Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making a Display Cake

When I first began my cake business I made my very first display cakes out of real cake.  A total of 6 two tiered and one 3 tiered real decorated cakes for the Cal Expo show!  Yes those are them on the left.  At the time it seemed like the easiest solution as I was not comfortable (at all) with making a non-edible display cake.  One of my biggest concerns is that Styrofoam cakes are very light and I cringed at the thought of fighting the cake to stay still as I worked to decorate it.

As time has gone on there have been a number of occasions such as shows during a busy week and photo shoots that I was forced to deal with that issue.  I absolutely had to make a non-edible display cake.  So I talked with Janis at Every Baking Moment who is a wealth of knowledge and seller of all-size Styrofoam cakes.  I incorporated her input of adding hardware to the foam cake from underneath to add weight.

So read on and check out this simple step by step method for creating your very own Styrofoam display tiered cake.


Cake foams
Matching cake carboards
Wood screws with a flat head and 2-3 inches long
Philips screwdriver or drill (I love my impact driver shown here)
Desired decorating materials

Step 1

Take each Styrofoam cake tier and matching cardboard and screw in wood screws using your screwdriver, drill, or impact.  I like to space them out evenly around the perimeter and one in the center.  It's really not for stability but more than anything for weight.  Also be careful not to push too hard as it will tear right through the Styrofoam rather than grip it, but of course it's not a big deal if you do either.  Repeat for each Styrofoam tier you are planning

Step 2

Prepare each tier with base decor.  I love to used fondant here (I have yet to make a smooth buttercream version!).  Cover each cake as you normally would a regular cake with fondant.  I have found covering the tier with shortening is a nice way to adhere the fondant to the foam.  Let fondant covered tiers dry and firm as you normally would.  Stack all fondant covered Styrofoam cake tiers using water or piping gel.  I like to use water brushed onto the cardboard from the tier above.  The tier will be 'adjustable' for about 5 minutes and after a while the fondant tier will adhere completely.  I did make a rosette display cake and to stack those tiers I inserted small nails head down on the bottom tier and pushed the tier above it onto the protruding nails (and I didn't use a cardboard with that one either since this style was decorated as it was being stacked).

Step 3

Once cakes are covered and stacked finish it with the detailed decor

 Step 4

And after (hopefully not too many hours later) decorating you are done!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mini Cakes - Picture Tutorial!

Making a mini cake can be painstakingly tedious.  Here is a quick picture tutorial on how to use cupcakes (instead of cookie cutters) to get your mini cake layers.  If you have an questions please comment or ask any questions!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Castle Painting 101

Hello again!  This is a quick tutorial on how to paint a Styrofoam castle.  After spending a lot of time painting the castle WRONG I decided someone might benefit from this and save themselves hours of time!  I received my first castle cake order a couple of weeks ago and was excited to try this design out.

First thing first: order the castle topper. I found a nice selection of castle toppers at CalJava Online:  For this I ordered Castle #8.  Make sure to charge your client accordingly as the castle itself is about $50 plus taxes and shipping charges.

What made this castle tricky, is that the client wanted  to stick with the fushia hue for the castle as well.  While I know airbrush colors would work real nice there was no standard fushia airbrush color and I was unsure which colors to mix since airbrush colors are a little harder to visualize until you spray it.

So I opted to mix a number of my cake colors to get a similar shade.  I turns out electric pink and lavender (purple and white) gave me a good fushia.  I know it looks red below and above it looks pink but it really did look fushia!  Ok so here is my summary of do's and don't-s for painting Styrofoam castles:

Do's and Don't-s


- Use an airbrush
- If you want to hand paint use petal dust with vodka
- If you don't have petal dust or an airbrush use only paste cake colors (like Wilton)


- Don't use the more liquidy gel colors (like Americolor).  They have just the right amount of water to make Styrofoam painting frustrating.
- Don't pipe the tower tips with buttercream... ok so I know that might be a design preference for you but I tried it, it really wasn't too pretty, and it made a big MESS of my castle painting job.  I was hoping to go over it with silver luster dust when it dried, but it didn't look too good and my painting problems snowballed from there once I got the Styrofoam greasy!

Hope this mini tutorial helps someone out there who may be thinking of painting a Styrofoam castle (or other Styrofoam) cake topper!:)

Happy Caking!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Level A Cake!

Cake leveling is a big part of cake decorating.  If your cake is not well leveled it will look unbalanced and if tiered it will probably loose it's balance!!  While there a number of techniques out there here is what I have found myself doing over the years:


Baked Cake
Edible Marker
Cake Lifter
Level slicer for layers

How to Level a Cake:

1.  Bake it:  Fill your cake pan 1/2 full of cake batter.  When your cake is baked your results should look similar to the picture below with a cake dome above the edge of the pan.  Let it cool for at least 10 minutes but no more than 1/2 hour.  This will give the cake enough time to settle into the pan and just enough time to not be difficult to get out cleanly.  Using the pan as your guide slice of the cake top/dome as shown.  You will get the best results with a nice long cake knife.  Also, be careful as the pan will still be hot.  I always like to fold over the cake top when I am done to give the cake a good inspection.  I like my cake to look spongy, soft, and moist.  Whenever I have 'messed up' my formula oh man does it show!!  (And if it's bad... I do it all over again!!)

2.  Flip it!  Right after it is cut it's time to get the cake out of the pan.  If you wait too long the cake becomes more difficult to get out as it starts to settle in the pan as it cools.  I like to wait 10 minutes and no more than 30.  I also like to use trays to move the cake layers about.  So with your plate, tray, or cardboard, place it on top of your freshly cut cake and flip.  Be careful as the pan will still be hot.

3.  Mark it!  I like to use edible ink pens to mark one line across the height of my cake layer.  In this way, when I use the leveler to slice the 2" layer into two 1" layers I know exactly where they matched up.  This gives me the best chance of keeping the same even level the cake came out with from the oven.  So right after you mark your line make sure to use the layer slicer to cut your cake layer in half (sorry forgot to take a picture of that!)

 4.  Fill it!  Whenever you are ready to start the decorating process is when you are now ready to start filling.  I like to do this after it has chilled for a few hours, that way you will get the least crumbs and great cake firmness to work with.  The cake will also be more moist when you eat it!  Fill between each 1" layer that you have created.  Use the cake lifter to separate the the 1" layers.  You can see that each layer will have it's own marked line.  I also notice sometimes my smaller tiers like to bake a little of center.  This is where I rotate the top 2" layer from the bottom 2" layer to get the most 'level' looking results.

5.  All Level now Crumb Coat it!  Now that you have a level cake - Congratulations!!  To start the crumb coat cut off any unsightly cake 'bulges' on the edges like the lip that formed here.  Using your cake knife cut these parts off.  With that ready give it a good crumb coat to prepare the foundation for the final buttercream coat or fondant.  There are occasions when the cake is still not quite level, in these situations use the buttercream and a good eye to create the look of a level cake by filling in any voids and removing excess at high points.

Good luck and thanks for reading!!
Happy Caking!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to Make a Rosette Cake

I was first asked to make a rosette cake by Ramona, owner of Simple Country Weddings.  She had a vision of a beautiful yet simple cake for todays contemporary bride.  After making one for her open house this design has become one of our most requested wedding cake styles.

Here is a tutorial on how to make a rosette and how to put it all together.   Make sure to practice your rosette before getting ready to make them on your cake.  But if you mess up don't worry!  Just scrap it out and do it again!  Like my little girl likes to say "keep trying you'll get better!"

Making the Rosette:

1.  Use a 1M tip in your pastry bag filled with buttercream and hold it perpendicular to your surface.
2.  Squeeze some out as if you are making a star.
3.  Guide the icing to curve and fold over the center you started.
4.  With the central part formed keep squeezing and circle around the center until you get the rosette size you want.

Here is a great video tutorial to describe the technique:

Putting the Rosette Cake together

1.  Crumb coat your cake with the same color you will be using to make the rosettes.  Let the crumb coat firm up for at least an hour (I like to let it firm up for at least a few hours - I have found the longer you let your material get firm, the cleaner the end result looks)

2.  Elevate or lower your cake if needed.  You want to have a comfortable position to create the rosettes.  I also like to work with rosettes on the final display board or stand that it will be on (moving the finished cake to another board could mess them up real easy).  

3.  Start with your first row of rosettes from the bottom.  For this 4" tall cake I made my rosettes about 2" tall which gives me two rows/

4.  For the second row offset the rosettes so that it fills the 'big' space between two rosettes from the bottom row.

5.  After the two rows on the side start on the top.  Place the center rosette first.  Next place rosettes around the central rosette.

6.  There will be gaps with nothing in them.  Here fill in the gaps with the same tip.  Do not use another tip or it will not look right - trust me I've tried it!  Also do everything you can to use circular-sh fill-ins.  I tried filling in with straight-sh lines and it looked horrible.

7.  Let the cake firm up and enjoy your rosette cake!!

Happy Caking!!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

How to make Cute Minnie Mouse Ears

I was inspired to create this post when I started working on this Minnie Mouse cake.  I was looking for something to give Minnie a more feminine look than the same old round flat Mickey ears with a skewer through it.  So I ventured into creating an indented round ear... a step up in the 3D department!  What may appear difficult and laborous you may find that this mouse ear tutorial takes just a few extra minutes and a couple of extra tools than the flat ears.  The biggest challenge was coming up with the frame 'work'.  How to create a structure to support this shape and stay secure?  After a few days of hoping I would find something out there I realized the solution was right in my cake cupboard!  Cake wires were the answer.  I like to get them at my local cake shop (Every Baking Moment in Dixon).  But you can get them at any other cake shop as well.  Now all we have to do is shape them into place so... let's get started!

For a cliff note version check out our YouTube video at:

Minnie Mouse Ears - 3D Fondant


Black Fondant
Round cutters (ear size and about 2 sizes smaller)
Flower Drying cups
Covered Cake Wire
Fondant Roller
Pliers (not pictured)
Paint brush (not pictured)

Step 1.  Make the Wire Frame

Center the wire on the smaller round cutter.  Gently and firmly push the wire around the cutter until the y meet.  Try to keep one side straight while bending the other (this prevents the frame you are making from losing a good shape).  Once shaped pull it out holding it carefully and secure it firmly with the pliers.

Now on ETSY
Purchase Read made frames at:

Step 2.  Prepare the Fondant

I like to use ready made black fondant.  Sometimes the marshmallow fondant is a lot more trouble when it comes to making black!  Put a good amount of Gum-Tex on the fondant and knead in fully.  I like to use this combination instead instead of gumpaste.  Fondant keeps it's color nicely and dry with a 'softer' look.  Knead gumtex in fully.

Step 3.  Roll out your fondant

Prepare your surface by dusting it with cornstarch.  I like to use my clean counter for small pieces like this as it is nice and smooth and I don't need to wash an extra mat in my sink!  Roll out your fondant to about 1/8" thick and using your desired ear size cut out one ear layer.  Each ear will have 2 fondant 'layers'.  Cut a total of 4 ears.

Step 4.  Put it together!

Place one layer on the flower cup and with a paintbrush brush water on the ear.  Make sure to paint it completely edges, center, everywhere.  Place the ear frame you made inside the ear and press gently.  Center another ear piece directly ontop of your wet piece and frame, sandwiching the frame.  The water will stick them together and make the frame hold.

Step 5.  Final Touches

Dust your ears with a dry brush.  I like to use a small makeup powder brush.  Sometimes it is hard to get all that powder look off and any dry looking spots so to give it a clean smooth fresh look apply a small coat of shortening over the ear.  And we're done!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cake Painting 101

It was a busy wedding weekend when I rushed in with a gold fondant cake decorated with red fondant drapes (some like to call them swags but I like to call them drapes).  My heart sank when I saw the entire venue was decorated in the colors of maroon, burgundy, and wine.  Any of those colors would have worked, but not red!  Lesson number #234 - always get an actual color reference from the couple.  Ok so now that the cake was finished, delivered, and set up with flowers, I had a couple hours to drive back home, deliver another wedding cake to another town, pick up the right luster dust color from my cake store (Every Baking Moment in Dixon), head back to this cake, and repaint the drapes right.  Let's just say it was a wee bit stressful!!  But the good news is the cake's new paint job was done and I ducked out of the venue just as the guest began filtering in.  So on a positive note it was my inspiration for this blog post:)!

And before we start the picture on the right shows the mold I created for the border.  Very simple!  I bought the mold material at Michael's and the wood scrolls at the Home Depot hardware store.  I like to use gumpaste for these molds.  But before we digress too much further... here is a 3 step guide for how to paint gumpaste or fondant on a cake using luster dusts:

Painting Fondant or Gumpaste with Luster Dust


Luster Dust
Very small container for mixing
Paint brush
Fondant or gumpaste to paint

Step 1. 

Pour some luster dust into the small container.  Start with just a little first to see how much you will need.

Step 2. 

Put a few drops of vodka in with the luster dust to make it into a workable liquid.  I like to store my cake vodka in a jar with a medicine dropper.  Add a drop at a time, if you overdo it it will make your 'paint' too 'watery' and you may have to pour some out.

Step 3.

Mix up your paint with your brush and start applying onto desired area.  Paint an even coat.  Wait about 10 minutes and retouch any missed areas.  And you're done!