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