Friday, September 30, 2011

A Quick Bag Prep Tip

For my demo last weekend I wanted to have my bags prepared and ready to go, but wasn’t quite sure yet which tips I would need for which bag.

I went ahead and filled the bags, remember you don’t want to fill your bags too full, half full or less is best.  I scrapped the icing down inside the bag and put on the bag tie.  The bag tie helps keep the icing from coming out the top of your bag, plus keeps the icing from crusting.
Instead of putting a tip on the bag, this time I took small squares of plastic wrap, held it over the coupler and twisted on the coupler ring.  Now the icing on this end of the bag won’t crust nor will it get squished out everywhere.

Since these needed to go in the bag with everything else I had to carry, I put them all in a large ziplock bag to keep them together.  At home you could still do this, but both ends of the bag are protected, so you really don’t have to.

When you know what tips go on the bag you can use the silicone tip covers.  These are great when using royal icing to keep the icing from drying as bad in the tip when you are switching from bag to bag.  Plus they come in handy when you are doing butter cream work and need to put your icing a side for a few hours.

Is anyone wondering what I used my bold and bright colors to make?  I did these fun ‘monsters’ during the demo.  You can really see my purple and a truer blue color in these pictures.  And look how black my black is.  The lighter green was made mixing leaf green and lemon yellow.

I will be checking my email and the facebook page on Monday morning, hoping that someone will share pictures of what they have been practicing this month so I can include them with the picture of my display cake in a wrap up post for September's Let’s Play Cake.  I will also post the new theme on Monday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let’s Talk About Black Icing

Black icing can be one of the tricky colors to get a pretty dark color with.

Yesterday I talked about how to get bold, deep colors:

1.  Start with a thicker icing than you will need.
2.  Add a good amount of color.  You are looking for a dark gray color at this point.
3.  Let the icing sit for an hour or two.

The next thing that I feel helps is when it come to black is that I always color small amounts of it.  I have yet to cover a whole cake in black and often only use black for accents so I will color ½ of a cup or so.

(Again, I don’t have great pictures here, but I am hoping they will let you see the differences in the shades.)

Here we have the gray color I started with.

I was only able to let the icing sit for 30 minutes.  You would really want to let it set an hour or more, but I was doing this last minute as a prep for my demo.  I know bad example of me, when I am suggesting to plan and color ahead.

In the Bold and Brighter colors posts, I did get my blue, green and purple to shades I was happy with so I didn’t have to do this next step. 

If the color you need is not dark enough after hour plus, then you will add more color to it.  Again it is best if you can let it sit for a while before use.

After two additions of color I got my black pretty close to where I needed it to be so I bagged it and got it ready to use.

Here are a few other tips about black icing...

Start with chocolate icing if possible, especially if you are covering large surfaces with it.  When starting with a brown icing, rather than a white icing, you will need less black coloring.  Also the chocolate can help mask the slightly bitter taste you can get with really deep colors.

I have also noticed that sometimes with darker icing colors you will find they separate a little.  You will get a colored liquid with a curdled white mixture, oddly, this almost always happens after I get it in the bag. 

Starting with the thicker icing will help keep it from separating as bad, since you have less liquid in there before adding in all the extra ‘liquid’ from the color.  But sometimes you still have the issue.  My fix for this is to add about a teaspoon of cornstarch to about a 1/2 cup of icing.  You can always add more if you feel you need to, but this will help thicken the icing back up and will help come back together and not be separated.

Something to remember with all dark colors, they can stain teeth, tongues, and mouths.  This may be fun for kids running around at a party, but not so great for guests at a wedding.

Freeze any leftovers!  Often I only need black for a few little details so I can use left over icing for that.

Alot of these tips can also be used to make red icing.  I didn't really mention red in this post because I do have a red icing experiment planned for the near future.  Keep your eyes out for it.

Next Post:  Friday, September 30 - Bag Prep Tip
I will also share pictures of what I used my bright and bold icings on.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bold & Bright Colors!

Often times in class I will have students that come in every week with pastel colors.  Sometimes that is our preference as we all have our favorite colors/shades.  But I’ve also noticed that if there is a student with brighter colors there are usually comments on how they get that color.

There are three keys to making bright and bold colors.

First if you know you know you are going for a bold color, start with a little thicker icing than you need.  If you are going to need medium icing, then start with stiff icing. 

Why is this? 

The second key to bright colors is that you have to add color!  I know I show you in class using toothpicks to get color out of the little jars, and this works with some of the colors like lemon yellow and rose pink,  since those colors get pretty bright pretty fast.  But with colors like blue, purple, green and the dreaded red/black you have to really add in some color.

You’ll have to forgive me on my not so great pictures here, but you can see that instead of a toothpick I used my favorite popsicle sticks.  Can you see how much color I added to the butter cream?

I wish you could see the true colors I actually made.  I used Wilton’s leaf green, violet, royal blue and black.

Now the third key is to plan ahead.  Start your icing early, even the night before you need it.  The colors in the icing will deepen as the icing sits.   This also means that you may need to use less of the color gel.  You may be able to see the slight color variation I got after letting them sit for 30 minutes.

If you are trying to match a color, then you really want to start early, because there is nothing more frustrating than getting the perfect match, putting it in a piping bag, decorating the cake, then coming back a couple hours later and having this darker color that is no longer a perfect match.  

I know you are looking back at those pictures and are probably thinking, well what about your funky gray that is supposed to be black?   Come back tomorrow, and I’ll add some tips and hints for dealing with the dreaded black color. 

Next Posts: 
Thursday, September 29 - Let's Talk About Black Icing
Friday, September 30 - Bag Prep Tip

Friday, September 23, 2011

Roll & Cut Mat Tip and Reminders

Do you have a Roll and Cut Mat or another mat to roll out fondant, cookies, pie crust or what ever else you want to roll out on it?

For years I would get one of those mats out, unroll it, reach to grab something and have the mat roll up again.  How many of us have used tape to hold the mat open?  Or maybe you use your salt and pepper shakers, bowls or what ever else is handy on the cabinet to grab and put on the corners of it.

Did you know there was actually a pretty simple fix to this?  Next time you roll your mat up for storage, roll it with the ‘top’ of the mat on the outside.  On the Wilton Roll and Cut Mat you would roll it with the markings on the outside.  When you go to use it again, it will lay flatter and will not roll inward on itself. 

Some reminders...

We have one week until the end of the month.  Where did September go?  If you practiced anything this month and took pictures don’t forget to send me the picture or post it on the facebook page so I can share it in the September’s Let’s Play Cake post.

If you haven’t practiced anything yet, why not do so this weekend?

October’s monthly promotion on the four week courses is 40% off or $27.

Decorating Basics – Tuesdays
Starts Oct 4th

Flowers & Cake Design – Wednesdays
Starts Oct 12th  Please note:  This date has changed!

Gum Paste & Fondant – Mondays
Starts Oct 10th  Please note:  This date has changed!

Want to learn something new?  I have a POPS class on the schedule as well.  We will make the Rice Krispie Treat Pops as well as some Cake Pops in fun Halloween themes. 

Project Class:  Halloween POPS!
Saturday, October 22nd
Cost:  $20

Don’t forget to check out the Current Class Schedule to see what classes will be offered in November and December.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Knee High Dusting Puff

If you have taken Flowers & Cake Design or Gum Paste & Fondant with me you have received one of these things. 

This is my trusty dusting puff.  A dusting puff is used to spread a fine amount of your dust or in our case powder sugar over your work space to help keep your fondant or gum paste from sticking.

Today, my dear cakers, I will be showing you how quick and easy they are to make.

First we need to get out a few items.

You will need a brand new (cheap) knee high, scissors, cup, measuring cup, and powder sugar.  It will also make clean up quicker if you lay out a piece of wax paper.

Step 1:  Take your knee high and place it around your cup, leaving a little slack in the toe area.

Step 2:  Fill your dusting puff.  For the puffs I hand out in class I usually do about 1/4th to 1/3rd of powder sugar.  You can do as much as ½ cup easily.  You can also fill your puff with all powder sugar, all cornstarch or a combination of the two.  I have found that powder sugar works just fine for everything I do with it. 

Step 3:  Remove the knee high from your glass, and tie a knot in it. 
Now you could stop at this point, leaving yourself a loose knot that you can open later and refill the puff.  I like to use and toss myself.

Step 4:  Cut right above the knot, and put a knot at the end or the remaining knee high.

Step 5:  Repeat Steps 1 through 4 two more times.

Now you have three dusting puffs to use.  You can store them in a plastic bag, or in the small ½ cup plastic containers.

To use, you just tap your dusting puff against the surface until you have enough dust out to suit your needs.

BTW:  If you haven’t taken Flowers & Cake Design or Gum Paste & Fondant, what are you waiting for?  Check out the Current Class Schedule tab to see when those classes are scheduled.

Next Post:  Friday, September 23 - TBA

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cupcakes & The Scoop

Do you have one of those kitchen utensils that you love and use for many things? 

(Sorry, not the best picture, but you get the idea right?)

This is one of my favorite kitchen tools!  It is originally designed for ice cream and holds 3 Tablespoons, slightly under 1/4th of a cup. 
What do I use it for? 


Trying to fill cupcake pans can be messy and if you aren’t careful you end up with some cupcake liners that have more or less than others, which creates uneven baking times.  With the ice cream scoop, you put the same amount of batter in the liners.

When they come out of the oven you have pretty cupcakes that are even in height.

I also use it for pancakes, large cookies, and meatballs.

Next Post:  Wednesday, September 21 - TBA The Knee High Dusting Puff

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shaggy Mum on the Flower Nail

In Decorating Basic’s Lesson 3 we do the Shaggy Mum on the cupcake with the swirl of icing.  What happens if you want to do it on something other than a cupcake?

I noticed the other day when glancing at the directions for a cake in the back of the lesson book that they suggest piping the shaggy mum’s on vanilla wafers.  This is a great tip, but this last week I wanted to make some of the flowers, and didn’t have any vanilla wafers on hand.

I ended up used my flower nail, with the rose template, wax paper and royal icing.  You could probably also do these in butter cream if you let the flower dry long enough before trying to move, but royal icing worked perfectly for my needs.

I first piped my three leaves, like we did on the cupcake.  You could leave the leaves off, and pipe those on your cake before adding the flower, but I decided to try it this way.

Next I piped a mound of icing, using tip number 12, in the center, much like we did for the pom pom flower.   This mound of icing gives a base for the petals to build off of.

I then piped the rest of the flower as we did before, remembering to pull my tip up and away in the direction I wanted the petals to go in.

The shaggy mums were left to dry about 24 hours before I removed them from the wax paper to use.  If I was doing them in butter cream I would increase drying time to two or three days.

I used the flowers along with the other things we do in the Decorating Basics class for a display for the store.

This is just one of the things I've ‘practiced’ from the three Wilton Courses last week.  Have you done any practicing lately?  If so, take pictures so you can share them in the September Let’s Play Cake!

Next Post:  Monday, September 19th - Cupcakes & The Scoop

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Messy Bag Tops?

When filling your plastic or featherweight icing bags, you should always fold the top of the bag over.  This will help keep the icing from getting all over the top of the bag, or even the outside of the bag.  Even when folding it down, after you fill your bags a few times the icing works higher and higher up the bag, and even using your hands doesn’t always press down nicely. 

I have a quick and easy tip for that.  I use a clean jumbo Popsicle stick to press the icing down inside the bag.

This is my second favorite use for the jumbo Popsicle sticks, the first is using them to color icing.

Here is a before and after picture to show you the difference.  In the first picture I haven’t scrapped the icing down yet.  In the second picture you can see that I scrapped enough icing down that you can actually see the Wilton logo through the icing and bag.

If you take a moment to do this ahead of time, you will have less icing sticking out the top of the bag to dry out and make a mess later on.

Next Post:  Friday, September 16th - Shaggy Mum on Flower Nail

Monday, September 12, 2011

Organize Your Tips

Does this sight look familiar? 

Maybe it’s just me, but after I clean my tips they tend to get dumped into a bowl or even a zip lock bag until I take the time to put them back in my tool box.

Taking a few minutes to organize your tips will help make it quicker for you to get your bags ready.  Instead of having to handle a bunch of tips to find the one you want, you just get to reach and go. 

The first step is sorting. 

Start by sorting out the types of the tips:  Round tips, Star tips, Petal tips, Leaf Tips, and so on.  Having your tips grouped by the type allows you to look for tips you need in sections, rather than having to look over every tip you have.

If you visit the Wilton website you can see all the tips they offer broken down by types. There is also a page in the Wilton Yearbooks that will give you the same information.

Next sort by the numbers.  Generally in each tip group the smaller the number the smaller the opening of the tip.  I put my tips in order from smallest to largest.  Again this will help when searching for the tip you want. 

I often suggest that instead of trying to get one of each tip Wilton makes, you should see which tips you use more often and have multiples of those tips.  When I am sorting and storing these tips I will stack the multiples together.  This means you have more space for other tips types and sizes in your container.  I will also stack tips together if I only have one or two of a size that I don’t use often, and need a little more space in that tip group for others. 

You want your most used tips to be easily accessible.      

After your tips are sorted you will need to figure out what you want to put them in to help keep them organized.

Wilton makes a tip save case, in two sizes.

( This photo was borrowed from the website.)

They also have the Tool Caddies that have places for your tips.

Or you can get creative and think outside the box by using any kind of container that has compartments.

Below is a close up of my tips, so you can see that I have my rounds, stars and petal tips in rows, smallest to largest.  If you look closely, you can see that I do have two stacks of some types like the 3s, 12s, 16s and 21s.  This is because I have too many to just have one stack.  You may not have that issue, but remember you can usually stack about 5 or so high.

I do actually have more tips that what is shown here, but these are the ones that I use most often use, so I keep them in my Tool Caddy.

If I have learned anything about organizing cake supplies is it that you have to figure out what works for yourself.  While one thing may work great for me, it may not be the best thing to suit another person’s needs.  I have tried each of the above containers, and the one that currently suits my needs is the Wilton Tool Caddy with the tray in it.  In the future I will re-evaluate, to see if it is still working for my needs at that time.

Leave a comment and let me know what type of container you store your tips in.  Does it work well for you?  Did you sort your tips when putting them in it?

Next Post:  Wednesday, September 14th - Messy Bag Tops

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'm one proud teacher!

It’s been one of those weeks where I have been busy, busy, busy doing things but unfortunately not the things I really wanted to do.  Instead of working on blog posts, I had to work on displays for the store.  Thankfully the displays have been dropped off, so I can cross those off my list and move on to the more fun stuff. 

Last night I attended the Taste of Home Cooking School and the Cake-Off.  I’m so proud to say one of my past students won in the novice division.  

Dylan's cake was awesome!  It is a buttercream cake, airbrushed with buttercream pipped plus fodant/gumpaste decorations.  Look at all that detail he put into it?

Since I was out late I didn’t get a chance to type up the blog post I had intended for today.  Instead, I will share with everyone the link to a photo gallery from last nights events.

Be sure to check back Monday, for the post about organizing your decorating tips.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Got Dirty Tips?

In today’s post I am sharing how I clean my decorating tips.

First I take a small knife, and cut a slit down the coupler.  This makes it easier to pop the coupler out of the bag.

I separate out the tip covers and bag ties as these don’t usually need as much cleaning as the other stuff.  The tips and couplers go in a jar with hot soapy water.  Just make sure the jar or container closes very well.  Getting dirty, soapy water everywhere is never a fun thing.

Close up the jar and shake it around.  If the icing in the tips has had time to dry out you may want to let them soak a little while.  I will repeat the shake, shake, shake with fresh hot water if I need to.

Next up I used the tip cleaning brush on any tips that still had some icing in them and tossed them all in a pan with some water and a little soap.  The pan goes on the stove for 10-15 mins, until it boils.  For me this helps really clean any left over greasy off the tips. 

This is my small handy dandy strainer or colander.  I love using it for my tips because it is perfect size.  After the tips are clean I dump them in it to rinse. 

Lastly I just lay them out on a dish towel to dry, making sure none of the tips are stuck inside of each other.

While I am really bad about putting off cleaning my tips, one of the reasons I have so many, I will be honest and say these are all of the tips I used last night making stuff for display pieces.  Eek!! 

If I have some tips that have been waiting a while to be washed I have skipped the shaking step, and just put everything in the pan of water.  I’ll heat it on the stove for about 10-15 mins, rinse the tips, add fresh water and bring it to a boil again.  After the second boil I’ll use the tip cleaner brush to clean any stubborn tips then boil them once more.

You can put your Wilton tips through the dish washer.  You want to either use the mesh bags they have for them or close them in a compartment that they will not fall out of.

Wilton decorating tips should never rust, but they will discolor if you leave them sitting in water for long periods of time.  Also some dishwashing liquids, usually those with lemon, can cause them to discolor.  There is nothing wrong them if they do discolor, other than them not being as pretty.

I dropped the bag ties and tip covers in my jar and gave them a few shakes as well.  I don’t put them in the pan with the boiling water though.

How do you clean your tips?

Next post:  Friday, September 9thOrganizing Your Decorating Tips


Friday, September 2, 2011

Write on your Cakes!

Why is writing on a cake so terrifying to many of us?  Even I went threw a period where I would avoid writing on cakes, much like I avoided roses.  Now though, I know that the more you practice, the better it gets.  Surprising how that works huh?

My first helpful hint to better writing on cakes is simply to practice!  While you can practice writing on your practice board it is a bit of a different than actually writing on a cake.  Instead, flip a cake pan over and write on the bottom of it.  This will give you the feeling of being on a cake and the reminder that you can’t just rest your wrist against the ‘cake’.

Use Message Press Sets, these give you letters to trace much like you do on the practice board.  The Message Press Sets often help people with the size and spacing of letters.  Wilton makes two different styles with two different fonts. 

What about those letters that you just can’t seem to keep in a straight line?  I take one of my viva paper towels (wax paper would work too) and lay over the cake.  I can use the edge of the paper towel as my guide for writing the letters, which helps keep them in a straight line.  I have also found it helps if I turn my cake at an angle when I write.

Relax and move your whole arm, not just your wrist.  Write much like you would if you were writing on paper with a pen.

You can also write your message in the same color as the icing on your cake first.  This helps make it easier to remove letters if you do make a mistake and it will give a neat little raised effect for the letters. 

If you are feeling daring you can always pipe the letters in one color of icing using a tip 4, then pipe over that in a second coloring using a tip 2 or 3.

You do want to use your thin consistency butter cream for writing.  Keeping your bag at a 45 degree angle will help keep your lines more rounded.  Also don’t forget when piping to keep your tip slightly above the surface.  If you drag your tip along/in the icing you will have a lot of problems removing letters later if need be. 

If you do need to remover a letter, toothpicks work great.

Remember, spelling counts!  Write your message on something else before you put it on the cake, just to double check that you have everything correctly.  Plus a run through, may help you feel more comfortable when you write on your cake.

Anyone have any fun plans for the weekend?  Me, I’ll be working on displays for the store, as well as some more blog posts for here.  Hope everyone has a great and safe holiday weekend! 

If you practice anything this weekend don’t forget to take pictures so you can share it in this month’s “Let’s Play Cake!” 

Also if you do any cakes for the holiday, feel free to post them on the facebook page under the folder “Show off your cakes here.”

Next Post:  Tuesday, September 6th.