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Pretty Bakes Blog

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

Pretty Bakes Blog nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award

2013 Canadian Weblog Awards nomineeAw, you guuuys! Golly, gee and shucks. I’m blushing. Some kindly soul out there nominated Pretty Bakes Blog for a Canadian Weblog Award. Woohoo!

The awards are jury-selected honours so I don’t even need to pester you by asking you to click to vote or anything. How cool is that? Seriously cool.

Thank you, mystery nominator. You’re the best!

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?

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.

 

 

 


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