Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where has the time gone?

Life at Planet Cake can really fly by fast… why? It’s because we are having so much fun!
I’ve literally worked on so many cakes I just don’t think there is enough space to take you through all of them, so I’ll give you a gimps of a few of my favorites and a quick insight into my most difficult element of each and my personal cake decorating firsts.

Hope you enjoy :o)

Shell xx


When faced with the challenge of recreating an item from a movie buffs favorite film, attention to detail is extremely important. The main area of focus when it came to the time machine from Doctor Who was ensure to replicate the scale of all the elements and to create sufficient depth to make the whole thing believable.

Most difficult element:

I had to measure….

then re- measure,

measure again,

and then, just in case, I measured one more time.

Shell’s decorating first: In regards to prep work versus ACTUAL decorating time, the scale may just be tipped in favor of the preparation, because honestly I felt like this took forever. That, along with painstakingly sharpening and ensuring the straight lines were 100% straight, meant this cake sucked up quite a bit of time. I feel like the end result turned out great

The Big Head Bears:

The photo does not really give this cake justice because it was definitely on the BIG side. Over 15kg in weight all shimmered extended tiers and 100’s of little filler flowers.

Most difficult element: Covering the extended top 6” White Choc mud cake in very humid and sticky conditions as the rain bucketed outside as the air con ran overtime.

Shell’s Decorating First: With help from Margie we created the cute little big head bears that sat proudly on top of the cake. And of all the details we put on the bears I would have to say that positioning of the ears took me quite a few goes.

Just for Neen – Pretty Dolly Varden:

Neen was know in the production kitchen as not being a fan of the Dolly Varden cake. I have to admit I could never understand why as I think they are a cute cake design. This one, designed for Ella to match her princess Barbie theme birthday had layered frilled skirt and sparkle top.

Most difficult element: Achieving the ruffles on the bottom of the skirt was a new challenge and required some gathering and strategically placed cotton wool to create.

Shell’s Decorating Frist: Well… I’m not sure I can claim it as a first as I have spent a fair bit of my childhood hours playing with Barbie dolls, but his was the first time those skills came in handy in the Planet Cake production kitchen. A cute up-do for Barbie with sugar flower hair pins…. Awww… cute!

Classic Quilted Wedding Cake:

Classic black and white theme- I think this design speaks for itself.

Most difficult element: The stylized flower was difficult in the sense that it was made to match the brides material rose on her wedding dress. The petals needed to be “rounder” and more uniform than I would normally create, and then of course some added “bling” in the centre to make it sparkle.

Shell’s decorating first: Quilting! Can you believe it? I have been at PC for over 5 moths and NEVER quilted. I have to say that I think the right tools are what’s most important in the decorating technique, for me I used a angled ruler and a wooden knife tool.

Novelty 106 Sitting Bear:

One of the really AWESOME things about working at Planet Cake is that every now and then we get to do a PC course – which we all know are AMAZING! We were lucky enough to have Chris (aka. CC) as our teacher as he showed us how to carve, mould and cover this difficult cake shape.

Everyone in the class was able to design their own bear/panda and I tried to go with an old-school cute teddy design.

Most difficult element: Without a doubt – cover the bears legs. When I was designing the cake I did not consider the position of the arms and how it would interfere with the covering, so the low positioning made it a very tight fit to get the icing on and around the bears legs.

Shell’s Decorating First: It was a PC course – so the whole bear was a first!


I was so excited when handed the order with three funky figurines on top a two tier wedding cake. Excitement because I was really keen to flex my funky muscles, however, that excitement soon turned to sheer apprehension when I looked at all the detailed elements that were in the funky’s hands (both hands of both figurines) and clothing. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple hours with Margie to get a fast and furious funky lesson that would guide me in the right direction for these figurines.

Most difficult element: I would have to say the hand painted checkers on the funky chef’s pants. By the end of the whole process I had controlled my breathing to such a slow and steady beat that I could have easily nodded off to sleep!

Shell’s Decorating First: Designing clothing on a Funky to match the clients outfit.

Art Deco Extravaganza:

Art Deco can be a very challenging theme to replicate on a cake, but challenges are what I love most. With only 2 days in the production kitchen needed to really focus on my time management skills to get this cake up and out in next to no time.

As all cake decorators know, the hardest color to work with is black… the next hardest is… ummm… red. So not only was the design of the cake going to stretch my skills (and patience), but the colors were also not going to make things any easier.

Straight lines, triangles, bling and well over 10 hours later and the cake was ready to be adorned with some fabulous red feathers. The finished cake stood at over 30 inches tall and looked great (even if I do say so myself).

Most Difficult element: I probably couldn’t pick one specific element, but the skill I needed to rely on the most was definitely my patience.

Hope you enjoyed that update,
For my next blog I'll let you in on how it feels to go from intern to Planet Cake teacher! And trust me... I wont have to wait as long as you did for this one.
Till then,
Happy Caking,
Shell xx

Friday, August 19, 2011

Neen Has Left The Building

Well. Can you believe it? 6 months have passed since the 1st day I walked through the doors at Planet Cake to embark on the ride of a lifetime and what a journey it has been.

I have had my fair share of victories and, if I can be honest here, one or two dummy spits as well! I have seen many highs and the occasional low. I have met an enormous array of wonderful people, been involved in the odd celebrity cake and been a part of the upcoming TV series, Planet Cake, that is due to air on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel in November.

I can’t even begin to explain all of the new skills that I have learned in my time here and, although at times I yearned so desperately to be back at home with my family, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

With everything packed into my arsenal from cake design, business management, production management, facilitating, being a PC student and gaining every decorating tip in the world, I feel well and truly equipped to take on the world of cake decorating on my own ( knowing full well that I will always have the support of my amazing PC family a mere phone call away) and I am both nervous and excited about the entire prospect but intend to hit the ground running with all guns blazing.

Although I can’t wait to be back at home with my amazing family where I belong, it is with a heavy heart that I leave all of the amazing friends and colleagues that I have gained here in Sydney . They have all made my entire internship an absolute pleasure and have parted with not only their amazing skills but their kindness, generosity, empathy and support day in and day out.

If I could, I would like to thank some people here individually as a sign of my appreciation for them.


Thank you with all of my heart for making me laugh week after week. Both your social and design skills will be with me forever. If I can become even half as good as you are at your job, I know that I will have the world in my hands. It was an absolute joy to have been part of your life over the past 6 months and I look forward to a continued friendship with you.


The fact that you have been able to be such a wonderful support to me over the course of my time here as well as manage all of the work that keeps you here until crazy hours week after week says it all.

I will miss your cheery smile, bon bon’s and big pears. I know it will take a lifetime to do but someday I will find a sidekick as good as you. That is the day that I know my life will become easier than ever. You are truly amazing!


What can I say Ritz? You have to be one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. Thank you for showing me so many your tricks of the trade. Your work never ceases to amaze me. Every time I hear “Do you know who I am?” I promise that I will think of you!


Sweet little Neoko. There was never a time when you were to busy for me. If I needed help, no matter what you were doing, you would drop everything without even a sigh to lend a hand. You have always shared all of your skills openly and I have enjoyed working with you very much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Always there to give me a hug, a smile and those ever awesome shoulder massages. When I needed an ear or a shoulder, I knew I could count on you to be there. Thank you “YES JESS” I will miss you.

Anna – Maria,

Well the clock has ticked over lovely lady and it is with a heavy heart that I bid you adieu my inspirational mentor. I will never be able to repay you for the things that you have taught me so well over the past 6 months. I could not have asked for a more skilful and competent teacher and I feel truly honored that I was able to partake in the opportunity of a lifetime learning under your amazing leadership. I will never forget my time with you and will always have you to thank for a huge part of my career. I hope that I will make you proud to say that you taught me almost everything I know. I can’t thank you enough Anna – Maria. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Sometimes I wonder how I would have managed to get through this without you here. You have always been my go to girl for whatever reason I needed you. Your capabilities amaze me and the way that you go through your days with a smile, no matter what happens, always makes me smile too. I will miss you VERY much.


My sister in arms. I am so blessed to have had an ‘equal’ as amazing as you to share the ride with. You always managed to help me see the positive side when things weren’t so rosy and always managed to give me a good laugh. I look forward to reading your future blogs on the remainder of your time here and look forward to catching up when you return to the motherland!


I could quite easily write an entire novel on how grateful I am to have had you as my eternal support here in Sydney. Words could never explain how much you mean to me and the amount of appreciation that I have for you. You took me under your wing and cared for me through thick and through thin until the very end. If nothing else had ever come from this experience, it would all have been worth it to walk away from here knowing that you will be my friend for life. You are truly one of the most kind, generous and loving people I have ever met. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being the greatest gift that Sydney could have given me.


I promise you that I will strive each and every day to make you proud by putting all that you have taught me into practice when I return home. This was truly the opportunity of a lifetime and I have you and your amazing team to thank for not only being the decorator that I am today but for being a much more confident woman than I was 6 months ago when I walked through the Planet Cake door for the very first time.

Should I end up being half the business woman that you are, I will be more than happy with myself. You are someone that I am proud to call my role model and honored to have as my biggest support. Thank you for giving me my regular swift kicks up the backside and putting me back into line when it was necessary. Most of all, I would like to thank you for making me believe in myself. I will be forever grateful for the solid foundation that Planet Cake has forged for my career.

There are many others that have come and gone along the way that all made a huge impact on my life and I will carry their words of wisdom and kindness with me in my suitcase as I head back home to begin my next chapter.

Thank you all for following my journey here as an intern at Planet Cake. Sharing my stories has been a pleasure.

Finally, I couldn’t leave here without doing a huge cake so, when given the opportunity to design with the amazing Antony Bullimore and create a 7 tiered show stopper, I couldn’t say no. So I leave you all now with a photograph of my final piece made at Planet Cake as an intern.

Thank you all again! What a ride it has been.
This is Neen signing out for the final time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Conquered Basics 108!

Our excitement rose inside us again as we pondered what lay ahead in our very next Planet Cake class. Basics 108 – The 3 tier, inverted, tapered squares. In this advanced class we were again able to design our own creation and as thoughts flew regarding art deco, animal prints and stripes… we were brought back down to basics to first shape and cover our cakes.

For this shape cake uniformity is particularly important. And by uniformity we are referring the tapered angle of the sides of the cake. If all four sides of all three teirs were not carved on the same angle … well then… the cake would look... odd. We were lucky again to have Anna Maria as our faithful lead as she gave us insight in how to achieve this perfect look. Not only were we given great pointers to help us shape the cake, we were also given a great, no stress way to cover the cake. This method gave all of those in the class a wonderful clean and seamless finish without us even needing to hold our breath!

Even though the excitement of learning and creating cake at Planet Cake is extremely AWESOME we just have to make a quick mention of one of our other favorite things about attending a Planet Cake class… the absolutely DELICIOUS lunches! I know it might be just a small detail of the day but WOW – they are just the yummiest food ever! Sorry about that… Just had to be said…
After a couple days of Cutting, shaping, ganaching and then some more cutting, shaping, ganaching…we moved onto covering and starting our individual designs. It’s actually really amazing to be in a class full of such talented decorators with literally TONS of great ideas that seem to bounce around the room and help guide people with there cake creations. Thanks for being such a great class guys! Anyway – back to the cake,

The other thing we would argue as the MOST important aspect of this cake is structure. Due to its inverted shape it is very top-heavy and insuring the dowels are inserter correctly is EXRTEMELY important. It's those little details that can be the difference between a beautiful tall cake and one that is that bit lopsided.

We would have to say that this class was one of the fun-est we have had the pleasure of being involved in. We got to spread our wings a little with our creations and were encouraged to bring out the designer within.

Thanks again to our Teacher Anna Maria and Facilitator Kylie Dumas for a great few days!

How to make an icing crown:

Hi all, it’s Shell here. During my few days doing basics 108 I made an icing crown to top my British inspired cake. I had a lot of people asking me about it, so here are a few steps to help you make one for yourself.

I started with a 5” polystyrene round and shaped it into a "chef's hat" shape. I wanted a slight angle on the side of my crown so a taped and glued a 4" board to the base of the round to act as a guide while I shaped it. Whilst rounding out the top of the polystyrene I also added in some deep indentations. I purposefully made these indentations quite pronounced as it will no doubt loose some depth when the icing is placed over it. I used polystyrene for my crown as I wanted to keep it, however, this could easily be replaced by a shaped cake.

I removed the base board once the crown was shaped and I created a hole through the centre of the crown with a skewer. I then painted the entire thing with piping gel to act at the gluing agent for my icing.

I then covered and smoothed the fondant onto the crown and added some slight red airbrushing into the creases.

Next I moved onto the side details. For this I cut out strips of acetate in my desired thickness and length. I made and stuck on some wire "prongs" for the base of each strip which I would later skewer into the side of polystyrene. I also found the position for a hole in the tops of the acetate that I would use later to secure the strips to a centre skewer in the top of the crown..

I covered my strips with white fondant (after brushing with piping gel to allow it to stick), and added some hand cut cross details to each one.

I then covered a round polystyrene ball with white fondant and hot glued it to a skewer in a perfect position for the top of my crown.

I then attached the strips and attached a horizontal stripe (again made with acetate and icing) around the base of the crown. I also hand cut some addition shapes as details for around the crown. I allowed everything to dry over night and tied a bit of ribbon around to help support the base strip.

With the basic shape complete I added some further details to the round ball and then I was onto the really fun part - bling! I tried to keep the design quite uniform but stay within my red and white theme. I added some silver cachous  to the sides and then some colored stones.

I also made a large cross to top my crown and added a rolled sausage to the very base edge to finish it off.

Ta - Da!

One crown fit for a Queen... or King

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Can you believe that I only have 6 and a half weeks left here at PC?

As the time to leave looms closer, I am getting little pangs of sadness along with big pangs of desperation to fit in as much as I can in this short amount of time.

I have been planning to get myself organized for setting up shop at home but time has somehow escaped me so now I have to speed into 5th gear and get a move on! Where did that time go?

The past week at Planet Cake has been full of new tasks for me to tackle.

This week I had the opportunity to assign duties to others in the kitchen and had a taste of what it feels like to be the boss. I also had the chance to liaise with a client who, at late notice, wanted to incorporate a theme into an already established and half executed cake design. I loved the challenge of this one. I had to transform a girlie present box cake, with a bow and exploding stars, into a cake that was still pink and girlie but gave off a nautical theme. This was the end result and I hope the client loved it.

Along with this cake I had yet another gorgeous Tiffany box,

 a pretty floral cake ( thanks to my partner in crime, Shell, for making the gorgeous roses on this one! She is becoming quite the flower pro!) for a special lady

I also had another one of my fave finishes. A three tier royal icing finish wedding cake. Here is a snap of it not quite finished.

And to finish it off, a champagne bottle. Drink anyone?

All I can say is, with the assistance from both Kylie and Shell, combined with the obvious fact that my speed has increased by miles, I had these done cakes done slightly ahead of schedule which left me with a little free time on my hands.
Now, If we can think back to about April, I won the in house design competition for my wedding cake design

I had already attempted to make the prop cake version of this once but ended up a bit frustrated and unhappy with the final result.My head was not in the right place when I started it and I was also feeling less than 100%. Instead of losing my cool over the cake I did this instead...

I must admit, that felt pretty good and I sure didn't lose any sleep over it.

Now that I had some spare time on my hands and was feeling healthy and happy, I started the cake again and got it all done, without a hitch and in record time. This one sits proudly in the PC show room and not at the bottom of a dumpster!

And so ends another week at PC. I am still learning every single day and just fear that I won't have enough time to fit everything in that I want to.
I suppose that is the thing with a job like this one though. You never really stop learning and if the guys at Planet Cake think they are getting rid of me easily at the end of my internship, they have another thing coming. I intend to be back to bother them all as much as I can. Not just as a decorator though but as a friend to them all.

Neen x

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our first day of School

So what does it feel like when your off to Planet cake for your first day of class… well kind of like holding a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Although, we need to be clear about this - there are NO Umpa Lumpas working at Planet cake!
Walking the quaint, winding Beattie Street in Sydney’s Inner West suburb of Balmain, we pass a great looking pub, The Exchange Hotel, on the way to class. Mental note…dinner and drinks after class perhaps?
Our attention quickly shifts to the famous pink and chocolate awning that is now in plain view. The pearly gates!!! We have arrived at the mecca that is Planet Cake to begin 8 days of serious cake decorating and intend to walk out the door as the super, huge, mega cake rock stars! OK. So we are getting carried away a little but we are here to improve the skill set after all and a girl is allowed to dream!

Day one:
All systems go. We were ready and rearing to make the fabulous vase cake in Planet Cake’s Basics 107 class, and with PC’s most seasoned teacher, Anna Maria at the helm, we felt nothing but confident…until we looked at the class notes that was!
The vase starts off the same as any extended cake – trim, split, syrup, ganach and stack onto centre pole. First challenge complete.
Our second challenge was to shape the cake. From the photo’s it may be hard to tell but the vase cake is tapered, inverted and angled. Keep in mind that before this we thought the square was a difficult shape and that has only straight sides! Should this shape really be Basics 107…
A few hours into the class and the cake seem to be shaping up – quite literally… until
Da da daaaaa

One cake hit the deck! And unfortunately it was one of ours. But Paris always says if there is anytime you want a cake to fail it’s in a Plant Cake course because you will have the undivided attention of the ever experience teacher to help guide you through the cause and solution to your cake problem. For this particular cake the “issue” was the centre pole and a soft cracked base cake. Because this cake starts from smallest cake at the bottom and moving to the largest cake at the top, if you mix I unsecured centre pole with a less than idea foundation you may just end up getting a cake looking like the leaning tower of pisa… and that is exactly what we had.
But not to worry, Super Anna Maria (who, by the way, should now wear her underwear on the outside) literally yanked the cake off the base board put it to one side and started the “re-build”. In no time at all the cake was back standing straight (well, angled, but in the right places). Yay!!!
After the traumatic experience of getting the cakes ganached and looking as they should we were rewarded with a delicious lunch and of course some cake on the side for dessert. Yum.
After we had calmed down and our tummies were full we moved onto intensive flower making. Petal, after petal, after petal, after pe…. You get the idea. A few hours later and we had made it to the end of day one.

Day Two:
Challenge: Cover cake
We are still, quite literally, speechless regarding covering this cake. The difficulty in placing the icing over the obscure angles of the cake even had Anna Maria saying a small prayer before she demonstrated the technique. Please consider yourselves warned; covering this cake is a 2 - 3 person job. But cover we did, and after some petal dusting we had the opportunity to airbrush our cakes.
Airbrushing is one of those decorating tools that can really change the look of your cake, be it in subtle or more dramatic way. But it’s also a skill that needs practice to perfect otherwise its effect on your cake can be, well, less than desired. Please refer to exhibit A.

Once applied, airbrushing can be difficult to change/fix. But some subtle over spraying and a coat of shimmer spray later and the cake colour looked more toned down.

Day Three:
Time to decorate. After two days of preparation, stress and praying to god, we had reached the day of pure fun and imagination. Yay. At this level of the basics series students are given the freedom to design their cake. For us, we wanted to do something really different and because this cake shape had not been taught before, the options were endless.
Along with the fun and excitement of choosing your own design comes the pressure of fulfilling your initial vision the way that you had planned.
Although each and every design was unique, we were lucky to have the extensive skills of Anna Maria at our disposal, and, with each tip and trick that she demonstrated to not only ourselves but our class mates, we learned and were inspired by a myriad of new techniques.

So, as the day came to a close and we had all finished our cakes, it was time for the customary group photo. We all smiled proudly in front of our works of art as the flashes triggered. Ahh yes, we were rock stars!

A special thank you must be given to our amazing teacher, Anna Maria and our facilitator for the day, Kylie Dumas for an awesome 3 days.

Happy Caking,
Neen and Shell xx

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Long Overdue Update From Neen

I don’t even know where to begin with this blog as so much has happened in the time since my last blog was posted.

The end of May was possibly my most challenging since my internship began. This time, it had nothing to do with the cakes though. I was going through quite a huge burst of homesickness and was having to deal with a few personal problems happening at home. The problem was, of course, was that I am living in Sydney and my family are in Melbourne.
I was completely on edge and, quite honestly, had so much trouble focusing on my work.

Everything came to a head on the night that I was leaving Sydney to spend a full 10 days in Melbourne with my family for a mid internship break.
I had been assigned and amazing 3 tier wedding cake with an extended and quilted base tier, a technique that I had never attempted and completed successfully! Next was another extended tier covered in bling with a big black bow at the base. The top tier was another extended that was to be hand painted with a chandelier and adorned with a few small splashes of bling.
My 1st attempt on the top tier was a major fail. I covered the cake and the whole thing just looked warped and off. I stripped the cake to re ganache and realised that the cake itself was extremely soft and unstable. I added stability by placing another board between the two extended tiers of the cake and proceeded to re ganache the cake and leave it to set.

It was important to me to have this cake finished before I left work that evening to head to Melbourne so I had scheduled my time line accordingly and was on track to have it done.

I finally covered the top tier and prepared to hand paint the chandelier on. I was a little nervous about this as I would usually leave the cake overnight prior to painting but it had to be done after only a couple of hours drying.

With a steady hand and a great deal of patience, I finished the painting and was so proud of my efforts. The last things to do were to place the top tier on the cake and cover the board.

With about a half an hour until I was due to leave work, I placed the top tier onto the cake. With this, the entire cake cracked right down the center and there was no salvaging it. I literally burst into tears. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it and I HAD to get to the airport.

All I can say is thank God for Neoko and her calmness and generous spirit. She took my order, got a new cake out and ganached it with lightning speed as per usual. She told me to go home to my family, relax and just have a lovely time.

It was a bittersweet moment. I so desperately wanted to see the cake through from beginning to end as I had worked so hard on it however, I just felt so lucky to have the support of my team to make things right. I took the now sad and sorry looking top tier and hurled it into the rubbish bin which seemed to alleviate my tension somewhat!

The 10 days back at home with my family was exactly what I needed and not only gave me time with my amazing children and husband but also gave me the chance to start getting my business into order with a new name, logo and web site all sorted.

Just as I was almost ready to head back to Sydney and get back into work, some volcano had to go and erupt and leave a ginormous and potentially deadly ash cloud over Melbourne which ended up delaying my return to Planet Cake by 4 days. Just in time to begin Basics 107, the vase cake, with Anna Maria.

I am completely refreshed and calm after my break and feel ready to tackle the remaining 2 and a half months with gusto!

So, that is about where I am up to at this point. I have decided to delay writing the details about my 107 class as I am set to do 108 and 109 this week with my intern sister Michelle. Our next blog will be a joint one about our experience of being the student rather than the intern.

I cant wait to share it all with you.

Happy caking

Neen x

P.S. They haven't all been so disasterous! Some of the other cakes I have done recently...