Work those coupons, gurrrrrrrrrrrrrl!!

Those of you that already do baking and decorating at home know just how expensive the supplies can be.  I know!  Fortunately since I have a business and can order in bulk, it saves me some money.  But for those of you that are just doing cakes for your friends and family, buying what you need really adds up!  I NEVER pay full price for any cake equipment at craft stores unless it’s just a couple dollars.   Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and JoAnne ALL have coupons each week.  Hobby Lobby has one each day,  in fact!  If you download their app, there is a 40% off a single regular priced item every day!  Plus, Michaels will take competitor’s coupons!  So truly, there is no reason to pay full price for those expensive items.  Cake pans, gel paste, luster dust, oh my!  It all adds up!  You just have to be willing to play their retail game.  So next time you have a cake coming up, stop by and pick up things one or two at a time using those coupons.  You will be so glad you did.

It’s a sticky business, but somebody’s gotta do it!

Fondant,  while currently overused in cake decorating (in my humble opinion), is a great material for designs on your cake.  Lots of people buy commercially made fondant, but it is expensive and doesn’t taste that great.  I make my own using marshmallows and a couple other ingredients.  It’s easy to make and keeps really well.  In about 15 minutes, you can make enough fondant for several cakes!

Start by greasing a large bowl with shortening.  I use high ratio shortening which is commonly used in cake decorating.


Then, add one bag of mini marshmallows, 2 tsp. water, and a drizzle of corn syrup.  I realize that’s not a technical measurement, but I’m not a technical girl.  You basically just need a tablespoon or two to add elasticity to your fondant.  Fear not, this recipe is hard to mess up.

Fondant 1

Then, microwave this for a minute at a time, stirring after each minute.  I grease my spatula too to keep the mixture from building up on it.  Once all of your marshmallows are melted and your mixture looks smooth, add half a bag (1 lb) of powdered sugar.

Fondant 2

Stir this in until it incorporates and starts to ball up in your bowl.  Now you are ready to start kneading in more powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it isn’t sticky to the touch anymore.

Fondant 4

I now take it out of the bowl and knead it on my powdered rolling mat a few times until it feels soft and smooth.  Don’t over knead or it will get tough and dry out.  I then separate it into four balls that I lightly cover in shortening.   This will help keep it from drying out when it’s stored.

Fondant 5

Now, tightly wrap each ball in plastic wrap.  I then stack the wrapped fondant in a tupperware container.  I personally like Chinese soup take out “tupperware”.  The lids seal tightly and easily.

Fondant 6

And there you have it!   A fresh batch of stretchy, yummy fondant just waiting for your masterful hand.  I go through this much every week, but it will keep for two or three weeks if sealed tightly.  Some people color theirs when they are making it, but I choose to wait until I need it to color it.  When you use is it may become sticky.  Just add a little powdered sugar.  If it dries out, knead in a little buttercream.  It truly is hard to mess it up.  Try a batch and let me know how it went!

Ohhhhhh, THAT’S how they do that!

Ok, so I am not the best at drawing.  I can copy a lot,  but I am not great at drawing stuff without an image to go off of.   I used to work with a girl that was so talented, she would put one hand on her hip and hold her piping bag in her other hand, and draw anything on a cake you could think of.  She was amazing.   I, however, lack that gene.  So when I need an image to look really accurate, I do a transfer.  This is a process where you outline a copy of the image you want on your cake.  Lemme show you how…

First, make a copy of your desired image.  Then you cover it in a piece of parchment or wax paper.  I then tape them both to a cake board.

Transfer 1

Then, outline the image.  Make sure your point is very fine so it doesn’t look sloppy

Transfer 2

After outlining, you can fill in the colors.  Try to leave no spaces in between colors and lines so it looks completely filled in.

Transfer 4

Now that your picture is complete, pipe whatever color the cake is iced in along the entire surface.  This cake was iced in white.

Transfer 5

Next, take a small spatula and gently smooth this layer to be thin and smooth.  This accomplishes two things.   One, it helps to smooth the colors of your image.  Secondly,  it reinforces the strength of your transfer so it will be easier to place on your cake.

Transfer 6

Now that it is smooth, place the image in your freezer.  It usually takes about ten minutes to get solid enough to apply.  It should feel firm to the touch.  Your cake should be iced and smoothed to be ready for your transfer.  When both the cake and transfer are ready, gently peel the parchment from the back of your transfer.  Gently lay it on your cake.

Transfer 7

There will be some lines here and there from piping the design.  Using a small, pointed tip spatula, gently smooth the lines.  Don’t over do it!  I am guilty of this.  I will smooth and smooth and smooth until I have altered the image.  Accept the imperfections and know that it probably looks better than your self scrutinizing eyes will show.

Now you can add any additional touches to complete the image.  This one needed some touches on the frog.

Transfer 8

Voila!  A butter cream transfer.  It’s a little time consuming and tedious, but it just looks so darned good when it’s done!  To save your sanity, try a couple first before you actually need one for a cake.  If your practice runs turn out well, save them in your freezer for future cakes!

Denim, denim, denim (to the tune of Super Mario Bros)

Here’s a trick that will shock you to see how easy it is.  You will want to do this to your next ten cakes because it looks so fun!  This is how to make your cake look like denim.   First,  ice your cake in a medium blue and scrape smooth.

Denim Technique3

Then, place it in the freezer until your icing is firm to the touch.  For my freezer, it took about 10 minutes.  This is a good time to heat up your coffee for the fourth time that morning.

(I can’t be the only one that does that, right?)

Then, mix a small amount of a much darker shade of blue.  I even put in a drop of black to dull the blue a bit.  When colors for things like this are too bright, they look fake.  Then take a new paper towel and fold into fourths.  Dip the towel into the dark blue to pick up a little bit of icing.  Lightly blot the cake with the darker color.

Denim technique2

Don’t put on too much or it will not look even.  I will refold my paper towel several times to not let it get too heavy with icing.  I also like to start on the top and work my way down.  Don’t neglect the edge of your cake!  You want it to look continuous.

Denim technique1

Keep doing this all over the cake until it is completely covered.  I then get a new towel and go over the entire cake to again make sure it is even and not too heavy.

Cowboy Birthday with denim

Voila!  Denim!  Add a belt and saddle up, pard-ner!  Did I not tell you how easy this is?  Now, call all your friends you do cakes for and ask them to come up with a need for a denim look cake.  You know you are DYING to try this.  Happy decorating!

Shaped Pans and Star Tips? You are better than that!

Ok, touchy subject coming.  Brace yourselves.  Those of you that decorate cakes, it’s confession time.  Raise your hand if you have bought a pre-shaped pan and then covered the design with star tipped icing.   Eh-hem, ma’am.  Yes, you at your computer sipping coffee.  Hand up, please.    We all have.  And what do we do with those pans that are only good for one design of cake?  Nothing!  They sit on a shelf until a garage sale takes them away.  I have done it too, people.  I did a Blues Clues cake for a friend ten years ago and her daughter was absolutely thrilled.  But the thing is, if you like decorating cakes and want to improve your skills, try sculpting a cake!  It seems daunting, I know.  But really, it just takes patience and a few extra steps.

 First, bake a cake that is the best suited to the shape you are after.  For example, this week I made a game controller cake for my son’s birthday and started with a sheet cake.  He turned 7 and we had a video game truck come to the house.  This turned out to be surprisingly easy and only took a total of 2 1/2 hours of work (not including chilling time).  I started with a 1/3 sheet cake.  You will notice it’s two different colors in the pictures and that’s because it’s 2/3 root beer and 1/3 cherry*.

 *Occupational hazard of being a cake decorator: Your children get very specific as to what they request.  Refer to my 1/2 and 1/2 post to see how to have side by side flavors.

So, turn out your cake and draw with a #3 or #4 tip the general shape of your cake.  Below is a picture of the cake after I had drawn it and started to cut.  Use a serrated knife and it will easily glide through your cake with minimal “crumbage” (that is the technical term)

dirty Ice cut out 2

Dirty Ice Cut out 3

Dirty Ice Cut Out 4

After cutting it into the general shape, then you can dirty ice it.  This is also referred to as a crumb coat.  After the initial crumb coat, you can build up the shape with the pieces you cut away.

Dirty Ice building up

In the above picture,  I have built up the back corners and iced it.  Then, I added little pieces to build up where the “joysticks” are.  I am a child of the 80’s, and back then the lever you moved around on an Atari was called a joystick so it applies here too.  Welcome to my limited knowledge of video games.   Each time you add another dimension of cake, dirty ice and smooth it again.  You may want to put it in your fridge in between steps until you get more comfortable with smoothing out your add ons.

When it’s completely crumb coated, put it in your freezer.  That will make your icing get hard enough that when you add your color, the crumb coat won’t smear into it.

Dirty ice cut out 5

Now you can add your base color!  In this case it was black.  And yes, the kids’ mouths looked hilarious.  Smooth this out all over your cake.  Then, use a flexible scraper or I even use old credit cards to smooth it down.

Iced and smoothed game controller

There it is!  You did it!  (Insert your name here) made a sculpted cake!  All that’s left is the details.  For this one, is was mostly fondant pieces and a little piping.

Game Controller Cake

If you like cake decorating, you can do this.  It will take practice and patience, but you will get there.   In the long run, you will save money by not buying so many pans!  Also, don’t think you have to cover it in fondant!  I got mine this smooth with good old fashioned butter cream.

Happy Sculpting, everyone!

The dreaded “M” word

My sister will kill me for making this post, but it has to be done.  The most important word in the cake baking world is…wait for it…MOIST.  I know, I know.  It’s an AWFUL word.  I hate it too, but it’s a necessary evil.    Nothing is worse than cutting into a beautifully decorated cake, excitedly lifting that first bite to your mouth, and it’s DRY.  Crumbly, dry cake.  BLECH!  Not on my watch, people!  Only moist cakes leave my kitchen!  And I’m here to tell you what you’ve been doing wrong that drys out your cakes.  When you set them out to cool, COVER THEM.  Don’t let all of that valuable steam drift out of your freshly baked cakes!  When you take them out of the oven, immediately cover your pans in foil and seal the sides well.  All of the steam will then settle right back into the cake…where it needs to be.  I know, I know.  I am putting some pretty mind blowing info out into the blogisphere, but someone’s gotta do it!

So,  cover your cakes people.

That is…if you want them to be

M  –  O  –  I  –  S  –  T

Look, Ma! No fondant!

Fondant.  Love it?  Hate it?  It’s really taken over the cake decorating world.  Most of the cake shows on TV show bakers covering every cake in blankets of it.  Yes, it makes the cake look perfectly smooth when applied correctly.  But here’s the thing: Who wants to eat all of that?  Most people peel it off, taking their precious icing with it.  Not only do you have to dissect your piece in order to then eat it, but it ends up being a waste.  So, guess what?  You don’t have to cover your cake in fondant in order to get that smooth fondant look.  Use an icing scraper.  After you ice your cake, set the scraper lightly against the edge of the cake.  Spin your turn table while holding the scraper against the cake.  It takes lots of practice, but you should be able to make the sides smooth.

Scraping cake 1

After doing the sides, you can then pull the top edges across the top of the cake to smooth it down.  Pull all the edges towards the center.

Scraping cakes 2

After a lot of practice using a nice basic butter cream, you should be able to give your cakes a nice smooth service upon which to work your decorating magic!

Half n Half is twice as nice!

Hello! This past week of launching my business has been amazing! Within 24 hours, my Facebook page had over 300 likes!   That’s a lot of people I’m gonna get to make cakes for, ya’ll.   Whoo hoo!
Last week I had two cakes.   The first was a birthday/congrats cake.   This family was celebrating three birthdays and an ordainment.   Whoa!   That’s a lot to celebrate! In order to please all the people coming, they wanted a half chocolate, half white cake.   Now, most people would have to buy some sort of batter divider to pull that off, but not this girl  . You may say, “Whoa, she’s got mad skills!”   Wrong.   I am lazy.   Who wants another item to wash by hand?!  Not me, my friends.   Now, get your pen and paper out.   I’m about to tell you the supplies you will need in addition to your pan and batter. Are you ready?   A towel.   You will need a towel.   Ok, truth be told, a folded towel.   That’s all folks.   Place a folded towel under one side of your pan of any shape or size under one side of your pan to tilt it.   Pour your first flavor into the lower side.  Then when you add the second flavor, slip it out right as you start pouring.  You will be shocked at how well this works and how easy it is.   For reals, ya’ll. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.
Tilted pan
Poured in pan


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