Read an Excerpt
Anyone Can Make
By Jill Foster
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Jill Foster, Write Way cake designs
All rights reserved.
Tools and Toppings
Before we get started, you'll need a few tools and toppings. Like an artist, a carpenter, or a seamstress, you need a handy tool kit to hold all your essential tools. Once you've collected these items, you will be able to create all the cakes in this book.
Your tool kit can be as simple or elaborate as you want. I recommend a plastic shoebox, tackle box, or craft organizer to keep all your cake decorating supplies in your kitchen, ready to use. Some of the items below you may already have in your home. The rest can be purchased at your local grocery, craft, or discount store. Most of the items pictured in this book were purchased at Wal-Mart and Target.
1. Food Color Paste or Gel
Food coloring for a cake decorator is like the paint an artist uses. There are several different kinds of coloring, such as pastes, gels, or liquids. These are found in grocery stores, craft stores, specialty stores, or online. The liquid food coloring found in your local grocery store will do, but the color isn't as vibrant and you will have to use a lot of drops. Adding color paste to white frosting produces vibrant colors. Each cake recipe in this book lists the food colors needed, and with blue, red, green, yellow, violet, and pink in your tool kit, you can make every design in the book.
2. Freezer Plastic Storage Bags or Disposable Pastry Bags
Freezer storage bags work great as decorator bags. Just cut off a small piece of one of the corners and insert a tip. They hold a tip and frosting well and can be stored in the refrigerator for six weeks. Disposable pastry bags are made especially for cake decorators and are very sturdy.
You can find them in the cake decorating aisle in your local discount store.
3. Decorating Tips
Although professional cake decorators often use twenty or more different tips, in this book we'll use only seven that I consider essential. Each tip has a universal number. If you cannot find the exact number tip, find the one closest to it. Decorator tips can be found in most discount stores or craft stores. I prefer to use the metal tips instead of the plastic tips. They will last you a lifetime and will keep their shape and performance. I recommend these:
#2 – Small writing tip
#4 – Medium writing tip
#16 – Medium star tip
#18 – Small star tip
#21 – Large star tip
#104 – Medium rose tip
#352 – Medium leaf tip
4. Metal Straight Spatula
A straightedge metal spatula is essential to a cake decorator. It has multiple uses and will last you a lifetime. You will use it to spread frosting, fill cakes, fill a decorator bag, and smooth your frosting to make a perfect finish. There are many sizes to choose from — I personally use four-inch and six-inch spatulas.
You don't need to buy an expensive cake-decorating turntable. I use a lazy Susan of the sort used in pantrys and cupboards — they spin well and clean easily with hot soapy water. You can find inexpensive lazy Susans at any discount or kitchen store.
6. Sharp Knife, Scissors, And Dental Floss
These common household items are handy when decorating a cake. Use a small sharp knife to cut pieces of candy or chopsticks. A large knife, like a bread knife, is used to level your cake. Scissors are used in cutting pieces of candy, lifting off roses, and snipping the ends of your decorator bag. Dental floss is great when leveling a larger cake.
When cutting sticks for a tiered cake, it is important to cut them the correct height and the same height. A ruler is also used to measure lines across a cake.
8. Bamboo Sticks
Many of the cake designs in this book require the use of bamboo sticks. They can be easily cut with a sharp knife or scissors and pierce well into candy and cakes. Bamboo sticks can be found in most grocery stores in the kitchen utensil aisle.
Chopsticks are used to make beautiful roses (see pages 25-26 in Chapter Three) and for stacking tiered cakes. When you order Chinese food, save your chopsticks — or purchase them at a grocery store in the Asian food aisle.
10. Cake Plates
Every cake needs a place to sit. Find colorful and beautiful cake plates or flat dinner/serving plates to complement your cake. Most of the plates used in this book were inexpensive and easy to find at a local discount store or thrift store. During the holidays, you can find festive plates to add color and charm to your cakes.
11. Cake Boards
Cake boards are needed when making tiered or stacked cakes. Using a cake board to hold your cake allows you to stack it on top of another cake without the cake board showing. When buying cake boards, you want to find one the same size as your cake pan. Cardboard cake boards can be found in the cake decorating aisle of your craft store.
12. Cake Pans and Bowls
Any ovenproof pan or bowl can be used to bake a cake. Most of the cakes in this book require 8-inch pans (and up to 14-inch pans for wedding cakes). Square pans and rectangle pans are also required in other cake designs. A few of the cake designs require an oven-safe mixing bowl or 4- to 6-cup measuring cup. The new silicone cake pans are fine as long as the cake comes out firm and sturdy when cooled. When choosing the cake pan or bowl for a cake design, use the chart on page 10 in Chapter Two to help plan for the number of cake mixes/recipes needed, as well as the approximate serving size of each pan.
Along with the colored frosting, each cake design is adorned with toppings that add creativity and color.
There is a large variety of candy sold today and multitudes of ways to use it. Throughout the book you'll see many useful ways to use candy — and the best part about colorful candy toppings is they are edible! (See page 165 for a candy glossary.)
Flowers bring beauty to any cake and are especially nice on anniversary, bridal shower, and wedding cakes. If you are unable to find fresh flowers, most discount or craft stores carry silk flowers that look like the real thing. When using fresh flowers, wash them gently so they're free of any possible pesticides. They should be thoroughly dry before being placed on the cake.
3. Theme Items
A few of the cake designs in this book require purchasing a decoration to add to the cake. Whether it is a toy pony, a baby bottle, a baby doll, or a stemmed margarita glass to hold a tiered wedding cake, they all complement the cakes. All of the themed decorations used in this book were inexpensive and found at a local discount store.
Next let's take a look at our canvas — a perfect cake — and learn how to prepare the icing.CHAPTER 2
The Right Cake and Frosting
THE PERFECT CAKE
A well-baked, sturdy cake is the easiest to work with. As a decorator, my goal is to build a moist yet firm cake — and when it's properly baked, cooled, filled, and frosted, a nice, firm cake is a joy to decorate. There are three ways to achieve the perfect cake.
Mixes, Homemade, or Store-Bought Cakes
Since my philosophy is all about being simple, quick, and low-cost, I prefer using cake mixes. If the directions on the box are followed correctly, you'll have a wonderful cake to decorate.
If you enjoy baking cakes "from scratch," use a recipe that produces a firm cake. Always use top-quality ingredients, and adequately cool the cake before decorating. I have included some of my favorite cake recipes at the end of this chapter.
When I don't have time to bake a cake, I buy a baked and frosted cake at my local grocery store or bakery. They cost less than the decorated cakes, and I get to decorate the cake my way. Discount club stores have inexpensive half-sheet cakes you can purchase.
PREPARING THE RIGHT CAKE
Here are a few things I've learned about preparing cakes at home, whether from a mix or from scratch:
Use fresh ingredients in cake mixes or cake recipes. Eggs, butter, and milk need to be new from the grocer.
Measure ingredients carefully. Unlike cooking, baking requires perfect measuring. My grandmother baked for years, so she knew what a teaspoon of baking soda was in the palm of her hand. I tried that once, and my cake tasted like baking soda! So measure every ingredient just as the recipe calls for. It could mean the difference between a fluffy, moist cake and a dry or flat cake.
Sift the flour if the recipe calls for it. Cake flour tends to cause lumps, so I always sift it before measuring.
Add ingredients in the order the recipe indicates. Always add the dry ingredients like flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices together before adding the wet ingredients.
Do not overbeat your cake batter. Overmixing makes for an air-filled cake that may bake unevenly. If you think your cake has a lot of air in the batter, tap the cake bowl on the counter — you will see the air bubbles come to the top.
Grease and dust your cake pans before pouring in the cake batter. First, grease the pan with shortening; then add flour or a small amount of the powdered cake mix to the pan. Shake the pan until all the shortening is coated. You may also use parchment paper to line your cake pans instead of dusting them.
Preheat the oven before putting a cake in. All recipe baking times are determined from the time you put the cake into the oven at the temperature needed.
Place cake pans in the center of the oven rack. If two or more pans are used, allow at least an inch of space between the pans and two inches between the pans and the walls of the oven for proper heat circulation.
No matter how tempted you are to do it, do not open the oven during the first half of the baking time. Just a small amount of cool air can interfere with the rising of the cake.
Check the cake for doneness before taking it out of the oven. Carefully place a finger on top of the cake and see if the cake bounces back to form. If so, it is done. To be completely sure, you can insert a sharp knife in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If the cake is not done, continue checking every five to ten minutes.
Cool your cake in the pan at least ten minutes before removing it from the pan. Loosen the cake by sliding a dull knife around the edge of the pan, then turn the cooled cake onto a cake plate or board.
Cool the cake on the counter for at least one hour. When it reaches room temperature, put it in the refrigerator for a few hours. This will keep the inside of the cake moist and its exterior firm and ready to frost. In fact, I usually bake my cakes the night before an event so there's plenty of time for proper cooling and refrigerating overnight. The next day, I only have to frost and decorate.
NONSTANDARD CAKE SHAPES
A few of the cakes in this book call for using a rounded dome-shaped cake. Use an ovenproof mixing bowl or measuring bowl to create the rounded shape. Grease and flour the bowl before pouring in the cake batter. The dome cakes in this book need only one cake recipe or store-bought mix. Follow the baking instructions as indicated in your recipe or cake mix. To test for doneness, insert a sharp knife to see if the middle of the cake is done. If it is done, the knife will come out clean. If the top of the cake appears done, yet the middle still needs some more baking time, cover the top of the bowl with foil and continue baking until the middle of the cake is done.
Rectangular, Square, or Sheet Cake
To create the rectangle or square shapes in many cake designs, you can use a variety of straight-sided cake pans. Most cake pans come in a 13 x 9-inch rectangle or an 8 x 8-inch square. Some cake pans are larger (26 x 18 x 1 or 12 x 18 x 1) and can make a sheet or half sheet cake size. Follow the chart below to determine the amount of cake batter needed for each cake. When baking larger size cakes, allow for longer baking times. After thirty minutes in the oven, check every ten minutes for doneness.
Most cakes are round 8-inch or 9-inch cakes. When making wedding or tiered cakes, there is a variety of round pan sizes from which to choose. Use the chart to determine the amount of cake batter for each size cake. After thirty minutes in the oven, continually check every ten minutes for doneness.
PREPARING YOUR PERFECT CAKE FOR DECORATING
If you've baked a cake at home, you'll need to get it ready to be decorated — first by making sure it is level and symmetrical, and then by filling and frosting it. Only then will you be ready to "paint" your masterpiece — the Write Way!
Creating a Level Cake
A perfectly formed cake is one where each layer is level. Unless you're using formed pans, a round, square, or rectangular cake needs to be leveled before frosting. Put the cooled and refrigerated cake back into the pan you baked it in. With a long bread knife or string of dental floss, slice across the top of the pan, removing anything above the edge (photo 1). If your baked cake is lower than the height of the pan, you'll just have to do it by eye. Use a bread knife to cut across the top of the cooled cake. Do the best you can to cut a level cake. You will now have a level measurement.
Carefully lift off the top of the cake (photo 2). My children love this part because they get to eat the unused cake!
Now turn the cake over onto a cake plate. You're ready to fill and frost your cake!
Filling the Cake
Most people cut into a cake hoping to find a yummy filling (the part between the layers) to complement the cake. Whether you're using white frosting or fresh strawberries or anything in between, there is a proper way to fill the cake to ensure that it remains level and ready to decorate.
If you're using the same frosting as on the outside of the cake, the process is very easy. With a spatula, smooth frosting evenly over the top of the leveled bottom layer. Place the top layer of cake over the frosting and press gently to connect the frosting to the cake.
If you are filling your cake with another color frosting or type of filling, such as strawberries or mousse, you will need to make a secure border so that the filling does not seep out (photo 3). Prepare a decorator bag (see page 22). Snip a corner of the bag with scissors. Make a border around the edge of the cake by carefully squeezing the frosting out through the snipped corner.
Now you can evenly spread a prepared filling inside the border, using a spatula (photo 4). If you are using a filling that is not spreadable, like fresh strawberries or chocolate chips, spread some frosting first and then arrange your filling ingredients in a single layer on top. Place the second layer on top (photo 5).
Frosting the Cake
The secret to a beautifully frosted cake begins with a great frosting recipe. At the end of this chapter, you'll find frosting recipes I developed and still use on all my cakes. If you use a different recipe for your frosting, make sure it is stiff enough to hold the designs you create. Most store-bought frostings used as is do not hold a design when decorating using the Write Way to Cake Decorating method.
You'll need a prepared batch of frosting, your straight edge spatula, and the turntable. You can store any extra frosting for up to three months in the refrigerator.
Place a filled and leveled cake on the turntable. Frost the sides of the cake first. Using the flat side of the spatula, smooth over the sides without touching the spatula to the cake. Continue adding and pulling the frosting around all the sides (photo 6). Use the turntable to turn the cake as you work the frosting around.
Now pile frosting on top of the cake and evenly smooth it over the top.
Excerpted from Creative Cakes by Jill Foster. Copyright © 2007 Jill Foster, Write Way cake designs. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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