Thursday, September 25, 2014

Basic carving and a baby bum!

This baby bum cake was quite fun to put together.  I had been anxiously mulling over how to do the legs and feet but in the end it all somehow came together!  The most difficult part was covering the cake itself, actually.  

Cute little toesies!
While I love carrot cake, due to the lack of butter it's so soft that even though I piped a dam around every layer, bulging still took place once the layers were stacked and crumb coated.  And no matter how many times I went around and around and how much white chocolate ganache I added, I could not get the damn thing to not bulge!  So frustrating.   I actually had a different design in mind but had to scrap that to try and disguise the bulge using texture.

To that end, in a way it all ended up being a happy mistake.  I often suffer from over-decoratoritis (as Kerry Vincent likes to call it) and throw all sorts at a cake.  This time I wanted to keep it very simple and clean, just focussing on colour and texture, and I just love button themed cakes for baby showers.

Though the mum was having a little girl, she didn't want any pink or for the cake to be too girly (she's hoping her girl will be a tomboy!), so she chose purple and tiffany blue as her colour scheme.  What an amazing combo! 

The feet were all fondant, but the legs were made from scraps held together with leftover lemon buttercream, rolled into tubes and then covered with ganache.  The 'bum' was a 6 inch round that I roughly carved into a dome shape and crumb coated with ganache and then white fondant (quite untidily, because I knew it would all be covered with the blanket and ruffles anyway).  

This cake ended up being one of my most popular on FB for some reason, and another lady from the same workplace asked me to do another in a few weeks' time for a friend of hers, what a compliment!   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A non-Peppa pig

I was a bit apprehensive when I got the brief for this cake - it seemed like there was so much to remember and I was sure something would slip through and I'd ruin it all:
  • 2 tiers 
  • colours to match the birthday girl's dress, but not too much yellow/green 
  • dancing pig on top
  • her name in building blocks 
  • no big bow (the picture she sent to me as a guide had a big bow)
  • not too much pink 
  • the pink to be a cool shade of pink, not a warm shade of pink
  • a no. 1 somewhere
When something seems overwhelming (not just cake requirements!) it always helps me to write it all down and just work your way down the list.  

The crooked vertical stripes are driving me nuttttssss aarrgghhh
I made the pig and the building blocks ahead, and then agonised for some time over where/how to put the no. 1.  I was tired when I decided to go with the frill oval plaque, and in hindsight now I wish I'd opted for something smaller (when I glued it on I actually yelled out to Steve "oh my freaking god it looks like there's something obscene on this 1st birthday cake!!"), but overall I think the cake still looks soft and pretty.

The pig pic she sent for me to use as a guide
Ultimately, I was just really happy that the pig she wanted wasn't a Peppa Pig and I still think my little piglet is quite cute, don't you? =)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Om Nom and Cut the Rope!

I had a lot of fun putting this cake together for the son of a high school friend.  I had to Google what 'Om Nom' and 'Cut the Rope' was (thank you Google!) but it turned out to be such a fun, cute theme at the end, and what I loved most was the whole casual torn-up-cardboard feel of it.  Anything that allows me to embrace imperfection is fine by me! 

Still a WIP
I found this tutorial really helpful for making the stars, candy and Om Nom.  The only addition I made was to use my clay extruder gun to pip a really thin outline around his eyes.  I think that finishes him really nicely.  I also had to use a fine wire to stick up his little forehead sprout (I have no idea what that is lol)

The actual fondant finish (white) was was terrible.  I hate covering square cakes!  My nemesis!! But I didn't sweat it because I knew there would be coloured layers on top of the white.

Hard to get the colours right at night!

I used my Cameo Silhouette to create stencils for the text.  I started with the black layer, waited for that to dry, sponged over with the white, waited for that to dry, then did the scissors/dotted line.  Fiddly but I think the effect worked well.

For the green layer, I simply used my circle cutter to mark out the circles and then I removed and replaced alternate circles for the 'polka dot' effect (which is completely lost under the wording, oops).

I was told that the birthday boy loved his cake, and the pic that I saw of him blowing out his candles just made my day!

Friday, April 11, 2014

1920's mobster in the house!

Before she had even booked her venue, my girlfriend asked if I was available to create a 1920's themed cake for her husband's 30th to be held at the Ellington Jazz Club (love that venue, btw!).

She sent me this link, and in time this invite arrived in the mail (she makes her own cards and invites - so creative!): 

I'm terrible with estimating how much in the way of RKTs I need for any given project, so given that the hat wasn't going to be huge, I was reluctant to whip up a whole batch of them.  What I ended up doing was digging out of my freezer the cake crumbs I had sitting in there for over a year, shaping them into the hat shape (the crumbs were so moist on defrosting that they didn't even need to be mixed with frosting as a binder first), I froze that for a little while, then covered it with white chocolate ganache, chilled that again and then smoothed fondant over the top. 

The hat is technically edible (the cake crumbs were from a wedding cake after all), but I advised them not to eat it, as I made the hat 5 days before the event and let it sit at room temperature all the while. 

I can't remember if I've ever covered a cake with black fondant before, but the adage of black hiding all manner of sins rings as true with cake as it does with clothes on our bodies! hahaha  The fondant on the round tier went on just fine and it sat overnight at room temperature without a problem.  However, after I came back from work that day, there was a giant blowout in the form of a large vertical crater on one of the sides of the cake.  The fondant had ballooned out, cracked, some sort of oil had oozed/dribbled out and then the fondant itself had set in that stretched position, so I couldn't simply push it back in and smooth it out again.  So strange that such a thing should happen - it wasn't even a very warm day!??

Anyway, it was just as well that I knew I would be putting a red tie down the front of the cake and that hid the vertical canyon perfectly.

Love using my Cameo Silhouette to make stencils!
I really need to practice covering square cakes.  The bottom tier went on terribly, I didn't roll out enough fondant and what I did roll I rolled too thinly, so there were holes at the bottom (the red banding was compulsory lol) and I had to come up with ideas to cover some of those creases and gaps.  I was wearing a feather boa myself, so decided to use my feather mold for the first time.  It was an interesting experience.. I'm not sure it was 100% effective, but from a distance it will do!  

If it had been any other colour, the finish on that bottom tier would've been terrible.  Luckily, though, the black is so black that most of those bumps, lumps and creases that would otherwise be glaring imperfections were camouflaged perfectly.  

My delivery boy!  That cake was deceptively heavy.
We had to park a little distance away and the cake was heavy, so I was so glad I had a helper with me who took the bulk of the weight while I had the hat!  There was a prize for the best dressed for the evening, so we both made a bit of an effort (though neither of us won, unfortunately).

Top tier: caramel mudcake with caramel buttercream
Bottom tier: red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting
I don't know why people are so scared to cut into my cakes - that's what the cakes are for, after all!! Anyway, once again I was asked to butcher my own work.  I don't know if maybe I was too stingy with my slices, but the picture of the bottom tier (8 inch square) was exactly how much was left of the cake - I don't know if maybe some people had left by the time of the cake cutting, or maybe not everyone had cake, but I was asked to provide a cake to serve 35 as dessert, and somehow I must've gotten at least 25 serves out of that top 7 inch tier alone.  *shrug* At least nobody ever balks at eating leftover cake!

Me cutting and serving!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Under the sea..

My second wedding cake of 2014 was to another lovely bride who said she wanted something beach themed, sent me this pic as an example of something she liked, asked for a specific cake topper to be used but also said she'd be happy with anything I otherwise came up with.  They wanted white chocolate mudcake with raspberry chambord buttercream to serve 110 people for dessert.  

I chose 13", 10" and 7" tiers (serving 120 according to this guide).  The bottom tier is the largest I've ever baked in my little home oven (and, it seems, nothing larger will fit in that oven - lucky!).  To keep the layers flatter and more evenly cooked, I DIY'd baking strips by soaking and wringing out long teatowels, folding them in foil and then wrapping those strips around the tin (tied on with silicone heat-proof elastic bands - similar to this principle, but wrapped in foil).  The cakes take slightly longer to cook, but I find I no longer have big domes of cake to level off, and especially with large cakes like the 13" round, I no longer have the problem of the outside cooking too quickly and overbrowning/drying out while the middle stays raw.

I know the Agbay Jnr is described as being able to tort cakes up to 12", mine managed the 13" tier but wouldn't be able to cut anything bigger.  I got my The Mat out for the first time in over a year (I think) to cover the bottom tier as I didn't want the fondant to dry out while I was rolling it out.  I had to wipe down the Mat so many times as it seemed to be dripping with oil between the two sheets, but once it was all tidied up it worked a lot better than I ever remember.

I wanted to keep the 'sand' in the pic that the bride sent to me, but also wanted to add some seashell clusters with pearl 'bubbles' and waves in subtle, very soft shades of blue.

I had purchased a couple of plastic chocolate seashell molds for a few dollars, but if you have the budget, the blue silicon mold (pictured) by First Impressions was a far, far superior product.  I dusted the molds with a little pearl and (very subtle) gold lustre and after a few minutes of freezing the seashells popped out very easily (as opposed to the stiff plastic where I had to gouge them out with a skewer, sometimes ruining them).

This time I brought the cake partially assembled - the bottom two tiers were fully decorated and ready to go, and I stacked the top tier at the venue.

The sand was made of a combination of ground Marie biscuits (whizzed in a food processor), white sugar, brown sugar and demerara sugar.  

The function room in the process of setting up
The bride wanted surfboards included with her toppers, so I made a couple of stencils (the orange surfboard has the husband's initials) and made those out of gumpaste a few days beforehand.

It was really hard to get good pictures at the venue because it was so bright outside that it messed around with the colours.  Such a shame, as the blue ocean against the cake was stunning.  This picture taken from the side is probably the truest to colour in real life - 

And here it is taken from the front (with bad colours!) - 

The bride's feedback was so lovely -

Thank you so much hun it was amazing and tasted even better! I have now got so so many ppl asking about it too now I think u better start your own separate Facebook page so I can send them all your way!
All in all, it was a relief to get this cake delivered (even though my car was slightly injured in the process!) and such a lovely day it was too.  I had to take one last happy snap just as I got back into the car.  It's days like these that make me feel so grateful and lucky to call Perth home.

Beautiful, beautiful blue

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pushing the comfort zone: piping

Piping isn't something I've ever really been comfortable with (previous disastrous attempt being case in point), but when this bride-to-be sent me a couple of traditional style wedding cake pictures as inspiration (both completely different, but both with piped detail) together with the magic words: 
'just love some kind of piped detail. Both photos here are completely different, but am happy to hand over the artistic license to you!'
I felt it was time to step out of my comfort zone and get started on honing some new skills.  

I've always admired piped cakes, and watched with envy those who can pipe freehand.  I'm unfortunately not one of those.  I have wobbly hands and terrible handwriting at the best of times with a pen - which is only magnified when using my whole arm to write.  I also have many bad memories of attempting to pipe pearls in the past, only to discover that pearls are a lot harder to achieve than at first glance (well, if my lovely rows of tiny nipples was anything to go by!).

With this cake, the first hurdle I had to overcome was transferring the pattern I had chosen onto the side of the cake.  I first tried the method outlined here (which I've successfully used on flat surfaces) but I couldn't get the lines to successfully transfer (it was a bit of a blurry mess) so I ended up taping the printed design to the cake, and pricking through the paper with a sewing pin through to the fondant underneath.  I then piped the design over the top of the holes that were left.  That second tier took me hours, and I had such a sore wrist afterwards, but I think it was worth it in the end.  The only thing I would change in hindsight is that I wish I'd used the smaller piping tip I had initially chosen.  My fear when I started piping with that smaller tip was that my hand was so wobbly I'd end up with squiggly lines instead of smooth curves.  I up-sized and while it still looks ok, I think a more delicate touch might've been even prettier.

The ribbon and topper were supplied by the bride.  I can't stress enough how lovely and accommodating she was (checking dimensions with me beforehand, paying early, giving me artistic licence, and even personally delivering the materials to my workplace a few weeks early) and how appreciative she was of the cake afterwards.  It was my first wedding cake after the engagement cake debacle and I was low on cake confidence.  A lovely client was just what the doctor ordered!

Because I was paranoid about the time taken to pipe the second tier, and uncertain as to how strong the icing would be if I needed to stack the cake afterwards, I stacked the cake prior to piping, and brought the  fully assembled cake to the venue.  IT WEIGHED A TON.  And the carpark was restricted, so I had to carry this baby elephant through the length of the carpark and all the way up a flight of stairs and around the function room twice (though they told me what time to come, they had not arranged the cake table yet).  SO HEAVY.

I wish I had thought to centre the cake prior to taking the pic!
Anyway, it was all worth it in the end when I got this message from the bride:
'Oh my god. You made us the most amazing cake ever!!!! It was sooooo delicious!!!! Thank you ever so much!'
It was one tier of dark chocolate mudcake, one tier of white chocolate mudcake, the top tier (to keep) was 2 layers each of white and dark, and all was sandwiched with raspberry meringue buttercream.  It was pretty yummy admittedly hahaha

But stupidly enough, the thing I was most proud of was actually the piped strings of beads!!  Yay to mostly smooth tops!  Now just to work out how to pipe in straighter lines hahaha

Saturday, March 15, 2014

No fondant for you!

On returning from my little overseas holiday I had to hit the ground running and get my little kitchen warmed up again.  It was quite possibly the oddest brief I had ever received: 
  • Chocolate cake with hazelnut buttercream filling 
  • 2 golden pineapples (top halves only) 
  • Happy 21st Birthday Emma written in gold 
  • After initially requesting an ocean blue coloured cake with gold details, later saying  - 
"The client does not like fondant, does she have to have fondant, she would much prefer just brown choc buttercream with gold writing, the gold can be in fondant"
Owwwwkay  - so I gather that you don't want fondant then?

I don't necessarily have a problem with the look of a pure buttercream finish, I guess what always confuses me is the fact that people seem to think that because the fondant is there, they MUST eat it, or that there's no buttercream at all underneath (not realising that between the fondant and the cake is a layer of buttercream or ganache).  It seems to be such an 'all-or-nothing' thing for many people.  Let it be known that I don't eat fondant myself - I peel it off every time.  I don't think it adds anything to the taste of the cake except a chewy sweetness (and unnecessary food colouring at times), but I like to use fondant on my cakes because I find it difficult to get as smooth a finish with  buttercream as I do with the fondant (this cake took just as long without the fondant as it would have with the fondant).  I also find it to be more forgiving if I need to play around with the placement of decorations, or if the cakes need to be stacked I don't have to be so precious about touching the sides.  In this case, if the client hadn't been so anti-fondant, she could still have had her (ocean blue) cake and eaten it too!

I asked the function coordinator twice whether the party themed (tropical/hawaiian etc) but I was told that there was no theme and that "however you do the pineapples will be fine"... so  I decided to put my efforts into making the best gold pineapples I could! 

Does anyone else think it looks like a giant cheesy grin with huge torpedo eyes??
To make the pineapples, I made up a batch of RKTs, formed them into hemispheres of a similar size, covered those hemispheres with white modelling chocolate, then a very thin layer of gold fondant (which I probably didn't need, in hindsight).  I bought a real pineapple, and made a mold of a section of about 7 or 8cm wide.  Into this mold I pressed a double layer of gold and green fondant (just because pineapples are usually a little bit greenish).  I froze the mold for a few minutes, pressed out the impression onto the domes and then pushed/squeezed them together to fit.

Once I put the pineapples together I oversprayed them with a Wilton gold spray, which was actually a lot paler a shade of gold than I expected.

This pic taken with flash so you can the gold shimmer
I used some old modelling (dark) chocolate to cover the cake board.  This modelling chocolate was so stiff I could barely get it through my pasta roller without it cracking and breaking but somehow I managed to make it work.  

Anyway, despite a lot of little imperfections (scrape marks etc), I'm still pretty pleased with how sharp I got my corners.

It's possibly the most simplest cake I've ever produced.  In hindsight I wish I had used smaller lettering, but even then I feel like it would still have looked odd (just 2 giant bazooka pineapples haha).  An upside to having no fondant, this cake smelled simply amazing in the car!