Monday, April 1, 2013

5 Cake Decorating Tips - Learned from the pros

Last week a girlfriend and I took a cake decorating class.  It was a blast!  We originally bought the class on one of those group-buy sites ages ago and had forgotten all about it. It was like Christmas when we realised we had a guaranteed girl's night that included cake and icing!

Our final masterpieces.  Note our aprons - we both grabbed our daughter's aprons from the garden baking party.

The class was so much fun and I learned so many useful tips that I knew I needed to share them with my fellow home bakers.

Tip #1: Cutting a Cake in Half

Cutting a cake in half to create layers is a pretty standard occurrence.  It allows you to add more flavour to your cake with fillings and icing.  BUT getting the layers even can be tricky.

We learned to insert skewers (I found 2 skewers the easiest) in the middle of the cake from one side of the cake through to the other side.  By running your knife along the skewers when you sliced it, you were left with two even halves.


Tip #2: Layering the cake 

I have been doing this wrong my entire life.  I always put the bottom of the cake on the bottom and the top of the cake on the top.  

Turns out I had it backwards.  You should put the top of the cake on the bottom because it is not usually perfectly even.  Your frosting can be built up to make that layer even before you add the next layer - the bottom of your cake, bottom side up! The photo below shows you my layering a bit better.

Tip#3: Separating Your Icing

I think we've all been there before.  We're icing our cake and little crumbs are breaking off and contaminating our icing.  The final product looks a little like the cake has been to the beach.
This is so simple but was one of those "ah-ha" moments for me.  Separate a little of your icing into a separate container for doing your thin crumb coat.  Then when you're ready to put your final layer of icing on, you have fresh, uncontaminated icing to finish your masterpiece.

Tip #4:  A Dusting Pouch

When working with fondant you need to dust the surface with cornstarch to avoid the fondant from sticking to your work surface.  Sprinkling it directly on the surface can result in too much which will end up drying out your fondant.

Instead, create a dusting pouch you keep for baking.  Fill a disposable cloth with cornstarch and create a pouch by securing the ends with an elastic.  Now when you need to dust your work surface you only need to tap the pouch.  It leaves the perfect amount of dusting for rolling out fondant.

Tip #5: Keeping it's Shape

Fondant needs time to dry so if you are making dimensional decorations such as bows you can add some crumpled up tissues inside the cavities while the fondant dries. 

These help the fondant keep its shape while it is drying and prevent your dimensional decorations from collapsing.


A few more tidbits I learned:

  1. Icing is a girl's best friend - it can hide a multitude of sins so don't be shy to fill in gaps, level off layers, or just be generous.  Who doesn't like icing?
  2. Fondant dries really quickly so you need to work fast.  Keep fondant covered in plastic wrap when not using it.  (I got reprimanded for taking too much time taking photos)
  3. Perfection isn't everything.  Each of us made the same cake using the same techniques and they all came out looking different.  Embrace the imperfections because no one else will notice.
  4. Fondant cannot be stored in the fridge so don't put your cake in the fridge when it is done. 
  5. Even the professionals buy their fondant. 
We both had a great night! There were 9 of us in the class, all from different walks of life, all with different skill levels and all with different reasons for being there. We met new people, had a lot of laughs, learned some skills and came away with a beautiful cake to share with our families.  I'd say it was a HUGE success!  I can't wait to go back and take their buttercream course.

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