Category Archives: Fondant

Holiday Cupcake Donation Project

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating while living in Sydney, Australia.

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted December 2008

Last year’s Charity Cupcake drive at Planet Cake was a fantastic day, and although it turned out to be a bit more intense than I was expecting when I woke up that morning, I’d do it all over again at the drop of a hat. It was a great feeling to walk away at the end of the day, knowing that I’d been part of the 2,000 cupcakes donated by Planet Cake to Oz Harvest! Plus, we were famous, making it into the Sun-Herald…

Cupcakes for charity newspaper clipping

…those are my fabulous morning-session girls!

Because I was an intern at the time and volunteered to help, I arrived at Planet Cake about an hour early to help prepare the tables, set out equipment, color the icing, and just generally get ready for everything to come. I wasn’t exactly sure what else I was going to be doing that day, but two days earlier, I learned I would be in charge of getting 7-8 volunteers through their allotted cupcakes for each of the morning and afternoon sessions.

A close-up photo of some of the fun designs we made that day:

Holiday cupcake designs

After a general introduction by Paris, Handi started in with his instructional spiel to the table at my right, while Anna-Maria started in with instructions for her volunteers to my left. Since I’d never done any teaching before, I thought we were going to have a group instruction session before beginning…but unfortunately we were still getting ready when volunteers started arriving, so we all kind of missed that step and just jumped right into the day. Suddenly, I was in charge of getting my seven gals through 333 cupcakes in the next four hours! Working, working…

Cupcake production

We followed the leads of Handi and Anna-Maria, setting up an assembly-line of sorts…several girls ganaching the cupcakes, the next few covering them with icing, and the last ones putting on the final decorating touches. It was a great system, and so rewarding to start seeing those boxes start to pile up for Oz Harvest!

Snowman cupcakes

Look at Handi peeking into the picture behind me…always a great smile!!

The afternoon session went much smoother than the morning because I knew what to expect and how to proceed with the volunteers from ganached cupcakes to final decorated product. I had very fun groups of people to work with in both the morning and afternoon sessions…and was so grateful for their patience and enthusiasm as we worked through all 667 cupcakes!

The entire morning session group:

Cupcakes for charity2

The whole afternoon session group with cupcakes:

Cupcakes for charity

That’s a lot of cupcakes!

So what did I learn from the cupcake drive? That teaching decorating to others and managing volunteers is a whole new ballgame! It really made me appreciate both Handi and Anna-Maria’s teaching talents when I had the opportunity to sit in on their courses. By no means did I become an expert, but I learned a lot about working with people new to cake decorating and had a lot of fun in the process. And experienced just a peek into what it takes to put together such a massive volunteer effort.

The Planet Cake team hands the cupcakes over to Oz Harvest:

Paris and Oz Harvest

To any of you donating your cake-baking services over the holidays: More power to you! Have fun and tell me about it below!

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Red and Aqua Wedding Cake – My First Cake Delivery!

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted August 9, 2008

I met with a very fun couple back in July and was hired to make the cake for their early August wedding at Kansas City’s Uptown Theater.

They wanted a cake in these colors to match their invitations and the venue…

Invitation pattern

…and similar in style to the cake in this picture that they gave to me to match their fun and laid-back personalities:

Inspiration cake

Here is the design they chose:

Design drawing

They wanted a 3-tier white chocolate mud cake and two kitchen cakes in vanilla white and yellow butter flavors. It was a lot of baking, but of course, any amount of cake seems trivial now compared to the cake trials.

Baked cake

So the boards were prepared, the cakes were ganached, and the center pole was constructed.

Ganached tiers2

I hadn’t covered a square cake for a while, but got a whole bunch of practice at once this week.

Ganached tiers

Covered square tiers

After stacking the cake it was time to move on to the mixing of the colors. I spent at least a half hour (probably closer to 45 minutes), and made a colossal mess trying to come up with the correct shade of red to match the invitations.

coloring fondant

My hands ended up being nearly the same color…

red hands

Oh yeah…that’s what those gloves were for! Next it was time to carve the “K” for the cake topper. I cut it out of styro, secured it to the skewer, and covered it in the red icing.

Styro cake topper

Red K initial cake topper

The “K” cake topper was finished off with silver cachous around the outside to match the “i do” lettering on the middle tier.

I decorated the tiers from the top down so as not to mess up anything I’d already created by leaning my elbows on it or something similarly klutzy. The stripes:

Cake in progress4 - Talk Sweet to Me

The front rectangle piece for the ‘i do’ had to go on next, and was surrounded by red and aqua bubbles:

Cake in progress2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Starting the checkerboard pattern:

Cake in progress - Talk Sweet to Me

For efficiency’s sake, a piece of cardboard was cut to the correct width and used to cut all of the red and aqua squares. It made life a lot easier than measuring every time I needed to make a cut.

Cutting squares equipmentJust a few silver cachous added on for the ‘i do’ and here is the finished cake!

Decorated cake - Talk Sweet to Me

It was a bit late (or early, if you prefer) when I finished this one.

Finish time

The last thing I had to stress about was the delivery, but that went as smooth as silk because I had such great help (you know who you are)!!!

Red and Aqua Wedding Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Am I proud of my first successful wedding cake delivery? Ummm…yes, I suppose I am.

Lisa at delivery

The best part of the delivery was running into the bride and her bridesmaids as they were coming in to set up for the reception. They were literally jumping up and down and shrieking with delight as the cake came out of the box. I think they were happy with it…

Bride and bridesmaids exclaim - Talk Sweet to Me…which makes me very happy too.

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Purple Striped Birthday Cake

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted August 1, 2008

My very good friend Stacy had a birthday a couple weeks ago and needed a cake to celebrate – after all, what is a birthday without a cake? A yellow cake with dark chocolate ganache and the color purple were my only design constrictions, which left things pretty much wide open. I decided on a simple but fun striped cake with a big purple bow.

Cake design drawing

First I ganached the cake…

Ganached cake

…and covered it with white icing.

Covered cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was on to the stripes. When doing the stripes on the Madhatter cake, Anna-Maria taught us to start with an “X” of colored stripes and fan the stripes out to the sides from there.

Putting stripes on cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Finally finished!

Stripes complete - Talk Sweet to Me

Moving on to the bow…

finishing purple bow - Talk Sweet to Me

…and then I just added a black rope around the base and a message on the board to complete the cake:

Purple Striped Birthday Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

When we got to the restaurant where Stacy’s birthday celebration was being held, I added on a candle…which was probably not really necessary since we forgot to light it. Whoops!

Cake at bar with candle

This cake brought a lot of attention to our table. People kept stopping on their way by and asking if it was a real cake (as opposed to a fake one that we were cutting into and eating?), asking if the bow was really a ribbon (no – shock!) and actually getting up from their tables to come see what all the fuss was about and talk about cake for a minute or two.

Stacy and me

 

Friends at birthday party - Talk Sweet to Me

We decided that it would be a good advertising scheme to make a cake and take it to a new place every weekend…then just hand out cards like crazy when people came over to check it out. Even if it ended up not working, at least we’d have some fun along the way!

Eventually it was time to cut the cake…

Stacy cutting the cake - Talk Sweet to Me

…and enjoy eating it!

Cake was delicious - Talk Sweet to Me

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Bookworm Birthday Cake – Step By Step

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted July 26, 2008

I was delighted to have the chance to make a birthday cake for my friend Hannah (#32) from my soccer years…go Ames Flames! Her mom was having a pretty important birthday and she wanted to surprise her with “something different” for her birthday present – so contacted me to make a cake!

Hannah’s mom is a librarian and also loves to eat healthy food. We bounced around some ideas and finally came up with a cute little bookworm – complete with wire-rimmed glasses – coming out of an apple with a couple of books nearby:

Bookworm cake sketch - Talk Sweet to Me

I quickly went out to the store to buy the most perfect apple I could find to use as a model. GOR-geous.

apple

It is possible that this could have been done entirely of cake, with a board in the middle and dowels to support the top half of the apple. However, Hannah didn’t require that much cake and so I decided to do the bottom half in styro, top half in cake, with a dowel through the middle for support.

Ganached cake - Talk Sweet to Me

I had a momentary panic attack when covering this cake. One of the hardest cakes I ever covered was the soccer ball cake, and I was lucky that Handi was there to help me when I was doing that one. So, channeling some good Planet Cake vibes, I rolled out the icing a little bit thicker than normal to allow for some stretching around the shape and went to town. A little round piece was cut out of the red of the apple and I inserted black icing to make a hole for the worm to come out of.

Covered cake - Talk Sweet to Me

On to the books. These were made of cake with a cardboard base for support so that I would be able to set one at an angle.

Cutting cake for books

Ganaching…

Ganached books

I covered the sides with white and made marks for the pages first.

Covering book with fondant - pages

Then I added thicker icing overhanging the edges for the book cover.

Cake book - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I carved the styro for the worm and covered it with green icing. Then just added texture, wire-rimmed glasses (much harder to bend to shape than I thought they would be, by the way), and a face. My ninja brush was not cooperating. The black went on a little thicker than I would have liked, but ended up looking okay after some minor catastrophe-aversion techniques were employed.

Bookworm - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I added titles to the books and painted them gold.

Cake books finished - Talk Sweet to Me

Putting everything together…

Apple and bookworm cake from top - Talk Sweet to Me

…and the finished cake!

Bookworm cake - Talk Sweet to Me

My mom has been letting me use her fabulous silicone rolling pin. I told her how great it was and she immediately told me not to buy one because they (whoever ‘they’ are!) found toxic substances in them. I knew this could not possibly be true because Handi owns more than one, and surely if there were anyone who would know about those kinds of things, it would be Handi and the rest of the Planet Cake team (and they would have let me know about this on one of the days rolling pins came up in conversation, right?!). Turns out, this was her way of trying to get me to avoid buying one because she had one hidden away for me as a Christmas present. Anyway, Christmas came early this year, and I now have my very own bright red rolling pin.

Me with rolling pin

I’m one happy gal.

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21st Birthday Cake and Hibiscus Bridal Shower Cake

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted June 2008

I made a couple of cakes recently and thought it was about time to post them. The first is a pink-themed exploding stars cake for a 21st birthday. They wanted the numbers to be candles instead of made out of icing, but the only number candles I could find had a green outline and colorful confetti on them. They were U-G-L-Y! I had to make a white and pink “faceplate” out of icing for the candles so they would go with the rest of the cake. Here ‘tis:

Pink 21 exploding stars cake - Talk Sweet to Me

I also made a tropical-theme cake for the fun of it because I had a few layers of cake leftover after a cake testing bake-a-thon. I wish my design drawings looked as nice as those that Antony and Jonny do. I’m working on it. Perhaps my first mistake is that I grab the nearest piece of paper when an idea or picture of a cake pops into my head and start drawing. This means it is often on the back of a piece of scratch paper, a post-it note, or in this case, a used envelope!

Cake design drawing - Talk Sweet to Me

Don’t tell Handi, but I forgot to look back at my notes from when he taught me to make a hibiscus flower, so looked at a bunch of flower photos and came up with my own version instead. My inspiration:

Hibiscus inspiration images

And the sugar version:

Pink sugar hibiscus flower - Talk Sweet to Me

Since I don’t have any petal cutters or silicone veiners yet, I made my own template for the hibiscus petals and leaves out of cardboard and used the back of a knife to make the veining pattern on the petals. Turns out I made the cardboard template just *slightly* too big…the flowers are really overly-massive. They turned out okay, though, as the focal point for a cake. I thought the yellow hibiscus looked better with this particular color combination:

Shower cake with yellow sugar hibiscus flower - Talk Sweet to Me

I was told that the cake looks like a hat, which it does, but that wasn’t exactly the plan. I think it might need a message on the board to look more complete.

Ta ta for now.

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A Golf Themed Birthday Cake

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted April 28, 2008

This week was a challenge because I had two cakes to complete and didn’t have the equipment I was used to or the cake and icing which used to magically appear at Planet Cake after Anna Maria ordered it. I know that’s obvious, but seriously, it was harder than I thought it was going to be. I have been running around town like a crazy-person trying to find all the supplies I need in order to make Planet Cake-style cakes from home. Both of my Grandpas had birthdays in early spring this year, so I returned just in time to get myself into the kitchen.

One of the main differences between making cakes here and making cakes at Planet Cake was that I had to make the cake myself. From scratch…making cakes from a box is cheating, but that’s just my oh-so-humble opinion. At Planet Cake it was really convenient to have everything dropped off from the bakers…something I appreciate even more now! I spent the entire day on Monday baking cake. 3 – 9×13 pans of vanilla butter cake, and 3 – 8” round layers of chocolate stout cake.

I used the chocolate stout cake for my Grandpa M’s cake. He likes to golf, so I wanted to make my own version of the normal Planet Cake golf cake for him…with a Grandpa figurine on the putting green.

I started with the 8” round layers…

Starting cake project - Talk Sweet to Me

…and cut them to shape.

Carving cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was time to cover and decorate the cake:

Covered golf cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Golf cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was on to the figurine!

Here is the picture of my Grandpa I worked from:

Grandpa picture

And the finished figurine:

Grandpa golfing sugar figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

A couple photos of the finished cake:

Golfing cake from front - Talk Sweet to Me

Golfing cake from side - Talk Sweet to Me

It was fun to get to actually see people enjoy receiving their cakes this week, something that didn’t happen very often at Planet Cake since a lot of them were either deliveries or picked up on Saturdays, when most of us weren’t there.

We dropped off the cake at Grandpa’s house…

Grandpa McElherne sees cake - Talk Sweet to Me

…and I think he liked it!

Grandpa likes his golf cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Grandpa McElherne party - Talk Sweet to Me

My grandpa had friends over later that evening and planned to serve the cake to them for dessert. Somehow, though, they convinced him that it was too nice a cake to cut and that he should keep it in his china cabinet. I had to gently explain that cakes are made for eating, and if he didn’t cut and eat it pretty soon it would go bad and start to smell. We all ate some later that week and it was goooooood…

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An 80th Birthday Cake – Full of Memories

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted June 2008

My Grandpa turned 80 this year, and the whole family gathered in Illinois for his birthday party. It was a blast to see everyone. I figured we needed cake. It all started with three 13×9 vanilla butter cakes and a plywood board wrapped with clear plastic.

Starting cake decorating project - Talk Sweet to Me

I cut the shape of the rolling hills,

Carving cake - Talk Sweet to Me

and covered it with ganache.

Ganached cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then I covered the cake and the board with icing, adding a rough texture with the edge of a piece of broken styro…

Green hills 2 - Talk Sweet to Me

…and started in on some of the final decorations.

Green hills - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was time to make the Jeep. I carved the body of the Jeep out of styro and made the wheel covers and front windshield base from balsa wood.

Sugar Jeep in process 4 - Talk Sweet to Me

The wheels had aluminum foil as their support, and were later iced, glued to the end of a skewer, and inserted into the styro.

Sugar Jeep in process 3 - Talk Sweet to Me

My Grandpa worked for ALCOA for years, and had seat cushions in the back of the Jeep for all of us to sit on, so I painted the logo onto the cushions. A penny is there for size reference on (the penny is a bit bigger than a 5 cent piece in Australia, but smaller than the 10 cent piece). I had to use my version of Margie’s ninja brush!

Sugar Alcoa cushions - Talk Sweet to Me

Then I covered the Jeep, which was quite tricky (especially since the styro I used was different, lumpy, and gross to work with), added seats, steering wheel, cushions, and gear shift, and got ready to put the top on.

Sugar Jeep in process 2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Working…

Working on sugar jeep - Talk Sweet to Me

I made a “cage” out of skewers and then glued acetate onto them so there would be clear windows, leaving the doors open as they were on the Jeep, and painting the insides of the skewers black so they couldn’t be seen when you looked in the windows from the outside.

Sugar Jeep in process - Talk Sweet to Me

Then I put the black top on and cut out the windows. This is the back of the reference Jeep image I used.

Example Jeep 2

And the view from the back. My Grandpa’s Jeep was box-ier, a different color, and had a different seating arrangement than the reference Jeep, so I had to work from memory a little bit.

Back of sugar jeep close up - Talk Sweet to Me

Reference Jeep from the front…

Example Jeep 1

…and the miniature version:

Sugar jeep close-up 2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Here is the Jeep once it was placed on the cake. Watch out for those cow pies in the prairie! My Dad used to pretend to fall off the back of the Jeep and nearly landed in one…

Sugar jeep close-up - Talk Sweet to Me

The finished cake…

Whoop de do cake - Talk Sweet to Me

My Grandpa used to take me, my sister, and my two cousins for rides in the Jeep whenever we visited. He took us out on the prairie, and every time we went over the hills, he called them “whoop-de-dos.” Then he would turn around, go over them the other way, and call them “do-de-whoops.” Hence the message on the board…

Back of Jeep birthday cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Sometimes we also got “stuck” in the creek and my Grandpa would tease that we would all have to get out and push. The creek was important enough to make an appearance on the cake too.

The cake and Jeep made it to Illinois on a 3.5-hour car ride with no problems whatsoever. Presenting Grandpa with his 80th birthday cake…

Grandpa likes the cake

Then it was time to light the candles and blow them out!

Grandpa blowing out candles - Talk Sweet to Me

Done!

Cake eaten - Talk Sweet to Me

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