Friday, July 7, 2017

Aspen/Birch Buttercream Cake Tutorial

Ok, I realize on my last post I said I was going to share my second Eagle Scout cake next, but I'm switching things up a bit. A sweet friend who lives many states over from me asked for some tips on a cake I did a few months back, so, rather than emailing all the photos I took to her, I thought I'd post a little tutorial for it here.

As the title above says, the cake was an aspen/birch tree cake. I've actually done several with this theme, both with fondant and buttercream. This was the third time I'd done a buttercream one, and I still had to look up pictures to try and remember what I did the first couple of times. So, Sue, this tutorial is for you, but it's also for me because I don't see the tree trunk design dying out anytime soon and the next time I'm asked to do one, I can look up this post and remember step-by-step!

I will start out by saying if I have to do a cake, especially a stacked cake, that is just buttercream (no ganache or fondant), this is the design I would prefer to do. No super smooth edges to worry about!

So, this cake has been torted, filled, crumb coated and then a very rough "finish" coat applied. I randomly splotched some gray buttercream over the sides of the cake. (Yes, that is a Trolls cake in the background I had just finished up the night before.)

I then ran a spatula around the edges blending the gray into the white. I did NOT worry about getting things super smooth, this is a tree we're making here. Keep it rough. If I found some areas were too dark, I just splotched some white on and smoothed again. Same thing with too light, add a little more gray. This is a pretty forgiving technique.

I then dipped this paintbrush into some brown airbrush color and dabbed the excess off on a paper towel. I like the airbrush color because it is already thinned down. I simply held the brush against the top of the cake and spun my turntable around making "rings" in the top. (Wow, those are some seriously ugly nails!! Maybe I should have cropped my hands out of this one. 😝)

Then I used my offset spatula to smooth those rings out a bit. I simply held the spatula still and turned the table again.

I used a clean paintbrush and ran it along the very edge of the cake top. This created a border between the inside of the trunk and the bark. By holding a crumpled up, clean paper towel on top of the cake and spinning the turn table I was able to get a good texture for the top of the cake. Some of the wrinkles in the towel will dig a little deeper than others giving you a more realistic look.

Like this. This part may take some practice. I think I re-did the top of this cake twice before I liked the look. The first time I pushed a little too hard. Pretty easy fix though.

Here I dipped a paintbrush in the brown airbrush color and ran along that furrow I made along the edge. I had to re-dip the brush in color many times to make it around the cake. Just wipe the excess buttercream from the brush on a paper towel in between dips.

This, this right here, this little pink tool is my favorite tool ever! I have no idea where I got it or how long I've had it. It may have come from the stash of tools I got from my mom when I first started decorating, but I can probably count on one hand the cakes I've done in the last five years that I haven't used this tool on somewhere. If anyone knows where I can find another I would love to know. If this one ever breaks, there's going to be some serious crying going on here. (Yes, that's one of my previous cakes in the background I was using for inspiration. I can never visualize how these cracks should look.)

I only did the cracks on the top tier for this cake. You could also do some close to an edge for the lower tiers if you'd like.

Top done.

To make a few knots on the side, I piped a circle with buttercream. I think I used a tip 8 for this one.

I used a clean paint brush to blend the edges into the side of the cake.

Then I used more airbrush color on the brush and just kind of tapped it into the center and a bit on the outside edges.

Guess what? More airbrush color. For this part, it would really help to have some pictures of actual bark in front of you to see the texture and lines. The first tier I did over because the lines were just way too close together.

You're really just brushing long and short lines randomly all over the sides of the cake. After I did most of the straighter lines, I went back and smudged some and made them thicker. I prefer to do that last so I can stagger them out a bit more evenly.

There's my favorite pink tool again, carving out initials.

And coloring in with the brown.

Here's the finished cake. I was very concerned about how to deliver it. I'm used to ganache and fondant that are pretty sturdy and hold up well at room temp. This one is all buttercream, and I didn't want the cake to start bulging as it sat out. My best thought was to keep it cold, but then I have to worry about condensation. My big fridge is notorious for that. It can melt fondant in a couple of hours on a cake. Don't know why, but it does. I've read many times that keeping the cake in a box will keep it from getting condensation so I thought I'd give it a try. Two of the tiers I was able to put in regular cake carriers, and I found a box to fit the bottom tier that was already on it's serving plate. We kept the tiers in their "boxes" until we reached the reception area where I then stacked and put on the gumpaste flowers. Some of the brown color did come off on my hands as I was stacking it, but it didn't mess up the design. Since I wasn't stacking the cake till I delivered it, I did some practice designs with the flowers on my styrofoam dummies. Once I got the look I liked, I took a picture with my phone for reference. I think it still ended up changing a bit once I stacked the actual cake, but at least I had a starting point.

I hope this little tutorial can be of help to you. I'm sure I will be referencing it myself someday as this ol' noggin' of mine isn't what it used to be, and remembering things gets harder and harder. 😊 Please comment below and let me know if you have any questions.

Till next time...
God's love and blessings!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eagle Scout Cake #1

Hello there! 

Recently I had the pleasure of making 2 Eagle Scout cakes. This is the first one. I was given this picture  and asked to replicate it. I'm afraid I didn't get any photos with my good camera, just my phone. :o(

Decorator's Notes:

The Eagle Scout emblem and words were printed on wafer paper and then glued to white modeling chocolate. 

The eagle was made with rice crispy treats. I then covered it with a thin layer of melted white chocolate to help it hold it's shape and fill in some of the holes. The face and beak were then fine tuned with modeling chocolate. I used a leaf cutter for the brown feathers and ran a line down the middle of them. I knew they would mostly be covered with the white feathers, so I wasn't too worried about how realistic they were.

Here you can see my inspiration photos. I had pictures of a couple of cakes (one was the main design for this cake) and some real eagles. Gotta love shots of the messy kitchen. :-) I added more white modeling chocolate using the warmth of my hands to blend pieces together, and used veining/dresden tools to mark lines into it.

Here's a close-up of the finished eagle. I used some petal dust to add shading and depth. I like working with modeling chocolate when I know I don't have to do any painting on it. It remains flexible for quite some time so I can continue to manipulate it till I like the results.

We nicknamed this guy Earl. :o) He was fun to make and I'm so glad I got to help make a young man's day a little more special. He deserved it. I will be back next time with Eagle Scout #2.

Till next time...
God's love and blessings!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Masculine Baby Huey Cake

Hello there! That title doesn't seem to go together, but it does. I was asked to do a cake for a 65th birthday that somehow incorporated the family business and the recipient's nickname--Baby Huey. Since the family business dealt with engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles and chainsaws I knew I wanted something that looked like it could be in a garage. This one definitely made me step out of my comfort zone.

Decorator Tips

For the bottom tier, I used a diamond plate impression mat on gray modeling chocolate. The mat wasn't very big, and even though the edges lined up, there would have been a line, but that was fine. I decided to cut the chocolate into rectangles and put them on the cake as panels. Since I used modeling chocolate, it was super easy to lift the rectangle onto the side with little to no stretching. For the "screws", I pushed in an icing tip (I don't remember what size), and then used the end of one of my shaping tools for the straight line. Super easy. 

To color it, I started by airbrushing silver on. Modeling chocolate usually doesn't like liquid color on it as it just beads up, but I've found that if I use a super light coat of airbrush color it won't bead up. Then, I went over each panel with different shades of gray and brown petal dust to give it a dirty, rusty kind of look and to emphasize the panels. 

The middle tier was inspired by a masculine cake I saw online somewhere. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it now. I loved the look of the browns, blacks and silvers brushed along the bottom, kind of looked like grease and grime. I'm not sure those two adjectives have ever been used to describe a cake before.

I don't often decorate my boards, but I really wanted to pull out some of the brown from the design so I decided to do a wood grain look. I used a tutorial from Evil Cake Genius. Guys, this is the EASIEST technique ever!! And it's kind of addicting. I wanted to wood-grain a whole cake after doing this. It's super shiny in this photo because it hadn't dried yet. I was kind of sad that most of it ended up being covered by the cake.

To get the family business on the cake I printed logos from the different brands they were associated with and a copy of their business card onto wafer paper and cutting them out. Not sure if you can read it, but this card is too funny!

Oh, I almost forgot about Baby Huey. Do you remember him? I vaguely remember him showing up in a couple of Saturday morning cartoons when I was little. Anyway, he was made with fondant mixed with a little tylose. I printed an image of him, laid that over the rolled out fondant and traced over the lines with a tiny ball tip tool. After cutting him out and letting him dry I colored him with petal dust mixed with lemon extract. Once that dried, I outlined him with black airbrush color. I like how he added a pop of color to an otherwise monochrome-ish cake.

Hope you enjoyed my masculine cake. I have a few more to share with you later.

Till next time...
God's love and blessings!!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pretty Pink Peony Cake

Hello there! How are you this fine spring day? I'm enjoying some slightly warmer weather. I enjoy all the seasons, but this one is especially fun as it seems each day we see something new and green popping its head up. We just covered my flower beds in a fresh layer of mulch and the green stems of the tulips and daffodils peaking through look so vibrant against the red. Of course, this is spring in Wisconsin we're talking about. We're forecasted temps near 70 on Sunday and possible snow on Tuesday. Ah well.

While seeing flowers in my garden is still quite a ways off, I did get to enjoy a beautiful one in my kitchen this last week. I don't do sugar flowers often as they are very time consuming, but the results are oh so worth it.

Isn't it beautiful? Because my cake had gold accents I decided to dip the stamens in gold airbrush color to give them a touch of glam.

My friend's mom was turning 50 and they were throwing her a surprise party. My friend asked for a small cake to use as a centerpiece for the party. They were decorating with black and white striped fabric, pink peonies, and gold accents. I managed to fulfill 3 of the 4. To fit the size of my peony, the cake ended up being much larger than expected. Oh well, more cake to eat!

Decorator Tips:

My inspiration for this cake came from the Sparkle My Heart cake from De La Creme Creative Studio. I loved the different widths of stripes and that splash of gold right in the middle and since my friend had asked if I'd done any marbled cakes before, I decided to marble the top tier.

The black stripes were made from modeling chocolate, and I used the wax-paper transfer technique from Jessica Harris to get them on the cake. That doesn't always work flawlessly for me, but thankfully, modeling chocolate is pretty sturdy and because you use shortening as the glue, it kind of slides around into place if needed. The center strip, however was yellow fondant. I knew I was going to cover it in gold petal dust mixed with lemon extract, and that doesn't work well on modeling chocolate.

The topper was done in gumpaste. I printed the number in a font I liked, placed the paper over some rolled-out yellow gumpaste and used a tiny ball tool to trace around the number. That left enough of an impression for me to use as a guide to cut it out with my scalpel blade. Once it was completely dry I brushed some of the gold petal dust/lemon extract mixture over it.

The hardest part for me is always the flowers. Not making them, but deciding on how many to use and arranging them. My original idea was to do a bouquet cascading down the right side, then I thought just the large peony with a few buds, and eventually opted for just the single flower with some greenery.

All-in-all I think it came out quite nice, and my friend loved it. :o)

Till next time...
God's love and blessings!!