"Hey, I can do that!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Crazy Cakes by Brian Stevens

by Brian Stevens

Maybe you've seen Brian on TV already.

I had the pleasure of visiting his booth at the Austin Bridal Extravaganza show that my mother-in-law, future sister-in-law, and I attended last weekend.  We've chatted a couple times previously because we're both in the Austin area cake club and we both work in the video game industry.  I congratulated him on his work in Sony's DC Universe Online that just launched and, of course, on his work on TLC.  So far in the series he's still in the competition and we're all rooting for him.  Here are the display cakes that he had at the bridal show.

Gollum won 2nd place in Show Cakes in the Austin cake show last year.

I recall Brian posted a thread on CakeCentral.com a long while back.  He was trying to break into the wedding cake industry and asked about effective advertising.  He likes to do special effects with cakes and his art background really helps him push the envelope for sculpting and design.  When everyone looked at his site, their basic reaction was, "Uh ... you don't have any wedding cake pictures!"  Now, this is Austin and we do pride ourselves on being weird, but it's true ... he did need to showcase some specifically wedding oriented designs that would attract brides.  Here they are!

We even got to sample their stuff!

It was a long bridal show and Brian's booth was literally the last one we visited (it happened to be in the corner in the end opposite of where we started).  We saw a lot of cake vendors and I'm happy to say his booth was definitely the most unique and I'm sure really stood out from the others.

Brian, I hope you got a lot of orders!  Congratulations!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Internal Structures

Internal Structures
Do I know what I'm doing?
Absolutely not.

This hot mess is how I'm practicing for next month's cake competition (http://thattakesthecake.org/).  For the past few nights my kitchen table has been subjected to some serious prototyping.  Since this is for competition, I'm going to keep some details on the down-low.  After the show I'll discuss my designs more in depth.

This is the first prototype for a 3D sculpted cake of a cartoon character.  He will be standing straight up and will hopefully stay that way for several days.

Here's what I started with.

  • 8", 7", and 2 6" rounds of doctored Spice cake
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Wilton Decorator's Buttercream Icing
  • big ole piece of scrap wood
  • 2 1/2" galvanized floor flanges
  • 1/2" PVC piping, some threaded, some not
  • several 1/2" PVC couplers
  • PVC cutter
  • foam core
  • modeling chocolate
  • fondant
I've never built an internal structure for a sculpted cake.  I've never taken a class for this.  So for the most part, I don't know what I'm doing.  I'm going off what I've seen on tv, notes on CakeCentral.com and other internet bits, and off of Mike McCarey's 3D car tutorial DVD.  It was extremely hard to research when I didn't even know what those thingies were called (those "thingies" turned out to be "flanges").  It's good that this prototype happened early on; there's plenty of time for improvement.

I want the body to be in at least 2 parts: top and bottom.  Things will be so much easier if I can deal with half of him at a time.  The idea is that later on in the process he will be glued together.

Initially I hot-glued couplers on to foam core and fit them over the PVC.  After one night the couplers popped right off and I was left with a saggy waist.

Wilton icing is all kinds of gross to the nose and tongue, but it's actually really nice to spread.  I bought a 4.5 lb bucket with a 50% coupon at Michaels.

 I did not make the entire cake; there's not enough time or resources at the moment to push this prototype much farther.

  • buy more flanges
  • buy a 1/2" thin pipe to help core cake to be put on structure
  • get thicker base wood
  • get thin wood to go in the middle
  • re-design how PVC fits together
  • bake twice as much cake
  • make twice as much Rice Krispie treats
  • let chill after crumb coating, then do another layer of buttercream to help smooth him out
  • use a mixture of fondant and modeling chocolate instead of just fondant
  • decorate the board around the flanges so his feet can be flush ... somehow
  • his head needs to be Rice Krispie treats as a base
I left half of his torso covered in fondant and modeling chocolate.  I'm going to let him sit on my kitchen table for a few days to see how long he can hold up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Come to the Dark Side ...

... We Have Cookies

Star Wars cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma.


Modeling Chocolate.

Bake or bake not; there is no try.

Fondant Practice

Fondant Practice

2011 is going to be a big year for me in cakes.  The Austin Cake Show and Competition is coming up fast (http://thattakesthecake.org), and I'm crazy enough to enter 4 categories.  I'll be doing the cake and favors for my girlfriend's baby shower.  I've been asked to do the wedding and groom's cake for my brother-in-law and his beautiful fiance.  There's little room for error on these momentous occasion cakes!  While on Christmas vacation I got a leg up on working with fondant again.

Damming and filling.

Can't forget to crumb-coat!

Still practicing getting buttercream on straight.

My fondant is from Toba Garrett's recipe.  I initially noticed that that fondant was very soft, but took no action to correct it.  Shame on me!  I really should have taken the time to add more powdered sugar and get to a better consistency.  Trying to cover this cake with such a loose fondant resulted in rips and tears.  I am definitely not happy with how this came out.  I also greatly underestimated the necessity for straight buttercream underneath.  The sides of my round cake where not perpendicular to the table surface.  This resulted in crooked sides, quite noticeable once the fondant was on.  Tsk, tsk.  Bad caker!

I needed to practice wrapping the cake with a fondant band.  Here is a textured roller that I bought at my local cake supply store.  It was fairly easy to use and made a very pretty crepe fabric look.

I need more practice cutting ribbons cleanly and evenly.

I busted out the lusterdust to make it pop.

So I was pretty dejected after this cake.  I thought it was going to be so easy to cover a cake with fondant and it turned out harder than I remembered.  Here's cake #2.

This time I tried out a new icing recipe from Toba Garrett: French Vanilla buttercream.  It was pretty tasty, but I think next time I'd like to tweak it a little.  I'd like to double the flour so it can thicken up more, then I could cut down the butter (5 sticks is pretty hefty).

Works great as icing and filling!

Dirty icing!

I paid closer attention to my sides this time.

I made sure to thicken up my fondant with some powdered sugar before trying to cover this cake.  It worked much much better this time around.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough fondant to properly cover all the surfaces easily.  Here's what happened to one side.  Fortunately I was able to smooth it out with my fingers and also a wad of extra fondant.

Before ...

After ... You'd never know!

Let's bust out the tappits!

I've never used my FMM funky letter tappits before.  It didn't go well.  The fondant was too soft and got stuck inside the cutter.  I was being stubborn and refused to mix in any tylose.  In the end, I impressed most of the lettering and then cut out the fondant with my Exacto knife.

What??  I somehow got a repeat letter strip ... and am missing the one I needed!

It took a while to figure out how to attach these letters to the cake.  I tried brushing on piping gel, but the letters were so delicate to handle, it became a nightmare.  Fortunately the cake began to sweat.  The condensation was enough for me to press the letter down and make it stick.

Luster dust + Everclear!

Shiny letters ... sweaty fondant ...

It's been a while since I've been with a cake several hours after decorating it.  If I take a cake to work, it disappears in minutes.  This time my husband's family and I enjoyed it on New Year's Eve and then again at a barbecue on New Year's Day.  I was able to witness how well it held up.  The fondant did sweat, but then it all evaporates.  As long as you don't touch it while it comes to room temperature, it'll be just fine.  It looked nice on the inside, it wasn't hard to cut ... the cake was a little dry.  I think I'm going to move away from the doctored recipe I've been using.  I must have that "box-mix palette" that scratch bakers hate!

I was much happier with my work on this cake.  I got to try out a lot of new things and practice again on my basics.  I'm looking forward to doing more and more!

Happy New Year!  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Engagement Cookies

Engagement Cookies

Many happy couples get engaged during the holidays!  There are some very special people in my life who have decided to tie the knot.  In preparation for these celebrations, I bought these adorable cookie cutter + impression mat sets at my local cake supply store.


My local cake club had one of its members demo covering sugar cookies with modeling chocolate using a similar set.  I had been dying to get these and try it out!  I also purchased a baby themed one for an upcoming baby shower.

So as to not offend the bride-to-be, I finally tried my white icing color.  To the right was the original modeling chocolate (a very creamy/ivory color) and the left is the white-colored chunk.  It came out well and I was pleased with the results.  The chocolate did not lose any texture or workability in the coloring process.

"Perfection Strips" by CK Products
(2 mm, 4 mm, 6 mm)

Since I may be doing a bunch of these type of cookies for various showers, I also purchased some wood strips that help me maintain consistent dough thickness when rolling it out.

The red and white were great for my gingerbread cookies (I think I prefer the white's thickness).  The black strips were actually too thick when it came to rolling the modeling chocolate, so I just eye-balled it as thin as I could.  The modeling chocolate was adhered by painting the cookie with corn syrup + water and lightly pressing the cut chocolate to the surface.

The cookie kits come with a few sheets of textured plastic that you can press on to your preferred icing.  During the demo, she said to cut and adhere the chocolate to the cookie first, THEN impress the design.  If you do it the other way around, you run the risk of stretching out the impression when removing it from your mat and placing it on to the cookie.  Makes sense to me!

I've found that painting with luster and pearl dust is quite calming.  It sparkles and makes me smile :)  I mixed a little Everclear with the dust and used a fine brush to outline the impressions.

Lots of work, but so pretty!  I love weddings!

As Seen On

As Seen On Capital Confectioners