From Cake Lab

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Masquerade Cake

Masquerade cakes are pretty popular so I figured I'd try one out.
My parents went to Belgium a couple years ago for my uncle's wedding, which happened to include a masquerade theme, so I had a few samples lying around the house to choose from.
The mask was made from gumpaste, and I added some details with some royal icing and buttercream (trial and error!). It was hand painted with edible colors. The red turned out a bit clumpy, but at least it is supposed to look hand painted. It should just look more like a professional job lol.

When I first thought up of a masquerade cake, I assumed I would do some type of line or diamond pattern on the base as that is what is commonly used. But then I figured, that's so easy, and the mask wasn't that much of a challenge, so why not try a design a little more creative. I used the curves in the original mask for inspiration and I'm really happy I decided to do something a little different.

'Dexter' Cake

One of my favorite shows! Who doesn't love Dexter?
So it is kinda bloody for cake but I love making all types of cakes.
Flowers? Great!
Blood? Awesome!
They're all fun to make, so I'm just going to continue showing off my diversity.
The design is pretty simple, just the logo and some blood. I did want to experiment using my new and improved marshmallow fondant some more, and I'm really liking my recipe. It's much easier to work with than the stuff I had been using. I also took this chance to try out the cutout technique I used on the Funky Piano cake. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as successful on this cake. Since the cutout was so big it was a little difficult to work with. I think I will stick to just placing a thin circle on the top from now on, it would have given the cake a cleaner look.

Since I had some extra blood lying around (royal icing), I figured why not go all out and make it gross. I kinda knew the look would be a bit overboard...great for a horror cake, but Dexter is a little "cleaner" in his work. Maybe an amount somewhere in between would have been best.
Can't wait for the new episode tonight, Season 5 is really coming together!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Funky Piano Cake

As as I browsing yesterday, I came across a photo of a really cool, hip, funky cake. I loved the design so much I had to do something like it myself.
The original cake had a base layer of purple and teal buttercream, but I'm a fan of fondant so had to choose that. The only real "new" technique I used on this cake was cutting out shapes from the base fondant and then replacing them with new colors. I've done something similar when using two layers of fondant, but never the one directly on top of the buttercream. Fortunately it worked pretty well, and not to surprisingly as I had just seen this cutting technique used on Amazing Wedding Cakes last week, and I really like the look it adds to the cake.

This is probably one of my favorite cakes so far and I look forward to doing more fun stuff like this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dracula Cake

After several pink floral cakes, it was definitely time for something a little darker!
This is just another practice cake (but the orders are starting to come in!), and although it's two tiers, I didn't have to bake anything. The top tier used to belong to my Tigger cake and the bottom one used to be covered in cherry blossoms (that's three times for that cake).
Not a whole lot new here, but this was my first time sculpting the roses. I think they turned out OK, but it's definitely gonna require some practice. The part I'm least satisfied with has got to be the second tier. The airbrush went a little heavy on the black, and I tried to even it out, making it even more black...
Next time I'm going to try using less pressure, or possibly just use black dust around the curly things.
Lovin the grass, dracula, and the moon. Tombstones made of gumpaste and tree made of modeling chocolate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Red & Pink Cherry Blossom Cakes

A few days after my website went live I got a call about a wedding cake. It was pretty exciting to get a call so soon, without doing any real advertising, as my focus was on creating more samples. They asked if I could do a cherry blossom wedding cake, something that is pretty common and not too difficult. My portfolio doesn't include any wedding type cakes, so I thought now would be the perfect time to add some diversity to my collection.

Since I don't need a ton of cake lying around I decided to do a one tier version. I first chose to do red blossoms, but noticed after I dusted them that the color really should be coming from the center of the flower. Oops. I also wasn't sure what to put in the empty space. I was thinking some type of text like "Happy Anniversary", but that seemed pretty long.
After looking at the red blossom cake for a bit I wasn't that happy with it. Then I realized that the branches made of modeling chocolate and gumpaste flowers could easily be removed without leaving too much behind, so why not recycle the cake? That led to the pink cake, which I'm more satisfied with. I decided it would be safe to use a Chinese character since cherry blossoms are Asian, so I chose the symbol for marriage.

Friday, October 15, 2010

'Sex & the City' Themed B-Day Cake

Finally, another two tiered cake! It's really pretty wasteful to make two tiered sample cakes, so when I have the chance to make one for an event I really enjoy it.
My favorite part of this cake is definitely the skyline, although my hand was in pain from squeezing on all those little windows. The color combo of pink and black is pretty cool too...I always love black with a bright color. I was asked to make the pink fondant "not baby pink but not hot pink", and I think I got the right mix.
New tool for the letters! My new clickstix make it much easier to punch out font. I also have script letters on the way!
The cake also was lightly brushed with a pearl sheen but it's not really noticeable in the picture.
Been a very busy week making cakes and also finished another one today but I'll save the post for tomorrow. Time to clean the kitchen!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tigger Cake

It's safe to say that most of my recent cakes have been on the darker side, but I really want to show some diversity in my designs so I have three girly cakes coming up this week (then maybe I will follow up with another scary one :) ).
After using modeling chocolate for the first time with The Beast cake, my mind was swarming with new ideas as the medium is so different from fondant and gumpaste and allows many more options. I thought Tigger would be a fun character to try as he is popular and is the "coolest" Winne the Pooh character in my opinion hahaha. He is made up of rice krispie treats covered in modeling choclate. The only thing unedible is the wire for the whiskers.
In my recent glee cake I had attempted to make a hand look like it was popping out of the cake. I was not at all pleased with the results so thought I would take this opportunity to get it right. I first placed a circle of black fondant on the cake where I wanted Tigger to pop out (thanks to some members from CakeCentral for the suggestion!), and then covered the whole cake in yellow. I began to cut the strips and things seemed to be going perfectly, not to mention it was one of my cleanest covering jobs, but as I lifted the flaps the black fondant stuck to the yellow and began ruining the buttercream. I think this happened because I used homemade black fondant which is a little stickier than usual. Fortunately I was able to salvage it and achieved the effect I was looking for.

This was my first time piping beads around the bottom of a cake. I have made fondant balls before, which is more time consuming, but also easier to avoid mistakes. It takes some practice but it's a skill I need to master so this cake got the treatment.
While it's not totally a "me" cake it was a lot of fun and very good practice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Beast ( from 'Angel') Cake

This cake was a nice little blast to the past.
One of my dorkiest phases was back when I was a huge Buffy/Angel fan (the shows still rock, but after being off the air for 6-7 years I'm a little less enthusiastic). Not only did I love the shows, but I was somewhat obsessed with collecting related merchandise. The area I spent most of my attention towards was the action figure line. Part of that included being involved in an online community of collectors. Soon some of us began customizing them with different paint jobs, or sculpting episode specific clothes or hair. "Customs" began to get really popular online and I jumped in and even sold a few of mine. The first figure I sculpted pretty much in its entirety was a character from Angel called The Beast (pictured below), and I must've been around 15-16 at the time.

After brainstorming about new cake challenges to tackle, I thought why not go back to my roots and have another go, this time in food form. After some planning I realized there was no way I could do this cake the way I wanted with fondant and gum paste. The detail wouldn't be fine and there would be seams everywhere.
I wondered if I should try modeling chocolate. I had seen many cake decorators use it on TV before but I didn't know much about it. After a little bit of research it turns out you can easily make it by melting some chocolate and adding corn syrup. Awesome!
Before I started I figured the face would be the most challenging aspect as I haven't done much sculpting, and what I have done has been small cartoony animal figures. The head actually went really smoothly (head and horns made of rice krispie treats covered in modeling chocolate), and the body seemed to go pretty well too, but as I was getting ready to paint I noticed things were going downhill fast!
The cake I used was very soft and began sinking under the modeling chocolate. Instead of having the shape I carved it began to look flat. The stick anchoring the head began to poke through the top of the head. My cool cake was turning into a disaster! I decided to bake another cake, this time I wanted to get rid of some old ingredients so used a book recipe that included them. Big mistake. That cake was worse than the orignal. I didn't know what to much work and it was just a mess. Then I though about cutting some of the cake out of the body and replacing it with rice krispie treats, that way the shoulders and neck would have some support. Thankfully it worked and gave me a decently shaped end product. The body isn't exactly as I'd pictured but it was the best I was gonna get without starting all over again.

Painting wasn't too difficult, just painted the thing red then black, and the red stayed in the lines I carved. Horns didn't turn out quite as I'd like...I first airbrushed them yellow then brown which looked awesome, but I then began to paint in the black likes but it wasn't turning out the way I wanted. I whiped off the black with a wet paper towel so that the black would just be in the indent, but it also ruined the airbrushing job. I went over with the airbrush again but since the canvas was a little blotchy I didn't get quite the result I was looking for. Probably the biggest disappointment in the cake is that it's really hard to see the detail in the face since it is black. If I can find the time I may make another demon cake but this time choose one with a lighter skin tone.

So that is it for this cake! Another challenge completed and another addition for my portfoilo. Perfect time of year for this cake too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Taking the Leap: Introducing Cake Lab

Sooo, looks like I'm staying in Maine longer than I planned.
I first decided to follow my path to becoming a cake decorator back in February. At the time I still had a few more months of schooling left in Montreal until I earned my degree. Before I left I had lined up a position at a bakery that would be moving outside the city in July and would need new people. My plan was to spend a couple months in Maine before returning to Montreal for work. Well, what I thought was the perfect opportunity wasn't as awesome as I had originally thought. At the end of July I began looking for options in the Boston area as it is just two hours away from my home in Maine. Easy enough to get to but I'd still have my space. I had interviews at two bakeries, and even worked a few days at one of them, but I realized it would require an investment on my part to work out there...what with the pricey rent, car payments, food and health insurance...I just wasn't sure it was worth the investment.
That led me to thinking...why don't I open up my own place? It was always my plan to do it eventually. I just thought it wouldn't be until I was around 30. I figured now was the time for me to learn from someone else. I didn't want all the responsibility that comes with owning your own business. I also didn't think I had the "stuff" to be a success at my current level, but my confidence did get a little boost when I was researching other cake companies. While there are a lot of really impressive decorators out there, there are also a lot that really...aren't. If they can be a success, why can't I? I've definitely had lots of hesitation, but opening any business is a lot or work. Make it one that relies on your creativity and it can certainly be nerve wracking, but I do believe I have what it takes to do this right. The time for risk is now. I'm young and have no responsibilities to anyone but myself. I'm lucky enough to have parents that will allow me to run the business from home for reasonable rent. This is an option that may not always be around.

This may not be the exact route I envisioned myself on months ago, and there sure are some disadvantages...but it's up to me to make the best of them, and in then end this could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

All that leads to the opening of Cake Lab. A fitting name for someone with a science background. I also feel like I'm constantly experimenting new recipes and decorating techniques. It's kinda like a lab! I guess I will never be able to fully escape my science days...

My website is under construction but good enough to present to people. - get it? (thanks to one of my mom's friends for the play on words)
Also just started a page on Facebook!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and been sending positive vibes my way, you have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jack O Lantern Cake

Unfortunately that means I'm borderline depressed due to the fact that the time for shorts and soaking in the sun by the pool is over, but at least there is one good thing about the change in seasons...Halloween! It's one of my favorite holidays and the perfect excuse for making some creepy cakes.
I've wanted to make a Jack O Lantern cake for so long but haven't had a reason or the tools to make a really good one. Now that I have my airbrush I can do the cake justice.

The carving of this cake was pretty simple, especially compared to my recent Batmobile cake. I mean, who really cares if it's not perfect because every pumpkin is different. I knew it would be a good idea to use two layers of fondant on this cake to give it some realistic dimension. The other options would be to either paint on the face of cut out black pieces and stick them on, but it definitely wouldn't give the same result.
I've been using pre-made Satin Ice fondant for most of the summer, and had attempted to make my own black marshmallow fondant in the past with poor results. Large quantities of dye are required to get a black color, which really messes up the consistency of the fondant and it never really looks black anyway. BUT I found a recipe online that includes chocolate chips and cocoa powder in the fondant, and it gave me a pretty good color. Not only did I like the texture and color, but it also tasted kinda like a Tootsie Roll!
After covering the cake in black fondant I put on a layer of yellow. The yellow fondant was then airbrushed with orange, brown and copper colors. I went a little bit heavy on some of the copper areas but I'm really enjoying using the airbrush and this cake provided good practice. Once painted, I cut out the features and that was pretty much all there was to it!