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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Pink’ 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.

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?

How to pipe a buttercream rose. 4 easy steps

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother's Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother’s Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Happy Mother’s Day! Maybe your mom wants a bouquet of buttercream roses for Mother’s Day. If so, here’s a little helper.

It starts with a tall blob and ends with some C’s.

I’ve read many descriptions on how to pipe a buttercream rose and after trying the technique several times myself, I’ve come up with my own simplified way to describe it.

4 easy steps to piping a buttercream rose

1. Make a tall blob.

2. Using a petal tip, skinny end to the sky, wrap a ribbon of icing around that blob.

3. Make 3 C’s around that blob.

4. Make five C’s around the three C’s. Continue piping C’s in odd numbers and increments of two (3, 5, 7, 9, 11) until you’re satisfied with the rose’s size.

Ta da! You have a rose.

You need:

-a flower nail
-a petal/rose tip
-buttercream
-a piping bag
-a parchment paper square
-to watch this video that shows what the heck I’m talking about. It’s all about the blob and C’s I tell ya.

More advice to pipe a rose right
A rose tip has a narrow end and a wide end. Place the tip so the narrow end is up and the wide end is at the base of your flower nail or work surface. To remember the correct position of the rose tip, think: Fat to floor, skinny to sky.

Always pipe an odd number of petals. The results are offset petals that look more natural.

Once your rose is piped, refrigerate it to make it easier to handle before placing in on cakes or cupcakes.

To remove the flower from the parchment square, use a pair of sterile scissors to snip and slide the flower off the paper and into position. A small offset spatula works too.

I prefer a stiff consistency icing that holds the petal shape best. Mix some more icing sugar into your buttercream if it’s too soft. And/or refrigerate your icing. When icing’s too soft, your rose slips and slides when you pipe and it’s tricky to detach each petal. You see that happening in the video clip.

Angle your tip vertically to create close, tight petals. Angle your tip horizontally for open petals, particularly when you get to the outermost row of petals.

Practise, practise, practise.

So now you know how to pipe a rose. Do you think you’ll give it a try?

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fondant jewelry box cake

Fondant jewelry box cake

Fondant jewelry box cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

My niece Lauren is a true girly girl. Give her clothes for her birthday and she’ll put on a fashion show for you, modelling her new outfits with a joyful spring in her step. This may or may not have happened yesterday at her birthday party. 😉

Lauren loves makeup, nail polish, perfume and accessories like jewelry. When I considered a cake design for her 9th birthday, my choices were either a One Direction cake or a girly girl cake. Since a One Direction cake would probably be beyond my skill level, a girly girl cake was the way to go.

It starts with a jewelry box vision

A heart-shaped jewelry box came to mind and that’s the inspiration behind this cake. I started with the fondant jewelry box and made the rest up  as I went along. It evolved into girls’ trinkets on a dusty rose dresser.

My baroque fondant and gumpaste mold really came in handy for this project. I used it to make the silver rose, heart, scrolls, bracelet and white pearls.

Then I added a store-bought tiara and a candy ring pop to finish the look.

How to paint fondant silver

To paint some of the fondant silver, I used Wilton’s silver pearl dust mixed with a few drops of vodka. The vodka evaporates as it dries.

For best results, I learned I should use very little vodka to just slightly dampen the fondant. And then swirl more pearl dust on to adhere it to the fondant, and buff the whole thing with a brush, using small circular motions. I found it was best to work in two coats. Brush on the vodka and dust mix and then go over it again with just the dust.

How to make dusty rose with food colouring

To tint fondant a dusty rose colour rather than bubble gum pink, use 2 parts red and 1 part brown food colouring.

What’s under all that fondant?

I tried a new Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe from Cake Art by The Culinary Institute of America and a new whipped cream icing recipe from’s Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The cake was yummy so I’ll probably make it again but it turned out too dry. Note for next time: Bake for 20-25 minutes instead of 30.

Sponge cake acts like a…sponge

The whipped cream filling was a departure from my go-to buttercream recipe. The cake absorbed much of the whipped cream icing so it didn’t look like there was much icing between the cake layers. Hmph. I wonder if that’s usual for whipped cream icing or if the dry sponge cake soaked up all that moisture.

I prefer the whipped cream icing’s flavour over buttercream  — it has a milky but less sweet taste — but whipped cream icing has a downside. You can’t leave your cake unrefrigerated for too long since it’s a cream-based icing. Like butter, buttercream is more shelf-stable.

That’s enough chatter for now. You wanna see more pictures, don’t you? Cue the photo gallery!


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