One thing that my mother and I have been very clear about, since we started making cakes, is that we have not been professionally trained, however, we have years of experience doing numerous types of crafts and art projects, and these things have all seemed to give us an understanding of different cake techniques. Also, Youtube has, surprisingly, been a valuable resource in learning new things. I have to say that learning new techniques has been one of my favorite things about making cakes. Each cake seems to stretch us in a new way. I often think at the beginning of a cake, “I don’t think that there is anything new or different about this cake.” Yet, I am always wrong. It is amazing how we seem to do something that we have never done before with each cake.
All that to say that we have learned, and continue to learn, “tricks of the trade” as we have become more immersed in the world of cakes. What I want to do with this post is to simply share some of the little tricks that we have learned, and to show you some of the ways in which we have challenged ourselves on different cakes.
One of the big things that we learned early on was when to use buttercream and when to use royal icing. Here are two pictures. One has royal icing and one has buttercream. Can you tell which one is which?
Could you guess which one was which? The picture on the left is royal icing, and the one on the right is buttercream. I will tell you that when I first started, I only worked with buttercream. I loved working with buttercream. I thought I had no need for royal icing. And then we got a request for a wedding cake. My mother suggested that I try using royal icing…so, I did, and I haven’t looked back. I love how royal icing doesn’t break down like buttercream. I love the things that I can do with royal icing that I couldn’t do with buttercream. I just love how smooth and professional it looks.
The funny thing about when we use new techniques is the fact that I usually give in kicking and screaming. I don’t like change. I never have. That is why my mother is a good balance for me. She always has to talk me into trying something new, and then when I do…I never want to go back again. Here is another example of using a new technique.
When we first started doing cakes we thought that fondant was fine for making people…little did we know that we would both fall in love with gumpaste. Here are two pictures of figures that we made. One is fondant, and one is gumpaste. Can you figure out which one is which…and why?
Again, were you able to figure it out? The photo on the left is fondant, and the photo on the right is gumpaste. Some of the great aspects of gumpaste, you can’t even see. In the gumpaste figure, we were able to put supports so that the figure was very stable on the cake. Also, if you look closely at the girl’s sleeves, the fondant picture shows how using fodant, in this case, doesn’t leave a smooth line. Compare it with the sleeves of the girl on the right. Can you see how much smoother that line is?
Here is another technique we used. Can you guess what tool we use to make these trees?
These trees are very fun to make! All you do is take a cone shaped piece of gumpaste. You stick a pretezel rod in the middle. Then, you take SCISSORS and snip, starting at the top of the tree working randomly down the tree. You then have to let it dry. Who knew it was such an easy thing to do?!
One trick that we learned early on was…DON’T SEAL FONDANT (or refridgerate it)!!!!! Why, you ask? That is a great question…I’m so glad you asked. First, let’s see if you can figure out what fondant was sealed in tuperware, and which one was not.
I hope that it is pretty obvious as to which one we sealed and which one we didn’t. If you couldn’t guess, the one on the left was sealed in a container, and the ones on the right were not. Something happens to fondant when you seal it or refridgerate it. It gets very gummy…still tastes good, but it just doesn’t look as pretty. (Needless to say, the cupcakes on the left were for family only.)
One tip that has saved us much time has been to use cookie cutters when we can. If you have enough cookie cutters you can make just about any shape. The key is to see the shapes that make a certain picture. In the next two pictures you will see two cakes…one was decorated using cookie cutters and the other was decorated by cutting out the shapes by hand (insert groan). Again can you figure out which one is which?
In the picture on the left, the paisleys were all cut out by hand (again, instert a groan). It’s hard to see here, but the edges are rougher than when you use cookie cutters. For the Wii remote ALL of the pieces on the cake were made by using different cookie cutters.
The funny thing about all these tips is the fact that we have done things the “wrong” way before we figured out the “right” way. The next one, I will admit, had me a little scared. We use different things for supporting gumpaste. The two main ones that we use are spaghetti and wooden skewers. The key is knowing when to use the right one. They are both useful. It just depends how you are going to use them. Can you tell which picture is spaghetti, and which one uses skewers?
I have a feeling that you can probably figure out which one is spaghetti, and which one uses skewers. The one on the left uses skewers and the one on the right uses spaghetti. Now that you know which one is which, let me tell you why it’s important to use the proper tools. Skewers are great to use when you need to support heavy gumpaste. Spaghetti is great to use as internal supports for people (You don’t want the people to fall over). Now, let me tell you why the cake on the right scared me a little bit. First, I want you to think about what happens to spaghetti when it gets wet. Now, I do realize that this should have been fairly obvious to me, but apparently it wasn’t. When we have things sticking out of the cake we usually paint them with food coloring…is it starting to make sense as to why I got a little nervous about the music notes on spaghetti? I thought that I was in great shape (that is always my first mistake). I painted the spaghetti black to match the music notes…the next morning…I came downstairs to inspect my work…can you picture it? You got it! Warped spaghetti! Thankfully, we had made enough that not all of them had warped. Let’s just say, lesson learned!
How did you do overall? Were you able to see the different techniques used on the cakes? There are so many tips that I could write about simply by having experimented with different techniques. (Maybe, I will write a sequel to this post). And as scientists know, sometimes experiments work, and sometimes they don’t. It just teaches us what to do better for the next cake. Oh and don’t worry, we won’t experiment on your cake…well, if we do, you won’t ever know…