Thursday, January 30, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Delicate Wafer Paper Cakes

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Delicate Wafer Paper Cakes
This class comes at the perfect time for a review, since it's wafer paper week here. It was taught by Stevi Auble, who owns Hey There, Cupcake! in San Diego, and who has used wafer paper to decorate her cakes for some time.

Wafer paper for cakes isn't new, I found a book by Marsha Winbeckler called Wafer Paper Uses that was published in 1990. It's been used for cakes for years, but it's recently become trendy for some reason. I suspect it's because it's faster than gumpaste, and you don't need the same skills as you do for gumpaste. It has benefits, but it also has limitations.

The major limitation is moisture...Stevi does mention the issue of humidity, which I've been wondering about. I've been playing around with the paper, but it's really dry this time of year. I have no idea what would happen if I put wafer flowers on a cake that was going to be outside in the summer. I have a feeling that one big rainstorm would leave the flowers in a gummy puddle on the tiers. So you do have to think about what conditions the cake will be in, just like you would with gumpaste.

Wafer paper will also dry out as you work with it, as she points out when she's cutting petals. That can leaves you with a ragged edge, and brittle paper that doesn't behave the way you expect it to. Wafer paper isn't a perfect animal, you do have to handle it a certain way, just as you would gumpaste.

The benefit is that it dries a heck of a lot faster than gumpaste, and it's a lot lighter in weight. You can't get the same detail as you can with gumpaste, though, but if you're okay with a stylized version of the flowers this will be fine.

The class covers basics like making a ranunculus and a stem of leaves, which she does differently than other methods I've seen, but there are many ways to skin the wafer paper cat. The flowers that she makes are more like a real flatter ranunculus than the big ball-y ones that people make using a styrofoam ball for a center, though. The petals are just the circles with the slit cut out, so it's a pretty flat-petal look to them.

She also covers peonies and roses, which are also stylized versions of the real things. The larger flowers are all made pretty much the same way as the ranunculus, so one you get the hang of it that's pretty easy.

The next section is on doing rolled roses, which look like basic rolled roses. there's no better way to describe it, they're rolled. All of the flowers are very fantasy-flower type versions of real ones, but that's one limitation of wafer paper.

The following sections cover a few different ways to use the paper to cover sides of the cake using cutout patterns and decoupage techniques. For the decoupage you're going to need printed wafer paper, because it's not going to look like anything if all you have is white.

The cutout techniques require those big paper punches that punch patterns all over a full sheet, but it's an interesting way to cover the entire tier with a pattern. Much simpler than cutting a pattern out and trying to slap it on the cake without distorting it if it's made with fondant. However, wafer paper doesn't taste good, so to me the idea of covering an entire tier is less appetizing than it is visually appealing.

Of course, all of these cakes are covered in fondant, too, so whether they would work with buttercream is an issue. In the questions Stevi responded to a question by saying that one of her students had used it on buttercream, but that she had never had success with it, so I think it would just take some trial and error to see if you can make it work for you.

There's a section on using gold leaf , which would be a very expensive technique to practice with, and for a cheapo like myself I'd wait until I had another gold leaf project so that I had to buy it anyway.

This class was good for the basics, and if you've never worked with wafer paper before it will give you a good basic introduction. It doesn't go very far into the technicalities of what it will and won't do, though, and it doesn't cover any petal-wiring techniques or anything really complicated. So for a basic overview it's fine but if you already know the basics of the flowers it might cover the same things you already know.

The Final Review:

Skill Level: Beginner
Equipment You Have To Have: Wafer paper, scissors, piping gel, paper punches, some fondant etc.
Sleep-Inducing Level: Not too bad but it did get long in the typical Craftsy way in a few places where she was cutting things out.
What It Assumes You Already Know: Not a lot.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods Demonstrated: I'd say the only thing is the excessive amount of hand cutting, but if you don't have a mechanical cutter there's no other option.
Annoying Host Habits: The only criticism I have is that she has white nail polish on, which I found really distracting. I'm not a fan of nail polish in the kitchen to begin with, but the color was such a contrast it really got in the way visually.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: For basics it covered a lot. For more complicated techniques, not so much. I didn't pick up a lot from it but if you'd never worked with the paper before you'll learn a lot.

Click here for my Craftsy pattern shop, which has a bunch of freebies in it: A Cake To Remember On Craftsy


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

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