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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 Tetreault. The Chef Tetreault 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. I also used this nifty little measuring tool by Wilton to make sure my painted area stayed the same thickness as I went around the cake. And my Cake Boss Cake Stand/Turntable is so wide and spacious thanks to a gadget by Innovative Sugarworks that expands my turntable to 20". Don't you just love cake decorating gadgets??!!
The next next new thing I tried was the gumpaste peonies. This was the first time I tried to make realistic looking gumpaste peonies, 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.
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!!
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 thickness 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.