Succumbed to the need to know more….
I have signed up for a beginners cake decorating class! Yes, you can learn (a lot I must say) from books and the internet BUT you also need that human interaction as well as learning through look and feel. Of course nothing beats the sharing and learning with a group of people who have the same interest.
In our first lesson, we were taught to make royal icing. As this was my first time, I was careful to follow the instructions – each time add one tablespoon of the icing sugar and then mix well. The lady across from me must have added heaps of her icing sugar each time, that she ended up having to add spoonfuls of water to soften her paste. The paste which we made in class only consisted of one egg white (fresh) and pure icing sugar. First we break the egg white with the wooden spoon and discard any stringy bits. Then add the icing sugar one tablespoon each time and mix well before adding the next tablespoon of icing sugar. We did this until we reached a consistency that would stick to the spoon without falling off. TIP: Use glass bowls and a wooden spoon (it is important that you have one specifically for mixing icing and making sugar paste). Do not use metal as that would somehow affect the whiteness of the paste. TIP: Must always sift your icing sugar before using. TIP: Use only soft pure icing sugar – NOT Icing Mixture as this contains corn flour).
Below is the recipe which was handed out the following week (looks like we did not follow the instructions when we did our royal icing in class):
How to make Royal Icing:
- Soft pure icing sugar (brought 500gm to class – did not use all as this depends on the quantity of the egg white)
- Fresh egg white or Album powder reconstituted overnight, 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.
- Clean glass or china bowl (brought 2 to class)
- Wooden spoon (important – just for making Royal Icing)
- Container with lid to put made Royal Icing in, with cling wrap on top
- Lemon juice helps whiten and speed up drying as does white vinegar and acetic acid a couple of drops, other additives Glycerine or liquid glucose a drop or two, for smoother flowing icing or brush embroidery (Not extension or lace). Gum tragacanth a minute amount for extra strength, too much and it will be too hard to work with.
- Sift pure icing sugar through a fine sieve twice and discard any lumps, for extra find work sift through a piece of Terylene voile across a bowl.
- With fresh egg white take out any membrane or stringy bits as these could block fine tube, break the egg white up with wooden spoon then start to add sifted icing sugar, the fist spoon full when mixed may not dissolve, beat in another spoonful, it then should be smooth and runny, continue this beating well with every addition of sugar till right consistency is achieved about 20 minutes depending on the amount of egg white used.
- Soft peak – for embroidery, should fall slightly over when lifted up on back of spoon, the smaller the tube the softer the icing and smaller the piping bag.
- Medium – for drop thread work and lace. Add 1/2 teaspoon of icing sugar to soft peak and this should stand up.
- Firm – for shell and basket weave. Add 1 – 2 teaspoon of icing sugar to soft peak. The royal icing mixture should stand up solid.
- Notes: Royal icing should be light, firm and glossy.
- If sugary, icing sugar added too quickly. To rectify/correct consistency, add lemon juice or egg white and beat well.
- Liquid glucose to help icing flow.
- Cream of tartar helps stabilise egg foam and stops it collapsing.
I missed my second class as I had a “date” with Bruce Springsteen. Dinner was catered dinner. We had salmon, king fish and lamb all cooked to perfection. Especially the lamb – mouthwateringly fantastic and to die for!! During the class, they practiced piping. As I had never done piping work before, I was miffed to have to miss the lesson BUT not regretful as we had an awesome night.
I was pretty excited as today would be the day when we could do some sugar paste flowers. But alas! We spent the 1-3/4 hours making modelling paste. Should not be complaining! It was therapeutic! The instructor showed us two ways of creating the base of the rose or rose cone – the standard way and her way.
– Standard way – Roll the gum paste into a half inch in diameter ball and then pinch (she also twist) the top to create a cone or teardrop shape.
– Her way – Roll the gum paste into a half inch in diameter ball. Flatten and stretch the top, right and left edges to form a rectangle (or oblong). For those right handed, roll the right end as tightly as possible and curl it around towards the left. Shape the bottom round like the bottom of the cone. (I did cheat a little as I used my ball tool to soften the edges, I could not pinch the edges thinly enough. Came out beautifully!). Another great way (Nicholas Lodge’s fish tail) as shown by Bobbie’s Baking Blog. Below is the recipe which was used in class to make modelling paste.
How to make Modelling Paste
- 60ml water
- 3 level teaspoons Gelatine powder
- 2 level teaspoons Liquid Glucose
- 2 level teaspoons Gum Tragacanth
- 400gm approx Pure Icing Sugar
- Copha (for handling paste, if required)
- Pour the water into a glass bowl.
- Sprinkle gelatine over the water evenly.
- Place the basin over a saucepan of water (bain marie) over a gentle heat.
- Once the gelatin has completely dissolved, add the Glucose and stir until mixture is clear.
- Add Gum Tragacanth to Icing Sugar and sieve.
- Add to the liquid a tablespoon of icing sugar mixture at a time, mixing quickly (with the wooden spoon) and well until you have a stiff paste. Then knead in remainder of the icing sugar.
- Place in a plastic bag in a sealed container.
- When using paste, add a little more copha and knead well.
Notes: In class, we placed the bowl with the gelatine mix inside a bigger bowl which contained very hot water. You may find that you may need to replace the hot water to speed up the process.
TIP: Mix the water and gelatine in a wider base or wider mouth container/bowl instead of using the cup. Do not mix it until the gelatine has totally dissolved. This will prevent air bubbles.
Note: I tried a batch replacing the gelatine (bovine) with VEGE GUM (vegetable derivative). It turned out very tacky and does not have the “snap”. Hence, each time I added a little tylose to the paste and it seemed to work out ok.
How to make Edible glue
- 1/4 teaspoon (heaping) Tylose
- 1/2 cup water
- Bring water to a boil. Pour into small container with lid.
- Sprinkle tylose powder into water and stir till dissolved.
- Cover and keep in refrigerator.
The lesson for this week was how to line your cake/baking tin – round and square tins; how to make a rose cone and how to create a rose. I thought that I knew everything about making rose cones. Boy! Was I wrong. The instructor taught us a different way to make the cone.
How to line a cake tin
– Lightly grease the cake tin with cooking oil spray or melted butter.
– Put the cake tin on the brown paper and trace around the base.
– Cut out the circle on the inside of the marked line. Put the circle in the tin.
– Do the same with baking paper. Put the cake tin on the baking paper and trace around the base.
– Cut out the circle of baking paper on the inside of the marked line. Put the circle in the tin on top of the brown paper.
– To line the side, divide the circumference into a third. Cut three lengths of brown paper 2cm longer than the length of a third of the tin’s circumference.
– Measure depth of tin and, allowing an extra 2cm (so paper extends above tin), cut paper strip. Place strip around side of the tin overlapping each other.
– Do the same for the baking paper. Cut three lengths of baking paper 2cm longer than the length of a third of the tin’s circumference.
– Measure depth of tin and, allowing an extra 2cm (so paper extends above tin), cut paper strip. Place baking paper strip starting from the joint end of the brown paper and the wrapping around the tin overlapping each other.
– Lightly grease the cake tin with cooking oil spray or melted butter.
– To line the base and two sides of the cake tin, cut a length of brown paper long enough to cover the base and two sides (so paper will extend 2cm above tin on two opposite sides).
– Then cut the same with the baking paper.
– Repeat to cut the paper to line the remaining two sides, cut a length of brown paper to the two remaining sides and base of the tin, allowing extra so the paper will extend 2cm above the tin.
– Then cut the same with the baking paper.
– Line the sides of the tin with the brown paper first followed by the strips of baking paper.
The lesson for this week was all about making penguins, teddy bears, filler flowers and a rabbit. We spent the whole two hours standing/sitting in front of the class to watch how these were made. During class we were told to bring our cake and fondant for next week. The instructor told us to get the “Orchid” Brand which can be purchased at the supermarket. As usual, I never follow instructions.. we have used Bakel Brand fondant before for my first wedding cake. So, I bought the same – ivory fondant – at the Cake and Bake Show 2014.
A few of my class mates were planning to bake over the weekend, just in case they needed to bake again if the first batch did not turn out as expected. I had a birthday breakfast and a show to watch, so could not make it on Saturday. We went to the Cake and Bake Show on Sunday, another day gone. So, I baked my cake on Monday. I was praying that it would turn out ok. This time I followed her instructions and the recipe to the letter. Left the lining (all cut out and ready) just before I filled the cake tin. I even used the potato masher to push the cake batter down and to ensure evenness. After the cake was baked, still in the tin, I covered it in foil and wrapped it in a towel. Yep, a towel! I took it out of the tin the next day – it looked perfect!
In class, all except me and another girl brought the “Orchid” fondant. They had a lot of kneading to do as their fondant was stiffer. It did not help that it was such a humid night. I did not have to knead too much as my Bakel fondant turned out to the really soft and pliable and neither did I want to use too much corn flour as I knew that it would dry out the fondant.
Before we covered the cake, we had to fill the gaps (I think ‘packing’ is the term) so that the fondant does not get “sucked in”. We did not cover the cake with marzipan prior to covering it in fondant. The instructor does not believe that this is necessary even though many cake decorators are still using it. The first step was to roll out small balls of fondant paste and flatten it (size is about a twenty or fifty cents coins). Place these on top of the cake board and then place the cake over it. This would stop the cake from moving on the board. Then roll out sausage shapes to fill the gap (pack) between the bottom of your cake and the board. Ensure that the fondant and the cake is flush. Do not push the fondant paste too much inside underneath the cake. Once that is done, fill in the holes all around the cake. I had to do some “reconstructing” work around the edges of my cake as I had accidentally nick them whilst putting the fifty cents pieces on the board. So I had a lot of holes to pack!
Once that was done, we had to brush the cake lightly with apricot jam. The jam had to be warmed up and sieved prior to use.
Before rolling out the fondant, we had to measure the size that needed to be rolled out. As our cake was 8 inches wide with a height of 3 inches, we had to roll out (8+3+3 = 14 inches) plus 2 inches extra. That means we had to roll out 16 inches of fondant. We brought 1.5kg of fondant and that was just nice without very much left over.
The fondant was rolled out in a rounded shape, even for the square cakes. We were told to use the back of the palm of our hands (not fingers!) and our arms to lift the cake from the table to the top of the cake. Alternatively, roll the fondant over the rolling pin and lift it onto the cake. The thing which she did not mention is that you have to work very fast – especially in cutting the excess once you have smoothen the top of the cake. Because of the weather (humidity) and the weight of the excess fondant, the fondant gets dragged down over the sides and that causes “elephant” skin to develop around the edges of the cake – that is what I ended up having! I did not have much air bubbles because I think I did not use much of the cornflour – don’t know and not sure about this. With air bubbles it is much easier to rectify (use a sewing pin at an angle, prick it and smoothen it). For “elephant” skin, I need to do some research.
For square cakes, tuck in whenever the “diamond” end is facing you. I have yet to give this a go…perhaps my next project.
WEEK 7 – FINAL WEEK
We brought our fondant covered cake to class and all the decorations which we will be using to decorate our cake. I brought my icing as I needed her to show me how to pipe the borders. I was terrible at it! But the cake which I presented as my project was (to me) quite spectacular ;-). A picture of the cake and decorations as shown at the top of this page.
Key takeaways from this class:
– when decorating, start off with placing a bud on top of a leaf and then build from there
– make sure that in which ever direction you look, there is no empty spots, use fillers if necessary