Happy Sunday! This past week I was lucky enough to create a big occasion cake for a regular client and her husband. They were celebrating 15 years of happy married life!
The past two cakes I have done for this family have had Chinese characters on them. Now, while I'm not going to even pretend that I am learning the language, I am learning how to write it a bit easier on cakes! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The cake is a rich vanilla cake with passionfruit filling. The cake is the easy part, the filling takes time...lots of time. First you have to get the passionfruit puree (I get mine at BevMo) and then you boil it down until starts to look like a thick syrup. The great part of this is that it makes the entire kitchen smell amazing! Once it reaches the syrup stage you need to turn off the burner and let it completely cool down. And I do mean "completely"! This needs to be totally cold when you mix it with the buttercream or it will cause the buttercream to separate. Sadly, I know this from experience. I boil down a half cup of puree and what is left over is about 1/4 cup of syrup. I use half of this in the 1 cup of buttercream and the rest I brush onto the cake layers before smoothing the buttercream mix for the filling.
After crumbcoating the cake I let it settle and thaw out overnight. This is usually where the decorating begins. However there was a small hitch. I work in a very cold kitchen. Heat and humidity are awful for fondant. It makes it very stretchy and hard to work with so I keep the A/C on and keep it down to about 68 degrees. This works for me as well as the fondant because kneading and rolling the fondant is hard and hot work. However, in this case, the A/C went out the morning of the decorating....during a heatwave! Fortunately I start work early in the morning before it got terribly hot and there was a huge fan that helped as well. Unfortunately it meant that it was harder to cover with the white fondant and it didn't go on quite smoothly. But...fortunately there were these cute little cherry blossoms that hid almost all of the not-so-perfect areas!
As soon as I had the cake covered I started on the tree branches right away. Now here is where the fun begins! The tree is actually chocolate fondant. It is SO yummy! The heat didn't have any effect on it at all so it was easy to work with and apply to the cake. As I made the branches I textured them by using a scalloped fondant tool to make the "bark" look more real.
The next step was to make the character. I have piped Chinese characters, painted them and now I have sculpted them out of fondant! One little piece of chocolate fondant at a time until I had the whole character on the mat. Then I adhered them to the cake and made gold "paint" by mixing gold luster dust and vodka. Painting it onto the character bits on the cake takes time and a very very fine tip brush and several coats until it gleamed.
Last step was the cherry blossom flowers! To make these I tinted some of the white a light pink and then rolled it out thinly before cutting out about 100 flower shapes. Those I then used a ball tool to flare out the edges. Then I mixed up some pink "paint" and, with a spiky brush, painted from the centers out. What is funny about these flowers is that, as you are making them, they don't look much like flowers...until you place the little pearl in the center! Then, all of a sudden, WHAM, they are flowers!
That is part of the fun of cake decorating. With each cake there comes a moment when it comes together. If you are lucky, those moments are more than one per cake. This one had three! The first one was when the flowers became flowers, the second was when they went onto the cake and made the tree come alive and the last one was when I placed the little kissing figures on top. At that moment, even with all of the flaws I knew were there, the cake was perfect. Fortunately the client and her whole family agreed!
It is wonderful, as a cake artist, to have all of my creations be part of happy events. Birthdays, showers, weddings and anniversaries. You get to do something that makes a happy day even happier. And, as always, I deeply appreciate the honor of being able to have the chance to celebrate, in my own small way, with them.
Next week bring a fun retirement cake to share! See you then!
In the meantime head on over to our Facebook Fan Site and tomorrow we will be presenting a beautiful wedding party plan on the Party Blog!