From Cake Lab

Friday, December 31, 2010

Parachuting Koala Cake

My sister Avery spent the last semester on exchange in Australia. Of course a cake was expected upon her return. Since she "enjoyed" a skydiving experience during her time abroad, I thought a parachuting koala cake would be a fun idea, and something a little different.
I used glass candle holders I found lying around our house to support the cake, and cotton balls for clouds. It would have been fun to make the clouds out of cotton candy but it's not easy to find it around here, and pink clouds don't really work...
I used a steamer to give the cake a bit of a shine and it made it look a little more like a parachute. Once again, rice krispy treats and modeling chocolate for the koala. The cake was chocolate with peanut butter buttercream, Avery's favorite!

Baby Blocks Cake

The end of 2010 has been pretty busy with work, family, and the holidays, and I haven't kept on top of my blogging, so before the year is up I'm getting a couple posts out.

This cake was for a baby shower and flavors included vanilla with lemon buttercream, red velvet with vanilla buttercream, and red velvet with peanut butter buttercream.
Getting sharp corners for the blocks was more challenging than I expected. The final result wasn't as clean as I had hoped for and for my next square cake I'll be trying a different method. The bear was made of rice krispy treats and modeling chocolate and I included a dozen or so vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Abby Cadabby 1st Birthday Cake

It was only a matter of time before I was asked to do a three tiered cake. My first attempt was for a babies first birthday.
If you're not familiar with Abby Cadabby, she is a Sesame Street character. Who knew?! Guess there is a new generation of Sesame Street fans out there.
The tiers were strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream, vanilla cake with cookies n cream buttercream, and chocolate cake with mocha buttercream. Have to say with all this mixing I was extremely relieved that my first ever stand mixer arrived in the mail last week (a 5.5 Q Cuisinart...a late grad gift from my parents!). It probably saved me at least an hour or two of work.

The plan was to initially use a plastic topper for Abby, but after completing the cake I had a few hours left the night before so I decided to try it out of gumpaste and modeling chocolate. It's not my best sculpture but it was really just getting some more practice in and giving the parents another option.
Once I began stacking the cake I realized that it was getting pretty heavy. I kept on wondering if the cake would survive the transport, and had continual visions of hitting a frost heave, looking back and seeing my cake collapsed. Fortunately it made it to it's final destination in one piece and I was able to breath a sigh of relief.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Teal/Green 50th Birthday Cake

This weekend my mom turned the big five-oh, so there were no excuses for no cake.
When deciding on the design of the cake, I wanted to do something that represented the essence of my mom. Anyone that knows her will tell you she is fun, bright, kinda funky, and a little bit...loud. Hahaha.
I knew she had some great tops that really suite her personality, so I decided to design the cake after one of them. The bottom layer of the cake was her favorite: carrot cake with walnuts and raisins, topped with a cream cheese frosting.

I thought it would be fun to see the cake with the top against the background, and it does make for a pretty cool photo!

This cake was pretty time consuming, and I did wonder a few times if I was crazy for picking such a complex design, but my mom totally deserved it.
She's really not your average 50 year old. This past summer I was selling some stuff around the house. One item was our old foosball table. A couple of athletic looking guys in their late 20s came to pick it up. One asked, "hm, should we move the car closer so we don't have to carry it so far?" (it was about 20 feet away from the table). I said "oh, it should be no problem, my mom and I carried it down the steps this morning" (and that WAS a challenge!). I think the guy was kinda embarrassed after that.
Not only am I impressed with my mom's physical strength, I really love her positive spirit. I am extremely fortunate to have had her influence in my life, and I owe her so much more than a deliciously intricate cake...but it's a start.
Happy Birthday Mom!!! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Logo Cakes

This week my cakes had a bit of a theme: company logos! Some were definitely a bit more challenging than others.
First up was made for a Maine company titled Mountain. The M logo was pretty simple, and there's no way I could have done it without my airbrush. Unfortunately my airbrush was giving me some issues so I decided to take it apart to clean it...well those things have a ton of intricate parts and I spent way too much time trying to reassemble.
The AT&T logo was also pretty basic, but I spent a bunch of time trying to make it 3D out of rice krispie treats and modeling chocolate. Making a sphere is difficult enough, but the AT&T lines are not so simple and trying to replicate them presented me with quite a challenge. I tried my best but time was running out so I went with the 2D version.

This week my mom was meeting a few friends from our days in Taiwan. She wanted me to make a cake but didn't really know what, so thought why not do a cake in the shape of Taiwan with the logos of the companies that were responsible for them all being there.
When she saw the cake she said "it looks like a fish!", but I said it is what Taiwan looks like. Not the most creative cake and didn't really learn much but I did what I was asked!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Masquerade Cake

Masquerade cakes are pretty popular so I figured I'd try one out.
My parents went to Belgium a couple years ago for my uncle's wedding, which happened to include a masquerade theme, so I had a few samples lying around the house to choose from.
The mask was made from gumpaste, and I added some details with some royal icing and buttercream (trial and error!). It was hand painted with edible colors. The red turned out a bit clumpy, but at least it is supposed to look hand painted. It should just look more like a professional job lol.

When I first thought up of a masquerade cake, I assumed I would do some type of line or diamond pattern on the base as that is what is commonly used. But then I figured, that's so easy, and the mask wasn't that much of a challenge, so why not try a design a little more creative. I used the curves in the original mask for inspiration and I'm really happy I decided to do something a little different.

'Dexter' Cake

One of my favorite shows! Who doesn't love Dexter?
So it is kinda bloody for cake but I love making all types of cakes.
Flowers? Great!
Blood? Awesome!
They're all fun to make, so I'm just going to continue showing off my diversity.
The design is pretty simple, just the logo and some blood. I did want to experiment using my new and improved marshmallow fondant some more, and I'm really liking my recipe. It's much easier to work with than the stuff I had been using. I also took this chance to try out the cutout technique I used on the Funky Piano cake. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as successful on this cake. Since the cutout was so big it was a little difficult to work with. I think I will stick to just placing a thin circle on the top from now on, it would have given the cake a cleaner look.

Since I had some extra blood lying around (royal icing), I figured why not go all out and make it gross. I kinda knew the look would be a bit overboard...great for a horror cake, but Dexter is a little "cleaner" in his work. Maybe an amount somewhere in between would have been best.
Can't wait for the new episode tonight, Season 5 is really coming together!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Funky Piano Cake

As as I browsing yesterday, I came across a photo of a really cool, hip, funky cake. I loved the design so much I had to do something like it myself.
The original cake had a base layer of purple and teal buttercream, but I'm a fan of fondant so had to choose that. The only real "new" technique I used on this cake was cutting out shapes from the base fondant and then replacing them with new colors. I've done something similar when using two layers of fondant, but never the one directly on top of the buttercream. Fortunately it worked pretty well, and not to surprisingly as I had just seen this cutting technique used on Amazing Wedding Cakes last week, and I really like the look it adds to the cake.

This is probably one of my favorite cakes so far and I look forward to doing more fun stuff like this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dracula Cake

After several pink floral cakes, it was definitely time for something a little darker!
This is just another practice cake (but the orders are starting to come in!), and although it's two tiers, I didn't have to bake anything. The top tier used to belong to my Tigger cake and the bottom one used to be covered in cherry blossoms (that's three times for that cake).
Not a whole lot new here, but this was my first time sculpting the roses. I think they turned out OK, but it's definitely gonna require some practice. The part I'm least satisfied with has got to be the second tier. The airbrush went a little heavy on the black, and I tried to even it out, making it even more black...
Next time I'm going to try using less pressure, or possibly just use black dust around the curly things.
Lovin the grass, dracula, and the moon. Tombstones made of gumpaste and tree made of modeling chocolate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Red & Pink Cherry Blossom Cakes

A few days after my website went live I got a call about a wedding cake. It was pretty exciting to get a call so soon, without doing any real advertising, as my focus was on creating more samples. They asked if I could do a cherry blossom wedding cake, something that is pretty common and not too difficult. My portfolio doesn't include any wedding type cakes, so I thought now would be the perfect time to add some diversity to my collection.

Since I don't need a ton of cake lying around I decided to do a one tier version. I first chose to do red blossoms, but noticed after I dusted them that the color really should be coming from the center of the flower. Oops. I also wasn't sure what to put in the empty space. I was thinking some type of text like "Happy Anniversary", but that seemed pretty long.
After looking at the red blossom cake for a bit I wasn't that happy with it. Then I realized that the branches made of modeling chocolate and gumpaste flowers could easily be removed without leaving too much behind, so why not recycle the cake? That led to the pink cake, which I'm more satisfied with. I decided it would be safe to use a Chinese character since cherry blossoms are Asian, so I chose the symbol for marriage.

Friday, October 15, 2010

'Sex & the City' Themed B-Day Cake

Finally, another two tiered cake! It's really pretty wasteful to make two tiered sample cakes, so when I have the chance to make one for an event I really enjoy it.
My favorite part of this cake is definitely the skyline, although my hand was in pain from squeezing on all those little windows. The color combo of pink and black is pretty cool too...I always love black with a bright color. I was asked to make the pink fondant "not baby pink but not hot pink", and I think I got the right mix.
New tool for the letters! My new clickstix make it much easier to punch out font. I also have script letters on the way!
The cake also was lightly brushed with a pearl sheen but it's not really noticeable in the picture.
Been a very busy week making cakes and also finished another one today but I'll save the post for tomorrow. Time to clean the kitchen!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tigger Cake

It's safe to say that most of my recent cakes have been on the darker side, but I really want to show some diversity in my designs so I have three girly cakes coming up this week (then maybe I will follow up with another scary one :) ).
After using modeling chocolate for the first time with The Beast cake, my mind was swarming with new ideas as the medium is so different from fondant and gumpaste and allows many more options. I thought Tigger would be a fun character to try as he is popular and is the "coolest" Winne the Pooh character in my opinion hahaha. He is made up of rice krispie treats covered in modeling choclate. The only thing unedible is the wire for the whiskers.
In my recent glee cake I had attempted to make a hand look like it was popping out of the cake. I was not at all pleased with the results so thought I would take this opportunity to get it right. I first placed a circle of black fondant on the cake where I wanted Tigger to pop out (thanks to some members from CakeCentral for the suggestion!), and then covered the whole cake in yellow. I began to cut the strips and things seemed to be going perfectly, not to mention it was one of my cleanest covering jobs, but as I lifted the flaps the black fondant stuck to the yellow and began ruining the buttercream. I think this happened because I used homemade black fondant which is a little stickier than usual. Fortunately I was able to salvage it and achieved the effect I was looking for.

This was my first time piping beads around the bottom of a cake. I have made fondant balls before, which is more time consuming, but also easier to avoid mistakes. It takes some practice but it's a skill I need to master so this cake got the treatment.
While it's not totally a "me" cake it was a lot of fun and very good practice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Beast ( from 'Angel') Cake

This cake was a nice little blast to the past.
One of my dorkiest phases was back when I was a huge Buffy/Angel fan (the shows still rock, but after being off the air for 6-7 years I'm a little less enthusiastic). Not only did I love the shows, but I was somewhat obsessed with collecting related merchandise. The area I spent most of my attention towards was the action figure line. Part of that included being involved in an online community of collectors. Soon some of us began customizing them with different paint jobs, or sculpting episode specific clothes or hair. "Customs" began to get really popular online and I jumped in and even sold a few of mine. The first figure I sculpted pretty much in its entirety was a character from Angel called The Beast (pictured below), and I must've been around 15-16 at the time.

After brainstorming about new cake challenges to tackle, I thought why not go back to my roots and have another go, this time in food form. After some planning I realized there was no way I could do this cake the way I wanted with fondant and gum paste. The detail wouldn't be fine and there would be seams everywhere.
I wondered if I should try modeling chocolate. I had seen many cake decorators use it on TV before but I didn't know much about it. After a little bit of research it turns out you can easily make it by melting some chocolate and adding corn syrup. Awesome!
Before I started I figured the face would be the most challenging aspect as I haven't done much sculpting, and what I have done has been small cartoony animal figures. The head actually went really smoothly (head and horns made of rice krispie treats covered in modeling chocolate), and the body seemed to go pretty well too, but as I was getting ready to paint I noticed things were going downhill fast!
The cake I used was very soft and began sinking under the modeling chocolate. Instead of having the shape I carved it began to look flat. The stick anchoring the head began to poke through the top of the head. My cool cake was turning into a disaster! I decided to bake another cake, this time I wanted to get rid of some old ingredients so used a book recipe that included them. Big mistake. That cake was worse than the orignal. I didn't know what to much work and it was just a mess. Then I though about cutting some of the cake out of the body and replacing it with rice krispie treats, that way the shoulders and neck would have some support. Thankfully it worked and gave me a decently shaped end product. The body isn't exactly as I'd pictured but it was the best I was gonna get without starting all over again.

Painting wasn't too difficult, just painted the thing red then black, and the red stayed in the lines I carved. Horns didn't turn out quite as I'd like...I first airbrushed them yellow then brown which looked awesome, but I then began to paint in the black likes but it wasn't turning out the way I wanted. I whiped off the black with a wet paper towel so that the black would just be in the indent, but it also ruined the airbrushing job. I went over with the airbrush again but since the canvas was a little blotchy I didn't get quite the result I was looking for. Probably the biggest disappointment in the cake is that it's really hard to see the detail in the face since it is black. If I can find the time I may make another demon cake but this time choose one with a lighter skin tone.

So that is it for this cake! Another challenge completed and another addition for my portfoilo. Perfect time of year for this cake too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Taking the Leap: Introducing Cake Lab

Sooo, looks like I'm staying in Maine longer than I planned.
I first decided to follow my path to becoming a cake decorator back in February. At the time I still had a few more months of schooling left in Montreal until I earned my degree. Before I left I had lined up a position at a bakery that would be moving outside the city in July and would need new people. My plan was to spend a couple months in Maine before returning to Montreal for work. Well, what I thought was the perfect opportunity wasn't as awesome as I had originally thought. At the end of July I began looking for options in the Boston area as it is just two hours away from my home in Maine. Easy enough to get to but I'd still have my space. I had interviews at two bakeries, and even worked a few days at one of them, but I realized it would require an investment on my part to work out there...what with the pricey rent, car payments, food and health insurance...I just wasn't sure it was worth the investment.
That led me to thinking...why don't I open up my own place? It was always my plan to do it eventually. I just thought it wouldn't be until I was around 30. I figured now was the time for me to learn from someone else. I didn't want all the responsibility that comes with owning your own business. I also didn't think I had the "stuff" to be a success at my current level, but my confidence did get a little boost when I was researching other cake companies. While there are a lot of really impressive decorators out there, there are also a lot that really...aren't. If they can be a success, why can't I? I've definitely had lots of hesitation, but opening any business is a lot or work. Make it one that relies on your creativity and it can certainly be nerve wracking, but I do believe I have what it takes to do this right. The time for risk is now. I'm young and have no responsibilities to anyone but myself. I'm lucky enough to have parents that will allow me to run the business from home for reasonable rent. This is an option that may not always be around.

This may not be the exact route I envisioned myself on months ago, and there sure are some disadvantages...but it's up to me to make the best of them, and in then end this could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

All that leads to the opening of Cake Lab. A fitting name for someone with a science background. I also feel like I'm constantly experimenting new recipes and decorating techniques. It's kinda like a lab! I guess I will never be able to fully escape my science days...

My website is under construction but good enough to present to people. - get it? (thanks to one of my mom's friends for the play on words)
Also just started a page on Facebook!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and been sending positive vibes my way, you have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jack O Lantern Cake

Unfortunately that means I'm borderline depressed due to the fact that the time for shorts and soaking in the sun by the pool is over, but at least there is one good thing about the change in seasons...Halloween! It's one of my favorite holidays and the perfect excuse for making some creepy cakes.
I've wanted to make a Jack O Lantern cake for so long but haven't had a reason or the tools to make a really good one. Now that I have my airbrush I can do the cake justice.

The carving of this cake was pretty simple, especially compared to my recent Batmobile cake. I mean, who really cares if it's not perfect because every pumpkin is different. I knew it would be a good idea to use two layers of fondant on this cake to give it some realistic dimension. The other options would be to either paint on the face of cut out black pieces and stick them on, but it definitely wouldn't give the same result.
I've been using pre-made Satin Ice fondant for most of the summer, and had attempted to make my own black marshmallow fondant in the past with poor results. Large quantities of dye are required to get a black color, which really messes up the consistency of the fondant and it never really looks black anyway. BUT I found a recipe online that includes chocolate chips and cocoa powder in the fondant, and it gave me a pretty good color. Not only did I like the texture and color, but it also tasted kinda like a Tootsie Roll!
After covering the cake in black fondant I put on a layer of yellow. The yellow fondant was then airbrushed with orange, brown and copper colors. I went a little bit heavy on some of the copper areas but I'm really enjoying using the airbrush and this cake provided good practice. Once painted, I cut out the features and that was pretty much all there was to it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Glee S2 Premiere Cake

I normally don't take half a week to blog about a new cake but I've been really busy recently. For the past few days I've been working at Truly Jorg's Patisserie in Saugus, MA (a Food Network Challenge competitor!). They had a busy week and needed some extra help so I figured why not earn some cash and learn a few things. It was a two hour drive each way but I really enjoyed myself and am grateful for the experience. Now I have some time to get back to my cakes (I have one half finished that I haven't touched since Tuesday! Don't think I'll be eating that one)
My first blog entry was actually for a Glee cake. It was a pretty simple cake and I've learned a lot in the months that have passed so I figured the second season premiere was a good chance to see what else I could come up with.
There were a lot of firsts for me with this cake, and while not everything turned out quite as well as I hoped, I'm not terribly upset and did learn a few things. The hand was made out of rice krispie treats, my first time using that medium. I brushed them with a bit of melted chocolate to firm them up and then layered with buttercream before covering in fondant. With all those layers it ended up a little bulkier than I imagined, something to keep in mind next time I'm shaping the treats. This was also my first time using hexagonal pans. A little more challenging than the standard round pans because all the corners that need to be sharp, but this was good practice. This is also the first time I was able to use my new airbrush. It worked pretty well on the red and blue blocks, but I didn't do it quite right on the smaller ones...takes a little getting used to. Definitley a useful tool that will add more dimension to my future cakes. I'm pretty happy with the way the cast sillouettes, stars, and slushies turned out, but I need to cut the fondant differently next time I'm going for the "pop out of the cake" look.
So yes, I do see a lot of flaws with this cake, but I was able to step it up from my last Glee cake and learn a lot, so I still love it! Plus the new banana cake recipe tasted awesome.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Batmobile Cake

Monday night I decided to try a new recipe for a peanut butter cake. There were so many possible cake ideas in my head, but I felt a lot of them would turn out better if I had an airbrush (getting my first in 5 days!!!).
As I was browsing cake photos I saw a thumbnail that made me go "is that the batmobile?". Alas, it was not, but I thought "what a great idea!". Not only do I get to make a superhero cake, but I also get to try making a car for the first time.
This cake is based off the 1989 movie, and thanks to flickr member FLG8R for supplying me with reference pics. There's a lot of details from every angle so the photos were very helpful.
Since there is such a transformation during the process of making a sculpted cake, I decided it would be fun to include some progress photos. Trying my hand at making different types of cakes is a good way for me to be able to estimate how long it will take me to do a cake. Even though the size of this cake wouldn't feed many people, a larger cake really doesn't take much longer because you still have to do just as many details. If anything it might be easier to make a larger version because the pieces aren't so damn tiny.
Overall I'm really happy with this experience. Wish I had done a few things differently but there's always next time! Soon it will be time to prep a couple cakes so they will be ready for finishing touches when I get my airbrush. Can't wait!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Converse Sneaker Cake

I decided it was time to up the difficultly level on my cakes. The Celtic one went surprisingly smoothly, given the fact that I had little practice this summer. Maybe it has been the crazy amounts of cake TV I've been watching (favorites are Amazing Wedding Cakes, Food Network Challenge and Ace of Cakes...and the 4 episode Fabulous Cakes was pretty cool too)...but maybe I just kinda absorbed some good technique...haha who knows.
Anyway, shoes are a popular cake choice, so I chose a green Converse sneaker for my first 3D sculpted cake. It did take me a few tries to get the look I was going for. Actually after my first carving attempt I realized I had cut off too much cake, and I had already thrown away the scraps (to save myself from eating them!). Fortunately my partially consumed Celtic cake was sitting just a few feet away, so I cut off a couple slices and molded it onto the shoe form.

It was a ton of fun watching the lump of cake slowly begin to look like an actual sneaker. I must admit it's going to be a little sad digging into this one, or just throwing it in the trash if no one eats it, but it was a great experience and I can't wait for the next 3D cake. Already have a ton of ideas, the hardest part is choosing which one to do!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Celtic Design Cake

The cakes are back! I took some time off from making cakes for a couple of reasons. First of all, the house has had people coming and going but there has been no event that might require a cake, and I don't always feel like making a cake for no apparent reason when my family won't be around for long periods of time. Another big reason is that I like to be very careful about what I eat, and I am usually very disciplined...but there is no way I can say no to a delicious dessert sitting on the counter!
Finally this week I caved. I was home alone and cleaning out the cupboards and found a cake mix that was about to expire. I have never actually used a cake mix for one of my cakes before, but I figured this either has to be used now or end up in the trash, so why not take advantage of it? I actually made the Celtic triquetra symbol out of gumpaste about a month ago. It was originally going to be used for my attempt to make a book cake. Unfortunately the book had to be fairly large to give the effect I was looking for, so I opted to use a "fake cake" instead. I found that a large cereal box was just the size I needed. I ended up icing the box but the corners were so sharp, decorating it would really not have been anything like decorating a real cake, so I didn't really see any point in continuing.

I decided to make use of what I had and ended up with this. The cake was actually covered in two layers of fondant, and pieces were then cut out of the top. I had seen this technique on tv a couple times, and it really added another dimesion to cake.
I was a bit nervous about the surrounding design. It was all done free handed which meant it was easy to make a mistake. The silver design is just something I came up with, but I think it looks Celtic enough!
Yes, this is a pretty dark cake, but it's exactly the type of cake I love! A true ZacO creation! My next cake will be much "happier" lol.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yoshi Cake

One of my friends works with kids and a couple of them were graduating this week. She said they loved Mario so I thought it would be a great theme considering I was wanting to make a Mario centric cake myself.
Yoshi is one of my favorite Mario characters, so I definitely wanted to represent him. I wasn't really sure on what type of design I wanted. I considered carving the cake into the shape of Yoshi (not 3D, not quite ready for that yet!), but then I would have a ton of waste which I wasn't really excited about. It would have been fun to try and sculpt Yoshi out of gumpaste and fondant but I didn't really have the time for that, so I settled on this flat image. Thank god for AC as the day was insanely humid and really affects the structure of all the sugar products. It ended up as a pretty simple cake but nice none the less.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sorcerer Mickey Cake

My least favorite decoration for the 'Under the Sea' cake was the snorkeling koala. He gave me a ton of trouble and I felt like I did the best I could, but really I knew I could do better with more experience. That inspired me to practice my sculpting again, and this time giving myself the challenge of a recognizable cartoon character. Sorcerer Mickey was and still is one of my favorite cartoon characters, and the level of difficulty seemed appropriate so I felt like he was a good choice.
Mickey is 100% edible and made of gum paste and fondant. I learned quite a few things while making him, a lot was really trial and error. For my first try, I sculpted the body and tried to drape the robe over him. That was clearly not working so I scrapped that and made each body part out of a solid piece of gum paste/fondant mix. After that I was having some trouble keeping his parts together. I first tried spaghetti, but things kept on slipping out. I then tried royal icing, and then egg whites, neither of which created a strong enough bond. Fortunately, after some help from Cake Central member KathysCC, I was able to stick him together using a lightly moistened fresh piece of gum paste between each joint. It worked perfectly!
The face was another big challenge, and while he could use some improvement, I am still pretty happy with his likeness. The robe, hat, and details were carefully painted using a mix of vodka and food dye. I didn't do the best job painting the hat as my first coat was a little too thick...oops.

Once I had Mickey completed I needed a cake for him, so I decided to do something small and simple. I used a cookie cutter for the stars, and painted and attached them to floral wire. I used a cobblestone imprint for the base which I then painted in the cracks. The waves were made of white fondant/gum paste and colored using blue food spary. I added a shine to the waves using a mixture of corn syrup and vodka (sounds tasty :/ ), but that effect wasn't really picked up by the photos. Maybe a higher ratio of corn syrup next time. The smaller waves at the bottom were made of butter cream and then dusted with blue petal dust.
I will probably save Mickey for a later cake as these figures can last a long time when stored properly and it would be fun to do a really epic Disney cake. Overall is was a great learning experience!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Under the Sea Cake

Wow. It has been almost a month since my last cake and entry. It's not that I've fallen out of love of making cakes, but I will be soon be heading off to make cakes full time as a job. Before I head off I'd like to take the chance to enjoy some other hobbies that I may not have the time for later. Luckily, once in a while an occasion pops up and gives me no choice but to make a cake. Most recently was my sister Avery's birthday. She actually doesn't turn 20 for another couple weeks but she will be leaving for a semester in Australia shortly so we decided to celebrate a little early.

Avery has always been pretty helpful in bouncing off ideas on my cakes, so I felt she deserved a good one. She had a few themes she wanted, and I thought the under the sea theme was the best. The Ariel topper wasn't even in the original plan of the cake. After completing most of the work on the two sides I thought that Ariel would look perfect on top. Avery already had the topper from a previous store bought cake years ago. I did feel like it was cheating a little bit, but it just looked too perfect to pass up.

The biggest problem making a cake like this is that you can ALWAYS add more details (not like the Dragon cake, where less is more). While I am overall pretty pleased with the finished product, there are so many things I would add if I had more time. The sand was just sprinkled brown sugar and all the decorations were made of gum paste. I did include a little snorkeling koala on the side to represent her upcoming travels, but it didn't turn out quite like I hoped. He just wasn't drying fast enough and kept on falling apart. I wish I had a couple more hours to redo him real well but given the time constraints, this had to do.
I did have a little technical difficult with the top tier. I cut the board so it was exactly the size of the cake. Unfortunately, this meant that the fondant went over the board, so it wasn't supported by the dowels in the bottom tier...which led to a little droopiness. This is something I should definitely know by now, but I guess at least it is a mistake I will be sure to never make again!
The cake was all chocolate as it is her favorite, and the top tire included peanut butter cups in the frosting, and the bottom had cream cheese and Oreos. Didn't last long in this house...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tribal Dragon Cake

The thing about being an aspiring cake artist is that when it comes time for your own birthday, you really can't ask someone else to make you a cake, and a store bought cake really isn't going to cut it. Fortunately, I love making cakes and making one purely for myself allowed me to do just what I wanted.
I chose the dragon design because I've always been a fan of them and used to collect various dragon statues during my travels as a child. Ever since I started making cakes I've wanted to do a dragon one, but only recently obtained the supplies needed to make it the way I wanted. Coincidentally, CakeCentral was hosting a Dragon & Fairies themed contest and the submission due date was just days after my birthday. This was clearly a sign! I entered the cake in the contest and am awaiting the results, although considering the amazing talent on that site I don't expect to place, but it is still fun to participate.

Most people might think I'm a little crazy if they knew how long I spent making the dragon decoration, but it really is the heart of the cake. Between prepping the image, cutting out the fondant/gumpaste mix, and painting, I invested at least 3-4 hours on it, but it was worth it for the finished product. The only real new technique I tried out on this cake was painting.
There are a variety of dusts (pearl, petal, lustre dusts) that can be used to decoate cakes. I've used some on past cakes to add some shading or shine, but I've never used them to paint. Making a paint out of the dust is actually quite simple. Just add a little bit of alcohol to the dust (I chose vodka) and voila, the dust is now a paint. Water can't be used as it can ruin the finish on the fondant and can't be fixed (this also means great care has to be taken that no water is acidentally dropped on a cake when it is being worked on). Alcohol is used because it evaporates quickly. Overall I was very happy with the metallic look and the cake is probably my favorite so far.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Graduation Cakes

Graduation season is upon us and I had two grad cakes due this past weekend. A bit of a challenge since the two cakes were for the same family and I only had three days to make both. Not only did this require a significant time investment, but I had to try to make sure both cakes were at the same level. Not sure if I was able to succeed 100%, but I'm pretty happy with the end results. Wish I had a bit more time for details but I did what I could given the time restraints.

The designs for the cakes were pretty much left up to me. Obviously this can be pretty difficult when making cakes for someone you don't know. Without much direction, I really clung on to the few details I was given and I think they ended up pretty neat. The cakes gave me the opportunity to try out a few new things, including decorating with buttercream for the grass on the flower cake. I've been a little hesitant decorating with buttercream as it's not as easy to redo if I mess up, but it worked out well enough, especially for my first try. The flower pattern on the top of the girl cake was actually just an imprint mat, so while it looks impressive it is actually pretty simple! I was able to achieve the yellow shading by using petal dust, another first that turned out well.
The guy's cake used some floral wire for the fishing pole and line, something that will be very useful in future cakes. The text was made with stencils, and I made my own stencils for the runner, kayaker, and names for both cakes (yes it is very time consuming!). Overall it was a very intense but good experience.

While I was busy decorating cakes, my own graduation was going on. I didn't feel like it was necessary to attend as I went to a friend's last year while I was living in Montreal and didn't feel like it was worth the time and money to have my family stay there for the weekend. Fortunately I was able to spend the weekend in NYC with my sisters and attended the "Glee" concert with Avery (definitely the best grad gift so far!).