Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake

I got an email about doing a cake for a first birthday party. The client and I sent some emails back and forth trying to come up with a cake that would fit her little girl. She sent me a link of a cake she really liked and wanted to replicate. From the link and talking to her we came up with my take on the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake.
Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Cake

I started this by making two 6 inch cakes. I cut both in half and used 3 of the halves to make the head and the last one to carve the butterfly. I filled and stacked the head with Italian buttercream and covered it with red fondant. I bought a tub of the Duff Goldman red fondant and found it to be horrible to use. It was very streaky and did not cover the cake well. I had to recover the head because of this. I used oval cutters for the eyes and inlayed the green into the yellow. I used a circle cutter for the mouth. Since the board was so long, I had to make all the pieces of the cake ahead of time and then assemble on the day it was delivered.
Very Hungry Caterpillar cake head closeup

Next I used a piece of wax paper and cut out the shape I wanted for the butterfly. Using the template I made, I cut out the butterfly and covered it with a layer of buttercream. I originally covered the butterfly in white fondant and placed pieces of colored fondant on top. I didn't really liked the look of the finished butterfly. So I started over and covered it with lavender fondant. Then using the story book as a reference, I added different colored fondant to the wings.
Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake-butterfly closeup

I made the cupcakes the day before delivery so they would stay fresh. I made the same buttercream I used for the cake and divided it in half. I colored one half with leaf green and the other with leaf green and golden yellow. I then put a little of each in the piping bag with a star tip. By doing this I was able to get a very neat swirl pattern on the cupcakes.
Cupcake with swirled green buttercream

Next came assembly! I took the head off the cake round and placed it on the cake board. Then I placed all the cupcakes where I wanted them to make the cupcake train. Once I had everything where I wanted it, I used royal icing to secure it all to the board. Dan and I then placed chocolate jimmies around the edge to represent the hair on the back of the caterpillar. I then placed the butterfly on the board and used the jimmies as the antennae. I didn't like the way the fondant edge looked on the head of the caterpillar, so I added a thin red ribbon around the cake so the bottom looked clean. I made the feet of the caterpillar out of black fondant and secured them with royal icing. I printed out an apple pattern and used it to cut out the apple out of fondant. I free handed the leaf and used a knife to make the veins. I used a round tip to take out a hole in the fondant in both and then filled in with black holes. I colored the remaining royal icing pink to do the writing and eyes on the butterfly. Finally I added the antennae on the butterfly using a wooden dowel and black fondant, and my take on the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake was complete!
Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Cake-left side with appleVery Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Cake-right side with leaf

LESSONS LEARNED:
1) Add ribbons onto cakes before you secure the cupcakes down. It will be a lot easier
2) Try to picture what the final look will be when you are decorating a cake. I didn't with the butterfly and ended up having to start over because I didn't like the final look the first time.
3) Give yourself extra time when you are using a new product. When I tried the Duff fondant and didn't like it at all, I was glad I gave myself plenty of time to recover the cake with something better.
4) Using cutters and tips to inlay the fondant gives a nice clean look and prevents the fondant from getting too thick.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Final Wedding Cake with Sugar Chrysanthemums

One of the last things we had to do in culinary school was design and create a final wedding cake. Our sketch had to match our final cakes. They could be any shape and three tiers. The "cake" part was styrofoam since the class was more about decorating. Here's the final cake.
final wedding cake with sugar chrysanthemums

And for comparison sake, here's the sketch I started with.

I decided to go with a simple white wedding cake with lots of sugar chrysanthemums. I made the same flower in multiple different sizes for the middle tier and for on top. I made most of the flowers ahead of time and just made the larger ones for the top of the cake in class. I did this for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get them on the cake during our class time. Next I wanted to make sure they were dried. Finally, I felt that if I made them ahead of time I wouldn't be too stressed out and could concentrate on the details.

sugar chrysanthemum closeup

The top tier and bottom tiers had a quilt pattern with yellow dots at the crosses. To do this, I really thought about how to get the pattern on the cake easily and evenly. I came up with an idea that worked really well. I took a folder that was thin plastic and cut out a 45 degree triangle. By doing this I had something I could bend around the circle and gave me an exact angle for the lines. To start, I covered the styrofoam with some royal icing and rolled out the white fondant. I rolled the fondant thicker so I could put the lines in and not go all the way through the fondant. Also with thicker fondant, I gave myself a little more time before it dried out. I used the triangle and a bench scraper to put the lines in the fondant lightly (flipping over the triangle to do the lines the other way). I put the lines in lightly so if I messed up or the pattern didn't match up correctly I could rub it out of the fondant. I used the bench scraper to make the lines deeper once I was happy with the pattern.

I covered the middle tier with plain white fondant because I knew I was going to cover it in white flowers. The white fondant behind the white flowers helped to make the gaps between the flowers less apparent. I stacked the tiers using a little royal icing to hold them together.

After I stacked the cake, I put all the flowers on the middle tier. Once I started putting the flowers on, I saw that having the flowers all the same size looked a little flat. So I added petals onto some of the flowers to alter the sizes. I liked the look a lot better that way.

Once all the flowers were in, I took a step back and realized that the cake was a little too white. I decided to add a yellow ribbon around the top and bottom tiers. I colored the fondant the same color as the middles of the flowers. I then rolled it as thin as I wanted the ribbons to be. There are a few ways to cut the ribbons. You can use a roller and a knife or pizza cutter. Wilton also makes a tool to cut multiple ribbons at once. To put the ribbon on the cake, I rolled up each ribbon like a cinnamon bun (using confectioner's sugar to prevent sticking). Brush water on the area you want to apply the ribbon and unroll it onto the cake. Use a knife to cut the excess (Make sure the ends meet in the back of the cake).

I made the flowers for the top of the cake partly at home and finished them when I put them on the cake. I did this so I could position the petals where I wanted them on the cake while they were still soft. This was also good because the top of the cake was damaged while it was being stored at the school. I was able to position the flowers so they covered the damage. If I was unable to do this I would have had to re-cover everything.

The final step was to put the dots on the cross sections of the top and bottom tiers. I made royal icing and colored it yellow. I took my time piping the dots on so they were uniform.

I mentioned this beautiful cake way back in our very first post and I'm glad Laurie was able to post more details on it. She worked incredibly hard on those flowers, pulling a few near all-nighters. You can't see it on the scan of the sketch, but there's a little math scrawled on the left side of the page as we tried to compute the surface area of the outside of a 8" round, 2" tall cylinder to help guess how many chrysanthemums to make, and I think even then Laurie still needed to make a bunch more to fill in the holes over what we estimated. So apparently there was a reason to pay attention in math class after all!

LESSONS LEARNED:
1) Make the flowers on wire that is thick enough. I didn't and had a very hard time pushing them on the cake.
2) Think about how you will accomplish your different ideas before you jump into it
3) Plan out everything and add more time
4) Nothing will ever be perfect! Know when to stop or you could make it worse.
5) Don't be afraid to change your design