Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Wire Styrofoam Balls Without A Glue Gun

I don't know about you, but I hate having to get equipment out then wait for it to be ready. I don't have time for that. So I don't bother using the hot glue gun to attach wires to styrofoam balls anymore, I just do the bendy thing to anchor the wire and it works fine.

And that's the technical term, "the bendy thing." I should call it a technique and claim to have invented it, maybe I could give it my name. "Kara's bendy thing wire technique method." Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, here's what I do:

Start with your average styrofoam ball and a wire (This also works with styrofoam cones if you're so inclined.)

 Poke the wire through the ball until about 1/2" sticks out the top.

Bend the part that's sticking out the top all the way down to anchor it.

That isn't going anywhere.

Now turn it over, and at the base where you inserted the wire, bend it at a 90 degree angle.

Now bend it back onto itself so that it makes a decent-sized loop to keep the bottom in place.

Bend the wire so that it's once again straight up and down the way that you inserted it into the ball in the first place. The little loop will be anchoring the wire against the base.

Press the loop into the styrofoam.

Now that end isn't going anywhere either.

And there you have it, no hot glue needed. Once you cover the wires with gumpaste or wafer paper or whatever you plan on making the flowers out of, it will be completely covered and will also help to anchor the wire into place.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Building Better Cakes: Creative Cake Separators

Craftsy Cake Decorating ClassBuilding Better Cakes was taught by Marina Sousa, who started the class out with the statement that it doesn't matter how pretty your cake is if it's not standing. The things that I've seen online recently make me think that a lot of people could benefit from understanding that.

She goes over a few different ways to do separated tiers, including styrofoam risers, center poles, and asymmetrical structures. She stacks three different cakes with FULL instructions then decorates them, so there's plenty of time to take a nap, I mean, plenty of stuff to watch.

And yes, this class put me to sleep several times. But I've been cutting back on the caffeine so it's pretty easy to put me to sleep recently. It makes me wonder what I missed, though, because I'd nod off and when I woke up she was still doing the same thing. So I suspect that this class is the same as many other classes that show every step in excruciating detail, to the point of just stretching things out to fill in time.

She narrates every step thoroughly as well, which isn't a bad thing because it's good to hear the rationale of why she's doing something a certain way.

This class covers a lot of structural topics, which are easily transferable to other projects, so it's worth it for that alone if you're not strong on figuring out the structures. She also shows some different decorating techniques using molds to make the beads and a trellis-like structure that hides one of the tier separators.

And I'll say it again...the questions that people ask would make me lose all hope if I was the one who had to answer them.

My final review:

Skill level: Intermediate, you need to have a little experience to feel comfortable cantilevering a stacked cake.
Equipment you'll need: A lot. Lots of pipe, styrofoam, tools, etc. Check the class materials list before buying the class.
Sleep-Inducing Level: I give this one five sominex and a nyquil.
What it assumes you already know: How to fill and cover cakes, how to do basic stacking, some carpentry skills.
Unnecessary level of difficulty for techniques shown: Not a lot but there was some equipment that you could use stuff you have around your house for, so it was more of an unnecessary equipment thing.
Annoying Host Habits: Not much other than saying "heighth" instead of "height." And yes, I know it's supposedly a regional thing, but I maintain that it's not a real word.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: A lot of information about securing tiers so that they won't fall over in transit.

Click here for the class: Building Better Cakes: Creative Cake Separators

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and on Etsy at and is a Craftsy affiliate

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Red and Orange Ombre Ruffles

This wedding cake had red and orange ombre ruffles in the bottom tier with a gold gumpaste peony and green leaves. The bottom and middle tiers were taller than the top tier, and there was going to be a topper. The bride's father was trying to hunt it down...

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How To Make Opaque "Paint" For Gumpaste Etc

When you're painting on cakes or gumpaste, you have many options for whatever type of effect you're looking for.

For a clear color, more like a watercolor, you can use:
-Straight liquid food coloring
-Corn syrup with food coloring
-Vodka with food coloring or petal dusts
-Piping gel with food coloring

For slightly more opaque colors you can mix white food color (titanium dioxide) with food coloring or petal dusts.

But for colors that need to be fairly opaque, you have to use a base that's opaque to begin with. This limits you to things that won't dissolve the color so much as just provide a medium to float it on the surface of whatever you're painting.

That basically means that you need something oil-based, which ends up being crisco or another type of shortening, and buttercream.

You can dissolve fondant until it gets to a paintable consistency then mix a color into it, but that's a sticky mess, and as the liquid in it evaporates you'll have to add more to keep the consistency.

The easiest thing to do is to start with some shortening and add petal dust or oil-based candy colors to it. You can use this like an oil paint, and it remains pretty opaque because it sits on the surface of the thing that you applied it to unless you rub it off. The container of yellow above is crisco with yellow petal dust mixed into it. You can also use buttercream to do this if you're painting directly onto a buttercream cake, then thin it out with corn syrup to get the consistency you need. I did this one years ago with the buttercream as a base, since it was a buttercream cake.

When I put it on this gumpaste bamboo it covered the darker green color nicely, which a more transparent color wouldn't do.

After painting it on you can smooth it out with the brush or a fingertip to adjust the thickness of it.
I also put a little bit of the yellow in the center of the purple wafer paper orchids I'd made for the cake, just to break up the purple a little. Since the "paint" is oil-based it won't dissolve the paper, so you can also use it to color wafer paper by smearing it on the sheet. It's good for stencilling, too, since it's a pretty firm consistency and wont' move once you put it on. I'd only use that on fondant, though, if you're going to stencil on buttercream use buttercream to do that. Tastes better.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cake Class Review: Piping, Stenciling And Filigree

Last week I wrote about some of the new platforms that are popping up for online cake decorating classes, and this week I had time to watch one from CakeMade. I chose the piping class because it's so pathetic that people can't pipe anymore. This class is pretty basic in terms of piping skills required (can you pipe a line? Okay, then) but it shows you have to make panels, so it's also complicated.

First things first, let's talk about the CakeMade platform. It's fairly new, so they don't have many classes yet. It's also only for cakes, unlike Craftsy, which includes many topics. The instructors are a combination of more of the same, flavor of the month, and people I never heard of, so I can't say if the classes overall will be better or worse instructor-wise.

It's pretty obvious that CakeMade is a Craftsy copycat, which means that they want to look like Craftsy and have the same features. So I guess that Craftsy is doing something right if they're getting copiers. The classes that they're offering at this point are similar to the type that you'd find on Craftsy, but the one that I watched will require a bit more skill than a lot of the Craftsy classes, which are generally aimed at beginners. Not to say that CakeMade isn't aimed at beginners too, but I've only watched the one class so I can't make a judgment about that.

So on to the class itself...Piping, Stenciling and Filigree was taught by Dawn Parrott, who has a lot of decorating experience, go to the site to read about it. It covers how to plan, create stencils for, and assemble a cake that has royal icing panels that extend from the cake and are supported by collars. It covers all of the topics that are involved with this particular type of project, including piping royal icing and removing it from the backing without cracking it into a million pieces, how they'd actually cut a cake that's covered with this kind of stuff, and how to get it to all line up.

If you've never done a royal-iced piped cake or collars, this would be a good intro to how to do one because it covers every step that you have to take, including a lot of planning. And there's a lot of planning for this kind of project.

The drawback to this class being so thorough is that it's really slow in terms of watching her do every step. Over and over. Pipe four panels? Here we go, watch her pipe all four of them. Airbrush the panels? She'll do every one while you watch paint dry. The snooze factor is very high, but if you do fall asleep each thing is done for so long you won't miss much, so there's that advantage to having extended-length examples. Another drawback is that I can't see a customer ever asking for this kind of thing, it just isn't something that people around here order. But if you go through the planning of it you might learn something that could help you with other types of designs.

So my final review...

Skill Level: For this I'll say intermediate. You need to know how to pipe basic lines and not screw that up, at least.
Equipment you'll need: ruler, fondant, royal icing, the basics. Lots of boards and skills to draw straight lines to make the guides.
Sleep-Inducing level: Sominex level 10.
What it assumes you already know: How to pipe royal icing and how to follow instructions.
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: Nothing, this is a pretty precise design so you have to be pretty precise to do it.
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing other than putting me to sleep.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: There's a lot of stuff mentioned along the way if you can stay awake to hear it.

Go here for the class: Piping, Stenciling and Filigree

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and is a CakeMade affiliate. Find her etsy shop at