Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fondant Star Gazer Tutorial

These stargazers are so beautiful and I really enjoy making them. Note, if you plan to use them on a cake, start making them AT LEAST a week ahead of time. You will need time for them to dry completely and harden. Then you need time to dust them (or paint if that's you're thing) and assemble, which also takes some time.

 You'll want to mix your fondant with gum paste so it's about a 50/50 mix. It hardens a bit (which your fondant alone wouldn't) and it doesn't dry so quickly that you have to rush to work with it (which would be gum paste alone). Stargazers come in so many different colors so feel free to be creative!

*Doing this project is a lot like doing math. It's long, it's involved, it's even tedious, but it's not hard*

In addition to your fondant/gum paste mix, you'll need a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar. You will need some gum glue, made by breaking up a pea size of gum paste into about a tablespoon of water and letting it dissolve. You will need a rolling pin and yes, I really do suggest Wilton's plastic rolling pins for ease of use. There's no problem not using one, just make sure it stays covered with your "dust". You will need wave former cups (or, heck, find anything round you can shape them over), the wide and narrow lily petal cutters, a petal impression mat, a round ball tool and veining tool, thin foam, floral wire and florist tape (6 pieces of white 26-gauge wire for the petals and one piece of green 20-gauge wire for the stem - you'll need 3 more pieces of green 26-gauge wire for leaves), Color Dust in deep pink, lime green and dark green as well as brushes with which to apply them.

Dust the BACK of your impression mat with your dusting pouch.
Roll out a small ball of gum paste / fondant.

 Shape that ball into a log and position it over the slit in the back. Make sure about 1/2" of the log is not on the crack.

Use your rolling pin to roll out the fondant. It should be less than 1/16 of an inch thick which means thinner than your pink rings if you're using the Wilton small fondant roller or just really thin if you're not using a rolling pin with guide rings.

Peel this off of the mat and use your narrow lily cutter to cut the shape of the petal. Position it so the tip of the petal does not have that extra stem piece.

Dip your white 26 gauge wire into gum glue and place it next to this flap. Fold the fondant over the wire to secure them together. This is the back-side of the petal.

Dust the front side of your impression mat. Place the petal front-side down onto the leaf impressions. Use your thin foam to press (with this mat from the student kit it will take quite a bit of pressure. They do make better mats that don't come in the student kit.) the petal into the impression mat. You should be able to see the impressions, but they will really stand out once we use the color dust after they have dried.

Transfer your petal onto the thin foam. Dust your ball tool and use this to ruffle the edges. There are many techniques for ruffeling. You can put most of the ball tool on the foam and a little on the petal and slide it (not roll it) around the petal with some pressure. You could scratch back and forth as if you were coloring. You could also put most of the ball tool inside the petal's edge and and roll it around. Practice, practice practice and you will find the way that works for you.

After you have it nice and ruffled, put it over the wave former cup to dry completely. This will take at least a full day. When you put your petals on there, put them at different angles. Remember the petals on flowers aren't all the same!

For each lily, you will need 3 narrow petals and 3 wide petals. I don't have pictures of making the leaves, but the process is exactly the same. You use green fondant and need 3 narrow lily cuts for each flower.

After everything is very, very and completely dry, you get to start decorating and putting them together!

Put a line of of deep pink Color Dust down the center of the petal.

You don't need much. Spread it out. Go out and look at some Stargazers: some have a lot of color and some have a little color. Tiger Lillies are really bright. Be creative!

Put some lime gream down near the stem of the petal.

Color all of your petals. I wanted to try the painting technique as well, so I mixed a little bit of color dust with a little bit of vodka. Using alcohol is better because - of how tacky it gets? I don't remember the exact reason, but the alcohol dries off so don't worry about that part. Plus, who is really going to eat these anyway?

Prepare your stamens. They come taped in groups but you'll want to remove the white tape and then use florist tape to attach them to a piece of 20 gauge green wire.

Wrap all the way down, pulling tightly to release the stickiness of the florist tape.

Then use the same process of wrapping over and over to attach each petal, one at a time.

Start with the three wide leaves.

Then add the the narrow leaves between them.

Each time, you are wrapping all the way down the stem. A thick stem will be helpful when you go to put the flower into the stem holders to put them in the cake.

Finally, brush the three green leaves with a mixture of lime and dark green. Add the three green leaves, one at a time, to the stem about halfway down.

There you have a finished stargazer lily! You can see some stargazers in action in this cake from the final class in Wilton Course 4: Advanced Fondant and Gum Paste

I linked up!
Days of Chalk and ChocolateThe Mandatory Mooch

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Full Circle

Aaaand I've come full circle! I told my boss at Food Lion that I was quitting (jokingly) because I just made a 90th birthday cake, half sheet, with roses.

Well as it just so happened, this was the first cake I ever made at the store. I had to do it the day after I learned how to do roses, after just a few hours of cake decorating lessons. I was pretty happy with how it turned out:

I figured since I had come full circle, I should probably just quit.

If you didn't know, I've also started teaching cake decorating classes for Wilton. Here is the cake I made with the Course 1: Basics class. I taught them to level cakes, fill, ice, and transfer a picture. I did this cake so I could bring it in to school. IN TO SCHOOL! Can you believe I've already started back? My first day was Aug 6 and the kids come the 16th. We've been in meetings all day, working in my classroom all evening, and lesson planning all night. It's been exhausting!

 But, at least there was cake :) A lemon cake with strawberry filling. Yum.

I linked up!
 The Mandatory Mooch

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Novice Baking Rules

I think I am about to change my title from novice baker to intermediate baker. I am nowhere near experienced and can only hope to one day become a master, but for now, I think I have moved on to the next level.

I would like to share some "baking rules" for all the other novice bakers out there. Things that maybe you didn't know you were supposed to do because I definitely didn't when I first started.

(Interested in the red velvet cake pictured? Read about it here)

First: Learn the jargon. I watched tons of YouTube videos to learn the proper way to cream butter and sugar (mix your butter by itself until nice and fluffy and then add in the sugar. Believe me it is easier this way.), how to beat egg whites until stiff, how to fold in said egg whites (L helped me with this one), and alternate your ingredients. I always way over complicated that last one - it just means 1/3 of your dry ingredients, 1/2 the wet, 1/3 dry, 1/2 the wet, 1/3 dry. See? Easy.

Second: All of your ingredients should be room temperature. Yes, this sometimes means letting your milk and eggs sit out for HOURS but that's fine. They won't spoil, believe me. I've left them out over night or all day while I'm working, which usually means up to 10 hours of warming up. If you don't have that much time, get them as close as possible but don't use your microwave. Break eggs and put them in a cup or at least take them out of the carton. Measure out your milk - a half-cup warms up much quicker than a half-gallon. Slice up your butter - the more surface area exposed the quicker it will come to temperature. Do this even for box mixes.

Third: Sift. Sift! SIFT! Whether scratch baking or using a mix, you'll want to sift all of your dry ingredients together. Even if you're using pre-sifted flour, sift it. I usually sift my flour into a bowl first, then measure out the amount that I need. Then I sift all my other ingredients, whisk them around, and sift them at least one more time. You'll want to sift them after they've been combined. It makes everything much lighter and fluffier. Do this even for box mixes.

Fourth: Try to avoid over/under baking, but also avoid opening your oven much during baking, especially during the first half of your bake time. Of course this just comes with much practice but it will help keep your cakes from sinking. To help with this, preheat your oven after measuring all of your ingredients. If it beeps while you are mixing, turn it off! Then wait until you are filling your pans to re-preheat. Doing this ensures that you are putting your cake in the oven when it is at 350 degrees, not 350 or 360.

Fifth: Once your cake comes out of the oven, give them 10 minutes to cool before flipping. If I end up with a cake with a dome on top, I flip mine face down on a plate and then reinvert them face up, on parchment paper, on my cooling rack. If they have a dome, resting on it can cause your otherwise would be flat bottom to sink or crack. Using parchment paper on your cooling rack will prevent your cake from having lines across it: this is a cake and not a steak, after all.

Speaking of domes,  I HIGHLY reccommend spending money (although it's not much) on baking strips. You can read here why I think this.

After you have flipped them, you can freeze them directly if that is your plan, or leave them out to cool, but you don't have to cool them completely before freezing. And yes, freezing is fine for cakes and does not hurt them. Of course if you leave them in there for days they will not be day one fresh, but they will still be good.

Sixth: Before you stack and decorate, you will need to level your cake. You can do this with a bread knife or, my favorite, a cake leveler from the store. These are inexpensive, easy to use and work really well. This gives you a blank canvas on which to begin your art.

Alright newbies, I hope these tips help you! I'll post some more tips later on the basics of filling a cake/cupcakes, how to get smooth icing, and some other decorating basics (read decorating cheats).

 Bake on, cakers.