Monday, November 21, 2011

Blogs of Note - Baking Obsession

Today, I would like to share a spectacular blog with you called Baking Obsession. I stumbled across Baking Obsession whilst I was searching Google for images of sugar roses. One of the search results was an amazing white chocolate plastique rose. The detail on the petals was amazing. I had to click through to the website from which it came.

I know what you are thinking, this is a buttercream and royal icing blog, what in the world is she doing posting about modelling? I could not help but share. The page I clicked through to was one of the best tutorials for creating modelled roses that I have seen for a long time. It is well written and photographed beautifully. There are plenty of interesting tips in the comments section. If you have the time,
check it out.

There is much more to this blog than cake decorating. To be honest, cake decorating forms a very small percentage of the posts. One may easily loose an hour or so browsing posts from this website. The photography is stunning. It is equally as good as or better than many of the photographs in professional cookbooks. All I will say is that I hope she publishes a cookbook.

If you are a fan of cakes covered in fondant and sugar paste, make sure you browse the all of the posts labelled ‘cake decorating’. There are some absolute stunners, including Thomas the Tank Engine and Pokemon.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Technique - Orchid

I absolutely adore icing flowers. I think they are a wonderful way to dress up a cake. From a decorating enjoyment perspective, I cannot go past royal icing flowers, especially when I can make them in advance. However, from an eat-ability perspective buttercream icing is king.

Today, I have two videos to share. Both of these videos are tutorials on how to create a buttercream orchid using the technique outlined by Roland Winbeckler in his book Buttercream Flowers and Arrangements..

The first video is by the expert decorator Roland Winbeckler himself showing step-by-step how to create a beautiful looking orchid. From this video, you can tell that he is a master decorator. I could not imagine piping an orchid that looks so good, so quickly.

The second video is by a lovely decorator who goes by the name of SeriousCakes. I think she does a lovely job of showing how to incorporate Winbeckler orchids with other flowers to create a gorgeous cake. One thing I really love about her is her willingness to share. Unlike some videos, she has added plenty of captions and gives you all the important information, such as the tips used.

If you have time stop past her website and take a look at her other videos.

Notes from the videos:
  • Use tip # 104 for the flower and #352 for the leaves/stems.
  • The petals sit upon a 'puff' or base, to raise the petals from the base of the cake. 
  • The three bottom petals are pointed at both ends.
  • The three top petals are rounded, with irregular ruffles 
  • The throat, the third of the top petals, should be a bit deeper/bigger. 
  • Indent the throat using a skewer.
  •  Plan your cake first, taking into account the size and placement of your flowers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 Tips For Making Gingerbread Houses

I am by no means a master of gingerbread house construction, but I thought I would still share a few of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

Gingerbread houses are rare in Australia. In the last couple of years, they have started to gain momentum through the sale of pre-made kits through local supermarket chains. Most people I speak to think that they are a ridiculous amount of work and very hard to make. They can be hard work, but it is completely up to you how hard you make it.

So far, I have made two gingerbread houses and one gingerbread sleigh using cutter sets that I purchased from my local department store. You can find gingerbread house cutters in a number of cake decorating and kitchen stores. To be perfectly honest, there is nothing wrong with creating your own templates out of cardboard and cutting the pieces by hand.

I have compiled a list of tips for those who are considering building their own gingerbread house. I hope that they may alleviate the number tears and screams coming from the kitchen. If you have some tips and tricks of your own to share, please leave a comment.

Darkbyte's Tips For Making Gingerbread Houses

1. Start small. I remember browsing the Internet seeing amazing houses built by gingerbread veterans. I am thankful that I decided to keep things simple. Whilst they are easy to build the second time around, the first time can be hair rising and many a scream for help may be heard coming from the kitchen.

2. Make sure help is at hand. The first time I built a gingerbread house, the sides split and the roof started to slide off. A second pair of hands is always well worth having.

3. Pick your day and plan ahead. Make sure it is not too hot, that the icing melts/takes forever to dry. Gingerbread house building takes a long time. I like to cook my pieces the two days before Christmas, and decorate the house on Christmas Eve. Remember, this is a fun exercise, so make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy what you are doing.

4. Make sure you give your creation plenty of time to dry. If you have misjudged the time needed to finish your gingerbread house, you may find yourself sitting in the car with the air-conditioning set to arctic and holding your creation together whilst dreading the thought of speed bumps and potholes. This is why I make a point to have it completed the night before, you only want to do one such car ride in your lifetime.

5. Invest in some stainless steel poultry lacers. I prefer using these to regular skewers because they are shorter and smaller in diameter. This means that there are less chances of cracking your gingerbread and they are less likely to get in your way. These are necessary, especially if you do not have a second pair of hands to help you. Any holes created by the lacers can be covered with icing sugar or candy.

6. Make sure you have a good base on which to sit your gingerbread. I have a melamine platter that I use solely for gingerbread construction. Choose your base wisely, make sure that there is enough room for additional decorations around the house e.g. trees and footpaths. I strongly recommend ‘cementing’ your gingerbread house to the board during construction so changing your mind about your base is not an option.

7. Where possible pre-decorate your roof and walls. This is especially good if you plan to make intricate candy or icing designs. The first time I made a house, I put it together undecorated and tried to stick chocolate buttons to the roof. It was a stupidly hot day (38+ degrees C) and they kept sliding off!

8. Purchase some square candies. Liquorish All-Sorts, Jersey Caramels and other square confectioneries are a great internal reinforcement for internal walls together. They also help to keep your corners square. If you pipe bows on top of the remaining square candies, they make great ‘presents’ to put in piles around the house.

9. Do not put too much candy on your roof! A heavy roof can lead to walls bursting at the seams! I must admit, I roll my roof pieces a fraction thinner than my walls to reduce the weight. Remember to take the roof pieces out of the oven earlier than your walls so that they do not overcook.

10. Remember to take photos of your gingerbread creation. With the crazy rush that is Christmas day, I often forget to take proper photos of my finished creations. It is worth paying attention to what is in the background of your photo as it can be a bit embarrassing when you are showing them to people.

Where possible pre-decorate
as many parts as possible.
Poultry lacers are great for
holding the various pieces
together as they dry.
Square candies are a great
tool for ensuring 90 degree
These candies also make
good 'gifts' when decorated
with royal icing ribbons
and bows
When taking photos pay
attention to what can be
seen in the background.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review - Wilton Method Of Cake Decorating: Course I

Title:       Wilton Method of Cake Decorating
Subtitle:    Course I (Cake Decorating)
Author(s):   Wilton Industries
Publisher:   Wilton Industries, Inc
Published:   1997

Format:      Paperback, 42 pages

NOTE: The book reviewed herein is now out of print and is only available for purchase via the second hand book market. Please note that The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Courses has been revamped since this book was printed. For details on the differences between the old course books and the new course books, please visit Wilton's F.A.Q

It does not take long before beginners stumble across Wilton Industries with their numerous courses, products and books. To be honest I do like Wilton products. I use their decorating tips, own a couple of their books and have spent more than a little bit of time browsing their website.

I must admit, I have an addiction to books. It is hard not to buy every decorating book I see, especially if they were published in the 1970s. I have been stalking the three volumes of "The Wilton Way of Cake Decorating" for ages, but I have not been able to justify the hundred or so dollars it would cost to have one of these books arrive on my doorstep.

As a small substitute, and as a cheaper alternative to attending a "Wilton Method" cake decorating course, I purchased three Wilton course books: Course 1: Cake Decorating; Course 2: Flowers and More; and Course 3: Fondant and Tiered Cakes.

Today I will be reviewing "The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1: Cake Decorating."

Wilton Method of Cake Decorating: Course I

The 'Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1: Cake Decorating' contains four lessons entitled: the fundamentals; starting to decorate; special touches; and, decorating with flowers. Before we dive head first into the lessons there are a couple of pages discussing the decorating equipment required for the lessons contained in this volume. As you would expect, this section contains a long list of Wilton products in addition to some basic tools found in your kitchen.

The first lesson begins with a glossary of decorating terms and recipes for stiff, medium and thin consistency buttercream icing. This is followed by how to use a piping bag and create parchment bags. The next step is preparing the cake i.e. levelling, torting, filling and frosting the cake. After a short discussion on: icing consistency and correct bag position and pressure; icing tip styles and uses (star, drop flower, round, leaf, rose and basket; and, colouring icing we are ready for the fun to start.

Lesson two introduces us to cake decorating using the star tip. The reader is taught to pipe a single star, which may be combined into star borders, star fill-ins, and borders using a tight zigzag pattern. Once we have finished using the start tip, the reader is introduced to writing and printing using the round decorating tip. The round decorating tip is also used to create outlines/pipe-ins, and dots. Writing and printing is then revisited using piping gel. Piping gel is also used for basic pattern transfer. Lesson two finishes with an introduction to flower nails and the creation of bases for roses that will be visited briefly in lesson three and used in lesson four.

Lesson three is where the fun really begins. ‘Special touches’ is a great name for the lesson because this is where the reader is introduced to wow factors such as drop/star/swirl flowers and shells for border use. Briefly, the reader revisits their rose bases to add two centre petals. Once this is complete, the reader moves into the addictive world of figure piping.

Once the reader has mastered pressure piping in the form of creating a string of pearls, the first figure created is a teddy bear face, after which the user moves onto the ever-popular clown. The lesson concludes on a romantic note with the creation of love hearts.

Lesson four is the lesson in which I was most interested - decorating with flowers. In this lesson, the reader finally finishes their roses. I must admit the descriptions given for the creation of roses is one of the most in depth descriptions that I have ever read and takes two pages to explain!

Once the reader has created their roses, the lesson progresses through the creation of stems and bows with the aim being to have created a floral arrangement by the end of this lesson. A floral arrangement is not complete without a few additional types of flowers and leaves. The reader is introduced to the sweet pea and three leaf variations i.e. basic, ruffle, and stand up. The lesson concludes by revisiting drop flowers and shell boarders.

At the end of the book, there are a few pages on how to bake a great cake, which contains both tips and a small trouble-shooting guide. There is also a glossary of terms as well as patterns for the each of the techniques /projects covered in this course.

All in all, the 'Wilton Method of Cake Decorating: Course I' is a good little book. Personally, I find it a little commercial, though I completely understand it. There are plenty of interesting hints and tips. The flower piping instructions in the book are clearer than the free instructions provided on the website. The main difference is that the book includes black and white illustrations in addition to photographs (the website only has photographs). To be honest I would not say that one would be at a significant disadvantage if they did not have this book and used the free content from the Wilton website.

If you already have a beginner’s cake-decorating book such as Toba Garrett’s 'Professional Cake Decorating', or are planning to buy something similar, I would give this book a miss and use the free flower tutorials from the Wilton website.

If you are interested in learning the Wilton method of decorating, but are unable to attend one of the courses then this book is perfect, after all the only thing missing is the instructor.

I hope this review was helpful.

Darkbyte xx
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