A few weeks ago I attended a cake decorating course at Planet Cake - the home of incredible cake decorating in Sydney. The course was given to me by someone very special and I was over the moon to be given the chance to improve my decorating skills. Entitled Basics 101, it covered shaping and ganaching a circle cake, and how to use fondant to cover and decorate the cake and cake board. The general theme was the Explosion Cake, where the middle of the cake bursts open and is adorned with fun wire fondant cut-outs.
Before completing this eye opening all-day course, I had only used fondant to decorate cupcakes. Decorating a full-sized cake is much more involved and there was no better way to dive into the challenge than with the help and guidance Planet Cake. The methods and little tricks taught in this course have made such a valuable contribution to my decorating skills and confidence in attempting new fondant adventures. Here's an overview of the stages that were covered in the course:
Cutting and Shaping
For me cutting and shaping cake is by far the scariest part of the process. I suppose this is linked to the idea that with just a slip of the knife your cake foundation could be ruined. When watching Ace of Cakes (one of my favourite TV shows), seeing them carve away at cakes with such speed and accuracy to create incredible shapes blows my mind. At this stage of the course we shaped the cake to remove any hard excess parts and then cut it into three even levels.
Ganaching is an integral part of creating the perfect foundation for the fondant to shape to, as ready-to-roll icing takes on the form that is underneath it. We started by placing ganache in between each layer of the cake and then moved to ganaching the side. This involved the cake being on a lazy-susan wheel in order slowly glide a metal scrapper around the edge of the cake to get a smooth and even layer of ganache. Finally ganache was applied to the top of the cake, aiming for an even, level and perfect edge to the ganache.
Fondant was used to cover the cake and cake board, which gave a great look to the presentation of the final product. It was during this stage that we also created the explosion in the middle of the cake and prepared the wire cut-outs to be stuck in at the end. I used three colours along with white: purple, and two shades of blue. I was very happy with the final result as the colours complimented each other well. The last stage included adding the circles cut-outs on to the cake and the coloured balls around the base.
It was an absolutely fantastic day of cake decorating and I learnt many new skills. My colleagues at work were able to enjoy the fruits of my labour and my Dad instantly asked me to make his 60th Birthday cake. I was happy to take up the challenge as I love nothing better than baking for family and friends, and it also gave me a great opportunity to re-enact the skills I learnt at Planet Cake. I decided to keep the general design of the cake but personalised the decorations for his milestone birthday and love of music.
I followed the same process that was done during the course, and have some future notes for my next cake decorating challenge:
1. Unlike at the Planet Cake where the cake was provided, I baked their lovely chocolate mud cake from scratch. I had to deal with a dip in the top of the cake, as it sunk slightly once it was removed from the oven. Next time I will turn the oven off and slightly open the door, but will not remove the cake straight away.
2. Ganache definitely helped in fixing the above problem, however one should never underestimate how much ganache is needed. Realising that you're going to run out is not a good feeling!
3. It is very important not to over-work the fondant and to stop it from drying out, particularly when attempting to fondant the whole cake and cake board.
The cake was an absolute hit with the Birthday Boy and the rest of the family (not to mention lots of looks of admiration from other diners at the restaurant). It is definitely the best part of cake decorating when you get to see how amazed, impressed and happy people are to see the cake and realise that it not only looks great but also tastes delicious! I can't wait for the next excuse to bake and decorate another one...stay tuned.