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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Purple Orchids And Bamboo Wedding Cake

This wedding cake had gumpaste bamboo with wafer paper orchids. The bamboo was made with a mold from my Etsy shop and painted with green and yellow petal dusts and crisco "paint". Naturally, when I was about ready to take the picture, the lighting guy turned out the lights and shined his little spotlight on the cake, so I apologize for the funky lighting.

To make the orchids, use this tutorial video...

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wafer Paper And Humidity Don't Mix.

I'd been trying to get an answer about whether wafer paper flowers hold up in humid conditions, because it's pretty bad around here in the summer. Knowing whether the flowers on a cake will hold up or not is an important detail unless you enjoy getting angry phone calls from customers who say their cake decorations melted.

The only thing I could find was a group on facebook that was recommended to me, and I was able to ask Stevi Auble, who did the Craftsy wafer paper flower class, and who uses a lot of wafer paper flowers, what her experience was. She said that she'd never had trouble with humidity affecting the flowers. That was promising, but she lives in San Diego, and the humidity there is generally less intense, shall we say, than it is here.

Now let's be clear, I'm not talking about heat. Humidity is a wild card, it can be high during cool weather (fog, for example), or during hot weather (like when you're in Florida and you feel like you've been hit in the face with a hot, wet towel when you leave the house). Humidity can also rise or sink when it rains, apparently. Dry heat won't affect wafer paper at all, so setting something up in the desert outside might melt the cake, but the flowers will still be okay.

The humidity today was pretty high because it was going to rain, so I thought I'd do my test. If I'm not sure how something will react under certain conditions I'll do a test run. I did it with heat and buttercream, and with isomalt and the refrigerator, so why not with this?

I looked up the weather report for the time I was doing this, which was around 9AM. The humidity before it started raining was at about 79%, which is fairly high but not tremendously so. By the afternoon here it had risen to 95%.

So here are the flowers when I put them outside on the porch. The calla and the roses were made from single-thickness wafer petals, and the orchids and tulip were made from double-layered petals so they were a little sturdier.

 I put them on the front porch out of the direct rain if it started to fall, and went inside.

45 minutes later I checked on them, and they had started to sag. The calla had folded over onto itself, which didn't surprise me since it was the thinnest of all of them, The tulip had softened up and had started to sag, and the paper was soft. The orchid still looked okay but it was the thickest one so I wasn't surprised by that. I was hopeful that it would hold up for the long run.

Half an hour later I checked them again, and it was a little more tragic.

Everything was losing its shape and melting. The rose had held up best but was saggy and the edges were rolling in. The orchid had given up and the tulip was falling apart. Saddest of all was the calla, which had folded in on itself and was now a lump.

After a total of 2 1/2 hours in the humidity, which I'm assuming was at about 85% at this point, they had totally succumbed and were now just wet, lumpy and sad.

The rose was the only one that still resembled itself, but the edges were considerably more rolled than they had been to start with. More time outside wouldn't have been kind to it.

I went outside later when the humidity was at 95%, according to the weather channel, and this is what happened to a sheet of wafer paper (the video is about 3 minutes long):


So my basic advice is that if you have an outdoor reception in a humid month, wafer paper isn't going to be the best choice for flowers. If you can't be 100% sure that a cake will hold up under certain conditions, you shouldn't sell that cake to a client who will be putting it in those conditions. It's too risky.

And if you're not sure, do a test run to see what happens to the flowers before you put them in those conditions. It's not good to take advice about outdoor cakes from people if their weather conditions are totally different from yours, because their answer might be 100% correct for their area, but not apply to yours at all.

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Many Cake Classes Are There Now...The Quantity Is Unknown.

We have neighbors who are from the Philippines, and they have a large extended family. So large that when their kids would come over to play with my kids there was always a new cousin who I hadn't ever seen before with them.

One time their son came over to hang out and he had some little kid with him that he said was his cousin. I asked him "how many cousins do you have?" He replied "The quantity is unknown."

This cracked me up because it was true. Just when you thought you had a handle on it someone else would show up to throw you off.

The same thing has been happening to cake classes and online craft "schools" lately. There was Craftsy and youtube. Now there are numerous individually-run cake sites were you can go, pay a subscription or buy individual classes to get tutorials and videos demonstrating how to do whatever basic skill you want.

The cake class market is bloated already, and there are more of these "schools" popping up because that's what happens when the tail wags the dog. People have seen that selling to decorators is sometimes more profitable for them than selling to cake customers, so they're shifting their focus to doing classes, selling tutorials, running seminars, and selling to decorators in general. They might be teaching a million classes but they're not selling many cakes, if any at all.

The same thing happened during the recession 5 or 6 years ago...suddenly there were tons of wedding consultants who used to be planners, DJs, etc, but who were now selling to wedding professionals, not to brides. The wedding market had dried up and they needed to find a new source of income. The old joke "What do you call a guy who just got fired from his job? Consultant" was true here.

When I look on facebook now there are entire pages devoted to one or more of these sites, but they don't always tell you that's what they're for. There are also tons of people posting about these classes with a cheerful "wow, look here, they're having a sale" without disclosing that they're getting a piece of the action. That's just wrong...Every link in this post is an affiliate link, so if you click it then buy something I'll get an affiliate payment. It's not a lot...enough to pay for the classes that I review, but if you post an affiliate link you're supposed to disclose it so that people don't think you're just endorsing something from sheer enthusiasm about how great it is.

I have nothing against online classes, I actually think they're great for many reasons. They're usually less expensive than taking a class in person, you can watch them any time you want to, and you don't have to actually make an effort to talk to people and be cheerful while you're doing it (that's the best benefit).  However, you're never sure what you're going to get, so if you're not careful, or if the class isn't advertised truthfully, you might not feel like you got what you paid for.

Craftsy LogoWhen I decided to start doing Craftsy reviews a couple of years ago I thought it would be a good addition to my blog, and would also serve the purpose of warning people if a class was totally not worth it. And there have been some of those. Craftsy is a good platform and they do offer money back if you're not happy with the class, so I'm not afraid to endorse them as a company. But I'm not going to say that a class is awesome if it stinks.

I recently signed on to Pretty Witty Cakes as an affiliate also, because they offer a monthly subscription that allows you unlimited access, or a one-time payment for lifetime access. Theoretically, you could pay for a month and watch videos for the entire month for the one fee. To me that's a good value, so I'm not afraid to say go ahead and do that. The also have a free option that gives you access to their free tutorials, so you don't HAVE to pay them.

Affordable Online Cake Decorating Courses for 80% LessThen there's Cake Made, which is a new one. They seem to be imitating the Craftsy platform (in appearance too), and I still have to watch the first class to see if it's worth it, so I can't judge that one yet. It looks okay so far, but they don't have a lot of classes up yet.

Then there's the old standby youtube...yeah, do that. It's free and if you can't find a demo on there that you want let me know and I'll add it to my channel, I'm always looking for subject matter.

Online classes (and in-person classes too, to tell the truth) are a good example of buyer beware. And with the ever-growing number of them available, it's going to be more difficult to choose which ones to pay for. Make sure that the site you're dealing with has a money-back option in case the class isn't what you wanted or expected. On the other hand, don't be the jerk who pays for something then returns it after wearing it to the party, so to speak. If you got something out of the class then be grateful that you got to watch it in your pajamas at 2 in the morning. Sometimes that's worth the whole cost of the class.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and participates in a few different affiliate programs, all of which were disclosed here so as not to be a deceptive shillmeister.