It seems the bar has been raised for homemade cakes lately – people I know (and my sister in particular) have become their own cake bosses, creating amazing bakery-quality cakes at home. The cake decorating section at Michael’s and other craft stores makes it easy to aquire the tools you need – and the colours, stabilizers, even lazy Susan cake stands that allow you to twirl as you decorate. And there has been a flurry of cookbooks dedicated to the art of the cake – one of the latest is Creative Cakes by Rosalind Chan (Whitecap), a cutting-edge cake designer and instructor who holds several pastry degrees including a Masters in French Pastries from the Ritz Escoffier in Paris and a Masters Diploma from The Wilton Cake Decorating School in Chicago, where she has been inducted into their Hall of fame. She’s also a Certified Master Sugar Artiste with the Michigan International Cake Exploration Societé.
In Creative Cakes Rosalind shares 14 cakes inspired by the countries and flowers of the places she’s visited; Japan, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Russia, Australia, the U.S. and Canada. Geared toward intermediate and advanced cake bakers, there are enough templates, how-to’s and step by step photos that beginners can follow along if they’re up for a challege. Each cake demonstrates certain cake decorating skills, like making the perfect fondant, piping, molding or making edible glue – enough to learn to come up with your own custom creations. As for recipes, you’ll find classic toolbox recipes like red velvet, devils’ food, macarons and marzipan. Whether you’re planning to create your own wedding cake, show-stopping birthday cakes or just want to learn how to make edible flowers, it’s all here.
And if your goal is to make flowers and leaves – something even beginner cake makers can utilize to dress up homemade cakes, the following is an excerpt from Creative Cakes, by Rosalind Chan (Whitecap Books).
How to Make Flowers and Leaves
There are several ways to make flower petals or leaves. Any of the following methods can be used, and you should try each of them at least once to decide which works best for you. Both leaves and flowers are important elements in cake decorating.
Mexican Hat Technique
This technique is used to make the basic shape for small flowers and the calyx for larger flowers. It is called the Mexican hat technique because the shape of the cone when the sides are flattened resembles a Mexican sombrero.
1. Shape a small ball of gumpaste into a teardrop or cone.
2. Flatten and pinch out the edges at the base (with the pointed end up), using your thumb and index fingers.
3. Transfer the paste to a non-stick board and, using a small rolling pin, thin the flattened edges from the centre out to the edges.
4. Position the flower-shaped cutter in the centre and cut out the shape.
5. Lift the shape off the board using the narrow end and, with the pointed end of a silk veining tool, make a hole in the centre of the flower or calyx and soften the edges.
The Ridge Technique uses florist wires and a rolling pin.
1. Roll a small amount of gumpaste into a sausage shape.
2. Using a small rolling pin, flatten the sausage and roll away from the centre toward the outer edges of the paste on both sides, leaving a thick ridge in the middle.
3. Insert the florist’s wire two-thirds of the way into the thick ridge.
4. Position a leaf or petal cutter over the paste with the raised ridge in the centre and vein as required with the wire facing up.