Monday, August 20, 2012

Amber: Master Chef/Baker Extraordinaire!

Please excuse the different photo sizes. My blogger is having issues with adding photos. Also, these crappy pictures were taken with my phone so they aren't the best!

I haven't posted much this summer because I've been trying to keep at my resolutions and GET OFF MY BUTT. I've been cleaning like a nesting mother, baking, practicing cake decorating, painting, drawing, working out, losing weight, etc. First things first, if you have any serious notions about becoming a professional cake decorator, DO NOT take the Wilton cake decorating classes. The beginner class will cost you about $80 bucks, more if you don't have supplies, and you only get 4 sessions. In those sessions they teach you how to do some things (if the teacher can find the time to stop by your seat in the cramped little classroom), give you bad tasting recipes, and ask you to buy more Wilton products.

If you've ever baked and decorated a cupcake or a cake, this class is not for you. Instead of spending all of that money on a class, try a few books and YouTube videos. Resources on the web for cake decorating are endless, and if there's something you can't find just ask me and I'll help. I'll leave some links to my recommendations at the bottom of the blog post.

If you have taste buds, don't use the Wilton recipe for buttercream. My 14 year old nephew tasted it and spat it out. Do everyone a favor, and back away from the Crisco. So far I've learned that Crisco is excellent for having smooth glossy icing, but it tastes bad and leaves a greasy feeling in your mouth. Butter is my choice, because anything I make better taste good and buttercream does. I threw the Crisco & Meringue powder "buttercream" away. Also, Wilton would have you buy a ~$6 can of meringue powder to make their buttercream. It's nasty. It's supposed to help so you can make icing similar to Swiss Meringue icing without using egg whites, and apparently can last for up to 4 months just sitting on the counter.

And you wonder why it tastes bad...

Fresh is best!! I have yet to make Swiss Meringue; I plan on trying it on my next practice cake. But for now, I recommend this very yummy and smooth buttercream icing recipe. When I start something new, I usually jump in head first. Which means at one point in the beginning I say, "Holy cow. What am I doing??!" Surprise, Surprise, the same thing happened with my first cake.

What's that? You'd like to see a picture? SURE! Let's all giggle at my fabulous mistake!




So this is how it started out. It was beautiful, I was happy and excited. I mean, It looks so pretty just sitting there!




This is what it turned out to look like. Nephew said, "It's like dead Pacman, cause it's pinkish purple colored." I rolled my eyes and told him it was Ombre, fading from purple to ivory. He looked at me as if I was speaking a different language. To make it an official Pacman, he used chocolate syrup for an eye.

Turns out, if your filling isn't thick like a jelly or curd, you're totally screwed. It doesn't matter how much icing you put on that cake as a dam, it's gonna go *squish* and get all runny on your masterpiece. My first round of homemade blueberry filling went in the trash because of this. My second round I used cornstarch and Sure Jell. It's much better!! A lot of people like to use jelly and pudding. Whatever floats your boat. Personally jelly is too sweet for me, and pudding too bland. If you do use jelly, heat the jar up a little bit so the jelly will spread easier.

My next goal was to practice iced flowers and borders, so I got to it. I really liked that part!! It speaks to my artsy side! Just to note, whenever you color your icing or fondant use toothpicks, BUT use a different toothpick for every color. Also use food color GEL. (Wilton is actually a pretty good brand for that, but you can find many good brands on amazon.com.) If you mix the colors in the jar, the gel colors will get contaminated and must be thrown away. Or else mold will form and you'll get sued for giving someone moldy icing. Time for some more pictures!!

I was supposed to make little rosettes... I made pretty blue flower things instead.



Personally I think they're prettier than rosettes. I would tell you which tip I used.. but I honestly have no idea. *Note to self: write that stuff down!

My nephew is an apprentice cake decorator now...




And now the border, which took me an hour just to get this far. Apparently I was doing it wrong, following Wilton's directions. Thanks, YouTube!!






Now it's time for the last practice cake I made. I did MUCH better with this one. The filling was jellied and the cake baked and torted. To torte a cake is to cut off the rounded top and cut through the middle. Basically it creates a nice level surface for fillings and icings. I made my delicious buttercream icing and started icing the cake!



Look at that!!!! Isn't it just the most wondrous thing you've ever seen??

I took it slow and steady, and eventually, out came a success! Just look at this beautiful smooth cake.

The best way to ice a cake is to have it on a turntable like the cheap one mine is on. Grab an offset spatula and turn and ice. Again, YouTube is the place to go for good video. Just search, "how to ice a cake". You can also Google for good results. Once it's been iced, or "crumb coated" let it sit out for 10-20 minutes until the icing is dry to the touch. Cut some parchment paper that will fit over the top, another piece that will be wide enough for the sides, and a fondant smoother. Now, take the top parchment piece, lay it on the top of the cake, and use the fondant smoother on top to smooth the icing underneath. Do the same for the sides. Sorry I don't have a picture of that! Just keep smoothing until you get the results you want. Be careful not to push too hard, you could make a dent.
That's all I've got for right now!! I'll go ahead and list some recommendations for beginner cake decorating!
  1. YouTube
  2. My pinterest, I have a board called I <3 Wedding Cakes. http://pinterest.com/chickzyj/
  3. Books (can be found on Amazon): The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating by Autumn Carpenter
    The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible by Lindy Smith
    Almost any books by Christie Matheson, She owns a cool bakery called Confetti Cakes, she knows what she's doing.
  4. BLOGS!!! There are a million amazing blogs out there with equally amazing people (like me) that are willing to help a brotha' out.
If any of you ever need help, just comment or send me a message!