Simply Beautiful.

Every day we are faced with the choice- how can I make life better today? What can I say, do, make, give or be to make my life and the lives of others better. Here I want to focus on the positives of life in each day, in each moment. By choosing how we answer those questions in a positive way, we make the world a better place for every single one.

I am trying a new format starting today. I will be posting Studio project and shop updates on Mondays. Each Wednesday I will post a "World Wednesday" update with things found in nature, or other nature related topics. On Fridays I will post a tip or project I suggest. Hopefully it will be a fun and exciting change!

All images and texts are copyrighted, please contact me for permission to use anything you see here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to decorate a cake

My daughter dreams big.  She plays big, laughs big, cries big- why should planning the perfect birthday cake be any different?  When I innocently asked to plan her cake last year, we ended up with a giant three layer cake.  That would be three sheet cake layers! Appropriate for feeding about a hundred guests, last year's cake fed the eight us us just fine, with leftovers to feed co-workers, friends and family for a loooong time. 
   This year I thought would be simpler.  Ha!  We had fun designing a cake just like the one in Disney's Surprise For A Princess book. Except ours was pink and white instead of blue and pink.  This was a four layer cake (!!) (I know- so not an improvement from last year- but the layers were smaller). It honestly looked like a lovely wedding cake.  It gave me great confidence in my scant cake decorating skills and the allowing the big birthday girl to help with it all was awesome!  Here are some things that worked well for us.

Start with a mix! For this giant cake I used two boxes of yellow cake mix.  his time I used Pillsbury brand, but I have also had success with anything Martha White or Duncan Hines makes. I prefer to crack and add all the eggs at once so I don't forget how many I put in.  Laugh if you like but it has happened many, many times!  Runny cake is just gross!

Think outside the box- or, er, circle- for your pans.  Creating this cake of many layers required the usual 9'' layer and 8''  layer round pans.  Then we ended up using a large round casserole dish and a very small oven-safe pan that came with a play kitchen set.  A ramekin or single cupcake size would have worked as funny.

A cookie sheet (with no sides) wrapped in foil provided a great cake plate for this giant.  Last year I  flipped a cookie sheet (with sides) upside down and wrapped it with wrapping paper taped to the non showing side.  (I was going to write bottom- but that's now the top of my platter.  SO now I've made it more confusing!)  Then I put strips of wax paper under the edges of the cake.  This way when the decorating is done you can gently pull these out and no icing messes will be left on your platter.  I think it would be easier to remove these before you do the last icing on the very bottom edge of you cake.  It was my experience that the icing pulled out a bit in a very scary way, but ended up looking fine.  I would love to hear opinions from people with more experience here!

By all means let the birthday kid help!  This part was a bit hard for me at first to be honest.  I wanted it to be perfect for her & that meant not sloppy edges.  But- we had a blast and she did much better than I would have thought.  Kids are really great for the crumb layer- very correctable.  Letting them use a smaller knife is helpful too.  My daughter used the knife that came with a play set.  Flat sides are all that's necessary.

The finished cake!  It's very difficult to see the great results we had because of my current camera limitations.  I would love to, and hope to create a few posts just on cake decorating techniques.  For now I will say just experimenting with the tips on a piece of wax paper can really help you figure out what they can do.  For this cake I did everything I needed to do with each tip.  I started by using a star tip to create the flowers around each layer's edge top.  Then I added the bottom and top layer ribboning along the edging by using the star tip ad wiggling it back and forth in place. To make the hanging bands you see on the top and bottom tiers, I simply used a leaf tip, started on one star and pulled out and away from the cake to create the drape effect.  Then I touched the tip to the cake again at the other end to fasten it down.  I did stop and put all of the icing (including the applicator) in the refrigerator.  Colder icing is more firm, helping it to hold it's shape.

My cake decorating also turned into party entertainment for some of the earliest guests!  I decided to see that as a bonus- not a lack of scheduling skills!!