Category Archives: Decorating Tips & Tricks

Soccer Balls, Seashells, and Bling – Week #3

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted March 10-14, 2008

Whew…what a week! There were a lot of cakes due this week, and most of them were due on Friday, which meant a bit of a rush. I was in charge of five cakes and I will go through four of them here:

-Soccer ball cake

-Alien cake

-Purple “bling” cake

-Funky seashells cake – with help from Margie and Handi on the Funkies

Here is a picture of me with the nearly-completed cakes from this week:

This weeks cakes - Talk Sweet to Me
Next I’ll go through each of them individually.

Soccer ball cake

The soccer ball was one of my most challenging cakes this week, but also one of my favorites since I used to play. Go Ames Flames!

It looks deceptively simple: round ball, black pentagons, some grass, etc., but it was actually extremely time-consuming. There was a lot of structure involved in setting up this cake. The bottom half of the ball is composed of Styrofoam, and carving a perfectly round half-ball out of Styrofoam is harder than you might think! The board sits on top of that. I used a 9” board to make a size 5 ball since it is pretty close in size. There is a pole through the styro and about halfway up through the cake on the top half of the ball to hold everything in place…having the ball roll right of the board would be a little bit disastrous. Jonny mentioned once it was finished that he would like to kick it. That would be disastrous too. I had to keep an eye on him for the rest of the afternoon…

To get the ganache perfectly round too, Ritzy taught me a trick. Hold up a 9” board behind the cake as you spin it on a cake stand to see where you need to add or take away ganache to get a perfectly round shape. She is a genius.

Ganaching soccer ball cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Covering was a particular challenge. Handi said I should cover it in the same way I cover a figurine head, but the problem with the soccer ball was that I couldn’t pick it up and turn it sideways the same way I do with a figurine.

Fondant to soccer ball cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Next was putting on the panels. I brought in a real size 5 ball to measure the size of the panels so I could get them right on the cake. I cut a pattern piece out of cardboard and started working from the top of the cake down to the bottom making indentations with the back of a knife for all of the seams. It is next to impossible to get all of the panels to end up perfectly, simply because the cake is not precisely round and measuring the panels from the cardboard piece results in a small amount of human error. I am not a machine! But I thought it turned out fairly well anyway.

Measuring soccer ball cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I spent quite a while painting on the black panels and the seams between them. I used a mixture of black food coloring and alcohol. So far, so good!

Painted soccer ball cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Next were a few finishing touches including grass, candles, a message, and some pro soccer team emblems printed onto rice paper, and it was done:

Soccer ball cake - Talk Sweet to Me

For another perspective, Anna-Maria said that she used to do the black panels differently. She cut them out of black icing, adhered them to the cake, and piped the seams black in between them. That would probably be much faster, but wouldn’t give you the indentations you see on a real soccer ball. AM, as she is called at Planet Cake, is one of the most organized, efficient, and energetic people I know. It must have something to do with that Austrian background of hers…

Speaking of Anna-Maria, she deserves a big congratulations for her winning entry in the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Congrats Anna-Maria! Here is a picture of her fantastic entry:

ANNA-MARIA’S ROYAL EASTER SHOW ENTRY

Anna Maria Easter Show Cake

Alien cake

The alien cake was really fun. I started by covering the head and carving the body of the Funky astronaut out of Styrofoam. The Styro room was a little crowded this week…

Styro carving room - Talk Sweet to Me

To cover the cake, I made small rings of icing and placed them on top of the ganached cake before covering the entire cake with the green icing. This created the craters. I had to push the centers in a little bit with a ball tool after the green icing was placed over the top, and then pressed small black circles into the middle of each of them.

Covering alien cake - Talk Sweet to Me

A close-up of the finished Funky…his eyes need to be a bit closer next time:

Astronaut figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

The alien was just made out of a piece of icing and the antennae were pieces of dried cellophane noodles with icing balls on top. Fully edible! (As an interesting side note, everyone at Planet Cake has a different name for the cellophane noodles. Anna-Maria calls them mung bean noodles, Handi calls them glass noodles, and Ritzy says they are called “haru same” in Japanese, which translates literally to “spring rain,” since they are clear and flowing…just like the spring rain.)

Here is Jonny’s design drawing…

Astronaut cake design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

…and the finished cake.

Astronaut birthday cake- Talk Sweet to Me

Purple “Bling” cake

This cake deserves the Most-Frustrating-Cake-of-the-Week Award. Because it was a very clean, simple design with only a skinny ribbon around the base, it showed even the smallest of flaws.

Bling cake design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

It took quite a bit of purple food coloring to make the deep shade I needed to match the ribbon sample provided by the client. This, along with the icing being exposed while I mixed in the color for so long, produced a weird texture (and fairly dry) icing. Putting dry icing over a square cake is no easy feat, let me tell you. Handi had to come to the rescue a little bit on part of the 12” tier, but I managed the others myself.

Covering purple cake layer - Talk Sweet to Me

After stacking the 3 tiers, filling in some gaps with icing, and lining the base of each tier with purple ribbon, I was ready to start putting on the bling. First I printed out each of the letters from the computer and traced them onto tracing paper. Then, in a trick I learned from my Grandma (and was reminded of by Anna-Maria), I traced the lines on the back side of the paper with an 2B pencil, placed the sheets of paper on the cake where I wanted them to go, and re-traced the original lines, transferring the pencil lines onto the hardened icing. This told me exactly where I needed to place the bling.

Tracing onto love bling cake - Talk Sweet to Me

I started out painting piping gel onto each individual diamonte, picking it up with tweezers, and putting it into the perfect place on the cake.

Placing bling - Talk Sweet to Me

I would literally have been there for hours if Handi had not shown me this trick. Painting the piping gel along the traced lines on the cake saved me from painting each individual piece of bling. Then, instead of picking up each one with the tweezers, I picked them up with my finger, dampened with water, placed them on the piping gel lines, and then rearranged with the tweezers so they were all in the correct locations. Handi is so clever.

Bling love cake - Talk Sweet to Me

The florist placed fresh flowers and the “A” and “S” bling cake toppers shown on the design drawing on top of the cake at the reception site.

Funky seashells cake

Here is Antony’s design drawing:

Beach cake design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

The first thing that had to be done for this cake was the shells. They were completed early in the week so that they would have time to dry before I needed to place them on the cake. They were made by pressing icing into shell molds, and painted with a mixture of ivory and brown food coloring and alcohol.

Sugar seashells for beach cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I stacked the two tiers and drew on the waves with a pencil. The coloring was mixed (blue on the top and teal on the bottom, each mixed with alcohol) and painted on. I found that to be a little bit tricky, as you basically get one swipe with a large brush before brush-strokes become prominent and distracting. Let’s just say it is always good to start on the back side. The wavy gold line was just piped on in white royal icing, following the pencil line, and then painted gold. The snail trail around the base went on last so that I wouldn’t drip any blue on it when painting on the waves.

The shells, flowers, and pearls were all placed on the sides of the cake, and then the Funkies were put on top.

Beach cake topper design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

They were worked on by myself, Handi, and Margie. Margie did the bodies and surfboard, Handi did the clothes, faces, and hair, and I took care of the arms and the other various paraphernalia on the top of the cake (sand and sand castles, martini glass, towels, shells, and sunscreen).

Beach cake topper - Talk Sweet to Me

The delivery-person came for the cake as I was boxing it, so I didn’t have an extra minute to check everything over as I usually do. Unfortunately, this meant that I forgot to send the 3 cupcakes that were added to the order out with the cake, which I felt pretty badly about…but everything got there in the end!

Tropical beach cake - Talk Sweet to Me

A couple of other fun things from this week

Ritzy worked on a masquerade mask…now that’s a lot of cake!

RITZY’S MASQUERADE MASK

Ritzy with mask

And a shout-out to Margie, who does amazing things every week. Here is a picture of Margie working on her jungle tree cake:

Margie working on cake - Talk Sweet to Me

I was a bit worried about her as this was her second late night in the workroom and she was starting to look a bit like Shrek as she placed the jungle leaves in her hair instead of on the cake…amazing, don’t you think?

MARGIE’S JUNGLE TREE CAKE

Jungle tree cake

Finally, it was my birthday lunch on Wednesday this week, so we went down the road to the Exchange Hotel and had a wonderful meal and a good time just relaxing together for a little while. Thanks, Paris!

me and anna maria

me and handi

lunch party

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The Cakes: Week #2

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted March 3-7, 2008

This week I’ll just quickly go through each of the cakes.

I was in charge of 5 cakes:

-2-Tier round chocolate ganache cake – smooth finish

-3-Tier round royal icing cake – smooth finish

-Funky child with stars

-Teddy with baby block

-Orange and yellow flower spray birthday cake

And worked with others on 2 more:
-4-Tier cascade
-Circles/Bubbles cake

The chocolate ganache and royal icing cakes were fairly simple. The royal icing cake was ganached, covered with a thin layer of regular icing to prevent the chocolate and royal icing from coming into contact with one another, stacked, and then iced. I added some glycerine when mixing the royal icing so that it wouldn’t dry quite so hard…it’s not very graceful when a bride has to take a chainsaw to her hard-as-rocks wedding cake just to cut it. Putting on the royal icing reminded me a lot of my earlier days working with buttercream…although I’m not sure I miss it that much!

Royal icing finish cake - Talk Sweet to Me

The chocolate ganache cake was just stacked and covered with melted ganache. As Handi said, “finish it so that it is smooth, but not smooth.” This reminds me of his helpful (but not helpful) instructions to place the silver balls on the snowflake cake in a “random, but not random” fashion. In the end though, it actually gets the point across rather well!

Ganache finish cake - Talk Sweet to Me

The Funky child with stars cake starts with the Funky. I worked along with Handi carving the body out of Styrofoam. It is very messy, and by the time we were finished it looked like it snowed in the styro room.

Carving figurine body2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Carving figurine body - Talk Sweet to Me

Here is a close-up of the finished Funky…

Boy figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

…and the finished cake!

Baby boy cake - Talk Sweet to Me

This week there was another Teddy with baby block cake, which is the same as the one I completed last week.

Its a girl teddy bear cake - Talk Sweet to Me

The only thing different about this cake is that it was being shipped to Hong Kong. Here it is all packaged for shipping. The only thing that wasn’t added and needed to be was a message to NOT refrigerate it, which someone loading the plane decided would be best, and which actually caused a crack in the cake during transportation. At least, thankfully, it was on the back side.

Cake to ship to Hong Kong - Talk Sweet to Me

Handi taught me how to make cymbidium orchids this week. We made centers first, which must be completely dry before they are followed by the first layer (which includes the tongue).

Making sugar orchids - Talk Sweet to Me

The 5 other petals were made on wires, texture was added, and they were left to dry overnight.

Sugar Orchids step1 - Talk Sweet to Me

The next day the five additional petals were wired onto the center, and a light yellow dusting of color was added to the tongue and base of each of the five petals.

Complete sugar orchid - Talk Sweet to Me

The next cake was for the same person who ordered the orange cake from last week. She must have a lot of friends to be able to have two parties! Here is Antony’s design drawing:

Gold cake design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

Working and covering the board…

Covering square board - Talk Sweet to Me

…and the finished cake.

Golden citrus birthday cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Handi and I worked together on the 4-Tier cascade cake. The cake was for a woman named Maude. I was oblivious until at least halfway through the week that Handi was making fun of the way I say that name. From an American accent perspective, I pronounce Maude as “mod,” the same way I would start to say the word modern. Handi and the rest of the Australians pronounce it “mowde,” a cross between the words mood and mode. Kind of obvious when you’re thinking about accents, yes, but it took me three days to understand that Handi was mocking me! That’s okay…I can take it.

Handi ganached the bottom two tiers and covered the top two, while I ganached the top two and covered the bottom two.

Covering bottom tier - Talk Sweet to Me

Stacking the tiers:

Stacking cake tiers - Talk Sweet to Me

Here is Antony’s design drawing…

Cascade design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

…compared to the finished cascade:

White rose cascade cake - Talk Sweet to Me

And the final cake. I think it was Anna-Maria who said that this cake looks a little bit like it is from outer space.

Bubbles design inspiration - Talk Sweet to Me

Geometric cake - Talk Sweet to Me

It took quite a long time to cover the different-sized Styrofoam balls with icing and paint them silver. Anna-Maria, Handi, and I all had a hand in producing this cake. Next time we would raise up the bottom tier on a Styrofoam base so that you could see the piping dots pattern instead of having them hidden behind the larger balls. Plus it would make the tiers both look like they are the same size instead of the balls dwarfing the size of the bottom tier.

Signature - TalkSweetToMe.com

The Real Deal – Week #1 (Part 2)

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted February 25-29, 2008

Thursday

On Thursday we try to finish all of the cakes and package and label them for delivery or collection.

In the morning I finished the orange cake with piping and arranging the flower spray on top of the cake. The flowers had to be dyed orange and yellow and then dusted in order to make them “glow” from the inside.

Dusting flowers for orange cake - Talk Sweet to Me

The spray was arranged on top in a teardrop shape, starting with the largest flowers first and working from largest to smallest after that, generally alternating colors along the way.

Placing orange flower spray - Talk Sweet to Me

Then leaves were added, which helps to hide the wires.

Finished citrus colored cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Does it look like the design inspiration??

Orange cake design inspiration - Talk Sweet to Me

Next Handi demonstrated how to finish the teddy bear funky, which will be used on a cake for next week.

Finishing teddy figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

 

Teddy bear figurine finished - Talk Sweet to Me

The Funky was placed on the cake with the block, the flowers piped on, and the message added to the board.

Finishing piping on teddy cake - Talk Sweet to Me

 

Teddy bear birthday cake - Talk Sweet to Me

In the afternoon, the 65 cupcakes were ganached and decorated.

Decorated cupcakes - Talk Sweet to Me

Here’s Handi working on his Hydrangea cupcakes:

Handi finishing hydrangeas - Talk Sweet to Me

After practicing flower placement on one of Handi’s cakes…

Learning flower placement - Talk Sweet to Me

…I completed a 3-tier cascade. This is yet another thing that is trickier than it looks. Handi brought one down from the showroom for me to work from.

SHOWROOM CASCADE

Cascade inspiration

Working, working…

Placing flower cascade - Talk Sweet to Me

Here is the completed cascade:

Rose cascade - Talk Sweet to Me

Friday

Friday is generally last-minute finishing and preparation for the next week. This morning I finished up my cupcake stand and boxed it for delivery.

Cupcake stand display - Talk Sweet to Me

Design and invitation used for inspiration:

Cupcake stand design - Talk Sweet to Me

After finishing this week’s cakes, it was time to organize the cakes for next week with Anna-Maria and make some ganache. Fifteen batches of dark chocolate ganache, and sixteen batches of white chocolate ganache. We went through a lot of chocolate today.

Before lunch, Paris gave me a constructive critique of the cascade I completed on Thursday. It was really helpful to help me see what needs to happen next time. More flow, less bunching!

Next we started preparation for next week’s cakes, but before getting too far into it, a slight emergency arose. Paris received a call from a customer who said that that the hair on the Funky baby that was delivered was smashed. Luckily we had another Funky just sitting around waiting for something to do (the one I started on Tuesday), so I gave him some arms, a dye job (brown to blonde hair!) a new pet duck, and a face.

Figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

Done!

Signature - TalkSweetToMe.com

Full On and Flat Out – Madhatter and More

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted February 6, 2008

Today was pretty full-on. In a very good way.

After completing a Spotty Present Box cake, I finished the gerbera daisies that were started last week. The first layer has to dry before the second layer of petals is put on, and after cutting out and preparing the second layer it must immediately be placed on top of the first layer so that it will form to the shape of the first dried layer. After letting the new layer dry for a little while, I dipped them in the colors (orange, yellow, and magenta today). The middle was made by rolling a small ball of white icing, pressing it with a grid-type fabric to make the pattern on top, and then dipping it into the yellow solution and placing it right onto the flower while it was still wet.

Spotty Present Box Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Gerbera daisy sugar flower - Talk Sweet To Me

FYI: Did you know that each petal on a daisy is actually a tiny flower in itself? And that the middle is also made up of many very small flowers? The one “flower” that we see is actually a whole bunch of flowers – hundreds for the price of one! My apologies, this is the biology nerd in me trying to get out. I think it is totally fascinating. Back to the cakes…

But first, morning tea. Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations to soothe my (very unfortunately) raging sweet tooth. So you can imagine my utter astonishment when someone said that they had never experienced this before. I brought in some Reese’s Peanut Butter cups from the candy store near my apartment that happens to sell American candy at over twice the price one would pay for the same thing at home. But it was worth every penny (and every calorie, too)!

After replenishing our energy, I talked with Handi about how to construct tiered cakes and helped cover a large base tier for a 4-tier cake he was working on. I also helped put the other layers together…quite exciting to work with multiple tiers!

Putting apricot gel on the ganached layer:

Apricot gel - Talk Sweet to Me
Handi and I knead the icing :

Preparing icing - Talk Sweet To Me

Handi picks up the icing…

Picking up icing - Talk Sweet To Me

…and places it on the cake:

Handi places icing - Talk Sweet To Me

We work quickly to secure the edges and smooth the icing:

Covering layer with Handi - Talk Sweet To Me

The board is covered at the same time, and edges trimmed off:

Covering board - Talk Sweet To Me

Here I am placing the top tier, complete with a cheesy smile and a dusting of cornflour:

Placing top layer snowflake cake - Talk Sweet To Me

I place the silver balls as per Handi’s instructions – “Randomly, but not random.” Controlled chaos, I guess…

Working snowflake cake - Talk Sweet To Me

Handi worked some more magic, and the cake was complete!

Snowflake Cake by Planet Cake

The next cake was by far the highlight of my week. I’ve wanted to work on a Madhatter cake for quite some time now, so it was fantastic to finally get a chance to do it! Plus, it would give me a bit of a head start when I did the Madhatter course the next weekend.

Here is the drawing that I worked from – a one-tier, striped Madhatter cake.

Madhatter cake drawing - Talk Sweet To Me

I started out covering the cake with white icing for the base layer. It is best to let it dry a bit before proceeding with the stripes.

Covering Madhatter - Talk Sweet To Me

Then it was time to put on the stripes!

Starting stripes for madhatter - Talk Sweet To Me

Adding stripes to madhatter - Talk Sweet To Me

Finished madhatter stripes - Talk Sweet To Me

Then just a bit of finishing – the bow, the balls around the base, covering the board, and piping the message.

Madhatter Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

With all of that fit into one day at Planet Cake, it was a long one. Putting the stripes on the Madhatter cake took quite a long time, but I had a blast doing it. So I didn’t actually leave until 8pm, right when it started pouring down rain, but that was partly due to the break I took to look at Margie’s stunning photos from her recent travels in the USA through Utah, Colorado, California, and some other places out West. It was fun to see, but made me miss home. Sniff, sniff.

Signature - TalkSweetToMe.com

The Hippie Butterfly

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted January 30, 2008

Two cakes were on my to-do list for today. I started with an Exploding Stars cake for a 50th birthday party. This cake, along with the golf course cake, is one that I have done so many times now that I could practically complete it with both eyes closed…standing on one foot…and with one hand tied behind my back. Okay, okay, I’m not really THAT arrogant (thanks to my humble Midwestern upbringing). I’ll admit I at least need my eyes…just kidding.

Exploding Present Box - Talk Sweet To Me

My second cake of the day was a 2D Butterfly cake for a first birthday. Handi thinks this cake is a little bit “hippie” and I tend to agree…there is just something about those flowers.

Butterfly Cake Method - Talk Sweet to Me

Above is a picture of what I’m pretty generally given as a starting point for most of the cakes I work on each week. A shaped and ganached cake, along with the order form. I usually look over the order form first to determine whether or not there is anything out of the ordinary, and then ask questions before beginning. (Yes, although it may not always come across, I do have common sense. Asking questions sooner rather than later generally falls under the category of “smart things to do.”)

Covered Butterfly Cake - Talk Sweet To Me

Since this cake is a bit of an odd shape I was worried about what would happen at the corners and hoped that the icing would not bunch together and cause me to run out the door screaming in frustration. I shouldn’t have even blinked an eye at it, because it turned out to be exceptionally easy. Blindfold, anyone? After the pink icing, the oval-shaped butterfly body was placed on top.

Hippie Butterfly Flowers - Talk Sweet To Me

I made all the flower layers at once and kept them under plastic so they would remain pliable until I fit them in exactly the right places.

Starting Rope - Talk Sweet To Me

Rolling Rope - Talk Sweet To Me

Placing Rope - Talk Sweet To Me

After that I began rolling out pink icing to make the twisted rope at the base of the cake. I had a little bit of trouble with it drying out at first, but Handi came to the rescue and showed me how to (in the words of Tim Gunn from Project Runway, currently one of my favorite shows) “make it work.” A little extra moisture, a pinch of technique, and ta-da! Runway-ready rope.

Butterfly Cake Working - Talk Sweet To Me

A few finishing touches were next: I piped on daisies in white royal icing, placed the antennae, and added a happy birthday message and candle to the board.

Butterfly Cake - Talk Sweet To Me

I learned from Handi and Paris that the light purple color starts to fade quickly, so I hurried to box the cake to prevent that from happening too much. Apparently there is a no-fade purple sold in the U.S. that I will be required to ship over here immediately upon my return to the States.

Signature - TalkSweetToMe.com

Thomas the Tank Engine

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted January 23, 2008

It was another Golf Course cake day, this time for a 40th birthday. Every time I make this cake I think of how much my Grandpa would enjoy it. He plays golf during his summers in Iowa and winters in Florida, and tells me he keeps track of his score by the number of golf balls he loses. He would get quite a kick out of it. As the now self-appointed “Queen of Finishing the Golf Course Cakes,” I have decided to run a little competition with myself. Each time there is a new one, I plan to see how quickly I can get it done…without sacrificing any of the quality, of course. Today I was done before 11:25 am. I’ll keep you posted on the next one.

The only hitch in the action today was a bit of a spill during the air brushing portion of the golf course. For one reason or another, I tend to get excited about putting the color on the green. This usually happens after I am nearly finished with the rest of the cake, so when my arm starts moving quickly and green food coloring spills onto the side of the cake with a sickening plunk, it means a few minutes of panic and running around the kitchen trying to figure out where to set down the nearly-full airbrush followed by another few minutes of sheer agony trying to clean up the mess. I was lucky today since Ritzy happened to walk into the kitchen and patiently showed me how to mop up the mess with alcohol and water, blend in the edges, and cover it with color to make it look like new. This allowed me to pretend, when all was said and done, that I was calm and in control during the entire process.

Since the golf course was done before noon, my next task was a Thomas the Tank Engine cake. The first step was to make a 6” round cake into a 7” round and cover it smoothly with ganache. A few of the artists at Planet Cake carve the face of Thomas out of cake. My technique for the day was to build up the face from icing on top of the smooth ganache. I had to begin by studying how Thomas looks. My inspiration: Thomas the Train books, toys, and previous cake pictures.

Inspiration - Thomas Cake - Talk Sweet To Me

After that I began sculpting the face. It looks sort of creepy like a skull if you glance at it quickly, but then again why mess with nature when the skull forms the foundation for every face we see?

Thomas Structure - Talk Sweet To Me

After covering with grey icing, I had to do a bit of re-sculpting. Next time the lips need to be a bit smaller but more pronounced, the teeth further in toward the back of the mouth, the cheeks less prominent, and perhaps the eyes a bit bigger. You learn something every day…the nose was good though!

Thomas Covered - Talk Sweet To Me

A strip of black icing around the bottom, covering the board with red, and a blue rope around the base were my next steps, followed by the smokestack.

This was made from Styrofoam with a small dowel inserted into it, covered with black icing and a black rope around the top. All that was left were a few finishing touches – smoke coming from the smokestack, piping the message on the board, and a couple of candles.

Thomas the Tank Engine - Talk Sweet to Me

 

Signature - TalkSweetToMe.com

 

Bows, Exploding Stars and Celebrities

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted January 16, 2008

Today was Exploding Stars Present Box cake day (blue theme). Ritzy already made the stars and ganached the cake, so I was left to finish things off. After covering the cake with icing, I left it to dry for a while as per Handi’s genius suggestion so that it would be able to support the next piece of icing placed on top for the lid. In the meantime I made the bow so it would also have time to dry and set. The bow turned out well today – most likely due to expert instruction from Anna-Maria and a fabulous reminder lesson from Ritzy.

Fondant bow how to | Talk Sweet To Me

Following are the instructions I have written into my notebook for bow-making:

1. Make two pieces rolled out to an even thickness (about 3 – quite thin – on the pasta machine I use) that are 7 inches x 5 inches.
2. Wet the two 5-inch sides with water, fold in the corners slightly, and crinkle the edges together.
3. Place aquarium filter material inside the bow and fold the two crinkled edges together to form one side of the bow.
4. Fold under one of the looped sides of the bow so that it sits upright.
5. Repeat to make the other side of the bow and bring the two centers together (but do not secure yet).
6. Prepare the icing ribbon to go around the center, slightly thicker than the previous pieces (I used level 5). This piece can be as wide as you like, but perhaps start with around 3 inches wide and make sure it is long enough to wrap around to make the middle of the bow.
7. Fold in the two long cut edges to make smooth outside edges.
8. Crinkle the long way once again, wet with a little bit of water, and wrap around the middle extensions of the two bows. Trim on the backside.
9. Cut and add the two trails, crinkling them up for effect if desired (see finished photo).
10. Make sure the bow looks the way you want it to and let it dry – overnight is best. After it is dry, take out the aquarium filter material. Viola!

For a fantastic video about bow-making, watch Handi on Planet Cake’s YouTube video

The board was covered in grey, which I tried to mix by taking the obvious route and adding black to white. However, the result was less than desirable…a pale lavender color. Handi showed me how to mix in a small about of egg yellow icing, which would grey the color out. Today was my first time covering a board around a square cake…somehow there are always new challenges! It was a little bit tougher than covering a board around a circular cake since I had to cut the icing to the exact proportions of the cake so the corners would match up flush with the cake. There may be a trick to it that I don’t know to make things easier, but my method worked well for today.

After adding the “lid” and side ribbons, the rope was added around the base and the bow anchored on top of the cake with the flowing ribbons. All that was needed after that were some exploding stars, the piped message on the board, and candles. The cake was done before noon and it was on to rose-making for the rest of the day. Flower making is a necessary task, but one that I find quite relaxing and enjoyable.

Blue Present Box Cake |Talk Sweet To Me

The other highlight of the day was producing one of the black icing clubs to go on the bottom tier Handi’s poker-themed cake for a celebrity birthday – my first (albeit very small) piece of a celebrity cake! Take a look at the cake below:

Celebrity Cake by Planet Cake

HANDI’S AMAZING CAKE

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Story of a Wedding Cake: Katie and Sam

Design inspiration - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com Before meeting with my client Katie, I asked her to send me several photos of cakes she liked. It is really helpful to have a chance to put a few coherent thoughts together before your consultation meetings (though it is a rare occasion when coherent thoughts happen for me)! She didn’t have any specific requirements, but did like the general ideas behind these cakes, especially the combination of round and square tiers.

Inspiration cakes from bride - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweetome.com

She also sent me a copy of the (gorgeous!) invitations she and her fiancée, Sam, had just chosen: Wedding Invitation Swirl - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com Based on those starting points, I was reminded of a couple of cakes from the Planet Cake website…good inspiration! Inspiration cakes from Planet Cake - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com I talked with Katie about her preferences over coffee and came up with this design. Elements from the invitation were incorporated through the piping design on the bottom tier and I also included the combination of circular and square tiers Katie liked: Cake sketch - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com The cake - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com So, it was time to start making some cake. The tiers were of course ganached, covered, and stacked. Then it was time for the real fun…piping! To warm up my hands and get ready, I practiced for a few minutes on a piece of waxed paper… …before jumping in and piping onto the cake. I was fairly happy with the piping when it was finished. Even though my hand hurt for the entirety of the following day (there were four 12” sides to this bottom tier!), I’m always more than willing to put up with a bit of pain for some damn sexy piping!

cake piping and topper - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com

 

Delivery - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com Katie & Sam were such fun clients, and were so nice to send me an invitation to their wedding! I was really excited to go. Who can resist an opportunity to a) attend a wedding to see people who are in love, b) check out all the flowers, programs, and other details that were put into the planning of the wedding day, c) chat with whoever looks friendly, and d) see people react to and eat the cake!? It was great to have a chance to eat some of it myself too…being tired from working long hours on the cake that week didn’t stop me from obsessively scrutinizing the taste quality (we have a serious case of cake-nerd on our hands here, folks). But it was good! Katie & Sam cut the cake:

Cake cutting - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com

I think Sam’s first comment after the cutting was, “That’s some gooood cake!” Love it. Black and White Cake - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com

Tell me to be quiet now - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com Okay, so my perfectionist little self can’t resist analyzing this cake to determine what could be better, so for your benefit I will share what I would do differently next time. First, and most importantly, the middle tier should have been one size larger. Instead of a 9” round in there, I wish I would have used at least a 10” round to even out the proportions, or perhaps just a smaller top tier. I also think the triangle dots on the top tier should be closer together (and thus more delicate-looking).

Quick tip - Talk Sweet to Me - talksweettome.com

Play around with your cake pans! By turning them upside down and stacking them, you can start to get a good idea about proportions and what your cake will look like when it’s finished. It’s especially important when using a combination of shapes!

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Free Craftsy Cake Decorating Classes: A Great Resource!

Seriously cool copy

Seriously, friends…how cool is Craftsy?! Pick anything you wish you knew how to do…anything at all! Quilting, painting, knitting, and of course CAKE DECORATING! Look it up there, and viola! Someone well-known for their expertise in the subject is teaching you a class.

I am so impressed with the offerings (believe me, I’ll be taking several classes soon!) that I was blown away when I learned that there are actually Caftsy classes for free. Yep. Free.

Check out a few of the no-cost cake decorating ones:

Modern Buttercream by Joshua John Russell

The Hand-Painted Cake by Erin Schaefgen

There are also free cake decorating recipes at Craftsy. All you have to do is sign up…easy, peasy!

Brush up on a technique, learn a different way to do something (one that might be easier than what you’re doing now!), add a recipe or two to your repertoire, or learn something new entirely. Absolutely love it.

Head on over to Craftsy to see all the other cake decorating class offerings (there are over 30 different classes!) or find out what else you can learn about today.

Have you taken a Craftsy class? Which one? What did you think?

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Book Review: The Confetti Cakes Cookbook by Elisa Strauss

The author - www.talksweettome.com

I absolutely love Elisa Strauss’ story. She got her start working in the fashion industry before attending pastry school and hitting it big as a cake designer in New York City. Her cakes have been featured all over in magazines and on television shows, including Martha Stewart Weddings, Sex and the City, Good Morning America, and the Food Network. In her book, The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City’s Famed Bakery, she shares her tips, techniques, recipes, and cake designs with us.

The book - www.talksweettome.com

The book is full of beautiful colorful photographs of the cakes and the step-by-step processes to make them, and since it is written in Elisa’s friendly and personable style, it is just as much fun to read and learn from.

And it’s not just cakes! This book offers a comprehensive guide to making a variety of cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and mini cakes for beginners through to more advanced decorators. With lists of necessary equipment and techniques to master, along with Elisa’s recipes for everything from cake and cookies to buttercream, ganache and fondant, this book is one of my favorites.

Confetti Cakes Book Review - Talk Sweet to Me - www.talksweettome.com

I love the Techniques section at the beginning of the book. Elisa covers everything from sculpting a cake and crumb coating to how to use dowels to create a structurally sound cake and wood staining/brush embroidery techniques.

While I never tried any of Elisa’s recipes because by the time I purchased the book I’d already experimented thoroughly to create my own go-to recipes, from reading through them I think they would definitely be worth a try.

Step-by-step, detailed instructions and diagrams are given for each of the 44 projects in the book, as well as tips and tricks to save time. There is even a list of resources where you can find many of the products and pieces of equipment she references.

This is a great book to add to your collection with its helpful advice, interesting techniques, and inspiring designs. Some of my favorites: Baby Onesie Cookies, Popcorn Mini Cakes, Hydrangea Cake, and Handbag Cake.

More information - www.talksweettome.com

While it seems that Elisa no longer takes cake orders, luckily for all of us, she has provided an excellent resource in her books! She still very busy teaching online classes like a Designer Handbag Cake or a Sculpted Dog Cake, holds private classes, has books and equipment for sale, and writes on her blog. Check out her website for more information.

If you’d like to purchase the book, you can buy it from Amazon.com by clicking here: The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City’s Famed Bakery

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