Friday, 13 September 2013

Practising Cake Decoration

After creating a flower 30 cake this week I wasn't happy with my cake covering skills and wanted to improve them. At the same time one of the pages I follow on facebook posted a link to some free decorating videos for beginners.. perfect. So I set about studying. The videos can be found here for those interested. 

I had left over icing and flowers so Gary decided that I should make a cake for work so that 1) he gets to try the cake and 2) I could use up the left overs. I also decided it would be a good chance to practice what I'd just discovered. 

I first baked the cake, levelled it off and cut it in half.

I cover my cakes in buttercream in order to stick the sugarpaste onto them. The first step was to make this much smoother so there was a good basis for the icing. I have very limited tools at the moment so it is slightly more challenging but I think I achieved a better finish. First thing was to start with the sides, I usually start with the top and pull it down. The first layer is a "crumb" layer, this is because the cake crumbles as you put on icing and you don't want crumbs to be on the visible layer. I put the cake in the fridge to set, once hard I added a second layer. This was carefully smoothed down, using a table knife so mine had some lovely marks in it!! and the left to set again. Once hard the top edges we cut off so it was smooth on the top and then I placed a layer on the top of the cake. Again this was smoothed down and left to set. The edges were cut off and overall I had a really good finish. This was then put in the fridge. 
Smooth Buttericing
I then prepared the sugarpaste. I already had some slightly silver paste so I decided to use this up. You knead the paste, like bread, always folding over the top so you get a smooth finish on the bottom. Once it's smooth then it's ready, turn it over, fold under the edges and push down a little. I have great problems with my sugarpaste sticking to the surface in my kitchen, it's matt and bumpy, but I noticed in the video he uses a smooth shiny surface so I decided to give the table a try. Usually I use clingfilm and roll onto this but it's a really hassle trying to peel it off and keep shaping etc. This video says to use icing sugar. The sugarpaste is constantly moved around and rolled in icing sugar preventing it from sticking to the surface. Using a icing rolling pin means that it won't stick on the top either and you get a lovely smooth finish on the top surface without icing sugar destroying the look. The icing is always turned 90 degrees but never flipped over so the same side is always table side down. I only have a tiny rolling pin so I used my large wooden one to help me move the paste around. This method worked very well for me and I was very happy with the result. 
Cake covered in Sugarpaste
I then got the cake out the oven and roughly measured how much paste was needed, this was picked up using the rolling pin and carefully placed on top. Start with sticking the top down trying to push out as many air bubbles as possible. The stick the top of the sides down opening out any pleats. Finally the bottom by opening out the pleats pushing down and in to create a smooth finish. Trim off excess paste and then use your hands to smooth it over. Also use a paste smoother to finish up. There may be air bubbles so use a small pin to release these. 

Overall, whilst it was perfect, it was a dramatic improvement on my previous work. I had the difficulty that I did this in a tin so couldn't reach the bottom of the cake properly, so the bottom edge isn't great, but the top looks pretty neat. I need another smoother in order to create a better edge on the cake and I would have preferred to use more butter icing. But generally pretty good. 

I decorated the cake with the remaining flowers by this time they were pretty dry so I couldn't shape them very well. I just stuck them on. 

To make the flowers I decided to try out flower paste, I wouldn't to give this a go because it dries more solid than normal sugarpaste and is meant to be manipulatable. I found it easy to work with but you must keep it away from air when you're not using it. I also tried added gum tragacanth to some icing, as this is meant to be a much cheaper way of achieving the same thing, it worked really nicely. It was easy to knead into the icing and the flowers dried just as hard. Since flower paste is so expensive (4x price of normal sugarpaste) it's definitely an option I would use. I'm looking forward to trying out some modelling with this harden paste to see if I can achieve a good finish. 
Finished cake
If you would like to order a cake, or any baked goods, from me please get in touch. I'm currently doing it for just the cost of ingredients (Sept 2013) while I work on improving my skills. If booked far enough in advance I can travel a little further afield than Sussex.