Painting on Fondant

We made a fortieth anniversary cake this weekend for a couple we’ve known for several years.  So of course we decided to try something we’ve never done before.  ‘Cause it’s such an unimportant occasion and all.   :: shakeshead ::
A small, intimate gathering was planned for them.  Beautiful linens and china were juxtaposed against rustic flowers and mason jars for drinking glasses.  It was not only lovely but it was seriously fun!  The cake was a 9”x13” oval covered in fondant and then “painted” with food coloring.  While we have used this technique in small ways in the past this was the first time actually painting the whole design.
Check it out!  Let us know what you think.
painted cake

Wedding Cupcake Tower

cupcake tower

Not all of our brides think conventionally, and that’s a good thing! This weekend, Sarah and I made two hundred and fifty cupcakes for a charming “second-time-around” bride who wasn’t interested in a traditional wedding cake. We stacked them high and proud, topped with a six inch tier just to hold her cake toppers! Check them out…the groom is an avid golfer, she an avid shopper. I think you see the inspiration here.

Flavors? I’m so glad you asked! The top tier was marble (laced with a warming dollop of Crème de Cacao). The cupcake flavors were Cookies and Cream filled with, yes, cookies and cream frosting, Vanilla Bean filled with (say it with me) vanilla bean frosting, Lemon filled with lemon curd, Dark Chocolate Fudge (with rum and crème de cacao…yum) filled with fudge filling and frosted with dark fudge frosting, German Chocolate (yes, we added crème de cacao. It would have been rude to leave this one out) filled and frosted with Coconut Pecan filling and finally Pineapple (rum, of course) filled with coconut pastry cream (more rum) and frosted with coconut cream frosting (and more rum, but you knew that.)

The finished tower of cakes looked and smelled wonderful. The bride kindly gave us a call later that evening to report how much the guests had enjoyed them. A classy touch from a classy lady!

What flavors would you want for your cupcake tower?

Anniversary Cake

We were contacted by a lovely woman in need of an anniversary cake for her in-laws.  As we normally do, we asked what the original cake was like…flavors, flowers, frosting…to get an idea of the direction we should go.  In this case we didn’t have that to go by as there had been no cake! (I know, right?  Shocking!)  Our client did specify that the top tier would be chocolate with vanilla cream filling and the bottom tier would be vanilla with chocolate fudge filling, and that a shade of Country Blue would be nice.

And nice it turned out to be!  We made Freesias, Daisies, Stephanotis and Peonies for a bridal “bouquet” and painted a ribbon of Country Blue around the base of each tier.  What do you think?


Part Two of Making Your Own Calla Lilies

Here it is!  The long awaited second part of the “make your own Calla Lily” tutorial!

You were awaiting this, right?  Of course you were!

So.  We have all of our ingredients and supplies ready at hand.  We’ve cleared a space to work were a little (or a lot) of mess won’t make us twitch. We’re ready!   We’re going to break the project into ten steps.  You can do one a day…or one a week!  Don’t be intimidated!  It’s sugar!  Not rocket science!

Let’s have some fun!

Step One:  We make the stamen or center of our Calla Lily.

Pinch off a small amount of gumpaste.  I do mean a small amount.  Maybe the size of the tip of your thumb.  Knead this little glob of paste until there are no bits of grittiness and it’s smooth and slightly sticky.

Now that the gumpaste is very smooth, roll it into a ball.  Once it’s formed, place it on the table and roll it under your palm…light and slow.  The idea is to put more pressure on the heel side of your palm, pressing the paste into an elongated cone.  (Check Picture 1 for an idea of how it should look.)

1.1  shaping the stamen

Step Two:  Take a piece of wire I’m using precut lengths but you can use what ever you like.  We talked about why you’d want some wire nippers (your husband will call them Needle Nose Pliers but mine have flowers on the handles…totally not necessary for function but cool none-the-less…so I call them what I please!)  you’ll use them here to bend a very small hook on one end of your wire.  (See Picture 2)  This little hook keeps the completed stamen from slipping off its wire stem later on and causing you unnecessary angst.

2.2  press in the wire stem

Step Three:  Squeeze the base of your newly created stemmed stamen and smooth the end down over the wire a little making it nice and secure.  (See Picture 3)  Remember when I showed you the hi-tech drying rack?  (Okay, go look back at the first part of this tutorial.  I’ll wait.)  Now you put it to use.  Bend a nice big hook in the free end of the wire and hang your stamen upside down to dry.  It won’t take but a couple of hours at most but we can start working with it again in about 20 minutes.

3.3  squeeze the base and smooth it down aroung the wire stem

Step Four:  Now that your stamen is dry (or at least firm) we can move on to coloring it.  Calla Lilies were white…and only white…with yellow stamens for most of my life but hybridizers have cultivated a dizzying array of colors in recent years.  Dark lavender with deep orange stamens, cherry pink with the palest green stamens, deep, deep burgundy with almost chocolate colored stamens.  All beautiful, and all very doable in your own kitchen with the tools we’ve already assembled.  Feel free to deviate from here on out to please your own sense of color but for demonstration purposes we’ll be making the traditional white petaled lily with the deep yellow center.

Take one of the clean paintbrushes and dip it into your choice of color.  I’m using powdered color.  It’s my favorite and allows me to create a wonderful array of custom colors but feel free to use gel, paste or liquid colors.  Just remember to allow drying time (upside down on your handy rack!) before continuing!  (See Pictures 4 and 5)  (Note:  If you choose to use powdered color you’ll need to steam set at each step along the way.  It’s not complicated.  Again, I’ve gone totally hi-tech for equipment.  I put about an inch of water in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Once it’s steaming nicely I hold the colored piece over the steam until it gets damp.  (See Picture 6) You’ll see the color change.  Hang it upside down to dry and you’re ready to move on to the next step.)

4. 4  stamens can be many different colors

5.  5   for our demonstration we went with the classic yellow

6. 6  steam the stamen to set the color

Step Five:  Now it’s time to add a little “pollen” to the tip of your stamen.  Use another paintbrush to dab a very small amount of glue…stop sniggering!  We already talked about why it was okay to use glue!…over just the tip of the stamen.  As soon as you’ve got the glue on, sprinkle it with some crystallized sugar (Picture 7) and, yes, hang it back up to dry!  Believe it or not?  We’re more than half way done!  You’re doing great.

7.7  sprinkle the glued area with crystal sugar

Tired?  Need to take a break?  This is a good place to do it.  Your stamen (or stamens if, like me, you just decide to make a dozen or more at a time!) can happily “hang out” until you’re ready to continue!  (Bakers humor.  I know.  I’d apologize but that would imply that I’d stop, and we all know that won’t happen.)

Step Six:  Now that the stamen is complete, we’re ready to begin the “wrap up” of our construction.  (See!  I told you I couldn’t stop!)  We’re going to make the petal for our Calla Lily.  It looks complicated.

It’s not!

The cutter does all the work for us.  (Don’t have an actual Calla Lily cutter?  I have a suggestion for that but it’s more work and you’ll need to move quickly as gumpaste dries very quickly.  Cut a circle of paste with a biscuit cutter.  Use a small, sharp knife to trim the top to match the photo below.  Then?  Just continue on with us!)

(Note:  Here’s where the project gets messy…we’re going to get powdered sugar spread around no matter how careful we are.  It’s one of those “accept it and move on” moments in cake decorating.  Notice my tasteful shirt?  I call it my “wearable apron” because I got tired of getting sugar, cake batter, frosting or what ever all over my good clothes!  Do your self a favor!  Go steal one of your husbands’ old tee shirts and designate it your wearable apron!  You’ll be much happier in the end!)


Pull off another small piece of gumpaste.  Knead it as before.  Remember!  Gumpaste dries very quickly and becomes harder to work with!  Small amounts at a time mean easier handling through out the project. (Picture 8)

8.8   roll out the kneaded gumpaste

Once the paste is smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, sprinkle your work surface (here you see my wonderfully beat up kitchen table!) with powdered sugar.  (Picture 9) (Aren’t you glad you picked up that sugar caster now??)  Place the paste on the sugar and use your small rolling pin or dowel to roll it as thin as possible.  You should be able to see the shadow of your fingers behind it!   (See Picture 10) Don’t be disappointed if your first efforts result in a petal that’s a little thicker than this.  It will still be a beautiful flower and will impress your friends who don’t know you wanted it to be thinner!

9.9  lots of powdered sugar keeps it from sticking     10.10  roll it thinthinthin

Step Seven:  Use your cutter (or the work-around above) to cut out your petal (See Picture 11).  Lift it up…it’s pretty durable but try not to stretch it out of shape…and place it on your foam mat for shaping.  Take your shaping tool, or another small dowel, and roll it gently back and forth over the edges of the petal to create a ruffled effect. (We’re up to Picture 12…are you keeping up?)  Now, here’s a place you can cut back if you choose.  You can instead just run your sugarcoated finger over the edge of the petal to smooth out the “cut” look and call it good.  Me?  I like the ruffle.  Sue me.  If you choose to do so, this is where you put the petal on a veining surface (Picture 13) and gently roll the center to create the texture a real blossom would have.  Don’t worry!  It’ll be lovely without this step if budget or will power put the kibosh on a veiner!

11.11  use a petal cutter to get your shape

12.12  ruffle the edges

13.13  using a veiner for definition

Your flower is now ready to be assembled!

Using your gluey brush, run a small amount of glue just over the bottom of the petal (See Picture 14).  Don’t use too much glue!  If you end up with some sticky stuff splooching out…of course that’s the technical term…duh!…just rub your fingers in powdered sugar and use it to “absorb” the excess glue.  Don’t panic!

14.14  a small amount of clear glue on the edge

Step Eight:  Place your completed and dried stamen over the petal you’ve just formed.  The wire stem should be just at the bottom of the petal (You can see that pretty clearly in Picture 15)  Working quickly, wrap one side of the petal over the stamen, pressing gently around the base to stick the glued section down securely.  (Picture 16)  Half way there!  Now wrap the other side over the first (Picture 17), again pressing gently around the base to make sure it’s securely adhered.  Take a moment to gently curl back the petal just a little bit. (Picture 18) It’s a small thing but adds so much to the realistic feel of your finished piece!  And speaking of adding a touch of realism…Calla Lilies have a little curl at the tip of the petal.  If you’ve used a commercial cutter you’ve got one preformed for you but if you’ve used the work-around described above you may have to “give it a pinch!”  Then it’s time to hang it back up and let it dry.  (Picture 19 and 20)

15. 15  set the stamen on the petal, just above the glue       

16.16  wrap the first side over the center, pressing the glued edge to seal       

17.17  then wrap the other side over      

    18.18  curl over the edges a little        

  19.19  press the tip into a cute little curl    

  20. 20  viola!  a calla lily ready to color

Now take a moment and admire your handiwork!  You’ve just completed a Calla Lily! (Tat-Da!  Picture 21.  Suitable for framing!) If you want, you can stop there.  You can use it on a cake just as it is.  (You can store it in a dry, dark place…I use acid free boxes for flower storage…for months.)  But if you want to go hog wild?  “Gild the lily”?  (Hahaha)

21.21  hang it  up again and let the glue dry

Let’s put on some color!

Take a minute to do a little site prep.  It saves aggravation later.  We’re done with the powdered sugar.  Let’s wash it up and put it away.  Make sure the brushes are clean and dry…especially that gluey one!…and that there are paper towels handy.  Ready?

Let’s finish this in style!

Step Nine:  Place your dried lily on a paper towel.  Get your color out and put it in a separate container to make sure spill issues are minimized.  Here again, I’m using powdered color.  I just use the cap as my container and set the jar of color well away from my work area before continuing. (Picture 22) Once upon a time?  I spilled an entire container of powdered color on my floor.  I found patches of color for months afterwards!  Live and learn!

22.22   time to add the highlights for realism

Whichever type of color you chose, start at the back of your petal.  (Picture 23)  Dab a small amount of color all around the base and in a thin line up the back of the lily.  Most lilies, no matter their petal color, have this ‘stripe’ of green, but feel free to live your own life!  I won’t report you to the Lily Police.

23.23  add some of that bright green around the base and up the back of the petal

If you’re using gel, paste or liquid color you need to let your blossom dry here for a few minutes.  You don’t want to smear the color as you continue to work.  When it’s no longer shiny wet you can begin again.

Turn the blossom over and swirl a small amount of color inside the petal, around the base of the stamen.  Use a coordinating color for your petal.  Because we’re rocking it old school here we’re sticking with green.  (Picture 24)  I like to dab a tinytinytiny amount of color along the furled edges, too.  (Picture 25)  I’m a wild woman.

24. 24  swirl a little color around the base of the stamen     25.25  now just a tiny bit along the furled edges

(Note:  If you’re using powdered color like me?  You’ll need to steam your finished piece now.  (Picture 26))

26. 26  steaming sets the powder color and gives sheen

It’s time to hang your flower again so all that color (or steam) can dry.  Some color takes longer than others.  Give it the time it needs so you don’t ruin your work here at the end!  (Picture 27)

28  the finished flower 

Step Ten:  Admire your finished flower!  (Picture 28) Ten steps…over as many days as you want…and you’ve got a professional looking bloom for your next decorating project!  I’m so proud of you!

27   hang it back up to dry after steaming

There are literally hundreds of flowers out there and all of them are within your grasp!

Let me know if you’d like to try another one!

Now?  I’m going to finish cleaning up all that sugar!



Let’s Make Calla Lilies!

Oh, come on! It’ll be fun!

This is a two part series on making flowers. We’re going to use Calla Lilies for this example but the principle works for all types. Part One will be detailing the supplies you’ll need to play along at home. Part Two will take us step by step through the process of actually making the blossom.

Don’t wimp out on me! You can do this. I started making cakes and flowers over 35 years ago by looking at a picture and thinking, “How hard can it be?” I still think that way and so should you.

Ready? Let’s have some fun.

The supply list may seem a little daunting but don’t let it throw you. Get a little at a time, jury-rig things you already have…don’t get bogged down. Remember, once you have the basic supplies you’ll only need more Gumpaste to keep making flowers forever. And believe me, you’ll keep making them! Your family and friends will beg you for cakes with your special and unique touches and you’ll be proud to say you made it all yourself.

1. GumpasteIt is possible to make Gumpaste yourself. If you’re masochistic by nature I’ll send you the recipe. Trust me, you’ll have a much better time by purchasing premade Gumpaste. Wilton makes both powdered (mix with water and stir, stir, stir) or premixed and Satin Ice makes a nice quality premixed version as well. Believe me, I make flowers all the time, hundreds of them. I do not make Gumpaste.

1  Gumpaste

2. Wire. Floral wire comes in a dizzying variety of sizes and gauges. For our purposes, we need something strong enough to hold up a fairly heavy blossom so keep that in mind. You’ll want a pair of nippers to clip it to length if you don’t buy it that way.

2  Wire and Clippers

3. Glue. Yes. Glue. This a big secret of the industry, my dears. We use glue. Now, you can make the glue necessary by taking some of your Gumpaste and mixing it with enough warm water to make a sticky paste or…

…you can do what most of us do. Use Elmer’s School Glue.

No, I’m not kidding. It’s food safe, dries strong and clear and is perfect for the assembly of most flowers.

3 School Glue

4. A rack for drying your blossoms. They sell these. I’ve seen them. Me? I hate finding storage space for unitaskers so I don’t own one. I use a regular cooking rack that I put on something tall enough (here a container of Fondant) so the blossom hangs free. Just put a hook on the end of the wire and hang it on the rack. Viola!

4  Drying Rack

5. Food safe colorant. Now, I personally use powdered food colors but the liquid from the grocery store works too. You’ll want several soft, unused paint brushes, too. More on that in Part Two. For beginners, a medium sized flat brush and a liner type brush will get you going just fine. For some flower centers you may want some crystallized sugar or sprinkles to make them stand out. We’ll use some for our project so again, more on that later.

5  Colorant, brushes and trims

6. Powdered sugar. Lots and lots of powdered sugar (called 10x in the ‘biz’ because it’s ten times finer

than table sugar. You heard it here first.) Just like pie dough, Gumpaste sticks to the surface you roll it out on. It’s frustrating to roll out and cut a lovely blossom only to have it stuck like glue to the table top. Sprinkle that surface liberally with sugar! It’s messy (oh, so messy) but it pays dividends in terms of success so don’t skip this! Oh, you’ll also want a sugar caster. What’s that, you ask? It’s a sugar shaker. “Huh,” you say? Okay, it’s a jar with holes in the lid so you can shake out the powdered sugar! You want one of these things not just for making flowers. It’s a fun toy when you’re baking cookies, cakes, brownies…anything you want to sprinkle powdered sugar on.

No. Your husband is not an appropriate landing site for powdered sugar. JS.

6  Powdered Sugar and Sugar Caster

7. You’ll need a small rolling pin (or a smooth piece of dowel like I use!), cutters (check out cookie cutters or look on line), a foam mat for forming your petals, a veiner for leaves and texturizing petals if you like, and a small rounded dowel or purchased tool for smoothing and ruffling the edges. For our project here you can smooth the edges with your fingertip but when I started I purchased an inexpensive kit (Wilton) and enjoyed it enough to more than justify its small price. If you feel this is a one-time trial, don’t bother but I’m pretty sure you’ll try this again!

7  Rolling Pin, Cutters, pad, and tools

So now we know what we need. Once you’ve assembled your supplies, you’ll be ready to move on with me to Part Two where we’ll start making those Calla Lilies.

::taps toes:: Go on. Get your supplies! I’ll wait. ::taps toes::


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