Category: Cake decorating

How to stack a square cake


Square stacked cake

I wish I had a £1 for every time Tim walked into the kitchen and told me that my cake wasn’t straight! It’s one of those things that I just can’t see. You should see the shelves in my house! If left to me they would all be wonky. I can’t even put the oven shelves back into the oven horizontally! So stacking a cake doesn’t come easily to me! There I said it.

Over the years I have learnt how to improve my technique and get a good result but it’s still work in progress. I kind of go with the thinking that once the cake is finished and decorated a few degrees off (as that is all it usually is) won’t show. What do you think? This is the last stacked cake I made. It was for my lovely friends daughters birthday. More on that in the next post.

 

How to stack a square cakeStacking a square cake

Start with your cakes leveled, buttercreamed and covered in sugarpaste. This is the trick. If you start with a straight cake your stacking will be a doddle! I use the side scraper (as shown in this post) to get the buttercream sides straight and at 90º angles which helps a lot. Then use spacers to get the sugarpaste rolled out to the same thickness.

 

Stacking a square cake

Use a small amount of Royal icing in the centre of your cake board to secure the first cake in place.

 

measure the cake in place

Once the cake is in place check that it is central using a tape measure or ruler. Give it a gentle push till you are happy.

 

Stacking a square cake

If you need to move the cake to reposition it do so soon after covering it as the sugarpaste will still be soft and any pushing and prodding can be removed with a cake smoother.

 

Stacking a square cake

Insert dowling posts (I use Plastic Cake Dowels  but you can still get wooden Dowels too) Try to push them in as vertically as possible making sure you leave enough space between them to give support to the cake to be stacked but not so far that they will be outside of the size of the next layer.

 

Stacking a square cake

Mark each dowel where it hits the sugarpaste then carefully remove it. Cut the dowel at that mark. I use scissors and work my way around the post. Be careful that the last snip doesn’t send your dowel careering off in the direction of the cake! Been there. Done that!

 

 

How to stack a square cake

Re- insert the dowels into the cake. They should be just visible from the top, so the next cake can sit comfortably on them without squishing the base cake. It’s okay if they sit in the sugarpaste a little.  The dowels are really important when stacking heavy cakes or lots of tiers. Not only does it give you a secure stack but it prevents the base cake from becoming squished down and solid. I’ve had that happen before when I  made a 6 layer rainbow cake from Madeira cake. The bottom two layers were only about 1″ thick at the start and by the time the cake was cut they were half that size! Sugarpaste is heavy! I should have put a thin cake board in between layers 3 and 4 and used dowels.

 

How to stack a square cake

Add a small amount of Royal icing over each dowel and add your next cake.

 

How to stack a square cake

As with the first tier, check that the cake is central using a measuring tape then smooth out any finger prints. The Royal icing will hold the cake in position.

 

gap cake

Sometimes there is a little gap between the layers if the cake isn’t perfectly flat or the dowels stick out too much at one point. You can correct and hide this with small rolls of sugarpaste or you can pipe Royal icing into the gap. If you are adding ribbon and it will be hidden then I wouldn’t do anything. A ribbon the same colour as the icing will hide a multitude of sins.

 

How to stack a square cake

To check if your cake is straight use a spirit level (one just for cake decorating- I have this pink one as I know Tim won’t nick it!) I place a scraper on the top of the cake to prevent it leaving too many marks. If it’s way off being straight then you can carefully lift the cake- as long as the Royal icing underneath it is still wet, and place a small ball off sugarpaste underneath the board until it is level. Again, you can pipe white icing into the gap between the base cake and the cake board of the next tier.

 

How to stack a square cakeFinally add ribbon to the cake securing it in place at the back with a small amount of Royal icing. Try not to touch it while that Royal icing is drying as it is a bit temperamental!

To add ribbon to the cake board I use a Pritt stick all the way around the board.

 

EmmaMT

 

 

Country Homes & Interiors and the Easter cake

Country Homes & Interiors cakeAs a part time cake decorator/blogger, full time interior stylist and full on mum I am always busy. This week has been mental!

  • To start with I have been organising a big, three day Christmas shoot for next week (Yes I did say the ‘C’ word and yes I know it’s March!!!)
  • I’ve been playing around with a Red velvet cupcake recipe for a friends, daughter’s birthday which were very chocolatey and not very red – but were delish and disappeared in record time! I didn’t even get a photo of them!
  • And I’ve been playing about with this white chocolate mud cake recipe – which on the first attempt came out really solid and very heavy (and yes I did still eat it!)
  • But the highlight of my week has to be the fact that one of my cakes has appeared in print!

Easter in November

Back in November when most people are thinking about Christmas I was in full on Easter mode -the world of magazines really is a crazy one! My friend Claire who is the Assistant Editor in Design at Country Homes and Interiors magazine asked if I would make a cake for one of their shoots. It was a no brainer really! I gladly made the cake for the stylist (the very talented Carol Wortley Bishop – check out her beautiful work here) so that it fitted in with her shoot perfectly.  It was to be pale blue, covered in flowers and have little eggs dotted around. Carol  already had a cute little nest to sit on the top of the cake. It looked really sweet and I was bowled over when I saw the feature in the current issue (Page 64 of the April 2013 issue if you’re interested?). At this point I have to say a big thank you to my Dad for delivering it into London for me- Thanks Poopah.x

Country Homes & Interiors

So, now for sharing the recipe and decorating tips. My plan was always to talk through how I decorated the cake for the magazine and have an alternative option for anyone who didn’t want the full on iced version. I wanted the cakes to look beautiful and pretty and I planned the flowers to the point of obsession. Then with my crazy, busy schedule I didn’t get round to decorating the smaller cake when the girls were at school. That means one thing and one thing only. I get to have some help in the form of a 6 year old Darcey. That’s where I had to let go of my perfectionism and I just let her go with the flow. I really can’t resist a “Can I help?”from a little person.

I had already topped the cake with a circle of yellow sugarpaste and the flowers (learn how to make them here) were all dried and ready to add to the cake. Darcey decided that she would make a Daisy circle and when she ran out of Daisy’s she carried on with pink and white blossoms. In all I think she did a really great job. Not quite what I had in mind but it made her so happy I was happy too.

slice of mud cake

 

Recipe for White Chocolate Mud cake

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 300g good quality white chocolate (but you can swap it for milk or dark chocolate if you prefer)- broken up into small pieces
  • 270ml water
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature and beaten
  • 1 tea spoon of vanilla essenceWhite Chocolate Mud cake

How to make the White Chocolate Mud cake

  1. Line a 9″ round baking tin (or 8″ square) and heat your oven to 160ºC ( 140ºC fan) 
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the chocolate. Once all melted add the water and stir away from the heat until it is all well combined. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl measure the flour and sugar then add the chocolate mix, eggs and vanilla essence and mix until just combined. Make sure you don’t over mix it.
  4. Place the batter into the cake tin and bake for 1½ hours. The cake is done when it is a light golden colour, domed in the middle and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the tin.
  6. Decorate to your taste and enjoy!
  7. For instructions on how to create the flowers please check out this postWhite Chocolate Mud cake recipe

EmmaMT

 

How to make simple sugarpaste flowers

1. How to make sugarpaste flowers

I’ve been making these simple flowers for my cakes for years. In fact I am pretty sure these were the very first plunger cutters I ever bought. That was back at the start. Now I have tons of different shapes and styles of cutters and all because they are really easy to use and create the best effects. All you need is a little imagination and you can do all sorts of things with them.

These flowers are a doddle to make as I will show you below. I tend to make a ton in one go as they are quite brittle and I’m very good at breaking them, but also because they keep for ages in an air tight container (indefinitely really if you keep them dry) and they are great to have to hand when you make a cake in a hurry.

 

How to make sugarpaste flowers

2. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

These blossom cutters are the most commonly available. They come in a set of 4 and are available from Amazon (see them on this link Flower Blossom Cutter Plunger). I use this shape on it’s own and layer them up using really thin fondant. The tiny one makes very cute flowers that are really easy to break but look so cute on a cake. They are also perfect centres for other flower shapes.

 

3. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

The daisy cutters are really good for lots of different looks. If you layer the same size flower up so the petals overlap eachother they look really pretty but you can also layer  up different sizes, add a small blossom flower in the centre or as I have done above, add small yellow circles (also done with a plunger cutter) to make them look like a traditional daisy. (See these cutters on Amazon on this link  Daisy Cutter Plunger)

 

4. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

The first step is to roll out your sugarpaste on a hard surface. The reason for this is that once you have cut out the flower it will stick to the plunger. Before you lift the plunger up away from the surface, move it from side to side a little. This removes any burrs of sugarpaste that remain. Alternatively, you can gently wipe your finger across the bottom of the plunger to get the same result. The idea is to have nice sharp edges with no fuzzy bits.

 

5. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

Press the plunger to release the flower. If it sticks give it a shake and next time very lightly dust the flower part of the cutter with icing sugar.

It’s a really good idea to get your hands on an artists palette. I’ve had loads of these over the years and my favorites are always the ones with deep recesses. This little 6 hole one is my latest addition. Just 79p from Hobbycraft. By placing the flower inside the recess of the palette you give the petals shape. You don’t have to shape the flowers though. They still look good when they are flat.

 

 

6. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

To layer up the flowers add a tiny amount of water to the centre of each flower. Sugarpaste is very sticky when wet so you really don’t need much.

 

7. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

When adding the next flower position the plunger directly over the centre of the base flower and push gently into it to create a firm connection between the two layers. You can stop there or keep on going- adding more flowers. Remember that the thinner the sugarpaste the better the flower will look.

The flowers now need to be left overnight to harden up enough to handle. They will be fragile so use a dry paintbrush to dislodge one side of the flower when you are ready to remove them and they should just slide out of the palette easily.

 

8. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

The end result…. but we’re not finished!

 

9. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

Once hardened the flower can be attached to cakes. You can add them as they are onto cupcakes but when I add them onto celebration cakes I add a small finishing touch. Add a small dab of royal icing onto the back of the flower. If you add too much it will squidge out and show from the front and it will also mean the flower is likely to slip slide down the cake.  Add just a tiny dot the size of the base of the back of the flower. Position the flower on the cake and hold it in place with your finger for around 30 seconds. That’s all it takes for it to stick.

 

10. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

The finishing touch is a tiny dab of royal icing in the centre of the flower. This can be any colour and it really finishes off the flowers.

 

11. How to make sugarpaste flowers.jpg

And there you have it. Simple yet effective sugarpaste flowers.

 

EmmaMT

 

p.s. I have used sugarpaste but you can also use modelling paste or flower paste in exactly the same way. The flowers will harden much quicker.

How to make a Minecraft birthday cake

 

Minecraft Birthday cake

Have you heard of Minecraft? I hadn’t until recently. It’s a computer game that the boys in Beau’s class are really into. I went from being completely clueless to having two Minecraft cakes to make in as many weeks! I really didn’t know where to start with this cake. It needed to have loads of slices. When I make cakes for friends (especially Beau’s little friends) I like to create enough cake for the party guests AND  for the family to have some at home. Tim had the great idea of creating layers after I showed him screen grabs of  what the game looked like. Genius I thought.

How to make a Minecraft Birthday cake

Minecraft cake

 I started off by baking two Chocolate Madeira cakes (the large one was an 8″ and the small one was a 6″- I made double the recipe here and split it between the two tins)

Minecraft Birthday cake

The smaller cake was cut up so that I had two ‘L’ shaped cakes to create the steps. I think it’s probably a bit obvious where the two left over cake pieces went – yep straight onto my hips!

 

 

Minecraft Birthday cake

Check that the cakes sit nicely on top of each other. Too small and it will be hard to cover them, too big and the cake won’t be stepped enough.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Hopefully you will have covered your cake board with sugarpaste a week (or at least a few days) in advance.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Slice the large cake in two and fill with chocolate buttercream (the recipe for which is on this post). Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of buttercream then position the green rolled out sugarpaste over the cake. Smooth until as flat as is possible. Remove the excess sugarpaste and secure the cake on the cake board with a little royal icing.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Cover both the ‘L’ shaped pieces of cake by coating first in buttercream then sugarpaste. Don’t try and slice it in half to put buttercream in the centre. It’s very fiddly and messy and doesn’t work on such a small piece. The buttercream used to coat the cake and make the sugarpaste stick will moisten the cake enough.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Smooth the sugarpaste with a cake smoother and use a spoon to get into those awkward internal corners.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Position the larger of the ‘L’s onto the cake with Royal icing. Then repeat with the second ‘L’ shape.

Minecraft Birthday cake

To make the individual pixels squares – roll out the three shades of sugarpaste. If you do all three at the same time they will be relatively the same thickness.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Use a square cutter to press out lots and lots of squares all the same size. These are going to be the floor.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Secure each square pixel to the floor by dampening it with a paintbrush. Don’t use too much water as it will stain the cake. Dry off the excess water from the brush on the side of the pot first.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Add pixels on each level where there is a floor till you have done all three.

Minecraft Birthday cake

I tried to make the model of Mini Josh for the cake look like him and also look pixelated at the same time. I cut out cubes and rectangles in sugarpaste with the relevant cutters and used tooth picks in his legs and into his body to hold him secure. This also meant that once he had been made I could stand him up and push the tooth picks into a polystyrene fake cake and left him there leaning against box to dry for a while. (A couple of days- it’s a good idea to make the model when you cover the cake board) Minecraft Birthday cake

Use a little royal icing to secure the model to the cake. The toothpicks can only do so much.

Minecraft Birthday cake

Finally add your wording .

Minecraft Birthday cakeHey, Presto! One Minecraft cake!

enjoy! 

Amelia’s Brightly coloured birthday cake

bright birthday cake

This is a cake I made for Amelia who is in Darcey’s class. It was for her sleepover party and we (the mum’s of the party goers) were all informed that Amelia wanted everyone to wear bright colours, so it stands to reason that the cake was going to be nice and bright as well.

Amelia is a proper cutie. I actually thought she was going to be 6 as she is so weeny next to Darcey. Good job I checked! She has this super cute voice and wears her hair in bunches all the time and that’s where the idea for the little Amelia model came from. It was also the picture on her birthday invite which made things a little easier for me!

girls bright birthday cake

I wanted to keep things pretty simple for this cake and let the bold colours stand out, so, I made up loads of little square presents in sugarpaste then added ribbons in a contrasting colour. The bows on top were made using a silicoln mould. You can get them on Amazon. I just did a search for my one which is a Karen Davies Ballerina Ballet Mould and found a load of others that would be perfect. I really like the   Three piece JEM Bows Cutter Set . I think that would come in very handy!

named cake

To finish off the bottom I wrote Amelia’s name in thick sugarpaste and left it to dry for about 30 minutes. I like letters to still be quite malleable when I attach them to the cake so that they can bend with any curves. But they need to be firm enough to stand up. I use a little royal icing to hold them onto the cake.

edging a birthday cake

Rather than using ribbon along the base of the cake I made little balls of coloured sugarpaste.

To make sure each ball was the same size I rolled out the sugarpaste – using spacer bars, then used a circle cutter to cut out however many balls I needed in each colour. Because it’s a measured roll out I know that each ball uses the same amount of sugarpaste and therefore once rolled in my hands they’ll all be the same size. All that’s left is to attach each one to the cake board with a little royal icing.

EmmaMT

P.S. Sorry all you love birds. This is a Valentine free zone! But I still love you all. x

Cake kit: The Side Scraper

I’ve decided to start a series of posts on my essential cake decorating kit. When I first started decorating cakes I only had a few tools of the trade, but as time goes on, and you get chatting to other decorators and helpful shop assistants  and you learn about these clever little gadgets that make a job much easier and your cakes look more professional. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing my favorites with you with the hope that they will make your life easier too!

The Side Scraper

side scraper

Have you ever tried to do a buttercream coating on a cake and wanted to get it perfectly straight? By straight I mean at a 90º angle.  I am totally useless at seeing if things are straight – you should see the shelves I put up at home! So I find it really hard to see when a cake looks right. Well ,this nifty tool does it for you. What’s more it’s less than a fiver. Money seriously well spent.

I hadn’t seen one of these before. I always used my Plain Edge Side Scraper  but never really got the hang of getting the cakes to be really straight. There’s far too much room for error! My local cake shop(Cake Craft World)  has a You Tube channel which I found out about in their newsletter. I checked out the video on ‘How to cut and fill a sponge cake on YouTube and saw Louise using this metal edged side scraper and knew I had to have one.  It took me about 5 trips to the cake shop to remember to buy it as usually I go into the shop with a list for boxes, boards, icing and cutters for whatever cake I am about to make and I kept on forgetting to buy the scraper. Then by luck I was chatting to Sue and I remembered and I haven’t looked back since. Sue also showed me a taller scraper for the really big cakes. I really wished I had bought it as I had a 7 tier cake to decorate last weekend and it would have been really useful.

Anyway, the way the scraper works is simple.

Side scraper

Give your filled cake a layer of buttercream on the outside edge.

Press the side scraper against the cake and drag it around the circumference, ensuring the bottom angle is flat on the surface the entire time.

Side scraper

Look how easy that is!
Side scraper

Et Voila! A nice and straight edged cake without any fuss.

Side scraperI mean really. This is as 90ºs as it gets!

You can get a ‘Perfect Angle side scraper’ from your nearest cake decorating shop or check out my fav cake shop for theirs. Here’s the link to it on their website!

enjoy.

EmmaMT

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