Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Green’ category

Alice in Wonderland topsy turvy cake

Topsy turvy cake, boxed and ready to go

Topsy turvy cake, boxed and ready to go

WARNING: Topsy turvy cakes are not for the faint of heart.

The visual trickery accomplished with a topsy turvy cake is impressive but the optical illusion can turn into a headache because the cake’s stability is compromised by carving and by its top-heavy design.

Venturing into topsy turvy cake territory

When tackling my first topsy turvy cake, I did a lot of research and read many accounts of collapsed, crumbled cakes. Apparently, these cakes are notorious for disasters.

Connie, a friend and super easygoing customer, requested a topsy turvy cake for a bridal shower, inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. To keep my cake layers soft and moist, I opted out of using a pound cake recipe in favour of a modified cake mix recipe and I’d later regret that choice.

Although the cake seemed structurally sound by the time it was stacked and picked up for delivery, it leaned overnight. Connie smartly improvised by using a teapot to support the cake’s weight and keep it from toppling over.

Unleashing creativity with cake decorations

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I had lots of fun creating the White Rabbit and Alice figures out of gum paste and fondant and I positioned the figures to look as if they were climbing into the cake. I used a grass tip to add some texture to the white rabbit’s tail.

Painting the roses red was a fun task too, simply achieved by mixing red food colouring gel with a bit of vodka and then applying it with a food-safe brush. The playing cards are made of gum paste and I used an edible-ink marker to draw on the clubs and numbers.

Edible gold shimmer dust helped bring the stopwatch to life and a large gum paste teapot tops the cake. I stenciled some designs onto the teapot to give it some flair and although the pot slouched a bit while drying, I think its imperfect appearance works well with the Mad Hatter theme. It’s a forgiving theme if ever there was one.

When fondant’s really an F-word

I faced major challenges with fondant while working on this cake. Because the larger cake was 6” tall with a 9” diameter, I needed a very large piece of fondant of at least 22” round. Kneading and then rolling a huge hunk of fondant proves difficult for me with my skinny twig arms. But it’s a terrific workout.

I started out using a silicone rolling pin but later found it was much easier to use a traditional wooden rolling pin that allows me put more of my weight into its handles, stretching the fondant more quickly.

But the fondant just wasn’t cooperating. I rolled a piece out six times before covering the top cake with it. First it was too dry. Then it was too soft and stuck to the counter. Then it was too thin and tore. Then it was too thick. You get the gist. Fondant wasn’t my friend that day.

So I used plenty of fondant decorations to cover up the cracks, rips and bumpy areas where I couldn’t work out the fondant’s pleats.

This project was another fine reminder that when cake-decorating problems happen, strategic placement of decorations works wonders.

Go Portugal! Happy Father’s Day cake

Portugal flag cake

Go Portugal! cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

I made this cake on a whim for Father’s Day last year. I baked it, cooled it, filled it, stacked it, frosted it and decorated it in a few hours. And I was only just a little late for a family gathering. But no one minds if you’re late when you show up with cake. No one who wants to enjoy that cake, anyway. 🙂

It’s a triple-layered white butter cake with vanilla buttercream icing. I topped it with a fondant Portugal flag in honour of Father’s Day 2012, when my family got together and watched a Portugal vs. Holland soccer match. It must’ve done the trick because Portugal won that game. Better yet, Papa Melo was very impressed with the cake.

Here, I’ll reveal how I created that fondant flag. You didn’t think I winged it, did you? I can’t draw worth Jack.

How to make a fondant flag

1. Google “Portugal flag”. Find a graphic one that’s about the right size for your cake. Tip: Use your web browser’s zoom function to quickly find the best sizing for your cake (check the View or Window menus).

2. Place parchment paper on your screen. Trace the flag elements onto the parchment paper using a pencil. You could print the page you’ll use for a template but personally, I like how the glow of the monitor clearly illuminates outlines for tracing — plus, this method saves paper and ink.

3. Work in layers. For example, the outline of the flag is layer 1, the round emblem is layer 2, the shield is layer 3, the smaller shield is layer 4 and so on. I freehanded the smallest shapes because, really, this cake was for a casual affair — let’s not get crazy with the tracing, people.

Parchment paper templates

Parchment paper templates for a Portugal flag. Photo by Jennifer Melo

4. Tint your fondant using food colouring. I didn’t have food-safe gloves so to keep from staining my hands, I kneaded the fondant and food colouring in a plastic food-safe bag (ahem, Zip-loc!).

I wanted rich, vibrant colour so I used just about all of my red food colouring to get the red colour you see in the photo. The colour would’ve deepened more if I left it to sit overnight but whims and preparation don’t get along. I like to improvise every now and then.

5. Roll out your fondant, place the templates over top and cut your shapes per the templates. Round cookie cutters will help you to cut neat round shapes and a knife helps to cut irregular shapes, with the guidance of your parchment paper templates. Use a light touch when holding your parchment paper in place to avoid denting the smooth fondant’s surface.

6. Piece, stack and stick your fondant shapes together with water and before you know, you have a decent-looking flag.

Go Portugal, go!

How to pipe a leaf in 3 easy steps

How to pipe a leaf

Learning how to pipe a leaf is quite simple but if you’re a novice cake decorator or just out of practice, here’s what you need to know.

You need:

  • Buttercream
  • A piping bag
  • A leaf tip. Like a chick’s open beak, the leaf tip is pointy at both ends and looks like a small triangle was cut out of the middle. It looks like this…

    Leaf tip. Photo by Jennifer Melo

    Leaf tip. Photo by Jennifer Melo

How to pipe a leaf

1. With pointed ends of your leaf tip positioned up and down, squeeze the piping bag until you see enough icing to form the wide end of your leaf.

2. Release pressure as you pull the tip towards you, aiming for a triangle shape. Stop squeezing.

3. Gently pull the tip up and away to leave a tapered end.

Got it? No? Watch this and practise your piped leaves.

To make the earthy green colour you see here, I mixed a bit of violet, yellow and leaf green gel food colouring.


Wacky spring garden cake

Update: My niece Lauren’s birthday party is coming up this weekend so I’m busy making her cake. I’ll show you what I’m working on tomorrow but in the meantime, let’s revisit the wacky garden cake I made a couple of years ago. It’s one of my favourites. I can tell you this year’s cake won’t be accented with “dirt” or worms.

Spring’s arrival is a fine time to show you my niece Lauren’s wacky spring garden cake.

I wanted to get creative when I made Lauren’s birthday cake. I was inspired by flower pot cakes I saw online so a spring garden-themed cake would do nicely and I was excited to use crushed cookies for dirt.

Wacky spring garden cake

Wacky spring garden cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Store-bought cake accessories

I went to the dollar store in search of accessories. For some strange reason, using store-bought decorations made me feel like I was somehow cheating. But I decided that’s silly.

There’s no reason everything on the cake needs to be edible and handmade, is there? I found giant felt flowers and pretty paper butterflies in the scrapbooking section. I liked the idea of going big with the flowers for a more dramatic, fun and wacky effect. I also picked up the happy birthday candles which are great for folks like me who aren’t so comfortable piping letters.

When cake-decorating mistakes go right

I rolled a big piece of fondant to cover the cake and cut an 8″ rectangle in the center to leave a hole on top of the cake. I’d fill that hole with crushed cookies. Of course, when I lifted the fondant to cover the cake, that hole stretched like crazy and left the sides of the cake wide open too. Although that wasn’t my intention, I actually liked how it looked.

It was tricky to cover the sides of the cake with crushed cookies without making a big mess. I tilted the cake on its base, packed some crushed cookies into the buttercream, made a big mess, and dusted off the excess crumbs with paper towels. Gardens are messy so it’s all good.

The art of hiding imperfections

I added a white fondant fence around the cake and then piped some grass for a border. The grass looked more like leaves so I added fondant leaves here and there. Because my piping technique isn’t so good, fondant leaves were my safety net and I liked how they helped disguise any piping weirdness. The row of hedges you see at the top, right side of the cake covers a giant crack in the fondant.

My cake dome would’ve crushed the flowers and butterflies so I added those onsite while my family milled about. I was sure to keep the paper butterflies and felt flowers well out of reach of the candles’ flames and there were no incidents.

Tip: Consider flammable parts when using accessories to decorate cakes and place them strategically to avoid fire hazards. If needed, remove flammable accessories before lighting candles.

In my hurry to assemble everything, I forgot the finishing touch. Gummy worms!

gummy worm on a garden cake

I forgot to add the gummy worms! Photo by Jennifer Melo

Watercolour cake turned fresco

watercolour cake

Watercolour cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

My watercolour cake is inspired by Rosie’s most beautiful Pastel Swirl Cake over at Sweetapolita. For my cake, I used a thick-consistency buttercream and topped it with chocolate sprinkles. I had so much fun with it, I wanna try it again.

Thinner icing next time

Maybe next time I’ll use a thin-consistency icing and keep it more goopy as Rosie recommends in her video tutorial. The colours would probably blend more and the buttercream would be easier to work with.

I found that the buttercream crusted over fast so I had to work quickly. I kind of like the chalky appearance that makes it look a bit more like a fresco than a watercolour painting, don’tcha think?

Nature’s colour palette

My colour inspiration comes from nature. Blue for sky, yellow for sun and green for grass.

Inside, there’s a triple-layer, dense and moist marble cake with buttercream icing. Wanna see? Of course you do! Here it is.

marble layer cake

Inside my watercolour cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Also, check out my seven-second video clip to see its evolution.

What do you think? Should I try a redo and goop it up more? What colours do you recommend?