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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Purple’ category

Cake decorating classes, updates and more cakes to come

Hello, folks.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been back with a cake-decorating update. This summer, I was out and about, enjoying every last bit of warm weather and taking a bit of a digital detox. As a community manager, I’m constantly tuned into online conversations so I tried to balance that work need with my personal need to quit looking at a computer screen for excessive amounts of time. It was a much-needed break from technology and I’m happier for it.

Nesting, baking and blogging

Now that fall is officially here and there’s a chill in the air, I’m starting to feel the need to nest, bake and blog. So I’m happy to get back to filling you in on my latest cake-decorating projects. But first, I have some news to share.

In my quest to improve my piping skills, I signed up for some Wilton cake-decorating classes at my local Michaels arts and crafts store. I enjoyed them so much, I signed up for four courses and I’ve been piping with buttercream and royal icing and working with fondant and sugar paste.

Skill-building at cake-decorating classes

I learned a lot within a few months and these classes served as a good reminder that although YouTube is a terrific source of cake-decorating instruction, there’s no substitute from learning from an experienced instructor who’s just a few feet away. Watching my cake-decorating instructor Rebecca in action was the best way to learn and her corrective guidance was most helpful.

Here’s a look at my first class project, a rosette-piped cupcake from my Building Buttercream Skills class.

cupcake-buttercream-rosettes

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here’s another flower-topped cupcake I practised with my new piping skills.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here’s a cupcake cake that taught me a valuable lesson about piping consistency and ensuring your buttercream has enough time to crust over before attempting to transfer a pattern via a parchment template.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

And this is what it looks like when I practice piping a shell border.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I’m still learning but I’ve found that the combination of live instruction and practice makes for quick skill-building and added confidence.

I’ll have birthday cakes, a communion cake and more “just because” baking projects to share in the next few weeks as I catch up with writing and image-editing. I hope you have yourself a wonderful weekend.

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?

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?

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.

Lavender buttercream rose cake. 3 steps to a pretty cake

It was my friend Jen’s birthday in March and that, my dear friends, meant it was time for cake. Yay! Hooray! Yippee! Time for cake!

When I asked Jen what kind of cake she wanted, she gave me free rein by answering “surprise me.”

I’ve wanted to try to do a rose-piped buttercream cake because it’s pretty and feminine and cool. Just like my friend Jen.

I texted Jen with some options:

Vanilla or lemon?

Vanilla.

Pink, purple or white?

Purple.

In a fine feat of mind-reading, Jen’s chose the selections I would’ve made.

One thing I should mention right away: Piping is not my strong suit. With no official cake-decorating training, I haven’t logged enough practice time with a piping bag so I definitely lack confidence when it comes to piping.

Before I could convince myself to try something easier, I embraced the challenge and knew it’d be a good learning opportunity. There’s no time like the present to get that piping practice time.

1. Find inspiration and instruction

First, I searched online for some inspiration photos. I found lovely examples of buttercream rose cakes at 52kitchenadventures.com and adventuresinsavings.comSo purdy!

Then I watched a few video tutorials that demonstrate the technique for piping large buttercream roses. Like this one….

2. Practise piping technique

With my research complete, it was time to get piping. I used a piping bag with a 1M Wilton star tip. It looks like this:

1M Wilton tip

The 1M Wilton tip is a medium-sized star tip that’s great for piping roses. Photo by Jennifer Melo

And then I cued up the camera so you could see what I was doing. See?

3. Pipe buttercream roses
Then I just kept piping roses. Even when some roses turned out smooshy and air pockets made a stream of icing break off when I least expected it. I told my inner perfectionist to get lost and before I knew it — Hey look! I made a buttercream rose cake. Yay! Not too shabby.

Buttercream-rose-cake

 

Buttercream-rose-closeup

buttercream-rose-cake-overhead

3 lessons learned
1. Aim for a consistent size with each rose piped. See that big rose on the top of the cake? I sort of spazzed out when I was running out of space so I just swirled a large rose but now I see I could’ve squeezed in an extra few roses and kept them looking more uniform in size.

2. Give yourself some space between roses to allow the buttercream to flow into the empty spaces while you pipe. You can fill in empty spaces with swipes of buttercream later or as you go along.

3. Most importantly, icing consistency is key. Your icing should be soft enough to flow without breaking but firm enough to hold the rose’s shape.

You need a whole lotta icing

For this 6”, four-layer cake, I used a double batch of Wilton’s buttercream recipe and I omitted 2 tbsp of milk. I refrigerated the buttercream overnight in a glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap.

Then I brought the icing to a slightly chilled room temperature (about 20 minutes, left out on the countertop). I mixed the buttercream with two stripes of violet gel food colouring loaded onto two toothpicks. After filling a piping bag with buttercream, I covered the bowl with cold, damp paper towels to prevent the remaining icing from crusting over and drying out.

Here are the recipes I used to make this cake:

Vanilla cake from joyofbaking.com.
Buttecream icing at wilton.com.

I think this cake would make a lovely dessert for Mother’s Day. What do you think?


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