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Adventures in buttercream

24 Aug

Hello bloggers, Frosting Chick here.  I’ve been trying to come up with a theme for this entry, and since most of my work is in frosting, I figured what the heck?  Let’s explore just what can be done with some frosting, some time and a little imagination, shall we?

It’s not that I’m not a fan of fondant, I just don’t enjoy working with it.  I appreciate the look it provides, but, unless you have worked with it, you can’t appreciate the amount of work it can take.  For me, there are just too many variables.  We chicks don’t have a big fancy sheeter, so all fondant is rolled by hand (see the Sax cake for example).  A multitude of things can go wrong during this process, and I just find it a lesson in frustration.  Roll out, attempt to lift, get a tear, flop it back down, curse, fix dry edges/rips, curse some more, re-roll, repeat.  You get the idea.  I find it much more enjoyable to create fabulous themed cakes with frosting, and the occasional touch of fondant.  If something goes wrong with frosting, scrape off the offending area and do it again! Keep in mind that this is also time consuming.  Once the cake starts to warm up, it doesn’t behave as well as a chilled cake, so there’s a lot of pulling out/putting in the ‘fridge.  But it’s worth it.

First up; the round (ball) cake.  If you watch cake shows on Food Network, I’m sure you’ve heard the old addage ‘you can’t make a ball shaped cake’.  Shenanigans I say!  Of course you can!  And if you’re fortunate enough of have the right shaped bake ware, bonus: no carving!  I likes me a no mess cake.

First, you’ll bake the 2 halves of the cake.  Unless you’re also lucky enough to have two pans/bowls the same size and can do both at once, it’s a one-atta-time operation.  Me? Nope, gotta do it one half at a time.  Time consuming, but whatcha gonna do when you’re using Moms’ casserole dish from 1960-what?.  This casserole is also bigger than the round pans I’ve seen on the market, so more cake! There’s one dish in the cupboard, and that’s what I’m using.  Because it’s deeper than a standard cake pan, you’ll have to start watching closely around the 30-40 minute mark to prevent over baking.     P1010699  

Once baked, cooled, and possibly the teesniest bit frozen, it’s time to get down to bidness.  First thing to consider is what the cake is going to be sitting on.  A cake board?  Another cake?  Either way, the bottom half of the cake will be the first one semi-decorated.  I say ‘semi’ because the design dictates just how much frosting/decorating you’ll be doing to the bottom half.  I’ve done a couple of soccer ball cakes, and you have to get the lines matched up with the top portion, and if you’ve completely decorated the bottom half and something is off, well, let’s just say it can get ugly.  I find it easiest, at least with the soccer ball cakes, to crumb coat and chill first, then ‘draw’ the lines with a toothpick  I leave about 4-6 inches of the ‘top’ of the bottom undecorated for easy maneuverability.  For the soccer ball cakes, the ball portion sat on a ‘field’ of cake that has been grass tipped like mad (can you say ‘carpal tunnel’? Sure, I knew you could)!  You’ll have to flip it over onto the supports, hence the undecorated space.         P1010702


Once the bottom half is placed, it’s time to fill!  Go crazy!  This part doesn’t have to be pretty, but you do want a filling that won’t ooze out or into the cake itself, so pick something sturdy.  I usually ask for the recipients favorite color, and color the frosting for a surprise burst of color when cut.  Once that is done, place the crumb coated top half.  There will be a gap that you’ll be filling in with frosting to make it uniform.  Now it’s time to finish.



I have found, for a cake like this, you’ll at least want it to sit overnight in the ‘fridge to make delivery a breeze.  I have yet to have a ball cake roll around in the box.  I have also found that these cakes do not need internal supports in the ball itself, so there’s no warnings or disclaimers to the customers about cutting.  Except for the soccer balls. There must be supports in the ‘grassy field’ portion, or it’s all downhill from here.  So go at it bakers, see what you can do, I have faith in you!  Below are some examples of the round cakes I’ve done.


This Pokemon themed cake was my first ball cake, thank goodness it was a simple design!  Just a little fondant for the circle thingy (sorry I don’t know what it’s called, my son isn’t into Pokemon!)


For this golf ball, I used the end of my fondant roller to create the dimples.  Then I hand painted on the Callaway logo.


This Death Star was my second ball cake.  I’ll admit, I was a novice with fondant, and was working on it with short notice, but the recipient was pleased as punch, and everyone pulled of the fondant anyway.  It was for one of my favorite people on the planet, who, unfortunately, lost her battle with cancer this year, and I miss her terribly.  I’m so glad I got to make this for her before she got too sick to enjoy it.  Seems strange to not be planning her birthday cake for this year. She was a total sci-fi head (a gal after my own heart), and I wonder how I would have been challenged for her this year.


I made this pumpkin cake for a friends’ anniversary, they were married on October 31st!


There are times where fondant can be utilized in the decor, without covering the whole cake.  I had a customer order an ocean themed cake for her sons’ “1/2” birthday.  His birthday is in January, and since that’s no fun, they party in July, how creative is that?  Of course, she also celebrates 1/2 New Years as well, but I suspect for different reasons.  I’m just waiting for her to announce 1/2 Christmas, just so she can get some gifts, greedy little wench! 🙂  She gave me creative license, so I broke out some green fondant and made fishy shapes!  Check ’em out!



I airbrushed them with varying colors and layers so they would sparkle on the cake and used all kinds of utensils for scales, eyes, etc…  I also used various tips to create jelly fish and wave-like borders around the cake.  The result was pretty dang cute if I do say so myself.




For my hubbys family reunion this year, I made a HUGE cake, airbrushed a tree, and used some fondant for leaves…  I couldn’t get anyone to cut it!  “It’s too pretty” they said.  “It’s cake!!” I replied, it’s meant to be eaten!  Finally the sweet seekers in the crowd dug in.


And in case you’re wondering if I’ve ever done a completely covered cake, well, I have.  I made a motorcycle helmet for my brother in law, modeled after Peter Fonda’s helmet in “Easy Rider”.  4 layers of cake, carved, covered and hand painted.  I threw in the donor card as the big, bad bro-in-law is known for riding without his brain bucket.  Then we had to drive it an hour away to a state park, through some of the windiest/hilliest parts of Ohio.  For you out of staters, don’t let anyone tell you Ohio is flat, that is a misconception. I was on pins and needles the whole trip.  Thank goodness we don’t live in San Francisco!



So there you go bloggers, don’t be intimidated because you don’t think you can do it, you can!  Remember, necessity and customers are the mother of invention!

Lessons from the Lakers (cake)

20 Jun

What do you do when your sis-n-law asks for a birthday cake for your brother (who rocks)  with 3 days notice (and skillfully avoiding her own b-day the day before, that sly she-devil)?  You suck it up, buckle down, and figure with an airbrush, anything is possible!  So begins the tale of the Lakers cake.  My bro has been a Lakers fan for as long as I can remember, and after looking at their logo, I figure, “why not?”  First up, the frosting.  I tend to make TONS of frosting when I do a cake.  Why?  It’s like looking at the gifts under the Christmas tree, never looks like enough.  Moms out there know…  So,  I broke out the big girl (my favorite, an 8 qt. battleship of a bowl my hubby got me for Christmas one year, you’ll be seeing lots of her), and I make a double batch of frosting.  I’ve got this down to about a 15-20 minute process. P1010428

Crumb coat and cold cake, can’t say enough about either.  Both are important in the final outcome of the cake.  A cold (if not frozen) cake reduces the amount of crumbage (yes, it’s a word, I swear) when you put on the crumb coat.  I use the standard method, plop a wad of frosting in the middle and work your way out. Don’t worry about the appearance, hence the term crumb coat. 


Stacking/assembly of the cake is pretty much the same as a crumb coat, again I use the plop method, and work my way out, saving the sides for last.   Sometimes a crumb or two will surface – gotta keep a clean knife!   Simply take a sharp knife and remove the crumbs, and repair the rut.  See?  Easy as pie, er cake.  I use the hot spatula method for smoothing my frosting. 


For this cake, I decided to airbrush the Lakers logo on the top.  I printed out the logo to the size I needed, and cut out several stencils from wax paper – *lesson time*, not a great idea.  It worked in a pinch, but I’ve got to get a better medium to cut stencils.  Hmmmmm sounds like a trip to the craft store to me!  I started with the basketball stencil.  Pretty basic, it’s a circle.    After removing the stencil, this now looks like a giant egg. 


While impatiently waiting for the basketball to dry, I cut and prepped the “Lakers” portion of the logo.  Now, the problem with this particular cake, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, is the frosting.  Cream cheese frosting is STICKY.  Fortunately, my partner in cake, sent me a recipe that actually crusted, so the stickiness was reduced.  Still, the wax paper is going to either stick to or cut into the frosting.  My solution was to have it float above the cake as close to the cake as I could get it.  I *almost* achieved this by using straight pins.  Who knew moms old sewing kit would come in handy?  Thanks mom! 


Airbrushing is pretty basic too.  Light strokes, with as little angle as possible will give you an even coat.  Because of the stencil I made, unfortunately, there was some under blow.  That’s the beauty of making a cake for family, they think it’s great, and it’s free so there’s no complaints!  A few details added to the basketball with black frosting, and it’s almost complete.  Oh, and see those lumps in the frosting?  When those happen, just pop those suckers with a straight pin, they’ll deflate immediately.  Don’t go too deep, don’t want to pierce the cake.


For finishing, I decided this would be a great opportunity to work on my border skills, as I haven’t done a cake since April.  It took a few strokes to get my wrists back in action, but it finally came together, my brother was pleased, and that’s the important part. 


So, the lessons learned here:

1) Improvising is great, if you have a knack for figuring out what to do in a pinch (as I do), but for a commissioned cake, it’s always best to have the right tools for the job.

2) I really must learn to be a better photographer.  My partner in cake is sooo much better at the pics than I am, but I’ll work on it, I promise.

3) Face mask!  I always forget about the face mask!  Nothing catches you off guard like rainbow boogers!

4) Get more than 3 days notice 🙂

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