Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fairies and dinosaurs

Here they are as promised; the fairy and butterfly cake and the dinosaur cake.  The fairy definitely would have looked very different had I attempted her before I went to Lorraine's course.  As it was I was very pleased with the way the hands and the feet came out.  The face I was not pleased with and I know I really need practice getting the mouth right!  I wasn't really given any specifics for this cake other than it had to be pink and feature fairies and butterflies.  That it did, but I also went waaaayyyy OTT on the flowers.  When it was all finished, I regretted putting so many on, but it was too late to do anything about it.
My daughter reassured me that since the client is 8 years old, she won't think it OTT at all.  You know what? My daughter was right!  she was ecstatic over the cake; I believe her exact words were, "Oohh, that's the most romantic cake I have EVER seen!"
This dinosaur cake was all in all much simpler and far less time consuming than the fairy cake.  I found these cartoonish dinosaurs relatively easy and a lot of fun to make.  Ok, so the brontosaurus gave me a lot of grief because while I was away in Maastricht, the neck snapped off.  Then when I made a new improved head and neck for him I managed to snap the tail off.  At that point I thought it best to throw the whole thing in the bin and start again.  T-Rex was also a little tricky because I found it hard to support him properly so that he would dry in an upright position.  But little Harry also loved his cake, and in the end that's the  most important thing!
By the way, both cakes were bourbon vanilla with vanilla buttercream covered in marshmallow fondant.  More pictures of these and all my cakes can be found in the photo gallery.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Figure modelling course with Lorraine McKay

After a relatively quiet beginning to the year things have suddenly got insanely busy again.  Once again I am burning the midnight oil trying to keep up with my cake orders while dutifully going to work every day.  I  also spent two wonderful days in Maastricht, Holland last week-end, attending 2 days of courses with Lorraine McKay.  This doubtlessly has contributed massively to the need for late nights this week.

During the weekend I learned how to fashion this bride out of sugar paste, complete with dress details and jewelry, and also a cute mermaid in a bathtub.  On Saturday there were about 16 of us there, of which 10 were bona fide professionals.  Two participants were authors of cake decorating books!  So, yes, I definitely felt out of my league at first.  Yet everyone was super friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed and positive.  Lorraine herself was terrifc, who constantly cracked jokes and bantered with all of us.  For me the pace was punishing on Saturday.  It seemed I was always 2 steps behind everyone else  which meant that I was constantly having to ask Lorraine to show me again, as I had had time to forget in the meantime.  But at the end of the day, when I was checking out everyone else's projects, I realised that I was far from being the worst in the class!  The slowest, definitely, but not the worst.  That in itself was such a confidence booster!
On Sunday I schlepped all my stuff from the hotel to the course venue in order to make the train on time in the evening.  This time there were only 10 of us and the pace was noticeably more relaxed.  Fewer professionals and more hobby bakers so all in all an easier day.  In just one day I noticed a marked improvement in my face-making skills and in my ability to make hands (including the fingernails!).  In the end most of us relaxed too much and ended up not having time to fully complete our projects, me included.  Luckily we were allowed to keep our left over bits of fondant and sugar paste, so I was able to complete both projects at home.
All in all I learned more than I ever thought I would in one weekend.  Best of all the skills I have learned are easily applicable to other kinds of projects.  I now felt confident making a 3-D fairy for a birthday cake ordered for this weekend.  My fairy has bare feet, and I realised I could apply the techniques used for making hands to make realistic feet with toes and toenails.    See my next post for pictures of that cake and a dinosaur birthday cake I was also working on!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Teddy Bear Cake

 Happy New Year to all you dear readers!  After a relaxing Christmas holiday 2011 has begun in a whirlwind of activity.  The dishwasher and the oven are repaired and the cake orders are rolling in.  This teddy bear cake was so much fun to make, even more so when I know the little birthday girl.  Not surprisingly the teddy bear itself proved to be the biggest (and only) challenge.  This one is my second attempt in fact.  The first one was not really the right colour and I made the mistake of trying to model him out of marshmallow fondant with cmc powder mixed in.  Not a good idea!  After a couple of hours, instead of setting and hardening, teddy had sagged and collapsed into an amorphous lump.  All my attempts of reviving him just made things worse.

So, having slept on it I started again the following day by mixing a 50-50 mixture of mmf and gum paste.    This time the teddy kept his shape!  OK, so I made his belly a bit too big, but no matter, he still definitely looked like a teddy.  Once teddy had dried completely, I covered him with royal icing to make him look fuzzy.

I did the blanket by laying a waffle-weave dishtowel over the rolled out fondant and gently rolling over the towel to imprint the weave.  Then I took a pairing knife and hand-cut all the tassles.  I was surprised it worked so well and was very pleased with the end result.
I just had to include this photo because the way the colours arranged themselves is so cool!  My kitchen elves made two cakes for the teddy cake; one in blue, green and purple and the other in red, orange and yellow.  Then I torted both cakes and layered them alternately.  the edge looks burnt, but it is in fact the way the dark purple baked.

Next in line are a dinosaur cake and a fairy and butterfly cake.  I do so enjoy making children's cakes; probably because in most cases I can let my imagination run wild! :D  The fairy will be a challenge, but as serendipity would have it, I managed to enroll in a Lorraine McKay figure modelling course to be held in Maastricht, Holland next weekend.  To see the amazing work she has become famous for, see her website at http://www.extraicing.co.uk.  This is a great opportunity for me and a rare one at that.  Most of the cake decorating courses on offer are held during the week and my full-time job effectively prevents me from being able to attend.  Working in a high school my vacations are restricted to the school holidays, which make things even trickier.  Anyway, I look forward to learning all I can from Lorraine next weekend.