Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Baseball-shaped Cake

I'm working on a baseball-themed cake and wanted to incorporate an actual baseball (it's only a half-ball because in the end it'll look like it's stuck in the grass). When I was making the main part of the cake, I set aside some batter to make this ball. Here is the pan (or rather, pans) I used:
On the left is a 4" pan and on the right is a 4" hemisphere pan, both by Fat Daddio's. These are some tremendously sturdy pans; they weigh a ton! And, of course, each of these pans comes in a variety of sizes. I greased and floured the hemisphere pan and filled it about halfway (roughly half a cup), then dropped it into the 4" pan and let it bake about 15 minutes (whenever the toothpick came out clean-ish). 
 The cake came out easily with a firm "whack":
 I cut off the crown…
 and then gave it a buttercream undercoating.
 I rolled out a piece of fondant, somewhere around 1/8" thick:
 I laid the fondant over the hemisphere and smoothed it down. The cake was too small to use a fondant smoother; my hands worked just as well.
 It was also too small to cut away the slack with a pizza cutter; I used a paring knife…
 …and smoothed the edges under the cake a little more tightly by hand.
 To pipe the stitching, I needed a red food-safe marker (I like AmeriColor Gourmet Writers), thinned royal icing colored with AmeriColor's Super Red in a bag fitted with a round #3 tip, and a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch.
 I used the marker to make dots for guidelines. Without these, I guarantee the final result would be uneven.
 Starting in the middle of the ball, I piped a series of upside-down V's. Any time a peak occurred, I touched a fingertip to the dusting pouch and gently tapped it down.
 And here's the finished baseball cake. Obviously, you could use a hemisphere pan to create anything ball-shaped; I'm sure I'll press it into service again soon.
You can see it peeking out from behind a fondant pennant on the final cake in this shot:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Piping a Shell Border

Shell borders are common as dirt in cake decorating; go into any Safeway or Costco and you'll see shelves of cakes bearing them. However, 90% of the time they look like they've been mashed out of a toothpaste tube, and 100% of the time they're made of a substance that claims to be frosting contained in a 1-gallon drum (OK, I'm guessing on that last part; maybe it's a 5-gallon drum). Anyway, there's not a lot to piping a shell border that actually looks like shells, but there's a bit of technique to it. For starters, it's helpful to pipe onto a frosted cake that's been chilled. If you pipe onto soft, room-temperature icing, it could possibly get caught up in the motion of the shell border (especially in the case of this basketweave cake I'm demonstrating on). You can pipe a shell border with any star tip. I attempted to match the size of the grooves in the basketweave with the size of the grooves in the star tip I'm piping the shell border with, so the border doesn't look like some sort of unassociated appendage (I used Magic Tip's #195 for the shell border and #2B for the basketweave). Load a pastry bag with a large amount of medium consistency icing (I used Wilton's Ready-To-Use Decorator Icing). Starting at wherever you've determined the back of the cake to be, hold the end of the tip just above the surface at a 45 degree angle…
…and pipe the letter J. There's just no other way I can explain it. Imagine the letter J rolled to the left, and then flipped around so the curved end is to the left and the straight end is coming from the piping bag (unless you're left handed; then just imagine the letter J rolled to the left). When you're piping these J's, you'll squeeze the hardest at the curved part, decrease the pressure as you move into the straight part, and stop pressure all together as you come to the end and pull the tip away. If you really want to be thorough, wipe the tip clean every few shells as needed. 
Here's another view:
And here's the end of the line. Do your best to taper the tail of the final shell into the first one; I've never managed to do it cleanly. As long as it's at the back of the cake, it's never worried me much!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fondant Border with Ruffles & Eyelets

I took the final Wilton Course 3: Gum Paste and Fondant class last night. One of the best parts about Course 3 was I finally learned what the scallop-edged tool contained in the Wilton Ultimate Decorating Set is for. In different places, it's referred to as the Straight Scallop Cutter or the Scallop Ruffle Cutter. Supposedly it can't be bought a la carte, but if you put your mind to it I'll bet you can think of a few ways to get your hand on one if you really needed one and didn't want to buy the whole set. Anyway, it's for adding a scallop-shaped border to long strips of fondant, which can then be ruffled or punched with eyelet holes. To make a border with both, you'll need the scallop cutter, pink shaping foam, a round piping tip #4 or #5, the veining tool from the Wilton 10-piece Fondant & Gum Paste Tool Set, a large surface to roll the fondant out on, a dab of Crisco to slick it up, a fondant roller, water and a brush (or a water brush), a cake to put the border on, and (believe it or not) a box of Wilton Fondant. I've said time and time again, the Wilton fondant tastes so vile that I'd rather eat my own fondant after it's fallen on the floor and been stepped on a few times, but for this project and probably many others like it, the Wilton fondant is appropriate because of its superior malleability, and the fact that it has an unbelievably long period of workability. Besides, you can always peel the border off and send it out to have it destroyed shortly before serving any cake decorated with it. I wasn't able to take many photos of the process of making the actual border during class, but I think I snapped the essentials. First, here's the scallop tool and a #4 tip:
The cutter has open ends, which makes it possible to cut a continuous border as long as your piece of fondant:
First, figure out how long of a piece you'll need by measuring the diameter of the cake. You may need to create the border out of several pieces; just be cautious about not unintentionally putting one of the seams at the front of your cake. Roll out the longest piece of fondant possible; I started with a log and rolled it to about 1/16" with the 9" roller. Once you've cut the border with the scallop cutter (which is basically just making cut after neighboring cut with the edges touching), place a section of it on the pink shaping foam and ruffle the border with the wide end of the veining tool. Place the tool on the edge of the border and pull it towards you while pressing down gently. I also rocked the tool from side to side a bit to really curl up the ruffle. The impressions from the veining tool should overlap slightly.

 This step can be done in any way you like: punch eyelet holes with a round #4 or #5 tip. Next time I'm going to try a petal (teardrop-shaped) tip.
 To reiterate, this is something I could never do with my homemade fondant; I'm pretty sure it would manage to simultaneously stick to itself and dry out.
 To make a border around a fondant-covered cake, start by dabbing a bit of water onto the straight edge for a few inches along the border at one end. Press it against the cake and repeat the process for a few inches at a time until you've made it all the way around. Cut the extra away with a knife or whatever tool you have handy and try to smooth the edges together with a fingertip.
 If the edge of your cake wasn't quite perfect, a border like this will cover a multitude of sins, by the way. Finish by decorating any way you like (in this case I made a bunch of gum paste lilies with a cutter that came with the Wilton Gum Paste Flower Cutter Set.
If you know of another similar scallop-edged tool, please write me about it! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Royal Icing Sweet Pea

Royal icing sweet peas definitely don't have the amazing smell of the real thing, but I think they look almost as good! All you'll need to pipe them are a glue stick, parchment squares, a flower nail, a Styrofoam block to rest the nail in, and a piping bag fitted with a #104 rose tip and filled with stiff consistency royal icing. In this case, I used the striped bag from the striped roses, again with the narrow end of the teardrop-shaped tip aligned with the stripe.
 Stick a parchment paper square to the flower nail with the glue stick, and pipe an elongated ring. The tip should be almost level with the surface (lying flat alongside it), with the narrow end pointed outward. Squeeze hard to make the icing ruffle; you might coax it along by moving the narrow end of the tip up and down as you move it along in the "horseshoe"-like shape.
 Here's a view of it from the side:
 Allow it to firm for a few minutes, then pipe the second, smaller petal directly on top of the first one.
 You might let that one firm for a few minutes before piping the final small petal. This is formed by moving the tip in a single, tight, upside-down horseshoe motion while holding the tip perpendicular to the flower.
Peel away the parchment when the sweet pea is dry. Sweet peas come in almost every imaginable color, so have fun with them. You'll want to pipe them with lots of vines and leaves to add to the realness. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Royal Icing Eggs

There's not a lot to piping royal icing eggs, but ideally they truly come out looking like eggs; not ovals. All you'll need is a piping bag filled with stiff consistency royal icing (in any color you want, obviously) and fitted with a round #12 tip, a parchment paper square for each egg, and a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch. 
 If you cut the parchment paper squares yourself off a roll, they'll have a curve like this:
 You'll use the gravity generated by that curve to form the egg. Yet another reason to cut your own parchment squares and not buy them pre-cut (such a waste of money). Hold the bag at about the same angle as the curve with the tip just above the paper. Start squeezing, and when the icing ball is about twice the width of the piping tip, start drawing the tip away from it.
 On an approximately 1.5" square, I stopped the tip at the midway point.
At this point, stop squeezing and pull the tip away. A peak like this will probably be left behind:
 Generously dust your finger by tapping it against the side of the dusting pouch, then tap the peak lightly until until it goes away.
 Allow the eggs to dry for a few hours. You can speed up this process by keeping them under a desk lamp (incubating them, if you will).
Always make more than you think you need. You can use only the ones that turned out best, or hide the less-cute ones at the bottom of a pile or around the back side of a cake.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Piping Roses with a Striped Edge

Adding a striped edge to a rose takes no special equipment beyond a second color of icing and the cheapest brush you can buy. Needless to say, you can use any two colors you want to make roses for any occasion (patriotic, Christmas, high school colors, etc.). In this case, I used two shades of pink. I started by mixing up a small amount of the darker shade (I used Deep Pink by AmeriColor):
 Then I added a small amount of the deep pink icing to a larger container of white to get a very light shade of pink:
 The set-up includes a piping bag filled with white (or light pink) royal icing fitted with a round #12 tip, an empty bag fitted with a #104 rose tip, a parchment square for each rose, a rose nail, a Styrofoam block (to act as a third hand), a glue stick, and a brush (preferably one that costs no more than fifty cents).
Start by making the bases. Dab the glue stick to the rose nail and stick a parchment square to it. 
Hold the bag with the round #12 tip and pipe a shape similar to a Hershey's Kiss by holding the tip just above the surface, then piping firmly. When the base builds up to about the size of a nickel, start moving the tip up and away from the nail. Stop pressure and pull the tip away. If the shape isn't quite right, either coax it into place with a finger dipped in powdered sugar, or scrape the "Kiss" off and start over.
 No two will probably look alike, but they'll all work, more or less.
 On the empty bag, make sure the narrow end of the rose tip lines up with one of the seams on the bag.
 Cuff the bag over, half the length of the bag:
 Using your brush, paint a stripe on the seam with the darker pink icing (or whichever color you like). Paint as far down into the end of the bag (or the coupler, if you're using one) as you can, and continue up the seam for a few inches.
 Fill the bag with the other color, in this case the lighter pink.
 Pipe out a test squeeze, until the stripe appears. Now you can start piping striped roses!
Official instructions on the Wilton site for The Wilton Rose will tell you exactly which angle to hold your bag at for each row of petals. I just wanted to show you a brief example of what happens when you pipe the first wraparound petal (that should completely hide whatever color the base is)…
 …and then the next row of three petals…
 …then five…
 …and finally seven.
The possibilities really are limitless! Halloween roses, anyone?