Behind the Scenes of December 2011 – Part I

Wow, I thought November was a big month but December 2011 proved to be even bigger! The first of a 2-part post kicks off with a couple of really fun cakes. I loved that these weren’t just pure novelty cakes but also allowed me to express some artistic freedom too.

Bows & Blossoms: the Corset Cake

First up: A corset cake. This was a really interesting brief as the person who asked for it gave me full artistic freedom in designing and creating this cake for a bridal shower – her only requirements were that it had to match a pink and black colour scheme. I actually didn’t know what a bridal shower was until I did this cake. For those who (like me) have no idea what a bridal shower is, this is the definition according to trusty Wikipedia: “The custom of the bridal shower is said to have grown out of earlier dowry practices, when a poor woman’s family might not have the money to provide a dowry for her, or when a father refused to give his daughter her dowry because he did not approve of the marriage. In such situations, friends of the woman would gather together and bring gifts that would compensate for the dowry and allow her to marry the man of her choice..”

Somehow I don’t think that the above rationale for a bridal shower still applies today. In my mind, it’s probably more of an excuse to have a bit of a party and get some bridal gifts before the real wedding! And Bridal Showers are not to be confused with a Hens either I’ve been told.

So back to the cake.. my only design constraints were that it had to look like a corset and be pink and black. Now I’ll confess that when I first got the order, I was a bit nervous about the structure. The first question that I was asking myself was: “Boobs or no boobs??”. A corset is quite a sexy piece of undergarment and all the pictures I’d seen online were 2D cakes with a couple of well-shaped mounds which can actually be quite hard to carve 3D.

In the end I settled for an hourglass shape that was a little more PG and little less R-rated. As with all my cakes, I sketched up a drawing for the client first.

The next part was baking 3 super high mud cakes which could be stacked to make a 9-10inch high hourglass shape. This is two of the 3 cakes stacked on top of each other to test the height:

I trimmed the tops off each of the baked cakes (which my husband always enjoys snacking on) and ganached the three layers together. Then came the hard part: carving. Most people don’t realise that 30-40% of the effort in creating a cake is actually in the early stages doing the carving and ganaching so that you lay the right foundations for the icing.

It took me around ½ an hour to carve this cake properly and I had to turn it constantly on a cake turntable to ensure it was as symmetrical as possible. The structure during carving is also quite unstable as there isn’t a lot of ganache holding the layers together. This is the cake after carving in all its symmetrical glory:

I then inserted a wooden dowel rod through all three layers of cake to give it some support and ganached the whole thing before putting it in the fridge to set.

Corset Cake setting in the fridge

Then came the hot-knifing process which I really love. This is where you get to smooth out all the little uneven parts and give the ganache nice polished finish before you apply the icing.


Final shape after ‘hot-knifing’ process

The most dreaded step for pretty much any cake I’ve ever made is putting on the sugarpaste icing. This is the most daunting and exhausting part because you have to make sure the icing is rolled out wide enough to cover the entire structure. If you’re even a few centimetres short you have may have to start the whole process again.  God forbid you think “stuff it, I’ll give it a go and see if I can make it” – bad, bad idea.

One of two things can happen: the icing tears or forms a dreaded ‘elephant skin’. Elephant skin is usually one of the most feared parts of cake decorating mainly because it is extremely hard to repair) or worse, you give up trying to repair, hate how it looks and can’t cover it with decoration and end up ripping it off to start over. This generally results in stained icing from the muddy ganache and what is by now a very frustrated decorator having to re-colour and re-knead a whole batch of icing. An exhausting process to say the very least.

This cake was very complex to cover because of the curves. It took me three attempts to cover this baby and I ended up having to do it in 2 sections. VERY hard. Ironically, much harder than a tall wedding cake tier because the curves have to be covered without any air bubbles forming under the icing and requires much more lifting and “fluffing” of the skirt of the icing to accommodate all the curves without air bubbles forming…

Anyway after much consternation, I finally got there and I’d also pre-made some sugar blossoms which I started arranging on the body of the corset to give an optical illusion of a skinnier waist:

To get the boning effect on the corset, I simply rolled out black sugarpaste with a fondant smoother, measured each length out and attached to the body with royal icing. I also piped black royal icing into the centre of each blossom to give them a stylised look.

Black icing is also very hard to work with as it gets stained really easily by cornflour and is hard to remove without leaving dusty white marks. This is where Piping Gel came in to save the day. I used piping gel to give the top and bottom of the corset some gloss and also get rid of any cornflour marks.

For more pictures of the the finished corset on my facebook page, click here.

The Chubby Buggy

Next order in queue was a ladybug cake for a very, very cute 3 year old called Hannah. I nicknamed it the chubby buggy cos it, well, looked like a chubby bug. Not surprisingly, the selected flavours were the ver popular chocolate mud and chocolate ganache. This was  30 person cake and the chosen colour theme instead of a traditional black and red scheme was pink and white which I personally loved as it was so much cuter.

This was a relatively simple cake to carve and ganache – 1 large hemisphere which I baked in a hemisphere tin and a smaller but very fudgey, gooey ball for the head which I used a cake pop recipe to give the cake a couple of different textures.  It also made rolling the head to a giant ball shape much much easier than baking two hemispheres.

Chubby Buggy in its half rough ganached form.
Chubby Buggy setting in the fridge.

Whilst easy to cover, the Chubby Buggy was actually time consuming in decoration as I decided that a plain old ladybug just would not do. Some of the finer details included piping a simple grass-like border around the ladybug body and sourcing the cutest pink toadstool candles which matched the colour scheme perfectly from a local party shop. I also made some miniature daisies and a pink and white spotted border.

This was probably my favourite cake of the month because of the birthday girl’s reaction when I delivered the cake. Totally priceless and I wish I could have bottled it for you to experience – the squeals of delight, little outstretched hands wanting to touch her colourful cake (much to my silent horror) and unstoppable wonder made all the hours of kneading, mixing, sticking, cutting, pressing and piping so worthwhile.  Feedback from her mum about the taste of the cake and the ‘thinness’ of the sugarpaste was also really rewarding.  It’s definitely a skill to not overload a cake with too much sugarpaste and 2-3mm is the holy grail of sugarpaste thickness so you dont wind up with a slice that’s just a mouthful of icing.  She is not a fan of sugarpaste at the best of times and I was delighted that she was so impressed by how thin the sugarpaste was on the cake. For full pics of the buggy on facebook and the birthday girl’s reactions, click here

Coming up next… Christmas, Camera Cake and Macaron Craziness!

The run up to Christmas was a challenging one with quite a few different macaron orders and …. *drum roll* ……a camera cake!! Yes you read that correctly. It’s was a toughie but a goodie!! I’ll write all about the Christmas caking frivolity in Part II of this post which I’ll post in the next couple of days.

Until then, Happy New Year to everyone who has taken the time out to read about this little Cake Venturist!! I know I’m a few days late but best wishes to all and your families and thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me to date, xoxo!

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