So, it’s been quiet’ish sort of week. I chucked out the TV license and cancelled my Sky subscription before I realised I can’t find any cake decorating programmes on iPlayer, either BBC or ITV; so I’ve shot myself in the foot a bit.
Problem is, since I spent all my money on going to uni these past three years (BA(Hons. doncha know!) I can no longer afford to run my car AND watch TV so one had to go, and I do love driving.
I even received a little refund from the Beeb so that was nice. I don’t miss the TV at all, in fact as it’s already hooked up to my pc watching iPlayer is just like watching real TV except it’s better because you can choose exactly when you want to watch and not be dictated to by the TV Times. Of course this means no more cake progs, but there’s always You tube so it’s fine, really, it is, I’ll cope, okay?
Before I go any further I would like to say that I tried desperately hard to put pictures showing each stage of the technique; I placed the relevant pics at the end of the lines describing the action, but then it all went stupid and the wrong pictures were in the right places and the right pictures were in the wrong places and eventually I got fed up and abandoned the idea; however, it’s now 12.10am and I’m off to bed. Who knows: tomorrow when I’m refreshed and raring to go (yeah, right, like that ever happens) I might try to add a gallery so you can make sense of the twisted directions.
I haven’t decorated any cakes this week but I have been R&D’ing; still looking for that recipe for fondant which will meet my quite strict criteria. It has to be strong, slightly supple, hard enough to hold it’s shape yet flexible enough to bend and not shatter (Does that sound like the ideal partner, or just wishful thinking?!) Anyway, I’ve mixed, mashed, melded and moulded and still not quite there, although I have high hopes for another recipe which I’ve come up with and will try out later in the week; I almost said tomorrow but forgot for a moment that something quite exciting is happening on Thursday, which necessitates tidying up the house tomorrow; I’ll tell you about it later, although it has absolutely nothing to do with cake decoration ( to be fair neither does this blog so far!).
I recently bought some ‘Silicone Plastique’, which is food-grade moulding material, so you can make your own moulds for sugar-crafting. The first couple of attempts were disastrous, but I think I’m getting the hang of it now. The thing is you have to find something suitable for casting, such as a nice brooch or something. I made a lovely plaque from an old brooch I’ve had for donkeys years, which I plan to use on the sides of cakes and it would even make nice cup-cake toppers so there may be a market there. Once I’ve perfected my fondant recipe I’ll be making lots of decorations and hopefully people will like them enough to pay for them.
Anyway, here’s that technique I’ve developed for adding colouring to the fondant; if you’ve ever done that you’ll know what a messy job it is; the colour stains everything it touches, including your fingers, and it takes such a long time; kneading and pulling and stretching and pushing for hours. But not any more! I start by putting about 100gm (that’s about three and a half ounce) of the prepared fondant into a arge sandwich/freezer bag (I found the ones which have a touch-close zip-fastener thingy on top are best) You need a good quality bag; those very thin, eco-friendly ones are just not strong enough for this.
So, your fondant is in the bag (shouldn’t we be calling it ‘sugar-paste’ at this point? I think so; don’t you?) So, your sugar-paste in the bag, about in the centre. Put the bag down on the worktop: don’t fasten it up! Gently begin, on the outside of the bag, to flatten out the dollop of SP (abbrev, such fun 🙂 with the flat of your hand and then roll out the SP from the centre toward the sides of the bag, not all the way to the sides mind. If, after every couple of passes with the rolling pin, you open the bag, put your fingers in and gently ease the plastic away for the top of the SP you’ll make it easier to manipulate. Turn the bag over and do the same finger-easing thing on the other side, then carry on rolling ’til the SP is quite thin. Now, tricky part first time you do it, but it gets easier: turn the bag inside out, with the SP sticking to one side of it, and now the SP is on the outside.
Lay the bag back down, SP side on top, and take a toothpick (a new one though, not the one you used after dinner last night!) or a small paintbrush and dip it in the food colouring medium. I prefer the concentrated ones, but they are a bit pricey, so for practicing I use the cheapo supermarket ones. Dab a small amount of colour across the surface of the SP, it’s very concentrated so less is more; easier to add a little later if the colour’s not strong enough, but damn near impossible to take any away. So, you should now be looking at something resembling your little cousin’s measles outbreak. Gently ease your finger under the edge of the SP and begin to roll it up as though Cleopatra was laying on it, gagging for Caesar.
Ok so far? Good. Now, turn the bag outside in, so the SP is back inside the bag: don’t fasten it. Begin to manipulate the SP through the bag, remember the SP is inside the bag and your fingers are outside the bag, yes I know you’re not an idiot but it doesn’t hurt to make sure. Remember those stress balls which used to be so fashionable, in fact there’s probably one down the side of the settee cushions if you look, use that sort of motion to pull, push and roll the SP and you should see the colour begin to mix with the white paste. Keep kneading until all the colour is evenly mixed, unless you fancy a nice marbled effect, in which case stop before all the colour is mixed through. I like the marbled effect and use it quite often; it’s nice for making lilies and orchards and other flowers where mottled colours abound.
Now; aren’t you impressed? No mess, no horrible sticky fingers, no shiny smudges on your nose, because you can put money on it itching when you’re in the middle of something like this. And no layers of multi-coloured dust enveloping the house: there’s not much to beat icing sugar’s ability to drift over the entire place and lay in the oddest corners, exactly where your mother-in-law will run her white-gloved hand to check that you’re keeping up with the housework.
Since last week I’ve baked another German Friendship cake; this time I added bananas and walnuts, but it just wasn’t as nice as last weeks which was apple, sultana and walnut, so unfortunately there doesn’t seem much point in freezing it, I guess it’ll just have to be eaten, what a pity never mind. This is a cake which begins life as a yeast culture; not sure where it began but rumoured to have been growing for a number of weeks. What you do is you take the jam jar full of culture which your very nice friend has given to you, and you nurture it for 9 days. You stir it, feed it with sugar, flour and milk on days 4 and 8 and then on day 9 you divide it fourfold, use one portion to make your cake and give three portions (or two if you fancy making another cake from it) to friends, hence the name, Friendship Cake, rather a nice touch I thought.
I made my first one with bramleys, crushed walnuts and sultanas and it was delish; very more’ish and kids love it,. It made quite a big tray full; unfortunately I left mine in the oven a little too long and it burnt on the bottom, but it was delicious anyway and now it’s all gone 😦
Luckily, I saved a portion of potion from the first batch so I baked another Herman the German Friendship Cake today, and now have three more portions to go at so the next one is going to be Carrot and Orange, I think.
Had a bit of a disaster in the kitchen though, which I’ll tell you about next week. x
Coming next week: The Day the Cake Escaped, and other stories (and Sugar-craft stuff too if I remember/can be bothered 🙂