Monday, September 23, 2013

Sugar Paste Flowers

So long sweet Summer....Fall is now upon us. The change of the seasons means a change in the temperature and trees and plants and flowers. But with the beauty of Sugar Paste along with a bit of technique, a touch of craftsmanship and a LOT of patience, your cake can be still be blessed by any flower, from any season, any time. Sugar paste flowers (if done right) are not only realistic looking, but they are EDIBLE! 
At the International Culinary Center (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute), the curriculum of the Cake Techniques and Design course was co-created by Master Pastry Chef himself, Ron Ben Israel! You may also know him as the "Sweet Genius" on the Food Network. We were taught and given Ron Ben's sugar paste recipe to create these sweet works of art.  

"Are Sugar Paste Flowers difficult to make?" you ask. 

My answer is...they're not so much difficult as they are TIME CONSUMING. These flowers are not created in a's a process where each step requires time to dry (from hours to days depending on the humidity). You must also use your tools with a delicate hand in order to get the perfect thinness of your petals and leaves.  We are taught to keep our stations neat and tidy, because all the components can get very messy pretty quickly. Here's what my station looked like...

Most sugar paste flowers begin with a bud. We created different buds for various flower types, and allowed them to dry over the weekend on the racks to ensure that they dried properly onto the wire. 

Once the buds are formed and drying, the next step is to create the petals. You'll want to create extras of everything. When sugar paste dries, it becomes very fragile. It can easily crack or shatter if handled improperly. Accidents are inevitable and breakage will occur. Having extra pieces will help you troubleshoot a disastrous moment.

Once your buds and petals have all dried, you can start to assemble your flowers. One of my favorite flowers to make is a peony. Not all of the petals need to be dried in advance for this flower and can be created as you go. The petals need to form onto the shape of the bud. However, you still must allow each layer to dry before adding the next layer of petals. Here's what a peony looks like taking shape... 

The difference between a realistic looking flower and a fake one, is the depth of colors. This is created using petal dusts. You'd be surprised at how many colors you can actually find on a single petal or leaf...this is what makes them so beautiful. The petals can either be individually dusted in advance or after they are assembled all together. It really all depends on the type of flower and the nature of their anatomy.

This is my favorite part....but by the time you know it, you would have spent a whole hour dusting a single spray of flowers. Time flies when you're having fun!

After you've assembled and dusted your sugar paste flowers, you'll be ready to add them to your cake. We created a pressed sugar vase that we decorated with piping details and other sugar molds. 

Our flowers made it to the display window for all of New York City's passerby's to see. 

As you can see, there are a lot of components that go into making these lovely replicas of nature. Besides making the sugar paste, you'll need petal dusts, wires, all the proper tools, and time, before a single flower can adorn your cake. Your patience and attention to detail will be tested, but the reward will be worth it. Flowers are classic and timeless...they come in just about any color and various sizes to match your celebration. I hope you were inspired. Thanks for stopping by.

~Abs of Cakes~

Friday, September 20, 2013

the very hungry mommy-to-be

Hello again! Since the last time I've posted, I've fulfilled my lifelong dream...I attended and finished Pastry School! The International Culinary School in New York City to be exact. And I can tell you it was well worth the wait and every nickel I spent. I absolutely LOVED everything about it. I actually wish the curriculum was longer. Our school load was heavy and demanding and fast paced, but I welcomed every challenge presented to us. I was a sponge learning everything I could from my Chef Instructors, who by the way are top notch! Our class consisted of 13 students from all over the world, where no two people were from the same place. Attending the ICC cemented my passion for this craft and I realize that I've found my calling as a Cake Artist. This summer I earned a Certificate in Cake Techniques and Design. I have so much to share with you...too much to be summed up in one blog post, so let's start with this baby shower cake.

I'm sure you know someone who is either pregnant, or has recently given birth...'tis the season, apparently.  There must be something in the water. Seems like most of the cake requests I've been getting recently are for baby showers (many are pink...Girl Power!). In school, we were given a test to design a special occasion cake. As a class we voted on the type of occasion. Baby Shower prevailed. Here's what I came up with...

Every cake we designed in class required us to draw a detailed sketch in color and labeled with what each piece would be. This is the same process I go through with my clients for big cake orders. In a way, this becomes part of our contract. It's a blueprint for beginning on an order. From it, I am able to create a realistic itinerary and manage my time accordingly. 

I guess you can call this the "baby shower design for no one" cake. But if you like it, I can recreate it for your Very Hungry Caterpillar themed shower. As you can see, I was inspired by Eric Carle's beloved children's book. I wanted my design to be unisex and devoid of any cliche baby pinks or baby blues. 

This caterpillar baby was made of molded rice krispy treat and colored fondant.
These foods were made using modelling chocolate cutouts painted with colored cocoa butter.
Black royal icing freehand piped on a fondant covered board.
Here are a few other baby shower cakes designed for no one by some fellow classmates.
Creating all the little foods from the book were especially fun. Usually, my client would provide me with a direction for design, but the idea of a hungry anything at a culinary school made this theme that much more appropriate and easily became my inspiration. Stay tuned for more of my inspired cake creations that I learned in school. I promise you they are just as fun. Thanks for stopping by.

~Abs of Cakes~ 

P.S. I'll be back in California in mid-October and I am currently taking cake orders for your special celebration. Please feel free to contact me for all your cake needs. 

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