Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Separator Poles

I thought for quite a while on what to use to make the separator poles for the cake.  I could have just stacked the tiers on top of each other, but I love tiered cakes, and needed a place for all my awesome flowers, lol.  I had a lot of different ideas - some doable, some not.  I finally settled on wooden dowels covered in the colors of each branch of the military.  I was in Washington DC a few months ago, and found a display of military ties in a store, and took a picture of them. 

I purchased 1/2 inch wooden dowels from the hardware store, and had them cut to length, and sharpened on the ends.  I had to be able to push them into the dummy cakes, so they had to be sharp.  I then wrapped black floral tape along the length of the dowel rods so that the fondant would stick to it better:

So, I colored the fondant the appropriate colors, and rolled out strips of fondant and attempted to wrap them around one of the dowel rods.  Three tries later (and miraculously, no dowels were flung across the kitchen), it was evident that this was not going to work.  So, rather than have crappy looking fondant separators, I chose to use satin ribbon to create the separators. 

I laid the ribbon out on the table, taped the two main colors together on the back, then wrapped it around the dowel rod.  I wrapped the dowel rod with double stick tape before I attempted to tape the ribbon on.

It went fairly smoothly doing it this way.  Here are the finished separators:

The ends are taped so they wouldn't unravel, and so that they would fit smoothly into the dummy cakes.


The bottom tier of the cake featured swags of red, white and blue.   I used my pasta roller, and rolled out the fondant and placed it on my work mat.  I then used a ribbon cutter (from Geraldine Randlesome/Creative Cutters) to cut a ribbon the width that I wanted.  I then cut the ribbon to length (a little longer than I needed for the side of the tier) and flipped it over.  I folded one edge over (VERY lightly - you do NOT want a crease in the fondant) to produce a soft fold on one side.  I then wet the spots on the cake where I was going to attach the ends of the swag and placed the swag on the tier.  This is the same method that Geraldine teaches in her classes, btw.

I started with the red, and did red all the way around the tier.  I left some space at each 'corner' between the swags.  I don't really know why, I don't really know what I was thinking.  One I had the red done, I proceeded with the white and blue ones.  In addition to wetting the cake near the corners, I also wet the flat part of the previous swag, so it would be stuck on there pretty good. (I promise this will all make more sense when you see the pictures!).  After attaching each swag to the tier, I trimmed the ends with my palette knife to make them look better, and smoothed the edges with my finger.

After I finished with the swags, I took a look at the cake:

I knew I had to do something to cover the corners, but didn't really have an idea.  I had made yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbons, but they would not sufficiently cover the corners.  I started to freak out, and called JEM for her opinion.  We ended up coming up with the idea to put red 'ribbons' over the corners, so I went ahead and did that:

I then tried to put the yellow support ribbons on the corners, and they just didn't look right.  After another consultation with JEM (What would I do without her?!?!?!?!?!), I cut out some stars, painted them gold with luster dust and vodka, and attached them to the corners:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fly like an Eagle..................

Another element to the cake were eagles.  In my original plans, there was to be a gumpaste eagle on the top of the cake with wings outspread, and would have been overlooking the bridal couple (aim high, right?).  Well, needless to say, time got to me, and it didn't get made.  I had also planned to have eagles on the sides of the middle tier.  I was torn between trying to pipe them and use chocolate molds.  Well, after the success of piping the tiny eagles for the military logos, I figured I'd give it a shot hand-piping the bigger eagles.

I looked at the logo's that had eagles on them, and decided I liked the eagle on the US Marine's one the best.  So, I blew up the image on my computer until it was the size that I wanted for the side of the cake.  I then taped the images to a board and covered them with saran (like you would for run-sugar).  I decided on which tips to use (I think 3 or 4, not sure), and piped the eagle over the image.  They came out pretty good:

This is the eagle, before he was painted and dusted.  

I piped ten (10) of them, even though I only needed 5.  I figured this way I would have my pick of the best ones.  Once they were all dry, I painted them with a light brown color, then dry dusted them with Old Gold luster dust.  

They came out fantastic!!!

I didn't paint them with luster dust/vodka mixture because I really don't like how it looks when it dries.  It kind of dries splotchy to me.  This produced a much better looking product, in my opinion!


US Military Logo's

Part of my vision for the cake, was to have the US Military branch logos/emblems (not really sure which they should be called), on the sides of the top tier of the cake.  So, I started my search for them quite a while ago (November I believe).  In my search for them, I ran across something on the US Navy website that talked about 'authorized use' of the logo.  It got me thinking about copyright issues, etc....  Knowing that the cakes are photographed at cake shows, and sometimes those photographs are purchased by ACD (American Cake Decorating) and probably other publications, I wanted to be sure that (1) I did not get in trouble for duplicating the logo and (2) that the photos of my cake would be publishable should the publications want to publish it. 

So, through some research, I found email addresses for each branch of the military and emailed each branch seeking permission to duplicate the logo.  I explained who I was, what I wanted to do, and my purpose for such use, and respectfully requested permission to duplicate the logo.  I first emailed the Navy, and upon successful permission from them, I then emailed the other 4 branches. 

Here is the text of the email that I sent to the US Navy:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a cake decorator, and compete in numerous cake decorating competitions.  I have earned many First Place ribbons, trophies, and a Best of Show Award.

I am entering a wedding cake competition in which the theme is 'Holiday Cakes'.  I have chosen Veteran's Day as my holiday in order to produce a cake that honors the branches of our US Military.  I would like to include a replica of the US Navy Emblem on the cake, and in looking for it online, found this email address in order to request permission to replicate it for use on my cake. 

Thank you,
(my name)

Much to my surprise I received a response pretty quickly!  Even more surprising was being told that I could duplicate the logo for the purpose I expressed in my email!  With the approval of the US Navy, I then set out to email the rest of the branches.  I received permission from the US Army, US Marines and US Air Force.  I never did receive a response from the US Coast Guard, but through my research learned that in times of war, they come under the direction of the US Navy.  So, since I had permission from the US Navy, I concluded that I had permission from the US Coast Guard.

Along with each email response, I received a graphic file that had the branch's logo in it.  Here is a picture of the logos, after being taped to a board and covered in saran (in preparation for piping them):

I actually made up two of these boards....one to pipe the designs on, and the other to fill in the backgrounds using the run sugar method (royal icing).  I piped each design element using royal icing, and let them dry before painting the gold elements gold.

Here they are after piping the designs:

This is the first time I ever attempted to hand-pipe an eagle and the American flag.

 Coast Guard
It was kind of fun piping the anchors!  I cleaned up the edges of the flag with a damp paintbrush (that's how I got the nice point at the bottom too).

It was a little challenging piping the elements on this one, but they look great!

By the time I got to my third eagle, I had it down pat, lol.  The icing was a little soft (due to the coloring I think), so I had to pipe one 'feather' on each side and then wait for it to dry before piping the next one.

Air Force
I was happy with the eagle on this one, but not with the 'shield'.  I still think it looks messy where the blue and white come together, but wasn't sure how to make it less messy.

I attempted to use run-sugar to make the backgrounds of each logo, but after doing them twice, and hating them both times, I concluded that using fondant circles would be much better for my sanity and the quality of the cake.  So, I colored fondant to match the background colors the best I could, and rolled it thin using my pasta roller.  I cut the circles out using round cookie cutters, and set them on saran covered boards to dry thoroughly.  Once they were dry, I used some egg white to glue the smaller circles on the bigger ones, then used tiny bits of royal icing to attach the piped elements to the fondant circles.  
Once the elements were attached to the fondant circles, I piped the interior borders on the logos, and hand piped some of the elements on the logos (the laurel leaves and arrows in the eagles talons on the Army logo, the chain and black lines on the Navy logo, and the yellow symbol on the Air Force logo).  I have to say that the hand painting was a lot of fun, and looked really nice when I was done!

I attempted to pipe a rope border around three of them (Navy, Marines and Coast Guard), but that wasn't going too well.  So, I piped a plain border around the Air Force and Army logo's, and once they were dry, attached them to the cake sides.  I then attached the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard logos to the sides of the cake and made fondant ropes to go around the edge of them.  I attached the fondant ropes, and once dry, painted them with gold luster dust mixed with vodka.  There are not a lot of in-process photos of this because most of this was done the day before I left for the show, and I was more concerned with having a finished cake than with taking pictures.

Here are pictures of the finished products, on the cake: 

As you can see, the names of each branch have been left off of the logo's, simply because I did not have enough room to pipe or paint them on.


No cake, whose purpose is to honor those that have served their country, would be complete without Poppies.  The original vision for the cake was to have a field of poppies on the top of the cake, in which would be standing a bride and groom.  Well.....time caught up with me and there was no time to get the bride and groom done (I have the grooms legs and feet, but that's all, lol!). 

So, I purchased some Poppy cutters at a cake show, in anticipation of using them for this cake.  However...when I looked at them, I realized the flowers would have been half the size of the bride and groom....well, that won't work!

The only cutter I had that would even come close to producing a poppy was my hydrangea cutter.  The petals aren't as wide as they should be, and they really didn't end up looking like poppies - but I did my best with what I had.

I did not make them on wires, since they were going to be sitting on the top of the cake.  I used egg crate foam to dry them in, so they would keep their cupped shape.  I cut out the flower with the hydrangea cutter, softened and frilled the edges with my ball tool, then cupped them and set them in the foam to dry. 

Once they were dry, I dusted them with red petal dust, called Poppy Red.  They didn't look that red for me, but what do I know about the color of poppies, lol.  To try to make them look more authentic, I used some black royal icing and piped a fairly large dot in the center of each flower, then inserted 5 to 6 black stamens into each. 

Here they are all done:

Since I had no bride and groom for the top of the cake, I had no idea what to do.  In a near-panic, I called my best friend JEM, almost freaking out.  Well, she did some looking online about poppies, etc.... and ended up looking up the poem Flander's Field.  Somewhere in the information, it mentioned a wreath of poppies, so that's what I went with and decided to make a wreath of poppies on the top of the cake.  I had some little leaves that I thought would look good and make a nice looking wreath.

Here is the wreath I ended up with:

I loved it, as did everyone else.  The judges, however......not so much.  They didn't like that it didn't go with the color scheme of the rest of the cake.  Oh well, I like it, and I explained the purpose of it on the Judges Sheet that accompanied the cake.



Roses.........I love Roses.......I love making them........I love dusting them..........they are just so pretty!!!

There are a few ways to make gumpaste Roses.

You can make the centers yourself out of gumpaste, you can use a mold to make the centers, or you can buy styrofoam centers.  The advantage to the styrofoam centers is they result in a much lighter weight Rose......however, you do have to buy them and make sure you have them when you need them - this can be a problem sometimes, lol!   Using a mold to make the centers has it's advantages too...it's a one-time cost and you just need gumpaste in order to make them.

Both of these also result in your centers being the same size (if you like that).  I, being anal about stuff sometimes (ok.....most of the time, lol), prefer the mold or styrofoam route.  So far, it's been styrofoam (which has resulted in me calling to order them and begging to get them in time).  See....with styrofoam, I don't have to make the centers a few days ahead of time to let them dry.  I simply put a little hot glue on the end of the wire and shove it into the bottom of the styrofoam center.  They will cool and harden in a few hours (but I usually wait overnight).

Making your own centers, freehand, is of course the cheapest route to go.  I feel it's the method with the most variability - I'm not very good at making things the same size, despite my anal-ness about such things, lol.

Once you have determined which method you want to use for your centers, you then have to contemplate the petals of the Rose.  Here, again, there are different ways of making rose petals.  Probably the least complicated is a 5 petal blossom cutter (JEM makes a good one).  This is the method I was taught and have used to date to make my roses for competitions.  You can also cut each petal out individually and attach them to the center (FMM makes great rose petal cutters).  It is also possible to form rose petals from small balls of paste and using your fingers, thing and create the petal.

I have always used the 5 petal blossom cutter, but at a cake show a few months ago, one of the judges commented on my rose petals, and from the comment, it seemed that the judge thought they were individual petals (I took it as a compliment that the judge couldn't tell, lol).  However, it got me thinking.....why not try individual petals?  So, I decided with these roses, I would try them.  We'll see how they come out, and if I really do make them all with individual petals, lol.

Today I glued the wires into the centers and taped the wires:

Yes, there are two different size centers........I apparently didn't count properly and was short 5 of the xs size centers, so decided to use the small size for the full roses that I'm making.


So,  in my infinite wisdom (ok.....stop laughing!), I thought it would be a good idea to try making roses differently than I ever have.  For a competition.  Yeah....not so bright, lol.  I wanted to try making roses with individual petals, rather than a 5-petal cutter.  I decided to use the three largest cutters of the FMM set (mentioned above).

I first cut 6 petals with the middle cutter from the set.  One petal is for the first petal (the one that wraps around the center).  Then the next two are attached in a spiral around the center.  The remaining three are spiraled around the center also.  I then cut four petals of the 2nd to largest cutter.  These were also spiraled around the rose.

The flower looked nice, but I just wasn't happy with it.  I just didn't look as "pretty" as some of my others.  Here are my favorite roses that I have ever made (these were made with a 5-petal cutter):

After talking it over with my consultant (JEM for those of you who have been reading for a while), I decided to trash the rose with the individual petals and make my roses with the 5-petal cutter.  They are prettier (to me), I'm used to making them that way, and (most importantly) I won't be happy if I don't, lol.

I got all the white roses finished today.  They are medium blooms.  Here they are:

and here's a close-up!


Here are the red roses that I made.  There are three different sizes of roses.

Here are the buds (one layer of petals):

Here are the smaller ones (two layers of petals):

Here are the larger ones (three layers of petals):

Here is all of them together:


Dusting - it brings flowers to life!   It was now time to dust all the roses I made.  It took some trial and error to be really happy with the red roses....since they actually started out pink, I had to find a way to turn them red.  I tried layering various shades of reds on them, but they just didn't look right.  I then happened upon a container of Pointsettia (from Crystal Colors) that I had in a draw.  I tried it on the roses and HOLY COW were they red!!!   They were a vibrant beautiful RED!   I dusted all of the red roses with it.  Then started looking around for a darker red for the edges of the petals.......well I did not have one.  So, I left the red roses as is.

It probably took an entire day to dust all of the red roses, and the red carnations (from a previous post).  It was a beautiful day the day I was dusting the red flowers.  It was so nice that I decided to open the kitchen window.  Did I mention that the kitchen window was behind me?  (Can you guess where this is heading???)  Well, it was.  There was a lovely breeze coming through the window the whole day.  I was also sitting with my netbook on the table, watching old tv shows (A-Team!) while dusting.  When I was finished dusting all the red flowers I noticed that my computer had a layer of red dust ALL OVER IT.  Upon further examination.....the red dust was EVERYWHERE!  The kitchen table, the floor, the stove, the counters, the sink, the DOG.  I couldn't imagine how it got so many places - it never had before.  Then it dawned on me that the window was open the entire time.  The lovely breeze blew the red dust all over the entire kitchen!   So, the lesson to be learned here is to not sit in front of an open window on a breezy day when you are dusting flowers.  On the bright side - I probably did not inhale very much of it!

I apparently FORGOT to take pictures of the dusted roses...........the white ones were dusted with Super Pearl dust.  Here is a picture of one of the full red ones (from it's place on the cake):

It's not your eyes playing tricks....the red really is that vibrant in the picture.  It wasn't quite so vibrant in person, I promise :)


Saturday, May 7, 2011


I can't actually say that I like Carnations.  They are very pretty flowers - don't get me wrong!   But making them.........not so much.   I think part of the problem is I just don't think they are coming out right....but I have a feeling they will look fine when finished.   I once made 100 carnations for a wedding cake for a competition (my first ever cake competition).  They were absolutely hideous!  I have since learned a much nicer/appealing way to make them :)

When making Carnations, you have to make the bud first and let it dry, before you can add on the additional layers of petals.

I started with the red Carnations today, and was going to do the white and the blue also.  I managed to get only the red done, lol.

I started with making floral tape buds, 25 for each of the three colors:

Here they are all finished:

Then rolled out red gumpaste (with my KA Pasta Roller of course!), then cut out the Carnation flower with the Quick Carnation Cutter from FMM.

Then 'frilled' the edges of the flower with the veiner portion of a dresden tool.  Before cutting out the flower with the cutter, I rub a small amount of Crisco over the gumpaste.  It helps the gumpaste to release easier from the cutter, and makes frilling easier also.

The put the frilled flower on a piece of thin foam, brush egg white over the entire surface of the petal, and insert a floral tape bud in the center.  Using the foam, I folded the petal in half (around the bud).

Then I folded and glued to form an 'S' shape.  This now has to dry before any more can be added.

I have 25 of each color to make, 10 of which are going to stay as flower buds (only having calyx's added).  So, once they are all done, I will assess each one and pick the 10 best to be buds.


Here are the blue ones that I got done today!  Yes, the in-process photos are from today....I figured I'd spare your eyes the challenge of looking at red gumpaste on an orange-y background (to bad my eyes weren't spared that, lol). 


So, I managed to finish the white Carnation buds today!!!

(So, there was supposed to be a picture here of the white Carnation buds......but apparently I was in such a rush to add the additional petal that I forgot to snap a pic, lol)

I took a look at all the buds, to assess which ones would be left as buds, and realized that none of them were really pretty enough to leave as buds, so made the decision to put a second set of petals on all of the buds.  While doing this, I decided I liked the size of the flower with just one additional set of petals, so will not be putting more than two on each flower.

Compared to making the buds, the next set of petals was EASY!!!!   I, again, rolled out gumpaste with my Kitchen Aid pasta roller (there would be far fewer gumpaste flowers made without this!!!), and cut out the flowers using the Easy Carnation Cutter from FMM (I have no idea what size I have, I didn't realize there was more than one, lol!).   I then frilled the edge of the petals that same as I did for the bud, but went about half way down the individual petals (so to speak), so there was more frilling than the buds had.  Then brushed egg white on the center, unfrilled, part.  Placed the petal on a thin piece of foam and stuck the bud through the center of the petal and the foam.  Then using the foam/fingers, pressed the petal up against the dried bud.  Then set aside to dry.

Here are the red Carnations, all finished except for dusting:

Here are the blue ones:

I did not get to the white ones today - that's tomorrow project :)  They all still need dusting and calyx's, but I will tackle that another day!


I finished the white Carnations today!!    There isn't really much more to say about them, so here they are:

Here are all the Carnations together:


As with all flowers, the next step is to dust them and bring them to life.   The intention was the have three sets of carnations: red, white and blue ones.  In the process of dusting them, however, it became apparent that the solid white ones were going to be a little boring compared with the vibrant red and blue that I was getting.  So...I decided to dust just the edges of the white ones - half with blue and half with red.  OH MY, they were gorgeous!!

Here they are, all dusted:  (the blue and red ones were dusted with white on their tips to highlight them)


Here are some close-up pictures of the blue and white/blue carnations:

By the time I got to dusting the red ones, I was in a time crunch and did not think to take up close pictures of them.



I love hydrangeas.  If you can get the petals thin enough, they look positively radiant.  I have made hydrangeas once before for a competition.  It was a wedding cake that had hydrangeas and white roses on it.  That time I made 300 hydrangeas, all blue and all looking exactly the same.  I have learned since then, lol.  I have worked diligently to make my flowers so they look natural - not an easy feat for me!!!

I had originally planned to make 225 hydrangeas for this cake.  However.....given that I had soooooo many leftover from the other cake, and this cake has so many other flowers on it, I cut that number down to about 100.  We'll see how much is leftover, lol.   I have a feeling I have greatly over-estimated how many flowers this cake needs, but am not comfortable cutting any of the others out.

So, I started by making all 100 hydrangea centers.  I used an hydrangea center mold (made by First Impressions) for the centers.  I took a very small wire (28g or 30g is good) and made a small hook in the end of it.  I then crammed a small amount of white gumpaste into the center mold (I used the medium size), swiped the hook through some water and stuck it into the mold.  Pinched the mold around the wire and withdrew the center.  Twirled the center to make it clean where it met the wire and stuck it in a cup to dry.  It's much easier to put the hydrangea petals on when the centers are completely dried.

The plan is to have blue hydrangeas and white hydrangeas.  I may end up doing blue/white together, we will see.  I am also going to have hydrangea buds and leaves also.


All the hydrangea flowers are finished!!!   They have not been dusted yet, that will wait for later, when some of the other flowers have been finished.   I have tried very hard to make them not all the same, and I am pretty pleased with how they turned out.


The next step was to dust the hyrdrangeas, and watch them come to life in my very two hands!!

The color scheme for the hydrangeas is blue and white.  Originally, I was going to dust half of them blue, and leave the other half white.  Then I started thinking about it.........wouldn't it look nice to have blue AND white on the same hydrangea flower?????

So, I did some experimenting with colors, and found a few that I liked!   I recently took a dusting class at National Capital Area Cake Show (NCACS) with Ruth Rickey and learned a lot about dusting flowers.  In the past, I have only used one, maybe two, color(s) when dusting.  In the class I took, we used a minimum of 4 shades for each color we used.  So, I tried it on the flowers for this cake show.  HOLY MOLY!!!!!!!!   I thought my flowers were great before......now they are FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!  I couldn't believe how real they looked when I was done!

For the hydrangeas, I ended up using 5 different shades of blue to dust them.  Here they are:

I used each color on the flower petals - half the hydrangeas had blue on the outside half of the petals, the other half had blue on the inside half of the petals.  Here are finished pictures of each type, along with a picture of them both together:

The pictures really do not do them justice - they were stunning to see in person!