Yup, we’re having a fontest. And we have five pounds of fondant to give away to boot. We are in the process of testing four major brands of fondant to determine which tastes and performs best. Before we post our results, we want to hear from you. Anyone who works with fondant–from passionate beginners to seasoned professionals–is welcome to weigh in. Simply let us know your favorite brand of fondant and why you prefer it over the others by Friday, November 6th. We will randomly select one entry to win five pounds of fondant.Read More
As a cake designer, I constantly meet with new clients to taste, plan, and design their perfect wedding cake. There are a few questions that people always ask, so I thought I’d set the record straight by answering them here for all to see.
Question 1/ How do you stay so thin?
At least I used to get asked this one a lot, before my beautiful baby Mia (below) was born last February. My answer is this: The bride doesn’t usually like it if I show up with a big slice missing from the wedding cake, so I don’t actually get to eat a lot of cake.
Question 2/ How long have you been making cakes?
Good one. I took a very inexpensive cake design class about 15 years ago and loved it. I started making cakes for friends and family. Somewhere along the line a family friend trusted me to do her wedding cake, and Erica OBrien Cake Design was born. [More about this in a future post.]
Question 3/ What’s your favorite cake design?
Oooh. Tough one. My taste and style are constantly evolving, so right now it’s this one, but next week it might be another.
I remember really liking the cake below when I first did it, circa 1996–before digital cameras! I guess my taste has changed a bit–okay a lot–since then. In fact, this cake is pretty funny to me now, but at the time I thought it was beautiful.
Question 4/ Do you watch “Ace of Cakes”?
Of course! But not religiously. I’ll watch it if it’s on. I’ve even learned a few good tips from Duff, such as using vodka to clean up mistakes on fondant. And I have to credit the show for increasing people’s understanding of cake as art.
Question 5/ Are you a graphic designer?
No, but I want to be! I’ve looked into taking graphic design cources at UCLA. I never really knew what graphic design was until pretty recently. I think I would love it, but you never know.
1/ Forget the faux. Some couples, in an effort to cut costs, opt to display a decorated fake cake, or cake dummy, and serve a sheet cake that’s been hidden out of guests’ view. While this might be more cost effective, the cake dummies are made from styrofoam, which can’t be recycled and doesn’t biodegrade, so consider the cost to the planet.
2/ While you’re at it, forget the fondant. Although fondant remains my icing of choice for its aesthetic value, it’s less eco-friendly than buttercream. First, most bakeries don’t make their own fondant in-house. (It’s the only thing I don’t make from scratch.) Instead, fondant is generally ordered from one of the major fondant suppliers and shipped long distances to get to your baker. Second, fondant contains gelatin, an animal-based substance derived from the bones of cattle, pigs, and horses. It’s not vegetarian, and it’s not eco-friendly: Raising animals for food wastes massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water. (To learn more, go to goveg.com.)
3/ Go organic. Most, if not all, of the ingredients that go into a cake have a readily available organic counterpart. Ask your baker if he can create an organic cake. Although you can expect to pay more, your conscious, your planet, and hopefully your guests will thank you.
4/ Buy your cake locally. Thinking about having your cake shipped to you by a nationally-renowned cake designer? Consider the impact that has on the environment. Instead, find a local baker who can replicate that cake you saw on Ace of Cakes.
5/ Use found objects. There are many realistic alternatives to purchasing a brand new cake plate or cake topper. Try: borrowing from someone you know, raiding your grandma’s kitchen cabinets, scouring your local Goodwill, or hitting garage sales. A search for “cake plate” on Craigslist turned up the gem on the left. Look around. Chances are, you’ll find a cake plate or cake topper you love–and probably a bunch of other stuff you didn’t even know you needed. Be sure to ask your baker how big your largest tier will be so you know it will fit.
6/ Recycle as much as possible. Okay, so you can’t recycle your cake, but your baker may be able to reuse any plastic dowels or separator plates (used to support the tiers). You can also pass on your cake topper and cake plate to a friend or consignment shop, or donate it to a thrift store. Either way, ensuring it gets reused means it doesn’t end up in a land fill.Read More
The background: Fondant originated in Europe where it was used to cover fruitcakes to keep them fresh for shipping to the New World.
The difference: Fruitcakes are not torted (cut horizontally) or filled with anything. Also, fruitcakes are traditionally covered with a 1/4″ layer of marzipan and then covered in fondant.
The result: Perfectly smooth and gorgeous fondant.
The problem: American cakes are torted, filled, iced, and then covered with fondant. Often, the filling softens, and the weight of the fondant causes it to smoosh out. (If you’ve ever had this happen, you know that “smoosh” is the only applicable description.) Maybe your crumb coat wasn’t thick enough, or the cake wasn’t leveled evenly, or you didn’t refrigerate it long enough. Your cake, which started off looking beautifully smooth, ends up looking unprofessional, like the cake below created by some anonymous cake designer. (Okay, it was me. But it was like a really long time ago.)
The solution: Cake spackle! Toba Garrett, a master cake decorator (you should see her string work!) and instructor at The Institute for Culinary Education developed this technique, which gives the cake “more stability and structure” so that layers are not visible through the fondant. I found it in her book, The Well Decorated Cake, and have been using it for years.
First, level your cake. Save the domed portion that you leveled off and usually throw away for the next step!
Fill the cake–but don’t crumb coat–and refrigerate until firm.
Take the domed portion and crumble it up. (I use my hands, but a food processor would work too.)
Mix the cake crumbs with buttercream and some filling until it is thick and pasty. (I would recommend about a 3:1 ratio of cake crumbs to buttercream.) This is your cake spackle!
Now ice your cake with the spackle and refrigerate until firm. If the spackle is too thick to spread, +–some more buttercream.
As I was snapping pictures for an upcoming blog post, the following occurred to me: Perhaps I should have considered before embarking on a blog that I am a bad photographer. Okay, really bad. Terrible, in fact. When it comes to photographing my wedding cakes, I am notorious for cutting off the top tier. My husband always advises me that when I think I’ve got the cake in the frame to take two steps back. (We started with just one step, but soon realized that it was not sufficient.) Here are a few photos to illustrate my point.
This was a “perfect pear” themed wedding cake for a wedding at the Torrey Pines Lodge in La Jolla, California . Too bad I took the photograph during my artsy EXTREME CLOSEUP phase:
Check out the lighting on this one. Ouch. Even I can’t tell what color it is:
This hurts me more than it hurts you:
Here’s a slightly better version. The wedding was at the absolutely stunning Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon. Of course I could have chosen to take the picture outside in the beautiful bucolic setting, but no, I chose to take it in their kitchen. See the spoons and gray glassware bins?
My daughter gets some pretty cool birthday cakes. Too bad she doesn’t get any cool pictures of them.
So, what’s a cake designer to do for quality photos? More about that in a future post. For now, I’ll try to compensate for my poor photographs with really quality blog content. And really nice cakes.
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We would love to answer all of your questions! Feel free to contact Erica OBrien Cake Design. We’ll either email you directly or post your question on our blog.
- The thing about sugar cookies is...they're just so cute. A client's daughter is bringing these to school for her... http://t.co/h6vv4MxT1F about 19 hours ago from Facebook
- Read all about my wonderful assistant, Callan. http://t.co/Fwc2HSyGQY http://t.co/6zIuX52BOl 02:40:59 AM May 23, 2013 from Facebook
- BOGO BOGO BOGO BOGO BOGO 09:08:06 PM May 21, 2013 from Facebook
- Under the sea birthday cake. http://t.co/GpoNOjEUbQ 11:33:07 PM May 19, 2013 from Facebook
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