Beehive cake

Beehive~SCL

This cake was for a woman leaving her job to go back to college. She likes bees (don’t ask me why) so her coworkers asked for a beehive cake. The beehive was made a few days ahead of time so it could firm up. The bees’ parts were made in advance and then assembled the night before delivery.

The beehive was easy to make. I was lucky that I was making this cake around Easter time so I just happened to have a giant plastic egg sitting there begging to be covered in fondant. I used the top half of the egg and cut a piece of cardboard cake board to fit the bottom. I rolled the fondant out thicker than usual because it kept sliding down the egg otherwise. The extra weight kept it in place. I also rolled out the piece much larger than the egg to make it easier to work the wrinkles out to edges. I painted some piping gel on the top and around the bottom edge to keep the fondant attached to the egg. I used food safe markers to draw the wiggly lines around the hive and then set it aside to harden and dry.

Hive~SCL

Next up was to make the bees and I started with their wings. I made them out of gum paste because it dries harder and firmer. After many attempts to cut them out free hand, I used the exclamation point from an alphabet set of cookie cutters. I think that cutter worked out quite well to make the wing shape I wanted. As usual, they were made a few days in advance and set aside to dry and harden.

The bee bodies were made a day in advance. They didn’t need much drying time, other than for the wings to meld with the bodies. While I was coloring the yellow fondant, I added a small bit of gum tex to make it harden up a bit. I didn’t want their stingers drooping later! I pinched off a piece of fondant about the size of my index finger and maybe an inch long. (Some bees were bigger, some were smaller. I thought different sizes would add more visual interest.) After I had a smooth round piece I cinched in a neck/head area. Then I rolled the other end between my fingers to make a pointy stinger. Then it was time to add the black bands. They were just black fondant, rolled out thin, and attached with a quick swab of vanilla extract. Once the bands were attached and dry, it was time to add the wings with a dab of vanilla extract. I wadded up a bunch of paper towels to make a nest like area to set the bees in to dry. The lumps and bumps of the paper towels gave me different heights to set the wings on so they’d dry upright.

Bee~SCL

** If there’s just one piece of advice I can give, it would be to buy pre-colored black fondant. Please! It takes so much gel coloring to get a good shade of black that the fondant ends up a gross, sticky mess. It’s way too hard to roll out smoothly and it bleeds all over everything. Make your life easier. Buy it instead. ***

Beehive2~SCL

Now that all the parts are ready, it’s time to assemble the cake. It’s a half sheet of white cake with white buttercream icing. I colored some fondant green and rolled it out to fit. I measured the cake from side to side and top to bottom, added four inches to each measurement and rolled the fondant to that size. Once I had the size I wanted, I rolled over it with a spiral texture rolling-pin, rolling some areas lighter than others. I draped the fondant over the cake and smoothed everything down. Once all the wrinkles were worked away, I trimmed the fondant to fit and attached it to the cake. I painted a thin bead of piping gel around the bottom edge of the cake to stick to. I colored fondant and cut out the whimsical flowers and attached them with a dab of vanilla extract. The bees were attached the same way. Vanilla extract was also the adhesive of choice to keep the beehive in place.

Beehive3~SCL

This cake is all about creative thinking. Plastic eggs for beehives. Punctuation for wings. And holes in boxes for safe transportation.

BeehiveBox~SCL

Halloween graveyard cake

GraveyardCake1a~SCL

The main focus of this class was adding Gum Tex (tylose powder) to fondant to make it stiffer/harder/sturdier. That’s allow the decorations to be free-standing. The directions from Wilton are to add 1 teaspoon of Gum Tex to 12 ounces of fondant. When you’re making gum paste this way, you need to work fast because this stuff dries very quickly and hardens quite well. It can be reworked by adding lots of shortening and/or water but avoid that if you can. Work in small bits!

As always, I started working a few days before the cake was needed.  Time for the decorations to dry thoroughly, you know. (4 days in this case) The first thing was to make the coffin. I kneaded a small ball of fondant until it was soft and pliable then started adding brown gel color until I got the shade I wanted. Then I sprinkled a small bit of gum tex on the it and worked that in. I’m not big on measuring so I usually sprinkle a light dusting of powder on the fondant and work it in. I don’t worry about adding too much because no one’s going to eat these decorations so who cares how it tastes! I used a cookie cutter to make the bottom of the coffin and the lid. Then I measured around the edge of the bottom and cut a piece of fondant to use for the sides. I like to use vanilla extract for my adhesive so I brushed it on the base and set the sides on it. It’s just one long strip that I pinched on the sides to make the coffin shape. The gum tex makes it sturdy enough to stand on its own. The little skeleton was a plastic decoration I found at the craft store.

GraveyardCake1b~SCL

The next bit to do was the ghosts. They’re fondant and gum tex kneaded together just like the coffin, then rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter. When I work with cookie cutters, I end up with a little ragged edge on the bottom. I like to use the at edge of an offset spatula to rub it away. You can’t really see the ragged bits but you can tell when they’re gone! So I cut the ghosts out, stuck a toothpick in the bottom so they could be inserted in the cake later, and laid them out to dry. I turned them over every day so they would dry better. Repeating the fondant/gum tex combo, I made the tombstones. After rolling out the fondant, I traced the tombstone shape on paper and then cut it out of the fondant. They went next to the ghosts for drying. The bats were made with a cookie cutter. I put them in the flower former trays from Wilton so they would dry with their little wings curving up.

Three days passed and then I baked, iced, and covered the cake in fondant. The tombstone inscriptions and bats facial features were piped with royal icing and set aside to dry. I colored some fondant gray and rolled out the edge/border for the round cake. The ghosts got stuck into the cake and the tombstones got attached. The bats were a bit trickier to attach. I used vanilla extract as my adhesive, brushing it on the decoration with a small paint brush. I dabbed it lightly on the bats and then held them in place until the extract was completely dry and the bats were stable. Then I packed it up and went to class to show off!

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I don’t remember why hubby was having a Halloween luncheon at his company but they were so I made another cake for them. I recycled the ghosts and bats. I made new tombstones because I didn’t like some of my piping on the old tombstones. Perfectionist. Nit-picky. Obsessive. Pick one, they all apply to me! Other than the edge border being green instead of grey, everything else was done the same as the first cake.

GraveyardCake2b~SCL

Assorted tips, tricks, and babbling

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Any time I bake a cake, I turn the oven on to get it up to the correct temperature and then I sit down and wait for the oven to beep to announce that it’s hot enough. Only then will I start making the cake batter. Since ovens cycle up and down to maintain their temperature, I like to give it the extra time to get there.

I mix the batter, put it in the pans, put the pans in the oven, and sit back to wait. Once the cake is baked, I let it cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out on cooling racks. I put a layer of parchment on the racks for a smooth surface for the cakes. I tip the layers out of the pans and onto the racks so the bottom is now the top. You’ll want that flat top for decorating. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly flat and even, you can trim it later.

The cakes need to cool completely. I usually bake the layers the day before I need them so they’ll have all the time in the world to cool. Once the layers are cool and you need some icing. I like to use the buttercream icing recipe from the Wilton classes. (You can find it on their website here: Wilton icing) Forget the milk, stick with water. And you’ll need to add extra water to get a medium consistency. It’s trial and error as to what works for you so add about a teaspoon or so at a time until you get something that spreads evenly but holds its shape.

I like that recipe because it develops a crust. Stop, stop, stop! I know the idea of crusty icing sounds gross but it’s not a thick crust and it will completely soften under the fondant. You want that crust so you can smooth out the icing on the cake. And you want smooth icing because the smoother the icing – the smoother the fondant. Basically, you ice the cake then let it sit for a few minutes. Use a plain paper towel or piece of parchment to lightly rub the icing and smooth out any lumps, bumps, or other bits. Repeat until everything is smooth then let it sit while you prepare the fondant. I like to use parchment because it gets shiny when the icing starts to soften and you’ll know when it’s time to take a break.

I put all my cakes on cardboard cake boards. I use two at a time, taped together, but one is rotated so the corrugations are running at an 90 degree angle for extra strength. I also cover the boards with foil wrap because that doesn’t show grease spots from the icing like cardboard does.

Take lots of pictures of your finished cakes. Lots and lots! You never know when you’ll start a cake blog and then have to kick yourself for not having photos of your fabulous work. Take way too many pictures!

My biggest tip is to just have fun. Nobody but you knows what you intended your cake to look like so nobody but you will know if it worked out exactly as you planned or not. And no one will ever see the tiny flaws that you see in your work. You wanted a perfect cake – they just want cake!

Fondant drape cake

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This was the second cake in the Wilton fondant decorating classes. This was a very easy cake to make, even though fondant and I were in the beginning stages of our relationship and I was still a bit nervous. For this cake, the class had to make that tie looking thing with the cut-outs, make the drape, and cover the cake board in fondant. The pumpkins were something I made to cover the top of the drape. You can make whatever little doo-dad you like to go there.

I covered the cake board a few days ahead of time so it would have time to dry and harden. Since I’d be working on top of it later – placing the cake and arranging the drape – I wanted it to be as firm as possible. Covering a board isn’t hard work, it’s just sticky! I use piping gel to attach the fondant to the board. The gel will be all around the side edge of the board and will later get covered by fondant. No problem there. But if you get some of the gel on the bottom of the board you’ll have a mess. The gel never dries completely so the board will stick to anything you set it on. It’s not a permanent sticking thing, just enough to be annoying and make everything you sit it on sticky.

To cover a board, prepare your fondant by kneading it until it’s soft and pliable. If you’re coloring it, add the color gel while you’re kneading. Once your fondant is workable, roll it out to an even thickness, about 1/4 inch or so. You also want to roll it about 2 inches larger than your board. Put a small dot of piping gel in the center of the board then lift the fondant and drape it over the board. Smooth it out to the edges and then down the side. Gently lift the fondant away from the side,  add a light coating of piping gel around the side and then press the fondant back onto it. Trim the excess fondant away from the bottom of the board. Smooth the edge down and under a bit to cover everything. Set it aside to firm up. Now would be a good time to make the pumpkins or whatever you chose so they can dry and harden.

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Now it’s time to bake, frost, and cover your cake. You can read about my techniques here. Put your cake in the middle of the covered cake board. Even though you’ll be working with the fondant covered cake board, make your cake on a separate board. That way you don’t have to worry about keeping the covered board clean. Once your cake is covered, you can add a dot of piping gel to the covered board to hold the board with the cake and keep it from sliding around.

To make the drape and the tie thing, roll out your colored fondant to an even thickness, about 1/8th inch or so. Decide where you want the front corner of the drape and measure from that point on the cake down to the covered board. Add 1/2 inch to one edge and cut a fondant square to that size. Fold that extra 1/2 inch under the bottom of your drape. Loosely gather the top of the fondant and place it on the cake. Now just lift and fold and wrinkle and gather the fondant until the drape falls the way you like it. Use a dab of vanilla extract to tack the fondant to the cake in a few spots to keep it in place.

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Going back to the front corner of the drape, measure where the tie will go across the top and down the side. Cut out a triangle that reaches the edge of the cake and trim it back in for the bit that hangs over the side. Trim the edges and cut out some shapes on the bottom to add interest. Use the vanilla extract again to attach it to the cake. Lay your pumpkins over the top of the drape, attaching them with the extract. Take lots of pictures then grab a knife and fork and dig in.