Category Archives: Tips and Techniques

PSA: I’m MELTING!

Often, you will hear me suggest that you just shouldn’t use buttercream in hot weather…this is why!   The lovely Bronwen Weber of Frosted Art Bakery in Dallas, TX has created a cute video explaining this very problem…

So, if you don’t want your cake to melt, please, PLEASE, pretty please…use fondant and DON’T have your cake outside in these conditions (your guests will probably thank you too!). 🙂  After all, you’ve paid all that money for me to spend all that time making and decorating your pretty cake…your guests should be able to enjoy it too!

Thank you, Mrs. Weber, for creating a video demonstrating this exact problem!  Sometimes people just need to see it for themselves!

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How-To: Bow Loop Cake Topper {Edited}

So you asked for it, that’s what you’ll get…How-tos!  For the first, I’ll show you how I did the bow loops for this cake topper for the Curious George Cake.  In this post, I’ll talk about some of the tools I use and show you where to find them.  I haven’t received any compensation for this, I’m just telling you about some things I’ve found that have made my life as a cake artist easier!

Tool Caddy

Tool Caddy

I’ll start by showing you a picture of my gum paste tool storage container.  I love it because everything stays in one place, stays clean and the best of all, I can cart it around with me!  I got it from The Container Store…it was originally designed for photo storage, but it works perfectly for this!  It holds my flower cutters, shape cutters, modeling tools, rolling pin, bow formers and much more!

{Edited 04/16/2011 to add} I have recently seen the storage container at Michael’s…and with a 40 or 50%-off coupon, it’s really reasonable!

Roll and Trim

Roll and Trim

Start with a ball of gum paste about the size of a ping-pong ball.  Knead it until it is softened and smooth.  Roll it out to about a 1/16th of an inch thick.  Trim off the rounded sides and trim it to make it about 6 inches long.  I use a pastry cutter (the smooth side) and a ruler.  I like this particular ruler because it has the inch measurements from 1 through 12, but then it also zeros at the center…an excellent way to help make things even or finding the center.  It’s from Deja Views and can be found here and also in most craft store scrapbooking departments.  In another life, I was a scrap-a-holic, so I’ve recycled a lot of my scrapbooking tools into my cake arsenal!

Cut and Cover

Cut and Cover

After trimming your gum paste to size, keep your scraps covered.  I use little food storage containers for this, as they are quick and easy (and cheap).  I also have an 18″ by 18″ piece of thick vinyl that I use to cover over the top of the gum paste after it’s rolled so that it doesn’t dry out.  I found the vinyl in the fabric section of the craft store.  It’s easy to wipe clean and it rolls up for storage.  Cut your gum paste into 1/4 inch strips using an exacto knife and your ruler as a guide.  Cover your cut strips with the vinyl while you work so that they don’t dry out!

Forming the Loops

Forming the Loops

To prepare for this next strip, you’ll need 20 gauge floral wire that has been cut into 3″-3 1/2″ pieces, a clean paintbrush (food only, please…don’t recycle these!) and some gum glue (a few tablespoons of hot water mixed with a pea-sized piece of gum paste until it dissolves in the water…tear  the piece of gum paste into little bits first and it will dissolve faster).  Take a strip of gumpaste and with a clean paintbrush, paint a little dab of gum glue onto the end of the strip, from the end to about 1/4″ in.  Lay one length of the floral wire at the tip, no more than a 1/4″ in.  Fold the gumpaste over until the other end is over the glued end.  Lift up the loop and pinch the ends together gently.

Hang the Loops to Dry

Hang the Loops to Dry

Next, you will want to hang the loops to dry.  My father and I made this contraption out of PVC pipe and plumbing connectors and caps.  It serves as a bow drying rack as well as a gum paste flower drier, among other things!  It was fairly easy to make, but took a little thinking and planning!  I will try to post a tutorial on how to do it at a later date!  In this step, you could use a broom stick or a thick dowel rod for this…you’ll just need to figure out how to suspend it yourself! 🙂  Anyway, carefully hang the loops over the pipe that has been LIGHTLY dusted with corn starch or powdered sugar.

Dry on Their Sides

Dry on Their Sides

When your loops are mostly dry (overnight), carefully remove them and lay them on their sides so that the part that was touching the pipes can dry.  As you can see, I only made 24 loops…if you want a fuller bow than the George cake topper, then make more loops!  You can also see that I made them all white.  That is because I am lazy and didn’t want to color gum paste.  I also was a little unsure of what color I wanted to make the topper.  In the end, I airbrushed the loops with red, blue and yellow.  To assemble the bow, trim the wires to about 1 1/2″ sticking out of the bow.  Next, form a golf ball-sized lump of gum paste into a ball and then flatten one side (this is the side that will sit on the cake.  I airbrushed it red, to match the bow loops, and let it dry somewhat (an hour or two) on the top of the cake.  You can do this ahead of time and just let it dry on a cake board.  Dip the ends of the wire into the gum glue and stick them into the ball of gum paste.  Try to turn the loops in different directions to add whimsy.  And if you are using more than one color, try to alternate them as best as you can to keep the colors separate.  I also made little curly ques out of the gum paste by wrapping strips of gum paste around 1/4″ dowel rods and letting them dry.  Sorry folks, but I didn’t get pics of the final assembly…in a rush for delivery!  But you can tell from the finished picture how it all went together!

Close-up of George

Close-up of George

Calla Lilies

Orange Calla Lilies

Orange Calla Lilies

These callas were made for a wedding cake that, unfortunately ( 🙂 ) I’m not making!  A tip for setting the color in your flowers and allowing them to have some shine to them is to LIGHTLY steam them.  I just use my regular old iron, set it on the steam setting, wait for it to heat up and then give them a few little blasts with the steam button…works great!

Two and 21

This was a birthday cake weekend!  The first was a party for a young lady turning 21 and the second was for the cutest little red-head turning 2!  I learned a new trick this week that helps speed up the drying time on gum paste.  If you turn your oven light on, put the item in the oven that you want to dry and close the door, the drying time significantly decreases!  The items on the 21st birthday cake were all done this way.  Just remember, if you use this technique, just make sure EVERYONE that lives with you knows…the smell of burning gum paste is NOT pleasant!  I just left a note for all to see!

What  difference 2 years and some classes makes!  This is the cake I did almost 2 years ago for my nephew’s 1st birthday!

Monkey Cakes for Nephew's Birthday

Monkey Cakes for Nephew's Birthday

Emily: The cake was delicious and Bridget loved it. Thanks so much – I’ll definitely keep you in mind for the future.  ~Kathy

Emily…Jack’s Monkey cake was a smash hit……everyone loved it and the cupcakes….it was soooooooo yummy and delicious…we even have some left over so I can keep it enjoying it for a few more days…thanks again…you ROCK!  ~Sarah

New Favorite Toy!

Okay, so if you own a Kitchenaid mixer (like me!), you know how much of a pain in the you-know-what to scrape that little nubbin at the bottom of the bowl.  Stuff just gets stuck there and then you have to scrape the bowl down every time you add something to the mixer…BIG PAIN!  My lovely cake teacher, Doreen, told us about a new product.  It’s called a Beaterblade.  Let me tell you folks…it’s my new love!  It reached all the way to the bottom of the bowl and even scraped the sides…no stopping to scrape!  It’s only down-fall is that it makes a horrendous squeaking noise when you first turn it on and the bowl and scrapper are both dry, but once you get some ingredients in and up the side of the bowl, it works beautifully!  A+ in my book!  It will be a HUGE timesaver…can’t wait to try it out on making a large batch of icing!  (by the way, mine is grey, not pink, but that was the only one I could find a picture of quickly!)

Beaterblade

Beaterblade

Modeling Chocolate

Modeling Chocolate Monkeys

Modeling Chocolate Monkeys

In two weeks, I’m making a shower cake for a very dear friend who is having twins, a girl and a boy!  Here’s the modeling chocolate monkeys I’ve been working on.  The first one I did took about 2 hours to figure out how to get it right (the girl monkey).  The next one was the boy monkey.  He only took about 1/2 hour, but that was because the hat was giving me fits!  It was supposed to be a baseball cap, but ended up being a little beany.  The third was the one laying down…he only took about 20 minutes.  Then the last one was the sitting one.  He only took about 10, but I wasted about 1/2 hour trying to find something small for him to sit on!  I imagine these will get easier to do as time goes on!

Here’s the recipe (by the way, I used 3 recipes…one dark chocolate, one white chocolate and one peanut butter chip…the leftovers are going to be used as decoration for the cake):

Modeling Chocolate (or Candy Clay)
14 oz chocolate (any kind will work)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Using a double boiler, bring the water to a boil.  Poor chocolate into a bowl that fits over the pan but doesn’t touch the water.  Turn off the heat and add the bowl over the saucepan.  Gently stir until all the chocolate is melted.  Poor in the corn syrup and stir until a ball forms.  It will look as if the chocolate has seized, but it is normal.  Pour out onto waxed paper and allow it to cool.  When cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest overnight.

To use the chocolate, break or cut off a small amount and knead in your hands until the chocolate softens.  Repeat with small chunks until you have enough to complete your project.

Things I did learn:

  1. Modeling chocolate is SUPER easy to make.  I almost thought I screwed it up!
  2. Modeling chocolate is difficult to work with if you have hot hands…fortunately, mine only get that way under pressure (or if I’m standing on a ladder changing a light bulb in the ceiling fan…eeek!)
  3. It smells yummy!  And tastes pretty good too.  Next time though, I’ll use a higher quality chocolate.
  4. It helps to get everything set up first and all the chocolate kneaded until it’s softened before you start.
  5. Keep your work area dusted with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, because once that stuff starts to melt a little, it’s sticky!
  6. It is much easier to use than fondant or gumpaste, as it doesn’t dry up.  It does, however, cool and harden as it cools, but you can warm it up with your fingers to make it pliable again.

When I get the cake done (March 7), I’ll be sure to post a picture!