The Gilded Cake: The golden rules of cake decorating for metallic cakes

The Gilded Cake: The golden rules of cake decorating for metallic cakes

by Faye Cahill


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Make cakes that sparkle with this comprehensive guide to metallic cakes from leading wedding cake designer Faye Cahill. Faye begins by exploring all the different materials available to the modern cake decorator, from gold leaf to edible paint, food-grade sprays, edible glitters, lustre dusts, edible sequins and more, then shows you in step-by-step detail the techniques you need for success. Twelve stunning gilded cake projects follow, showing you how to put your newfound skills to use on creative cake designs, each with an accompanying smaller project that is perfect for beginners to tackle before attempting the larger cake. Create spectacular cakes that shimmer and shine with this unique must-have guide.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781446307113
Publisher: David & Charles
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Faye Cahill has been a professional cake decorator for more than 20 years. Her company, Faye Cahill Cake Design, is based in Sydney, Australia. Faye's design aesthetic pairs tailored, refined looks with fine detailing and stylized flowers. Her work has been featured in trade magazines such as Cake Masters and online trend-spotting blogs like CakeGeek, as well as in wedding blogs and publications, including, Style Me Pretty and Modern Wedding. Faye has a passion for teaching her techniques in local and international workshops, as well as on Craftsy.

Read an Excerpt


All That Glitters

Cake decorating is about making something sweet and precious. We make cakes to celebrate cherished friends and family and to express our love for them. Metallics are a wonderful way to symbolically show someone that they are treasured. Nothing can beat the prestige of pure edible gold. It will hold the spotlight and turn the glamour up to 'eleven'.

Gold and other metallics can be used on cakes in endless ways. There are many edibles with a brilliant shine and the applications and possibilities for design are limitless. I have tried in this book to include as many different materials and techniques as I can. I am lucky to have a busy cake studio where we work with new designs and techniques on a regular basis. The designs in this book draw on our work in the studio: the cakes we have loved the most and new ideas that have arisen from the working process.

The danger of metallics is to overdo it and end up with something more trashy than refined. There's nothing wrong with gold-on-gold-on-gold, as long as it's done right. The trick is artful application and an eye for design. Sometimes the best use of metallic is to highlight some fine details with a light touch. Sometimes, a liberal use of pearl, gold and glitter will be exactly the luxurious look that's desired.

Here are few things to think about when designing with metallics:


For example, if I'm using a lot of metallic leaf and highlighting, it may be best to leave the base icing with a matte finish rather than a pearlised one. The shine of metallics will be highlighted when set against a flatter background.


The texture of metallics can either be flat and shiny like leafing and lustre, or heavy and detailed such as gold painted mouldings. Use texture sparingly and intentionally. I prefer to place sugar flowers against less heavily textured parts of the cake, to avoid a 'messy' feel, and to keep some areas of the cake unadorned to highlight the sharp and beautiful shape.


Think about how the eye moves around the cake. Is there a strong focal point or a few smaller elements that lead the eye from one to the next? Careful use of metallic features will help in creating a unified design that's pleasing to look over.


Is the design symmetrical or asymmetric? Symmetrical designs often look more formal and structured; they are perfect for regal and classic styles and work beautifully with metallics. The details should look precise and deliberate. Asymmetric styles are often more relaxed and informal but should still be balanced. For example, the heavy metallic flowers on the Fall Foliage cake are balanced by the delicate 'sunset' airbrushing of copper and gold on the lower tiers and framed by the unadorned upper tiers.

I hope you will enjoy this book and find inspiration for your own cake designs. Thank you for joining me on this fun journey into the world of decorating with metallics!


I will leave you to select your favourite cake recipes, but in this book I have used a few things like meringue and ganache in the decoration of the cakes, and so I'm providing you with what I know are good recipes for these.



• 300g (101/2oz) caster (superfine) sugar


• 450g (1lb) icing (confectioner's) sugar

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Make sure the bowl is very clean. Whisk on a low speed setting until bubbles start to form, increase to high speed and continue whisking until stiff peaks form (a). You should be able to turn the mixing bowl upside down without the egg white falling out. Add the sugar in large spoonfuls, whisking on high speed after each addition and checking that the mix comes back to stiff peaks each time. Continue to whisk for 5–7 minutes until the peaks are smooth and shiny and if you rub the mix between your fingers, you can't feel any grittiness from undissolved sugar. Add any required colour and flavour to all or part of the mix by gently folding in flavour and/or colour components. Work quickly to avoid flattening the air bubbles. Pipe 'kisses', like peaked blobs about 3.5cm (13/8in) in size, onto a baking (parchment) paper-lined baking tray or dehydrator tray using a large piping bag fitted with a large round piping nozzle (tip) with an opening of around 12mm (1/2in). Bake in an oven preheated to 100°C (225°F) for 30–40 minutes until the kisses can be easily lifted from the tray and come away with their bases intact. Meringues can also 'cooked' by drying them in a dehydrator set to around 50°C (110°F) for 8–10 hours. Allow to cool completely.


Ensure all your utensils are very clean and free from grease. Add the egg whites to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sift the sugar through a fine sieve, add it to the bowl and stir. Begin mixing at a low speed until the mix is opaque and gluey, then increase to high and mix until stiff peaks form that fall over slightly at the tip. This can take up to 10 minutes or more. Add the acetic acid or vinegar (b) and mix until incorporated. I use the paddle attachment rather than whisk to avoid aerating the icing too much. Over-aerated icing can result in air-pockets and a bubbly finish when the royal is used as a coating and frequent breaks when used for piping. Glycerine may be added at the end: this will help the icing flow smoothly when used for piping and also stop the icing from setting rock hard when it's used to coat cakes.



• 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) white chocolate buttons


• 1.2kg (2lb 101/2oz) dark chocolate,

The method for both white and dark chocolate ganache is the same. Place the chocolate and cream in a glass or microwave-proof bowl and microwave on high for approximately 7 minutes until very hot. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon until all the lumps melt and the mixture looks smooth (c). This may take 2–3 minutes or more of stirring. Add the butter and glucose and mix until well incorporated. The function of the glucose and butter is to fill the gaps between the molecules of chocolate, which results in a smoother mix and nicer mouth feel. The use of butter also has the effect of tricking the tongue into thinking the taste is less sweet, which is especially important for the white chocolate ganache which can tend to be overly sweet. Refrigerate overnight to set and then bring the ganache to room temperature before use.


If you've found that designing cakes has become a bit of a passion, you will no doubt have accumulated a basic toolkit of equipment. These pages show what I use most often. I've divided the items up into categories, so you can see what is needed for each stage.


1. Serrated knife

13. Rolling pin

22. Silicone moulds

36. Florist's wires

I first began using edible gold leaf back in 2006. Although it had long been used to add accents on chocolates and fine desserts, it was not widely applied to larger areas on cakes. Once I tried it, I was hooked. Other coloured metallic leafs can be seen on cakes but, apart from silver leaf, they are not edible. Loose leaf is much trickier than transfer sheets as it takes very gentle handling. I rarely use it but it can have an appealing, softer look than the very polished results you get with transfer sheets.


All 24-carat gold and real silver is considered edible and can be found at art stores (remember to ask for transfer sheets!). I prefer to buy from a supplier that has a specified food-grade leaf, including a 23-carat that is a bit less expensive than the 24. In addition to 23-carat gold (a, top left) several alternative shades are now available – 18-carat green-gold (a, top right), 16-carat lemon gold (a, bottom left) and 12-carat white gold (a, bottom right). You can also find food-grade silver leaf in transfer sheet form.


The table below shows the quantities of leaf required for various size tiers, based on a tier height of 12.5cm (5in), and a sheet size of 8 x 8cm (3. x for golds and 9.5 x 9.5cm (3. x for silver. There can be variation in board size and icing thickness that will affect quantities, but allowance has been made for overlap and wastage.


These are one of the shiniest and most metallic of the edible decoratives and are brilliant for replicating beaded fabrics. Dragees (sometimes called cachous) are a hard candy with a polished silver shell. The silver colour is real silver, the same as silver leaf, and these beads usually contain gelatin. The beads are now available in coloured tints for some fun eff ects. I find that I use the silver variety the most.

Carrot shape (b, top left), flat bead shape (b, top right), baton shape (b, bottom left), rice shape (b, bottom right), pear shape (c, top left), seed shape (c, top right), 2mm (1/16in) sprinkles (c, bottom left), 5mm (1/4in) round (c, bottom right)


These are a mineral-based edible colour used to create a pearlised, shimmery or satin effect. They are usually composed of food grade mica and titanium, and edible food colours. Lustres can be combined with high grade alcohol and applied with a brush or an airbrush. They can also be dry dusted onto items with fat content, such as chocolate, or added to wet mixes, such as edible lace or gelatin. Colours include Signature Gold, which I very often use in my designs, but a whole range of powders are available (d), including Pearl White (e).


Sanding sugar has larger than normal crystals, the flat faces of which reflect the light giving a sparkly appearance (f). It will not melt when subject to heat and is available in many colours. Sanding sugar can be used to simulate water and snow, and is also used to embellish cookies or even as a textured finish over a whole tier of cake.

Jimmies are a bead-like edible that can have a pearlised finish (g). They are similar to sprinkles, and are smaller and more delicate than dragees. They can be used to create fine beaded patterns, although this can be very time-consuming to apply. However, it is a very effective way to add detail into a lace design.

Edible glitter is made from minerals such as mica, and is similar to craft glitter in appearance and texture (h). The particles are larger than those in lustre so it is not suitable for airbrushing. Edible glitter is normally applied with a brush to a surface made sticky with sugar glue or piping gel. The small particles can shed, but a spray of edible glaze will help keep them in place. Many glitters are food touch approved, rather than edible, and glittered items should be removed before serving. Check the labelling carefully before using glitter on cakes.

Metallic Techniques


In my opinion, hand painting is one of the best techniques to elevate a cake from ordinary to special. It's easy to customise painted cakes to match a theme or motif, and you won't need any extra equipment, so it's also very cost effective. Most commonly I will paint using high grade alcohol combined with petal dusts, liquid or paste food colours and edible metallic lustres.


Colour washes can be anything from muted tinges to bold neons. They add an arty edge to cakes and can be used to create striking blocks of colour as well as subtle ombre gradients. You can mix your own colours or add lustre for a metallic finish.

For covering large areas, add a drop or two of liquid colour into cake decorator's alcohol (95%) and paint using a large brush. Try to avoid having too much liquid in the brush, unless you are trying to achieve drip lines.

If creating an ombre look, start with the palest colour and gradually add more drops of liquid colour as you paint the deeper tones (a). Too much liquid colour in the alcohol can cause it to go streaky. Paint quickly and don't go over the same area too many times.

Metallics can also be painted as solid colour washes or brushed lines. Use a thicker mix of lustre and alcohol and paint with a large brush. The visible brushed lines can look great painted either horizontally (b) or vertically (c). They can be painted onto fondant and also work beautifully as a finish on a semi-frosted style cake.


Before you can start to decorate, you'll need to transfer your design onto a fondant-covered cake. Use a fine fabric such as chiff on or netting and an edible pen to trace the design onto the cake before adding colour and embellishment.

1. Trace your design onto a piece of fine fabric using an edible pen (d). Move the fabric away from the original template to ensure that you have transferred the full design (e).

2. Pin the fabric to the cake and trace using the edible pen (f). The design will transfer onto the fondant through the fabric.


Painting fine lines onto cakes requires a steady hand, but is quite a straightforward technique. It allows you to add personal touches, such as your own unique motifs and designs, or even elaborate monograms, names and dates with calligraphy.

1. Mix lustre with alcohol (a). For fine painting, it's better to use vodka or a similar alcohol with 40-70% alcohol rather than 95%. The slight stickiness of the lower grade alcohol will 'set' the painting to prevent smudging or shedding of the lustre powder. Use a thicker mix of paint for better coverage.

2. Paint the design using a fine brush with long bristles (b). The longer brush will make it easier to achieve long, smooth lines. Try not to go over the same area multiple times or it may become streaky. If it does, allow it to dry before painting over the streaks.


If you make a mistake, just follow this simple technique to remove any excess paint.

Paint over the area with a little water (c) and quickly blot with a tissue (d). You may need to repeat this several times to remove the mistake (e), but try not to use too much water or leave it on for long or it will dissolve the fondant and create a hole.

If the mistake comes off quickly the correction should not be very visible, but if needed you can dust a little cornflour (cornstarch) onto the area to remove any shine. Then repaint the blotted area to correct the mistake (f).


Many decorators get nervous about using gold and silver leaf, however it only takes a couple of practices to become competent with the transfer sheets, and then it becomes a fast way to add a luxurious feel to a cake. Of course the material cost needs to be factored into the cake price. Silver leaf is relatively inexpensive, but the golds can add a lot to the cost of producing the cake.


I generally use transfer sheets when working with gold or silver leaf on cake. The leaf is lightly attached to a backing sheet, which makes it easy to transfer onto the cake. Store the leaf in closed packets at cool room temperature or sealed well in the refrigerator. If the leaf becomes too warm, the wax of the backing sheet can meld to the leaf and cause it to go on very unevenly. For the number of sheets of leaf you will need, please see the table in Metallics at the beginning of this book.


Excerpted from "The Gilded Cake"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Faye Cahill.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

All That Glitters, 5,
Recipes, 6,
Equipment, 8,
Metallics, 10,
Metallic Techniques, 13,
Painting, 14,
Leafing, 18,
Airbrushing, 24,
Applying lustre, 28,
Cake Projects, 33,
Imperial Gold, 34,
Mademoiselle Meringue, 40,
Artful Appliqué, 46,
Molten Drizzle, 52,
Glam Rock Trio, 58,
Chocolate & Gold Splash, 64,
Treasured Laurel Lace, 70,
Fall Foliage, 76,
Golden Regency, 86,
Champagne Bubbles, 94,
Woodland Crown, 102,
Blush & Gold Colour Block, 114,
General Techniques, 123,
Assembling, 124,
Covering, 130,
Dowelling & stacking, 134,
Finishing, 136,
Templates, 140,
Suppliers, 141,
About the author, 142,
Thanks, 142,
Index, 143,

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