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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Archive of ‘Birthdays’ category

Unicorn birthday cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here it is! Topped simply with a unicorn figurine and a fondant rainbow anchored by fondant clouds, my niece Aliya’s birthday cake was easy peasy and very simple in design. My sister Suzy made the pretty fondant clouds at top by rolling little balls of fondant, placing them together and then wrapping them in a thin piece of fondant. Then she cut slits in the top and I pushed the fondant rainbow into the cloud base.

To make the rainbow, I rolled thin tubes of coloured fondant and placed them together, then I wrapped them around a tea cup on the counter. To avoid slouching and make it hold its shape, I left the rainbow on the counter to dry overnight.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I covered a three-layer rainbow bit cake with fondant dyed in a cloud blue colour. I was pleased with the smooth fondant finish I achieved with this cake. There were no cracks or unsightly lumps or bumps. My strategy for a smooth fondant finish worked well. My brother-in-law Jav and I kneaded the fondant well to get rid of dryness that’d show cracks. Then I rolled the fondant thick enough to smooth any bumps but thin enough so the weight of the excess fondant wont crack the finish. I didn’t measure its thickness but I’d estimate it was about 1/4″ thick.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Using a 12″ round tip, I piped clouds by squeezing out big balls of icing, moving the tip a bit and then placing another ball of icing next to the previous to sort of squish into it and cover any peaks. I found this technique worked best when I positioned the piping bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface.

I piped a large pearl border at the base of the cake and then piped clouds over it in random clusters.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I used clear vanilla extract to avoid further yellowing the frosting but still, the fluffy buttercream icing wasn’t white enough for my liking. You can really see the difference in colour when you compare the fondant clouds at top to the piped clouds all around.

If anyone had advice for achieving a pure white icing, I’d love to hear it.

 

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.

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?

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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