Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shabby Chic Modern

This cake, I'm pretty sure, is special.  I'm in a haze of infatuation over it.  I love its warm gold leaf, and the pattern on the double barreled tier, and just everything else.

This is my Sweet Times in the Rockies 2014 cake!  It was labor intensive, and a couple of those tiers were redone three times (*ahem* slightly embarrassing to admit) but I don't care.  Because it turned out just like I wanted it!

My first vision of this cake was to base it on the theme of the movie Frozen.  I researched patterns and colors for a good month (you can see that here on my Pinterest board), and worked very hard to get the colors just right.  The colors were absolutely spot on, in deep plums and inky blues.  But once I got the tiers covered, I hated it.  It was dark, heavy, cartoonish, and just a little juvenile.  I couldn't see my vision anymore, and had no idea how I would pull off my design.  So, I did what any other artist would do and ripped all the fondant off to start from scratch, with less than a week before the competition.   This turned out to be exhausting and challenging, and totally the right decision.

The other day I posted a tutorial on how to make ruffle roses.  Those took the largest amount of my time, to be sure.  However, I love ruffle rose cakes and they are so on point for the moment.  I may even make a few more of them before they go out of style.

And can we talk about gold leaf for a minute?  Because that stuff is very challenging to work with.  This is how my tiers looked three days before the competition:

A big mess!  I worked for a long while to get the gold leaf perfect, seamless, and as smooth as was humanly possible.  Gold leaf is an imperfect product and it will never be 100% flawless, but I was trying to get it as close as I could.  After all that work, though, I took a step back and didn't like it.  While it was pretty and shiny, I felt like it was a little TOO shiny.  What I decided to do, in keeping with my Shabby Chic theme, was to take a brush and a paper towel to distress the gold leaf.    It seemed a little crazy to mess up something I had just spent hours working on, but what I ended up with was a brushed gold, with white peaking through, like an old piece of repainted furniture.  That with the perfect pink roses was exactly what I was looking for and a good call for the overall theme of my design.

For the double barreled tier, I wanted a vintage pattern and I didn't want to stencil it.  So I ended up buying some Wilton icing sheets and a craft punch.  This particular punch is the Martha Stewart All Over Page Punch, in a design called Canning Pattern.  I bought it from Michael's, but haven't seen it at Hobby Lobby or on Amazon.  

It does take quite a bit of time to cut out the pattern in a precise pattern, to make sure everything lines up just perfectly.  When you're done, you just wet the back of it with some water and position it on the cake.  I do think wafer paper would also work well instead of the icing sheets.  I did practice with that material, but found it a bit too transparent to show the design well with the paleness of my pink, but if you are using colors that contrast each other, wafer paper would be great.  

Now for my wafer paper roses...I just love them.  I have never worked with wafer paper, and I liked it so much better than gumpaste.  Gumpaste is fragile, it's always breaking on me, I'm always having to deal with wires and stems and figuring out how to stick all that stuff into my cake without it showing.  Not so with these.  You just cut out the petals, and attach them with some Tylose glue, and they are lovely.

As I worked on these, I applied pieces of gold leaf randomly onto the fronts of the petals.  I let that dry, and then assembled the rose.  It was surprisingly quick and easy, and really pulled my cake together.  I'll try to make a tutorial on these soon!

So, how did the cake do?  I'm happy to say in got Third Place in the Professional Category.  Not too shabby (ha ha, see what I did there?).  These two cakes were First and Second place. 

I think the green and silver one is so pretty, and I think she might have watched the same Craftsy tutorial I did.  I unfortunately don't know the names of the artists, but if anyone else does, let me know!  Congrats to everyone!  There was some beautiful artwork at the show!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Cake

Happy Valentine's Day!  Last week I made this beautiful Valentine's cake, which I am unabashedly in love with.  This was my first time with silver leaf, a technique called the wax paper transfer method, and ruffle roses.  The techniques are time consuming, but not overly difficult.

Last year when I won first place at Sweet Times in the Rockies, one of the things tucked into my gift bag was a free Craftsy class.  It went unnoticed for a long time because it was hidden among the other papers and leaflets, but when I found it, I promptly used it for Jessica Harris's Simply Modern Cake Design.  And let me tell you, that class is amazing.  There were some techniques that I learned (such as how to get crazy sharp corners on your cakes) that I think will change the way I make cakes forever.

The first technique, ruffle roses, was not in the Craftsy class but I figured out how to make them none the less. Here's how I did it!

For the first step, I picked a circle cutter that was close to the height of my cake, but just a little smaller.  This tiers was 4 inches tall, so I used a 3 1/2 inch cutter to impress on the side, to guide me where I would want the outside row of my petals to lay.

Next I took a small amount of gumpaste and ran it through a pasta roller.  I began at level 1, and worked my way down to level 5.  I felt like level 5 was thin enough to look delicate and pretty (not thick, clunky petals), but still strong enough to handle the thinning of the edges and the spiraling I would do onto the cake.

I used my trusty wheel cutter and cut out some strips.  These were about 1/4 inch thick, but can vary based on the size of your flowers or the size of your tier.

Then using my (very old) foam pad and a ball tool, thinned and frilled the edges just like I would with a gumpaste flower.

Using the circle impression I made in the first step, I placed the ruffles in a circle.  I like to use Q-tips in this step, because it put the perfect amount of water on the cake.  Also, the size and softness is really great for manipulating the ruffles into the position you want them.  As you place the ruffle on the cake, be sure to gather it in spots to add texture - if you don't, it will look flat.

Then repeat that step again.  Here you can see that the strip I cut was a little long and I spiraled it inwards.  This works great!  Just keep spiraling in the strips of gumpaste...

until you get a nickle or so sized hole in the center.  Then, make a ribbon rose for the center.  Wet the back of it with some water, and carefully place right in the center.

And then you've got a gorgeous ruffle rose!  It really couldn't be easier!

Looking at the photo above - to fill in those white triangles between the flowers, continue to cut strips of gumpaste and place them accordingly to complete the design.  When picking where you will imprint the circle cutter, pick a spot where the petals will touch, but not quite overlap.

For the offset chevrons, I finally tried a technique that I have been wanting to try for a while now, which is the wax paper transfer method.  This was in the Craftsy class I took, and it's pretty darn brilliant.  I was skeptical, but all those pieces in the chevrons went on so effortlessly and quickly that I'm a convert.  Here is a tutorial here, if you don't have access to the class:  Jessica Harris Wax Paper Transfer Method Tutorial

Silver leaf is a beautiful finish you can add to your cake, but first it's important that you make sure it is edible.  I purchased mine on Amazon, and it comes in a little book of leaflets  The silver sheets are attached to wax paper.  It is terribly delicate, and will tear easily in your hands, so you need to be careful when working with it.  When you are ready to attach it, you get the area of your cake wet (Q-tips worked well here for me, too), then let it gently adhere to the sides.  Then take a brush and very, very lightly smooth it onto the cake.

I'm really looking forward to making some more cakes using these techniques - in fact, I'll be using a few of them for my next competition cake on February 14th.

Happy happy Valentine's Day!

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