Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sketchy Cake Designs

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When most everything you make is a custom design, you have to make a lot of sketches.  The only thing I like about recreating an exact copy of a cake is that I don't have to draw it out.  I can decorate cakes, I can't draw :(  My art teacher in high school told me that most people that are great artists, whether drawing, painting or sculpting, don't just wake up great.  She said that for 98% of artists, it's a skill that you learn over time.  I really don't think that occurred to me until then.  Now I know that it is true in most everything we do.  Things that used to take me forever are now easier.  I'm still pretty pitiful at sketching cake designs though.

Customers have to see a sketch of what they are getting because most people can't visualize all the things they are hearing.  It helps me too!  I can see the general idea and make changes when booking the cake instead of the day I'm decorating it.  The better the sketch, the easier it is for someone to "see" it.  Also, it helps bakers to come across as professional or not so much.  It is something we have to do, so we'd better get used to it!

Click to Enlarge  Image

Currently, I have PowerPoint templates that I've made and I "draw" on those.  If I can color them in the program, or use clip art, it does help a little, but it's still not at all realistic.  I've been trying the Tiered Caker iPad app and printing those out to draw on.  I really like the realism that they show, but I can't do "weird" things in the program, like adding a skull tier or flowers as a separators.  Also, when I'm just trying to show texture or white on white decorations, I have to pencil them in and that makes it very hard for them to visualize the final cake.

I'm including two of my current sketches so that you can "grade" me and tell what you think I could do differently.  I recently watched a CakeFu by the awesome Liz Marek about digital cake sketching.  She has lots of video's and even a Facebook page for Cake Sketching.  I really like what she does and I wish I had that kind of time just to make a sketch.  She said that it can easily take an hour per sketch.  Like I said, I want to be able to do that, but it just doesn't seem to be practical.  Am I just whining and need to get over it?  I'm clearly not going to be able to draw it free hand, so something has to give.  Keep in mind, these sketches aren't "bad" ones!  Thanks so much for your input!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stencilled Buttercream Cake

There is a private girls school in Chattanooga, Girls Prepatory School or GPS, and we have been making the rounds there lately.  We were asked to make a cake for a "Chapel Talk" event.  A senior student is asked to give a talk, during chapel (seeing a theme?) and then host a little tea party kind of event.  We were given colors of Navy and pink and we came up with this cake.  What is funny about it to me, is that the design would have worked when I was in high school, many years ago.  Preppy has not gone out of style since the 80's.  Polo shirts, pearls, bows in your hair and monograms have always been in style in our town.  Is that just a Southern thing?   Perhaps, but I think we will check back in ten years from now and see if it's still "in".  Maybe moon boots and hoverboards will be in?

This was a very easy cake to make so I won't pretend otherwise, but I will give you a few helpful hints.  First, when you are using buttercream icing and then stenciling on top with more buttercream icing, cold is your best friend.  I made the oval plaque by applying the middle letter, chilling the plaque and repeating the process.  The boo boo here is that the top "F" is slightly thicker than the other two letters.  You "should" look at the thickness closely before removing the stencil otherwise you are stuck with the decoration or you have to start all over.  I guess my patience was short this day. :)
I did have a little problem with the bottom tier stencil, but this is a design that you can pipe a little to fix the blemishes.  Also, use Fondarific for your pearls.  It will chill up and hold the shape so the pearls don't get distorted when removing from the mold or applying to the cake.  Sometimes I will put the pearls on as I take them out and other times I have to wait so I will make a bunch, then chill and apply.  If you see a cake with distored pearls, the decorator either didn't use the right product or hurried the process too much.  You can use modeling chocolate also, but the Fondarific "wedding white" matches my all butter-buttercream perfectly.  I also add whitener and a drop of purple (to counter act the yellow) to the outside layer of buttercream to brighten it.  It's still not bright white.

Lastly, making the color navy is not as easy as you would think.  This is a great chart for coloring fondant, but I think it also applies to buttercream.  Please know that colored buttercream gets darker as it sits, so make it 24 hours in advance so you can see the final color.
Here is a coloring chart for royal icing, but again it's a good general chart

And lastly, I found this to be so very interesting!  A chart on what happens to leftover colors when you add ivory or black.  Super good reading!  http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/04/my-ramblings-on-icing-color-and-some-easter-cookies/

I hope you get to make or receive a timeless cake this week! 

Items I used to create this cake: 

FULL DISCLOSURE:  As a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, I receive a small commission if you buy a product from the links on my blog.  I actually own the products I recommend and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Our 5th Blogiversary!

We are five years old this week! Well actually The blog is five years old this week! Our little business is more along eight years old now. Time flies by when you are baking cakes! To be honest, 2013 was not a great year for business. Our sales were almost half of 2012 and 2011. It was a challenge some weeks to bring you a cake and blog worth reading, but I hope we did. We really do wish more people that read the blog would leave comments. There is a small faithful handful of you that are there every week with sweet and encouraging words. To you guys, we want to extend our wholehearted thank you! It truly does put "fuel" in our little blogging engine. See what I did there? I know signing up for a Google account takes a few minutes, but please do it. Little blogs like us really like to know you are there and that we aren't talking to the wind. I am not the type of a girl seeking praise for cakes. I really want feedback, opinions and requests for content. We are working on some new videos for the upcoming year. If there are things you want us to show, teach, or complain about, just let me know.
Lastly, I wanted to thank Chad for keeping this blog going. It is only because of him that this part of our story continues. That man will not let me skip a week because we have to "be consistent". There are many times that I try to bring him to the dark (lazy) side, but the man is committed and it's one of my favorite things about him! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bar Mitzvah Tennis Cake

This week I want to tell you about the Bar Mitzvah cake I made to go with last weeks Bat Mitzvah cake. What a big party these twins had! Huge decorations, beautiful lighting and great food all at The Chattanoogan Hotel. They had to have wonderful cakes to match the event. When I met the clients, the birthday girl knew she wanted a giant fancy cake. On the other hand, the young man was so easy going that it made a problem. He wanted a sheet cake with a score board, that was all. I suggested some options to make it more grand to be on scale with the girl's cake, but he wasn't having it. Long story short, the parents almost didn't book the cake because they didn't want to spend so much on a "sheet cake". I had sketched out a 3 layer rectangle tennis court (not exactly a sheet cake!), with bleachers on two sides and a scoreboard on one of the long sides. When I found out about their reservations, I decided to sketch out a whole new design concentrating on what would match the size/scale of the girl's cake and not limit myself to the original instructions. Everyone was happy! Then all I had to do was make the cakes....

The cake itself was not hard, just very large. I used a half sphere of styrofoam for the bottom of the ball cake. The darned thing still wasn't perfectly round. I didn't trim enough off the cake half so the middle was too long. I'm not sure if there is a way to check the exact roundness of the cake other than just eyeballing it. Anyone have ideas? We used strips of plain edible image paper for the lines on the court. I really like the look and the flatness of these kinds of lines on a field. I've done it with thin fondant "snakes", but they aren't as pretty. The rest of the cake was pretty plain so I added a few details like tennis balls.

There are things I'm very good at and things that I'm just not. I've still got a lot to learn on a several things, but especially making fondant figures/people. The birthday boy wanted a figure to look like him and one to look like Roger Federer. I should have started those crazy things two weeks earlier, but it did not go down like that. Have you noticed yet that there are no pictures of these figures? Well, I wasn't happy with them so there is no evidence! I have two pieces of advice, because I'm soooo awesome at making people! First, use good modeling chocolate. If it's too soft or on the other end of the spectrum, to cracky, make a fresh batch! Second, watch Artisan Cake Company, AKA Liz Marek, on You Tube. Her fondant figure tutorials are the best that I found! She is awesome! But remember, she makes it looks much easier than it is, at least for me!


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