Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cake Board Efficiency

It's no secret, custom cakes are very labor intensive, some taking so much time you need to count the number of decorating days and not the hours!

So how can we keep making beautiful cakes and keep costs down for yourself and for your client?
Get lean! Eliminate waste!! (Ok so I really can't stop thinking like an engineer:))

Which brings us to the cake board.  From my experience clients want to pay for a beautiful cake and not so much a beautiful cake board.  This tutorial is all about cake board tips in order to ensure you give your client as much value as you can for their money while at the same time keeping your costs down in order to ensure you can remain profitable in your cake business.

First, when it comes to overall cake presentation, here are the personal preferences I like to stick to when it comes to our Cake Couture custom cakes:

3 Cake Couture Board Rules

1. Keep it simple.  While a very detailed board is pretty I think it takes away from the cake itself.  Of course there are occasions when a dressed up board is required to get the right look, however, in that situation your the board decor becomes part of the cake rate you provide your client.  I am focusing here on the cakes that do not require a decorated board. (Yes these are boar's head cake and lego cake boards are decorated boards:))

2. Keep it narrow.  I like to use a board that is 1"-2" wider than the decorated finished edge of the finished cake.  The wider you go the more empty the board will look if not decorated and some people actually think the cake starts to look more like a hat!  

3. Keep it neutral.  I think the cake really stands out when you keep the board white or a similar matching color (at least in the board ribbon).  I think shiny cake foils take away from the cake and can make it look too busy.  (On the right is the baby shower cake I made for my first little girl... pre-Cake Couture:))

Now on to the eliminating waste part!
We are going to go over 4 different styles of cake boards that we like to use on our Cake Couture custom cakes: 
Style 1 - Board with fondant
Style 2 - 2 tier board for buttercream
Style 3 - A 'Mother' board (ok so that's just a really big board!:))
Style 4 - Sheet cake boards

Materials for ANY board style

* Regular cake circles or squares (aka cake pads).  You can purchase these individually from your local cake supply shop or in bulk at your local restaurant supply shop (such as Cash & Carry or Restaurant Depo). 
* Electrical Tape.  Yes, electrical tape.  Preferable the Scotch brand or any other brand that sticks real well to itself.  

Style 1. Board with fondant

This board is the standard board.  The cost savings here is the use of electrical tape rather than board tape made for cakes.  

Step 1.  Take 3 like cake pads and holding them against you center and position the electrical tape around the board.  The electrical tape will not readily want to stick to the cardboard, but be patient, and once you get all the way around it will sit securely once it sticks to itself.  
Step 2.  Coat your board with your preferred fondant sticking media.  I like to use shortening.

Step 3.  Roll out and cover your board with your preferred fondant.  I like to use marshmallow fondant (yes I will eventually put my recipe up:)).  Smooth your fondant once on the board.  Cut the edge with a knife and smooth the rough sides with a fondant smoother.

Let your board dry overnight (6-8 hours) and you are done!  

Style 2. Two tier board for Buttercream

I love this technique.  Some of the biggest decorating challenges are getting a super smooth buttercream cake.  The board technique will help you do that and save you time which also means money (since time = money:)!).  Also, you will not have to worry about making a special fondant or other covered board for this technique.  This is ONLY when you are make the following:
* 6" & 8" two tier (or just a 8" one tier) use a 9" cake board 
* 6" & 9" two tier (or just a 9" one tier) use a 10" cake board

Step 1. Using 4 cake pads prepare your base cake board (the 9" or the 10") with electrical tape.  Use electrical tape to wrap around the bottom 3 boards and use another round of electrical tape to wrap around the fourth cake pad securing it to the bottom 3.

Step 2.  Place electrical tape around the top rim of this base cake board.  This step eliminates the need to have any other cover on your board and keeps your cardboard from getting oily.  It will have little folds but flatten them out with any straight edge and it will be nice and smooth.  

Step 3.  Take your tier cake boards and individually wrap the edge with electrical tape.

Step 4.  Position your cake tiers on their individual cake boards and crumb coat.  

Step 5.  Using glue position your bottom tier on your base board to start your final coat (you will see that only a nice white edge and boarder peeks through).  Start your final coat on the top tier separately on your turntable.  You will see that using the electrical tape gives you a smooth edge to lean on for your scraper/smoother and again only white peeks through.  For final smoothing I like to use the paper towel method (use VIVA paper towels - non print side - and with a fondant smoother gently smooth).

  Step 6.  Stack your top tier appropriately and pipe your edges.  So smooth so clean you will LOVE the finish!! Trim your board with a pretty ribbon:).


 Style 3:  Mother boards (really big boards:))

When you are making large fondant cakes 12", 14", etc. and you want to get a nice fondant look but hate the thought of using so much expensive fondant that doesn't even get seen and ends up getting thrown away here is what we like to do.  This technique saves you on using expensive material but doesn't save on a lot of time since the preparing takes some getting used to.

Step 1.  Prepare your very large cake boards using the standard method of Style 1.

Step 2.  Take a cake board smaller than the actual cake tier that will go on top of it, center and glue it on.  
Step 3.  This is the tricky part.  Roll out a long strip of fondant (preferable measure it) even in thickness and with enough width to cover the gap between the glued center board and the larger board.  Trim one side of the long strip.  Cover the board gap with your fondant sticking material (I use shortening).  Take the trimmed edge and position it around the center board.  Trim where the fondant strip meets.

Step 4.  Smooth with your fondant smoother trim the edge, smooth edge, and let your board dry overnight (6-8 hours).
Step 5.  Using glue on the center board, position and place your prepared (and already to decorate) fondant covered cake on top of your large board.  You are done and you have the look of a fondant covered board without the waste of fondant!

Style 4.  Sheet Cake Boards

I like to always have half sheet cake boards on hand.  With a half sheet cake board either a quarter sheet, half sheet cake, double half sheet, or even a sculpted cake fits nicely.  You also only have to worry about buying and storing half sheet cake boxes.  Standardize your supplies to get the most of your inventory.  So when it comes to the basic half sheet cake boards they are regular cardboard material and I DO NOT like the look of greasy cake boards!  You can purchase the gold style the supermarkets like to use that do not absorb the buttercream grease, however, at Cake Couture we are not fans of gold or anything shiny as a board for your cake (takes away from the cake).  And I have never been crazy about the scalloped edges either!:)  So I stick to my half sheet cake boards and cover them in... cabinet liner!!!  You can also use this technique on different boards to incorporate colors by using colored paper and covering it with clear cabinet liner.

Step 1.  Select board and preferred cabinet liner.

Step 2.  Glue or tape paper to board (optional).  

Step 3.  Apply cabinet liner and smooth out air bubbles with a scrapper.

And you are done!  Yes it is that simple!!:)

Happy cake making cakers!! 


Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to make a Lego Cake

I have been wanting to make a lego cake for a very long time.  I am not sure why I love Legos so much but I do.  I used to have a Lego school set when I was little.  I played with it for hours and I LOVED it.  Even before getting this order I would research how to make a Lego cake.  I always wondered.  But I didn't have much luck finding any tutorials out there.  So when I got this order the situation was still the same - there was little to no instruction out there. So here we are!

Most of what I found, if I found anything at all, referenced the "cut out a lot of little circles" approach, where after you cut your little rectangle you individually place every little Lego nub on top of it.  Sorry, but this was NOT what I was willing to do.  There was NO way I was going to make hundreds of itty bitty nubs to put on top of each Lego piece and in so many colors.  Not to mention it really wasn't going to look super neat... and that is always my goal - a PERFECT cake.  Yes I am very OCD about it!

So yes, I was up for spending the better part of two days but not a whole week on the Lego cake project. Call me lazy, but I am an engineer, and that's just what we are... lazy.  We create things to do the work for us.  So how was I going to accomplish that perfect Lego look?  I really wasn't sure... good thing I got this order about a month in advance because like most of my cake projects their procedures ruminate in my head until it's cake time.

So I wanted a Lego mold.  Something where I would NOT have to cut out little nubs.  Something that looked JUST like a Lego piece.  I searched and searched but could not find a Lego mold ANYWHERE!  I had even ordered one that turned out to be the size of big Lego ice cubes!  So if I wanted to get that perfect Lego piece look this meant I had to make the mold.  I scoured my daughter's Lego toys and found the perfect little piece.  For mold making instructions see materials below or you can buy them from us on our Etsy account:

Keep in mind this cake is all about prep work.  If everything is well prepared putting it together will be the fun part!  So here we go with the materials and steps to make a Lego cake.  But if you want a cliff note version check out our youtube video:

Key Decorating Materials

1.  Lego Mold: make your own or purchase from our Etsy account at .  To make your own I used Mold Star15 from  Secure Lego piece with buttercream on glass piece center cookie cutter around it, buttercream edge of cookier cutter, mix mold media, pour, let dry for 4 hours.

2.  Wilton OR Marshmallow Fondant* in primary colors:  Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue

 * This is recommended with molds and cutouts.  These fondants have the right firmness, flexibility, and texture to keep mold shapes and create sharp cut outs.  Updated marshmallow fondant recipe post to come.

3.  Lego Name Topper:  make your own with fondant or purchase from our Etsy account at

4. Your cake - sheet cake preferred for a good Lego look and fit.

5. Chocolate Ganache  (see instructions on our post here)

Decor Steps

1. The Lego Blocks (for the top only) - minimum 2 days before 

  • A number of days before you want the finished cake make a number of Lego pieces for the top using the Lego mold and your different fondant colors.  Push a ball of fondant large enough to fill the mold cavity and use a sharp knife to cut the excess fondant flush with the mold.  Carefully pull the Lego piece out of the mold and re-square with a knife or spatula on a large tray dusted with cornstarch or powdered sugar.  I recommend starting with the lightest fondant color and working your way to the darkest (I would do yellow, green, red, then blue).  This way you can keep from cross contaminating your fondant colors and save yourself from dry hands due to over washing. The reason you want to do this well in advance is to allow your pieces to dry and therefore create 'sharp' looking blocks.  Drier fondant is sharper looking fondant and sharp looking fondant always looks cleaner and gives a more finished look.
  • Get a rough idea of how many pieces you need per color by estimating how many you will need to cover the top of your cake pan and cake board.  
  • This cake size is a quarter sheet and for the look I wanted it requires
    • 50 green mold pieces
    • 23 yellow mold pieces
    • 13 blue mold pieces
    • 13 red mold pieces
  • Let the pieces dry for a full day or two (minimum overnight).  You can save time by not fully drying but the pieces may not be as sharp looking.  Store them on your trays in a cabinet out of sunlight to prevent them from fading or changing color.  
  • Once they are fully dry cut the Lego pieces evenly into 3 smaller pieces.  DO NOT cut all the green pieces since you need a good amount of those for the cake board.
  • They are now ready!

2.  The Logo Name Plate Topper

  • Since you have just worked with all of your colors you can make this easy peasy.  The hardest thing here is to get that Lego font!
  • Google "Lego font", download it onto your computer, pick desired font size, put it on Word and print!
  • Cut out the name roll out the fondant layers, cut the name and cut the red and black backgrounds.

3.  The Cake

  • Fill your cake as you normally would.
  • Use chocolate ganache to coat sides and top of cake.  Refrigerate to achieve a firm coating on your cake.  While this is refridgerating start the side blocks:

4.  The Side Blocks

  • Roll out wide pieces of 4 different colors preferably using a pasta roller.  I use a kitchen-aid one that attaches to my mixer.  Tip: To get a thicker piece than the #1 setting reverse it - back the knob up.  It will work just as well and give you a nice thick piece.  I don't remember if I did this for the sides or if I used the #1 setting but there it is just in case:)!
  • Let your pieces dry preferably for about an hour.
  • While these are drying create your cutting guide.  Using graph paper or engineering paper draw lines using a straight edge using the same width and length of your small molded Lego pieces (the dimensions of the final Lego piece after you have cut it into 3).  I believe it is 2 graph blocks wide and 4 graph blocks long.  See picture I know this sounds a little confusing.
  • AFTER drying cut out these pieces using a small knife, a straight edge, and your paper guide.  You will cut a lot faster this way (I told you I was lazy;-)).  If you do not wait for proper drying the pieces will not cut as easily and as firmly.  
  • These I like to cut as I need them so you only really cut what you need.  I found these hard to estimate quantity.

5.  Put it all Together!!

  • Ok so this is what I think is the fun part!  Bring your cake out and position your green lego pieces on the board just a tad away from the cake leaving a small gap for the side pieces of the cake.  
  • Use "sugar glue" to get the pieces to stick.  
    • How to make Sugar Glue:
      • Mix about 1/2 water and 1/2 fondant
      • Microwave in 10-30 second increments
      • Let sit for 15 minutes to set
  • Paint the top of the cake with a thin coat of sugar glue.  Start playing Lego's!  Create your own Lego pattern on top of the cake.  Overhang the border Lego's just a tad so the side Lego's will meet flush just under them.
  • Match the side pieces of the first row to the border pieces with the appropriate color.  Cut side pieces where necessary.
  • Fill the remaining rows of the side freestyle!
  • After it is all together cut the cake board to fit (so no cardboard is showing beyond the green board pieces) and place the name topper on the cake.
That is it!! Yes I know it is a ton of work but it is such a beautiful looking cake.  Your little one (or big one) will LOVE it!  Looking forward to our next Lego cake order:)!

Happy Cake Decorating!!