Friday, September 25, 2015

Cake Lace

For my in-law's, 50th Wedding Anniversary is over. I decided to bake the cake myself and I'll probably get in over my head but no matter! I can bake cake but decorate? Not so well. But since I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars for a cake, I've decided to make it myself. I have another post on just the cake if your interested.

I found a product called "Cake Lace" by Claire Bowman. You can find it on Amazon, Global Sugar Art or even Etsy. I bought the pre-mixed Gold color off of Etsy because it came from AZ. Global Sugar Art was sold out and I think Amazon ships from the UK. This is a product from UK so you might want to allow several MONTHS to get it. I was going to order the Soft Gold color for the cake but when I went to order it, it wouldn't have gotten here in time and yes this was Mid July for a party Sept 12. I could've paid the $50 to expedite it but I already have quite a lot in the materials I have and I guess I just didn't care that much. So if you want a particular color make sure you get it months in advance. I think the soft gold may only be sold in the UK but I'm not sure. I also discovered you can buy the lace pre-made off of Etsy as well if you want to skip the entire process.

This is a simple product that's pretty much idiot proof to decorate a cake. You can use any silicon mat product you like. I bought one called Serenity from GSA. I thought it was really pretty and elegant looking for a 50th anniversary party. Some of the mats will run you about $54 so they're not cheap, especially if you're just trying to decorate a cake for one occasion but it if you're into decorating a lot of cakes and the mats will be used a lot its a good value. The mat is really thin and floppy but transferring the mat to a cookie sheet after I've applied the cake lace has been fine. Just don't stick a finger in your design and your okay.

A little bit goes a long way, fortunately. I get a large scoop out, spread it over the mat, swiping from different angles to get the lace into the intricate designs. When your design looks filled, look at from different angles and levels and you will see places that are thin or not filled in well. Correct those and scrape the excess lace back into the bucket. Make sure to keep the lid on your bucket so the lace doesn't dry out.

The instructions indicate you can let it air dry for 4-6 hours or dry it in the oven at 70-80 C (or around 150-160 F for us in the States) for 10-15 min. Let cool and apply a second coat. It is difficult to get the cake lace in every, single, tiny little crevice that's in these designs. Trust me. I know. The second coat also helps it be a bit more pliable and that's good for wrapping around a cake. But if your really good at application, you may not need a second coat.

I tried the oven dry method and it seemed to work fine, but I mostly just let it air dry instead. It may depend on what kind of weather you're currently having. Its in the high 80's right now with some really high humidity temps so needless to say my A/C is on. If you're in a rush though go with the oven method.

You will need a good applicator for this stuff. Claire Bowman sells a spreading knife. Its cheap only about $12 or so but probably worth it. I didn't use this knife. I used a plaster spreader that kinda rubbery but it has a flat edge. It worked like a charm. I did try to use my off set spatula and it was horrible. Do not even try, trust me.

If you think your lace is done, you can test it by peeling back a corner of the mat. The lace should just pop right out. If you begin peeling it out and it tears easy let it dry some more.

Also a good tip, is to take a toothpick and gently remove so of the excess lace that may not of gotten scraped off. If you don't you might be able to see the lace through/around the design, which will need to be removed before putting it around your cake. Also, stretch the mat in different directions and the lace will pop free a little bit. You can also take a toothpick and gently free the lace from the tiniest areas before peeling the matt off.

The best way to get the lace out is to flip the mat over so the design is face down on your counter. Gently, fleck a corner of the lace out and begin peeling the mat back while gently holding down the lace. Only reveal about 2 inches of lace then scoot your hand forward and continuing peeling.

Once its out you can clean up any lace that didn't come off. In the picture below, you can see the gold in between the little petal design and a sheet of thin lace down at the bottom edge. I had a lot of clean up on that one.

You can can now store it. Simply take some wax or parchment paper and make a long envelope for the lace and fold the edges so it doesn't slip out and your done. This stuff doesn't require refrigeration so you can leave out on your counter until you need it for your cake.

The lace is a little fussy. Sometimes I thought I did everything right and the lace still tore coming out of the mat so there's little I can do about it except keep trying. I did get it to come out perfect several times but most times it tore or a design was ripped off and still stuck in the mat. I doubt it will matter once I get the lace on the cake though.

Also, don't get it wet. It will melt. I just put the lace on fresh buttercream and it stuck nicely. However, I did notice the gold color bled into the white icing after it was removed. The lace was on there about 3 days. I did worry about it but there wasn't anything I could do about if it was going to bleed. Below is a picture of the 6" top tier of the cake.

Another hard part was lining up the pattern. If you need 2.4 lengths of lace to go around your 8" cake then you have to use scissors to cut out a section or you may need to cut another section off another bit of lace to make the pattern line up. You can see in the picture above the red handle of my sword pick. That marks the back of the cake where my lace may not look the best. Remember, there is always a back to a cake.

List of Tips

1) Spread the lace in several different directions over the mat to fill in all the little designs
2) Apply 2 coats
3) After it dries for several hours, gently tug the mat to stretch it a little. This will help pop the lace out of the mat.
4) Use a toothpick to try to loosen the lace from those really tight tiny areas
5) Use a toothpick to clean the raised areas around the mat to prevent a thin cover of lace in areas you want to see through
6) Flip the mat face down and gently pull the lace down, peel the mat back, hold the lace down and repeat until the lace is out of the mat.

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Secretariat Festival

We went to the Secretariat festival last year hoping to get my quilt signed by Ron Turcotte and Penny Chenery. Unfortunately, the day we were leaving, the festival posted the Ms. Chenery was sick and wouldn't be there. We went anyway and got the quilt signed by Mr. Turcotte. This year was just the opposite. Ron Turcotte was injured earlier this year in a car accident and was unable to attend.

I went online and pre-purchased an autograph token for Ms. Chenery. You pay a little more but everything goes to support various charity organizations, so I don't mind. This also puts you in line first. You don't have to wait in line with the masses.

We got to the event at 9:00 a.m., and we saw the Superman Secretariat statue they had out front, which was new from last year. It was too cute and silly for words and I had to have a picture of it. I went into the building where all the signed merchandise and memorabilia is and got my token. I was amazed to find out that was #1. Ms. Chenery didn't start signing autographs until 11:45 a.m. so I went outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and watched some of the horse demonstrations. I have to admit those miniature horses are just too cute for words!

I enjoyed the demonstrations until 11:30 a.m. or so then I headed back inside the hall. The hall was packed with people and line was already to the door. I got up to the front and a lady was announcing that the line for the pre-sale autograph token holders would line up in front of her and I slowly moved my way through all the people who now had to back up for me. I admit I felt a bit smug while my evil twin inside yelled, "Get out of the way! I'm first!"

There was a nice couple behind me, who I asked if they would take pictures of Ms. Chenery signing my quilt. You have to have proof right? Anyone could write her name on it and say she really signed it. Besides, now that I have good pictures of Ron Turcotte and Penny Chenery signing my quilt, I may print them on fabric and iron them onto the back of the quilt. I held up my quilt to the people in line and I got a lot of nice compliments. One lady said that she now felt totally inadequate just getting photos of Secretariat signed and another gentleman asked me if I designed the entire thing. Yes. Yes, I did.

Ms. Chenery finally came in and when she got comfortable, I got to kick off the autograph signing. I held the quilt up so she could see it and I explained that it took me about a year and a half to get it done. She said it was beautiful and she seemed happy to sign it. Thank you Ms. Chenery!

The Secretariat Festival is now in its 8th year and seems to get bigger each year. There's a lot of retired jockeys now that do autographs and you wish you could sit with all of them and hear their stories. Charlie Davis, was Secretariat's exercise rider, who is on Ms. Chenery's right in the above pictures, is a very kind man that you could listen to for hours. There's a lot of memorabilia there too if you want something unique from Secretariat, Seattle Slew and other famous race horses. There's also tours to some of the breeding farms in the area such as Claiborne farms and Adena Springs Farms. And of course, there's the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Kentucky Horse Park nearby which always have things going on there. All in all, it was a really beautiful day to spend in Kentucky and to meet a very kind lady. Ms. Chenery, I hope you have many more years to share your wonderful story of the Big Red horse.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How to Make a 4-Tiered Cake

Since I've apparently lost my mind, I decided to make a 4 tiered 50th anniversary cake for my in-laws. Seriously, I don't think anyone sane (who doesn't already make cakes for a living) would try this. Why 4 tiers, you ask? Well, because 1) I couldn't decided on what flavors to make so I'm making them all and 2) because the design I have in mind needed to be even. See perfectly good reasons, right?

I ordered some cake mixes from Global Sugar Art and they were really good. One cake mix only called for oil and water since the eggs were already in the mix but the second one called for eggs. Apparently, they are changing their formula so you may or may not need to add eggs. Just follow the instructions on their packaging. You can check out all their products here.

While, looking for websites, videos and whatnot as to how to do this, I came across something call Cake Lace. This stuff is really cool. You basically smear this paste like substance into a mold, let dry and peel it out. It remains pliable and you just wrap it around a cake. It seems its mostly used on fondant cakes but I simply cannot stand fondant. It just tastes too gummy to me. Maybe there's a way to make it taste good that I haven't discovered yet but its just not for me. If I'm going to eat cake, I'm not wasting calories on something I don't like. Guess I'm a buttercream girl.

Anyway, with the Cake Lace stuff, which you can also find on Global Sugar Art website, as well as the silicone mat with all kinds of lacy designs, anyone can decorate a cake. I picked the design called Serenity for this project. You can use any kind of silicone mat that you like but I liked this design. I figured that since I can't decorate with icing, I needed something fairly simple yet pretty. The Cake Lace comes pre-colored and I picked Gold since its for a 50th Anniversary. They make a "Soft Gold" color which I would've preferred but apparently its only sold from the UK. I went to Amazon the last week of July, thinking I could order it and it would get here in plenty of time for me to use, but no. Estimated date of arrival was September 2. So I went with the Gold color and it is a bit more brassy but that's life. I've got a separate post on how to handle the cake lace.

The bottom layer is a 12" yellow cake with orange curd and whipped cream. The pans I have are 2" high so I made two and cut them in 1/2 but I only used 3 layers of 1" cake. The 10" layer is chocolate with chocolate ganache and raspberry filling. The 8" layer is strawberry and cream cheese frosting and finally the 6" is chocolate cake with mocha ganache and caramel. I made the orange curd, chocolate ganache, mocha ganache, whipped cream and cream cheese frosting myself as well the buttercream. I used about 18 lbs. of powdered sugar, 2 lbs. of butter, 20 lbs. of cake mix and around 3 dozen eggs. I wished I had had some kind of idea as to how much stuff I would need. That would've cut out a trip to the store.

It took me over 8 hours to slice, fill and crumb coat all the cake tiers with buttercream. I didn't have enough butter cream made to coat all the cake so I had to stop and make more.

I also used Satin Ice fondant product. I'm not a fan of fondant. Its just gummy and weird to me but I did find a good use for it. If you need to fill a cake with a jam or curd you need to have a barrier between the cake layers. If you don't 1) the filling will just disappear into the cake and/or 2) squish out the sides of the cake and make a mess of your icing. So you need a thick ganache to go down first or a thin layer of buttercream. This picture shows a layer of ganache down with a rope of fondant around it. The thiner filling can now go on top but not as high as the fondant. Then you can place another cake layer on top.

After the layers, I let the cake chill in the refrigerator for a while and then I crumb coated them. This thin layer of buttercream will hold any cake crumbs down and really helps prepare for the final layer of buttercream. The thing I really wish I had down was place a larger cardboard round under this cake. It just makes transporting a lot easier.

After the crumb coat had set, I applied a thick layer of buttercream to the outside of the cake. Then I used my dough scraper and placed it near the bottom at a 90 degree angle and slowly spun the cake gently taking off the buttercream and smoothing it at the same time. This takes a lot of practice and I admit my buttercream wasn't all that smooth looking but since I was using cake lace I didn't stress about it. Next, take the pan of the next layer up. For example, my bottom tier was 12" so I took my 10" pan and gently placed it in the center and used a toothpick to score the outline of the pan into the icing. We took cake dowels and inserted them into the cake staying with the 10" circle and cut them off just under the buttercream frosting. We used at least 8 per layer.

I put the cake together on site of the event and yes its a wee bit tilted. I may not look the best but it tasted great. One of my mother in-law's sisters, made the cover for the cake board. Foil is just blah so why not use something pretty like fabric. This was a simple white square of fabric and a large black dresden plate sewn on the middle with little pearl like beads sewn at the points.

The cake mixes, fillings and cake lace for this cake probably ran me around $175. I was quoted a small 3 tiered 10, 8 and 6" 2 layer each, buttercream cake that would feed 60 people for $350 and I didn't go to a specialty bakery store either. Most of the guest tried 2 flavors and took home cake and there was still plenty of cake for the serving staff to take home as well. It was definitely a lot of work. There's no doubt about it and it was a pain to move and it was super heavy. But if you plan ahead, bake all the cakes more than a week before and keep them frozen until you need to fill them, its not that bad. At least, I know more now, then I did before.