Sunday, December 9, 2012


I've been a bit obsessed lately with this simply-designed cake style. I first noticed it through cakes done by one of my favorite cake designers, Three Little Blackbirds cakes, which is based in Colorado. You can see her stunning creations on her website, here. You will want to hang out on her site awhile, I think. I always have a hard time looking away from her wonderful cakes!

If you click onto her blog, you will see a tutorial on covering cakes with ganache for a style she calls "simply ganache." It looks simple, but it actually takes a lot of time and practice to get the ganache that smooth and perfect. I encourage you to take a look at her tutorial, though, because she gives some really good tips and shows a great technique for covering cakes this way.

Here is my version. I was really pleased with how it turned out!

It's not perfect. You can see some little bumps and non-smooth spots on the top. Like I said, this takes practice! I do love how "simple" it is in that it's not over-decorated or fussy. I also really love the discipline of learning a technique like this. When you can learn to do something like this really well, it becomes the foundation for many, many other things in cake decorating. This is the literal foundation for smooth fondant, for example.

A few tiny gumpaste flowers and a butterfly adorn the top.

This next one is my favorite example. A couple of weeks ago, my sister had a milestone birthday and I made this cake for her. I used the simple ganache technique and I love, love, love the final result! She loves cake and decorating, too, so I was very happy to be able to give this one to her. (And to help her eat it!)

Notice the cake plate, too. It is my favorite of all that I own (and I own a lot now!). I tell you, a cake stand is the perfect compliment to a cake!

Here are a couple more pics of that cake. Try to ignore the messy kitchen background!

Did you notice the bow, too? I'm getting better! Thanks to Rebecca and a magazine tutorial!

On the top are a few fondant flowers. Simple. Beautiful. The perfect surround for the one candle.

For those of you who want to try this, here are some tips and instruction. First, make sure your cake is level and trimmed so that it is also even on the sides. This will make it much easier to cover evenly. You want the sides of the cake itself to be 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch smaller than the edge of the cardboard round underneath the cake.

After you stack the cake, fill in any gaps between the layers with ganache by piping it into the space and smoothing it out with an offset spatula. Then do a quick crumbcoat over the entire cake. This will keep the crumbs from destroying the final coat. Don't worry about getting this entirely smooth, but don't just glop it on either.

Once the crumb coat has set (this doesn't take long at all), apply your final coat, first to the top and then to the sides, using an offset spatula. Smooth it first with your offset spatula, then with a straight-edged bench scraper. Fill in any gaps or holes with a little ganache, then smooth it all down again. Keep repeating until it is mostly smooth.

For the top, you can use the upside-down method as demonstrated by the Three Little Blackbirds tutorial. Or you can smooth it with an offset spatula. I used the upside-down method for my sister's cake and the spatula method with the other cake, shown at the beginning of this blog post. I'm trying to practice the spatula method because it is a skill I really want to learn. It's a little more challenging, but if I can master it, I think it will make the overall process quicker and easier.

Refrigerate for about half an hour to let the ganache completely set. Then use heated metal tools (the bench scraper and the offset spatula) to completely smooth the ganache. Again, the Three Little Blackbirds tutorial will show you exactly how to do this using hot water to warm the tools. Make sure you wipe your tools often on a paper towel.

There is definitely a lot of back and forth and repetition with this technique, but the result is well worth it and the more you do it, the faster it will get.

One of these days, I will put a tutorial of my own together for you all!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Horsing Around

Last week, I had the pleasure of creating this cake for a little boy who turned 3 years old this weekend. He had a horse-themed birthday party and his Mom, a friend of mine, wanted a cake to match.

She approached me about a month ago and I went a little crazy looking up ideas and thinking about it all. My poor friend! In the end, I think she was happy with all of my excited efforts!

When someone starts talking about a cake, I can't help myself! My brain starts spinning with ideas and the process of figuring out how to do new things.

This cake really was a whole lot of fun to do. It is definitely one of my favorites! And it included a lot of firsts for me, including the sweet little horse on the top.

I love how all of the little details came together. Like how the little rope hanging on the side of the barn connects to the name on the front of the top tier.

And the little bucket of apples with the same wood-grain detail that is on the little horse barn.

To do the wood-grain look, I started with brown fondant, measured and cut to size. I then took a knife tool and scored fairly deep lines spaced evenly to make the "boards." With the same knife tool, I made very shallow lines parallel to and in between the deeper lines. These shallower lines are the grains of the wood. This alone would work, but the whole effect is better with some added color. I added color by taking some dark brown gel food coloring mixed with a little vodka and painting it lightly onto the fondant. With a dry paper towel, I wiped some of the moisture and color away from the surface, leaving deeper color in the grooves.

I really liked the pop of red that the apples added to the top, especially against the darker brown. So, I added more in other places! Lots of little apples are scattered around the cake.

And did you notice the tiny cowboy hat?

Or the tiny little horseshoe above the horse's head?

One of the most time-consuming little detail pieces was the little hay bale. I really, really love how it turned out, but it took me an hour to do!

I started with a little rectangle of yellow fondant. I then used my extruder to make thin lines of yellow fondant that I cut and used to cover the sides of the rectangle to make it look like hay in the bale. I cut two more lines to wrap around, so it looked like the bale was bound. Finally, I cut teeny tiny pieces of fondant and placed them one by one with a toothpick onto the ends of the hay bale so that it would look like the whole thing was a bound pile of hay. It worked like a charm! But placing those tiny little dots of fondant took awhile.

By the way, I think I've mentioned this before, but I use this type of extruder for my fondant. (You can also find it at Michaels.) I used it with a different size and shape plate to make the rope that you see on the cake. The trick to making the fondant come out nicely without sticking and tearing is kneading small amounts of glycerin into the fondant until the fondant is very stretchy but not sticky. Also take a cotton swab and brush glycerin onto both sides of the extruder plate and in the barrel of the extruder. This technique has saved me many headaches!

The cake itself was vanilla with chocolate buttercream filling. It was all covered in chocolate ganache and fondant. The little barn was also cake!

I have it on good authority that the birthday boy loved his cake and that he had a very fun birthday. That is the best thank you there is! Happy Birthday Cal!