Saturday, July 28, 2012

A free online class

Joshua John Russell has a great tutorial video on Craftsy that's totally free! 

It's a buttercream video where he shows how to make Swiss-meringue buttercream, torte, fill, stack a cake and more!  

I'm posting this video link because I was really surprised to see that his methods are pretty much exactly how I build and stack my cakes!  I've had several requests for more video tutorials (which I hope to do in the near future), but for now, this is a little glimpse of my style.  If you watch this (at least the first half up to the crumb coat), it'd be like watching me do it! :)  I torte/slice my cakes exactly the same way, I make my frosting the same way (except I don't add the powdered sugar), I measure out my buttercream with a scale when I'm filling my cake layers (but you could do it like him with a cup) and I carve my cake after I fill it to get rid of buldges (before crumb coating)!!

I don't cut my board down like he does because I crumb coat out to the board.  I use the edge of the board as my guide when holding the bench scraper...so, don't cut the board if you'll be covering the cake in fondant.  Use the board like on my upside down frosting technique!  If your final coat is buttercream then you can do another thin coat to cover the board.

It's a great video if you are a beginner and have questions as to building, stacking and crumb coating your cakes!! - and most importantly, it's FREE!!

Click HERE

I hope you find it helpful!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Egyptian Cake

 Happy Birthday Maddie!!!
 My sweet friend Summer's daughter is having an Egyptian Birthday party on Saturday!!  A few months back, Summer asked if I'd make her a cake again.  I made her daughter a Fashionista birthday cake last year (see here and the full party here) which has become real popular in the cake world!  We even saw an exact replica on Amy Atlas's blog!!  We decided last year that we would trade birthday cakes for our kids so we don't have to make the cake!  So, this way, we can work on the details of the party instead of the cake!  She has yet to make one of my kids one (we always have such small family parties), but I'm thinking my October family members will be getting a fun one this year! :)  She also told me she'd give me her Silhouette machine which was a HUGE reason for me to do the cake for her!!  The possibilities are endless in the cake decorating world when you have edible icing sheets and a Silhouette machine!! :) 

A few months ago when we started talking about the cake, she told me the party's theme would be "Egyptian".  She didn't know exactly what that meant and was having a hard time visualizing how the party was going to come together! - but her daughter had seen a Scooby-Doo show that was about an Egyptian tomb and decided that's what kind of party she wanted!! :) :) - and if anyone can pull it off Summer can.  The party is not until Saturday but we won't be in town, so I dropped the cake off yesterday and she's putting the whole thing in the freezer!! - until Saturday!! :)  I'll post pics of her party when she sends them to me...I can't wait to see them!  Her house was FILLED with all kinds of amazing DIY Egyptian themed decor!  It's going to be amazing!!!  Those kids are SO lucky!!!

Egyptian theme...hmmmm!! 

 I had a SUPER hard time with the design of this cake!!  She wanted it feminine, she didn't want a pyramid on it, she wanted it three tiers with lots of gold, turquoise and hot pink!!!  AH!  That was SUCH a puzzle for me.  When I started researching Egyptian art, patterns and graphics I realized there was TONS of stuff online...go ahead...google "Egyptian patterns"...I was totally overwhelmed!  And SO much of it is intricate patterns that would be really time consuming to put on a cake!  What I did find out, that was fascinating to me, was that much of the designs today stem from Egyptian graphics/patterns...like the chevron patterns we're seeing everywhere...Egyptian!  I tried using all kinds of patterns together, and nothing seems to work as a cohesive design that was feminine.  Everything seemed so random and masculine.  I got to the point where I actually texted my sweet friend and said, "Are you sure you still want me to make the cake!?"  I didn't want to do it!!  How bad is that!!!  - I'm a horrible friend at times!  I was just having a huge mental block, had already spent countless hours on it, and was getting so overwhelmed!

Then, by the grace of my sweet Jesus, as I laid in bed thinking and thinking and totally stressing out about it, it occurred to me to look into the fashion of that time...since that could be used in a feminine way!  The next morning I began searching Egyptian fashion and was happy with what I found!  I knew the jeweled collars were BIG back then, as were the stripes.  I found these inspiration pics through google and I began building my design. From there, it finally began to flow and I started to feel peace!  Praise Jesus!!  He is SO good!!!!

I also found this Egyptian pattern (below) taken from some ancient art.  It was in a book called Egyptian Designs.  I found this image online though...I don't remember where!  I'm really bad at keeping track of those things when I'm doing a general search for ideas!! :(


I decided I wanted to make the cake like a woman from that time.  The bottom tier would be the bodice/dress area.  The middle tier the famous collar and the top tier like a crown.  After several sketches and recoloring of everything several times, this was the final sketch I came up with.  I chose to add a fourth color...I felt like it needed something a bit weighty and more contrasting to the gold, pink and turquoise.  Also, the royal blue was very popular in Egypt, so it worked great with the design and gave the jeweled collar a great contrasting backdrop.
Now that I had a sketch...the real work began!  I drew everything up in Autocad, so I could print everything in lined drawings to use as my templates in laying out the patterns.  Here's the scaled version of it. 

In the sketch above, you can see how I left the full circles drawn on the top tier.  That was to help me guide my circle cutter across the top design.  I couldn't see the template under the strip of fondant while I was cutting it, but I could see the top half of the circles and therefore knew where to cut.  That helped keep everything straight when I was cutting out the yellow, then the pink fondant patterns for the top tier.

I loved how the stripes turned out!  I used my wax paper transfer technique I came up with to lay out the stripes before putting them on my cake.  If you want to know how to do that or are interested in learning all the ways to use that technique, I did a Craftsy class!!  So, you can watch it HERE.

  

 Everything but the pink was fondant because I knew I couldn't paint gold luster dust on modeling chocolate.  Usually I always like the design portion of my cakes to be modeling chocolate because it cuts like a dream, holds its shape and is just all around easier to use.  But, again I couldn't, so things were not quite as straight as I had hoped...but given the complexity of the design I was REALLY happy with how this cake turned out...and so was Summer!! :)

All the yellow was brushed with gold luster dust mixed with some vodka.

The jewels were chocolate I had melted and squeezed into a mold.  I was SO happy when I opened my chocolate drawer that day and found some mint chocolate chips in there! - there were the PERFECT shade of turquoise!  No need to color it!  The pink was some red cherry chips and some white chocolate chips I melted together and added some more pink candy colors too.  Again, I had it all and it worked out beautifully!  I loved how the collar turned out! - although, it was actually better when I first put it on the cake then what you see pictured here!!! :(

 
After I made the jewels, I brushed them with some dry luster dust to give them an ancient gemstone look.  But after I put them on the cake, there was a pretty weird difference between them and the other solid bands of fondant on the collar.  So, I decided "I'll just add some luster dust to the bands too!"  It wouldn't have been a bad idea except when I put the top tier (that I had already done) next to it, it didn't go together!  The top tier was so clean and graphic while the bottom tier was all "luster-dusted"!  Even my daughter walked into the kitchen and said, "Mom, those jewels have too much gold on them!"  SO, if a 7 year old picks up on that...then, get out the q-tips and start cleaning!!  Unfortunately, while doing so, some of the nice crisp lines on the fondant bands got smooshed and there was gold luster dust in hard to reach spots I couldn't get completly clean.  When I went back to press the lines in the fondant bands, it just didn't look as clean as when it first got up on the cake because the fondant wasn't as fresh and it was harder to get in there with a steady hand...which I didn't have in the first place thanks to too much coffee!! :)  So, if you look real close...it's a bit messy!  But, from farther back, it looks awesome! :)

 One thing I didn't include in the sketch, but knew would be going on the cake was a pink lotus flower Summer was going to make out of paper.  Besides being a great cake designer herself, Summer is an INCREDIBLY talented scrapbook designer! - she's been nationally recognized with Stam'n Up and is one of their Demonstrators!!  So, when I got to her house to drop the cake off, I was planning on taking pics there too with the flower on top...but, unfortunately, my white balance was all messed up on my camera and the pics turned out with bad blue hue to them! :(  So, the pic below this close up is not colored right, but at least you can see the sweet flower that just makes it all feminine and girly and really makes the pink pop!!  I can't wait to see it on the table at the party!! ;)

Here it is on the cake...again, sorry for the BAD coloring!


Now, there were a TON of lessons learned on this one!!!

1. White chocolate ganache is the bane of my existence!! :)  
I already knew that, but I seriously cannot get the proportions right!!!  I REALLY wanted Summer to let me use dark chocolate ganache (because the cake was banana cake and what's better with bananas than chocolate! - but her daughter doesn't like it...she likes white chocolate...and it is about her isn't it!) :)  Summer told me about some white chocolate chips at a local store and by golly, they were there and they were full of cocoa!  - which is hard to find!  I did the 3:1 ratio of white chocolate to cream and it never set up more than room temp buttercream! - SOFT!  I used it anyway because I thought it was "setting up" and would eventually harden, but OH no!  I could NOT get the board off without pulling off the whole top of the cake!  So, I had to re-do that!  So, if you have that same problem...it's because your chocolate isn't hard enough!  I'm seriously going to do 5:1 next time...go big! - I want a GREAT shell!!!  If you have any luck with the 3:1 ratio, I'd love to know what kind of chocolate you're using!!

2. Don't use Wilton gold color mist spray  without practicing first!
Which means buy more than one bottle because there's not much in there!  I wanted the blue tier to be shimmery gold so I got a can of that and before really testing it, I started spraying!  Where was my head!???? - obviously not attached!  You truly need to be about 2 feet away from the cake to get a light covering/mist...not 12 inches!  I couldn't get it even and ended up pulling all the fondant off and recovering it!  What a waste of money...and over an hour of my time! :(  Lesson learned!!!!!! ;)

A few other bits of random info:
Summer wrote down the turquoise and hot pink color she wanted me to use from the Sherwin Williams deck so I could make sure I got the colors just right.  I LOVE using paint decks because you can compare the fondant you're coloring to the actual sample to see what direction you need to go in...more yellow? more pink? more blue? more gray?  It really helps to have a standard...something to go by! - kinda like the Bible!  A standard...something to live for, to base your life on...something immovable, timeless and perfect!  If we don't have a standard...a target, we won't hit anything or become that person we hope we can be someday!  

I'm SO glad this cake is done with...but I feel like that after all my cakes.  I can't imagine doing this as a business week in and week out.  I think I put too much of my heart and soul into each cake! :)  My house got put away and cleaned today!  I went on a bike ride with my sweet kiddos...one of which doesn't need those "baby training wheels" anymore! :)  Love it!!!  We've got some fun vacations coming up and my first full-time homeschooling year to look forward to.  I'm home schooling my 2nd grader this year!  So, I wanted to let you all know even though I have some great how to things I want to show you, I'm going to be MIA for a while!!  I am loving this season with my kiddos and don't want to miss a thing.  The fall is going to be a big transition for me as daddy goes back to work, my baby turns 2 (and is already acting like it!), my 5 year old starts kindergarten and my 7 year old is sitting at my kitchen table with me as her teacher balancing it all! :) 

So, enjoy your cake making!!  I'll be back when I can!!  I'll post tips and tricks when I can!!  Thanks so much for all your sweet words, encouraging emails, questions and most of all patience!  I'll continue to do my best getting back to you all!

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace
Numbers 6:24-26

In Him,
Jessica