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

Archive of ‘Cakes’ category

How to make an easy Frozen princess cake

While I’m taking shelter from freezing rain in Toronto tonight, let me tell you about the Frozen princess cake I made a while ago. I gotta hurry because the ice storm knocked out power in my neighbourhood and although my lights are still on, they’ve been flickering.

Kids’ toys make great cake toppers!

When you want to keep cake decorating super easy, repeat after me: Just use miniature toys and figurines. My niece Ella had a serious girl crush on Elsa and Anna so, naturally, she wanted a Frozen princess cake for her birthday.

I could spend hours trying to model fondant figures that look like the movie characters but –nuh-uh! I don’t I have enough talent or time for that.

Disney Frozen figurines

Disney Frozen figurines, purchased at Walmart
Photo by Jennifer Melo

So I bought a set of Disney Frozen toys. And they did all the hard work for this little cake decorating project.

To be fair, I made the buttercream, rolled the fondant, did some piping and I even made some sugar glass but the true heroes here are those figurines. They literally and figuratively add character to this cake.

Making sugar glass

Blue sugar glass

Blue sugar glass, cooling on a silicone baking mat
Photo by Jennifer Melo

My sugar glass didn’t turn out perfectly. I couldn’t find my candy thermometer so I had to wing it and I don’t think the mixture got quite hot enough. I was aiming for more of a translucent look but it turned out more opaque than I’d hoped for. Oh well. You try and you learn.

I boiled the sugar and water mixture, added a few drops of food colouring and poured it out, onto a silicone baking sheet. After it cooled, I broke the sugar glass into shards that look like ice formations.

Cake decorating with fondant and buttercream icing

I covered a cake board and a vanilla slab cake with blue fondant. To achieve a pure white frosting, I used clear vanilla extract and vegetable shortening instead of butter. Brown vanilla extract and butter gives your icing more of a creamy, yellow tinge.

For the top surface and border, I watered down my icing until it was a light and fluffy, cloud-like consistency. Then I spread a thick layer of icing on just the top of the cake and used a #12 and a #3 piping tip to make icicle formations.

Fluffy mounds of icing for snow Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fluffy mounds of icing for snow
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I also used the #12 tip to pipe a border of snow mounds. With a #2 piping tip, I piped a few snowflakes on the sides of the cake and added a few more icicles.

Adding the finishing touches

With a simple cake design, it was time to add the toy characters, the sugar glass shards and a fondant emblem with a personalized birthday message. Olaf does a great job at wishing the birthday girl a happy day.

Happy birthday from Olaf

Olaf’s birthday message
Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

I used the characters’ feet to stamp footprints into the icing. Sven, the reindeer’s footprints are my favourite. And as I placed each toy on the cake, I really smooshed them down so the icing naturally built up a nice base of “snow”. Lastly, I added a few clear sugar flakes to add a bit of sparkle and shine, just like freshly fallen snow.

And there you have it! An easy Frozen princess cake.

Easy does it with this Frozen princess cake Photo by Jennifer Melo

Easy does it with this Frozen princess cake
Photo by Jennifer Melo

The gang's all here Photo by Jennifer Melo

The gang’s all here
Photo by Jennifer Melo

How to make a fondant Precious Moments communion cake

The spring/summer season means it’s time for some of the Catholics among us to celebrate a first holy communion. So I thought I’d share how I made a fondant communion cake for my sweet niece, Maya.

The cake topper, a Precious Moments figurine, honoured the occasion and served as inspiration for this cake.

Quilting patterns are challenging

First, I’ll ‘fess up and reveal that I screwed up on the lower tier of this cake. The quilting pattern adds an elegant design but, once again, I learned that it’s a tricky cake-decorating technique to pull off right. I’m still not sure where things went wrong. Everything was going great until…it just wasn’t. Some of the lines didn’t meet at the right spots when I got around to scoring the final parts of the cake. I tried to fix things but I think I ended up doing more damage.

Cake-decorating tip: After covering a cake with fondant, score it immediately. Don’t wait. Scoring and embossing works best with fresh fondant that hasn’t yet hardened.

For the quilting pattern, I used a measuring and scoring method. Using a ruler and a toothpick, I marked the cake at 1″ spaces at the top and bottom of the sides of the cake.

scored-cake

Toothpick marks for your lines’ start and end points
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Then I used a cut file folder and an embossing wheel to score straight, diagonal lines across the cake’s side, connecting the holes I marked earlier with the toothpick. This is hard to explain so let me show you what I mean in this video clip.

 

Ya see? Easy peasy! That is, until your lines don’t meet up according to plan. What can I say? Things got a little crazy.

quilting-gone-wrong

The other side of the cake features a multitude of sins
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Sigh.

Oh well, that’s why we turn the cake to look past its sins and put its best face forward. Right? Right!

Colour-washing fondant cut-out flowers

On the plus side, the cake for the top tier turned out just right. To match the finish of a Precious Moments figurine, I used a brush to lightly colour some fondant cut-out flowers with a mixture of pink food colouring and vodka. I deliberately left some of the edges uncoloured so it looks a watercolour effect on a clay-like finish. Just like the figurine.

I applied the flowers to the cake with more blooms surrounding the cake topper,  and then scattering a few outwards, for  a pretty, gradient effect.

Precious Moments cake, top tier Photo by Jennifer Melo

Precious Moments cake, top tier
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Finishing touches

I added silver balls (dragees) at intersecting points in the quilted pattern and in the centre of some of the flowers to tie the upper and lower tiers together.

silver-dragees-balls

Silver dragees
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I created the pearl border with a fondant mold. Just grease it with vegetable shortening, press fondant into its cavity, trim excess fondant, and then bend the mold to release a strand of fondant pearls. Attach the pearl border to the cake with gentle dabs of water.

To personalize the cake, I added a scroll and used my trusty fine-tip Wilton food-colouring marker to write “God bless Maya”. I chose brown instead of black for a soft effect. And that’s it. Communion cake done!

precious-moments-communion-cake

Precious Moments communion cake
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Happy Valentine’s Day from Pretty Bakes Blog

I hope your day is filled with sweet surprises…and chocolate. May there be chocolate. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Xoxo,
Jen

How to make a brush embroidery birthday cake

Ever since I came across SweetAmbsCookies‘ magnificent cookie-decorating videos on YouTube, I wanted to try a brush embroidery design on a cake. So when my niece Lauren gave me free licence to surprise her with the design of her birthday cake, I took the opportunity to make a buttercream cake with floral brush embroidery.

I’ve gained more experience decorating cakes with fondant instead of buttercream so this cake took me out of my comfort zone. While I was happy with the finished look, I encountered a few challenges and gained valuable lessons along the way.

A brush embroidery cake for Lauren.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

A brush embroidery cake for Lauren.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

The trouble with thick buttercream

Most of my problems with this cake started and ended with the consistency of my white buttercream. It was too thick. I should’ve watered it down to medium-to spreading consistency but I’m not sure what went wrong. When I loaded my piping bag and squeezed a bead of icing through a #3 piping tip, I realized my icing was too thick. But I couldn’t turn back now.

Let me tell you, my friends: The strain of piping icing that’s too thick is real. Rather than a nice, smooth flow, you end up with icing that breaks without warning — rude! The effort of squeezing icing out of the bag leaves you with shaky, fatigued hands. Boo! Hiss! Piping flower outlines, “happy birthday”and a pearl border was literally a pain — oh, my aching hands!

How to do brush embroidery on a buttercream cake in 6 steps

Here’s how to keep your brush embroidery cake-decorating easy.

1. Use a flower cookie cutter to gently imprint a flower outline on your cake.

2. Using the imprint as your guide, use a #3 piping tip to pipe the outline of the flower with white buttercream.

3. Use a damp brush to pull icing from the outer edge of your flower’s outline to the center in sweeping strokes. Try to keep the outer edge of the piped outline intact. Can’t quite picture it? Watch this:

4. Pipe a tight comma and overlay it with a tight C to form a knot shape in the middle of the flower.

5. Add leaves and repeat the steps of dragging icing from the outer edges inwards.

6. Randomly add dots of icing to mimic embroidered knots.

And that’s it. Done!

In hindsight, I should’ve used royal icing instead of buttercream for piping the floral brush embroidery. Royal icing would’ve held its shape better than buttercream which seemed to droop over time.

Cake-decorating tip: Use royal icing for a brush embroidery effect.

The cake was a hit with Lauren and her guests. No one guessed I encountered buttercream consistency issues and I gained some new cake-decorating skills and experience.

Want to know how i got a smooth-ish surface on this cake? Read my last post: How to smooth a buttercream cake in 5 easy steps.

 

How to make a fondant piano cake in 5 easy steps

My favourite teenager turned 15 and to celebrate her birthday, I decided to acknowledge another milestone in her life. My niece Mikaela learned to play the piano in the past year and to honour this accomplishment — and her birthday — I made a piano cake.

I’m happy to report that this cake came together easily and with no hiccups along the way. The fondant was smooth, and the decorations were easy to cut and draw.

Here’s how I made this fondant piano cake.

1. Bake, stack and ice cake

Bake a 9″ round, 3-layer cake. Fill and frost cooled cakes with buttercream icing.

Roll white fondant to at least 3/4″ and no thinner. Cover cake in white fondant, smooth fondant and trim excess.

2. Make your marks

Press a ruler's edge into your fondant to make clear indentations. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Press a ruler’s edge into your fondant to make clear indentations.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Use a ruler to gently push vertical indentations into the sides of the cake. Be sure not to push too hard or you’ll cut right through the fondant. Now do you understand why I recommended at least a  3/4″ layer of fondant?

3. Add piano keys; chill out

Black bars of fondant make great piano keys.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Black bars of fondant make great piano keys.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Attach black “keys”of fondant. Refrigerate cake, uncovered.

4. Make a fondant music sheet and folder

Roll a few paper-thin pieces of white fondant. Trim those pieces to music-folder and music-sheet shapes. Allow these pieces to air dry at room temperature overnight.

Cake-decorating tip: Place your fondant to dry on strategically placed drinking straws. This gives your music folder/sheets natural bends, waves and curls and keep them from looking flat.

When fondant is dry, use a fine-tip, food-colouring marker and a ruler to draw music staffs (five lines, four spaces). Draw musical symbols: bars, clefs, notes and other symbols I’m clueless about.

Food colouring markers make cake-decorating easy.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Food colouring markers make cake-decorating easy.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Cake-decorating tip: Use a “Happy Birthday” song sheet to help you draw this song onto your birthday cake decorations.

If you can draw circles and lines, you can draw this. Really. Forget perfection. They’ll get the gist.

5. Attach decorations and finishing touches

Top your cake with your music sheet decorations.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Top your cake with your music sheet decorations.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I chose to keep the cake clean, with no border. This cake is the first I’ve been able to go borderless with. Most often, I need a border to conceal any imperfections. Luckily, this cake had few flaws to hide.

Fondant piano cake complete! Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fondant piano cake complete!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Want to see how this cake came together? Vine time!


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