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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘White, cream and ivory’ category

How to make a fondant Precious Moments communion cake

The spring/summer season means it’s time for some of the Catholics among us to celebrate a first holy communion. So I thought I’d share how I made a fondant communion cake for my sweet niece, Maya.

The cake topper, a Precious Moments figurine, honoured the occasion and served as inspiration for this cake.

Quilting patterns are challenging

First, I’ll ‘fess up and reveal that I screwed up on the lower tier of this cake. The quilting pattern adds an elegant design but, once again, I learned that it’s a tricky cake-decorating technique to pull off right. I’m still not sure where things went wrong. Everything was going great until…it just wasn’t. Some of the lines didn’t meet at the right spots when I got around to scoring the final parts of the cake. I tried to fix things but I think I ended up doing more damage.

Cake-decorating tip: After covering a cake with fondant, score it immediately. Don’t wait. Scoring and embossing works best with fresh fondant that hasn’t yet hardened.

For the quilting pattern, I used a measuring and scoring method. Using a ruler and a toothpick, I marked the cake at 1″ spaces at the top and bottom of the sides of the cake.

scored-cake

Toothpick marks for your lines’ start and end points
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Then I used a cut file folder and an embossing wheel to score straight, diagonal lines across the cake’s side, connecting the holes I marked earlier with the toothpick. This is hard to explain so let me show you what I mean in this video clip.

 

Ya see? Easy peasy! That is, until your lines don’t meet up according to plan. What can I say? Things got a little crazy.

quilting-gone-wrong

The other side of the cake features a multitude of sins
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Sigh.

Oh well, that’s why we turn the cake to look past its sins and put its best face forward. Right? Right!

Colour-washing fondant cut-out flowers

On the plus side, the cake for the top tier turned out just right. To match the finish of a Precious Moments figurine, I used a brush to lightly colour some fondant cut-out flowers with a mixture of pink food colouring and vodka. I deliberately left some of the edges uncoloured so it looks a watercolour effect on a clay-like finish. Just like the figurine.

I applied the flowers to the cake with more blooms surrounding the cake topper,  and then scattering a few outwards, for  a pretty, gradient effect.

Precious Moments cake, top tier Photo by Jennifer Melo

Precious Moments cake, top tier
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Finishing touches

I added silver balls (dragees) at intersecting points in the quilted pattern and in the centre of some of the flowers to tie the upper and lower tiers together.

silver-dragees-balls

Silver dragees
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I created the pearl border with a fondant mold. Just grease it with vegetable shortening, press fondant into its cavity, trim excess fondant, and then bend the mold to release a strand of fondant pearls. Attach the pearl border to the cake with gentle dabs of water.

To personalize the cake, I added a scroll and used my trusty fine-tip Wilton food-colouring marker to write “God bless Maya”. I chose brown instead of black for a soft effect. And that’s it. Communion cake done!

precious-moments-communion-cake

Precious Moments communion cake
Photo by Jennifer Melo

How to make Christmas sugar cookies with royal icing

Sugar cookies in chocolate and vanilla. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Sugar cookies in chocolate and vanilla.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Merry Christmas to you and yours! Why am I posting about Christmas cookies today, when it’s far too late to make these cookies in time for Christmas?

Because maybe you’ll be looking for some ideas on how to keep your favourite little kitchen helpers busy over the next week while school is out. And because, like you, I’ve fallen victim to the holiday rush and I’m sneaking in a Christmas post before this season passes.

Baking is the perfect activity for when you want to unplug from electronic devices and create something yummy. So pull out your favourite winter cookie cutters: May I suggest snowflakes, and snowmen? The Santa and ornament cookie cutters can take a break until next Christmas. 😉

What’s so great about sugar cookies?

Sugar cookies are awesome because they’re simply delicious, they’re so versatile for decorating and they keep well. Depending on your recipe, you can wrap and pack ’em up for two weeks or more and they’ll still have a nice, crunchy texture.

Preservative-free cookies with a long shelf life: It’s a beautiful thing!

White and gold Christmas cookies

Nothing beats homemade sugar cookies!  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Nothing beats homemade sugar cookies!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I decided on a white and gold colour scheme and white icing on chocolate cookies. I had a lot of help from my friend John. His mini schnauzer Zoe, on the the other hand, wasn’t helpful at all but was an adorable onlooker.

Gimme some cookies! ~ Zoe, the mini schnauzer

Gimme some cookies! ~ Zoe, the mini schnauzer

I jokingly told friends that John made all the ugly cookies and I made all the pretty ones. Truth be told, he piped most of the prettiest ones.

In all, it took about two days to complete this baking project that yielded 75 cookies. Without help, I would’ve needed four days to finish it up. Thank you, John!

Sugar cookie and royal icing recipes

Here are the recipes I used for this year’s Christmas baking…

Something old:

Something new:

I’m happy to report that all three recipes turned out perfectly. Woop! Woop!

How to make and decorate sugar cookies

Step 1: Follow the aforementioned recipes to the letter. Yes, you must refrigerate the cookie doughs for their specified chill times. Yes, you must cover your royal icing with plastic wrap or it’ll dry out. Yes, you must achieve the right royal icing consistency or you’ll run into problems.

Step 2: Allow sufficient time for royal icing to dry. For the first layer of flood icing, drying overnight is best.

Step 3: With your royal icing at piping consistency, pipe designs onto your cookie. Allow that layer to dry for about an hour.

I highly recommend finding clip art or cookie patterns online for inspiration. You can stop here and be done or you can move on to the next step.

Unpainted sugar cookies are pretty too!  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Unpainted sugar cookies are pretty too!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Step 4: Paint piped details/designs with a mixture of Wilton’s gold Pearl Dust™ and a few drops of vodka. Allow painted cookies to dry for an hour or more.

Painting a sugar cookie with gold pearl dust Photo by Jennifer Melo

John paints a sugar cookie with gold pearl dust
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Step. 5: Enjoy! Or if you’re sharing, wrap, pack and present.

Packing up sugar cookies Photo by Jennifer Melo

Packing up sugar cookies
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Merry Christmas Eve! Happy baking and may all your sugar cookies be pretty and tasty.

 

How to make a fondant piano cake in 5 easy steps

My favourite teenager turned 15 and to celebrate her birthday, I decided to acknowledge another milestone in her life. My niece Mikaela learned to play the piano in the past year and to honour this accomplishment — and her birthday — I made a piano cake.

I’m happy to report that this cake came together easily and with no hiccups along the way. The fondant was smooth, and the decorations were easy to cut and draw.

Here’s how I made this fondant piano cake.

1. Bake, stack and ice cake

Bake a 9″ round, 3-layer cake. Fill and frost cooled cakes with buttercream icing.

Roll white fondant to at least 3/4″ and no thinner. Cover cake in white fondant, smooth fondant and trim excess.

2. Make your marks

Press a ruler's edge into your fondant to make clear indentations. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Press a ruler’s edge into your fondant to make clear indentations.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Use a ruler to gently push vertical indentations into the sides of the cake. Be sure not to push too hard or you’ll cut right through the fondant. Now do you understand why I recommended at least a  3/4″ layer of fondant?

3. Add piano keys; chill out

Black bars of fondant make great piano keys.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Black bars of fondant make great piano keys.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Attach black “keys”of fondant. Refrigerate cake, uncovered.

4. Make a fondant music sheet and folder

Roll a few paper-thin pieces of white fondant. Trim those pieces to music-folder and music-sheet shapes. Allow these pieces to air dry at room temperature overnight.

Cake-decorating tip: Place your fondant to dry on strategically placed drinking straws. This gives your music folder/sheets natural bends, waves and curls and keep them from looking flat.

When fondant is dry, use a fine-tip, food-colouring marker and a ruler to draw music staffs (five lines, four spaces). Draw musical symbols: bars, clefs, notes and other symbols I’m clueless about.

Food colouring markers make cake-decorating easy.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Food colouring markers make cake-decorating easy.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Cake-decorating tip: Use a “Happy Birthday” song sheet to help you draw this song onto your birthday cake decorations.

If you can draw circles and lines, you can draw this. Really. Forget perfection. They’ll get the gist.

5. Attach decorations and finishing touches

Top your cake with your music sheet decorations.  Photo by Jennifer Melo

Top your cake with your music sheet decorations.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

I chose to keep the cake clean, with no border. This cake is the first I’ve been able to go borderless with. Most often, I need a border to conceal any imperfections. Luckily, this cake had few flaws to hide.

Fondant piano cake complete! Photo by Jennifer Melo

Fondant piano cake complete!
Photo by Jennifer Melo

Want to see how this cake came together? Vine time!

White fondant confirmation cake

Time flies when you’re having fun and it must’ve hit turbo speed while I was baking because my eldest niece Mikaela is now 14 years old and recently celebrated her confirmation. She’s grown from a lovely girl into a lovely young lady and I had the honour of serving as her sponsor. My heart swells with love and pride. But about the baking…

confirmation cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Sister makes it better

I had a fine scullery maid in my sister Nel, who helped by washing up, making it quick and easy to pull off this confirmation cake. Nel helped by cutting flowers, holding them in place when I needed extra hands to keep them securely fastened to the cake.

Stress less with store-bought stuff

I used a boxed cake mix and split the batter into three 8″ pans. That delivered the perfect height for each cake layer with no need for cutting or levelling. Yay! Rather than make fondant and buttercream from scratch I bought these ingredients from Bulk Barn.

One large tub of buttercream was enough to fill and ice the entire cake and it tasted good, too. Going the store-bought route freed up time for last-minute shopping in preparation for the confirmation. No need for a three-day cake-making project.

The order of things: time management

I baked the cake layers, allowed them to cool, wrapped them with plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight. Next, I cut a strip of fondant and used a cake pan to shaped it to cake’s form. I’d use that ribbon to include a personalized message.

Tip: For a smooth finish, let fondant dry for at least eight hours before writing on it with a food-colouring marker.

The next morning, I iced and stacked the cake layers, applied a crumb coat and covered the cake with fondant. Then I cut fondant flowers using my daisy cookie cutters in three sizes, secured them to the cake in a swoosh-like pattern that wound its way across and over the cake. I aimed for an asymmetrical design with small blooms trailing off at either end of a large cluster of flowers.

Piping, beads and blooms

I squeezed a buttercream bead in the center of the large daisies and  applied a dragée (silver sugar pearl). Then I used my silicone fondant mold to make a pearl border and attached that with a light brushing of water. I wrote my message on the ribbon, taking care to not apply too much pressure and risk cracking the dry fondant.

fondant cross

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Using a cookie cutter, I made a fondant cross and piped a lattice-like pattern on it, finishing it with a piped pearl border.

Piping continues to challenge me so I practised on another cross cut-out before settling on the finished one and was quite pleased with how it turned out.

And ta-da! Before I knew it, this confirmation cake was complete by noon. Woohoo! 🙂

 

 

Macaron success at last

macarons - pink and white

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I did it! I did it! I did it! Yah!

I finally mastered macarons. I suspect the magic was in the macaronnage (that’s the fancy term for batter-folding.) I stuck to Martha’s French macaron recipe and paid close attention to how I mixed the batter.

It’s all in the macaronnage

The technique that worked well for me was to actually count to about 45 passes. That’s how many times I scraped the bowl around the sides and pushed the spatula down the middle to flatten out excess air in the batter.

You go all the way around the bowl and then scrape down the center to press the batter against the side of the bowl. Got it?

When to stop folding

Now stop folding when the batter gets shiny and oozes out to the sides when you pick up a blob of it with your spatula and plop it back into the bowl. You like those technical terms, don’t ya?  😉

Here’s a wee video clip to show you my macaron success tips.

Macaron-making lessons in every failed batch

Even though I was mad as a wet hen frustrated, each of my failed attempts at making macarons taught me valuable lessons about the sweet little almond cookies. They’re tasty and temperamental. They’re so tasty, in fact, that I’m bound to make them again and again.

It just so happened that my youngest niece had a baptism party so I brought my pretty pink and white macarons to the party. They didn’t last very long, though.

Here’s what they looked like inside.

cooked macaron

Photo by Jennifer Melo

This song pretty much sums up how I feel about this accomplishment.

 


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