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Cake Decorating: Tips & Techniques


BROWNSUGA
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Welcome to The eGullet Society For Arts & Letters Justcake!

So I had to figure out who you are too...........hum, you were already bookmarked as one of my favorite sites. Your technique is flawless. Can I ask you, what method do you prefer to use to get your frosting so perfectly smooth?

Hello... and thanks for the welcome. 

Wendy- to answer your question about getting my icing smooth... I actually use a metal "paint shield" that you can find in the paint department of a hardware store- they are usually about 99 cents.  I cut the bottom edge off at an angle (it's thin enough that a regular pair of scissors does the trick) and round off the edge.  I've made them all different heights for a variety of cake heights.  In any case, because it's a really thin edge it just glides across the buttercream.  It's really all about the pressure though- how heavy your hand is so to speak- it's definitely harder to maneuver than other tools but once you figure out what "touch" works best it's hard to go back to using anything else.  I used to use the flat edge of a plastic bowl scraper- and still do for crumb coats but when I iced up my first topsy turvey style cake the width of the scrapper didn't cut it.  I had randomly come across the paint shields at the hardware store thinking they might work for something someday and pulled them out and it worked great. I love finding new uses for random items at hardware stores!

I've used it on a variety of buttercream types and it always produces a great result.  Hope that helps!

Welcome!

Okay, so call me dense... I don't do many cakes but would like to work on perfecting this challenging skill.

Would you mind walking me through, step-by-step, exactly what you do, i.e. type of buttercream (meringue, etc.) used, fresh or crusted over, room temperature or chilled. H-e-l-p, pleeze.

Thanks!

Di

I actually use a metal "paint shield"

See Wendy? I told you the paint masker thingy was the thing to use! I'd discussed that eons ago!

Justcake, I was surprised that you said you cut yours at an angle and rounded it off......I buy

mine that way.......see?

paintthing.jpg

I don't need it that tall for a typical sized cake (4-6" tall) so I cut it closer to the handle so i have more control.  The part that I round off is actually the sharp pointed end so it doesn't cut into the next tier when you ice a stacked cake.  Also- I have on with a squared off end that's good for multiple tiers becase it smooths the tier below it as it goes.  Everyone does things a bit differently!  That's just what I've found works best for me!

Hi all, I think I'm the only one not following the technique here, and it's so intriguing!

When would you ever need to ice a stacked cake?  I have never done this, and I'm sure  that this would be a disaster if I tried.  It is true that we all do things differently!

When you say you round off the edge, what do you use to achieve an even roundness on the paint sheild? 

Now, you say you don't round yours the way chefpeon's is, so I'm missing the point entirely.  Initially, I thought you use the round edge as your "blade", but now I'm confused.  Also, why would you cut it at an angle?

Lastly, what sort of cutter would you use to cut a piece of aluminum perfectly straight?  Don't you end up with a razor sharp edge??

PS-  Hi Wendy, it's momoreg!! :wink:

Here's the new thread.....I am curious to know how this works, too. :biggrin:

Edited by BROWNSUGA (log)
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I haven't iced a stacked cake before. Ice first, stack later yes. Perhaps that method is used for tilted cakes? I use this 4"-wide scraper to smooth ice a cake.

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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I don't have any photos, but I just wanted to say that our cake decorators also use that very same tool to smooth buttercream. Seems to work like a charm. To get an ultimately smooth and glossy finish, it can also help to dip the tool in warm water for the final pass.

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I'd love to see some pictures too, if possible. We no longer have a baker (PC) at work, and I'm planning on trying to do some so-called "fancy" stuff myself - and having no training or patience - I have never been great at smoothing out icing. I'm hitting myself on the forhead right now because I've never used scrapers like that - I've always used offset spatulas. I'm heading to a hardware store tomorrow.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recall when cake decorators first discovered the plastering tools that have morphed into "combs" and "rakes" and etc., for making a plain cake look decorated with very little effort.

There are still things to be found in stores that carry artists equipment, drafting tools, etc., that can be used in cake decorating.

Such as these

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"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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I'm doing a big project today. I'm going to document it in photos. I'll be sure to snap a pic....well, if I can, of the "paint masker thingy" in action......I'll see if I can hold the camera in one hand and the thingy in another just to give y'all an idea.

8 weddings in one weekend was kinda the average when I worked in the Seattle area cake shop. In the busier months it was more like 25 plus......but I had one baker, another decorator besides myself, and some part-timers that did "delivery crew". I did all the "difficult deliveries".

Now, if you're doing 8 weddings in one weekend BY YOURSELF.....that's another thing! Yipes. I can't work those kind of hours anymore. :shock:

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If it's by yourself, how to you actually do it???? I am just doing one cake at a time with my painstaking perfectionist self and I am sloooooooooow..... I realize that the creativity will have to take a backseat to production at some point or just do really expensive wedding cakes! But then, right now, I'm not looking to provide income of 8 cakes in one weekend. Now a little later.....

Josette

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If it's by yourself, how to you actually do it????  I am just doing one cake at a time with my painstaking perfectionist self and I am sloooooooooow.....  I realize that the creativity will have to take a backseat to production at some point or just do really expensive wedding cakes!  But then, right now, I'm not looking to provide income of 8 cakes in one weekend.  Now a little later.....

I am curious to know if this is by yourself also? I remember in a previous post you mentioned that when starting off, it's just YOU who does EVERYTHING. Woah!! Justcake, take your time with your response!! :biggrin: Get some rest first!! We'll be here!! :wink:

I am slow as heck, too. I am hoping with practice will come speed. I am hoping that creativity will not suffer. I know for me, I need to manage my time a little better.

Back on topic, I am looking forward to learning more about this smoothing technique. :biggrin:

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 year later...

HI,

I am going to make a wedding cake (115 servings) for Oct. 6. The bride requested an art nouveau theme. I LOVE art nouveau and always wanted to do a cake like this, however, she does not want specific floral or leaf references. Rather, she is more interested in a design that focuses on the linear style which is the signature of art nouveau decoration (for instance, as in objects like iron work.)

I have some ideas but I'm wondering about execution of them. One type of design I am considering is one that will go from the top to the bottom tier as one entire design (as opposed to decorating each tier separately.) I imagine that the lines will have to be quite thick and was trying to decide if I should start with gumpaste or fondant and then pipe the details in royal icing. Also, the cake will essentially be monochrome - white with highlights put in with shades of luster dust - pearl, silver, antique white.

I realize that it might be hard to answer the question since the design description is so vague right now but I'm really looking for suggestions for creating lines that span the height of the entire cake.

Thanks so much!

Chris

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There's a bunch of ways you can make lines that go all the way down; if you are covering in fondant you can paint them on. The lines can be thick or thin, just plan them carefully.

In the case of a very clean-lined cake I would suggest that you deliver it already stacked and decorated if at all possible. Or else, you will have to be very careful to measure accurately so that the lines line up when you assemble.

Don't know if that helped at all...?

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Is it this kind of style that the bride wants?

It always helps if you can link to a picture or something. If I know exactly what you're after, I know how to go about it.

If, by chance the above pic is what you're trying to emulate, I saw Chef Duff do a cake nearly EXACTLY like that on the show "Ace of Cakes" on Food Network. He had the figure on top (it was a semi nude woman) and the lines of her cape or whatever it was flowed down the tiers of the cake.

The way Duff did it was just to paint the lines on fondant.

I just happened to be at my Mom's the day it aired and saw it. I'm not privy to Food Network otherwise! :laugh:

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Is it this kind of style that the bride wants?

It always helps if you can link to a picture or something. If I know exactly what you're after, I know how to go about it.

OK, here's a preliminary sketch (gulp) of an idea that is under consideration.

I hope this helps. As sketches go...its pretty sketchy...

gallery_2866_3581_4161.jpg

Thanks!

Chris

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As sketches go, that is going to be a beautiful cake.

I'll leave most of the decorating advice to the experts, but, I'm with chefpeon and the cake that Duff did on Ace of Cakes. He painted a lot of it, but there were black fondant accents on the cake.

I found a picture of it HERE

Please post yours when complete -- we'd love to see the finished product!

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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As sketches go, that is going to be a beautiful cake. 

I'll leave most of the decorating advice to the experts, but, I'm with chefpeon and the cake that Duff did on Ace of Cakes.  He painted a lot of it, but there were black fondant accents on the cake.

I found a picture of it HERE

Please post yours when complete -- we'd love to see the finished product!

Thanks for the picture! I've been really curious about what that cake would look like.

As it is, I spoke with the bride today and she chose a different sketch of mine that she was also considering (altho now I still would like to develop the design I initially posted here.) This other design requires the application of fondant as vertical strips. Would it be ok to apply fontant strips on top of buttercream? I have an awful image of them sliding off a cake. I'm going to try some tests but thought that I would ask as well.

Thanks again!

Chris

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Yes, you can apply fondant strips to buttercream.....they won't slide off. Just don't roll the fondant too thick so that the strips are overly heavy.

HOWEVER.

The problem with applying fondant strips to buttercream: Fondant tends to stretch out of shape fairly easily. Also, once you get the strip on the cake you will probably have to straighten it out, and that can be a real pain, especially once your buttercream gets slightly warm. If your cake depends on the look of straight strips (as opposed to wavy, or zig zagish), it's really hard to get perfectly straight strips with fondant on buttercream. I would either go fondant on fondant (a lot easier to get them straight and/or straighten them out on fondant) OR I would use modeling chocolate to make the strips. Modeling chocolate is MUCH more friendly for strip making, because they don't stretch like fondant does (as long as the chocolate is cool of course).

:wink:

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Awesome advice! Thanks! I was concerned about fondant on fondant getting too thick but if i roll the strips thin, that should help. I hadn't even considered modelling chocolate. i would use white chocolate. The only problem with that would be that she wants tones of white and it would probably be yellowish, wouldn't it? I haven't worked with white chocolate modelling chocolate just dark or milk... :hmmm:

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The only problem with that would be that she wants tones of white and it would probably be yellowish, wouldn't it?

Well, lets say that it's "off white". Some brands of white chocolate are more yellowish than others.

I love using Guittard White Satin Ribbon.....it's very white and tastes great and makes great modeling chocolate.

I have also added white paste color to whiten modeling chocolate (you kind of have to add a lot though).

If you apply white modeling chocolate to fondant, you automatically have "another tone of white", but, like I said, you can always add fondant to fondant.....it's easier than fondant on BC.

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