Retirement party cake

Retirement1~SCL

I have to start with a word of caution. If anyone ever asks you to make a retirement cake for a man who plans to spend all his time fishing…and they ask that he hold a fishing rod…don’t do it! Make him hold a can of beer or a cup of coffee, a book, a fish, something else. Anything else! It’s almost impossible to make a man holding a fishing rod without it looking obscene. Case in point.

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This cake took about a week to make, most of the time spent watching the different bits dry. Let’s start with making the palm trees. I added some gum tex to some fondant, colored it, and rolled it out. I cut out some leaf shapes and cut slashes along the sides to imitate palm fronds. Using 16 gauge floral wire,  I put about an inch of it lengthwise into the leaf and put the leaf into a curved flower former to dry. After a few days drying time, I took 5 leaf stems, bunched them in my fist around a wooden dowel to make a tree shape. I cut the wire ends to the same length, leaving about three inches of the dowel exposed. I wrapped the dowel and stems together with floral tape to make a tree. I used some green fondant to fill in the empty area between the leaves and the wires and the dowel. Going back to the green fondant, I added some brown gel coloring to make the tree bark. I brushed the wire/dowel piece with piping gel and worked the brown fondant around the piece with my hands, just smashing and mashing it all around to get a nice bumpy textured look. I made sure the fondant covered the bottom of the wires, making it flat. I had to work the fondant around the top to cover any raw edges and make it meet up well with the green. I set the finished trees in a block of styrofoam to dry.

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The dock was the next project. I followed my usual technique of adding gum tex to fondant and then coloring it. I rolled it out and cut some planks and two base pieces to go under the planks. I used an offset spatula to cut the planks freehand so they wouldn’t be perfectly straight. I wanted this dock to look old and well used. I used the spatula to add some grain lines to the planks. To make the dock supports, I used lollipop sticks, covered them with piping gel and wrapped the sides and top with fondant. Everything was added to the pile of pieces set out to dry. After a day, I lined the planks up the way I wanted and glued them to the two base planks. I use vanilla extract as fondant glue, brushing a drop on the bits to be melted together. The dock base was set aside to dry, turning it over occasionally so each side could dry. After a day, I added the supports using vanilla to melt the tops of the supports to the bottom of the dock. It wasn’t very stable but held together well enough.

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Now to make the fisherman. I added a lot of gum tex to fondant and kneaded it in well. When I wasn’t working with it, I kept the fondant/gum tex mixture wrapped in plastic wrap and put into a plastic bag to keep it soft. I started with his pants, making a big roll and then splitting part of the roll in half to make his legs. I bent it at the hips and knees and added toothpicks at the waist and ankles so I could add other body parts later. I made the feet, brushed the tops with vanilla to glue them to the ankle toothpicks. I rolled out another round roll for his shirt along with two little rolls for the sleeves. All these bits were attached with vanilla and added to his lower half. The arms were rolled as one long piece then bent and manipulated to make elbows and wrists and fists. (Oh my. Sorry, I can’t help slipping into Wizard of Oz mode when I list three things) The arms were attached with vanilla and little bits of toothpicks where they met the shirt sleeves and the waist.

To make his head, I started with a long ball and rolled the bottom between my fingers to elongate an end to make his neck. I etched his smile with a toothpick and some red gel coloring. I rolled out the tiniest bit of fondant for his nose, again using vanilla to attach it. I repeated this process for his ears. I used the ball tool to make eye sockets with white fondant for the whites of his eyes and little bits of black for the iris. His eyebrows were scratched in with black gel coloring. His hair started out as a fondant rectangle that I drew lines in and smashed together, more lines, more smashing, etc., etc., etc., to make hair texture.  Then I made a stack of books and boxes and paper towels to hold everything in place while he dried.

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The cake board is a piece of thick foamcore covered with wrapping paper that looks like water. I covered that with clear plastic because the cake sat directly on the base. The baked cake was a long rectangle. I cut one end off and attached to the side to make the island jut out. Blame my poor photography skills because you can’t see it but there are hills and valleys on the island. I just cut out divots and made sure I used a good crumb coat of icing to seal everything together well. When I was coloring the fondant for the island, I didn’t mix the gel color in completely because I wanted different shades for the grass. I covered the island then rubbed it with the end of the grass tip (Wilton tip 233) to etch a bit of texture on to it. I did that same thing with the brown beach fondant. I used a line of piping gel to attach the beach fondant to the cake and the cake to the board to keep it from slipping around. I added the palm trees, along with some fondant coconuts.

The fishing pole is a piece of floral wire with black fondant wrapped around the edge. I added it to the man when I was making him. I left the wire sticking straight out until I placed him on the cake board so I could trim it to fit down into the water when everything was ready to go. And go we did, off to the retirement party where the cake was a big hit.

Black and white heart cake

Black&White~SCL

This was a birthday cake for a married couple who have the same birth date. Since they’re married, I thought they  needed something with hearts. And since it was for two people, I thought of black and white. And since it was for a small family dinner, only the top tier is cake.  It was three 8 inch layers of white cake with buttercream icing. The bottom tier is a 12 inch cake dummy

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A few days before the cake was needed I started with the dummy. I covered the dummy with Glad Press and Seal before covering it with fondant. The Press and Seal sticks to itself very well so I’m able to pull it and tug it and get it smooth and flat on the dummy. Once it’s encased in the wrap, I got busy with the fondant.

I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again in the future…Buy premade black fondant. Don’t make it yourself! It takes too much gel coloring to get it dark enough; it takes too much work; it gets too sticky. Just don’t do that to yourself. Buy it! I started by rolling out a half circle of black fondant and draping it over the left half of the dummy. I ran a thin bead of piping gel around the bottom, sides, and top of the dummy, being very careful to stay on just the black half. Then I trimmed off the overhang off the bottom and cut away the excess fondant that went past the halfway point of the dummy.

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Then on to the white fondant. I rolled out the same half circle as before but cut a clean, straight edge to match up to the black half circle already on the dummy. I ran a bead of piping gel up the sides and across the top of the dummy then laid the white fondant up to the black and matched them up. It was a bit harder than usual to get the fondant neatly around the sides but it was possible. Once I had it smooth, I ran a bead of piping gel along the bottom to attach the fondant to the dummy.

I made the heart on top a few days before the cake was needed. I rolled out the fondant to half an inch thick and a bit wider than half the heart. I used a cookie cutter to get the side shape and then cut a straight line down the middle. I repeated the process for the other side, then pasted them together using some vanilla extract as the glue. (I find painting a bit of vanilla extract on fondant glues it together quicker than using water.) I set it aside to dry and harden.

Black&White4~SCL

The day before I needed the cake, I baked the layers and set them aside to cool completely. The next day, I split the layers and iced them. I covered them in fondant using the same technique as covering the dummy. I set the covered cake on the dummy, matching the color halves, then added the heart, again matching the color lines. Easy, easy.

What I left out of the explanation at the beginning was that the cake was for my son and his wife, so my lumpy fondant wasn’t as horrible a showing as if it were for someone outside the family. Family can be so forgiving of lumps and bumps when they get to eat cake!

Zain’s 1st birthday cake

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This was the cake for my grandson’s first birthday. Do you think that his name might be Zain? Good guess! Zain and his family live out-of-state so we travel there every year for his birthday. This was the first time I made a cake at their house so it was definitely a learning experience…what to pack for a birthday cake road trip. Considering the boy is now 6, maybe one of these trips I’ll bring everything I need. This first trip, I forgot my giant rolling-pin which explains the wrinkly fondant. The layers had been baked and frozen at my house so the cake thawed during the trip to their home.

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The bottom layer was for the grownups so it was chocolate cake with my grandmother’s peanut butter frosting. You can get the recipe here. The top layer was the smash cake for the baby so it was white cake with white buttercream icing.

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This was a very easy cake. I wanted a big difference in the size of the layers so the top tier was made from 6 inch layers and the bottom tier was 10 inch layers. Both tiers sit on cardboard cake rounds. Instead of dowels to support the top tier, I use drinking straws cut down to size. I just can’t deal with the thought of putting wooden sticks into cake that someone is going to eat. Not a good way to get more fiber in your diet!

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Since I was working out-of-town, I didn’t want to drag all my cake decorating stuff with me so I cheated and bought pre-colored fondant. A day ahead of time, I started the decorating process by making the layered stars for the top of the cake. Taking a bit of the fondant, I kneaded it to soften it then added a light dusting of gum tex to make it dry firmer. I cut out the biggest stars then put a metal skewer into them to stand up later. I cut out the letters and the white stars. I use vanilla extract as the glue for the fondant layers, so I brushed on a drop of vanilla then stuck the next layer and set them aside to dry and harden. The stars laying directly on the cake were made the next day so they would be soft and mailable.

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So the big day arrived and it was time to assemble the cake. I made the peanut butter and buttercream frostings, split the layers, iced them,  covered them in white fondant, and stacked them. (Oh, if it was only as easy to do as it is to write about doing it!) I rolled out a thin snake of fondant for the edges between the two tiers and between the bottom tier and the silver cake board. I used vanilla extract to attach them. I used a lot of vanilla to really REALLY attach the top edge because it served to secure the tiers together. I stuck the free-standing stars around the cake. I rolled out the rest of the fondant, cut out some stars and added them to the cake with the vanilla extract as my glue. This was a very easy cake to make and I think all the colors make for a great cake for a child. And the chocolate cake/peanut butter icing combo makes it great for an adult!

Ivory roses cake

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This was another cake from the Wilton’s fondant and gum paste classes-the third set of classes. It was also part of a failed experiment making chocolate fondant. I couldn’t get the cracks out, no matter how hard I worked or how many four letter words I used. One of these days I’ll get brave and try again but not yet! I’m still traumatized.

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I started by making the roses 4 days in advanced. That gave me lots of time for them to dry and harden. I like working with fondant and adding gum tex to it rather than working with gum paste. I think plain gum paste is just too sticky. I colored the fondant, then added a light dusting of gum tex. I worked all that in until everything was smooth and then added another light dusting of gum tex. I worked it all in until it was smooth and soft. I wrapped it up with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. It seems easier to work with after a day.

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Rather than going through all the things I did, Wilton has a great tutorial on their site so I’ll just put my two cents in after you go check it out. Wilton full bloom roses

Once I had my rosebuds formed on the toothpicks, I stuck the toothpicks into a at piece of styrofoam so they’d have room to dry.

When I had added all the petals and the roses were ready to sit and dry, I stuck the toothpick through a small cupcake wrapper to help hold the petals up.Then they went back on the styrofoam to dry. Some of the roses only have two layers of petals while others have three. They were more rosebuds than full-grown roses. I didn’t make a calyx because no one would see the bottom of the roses.

The leaves were made with fondant that had been colored and had gum tex added. I rolled it out and cut it with the cutter in the rose set from Wilton. I used the pointy end of the ball tool to add the veins, folded them in a bit and set them in the flower forms to dry.

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So now it was time for the actual cake baking and stacking. I baked the cakes the day before to give the layers time to cool completely. The smaller layers were put on a cardboard cake round to be iced. The large layers were iced directly on the silver cake board. I used strips of parchment under the edges of the cake to keep the silver board clean. Once the icing was smooth and set, I took the strips out then covered that tier with fondant. The smaller tier got iced and covered with fondant.

I don’t use dowels to stack layers; the idea of putting wooden items into a cake gives me the creeps. I use drinking straws instead, cut down to the height of the covered layer. I added a bit of icing between the tiers to act like glue then stacked them. I used buttercream icing to make the ruffled border and stuck the roses and leaves around. Then off to class I went!

Poppies cake

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This was a cake for the Wilton fondant and gum paste class series at my local crafts store. These fantasy flowers remind me of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of poppies, hence the cake name. This cake was also an experiment in making chocolate fondant. If you look closely at the fondant you can see all the cracks and can tell that the experiment did not go well. Actually you don’t have to look closely, it was that bad! It was so bad that I haven’t had the heart to try it again. One day I will but not yet! Maybe I will. Possibly I will. I don’t know if I will.

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To make the flowers, I used heart-shaped cutters; a large and a medium. I also needed some cupcake holders; the regular size and the small ones. These held the flower layers while they dried. I used the foil cupcake liners so I wouldn’t have to worry about the petals sticking to anything.

These flowers are made out of gum paste but I worked it just like fondant. I colored it and rolled it out just the same as I always do. I set a bit aside to make the centers of flowers later. I rolled it out very thin and cut out 4 large heart shapes. I put one heart on a thin foam mat and used the ball tool to ruffle and thin the edges, leaving just the bottom third untouched. (The bottom third meaning the pointy bit of the heart.) I repeated this three more times until all the hearts had ruffled tops. Then I attached the 4 petals together, using vanilla extract as my adhesive. I overlapped the petals for added depth. I also stuck small bits of paper towels in and around some of the layers so they would stick out and up once they dried. I did this same process two more times for a total of three large flowers. Then I used the medium heart cutter and did the same thing again six times. Three of these flowers will be small flowers on their own and the other three will be the center petals of the big flowers. I set these aside to dry but came back a few times to check that the paper towels weren’t sticking to anything. Then the flowers sat and dried for a few more days.

The leaves were easy to make. I colored some gum paste and rolled it out. I cut out some leaf shapes and used the veining tool to put the lines on them. I folded them in half lengthwise then opened them back up a little bit and set them on paper towels to dry for a few days.

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The day before the cake was due for class it was time to finish the flowers. I got the gum paste I had saved earlier and made the centers of all the flowers by rolling out a small ball of the colored gum paste and flattening it into a disk. I cut some stamens and stuck them into the disk while the disk was still soft. I put a small flower inside of each of the large flowers and held it in place with a bit of vanilla extract. All six flowers got a center disk which was held in place with a dot of extract. I also baked the cake layers this day so they’d have time to cool completely.

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The day of class, I torted and iced the cake layers, and covered them with the chocolate fondant. I tinted some fondant to almost match the color of the flowers. I wanted a paler shade so the ribbon decorations didn’t take away from the flowers. I rolled out the colored fondant and used the fondant punch tool from Wilton to make the fancy cut outs. I attached the pieces with vanilla extract. I didn’t put any ribbon bits in the center of the cake so I’d have a clear, flat area for the flowers. I attached the flowers with vanilla and tucked the leaves in and around them. And then off to class I went!