Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tips and Tricks Part 2 – Decorating top 10

As promised... here is part 2 of my tips and tricks. Again this is just the way I do things and lessons I have learnt along the way :)

  1. For piping and stenciling, the royal icing should be relatively stiff (like whipped cream) and not runny. If it’s runny, it will just bleed. The best way to achieve this is to beat the royal icing with a mixer (make sure the icing sugar is sifted too). Always cover the bowl of royal icing with a damp cloth to prevent it from crusting when not in use. Similarly, cover the tip of your piping bag with a damp cloth to prevent the royal icing from hardening in the tip.
  2.  For extended tiers, the rule is if the height is more than the diameter (for example if the cake is 9in high and 8in in diameter), than wrap the fondant around the tier. If not, you can cover the tier as per normal.
  3. When designing, bear in mind any seams or ‘pressure points’ in decorating. For example if you are wrapping the fondant around the tier, there will be a seam where it joins, or sometimes, the bottom of your tiers may not cut off evenly. Design something that will hide these.
  4. When making figurines, ensure there is enough support! Just like we have a backbone your figurines will need a skewer all the way down the body and through the head.
  5. If your figurines are large, ensure the head and body have time to harden and dry before putting them together, or else they will sag and flatten.
  6. Styrofoam is an amazing medium. It is light and will enable you to create things that are structurally impossible out of cake or fondant. There is no magic way to carve styrofoam. You just need a serrated saw/knife and sandpaper. Oh, and you need to be able to think in 3D… and beware, it’s messy!
  7. Purple and certain shades of blue and pinks fade instantly (I mean within a couple of hours you will see a difference). It’s a matter of knowing which colours/brands do this and to keep it in mind when decorating. Perhaps by colouring it a shade or two darker.
  8. When making tiered cakes, ensure that all the tiers are the same height! This might seem like a no brainer but it be very obvious once all the cakes are stacked together. 
  9. Think about the total weight! A 6 tier cake might sound like a beautiful idea but will you be able to lift/move it? The last thing you want to do is break your back over someone else’s cake! Either assemble on site or construct half of it with stryofoam.
  10. Learn how to carve a cake properly. Don’t be tempted by shaped tins. You may be able to bake a cupcake shaped cake easily, but that tin may only serve 20 people. What happens when you need to make a cupcake shaped cake that serves 40 people? There will not be a 3D tin for every serving size you require.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chilling out at Cake Spa with Jacqueline from Petalsweet

What is a cake spa? Is it somewhere cakes go to relax? No... but it is somewhere where cake decorators go to chill out. There are no facials and mud wraps but lots of demos and learning outcomes. 

It's been almost a year since I have had a chance to indulge myself in learning from someone else. And last weekend was such a special treat! Together with some cake girlfriends we all had the honour of playing host in a private flower class with Jacqueline Butler of Petalsweet. Oh, it was exciting and just like what you'd imagine gathering 6 decorators in a room might be. There was lots of chatter and gossiping and occasionally Jacqueline had to tell us to quiet down and get to work! 

 Jacqueline's Hydrangeas. Pretty, pretty!

People outside the cake world might think that it's strange for us all to be friends considering that we all run businesses in competition with each other. But what they don't understand is that the cake decorating community is filled with lots of lovely people and that we are mostly all friends or know of each other. We love to share information and brainstorm how to handle difficult clients and at the end of the day, this circle of friends are really the only ones who truly understand how hard it is to run a business in this market, bail you out when you are in trouble (I've run out of sliver balls! My cake doesn't seem to be balancing right!) and can laugh at cake type jokes with you.

 Our finished flowers!

So it was truly a fun filled 3 days that I got to spend with my friends and also learn from the super talented and down to earth Jacqueline. She has such a unique style when it comes to flowers and I love how her technique is simple but so effective. In 3 days all of us have learned so much and at the end it felt like our eyes were opened up to a whole new way of making sugar flowers...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tips and Tricks Pt 1 – The Basics top 10

So I’m finally back from my holidays and I know this is a little overdue, but I have finally complied a list of tips and ticks based on your requests awhile ago. 

I’ve split it up into 3 parts and part 1 is all about the basics (stuff that is under the fondant) and part 2 and 3 will be all about the decorating. 

Please note these are my suggestions and the way I do things, it is not the be all and end all and if you have tips of your own, feel free to post them in the comments section so everyone can learn from them too!

Preparing the cake:
  1. Don’t bake and decorate your cake on the same day. Ensure your cake rests over night and chill your cake before cutting as it’s less likely to be crumbly and the ganache will also set instantly.

  1. Like the cake, don’t make and use your ganache on the same day. It needs to rest overnight at room temperature and should feel like smooth peanut butter.
  1. To ensure a moist cake, each layer should be brushed with syrup before assembling.

  1. Ganache should be made with pouring cream not thickened cream because thickened cream contains geletin. Ganache should also only be made with good quality chocolate (couverture if you have a choice) and the ratios for dark and milk chocolate are 1:2 (cream:chocolate) and for white chocolate 1:3.

  1. DO NOT overheat your ganache. This could be overheating the cream or even microwaving the cream and chocolate mixture for too long. This causes the ganache to split (meaning the oil comes out of the chocolate) or seize (meaning you’ll find lots of little tiny balls when the ganache sets).

  1. If the above happens, it’s fixable! Let the split ganache cool down (or place it in the fridge for awhile) and then remix the ganache until the oil and chocolate recombines. If the chocolate has seized, simply re-microwave in 30 second bursts until the ganache has melted but is not hot, then remix well and let it set.

  1. Make sure your cake and board size match – for example if you have a 8in cake, make sure you have an 8in board even if the cake shrinks don’t be tempted to use a smaller board. This ensures your cake sizes remain consistent and it will also help with the step below.

  1. When ganaching the sides of your cake, you will NEED a 90 degree scraper. Metal is better than plastic. When scraping the side of the cake (to get the excess ganache off), ensure the scraper is always kept at a 90 degree angle.

  1. The turn table is your friend! It’ll help you ganache the sides and top of the cake a lot better. Hold the scraper on the side of the cake with one hand and rotate the turntable with the other hand and use the cake board as a guide. ALWAYS look at the cake at eye level along the way to ensure everything is even.

  1. Use hot water and a metal spatula to smooth out the ganache after it has set (let the ganache set for at least an hour). The ganache should be smooth and even before covering. Look at the cake at eye level, the ganache should be smooth, but the top of the cake should also be flat and even at all angles. Don’t get lazy with this step as this is one of the most important elements in getting a good looking cake!

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