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Demo: Sculpting A Cake

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#1 chefpeon

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 05:48 PM

So, strangely, as of late, I sort of seem to have my shit together, and I actually had enough forethought to bring along my digital camera to document the construction of my latest cake project.

Since so many of you seem curious as to how one of these things comes together, I thought you all might enjoy the picture filled journey down the path of a sculpted cake.

How it started:

First a little history. I'm a semi-burned out pastry chef who transplanted herself from the "big city" (Seattle) scene to a tranquil and liberal, artistic, intellectual, granola chewing, Birkenstock wearing, marine and tourist trade Victorian Seaport......also known as Port Townsend, Washington. I love this place. I affectionately call it Tinytown. In Seattle I spent a lot of years doin' the PC thing in various bakeries and specialty shops, but mostly I was employed as a high-end cake artist. I loved the work I did (and do) as a cake artist over there, but the long hours and snotty brides took their toll, and I wanted to walk away from it for a while. After a couple of years living here in Port Townsend and establishing a life with my new husband and love of my life, I decided to get back into doing cakes just a little. I'm only doing the ones I want to do, and only the ones that make it worth my while. But sometimes I'm so inspired to do a cake, I do it for nothing just because I want to do it, and I love to see the look on people's faces when I present it to them. Usually, that's all the payment I need. Such is the case with this cake. A side note: I do have a regular job baking for a cute progressive little deli (Provisions) and a cookie wholesale outfit. I love that job.....it fulfills my need to bake. Not only that, the people I work for are so freaking nice as to let me use the kitchen for my cakes also. I only have to pay them 10% of whatever I'm charging for the cake.....but anything under $100 is free. I also get to order all my ingredients wholesale on their account. Sweet, huh?

Here's a picture of Provisions, Port Townsend's source for gourmet European ingredients, and the best take-out on the Peninsula!

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Since this town is small enough that everyone seems to know everyone else, I heard that one of my boss' wife's friends was getting a baby shower on May 1st. Of course, the boss' wife, who is a chef in her own right and runs the deli, offered to do the food. So I chimed in and said I'd do the cake. The person giving the shower, Lily, showed me the invitation and told me that she was going to do a May Day theme with lots of flowers. When I offered to to the cake, I was just going to do a simple round cake....but when Lily told me the details I had this epiphany. Into my head immediately popped one of those Anne Geddes babies that is coming out of the flowerpot. I immediately started forming this vision of my cake, and this is what I sketched:

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Now, I knew I would be putting in a lot of work for no monetary gain, but what the hell.....it would be fun. Once I get a bee in my bonnet, there's no stopping me.

A week before the day of the shower, I started all my prep work.....which included:

making the flowers, out of gumpaste

*making modeling chocolate and kneading in all the colors I would need
*making the umbrella out of gumpaste
*baking the cakes
*making the buttercream
*making simple syrup
*kneading all the fondant colors I'd need
*buying chocolate cookies and liquor
*cutting and covering my bottom board
*dying bamboo skewers green with vinegar and food color

I did a little each day. I had to fit that in between my regular job and family-care duties.

On Saturday, the day before the shower, and one of the days I'm off from my regular job, I went into the kitchen to build the cake. I'd had a nutritious breakfast of Oreo Mint Creams thanks to my stepson who'd been eating them the night before as he was watching TV. Gulped down a little coffee, and packed up all my equipment in the back of my truck. Only 4 minutes to the kitchen......man, I don't miss commuting!!!

The night before, I had filled and stacked the cakes, so they would be ready for me to carve, first thing. The top cake is a lemon cake with raspberry buttercream, and the bottom cake is chocolate cake with mocha-toffee buttercream. All the cake layers are soaked with simple syrup; the lemon was soaked with lemon syrup and the chocolate, soaked with Kahlua syrup. I prefer to use buttercream as a filling in sculpted cakes....it sets up firm and makes carving a cinch. Mousses and jams and curds don't set up enough and are also very slippy-slidy. When you are carving out a cake, you don't want your layers sliding around on you. Here is my top cake.....I baked off two 8 inch rounds and 1 10 inch round. Cut them all in half and filled. Ready to carve!

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Here is the rough cut:

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I just used my long serrated knife to get a general pot shape. Now for the fine tuning:

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Lookin' like a flowerpot! Mmmmmm......look at all those cake scraps on the table. Yep, a few went in my mouth (quality control you know) but the rest went into the garbage......Next it's time to put a layer of buttercream on there, for extra smoothy goodness:

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I snapped the pic with one hand as I was holding the pastry bag in the other. Not easy. I like to use the giant pastry bag with the giant tip for applying icing....makes for less work later.

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Ok, here's a pic for folks that wanted to see that "paint masker thingy" in action. Tried to snap a pic myself, but just couldn't muster up the co-ordination. Luckily, Amber, the front deli counter girl, took a pic for me. I hadn't meant for her to include ME in the pic (Gawd!) but I wanted more of a close up of Mr. Smoothing Tool. Oh well, you take what you can get. See that I have my sketch on the reach-in behind me....along with all my other wacky magnets. Hey, I like to decorate my workspace.....Notice I hold the "pint masker thingy" by the bottom when I am smoothing the sides. If I don't, and hold it by the handle, it tends to kind of bend. I hold it by the handle when I go across the top. See how nice and smooth?:

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Now it's really starting to look like a flowerpot. But wait! It's upside down! Why is that, you ask? Because it's easier to carve and ice that way, and most importantly, much easier to apply the fondant. Into the walk-in it goes, to firm up. Now for the second pot:

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This is going to be the bottom flowerpot. It's going to be larger, and a slightly different shape than the top flowerpot. I baked off 2 10 inch rounds and 1 8 inch round for this one. I only ended up using half the 8 inch round, as you can see. I have the saran wrap underneath the cake and on top of the board, so it will be easier to flip over later. Here it is all carved out.....mmm....more cake scraps.....into the garbage they go.....

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Below, here it is, with a layer of buttercream. I didn't use the "paint masker thingy" on this one because of the curvature of the cake. I just piped the icing on and then smoothed it out with my offset spatula as best I could. After I refrigerate it, I will do the final smoothing.

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So now I'm waiting for my pots to set up. Time to do some other stuff, like:

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"Cuiz" my chocolate cookies to make the "dirt" for my pots. And......

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start dusting my flowers and leaves with luster dust to add a little depth and realism to them. For this project I just made "whimsical flowers" in that they really aren't any particular flower....they're just cartoonish and colorful. Well, the roses are, well, roses.....gotta have a few roses. In the background there, you can see sort of how I did the gumpaste umbrella. I happened to have a dessert cup at home that was well suited for it. I filled out the top with gumpaste and added "ribs" with gumpaste, then put some saran on the top of that and put a gumpaste disk on it. I then cut out the rounded parts between the ribs.....and voila....umbrella! This was the first thing I made because I wanted it to have the maximum amount of drying time. Now if I were really smart, I would have made not one, but two or even three umbrellas because stuff always breaks. Always. No matter how careful you are. Especially in a commercial kitchen.....not only do you have to worry about yourself but everyone else too. I make more flowers than I need because I always manage to break quite a few. But, as it was, I only made one umbrella since I was so cocky and sure of myself. Turns out I was lucky......this time! Ok, time to roll out some terra cotta colored fondant!

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Dust the table liberally with cornstarch and roll away. I've done this so much I can just eyeball how much fondant I'll need to cover a certain sized cake. When rolling out fondant, waste no time from the time you're done rolling til you get it on the cake, because it starts drying out right away. Drying out means yukky little cracks, and me no likey little cracks! So I race to walk-in, retrieve cake, and cover it quickly.

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Then I take my trusty little pizza wheel and cut the excess away. This excess will get kneaded back into the remainder of my fondant so that I'll have enough to cover the other pot. So I take the rounded pot out of the walk-in, and, after washing my hands like a surgeon, I use the warmth of my hands to smooth the buttercream out so I have a perfect surface on which to cover with fondant. I tried using latex gloves for doing smoothing, but they are too much of a barrier to my body warmth. I need that warmth to lightly soften the buttercream for the proper smoothing. And here we have a nice smooth surface for the fondant:

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Into the reach-in it goes to set up while I roll out my fondant.......and here it is covered, with the excess trimmed away. Notice that I trimmed off my plastic wrap quite a bit before I covered it. Otherwise I would have gotten into a wrestling match with it and the fondant.

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So back into the walk-in they go to stay firm while I take me a little breaky:

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This is the view out the back door of the kitchen. We look over the Kai-Tai Lagoon and the Olympic Mountains. Unfortunately you can't see the Olympics in this picture because it's cloudy. But man, on a clear day......it's outstanding. Off to the right, beyond the trellis thing, is a large garden full of culinary things....a la Chez Panisse. We've got rosemary, bay, basil, fennel, oregano, chervil,onions, squashes (in the fall), thyme, decorative flowers, arugula, and more. Whenever we need herbs....just go out back. We get most of our produce from local farmers who come to our back door. One of the things I LOVE about Tinytown. It really beats the in-city large mass produce vendors. As I look out the back door, I sip on a latte that I made myself from our aging and undependable espresso machine. Luckily, today, I managed to pull a pretty good shot. Ok, break time over! Back to work! My next step is to turn my pots over. I will turn the larger pot over first. I slip my offset spatula underneath the saran wrap and lift the cake off, and set it aside on the table. An important thing to note: If I'd used a mousse, curd, or jam filling, I wouldn't have been able to do this so easily. With a refrigerated buttercream filling, the cake doesn't flex at all as I lift it. I managed to nick a little of my polyfoil covering with my spat when I went to lift the cake. Nuts. Oh well, I'll cover that with a flower later. I melt some white chocolate and smear some in the center of my board. I need to anchor the bottom pot so it doesn't slip around.

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I flip the bottom pot over, place it on top of my melted white chocolate, make sure it's centered, and peel the saran wrap off.

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My next step is to mark where I'm going to place my top pot, then insert straws within that area to support the weight of it. I decided to place the top pot slightly off center, and traced a circle with my paring knife to mark it. For most cake supports I use straws. They're easy to cut to fit, cheap, and they work. The only time I use wooden dowels is when there is an UNGODLY amount of weight or a weird center of gravity involved. I used to use regular heavy duty bar straws, until I discovered.......bubble tea straws! They are super heavy duty and very large.....they have to be for people to suck up that lovely bubble tea. I don't really think that fad is going to catch on here much in the states, but as long as I can get the straws I'm happy. I get them from an asian novelty wholesaler in Seattle. I think it's Viet-Wah, but can't remember for sure.

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Anyway, I insert the straw, mark it with my thumb where it's flush with the top of the cake, then pull the straw out and cut it. I use that straw as a measure to cut the rest of my straws. In this case I will use 5. One in the center and four around.

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Now I'm all ready to place the top pot on......oh, wait, except for a swirl of buttercream on top of the straws to anchor it a bit. Next, I use my melted white chocolate to adhere an appropriately sized round cardboard on the bottom of my top pot.

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Once that's set, I flip over the top pot, and place it on my bottom pot.

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Voila! Now, I really have to make sure that the top pot won't slide around, so I stick a few bamboo skewers down through the middle and through the cardboard til it hits the bottom board. I use the side of my needlenose pliers to pound the skewer down through. Now starts my very favorite part of this whole thing.....details! I figured that using my silicone lace impression molds will make great detailing on the pots. Here's the one I'm going to use to detail the bottom pot:

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I dust the inside of the mold with cornstarch........then roll out a quick piece of fondant, and roughly press it in:

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Then I place the top piece of the silicone impression on top, and roll it like crazy with a rolling pin. With the top part of the impression still in place, I pull off as much of the excess as I can.

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Then I remove the top piece, and pull all the ragged edges back in......

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Then I brush a little water on the back of the piece, and adhere it to the pot. I keep making them until the pattern has gone all the way 'round.

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I use a different lace mold to make a pattern on the top pot. Now it's time to do the rims. When I did the lace impressions around the pots, I used fondant, because I needed the stretchability of it to conform easily to the shape of the pot. A little stretchiness in this case is good. But when it's time to do the rims, I don't want ANY stretching going on whatsoever.....I want uniformly thick and perfectly straight strips, so for this I'm going to use modeling chocolate, which of course has been colored the same color as the fondant. See the neato embossing on my strip? I found that little embossing wheel at Seattle Pottery Supply, believe it or not, and it was cheap too. The embossers are interchangeable and it came with about 10 different patterns! I rolled out my strip, then embossed the pattern twice (one next to the other) then used my pizza wheel to cut nice straight even edges. I made two top strips and two bottom strips....the bottom strips are just plain.

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And here are the pots with all their details.....

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These guys are going into the walk-in for a while while I work on the other details. Gotta make the baby! First I start with a styrofoam core. The reason for this is for stability and less weight. There was a time in my career when I thought I shouldn't use ANYTHING that wasn't edible, but talk about making life hard. I've made things out of solid modeling chocolate, but they were very heavy and hard to support. Then over the years, I realized that people really don't eat the decorations anyway (except for a few overzealous kids), so I decided to reduce my chocolate expenses and weight by using styrofoam to bulk things out more and more. I pat out a disk of flesh colored modeling chocolate, and place my styrofoam ball in the middle.

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Then I bring the edges up around the ball and squeeze the chocolate together so that no seams show. I stick a couple of skewers in it so that I can hold it in one hand and model it with the other. Then I manipulate it in my surgeon-scrubbed hands to model the face, add a little nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hair and of course, a dimple. The baby head needs to go somewhere while I work on other stuff.....oh, here's a good place.....right in the edge of my equipment box.

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I've been so good about taking pictures at nearly every step! But here's where I fail you.......when I get "in the zone"......meaning that I'm so intent on my little details....I sort of forget about the camera! Here's what I did in between this picture and the next two:

*made the baby's shoulders and neck and arms out of modeling chocolate
*sprinkled my cookie dirt inside the pots
*dusted the centers of my flowers with luster and color, made the calyx's (sp?) and mounted *them on my green skewers
*rolled modeling chocolate onto a skewer to form the umbrella stem
*made the bottom banner and wrote on it
*made the baby's flower bonnet

I modeled the baby's neck and shoulders, then stuck that right on the top pot. Then I cut the skewers that are coming out of his head to the right length and pushed it down through the neck and shoulders.

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I placed the arms and formed the hands. I stuck my umbrella stem through the arm and down into the cake so there would be adequate support......but darn, I wasn't watching carefully, and the skewer came out of the side of the pot because my angle was a bit off. Oh well, I'll cover that up with a leaf. At least you can see where the umbrella stem is on the skewer. On top of the umbrella stem is a little half dome of modeling chocolate, to support the gumpaste umbrella. I dab a bit of melted white chocolate on that, and stick the umbrella on top. Now all I have to do is place my flowers, mount the banner, and put his little bonnet on.

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And here we have the finished product. It's sort of hard to read the banner....it says, "May Showers Bring Adorable Flowers". One thing I always seem to to do.....I'll shoot the picture of my finished cake and I'm always tired.....so I'm too lazy to find a good backdrop. Then I curse myself later when there's that yukky kitcheny background. God, in one picture I took, my cake had a dirty mop bucket behind it! All I can say is, thank god for Photoshop......I can always "fix" it later.

It took me 8 hours to put this together and that's not counting all the prep I did the whole week prior. I don't think a whole lot of people realize the time that goes into this stuff.....and it's also why you don't see it very often.

Anyway, the girl that's getting the baby shower has NO IDEA this is coming. Surprising her is going to be the best part!

Fast forward to the next day. My boss's wife and I are bringing the box inside the house, then removing the cake from the box. Kids are dancing around us....."is that a CAKE? Is that a CAKE?" People gather round, and the girl who's getting the shower sees it and starts crying. She gives me a big hug and says "I don't know how to thank you!" I told her she just did.

The shower went on, presents were opened, food was eaten, champagne was sipped.......and then.....it was time......the part that the kids almost couldn't wait for.....time to eat cake! Which of course, means, time to cut cake. And guess who gets to do it. Yep. Me. I don't have to cut my own cakes very often, and that's a good thing. Usually I'm nowhere in the vicinity when my cakes are cut and consumed.....I have only the memory of a photograph and my labor. This time I also do the deconstructing.....and I gotta say it was bittersweet. Especially since knowing it took me 8 hours to build it and only 15 minutes to take it apart. May I say.......wah? Yes. Wah. Luckily I'd had a couple glasses of Mumm's so my "pain" was numbed a bit.......

Hope you all have enjoyed this bit of cake sculpting. Now back to our regular programming....... :raz:

#2 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 05:59 PM

I am somewhat proud to be the first to say.....

That is just fucking brilliant. Really.

There is an exhibit of sculptural cakes at Copia here in Napa right now and I have always admired them but never realized what it took to put them together.

Thank you so very, very much for sharing -- perhaps you should consider going back in the business, for LOTS of money!

#3 racheld

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:11 PM

THIS IS THE BEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN ON THIS ENTIRE WEBSITE!!! :wub:

You are an artist and a genius!! Excuse me while I go look some more.

rachel
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#4 Tepee

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:30 PM

You are such a cake angel! :wub:

8 long hours. A labor of love, I must say. That's why I can't do cakes like that often...
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#5 colestove

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:34 PM

Just beautiful.. The balance that inspired pastry people get between ridgid formulas and creativity is amazing to me. I read the pastry and baking forum on a regular basis. Not because I do any of the beautiful things I see but to just be awed by the skill and dedication of artists such as you. Thank you for showing this.

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#6 fou de Bassan

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:44 PM

WOW!! You have done a really marvellous job. I would have wept too, had that been made for me. What time and attention and care you've put into this! I love all of the colors you used for the flowers. Just Edenic.
If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

#7 andiesenji

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:54 PM

Amazing and absolutely fantabulous. In fact, there are no words to really express my admiration.
Your talent is awesome!
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#8 tsquare

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 07:44 PM

Absolutely astounding.
I have a b'day party to bake for next week - I just hope it tastes good and looks presentable. This makes me wish it didn't take me 8 hours to bake a standard cake or two (and wash up.)
I'd at least put organic violets on mine, but it may have to sit out all day - haven't even figured out what can take that sort of abuse, frosting wise. Any ideas master?

#9 Deborah

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 09:39 PM

This is one of the many reasons why you are my idol! :wub: Thank you so much for your willingness to share your techniques, tips, photo's, and all the time to type up this amazing step by step process of this unbelievably amazing cake!. You are the best! The details on your creations always blow me away. Wow!

#10 Abra

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 10:17 PM

I already knew you were the Queen of Cake, but please allow me to confer upon you the honorary degree of Masters (er, make that Mistress) of Cake Engineering Science and Arts. You're totally it.

Fantastic photo essay, makes it perfectly clear that if you're a) a genius, and b) have an incredibly steady hand, and c) have all the right tools, you too can sculpt cake.

Uh, I hate to admit it, but I'd imagined that the straws would stick up a bit into the bottom of the top cake, so the visual really helped me. And it reinforced the First Mantra of Cake that you taught me: Buttercream is All.

#11 kitchenmage

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 02:04 AM

Oh. My. Frelling. Gawd.

I'm stunned.

Actually, I have to say, "No fair!" See, I saw a recent post on the Carillo (sp?) thread with your bright face behind a box of yummy laminated things and you looked like you were having fun with the pastry.

Then I started reading this post and it was even cooler. See, I recently moved to evenTinierTown in the SW corner of WA from the Seattle area. I'm still trying t set up my own informal network of local farmers and such, so your account of your garden and farmers was sweet. (nice view, btw)

And I remembered the nice face, and thinking I might consider myself a decent (home) baker, and thus seeing a couple of interesting commonalities, it caught my attention. And I thought, "Heck, I need more local, online foodie friends. I think I'll drop her a PM and say hi."

Then I looked at the cake.

Did I mention the stunned part?

And I decided I couldn't PM you because I'd just come across like a fawning fangrrl. :wub: :biggrin:

#12 momlovestocook

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 04:29 AM

WOW, works cannot describe how great the cake is. I showed my daughters(5 and 7) and they want me to make one too. Had to tell them mommy can't do that(had the burst their little bubbles that mommy can bake anything LOL).

Thanks for sharing

Sandra

#13 lexy

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 05:52 AM

Whoa, that's incredible! (where's the smiley with the dropping jaw?)
How do you cut a cake like that, did you have to remove the top pot before cutting? (sorry to dwell on its demise, but I've always wondered)
Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

#14 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 06:01 AM

Sure.............what can I possible add to that stream of WOW's............hat's off Annie! Thank-you for taking the time to teach everyone as you made that beautiful cake!!

I learned something along the way too. I've always been scared to put fondant on a cake that got wider/heavier at the top, like your pots. Plus you cut it off at the top, scarie for me! I would have taken the fondant over the cake from the other dirrection so it covered the top of the pot.........and that never looks as clean. So now I know it will hold, thats great.

You really nailed the clay color (plus you got it in the chocolate plastic too), can I ask you which pastes you mixed to get it? Those straws look auesome how much bigger and stronger are they then regular straws?.........I need to buy some of those.

#15 bkeith

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 06:06 AM

Fabulous, Annie! Thanks much for sharing. I picked up some great tips and loved watching you work.

Things I said out loud as I was reading:

. "White chocolate! Fabulous!" (in reference to using it to stick the cake to the board)

. "I can't believe she did all that detailing on the baby with the umbrella in place!" Especially after your comments about having made only one umbrella!


And thanks for keeping the "oopses" in there. I tell all my students that a large part of cake decorating is hiding your mistakes. Good to know the mistakes don't go away when you become a demigod. :wink:
B. Keith Ryder
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#16 Deborah

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 07:31 AM

:biggrin: I just wanted to add thanks for the brillant tip about the embossing wheel at Seattle Pottery Supply. Guess I need to make a trip there sometime to pick one up! Oh and I love the silicone molds you used--sigh I wish Rosemary Watson had not closed Sugar Bouquets.

Again beautiful, amazing, incredible work. Thank you for sharing! :wub:

Edited by Deborah, 12 May 2005 - 07:31 AM.


#17 gus_tatory

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 08:05 AM

Amazing!!!! Thanks so much for sharing and teaching us your tricks.  That is one beautiful cake :shock:

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i agree! and i have one question:

at one point you mentioned 'dusting' the flowers with 'luster'--what is this, and does it make that big a difference in the sheen/texture of the pieces?
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#18 TMus1111

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 08:08 AM

I just wanted to say all the things that everyone has already said - WOW, beautiful, incredible, amazing, and on and on and on. Actually, none of those words even comes close to describe not only how talented you are, but what a great teacher also. To be able to take that cake from a picture in your mind to reality is a tremendous thing, but to slow down, explain things, take pictures, etc. is equally incredible and kind of you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you from me and all the other people who may never be able to do what you do.

#19 CurlySue

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 09:43 AM

I can't add anymore to the "wow's" that have already been said. It's an amazing cake. I can just imagine how special the Mom-to-Be must have felt.

Question: You say you used modelling chocolate rather than fondant because it's less stretchy. I'm assuming by modelling chocolate you mean the chocolate/corn syrup concoction? How is this less stretchy than fondant? It gets so warm in my hands whenever I do anything with it that it's far worse than fondant (for me) to deal with. I'm curious if you have a secret trick or something!!

Oh, and I also wanted to ask (and you don't have to answer if you don't want)...
If you had made this cake for sale, what would you have charged? It looks like it would have fed 80 people or so? I'm guessing a minimum of $6 a serving so around $500?? I think that would be a bargain, but lots of people would have a stroke over that price. Every potential sculpted cake customer should have to see this thread!!

Edited by CurlySue, 12 May 2005 - 09:46 AM.


#20 AnnieD

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 10:00 AM

Wow! Absolutely Stunning and Inspiring. Thank you so much for posting this. Count me in as someone who hopes to see more of your projects!

#21 Dee

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 10:06 AM

Well, what can I say that hasn't already been said... WOW! Thanks so much for being so open in sharing your magic. I, learned so much from this post. You are an amazing cake artist!

I also have a question about the modelling chocolate... is it white choc. you're using and then colouring that? And what ratio of corn syrup to chocolate are you using so it is so easy to handle?

Thanks! :smile:

#22 jgarner53

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 10:44 AM

I'm not sure what I can add to everyone else's accolades, but I will add my own "WOW" to the list. Truly amazing, and really a treat to see it from start to finish like that. I especially like that you showed us the mistakes you made and how you covered them up - a great thing to realize that everyone makes mistakes and not just me.

Really, truly impressive. You rock.
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#23 Genny

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 01:02 PM

Annie- holy cow! (I had to search for a new exclamation!)
:shock: :shock: :shock:

I've seen this type of hyper-cake before and wondered what it took to make them and thought to myself that it would be an interesting endeavor to challenge myself. I can tell you unequivically that it would take me at least a year to learn how to do all the parts and figure the technical aspects for completion. You are an artist, architect and engineer all rolled into one. Thanks so much for inspiring and showing the true nuts and bolts of the project. Its a real testament to the advanced skills that are needed to construct this type of cake...and you do it effortlessly.

Bravo!

#24 celenes

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 01:26 PM

I have been moved to tears :laugh:

Absolutely incredible work and to take the time you have to instruct us was above and beyond.

What I appreciate about you even though we have never met, is the fact that you are about sharing the details. Some folks who have talents won't because they are selfish. Not you.

Everytime I read something on the forum it keeps me encouraged and challenged to do bigger and better. I must say I have kicked up my cakes a lot over the last few months but I'm still not quite where I want to be.

I saw a flower pot cake (retail price $80) on Dean and Deluca that I thought was cool. But that takes a back sit to this creation you have done.

Kudos to you.
Believe, Laugh, Love
Lydia (aka celenes)

#25 chefpeon

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 02:53 PM

Gosh guys........ :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush: Master? Demigod? Not quite!
I've worked with Demigods and I'm nowhere close! But thanks.......all the same!

I'm all about sharing the info, I'll tell you that. There's no reason any of us should struggle, 'cause we're all in this together! When I worked in the cake shop, I taught my assistants all
they were willing to learn. The more they knew, the more pressure was off of me, and I could
actually put in a "short day" of maybe.....12 hours!

Let's see......the questions.....

I also have a question about the modelling chocolate... is it white choc. you're using and then colouring that? And what ratio of corn syrup to chocolate are you using so it is so easy to handle?

Yes, I color white modeling chocolate....usually with powdered color, but sometimes paste or a combination of the two.
My modeling chocolate recipe is 6 lbs of white chocolate to 2 2/3 cup corn syrup.

And I decided I couldn't PM you because I'd just come across like a fawning fangrrl.

Gosh, anyone can PM me anytime! Ask Abra.....Celenes.....Deborah....they know....I'm just regular folk who loves to help!

How do you cut a cake like that, did you have to remove the top pot before cutting? (sorry to dwell on its demise, but I've always wondered)

Well, you just start at the top, and do your best! In this case, I gently lifted the flowers out, took the baby off, and set it all on plates next to the cake. The kids asked me if they could have the flowers and I said "sure"! I'm glad someone wanted them....I hate throwing them away!
Then I took the knife and cut the top pot in regular thin slices and then sliced each slice in half, since the cake was so tall. I did the same for the bottom pot. The cake fed about 75 people total.
As I ran into the straws and skewers that were supporting the cake, I just pulled them out as I cut and served.

You really nailed the clay color (plus you got it in the chocolate plastic too), can I ask you which pastes you mixed to get it? Those straws look auesome how much bigger and stronger are they then regular straws?.........I need to buy some of those.

It's hard to say exactly how much of each color I used to get the terra cotta color....I just add what I think it needs til it looks ok. Not only that, but I started with fondant that was already colored.....you know how you always have colored fondant left over from other cakes? Well I save all that and use it to mix and color other fondant projects. So I took shades that I had that would transform well, like browns, pinks, reds and yellows. I mixed those all together, then added more color to it to get it that deep brownish yellowish burgundyish shade. I mostly used brown, yellow, red, and orange.
The bubble tea straws are roughly twice the diameter of of a regular heavy duty bar straw, and about twice as heavy. Here's a place to get them.....

And thanks for keeping the "oopses" in there. I tell all my students that a large part of cake decorating is hiding your mistakes. Good to know the mistakes don't go away when you become a demigod.

Hee hee..... :laugh: I think cake decorating was INVENTED to cover mistakes! As hard as I try, with almost any big cake project, there's always some kind of "oops" in there. I used to stress
about those little mistakes, but not anymore. They can always be fixed or covered. I used to work with a chef who told me, "It's only a problem if you can't fix it." Do you know how many times I've finished a cake only to jam my fingers in it when I go to put it in the box? I can't even
count.....!

I wish Rosemary Watson had not closed Sugar Bouquets.

Yeah, that's where I got mine.....I haven't purchased any new silicone molds in a long time.....where do you get them now?

at one point you mentioned 'dusting' the flowers with 'luster'--what is this, and does it make that big a difference in the sheen/texture of the pieces?

This is where I get most of my luster dusts.
Basically, luster dust is a very very fine powder that is ultra shimmery. There are all sorts of colors, but my favorite is "Super Pearl". If you brush it on fondant, gumpaste, chocolate or whatever, it looks pearlescent. It's really neat when you're trying to make chocolate bows look like satin. But for the flowers, I took regular powdered color and mixed it with a little Super Pearl so it would have a shimmer, rather than look flat. I brushed the centers of the flowers with deeper shades so they would have a little depth rather than being one solid color. I brushed my leaves with a dark green silvery foliage color to bring out the veining, and so they'd look a little more realistic.

Question: You say you used modelling chocolate rather than fondant because it's less stretchy. I'm assuming by modelling chocolate you mean the chocolate/corn syrup concoction? How is this less stretchy than fondant? It gets so warm in my hands whenever I do anything with it that it's far worse than fondant (for me) to deal with. I'm curious if you have a secret trick or something!!

Modeling chocolate isn't stretchy at all.....if.....you work it at a rather cool temperature. The key to working with modeling chocolate is to keep it cool. After I knead it, it's too warm to work with, so I flatten it out into a disk and throw it in the cooler for a few minutes. I'm constantly bringing my chocolate in and out of the walk-in, to keep it at the right temperature. Modeling chocolate that is too warm is totally un-manageable. Luckily I live in a cool climate....I can get away with a lot of things that my friends in warmer parts of the country can't. However, the summers can get pretty warm here, and there have been some days that I've had to do my chocolate work at night, because the days were too warm to do anything. Sometimes I'd have to work directly in the walk-in. I hated that. Anyway, after I rolled out, embossed, and cut my strips, I set them in the cooler for about 5 minutes, so they would be easy to handle and a cinch to get on my pots without losing their shape. With fondant or gumpaste, refrigerating does no good.....they're stretchy no matter what, and on top of that, the longer they sit the more they dry out, and then when you go to put the strip on your cake, you get ugly cracks. Modeling chocolate is the way to go when you need straight, exact type stuff......like pot rims.

Oh, and I also wanted to ask (and you don't have to answer if you don't want)...
If you had made this cake for sale, what would you have charged? It looks like it would have fed 80 people or so? I'm guessing a minimum of $6 a serving so around $500??

I knew someone would ask this! And, believe it or not, my price for this kind of work isn't set in stone. I have a general formula to figure it out.....sort of. This is going to be kind of confessional here, because my "formula" is more emotional than uh, practical. When I worked at the cake shop, the formula was "subject to quote from the pastry chef". This meant that my salesgirls couldn't quote a price on a big project, because only I knew the variables involved. They'd come back and tell me what the client wanted, how many people to feed, what my lead time was, how many other projects I had in that time frame, etc. Sometimes I'd talk to the client personally.....what am I saying? Gee, MOST of the time I talked to the client personally.
If the client was a real pain in the arse, I'd quote an outrageous price, just to make them go away. If my quote didn't make them go away, then whatever I quoted would be what it was worth for to me to deal with them. So, for instance, if you were a jerk and wanted that cake, and you wanted in less than a week, then I'd quote you $1800. But, if you were really nice, and gave me a huge lead time, I'd charge about $750. Think I'm kidding? Nope.....!
Most of the time though, I charge for my cakes based on difficulty levels, and the time it takes me to do them. My general formula was my (estimated hours) x (my wage, doubled). Then I'd add in the food cost and overhead, and that was the price. Then there's delivery and set-up fees if applicable.

I think that would be a bargain, but lots of people would have a stroke over that price. Every potential sculpted cake customer should have to see this thread!!

You're right a lot of people DO have a stroke over price. They really don't understand. That's why when someone comes to me with a cake idea, I usually approach it from a cost standpoint first so they know upfront that what they are talking about is NOT going to be cheap. Either they deal with it or they don't. If they can't deal with the price, then at least they know right away and we aren't wasting each other's time. Early in my career, I'd be talking to people about cakes they wanted and saving the pricing til last. After over an hour of consultation time, they'd find out what it cost and then they'd say, "Oh......we didn't know it would cost THAT much.", and they'd walk out and I'd have no sale and I just wasted a valuable hour or so of my time. I learned my lesson quick!

This makes me wish it didn't take me 8 hours to bake a standard cake or two (and wash up.)
I'd at least put organic violets on mine, but it may have to sit out all day - haven't even figured out what can take that sort of abuse, frosting wise. Any ideas master?

There's no reason why a nice italian meringue buttercream wouldn't do the job......a layer of marzipan.......or fondant...... :smile:

#26 JeanneCake

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 03:03 PM

I'm all by myself in the bake shop (well, I share space with a caterer) so coming here makes me feel connected to others who are passionate about pastry, cakes, food and the food industry. And there's always something to learn from everyone here, and people are fantastic about answering questions and helping solve problems.

Thanks, Annie, for sharing. That was a great design to show, thanks for taking the time. You rock!

#27 CurlySue

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 06:04 AM

Thanks so much for answering my (and all) the questions!!

I TOTALLY understand what you mean by your pricing "strategy". I do the same. If a customer seems like they're going to be a pain they get my "special" pricing structure. They get the PIA fee which ranges depending on how crabby I am! Glad to see I'm not the only one!

Also thanks for the info on the chocolate. I'll definitely have to work that back into my decorating box because I stopped using it because it never seemed to work right for me.

It seems like you really enjoyed doing this cake and I'm glad you did. We all need an opportunity to do work that we actually *want* to do occasionally, for fun... to rejuvinate our senses, even if it isn't paid.

Question: You say you used modelling chocolate rather than fondant because it's less stretchy. I'm assuming by modelling chocolate you mean the chocolate/corn syrup concoction? How is this less stretchy than fondant? It gets so warm in my hands whenever I do anything with it that it's far worse than fondant (for me) to deal with. I'm curious if you have a secret trick or something!!

Modeling chocolate isn't stretchy at all.....if.....you work it at a rather cool temperature. The key to working with modeling chocolate is to keep it cool. After I knead it, it's too warm to work with, so I flatten it out into a disk and throw it in the cooler for a few minutes. I'm constantly bringing my chocolate in and out of the walk-in, to keep it at the right temperature. Modeling chocolate that is too warm is totally un-manageable. Luckily I live in a cool climate....I can get away with a lot of things that my friends in warmer parts of the country can't. However, the summers can get pretty warm here, and there have been some days that I've had to do my chocolate work at night, because the days were too warm to do anything. Sometimes I'd have to work directly in the walk-in. I hated that. Anyway, after I rolled out, embossed, and cut my strips, I set them in the cooler for about 5 minutes, so they would be easy to handle and a cinch to get on my pots without losing their shape. With fondant or gumpaste, refrigerating does no good.....they're stretchy no matter what, and on top of that, the longer they sit the more they dry out, and then when you go to put the strip on your cake, you get ugly cracks. Modeling chocolate is the way to go when you need straight, exact type stuff......like pot rims.

Oh, and I also wanted to ask (and you don't have to answer if you don't want)...
If you had made this cake for sale, what would you have charged? It looks like it would have fed 80 people or so? I'm guessing a minimum of $6 a serving so around $500??

I knew someone would ask this! And, believe it or not, my price for this kind of work isn't set in stone. I have a general formula to figure it out.....sort of. This is going to be kind of confessional here, because my "formula" is more emotional than uh, practical. When I worked at the cake shop, the formula was "subject to quote from the pastry chef". This meant that my salesgirls couldn't quote a price on a big project, because only I knew the variables involved. They'd come back and tell me what the client wanted, how many people to feed, what my lead time was, how many other projects I had in that time frame, etc. Sometimes I'd talk to the client personally.....what am I saying? Gee, MOST of the time I talked to the client personally.
If the client was a real pain in the arse, I'd quote an outrageous price, just to make them go away. If my quote didn't make them go away, then whatever I quoted would be what it was worth for to me to deal with them. So, for instance, if you were a jerk and wanted that cake, and you wanted in less than a week, then I'd quote you $1800. But, if you were really nice, and gave me a huge lead time, I'd charge about $750. Think I'm kidding? Nope.....!
Most of the time though, I charge for my cakes based on difficulty levels, and the time it takes me to do them. My general formula was my (estimated hours) x (my wage, doubled). Then I'd add in the food cost and overhead, and that was the price. Then there's delivery and set-up fees if applicable.

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#28 DianeB

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 06:08 AM

This is an awesome tutorial, an awesome design, but more importantly an INCREDIBLE work of art. You should be so proud of this... it's an incredible undertaking and you accomplished it as if it was a piece of cake (pun intended!).

Thank you so much for sharing your techniques, comments, pictures... it is incredibly helpful to those of us that hope to be half as good as you!!

#29 KatieM

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 08:51 AM

Dittos! What more can be said that hasn't already been said? Thank you SO much for posting this. It was extremely helpful to see everything step by step. Also, thank you for posting about your pricing. I start my pricing at a different level (less experience, different market), but I still have a hard time explaining to customers why cake should cost so much. I particularly love the brides that say, "Can you do this (Martha Stewart Wedding mag picture) for about $1, $1.50 a slice?" :wacko: Are you #%&* kidding me? I just tell them I'm booked that weekend. No sense trying to convince someone that dumb.

Can you explain a little more about how you approach the pricing right off? Do you find out their budget, or find out what they need first and say something like, "well, that will cost approximately xyz" and then delve into the details?

Thanks again for this awesome tutorial!

:wub: Katie
"First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go 'wow, I need this beet right now'. Those are the money beets." Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 3, Product Recall

#30 Genny

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 09:20 AM

Since everyone agrees that this is such an excellent How-to, I suggest and propose that it be elevated to the status of an eGCI course. Don't want it to get lost here (though, from the response of appreciative fans, I doubt it will) in the distant future.

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I actually think this is a great idea! I'd love to learn how to do just a simple starter-type cake. Nothing so advanced, mind you. And I suspect that living in Arizona will handicap me to some extent, esp as we are starting to get into triple digit weather. Can you post a picture or IM me some simple design(s) to cut my teeth on?





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