Tutorial Tuesday: How to Stack a Tiered Cake

People ask me all the time what they need to do to ensure the integrity of their tiered cakes. I’ll show you how I do it.

First I cover my cakes with fondant. This is a bit more tricky with buttercream covered cakes… but I do most of my cakes in fondant.

The bottom cake is given a support system. Honestly, drinking straws work awesome. I find the center of my cake and come out a couple of inches in each direction and insert a straw. Be careful not to put the supports out further than the next cake with overlap.
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Pull the straws up a tiny bit and cut each one so that once you push it back into the cake, it’s level with the cake and rests on the bottom of the cake board. The concept here is that the next cake’s weight will be supported completely by these straws and it won’t crush this cake.
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Now, sometimes when I do a tiered cake, I’ll add a center support to keep the cake from falling over or sliding around, coming off center etc.
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I usually use a wooden skewer in this case. Be sure that your skewer is cut to the correct height, you don’t want it tearing through the top of your top tier. That would be bad!
This cake is going to be a three tier.
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This next part is very important… you have to have a board under your other cake as well. The board distributes the weight across the supports. I usually cut a piece of foam core board into a circle slightly smaller than the cake is and cover it in foil. Also important… if you’re using a center support… POKE A HOLE INTO THE CENTER OF THIS BOARD BEFORE YOU PUT THE CAKE ON IT. (See how serious I am? I resorted to capslock…)
If not, you won’t be able to properly do this.
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Yeah, that cake looks a little wonky. Don’t worry about that bottom, that’s what boarders are for ;)

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I added a third tier on top of this, putting supports in this second tier the same way as on the bottom. Once you get the cake on, it might look a little rough from the handling, but you just need to wiggle things around a little and smooth things down a little and hey, decorating cakes is all about covering up imperfections with awesome little things you create.

Here’s a photo of it with the top tier on.
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Happy stacking!

Tutorial Tuesday: How to level a cake

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Lots of people ask me how I level my cakes. There are some fancy things you can buy that are supposed to do this job, but I’ve never had much luck with them. I’ll show you how I can level any size cake with just one bread knife. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a skill and takes some time. Don’t blame me if you wreck your cake! haha

Okay, so first, you’ll need a cake!
Like this one:
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Ok, it doesn’t have to be juuust like this one ;) But seriously, look how wonky this cake is!

You’re going to need a knife. A long serrated bread knife is best. Whatever knife you use, it MUST be serrated. And for goodness sake, let that cake cool first!

Now, you want to score the top. JUST SCORE IT, don’t cut any further than the highest post that is not domed. Does that make sense?
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See here? How I stop right at the edge? That’s as low as you want to score.

Now the other way, same thing. You’re scoring the dome top into four sections:
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Now, holding your knife steady as possible, you’re going to start on one section, Begin your cut right below where the dome stops being… domey. You want to get rid of that hard crusty part anyhow.
And then cut as straight as you can through that section.
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One down, three to go!
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Continue with the other sections, using the previous section as a guide for accuracy.
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Okay, you see how one section is raised higher there? You can see it in the center. It’s easy to spot.
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But don’t fret, it’s easy to just run the knife across that spot, hold your hand steady and shave that bit down.
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Ta-da!
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There you have it. A level cake. And some delicious leftovers…
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(That’s NOT waste… you eat that! or these scraps are great to save for cake pops or cake balls!)

Now, some explanation… yes, you can just do this in two sections. I’d rather do it in four though because when you make one long cut across the surface of the cake, you have a bigger chance of cutting up or down on an angle.
If I do a square cake, sometimes I might just do two sections. It’s easier to keep a level eye on something with corners ;)
I like this method because most cakes I bake are wider across than my knife is long. I can’t just slice the top off in one sweep.
Also, NEVER BE AFRAID. People are afraid to correctly level their cakes because OMGBBQTHATSHALFTHECAKE. But listen, that cake is only holding you back. You stack that thing with a dome top and you’re whole cake is going to fall apart. It’s gravity. I promise. It’s bad news. Plus, who wants to eat those crunchy burnt edges? Not I!
Final note: when you go to frost this thing, whether it’s being frosted just as one layer or stacked with another… your top- is now your bottom. Flip that thing over and frost the “bottom”… otherwise you’ll be trying to frost crumbly, unseared in cake! lol
It would fall apart on you. Just sayin.

Sorry for being MIA. Still trying to work stuff out with my health. If you haven’t got your health… well, you haven’t go anything <3
Happy decorating!
Summer

Tutorial Tuesday: Fondant Roses

Alright, I tried to write this earlier, but WordPress was having issues. Hopefully, it doesn’t eat this post. Seems like it might be a little weird acting, but we shall see!

Alright, so materials needed:
Seriously just fondant and powdered sugar. An a little bit of water.

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Start by using part of the fondant to make a sort of pointy egg shape. Round on one end and pointy on the other end like this. That will become the center of your flower.
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Now to make the petals, make little balls, then flatten them. You want them to be pretty thin.
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The more petals you make, the bigger your flower will be. When you’re squishing them, keep in mind what rose petals look like. They aren’t perfect circles, so you don’t have to be exact with your work. :)
Now, put a little bit of water on your center piece. Then start wrapping petals around it. You’ll need to brush water on the bottom inside of each petal before adding it. Just keep wrapping, trying to keep the sides equal.
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Once you feel like you have enough petals on, simply pinch the bottom and roll it between your thumb and fingers a bit until it feels secure.
Viola!
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See, not hard at all!

I guess no one wanted to win a 3 month pro-account certificate for Instructables.com because I didn’t have ONE SINGLE entry for the contest last week! Boo! Ah well. Happy caking!

Tutorial Tuesday: How to make cake fondant for about $

Cake is a big thing right now. It’s all over pop culture with tons of shows and websites. Everyone is talking about cake and cupcakes. People want to do it themselves, but it really does seem intimidating. Especially when you don’t know anything about cake decorating and you go into a craft store or someplace like walmart and you walk down that cake isle and see the things you’d need to buy in order to make a cake with fondant. To cover one 8″ round cake in white store bought fondant would cost around $10. Now, that’s pretty intimidating. If you mess the whole thing up, you’ve just trashed $10 worth of fondant. Not to mention, that stuff tastes like crap.

I’ve got a better plan. I’m going to show you a quick and easy way to make your own marshmallow fondant at home using about $3 worth of ingredients.

What you’ll need:
Fondant making
One bag of mini marshmallows
One lb of powdered sugar
about 1/4th cup shortening
a couple table spoons of water

A large microwave safe bowl
a large plastic spatula or spoon
something to sift your powdered sugar with

Normally, I would use name brand marshmallows, but I wanted to stick with my budget theme and buy the marshmallows and powdered sugar from the dollar store and prove even cheapy products will work fine. But seriously, it’s like $0.50 more for name brand. While this brand works, I have had poor results with other off brand marshmallows.

Moving on…
you’ll want to prepare a surface to work with on your counter.
Spread some shortening on the counter, keeping a bit reserved. This also will help coat your spatula. Then sift some powdered sugar over this area. You really HAVE to sift the sugar. If there are any clumps, they will create a poor texture and make your fondant lumpy and bubbly.
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Now you’ll want to dump the marshmallows into your bowl. Sprinkle them with a tablespoon or two in water and sort of shake them around. You don’t want them to be wet, just lightly damp. I’m only doing a half batch here. (using half the marshmallows and half the lb of sugar.) You could cover an 8″ cake with a half batch.
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Microwave your marshmallows for 30 seconds. At this point they might be ready or they might need another 30 seconds. Stir them and see.
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If they are melted enough to mix together, you’re good to go. If they’re still sort of holding their shape, pop them back in for another 30 seconds.
Stir until they’re pretty much uniform goo.
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Sift in some powdered sugar and keep stirring. You’re going to need to get the full ratio of one lb of powdered sugar mixed in with one bag of marshmallows. (or half and half)
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Once it starts to get sort of solid, turn it out onto the counter, on to that surface I had you prepare earlier. Sprinkle more sugar on it.
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Now get some more of that shortening and rub it on your hands. I know, gross, right? But otherwise this stuff is going to stick all over your skin. Just trust me. Keep sifting the sugar in and work this stuff like clay with your hands.
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If it seems like it’s starting to get too dry to accept more of the sugar, add a bit more shortening. A little goes a long way. Keep adding the sugar. Once you’ve mixed in all the sugar, your ball of fondant will be squishy, but not sticky. You’ll want to take a tiiiny bit of shortening and rub down the outside of the ball. Then tuck it into a ziplock bag. You can store this fondant at room temperature for about two weeks in an air tight container. If you want to use it right away, it’s best to let it refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes. (Though, in general, I don’t recommend storing it in the fridge, it will make it harden faster.)
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I know, now you’ve got this big ol’ mess on your counter. Well, in my experience the best thing to do is take a frosting spatula and scrape everything off the counter into a bowl. This is a little easier for me because I use the part of my counter right above my dishwasher. So, I open the dishwasher door when I do this, allowing anything that doesn’t make into the bowl to just fall into the dish washer. *genius*
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Alright… I assume now you’d like to know how to cover a cake with the fondant. I guess you’ll have to come back next Tuesday for the next edition of Tutorial Tuesday. I planned on going over the whole thing tonight but this post is already long enough! lol

Hope you all have a great week!
Here’s an adorable photo of my cat Gibson and I:
with Gibs
<3

These are a few of my favorite things…

I want to take a moment to talk about things that make my day to day life a better place to be while decorating cakes. When I first decided I wanted to do this, I took up a second job, working at a bar, just so that I could buy things that I would need to get started learning how to decorate.

I’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time on my collection and some things proved to be invaluable, while others… turned out to be a waste of money. So here is a small list of things that I just don’t think I could live with out.

My vintage 1950’s Hobart Kitchen Aid Mixer…
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Okay, so I didn’t actually go out and buy this. It was graciously given to me by my mother in law. It was passed down to her from her mother. Can you believe that before I was given this, I used to mix everything by hand?? My arms would just ache, it was awful. Obviously, I’d love a big fancy new Kitchen Aid mixer, but this thing was built with 1950’s know how. It’s a power horse! It gets the job done every time!

Gel Food Colors
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The next thing on my must-have list, are my Wilton gel colors. Liquid colors are pretty worthless. I know you can pick up a set of four for like a dollar, but you’ll never achieve those true vivid colors you’re looking for! These gel colors cost about $1.50 a color, but will last you quite a while. You only need a small amount to make your fondant and frostings bursting with vivid true colors. I’m told powdered colors are even more intense, but I don’t know where to buy them around here, so I haven’t tried them. These are readily available and can be found at any craft store and even in the cake decorating isle at Wal Mart.

Paint Brushes!
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I have a variety of paint brushes from tiny little detail brushes which I use to paint itsy bitsy details with food colors, to large, flat brushes I use to dry brush the excess powedered sugar from my fondant covered cakes. I don’t think I would know what to do with out them. I sterilize them every time I use them by simply tossing them in the silverware basket in the dishwasher. I even keep them in the silverware drawer in the kitchen lol. They’ve just become a part of my life. I have a different brush for everything.
Once a cake is covered in fondant, I dry brush it and then lightly brush it with a high proof vodka. The vodka dissolves any left over powdered sugar, creates a nice, smooth, vibrant surface on the fondant and then quickly evaporates due to it’s alcohol content. (I saw them do this on Ace of Cakes and have been using this system ever since!)

My Witon Fondant Roller
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Oh gosh have I had some rolling pin issues.
When I was starting out, I picked up, what I thought would be a great rolling pin. I spent about $25 on a “nice” metal rolling pin. I thought it would be be awesome. Man was I wrong. Despite my efforts to dry it after washing, there seemed to be a lot of little areas where the pin was put together with various casing and seals on the edges. Eventually, the area where the surface of the pin met the casing for the handles began to rust. I went to roll out white fondant one day and to my dismay, brownish/orange lines appeared on my fondant from the rust! I had to cut off those ares and start all over. I literally spent month rolling my fondant out with a heavy pint glass because I couldn’t afford to splurge on a new rolling pin.
Well, finally, I treated myself to this fondant roller. Holy wow. How did I live before I owned this?? It’s so perfect. It’s heavy weight, so I don’t have to work as hard to flatten the fondant. It’s long, so I don’t end up having to work on the fondant a section at the time. It’s pretty much a perfect tool. I honestly don’t know what I would do with out it.

Fondant/Gumpaste Tools
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There are SO many useful things in this little box. Any time I need to sculpt or shape something, these things are there for me and there’s always just the right tool for the job. I always think of this little kit like my clay working tools from my ceramics class in high school. There are a lot of very similar pieces. I really love using these tools to create textures, mold shapes and add detail. My only small complaint is that there is a small rotary tool which does not spin as freely as I would like it to.

Wilton Performance Pans
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I think when you take your cakes out of the oven in Wilton Performance Pans, a holy chorus of angels should sing.
I feel lucky to own 5 of these pans. I have the large square set and a pair of 6.5″ round pans. They are just dreamy. Everything bakes up evenly and pillowy. Nothing sticks…
I even made a wedding cake using all three of the square pans. Who knew baking a 16″x16″ square cake could be so easy? The layers barely even need a trim… they were just so… even and magical. I was in complete awe. Heck, I still am.

Now, here’s an item I misunderstood and sort of snubbed for a while.

Spring form pans
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I used to have an awful time with these. I would have cake batter leaking out the bottom of them, I’ve ripped many a bottom out of a cake because it stuck to these weird textured bottom plates. I was about fed up with these.

I’ve come to realize now, that spring form pans and I can, in fact, live in harmony. When I use them now, I place a piece of wax paper on the bottom plate, place the ring around it so that the wax paper is cinched in place and then cut the excess paper off around the bottom.
Now… maybe this is some sort of common knowledge… but no one told me! I’m trying to figure everything out on my own, but I guess some details slip by. Since I began with the wax paper, I’ve had nothing but love for these pans. I only wish I owned more. I’ll have to invest in another set :)

Now here’s one thing I wish I hadn’t wasted the money on.

Cake Leveler
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Now, don’t get me wrong… this thing only cost me like $3, but to be honest, I could have purchased two gel colors for that. Or I could have bought one of my favorite energy drinks, or I could have bought 3 items at the dollar store… or… heck, I probably would have rather paid someone $3 to just throw this thing out the window of a moving vehicle.
It’s like I paid $3, to destroy hours of mixing and baking and hard work!
I HATE THIS THING.
When I first started, I tried… really. I thought it was me. I couldn’t be this thing. It had to be me. I just didn’t know what I was doing. Right? I shredded and tore and maimed every cake I came near this thing with. Eventually, I put it away and decided to revisit it later.
Months passed. I was ready to give it another chance. Same results.
It can’t just be me. I think this thing is worthless.
If you think you want to buy one, go get a meal deal at Taco Bell for your $3 instead.

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