Monday, March 31, 2014

Gum Paste Flowers

Fresh flowers are absolutely my favorite adornment on a wedding cake but when fresh isn't easily available, gum paste flowers are a very close second. Made from sugar and painted or dusted with color, these beauties will stick around ten times longer than fresh flowers, and they're 100% food safe edible too (minus any wires used to attach them to each other). It's possible to re-create any flower under the sun in a remarkably botanically correct - and delicious - form. Here's a corsage that I've completed recently that would look beautiful on top of a cake, or taken apart and scattered on the sides.


Included in this spray (from left to right) is a two tone ribbon bow, stephanotis buds, rose and rose buds, hyacinth, hydrangea, calla lily and a six petal tiger lily.


Filling it out are rose leaves and ivy leaves peeking between the flowers, and all wires are covered in floral tape and twisted together to attach.



All flowers were hand formed using gum paste and minimal tools and all the color used is food safe powder or gel coloring. 


The centers of the calla lilies are made using gelatin and yellow powdered color to add a realistic texture.


Gum paste flowers will last forever as long as you keep them away from direct moisture and extreme heat, making them a great keepsake from your wedding day for years to come. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Elegant Hat Box Cake

For my final project in Confectionery Arts, we did a timed butter cream cake that could be designed in any way, as long as it was three, round tiers. We had about five hours of class time to complete the project when all was said and done, and it is a 10, 8 and 6 inch vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream. The design I chose for mine was hat boxes that are stacked and dripping with fondant pearls and gum paste roses, topped off with a floppy sugar bow. 



All the decorations are 100% edible and all hand made by yours truly. The edges of the 'boxes' and the striping on the third tier are formed from strips of fondant along with all of the pearls.


The roses are formed with individual petals around a base and dusted with powdered color for a more realistic touch. 


The bow is two-toned in gum paste and then steamed for a shiny finish. 


The elegance and femininity of this cake make it perfect for a bridal shower or birthday, but who really needs an excuse to eat cake when it looks this pretty? (Not me...)



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cake Decorating Techniques

One thing I really love about pastry school, and especially my latest class, is the chance to get to experiment without having to worry (okay, directly worry) about the cost. At home in my own kitchen, I would never have a reason to make a cake that had four differently designed sides that I can't sell or even really use for portfolio pictures. But in school, I've already paid for those little square blocks of styrofoam like three times so pass 'em on over! 



My assignment with this "cake" was to use different techniques in mixed media to decorate each side separately. There were components that I had to put on there, but we had creative licence over most of it. On the side above I used royal icing to pipe the border and drop the delicate little strings from the cake onto pastillage bases. For more examples of string work, check out this baby shower cake too.


On the next side I did a ruffles leading up the side in gumpaste. You can cover whole cakes with ruffles like these which is a look I like a lot. Hanging down the side is a lace applique also made from gumpaste, similar to the ones on the side of the lace cake I made for a wedding last summer.


This side has more strings hanging from a crimped edge. Of all the sides, this one is definitely my least favorite, but it was still good practice to work with a crimper. The border is a rope made out of fondant.


On the final side I did a border out of a fondant rope, cut to have a "crown-like" edge. The butterfly is extremely tediously and tiny piped royal icing and the banner and buttons are also made out of fondant. I like the fondant banners and swags a lot and think they'd be perfect on a wedding cake for the right event. Lots of great ideas and practice came out of this class and there's still a lot more where that came from.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Royal Baby Shower Cake

I recently finished up my first class at the CIA on the other side of my externship, Confectionery Arts. It's a class that I've been looking forward too since I started pastry school because of the chance to experiment with cake decorating mediums I might not use on my own like chocolate, pulled sugar, and the royal icing string work featured on today's cake:


This is a dummy cake that was a partner build, and I worked on it over the course of two classes with my teammate Emma. The design was assigned to us by our chef and we made all the decorating elements by hand. It's covered in light blue rolled fondant and the darker blue pieces coming off of the sides are made from gum paste. All of the white on the cake is Royal Icing. Because of our color choices I thought it ended up looking a bit like it belonged as a centerpiece to a swanky shower for a new mama-to-be!


Royal icing is the type of decorating medium that is a jack of all trades. It can be used as a rock hard drying glue, a paint to embellish cakes and fill in stencils, or delicately piped strings suspended in air as seen on this cake here. String work is a very old school technique for cake decorating but it's something that I've always wanted to try my hand at. Royal icing strings are a tedious business, but I think it is a gorgeous way to embellish a cake. Let's get a close up on those strings:


My teammate Emma also made this sweet sugar sculpture (pun intended) to sit a top this beauty while I went a little cross-eyed dropping all of those strings. 


Our result was definitely a style much different from the type of cakes I normally do, but so delicate and beautiful. I will definitely use Royal icing as a medium for wedding cakes again, especially lace or detailed piping. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sculpting with Sugar

This week I have a new sugar showpiece to share here that I made in my Confectionery Arts class. Similar to a chocolate sculpture, a sugar sculpture doesn't have much purpose in life except to sit there and look gorgeous. Rough life. Although it is 100% edible, it would taste like a lollipop without flavor and not in a very good way. So just feast your eyes with this one, but sugar sculptures are a beautiful way to top off a wedding cake or adorn a table centerpiece. They can also be preserved for as long as you can keep them away from their evil enemy, humidity.


This piece is made from a combination of sugar decoration methods. The leaves, bow and roses are made from pulling cooked sugar, the hearts are made from blowing sugar, and the whole thing sits on a poured sugar base. Pulling sugar gives it an iridescent, shiny finish and glass-like consistency. The hearts are actually completely hollow and were shaped by hand.


The rose petals and bow loops are each made individually and then attached by melting the ends over an open flame and sticking together. 


In the same way as chocolate, you can make just about anything out of sugar using different methods of cooking and decorating.


It's hard to believe this piece was once just a mountain of granulated sugar!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Chocolate Sculpture

Happy Valentine's Day from MPhillips cakes! Here's a Valentine's Day themed chocolate piece that's the first I've worked on since being back in New York at pastry school. All decorations are hand made out of white and dark chocolate to show a variety of different chocolate modeling skills



The color on the white chocolate pieces is from a hand made transfer sheet using liquid cocoa butter colors. I used tin foil to cast the base piece and make the crinkly texture, and the shimmer on the sphere is from luster dust. The butterflies perching on the sphere and column are hand piped and attached with another bit of liquid chocolate. 


Showpieces make great table centerpieces for special events and it will last for a while depending on temperature and humidity. You could also top a wedding cake with a small chocolate sculpture or use the individual components as decorations down the side. 


Chocolate is one of those mediums with endless possibilities for creativity. In some way or another, you can make anything out of chocolate and this sculpture just barely scratches the surface of what it can do. It's sweet, decorative and makes the whole room smell like chocolate-y goodness.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Red Poppy Wedding Cake

Back in August I started work on a dummy (styrofoam) cake with the intention of building it in layers to practice some new techniques I've been wanting to try. It started out with lots of plain white ruffles:


And then those ruffles got a paint job, making them pop out more against the white cake and look a little bit less like petals and a little bit more like strings or frills.


And now, they've grown into bright and beautiful poppies. Straight outta The Wizard of Oz ya'll.


Styrofoam cake for the win. I loved seeing how many different cakes I could stretch out of one! Poppies are one of my favorite flowers and I did them in a slightly abstract style, purposefully leaving brush strokes for a painted look.


I think I might like it without the leaves even better:


Same design, three really different ways. Which is your favorite?