Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How To Apply Tiny Bits Of Color Without Futzing With A Brush

This is so simple I'm not even going to show a picture of how to do it.

If you need to apply tiny bits of color to the edges of something, don't use a brush. That just ends with speckles of the color going onto other parts of your flower or whatever you're coloring.

Instead, stick your fingertip into the color, then rub the edge of the flower petal with your finger. That will let you put a tiny bit of color exactly where you want it to be. Like this:

I could have used a tiny brush and painted it on, but it's a heck of a lot faster to just rub it on there.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Monday, December 15, 2014

Craftsy Class Review--Fresh Arrangements: Buttercream And Beyond

Craftsy Cake Decorating ClassFresh Arrangements: Buttercream and Beyond is so named because it covers buttercream flowers on cakes and cupcakes, then throws in a couple of modeling chocolate flowers. For me this class was kind of a mixed bag since it had a lot of tips on how to do buttercream flowers, which is a skill that is sorely lacking these days, but it also showed some really bad habits and some random weirdness.

So let's get the bad habits out of the way...The class was taught by Sonya Hong, who owned Butterfly Cakes before moving to New York. Her bio says that she now concentrates on teaching and blogging, so I guess she wised up and figured out that selling cakes is not a perpetual sunny day and teaching is a lot less stressful. Smart woman. She also has a resting smile face, which was slightly disconcerting to me, because I have a resting exhausted face. The constant smiling throws me off, but it's great if you like a lot of cheerfulness with your classes.

The main bad habit that I shuddered to see is the way that she holds the piping bag. Now I realize that it obviously works for her, but she spends a lot of time pushing icing back down into the bag after it's oozed up through her hand while she's piping. That's a good way to waste a lot of time and to get icing all over your hands. If you're not experienced with piping, don't get into the habit of holding the bags like she does, just learn the right way at the beginning and save yourself a lot of trouble.

The second thing is that the icing she's using is too stiff, which you can see when she pipes her roses and they all have raggedy edges. I know that the reason she uses a stiff icing is that roses are a $&%*^ to pipe, but there's such a thing as too stiff and when the edges of your petals are ripping, the icing is too stiff. Don't go for that look.

Having said that, I'd say that the basics that she shows as far as how to pipe flowers are useful, if not thoroughly explained all the time. Watch what she does and you'll be able to make some decent flowers if you practice. And with piped buttercream flowers, the only way to get good at them is to practice. And practice, and practice.

She shows how to pipe flowers onto cupcakes and a cake, although the big one that she piped on the cake was a little iffy. She showed how to build a structure that you could use to make a cupcake bouquet, and then she moves on to cake pops with modeling chocolate flowers, which is where the general weirdness comes in.

I have a feeling that Craftsy told her that they needed more material for the class so they added the cake pops thing in. It has nothing to do with buttercream flowers, and the cake pops that she uses to make modeling chocolate flowers are the size of the cone you'd use for the inside of a gumpaste rose. I'd estimate that the finished products are 85% modeling chocolate and 15% cake pop, and I can't imaging anyone wanting to eat that. Other than maybe a group of hypoglycemic 6 year olds who are trying to build their blood sugar up to normal levels and who can take that amount of candy all at once.

I'd say that the class would be good for anyone who wants to learn to do cakes with buttercream flowers or learn about color mixing and buttercream in general. I'd ignore the modeling chocolate flowers section, or treat it as a separate class, because it's not something that's going to enhance the eatability of any cake. If you want to look at that as a class on making modeling chocolate flowers have at it, but don't do them on cake pops because that would be nasty.

My final review:

Skill level: I'd say either intermediate or advanced beginner because she doesn't explain the basics really thoroughly.
Equipment you'll need: piping bags, buttercream, flower nails, the basics.
Sleep-Inducing Level:Fairly snoozy. They spend a lot of time watching her do repetitive tasks.
What it assumes you already know: Basic piping skills.
Unnecessary level of difficulty for techniques shown: Not a lot, these are pretty basic techniques that will give you a good result if you practice them.
Annoying Host Habits: The bags! The bags! Twist the bags!
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: If you don't know how to pipe flowers and you're willing to put a little effort into it, it would be useful.

Go here for the class: Fresh Arrangements: Buttercream and Beyond

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate. This post contains affiliate links but the opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tutorial A Day December---Sewing Machine Cake

To round out the last few tutorials about planning structures, I'm poaching from my older posts again to show how to build the internal structure of a sewing machine cake. This can be adapted to any number of machine shapes, using slightly different support thicknesses etc.

Note that this structure is NOT locked into the baseboard. Sometimes you don't need to have a support that's attached to the base, that's just overkill. I tend to try to do as little as possible and still have the cake be secure, but I definitely make sure the cake is solid. I've been known to take cakes apart and re-do them a different way if it looks at all suspicious.

This particular cake was going to be secured with a base of cake at the bottom, and it would be covered with fondant, so that gives it an extra layer of "solid" surface to keep the whole thing together. Because of that I wasn't too worried about it not being secured to the board itself, although I do attach every cake board to the base board with duct tape so it won't shift around.

Just remember that the internal structures don't have to be super-complicated. Definitely err on the side of caution, but it isn't necessary to get out the blowtorch and PVC pipe fittings for every 3-D cake.

Check out the process by clicking on this link:

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tutorial A Day December- Building Internal Structures Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the basics to keep in mind when you're building a 3-D cake's internal structure. Today I'll show how I would build a few support systems to give you an idea of how to go about it.

First, a simple one. This is just a straight center post that would be bolted to the baseboard SECURELY and that would have support plates screwed onto the post along the height of it. I would use a threaded rod (yellow) and nuts with large washers (green) to support the cakes on the rod. The cakes would rest on the washers on top of a brace like this (click here). The brace would support the weight of each cake. I would make sure that this kind of thing was attached VERY securely to a wood base (use a wooden tabletop that you can find at the hardware store).

Another very simple one is a standing object that has a narrow base and is fatter on the top. Again, attach a threaded rod (blue) to the base securely with some type of flange system. The boards on this one (pink) would be resting centered on the pole with nuts and washers holding them up. The center pole should go up into the top tier of the cake, and there should be regular dowels (not shown) supporting the stacked tiers. I would make the handle and lower part of the brush under the bottom tier out of modeling chocolate.

Here's one that's trickier, but is still centered so it's balanced. The yellow shows the center pole that's attached to the board. I would put a PVC pipe over the center pole on the top so that I could insert copper tubing (blue) into the top to use for armature for the legs. Depending on how long the legs are, I would pack an armature wire around the copper tubing to bulk them out before covering them and the arms with modeling chocolate or fondant. The cake would be stacked like a normal stacked cake on top of the pink plates indicated in the photo, and there would be dowels in each tier to support the top tiers. I forgot to add a plate under the head but that would be cake too!

The last one would be the most complicated because of the double post in the center. Since the horse is leaning forward you'd need to do a post that went through and was used as one of the legs. Use modeling chocolate and build the leg into shape using the straight-centered pole as the very center, but kind of "bend" the chocolate around the pipe. The support will be straight but the leg will appear bent.

 There should be another post that went through the other leg and is attached to a base that fits the shape of the horse's body where the bottom pink plate is indicated in the picture. That would provide a solid platform that the cake would sit on. You could build that beforehand and have it ready to stack the cake tiers. Build the horse's rear end out of styrofoam that you glue to the bottom of the base and cover the whole thing ahead of time, or wait to do it with the cake so that it matches better.

When you get to the part of the horse that starts leaning forward, you'll start stacking the tiers a little forward and add a second support pole toward the front of the horse. That will go straight up through the upper tiers and into the head of the horse. The pink boards show where the boards supporting the cake tiers will go, and those will be doweled like a regular tiered cake. The yellow lines are copper tubing that can be put into the cake to support the legs. I would probably put them UNDER the pink boards, not above them like int he photo, since that would anchor them more securely. I'd build them out with wire armature fabric to bulk them up, then I'd cover with modeling chocolate.

If any of that doesn't make any sense post a question. But making internal structures is just a matter of looking at the item and figuring out how to fight gravity to get the cake to stay up!

For some visual lessons on how to build internal structures, you can sign up for a Craftsy class or two to see some examples of structures being made. Some good ones are Topsy Turvy Cakes and Building Better Cakes (these are affiliate links).

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and is a Craftsy affiliate.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tutorial A Day December: Planning Internal Structures Part 1

When you're doing a 3-D cake the first thing you need to do is figure out what type of internal structure you're going to need. As we all know, some "cakes" are less cake and more styrofoam, rice krispy treats and PVC pipe. I like to do as much of the cake in actual cake, but sometimes you need a structure that won't keel over, and it's better to err on the side of caution.

When you're looking at what supports you need, the first thing is to think about the great equalizer, gravity. No matter how sturdy your structure, the weight of a cake can pull it over, and you need to decide what should be made out of something other then cake as a result.

This isn't a mystery, just think about how gravity + the weight of the cake will combine to affect the parts of the structure and go from there. Start by looking at this pinterest search that I did for gravity-defying cake tutorials. Once you get an idea about where supports need to go, it's pretty simple.

Keep a few things in mind. First, you want the actual cake to be supported by level plates as much as possible. If there's no reason to put a cake at an angle, don't. The goal here is to keep the final design from falling apart, and keeping things level is the best way to do that.

Second, when you're thinking about the structure, also think about the materials that you'll use to cover that structure. Try to use the sturdiest material that you can to achieve the goal you want without adding unnecessary weight. I like to use solid modeling chocolate as my first choice for thin pieces since it cools off to a solid piece, but it can get heavy. If it's not going to be structurally sound then you'll need to use dowels or copper tubing covered with a thin layer of the modeling chocolate or fondant.

Third, make sure that you're building a solid structure to begin with. Sticking a sharpened dowel into a cake drum won't give you enough support for a top-heavy design. For something that needs a lot of support at the top, you'll probably need to use a solid board as the base and screw a center supporting pipe into the board to guarantee that it's solid and isn't going to wiggle.

Last, the taller the structure, the sturdier it needs to be. If you're putting cake at the top of a tall structure it will automatically be top-heavy and you need to anticipate that movement might be an issue. Make sure that the structure itself moves as little as possible before the cake is added to it.

Take a look at the pinterest page again, and then go browsing the hardware store brace section and the plumbing materials for pipes and fittings. Flanges and pipe come in handy when building upright supports that have to hold cake in high places...

Tomorrow I'll take photos of some things and show how I would do the supports for them.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA