Tutorial Tuesday: How to make a checkerboard cake

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This was my first attempt at a checkerboard cake. If I could do it all again, there are things I would do differently, for sure. So keep an eye on that commentary. I’ll say this is a more advanced project. If you’re not already pretty great at frosting cakes, this probably won’t end well for you.

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I started with two different color cake layers which I then sliced into four thinner cake layers. Mistake #1. I either should have made four layers the original size… or I should have just worked with the two layers as they were.
I let the cakes freeze for a while so they’d be easier to cut. Then I found some round things… like bowls and containers that I could use as guides to cut rings out of the cakes about two inches apart.
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I arranged my layers and then put some wax paper on my board and some frosting to hold down the first layer.
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Carefully place each layer and carefully frost the top of it. Using hot water on your spatula will help you to keep from shredding the cake. Stack and frost each layer. Don’t forget to alternate color schemes. It’s a labor of love.
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Once it’s all stacked, you can sort of smoosh it down with your hands maybe… you can see here why my layers being too thin was an issue. Once I got to this part, I was starting to panic. It sort of looks awful…
Somehow, I used my cake frosting magic to turn that into this:
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From there I chilled the cake for a while and then covered it in fondant.
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My results were decent…
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If nothing else, strawberry and lemon always taste wonderful together.

I had a great time this weekend in Wisconsin with my bff Liz. If I get time, I’ll add some great photos from our trip at the end of this post soon!

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Tutorial Tuesday: How to make gum paste

Gum paste and fondants are two different things. Fondants is softer and doesn’t dry hard. Gumpaste will dry and harden to create decorations that really hold up.
You only need a few things to make gumpaste.

-1 tablespoon of gum-tex
-1 table spoon of glucose
– 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
– 4 table spoons of warm water

Wilton makes gum-tex and glucose which you can find at almost any craft store’s cake decorating aisle.

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First, sift together THREE cups of the sugar with 1 tablespoon of gum-tex into a large bowl.
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Next, you’ll want to make a well in the center and set it aside.
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Next, mix one tablespoon if glucose with 4 tablespoon of warm water in a glass container.
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I had to scrape my tablespoon out with another spoon to get it all in there.
Now stir it a bit and pop that in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Then pour it into your well.
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Now start mixing from the center with a silicone spatula. Much like when you make dough, incorporating the liquid into the dry ingredients a little at a time.
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Once you’ve almost reached the edge of your dry ingredients, add any food coloring you’d like to add.
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Then continue to stir and mix until you can knead your mixture.
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Keep kneading until your gum paste becomes a satin finish, pliable ball.
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Now seal it tight in a ziplock bag and let it sit for 8 hours or over night at room temp.
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When you’re ready to use it, mix in the last cup of powdered sugar and knead well.

I’ve already had great results with my Cricut cutter!
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As always… Happy caking!

Tutorial Tuesday: How to Make a Cupcake Tower (revisited)

Let’s make a cupcake tower like the one I used in this post!
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Alright kids, it’s another late one here at the Whitten house… trying to crank out helpful cakery tips for you guys to keep you informed.

Two things first… one you may have noticed the new TUTORIALS tab at the top of the page. Yaay! I spent a little while painstakingly placing all of the tutorial links on that page with a photo for each. Much easier to access now. Wowy, it’s like I’m getting all organized. I’m going to work on a cake gallery next, but gosh, it’s going to take some time!!

Second, you might notice this is sort of a tutorial I did before. I just have had a lot of questions since then and I wanted to do a more clear version of it. I hope this helps! Since last time I was making sort of a wacky/whimsical tower with odd shapes, I wanted to show you a more basic version.

You’ll need a few things to start with.
*Foam core boards- Somewhere between 3-5, depending on how big you want the tower to be and how many things you need to re-do ;)

*Something to trace- I used lids from some bowls that I have to trace for my tiers. If you want to make squares, you might be able to just measure them out. More power to you.

*Exacto knife -please be careful with this! Only responsible adults should use these. Have one help you if you are not one.

*hot glue gun- same concept here. I don’t want you guys slicing yourselves up and then getting hot glue on yourself and burning your precious skin! Trust me, it doesn’t feel good. Maybe I need a responsible adult helping me :/

*Measuring tape or ruler

*Ribbon- of your choice to go with your project.

**Extras- you might want paint or other decorations to put on your tower when it’s done**

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Start by tracing TWO of each circle onto your foam core and cutting them out. I’m doing two in order to make a very sturdy tower.
They’re not going to come out perfect, I know. Unless you’re some kind of precision robot, just do the best you can.
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Don’t worry. We get to cover those edges up later with the ribbon!

Next, hot glue your circle pairs together. Except for the top tier!
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We’ll deal with the top tier later.

Here’s where I don’t want to lose you. I’ll try to make this make sense… really.
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to make the center supports steps for the tiers, measure your bottom tier. You’ll want your bottom step to be that length or just short of it. That step should only be about an inch tall. The next step, should be slightly smaller across than your next tier, and should be at least 3 inches tall, since a cupcake has to sit under the next one.
The next step, should, again, be just slightly smaller than the next tier, also, 3 inches tall. Keep in mind, each tier will be sitting on their respective steps and need to be supported, but not hanging way over the steps. I truly hope this this making sense. For my top step, again, I made it 3 inches tall and then put just a tiny 1/4″ step on top of that. I’ll explain that further on.

You’ll need to cut out two of these.
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Now, you’ll want to measure and cut half way up one and half way down the other.
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You might need to tweak it a little bit to make it work, but you want them to fit into each other and sit level.
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If it’s a tad loose feeling, don’t worry, we’ll sturdy it up later.

Now the hard(sih) part is up. You’ll want to find the center of each of your rounds and mark off and cut out an “X” from each one. (except that top part, we’re getting there, don’t worry.) You’ll want to cut the “x” wide enough to fit over the frame you build. Basically, this bottom one needs to fit over that 2nd step. DO NOT get confused and cut the “X” the size of the bottom step. That’s the step it rests on! It only needs to fit over that second one. Does that make sense? Make sure you’re only cutting them to fit over what they need to fit over and rest where they need to rest.
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Now, if you’d like, you could just put the top two rounds together and cut them this way as well. With just a tiny “x” small enough for that top tiny portion of the stand to fit though. Or you can try this.
Cut one round the way you cut the last ones. The next one… try to only cut half way through.
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So that you still have a smooth uncut top portion. Glue them together so that the “x”s are lined up, of course.

Stack your tower by sliding each round over the steps, guiding the last one on top.
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Ta-da! Okay! So, now that you know it all fits together… (it all fits, right? No? Okay, well go re-do the stuff you messed up like I did the first time and then come back to this step…) let’s make this more permanent!

Start gluing things up. Put some glue in the frame and stick it together.
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Follow the lines up and down and glue those two pieces together where they connect. Fill in any gaps with glue.

Next, add glue to your steps tops and quickly slip your rounds onto them. Flip it over and glue them more on the bottom as well.
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Now it’s time to deal with those rough, ugly edges! Glue your ribbon on the outside of your rounds!
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You can use whatever ribbon you want! And before you put the whole thing together with the glue, you could decorate each tier however you want. You could cover them with cute paper, paint them, bedazzle them, etc etc! Also, while cupcakes will probably cover the rough edges on the stand itself, but you can always run ribbons over those edges as well. Be creative!!

I didn’t ACTUALLY put that ribbon on this tower. I can’t show you the final project yet either ;)
This tower is for someone and I make a point to never show finished work until the person it’s for has seen it! It’ll be worth it though. This thing is getting decked out!!

Alright, so I REALLY hope you’ve learned something today and PLEASE, ask any questions you have. I’m hoping I made this so that it makes sense! I get tons of google hits every day for my previous post, but I think this one will be much more informative for those looking for better steps!

Tutorial Tuesday: Simple Cake Frosting

Some things are second nature to me. I do them so much that I just forget I used to have trouble with them. I just skip them as a step and casually say “Oh just go ahead and level/fill/crumb coat/frost your cake and we’ll go from there.”

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Ok, so today is the most basic. How to do these simple starter bits. I know what frustrated me the most when I first started teaching myself, so I’ll try to cover these things.

Start by leveling your layers. I showed you how to do this here. Here’s a bit of a refresher though.
Remember, score only to the point you want to level, then carefully remove the top. Or whatever leveling technique you feel comfortable with. You MUST level it though. Don’t stack dome-topped cakes. lol Also, PLEASE, let your cakes cool before you do anything.
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Next, place strips of wax paper on your cake board. You’ll put the cake over them, you just want to be able to pull them out from under the cake when you’re done. They’ll protect the board from rouge icing globs.
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I suggest the Wilton buttercream recipe for your icing.
Now, we start the crumb coat. Whether you’re doing fondant or buttercream as your final product, you have to master the crumb coat. Remember when you were a kid and you’d get out that tub of frosting that was either too stiff because it’d be put in the fridge or too goopy because… well, because that’s just how it is, and you’d dip in your butter knife and try your very hardest to smooth that glop across your un-leveled cake, shredding the sides as you went. Maybe you didn’t even let the thing cool first. I mean… I have those memories lol. If only I’d known about the crumb coat!
First we’ll place our first layer and give it some filling. I don’t like a ton of frosting in the middle, personally. I just put enough to even out any imperfections and stick the two layers together. If you want to fill with fillings or a lot of icing, I’d scoop out a small amount of cake so that there’s an area for the filling to be in without squishing out the sides…

*IMPORTANT: Always keep a cup of hot water at hand. If you start having ANY issues with the icing sticking to your spatula, dip the spatula in the hot water and scrap off excess icing.*
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Once it’s pretty smooth in there, go ahead and place your second layer on top.

Keep that hot water in mind, don’t forget it’s there. Use it often. You don’t want water dripping all over your cake so tap off excess water, but seriously, keeping your spatula hot will keep your frosting happy.
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Glop some icing on top. Don’t be shy. If you don’t have enough on there, you’ll be frustrated. Start smoothing. Keep your spatula hot. This is a thin coating of frosting and you want it to gather the loose crumbs and hug that cake!
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Cool. Now, toss it in the fridge just to set up a bit while you prep for round two. From here, this cake could be covered in fondant as shown here… or you can cover this cake with more buttercream.
I’ll be showing you that now.
I like to crumb coat in white, but you can now cover with whatever color or flavor you like. I’m using blue.
Again, a big glob on top. This is where you want to be very liberal. Really glob it on. The first time I iced a cake, I didn’t have enough frosting and I was so frustrated. And I can’t stress that hot glass of water enough. You might even want to refresh that glass, the temp has probably gone down some by now.
Start this the same as the crumb coat. Glob it on and smooth it out.
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Little lips on the edges like this can be smoothed inward.
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Not bad, not bad. I could make myself crazy trying to make buttercream look fondant smooth all day, but I am not that good with it, so I don’t bother. This is good enough for me. Icing is an art. And I’m just a tourist in the buttercream world. Fondant is my deal haha.
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Now you can remove that wax paper. Viola! Your board is clean :)
Now, as for all those bottom parts and top parts that aren’t perfect, that’s what boarders are for silly!
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My buttercream was a little thinner than I like to use it here. Possibly because I threw in some cream cheese. Ah well. Still not bad.

As always, happy caking! Happy frosting! And I hope I’ve answered some questions! Also, having one of these snazzy cake turntables helps SO MUCH. I think these basic ones are literally like $5 at the craft store. It’s nice to be able to turn the cake as you smooth the sides. I think I take it for granted sometimes. Also, sorry if some of the photos suck this week. (Don’t drink Four Loko at 3pm on a Monday and try to decorate cakes… it SOUNDS like a fun idea… but you’ll wake up at 7pm in a kayak in the middle of your living room with a chihuahua on your head. True story…)

Tutorial Tuesday: IRL

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You won’t be learning much in today’s edition because I took this Tuesday to do an in real life Tutorial Tuesday! My friend Kevin is awesome, he’s done two of my three baking related tattoos and I’ve known him since he used to make lattes for a living before he became like one of the coolest tattoo artists ever.
Also, he has two of the cutest kids I’ve ever met. Well, they were kids… and now they’re like… these crazy sort of grown up looking people. I don’t really know how this happens because last time I saw his daughter I think she was reading me a Dora the Explorer book and she came over today and was as tall as I am. Haha. Parents, stop letting your children grow up! It’s making me feel old!

Anyhow, Eros is 13. Almost 14, as it turns out. And she loves Ace of Cakes. She watches it like crazy and she’s obsessed with cake decorating. She’s been rolling play dough over tin cans as her practice, which, I think, is pretty darn adorable. Now, when I first started, I also loved Ace of Cakes. I didn’t know where or how to get started. Then I helped a good friend with an art project by helping her illustrate a children’s book she wrote. I didn’t ask anything in return, but I came home to a package in the mail… it was this:
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Just a few little things to get me started… and look how far I’ve come!
So, I made her a little starter kit!

Just a few things to get her started, icing spatula, some silicone spatulas, pizza cutter, pastry brush, measuring cup, couplers, 4 icing tips, three different kinds of sprinkles and I made her some fondant to play with.

I’m also passing on the two decorating books I started with. They were a great inspiration to me when I got them and I know they’ll be a great inspiration to her.

I prepped a few cakes to work with her on. I made two tiny tiny cakes and pre-iced them so we could just cover them in fondant. Then I baked and leveled two other small two layer cakes to show her how to fill and crumb coat a cake.
We started by covering the two tiny cakes. I didn’t get photos of us covering them because I was obviously a little busy haha, but she did great.
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Right away we started cutting out pieces of decoration for the cakes. She was a total natural.
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She picked everything up so quickly and anything she didn’t get right away, she figured out within minutes!

We moved on to filling and crumb coating the larger cake, again, no photos of this, I was covered in frosting lol. Then we covered these in fondant. She found out that getting a nice, smooth, even coating of icing on a cake is hard work haha. I helped her a bit, remembering how hard it was for my the first time I crumb coated a cake.
She did a great job with the fondant though :)
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Right away she was decorating every side of the cake and having a blast.
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This was her finished large cake :)

Eros is obviously super creative and has some skillz! I think if she really wants to do this, she’ll do great! I’m so glad that I could be a part of helping her learn. She did such a great job and Kevin said she was super stoked on everything. I made them take home all of the cakes hahaha. My husband just lost 80lbs, so… we try to not keep a lot of cake around these days lol.

She wants to come over some time and help me out with a cake which would be great!

I think next week, I’m going to do a tutorial on how to ice a cake using just buttercream and make it look great! Stay tuned! Hope you enjoyed seeing Eros have her little cake making dreams come true! I had a blast working with her today!

Tutorial Tuesday: How to Make Perfect Pearl Borders

I’ve often struggled with pearl borders. I try to do them with buttercream most of the time, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Even with the proper tips, I’ve never been able to do it perfectly. They end up egg shaped or pointy. I have to poke each one with my finger tip once they set up a bit to get them rounded. It’s frustrating. I’ve never taken a class or had a lesson from anyone on anything, I barely know how to make proper borders in general. It’s always something I’ve struggled with!
I like fondant much more than buttercream. I know it better. It’s smoother, it’s more predictable… I love fondant!
However, the idea of rolling a million tiny pearls one at a time is obviously not appealing. I needed a better way. So, as always, I came up with a better way.

It’s so obvious that I’m sure this is already a thing. That you can buy… somewhere. I don’t know. I know there are magical places someplace where you can buy magical cake decorating stuff. I’ve never been anyplace like that though. So I made this up.

First I got some of my Amazing Mold Putty as featured in one of my other tutorials.
I rolled a long strip of it and pressed a (*cough*fake*cough*) pearl necklace into it, sort of wrapping it around it, but not all the way.
When it dried, I popped the necklace out and was left with a mold of it. :)
(disclaimer: totally washed the necklace in the dishwasher before this to attempt good sterilization lol)

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Then I rolled out a thin snake of fondant about the length of the mold. I pressed it into the mold and squished it together.
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Then I popped it out of the mold!
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Just what I wanted!
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I was way happy with the first cake I tried it out with! What a time saver. I trimmed off the pinched edge left by the mold and ran a thin line of butter cream around the bottom of the cakes. Then just pressed the pearls into the frosting. It worked just great!

Mystery Machine Birthday Cake!

My niece Sophia turned four this year! So crazy how fast the time flies.
Last year I made her this cake:
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This year she’s obsessed with Scooby Doo. Some one suggested I make the Mystery Machine and as much as it stresses me out to make vehicles, I decided I could make this happen lol…
I baked the cake for the van in a bread loaf pan sort of like this one:
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Then I stuck it in the freezer for a while to let it get hard so that I could trim it down a bit without it falling apart on me. The cake itself was a hilarious idea that I had to add half a package of strawberry jello and a few handfuls of fresh diced strawberries into my cake mix! (IT WAS DELICIOUS)
The bottom cake was tiedye zebra cake :) (See how to make this type of cake here!)
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That cake was gone in like… a split second haha. It was eaten about as fast as I could cut it! I think I cut almost 30 slices out of it all and there were only two left over! I call that sweet success! ;)

ps… someone send me a google+ invite!! plasticshakeupsnow@gmail.com
LOL

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