Friday, 29 July 2011

Tumble Tots cake

Both children have actively taken part and very much enjoyed an activity called Tumble Tots over the past few years and Helen, the lady who has been the life and soul of our local Tumble Tots for the past 20 years, took early retirement today. I couldn't let it pass without contributing a thank you cake to the farewell party.

I was originally going to do a Mr Tumble Tot shaped cake but found out someone had done something similar for her last year so I thought I would go one step further and create a mini tumble tots activity session on the top. The most ambitious part was creating two ladders which turned out okay but which proved extremely difficult to prop up against each other on the cake - in the end I made a triangular soft slide that sat between the two ladders and supported them.

I created a selection of other "equipment" and also had a go at making a mini Helen and a mini Mr Tumble Tot. He turned out to look more like the "real" thing than Helen did (she originated from Hong Kong but you would never guess that from the mini figure) but I was still pleased with my first ever person!

Helen's pose is truly representative of her: part of the TT "warm up" is asking the children if they can touch their nose with their toes and Helen was exceedingly agile and could easily do this - hence the mini Helen's pose!

I created the ladders by using my extruder to produce a fat string and then feeding dried spaghetti into the middle of the string and rolling it to smooth it out again. I made two long ones for each ladder and several shorter ones with spaghetti sticking out either end which I then pushed into the long ones to create the rungs. I then had to be patient and let the fondant completely dry out so that they were firm enough to stand up.

It was a fun and novel cake to do and I had lots of lovely comments from the other people, not just about the decoration but the quality of the cake too which was really nice to hear. I think I am going to have cake withdrawal symptoms as I have no other cakes in the pipeline. Perhaps that's a good thing as it is the summer holidays and I can focus on the children and then in September I plan to start working my way through various cake books trying lots of new recipes and experimenting ...

© 2011 Nicola Noble

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Christening cake

I have just finished my first christening cake and, even better, someone is going to pay me for it! I played around with various ideas from a teddy bears' picnic to a train on a track and settled on some toy toppers - a teddy bear, a train and some building blocks. The colour theme was blue and purple on white. I used purple to add some contrast so that it wasn't too wishy-washy with just pale blue.
I made the teddy in the same way as for my recent teddy bears' picnic cupcakes, but instead of flower paws I added purple stars to coordinate him with the other toppers.
The train proved a little harder - I really wasn't happy with my first attempt but then found a great shape thanks to The Cake Journal. The only thing I changed was using fondant buttons for the wheels (the client really liked this detail)

The building blocks were much harder. I started off making them too big and had to cut them right down in size. It was hard to get a cube shape but I persevered using my cake smoother and the flat surface of the work mat until they looked reasonable. It was also quite hard getting them all the same size. I have some letter embossers so used these to add some detail. If I was to do these again, I would decide on the arrangement of the blocks first and then imprint the letters as I found that, since I randomly imprinted the letters, they weren't facing the right way once put together. I was able to cover this "mistake" by making one side of each block purple and adding a blue star. This also helped coordinate the blocks with the other toppers so it worked out okay in the end.
I finished off the toppers with some lustre. I mixed snowflake lustre dust with a little bit of vodka and painted it onto the purple and black elements of the toppers. Doing it this way makes the lustre more intense than just brushing the dust onto the fondant. The vodka evaporates which means the fondant doesn't get soggy.

The cake was a 9.5" victoria sponge with lemon zest and lemon buttercream. My two tins were slightly mismatched so I had to do a little cutting to balance the outer edges of the two layers and a little levelling on the tops of the sponges to make the cake flat. My last decorated sponge had a middle bulge showing through the fondant icing but with research I realised that the buttercream had been too soft so this time I made the buttercream reasonably firm for the middle and then softened it with more lemon juice to dirty coat the sides and top (dirty coat is a thin layer of buttercream that "traps" the crumbs). I put the cake in the fridge while I did the school pickup and later added a thicker layer of buttercream to the top and sides (no crumbs to fight with on this layer!) and then covered the cake in white fondant.

The cake was placed off-centre on a board so the name could be placed at the front of the board. I had covered this with white fondant last week (to allow it to harden so that it didn't mark when the cake was put on) and glued a blue ribbon to the edge of the cake board.

I recently watched a tutorial on YouTube where the person used a pastry/pizza cutter to trim the excess fondant so I thought I'd give this a go. I can see with some practice that this will work very well and for a first attempt it wasn't too bad - just a little high in a couple of places. I covered these slight uneven edges with a blue fondant ribbon.

The fondant ribbon was hard to do. I bought a Wilton ribbon cutter when I was in the States recently and I think it will take a bit of practice for this too. The "cutters" don't cut as cleanly as I would like but overall it gives a nice effect. The only really hard thing was rolling a piece of fondant long enough to go round the whole cake in one piece and keeping a consistent thickness along the length. It took about three attempts but I got there ...

Finally, to finish the cake I added the little boy's name. I used this as an excuse to buy some letter cutters. Again these are going to take some practice but I think that they turned out well. They are slightly bigger than I was expecting but I think they look good on this cake.

All that is left to do now for the Christening is to make some cupcakes with blue and purple buttercream swirls.

© 2011 Nicola Noble

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Teddy bears' picnic

Our road had it's first street party on Saturday and there was a cake competition. I wasn't planning to enter as we only got back from holiday on the Saturday before but Jason kept telling me I should and on Wednesday night I had a flash of inspiration as to what I could do and went for it.

I made a teddy bears' picnic on cupcakes, so each cupcake made up a part of the whole "picture'. I decided to colour theme it red, white and blue as I had these colours already (and added a purple rug and green grass) and overall it came out really well. The only thing to let me down were the cupcakes themselves.

I haven't made enough cupcakes to find a recipe I like so I opted for one from a cupcake book I was given and it was far too dry. I slightly overcooked the outer cupcakes which didn't help so the ones the competition judges tasted were far from the best. Shame to say I didn't win but rightly so, if I'm honest. Something to work on for next year's cake!

I started with the fondant bears and then made the strawberry cake, plates and cups. The cups were very hard and next time (!) I will try adding some Tylose/CMC powder to strengthen the fondant and make it easier to work with when modelling the paste. I decided the plates needed some food on so I made a little jam sandwich by rolling two thin layers of beige fondant and one layer red then sandwiching them together and cutting out triangles. I made a banana, orange and apple and used a little bit of red liquid food colouring with a paint brush to add some colour to the apple and some shading to the banana. I also filled the tea cups with some silver sparkly Barbie writing icing.
I made a big purple picnic mat which I embossed with a flower pattern mat and then cut out circles for each of the cupcakes. I piped grass on the outer cupcakes using my grass piping nozzle (note to self: when using up "old" buttercream make sure it doesn't have lemon zest in as it doesn't go through the nozzle!) and then finished off the whole scene with some toadstools, flowers and obligatory lustre dust and sparkle!

PS. Can you tell that the red teddy was my favourite?

© 2011 Nicola Noble