Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Serenity now

This cake was for a co-worker birthday at Lowell's office. When I asked what kind of cake she might like, Lowell said that she had just started yoga and that she loves Starbuck's that is exactly what she got.

The cake was carrot with cream cheese frosting and the figure, exercise mat, wood floor, and drink were all made with fondant.

The topper:

...and the final product:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rugby cake

I did this cake topper for Kimball, who is in town for a weekend with friends to celebrate an upcoming wedding. The bride played rugby with some (all?) of them, which provided inspiration for the scene.

There were a few things I did for this cake that I hadn't tried before: curly hair, positioning a figure lying down, and dirt. Ohhhh, the dirt. The hair was not as difficult as I thought it would be--I just wrapped the strands around a dowel rod and let them set up for a while before I attached them. I was sure that making a person lying on the ground would be no big deal, but I was wrong about that. Apparently the pressure brought to the individual pieces of the figures done in a sitting or standing position is more important to cementing the person as a whole than I had realized. It was fine, but I had to be very careful to provide support to the limbs when I moved the poor tackled body. Applying the dirt to the people was it vanity, but I really didn't want to mess up their clothes or faces that I had spent time crafting.

After watching people pull their fondant figures off of the cakes I made and set them aside (don't ask me what you do with these once the cake is cut and everything is over), I thought I would try to preserve the scene by putting it all on a masonite board covered in fondant. That way, the whole scene can be lifted off the cake on the board with less mess.

So here it is: The figures are fondant, the grass is buttercream, the dirt is royal icing, and there are a few chocolate rocks thrown in for good measure. Good thing I got to use that grass tip again. The cake was white with vanilla buttercream frosting.

...from the back--the ponytail:

...and the one who didn't make it. I made this figure to go on the topper, but she was just too tall and I had to leave her out:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fold formed earrings

I finally got a pair of earrings done with fold forming. I had read a lot about the technique but hadn't tried it until I got a tutorial from Janice.

This method gives each piece texture by folding and unfolding sheets of metal, working it with hammers where and when you want to. As you work in more folds, the lines on the surface of the metal overlap and intersect. I have only done a few pieces, but know I will do more because it was so fun to do--the process and result are very organic and unstructured.

Here are the earrings--sterling silver sheet, fold formed and oxidized, with sterling silver ear wires. I love the mismatched pair and considered (still considering?) keeping them for myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tips from a commercial bakery

Working in a commercial bakery has definitely provided me an opportunity to see the world of decorating cakes in a very different way than I have experienced it. Efficiency is key, which makes sense, but has been hard to adjust to.

While there are things I would absolutely not change in the way I make and decorate my own cakes, I have fallen totally in love with using a scraper like this to smooth the frosting. I used to spend a lot of time prepping the cake trying to get everything smooth using a spatula, bringing pressure to the cake sides from above the cake. The scraper brings pressure to the sides of the cake, speeding up the process considerably.

Here is a crumb-coated carrot cake after using the scraper.

Another technique used to increase output is applying texture to the sides. This is the same cake with the final application of frosting after I used a plastic comb like this one on the sides.

Finally, I used a 1M tip to apply the borders. Since it is such a large tip, the borders are done in no time. That meant that I could use my time where I needed it--applying all that frosting carpet and setting up the living room scene on top of the cake.

The crumb coat and basic decoration of this cake took less than five minutes. I think I am going to try to keep this up!

Living room cake

Kathy's birthday is next week, but she leaves town tomorrow. Since we won't see her on her birthday, Ben and I took this cake to her today. Ben picked the scene: Grandma and her dog Comet, "just relaxing".

It's a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. The figures and blanket are fondant and the chair is fondant-covered Rice Krispie treats. The carpet is frosting, made with the grass decorating tip.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Outdoor Cakes: Campout and In the Garden

This was a heavy cake-making week. My sister and mother both celebrated birthdays, so they each got a cake reflecting a part of their lives. Since they are both outdoor scenes and were presented on the same evening, I was able to share materials and save some time by using an assembly line approach for some of the elements. Warning to the viewer: both of these cakes have a lot going on. Maybe I should have stopped earlier, but it is always such a fine line...

Kimball camps (and hikes, and trail runs, and does almost anything athletic with absolute determination) regularly with her husband and two dogs, so the first cake was for her birthday. It was red velvet with cookies and cream (not Oreos, Sara!) buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. The tent is a pile of rice crispie treats formed into a triangle and covered in fondant. The dogs are both fondant, the grass is vanilla buttercream, and the rocks are chocolate. The cake is surrounded with Pirouette cookies.

Since it is summer, it seems like I always see Mom gardening when I visit. So her birthday cake depicts her in the was a white cake with the same filling and frosting as the first cake. She is made from fondant (I gave her what I think is a very cute, hip haircut), and the vegetable garden area is crushed chocolate cookies with some vegetables made from fruit chews.

It's a three hour drive (including the mandatory restroom stop...I pretend it's for Ben but it's really for me) from my house to Mom and Dad's, so I kept checking the cakes along the way. At one point, Gage announced, "your mom fell over!" and we pulled over to make the necessary adjustments.

In the end, the cakes made it ok and I ate way too much frosting, but it was great to see some of my family members and wish them happy birthday in person.