Friday, May 13, 2011

Update from Neen

And so ends another crazy, mad capped, fun filled week at Planet Cake.

This week was filled with a whole new set of challenges, as usual, and I couldn’t be happier.

Due to some EXTREME cakes being made by the senior decorators in the kitchen, it was left to us very capable interns to take care of the more standard orders of the week.

I was assigned two wedding cakes, one 2 tier square with roses and one 3 tier round also with roses as well as a huge oblong christening cake for a set of twins .

The two tier square presented the challenge of having a specific type of rose requested to top the cake. I had never made a Delilah Rose before but was very happy with the final product.

Cake number 3 was a three tier round topped with sugar roses and featured gradient shades of the same colour through each tier to match the invitation colours. That was challenge enough let alone trying to shimmer the whole cake successfully without streaking it or making it look dusty. It took quite some time to get it to a point that I was happy with but, in the end, and after much experimenting, it ended up being a success.

Amongst all of this, I managed to fit in a Biz Whiz class with Paris on Friday and learned so much more about getting my business off the ground when I finally return home for good at the end of August.

So, as I sit here recovering from the past 5 frantic days, I nervously anticipate the week ahead as it is rumoured to be one of the biggest yet.

I do, however, feel more prepared than ever for whatever lies in wait for me around the corner of the sacred Planet Cake doors. Only time will tell if I am kidding myself or not! Wish me luck and, until next time, stay happy.

Neen x

Shell here again

With a drink in hand and the surrounded by a few family and friends I'm happy to report that this blog update is coming to you from the warm and sunny Melbourne...and by warm and sunny I really mean cold and rainy, but lets not let the truth get in the way of a good story ;o)

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I spent only 3 days in the production kitchen this week due to my mid week flight back home. I was lucky enough to get some fun cakes to work on this week including my very first tiffany box, a special cake designed for a women who loved gerbera's, the colour orange and red wine, another shooting stars cake with a figurine of wonder woman standing on top and a giant size chocolate bar.

Each cake had its own little challenge, but the most time consuming by far was creating the colourful gerberas that topped the bright orange square for Mandy's birthday cake. Those fiddly little petals almost got the better of me as the clock ticked closer to 7pm and into my 11th hour in the kitchen on Tuesday night, but what could I do? The flowers needed to be made and given time to dry before the cake assembly the next day! In the end I think the flowers turned out great and even though they were very hard to place onto the cake due to their very flat shape, I do think I achieved a good result.

My favorite cake this week was the giant size chocolate bar which was made with chocolate mud cake layered with chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate fondant...what more is there to say about that but YUM YUM YUM! The shape itself was quite straight forward to achieve. I started with a 7" square that was cut in half and sandwiched next to each other. Next was to ganache the whole cake and let it set. Once that was done I needed to measure up the cake and cut lines into the cake to form the chocolate blocks. Once cut, I let the cake set again before covering with fondant. And with thanks to Neoko for letting me borrow her really cool little wooden tool to help me smooth the fondant around the little chocolate blocks to make them look "chocolate shaped", the whole thing was coming together nicely.

Next I needed to paint the bottom inch of the cake in silver to make it look like foil. And then onto the DEI. Simple right? Well, not so simple really. For someone who doesn't know the first thing about Photoshop it took me a little while to set the DEI up to the right shape... but we did get there in the end thanks to some ego boosting from Emma - Thanks for that Em!

Once the DEI was ready I just needed to roll out some really thin fondant for the DEI to be stuck onto and then wrap around the cake. I tore off the top of the DEI to make it look like a torn wrapper. For the foil looking bits at the top of the cake I rolled out some really thin pieces of fondant through the pasta machine, ripped the edges, painted in silver and shoved them in!

I think the finished cakes looks pretty effective and will go down as one of my fave's.

Shell's Weekly tip - OPT FOR AIRBRUSHING

One of the reason I was having so much trouble with my gerberas was that the intensity and quantity of colour in my petal paste made it so soft that it was getting stuck to an in the petal cutters. I struggled through to make my flowers, but in hindsight I should have opted for less colour in my paste and then some airbrushing to achieve the colour intensity after. A lesson well learned for me so I though I should share!

I'm back in the kitchen on Tuesday and a bit unsure of what the week may bring... I heard down the grape one it's going to be HUGE!

Happy caking!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Introducing Shell: our newest intern

So... after surviving my first 5 weeks at planet cake, the time has come to officially introduce myself. Hi! My name is Michelle (Shell) Arvaj and I joined Neen on the intern rollercoster after leaving Melbourne back in April. When I was 14 I did my first cake decorating class and dabbled in cakes for a few years after that, however, my love for cake decorating was only realised when I did planet cake's novelty basics 101 course back in 2009. Since then, I've been hooked!

I was part of the awesome team that worked on the GIANT Sydney opera house cake earlier in the year and now I'm back to work and learn with the most amazing and talented cake decorators.

Week 1

When Paris asked me, "how are you with square cakes?" my response must of been somewhat convincing as she threw the task of completing 2 square cakes and ganashing 3 more (extended to 5 inches) at me! This, along with my very first DEI cake of Dora (that was to be acompanied by 24 cup cakes) made for a very busy start to my time at planet cake.

To be honest, my track record of square cakes had not been that successful to date, but I wasnt about to tell Paris that! The cakes themselves were pretty straight forward, but I had NEVER worked on that many at the same time before, especially when positioned in a room with the fastest cake decorator in the world Anna Maria sitting to my left and the most amazing cake sculptor Margie to my right.

Sure... No pressure...

Shell's weekly tip- STAY CALM

When your put in a situation that's a bit stressful it's sometimes hard to do great work (i.e. Super sharp square edges). You know the feeling... you've already spent 45mins trying to get it right but for every stroke of the pallet knife you take you seem to be getter further away from achiving that "edge", not closer. My advice - walk away! Not entirely, but just long enough for you to regain your conposure and return back to your cake with fresh eyes. And always use the fridge to help set the ganach quicker, working with ganach that's too soft is a nightmare! Why put yourself through it?

Week 2

At roughly 9 am Monday mornings the weekly cake orders are divied up between the team. I was a bit unsure what to expect, but was given a couple of simple wedding cakes and the ever popular newspaper cake to complete, which meant there were 2 big things I would learn this week;

1) Setting up a centre pole 2) Setting up a personalised DEI (Digitally Enhanced Image). With the help of a ruler, jigsaw, hot glue gun and Photoshop (not all for the same cake or used at the same

time!) task completed.

Shell's weekly tip: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE!

For a centre pole, make sure you measure the bottom tiers of cake and halfway up your top tear. For most cakes a 13mm dowel should do the trick, and it also helps if you cut your dowel to a point at one end.

Make sure you don't forget to cut corresponding centre holes in the centre of you cake boards, and a dab if hot glue in you base board to secure your centre pole should put you in a good position to setting up a super straight cake!

For DEI's, always print out a test run on normal paper before printing onto the rice paper, this heps save some $$ and also gives you an opportunity to create a cutting template for the real deal.

Oh, and one more thing- for my rough finish royal icing wedding cake, I learnt to add glycerine to the icing mix to stop the royal from setting too hard. This helps when the lucky couple are cutting into the cake so heaps of dried icing doesnt crack everywhere. Too easy!

Week 3
Although I had started the week working on a Easter bunny cake display for the front window, the week was highjacked by an amazing 2 meter mad-hatter cake for the royal Easter show. I had the pleasure of working with Anna Maria and Neen of the hu-mongous creation, and although I'm sure there is alot that can be said about this cake I think the photos speak for themselves.


When making huge cakes it just doesn't make sense to always use just cake, as, not only is it probably a waste to use enough cake to feed 500 people when you only need to feed 100, but cake is heavy, and a lot of cake is REALLY heavy! So here are 3 top tips when working with polystyrene;

1) Polystyrene melts when you use hot glue, so to stick pieces together, sandwich the hot glue between masking tape that has been suck to the pieces your sticking together.

2) In most cases there will be no need to ganache your polystyrine before covering, just brush sparingly with piping gel in prep for fondant

3) Cutting polystyrene is a messy job, make sure you use protective gear such as a face mask and overalls to keep you and your clothes safe.

Week 4
After making a giant cake in 2.5 days where do you go from there? Well apparently, back to a newspaper cake! With only 2 days in the production kitchen for me this week I also tackled a record player.

The key to this type of cake is preparing key elements early to allow to dry before assembly. In this case, for the "stick" I used flexible plastic tubing filled with flower wire (to make it bendy) and then covered with fondant mixed with a bit of tylose to make it dry quicker. After a day it's set hard enough for placement on the cake a painting. Oh, and to get that nice silver colour, mix your silver powder with decorating alcohol and paint away!

Shell's weekly tip:  USE THE RIGHT COLOUR

So how do you make grey icing do you ask? Well the fact is you probably didn't ask because it seems so straight forward right? Get black icing and add white right? WRONG! Because the black icing is made with purple as a base colour, when you add white to it you end up with a light shade of purple. What you need to do is add a touch of yellow, yes that's right- yellow! And you will be making grey in no time! (Thanks for you help with that one Ritzy!)

Week 5

I was lucky enough to attend basics 106 springtime couse over the weekend and all I can say is WOW- that was AWESOME! Linda and Lesley did such a great job with the class and i met some amazing talented decorators in thd ckass. I had a ball! I wanted my design to be bold in colours and I think I achieved that.

Back in the production kitchen I was given 6 cakes to work on... Yes that's right- 6! I though it was going to be really tough but I focused on creating an achievable timeline, planned out my week and got to work... After 3.5 days and almost 100kgs of ganache also prepped for next week I was done! I could hardly beleive it myself but it seems I have definaty found my groove this week, maybe it's the excitement of my heading back home to Melbourne next week!

Shell's weekly tip: BE ORGANISED!

During my first couple weeks I think I literally spent hours running around the kitchen trying to find this, get that, clean this, move that... what a waste! Instead, it's best to plan you day out. Start with all you cutting, torting and ganching. Depending on the number of cakes you have that could take you all day (it certainly took me that long). Then look at all the icing colours you need and get them made.

Next get onto all your cake elements. The bows, stars, flowers etc.

Next your ready to cover your cakes (again a potential full day

affair) and last but not leat completing the cakes and piping you messages.

Planning your key outcomes for the day and then working on the same tasks for each cake, instead on each cake separately could really help speed things up.

Hope you enjoyed reading my post, appologies that it was a bit long as I tried to cram in as much info as I could without making in a novel.

I promise ill be more timely next time and look forwad to giving you some more helpful decirating tips!

Happy caking!

Shell :)