Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Posted by Dharm
Although I've been baking cakes from a very young age, I never had any rhyme or reason to decorate them. Sure, I've had lots of experience in covering a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and maybe even a little ganache. But that was it.
And then everything changed when my son Michael turned one!
That was when I decided that I HAD to make his birthday cake and not order one. That decision meant that I had to learn to decorate it too.
The first cake I decorated was for Michael's First Birthday. I baked a butter cake in a Wilton Teddy Bear pan and the cake came out of the pan with the pattern embossed on it. Thus, it was fairly straightforward to pipe out an outline on the embossed pattern and then fill in the outline with piped stars. Easier said then done though!
Due to a lack of experience, I didnt realise that I should have iced the mouth and nose first before piping around it. So, to compensate, I used M&M's for the mouth and nose. After doing that, I realised that this made the bear seem a little evil!
It also took a lot of time to decorate the cake, basically due to my inexperience.
Nonetheless, I though it was a pretty fine effort for a first timer and what mattered most was that my son was pleased with his Teddy Bear cake.
The following year for his Second Birthday, he had developed an interest in Construction Equipment. Although he had been hinting at a Dinosaur Cake the whole year, he suddenly decided he wanted a Bulldozer for his birthday cake.
I had spent the preceding few months before his second birthday doing some research on how to transfer patterns on to a cake. What you are about to read is with the benefit of hindsight and gleaned from my failures and lessons learnt. Hopefully it will be simple and easy enough to follow and you wont have to learn the hard way!
"How do I ice the cake with icing so thick then?" I hear you ask. The trick here is to 'pat' the icing on. Take an amount of icing in your hands (of course
make sure your hands are clean!) and press it out onto the cake. Flatten the icing, spreading it out slightly as you do so - much like you are lining a tart pan or mould. The icing will not be smooth but dont worry. Once the cake is covered, smoothen out the icing by dipping a metal spatula in hot water, wiping it dry and then smoothening out the icing.
And there you have it! This is the Bulldozer cake that I iced using the method described above.
The following year, for his Third Birthday, I made him an African Elephant. I used the same method as above but with a slight difference. I created the base icing out of three different colours - for the grass, the middle and then the sky. Also, I used melted chocolate for the outline.
Having only decorated two cakes before this, I must say that I was amazed at how well this cake turned out. The Lovely Wife was equally amazed and to this day she says – “that cake was made with 20% skill and 80% love!” Proof that with a lot of dedication, anything is possible!
Cake decorating didn't scare me anymore and I think I was really getting the hang of it. It was still hard work, but the happy look on my children's faces was reward enough. It was then time to celebrate my daughter Sarah's First Birthday. Her brother used to affectionately call her Bunny and so I decided on a Bunny Cake for her.
This cake was another labour of love as would you believe that my icing set broke on me halfway through the decorating? I stayed up until almost midnight finishing the cake using various methods of ingenuity to pipe out the icing. I have since learnt the art of using piping bags rather than an icing set.
For my son's Fourth Birthday, I made him this Dinosaur Cake. For any of you that have been forced to learn about Dinosaurs, this particular dinosaur is the Carnotaur that was little Michael's "most favourite dinosaur in the whole world." I added a few of his toy dinosuars around the cake to make it seem like the Carnotaur was stalking them!
Practice really makes perfect and for Sarah's Second Birthday, I made her this Tigger Cake. I used some store bought plastic grass and coconut trees to further decorate the cake and give it more character.
So you see, decorating cakes is really not that difficult. All it takes is a little patience and it gets easier the more you do it. I still dont think I'm particularly skilful at cake decorating but I think the more I do it, the better I get. It doesn't really have to be perfect either and the only thing you really need though,
to make it very special, is a Whole Lot of Love!
Speaking of Love, with Valentine's Day tomorrow, it's not too late to bake a cake for your other half. A simple square or rectangle cake decorated with a heart would be super. Or maybe his/her favourite sports team logo or even their favourite cartoon character. The possibilities are endless!
The next time I write, I'll share my experience in making 3-Dimensional Cakes as well as share with you my experience in hosting Themed Birthday Parties for the kids. See you soon and in the meantime, Happy Valentine's Day!
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This Post was written by Dharm from Dad ~ Baker & Chef