Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

Archive of ‘Baking tips and tricks’ category

How to make a fondant jewelry box in 10 steps

I had fun working on my niece Lauren’s birthday cake today. I’ll show you the completed cake on Sunday — I can’t give it all away and spoil the birthday girl’s surprise.

I created a fondant jewelry box for a topper so I thought I’d share how I did it.

Fondant jewelry box

Fondant jewelry box. Photo by Jennifer Melo

You’ll need:

    • Fondant
    • A Rolling pin
    • Icing sugar or cornstarch
    • 2 heart-shaped cookie cutters; 3″ and 4″.
    • Ruler
    • Pizza wheel cutter
    • Sharp knife

Fondant jewelry box how-to: Start with the base
1. Dust your workspace with icing sugar or cornstarch. Roll fondant to about 1/8″ thick.

2. Cut a heart using the 3″ cookie cutter. There’s your fondant jewelry box base. Set it aside.

Do the sides and lid
3. Dust your workspace as needed to prevent sticking. Roll fondant to about 1/4″ thick.

4. Using a ruler and pizza wheel, cut a strip that’s about 12″ long and 1 to 1-1/2″ in width.

Tip: If your fondant’s too soft or too thin, the strip will flop, bulge or fall flat. Add powdered sugar to your fondant if it needs a firmer consistency and roll it to at least 1/4″ thick so a strip can stand on its edge without falling over.

5. Cut another heart using the 4″ cookie cutter. That’s your jewelry box lid.

Assemble the jewelry box

6. Lay the jewelry box base on a piece of parchment paper. Lightly moisten the heart’s edge with water.

7. Gently fold the fondant strip in half and pinch it at the center to form a crease at the top of the heart. Place the pinched edge at the top of the heart and wrap the strip around the sides, bringing ends together at the bottom tip. Use your knife to trim the ends and then moisten and press to join them.

8. Gently hold the heart shape in place for a minute or so while the water dries. If needed, use the 3″ cookie cutter as a form to help reshape the heart while the fondant’s soft.

Assemble the jewelry box lid

9. Roll a thin tube of fondant on the counter, spaghetti-style. Using a damp brush or your finger, moisten a heart-shaped line about 1/4 from the edge of the lid. Press your tube-shaped piece on to the lid and trim to fit. Position and pinch as needed to form a heart-shaped rim for the lid.

10. Attach pretty decorations to decorate the lid if desired. Fill the box with fondant or candy jewelry and you’re done.

What do you think?

10 things to check out at Pretty Bakes Blog today

Sure, I might’ve I dreamt about code all night and fought a fierce CSS battle in my nightmares but I won the war because would you look at that?! Pretty Bakes Blog is finally live and customized. Woot! Woot!

I’m going to celebrate by eating a chocolate cupcake but before I do that, I thought I’d give you a little tour to help you feel right at home here. Let’s start with the core categories.

Ready? Let’s go!

10 things to check out at Pretty Bakes Blog today

1. Cakes

marble layer cake

My love of baking started with cakes and you can bet I’ll be updating the cakes category with tales of more cakes I’ve made in the past five years or so — plus the ones I’m working on now.

Birthday cakes are probably my specialty so check the cakes section for ideas the next time you’re planning to make a birthday cake.

2. Cookies

I’m sure it’s the Cookie Monster’s favourite section on Pretty Bakes Blog and it might be yours too if you like a good cookie. And who doesn’t, really? Cookies are great baking projects for novice cookie decorators like me because they can be more low-maintenance than full cakes. Great. Now me want cookie. Let’s pick up the pace, shall we?

3. Tips and tricks

Tips and tricks is the breeding ground for lessons I learn as I experiment with baking and cake-decorating techniques. This is where I’ll put handy reference-style stuff like how to level cake.

4. Rolling pins

I collected a bunch of cool quotes about cake, cupcakes and just about anything sweet and then I made some exclusive photos for you to share. I’ll be rolling out more rolling “pins” — tee hee! — every now and then but for now, you can choose from nine nifty things to pin now.

Just remember to spread the link love by mentioning in your caption fields and then we’ll be bosom buddies and lifelong pals.

5. Email updates

Don’t want to miss a single post? I’m flattered! Sign up to get every Pretty Bakes Blog post by email by entering your email address and clicking Subscribe in the sidebar widget.

Confirm your subscription via the email that was sent to your account and we’re ready to roll.

6. RSS

Would you rather read Pretty Bakes Blog post via your favourite feed reader? No problem. Add the Pretty Bakes Blog feed to your reader today.

7. Social media bar

Do you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or RSS? All of the above, maybe? Follow me and I’ll probably follow you.

8. Royal icing consistency screw-ups

I just keep on making cake-decorating mistakes but I always learn from them. Find out what I learned about royal icing consistency problem before you decorate cookies. I’ve included this article in your welcome tour because it’s a good reference post. But I’m totally biased so don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

9. How to level a cake

I shared my secrets in How to level a cake? 3 ways. Why? Because I learned you need a strong foundation for prettier cake decorating. This is another good reference post that’ll give you a taste of what you can expect to find at Pretty Bakes Blog.

10. My 404 page — also known as the dreaded “Page Not Found” page

It’s not so pretty but I’ve written a message you might enjoy if you, too, like U2. I’m not going to send you directly to it because that’s bad for my search engine rankings, so I’ll show you a photo of it here and you can click to see larger image.


Whoever successfully helps me to get rid of the quotation mark weirdness that’s driving me up the wall gets a personalized rolling “pin”. And my eternal gratitude. Things I’ve tried: Deleting and retyping the quotation marks in the both the text and WYSIWYG editors. Using TextEdit to strip out code. Rewriting to remove as many contractions as I possibly could. 🙂

Who am I? That’s a secret I’ll never tell – I kid, I joke. And if you’ve never watched an episode of Gossip Girl, you haven’t the foggiest idea about what I just wrote there. I’m Jen Melo, cake-decorating amateur and your new blogging friend.

Now about that cupcake…

Royal icing consistency problems

Royal icing is a royal pain in my butt.

I should’ve done more research before I filled my piping bag because if I did, I would’ve followed sweetsugarbelle’s advice re: getting the right royal icing consistency.

The right royal icing consistency

The perfect piping consistency is thick like toothpaste but still has enough “flow” so that it doesn’t break when you pipe lines. When mixed, a spoonful of it should gently plop back into the bowl.

But I was too eager to get decorating so I sort of winged it. Bad idea.

At first, my piping consistency was a bit too thick.

royal icing piping consistency

This royal icing consistency was a tad too thick for piping. Photo by Jennifer Melo

My flooding consistency was also too thick at first, and then too thin, and then too thick again. See what I mean? Royal. Pain.

When royal icing consistency goes wrong

If you make your mixture too thick, you lose control because your hands tremble as you try to pipe a smooth line of spackle-like icing. Make it too thin and it’ll unpredictably spread, lose its shape or leak and drip over the edges of your cookies.

royal icing flooding consistency

My royal icing flooding consistency was a tad too thick here, and then I made it too thin. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Leave royal icing out and uncovered for too long and it’ll go hard as a rock (so don’t delay clean-up when you’re done decorating).

Choosing a royal icing recipe

Many royal icing recipes call for raw egg whites but because I have young nieces and I don’t want to endanger them with the risk of salmonella, I tried a water and sugar-based royal icing recipe. But after making several batches of thin royal icing that didn’t hold its shape well, I decided to try a meringue powder recipe.

And I’m happy to report that I got much better results with the meringue powder method. I used’s royal icing recipe. Using 1/2 cup of water gave me a stiff piping consistency that could’ve used a bit more water for perfect piping flow. The recipe is good. My inexperience and insufficient research is to blame for my poor results.

It’s not all bad

The great thing about royal icing is you can easily change its consistency. Add powdered sugar to thicken it or water to thin it.

The trouble is knowing when it’s the right consistency for your needs and I need lots of practice to master this.

Patience is your friend

In hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t take the time to research more before starting to decorate. I suspect it’s a mixture of excitement and an urgency to get things done.

Once I’ve filled a piping bag, I’m reluctant to start over again so I sort of give up, doing my best to work with what I’ve got. And then it’s back to do more research to find out what I could do to get better results next time.

Royal icing is a high-maintenance icing for decorating newbies like me but it’s an essential for decorating cookies and it looks great when things go right. So I’m committed to correcting my royal icing problems.

To fix my royal icing consistency problems, I did some more research and created this chart and thought I’d share it with you.

Symptoms of royal icing problems

Problem Probable Cause
Icing breaks while piping Icing is too thick.
Icing drips off cookie and/or doesn’t hold shape when piped Icing is too thin.
Bumpy surface Icing’s too thick. Use an “oops” stick to smooth icing when it’s still wet.
Curdled strangeness Grease got into in the icing. Use squeaky clean bowls and spoons. Wipe bowls and utensils with vinegar or another food-safe, grease-cutting agent of your choosing.
Bubbles in surface Icing didn’t settle. Let your icing settle in an air-tight bowl or container for about an hour before use. Stir icing gently, tip the bowl and use a spatula to gently press bubbles out of the mix. Inspect cookies and pop bubbles with a toothpick or scribe when the icing’s wet.

What else I learned about royal icing

  1. Royal icing takes about 24 hours to dry — longer if you’re in a humid environment, if your flood icing was on the thin side, and/or if your icing’s layered on thickly.
  2. Cutting the icing with a knife helps you to determine whether or not you have the right consistency. Some cookie decorators swear by the 10-second rule while others like the 20-second rule. Here’s how it works: Cut the icing with a butter knife, remove the knife from the bowl and start counting. By the time you get to 10 – 20, the icing should have just settled and smoothed over so that line you created with the knife disappears. I’m SO trying this method from now on.
  3. Watch Sweet SugarBelle’s videos on piping and flooding consistency icing BEFORE I fill my piping bag or piping bottle. 🙂

How to level a cake? 3 ways

A pretty cake is usually a symmetrical one. And to achieve symmetry, you need a solid foundation of level cake layers.

We’ve all been there before. You take your baked cake out of the oven and are miffed to find that it’s puffed up and cracked in the center. That dreaded dome will have you spending some precious cake-decorating minutes sawing off bits of cake while aiming for a level cake. Stop the madness, I say!

I have some tricks up my sleeve for baking level cakes and I use ’em regularly. Here are my secrets.

1. Wilton Bake Even Strips

I’ve been using Wilton’s baking strips for a couple of years now and I can’t imagine baking another cake without ’em.

But I did just that to show you the difference baking strips make. See? Magic.

difference baking strips make

The purple cake on the left was baked without baking strips. Photo by Jennifer Melo

I bought my baking strips at Michaels (the arts and crafts store). I’ve also found ’em at Bulk Barn, Walmart and Golda’s Kitchen, so you have some options for price comparison.

Wilton baking strips soaking in preparation for oven time. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Wilton baking strips soaking in preparation for oven time. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Check out the customer reviews at if you still need some convincing before making this purchase.

A search at their site today reveals that $9 buys you two small strips for 8″ or 9″ round pans. $19 buys you a set of four strips that wrap around 10″ to 16″ round pans.

I’m big on time-management and eliminating frustration so I think they’re worth every penny.

Here’s how to use the baking strips:

  • Soak the strips in a bowl of cold water.
  • Take a wet strip and, starting at one end, squeeze out excess water by pressing the strip between two fingers and sliding down the length of the strip.
  • Wrap the strip tightly around a cake pan and pin it in place. You’re ready to bake.
A trio of cake pans, wrapped in Wilton Bake Even Strips. Photo by Jennifer Melo

A trio of cake pans, wrapped in Wilton Bake Even Strips. Photo by Jennifer Melo

level cakes

After baking, these cakes are pretty level. Photo by Jennifer Melo

2. Pressure

When cakes are warm, press and smooth top with a clean dishtowel. Photo by Jennifer Melo

When cakes are warm, press and smooth top with a clean dishtowel. Photo by Jennifer Melo

When cakes are still warm in their pans, place a clean dishtowel over the surface and use your hands to push down and smooth the top.

! Safety first: Take care not burn your fingertips, hands or wrists on hot pans or through the cloth as steam escapes from the cake as you push down. !

To reduce your risk of burns, do this step when the cakes are warm — not hot — or you could use the bottom of a clean cake pan to push down but I recommend using the dishtowel as a barrier to prevent the cake from sticking to the aluminum pan.

If your cake is super moist with a sticky top, use parchment paper as a barrier between the cake and the pan.

3. Use a knife

Using baking strips and a little pressure, I find that I rarely have to do any additional work to level a cake. But if a cake needs to go under the knife, so to speak, here’s what I learned:

  • Always use a serrated knife. Position the knife’s blade parallel to the cake board.
  • With a gentle sawing motion, use a turntable to rotate the cake as you saw.
  • Don’t rush.
  • Keep your wrist as straight as possible, and focus on gentle sawing while you use the turntable to rotate the cake, evenly moving the knife’s blade through.
  • Keep turning and sawing until your knife slips through the center point all around and you’ve sliced through evenly. Discard the cut piece or smash it into crumbs and use it for decorating.

I’ve never used one of those cake-levelling contraptions but a friend of mine has, with success. Have you used a cake leveller? If so, do you think it’s worth the investment?

Crumbled chocolate cake…it happens

It was all going great until this happened…

crumbled chocolate cake

This is what happens when you don’t use a cake board or cake lifter. Photo by Jennifer Melo

This cake layer disintegrated in my hands when I tried to move it onto a layer of buttercream icing. Lesson learned: Always use a cake board or cake lifter when handling cake layers that are larger than 8″ in diameter.