beforehand to see what that thing looks like. I've been meaning to write something about using the real thing as a model for a while, but I came across a good example last week.
I was going to make a gumpaste ranunculus to see how long it took for an Etsy client. I started by typing "gumpaste ranunculus" into google, which as we all know is the source of everything.
It came up with plenty of pictures, all pretty much the same. Ranunculus are a fancy flower with lots of petals...and I've seen them before and they look kind of round, so the ones that people make for cakes that are based on a ball shape seemed okay. I also looked at pictures of the real things, but I've seen so many made for cakes that image was stuck in my head.
The first one I did looked like the variety "cake ranunculus", so I thought it was okay. But I didn't like the veiner that I had used for the center, and overall there was just something weird about it. So I went back to google and this time I looked up ranunculus and ignored the gumpaste part.
Totally different results...Pictures of real ranunculus showed me that they do have all of those petals, but the flower isn't round unless they're still closed. When they open up the outer petals fall backward and hang down, which makes them look thicker than they are.
I'd been planning on making one out of wafer paper just to see if the shape worked better, and it did seem to, other than the issue of the outer petals. The paper would need to be shaped into the draping shape that the outer petals do, and I didn't feel like it...So I did one more out of gumpaste, which I knew would droop naturally.
The last one that I did was more realistic. The gumpaste made it easy to shape the inner and outer petals, and gave the flower a flatter profile. As a bonus, the flatter flower will work better with placement on cakes, since rounder ones sometimes stick out too far on the cake.
So the lesson is this...Look at the real thing. I hardly ever look at pictures of cakes online, seriously. If I need to do a cake that looks like a balloon, I don't look up pictures of cakes that look like balloons, I look at pictures of balloons. If I need to do a cake that looks like a dog, I don't look at pictures of cakes that look like dogs, I look at pictures of the dog.
I should have known better than to rely on photos of ranunculus for cakes, since it's obvious that people don't look at the real flower before they make them. Copying someone's tutorial is fine, but the more copying that gets done, the farther away from the real thing you end up. It's the telephone game for cakes.
So when spring comes and I can get a real ranunculus, I'm going to go buy some and see what they look like in person. I might even plant some in my garden. Pictures of the real thing are good, but the real thing itself is the best model of them all.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com