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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Cakes’ category

Hand-painted leopard print on a fondant cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

My eldest niece recently turned 14 and I wanted to give her a cake that was super cool, like her. I was thrilled to discover the joy of hand-painting a cake and now I think I’m hooked. I never developed much skill with a paintbrush since the days of kindergarten so I was surprised to find how easily I achieved a pretty design. Yay! And for this particular cake, painting was faster decorating technique than making fondant decorations. Double yay!

I really couldn’t have done this without this YouTube video How To Hand-Paint Leopard Print On a Cake. Subscribe to Laura’s channel and give her video a thumbs up if you, too, find it helpful and inspirational.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here’s how to paint leopard print on fondant:

  • In separate shallow bowls, dilute black and brown food colouring with vodka. Nope, you won’t have a bunch of drunk kids at the party — the alcohol evaporates by the time the food colouring dries.
  • With a brush, paint a small brown oval onto your cake.
  • Use another brush to outline the brown spots with some black food colouring. I used the brush with the widest bristles in my Wilton brush set. You can paint all around the brown spot with an O shape. You can paint ¾ of the way around the brown spot to make a C shape. And you can paint two disconnected arches to form brackets/parentheses around the spot.
  • For an imperfectly perfect leopard print, mix up your spot sizes (small, medium, large) and use short, tapping/dabbing motions for fuzzy, ragged edges. Fill in sparse areas with black spots.

Can’t quite picture what I mean? Here’s a gif to show you the way.

painted-leopard-spot-gif

 

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I wrapped my gift box cake with a fondant ribbon and bow, added a fondant gift tag after writing my niece’s name on it with a black food-colouring pen and ta da! We’re done.

What do you think of my leopard-print cake?

Unicorn birthday cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here it is! Topped simply with a unicorn figurine and a fondant rainbow anchored by fondant clouds, my niece Aliya’s birthday cake was easy peasy and very simple in design. My sister Suzy made the pretty fondant clouds at top by rolling little balls of fondant, placing them together and then wrapping them in a thin piece of fondant. Then she cut slits in the top and I pushed the fondant rainbow into the cloud base.

To make the rainbow, I rolled thin tubes of coloured fondant and placed them together, then I wrapped them around a tea cup on the counter. To avoid slouching and make it hold its shape, I left the rainbow on the counter to dry overnight.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I covered a three-layer rainbow bit cake with fondant dyed in a cloud blue colour. I was pleased with the smooth fondant finish I achieved with this cake. There were no cracks or unsightly lumps or bumps. My strategy for a smooth fondant finish worked well. My brother-in-law Jav and I kneaded the fondant well to get rid of dryness that’d show cracks. Then I rolled the fondant thick enough to smooth any bumps but thin enough so the weight of the excess fondant wont crack the finish. I didn’t measure its thickness but I’d estimate it was about 1/4″ thick.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Using a 12″ round tip, I piped clouds by squeezing out big balls of icing, moving the tip a bit and then placing another ball of icing next to the previous to sort of squish into it and cover any peaks. I found this technique worked best when I positioned the piping bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface.

I piped a large pearl border at the base of the cake and then piped clouds over it in random clusters.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I used clear vanilla extract to avoid further yellowing the frosting but still, the fluffy buttercream icing wasn’t white enough for my liking. You can really see the difference in colour when you compare the fondant clouds at top to the piped clouds all around.

If anyone had advice for achieving a pure white icing, I’d love to hear it.

 

Masquerade birthday cake

Black diamonds add drama to this masquerade cake

Black diamonds add drama to this masquerade cake

While plans are underway to make my niece Aliya’s unicorn birthday cake, I thought I’d show you what I made for last year’s creation.

It was a masquerade-themed party so I was excited about the opportunity to get creative. I volunteered to make the cake and when I asked my sister Suzy about the colour scheme for the party, she said there’d be all sorts of colours so I was free to choose a colour palette at whim.

Masquerade parties are fun!

I got some inspiration from masquerade masks and opted for jewel tones. I bought some peacock and pheasant feathers at Walmart and the cheapest plastic mask I could use as a form at the dollar store.

I was super excited to go a little nuts with design but I wasn’t too happy with the fondant I used for this cake. It was a new brand (sorry, I can’t remember which one) and it wasn’t as stretchy as other fondants I’ve used. And see the cracks in the purple fondant? I probably should’ve kneaded it more before rolling it out because it looks too dry.

Making a fondant mask

I used a cat-eye mask template I found online to make the fondant mask. I cut the fondant to the shape of the template and to give it the dimension of a real mask, I lay it on the mask I bought at the dollar store, lined with plastic wrap to keep the fondant clean. Like so:

masquerade-cake-mask

I wanted the fondant to dry a bit so the mask would hold its shape but I’d later learn that was a bad idea and I should’ve wrapped it tightly with plastic wrap.

Because when fondant dries, it’s fragile and prone to cracks.

When I got to Suzy’s house, I was happy to see that she went all out with the decorations (so fun!) and my cake looked like it fit right in with party decor. See?

masquerade-cake1

I stacked the cakes and went to work on adding the finishing touches: the teal mask and the feathers. But when I picked up the fondant mask and tried to attach it to the cake, it cracked right in half along the nose bridge.

Luckily, I brought some extra fondant and put it to use by adding an extra piece of it to cover the crack and extend up, sticking the mask to the cake.

What do you think? Would you have known that middle nose piece wasn’t part of the original design if I hadn’t spilled the beans?

How to hide cake-decorating mistakes

The most difficult cakes for novice cake-decorators like me are the simplest in design. Modern, clean design leaves little room for error (I’m looking at you, purple ombre cake. And you too, ivory, black and white wedding cake.)

So choose a flexible cake design with details that can be adjusted, adapted and moved around to cover your mistakes.

A name plaque easily covers a giant rip in fondant…

baptism cake top tier

Top tier of Aliya’s baptism cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

Fondant flowers, leaves and other decorations can cover and disguise cracks, lumps and bumps…

Alice pursues White Rabbit

Alice pursues White Rabbit. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Once you’ve covered your mistakes with decorations, step back and see if you’d like to add additional decorations to visually balance things out.

Masquerade cake - Pretty Bakes Blog

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I find that most cake-decorating problems can be concealed with a bit of creativity. It’s likely that no one will notice all the little boo-boos that stress you out.

Doc McStuffins cake for Maya’s birthday

Doc McStuffins cake - Pretty Bakes Blog

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Hi!

I’m back to blogging after a little hiatus. To make up for my absence, you’re getting a post with a video today. Yay! Hooray!

Settle down, now, folks. It’s just a mini video a la Vine app. But in it, you can see how my cake came together so I think it’s pretty neat. What do you think?

First things first. My niece Maya asked for a Doc McStuffins cake for her birthday party last month. My sister kindly loaned me a cute plastic toy to use as a cake topper and we decided on a two-tier cake with the top cake carved to resemble the Doc’s bag.

Who the heck is Doc McStuffins?

I’ve watched a couple of episodes of the TV show while hanging out with my nieces but I couldn’t rely on memory alone. So I did a Google image search for inspiration. Doc McStuffins, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the TV show, is a Disney character who’s a veterinarian. She nurses sickly stuffed animals and toys back to health and she’s pretty cool in my books.

Inspired by the colour and pattern of Doc McStuffins’ leggings, I covered the cake for the bottom tier in a pale purple fondant. Then I added pink and white polka dots. Easy stuff. I used a round cookie cutter with scalloped edges and a round cookie cutter with smooth edges to make the “happy birthday” emblem for the cake. It stretched into an oval. I used a brown food colouring marker to write the message on a white fondant circle and then stuck it to the cake by moistening the back of it with water.

Tackling Doc McStuffins’ doctor’s bag

The doctor’s bag was the real challenge for this cake. I downloaded and printed a paper template for Doc McStuffins’ bag — and it really came in handy for both carving and cutting out pieces of fondant to cover the cake.

I started with 6″ round layers of vanilla cake — three of them — filled with buttercream icing. Then I used a serrated knife to carve the cake into the shape of the doctor’s bag. I coated the carved cake in buttercream and used my paper template to cut pieces of fondant perfectly sized to cover the cake.

The buttercream quickly crusted over so I sprayed some water on the cake to make the fondant stick well. I liberally spritzed a pieced of fondant with water before sticking bright pink sugar crystals on it to add some sparkle to the lid of the doctor’s bag.

Doctor McStuffins cake - Pretty Bakes Blog

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Tinting and hoping…

I used gel food colouring to tint white fondant fuchsia and purple. I used a mixture of yellow, brown, orange and pink to colour white fondant the right shade of tan for the bandage. And I used a tiny round piping tip to poke holes in it.

For the handle, I snapped a toothpick in half to make two pieces, and stuck them into the top of the cake to act as supports. I rolled and bent a piece of fondant, and stuck each end into the toothpicks. But the handle slouched in the middle because the fondant was soft so I used paper towels to hold the handle in place. I hoped the handle would firm up while left to dry overnight.

…and praying and waiting

The next day, it time for was my least favourite part of the whole cake-decorating process: Transporting the cake. Yes, I may still be suffering a little post-traumatic stress from that time I dented my best friend’s wedding cake. 😉

I had trouble getting the doctor’s bag to sit on the cake properly. It was on a cardboard base and I didn’t realize that the bottom-tier was slightly domed. It was just domed enough to leave a frustrating gap on the cake when I place the doctor’s bag cake on top.

During the drive to my sister’s house, the doctor’s bag wiggled a lot and I thought it might topple over. But it arrived safe and sound — Phew! I removed the paper towels from under the bag’s handle just a few moments before serving the cake and it stayed in place. Woot! Woot!

Maya loved her Doc McStuffins cake. Mission complete.


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