Monday, January 18, 2010

How to Decorate a book cake

Looks like there should be a story behind this one, does it? If you don't know James Dashner or his books, you need to run out and check one of them out (he has two new ones out this year in two different series, check out his blog for details). Last weekend was my writer's guild's annual Christmas party--admittedly a bit after Christmas, but we were all kind of busy before. I signed up to bring dessert (because any time anyone asks me to sign up to bring something, of course I'm going to go for dessert, even if I don't bring something cakish.).

After looking around a bit for idea, I decided to do a book cake because we're all writers and it seemed appropriate. Plus I've wanted to do one for a while now.

I used a variation of the standard White Almond Sour Cream cake (I got this variation on Cake Central, but I generally use this one on recipezaar.) This was pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon buttercream filling. Now, if you're going to decorate a normal round or square cake, you can use a box mix if you like, but if you plan to carve it at all, you need to use a heavier cake like the WASC type because it holds its shape better. This cake was done in a normal 9x13 cake pan (Okay, it was this decorator pan, with square corners and straight sides, but it was still the standard shape.) I trimmed the sides a bit to make them straight, cut it in half and stacked it, then trimmed a tad more to make it the right shape. This meant the cake ended up about 8x6.

I did need to use a firmer cake for this, even though it's perfectly square because it had to be rotated a bit while I put on the fondant, and I was concerned about it falling apart. After filling and stacking the two layers. To minimize confusion, I'll refer to the six sides of the cake as front and back (as in the front and back covers), right side, left side, top and bottom. I set the cake on the left side, which would be the binding edge and spread buttercream along the top, bottom and right sides of the book.

Before this stage I had pulled out some white fondant and rolled it out to the right length and approximate width I would need to cover the edge of the cake with a bit of overlap. Then I lightly scored the fondant with my pastry blender to make it look like indents between the pages. So once the sides were covered with frosting, I carefully lifted the long piece of fondant and covered it, making sure to cover all of the edges where it would overlap with the cover.

Next I rolled out the blue fondant I made for the cover. I measured and tweaked it to make sure it would be the right length and width to cover the book, then made some rough cuts to trim off some of the excess. I've seen pictures of book cakes before, and I loved the way they looked and the smooth edges that actually look like leather, which is what I was going for. As you can see, I didn't quite manage it, but I learned a few things for next time.

Next I flipped the cake on the white fondant edge, applied buttercream to the three remaining sides, making sure to fill the voids where the white fondant wrapped around the front and back so the blue would lay smooth. Then I put on the blue fondant for the cover. One thing to note, I had planned to have the cover actually hang over the edges a bit, but forgot that marshmallow fondant shrinks slightly when you pull it off of the counter and put it on your cake, so next time I try something like this I'll provide a whole lot more edge space.

I wasn't sure how to get nice smooth edges without folding it over, but should have rolled the fondant thinner there so it wouldn't be so bulky. Also, wrapping the fondant around the 'book' took a bit more than I had planned on. The complication is that once you apply fondant to something that's covered in butter cream, it becomes a mess to pull off and tweak, so I was trying to do this in one step.

The accents are white buttercream with silver pearl dust covering them, which I applied with a little watercolor brush I reserve only for cake decorating. It's best to dampen the fondant with a bit of water (just a tiny bit, too much can take forever to dry, especially if you live in a humid climate). Some people also brush a bit of vanilla on instead of the water because it evaporates so much faster.

In the end I was trying to decide what the book should say on the outside and decided that poking fun at James Dashner would be entertaining. Thankfully, he was not only not offended, but genuinely seemed to think it was cool, so it was a hit with everyone. I had to actually cut the cake myself or it wouldn't have been touched. People seem to forget cakes are for eating, no matter how cool looking they are.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Recently a friend of mine asked me to do a cake for her daughter's birthday--and she really wanted Barney on it. I had never done a buttercream transfer before this cake, but I was pleased at how easy they are.

First I found a picture of Barney online, cropped it in Irfanview so it showed what I wanted it to, then imported it into Publisher so I could blow it up to the right size. You're going to use this as a template, so it's important that the image is the size you'll want it on the cake. Then I printed it.

I was told to use a piece of plexiglass under the transfer to provide a stiff surface, but I didn't have any on hand, so I used my cookie cooling rack, which has pretty small squares so with the paper on it I got a nice smooth surface. I put the printout on top of the rack, then covered it with plastic wrap.

Remember to do the small details first (like the eyes), because the plastic wrap side is the side everyone will see. As long as that comes along nice, the back doesn't matter. I then outlined and filled the picture. You want the buttercream to be fairly thick so it's easier to handle. Mine was probably about 3/16" thick all over and I filled in with the purple behind the face so it would all be the same thickness. Next I moved the whole thing to the freezer--still on the cooling rack.

Half an hour later, when the cake was otherwise done, I pulled it out and removed the plastic wrap from the picture, and set it on the cake. It was really stiff so it worked out great! I put a dotted border around Barney to finish the edges. Also, be aware every little line shows up in the buttercream, and you will have to smooth some of them out. No worries, though. I just used the flat tip of a butter knife to smooth things out after it had a little time to defrost and it turned out just fine.

You can do a similar picture transfer with colored gels as well. For this project I used a straight-sided 9x13 pan, icing color, and a round tip, probably #7.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How to make a teapot cake

One of the fun things about cake decorating is that there is no limit to the kinds of things you can do. Case in point, this teapot cake my sister and I made for my mom's birthday late last month. I had done roundish cakes before--okay, one roundish cake-- but nothing quite like this, and I was excited to tackle the project. My sister has more experience with cake decorating in general, but had never done a circular cake before, so it was a new and fun experience for both of us.

First we baked the cakes. My sister has the soccer ball pan, which is a half sphere so she baked the top and bottom pieces. Then as she packed them to bring to my house the day before we decorated, she realized they didn't make a full circle when you put them together. I baked a nine-inch circle for the middle the next morning before she arrived.

While my cake finished cooling, we cut out the fondant flowers for the decorations, and she formed the handle and spout around some wire. It would have been better if we'd made the handle and spout a few days earlier out of gum paste, but I was insanely busy that week, so I didn't get it done like I'd planned. Remember if you make colored decorations out of gum paste or fondant with the plan to dry them that you need to put in quite a bit more color than you expect because they fade as they dry. We used the daisy cut outs for these flowers, and just put a ball of yellow fondant in the centers.

Then we filled the layers and frosted the ball. Before we started the crumb coating, I trimmed a bit off of one of the circles so it would sit flat on the plate and not roll too easily. We also trimmed the sides to they would seams between the layers would be smoother.

We added a 9" round of carboard between the second and third layers and put dowls inside the cake to support it so the top layers wouldn't be too heavy and squish the bottom one. As always, you have to try to make the frosting as smooth as you can before adding the fondant because it shows ripples under the surface, but don't kill yourself over it, since tiny differences in height will smooth out as you play with the fondant.

We rolled the fondant just a bit thinner on the edges, then carefuly lifted the layer of fondant and worked it in the middle to stretch it. This might take a little practice to get it to work right without leaving thin spots where your knuckles pressed against the fondant. Make sure it looks as good as possible before putting it on the cake--once you get the buttercream on the fondant it becomes a mess to start over.

We pressed an indentation into the cake at the level where the lid should go. In retrospect, we should have carved a lid into the cake before we frosted it--something to remember for the future. Then we used buttercream to decorate the teapot. We used tip 804 for the dots with the large pastry coupler and just put the dots on randomly. We used them to cover up some of the minor irregularities in the cake, an added advantage.

We touched our impecably clean fingertips to powdered sugar and pressed it onto the dots to flatten them out.

Then we used a clean paint brush (like the type you buy for kids to water color with. I have a set that is used ONLY for cake decorating) to spread a bit of water on the back of the flowers so they would stick to the cake. Fondant sticks to fondant really well with just a touch of dampness. The bigger flowers didn't stick to the bottom half of the cake very well because of gravity, but the smaller ones did all right.

Here's the finished product with the handle and spout installed. We used multiple pieces of wire to stick them into the cake, but they were still quite heavy, so in the future I'd use a thinner spout--and again, I'd do it ahead and let it dry so I wouldn't have to worry about the wire cutting throught the fondant or gum paste as I put it together.

We just used a basic dot to finish off the bottom. If I had it to do again, I would use a lot more flowers and various kinds along the base to hide the places where the fondant didn't smooth together perfectly at the base. It's hard enough getting a smooth finish on a round cake without ading the fact that a spherical one actually gets smaller at the bottom. Still, We were pretty happy with the end result.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting ready for the holidays? Now is the perfect time to start planning your Christmas treats! In addition to several great sprinkles like these jumbo gingerbread men. they come in a 2.5 oz bottle.

We have squeeze frosting for easy decorating, winter cupcake liners and decorations. We also have the cookie sticks to use with these cookie molds. You can either bake sugar cookies in these molds, or use them to create rice crispy treats in holiday shapes.
And the ever popular Christmas Tree.
To learn more abou these products and many others, check out our Website!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Create a checkerboard cake!

Have you ever seen those fun cakes that when cut look like checkerboards? You can make one of those three-layer wonders in your own home and wow your friends with this great Checkerboard cake pan set. The set comes with three 9" round pans and the batter dividing rings. You simply mix your cake batter, set the dividers into the pan and pour the batter into the rings in alternating patterns (there are complete instructions in the box), then pull out the dividers before baking!

Follow the link above to learn more about the pan set. Also check out our other great deals on our website.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Ready for a Goulish Halloween

October is only days away and decorations are cropping up all over. Are you looking for a fun addition to your display? Check out these spiders. They're available in 20", 30" and 50" sizes.

Have a corner or eve that is screaming for an addition? Check out this ghoul. It hangs 18" long from a 6" elastic so it bobs up and down. It has a hard vinyl head with a black cape. We also have the grim, witch, and vampire versions.

If you prefer your decorations to be a little less ghastly, check out this wizard instead. All of the hanging Halloween characters are limited to quantity on hand.

Of course, what's Halloween without a big spiderweb (and where would you put that spider without it?) We have not only the standard .7 oz package, but this super giant spider web, which is 2.4 oz nd will stretch to fit an area 15 foot across.

For more information, or to look at our many costumes, makeup, wigs and other spooky necessities, check out our website.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Keep decorating supplies together

One of the most frustratiung thing when you're in the middle of making a cake is not being able to find the tip or coloring you need. Because the tools for cake decorating can be many and varied (and completely addictive) here are some storage solutions. First, so you can keep those tips in order, there's this tip saver case. It comes in two sizes. The small one will hold 26 tips, and two flower nails. The large case holds 52 of your standard-sized tips and two flower nails. These cases do not include the tips, though you can buy full cases including the tips here.

The beige and red tool caddy has a lift-out tray that holds 48 tips and 12 color jars, with lots of room for pastry bags, spatulas and more underneath.

Then there's the ultimate tool caddy. This caddy has room for 36 tips, lots of color jars, room for spatulas, pastry bags, and many other things with three levels of drawers to keep it all organized. This caddy doesnt include any supplies, but it won't take much work to fill it up!

Just getting started, or have a family member who wants to start decorating cakes? This 50-piece tool caddy could be right up your alley. It includes a variety of tips, colors, tools, and a beginner's guide.

Or, if the contents of the last caddy aren't enough for you, check this 101-piece set out. This set comes with more colors, tips, couplers, spatulas, and other useful supplies. Among other things, it includes a cake leveler, butter and white vanilla flavorings, bake even strips, and a fondant smoother. This is a great deal, since the individual items would cost far more than this if purchased separately.

To learn more about these items or to see what else we have available, check out our Website.