Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Basketweave Using Magic Tip #2B

Today I learned how to do the basketweave on a cake for the final project in Wilton Course 2: Flowers and Cake Design. Basketweave can be done with a variety of tips, including star, flat, serrated, or a combination of 2 (one piping vertical lines, one piping horizontal). Based on the sheer size of my cake, I decided to work with a rather large tip, the #2B by Magic Tip, which is a good half inch wide. On one side it's flat: 
And on the other it's serrated. This is the texture I used, so this is the side that was facing away from the cake the whole time I was piping. 
Start by icing a cake and chilling it. It does not necessarily need to be the same color as your basketweave icing. This one is a 13 by 9 oval, made of three alternating vanilla and chocolate layers that took one box mix each to make:
Start by marking vertical lines all the way around the cake. For a cake of this size, I used a large straight spatula as a guide. 
 I traced a guide line in the icing along the spatula's edge with a second, smaller spatula. The lines are one large spatula's width apart.

 Start by loading a large pastry bag with whichever tip you'd like and medium consistency icing. You can either pipe from the top to the bottom or from the bottom to the top (the latter seemed to be the favorite method of most of the folks in the class, including myself):
 I apologize for any piping you see to the left of this vertical line; I hope it won't distract you. I felt like I needed to get a few inches of practice in before I started to take photos. It is OK for the vertical lines to overlap onto the surface of the cake; they'll be covered with borders, flowers, etc. eventually. Begin by piping a horizontal line from one guide line to another; this will form a "T" with your vertical line:
 This short line is known as a "spacer dot." It is piped on the guide line directly below where the top right edge of the "T" ends:
 Repeat these two steps; the horizontal line…
 And the spacer dot. This, by the way, is definitely best practiced on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper before it's attempted on a cake.
 On this cake there was room for one more horizontal line at the base. Notice how the guide line is still barely visible under the spacer dots and right edges of horizontal lines?
 Pipe a vertical line from the base to the top of the cake and finish off that line:
 You will be repeating and reversing this process all the way around the cake. I promise, your speed will improve in no time. I would have finished this cake in well under an hour if I hadn't spent so much time chatting with everyone in the class! So, at the top of the next guide line, pipe a spacer dot:
 Beneath it, tuck the tip into that hole in the icing (that my instructor refers to appropriately as a "window") and pipe a horizontal line from the window over to the guide line, ending below the spacer dot.
 Pipe another spacer dot beneath this horizontal line on the guide line…
  …another horizontal line…
…and a final spacer dot beneath it:
 Pipe a vertical line over all these ends along the guideline, and by now you should be able to see the basketweave take shape:
 When you get to the end (which will undoubtedly become the "back of the cake" where various seams wind up), here is how to finish it off.
Pipe a vertical line over the spacer dots and ends of vertical lines:

 On the left, pipe a short horizontal line that goes from the "window" to the right edge of that vertical line:
 In the next "window" down on the right, pipe a very short horizontal line:
 Repeat the horizontal line that goes from the next "window" down to the vertical line's right edge:
 Pipe another very short line in the next "window" down to the right of the horizontal line:
 And finish with a final horizontal line from the "window" to the right edge of the vertical line:
 As you can probably tell, this cake is a work in progress; more to come soon!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Use for a Flower Nail

I love learning new uses for various and sundry items. As I've been baking larger cakes, I've been encountering the issue of cutting off increasingly larger crowns (the dome that forms on a cake). That part never goes to waste in my house; I've turned crowns into everything from mini-cakes to "trifle for one." There are, however, times when you need the cake to bake evenly and develop as small a crown as possible; namely when you're baking a large or long cake. You can either spend money on heating cores, or reach for a couple of trusty flower nails (and save that money to buy another pan or some other thing that can't possibly be considered gadgetry). The way to use flower nails as heating cores is simple; start by greasing your pan with butter and flouring it lightly (this is a 13 by 9 pan; part of a 4-piece egg-shaped pan set): 
Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit and anchor it down with a couple of flower nails; I think they ought to be at least an inch across (unlikely to tip over under any circumstances):
In the case of this long pan, I used two:
Pour the batter in:
Even it out with a spatula, if need be, and pop it in the oven. 
This cake was ready in about 25 minutes. Set the cake on a rack to cool. 
 When the cake is completely cool, put a second rack on top of it, feet up.
 Invert the cake, and remove the rack the cake had been sitting on.
 Remove the pan; you can see the nails through the parchment paper.
 Peel back just enough of the parchment to retrieve the nails, and press the parchment back into place.
 Put the rack back on the cake, feet up:
 Invert the cake a final time. When you remove the rack, these lines will remain, but they'll be gone when you level off just the brown part of the cake. Proceed as usual with torting, filling, stacking, etc.
 You'll be seeing more of this cake in the days to come; I have big plans for it!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gum Paste Stephanotis from Wilton Course 4

As much as I prefer gum paste flowers that look real over gum paste flowers that look fake, there's just something so darn charming about a flower with a pearl in the middle. The stephanotis is one of the flowers taught in the third session of Wilton Course 4: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers. You've seen the stephanotis pressed into service in many different capacities at weddings: in table arrangements, napkin rings, bouquets, hairpieces, etc. In fact, oftentimes the real deal has a pearl glued in its center, which makes the gum paste version actually appear pretty realistic! Here's the setup:
It includes white gum paste, green gum paste, gum glue adhesive (a pinch of gum paste dissolved in a tablespoon of water), a small brush, pearl stamens, a fondant roller with purple rings, needle-nose pliers (the kind used in jewelry-making), scissors, a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch, 22-gauge wire, a few tools from the Wilton 10-piece Gum Paste Tool Set (the orange knife tool and the large and small modeling sticks), and three cutters from the Course 4 Student Kit: the rose petal cutter, the small blossom cutter, and the small calyx cutter.
Start by shaking the dusting pouch over your work surface:
 Bend the end of the wire into a hook, using the needle-nose pliers.
 Roll out a small amount of white gum paste, and cut out a piece with the rose petal cutter:
 Roll this piece into a ball…
 …then taper one side of it into a sort of gourd shape:
 Flatten the end on your working surface. Looks like a little mushroom!
 Turn it upside down, and flatten the bulbous end between your thumb and fingertips:
 Set it on the working surface and roll out the edges from the center in all directions, using the large modeling stick as a tiny rolling pin.

 Place the small calyx cutter over the piece in the center and push down.
 Here's what you'll have after you've removed the scrap:
 Trim away the long, tapered points with any cutting tool:
 Pinch and refine the trimmed points with your fingertips:
 Dust the pointed end of the narrow modeling stick and insert it into the center of the flower about 1/8":
 You'll want to rock the stick back and forth at the base of each petal while keeping the tip of the stick in the hole. This will form tapered divots partway up each petal:
To finish the petals, draw the tip of the stick from the hole to the tip of each petal, using your finger as a curved mold for the petal as you go. You can see the petal is curved over my index finger:
 This is how much curve each petal should have:
 Dip the hooked end of the wire in your gum glue adhesive…
 …and stick the straight end of the wire into the center of the flower. Pull it through until the hook disappears into the throat of the flower:
 Snip off one of the pearl stamens; the entire length should be about 1/2":
 Dip it in the gum glue adhesive and insert it into the flower's throat. Bend the other end of the stem wire into a hook and hang the flower somewhere to dry while you do the next couple of steps.
 Roll out a small amount of gum glue very thin; don't use rings on the roller. Cut out a piece using the small blossom cutter:
 Dab some gum glue adhesive on the base of the flower:
 Insert the end of the wire stem into the center of the green piece (called the calyx) and slide it up to the base of the flower:
 Press the calyx snugly against the flower and hang it up to dry.
 Now make many, many more! These really do look beautiful in groups. If only gum paste smelled like stephanotis…