Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wilton Course 3 - Final Cake

Last night I finished up Wilton Course 3 at Michael's. Check out my cake!I'm so glad I took this class because making this cake has taught me so much! I learned that I actually like making cakes. I always thought that I would infinitely prefer cupcakes but as it turns out, cake decorating lets you use some different skill sets that I find both fun and challenging. I also learned how much work goes into a tiered cake. I put about 15 hours into making this. I am much more appreciative now when I see a really beautiful cake because I can better understand what it takes to put something like that together.

And I'm pretty sure I learned some technical skills in there somewhere too.

On to the cake!

I went with lemon cake and almond buttercream frosting. I used a cake mix (eep!) for this since it was just a practice cake. I use two vanilla mixes and substitued the juice from three lemons for part of the water. I also grated the rind of the lemons and threw that in. It turned out yummy, lemony and not at all tart. Next time I might use one more lemon because I like some tartness. The bottom tier is two stacked 10" round cakes and the top is two 6" stacked cakes. One cake mix was exactly enough to make a 6" inch cake and a 10" cake so it worked out pretty well. I didn't make any fancy fillings, I just put buttercream between the layers.

I leveled the cakes, did a buttercream crumb coat, let that chill for a bit in the fridge and then did a thicker coat of the buttercream. Next I covered them in homemade marshmallow fondant.

With the leftover fondant, I punch out some tiny flowers and stuck them on the cake randomly with a bit of water.

The roses were all done in advance. My sister came over and we sat around making roses all day since she was making the same cake except that her flowers were yellow. It took about 8.5 hours for me to finish all of my roses. There are 20 large roses, 11 medium roses, and 8 little rosebuds and 40 leaves. I ended up having 5 roses left that I didn't use though. The Wilton method of making fondant roses is just to make a small cone of fondant, stick it on a tooth pick and then use a 5-petal flower cutter to cut out three flowers which you then stab through the toothpick and wrap the petals around the center cone. There are some great tutorials on youtube that can show you how to do this.

Next came the hard part: transporting the cake to class. I put the 10" cake on a 12" cakeboard that I made from cardboard and aluminum foil, and the the 6" cake on a 6"cakeboard (since it sits on a plastic tray when the cake is done) and held them on a large board in my lap, trying not to let them slide around when we went over a bump.

In retrospect, I probably didn't need to actually go to the class because I knew how to assemble the rest of the cake on my own and it was even tougher to get it home, but I guess it's good that I went because I got to see everyone else's cakes and pick up my certificate.

In class, the first thing I did was pipe the border along the bottom of both tiers. You start with a #18 shell border, followed by a #86 ruffle and then a #16 shell border along the top of the ruffle. Then I stacked the tiers using pillars that push straight through the bottom tier so that they can support the weight of the top tier (the parts came in the course kit).

The next step was to attach the roses. I found this to be the toughest part. I basically just set the roses on the cake and rearranged them until I found an arrangement that I was happy with before I actually started attaching them. The ones on top of the cake are attached with buttercream while the ones along the sides are attached with toothpicks since the buttercream isn't strong enough to hold them. I stuck the leaves in along the sides and in between the roses to fill any gaps. The very last step was to pipe little dots in the center of the little white flowers using a #3 tip.

Here is a picture of the top of the cake so you can see a little bit more detail. Overall, I'm happy with my cake, but if I was doing it again, there are some things I would do differently.

  • I would stack three cakes for each tier instead of 2
  • I would made a separate batch of white icing using shortening instead of butter for the ruffle border so that it matched better.
  • I would try to get the petals on the roses thinner.
After flipping through the book for Course 4, I've decided that there isn't enough new information there to make it worth taking course. I bought the course kit (50% off with a coupon) and I will pick up the book as well and work through the exercises, but since there are no pretty final cakes to be made in that class, I'm not going to bother.

All in all, I definitely recommend the Wilton courses at Michaels. I learned so much by making the cakes that I did and it's renewed my interest in decorative work with different forms of sugar. And for under $30 per course, you can't really beat the price.

So I've got this huge cake now and no event to take it to. I think BF is going to end up taking it to work. Hopefully they enjoy it! I also have a whole lot of fondant left over so I think I may use it in some cupcakes this weekend. We'll see!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wilton Course 3 - My first fondant covered cake!

Some of you might remember that my sister and I were taking Wilton cake decorating courses at Michael's late last year. Well, one month off of classes turned into several, but this month we finally got it together and went back for course 3. This class covers fondant covered cakes, fondant roses, some new types of royal icing flowers (morning glories, poinsettias, Easter lilies and petunias) and constructing 2-tiered cakes.

So far it's been a blast! Last night we made fondant covered cakes. This was my first time covering a cake with fondant. The closest thing I had ever done previously was to cover some fruit cakes with marzipan at Christmas. Of course with marzipan, the buttercream goes on top, so it hides any spots where you might have messed up a bit. With fondant, the buttercream goes underneath, so it's important for the fondant to be smooth and beautiful. I think for my first try, my cake turned out great! Here it is:

The cake itself is a 2-layer 9" square. I usually just use a cake mix for class. This time I used a devil's food mix and added 1/2 cup of Nutella to the batter. Next time I think I would add closer to a cup since it didn't come out as nutty as I would have liked. Next I put a mixture of 50/50 vanilla buttercream and Nutella in between the layers and frosted the cake with the rest of the vanilla buttercream.

The truth is that I don't much care for Wilton brand prepackaged fondant, and in my experience most people don't, so I decided to give homemade marshmallow fondant a try. I used a recipe that seems to be floating all over the internet, so I'm not sure who to credit it to. Here it is:

Recipe: Marshmallow Fondant

16 oz (454 gram) bag plain small marshmallows
2 Tbsp water
shortening, for greasing bowls
1-2 tsp flavoring
2 lb confectioner’s sugar minus 1 cup
pinch of salt

Grease a microwave safe bowl, a spoon, the dough hook, and the bowl of your stand mixer with shortening.

Place the marshmallows and water in the greased microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir with the greased spoon. If all the marshmallows have not melted, microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir in flavoring and water.

Place confectioner’s sugar and salt in the stand mixer bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour in the marshmallow mix and turn the mixer on to the lowest setting. When it sounds strained, increase the mixer speed up one setting. Turn off the mixer once all sugar has been incorporated. If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time.

Turn fondant out onto plastic wrap. Rub a bit of shortening on the outside of the ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc bag, and let rest for at least 2-3 hours. Keep unused portions covered when not using. If the fondant becomes stiff, place in microwave for 20 seconds at a time until pliable.

Roll out on a greased mat/fondant circle to the desired thickness.

Verdict: This stuff is delicious. Much better than Wilton in terms of flavour. I did find it quite a bit tougher to roll out however, and had a hard time getting it as thin as I would have liked. It was definitely worth the effort though, given how much better it tastes.

Once the cake was covered, the rest was a breeze. I just cut out two pink ribbons (1 1/2" wide) and then the pieces for the bow (we had templates for that ). The flowers were punched out of white fondant with a cutter and I rolled the little pink centers by hand before finding out that you can just use your #12 tip as a cutter for these. All of the decorations were 'glued' together using some clear vanilla and a paintbrush. The bottom border is piped buttercream using a #5 tip.
I didn't think I would enjoy eating a fondant covered cake, but I actually really like the marshmallow fondant, and there's enough buttercream going on under there that the cake is still nice and moist. Making this cake has completely changed my mind about fondant, I can't wait to make more of these!

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