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I get lots of my supplies and tools at cake design stores, particularly online stores where products are often less expensive. But I also use a lot of tools that you won’t find in any cake design store. Here are four I can’t do without:
1. Vodka. I buy the cheapest vodka I can find in the largest quantity. Vodka evaporates much more quickly than water and therefore won’t dissolve the sugar in fondant the way water will. I mix vodka with luster dust to liquify it and use in my airbrush. I also use vodka rather than airbrush cleaner to clean my airbrush. Simply fill the color cup with vodka and spray until it runs clear. For cleanups on fondant-covered cakes, lightly moisten a paper towel with vodka and gently wipe away stray marks.
Update (7/19/14): Since relocating to Connecticut, I’ve started using grain alcohol rather than vodka to liquify my dusts. Grain alcohol (sometimes known by it’s brand name, Everclear, is 95% alcohol, so it evaporates almost instantaneously. I still use vodka for cleanups on my cakes. Note that grain alcohol isn’t available in all states.
2. Non-slip shelf liner. An indespensible tool, non-slip liner is worth its weight in gold, although it’s very inexpensive. For about $5, you can buy a large roll at Target. I place it under my cakes and my commercial cooler to prevent them from sliding around during transport. It can also be used under a cutting or rolling board so that it won’t slip on the table surface.
3. Sandpaper. I use sandpaper to soften the edges on dummy cakes (where the side meets the top) so that my fondant won’t tear as easily. I also use it to smooth the seams on the sides of the dummies. Sanpaper works perfectly on dried sugar decorations. Rather than risk cracking them by applying the pressure of even the sharpest blade, I smooth rough edges on dried gumpaste and pastiallage pieces with sandpaper.
The trick is to know what grit to use. The lower the grit the rougher the sandpaper and conversely, the higher the grit the smoother the sandpaper. 100-grit sandpaper is rougher than 200-grit sandpaper. “Grit” refers to the number of abrasive particles per inch of sandpaper (woodzone.com). An easy way to remember is to imagine a 1″ square. Think about how small and fine the particles would have to be to fit 300 into that square inch, and how much bigger (and rougher) the particles would be to fit 50 particles. I tend to use finer sandpaper on my sugar pieces (300 or 400) and slightly rougher sandpaper (150 or 200) on my cake dummies.
4. Easy Cutter. I use 1/4″ wooden dowels (be sure to buy them at a hardware store rather than a crafts shop) to support my cakes. To cut them, I use the Midwest Easy Cutter, a tool specifically designed for cutting small wood strips. It has a guide so that you can ensure your cuts are exactly 90 degrees. Some of the larger Jo-Ann Fabrics stores carry them in their woodcrafts department, or you can purchase it on Amazon.
Have a favorite cake design tool that’s not intended for cake? Please feel free to share it here.
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