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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Blue’ 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 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 smooth a buttercream cake in 5 easy steps

Ever wonder how some people get a nice, smooth edge on their buttercream cakes? I’ve tried several techniques but I learned that starting with even cake surfaces is best. Follow these five steps for a smooth buttercream cake.

How to get a smooth buttercream finish on a cake

1. Trim away domes, lumps and bumps. Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to trim. Wipe away all crumbs.

2. Apply a thin layer of buttercream to your cake to seal in any crumbs. This is also known as crumb coating. Allow about 10 minutes to dry at room temperature.

Crumb coat. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Crumb coat.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

3. Apply a thick layer of buttercream. How thick? About a 1/4 – 1/2″. Or this thick:

buttercream-thickness

How thick should your buttercream layer be? I recommend 1/2″.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

Swipe the edge of your spatula on a bowl’s lip to remove excess icing and smooth the cake’s surface as best as you can.

spatula-smooth-buttercream-cake

Spatula-smooth buttercream cake.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

4. Now, it’s all about allowing your buttercream to crust over. Allow about 15 minutes to dry at room temperature. You might need more time to allow the icing to crust if your buttercream is thin or you’re working in humid conditions. Gently touch an inconspicuous area of the cake. If your finger comes away with no icing on it, you’re ready for the next step.

5. Lay a large strip of parchment paper on the cake to work as a barrier between the icing and your fondant smoothers. Use fondant smoothers to rub and smooth your icing into shape.

Like this:

My cake could’ve used another layer of buttercream to better hide some crumbs I pulled up while crumb coating and more buttercream would’ve given me more room to smooth out lumps and bumps. You need enough icing on your cake so that you can push icing around to fill gaps without revealing the cake’s surface. Match your crumb coat icing colour to the finished icing colour to avoid patches of colour showing through. My cake had a few white patches of crumb coat peeking out in some places.

Allowing buttercream to crust is key to achieving a smooth finish.

You’ll have to use your best judgment to determine how much pressure to apply. Press firmly enough to smooth the icing but not so firm as to leave dents or expose the cake’s surface.

And there you have it! Smooth buttercream.

smooth-buttercream-cake

Smooth buttercream cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Want to see how I decorated this cake? Read How to make a brush embroidery cake.

Dora the Explorer cake with fondant and buttercream in 4 easy steps

When I usually set out to decorate a cake, I have a pretty good idea of the look I’m going for. But for my niece Ella’s Dora the Explorer cake I didn’t have a solid cake design in mind.

I knew I wanted a big Dora head on top of the cake but I was weighing my options right until the last second.

Fondant or buttercream?

Fondant and buttercream?

Mostly buttercream and just a fondant Dora?

Gah! I was indecisive and didn’t have a lot of time to ponder options. So I sort of winged it and set to work on a Dora the Explorer cake for my sweet Ella.

Step 1. Make Dora look like Dora

Character cakes can go horribly wrong and the big challenge for this cake is Dora. I knew that if I didn’t get her right, this cake would be a total flop. So it was parchment paper templates and the Internet to the rescue! I found this simple Dora the Explorer image at funnycoloring.com and it was the perfect size for my 13 x 9″ cake.

I simply traced a Dora face, hair and facial features and then I cut template pieces to assemble her face and hair.

Dora-the-Explorer-template

Tracing and cutting and assembling.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Once I had Dora looking decent and not deformed (I did it! Yay!), I relaxed and focused on the rest of the cake decorating.

Step 2. Ice the cake

I applied a thin crumb coat to the sides of the cake and then iced and smoothed the top with blue buttercream. I went easy on the icing to avoid having globs of buttercream oozing out between the fondant decorations.

Step 3. Decorate the sides

For the sides of the cake, I opted for wide stripes of green and pink fondant pieces.

Green fondant strips, marked for cutting.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Green fondant strips, marked for cutting.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I simply rolled and cut 1-inch wide strips, and then I attached them to the sides of the cake by lightly brushing them with water and pushing them into place. I trimmed most pieces before I attached them but you could also line them up with the top edge of the cake and then run a pizza wheel along the bottom edge to trim the excess. Then I used a fondant smoother to smooth and gently press the pieces into place.

Steps 4. Add accents and finishing touches

I used my trusty leaf cutter set to cut large and small leaves and then I used a small spatula to press veiny indentations into the leaves for detail.

Fondant leaves Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fondant leaves
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Leafy cake corners. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Leafy cake corners.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Finally, I added a map and hand-wrote a happy birthday message for Ella using a black food colouring marker.

I'm the map. Photo by Jennifer Melo

I’m the map.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

For finishing touches, I randomly placed leaves around the cake until I was happy with the design. I had to restrain myself from getting too detailed.

I fought the urge to quickly make Backpack and add Dora’s torso; and tri-toned leaves for extra dimension would’ve been nice but before I knew it, I was out of time — and fondant — so I quit while I was ahead. Sometimes good enough is good enough, right?

Here’s a Vine clip that shows the cake coming together like magic…

Ella was super excited when she saw her birthday cake. With an enthusiastic: “YOU MADE MY CAKE? I LOVE IT!” every second I spent on this cake was very much worth it. Mission accomplished.

Dora the Explorer cake finished!  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Dora the Explorer cake finished!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

That’s it, that’s all. I hope you have a fun day filled with Dora-inspired adventures.

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.

 


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