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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

Happy National Cupcake Week

national cupcake week

Photo by Jennifer Melo

It’s national cupcake week (Sept 16-22, 2013) so eat a cupcake and share the love.

xoxo

Jen

Update: I probably should’ve mentioned earlier that this glorious week-long celebration of cupcakes takes place the U.K., but I’m Canadian and Her Majesty is the Head of State here in Canada so it’s all good, right? Right? Yeah, I think you can go ahead and finish eating that cupcake, Canucks.

I’m so mad at macarons!

empty hollow macaron shell

Hollow and empty, just like my fragile heart after my 4th failed attempt at making macarons. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Eff you, macarons!  I mean, really. What the hell’s your problem?

I tried undermixing the batter and you went all lumpy on me. So then I might’ve slightly overmixed the batter and you got all flat and footless.

I tried two recipes, various cooking times and four attempts now. I was patient and understanding, and you cracked or got all hollow and empty inside. Don’t even get me started on your inconsistency issues. I’ve tried my best, but you’re a high-maintenance pain in my ass! And now you got me feeling all hollow and empty inside, too. It’s contagious. You see?

There. I said it.

Because I’m stubborn as a mule,  a glutton for punishment?, persistent and totally NOT a quitter, I might give you another try.  Annabelle and Rose told me not to give up on you. Yah, that’s right. The girls and I have been talking. Rose called you “tough buggers” but if you keep up this trouble with me, I’ll have other, less-than-ladylike adjectives to describe you, macarons.

Yes, we seriously need to spend some time apart.

I’m hanging up my apron now and will calm down with a glass of wine and an episode of Big Brother.

You can sit on the cooling rack and think about what you’ve done. Don’t even look at me.

 

 

 

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?

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…

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!


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