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The Real Deal – Week #1 (Part 2)

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted February 25-29, 2008


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.


Cascade inspiration

Working, working…

Placing flower cascade - Talk Sweet to Me

Here is the completed cascade:

Rose cascade - Talk Sweet to Me


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


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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.

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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.

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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


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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


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Practice Makes Perfect

Well. Okay. So life throws a girl for a loop once in a while. My baby girl came two weeks early and I didn’t have a chance to post everything that I wanted to before my life became a whirlwind of nursing, changing diapers, soothing a crying baby, playing with a happy baby, laundry, eating, sleeping, working, squeezing in a shower, and daydreaming about how to get more sleep. The past five months have been a wild ride, but we are all doing well…or well enough on the days that we don’t get more than a few hours of sleep!

Let’s get back to where I meant to be in mid-September in the world of all things cake. Enjoy!

Flashback - talksweettome.comOriginally posted January 9, 2008

First day back after the holidays, and it was a good productive day. My task was to complete another Golf Course cake (probably the third one), and I can honestly say that each time I do it, the cake is coming together more quickly with more confidence and improved skills. Practice, practice, practice.

Golf Course Cake | Talk Sweet To Me

I’ve asked the decorators at Planet Cake about the best ways to practice cake decorating skills. The answer is of course (drumroll please…) simply by doing. Unfortunately all of my cake decorating equipment has been left in my parent’s attic while I’m living in Sydney, so the majority of training right now is done on the job. However, I’ve picked up the following suggestions, which may be useful to you:

-Use Styrofoam. Here is what I used to do: a sudden inspiration for a cake would pop into my head. I would get out my pans, go to the store for ingredients, mix up the batter, put it in the oven, clean the kitchen, wait for the timer to go off, and set the cake out to cool. Then somehow, after all that hard work, part of the enthusiasm was missing when it came to the actual decorating. Thus…Styrofoam. Grab some icing and go to town.

-To practice piping, use the kitchen bench (aka counter top, for you Americans out there). It is easy to clean, always available, and offers plenty of space for practice. Anna-Maria suggested that instead of whipping up a batch of icing every time you want to work on your skills, buy a jar of Nutella. It has a similar consistency and will save you time. As you continue to practice, it is beneficial to switch over to the icing you will be using on your cakes to get used to its properties. In addition, piping onto a vertical surface (such as the side of a cake) as opposed to a horizontal surface (such as the kitchen counter) are two entirely different skills. Grab that Styrofoam again and use it for the vertical surface practice.

Each day at Planet Cake I learn something new – not only in regard to cake decorating techniques in general, but also about my own abilities and preferences. This week, I found that I like using colored icing to make flowers rather than coloring the white ones that are already made. It gives more control over the colors, shapes, and sizes of the final outcome, and appeases the control freak in me.

Back to the cakes of the day – after finishing the golf course cake, I also worked on a Funky Baby Petals Christening cake and a Spotty Present Box cake. Both were already expertly covered by Ritzy, so I had my favorite job…finishing touches. It feels pretty good to have three cakes completed, photographed, and boxed by the end of the day. Love it.

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New Craftsy Cake Decorating Classes!

Serious cake classes - talksweettome.comCraftsy has released even more new cake decorating classes. The fun never ends!

Designer Fondant Textures taught by Marina Sousa, Food Network Challenge Champion. This class includes instruction on ruching, fringe, ruffles, and sparkling sequins. Sooo pretty!

Cake Design Made Simple – Art Deco with Lindy Smith, author of The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible. It sounds like so much fun to learn her cake designing techniques!

Classic Car, Timeless Techniques by Mike McCarey of Mike’s Amazing Cakes. This cake would make such a perfect birthday celebration for someone who loves classic cars. I know my husband’s jaw would hit the floor if I made him a classic car for his birthday cake! The parts that sound best to me are learning the gelatin technique for a perfect clear windshield and all the time saving tips for the details!

The Art of Airbrushing with Lisa Berczel, master of airbrushing techniques. This one looks super-exciting with all the design skills and textures you can add to your decorating arsenal…I’ve never been super-confident with an airbrush, but taking this class sure would help!

What more could a cake decorator ask for? Can’t wait to see what’s next…

Have you taken a Craftsy class? Tell me about it!

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