  track sections. Finally, when it was totally dry I used crisco and a paint brush to make the "lines" on the record. Last touch was the "label" which I let dry for a day before adding it to the record. This was so it wouldn't change shape as I was adding it on but stay nice and round. Then I was ready for the wording.

There is an inedible part of the cake that you can't see. The "arm spring" is actually black fondant wrapped around a mini plastic cup. I needed something really sturdy to hold up the arm. Nothing I tried was looking the way I wanted it to look so finally I decided I needed something solid to do the trick. It worked perfectly!

As you may notice, this is actually a "tiered" cake. There is the rectangular tier and then the round tier on top. It is supported just like you would any tiered cake, with dowels and a cake board. The round cake was baked, carved and covered all by itself and then added onto the other tier after the silver "paint" was totally dry. The round tier was topped with black fondant, the sides were the gray fondant that I added indentions to before painting silver. After it was on the bottom tier I added the black rope trim to help adhere it to the "case" and make it all more stable. 

A word about transporting. I added some crinkled up Press & Seal under the "Arm" to hold it in place for the 150 mile delivery. It was very sturdy but the vibrations of the freeway can jiggle pieces loose so I wanted to make sure it would make it to the client ok. In fact, right where the arm meets it's housing there was a teeny crack beginning to form so I'm sure that if I had not supported it then that crack would have been huge, not teeny, by the time we reached the clients home. So make sure that if you are making a cake that has this type of "hanging" decorative piece on it that you support it for any transportation.

This upcoming week brings our 10 yr old son his 11th Birthday Cake! It has an Angry Birds theme and I can't wait to share it with you!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Monday! Yup, I'm a day late. We spent the weekend celebrating our grandson's 1st birthday! The cake above is Parker's smash cake as well as the family cake for a dinner we had after his party. The cake was displayed at his party but cupcakes were handed out to the guests...more on that later.

Parker is a tall boy so "giraffe" has always fit him very well but he is also mischievous so a monkey fit him well. So I created "Rupert" the giraffe and "Murray" the monkey for his cake.  Because these are made from fondant with a bit of tylose mixed in, you have to let them dry for at least a few days before they can be used on the cake. It's not as tricky as you think! Like playing with clay or playdough, you just work the fondant into the shapes you want them to be then stick them together with a bit of water as glue. For Rupert's head and horns I did use toothpick bits to help them stick more securely while they were bonding together. The last step is always the handpainting to give the character a bit more depth.

The cakes are both lemon chiffon. Since he was a newborn Parker has loved lemon so it was fairly easy for his Mom to pick out which cake would be his 1st birthday cake flavor! With this cake I learned a new lesson. Normally I use C&H pure cane sugar because where I shop it happens to be affordable. However, this time I wasn't where I normally shop and just bought the store brand powdered sugar. What I didn't know is that the buttercream and fondant I was to make were not going to be quite the same because the store brand is "sugar beet" sugar. From the taste you can not tell the difference but how it handles you can really tell the difference. The buttercream stayed "grainy" for quite awhile. Once it had set for a day the granules finally dissolved and by the time of the party you couldn't tell the cupcake frosting was "grainy". The fondant was really really "soft". This means you have to work a lot more powdered sugar into the fondant to make it stiff enough to use. Otherwise is stretches and tears really easily. So lesson learned. Whenever shopping for powdered sugar make sure it's Pure Cane Sugar. If it doesn't say it's Pure Cane Sugar then chances are good it is made from sugar beets. Good for your coffee, not good for your buttercream!

While the fondant was a challenge to work with it wasn't impossible to make this light green fondant for the family cake with a forest of palm fronds for Murray to hide behind! And the Smash cake was just two star tips with vanilla buttercream that had been colored golden yellow and brown. Start off with the brown stars to make your spots and the number and then fill in with the yellow. Trim with the brown to set off the yellow as well as to secure it to the tier below.

As with all stacked cakes, even one that is only a 4 inch on top of a 7 inch, you need to make sure your structure is right. Between tiers there are 4 dowels and a cake board as well as a long dowel inserted from the top of the smash cake down to the cake board on the very bottom of both cakes. This adds a lot of stability, especially since this cake had to travel 150 miles! Rupert went into his own little padded case to make the trip and was placed on top at the venue.

The last piece was his banner. This is really just scrapbooking stuff. Triangles of paper with the letters glued on then sewed with a needle and thread and attached with some glue stick glue to skewers which then were inserted into the tier and down through the cake almost to the bottom of the smash cake so there would be no issue of it falling over. 

Finally you will notice that I didn't use a standard cake "drum", one of those silver foil covered cake bases that I normally use, but neither did I use a standard cake plate or stand either. I wanted to continue the "jungle" type theme and this woven reed serving platter just seemed to fit the bill. I wanted to highlight this so you might use some of your own serving platters or plates to dress up your own cakes! So look around your own cabinets next time and see what you might be able to use that may add a bit more "design" to your cake!

Parker loved his cake. He dug right in and took out a chunk of it! Just what you would hope for the birthday boy! You will be able to check out the rest of his party at our Cherry blog later today including a look at the cupcakes from the Movie Theater Party!!

Have a great week! It is a week off for me but I did also make a carved cake last week so this upcoming Sunday I'll share that one with you!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter Sunday! This week brought a Hawaiian Themed Bridal Shower Cake. The Happy Couple are being married next month on Oahu so the Bridal Shower was all Island themed. She did such a wonderful job with the shower I thought I'd share some of the tips here as well as her cake so you can get an idea how it fit into the whole look of the party. 

First off, the cake was a soft vanilla cake with strawberries and cream filling. Then covered in vanilla fondant and decorated with fondant "bamboo" that was handpainted and topped with fondant hibiscus. The handpainting of the bamboo takes time so make sure you are not leaving that for the last minute. I used a green with yellow added for the first coat and then while still wet I went over that with a brownish yellow and then while still wet went over that with a brown. To do this so it really looks like bamboo you want to paint it like it is a watercolor and make each layer of color heavier in some places, lighter in others so that it is not all a solid color in the end. 

To make the bamboo I used a mold. You form your fondant into a small snake, press it into the mold that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Then I trimmed the excess away and used water to glue it onto the cake. 

The flowers were a bit of a challenge. I had never made a hibiscus before and none of the cake shops had any sugar hibiscus that actually looked like hibiscus. So I studied some photos and then just sort of winged it. I did get some help from a teacher when I found it hard to join the petals together. She suggested using a shallow cup and then place a marble size piece of fondant in the center and stick the stamen into that. It worked beautifully! I then used luster dust (like paint in the centers and dry dusted the petals) to add a bit more depth to the flowers. They matched her colors perfectly.
 Here is a photo of me and the Bride to Be at the Cake Table. You will notice a slight difference in the cake shown at the beginning of the blog and the one in the photo here. I ended up having to move a flower to cover up a spot where the strawberry filling was beginning to break through the soft fondant! This was due to the "dam" breaking. You want to make a ring of stiff buttercream around the filling to help stop this from happening but, I'm guessing in this case, the dam was softened up by the fresh strawberries in that one spot. Once I moved the flower the cake looked perfect again and no one noticed!
 Here are the matching water bottles that my business partner Tory made for the party. SO cute and they matched the drink cups just perfectly! Exactly the right shade of fuschia that was on the cups!
 They did SUCH a wonderful job on the food table. There were tea sandwiches (chicken and tarragon, roast beef with horseradish, egg salad and cucumber with dill) which were all amazing! Then there were scones and little appetizers as well as fresh fruit, salad and fruit dip. Later there were the Brides famous appetizers as well as lumpia served. After the cake everyone was definitly "rolly" as they left the party!
 These adorable favors are actually hair clips! Each guest was given one as they left the party...mine went straight into my hair! Too cute! 
 One really adorable touch was this His and Hers Towel Cake. The closest I had seen to this idea was one made from kitchen towels for a housegoods themed shower. This made such a cute centerpiece for the food table.
These just-to-cute Bride and Groom bears were the topper for the towel "cake" and just such a little adorable and perfect detail. Simply romantic. 

My thanks to the Bride for allowing me to stay after I delivered the cake. Since she is a friend of Tory's, I didn't need to be invited but I'm certainly glad I was. We both had such a great time and it was fun to hear that everyone loved the cake and to be able to have a slice of it! Yummy!

Next week brings me a carved cake as well as our grandson's first birthday cake. I'll be featuring the carved cake in this blog and you'll get a photo of the other one in our "Cherry" blog on Monday next week. Then I'll go into detail about the cake and cupcakes in the cake blog the Sunday after that. Lots to talk about with both of these cakes so I'll spread them out!

See you next week!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Sunday! This past week brought a wedding cake! As beautiful as it is, it brought up the subject of structure in a stacked cake and what the process is to create a custom cake for the client and for the artist.

My only guidelines here were that they wanted black and white with red accents. I did know that the Bride was carrying red roses so that is what I decided to go with. There are three types of clients. Those who know exactly what they want and have photos to back it up. Those who have a general outline of what they want. And those who have no idea and just trust me that I will put something beautiful on their party tables for them. Logic would suggest that the first type would be the most difficult for an artist but it is, in fact, the last one that is the challenge. The first and second types at least give you an idea of what they want and like. The last one has no guidelines at all. To be fair, the last type is usually a returning client who I have had the pleasure of getting to know during their past I usually have at least a little to go on before I design the cake. In all cases I sketch up 3-4 cake designs to see which one works for them and they pick out what they like or want to change or combine from those designs for their final cake.

In making this cake the challenge really was working with the soft black fondant. I use Duff's brand black fondant and I simply love it. It is a true black, not a dark purple, and it tastes like toostie rolls! The only drawback when you are working with it, for decorations on a cake, is that it is very soft and even adding tylose doesn't help a whole lot to make it solid. When covering an entire cake it's wonderful and easy to work with so I highly recommend it for that purpose. 

The soft details like the ovals on the second tier were very easy to make. I used a "rose petal" cutter that has 5 teardrop shaped ovals on it. I just cut them apart, making a point at one end, and then placed them onto the cake in small groups. But the ruffles were harder. Especially the cake top. For that I cut out rounds of the fondant and then laid them over mini tart pans and let them set up from there. It took 2 days for them to set up enough to be stacked on top of eachother and hold the ruffle design so be patient and give yourself enough time for this type of decoration with black fondant. The side ruffles are just strips of black fondant that I then "accordianed" into ruffles and then, overlapping at the seams, tucked them around the edges of the cake. The black trim strips are actually grosgrain ribbon and were removed before cutting since they are not edible.

Lastly are the roses. These are royal icing roses that I created and then let dry for several days until they were rock hard. For thin royal icing designs you may only have to wait a few hours for them to be solid but for something as thick as a rose it will take days to have them dry out enough to lift onto a cake. If you don't want to wait for this to happen, chances are your local craft or cake store will have them premade for you. Unfortunately they don't taste good so remove them before serving.

Now...structure. With a tiered cake the rule of thumb is to add support for every 4 inches of cake. I start with a cake board then cake then place 4 dowels into the top of that tier. I allow those to just barely stick above the fondant and then place down another cake board on top for the next tier. I repeat this for as many tiers that I have except for the top tier. Then I put one very long dowel into the top of the cake and push it down to the bottom. This dowel has been sharpened so that it will pierce through the cake boards on it's way down to the bottom board. This allows your cake to be more solid for transportation. What is really holding your cake up is the boards and dowels. The tiers are resting on the dowels, not eachother. The only time I change this procedure up is if I am making a particularly large cake. Then I use a system called SPS. The dowels are large plastic dowels and they interlock into the base plates from top to bottom. A very sturdy way to hold up a very large stacked cake. If I am transporting the cake out of town I will use my Cake Safe and instead of using the center wooden dowel I use the steel dowel that comes with the safe. It holds the cake rock steady for the entire trip. I have used this with a 5 tier cake for over 140 miles and the cake arrived just as it left! A simply wonderful invention for cake makers!

This upcoming week brings sugar flowers and a Bridal Shower cake. I simply can NOT wait for the Bride to Be to see this cake! I will share it with you next Monday since Sunday is Easter!