Thursday, October 22, 2015

Introducing Sweet Talk!

OK, so I know we've been gone for a few weeks, but we have been SO busy!  Take a look at our new logo!  What do you think of it?

And we have a brand new website to go around the new logo too!  If you haven't stopped by in a while, I welcome you drop by the new website.  The new site is still at the old address:

And with the new site comes a new blog!  Well, it's still the same old blog you know and love, but with a slightly different name and a brand new address!

So visit Sweet Talk to catch up on our latest tutorials and cake adventures.

We'll keep this Blogger blog online, but don't expect any updates.  And you can find all these blog post over on the new site too.

I'm still learning the blogging platform on my new site, so if things look wonky for the next couple of weeks cut me a little slack.  Join me at my new home for some SWEET TALK!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We're taking a quick break for construction...

We're going to be taking a couple of weeks away from the blog, but it's only because we're working feverishly behind the scenes to bring you something much much cooler.

Stay tuned for more details...

BTW, if you're going to The Americas Cake & Sugarcraft Fair in Orlando this weekend, keep an eye out for us!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bottle Cap Cake Tutorial

A bottle cap is a really good place to start working with carved cake.  You don't have to use a pound cake, but if your cake is not firm then you need to use a buttercream that is all butter or ganache.  Those will firm up nicely and make the carving easy.   For this cake,  we baked three layers, a 14", 16" and 18".  I didn't carve much to get to this point.  I really just filled in with a lot of buttercream (as you can see below).  It's easier this way because you don't have all of the soft cut edges to deal with.

I've used a piece of cardboard that is covered on both sides with packing tape.  This will allow you to wipe it off a keep it from getting soaked with buttercream.  I just make a shape by folding a piece of paper in half and draw a J shape.  When you cut it, it should be a mirror of your J, therefore being even and identical on both sides.  Don't get the "caves" to close together.  The thin piece of cake that will separate them will be weaker the smaller you make it. You can spend hours figuring out the exact space in between each indention so they are all equally spaced or you can wing it and end up with a backside, as we see here.  Just remember where the back is so you don't accidently put it in the front. 

It's a little hard to see, but I've wrapped a piece of masking tape around my knife as a guide so I don't cut too deep. It's not going to stop you from cutting too deep, it's just there as a visual reference. Now this is the deepest you are going to cut only at the bottom layer and then taper up from there. You want the back wall to be straight-ish.

You have some room for boo boos here.  You are going to fill in with a coat of buttercream so if you cut too deep, fill it up with buttercream.  You are going to want to use a bag of buttercream and pipe some icing into these caves.  Your fingers are going to be the best tools here, but you can also cut a small piece of flexible material like stencil plastic.  Don't drive yourself too crazy filling these into be perfect.  Get a crumb coat on and chill.  Then add a second coat so that your fondant has a nice base to go onto.  Icing inside of the caves will take you longer than carving them out.  If you can, use some Elite  or Fondarific fondant for this project.  You need a long time work time to get the fondant into the caves and you need a lot of stretch.

Once you get your fondant applied, you can airbrush or dry brush as darker shade of the fondant inside of the caves to give the illusion of more shadow.  Create a template of your favorite brand of soda or beer.  Print two copies, one to cut up and one for spacing.  Use modeling chocolate and cut out your logo.  Arrange all of the cut pieces on top of a print out of the logo so the spacing is perfect.  Put Crisco on one side of a piece of wax paper and press it to the front (top) of the cut letters.  You should be able to transport the letters from the table onto the top of the bottle cap ensuring the spacing is perfect.   I like to use a wet brush a attach the pieces individually, but you could dampen your top side before you place the cut logo pieces on it.  cover the top of your cap.  Press the pieces down and slowly peal away the wax paper.  Poof!  Bottle cap!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oscar Bat Mitzvah Party Cake

We love a good Bat Mitzvah!  We were lucky enough to make a Hollywood style cake for this great birthday event.  We decided to make a simple cake stand just to make the cake a little more festive.  We used a couple of  24" covered cake drums.  We spray painted the area that were going to show with silver spray paint to cover some of the embossed print.  We would have recovered them but there isn't a material that I know that is 26" wide, so we would have had a seam and I thought that was worse than the little bit of a pattern.  The cake was on another board, so it never touched the spray paint.  We used a large circle punch from the scrapbook department and cut black contact paper.   We used a 5" tall Styrofoam cake dummy and covered it with a printed film strip (on cardstock, but paper would have worked).  We used spray adhesive to attach this to the dummy.  We hot glued a couple of strips of rhinestones to the top and bottom cake boards and the boards to the dummy.  Be sure to line up the back sides (where things start/stop) all together like you would a tiered cake.  

Enough about the stand, look at this cake! We love the way it came out.  Lots of dripping sparkles, glitter and lights!  We did use a few more rhinestone on the cake for the borders here and there because you can't get to much sparkle!  We attach ours with acrylic/diamond topped pins. 

Lastly, I did want to share how we did the "spotlights".  Very simply, we used those lights that twist to turn on and made a large hunk of modeling chocolate that would house them.  We then cut off a piece on the bottom so they would angle in the right direction.  Lastly we made a square frame to make them look more finished.  We did not twist on and insert the lights until the last minute as they are hard to get out once they are inserted.  Make sure to leave enough wiggle room to get them in but not enough that they are loose. 

The "best" part of this cake?  We found out later that they never cut it!!!!  We did have some kitchen cakes for the back of house, so there was cake served along with every other dessert know to man.  The family had the cake moved to the hotel's restaurant for Sunday brunch with their family.  They ate a little of it and gave the rest away to the hotel staff (that love us now!). 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tip Toe Through the Trees TUTORIAL

Why is making really pretty trees out of sugar so hard?  I'm not judging others efforts at all because it's hard!  My advice is to make evergreens/Christmas trees!  They are really easy!  Our friends were making a cake for a charity and they needed trees of  a tall variety.  This is a picture tutorial of our efforts.  Some were better than others but I hope you can take something away from my experiments.

We always started with a center support and heavy floral wire from Wal-Mart.  We twisted them all around and then hot glued the crap out of the joints so they are secured and won't slide down and have more stability.

We added lots of brown modeling chocolate for the trunks and branches.  You can score lines with a knife to get some texture. For the tree above we piped tiny leaves all over the branches.   Don't try to pipe all the leaves on a particular branch at one time.  Do a couple of rows and let them dry before the next bunch.  This will keep all the icing from just falling off the wire due to the weight.  

We have a lot of branches to begin with but once we covered them all with leaves, the tree still looked very sparse.  We decided to try to make some additional branches and attach them, once dried, by inserting into the modeling chocolate.  This didn't work very well :(  We did add some of them once the trees were in place and weren't going to move around at all. 

Next we attempted a weeping willow type tree.  We learned on the first tree that it's best to cover the wire branches with brown floral tape.  This was good to give the leaves a thicker branch to hold on to and also if some brown shows through the leaves that's way better than silver wire. 
Same leaf application as before, just pipe a lot of leaves over and over.  There is still a really weird trunk ending up top.  I should figure a better trunk structure going forward for this odd look.
This tree reminded me of the twisting tree called "the womping willow" in the Harry Potter movies.  Here I tried to fix the weird top trunk problem by tapering the tree into large branches.  I also added a few more since adding branches after doesn't work so well.
Believe it or not, this is a tiny leaf cutter I used here.  I did not like the look so I gave up pretty quickly.
So in the interest of not loosing my mind, I tried this "look".  If I made large balls of fondant instead of these flat blobs, they would have been much to heavy for the structure I built.  I could make the structure much heavier and try that look next time.  For texture, I banded several toothpicks together with the floral tape and twisted it all over for lots of leaf fluff!

These trees took me hours to make and I want to emphasize that in case you decide to make a forest!  I hope you have picked up a trick or two for your trees!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fairyland Club Wedding

This is such a simple, elegant cake that there isn't much to say but it's pretty eye candy. The texture was done just with a small offset spatula. It's not hard but not easy, so practice ahead of time. We delivered this cake to the Fairlyland Club on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga TN. The florist was The Clay Pot, and they did some WONDERFUL arrangements for this wedding. He gave me these roses, ranunculus, peonies and some rosemary and I arranged them. He was so busy and I was very happy to help. I asked him to check my work and I got a thumbs up which meant a bunch considering the source!
Great florals from The Clay Pot
Now, enjoy more awesome cake photos!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Custom Cake Pricing

How easy is this cake?  Well of course that depends on your skill level.  I've been at it for about ten years and it takes me about four hours to do a cake like this.  I find getting a cake smooth tends to be the hardest part to learn for most people.  All you need to make the rest of this cake is some small circle cutters and a knife.  Well some colors, fondant and an owl template helps a lot.  We charge $3.75/per serving for a round buttercream cake and the. $30/hour for artwork and extra supplies.  This is a 6" and 9" and feeds 34.  34 x 3.75 = 127.50.  I would add another 1-2 hours for extra time.  You would need to account for all the time it takes you to mix all these colors and it adds up.  If I only add one hour/$30 that would make the total cake cost $157.50.  Would you pay that much?  Do you think it is too much?  Think about it for a minute before you read on.  I know if you make cakes your opinion will be skewed a bit.  

Now, I don't know how much a cake similar from a big box store would cost.  Said store probably has all their cake layers arrive baked and frozen and their icing is shortening based and comes in 5 gallons buckets.  I'm not trying to be a "snob" about it, I'm just pointing out some of the reasons those stores are cheaper.  The cost of  the ingredients are of course vastly different.  When you buy butter in four pound packs instead of 1,000 pounds at a time, prices are worlds apart.  Lastly, let's consider labor costs.  I don't know how much big box store bakery employes make, but I'm going to be generous and say $10/hour.  I know that after my years of experience, training and education entitles me to more than that.   I would say if you made this cake from buying supplies, baking, washing dishes, making icing,washing more dishes, and such you would have at least eight hours of time in the one cake.  If you subtract $20 for the supplies (a general guess) $20 for overhead (electricity, rent, licenses, insurance, gas,water trash removal etc) it leaves $117 (157.50-20-20=117). Now $117 divided by 8 hours = $14.63/hour.  Now do you still think we charge too much?  If you were a cake business person, how would you do it different?

Accompanying Smash Cake

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mickey Wedding & Pet Peeves

We will make this week's blog short and a little sour..... Is there something you see in your line of work that bugs the fool out of you? We all do I'm sure. In cake decorating we all start as beginners and I never judge those people. If you charge money, and sometimes a lot of money for a cake then it should be well executed. Piping should be neat and consistent. I'm not the best at piping so I use a small paint brush to even out and blend in my lines. Sometimes, I need to scrape things off and start again . One of the most popular borders are fondant pearls. If you will pay attention some decorators don't use the right product (it needs to be partially modeling chocolate or Fondarific so it will harden in the cooler) and stretch them out when unmoulding or applying them to the cake. It's a minor thing to most, but a pearl border that isn't rounded pearls is not clean work to me.

Last pet peeve is disintegrated dragees. Whether pearl, silver or gold those little balls cannot be applied and then put in the fridge. They break down and loose their sheen all together. This really does stink because you can't apply them ahead of time. I'll give you two things that I do. First, I put them on ahead of time when the icing is a little soft so that they will not just sit on top of the buttercream. If the cake gets room temperature and those dragees aren't pushed in a little, they will slide down the cake. Trust me, we stayed almost until a wedding started just gently pushing those things in before they all slide down. Did you catch that I just told you I do what I said you shouldn't? Well at the last minute, I take the bad dragees out and add fresh ones. Yes it takes more time, but I don't have to measure last minute or get a cake soft before adding the last minute. Oh! Get a gem/rhinestone setter for applying these and not leaving tweezer marks. They are just a little wad of wax on the end of a stick. It is easier to pick them up and apply them (but not removing, stick to tweezers for that). Yeah! I got those things out of my system!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Art Party Birthday

Birthday parties now are fancy! Kids get to have all kinds of parties! Art, laser, pottery, cupcake, bouncy houses, and paint ball just to name a few. We were lucky to have pin the tail on the donkey! We did a little cake to go along with a fun painting party. It was colorful and pretty easy to create. We made a letter template on the computer and just free formed the splatters and drips. The paint tube was a bit more time consuming, but you could skip it to save a little time. I hope we all get a super fun birthday party this year with a matching theme cake!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Walnut Hill Fresh Flower Wedding


How could I ever make flowers this pretty!?!?  I arrive at the venue, Walnut Hill Farm, and the florist has left me the MOST gorgeous bunch of flowers!  Ranunculus, Peonies, perfect roses, hydrangeas and some lambs ear for greenery.   I was in love with all of them!!!  Here are some "professional baker tips" for the week.

1,  Allow yourself PLENTY of time when fresh flowers go on the cake.  If the florist is gone, it's up to you to finish the cake (my opinion and also I agree to this ahead of time).

2.  Allow wiggle room for the type of flowers and their arrangement in your contract.  This cake was supposed to be all hydrangea.  You can see how many I had and I could not have achieved this look with a small amount or with one kind.  I still get sick-at-my-stomach when I knowingly deviate from the contract.  I never want to be the vendor that blames in on another vendor.  "They didn't leave me the right kind or enough".  I should have called the florist and emailed them a sketch/size of the cake they knew what to plan.  I ask the bride to give the extra copy I provide to the florist, but that doesn't seem to happen

3.  If a customer wants to "float their cake on a bed of flowers" this is the easiest way to do it.  Just allow for a bigger board and stick them in the cake.  You could put a smaller piece of Styrofoam under the full cake for the flowers are truly UNDER the cake, but that is not nearly as stable.  Charge extra for that!

4.  Be friendly to everyone at the venue, even when you are stressed out and in a hurry.

It took me a full hour to put all these flowers on the cake, while at the same time fielding questions from the wedding party that was mulling about and grabbing a little girl's hand right before she poked it right into the cake.  I don't want to ever be unfriendly because people remember rude.  But don't you think that very early guests should give a vendor the space to do their job?  They are always on us like we are on a cake show, asking "is that fondant? I hate fondant!" or "how did you do that?".  Like that's an easy questions in the allotted time.  It would be nice if we had nothing else to do but to visit with guests and answer questions, but vendors just don't have that luxury.  Our work, food-flowers-cakes-venue-photography, is very time sensitive and we have to get in and get out.  So please don't think us rude.  We are really sweet :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cornhole Groom's Cake Photo Tutorial

Whether you call it cornhole, bean bag toss, or Baggo, people are playing this toss game everywhere - tailgate parties,family picnics, and even weddings.  So I guess when a client asked for one as a groom's cake I shouldn't have been surprised.  And since it's basically a sheet cake on an incline, they're actually pretty easy to make.

We'll start with a board to fit our cake (a 12x18), a larger board for the cake to rest on (17 1/2 x 25 1/2) and a small foam wedge to give us our height (8 1/4 x 9 - 2" high).  Start by using the 12x18 cake board to determine where you want your cake to land on the larger board.  I have marked mine on the image above with some temporary masking tape.

Dry fit all your pieces together to make sure they all fit the way you want.  Make sure to mark the placement of your styrofoam wedge.  It should hold the top board flush against the styrofoam, while being centered across the board.  Once we start securing things down there's no going back!!

Normally, styrofoam and hot glue don't mix very well, but I didn't have any extra "gluing chocolate"so I put some down on the board and gave it a couple of seconds to cool down before I plonked down the styrofoam wedge.  Let it dry and make sure the wedge is very secure on that bottom board.

We don't want that old foam wedge to be seen, so the next step is to cut some black modeling chocolate and put it on all 3 sides using piping gel.  We now have the base to place our cake on!

OK, so now the cake is on our 12x18 board and has been iced smooth.  Place it on the board using your masking tape guides and make sure everything is sitting nice and flush.  Once you like what you see, put a couple dowels through the cake, board, styrofoam,  and bottom board.  This will add stability and keep your cake firmly in place.

Now we just simply finish decorating the cake, and that part can be as simple or complex as you like.  I put modeling chocolate (MC) panels on all sides of the cake, but I put a thin layer of black MC on top.  then I covered that with a regular piece of modeling chocolate, making sure my top extended over the edge of the sides, just for a realistic effect.  Use a cookie cutter to gingerly cut out your bean bag hole, and the black from underneath will look just like a hole.  Now just decorate with your particular theme or team until you've got it just the way you want it.  Don't forget to make a bean bag!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Golden Inspiration Wedding Cake

Edible sequins are one of the new big trends in cake design, at least with Chattanooga wedding cakes  We shared one a few weeks ago that had "large" sequins but now we have one with tiny sequins.  I'm just going to say it, I used A LOT of gold! But it's SO pretty! We baked and iced a 6/8/10/12" combination in all buttercream.  We created the lines with a little pairing knife dipped in warm water every few minutes.  The borders were fondant and the sequins were colored quinns painted gold.

You can get a five pound container at Pfeil and  Holing.  Don't kid yourself, 5 pounds is a big container; it should last you a while!

We bought a bunch of these flowers to make the cake more economical for the bride.  As usual, my favorite flowers are the big pretty garden roses from Cal-Java.  They are SO big and pretty and they really popped against those gold sequins!  I hope you get a little bit of golden inspiration from this pretty cake!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our Cross Country Cake Adventures

 A few months ago I was approached with a rather odd request... make my nephew's wedding cake.  Now I know that upon first read that doesn't seem terribly odd, but let me finish... his wedding was going to be in New Hampshire, and I live WAYYY down south in GA.  Yeah, see?  But Sean and his fiance Kirsten were such a cute couple that I just couldn't turn them down.

Delivering a fully decorated wedding cake 17 hours and and little over a 1000 miles away can be a daunting task and honestly one that I didn't feel I (nor my cake) was up to.  So several months ago I started formulating a plan to actually make the cake there.  The venue where the wedding was held was an absolutely gorgeous working orchard named Allyson's Orchard.  I spoke to Fran, the venue manager about my dilemma, and she graciously offered me their kitchen space to work on the cake all week long.  The kitchen had the essentials, oven, sink, and refrigeration, but any other tools I needed I had to bring with me!  GULP!

So I went back to the drawing board, because everything we were bringing (Chaddy and I, a weeks+ supply of clothing, and all the components we needed to make a cake had to fit in our Honda CRV.  It's not a compact car mind you, but it's no stretch limo either!  So I made the decision to bake the cakes and make the icing before we left and freeze them.  That way, the only "major" appliance I would need to bring would be a Kitchenaid mixer to re-whip the icing.  I would place all the wrapped frozen layers in our big marine cooler along with some disposable ice packs (the kind I get when I order chocolate) and we would just stack, fill, ice, and decorate on site.  Theo couple had chosen a mud cake, which is very dense, so I really did feel that the frozen layers would hold up to the drive.  I also began the process of making the gumpaste flowers and wrapping them to thwart the nastiest, kickiest delivery driver.

Well, Sunday morning came and we packed everything up in the cooler, along with our 2 suitcases, and our Rubbermaid tote of kitchen goodies and we left the sweltering Georgia heat on our way to New Hampshire.  We left late because we were up late the night before, so we made it to Frederick, MD (my sister and the groom's Mom's home) really late Sunday night.  I was somewhat worried about the contents of the cooler, but the outside felt cold, so I decided to not risk opening the lid and letting any cold out and just let it ride.  We visited with my sister for a few minutes and hopped in bed.

We awoke (late) the next morning and after a quick shower and breakfast, we were back on the road to New Hampshire.  We drove at a good clip, made a few stops for food anf fuel along the way, and reached our hotel late Monday evening.  I thought I had never been SO tired of being in the car!  We stayed in Keene, NH and was a pleasant surprise it was!  We were within walking distance to downtown and we explored it pretty extensively during our off times.  But I digress...

Tuesday I called Fran at Allyson's orchard and she agreed to meet us and show us the kitchen.  It was a very nice catering space and I knew it would work well, as long as everything had fared well in the cooler (which had STILL not been opened since Sunday morning at this point).  We got the cooler inside, opened it, and believe it or not, everything was still VERY cold.  Those disposable ice packs were still mostly frozen.  The cake gods had indeed smiled upon the work I was trying to do.

I made gumpaste blueberries!
We pulled out the layers and let them thaw a little more while we unpacked our kitchen and got setup for the week.  Over the course of the next few days we worked on the cake a little each day, just like normal, stacking, filling, making the textured bands, and coloring those gumpaste flowers.  When we left the orchard on Thursday the cake was all done and we had the whole day Friday to spend with the rest of the family. who had now joined us at the same hotel in Keene.  It was like a mini family reunion.

I made an extra trip over to the venue on Saturday to set the cake out in the venue space (just a few steps away from the kitchen space I had been using) so that the caterer's would have all the cooler / kitchen space they needed.  A quick trip back to the hotel for a freshen and a change and it was ceremony time!

Now I go to a lot of weddings, but we're there while the linens are going on and the DJ is setting up; We rarely get to see ANY of the wedding, and especially not the ceremony.  It was nice to get to witness all the love and all the pieces of the puzzle fit together so nicely.  Sean and Kirsten had a beautiful ceremony outside by the lake and then the reception with a crazy good BBQ dinner.

When you start adding up gas, mileage, and all the other expenses, this was definitely the "most expensive" wedding cake I have ever made, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world. The new Mr. and Mrs. Seymour loved it, and I loved seeing the smiles on their faces all throughout the night.

And even though I like to preach that other decorators shouldn't take orders they don't know how to do, the lesson to be learned is that it's OK to stretch your wings and go outside your comfort zone on some occasions, just as long as you have a good game plan!

A very special Thanks to Fran and the entire staff at Alyson's Orchard for extending their hospitality, sharing their beautiful facility, and making my task much easier!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Muppet Birthday Cake

We just love a cake where we get to "play"!  This sweet mom gave us lots of freedom for Henry's 2nd birthday.  I know it's nothing earth shattering new, but we do such few birthday cakes, that I really enjoy the ones we do make.  My advice for this type of cake is to make the character first because you will have to redo it a couple of times.  Don't get discouraged if you can't make your famous character the first time.  It's very hard to make these guys look right.  Haven't we all seen those great cake where the character is "off" just enough to look really bad.  If you get a toy for reference it will take a lot of guess work out of the project. You can even use a toy to make a mold if you would like. 

For the "candles" we just took a snake (rolled out long) of fondant and wrapped it around a lollipop stick that had a little sugar glue on it.   The flame was three different colors of fondant, dipped in a little edible glitter and secured on top of the candle with a little piece of wire going in the flame and white fondant.  We made the confetti by wrapping strips of fondant around a dowel and slid them off right onto the cake to keep them curly.  The oversized sprinkles are pieces of fondant as are the balloons.  I know that I should have used white wire instead of the sticks since they look so thick.  It was a late night.  The yellow dripping "icing" on the top tier is best done by covering an upside down cake pan with a piece of fondant (preferably Fondarific so it doesn't dry too fast)  and carve the drips.  Then take the piece off and place on your work table.  You can soften the edges with your finger so they don't have such a cut looking edge.  Place the fine tuned piece on top and adhere it down with a little water.  I hope you all try a fun character cake and heed my warning to allow for lots of time! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wedding Cakes with Fresh Flowers

No matter how much a cake decorator wants to make/sell gumpaste flowers, many brides only want fresh flowers.  I have found that most of the time that it's not about the price, but the a overall look.  Fresh flowers are just soften the entire look of the cake.  

The logistics of fresh flowers on wedding cakes can be tricky.  A wedding cake should not be at a wedding too early.  If the venue is air conditioned, I recommend not delivering a cake earlier than two hours before the reception.  Most often, the florist has already completed their set up by the time you arrive with the cake.  That leaves you at the mercy of the florist.  Did they leave you enough flowers?  Are they the right kind that the bride wanted?  Do you know how to arrange them?  These are all very real world problems that I have experienced MANY times.  In fact, I had a bad feeling once this year and gathered flowers and herbs and brought them with me.  I had plenty for the grooms cake but the bride completely forgot the succulents for her wedding cake and they were the entire decoration on the cake!  They were giving mint julip cups with succulent cuttings as wedding favors.  With permission, we had to take a few apart and wash them really well just to get something on the cake.  Honestly, it was not how I wanted to leave the cake, but that's all we could do.  I should have trusted my spidey senses and brought some succulents too! 


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