Search This Blog

Saturday, September 15, 2012

E.T. Phone Home

For the past 5 years I have lived in Manitowoc, WI. In September they have a Sputnikfest celebration , which commemorates a piece of the Sputnik satellite crashing into the sidewalk here in 1962. The event is alien-themed, which doesn't make much sense, but I'm all for silliness and fun. The first two years I participated I based my cake designs on the festival's awesome vintage feel posters created by illustrator Tina Kugler, see them here
My 2010 entry:

And my 2011 Entry:

I loved the Sputnik poster for this year also, but wanted to change things up a bit so I decided to do E.T. wearing a cheesehead with the Sputnik satellite

For the board I used a Wilton cake drum and hot-glued a circle I cut out of 1/4" MDF board so it would be sturdier and easier to pick up


Then I covered the drum with fondant and cut out a circle where my flange was going to go:

I also made a cardboard cut-out the size of the bottom of the cake with a hole cut out for the flange so everything would sit flush:
Then screwed the flange onto the board and into the MDF
One tip I find useful when drilling starter holes for any screw (be it for around the house repairs or cake construction) is to chose a drill bit a little smaller than the inner part of the screw

I made a base for the cake with a few layers of foam core with a space for the flange cut-out and wrapped it in cake foil:

My next step was indenting the fondant and airbrushing to look like a sidewalk

I then started stacking the cakes I had baked , cutting a hole out for the PVC as I went along

I made my cake board a little apron of waxed paper and duct tape to try and keep it as clean as possible during the decorating:
I did the basic carving with just cake and waited to ice until I was more ready to put it all together as I hadn't really figured out the structure yet and was just going to wing it as I went along. Then I started stacking and icing ( with ganache on a sour cream pound cake)
I stacked up to where the shoulder area would be, then put on the PVC coupler , extended out some PVC (well cleaned of course) and kept stacking
Adding more couplers for the shoulders:
For the bottom of E.T.'s head I attached another flange upside down on the PVC post and carved the basic shape out of more foam core sandwiched together, hot-glued and foil-coated.

The top of his head was cake

Then I started building his features with modeling chocolate

Some modeling tools

After laying down the features I covered everything with a thin layer of modeling chocolate and used my modeling tools to bring out the shapes and refine them. I used gumpaste for the eyes because it is easier to paint on than modeling chocolate for me

I had intended to use cereal treats for the satellite and cheesehead, but I must've used too much marshmallow and it was super soft- and as I didn't have much time I just used a Styrofoam ball, covered it with modeling chocolate and painted it with a mix of luster dust and vodka, and used lollipop sticks for the satellite's "arms"
I also cut and "tore up" part of my base fondant to make it look like Sputnik crashed into it
I finished him off by painting with gel-color mixed with vodka; I ran out of time and modeling chocolate so no cheesehead, but I was still pretty happy with it. I was actually surprised by how well he came out as normally one of the most important things to me when making a sculpted cake is to get my proportions as close to 100%accurate as possible, but in this case I would have either ended up with a cake that was way to little or way to big, so I just tried to make it look o.k.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Adventures in Gumpaste Flowers

So in the beginning of March I finally made my first wired gumpaste flowers for my competition cake for Mike Elder's KC Cakefest. I had actually bought my supplies (instructional video, wires, cutters, veiners, dusts, etc...) a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng time ago, but was intimidated by the process. A few years ago I decided to give stargazer lilies a try armed with a tutorial found on the internet and a generic leaf cutter that looked like it would work. I made the pistils, stamens, petals; painted them; wired them - all of this went o.k.. Then it came to putting it all together- I could not get the damned things taped together to save my life. I was so frustrated I didn't even attempt other flowers until this year. I had seen many beautiful pictures of peonies on cakes, and the lovely Edna de la Cruz came out with a peony dvd (buy it here: ) , she is an excellent teacher, and my first gumpaste flowers came out like this:

 At the KC Cakefest I bought 2 sets of tulip cutters/veiners from Sunflower Sugar Art: the Holland Tulip and Mexican tulip set. This is the Holland Tulip set:
To start the tulips I started off with some white gumpaste (made with Edna's recipe, also found on her site)
I find it easier to first partially roll out my gumpaste before finishing it on the cel board

 Roll out the gumpaste on the cel board until you can see the impressions of the grooves through the gumpaste. Thinner petal = more realistic petals.

 Then I cut out 7 petals: 6 for the flower and 1 extra in case of breakage:
 Keep the petals under the flap of a Wilton practice board or in a plastic bag to keep them from drying out

 I was having trouble with the wires pooping out when weining and when I set them to dry, so I started bending the wire a little to match the contour of the veiner
 Dip the end of the wire in gum glue (either tylose gum-tex or cmc powder mixed with a little water, the container should have directions/proportions on it). Then place the petal in the veiner and use your fingers to pat it in

 Put on the top and press firmly, then use the ball tool to soften the edges

 Set the veined petal in a deviled egg tray or spoon so it cups as it is drying
 I used more white gumpaste and the smaller cutter to make another set of petals: I had to curve the wires and rest on the table so they would rest in the right shape and not pull out of the petals

 After that I decided what the hell, and used some leftover pink gumpaste to make another set of the larger petals. As I had been making petals I switched from using the ball tool on the thin foam to thinning the petals in the veiner as it seemed easier, had less chance of ripping the wires out, and kept more of the veining

And the I was still feeling squirrely, so I opened up the Mexican Tulip cutter/veiner set (also from Sunflower)

 I grabbed some more of the pink gumpaste and made some more petals. The only different step I used for these was frilling the edges with a veining tool (rolling it back and forth on top of my finger)
 As a side note, although I really like the cutters, the photocopied "instructions" were very vague, and the photo of the finished flower was impossible to make out, just a black and white blur. I then tried to Google "Mexican Tulip" I mostly got pictures of some kind of poppy, and none of the pictures was of a 6 petal flower, which is what the instructions said. So I have no idea what flower this actually is supposed to be or the correct name for the tulip variety.

After the petals I started on the pistil and stamens. I went outside and "deconstructed" one of my tulips for a closer look:
 I started with a small piece of yellow gumpaste and pinched it to make it a three-sided column and inserted in onto a wire with a little gum-glue on it

 then I pinched the tip to make this shape:
 For the stamens I rolled little pointed sausages of gumpaste, cut a little slit in the side, dipped the end of a 2 inch piece of thin floral wire in gum glue and inserted the wire and pinched it shut. The less you have to touch it , the better as if you have to pinch more than once the stamen will get all messed up and fall off- ask me how I know;) Six stamen per flower
 Next day was time to dust the flowers, for the white larger flower I started with a yellow petal dest on the bottom and center:
 Then a deep red: first heavily on the edges, and then pull the red inwards to blend
 After the petal I started on the stamen. First I started brushing the wire with green petal dust, but that was pretty putzy so I swtiched to mixing gel color with vodka and painting it on- much quicker
 Then dip the tips of the stamen in your gum glue, making sure you coat the whole thing or you will get bare areas_ wipe off extra glue

 Then dip in black petal dust and tap off extra
 I brushed the pistil with a little maroon petal dust to mach the real one
 For the pink petals I used a light green at the bases, then deep red, followed by a little maroon at the tips

 For the little petals I used green at the bases and a baby pink at the tips
 For the Mexican petals I used yellow at the bases and hot pink on top (I used my extra petals to experiment with the petal dusts)
 Tape the stamens to the pistil with half width floral tape. Floral tape must be stretched as you wrap or it isn't sticky- which years later I figured out was my problem with that first attempt at lily making- that fact was not mentioned in the first tutorial I found. Lesson learned: do your research:) Such a small detail caused me to give up on wired flowers for years- how silly.(Side note: If you haven't done gumpaste flowers before you will definitely want to look up others to supplement mine as I probably left loads of stuff out- and I would REALLY recommend Edna's videos once again. Without seeing her peony dvd I wouldn't have been able to do these either)

(to make half-width floral tape just run an exacto knife around the roll while pressing to cut many layers at once- and be careful!)

Tape three petals evenly around the pistil

And at this point I apparently forgot to keep taking pictures- forgive me. Finish by taping the last three petals overlapping the first three.

Then I got brave and decided to actually steam the flowers like you are supposed to (I didn't steam my peonies as I was nervous they'd spontaneously melt and fall apart). Just boil some water and hold the flowers in the steam, turning all around for a few seconds just until they look a little wet all over. This sets the dusts and adds more life-likeness