Archive for the ‘cake decorating’ Category


Sacha’s Box of Chocolates

May 17, 2009

chocolate box cake

My cousin Sacha is a confirmed chocoholic. With this in mind, when her mother asked if I could make Sacha a cake for her 20th birthday I knew the cake would have to contain a large amount of chocolate. But, I thought, is that enough? And then I remembered Bakerella’s amazing Valentines cake, and knew what had to be done.

Sacha's 20th birthday cake

The cake was, of course, chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache in between the layers and covering the cake. Then onto a fondant-covered board, a layer of fondant over the top to make the base of the box, and then a strip of the same around the sides. Probably a little thicker is better for the side stuff, if you try this at home.

Then I made cake balls (cake crumbs mixed with cream cheese) in various shapes and dipped them in chocolate to make the chocolates for the top of the cake.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the chocolatey goodness – my Dad did his best to get more than his share!

Happy Birthday Sacha! I hope you had a great birthday and enjoyed gobbling up the leftovers. 🙂


Cake Decorating in Auckland!

July 1, 2008

Months ago (as soon as the exam schedule was released and I knew I didn’t have an exam on Saturday) I booked myself a place on Milly’s Wilton Course 1, which was this weekend just gone.

It was really good – great instructor, and everyone was pretty friendly. Some of it was pretty basic, but there was plenty for me to learn – I now know how to use several of the mystery piping tips from my toolbox. 🙂 I also got the chance to catch up with one of my schoolfriends, which was great fun. And of course I came home with a prettily decorated cake (although very girly!).

The cake was the white chocolate cake I made a few weeks ago, and we iced with the Wilton buttercream recipe, which uses vegetable shortening instead of butter – I’m not such a fan. Using shortening means that the colour is a true white, but I’d rather use butter! It doesn’t taste bad – just like sugar and fat (which is not so different from buttercream with butter…), but it’s probably not going to catch on with me…

The techniques will be very useful, though. And it was a nice end-of-term/exams-are-over treat. 🙂


Mega-chocolate cake

March 8, 2008


The only criteria for this was that it was loaded up with chocolate, so I made lots of chocolate curls and bubble-wrap walls and stacked it up nice and high. It’s not very exciting, I’m afraid (especially following on the heels of the topsy-turvy cake!) but that’s today’s one. A friend gave me a tip about making chocolate curls; adding a tiny bit of oil to the chocolate when it’s melted makes it more malleable, and therefore easier to curl. I still want to master making big tubular ones; anyone have any tips for that? Mine tend to be more conical, which I’m sure is because of the way I apply pressure, but even when I play with that I can never make them BIG.


How to make a topsy-turvy cake!

March 7, 2008

Edit: I no longer update this blog but this post has been so popular and leaves so many questions for you all that I have written a new tutorial on my current blog – click here to go there!

For all of you who find me via the magical powers of Google while searching for instructions, today is your lucky day! I made a topsy-turvy cake for a 21st – my only criteria for the cake was that it was to be ‘different and crazy’, so I think this is ideal…

Before we get stuck in, I’d just like to point out that this is not for the fainthearted – I spent about 7 hours in the kitchen to make this, and my decorations are not even fiddly! If you’re in for the long haul – here we go! (if not, skim down and look at the pretty pictures anyway; if you go fast enough it’ll be a bit like one of those flip books you made at school when you were little!)

To start off with, you need a bunch of cakes. Three for each tier, to be precise. I only wanted a two tier cake, so I made 6. If you want a 3 tier cake, you’ll need 9. You’ll notice they’re not all the same size. To get that funky tapered look with less wasted cake you can make one cake for that tier in a smaller tin… Or just make them all the same size and shave off more – if, like me, you live with a bunch of hungry boys, it’ll all get devoured anyway. 😉 I made three 19.5cm cakes, two 15cm cakes and one 10cm cake. (I found it works better to keep supporting layers reasonably untapered, to prevent structural damage!)

So long as your cake is not too crumbly or fragile you’ll probably be fine using whatever recipe you fancy. I made chocolate mud cakes, because they’re a crowd pleaser and also plenty strong enough – but regular cake works fine. You can even use different flavours – just make sure the heaviest is always at the bottom.

The next step is to grab your knife and do a bit of carving. These are the three cakes for the top tier – weirdly they all look the same size, but they’re not! It pays to put the smaller one on top for this bit – it just makes it a bit easier. Once you’re done with that, flip the stack over (carefully!) and remove the top cake (this should be the largest, the one you want on top at the end).

To get the truly skewed look, you’ll need to slice this carefully – like you’re layering a cake, but from one top edge to the opposite bottom edge.

Now, rotate the top half of that layer 180 degrees, so the thick sides are together and the thin sides are together. You now want to assemble the whole stack – as you normally would when you layer a cake, smear some buttercream or ganache between each layer. Very carefully (it’ll be quite fragile now) lift your newly skewed top layer back onto the stack. A little more carving and it should look something like the picture above. 🙂

Repeat the stacking and carving for the the other layer(s). Now ice your cakes as you usually would before putting fondant on, with ganache or buttercream or the like.

Roll out your fondant (or white icing, if you’re down under!) and adhere as usual. You’ll have to do a bit of manipulation here, as the cake is oddly shaped. The first time you attempt a cake like this I suggest using forgiving decoration schemes – so you can cover up the bits that don’t work so well. And if you know how to make the fondant smooth and perfect, please comment and tell me how!

As you can see, the cake now has a whopping great hole in it. This is the bottom tier, and the ‘hole’ is a shelf for the top tier to sit on. This is the magical part, and the reason the top tier doesn’t slide off – because it’s sitting flat! I use the tin I baked the bottom layer of the next tier to trace the outline with a knife, and then cut it out. In the same way, I also traced a circle of card just the right size to sit between the layers, so I can support the tiers properly – very important, because as there is so much cake, it gets quite heavy! The small piece on the plate in front is what I cut out.

It’s best to do the bulk of your decorating at this stage – the stripes I’ve used here are easier to make before the top tier is in place. If you look carefully you’ll be able to see four wooden kebab sticks in the cake at this point. These are my supports – straws work just as well (and are much easier to trim to size) but I had these to hand.

Because this cake is going for a bit of a drive tomorrow, I also put a hole through the board for the second tier, and inserted an uncut kebab stick through it, so the top tier is held firmly in place.

And look! Now it’s taller! There, that was probably easier than you thought, huh? Not quite finished yet, though…

We need to trim around the edges to make things nice and tidy, and a few sparkly stars on top never hurt anyone, right?

A few general tips:
– a thin fondant/icing ‘snake’ made into a rim for the edge of each tier before you add the fondant makes it sit nicely – I remembered reading about this when I was looking at the bottom tier and wondering how I could have improved it, and so used the tip for the top, and I think it looks miles better
– stripes are very forgiving, and look pretty cool, and fondant cutouts can be conveniently positioned over less perfect bits
– although it only seems like you’re icing two cakes, because they’re tall and because the shape means fix-ups are quite likely to be required, make sure you have plenty of fondant on hand. I used two and half 750g packets – one of the biggest problems with my last attempt was that I really didn’t have enough
– try to make sure your ganache or buttercream is nice and firm, and if possible chill or even freeze the cake for a few minutes before putting the fondant on. I was unable to do this (not enough room in our fridge/freezer!), but if I had managed the overall look would have been neater

So there you have it. It’s not too tricky, but seriously, allow plenty of time. And feel free to ask me if you have questions – I’m sure to have missed stuff! Oh, and, if you try this out, I’d love to see photos of your cakes, and hear your tips! You can email me – rosathemad at gmail dot com or just comment here with a link to whereever you’ve posted it, if you have. 🙂


How to make chocolate tiles

March 1, 2008

Well, our lovely ISP have decided that three days of internet a week is quite enough, and turned ours off this morning, so I don’t have easy access. At the moment I’m in one of the 24 hour computer labs at uni, as my other half had things that had to be dealt to – so no new photos today, sadly. But Lorraine, from Not Quite Nigella, asked how to make chocolate tiles, and since it’s dead easy I thought I should share with you all.

Firstly, melt your chocolate. You’ll probably need about 300g for a 25cm cake, but it depends how thick you cut your tiles, how much overlap you want, and also how thinly you spread the chocolate – so my best recommendation is to have a play and see what works for you.

With regard to what chocolate to use, I’m still a bit of a n00b, and I use compound chocolate, which is easier to work with. I usually make white chocolate tiles, but that’s purely for aesthetics, and milk and dark chocolate will work just as well.

As far as melting goes, if you use couverture you already know what you’re doing; if you’re using compound you can either melt in a bowl over a gently simmering pot, or put it in the microwave. If you use the microwave, be sure not to overcook it – you can take it out as often as you like to check, stir it often, and usually as soon as it starts getting liquidy you can stir out the rest of the lumps – or use very quick zaps to finish it off if necessary.

Once you have your melted chocolate, lay out a length of graseproof paper on the bench (for a 25cm cake maybe a bit under a metre – sorry, I’ve never measured exactly how much length it takes for a cake), and use a spatula to spread it out. Spread it about as wide as you want for the height of the walls, and then along the paper until it’s all spread out.

Once it’s begun to set, just enough so that dragging a knife through makes a nice groove and so your knife doesn’t pick up too much chocolate, score down the chocolate at intervals – depending where you put your score-lines depends how wide the tiles will be. I like to make mine a bit varied, from about 5cm to 10cm in width (although the biggest ones I’d probably only use on a larger cake). I’m also intentionally messy with the top edge, so that the height varies a little and I get a really random look – but if you’re more fastidious you can make your lines clean and your spacing even. 😉

If you want to make them look like the ones up the top of the page – see, on the banner there? – you can spatter milk or dark or white chocolate (one that contrasts with what you used before, preferably!) over them at this point. Just melt it and then fling it around with a fork. It’s great fun! (just be careful that you clean up anything else you spatter reasonably quickly, as set chocolate is not so easy to wipe off…)

Leave them to set completely, and then attach them to your cake. I ice my chocolate cakes with ganache, and if it’s recently poured or spread on, and hasn’t set yet, you can probably stick them straight on. Otherwise use a little leftover ganache to ‘glue’ them on. Voila!

Hopefully this is helpful – I promise I’ll be back with photos and other interesting things as soon as the lovely people at iHug sort out our home internets, thus allowing me to easily upload new pictures for you!


First attempt at a topsy-turvy cake…

January 19, 2008

Well, I’m not very proud of this one – I guess it’s okay for a first attempt, and I learnt plenty along the way, but it’s nowhere near as good as I had hoped. Oh well – practice makes perfect!

I’ve been wanting to make one of these for awhile, but because each tier consists of multiple cakes it’s a lot of effort. I decided to make this for an informal potluck last night, since I figured there’d be plenty of people to eat it.

I found some instructions online that told me to make each cake within a tier a slightly different size, which I did, but in retrospect I’ve realised the really good ones I’ve been looking at don’t do this, and this caused a lot of instability. I’m sure it’s possible, but probably not recommended, since it gave my cake this really distorted look, and the bottom tier cracked a little after (thankfully) the top one was cut. There were two other problems; one was that something unexpected swallowed a large chunk of my day yesterday, so although the cakes were made I didn’t get to start decorating until after I got home from work at 8 – and really, this is the sort of cake that should take several hours to decorate. I finished at about 11, which was early enough to still catch a bunch of people at potluck… Although they were all quite full, so didn’t eat enough!

The last problem was that I didn’t have enough white icing (which I use instead of fondant – it tastes so much better and molds almost as well). If you roll it to the right thickness it has quite a bit of flexibility, so you can mold it around difficult shapes to some degree. Because mine was so thin it didn’t have any stretch left, and, worse, cracked very easily, so there were holes around the back. Also, as I was using the same stuff to decorate I became very limited in what I could put on it – I would have like more stripes, and something more interesting than a teeny bow on top, but that was all I had left.

All in all, it’s pretty messy – but I think next time I’ll be able to make a moderately impressive one. I’ll just make sure I have enough of everything, and allow more time, and it’ll be fine. 🙂


Wedding cake mission – part II

January 10, 2008

Well, although there weren’t exactly squillions of comments here (come on, you’re allowed to talk to me – I know you’re watching!) I did have input from other sources, and have decided on the cake to make and bought most of my ingredients. I shall be baking tomorrow, and hopefully will have it decorated by the end of Saturday. Stay posted!