On to the plate

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


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Faye Cahill inspired cake

My manager has moved onto greener pastures and I wanted to make a cake for her farewell.

I had some ideas, I wanted purple or lavender (Mandy’s favourite colour) and I wanted a bit of pizazz because Mandy is a sophisticated lady who likes sparkly well-made things.

Faye Cahill InspiredThis cake isn’t anything like I started out to make. And with the passage of time (a month has gone by) I can’t even remember quite what my original plan had been. I do know that I wanted to check out how to apply silver leaf (there you go, that was my original plan) and referred to a Craftsy Class I had purchased which Faye Cahill presents, and then I was so taken with her design that I pretty much went with almost all of it.

Fantasy FlowerI had already begun to make the fantasy flower. Fantasy flowers have never worked well for me. Usually I get in a tizzy with it and ball up the flower and either start again, or walk away, or go watch another YouTube video and wonder how they make them so well when I’m struggling. Not that I’ve got crazy skills with realistic flowers, but I find them less of a challenge to get right. There you have it, fantasy is meant to be whimsical and I’m still trying to make it perfect.

I used Chocit for the centre. I was trying to place the little balls into the centre of the flower and they kept sticking to my finger. I had to use a Colour Shaper to ease it off my finger and onto the flower, but I got a little dent. So I just went with it and then poked the little balls all over. That’s the thing with a fantasy flower, no one can tell what it was meant to look like, so anything goes.

Silver leafThe silver leaf was pretty easy to work with. I only had 2 sheets, and my original plan was for gold leaf but when I ordered it, the company called back to say they no longer had it in packs of 5 sheets but I could buy 100. Yeah, nah (Kiwi slag for no). What I hadn’t realised until late in the piece is that silver leaf needs to on the cake for a day before you can place anything over the top. But when I couldn’t sleep I got up at 2am and applied the stencil. The stencil is for a cookie but I was only going to decorate the very front of the cake so the size was perfect. I was a bit hesitant with the stencilling because last time I stencilled a cake it didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted and ended up a little sloppy, mostly I think due to the royal icing being a little on the soft side. The stencilling went fine and I went to bed.

All that was left was to make the fondant cut out pieces, texture them and then use piping gel to get the little nonpareils to adhere. Oh and then to use royal icing to add some other details, which didn’t go quite like I wanted, but I know I obsess a little more than others.

Mandy1The last thing I wanted to do was to add a row of oval silver sugar pearls as a boarder. I placed a few on the cake but they were rolling everywhere. I had two different sizes and was tossing up as to which to add when I realised that it was going to take me forever to place them and the chances they would behave perfectly and stay put was slim to non-existent. I’ve since seen a picture tutorial from Sarah of The Cake Tin did which would have worked perfectly for me. If only her tutorial came before the cake I was making. Still, I know for next time!

Mandy has been gone for a month and I miss her for lots of reason. Everyone who knows Mandy knows you can’t replace someone like her. She’s one of a kind and I’m certain I’m not the only person who feels the void she’s left. If you ever come back Mandy, I’ll make another cake to welcome you!

Cake details:  American Mud Cake by Cake Paper Party. It’s 4 layers with a 7″ cake card separating the bottom two layers to the top two. Ganche using Whitaker’s 50% chocolate. Fondant by Satin Ice. Buttercream filling SMBC with Nielsen Massey Coffee extract.


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Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Ok, deep breath. Another long post on the Frangaipani Wedding Cake I made for Jo’s son and daughter-in-law. The wedding was the 21 February.

Initially I was just making a 10 and 8″ American Mud Cake, ganached and covered in fondant with Tiff (Jo’s DIL) wanting to make the flowers.

I set my timeline which started the Sunday before the wedding. I offered Kathy to make a cake for Greg’s birthday knowing that I had time to do both cakes. The wedding cake being picked up the Wednesday before.

The Wednesday before (1.5 weeks out) Jo caught up with me and asked if there was any way I could make the flowers for the cake as well. Tiff had now realised that she was spreading herself too thin and didn’t have the time she expected to be able to make the flowers herself. Our communication continued by email and phone conversations that day. I wasn’t at work, but instead at a course.

Obviously I needed to know what the flowers were. Up until this stage I was only focused on making the cake and hadn’t asked how the cake was going to be decorated. Jo let me know the main flower was Frangipani and there were other flowers that Tiff had begun to make. A few photos were sent and I got busy searching YouTube and Google for any tutorials on making Frangipani.

As Jo has suspected, a Frangipani was a more simple flower to make (compared to a rose). I took a look at a finished cake that Tiff had liked the look of, mainly it was to show how she liked the flowers to be draped down the side of the cake. I started to calculate how many flowers I might need to make.

FrangipaniJo and I had another discussion the next day and I got to see first hand the flowers Tiff had made, and in turn I showed a sample I’d made the night before. I needed to test that the gumpaste I had was still suitable to use (it had been in the fridge for some weeks) and whether I had the right type of cutter to make the petals. My flower was much too thin, I wasn’t used to making a flower with thicker petals and I hadn’t twigged I was making it too thin until I had all the petals together. Anyway we decided I was on the right track and that we’d use all flowers I made. Now it was time to get busy, very busy, because come Sunday I was all about making both cakes and would have no time to spare for flowers. Though I still would have to dust the flowers, tape them and put them into an arrangement.

FillerFlowersI started making flowers Thursday night, made more Friday, now making filler flowers as well, and still reviewing several photos of other cakes with Frangipanis so I could make a stab as to how many I would need to make. I was also timing how much time it took and pretty much figured I could make 8-10 an hour. I really wanted to make 40+ but I made 34 as well as the filler flowers and 6 Calla Lilies, another flower I’d never made before. In then end I thought I had enough, maybe even more than I needed.

SemolinaSunday morning I was spent attaching wires to the Frangipani flowers. I knew I needed some to sit out from the cake, I didn’t want them all to sit flat against the cake. I wanted to create a sense of movement and lightness. But do you think I could find anything that explained how you’d wire a Frangipani? No. So I had to come up with my own method. It worked, but I wouldn’t say it was the right way, or the tidiest way you could do it. But it did the trick and for the most part the “attachment” would be hidden amongst the other flowers.

During the afternoon on Sunday I baked both the 10 and 8″ cakes as well as got all the ingredients together for Greg’s cake. I was thankfully allowed to finish work on Monday at 3:30pm which meant I could bake Greg’s cake Monday (more of that in a separate post).

AttachingWiresSunday evening I ganached the 10″ cake. That wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. One batch of ganache decided it wouldn’t soften evenly and I ended up with what looked to be a grainy lump. Thankfully I had plenty of ganache and I warmed up another batch which was perfect. In the end I heated the first batch enough that it melted completely and it was absolutely perfect for use the following day, which is when I ganached the 8″ cake. I used two 4mm cake boards instead of my usual acrylic rounds. The trouble I had trying to get a nice smooth finish is something I wont discuss, but needless to say I am not a fan of cake boards. They weren’t perfectly round, and they were just slightly different in size which also caused some grief, as well as having to do a lot more the following day to get everything smooth and even.

Tuesday I covered the 10″ cake in fondant. I was a bit worried because it was warm in the house. I had to believe the dam I had used in the layers to hold the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream was sufficient to hold it all together and I should not have any problems with bulges. The horror of what happened with Jasmine and Sam’s cake still haunted me. The covering was mostly straight forward, though there were a significant number of air bubbles. I did have one air pocket giving me grief, then somehow I managed to get a bit of ganache on the fondant. Well that made the it pretty clear what would be the front where I could hide the little speck with a flower or two.

BumpyCakeBoardWednesday was to be a really hot day, so when I woke earlier than I would have liked on Wednesday morning I decided I would get up and cover the 8″ cake. The house was cooler and I knew it would save me some potential difficulty that evening with the house being a lot warmer, and the ganache not as firm as I’d like. While the cakes didn’t cover as well as Jasmine and Sam’s, I was still happy enough, mostly because I knew I had a bit of leeway with flowers being added which I could place in such a way as to hide any small blemish. I guess you can hope that cakes will cover flawlessly but the reality is that it’s a pretty tall order. I guess I got really lucky with J & S’s cake, and given the other grief I had with their cake, I was owed some good luck somewhere.

As the days progressed my plans about what I’d do with each of the cakes changed. Not travelling on Thursday made a big difference, and while I would have managed had I not had the Thursday evening free, it did take a bit of pressure off.

So here I was Wednesday morning and the cakes were all but done. I just had to do the cake board, which proved to be a pain in the butt. It was my fault for not rolling the fondant thin enough which made it a bit of a mission, and not as tidy as I’d have liked. Then somehow I managed to cut my finger, which I hand’t noticed until I had the ribbon around the edge of the cake board. And you guessed it, I had somehow managed to get some blood on the ribbon. So off that came, and on went a plaster before I put new ribbon around the board.

Arrangements2I’d been chipping away at dusting the flowers each evening as I had time, then steaming them. Thursday morning (I woke early again!) I began to tape each individual flower and in the evening I started to make little bunches of 3 flowers. I created 4 arrangements and was mostly happy, except the top one. Friday morning I woke early and re-wired the top. I realised when you looked straight down on the arrangement that all the flowers faced frontwards. So I suspected I’d be re-wiring again.

While each arrangement looked fine, I had to think about how they would work together. I dragged the cakes out (they’d been up in the 3rd bedroom, the coolest room in the house) and started to play with how the flowers would fit together, mindful I didn’t want to mark the cakes. It was a tricky job and in the end I was no further ahead in what I was thinking.

Friday night I started to pull together all the things I’d need to be able to set up the cake at the venue. I wasn’t looking forward to dowelling the bottom tier. It makes me nervous. The cakes always settle a bit and what starts out as a perfectly level cake tends to dip a little in the middle. So the poly dowels have to sit a bit proud so that all up the top tier will sit level.

You can’t stop the days from rolling over and Saturday arrived and I was busy dowelling the cake. I had to do it several times because one or other of the dowels wasn’t at the same height and when I lay the ruler across the cake the ruler wouldn’t come into contact with one of the dowels. Talk about tricky!

Decorations1Jo had said the venue would be available from 10am. I knew the reception was at 4pm and guessed we’d leave home at 10am. Mr Fussy gets the job of driving (extremely carefully) while I sit in the passenger seat fretting about everything that could go wrong.

We left at 11am. And just like J & S’s wedding, we almost got collected by a car. And we hadn’t even left our own cul de sac.

It turned out to be a really lovely warm day. Earlier in the week the forecast was for cloudy weather with temperatures in the low 20’s. While I noticed how lovely and warm it was outside the venue, it never registered as being warm when we were inside.

I set about putting the cake together. I dithered about with the flowers. I had thought I’d start by placing the flowers on the bottom tier and working my way up. But I just couldn’t quite figure out how to get the flowers in the cake so that they sat against the cake at the right angle/place without adding weight and risking them pulling away from the cake, or ripping through the cake.

FrangapaniWeddingCakeI really was having a hard job trying to work it all out. In the end I got the top arrangement and the spray that fell over the side of the top tier sorted. And yet I still couldn’t work out where and how I would place the bottom arrangement. In the end I fiddled with the placement/angle of the wires and went to stick the flowers the side, but there was too much weight in the flowers and they more or less plopped out onto the cake board.

Having a hole int he side of the cake and still not knowing where the arrangement was going was creating a stressful situation for me. I knew I could “plug” the hole with one of the unwired left over Frangipanis, so I wasn’t getting myself too worked up, but I was still at a loss as to how to place the bottom arrangement. In the end I just held my breath and poked the wires into the top of the bottom tier right next to the middle arrangement. Then I just fussed about moving the individual flowers so that they faced different ways and weren’t too bunched up.

Each of the extra individual Frangipanis were used. I really didn’t think I would need them, but they helped to “shape” the direction of the arrangement.

In the end I was happy with how the cake looked with the flowers. I had taken a lot longer than I expected with the setup, and I was there doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing, but after all the time that had been taken to make the flowers I didn’t want to muck it all up by having them falling off/away or ripping through the cake due to their weight.

When I was finally sure that all the extra flowers I had attached (with Royal Icing) were now set on the cake we packed up and left.

Last time I made something for Jo (the Pirate and Princess cookies) she let me know as soon as she got home and looked at them how pleased she was. Not hearing from Jo about the cake made me start to fret that something had gone wrong. I had all sorts of visions that the flowers had fallen off or ripped through the cake. Or maybe the warmth led the ganache to soften and the fondant had slopped down, or ganache was running out from under the fondant. I kept looking at photos I’d taken from the venue and trying to determine just how close the cake was to the window, and just where the sun would have been by 4pm. Was it possible the sun had melted the ganache? It was awful wondering. I knew that Jo would have been very busy and in all likelihood nothing was wrong, but I couldn’t help the thoughts. I guess that if you did this regularly you’d have more of an idea of what risk there was in things turning bad.

I was extremely relieved when on Monday I received a text from Jo who was thrilled with the cake.

Wedding cakes, so much time and emotion are invested. It’s such an important cake, such a significant part of a wedding. I wonder if proper cake decorators ever get comfortable with setting up the cake and walking away and not worrying about how the cake is received. I doubt I’ll ever feel that way about any cake I make for someone other than myself.

Venue setupIf someone had told me I’d have made and decorated two wedding cakes within months of each other I would have scoffed at the idea. But here we are, and they both turned out just fine. I did however find a grey hair the other day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence!


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Preview of a cake duo

There’s not enough time left to give my usual blow by blow account of making these cakes. So for now it’s just a couple of photos with a promise that I’ll do my usual re-cap of what went into making each of these cakes.

The wedding cake was made for Jo’s son’s wedding Saturday afternoon. The 50th cake for Kathy’s fiancee’s birthday.

This is the first time I’ve had two significant cakes to make in the one week, so it was a big thing for me.

More details will follow ….

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

50th Birthday Cake

50th Birthday Cake


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Waitangi Day – 2015

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Haha, I just typed 2014. Boy it’s tough remembering we’re in a new year. Here’s a fun fact (not), I’ve gotten lazy with my writing and seem to always be in a rush. My 5 is verging on an S. I’ve been fully concentrating on making my 5’s more like 5’s. So 2015 is starting to look good 🙂

Seems odd to say “starting”. Here we are, the first day of February. Well January seemed to have flown by. For New Zealand February represents a month where we have a long weekend. Waitangi Day is on Friday. And as has been my custom the last few years, I’ve made a cake in recognition that Waitangi Day is something special to New Zealanders.

It was while we were holidaying in the Sunshine Coast that I began looking for a design that would give a uniquely Kiwi flavour to the design of the cake. I found this image on Flox.co.nz, it was one of several designs being considered for Fly My Pretties tour.

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

I loved the design but wasn’t sure I could pull it off. There’s a lot of detail in that Tui. But I decided to go for it with some minor changes, like excluding all that finer detail in the wings. I added some tylose to fondant and rolled it out and then used the image which I’d printed and then traced the image outline including some of the larger details. I wanted to give the Tui a bit of movement so I used some foam pieces to place under the wings and body and as I did that a crack appeared down the left side of the body. Boo. There was nothing I could do but to wait and see if the gumpaste hardened enough that it held the wing to the body or if it was going to drop off meaning I had to start again. Although I was going to wait 3 days  before gingerly picking up the Tui and seeing if it was in one or two pieces I couldn’t wait that long. I’m so very impatient. The next day (could I have waited less time? I think not!) I picked it up and turned it over and saw the crack was superficial. It hadn’t come through the back at all. Phew, but still annoying.

The colours weren't quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

The colours weren’t quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

Still I had to get up the courage to start painting the Tui. I looked at it each time I passed the dining room table. I kept telling myself I must make a start. But I told myself there was still plenty of time, and I had other things I wanted to finish before I needed to start worrying about the Tui. I did however make a start and at least get the outline painted, and the tail. But the wings. Well I was starting to have a change of mind as to how I would decorate the cake. Initially I planned to have a two tier cake, simply decorated with only the Tui. That meant I’d have to do something about the wings. Gulp. A new plan started to emerge. I would add some colour to the Tui, basically colouring in the wings. Having the outline and a new plan was all I needed to then procrastinate some more. I used the time to toss around ideas about how I would apply colour. Petal dust of painting with watered down food colour. As is typical, I couldn’t decide so made a start on what I thought would be easiest to get together. Hand painting it was. I wasn’t sold on the look so this morning I used petal dusts and some lustre. You see I had this image in mind for the colours and my hand painting wasn’t really up to scratch with dept of colour.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

Ok, so the Tui was pretty much all I had hoped it would be. I still can’t see past the crack, but maybe I’m the only one. So it was onto the cakes.

I had baked Summer Stone’s Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake (my favourite non-chocolate cake by the way) a few weekends ago and had it in the freezer. I also had a 5″ American Chocolate Mud Cake in my sisters freezer. The mud cake was already ganached and good to go. I ganached the SCVB cake on Saturday. Leah popped over to have a look at how I ganache my cakes. Funnily enough I was almost at a complete blank. It’s been almost 2 months since I last ganached a cake, and there’s been Christmas and holidays and old age that I started out all wrong. But it soon came right and we were able to chat about a few things that have happened over the last 4 years since we worked together.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn't be fixed. I hoped it didn't affect the integrity of the ganache.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn’t be fixed. I hoped it didn’t affect the integrity of the ganache.

When I got up this morning I noticed a hair line crack in the ganache on the 8″ cake. Boo again. I applied a bit more ganache to smooth over it and hoped by the time I got back from the gym it would be all ok and I could get on with covering the cakes in fondant.

I had gone to the gym a bit earlier so I could get home a bit earlier because we were gearing up for a hot day today. I wanted to get the cakes covered before the heat affected the ganache making my life miserable. But it was still too late, even though I was covering the cakes before 10am. As soon as I shifted the 8″ cake the crack came back, but longer than it had been. And while covering the cake wasn’t a problem, I knew the ganache wasn’t as firm as it should be, so there was a look of giving the the beady eye waiting to see if it would bulge. I was really wondering if I’d have the same sort of disaster I did with Jasmine and Sam’s wedding cake.

Going back to my simplistic clean design, well in my rethinking of that I decided that I wanted to repeat the Tui tail around the sides of the 8″ cake. Thankfully I had a larger image of the Tui and I used that as my template to score the pattern around the sides of the cake. I repeated the pattern 4 times, by the 3rd time I used a better tool for pressing into the fondant, and by the forth time it was much easier. I had to go back over the first two patterns to help smooth out the grooves to make it more fluid and less like I’d gouged the fondant (which I was basically).

It was so hot in the house, for the first time ever I had to put the cake into the 3rd bedroom, being on the cooler side of the house, in hopes that it would hold back the bulging, because there were tell talk signs that where the bottom layer was, it was starting to get a nice puffy ring around the cake.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Now onto the 5″ cake. This cake was 4.5″ tall so I knew I had my work cut out for me just with the height of the cake vs. the diametre. And the ganache was softer than the 8″ cake. It was suck it and see. And it wasn’t pretty. The fondant tore away at the top on one section and I pushed it back up, but made a bit of a flap where it overlapped now. I’d already decided I was going to texture the side of the 5″ cake. I’d been watching a Craftsy class by Faye Cahill during the week and she was demonstrating this technique so I wanted to give it a go. Plus I needed both of these cakes to stand on their own as well as being cohesive together. The 8″ is going to my work, the 8″ to Mr Fussy’s work. I do like to make things more challenging in the design stakes.

The fondant was a bit of a dogs breakfast but I was making some progress in tidying it up. Well I thought I was until I turned the cake and saw the biggest baddest bulge I’ve ever seen on such a small cake. It was really bad. I pulled the fondant from the side of the cake (this is why I prefer to use Crisco on the ganache in preparation for fondant) to see if I could push that sucker out. It wasn’t having any of it. I wondered if in fact the ganache was bulging because I was putting more pin pricks into the fondant than an acupuncturist would deem necessary to fix a stubborn ache. But I persevered and I won, sort of. The fondant was really thin, and the ganache has snuck out the bottom making it look somewhat untidy, but I wasn’t too concerned. A bit of ribbon would hopefully cover that up. I then textured the side of the cake. It could have worked better. Some of it impressed better than other patches. I was quite thankful that Mr Fussy tends to cut up cake before anyone at his work gets to see what it was to begin with. That took the pressure off trying to make it better. There’s plenty of room for improvement but working against the heat is something I knew I’d not win. So no point getting all in a fluster for.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

The last little bit was to colour the Tui tail feathers that I’d impressed into the side of the cake. Up close I wasn’t sure if I needed to do anything. I wondered if it was enough to just have the impressions. But when I stood back it wasn’t noticeable. I set about using petal dusts (all edible) to apply colour. I made each of them slightly different. And I tried really hard to add a little colour at a time. Since I’m so patient (not!) I was getting tired of little by little, even though I knew it was the way. It’s hard to do things the way you know is right when you just want to see results immediately. I must have been a very trying child (and adult).

The 8" cake before adding the second tier.

The 8″ cake before adding the second tier.

Having applied the colour I again stood back and realised that it was looking more like seashells than feathers of a bird. Great, I’m going to have to use food colour to outline the feathers to make it look like it’s meant to be something. Instead of black, I used dark brown. I didn’t want such a harsh outline. I started with just the outline and it made a big difference, but it still wasn’t finished enough. I needed to add the details, and when I had, it really made a big difference.

It was finally time to put it all together. I put the ribbon around the top tier which certainly helped to hide the section that had ganache visible. But before I committed to putting the top tier on, I took a few photos. Even though I had tried to wipe the underside of the perspex cake board the 5″ cake was on, I knew it was highly likely that some chocolate would still be there and it would transfer to the bottom tier. I was also a little concerned the Tui wouldn’t hold. But as it turns out everything came together fine. I used two poly dowels to support the top tier and candy melts to attach the Tui to the top tier. Photos taken all I had to do was dismantle it all so that I could separate the cakes for Mr Fussy to take his one to work. I now had to prize the Tui off the top tier. The candy melts had done the job so well it was difficult to remove the Tui. And you don’t get to take something that’s been stuck to the side of the cake off without leaving some carnage. It’s not too bad, but again I’m thankful that no one will likely witness the cake uncut. The Tui wasn’t spared from damage either. Some of the tail has broken off. No tears were shed. I have some photos of what it looked like all complete and I’m pretty happy with the overall look. To anyone else this just represents a slice of cake with coffee at morning tea time. I’m not too precious about the cake.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

So New Zealanders and Kiwis everywhere. Enjoy the long weekend that is ahead if you’re in New Zealand. Happy Waitangi Day (for Friday!).


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The cake that almost didn’t make it

Hi!

I’ve been really busy, I know it’s not much of an excuse, but I’ve had two weekends back to back with learning sugar flowers with Robert Haynes and then Airbrushing and modelling chocolate (Chockit) with Kevin Martin from Chocolate Earth. As well as preparing for my nieces wedding. And it’s the wedding cake that almost didn’t make it! Yikes!!

Everything had been ticking along really nicely. The two (intense!) days of sugar flowers with Robert was a huge help with making the flower spray for the wedding cake, and the airbrush classes set me up nicely for understanding how to properly use my airbrush and therefore airbrush the bottom tier of the wedding cake.

My new beauty. Arrived on the Friday just in time to bake Jasmine and Sam's wedding cake. What a fine way to start.

My new beauty. Arrived on the Friday just in time to bake Jasmine and Sam’s wedding cake. What a fine way to start.

I cakes I’d baked, torted, filled and ganached and had in the freezer. I was set. I was feeling pretty good. Everything was under control. The flowers were all made and just had to be assembled (my biggest weakness – no wonder I leave that to the last) and I was feeling pretty confident about the airbrushing.

Sugar flowers in the making.

Dusted and with calyx. These are starting to look ready.

Dusted and with calyx. These are starting to look ready.

Top set are dusted, but they all started the same colour. Amazing the difference petal dust makes, even if I dislike this stage.

Top set are dusted, but they all started the same colour. Amazing the difference petal dust makes, even if I dislike this stage.

Well that's the freesias put together.

Well that’s the freesias put together.

Thankfully I got a chance to view the bridesmaid’s dresses because both the colour and the application I thought was needed was way off. Tuesday night I popped around to have a look, having felt uneasy about how the airbrushing would look on a wedding cake to find that the colour was quite different. Good thing I took some Dulux paint colour charts with me to get a better match for the deepest of colour. And I was relieved to see that the colours were much softer. The dresses were floaty and the ombre effect really subtle moving through the depths. Phew. But lucky I’d seen the dress or we’d have ended up with something that was more like a disco ball!

Doing it the hard way. I only needed 2 colours, light and dark. Great advice by Kevin Martin.

Doing it the hard way. I only needed 2 colours, light and dark. Great advice by Kevin Martin.

Practice post viewing bridesmaid dresses.

Practice post viewing bridesmaid dresses.

That harsh silverish practice was what I thought we were going for. I was so relieved to see those dresses.

Wednesday morning I took the cakes from the freezer. I would normally take them out the night before the evening I was covering them, but I wanted to give a few more hours for the ganache to really crust, just a bit of extra insurance. Thursday morning (24 hours later) I was surprised to see the 10″ cake still looking a bit tacky. I put it down to the cake being the biggest and therefore taking the longest to defrost and dry out. Come Thursday night it was still a little sticky. Since I needed the fondant to adhere to the ganache I wasn’t worried, I was about to make it stickier yet. What I did notice however was a really hollow sound when I tapped my finger against the side of each of the 3 cakes. I hadn’t heard that in the past and didn’t know what to make of it.

I thought we were good to go. The cakes had to sitting since Wednesday morning. It was show time.

I thought we were good to go. The cakes had to sitting since Wednesday morning. It was show time.

Mr Fussy was off getting the groceries to allow me a head start on getting the 3 cakes covered. It had been my plan to at least cover the 10″ and 8″ cakes. I had the Friday off and was going to airbrush the 10″ during the morning. I really thought I was going to end up with a good chunk of the day free leaving me time to make Christmas Mince Pies for Mr Fussy.

But then this happened within seconds of covering the 10″ cake ….

I'm in trouble! This has never happened before. I was not equipped to know what to do. Turns out there is nothing you can do. Ok then!

I’m in trouble! This has never happened before. I was not equipped to know what to do. Turns out there is nothing you can do. Ok then!

I was actually so preoccupied in getting the top edge sharpened that I’d not noticed what was happening around the sides of the cake. I knew it was warm in the house (given it had been a less than summers day) and when I couldn’t smooth this out at all I presumed it was to do with the ganache not being firm enough. I took a photo and asked a question on a cake decorators Facebook page and waited for some promising news. The news that came was not promising.

Eeek!

Eeek!

I ended up peeling the fondant off the cake. I used a razor blade to cut the fondant into wedges. With the Crisco on the ganache it was pretty easy to peel the fondant off. It was soon clear the cause of the problem was in fact the buttercream. It had bascially melted through the ganache. I managed to get the ganache of relatively easily and then I trimmed the cake some more. I was thinking the problem had been the ganache was too thinly applied in places. Now I’ve got what is almost 1cm between cake and cakeboard. That’s a lot of ganache. Thankfully I had ganache left over and was able to re-ganache the cake. The bottom left picture is of the 8″ cake. I was pretty sure the problem was only with the 10″ cake. I knew the 8″ hadn’t any potentially thinner parts ganached around the side of the cake. My plan was to have the 10″ ganached and then cover the 8″ in fondant. Then go to bed. But no sooner had I covered the 8″ cake the ripples around the sides came out. What had been a perfectly smooth ganache covered cake was now something that looked very different with the fondant having been pulled off. Boo. That meant the 6″ would be no better. Looked like I’d be going with the suggestion provided on Facebook, to deconstruct the cakes, remove the buttercream, add a dam of ganache then fill with buttercream and ganache the cake.

Having gotten to bed at 11:30pm (but not asleep, mind spinning wildly) I was up and re-baking the 10″ cake at 3:30am. Tired yes. But unhappy with where things were left on Thursday I knew I had to restart. By the time Mr Fussy got up (not that he had a restful sleep with me working in the kitchen) and I’d been for a run the supermarket was open again and I was off to get more chocolate and cream to make more batches of ganache. I was going to have to fast track getting the ganache ready i.e. put it in the fridge rather than leaving overnight to set up since I had to have the cakes ready and ganached Friday so I could cover on Saturday morning. Thank goodness the wedding was Sunday!

I had an appointment Friday morning and as soon as that was out the way I was off to Spotlight to buy more fondant, again just to be sure I had enough (I have 3 tubs left!), not wanting any unexpected trips to any store robbing me of some precious time.

New ganache made, and the new 10″ cake now ready for ganache, having first piped a dam of ganache to trap the buttercream in, this had been the recommendation from the Facebook page. While I dislike dams, I couldn’t take any chances with this and to play it safe I piped the dam.

Not taking any chances with the new cakes, this time a ganache dam to hold in that chocolate buttercream.

Not taking any chances with the new cakes, this time a ganache dam to hold in that chocolate buttercream.

I wasn’t sure I had to wait for the cake to settle, but again I was playing it safe and my plan had been to leave it for around 3 hours and by 3pm start ganaching the cake.

So while the cake was sitting and settling I began to dismantle the 8″ and 6″ cake to strip it off buttercream and pipe dams and then add the buttercream. Thankfully I had enough buttercream left over and in the freezer for this. Again I pulled the buttercream out of the freezer in the wee hours so it was at room temperature and good to go when I needed it.

Although I took the time to dismantle the cakes, dam them and apply new buttercream, the sides were ugly. They were rough, they looked hideous and even though I knew they would be hidden by ganache I was quite miserable about the state of things. After some rough calculations I knew I had time to bake new cakes, fast track the cooling, torte, fill and ganache but I had to get myself going NOW!  I even had time for an hour’s sleep.

Mr Fussy arrived home and tested the waters so to speak to see what the state of play was. He’s been such a great support, even though he wasn’t able to do much to help me bake etc, he came instantly if I called for help. There were lots of trips to and from the fridge.

I managed to get to bed before 11pm Friday and at that point all I could do was hope the ganache would set up firm overnight. I’d been testing the 10″ cake which I’d ganached around 3:30pm Friday and all things were heading in the right direction. I was hopeful that the trend continued. I’d had a conversation with Natalie before I headed to bed. I let her know that things were looking positive and that if the worse happened we’d have ganached cakes to eat, and I’d just cover dummy cakes. How desperate was that!

Many times during the early hours I would get out of bed and check the state of the ganache. At around 3am I knew things were good, so much so that I started to fill in the small holes left in the top of the cakes. I wanted to get this done now so that by the time I got up in the morning everything was prepared and I could just get on with covering the cakes without delay.

Team no sleep. Saturday morning and it's Groundhog day.

Team no sleep. Saturday morning and it’s Groundhog day.

I went back to bed knowing there was nothing more I could do and hoped that would be enough for my brain to quieten and allow me some sleep. I got 3 hours sleep, again. Two nights in a row, 3 hours sleep. Amazing what you can do when you’ve got your back against the wall.

All this time I knew this was no one’s fault. I wasn’t blaming anyone, I was disappointed, extremely disappointed, but I knew that I had a good cake, a good buttercream, a good ganache and for whatever reason this time the buttercream was my enemy. It wasn’t like I was underprepared, or ill equipped. It was just rotten luck. But fortunate I had the Friday off work or I might have ended up in the fetal position crying my eyes out. I couldn’t fathom a wedding without a wedding cake. I was very focused on what had to be doing, how it was going to work, the timing. And I pulled it off.

It was early Saturday that I started on the cakes. I had the 10″ covered by the time Mr Fussy had to pop out to pick up my sister and her family from the plane and my hope was that when he returned I’d be onto the 8″ cake. I even had time to eat breakfast.

When he returned I was just about to lay the fondant over the 6″ cake.  Thankfully the cakes were covering without any dramas and I was able to knock them out by 10:30am. At this time I headed for bed for an hour’s sleep while Mr Fussy ran off to do some errands for me, including picking up my dress from the dressmaker. Knowing there was nothing that could be done further with the cakes at that time I hoped I would be fast asleep within minutes. But it wasn’t to be.

I got up at midday and airbrushed the bottom tier.

A real live cake, airbrushed.

A real live cake, airbrushed.

I fussed about a little bit and then headed off to Jasmine’s Bridal shower. I knew that when I went home I had the cake board to cover, the flowers to reassemble and the monogram to attach to the top tier.

About that monogram. Oh boy. That monogram caused many batches of royal icing, some that just wouldn’t harden firm enough. What you might be able to make out from the photo above is the upside down cake tin. I had printed the monogram out, attached it to the underside of acetate, then put waxed paper (with a light covering of Crisco) over the acetate and then piped the monogram. It took many days of practice to figure out the right sized tip to use, and the order in which to start the piping. The “B” was done first, but even that had a start point and end based on the thickest parts to the thinnest, and always making sure the bottom curl of the b was well integrated in the royal icing of parts that joined/crossed over so that it was firmly in place. Then it was the S, I actually enjoyed piping the S, don’t ask why, but I’m glad there was one bit I enjoyed. The J came last. Then I had to carefully pick the whole thing up and wrap it around the side of the 6″ cake tin so that it would dry in a curve. As I say, it tooks days to do this. There were trial and error with colours, lustre/sparkle and finally I ended up with light grey coloured royal icing (made from egg white, not any sort of albumen or meringue powder) and then while the monogram was still in place painted with Global Sugar Art Nu Silver (edible). These pieces popped off nicely, usually they had fallen onto the bench and just shattered. No matter how much I tried to line things up so that I caught them, it seemed doomed.

Royal Icing monogram. So many times I piped, so many times I busted these fragile pieces.

Royal Icing monogram. So many times I piped, so many times I busted these fragile pieces.

I literally held my breath as I applied these pieces to the 6″ cake. I was almost terrified that they would shatter as I tried to get them to the cake, and then make sure they were lined up. Or that they wouldn’t remain stuck to the cake and fall off, shattering. I used soft brushes to hold them against the cake so that I wasn’t putting pressure on any one part. As each of the pieces were applied my confidence grew. And when I was done, and moved the cake back to the table I was very pleased with how it looked. My biggest worry was that the monogram would blend into the cake and not really be seen. Jasmine and Sam had opted for the silver when I had shared my concerns and I have to say that it looked pretty good when it was finished. I still worried about getting the cake out to the venue without the pieces dropping off, or the cake itself being knocked somehow and damaging the monogram. I still had another monogram piped so I finished colouring those so that I had a spare in case things turned out for the worst. I can tell you I could not pipe another set if I tried. I was so tired, my concentration not where I’d have liked it, and my ability to hold my hands steady had long gone.

And I can breathe. Nothing broke, and it all stayed put.

And I can breathe. Nothing broke, and it all stayed put.

Right, the bit I had been dreading (ok the 2nd bit) I’d pulled off nicely. The cake board was covered, that just left reassembling the flowers. Gah. This really is a big weakness of mine. I had already broken one petal of the largest rose as I was dusting it and here I was going to pull all the florist tape off and then start putting the flowers even closer together and then re-tape. Can’t see how anything could go wrong, right?!

Talk about fussing about. I just couldn’t get the pieces sitting nicely together to look natural and cohesive. And I broke another bit of petal. I really have to do better not overthinking the whole process. Anyway in the end I managed to get it looking much better, a lot tighter than my original assembly and I managed to use some of the filler flowers.

The arrangement before being inserted into the cake and then fussed with.

The arrangement before being inserted into the cake and then fussed with.

Feeling reasonably happy with where things were at I managed to get to bed by around 10:30pm. Mostly I slept through to the alarm which was set quite early. I wanted to be at the venue by 9am and it would take roughly an hour to get there. I wanted everything packed in the car by around 7:30am so that any last minute panic would be allowed for.

I got up and started to dowel the 10″ and 8″ layers. Got the royal icing ready, gathered together all the spatulas, ribbon, pins, stuff for fiddling with the flowers if I still needed to tweak them once in the cake, clothes, non-slip mats, boxes, containers. All manner of equipment that I wanted with me for assembling the cake at the venue.

How many is enough? I added a few more for good measure. And we're good to go.

How many is enough? I added a few more for good measure. And we’re good to go.

By the time I got the cakes into their respective containers/boxes and the car packed it was after 8am. Mr Fussy was given strict instructions to take it easy, we could go fast on the way home. We’d only had our new car less than 2 weeks and this was the most fragile of drives we’d be taking.

The most precious cargo our brand spanking new car has had the pleasure of carting around.

The most precious cargo our brand spanking new car has had the pleasure of carting around.

As we were turning into Trent’s Road the car ahead of us started to pull into the left. Mr Fussy started to pull out to pass when the car then started to turn to the right, it was doing a U turn in front of us, never having indicated once. Mr Fussy had to swerve sharply to the right to make sure we didn’t get collected before swerving back to the left onto our side of the road. Cripes, my heart was racing.

We made it to the venue which was only a few 100 metres further up the road and I popped inside to see if Amanda was in yet. She wasn’t there (we had somehow arrived just before 9am) but the guy at the bar pulled out the table (a chessboard table) and put it on the brick floor. I wasn’t thrilled to see the table with it’s Queen Anne style legs on top of a very uneven surface. I let him know that I only wanted to set up once and not move the cake so I’d wait for Amanda.

When Amanda arrived she moved the table but said she’d be moving it again to sit on top of the landing of the stairs. Only 3 legs were touching the wooden floor. I wasn’t thrilled about this but she assured me the table got used for all weddings and all the cakes were put on the landing for display. I know I was probably being over cautious, and being my first wedding cake, first three tiered cake, and having had quite the ride to get there I was looking for rock solid. When I realised this was as good as it was going to get Mr Fussy and I proceeded to collect the cakes and whatnot so that I could assemble the cakes.

When I went to get the 6″ cake I shrieked. I realised that it had slid off the non-slip mat it had been on and was resting against the side of the cake carrier. I thought it was all over for the monogram and was thankful that I had packed the spares. But I was hugely relieved when I took the cover off and realised it was all intact and not only that, there was no damage to the car from having being banged into the side of the cake carrier.

Ok, so all those dramas aside, this is the cake.

Front on view of the wedding cake.

Front on view of the wedding cake.

And we're done!

And we’re done!

Wedding cake. I was pleased how this came together, all things considered.

Wedding cake. I was pleased how this came together, all things considered.

I reckon if I’d not shared a photo of the rippled fondant, no one would have been any the wiser about the lead up to this cake.

I’m ever so grateful that Jasmine and Sam didn’t chose anything overly complicated for decorations that required last minute work on the cake, I’d have been in so much trouble. And it was extremely fortunate the wedding was on a Sunday and that I’d taken the Friday beforehand off work.

Here’s a few photos of the wedding party, Jasmine and Sam, and a photo of the sleep deprived Mr Fussy and I.

Everything turned out just fine in the end 🙂

The bridal party relaxing at the wedding reception

The bridal party relaxing at the wedding reception

The radiant newly weds.

The radiant newly weds.

Jasmine & Sam cutting the cake

Jasmine & Sam cutting the cake

First dance.

First dance.

Team No Sleep.

Team No Sleep.


2 Comments

Movember 2014

Movember CakesA few weeks back I made a couple of cakes for Mr Fussy to take to work, and to trade a slice for a donation to his Movember page.

The cakes were the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake I’ve made several times now, it’s one of Summer Stone’s recipes over on Cake Paper Party.

My template. Notice I didn't roll the fondant big enough. Tut tut

My template. Notice I didn’t roll the fondant big enough. Tut tut


I decided to make the most of the opportunity to make cakes to complete two cake designs I’ve had my eye on for a while. The Startburst cake I first spotted when Natalie and I were looking at cake designs for Cameron’s cake. I took note of the link and then promptly ordered the cutters so I could make the cake. And it’s taken me over a year to finally get around to it.

The other cake was based off a Craftsy class by Allison Kelleher of AK Cake Design. This is based on the Colour Block Cake. In hindsight I wished I’d looked on Design Seeds to get a better grouping of complimentary colours. But it is what it is and while the colour combinations aren’t as pleasing to me as I wanted, there’s really nothing wrong with the cake.

Both designs too much longer than I had expected. I almost sliced my finger with the star burst cake. That cutter is quite narrow and every single piece would stick to the cutter and need to be eased out. And it was that motion that kept tearing at little snags in my skin.

It was also really difficult to get the timing right from having rolled the fondant through the pasta roller (uniform thickness is paramount here) and letting it dry out a little so that was easier to cut and release without the shape becoming misshapen. But then I still needed it to be flexible enough to lay against a round cake.

Happy enough with how this came out in the end. My finger has almost recovered - 2 weeks later.

Happy enough with how this came out in the end. My finger has almost recovered – 2 weeks later.


Before I began I had cut out the pieces and made the design I wanted to use. And thank goodness for having a template to refer to because there was more than one occasion that I felt I lost my way and couldn’t look at the cake and see where I was.

Not thrilled about how this was ending.

Not thrilled about how this was ending. And look at that awful elephant skin at the top. Just as well the cake was being completely covered.

As I suspected, as I moved around the cake, and I sort of started at the front and would do a pattern to the left of centre, then the right of centre, and then kept this going from left to right until I reached the back. The pattern wasn’t going to end as a complete pattern. I wasn’t really surprised but it was still disappointing. I looked and looked and tried to figure out the best way to make it seem less obvious. And I think I did ok, or at least made the most of it.

Lots and lots of triangles. I was losing heart.

Lots and lots of triangles. I was losing heart.

Sunday was spent colouring fondant to get a base colour and then rolling it out, cutting it, which took ages and then painting over the triangles. Of course I found it difficult to figure out which colours I wanted to put next to the other, and I wanted to mix things up a bit, so occasionally I’d change the direction the triangles were placed. The triangles dried out a lot quicker than I expected. A few of them cracked as I placed them. And there were quite a few I had to cut (with a razor) to trim them back to the right size. Unlike Allison, I brushed a strip of the fondant covered cake and then began to place the triangles. Allison showed brushing each triangle around the perimeter of the piece and then attach it to the cake. I think that’s so that you can ease them into place, or remove them if you decide you don’t like the placement of colour. I did pull a few pieces off and swap them out, but for the most part I just went with what I had.

The "side" I prefer best.

The “side” I prefer best.

As well as the cakes I also had some cookies as well. I wanted to try my hand at hand painting (again) some flourishes. I had previously printed out some designs, as well as the wording I wanted to use, then I used the KopyKake to help me with the writing, but I just went for it with the flourishes. As per usual I didn’t really have a well thought out plan and I wanted to keep practicing so I might have added a few too many on the cookies.

Anyway most of the cake and cookies were exchanged for donations and Mr Fussy has a little more cash for the Movember cause. Job done!

Oops, I can’t find the photos of the cookies. You’ll just have to settle for these ones that I took as I was making them.

 

The obvious cookies for Movember.

The obvious cookies for Movember.

 


4 Comments

Breast Cancer Awareness – 2014

In order to make up for the silence of the last couple of weekends I’ve got not one cake, not two, but three cakes. Am I off the hook?

And since you’ve had to wait for so long, I wont waste any more time, here they are.

Pink ribbon stencil. A trial of a new mud cake recipe

Pink ribbon stencil. A trial of a new mud cake recipe

Hope and butterflies. A cake for a special lady.

Hope and butterflies. A cake for a special lady.

A splash of colour using rose spirit and petal dusts

A splash of colour using rose spirit and petal dusts

I made a 6″ American Mud Cake, thanks to Summer’s recipe which you’ll find on her blog, Cake Paper Party. I also made a 8″ American Mud Cake (cakes 1 & 3 pictured). The middle cake is another of Summer’s recipe, one I’ve baked before, her Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake.

I actually made a 6″ and 5″ cake from the one recipe, the 5″ cake is already filled and ganached and sitting in the freezer waiting for an occasion to be used. And it turns out the new mud cake recipe is a hit. It’s a little less heavy/dense and a little more cake-like for a mud cake, but it works beautifully still with ganache and fondant.

Both 6″ cakes had been filled and ganached and put in the freezer (cakes 1 & 2) and the 8″ had been frozen too, but was frozen as separate layers. The two 6″ cakes were taken from the freezer Thursday morning and I covered the 2nd cake in fondant that night. Cake no. 1 was covered the following morning (I couldn’t sleep). All were easy to cover in many ways. I’d given up on my The Mat and instead rolled the fondant directly on the bench. It rolled so quickly it was great. And I even rolled the fondant around the rolling pin. Previously I’d been concerned that I might leave impressions on the fondant from where it was rolling on itself. So while it rolled nicely, and wrapped around the rolling pin without any nasty marks, I did end up with a little bit of elephant skin going on.

My acetate smoothers had finally arrived from the UK. I didn’t think I’d end up using them as the ones I’d fashioned from a chopping board had done a good job on a previous cake, but the smoothers from the UK really did a lovely job of smoothing out most of the elephant skin. The acetate is thinner than the chopping board I hacked up which probably makes the difference. Anyway I managed nice sharp edges on all 3 cakes without having to work too hard for it. I’m so pleased that it’s all working out now, including having finally managed to get the ganache on just (about) perfectly. I had been having problems keeping the bottom of my scraper straight up and down, it was firmly on the board but it trailed at the bottom and it was causing me to have the bottom (which is the top – I ganache upside down) to taper in. So this last cake (no. 3) I used the acrylic rounds on both the bottom and the top and instead of spending 20 minutes trying to keep things even, I reckon I took about 5 minutes to ganache the cake. It was so easy, so simple, so quick. And it looked a lot better, like it was seemless. Other cakes have been fine, but a bit patchy in application where this looked like I started at one point and managed to get around the complete cake in one sweep.

The Friday night I covered the 3rd cake, it was looking really good. And of course it would, it was the only cake that would be completely covered in more fondant and didn’t have to look perfect underneath (Murphy’s Law). I also had two 10.5″ squares of acrylic which I had lightly covered in Crisco and then covered in white fondant. I covered these with a large zip loc bag. The bags were also 10.5″ so I couldn’t slip the acrylic inside and had to settle with placing the bags over the top to prevent the fondant from drying too much. As it turned out the edges had dried out a bit too much so I didn’t use those bits. But considering the fondant had been out for over 12 hours it worked nicely. I just cut the fondant into strips and then used a little palate knife to slip between the acrylic and fondant to manoeuvre the strip and then place against the cake. First I also applied a thin layer of Crisco onto the side of the cake so the fondant strips would adhere nicely. The design idea came from a post on The Cake Blog, a beautiful cake by AK Cake Design. Although I loved the process, the colours are brighter than I hoped they would be. Next time I’ll know better.

As for the Breast Cancer heart cake, that idea came from a cake Erin O’Brien had made. And then the 1st cake, my practice cake, I used the same colours as used in cake 3, but just what was left, and then “watered down” more with more rose spirit. It didn’t quite work as nicely as I wanted, it was a bit patchy, but again I’ve learnt a few things for next time. The plaque was made Friday night too. I rolled some fondant and the placed my Pink Ribbon stencil (for cookies) over the fondant, adhered a little by Crisco (without it the stencil slipped about and moved) and then I rolled it a bit more which let the fondant push a little through the stencil. While the stencil was still on the fondant I used a brush which had a light coating of petal dust and dusted over the pink ribbons. I removed the stencil and used the plaque cutter to cut out a section of what I’d stencilled. Lastly I placed the plaque onto a piece of waxed paper and then put that against a dummy cake so that it would dry with the right curve to fit nicely on the cake later.

Making the butterflies and the “hope” word was probably the hardest. Using tappits and patchwork cutters require quite a bit of patience, even using some new techniques I’d learnt (placing gladwrap over the letters, rolling gumpaste over). Needless to say there were a few busted butterflies and several of the same letters in case I wasn’t able to get the letters to come away cleanly from the rolled gumpaste.

All in all I was pleased with how the cakes came out. The last thing to do was to finish up the weekend by making a few cookies.

Dots Multi coloured roses Single rose