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:
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?
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?
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 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!
Watercolour cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My watercolour cake is inspired by Rosie’s most beautiful Pastel Swirl Cake over at Sweetapolita. For my cake, I used a thick-consistency buttercream and topped it with chocolate sprinkles. I had so much fun with it, I wanna try it again.
Thinner icing next time
Maybe next time I’ll use a thin-consistency icing and keep it more goopy as Rosie recommends in her video tutorial. The colours would probably blend more and the buttercream would be easier to work with.
I found that the buttercream crusted over fast so I had to work quickly. I kind of like the chalky appearance that makes it look a bit more like a fresco than a watercolour painting, don’tcha think?
Nature’s colour palette
My colour inspiration comes from nature. Blue for sky, yellow for sun and green for grass.
Inside, there’s a triple-layer, dense and moist marble cake with buttercream icing. Wanna see? Of course you do! Here it is.
Inside my watercolour cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Also, check out my seven-second video clip to see its evolution.
What do you think? Should I try a redo and goop it up more? What colours do you recommend?
Monkeys and banana cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My niece Aliya loves to climb — on people, on furniture, up walls. So, naturally, her nickname is “monkey.” So you can guess whose birthday cake this is.
My sister Suzy and her husband Jav made and decorated this cake and I just helped with finishing touches, like painting the banana peel and twisting rope borders. Children’s cakes are great practise for cake-decorating novices because they often look good with imperfections — the imperfect bits are a bit more wacky and fun than a perfect, polished cake.
One monkey is made with marzipan and the other is made of fondant but I can’t recall which one’s which.
I went to Homesense in search of bar stools the other day but instead of coming home with seating, I returned with a few extra baking supplies. My favourite find is these FoodWriter edible food colour markers from Wilton ($10).
Green, blue, red, black and yellow food colouring markers. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My piping technique sucks but I have plenty of practise with markers after years of colouring pages with my nieces. So food colouring markers are genius inventions for novice cookie decorators like me.
Food colouring marker tip is fine at the end for details and thick on the sides for shading. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Although these markers are of the bold tip variety, the tip’s not so bold that you can’t use it to draw some detail work. Here’s a shot of the packaging in case you want to find it in stores.
FoodWriter edible colour markers packaging. Photo by Jennifer Melo
I couldn’t wait to try using these markers and I had just the baking project coming up to put these bad boys to use. I soon discovered that cute Easter bunny cookies are adorable when I can draw, rather than pipe, a face.