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I started decorating cakes in 1995 and have picked up some really great tricks along the way. Some I learned from other cake artists, either by reading their books, taking their classes, speaking with them directly, or even watching them on t.v., and some I figured out on my own. I’m happy to share them here with you.
1. Smooth first. Rolling fondant smoothly is a skill unto itself, and it can be difficult to avoid minor irregularities when you roll by hand. If you use fondant, you most likely already use smoothers on your fondant-covered cakes, but you can also smooth fondant before you apply it. Once you’ve rolled the fondant, while it is still lying flat on a hard surface, use your smoothers to work out any bumps and eliminate any air bubbles. Source: Melody Brandon (www.mysweetandsaucy.com)
2. Set color by steaming. When used correctly, petal dust can really bring sugar flowers to life, but it can also give them a chalky, matte appearance. To reduce the dusty look and work the color permanently into your petals, boil some water and gently wave your sugar flowers over the steam for a few seconds. (I’m very accident prone, so I always set a strainer on the pot so that if I drop my sugar flowers they don’t end up in the water.) At first the flowers will appear quite shiny, but the sheen will almost completely disappear. Note that this method will also slightly deepen the color, so be sure to experiment first. Source: Jacqueline Butler (www.petalsweetcakes.com)
3. Keep a paint fan deck handy. Most brides have pretty definite preferences when it comes to color, but “peacock blue” can mean different things to different people. I’ve found computers to be unreliable for color matching, since colors on computer screens can vary greatly. Instead, I keep a paint fan deck in my office so that clients can tell me on the spot what color they want. This also saves them a trip to Home Depot for a paint chip. You can purchase Benjamin Moore fan decks online for about $15. Source: Erica OBrien
4. Refrigerate fondant. Whoever said fondant can’t be refrigerated obviously never traveled to Malibu, CA via the 405 Freeway on a blazing hot summer afternoon. (You can read more about that cake fiasco here.) Although some condensation might appear on your fondant cakes when they’re taken out of the fridge and exposed to warmer air (making them quite tacky to the touch), the condensation eventually evaporates and the fondant returns to its original matte finish. Just be sure not to touch it during the sticky stage or you’ll leave fingerprints. Source: Melody Brandon (www.mysweetandsaucy.com)
5. Use convoluted foam mattress pads to absorb shock. That’s right: I said convoluted foam mattress pads. You know exactly what it is–that egg crate-shaped foam used to add extra cushioning to your bed–you just never thought to use it with your cake. Since bumps, pot holes, or bouncing during cake delivery can all cause damage to cakes, it is important to minimize the shock. Placing foam padding beneath your cake board will help cushion the blow and protect your cakes from damage. Source: Nancy Kay (http://www.nkconfections.com/)
6. Try scalpels. X-acto blades are great for cutting fondant, but the sharpest blades available are the scalpels that surgeons use. You can purchase disposable scalpels online. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are quite inexpensive, so you can experiment until you find one that works for you. Source: Elisa Strauss (www.confetticakes.com)
7. Use blue painters tape on fondant. When I need to apply a horizontal band to my fondant, I first apply blue painter’s tape just below where I want the band. If the tape is not straight, simply take it off and start over. The tape acts to guide the application of the fondant band and ensure that it is level. It adheres just enough to remain in place, but peels off easily without pulling the fondant beneath it. Source: Mary Maher (www.thecakegirls.com)
8. Use vodka. Because of its high alcohol content, vodka evaporates very quickly and won’t dissolve the sugar in your fondant (unlike water), making it ideal for liquefying powdered food color and diluting paste coloring for painting on cakes. Vodka can also be used to wipe away stray marks and mistakes on your cakes. Moisten a paper towel with vodka and gently take away dirt and marks. For smaller areas, wrap paper towel tightly around a toothpick. I buy the largest, cheapest bottle of vodka I can find. Source: Charm City Cakes
9. Use foamcore instead of cardboard. Although convenient, pre-cut cardboard rounds absorb a lot of fat from cakes, weakening the cardboard’s structure. I use foamcore instead. It’s pricey, rough on blades, but nothing beats its sturdiness. Source: Colette Peters. (colettescakes.com)
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