Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to (Easily) Make Smooth Buttercream

 One of the biggest challenges to cake making is achieving very smooth looking cakes with buttercream icing.  Buttercream has an attitude if you don't treat it right.  Give it too much water and it will not hold for you, give it too little water and it will get pasty on you, don't let it sit or don't stir it enough and and it will keep it's bubbly texture... and I am sure you can think of more of the challenges!  So here it is, a post all about getting buttercream to the right texture and consistency to give you a nice smooth look AND to make decorating easier.  

 The Recipe.

 This has been the best recipe I have ever worked with.  You do need to use Hi-Ratio shortening (not Crisco) to achieve that extra smoothness (and extra yummy) results.  You can purchase this at Janis' cake shop (Every Baking Moment in Dixon, California) or search online.  I have adjusted this recipe for what I like and it is below.  For Janis' Original Buttercream Recipe click Here

25 oz of Hi-Ratio Shortening
16 oz of Salted Butter (or 1 tsp of salt per 16 ounces of unsalted butter)
1 tbsp. Vanilla
1/2  tsp Almond emulsion (can use 1 tsp extract in place of emulsion)
5 lbs C&H powdered sugar
9-10 Tbsp water
Make your buttercream at least a day or so in advance.
Step 1.  Bring out your shortening and butter and let warm to room temperature (I like to do this overnight).  This step will make preparing this buttercream go A LOT faster.  You can use the microwave but I warn you it is not the same.  We can't always take shortcuts:-/!
Step 2.  Place shortening, butter, vanilla, and almond in mixing bowl.  Using your paddle attachment cream well at low speed stopping if needed to scrap down sides.  Get it real creamy smooth at medium speed (about 10 minutes or so).  This will take a lot longer if the butter or shortening is not at room temp.
Step 3.  At low speed add about 1 lb of powdered sugar and blend well moving up to medium speed if you like.
Step 4.  At low speed again add another 1 lb of powdered sugar, blend well, and another 1 lb of powdered sugar AND the first 3 tablespoons of water and blend well.
Step 5.  Add another 1 lb of sugar & 3 tbsp water, and the last 1 lb of powdered sugar and the last 3-4 tbsp of water.
Step 6.  Store in a container with a lid (I like to use a large pot) at room temp for a week or in the fridge for a month or so.  If you do not keep a lid on it the buttercream will dry out and get pasty.


Ok, so now that we got the recipe down let's get it smooth!!   

 #1.  So here's what has to happen... the buttercream needs to rest and get 'firm'.  The bubbles do not like to come out when the buttercream is still fresh and soft.  You can accomplish this 2 different way, the first is to make it a day in advance (at least overnight - 8 hours) or store it in the fridge until the butterceam is cold.  If you do the fridge method you want it to come back to room temp so it is easy to stir.  Either way you slice it waiting is a must.

#2.  After waiting for your buttercream to 'firm up' get ready to start stirring.  Bring out your soft spatula, start stirring, and you will see as you stir in one area the bubbles will start to disappear.  If you let your buttercream firm at room temp run the spatula under water for a second and use your (now) wet spatula to incorporate just a little more water into your buttercream.  If you used the fridge method as the buttercream thaws the condensation will incorporate more water and you will likely not need to add anymore.  I have found that the fridge method smooths out a lot faster but either way will work.

#3.  Continue to stir as much buttercream as you think you will need.  I do like to do this manually (versus reusing your mixer) because then there are that many less dishes to rewash and this doesn't take long.

 #4.  Once you see the buttercream become smooth it is ready to use!


Here is a pix of my pot of buttercream.  You can see that the side where the spatula is at has a creamier looking buttercream (this is where I stirred).  And the buttercream above the spatula (top part) looks more bubbly and not-smooth.  Mix only what you estimate you need at a time. 

Once smooth use your buttercream but keep your container closed (I have a bad habit of not doing this step when I get busy with the cakes;-)).
That really is it!  Try it and share your results with us:)!

Thanks for reading and happy cake making!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Make Fondant (Ruffle) Rosettes on a Cake

Fondant ruffle rosettes are one of the most beautiful techniques I have every seen.  I couldn't wait to try out this technique and I jumped at the chance for a photographer's glamorous country style wedding photo shoot.  But just how to create the look I wasn't sure.  There isn't too much out there in how to make a fondant [ruffle] rosettes.  At first I tried by making them by cutting out straight strips but they just didn't look right - too not beautiful enough looking.  Then I realized some people applied the ball tool (the ones you use to roll out your flower petals) on one edge to get more of a ruffle effect - but again I thought #1 - OMG that will take me even more hours than the countless hours it will already take me and #2 - I was not crazy about it's possible inconsistency and too-ruffled appearance due to the manual ruffling.  So reaching into my clothes making skills I thought... what about a curved strip!!  A curved strip is softer (than the straight strip) and the curvature will bring about ruffles (avoiding the need to use the ball tool!).  Yay!  How exciting to find a *reasonable* way to create this look - and I say *reasonable* because it still takes many many hours!:-P


Cake tier covered in fondant
Pizza cutter for your strips or Fondant Rosette Cutter Available Here
Marshmallow fondant Recipe HereTo buy our ready made fondant click here.  (fresh MMF can be too soft) OR a 50/50 fondant/gumpaste mixture (Quantiy - a lot - sorry for the vagueness here but it really depends on your tier size and how you space your strips)
Pasta Roller OR Fondant Roller

 For a cliffnote version of how to do this check out our you tube video:

1.  Roll out your fondant - I like to use my small fondant roller until the fondant is reasonably thin and then
run it through the pasta roller to get a nice even thickness.

2. Cut the strip - Using your cutter or your fondant rolling cutter, cut out 'rainbow' shaped strip.  I like to cut one and use it right after cutting (versus cutting a whole bunch but you will find what you are comfortable with).  Don't worry if your edges aren't nice and neat/clean because you won't notice them at all when positioned on the cake.

3.  Lightly paint the area of the cake you will apply your strip to with water (water is a perfect sticking agent for MMF but you can use sugar glue as well).

4.  Position - With the short edge of the strip against the cake and the long edge of the strip on the outside kind of fold one end at the center of the rosette you are trying to create.  NOTE: let the edge of the strip against the cake flange out and "grab" the cake as you are working.  Then, as soon as the center 'bud' is created start positioning the rest of the strip around and around that bud.  NOTE: The bud part can be a little tricky (sorry I couldn't show it in the video I only had one hand!:-/)

5.  Keep Going - Continue to cut strip after strip and wrap continuously around and around and create the style/effect you are going for.  Further create a ruffle look with your fingers or other fondant tool.

6.  Admire your work after the first few hours... because you may likely be doing this for even longer;-)!  You will find that this is not a difficult technique just extremely time consuming.

Thanks for reading and happy cake making!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Shape it up! - How to make a shaped cake

 Even a cake likes to be in great shape;o)!!  When I got this order for a graduation cake I thought, what a creative way to make a big impression at your party!  And what a FUN cake!  I was excited to start this project and with this post I want to share with you just HOW to make it.  Basically, for ANY shaped cake (2D flat style) I follow the exact same procedure. To get the nice clean cake look it does take a bit of practice, patience, planning, and time budgeting to ensure everything 'sets up just right'.  My goal with this tutorial is to save YOU a lot of time in figuring these steps out:).  Now you can focus on practicing and don't forget to leave a comment if you have any questions!  So let's get started!!:)


  1.  Desired Cake Shape - printed on regular paper or cardstock.  After printing the shape out test that it fits the cake pan size just as you would like.  In this case since this was a very large A get the image you want onto a word document and appropriately, size, cut and move in order to print out all parts of the image in the correct size.  Tape them all together and cut.
  2.  A baked cake large enough for your print out - Here is the thing about the baked cake... you can try to do this by putting smaller cakes together (especially useful with very intricate and 3D type of cakes), HOWEVER, this might introduce a lot more working/manipulating time and you will see as I go through the steps that if you increase your working time you will have a harder time obtaining that perfect clean look that you want for your cake.  As they say in engineering "the more moving parts, the more failures" - avoid this whenever possible;-)!  Also, a more dense-'ed' cake is preferred, however, not necessarily required.  It will be more dense if you do scratch baking or incorporate pudding mix into box mixes.
  3. American buttercream - you can try this with swiss meringue buttercream, however, SMB can have a harder time staying firm in say a high heat summer party (especially June parties!).  If you a going for a very 'sharp' look I recommend ganache.  But to get a look just like I like American buttercream and I use this recipe.  Off the shelf buttercream should work just as well too.
  4. Solid Cake Board - Cake boards need to be solid in order to not get shaped cakes out of shape.  A lot of times I like to use wood boards from the hardware store.  Sometimes Home Depot has partial boards that have been cut down for remodels and you can purchase them (and have them cut it for you) at a discount, however if not they have new boards that they can cut to any size you want!
  5. Cake knife - A small/medium cake knife is perfect for cake shaping
  6. Very Sharp Small Knife - I use a Messermeister model: Petite Messer.  It is the most PERFECT knife for 2D cut outs and this cake incorporates 2D cutouts as a topper to complete the look.
  7. Marshmallow Fondant - lots of recipes online!.


1. Let your cake cool COMPLETELY.  After completely cool layer/cut your cake into it's two layers using your preferred method.  Most 2D shaped cakes look best a s a 2" tall cake so in this case we will only be working with one 2" tall cake (cut/layered into 2 cake layers).    
    2. Time to chill your cake.  Place on a cake pad/cardboard and chill your cake until firm at least 6-8 hours.  Ok so when I say chill I mean freeze, yes freeze.  So let's talk about freezing for a little bit... as far as I am concerned freezing a cake has gotten a really bad rap.  It turns out freezing not only helps in the decorating process but it actually makes your cake MORE moist!!  I know I didn't believe it either until I tried it!!   So what do I mean?  What happens is when a COMPLETELY COOLED cake freezes and later thaws, the condensation that is created in the thawing process fills your cake with moisture.  This DOES NOT work if your cake isn't completely cooled.  If your cake is still very warm/hot, the heat that is trying to escape the cake fuses back into it and water freezes inside the cake making the texture kinda 'dry'.  This also doesn't as well in a freezer that has a lot of other things in it.  Preferably this is done in a cake dedicated freezer.  So if you are a caker and haven't tried you have to try it! If you choose not to freeze your cake I can assure you it will not turn out as clean looking.  Ok, so moving on...

    3. BEFORE bringing your frozen cake out make sure you are well prepared.  Your job when you bring out the cake will be to carve it AND fill it.  You will have about 15-20 minutes ONLY until the cake will start to get soft.  You have to work very quickly.  If you take more time you will have to re-chill it before continuing and once a little firm (about 20-30 minutes) you can continue.  You may find yourself doing this your first time as it takes a number of shaped cakes to get the practice right.  DO NOT refreeze your cake the full 6-8 hours (the moisture that is starting to build in your cake from the condensation process will ruin the cake if you do).  So make sure to have your cake knife, the cake filling (in this case it was buttercream and really that is the best filling because it is very firm), and enough buttercream to crumbcoat the cake.

    4. Using your print out, carve out your shape!  Carefully AND quickly.  In this case and in other shaped cakes I have done I really like the look of a softer edge.  So after cutting the shape I cut just a little bit at the edge to 'take the edge off' and soften the cake look.

    5. After carving your shape out carefully separate the cake layers from each other and fill.  Replace the layer and begin your crumb coat.  By this time if it hasn't already your cake may be getting soft.  The goal is to finish your crumb coating just before  it gets soft (all of that moisture is sealed in once you crumb coat!:)  If you need more time re-chill for 20-30 minutes and continue.

    6.  Let stand for 6-8 hours at room temperature.  Buttercream will crust and really firm up.  You don't have to wait that long but if you don't the cake will not look as clean.

    7.  Cut the cardboard away from the shape with a sharp exacto knife.  This will leave only enough cardboard for the cake itself.  I found the PERFECT knife at Home Depot called SmartEdge.  It worked beautifully.

    8.  Prepare your solid large board.  I used a wood board and covered it with white shelf liner for a grease proof backing and secured with electrical tape (works superb).  Dab some glue in the area you want your cake to sit.  The cake will stay right where it needs to!  Be very careful moving shaped cakes sometimes you will need 3 hands!:)

    9.  Dab some water at the edges all around your shaped cake
    with a brush

    10.  Before rolling out your marshmallow fondant make sure you are ready with your fondant smoother and edge cutter (and be ready to work over many different edges!).  Here you will also have to work quickly to ensure your fondant shapes well.  Roll out your fondant, cover your cake, and smooth over all edges.

    11.  Smooth with your fondant smoother and trim edge.  Let the cake set for another 6-8 hours at room temperature.  DO NOT refrigerate marshmallow fondant as it will sweat.  And do not worry about having your cake out at room temp for so long.  The cake is sealed with moisture and actually the longer it sits like this the more moisture builds inside.  Sugar is also a natural preservative and keeps the cake very well (we store bread for longer at room temp!;-))

    12.  For this particular cake I thought a big cake topper would complete the look so I followed my steps for a regular 2D cut out.  Rolled out white fondant and let it sit for 10-30 minutes, trimmed out a big A with my little sharp knife and gently placed it on the cake (you might need 3 hands here!).  To adhere you can use sugar glue or shortening.  I like shortening because you can move/reposition if you make a mistake.  Then I made & rolled out crimson red fondant and and let that sit for 10-30 minutes (careful not to make it before working with white otherwise no matter how much you wash your hands you will get your white's dirty!), cut my A temple down to just the red part and trimmed this thinner A with the little sharp knife.  Place on cake with again with shortening.

    13.  Soften your cut out edges with your finger and a little shortening.  Straighten any edges with your tools.  Give it a clean sharp look with a thin coat of shortening over the entire red A portion.
    And you are done!!!  Whew... happy cake shaping!!:)