On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Christmas cakes for work

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I’ve waited long enough feeding these cakes, to this weekend decorating them.

Santas legsEarlier I’d made the marzipan, the fondant I’d made some weeks before and I’d tinted one third Americolor sky blue.

This morning I decided to use the spare legs I had from Santa Mark II and shove them in a fondant chimney meaning I would be decorating a cake to look like it was a roof.

No problem. I decided I’d add some snow and use the snowflakes I’d made Thursday night when I was trying out the new cutters I got from Sugar Art Studio. The cutters aren’t too bad in price but the shipping was horrendous. They arrived priority FedEx and landed in Auckland on Tuesday, having left Florida Friday (their time). Then they hung around in Christchurch for 48 hours before being delivered. Pretty poor given how far they’d come in such a short time. I digress.

Given this was going to represent the roof of a house, I wanted the main colour of the “house” to be a colour that I’d like. I wanted to make it real. As if Santa with his legs poking out the chimney is real.

I went with the new Gooseberry Sugarflair gel and gave the Liz Marek fondant (which is more an ivory colour) a bit of a spruce up. It was difficult to tell that it was being coloured but when I put something white against it the colour came out nicely. I imagine a weatherboard house in this colour. Okay, enough of my imagination getting in the way of a cake.

All sidesI panelled the cake with the marzipan as I mentioned in my earlier post. It wasn’t quite perfectly done and I worried that the fondant would show up the bit where it was a little thin at the top of one corner, creating a very small ridge. But we all know how fondant will show up the smallest of flaws.

For whatever reason, and I’m not complaining, the fondant didn’t suck into the small gap. Hoorah.

I used The Mat today for all my fondant rolling. I was curious with the fondant being so sticky whether it would play nicely with The Mat. I actually haven’t used The Mat for a very long time. But with the fondant being sticky I didn’t want to fight with it trying to keep it from sticking to the table, and then getting it placed on the cake squarely.

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the fondant rolled out, and getting it on the cake went without hitch. But the fondant was still quite sticky and I had to keep dusting potato starch to the fondant smoothers.

Snow for the roofFor the snow I used Bakels fondant. I wanted a really white white. This time I rolled it onto a non-stick chopping mat with one part of The Mat over the top. Once I had it rolled to the thickness I wanted and it was big enough to cover the top and hang over the edge I took The Mat away and first marked out where the corners of the cake would be. I used my craft knife to cut the dripping snow shape I wanted making sure that at each corner it was shaped as a drip. Once the shape had been made I pulled away the excess fondant and then laid The Mat back over top so that I could then use this to give me better ability to line up the fondant over the cake where I wanted it. Before all this I lightly brushed the top and just over the edges of the cake with the brandy sugar syrup. Once the fondant was in place I used my fingers to smooth over the cut edge so that it didn’t look so sharp. Then I used the water brush to apply water to the back of the stars and got to sticking them onto the sides. I rolled a small sausage of white fondant and again used the water brush to apply water before placing the roll of fondant on top of the chimney and then used my fingers to pull the fondant down a little to give it a look of snow melting.

And there we have it. The cake was finished.

Point of viewI always think of something at the end. Before I begun I covered the board (Perspex board) with fondant. I wouldn’t do this again, not in this order. It meant I had to be very carefully smoothing the sides of the cake at all layers so that I didn’t dent the fondant on the board. And cutting the excess fondant from the cake was a very delicate manoeuvre, I tried to be light handed so as no to cut into the fondant on the board, but all that got me was jaggered looking edges because I hadn’t cut deep enough. So lesson learnt. If I’m going to cover the board, don’t put the cake on it until it’s fully decorated, or decorate the cake on the board and then cover it (which will mean you’ve got a seam somewhere).

Now that cake was actually the second one.

Non traditional treeI decorated Mr Fussy’s work cake first. Again I had planned what I wanted to do many weeks ago. I had the fondant coloured as I wanted. I was going to have given the drippy snow to the round cake. But then I changed my mind this morning due to using the spare Santa legs on the square cake.

Earlier in the week I’d seen a cake with a “modern” looking Christmas tree on it, in pastel colours. I liked the idea of the shape of the tree a lot. The only snag was the colours used would have to work with the sky blue fondant. I made small balls of coloured fondant using Lemon Yellow (Americolour), Pastel Pink (Americolour), Grape (Sugarflair) and Tangerine (Sugarflair). I drew the cone shape onto waxed paper first and rolled out the fondant into strips and neatened up the sides with the craft knife and laid them out one above the other.

At this point I used one of the impression mats over the top. I’d already tried using a rolling pin to leave the impression but the fondant was so sticky that it wouldn’t pull away. Instead I used my fingers to lightly rub over the mat hoping it would leave even impressions over all pieces. I carefully pulled the impression mat away. I placed the waxed paper over the top and used my ruler to leave an impression of the shape, removed the waxed paper and used the craft knife and ruler to cut the lines. Lastly I took each piece and laid it over the cake to get a general look and feel. Then one by one I moved the piece away and used the water pen on the fondant where the piece would lay (I had tried using water on the back of the fondant piece but it was too delicate and made it harder to nudge the piece into position).

Then I went from non-traditional colours to using a bit of chocolate Bakes fondant (the first time I’ve used that today, I used it also for the chimney) for the trunk of the tree. At least it has a slightly less traditional application. I rolled the fondant into a sausage and then used the fondant smoother to help evenly roll it out still further until I thought it was thin enough to use as the trunk (it’s still a bit thicker than I would have liked).

Prancing deerThe deer is another purchase from Sugar Art Studio I practiced using this on Thursday as well. During my trial the deer came away c fairly cleanly which surprised me given how thin some parts were, like antlers and legs. It was still fiddly since there’s a strip of metal over the back to help brace the thin metal. This means I can’t easily get to all of the shape to help ease it out. I had no end of trouble today with the fondant. I let it set up a bit before I tried but it still wouldn’t cooperate. I almost gave up in frustration. I broke several with the necks being so vulnerable with the deer head flopping about as I tried to shift them around. And trying to get them onto the cake was a no-go. I went back to the wax paper transfer method (Jessica Harris’ method of applying modelling chocolate decorations) which worked, more or less. At least I got them to the side of the cake without them slipping right off, or the flimsy necks of the deer tearing due to the awkwardness of trying to apply a deer with nothing more than my fingers to a 90 degree curved surface.

Even so I had to put my rolling pin under the cake turntable so that it put the cake at an angle. I needed all the help I could get to take this from near impossible to slightly possible. The angle definitely did help. Once I had the deer on the waxed paper I used the water pen to brush water to the side of the deer that would be against the cake. I still needed my Colour Shaper to help nudge the antlers and legs into the right position. You can imagine my dismay when I realised I had room to put a 5th deer onto the cake. I looked at the two deer I had left, the worst of my efforts and then took the best of the bad bunch and put it in the gap. The gap being right at the front! Murphy’s Law.

I’m not sure I like the cake. The tree is non-traditional, and while I’ve never decorated a Christmas Cake in anything but plain fondant with a few plastic holly leaves and berries, I feel like the deer is traditional. Not that we have snow at Christmas time, or for that matter Santas stuck in chimneys.  I think the tree on a white background would have been better, and instead of the tree, some stars would have done the trick, but I wanted both cakes to have different themes. Earlier in the morning I watched a YouTube from Montreal Confectionary where Marlyn did something really nice with fondant stars (for use on a cookie) that I was keen to try on a cake. I should have gone with that.

All said and done I’m only a hobby baker and these cakes aren’t for anything more than a nice treat for our work teams. I’ve got plenty to learn yet. I just wish I’d hurry up with it :) (the queen of impatience).

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2 thoughts on “Christmas cakes for work

  1. As usual – AWESOME. I like both cakes but the snow top with Sants’s legs out the chimney would be my favourite of the two :) The modern design of the other is cool but I’m more traditional so different colours, more Christmasy would be my only change. Just saying – LOL. Love the deer cutters, these look are great.
    You maybe a hobby decorator and think you’ve got loads to learn (and maybe you do) but I’m totally impressed and think anything you put your hand to is AWESOME! Keep it up – love reading your posts and seeing the lovely photos.

    • Thanks Natalie. I agree with you about a more traditional look. Sometimes I try something different so I don’t get into a rut, or become too predictable, then having tried something new I can decide what I prefer for me. And traditional it is, but still fun going outside my comfort zone when it’s for someone else :-) Mr Fussy has instructions to try a piece of the cake and report back on the marzipan. I’m not committing to use it on the cake we’re having at home until we’ve both tried. I’ve just realised I only have one weekend before Christmas to decorate that cake. Better get myself sorted then! Thanks for leaving a comment :-)

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