Category: Cake decorating

The Cake Decorating Bible – book review

The Cake Decorating Bible- book review

If you’re into baking and cake decorating then you’ve probably heard of Fancy Nancy. She (Juliet Sbear) is so amazing. Her cakes are simply stunning which is why  The Cake Decorating Bible: Simple steps to creating beautiful cupcakes, biscuits, birthday cakes and more, by Ebury Press is such a great book. She shares with us all her hints and tips and makes it all look soooo easy. After doing a short course at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, Juliet went on to work at The Little Venice Cake Company. After 18 months she set up her own cake business from home and the rest, as they say is history.

” Above and beyond everything this book is full of practical know how on creating shop quality cakes in your own home” Juliet says and boy is she right.

 

So, what’s in the book?

The Contents

Introduction, Cake Jargon and supplies, Equipment and tools. Preparation: Cakes and cookie basics.

As you would expect these sections are bursting full of tips and advice from how to line a cake tin to what different terms are.

The Cake Decorating Bible- piping bag

Recipes

Juliet’s sponge recipes are devised so that the cakes are firm and can take the weight of marzipan and icing. Perfect for decorating.  They include Very Vanilla, (complete with measurements for different sized tins) Rich Belgian chocolate truffle cake, Lemon Drizzle sponge, Rich boozy fruit cake, Chocolate cup cakes, zesty orange cupcakes, and basic vanilla cookies (which I will be having a go at this weekend).

book review

Fillings and coverings

When you see a picture like this bowl of fresh raspberry and strawberry buttercream don’t you just want a spoon to lick? The recipes in this section are just mouth watering – lemon, orange and belgian chocolate ganache buttercreams. There are also tips and advice on using Royal icing and fondant icing, pouring ganache and chocolate paste.

Buttercream. Yum Yum

Layering and contructing cakes

I wish I had this book years ago as I had no idea how to slice a cake in two when I started. I had so many lopsided cakes! The detailed explanations and clear steps with the photos here would have made my life SO much easier back then.

These pages make this book worthwhile more than anything else. It’s one of the hardest things I find to do.

Cake decoration book

Icing cakes

Here you’ll find a really handy chart for how much marzipan or sugarpaste you’ll need for different sized cakes. Fab steps showing how to cover a cake with marzipan, buttercream, Royal icing, as well as how to cover cupcakes – whether smoothing or piping. There are also lots of clever hints and tips for when dealing with chocolate paste and ganache.

Decorating cakes and cookies

Whether you are making cookies covered in royal icing, a wedding cake covered in flowers or big celebration cake bursting with cookies, this is where you’ll find the right technique to use – not to mention the inspiration. There’s a section on moulding -including silicone push moulds (as seen below) embossing, how to make roses and other types of flowers as well as ideas for cookies, cupcakes, mini cakes, single tier cakes, modelling and multi-tier cakes

Moulded flowers

This is just one of the cookie inspirations that I have fallen in love with (below) in the book. These cute dress cookies use edible printed sheets. Such a simple idea – yet so effective. I’m dreaming up a design for in the future. I have to use them.

Printed icing

I love the simplicity of the stacked cake designs. I have a cake stand like this one below. I just wish I could get married again (to Tim of course!) so I could have another wedding cake to decorate just like this! Stacked cake

Roses cake

Caketastrophies

The last chapter that I have to mention is the Caketastrophies. As Juliet mentions, not many books like this give you advice on what to do when it all goes wrong. It happens to all of us at some point or another and the tips here are really useful. Like – do you know how to remove a rogue air bubble? Or what to do when your cake developes hairline cracks? Well Juliet shares all in this chapter.

 

So to sum up

This book is a great all rounder. It has plenty of advice for a novice and expert baker alike. The cakes and cookies are original as are the recipes. It’s very inspirational. I also really like the way the page headers have been shot. It’s the care and attention to detail that makes this book practical and beauful all in one.

8/10

 

EmmaMT

How to make a Mario and Yoshie Birthday Cake

Mario cake

When my friend Nicole asked me if I would make her son Oliver a Mario and Yoshi birthday cake I of course said “yes”. Then I quickly scoured Google images to find out exactly who Yoshi was!  I’ve had a few cake requests recently for computer games I’ve never heard of ( I know who Mario is) but Yoshi? Minecraft? If it’s not Rock stars or dressing up games (both proper girly ones) the chances are I won’t have heard of it.

Nicole told me what Oliver liked about the game and I got to work doing some drawings so she could choose which design was best. She liked the giant toadstool which I have to admit was my favorite of all the styles I had in mind too.

How to make the toadstool cake

I baked two round madeira cakes – a 7″ -for the base and a 10″ for the domed top.

For the dome

Mario birthday cake

This cake (the 10″) came out of the oven very domed but for this design that was just fine! I evened out the lumps and bumps with a bread knife to create as smooth a dome as possible, then cut it in half and filled it with raspberry jam and buttercream. Give the whole cake a thin crumb coating of buttercream. Pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

Mario and Yoshi cake

Once the crumb coating is firm add another slightly thicker buttercream coating and smooth it as much as possible. Place the cake on a thin 10″ cake board and secure in place with a small amount of royal icing.

Knead the red sugarpaste till it is nice and malleable. When ready place the cake on a tin which is smaller than the 10″ cake board so that the rolled out icing will hang over the edge.  That way you can cut off the excess and tuck the bottom bits of sugarpaste under and the cake board  won’t show at all.

To make the baseMario cake


Take the 7″ cake and cut it in half so you can add the buttercream and jam filling.  Level the top off so that is it VERY flat. Use a spirit level to check that it is otherwise you will either have a) a lopsided toadstool, b) it will fall over or c)your husband will walk in while you’re finishing off your iced cake and say “You know it’s not level, don’t you?” like Tim always does! Either way this is the time to make sure it’s really level. My cake was level – it’s just on a slanted plate! 

Give the cake a crumb coating and then a nice smooth buttercream coating before you cover it with white sugarpaste. Cut off the excess sugarpaste then get the sides as smooth as possible.

Position the base cake on your cake board, securing with some royal icing.

How to decorate the Toadstool cake mario birthday cake

To stack the dome on top of the base cake first insert some dowels. I use Plastic Cake Dowels  like these ones from Amazon. You only need around 3 to support the top cake. Before I added the dome I decorated the side of the cake so that I could do all the fiddly bits without it being in the way, like adding the blades of grass, eyes and flowers. Only then did I add a little royal icing to the top of the base cake and then positioned the dome on top.

I usually make the models when I cover the cake boards  – a week before the cake needs to be finished, but if I am completely honest I really avoided this one as I had no idea how I was going to make Mario actually look like Mario! but once I got started I was off and really enjoyed it. The little toadstools and stars were also fun to make.

The last job was to add the circles to the top of the toadstool which I did by dampening the white sugarpaste circles I had cut out.

Sugarpaste Mario and Yoshi

Yoshi, Mario and the mini toadstools were all secured in place with a little sugarpaste. Then the wording was iced and the ribbon was added to the cake board.

Mario birthday cakeThe cake was a big surprise for Oliver and I think he was chuffed to bits when Nicole presented it to him.

EmmaMT

How to make a Lego Birthday cake

Beau is really into Lego. I mean REALLY into it. It’s all she want’s to do first thing in the morning. We bought her Olivia’s House for her birthday a couple of weeks ago and she has been dressed and ready for school by 7am every morning so she can play with it until it’s time to leave.

She’s always liked the regular ‘old school’ stuff that Tim used to play with when he was kid, but since the prettyLEGO Friends  girly Lego came out she has a new-found love. What was a collection of red, white, brown and black bricks has now been added to with pinks, lilacs, purples and oranges. So much more femme.  She creates houses, hotels, beds, kitchens. You name it for a house and she has probably fashioned it out of Lego. So for her 9th birthday it was no brainer what she wanted her cake to be.

The Lego cake

I decided that as there weren’t too many friends coming along to her cinema trip birthday celebration I would do what I did with her cake last year and make individual cakes for all the guests. One large purple Lego brick was for Beau and each friend had their own smaller (but still decent size) mini cake to take home.

How to make a Lego cake

The Cake Board

For this cake I decided the best way to set it out was to have one large rectangular drum board (16″x 14 “) for all the small thin boards (4″x4″) to sit on. I only iced the top half of the board so that the smaller ones would sit perfectly alongside each other without moving around too much.

To get the Lego look on the cake boards I tried out a few techniques but the one I had the most success with was using the top of a Lego base board to imprint divits into the sugarpaste. Ideally I would have liked to have had those little Lego dots sticking out on the top but the sugarpaste just wouldn’t come out of the board evenly and it just looked messy. So I used the reverse look. No-one seemed to mind- not even Beau.

Once the icing was rolled out and adhered to the board with a damp sponge I placed the largest Lego base board I could get my hands on and pressed it into the sugarpaste. (I should mention here that I did give it a really good clean first. You know how mucky kids can be!) I measured 8” from the non-sugarpasted side and cut a straight line across, removing any excess before leaving it to dry out.

For the smaller boards I used the same method only I placed the cake board under the sugarpaste and smoothed it with my hands. The excess was only removed after the Lego imprints were made as the sugarpaste tends to squidge out at the sides as you press or roller the divits in. 

To shape a Lego cake

I started off with two square cakes, which were leveled and sliced into even rectangles. 

When shaping chocolate cake it can be a bit of a nightmare. My recipe is so fresh that it just crumbles as you touch it. I often try to leave a chocolate cake over night before I shape it or add buttercream to avoid the crumb nightmare that usually ensues!

But I made this cake in the morning and had to decorate it in the evening. To combat the crumbling effect I placed the shaped cakes in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes to let them firm up a little.

I made sure that the chocolate buttercream was softer than usual by adding a little extra milk. This makes it easier to apply to the cakes with a pallette knife. I didn’t worry too much about making it neat. I just covered each cake and popped it in the fridge to firm up.

In hindsight I wish I had placed a layer of buttercream in a middle layer but I have a sneaking suspicion that the cakes really would have ended up as mush! 

Once they have been chilled cover each cake with sugarpaste. Smooth each side and make each corner as square as possible. Remove the excess and set to one side. 

To make the tops of the bricks I used my circle plungers and ‘stuck’ each one down with a touch of Royal icing.

Each Brick was positioned onto it’s baseboard with some Royal icing. Some facing front, some to one side to add a little interest. 

Names were added to each cake.

I then positioned the mini boards onto the large one, again using royal icing to hold them in place.

At the very last minute I decided that the cake needed something else so I made a Lego Beau. She loved it and she is sitting on our kitchen window sill right now.

After we sang happy birthday each cake was individually wrapped up and given with the goodie bags.

I like doing these individual cakes for birthday parties. It feels extra special for everyone to have their very own cake. Don’t you think?

EmmaMT

The dinosaur birthday cake

Last week I had a reader asking if I had ever made a dinosaur cake and if I had any advice on how to approach one. It took me back to one of the very first large cakes I ever made. Now I know that I keep saying that “this was one of the first cakes that I made” but this really was! I checked the date and I made it in September 2009!

It was back when Tim suggested that I offer to make cakes for any birthday parties the girls were invited to. I didn’t really plan my cakes back then. I just baked and hacked them into shape. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes Dinosaurs had wonky mouths! Up until this point all the cakes I had made were pretty small. This one just grew and grew, but it is a dinosaur so it should be pretty big! Don’t you think?

I decided that the easiest way to get the shape and have lots of cake to eat would be to have the dino lying down. I made the red spines and left them to dry over night. After shaping the Stegosaurus (just in case you can’t tell that’s what it is!) and covering him in green sugarpaste I tried to attach the spines. They just wouldn’t stick in place. So I had to use tons more royal icing than I had planned just to get them to stick and stay upright. In the end I used long pieces of scrunched up cling film to position the spines and keep them in place while the royal icing dried. I taped the cling film to the table at each end and left it to dry over night. When I lifted the film out of place I held my breath. It worked.  Phfew!

All that green royal icing kind of spoilt the look, so I used a cake decorating paint brush and brown food colour to draw on scales all over the beast. This gave him a more rugged look. Then all I had to do was add his eyes and mouth.

When it came to the cake board I wanted him to be sitting in a kind of forresty nest, so I cut up some ivy leaves in sugarpaste with plunger cutters in two or three different shades of green and laid them so it looked like they were sticking out from underneath him.

I also made a nest complete with marzipan eggs. I did this by creating a ring of marzipan which was covered in ivy leaves. Then the eggs just sat in the centre.

It’s funny when you look back at cakes you made at the beginning of your learning.   I see lots of things I would do differently now. But, that’s hindsight and a whole lot more experience for you isn’t it?

EmmaMT

My rainbow birthday cake

Last week was my birthday and in true Emma tradition I got so crazy busy with work and kids and other stuff that I was  running out of time to make the ‘Dr Pepper drink can’ shaped cake that I’d dream of making for my party? (I’m addicted to the stuff – but that cake will have to wait till next year!) So, what did I do? In a word (or two)  I kept it simple!

I decided that as time wasn’t on my side I would just make a really tall Madeira cake with different coloured rainbow layers inside. It was inspired by Dahlias 1st  birthday cake. When each cake came out of the oven it looked just like the one before! The outside had browned and I had no idea what the colours were going to look like on the inside. I just hoped that they would be pretty different. As it turned out they were, but, when you’re adding the food colouring you never know!Once I had stacked the cake and given it a layer of buttercream I covered it with the pale blue sugarpaste and added dots all over it with a few ’40’s’ for good measure. I got these circle cutters at the Bake show earlier in the year and I can’t stop using them. They’re great for jazzing up a plain cake in a jiffy and are so easy and fun to use.

The cake sat on the food table all night until the “Happy birthday” chorus began.  When I cut into it there was such a great reaction from the crowd. It really made me smile! Gasps of “Look at the colours/layers/size!” came from my friends.  Well, I couldn’t have the cake completely plain, now could I? Thank goodness the colours worked and actually turned out much prettier than I expected!

The slices were so tall that each piece had to be cut in half. And guess who didn’t even get a crumb? Yep me! It’s a good thing that my Mum made me a cake for my family celebration meal the following night. I had plenty of that cake and as I’ve said before. My Mum’s Madeira cake really is the best in the world, but mine looks pretty good too!

So, who knows what’s in store for the year ahead? As they say life begins at 40, so watch this space!

EmmaMT

Twitter and the horse birthday cake

Horse birthday cake
Sometimes when I  look back at the cakes I’ve done, I can’t believe how many I’ve made. Today when I was looking through my cake pictures trying to decide which one to write about I found this horse cake I did for the Editor of Elle magazine.

I should back track a little first.  I first got into Twitter after a much needed lesson from the Web team at Woman and Home magazine! I sat directly behind the lovely web girls and would listen to them all day talking about who was saying what and I got hooked. I followed who they followed and one day, just as I was about to start planning my Christmas interior features – which was my craziest time, we saw that the editor of Elle magazine (the only non home interest title I subscribed to and completely love I might add) had put out a tweet asking where she could get a cake made for her daughter’s birthday in the shape of a horse. Now although I was getting quite confident at decorating and shaping a cake, a horse really would be a huge challenge. I mean the head would have to stand up and stick out without toppling over! And I had already said that I wouldn’t do anymore cakes till after the Christmas issue was finished.

 A friend, who is also a huge Elle magazine fan said “You can’t pass up an opportunity like this” and messaged the editor directly saying how I made cakes and to see my Flickr pics. The editor got in touch and the rest as they say is history. Lorraine Candy told me about her daughter’s love of the horse she rode at her riding lessons called Megastar and we arranged a date for delivery.

Around this time there were back to back episodes of ‘Ace of Cakes‘ on TV, which I was totally hooked on. One of the cakes they made had to be top heavy and to overcome the problem they used a combination of Rice Krispies and melted Mars bars. You simply mix the two together and they become a mouldable and edible shape. So I had my answer to the horse’s head problem. I only wish I had taken step photos of it to show you, but this was before I started blogging.

Once the head was shaped and had set hard in the fridge I covered it with brown sugarpaste icing and smoothed it all over. The cake was cut into a horses body shape and the head was  secured into position then the whole thing was covered in the tan coloured icing. Megastar is a Palomino so the cake would be a lovely light colour. I would have hated to make a black horse. People in general don’t like to eat a black cake!

The legs were shaped from solid sugarpaste and were secured to the body with a little royal icing. The mane and tail were also made of thin strips of sugarpaste.

For the cake board I decided to make it a green field, complete with pretty flowers so  Megastar looked like she was resting.

In all I was pretty pleased with this cake. I could imagine being very happy to have it as an eight year old girl. The horse looked friendly and was just the right size. When I delivered it I found out that Megastar belonged to Noel Gallagher! Which was just the icing on the cake! (sorry- I couldn’t help myself)

EmmaMT
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