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If you don't now... Dolores McCann and I were partners at the AOL cake decorating chats held every Thursday evening in The Kitchen of the 'Cooking Club' on AOL for three years. If you want to view the rest of the chats, click here to go to Dolores' web site. Then type "AOL chats" in the search box.
Below you will find basic cake info, rice paper butterfly instructions, cake photography hints, and more
The most important part of doing a cake for someone is that it should taste great. It may be wonderful to look at, but if it doesn't taste good they have wasted their money and you have wasted your time. What will keep your customers coming back is a wonderful moist and flavorful cake. What keeps it interesting for me as a decorator is the never ending creativeness on the outside of the cakes in this Sugar world. But that creativeness still comes 2nd in importance. First always is that it must taste good.
You will find my recipes on the Recipe page from the index page.
When stacking two layer cakes place the bottom side down on the bottom cake and the bottom side up on the top cake. Prepare a cardboard circle (plain) by trimming slightly smaller than your cake. When the cake is cool - level - fill with icing or a filling and crumb coat on cardboard circle. Crumb coat is a light coat of icing (thinned with water) that seals the crumbs to the cake. Once the cake is crumb coated it can be left at room temperature for a couple of days if necessary. The crumb coat icing will seal the cake and retain the moisture inside the cake. Even the crumb coat icing should be as smooth as possible. After the crumb coated cake has set overnight, trim any places on the cake that have settled and are protruding before icing your cake.
Using the side of a long spatula ice the cake as smoothly as possible. When the icing is no longer sticky (just barely dry) finish smoothing with the fondant smoother and a Viva paper towel. If you need to stack your tiers - you must use support. Cut white plastic dowel sleeves, wooden dowels, or the stress free support system slightly shorter than the iced cake layers. Cover cardboard circle(s) with contact paper (both sides) and place on top of the supports and then stack your next layers.
A sturdy board is necessary to handle your cakes and have them stay beautiful. Several cardboard shapes taped together and covered with foil, wood board, Masonic, whatever works and is handy for you. You want a stiff - no give - board.
Most of the time if I must use cardboard - I tape 3 together with masking tape, cover with florist foil and place the cake on another cardboard circle on top of that gluing with a small amount of buttercream frosting. The cake ends up being on 4 cardboard circles. I hope you have access to sturdier cardboard than I do.
3 Basic Borders
Shell & reverse shell - all tips from 14 to 32 can be used depending on the size you want.
Puff Border - Start with a 18 or 19 tip and very light pressure, build and widen and ease back to light pressure again. Do this in about 3/4 in. increments. On both sides (top and bottom) of this use a 14 tip and do a light zig zag. With a 2 or 3 tip do a light zig zag on the top and bottom. With the 2 or 3 finish with string work over the 18 or 19 beginning puff.
Horse shoe border - Make long shells with 32 tip, with 14 tip make a light pressure zig zag around each 32 shell. Top right to top left, down and bottom left to bottom right. Each horse shoe covers the tails of the previous ones.
A substitute for a top border on a chocolate cake is what I call drizzle. Mix water with your buttercream icing until soft (not runny), heat in the microwave until bubbly. Drizzle from a tablespoon on the top edge of your cake allowing to run down the side of the cake. Smells yummy - like fudge. If you have some left add some of your regular chocolate icing and heat in the micro again, add chopped nuts and pour into a saran covered plate, let cool and instant fudge. No leftovers at our house.
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About 16 (1984) years ago I wanted to do a cake for a show with butterflies on it. I was playing with rice paper and wanted to do a cake with these very realistic butterflies.
The cake was done in a Lambeth style with soft colors of orange, egg yellow and turquoise. The cake was judged down for using a silk butterfly and copying a Lambeth cake in the Lambeth book. They were wrong on both parts. The cake then took the best of show. I demoed these butterflies for the ICES show in 1985 and now it is fun to see them pop up in lots of peoples books, cake show entries and magazines.
Rice paper is edible paper that tastes like blaaaaah rice krispies. It can be used for lots of incredible things. Donna Horn does 3D figures such as giraffes, children and etc. Shirley Manbeck does lifelike feathers. Mary Beth Enderson does a technique she calls royal rice paper. It is a very versatile edible medium for us to work with.
Dolores probably has some for sale in her shop. It lasts a long time and is inexpensive (Right, we do, Dolores)
Now for the directions.
Felt Tip nontoxic pens should be used for outlining and detail work. The best brands seem to be LePlume II. For shading and filling in colors you can use felt tip pens, pastel chalks (not powders) or air brush. Use a very light touch with the felt tip pens because if the rice paper gets too wet it will tear or dissolve very easily. (Update info - 8/12/01 - the Le Plume II felt tip markers are excellent for coloring and detail work on the rice paper - they can be found in most craft and stamp stores)
When outlining white areas ( such as the dots on the Monarch wings) with black, leave the white area bigger than desired. This will allow for the black ink to bleed into the white area. If the white area becomes to dark then you can paint it with a fine brush and Wilton's White-White, being very careful not to get the rice paper to wet.
Most butterflies are colored brightly on the top with much softer coloring on the back. Pastel chalks give a slightly softer look for the backs.
Draw a whole sheet of butterflies - color both sides - store in full sheets and cut out as needed. Or follow steps 1 to 4 and store, coloring in when specific colors are requested for a cake. I find if I cut 1/2 inch off of a sheet of rice paper it will fit into a larger zip-lock bag and keeps moisture away from the rice paper.
1. Draw you pattern for your butterflies on white paper in dark black ink.
2. Place wafer paper over the paper pattern.
3. Draw pattern on the rice paper with black felt tip fine point pen.
4. Turn rice paper over and draw the pattern on the other side.
5. Put a sheet of wax paper between the rice paper and your writing surface, with something white under the rice paper and wax paper.
6. Color in the top sides of your butterfly wings. I prefer to use the rough side for the tops of the wings. If the humidity is high the wings will curl up slightly when the rough side is up.
7. Let Dry Completely
8. Turn the rice paper over and color the backside.
9. Cut out your butterfly with an Exacto-knife leaving the center connecting the wings. A.If you want a shiny look, brush piping gel over the wings and let dry completely.
B. Glitter is nice sprinkled over the piping gel. (Edible Glitter Only) C. Sugar makes a different texture over the wet piping gel. (Table Sugar works fine). The sugar tends to be very heavy and droops very easily so use only one side of the wings. This might be more practical to use on stained glass with royal used for extra support.
10. Fold in the center of the Butterfly very gently.
11. With royal Icing make a body with a small writing tip. # 2 or 3. (Buttercream can be used but is not as durable)
12. Insert antennas into the head. You can use black stamen, slivers of black licorice, black slivers of rice paper, and Etc.
13. Turn the butterfly over carefully and pipe the underside of the body on the bottom side.
14. Insert wire if needed for a wired arrangement.
15. Put on your cake, flowers or where ever...............
16. Prop up the wings with Kleenex, crumpled paper towel, cotton balls or something soft and leave till dry or set.
17. Books that are good sources for patterns are as follows
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths Golden Guide of Butterflies and Moths Golden Guide of Insects
18. Many other sources for patterns and colors are Decals, Wrapping paper, stationary, Magazines and Etc.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I have for that extra touch on your sugar art. Please feel free to share this information with other cake decorators in your area.
A very dear friend gave me a glass butterfly that hangs in my kitchen window and it says. Love is like a butterfly - I goes wherever it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes.
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I knew that this was an unusual chat subject for cake decorating. But as the Chef said we do need that Portfolio for our business. The better job we do taking our own pictures the less we must depend on a professional photographer who does not understand what we want. I am very lucky at the moment in that I have 2 Master photographers that I work closely with and they understand what I want. But they are not always available and I do lots of weddings that they are not involved with. I have been decorating cakes for about 32 years and photographing my own cakes for about 20 years. I now have about 350 cake photos in my "Portfolio" and about two thirds of these are my photos. I am not a professional photographer but, I have a practical knowledge of what works for me.
Questions and Answers
Cakemag : A suggestion for white cakes- cover the flash with a piece of wax paper or tissue.: Tape it with small pieces of tape, that's what I do. Not enough to cover the lens, or interfere with anything. Basically, the paper should go over the edge of the flash and be taped close.
LBead93524 : Standing on a chair or stool with a camera can be trouble. Put in on the floor.
Pwd Sugar - This is great for small cakes, but when the cake is a large cake that is presented with fresh greenery and fresh flower accents on a beautiful table sometimes it is necessary for you to get above the cake on a chair or small ladder.
Cakemag : One more benefit to taking good pictures- send them to me for our Reader's Cakes section! American Cake Decorating, PO Box 1385, Sterling,VA 20167. Send with a short description & return SASE
LBead93524 : Allow the film to thaw out before using from freezer Film sweats like everything else coming out of the freezer. One thing I learned on cake photos is that if you only shoot a couple of cakes a week use a 12 exposure roll of film. That way you do not have to wait so long between beginning of the roll and the end
Cakemag : One other tip... If you're using on "on board" flash that points directly at the cake, you might try placing reflectors/white boards on the side, just outside the frame of the photo.
Kwillcon : Have two frozen decorated cakes to take to Memphis TN tomorrow. Do I leave the plastic wrap on while transporting. Will box up in AM
Pwd Sugar - The most effective way I have found for freezing cakes is as following 1. Place your decorated cake in the appropriate size box. 2. Wrap the box with several layers of plastic wrap, foil, trash bags, etc. 3. Freeze your cake 4. When you remove the cake from the freezer leave the wrapping on the box 5. After the cake has had time to completely thaw remove the wrappings and enjoy. I have had Brides who have called me a year after the wedding and told me that their 1st Anniversary cake tasted like fresh cake using this method. I give them these instructions for freezing in their Brides letter before the wedding.
Brenda11 : Will a decorated rice paper image on buttercream survive the thaw? Pwd Sugar : I don't know since I haven't tried that - do let us know after you find out.....
CAKELADE : Where is a good place to get larger boxes (non-standard sizes) for character cakes? Pwd Sugar - In our phone book there are two headings.
Paper Distributors and Paper Products You should find listings of businesses under these headings One disadvantage is that you will probably have to buy in bulk. If you only need one box try your local cake supply shop, a store that does gift wrapping, or maybe one of the Pack N' Mail store
Cake Photography - Why do we need pictures? Pictures of your cakes are worth more than a thousand words. You should take a picture of all cakes that you are proud to have done. (Once in a while we do a cake that we hope no one knows we did) Your future customers may not know what you can do, how creative you can be and what your skill level is. When you have an album of pictures of actual cakes that you have done they have a realistic knowledge of your capabilities.
My motto is if it can be done out of sugar - I can figure out a way to do it. When they look through my pictures and see hamburgers, pizza's, caskets, armadillo's, cactus, portraits and etc. that look realistic. They get creative. But without pictures they would not believe that cake or should I say sugar art can be that realistic and that much fun. I have not included detailed information on cameras because I felt you probably wanted practical information and hints to get the best pictures possible.
FIRST you need a camera. Most 35 Millimeter cameras do a great job. Depending on your budget - invest in the best you can afford. I used my first 35 Millimeter camera for 20 years and had the shutter replaced once and several different lenses to adjust with. I soon found that I used almost exclusively one zoom lens and the rest sat in the closet. Some of the point and shot cameras do a good job - but, you must learn how and where to use any make of camera to get an effective picture.
HOW - Learn about your camera and what its capabilities are. I just bought a new Samsung 35 MM and I think it is probably smarter than I am. It is going to take me a while to learn how to use it effectively. Every camera works similar yet different. You must learn what you must do to adjust for what your cameras limitations are. I have learned that this new camera cuts off a little of my picture on the top of the camera - so I must adjust for that. If you want good detail from your white iced cakes the lighting must be right. Your flash will give to much light if you are close to the cake and you will have NO detail. I stand as far away from the brides cake as I can and zoom in for the cake to take up the bulk of the picture. This allows the strongest light from the flash to dissipate before it reaches the cake. For the best results use a separate flash to the side of your cake that will cause some shadowing in the detail. I understand some people use a Kleenex over the flash when photographing wedding cakes. I haven't found a successful way to do this as of yet. How do you keep it over the flash without interfering with the operation of your camera? Any ideas? When you are photographing chocolate cakes you will need more light. I stand closer to the cake and don't need the full zoom power. But if you get to close you will lose detail. Again you must know what your camera will do.
Whether you are photographing a birthday cake, wedding cake or groom's cake your cake needs to occupy as much of the picture as possible. When your customers want to see detail on your cakes they don't want to look at the table, flowers, silverware and etc. They want to see the tiniest details on your cake. I have some brides who still want a magnifying glass to see the detail on my 8 X 10 Photographs.
WHERE - Where you photograph your cakes is important. If you have the room in your work area to set up a photographing space with controlled lighting that is the absolute best way to control your picture result. I don't have that space available as of now and I am sure many of you are in the same circumstance. When the cake cannot be assembled until it is delivered or it requires fresh flowers then it must be photographed wherever you are delivering the cake. Sometimes where the cake is set up is unattractive or in the background you have an ugly wall plug, fire extinguisher, patched wall, window with the sun coming in full strength and your picture will not be what you want. One way to control this is to carry in your fix-it box a large piece of fabric that can be draped (with a couple of peoples help) behind the cake. I have 2 large pieces of fabric that we use. One is gray and the other black. Depending on the existing light in the room and the colors on the cake you can choose the appropriate color.
For photographing birthday cakes you may need to stand on a stool or chair and get above the cake. Another way to get good perspective is to tilt the cake up by placing something like a wax paper box under one side of your cake. Of course you must have your cake glued (with icing) down to your board before tilting it. If you take your picture standing in front of the cake without tilting it your detail will be distorted.
At the ICES convention George Gibbs gave an excellent demo on cake photography and the following is from his handout and the notes that I made are in parenthesis.
1. Put your pictures in an album as soon as you get them home.
2. Protect and organize your negatives. Try the digital index print (This was new to me - It's your pictures in miniature on one print to keep with your negatives)
3. If you deliver a wedding cake take a picture of it to record it's condition (Proof it was standing when you left. Proof that it was not leaning. Proof that there were no finger marks or borders gone. )
4. Make color copies of your wedding cake album or have 2 prints made for a 2nd book. (Brides sometimes ask for a picture to show mom who lives in a distant city)
5. Lighting is one of the most important items when taking cake pictures.
6. Need those shadows for detail, but harsh shadows will not be pleasing
7. Try natural light. If you are outside a bright cloudy day works best.
8. Incandescent lamps are rated at 3200K and print film is made to use outdoors or with a flash. Sun light is 5500K which is a cooler color. Using incandescent light our pictures will come out a yellowish/brown color. With fluorescent lighting your prints will come out a green color. You can purchase special filters to correct for these two colors but the do require more light or using faster film.
9. Shine a lamp or spotlight on a cake. This would represent a flash and show us more about what the final result would be. We can also see how a white reflector would act as we put it up beside the cake.
10. Flash differences a. Power and area of coverage. b. Electric eye which gives the flash some intelligence. The flash can stop firing when it sees the film will be correctly exposed.
11. For the most pleasing picture watch for the following items:
Problems with pictures Yellow/brown or green - due to color of lighting. Magenta or purplish-red - outdated or has been exposed to heat No prints came out. - Camera loading, film did not advance Watch out for camera straps or fingers in front of the lens
12. Film: Slide and print film come in many sizes: 110, 135, 120, 70 MM, 4X5 and 8X10 ISO Ratings - 25,100,200,400,1000 - This is the film speed Film Storage - If the film will not be used for a long time keep it in a freezer. Good Exposure - a certain amount of light has to hit the film for a certain amount of time. A light Meter will measure the light and tell us how to set camera or automatically set the camera
13. Cameras An SLR camera is best to use due to it's versatility. We can change F stops, shutter speeds, use different lenses, take close-up pictures, change the depth of field and be more creative.
14. Depth of Field - determined by the aperture size of the lens. It is simply how much is in focus in front of and behind your subject.
I hope this information will help you to use your camera more effectively and therefore help your customers to appreciate the wonderful sugar art that comes from your hands.
A flat cookie sheet with a lip on only one side is great for flipping your cakes. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of a cake layer before flipping. It will make that layer easier to slide from the cookie sheet onto the bottom layer.
Use cake crumbs sprinkled lightly between stacked tiers to keep from pulling all of the icing off when serving. (From Carolyn Wanke - San Antonio, TX)
Pre made Fondant icing is a wonderful time saver but you need to knead some flavoring into this icing to make it taste better for your customers
I had a grooms cake that was ordered with cherry pie filling on the top of the chocolate cakes. I had all of that excess filling gooey left and this is the recipe that came from that. I used the cherry gooey completely for the liquid the first time I made this and my family loved it. Yummy Jello Salad - I Can Cherry Pie Filling - 1 Can Crushed Pineapple - I/2 Cup Chopped Pecans 2 large pkgs. of Orange Jello (I use the sugar free) - Water
Drain and reserve the liquid from the cherry pie filling and
the crushed pineapple. Use this liquid plus water to make 3 cups. Heat liquid
until very hot and add Jello and stir until dissolved. Add ice cubes and stir
until just beginning to thicken. Remove remaining ice cubes and add cherries,
pineapple and chopped pecans. Stir and place in refrigerator until set. Enjoy.
Use large cream cheese boxes to catch crumbs from your work space when cleaning up.
Use large mouth cooking oil containers or sour cream containers to throw unused egg yolks and egg shells away. When full put the lid on and then in the trash. Keeps the liquid mess and order down in your kitchen.
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