Saturday, October 22, 2016

Gold Cake Engagement Cake with Peonies – Edible Gold Paint, Gunging and Easy Ruffled Cake Drum

I’m just a hobby baker, so this 3-tiered cake was one of my most adventurous so far. It doesn’t look very complicated, but I had a few miss-steps and learned some interesting new techniques along the way.

First off the painting of the tiers…

At first I was going to use gold leaf, but after being told that gold leaf wasn't edible I decided to paint on the gold color.  Next obstacle was deciding on what type of color to use. Who knew there were so many options: pearl, luster and disco dust, gels, and airbrush paint. Then the whole edible vs non-toxic issue came up yet again. I didn’t realize that a lot of the accent stuff that is sold for cake decorating is actually not edible. Some dusts are labeled as non-toxic which essentially means it won’t kill you if you eat it, but it is not designed to be consumed.

So after some searching I finally settled on Edible Hybrid Luster Dust by Chef Alan Tetrault. The Chef Tetrault line has lots of gold colors to choose from, and after much thought I finally settled on Soft Gold.  In the end it turned out a little lighter than I was wanted, but I think it still looked okay.

So  to paint on the gold color I mixed the luster dust with vodka to form a thick paste and just started brushing it on.

I wanted the cake to have broad, uneven brush-strokes (like the example the bride-to-be game me), but it didn’t quite come out that way. The paint ended up looking more uniform than I wanted, but it didn’t look too terrible. (Hey the “customer” was getting it for free so she couldn’t complain.) But it still vexes me why I couldn’t get the look I wanted…maybe my paint wasn’t thick enough??? I may try it again on a dummy cake just to see where I went wrong.

The next next new thing I tried was the gumpaste peonies. This was the first time I tried to make realistic looking gumpaste flowers, and they were actually pretty easy to construct. I used a center Styrofoam ball and just glued a bunch of individual peony petals to it. Not hard, but very time consuming. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures as I was making the flowers, but this is the end product.  I also dusted a little of the dry gold luster on the petals to give them some shine.

Next issue was this horrible, yawning gap that showed up after I stacked the cakes.  The example design the  didn’t have a border to hide this kind of flaw, so I was freaking out.  How was I going to hide the huge gap???!!!

But then I remembered a video I saw on the “gunging” technique. In this technique you beat your fondant with milk and vodka until it forms a paste that has the consistency of beaten egg whites. It takes a lot of beating (10-15 minutes), but in the end you get a soft, putty-like mixture that acts like that silicone filler the construction guys use.

You can pipe the gunge into to gaps and then scrape the access off with a straight edge tool. You can also use the gunge to fix nicks and gouges in your fondant. The gunge saved the cake!!

 And after:

My next dilemma was the unattractive drum at the base of the cake.  My bottom tier was 12 inches and I planned on using a 12 inch drum that would blend into the bottom tier and make it look taller.  Sadly it didn't turn out that way.  In hindsight I realize that I didn't take into account the added thickenss from the ganache on the cake, so the cake drum ended up being a 1/2 inch smaller than the tier above it.  Stupid, stupid, me.

You can also see a bit of a bulge on the bottom tier,  Sigh... Nothing I could do about that at this point. The bulge showed up even before I stacked the cakes, so I guess the white cake recipe I used was too fluffy and delicate to handle the weight of three layers plus all the buttercream, ganache, and fondant.

But back to the ugly cake drum problem.  I couldn't fix the bulge, but I could try and fix the base.  I tried a few things: painting it gold, wrapping a gold ribbon around it, adding a ribbon of white fondant, but nothing looked good.  Then I cut out some 1x1 inch squares of fondant and started filling the gap.  I just keep overlapping the squares and working my way around the cake.  And surprise, surprise, it really looked good. They kind-of resembled fancy pleats!  In fact it looked like I had actually planed it!!  I guess necessity really is the mother of invention.

So in the end it, even with my missteps, the cake didn't turn out too bad.   But I really do apologize for the ugly wooden board under the cake.  It was all I had the the house that was large enough to hold the cake.  I was hoping they would have some decorations at the party that I could use to hide the board, but no such luck.  My cake decorating attempts are always filled with misadventures.

Happy Decorating,


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Freezing Cakes: Hot, Warm or Room Temperature ???

It seems like an accepted fact that freezing a cake will not harm it; both professional and home bakers agree. In fact some say that the act of freezing (if done properly) may actually improve the taste, texture, and moisture level of said cake.

But controversy swirls around WHEN to freeze the cakes. Should they be frozen when the cakes are piping hot straight out of the oven? Should they be frozen when they are warm to the touch? Or should you wait till they are completely cool before freezing?

There are three divided camps on this issue…

Some people (the NEVER HOT camp) say to NEVER put hot cakes in the freezer. Some of the reasons include:

1) Placing hot foods in the freeze will cause the temperature inside the freeze to rise and cause previously frozen foods to partially thaw. But other people counter and say that modern freezers with their sensors and more efficient motors can handle the temperature fluctuations and adjust the air temperature accordingly.

2) The Never Hot Camp says that freezing hot cakes will trap steam/water inside the cake.  The steam/water will turn into ice crystals which will accelerate freezer burn and cause the cake to have an "off" taste. But other people counter and say that freezer burn does not start to creep into food until they are frozen for 2-3 months.

3) Freezing hot cakes will trap steam in the cake which will change the texture of the cake; causing it to become dense, rubbery, and sometimes even soggy. Other people say that trapping the steam and moisture inside the cake will actually make it moister.

4) By wrapping the hot cakes prior to freezing you are trapping heat inside the cake and allowing the cooking process to continue. Even after it is placed in the freezer it will continue “cooking” until the freeze can lower the core temperature below 140 degrees.

Some people (the WARMER camp) say to let the cakes cool 10-15 minutes and then wrap and freeze.

The WARMER camp is a little wishy-washy and don't really have a list of reasons.

The third and largest camp (the ALWAYS COOL camp) says to freeze the cakes once they are completely cool. The biggest reason why is:

1) Steam should be allowed to escape the cake prior to wrapping and freezing. Cake recipes are tested and tweaked under the assumption that a cake will be cooled to room temperature. The amount of liquid/moisture that goes into the cake/recipe also depends on that assumption. If you wrap a hot cake and freeze it immediately you are therefore trapping moisture/steam into the cake that wasn’t designed to be there. This added moisture might make the cake too moist and in some cases downright soggy.

So who is right? When should cakes be frozen? Hot, Warm, or Room Temperature?

To answer the question for myself I did a little test...

I baked my standard 3-layer white cake (shortening based with no butter) and I wrapped and froze one layer immediately after it came out of the oven. The second layer I de-panned and allowed to cool for 15 minutes before I wrapped and placed it in the freezer. The third layer I allowed to cool for 1-1/2 hours before it was wrapped and placed in the freezer.

The cakes stayed frozen for a week, then I placed them on the counter, and stilled wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil I allowed them to defrost.

First thing I noticed on unwrapping was that the surface of the HOT frozen and WARM frozen cakes were a little sticky. Nothing really bad, but noticeable.

Next I staked the cake, but I didn’t add frosting because I didn’t want the frosting to influence the texture or taste of the cake. I wanted to test them in their naked, unadorned state. The bottom layer is the HOT layer, the center is the WARM layer, and the top is the COOL/Room Temperature layer.

Next I sliced. ( Notice I stuck a toothpick in the bottom/HOT layer?  I had to do this so I could tell which was which! )

Then I tasted.


Surprisingly they looked and tasted EXACTLY the same. The HOT cake might have been a smidgen denser, with a slightly tighter crumb, but nothing too noticeable. And again – they all tasted exactly the same. I have four people sample the individual cake layers and no one noticed a difference.

I was really surprised at the findings, I thought for sure that the HOT frozen cake would taste moister – but not so.

So I guess for this particular cake at least – the timing of when it is frozen does not matter. The bottom line is freeze the cake when it is most convenient to you.

Happy Baking,


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Never Ending Fondant Comparison - Carma Massa Ticino

Okay you guys…. Here is yet another fondant for my never ending fondant comparison.

This time it is Carma Massa Ticcino

I have read so many good things about Carma Massa Ticcino that I’m a little hesitant to say that I wasn’t that impressed with the fondant. It was easy to work with and tasted wonderful, but it had a few “issues” that made it less than perfect for me.

The biggest problem I had with the Carma was the way it reacted to any food dye that contained U.S. Certified Red #3 dye. I tried to color some Carma with AmeriColor Mauve #116, and I got a sickly brownish-green color instead of pink.

Next I tried Burgundy on the Carma and got purple instead of red wine.  At first I thought it might be a problem with the AmeriColor gels, but I also tried Wilton’s Burgundy and got the same purple result when mixed with the Carma fondant.

I contacted AmeriColor to find out what was going on and I was told that the very low pH of the Carma Massa was destroying the U.S. Certified Red #3 dye and leaving behind the other colors. The AmeriColor representative told be to add baking soda to the fondant which would raise the pH of the fondant and allow the reds in the dye to come through.

And you know what???    It worked!!

Below is a bit of Carma dyed with just AmeriColor Mauve #116 and another ball of Carma with #116 and a bunch of baking soda. See how the one with the added baking soda actually looks pink. Weird the way chemistry works…

So enough about food dye and onto the rest of the review. In my original 7 fondant comparison I used 8 different criteria to judge and rank the various fondants.   After the first comparison of 7 I also did two other comparisons.  One with Via Roma Bakery fondant and one with Cake Craft fondant.

So here are the criteria for judging:

Cost ---- This Carma is expensive stuff.  At the time of writing I paid $95 (with free shipping) for a 15.4 lb tub.  Well actually it is not that expensive if you break it down to a cost per pound, what makes it so expensive is that you need to buy it 15lbs at a time.  Sadly I couldn't find it sold in smaller quantities.  Another problem with having to buy such a large amount is that the fondant only has a 1 year shelf life.  When my tub arrived it was already 6 months into its shelf life so I have to use 15 lbs in 6 months.  Thankfully I have 3 more large cakes to do by November so I should be able to use it all before it goes bad.

Packaging --- The Carma comes in a nice sturdy tub.  The top of the tub is sealed in a blue film, and the fondant is wrap in a heavy plastic bag.

Taste ----The Carma Massa Ticcino was actually very tasty. The only other fondant I had on hand was the Via Roma, and the Carma tasted much, much better than the Via Roma. So high marks for taste.

Texture ---- When you knead the Carma Massa it feels just slightly moist but not sticky. It is very, very soft and does not need to be microwaved or heated to loosen it up. It is amazingly easy to work with, but it does start to get tacky if you work with it too much.  

Rolling ---- The Carma rolled very easily, and it doesn't have much elasticity so it doesn't snap back on you.  But oh my the bubbles.  I found the Carma produced a lot of large air bubbles when rolling. I don't remember any other fondant doing this to the same degree.  And the bubbles were large – too large to pop. I had to crumple up the fondant and roll it out again. I also had a little bit of trouble pulling the rolled fondant off of The Mat without stretching it, but once I got an edge released it fell off The Mat without any problems.

Coverage ---- In my fondant comparisons I use the same amount of fondant (5 ounces) rolled to the same thickness (1/8") to see how far each brand would spread. At a little less than 10 inches this fondant was in the middle of the pack. At 11+ inches round the Via Roma and Fondarific fondant were the best performers. The worst performers, at 9" round, were Duff & Satin Ice.

Draping/Smoothing --- Because the Carma fondant is so soft it created a lot of folds and drapes, but they were very easy to lift and smooth out. There was also no tearing as gravity pulled the fondant downward, so 1/8” is not too thin for this fondant.

Cutting/Trimming --- The fondant did create some pulls and ragged edges when I trimmed the fondant, but I did cut the fondant when it was freshly rolled.  If I had let it dry a bit before cutting it may not have created as many ragged edges.

Drying Time ---- The Carma fondant has a slow drying time. I was able to re-roll the fondant several times without noticing any stiffness or cracking in the fondant.

Final Look --- Well, honestly, I was not very impressed with the final appearance of the Carma Massa Ticino. Because the Carma fondant is so soft it tended to sink into the nooks and crannies of the test pan thus showing a lot of imperfections.

So all-in-all this Carma Massa Ticcino was a bit of a disappointment.

It was easy to knead, roll, drape, smooth and it tasted great, but it also had a lot of negatives. The biggest issue was the problem with the fondant’s low pH killing off the Red #3 dye. There was also the issue with air bubbles, the way it showed imperfections, and the high cost due to large size of the tub.

So Carma Massa Ticino has not ended my search for the perfect fondant. Sigh.

And sadly even once you find the perfect fondant something always happens to ruin the love affair.  A few months back I thought the Via Roma was going to be my go-to fondant, but the last pail I bought was a little dry and the dreaded elephant skin formed on the finished cakes.  See the comparison below.  The Carma on the right half of the cake is smooth, but the Via Roma on the left has a pitted look.  I was so disappointed in my last purchase of Via Roma.

Another observation about the Carma ---  The Carma is a pure white color out of the pail and it is actually very similar in color to the Via Roma, but look at the picture above.  Both are rolled to 1/8.  Does the Carma on the right look slightly darker than the Via Roma on the left?    The cake underneath is chocolate and the Carma seems to be picking up a tint from the dark color underneath.  This is not a big deal if a multi-tiered cake is iced in all the same icing, but if one tier is chocolate ganache and the other is white chocolate then the two tiers will look slightly different.  If you look closely at my Flattened Carnation Cake you will see that the white Carma fondant on the two tiers are not exactly the same color.  

So my search for the perfect fondant continues...  any other suggestions on brands to try?

Happy Decorating,


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Flattened Carnation Cake - Stephanie's Wedding Shower

Okay, Flattened Carnation Cake doesn't sound very attractive, but that is what the flowers on this cake are:

I was making a wedding shower cake for my niece's best friend, and since my nice didn't care what the cake looked like, I got to do what I wanted.  I found a cake design by Sweet Bites Cake in New Zealand that I simply adored,  It was very clean, simple, and modern (just like the bride to be).  Here is a link to the original on Pinterest.  I couldn't find the exact match to the cookie cutter used for the flowers, so I used another Pinterest idea for the flat carnations.

The cutter is from PME and is called, surprise, surprise, Carnation Cutter.

In the final flowers I used three different shades of the same dusty rose colored fondant.  I just flattend out the center.

And then used a tooth pick to flatten the edges.

I stacked two of each size cutter for six layers all together.  Then I painted some of the food color gel directly on the enter of the flower and then glued some yellow and green candy sprinkles to the center. Very easy to make.

The cake itself was also a learning experience.  I tried a double barrel cake for the first time. The bottom layer is made from two 9" cakes stacked on top of each other, and then ganached and covered in fondant as one.  Putting the two cakes together was actually easy, but taking them apart to serve was a PITA.  I couldn't get the top barrel cake to separate from the bottom barrel so I had to cut it into thirds to pull it off.  Next time I'm going to put some parchment paper between the top of the lower cake and the cardboard round of the upper cake to keep them from sticking together. 

The very top tier of the cake was chocolate.  Here it is getting its shell of ganache.  I have been using acrylic rounds to get the perfectly straight sides, flat top, and sharp edges.  You put one acrylic round on the bottom and another on the top.  You make sure they are perfectly aligned, then you filled with icing beyond the edge of the rounds and then scrape off the excess.  The process works really well, but you do use A LOT of ganache to fill to the edge of the rounds.

Here is the finished cake going into the Cake Porter for the trip to the party.

And finally the Bride-to-Be and my niece the Bride's Maid.  And of course the CAKE.  What would a party be without CAKE.

Happy Decorating,


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Pissed-Off Leaf Beetle Cake

OMG - That cake is gross!!!

That is one pissed-off looking bug!

I'm not eating that!

So how should I respond when family members reacted this way to my latest cake?  My sweet, innocent little Iridescent Leaf Beetle cake?

My nephew wanted a bug cake for his girl friend's 29th birthday party.  That may seem like a strange request, but Kristen is big into bugs.  And not cute, cuddly bugs.  She likes her bugs, big, bad, and lethal.  She is going to school to be a vet, but she should be an Entomologist instead.

Here is the cake that got such horrified reactions....

Kind of creepy looking isn't it???

The real-life beetle actually has all those stripes of bright, neon colors, and strangely it is kind of pretty.  They even make earrings out of the iridescent shells.  So where did my cake go wrong??  (Please no cake wreak jokes.)   Maybe I added too many black accents?  Or is it the mouth?  The mouth is a little wide.  This was my first attempt at painting a cake, so it didn't come out exactly like I envisioned.  Sadly, none of my cakes ever come out like I envision. 

But in the end even the squeamish, bug-haters ate the cake. Chocolate on chocolate with chocolate sprinkles - what isn't there to love?

So how did it come together?  The carving of the cake was pretty painless.  I used 4 - 9" round cakes.  I had to piece some of the sections together, so I used lots and lots of chocolate icing to keep everything together.

Fondant went on next....

And then I started painting... and painting... and painting...

The legs of the beetle were my favorite part of the cake.  They came out pretty nice if I do say so myself.   I made them out of gum paste, and they were surprisingly easy to form.  It only took about 2 hours to finish all 8 pieces.  I really felt bad when I threw them away.

So in the end it was a successful cake.  I may not have gotten the reaction I had hoped, but at least everyone loved the taste.

Happy Decorating,


Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Toy for Cake Decorating - Cricut

I bought a Cricut machine to cut do-dads for my cakes, but before I work on expensive gum paste I have been practicing with inexpensive cardstock. And I have been having so much fun. The Cricut Design Space software is pain to work with, but if you a patient, and watch a bunch of YouTube videos, you can get things done. Here is a tag I made while learning how to use the software.

The lace tag shape and the script font are from the Design Space's “free” collection...

and the outline of the dress is something I traced in Corel Draw and then imported into Design Space. (The shape of the dress was inspired by a tag I saw on the web somewhere.  If I can find the site again I will post a link to her awesome card-crafting blog.)

I can’t wait to start designing things for my cakes and cookies !!!

Happy Crafting,


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

4th of July Explosion Cake

I do so love to try out new things, and this 4th of July cake gave me lots of new things to play on/with.  As usual, some of the experiments worked out great and other not so great.

Experiment #1 

The bottom tier of the cake is my semi-failed attempt at freezing a fully fondant decorated cake.  I read somewhere that this was possible, so I wanted to give it a try.  I crumb coated the cake, and then covered it in fondant and added the red stripes.  I let the cake sit for three hours so that the fondant could dry, and then I carefully wrap the cake in plastic wrap.  After three days in the freezer I removed it and keeping the plastic wrap in place I let it defrost.  Once defrosted I removed the plastic wrap and found....


The cake itself froze just fine, but the defrosting caused some issue with the fondant (Wilton Preferred).   The fondant didn't crumble and the colors didn't bleed, but the texture of the fondant got very soft and very gummy.  And the plastic wrap I used to cover the cake left little marks all over the fondant.  Maybe I did something wrong.  Maybe I took the plastic wrap off too soon, or maybe I should have frozen the cake a bit before I wrap it in the plastic wrap???  Someone recently told we that I should have place the cake in a cardboard box instead of wrapping it in plastic wrap.

Who knows... anyway, I'm not going to freeze a fondant covered cake again.

Experiment #2

Now the inside of the cake was my attempt at the famous "Flag Inside the Cake" cake.

My "Flag Inside the Cake" didn't come out too, too bad.  The red torted layers were a little bit thinner than the white layer, but overall it looked pretty good.  I also tried adding little snow flake sprinkles to the blue batter hoping it would give the look of stars in the baked blue layer, but most of the snow flakes just sank to the bottom.  You can see a few poking out of the blue section, but I would have to call the snow flake experiment a flop.

But one thing that worked really well was using a 4" cookie cutter to cut out the interior of the blue layer.  Then I used the same cutter to cut out the red and white layers that fit perfectly inside the blue layer.  The instructions from the Land O' Lakes web page say to spread icing around the inner cut edge of the blue cake before you slip the white and red layers inside, but my cakes fit so tightly together that I couldn't fit any icing.

Experiment #3 

The top tier of the cake was made to look like an exploding fire cracker.  Surprisingly this part was really easy to make, and the top tier came out looking pretty good.

You start by cutting out circles of red white and blue fondant.  Also cut out a piece of wax or parchment paper the same size.  I used my trusty 4" cookie cutter.

Then stack the circles with blue at the bottom, the piece of parchment paper next, and then the red followed last by the white.  The parchment paper will keep the red from sticking to the bottom layer of blue.

Next place the stack of fondant round in the center of the cake, and then cover the cake and the fondant stack with blue fondant.  Note: This is a dummy cake and that is why the sides are so straight and the top edge so sharp.

Score the top of the fondant, cutting down to the parchment without cutting through it.

Carefully curl back the blue-red-white layer of fondant to make the explosion look.

When all the wedges are curled out, remove the parchment paper to expose the blue fondant underneath.

Next decorate with fondant stars, confetti, and streamers.

I also filled the depression with red, white, and blue Sixlets.  Those things are so good.

So all-in-all not too bad.  I learned a lot of things with this cake, and my family was impressed with the "Flag inside the Cake".

Happy 4Th of July everyone !!!