Friday, May 25, 2012

Gum Paste Moth Orchid

Moth (Phalaenopsis) orchids are incredibly popular right now.

I had a request for a couple of stalks like this, and I was really excited about how they came out.

It was an interesting challenge to get the coloration on the throat correct.  I was looking at a lot of different pictures as I went along.  I tried to capture purple, magenta, and some reddish tones, as well as the markings in the center.  These throats started out white, so it took a few coats of color to achieve the right depth.  I always steam the flowers after dusting, and to get that saturated color, I would dust, steam, let set, and then repeat as needed.

I love the organic look of the orchid stalk.

Those curled tendrils on the base of the throat were a real nuisance, especially because I was trying to make them as thin as possible.

Hope you enjoyed these as much as I did!

Gum Paste Stiletto Instructions

I sometimes get questions/ requests for instructions and patterns for the gum paste stilettos.

If you're interested, I have available for sale my class instructions from my 2 day stiletto workshop, which includes the red/ cheetah stiletto and the navy stiletto with the brooch.  I sell these (which include paper versions of the patterns, plus step-by-step instructions) and I include a styrofoam sole former, and occasionally a bonus goody for $50+ s/h.  Hopefully I'll have a web store here eventually where you can do this in an automated fashion, but for now, you can contact me at to purchase.

UPDATE:  The instructions are now available for instant purchase via paypal on the right side of the blog.  Always, contact me if you have any questions or need assistance.

I finished my PhD degree as of last Friday, and while I'm still busy getting my life in order, I will be getting back to teaching, coming up with new classes, developing some of my own tools, etc!  I also hope to record a DVD version of the 2 day stiletto class.  Stay tuned!!

Best to you all!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scenic Groom's Cake with a Bear

This cake was so much fun to design and execute.  Of course it had its share of frustrations, but we'll get to that.

This cake was designed by the bride and me as a surprise for her groom.  She gave me some input about things the groom liked-- photography, camping, and the picture that she wanted to somehow incorporate.  I came up with the idea of doing a scene with a bear, which was funny because the groom really had had a bear come through a camp site once.  The bear was standing by an abandoned camera, assuming that it's owner had either run away or been eaten by the bear-- you can choose your own adventure. ;)  I suggested using the photo as the backdrop for this scene with a camp fire and some landscaping.

So of course I drew all this up and then had to figure out how to actually do it.

It started with the build-a-bear workshop.  After looking at many pictures of grizzly bears, I had to figure out how to construct a structurally sound grizzly bear at an appropriate scale.  For this kind of sculpture, some interior structure is required.  To minimize weight, I used some styrofoam filler, and heavy gauge wire to prevent collapse.  Then, I started adding modeling chocolate, small pieces at a time:

Not quite a bear yet:

Some details are added, and the mouth opened:

And the finished carving, after the fur is textured:

I really wanted to make sure the back of the bear looked proper as well.

After airbrushing and painting, with the gum paste abandoned camera:

The cake itself was a 12" square chocolate cake with chambord syrup and espresso truffle filling.

I carved it to look like a landscape, covered in fondant, and airbrushed the landscape.

I also had to rig up a support system for the photo, which was an edible image mounted on a hardened gum paste plaque.  This is where the frustration really came in.  It was late Friday afternoon, I had worked till 2 AM the past few nights, and I knew I was going to be up late again.  Those moments can be very emotional for me-- I work alone, long hours, and when things don't come out the way I like them, it can be hard to stay motivated.  Fortunately, the mounting system was the back of the cake and couldn't really be seen or noticed, but I didn't have the plaque set up, so all I could do was stare at the flaws.

I felt better once I added the river water:

It's amazing what piping gel, blue gel food color, and royal icing can do.  The 'hole' in the cake was for the campfire.

Sometimes, when I think about cakes for a long time, I keep dreaming bigger.  Next thing I knew, I had a plan for implementing a flickering camp fire.  It didn't come out quite as bright as I was hoping.  But still, it flickered.  Actually, the trickier part was trying to get gum paste to look like fire... fire is sort of a weird substance.

Anyway, I finally assembled everything, fire, a pine tree, some rocks, some little flowers, and of course the bear and camera, with the gum paste plaque.  I traveled with everything assembled except for the plaque, which I set up on site.  The cake was displayed next to a print of the original inspiration photo taken by the groom, and a note from his bride.  I thought it was very sweet.

The groom, his family, and the bride were so excited about this cake, and seeing their reactions is what I probably enjoy the most about cake making.  Obviously I find great satisfaction in the creativity and artistry of cake decorating, but the long hours are justified when I see a client's joy, and when I can inspire others to take on  new challenges.

Again, congratulations Philip and Amanda!  I'm so glad I could be a part of your special day.

And I hope you all enjoyed today's build-a-bear story. :)

Ivory Wedding Cake with Champagne Bow and Gum Paste Flowers

This past weekend I made a wedding cake (and a groom's cake, next post) for my friend Amanda, who I met taking tap dancing classes here in Atlanta.  She asked me no less than a year ago about doing her wedding cake and groom's cake, so of course I accepted!  But this was no easy feat-- this cake weighed 50+ pounds and had to travel all the way to Augusta with the accompanying groom's cake.  And let's remember I have an apartment-sized kitchen and a not-so-amazing oven.  Making enough room in the fridge... also a challenge.  Here are the 4 tiers for the bride's cake and the parking spot for the groom's cake.  Not a whole lot of room for much else...

Another part of this story that has not yet made it to my amazing blog readers is that I defended my thesis on April 30!  And passed!!!  That means I finish up my thesis revisions and as of this Friday I am DONE with my PhD.  I'll graduate officially in August.  :)  This also means that I didn't have much time to work on stuff in advance as I usually do.

But I started the flowers about a month ago.  The bride wanted pale pink and green hydrangea, and I suggested pink cymbidium orchids as focal flowers along with some little dendrobium orchids.  I had a new mini-cymbidium cutter set that I was excited about, so this was a great opportunity to try it out.

This is the un-dusted cymbidium... cute huh?  I kind of love it.

I finished the flowers over the weekend and finished assembling the topper on Monday.
Here's the dusted dendrobium orchid:

And the painted/ dusted cymidium... it really comes to life, right?

Here's the assembled topper:

I had some fun figuring out how to get the fondant pearls to stay in place on the silver wires, but I thought the end result was pretty nice.

As far as the rest of the cake, I designed it together with the bride based on some other ideas she liked, her wedding colors, her dress, and her number of servings.  I made a mold of the brooch she wore on her dress and created a replica to be featured in the center of the bow.

The cake traveled fully assembled all the way to Augusta, thanks to some help from my friends. :)  I borrowed a friend's SUV and had some heavy lifting help (+ sandwich delivery and general moral support) from my 'date'. ;)

I finished the cake with just a few more cymbidiums on the bottom corners.

The topper went perfectly with the centerpieces, and the ribbon/ brooch was a perfect match to the bride's dress.  And obviously, I was really happy that everything arrived in one piece.

Congratulations Amanda and Philip! :)