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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Colour themes’ category

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.

A Wiggles cake for Ella’s birthday party

Wiggles cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

When my precious niece Ella asked if I’d make a Wiggles cake for her birthday, I happily agreed. Then I secretly thought, How the hell am I going to make a Wiggles cake?

So I was beyond thrilled when my sister-in-law (a.k.a. Ella’s mom) pulled out a sugar transfer sheet to make easy work of this cake. Yes!

She ordered the design online and it was mailed to her. How civilized! So all I had to do was bake a large rectangular cake, whip up a few batches of buttercream, ice the cake and stick the transfer on top using fondant smoothers.

I used a cake comb to add texture to the sides of the cake and I piped a pearl border at the seams. Then I piped rosettes as a border on top, around the edges of the sugar transfer, and I added rainbow sprinkles for a finishing touch.

Combed cake close-up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Combed cake close-up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

3 things I learned while making my Wiggles cake

1. Apply a thick layer of buttercream on the cake before combing it. I mean A LOT. I had to tell my inner perfectionist to get lost but I believe I would’ve achieved smoother results if I had applied a thicker layer of buttercream.

2. I need more practice piping pearl borders. See how some of the pearls have little peaks on ’em? They shouldn’t be there. Gotta work on timing the release of pressure on the piping bag and remember to hold the piping tip at a 45 degree angle. I made two attempts at piping a border around the sugar transfer after I was unhappy with the first attempt.

3. Add sprinkles when the buttercream is fresh. I waited too long, the buttercream crusted and the sprinkles bounced around and made a big mess.

The cake was delicious. I used Betty Crocker’s Super Moist rainbox bit cake mix and Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe.

Wanna see inside? Of course you do! Here’s a peek.

Inside a rainbow bit cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

What do you think of my Wiggles cake?

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.

Strawberry buttercream cupcake

strawberry-buttercream-cupcakeStrawberry season in Ontario starts in mid June and lasts until the end of August. So now’s the time to get those flavourful fruits from your local farmer’s market, neighbours. Strawberries and vanilla are a classic combination that pleases many palates.

Easy vanilla and strawberry cupcakes

Sometimes simplicity is best when it comes to baking and it doesn’t get easier than vanilla cupcakes and fresh strawberries. For my brother’s birthday in late August, I topped vanilla cupcakes with strawberry vanilla buttercream icing and a fresh strawberry.

Strawberry juice = natural food colouring

I used Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe and then tinted and flavoured it naturally by using strawberry juice. Using mashed, overripe strawberries, I strained the solids in order to keep seeds and pulpy bits out of the mix and mixed in the juice until I was happy with the colour and consistency.

Pipe a swirl

Then I fitted a piping bag with a medium-sized star tip and filled it with strawberry buttercream. I piped the buttercream in a circular motion, starting from the outer edges to the center and ended up with a swirl.

Fresh strawberries for cupcake toppers

To finish it off, I washed and sliced fresh strawberries in half lengthwise and topped each cupcake with a strawberry slice.

The finishing touch

Simple, delicious, requires no fuss. A little paper doily fancies things up a bit. How do you think it looks?

Ivory, black and white wedding cake

When my dear friend Natalie asked me to make her wedding cake, I reluctantly agreed.

Natalie’s one of my best friends in the whole wide world and she’s very supportive of me and my cake decorating. She easily has more confidence in my cake-decorating skills than I do. I had never attempted a wedding cake before, my fondant cakes were far from perfect, and I really didn’t want to screw up Natalie’s wedding cake.

She’s no Bridezilla

I warned her that I’m no professional cake decorator but if she was prepared to have a seriously flawed wedding cake, I’d be happy to accept the challenge.

Nat was far from a Bridezilla. She wasn’t finicky about having a perfect cake — it was more meaningful for her to have a cake made by moi and she calmed me by saying all she really wanted was a little something to cut into with her husband-to-be, John, at the reception. She didn’t care if the cake was flawed. And so I set out to make the best cake I could make.

Invitation-inspired wedding cake design

Nats-wedding-inviteIt would be a three-tiered white buttermilk cake, plus an extra square cake that wouldn’t be on display but would provide enough servings for all 200+ guests.

Natalie helped take the pressure off this project by making my standby buttercream icing recipe herself — all six or so batches — so I could focus on cake baking and decorating.

The style of the cake was inspired by the neutral color scheme of her wedding invitation: white and champagne-coloured damask, with black lettering.

I bought ivory fondant to cover the cakes, there’d be white fondant accents and a simple monogram with black letters.

Cake design inspiration

With a scan of Natalie and John’s wedding invitation and help from myfonts.com, I found lettering that resembled the font (Bickham Script) on her wedding invitation so I used my word processing software to make a parchment paper template.

Next, I traced the lettering onto parchment paper and placed it on a fondant oval I cut with a cookie cutter. Then I gently traced over the lettering with a modelling tool, removing the parchment paper when I was done and leaving a lettered impression in the fondant oval.

I rolled and hand-shaped the initials with black fondant, I lightly moistened the lettering inscribed in the plaque with water, and I pressed the fondant letters into place, pinching the ends for sharp, elegant edges.

I used Wilton’s baroque fondant and gum paste mold ($10) to make the scrolls and pearl borders. And then I painted the pearls with an edible pearl shimmer.

fondantmold-scroll

By the time I finished decorating, I was quite proud of myself. There were no rips or major cracks in the fondant and the sides looked quite smooth. Overall, I’d say it was my best fondant cake to date. Not too bad for an amateur, I thought.

cream-and-black-wedding-cake

Time to move that cake

With the cake decorating done, it was time to transport it and deliver it to the reception venue. I knew this would be a challenge because typically, I travel with smaller cakes to familiar homes where I can stack the cakes onsite and once stacked, the cakes don’t have to travel very far.

This would be my first time transporting a large, heavy, stacked cake but I’d manage it somehow, or so I thought.

That was until I dented my best friend’s wedding cake…


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