Planning Cake Designs
Where to Start/Planning
Even this pull-apart lemon coffee cake can seem to take longer than originally planned. That's usually because there should always be a "longer than I thought" amount of time built in to the original plan. That way, no surprises.
For single-layer cakes, depending on your experience, it's smart to bake the cake a day ahead.
- Day one - Bake and cool the cake
- Day two - Tort the cake, if needed; fill and crumb coat. Make whatever decorations you can ahead of time.
- Day three - Ice and decorate
If you are making a tiered cake, follow the same time frame; however, if the cake has a lot of decorations, you may want to start making them a week ahead. That way, if something breaks or doesn't turn out as expected, you'll have time for a redo.
Building in additional time also keeps you from rushing. The inclination is to quickly fill your layers with icing or a special filling, and frost the cake with fondant or icing. Learning not to rush becomes painfully clear when the cake buckles from the weight of the fondant or icing, and slides to one side because you didn't allow the filling to set long enough.
It's always best to refrigerate your cake after it cools. That can mean if you start your baking at 9 o'clock at night, you may be up until 11 or 12 waiting for it to cool enough to refrigerate. Baking time varies with the kind of cake and oven temperature differences.
Review the entire recipe before starting, and make sure you have all the ingredients and supplies called for. Those trips to the market really add up. Practice your icing- and flower-making techniques before using them on the cake itself. Have enough icing bags on hand.
Now that you have some basic cake baking and decorating supplies, you may want to begin designing specialty cakes. Use the Internet, library, and designs you have clipped from magazines and brochures. These can serve as a springboard for your own ideas.
Original creations require just as much, and often more, planning than following instructions. Much like writing, when you read, it triggers your own ideas; when you have a cake picture before you, you can better visualize your own ideas.
You'll also want to consult the directions in cake books for techniques. Consider stacking cake pans, one on top of the other, if you are doing a tiered cake. Some cake stores will have dummy cakes made from Styrofoam. This is even better than cake pans to help you visualize a final product.
Lastly, don't consider slicing up the cake a heart break. This is the second phase of your hard work, the tasting.
Many of the recipes you come across are modified for the home baker. Cake decorating is challenging and rewarding for the novice and the experienced bakers. Delight your family and friends, and sell-out your goodies at the neighborhood bake sale.
Substitutions, Equivalents, and Metric Conversions
Why do you need metric conversions? You may not realize this, but the United States is in the minority when it comes to the metric system. We have stuck to our guns and have refused to give up our pounds, ounces, cups, etc. Eventually, we will have to switch to the metric system. The world is getting smaller and if we bakers and chefs want to swap recipes from all around the world, we'll need to understand a different measuring system equivalent. Keep these calculations and substitutions handy in your baking book or kit.
Lining cake tins and pans
Working with fondant
Working with marzipan
Filling your pastry bag
Piping positions and techniques, and
Tiers and layers
- Before applying the fondant, you'll need to coat your cake with a very thin crumb coat of either butter cream, ganache or jam. Let your cake air dry before you get started; also make sure your cake is level and any gaps have already been filled with buttercream, or the icing or filling of your choice.
- Now it's time to add in any food coloring or flavors, making sure to only use gel or paste varieties.
- Make sure your work area is completely spic and span.
- Before you can use your rolled fondant, you need to soften it. To do this, you can use a thin coat of shortening on your hands and knead it into the sugar-paste. On the other hand, if your fondant is too soft, you can stiffen it up by kneading in a bit of sifted powdered sugar. (When you're rolling out fondant, you may want to invest in a Roul'Pat non-stick mat.)
- Prepare your work area by applying an even dusting of equal parts of sifted cornstarch and confectioner's sugar.
- Now, roll the fondant out, using slight pressure until it's a uniform 3/8" to 1" in thickness. While rolling, rotate the sugar-paste constantly to keep it from sticking to the surface. However, do not flip it over.
- If you notice that air bubbles are forming, prick each bubble with a needle and lightly rub the bubble until the air is gone.
- Now it's time to gently polish the surface of the fondant in a circular motion using the palm of your hand for a resulting smooth, shiny finish.
- Place your sugar-paste on the work table (not the turntable) that's in front of you.
- Carefully lift the fondant, making sure not to push your fingers through. Or you can simply roll it around a rolling pin, or even use a specialized fondant lifter.
- Now lay the sheet of fondant over the cake, starting with the side that's closest to you, working your way across to the opposite side to make sure that you've covered the entire top and sides of your cake.
- Cut off any excess fondant with a pair of scissors or a sharp, serrated knife. Then, slowly work your way around the cake, smoothing out any wrinkles. Use a bowl scraper to smooth out, and then adhere the fondant to the cake, finishing by removing any excess fondant from the edges.
- Once this is done, decorate your cake with any royal icing or gum paste decorations.
- Finally, you can use stencils, gel piping techniques, and/or rice paper transfers for beautiful, professional-looking results.
Even the most professional cake decorators recommend buying fondant ready-made. It tastes just as good as making it yourself and is about 10 times less work. If you decide you want to try making fondant, read the recipe before you make a final decision:
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup glucose or white corn syrup
1 tablespoon glycerin
1 teaspoon flavoring (pure vanilla extract will impart an ivory tint; clear extracts are best if you want a pure white fondant)
2 pounds sifted confectioner's sugar
- Combine gelatin and cold water in the top of a double boiler and let stand until softened (about five minutes). Heat on medium heat until dissolved and clear.
- Remove from heat and add the glucose (or syrup), glycerin, and flavor. Mix well.
- Place 1-1/2 pounds confectioner's sugar in a bowl and make a well in the center. Slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the well and mix until sugar is blended.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape down sides of bowl and remove the sticky fondant to a clean work surface (marble or plastic - avoid wood). Knead in remaining 1/2 pound confectioner's sugar, a little at a time, until the fondant is smooth, pliable and doesn't stick to your hands.
- Roll the fondant into a ball and wrap in plastic. Place in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to set overnight.
Note: If the fondant is too soft, add more sugar; if too stiff, add water a scant drop at a time. Fondant can be kept for several months sealed tightly in a plastic bag inside an airtight container. Do not refrigerate or freeze. When ready to use, knead until soft.
Stiff Icing:Stiffer icings are used for figure piping and making string work and decorations such as roses, carnations, or sweet peas (which have upright petals). If your icing isn't stiff enough, your petals will most likely droop. If you notice that your icing cracks when you pipe it, your icing is likely a bit too stiff. You also can add a tad of light corn syrup to the icing you'll use for string work, for increased elasticity.Medium Icing:Medium consistency icings are ideal for decorations such as stars, shell borders, or flat petal flowers. Using overly stiff or thin icing will result in you falling short of the uniformity that characterizes these types of decorations.Thin Icing:Thin icing is used to make decorations like printing, writing, vines, and/or leaves. If you want your leaves pointier, your vines not to break, and writing that goes with an easy flow, you can add in 1-2 tsp. of light corn syrup for each cup of icing you'll have.Thin icing is used to help you smoothly ice your cake. Begin with your prepared icing recipe, and then proceed to add small amounts of the liquid called for in your recipe (generally milk or water), until you've reached the spreading consistency you desire.
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