Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Shoe Box Cake Tutorial: Part Two. How to make a gumpaste shoe

Next up is the flashy part. The bit that all us girls swoon over. We have hundreds of them in our wardrobe, but never seem to find the right pair when you’re rushing to get ready. Shoes, glorious shoes. Let’s make one.

What you will need;
Gum paste/Modelling paste (in your chosen colour, plus a little in white or black for the sole of the shoe)
Small knife
Rolling pin
Royal icing (in same colour as the modelling paste)
Some old fondant or playdoh
Paper templates (see Cake Central)
Paper towel/Gladwrap/Baking paper
Water/Small paint brush

You will need a few days to make the shoe, to allow for drying time.

Step one. Download the great templates from Cake Central. This includes the sole, the lining and the top of the shoe. It’s also a great idea to grab your favourite pair of shoes out of your wardrobe to use as a guide. Or just wear them while making the gumpaste shoe to make you feel pretty.
The templates you downloaded includes a building support, but I found it to be an unrealistic shape for the shoe, so I made my own support ‘step’. Using your sole template as a guide, mould the playdoh/old fondant into a ‘step’ that will ensure your shoe will dry in the right shape. I’d suggest using your own shoe as a guide to get the right height and shape to the ‘step’.
Dust your bench with cornflour (never use icing sugar, it will dry out and stain your fondant/gumpaste) and roll out your gumpaste to 5mm thick. Obviously, you can go thicker or thinner if you prefer. As this was my first attempt, I wanted to make sure the shoe would be stable, not thin and flimsy. Cut out your templates using the small knife. Repeat with the additional colour gumpaste for the lining of the shoe (you want this to be even thinner than the rest of the shoe, 1-2mm thick).
Using your thumb, gently rub the edges to make them nice and smooth. Place the sole of the shoe on your newly constructed ‘step’ (you may need to put a piece of paper towel down first to stop it from sliding off). Next, attach both the lining and top of the shoe to the sole with a little bit of water. When attaching the top of the shoe, use some scrunched up gladwrap to stick underneath to form the shape and keep stable. You may need a bit of extra water, but just be gentle and patient, and rub the edges to ensure they stick properly.
I also made my own template for the back of the shoe. Using some baking paper and my own stiletto, I traced the back section of my stiletto and cut out a template that would suit my gumpaste shoe. Again, I used some water and gentle pressing to ensure the back was secure, and then scrunched up a ball of gladwrap to keep it in place.
Next up, the heel. I wanted a stiletto. No chunky, old woman heel here. We’re talking about neck breaking-ly high stiletto! In order to get the heel to line up flush with the sole of the shoe, I made another template to use as a guide. Simply trace the back section of the shoe/sole template that you downloaded from cake central. I then used this to hand mould the heel to the right size. Take a ball of gumpaste and mould until it is the right size (using the template), insert a skewer in the middle and use this to mould the gumpaste around for your stiletto (this will also come in handy when placing the shoe on top of the cake). Start rolling the middle section in-between your hands to thin it out and form the actual stiletto. Again, it’s a great idea to have your own stiletto handy, so you can see exactly the shape you will need for a realistic looking heel. This all takes practice; I remade my heel three times before I got it to the shape I wanted. I also took my small knife and cut off excess gumpaste around the top of the heel.
(Template used to shape the top of the heel)

You will now have two parts that will need to be assembled, the shoe and the heel. The next step is the most important - drying the entire shoe. If it ain’t dry, it’ll collapse! I gave myself plenty of time to ensure my shoe would dry. Chatting with the owner of my local cake decorating shop, she suggested putting the shoe in a cardboard box. Basically, you need somewhere that will stop the moisture getting into your gumpaste so it can dry. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any luck. Two days in, there was no sign of drying. Bugger. I jumped online to do some research and found this handy tip. If you ever need to dry gumpaste really quickly, then whack it in an oven (TURNED OFF!) with the light on. Obviously, because the area is completely sealed, it is also completely moisture free. I’m not sure exactly why the light has to be on, I think it must be to help draw the moisture out of the gumpaste. But it worked. About eight hours later, my shoe was completely dry. As a safe guard, I left it in there over night.
(Preparing the heel with royal icing to attach to the sole of the shoe)

Now comes the fun bit – drowning the shoe in sparkles! Obviously you don’t have to use sparkles; you can decorate the shoe any way you want. I coated my shoe in a fine layer of water and sprinkled the sparkles on. The water will dissolve the sugar in the gumpaste, which obviously becomes sticky, allowing your sparkles to adhere to the shoe.
Next we need to assemble the shoe. Not as scary as it sounds. You will need your royal icing (in the same colour as your shoe) and a box on which your shoe can sit. I also grabbed a cardboard tube from my roll of paper towel to insert under the shoe, just as a safe guard against any sliding or collapsing!
Punch a hole in the upside down box so you can insert the end of the skewer that your heal is on. Then, cover the top of the heel with royal icing. Gently place the shoe on top of the heel, lining it up to the edges are flush. If the edge isn’t lining up perfectly, don’t worry! just use a bit of extra royal icing to fill in the gaps and smooth. Leave for at least 24 hours to ensure the royal icing dries completely.
You will probably have some gaps around the back of the shoe which you’ll need to cover in sparkles, or any decoration you are using. Just wait until the royal icing dries and stick on sparkles with a little water.
(As you can see above, I used a variety of household objects to keep my shoe in place while it was drying.. paranoid much?)

Annnnnnddd you’re done! It’s really that simple. For extra detail I also added a small ring of black gumpaste to the bottom of the heel. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a contingency plan, i.e. MAKE A SPARE SHOE! The shoe in this tutorial was my first attempt, while the shoe you see sitting on the cake is attempt number two. Not only does it allow you to practice, but it’s also a safe guard should anything go horribly wrong with transporting the cake. Trust me, always have a spare! I learnt that the hard way. I also did not transport the cake assembled. I waited until I got to the venue to secure the shoe on top of the cake. Seriously, you should have seen my car with all the towels and bubble wrap. It looked like I was transporting a bomb! Once at the venue, I used a small amount of royal icing on the front of the sole of the shoe, and the skewer on the heel inserted straight into the cake.

(Photo credit: Ben Wares Photography)

Hopefully you find this useful; I can now see it is a lot of information to digest! But feel free to leave me any questions.

Peace out, cake dudes!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Shoe Box. Tutorial Part One - The Box

Hello Kidlets! Welcome to 2011. Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Years.
Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here. I was shaking my booty at Falls Festival for New Years, and then I returned home to a nasty case of bronchitis! Thanks, 2011! Ya big jerk.

When I left you last year I had just completed a 21st Shoe Box cake. Remember? Good. Great. On we go.

As promised, here is Tutorial Part One of ‘The Making of the Shoe Box Cake’. In today’s lesson we will be learning how to make the box, and get those super straight edges that make it look realistic.

You need to set yourself at least two days to complete the box. One for the ganache to set, and one for icing the cake with fondant.

**I cannot apologise enough for the HORRIFIC photos that accompany this post. Would you believe me if I said it wasn’t my fault? My camera died in late December and unfortunately Santa forgot that I moved this year. I’m thinking he must have left my brand new SLR somewhere else.. hmmm? So these pics were take on my mobile phone. **

What you’ll need
2 x rectangular mud cakes (size depends on how big you want your box. I do not have that exact size cake tin so I will show you a tip for cutting your cake to size).
1 large batch of chocolate ganache (because it’s Summer I used 2:1, that is two parts chocolate one part pure cream so the ganache sets real hard)
Long skewers
Apricot syrup/pastry brush (Dissolve one part apricot jam in two parts boiling water and strain).
Large knife
Small knife
Cake board
Cake Spatula/Palette knife
Cake scraper
Tall glass with boiling water
Baking paper
Baking tray

Day 1 – Ganaching the cake. Using a skewer, aerate the cake with lots of little holes, then liberally brush with apricot syrup. This will ensure your cake stays super moist. Once the syrup has soaked in, whack a good amount of your ganache on the bottom of your cake board, then place one of the cakes on top. This will stop it sliding around. Next whack some more ganache on the top of the first cake so you will end up with a nice layer of ganache between the two. Then carefully put your second cake on top, lining it up evenly with the bottom.

Now, if you need to cut your cake to size, here is a good tip. Grab your ruler and measure where you need to cut the cake. Use the skewers to mark out where to will make the cut. Push them all the way through the cake. Now, use these to guide your knife as you cut so that you get a straight edge.
Now the important part, the ganaching of the cake! Using your spatula, grab a generous amount of ganache and go to town on that bad boy, starting on the sides of the cake. What we are doing is called a crumb coat, and only needs to be rough so it gathers up all the crumbs that keep falling off the cake. Once you’ve done the sides, get started on the top. Now, leave the cake for as long as you possibly can to set. If you are time poor, there is the cheat method of popping the cake in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes or so.
Once the ganache is set, we will start on our SECOND layer of ganache. This layer needs to be smooth and crisp, or the bumps and lumps will show through the fondant. Again, starting with the sides, use your palate knife to coat the cake in ganache. Now, to get the perfect, straight edges that we all so desire in a cake, we’re going to use our cake scraper to level out the ganache, and remove any excess. This takes A LOT of practice – I still haven’t got it right, but it will definitely make the cake look a lot more professional if you give it a good try. Leave the cake in a box in a cool space to set overnight. Never put your ganached cake in the fridge for extended periods of time, because it will sweat once brought back to room temperature. Also, because you’ve cooked the cream that is in the ganache, there are no issues with leaving it unrefrigerated.

Day 2 - Looking good? Excellent. Once the second layer has set, we will ‘hot knife’ our cake to really smooth out any final lumps and cut off any excess ganache that may have built up around the top edge. I use my spatula for this because it is metal and retains the heat. Just dunk it in the glass of boiling water, wipe off the water with a tea towel and run the spatula along the sides and edges of the cake. The hot knife will melt any excess ganache right off your cake.

Now, once the ganache has set again (this won’t take long as you haven’t applied a whole new layer), it’s time for the fondant! We’re going to be making four panels that we will stick to the side of the cake, as opposed to the more traditional method of covering a cake in fondant with one big piece of icing.

Measure the sides of your cake and make a template out of baking paper, then roll your fondant out to about 1 cm thick (if your cake is still a little lumpy, roll the fondant thicker. This will help to hide the lumps). Using a small knife, cut out the side panel, pop it on a baking tray lined with baking paper and whack it in the freezer. Now, don’t freak out! We’re only going to leave it in there for a little bit, 15/20 minutes max. I promise! This will harden the fondant slightly and make it easier to stick onto the cake as a panel. I’d recommend checking your panel every 5 minutes. We don’t want it to freeze, but we just want it stiff enough that you feel comfortable that it won’t slide off your cake.
Once ready, brush a little water or apricot syrup on the side of the cake and stick the panel on. Now, repeat with the remaining three sides. When attaching the next panel, brush a little bit of water on the edge of the first panel so the two join properly. Because they are stiff, you shouldn’t have any issues with warping the panel by pressing on the two to join them.
If you’re anything like me, your measurements may not have been perfect and you’ve ended up with a bit of excess overhang at the top. Measure the panel and mark where you need to cut using a skewer. Use a small knife to cut off the excess, and volia!

Now you should have a beautiful box. Because we’ve used this technique, and not just laying one piece of fondant over the cake, we end up with perfect, sharp joins to create a realistic box look.

Next, the lid. We’re going to make another template based on the size of the top of the cake, plus adding an inch or two depending on how big you want the lid to be. I made my template a bit bigger than what I needed, so I had the option to cut some off and straighten the edges once it was on the cake.

So, once you have your template made, roll your fondant to about 1.5cm thick, cut out the fondant and place on the top of the cake (because you’ve made the lid bigger than needed, you can just eyeball the placement).

Now you’ll need to trim the corners. Pinch the corner together and using a pair of scissors cut away the excess fondant. While the fondant is still pliable, rub and mould the fondant to the corner (use some water if need be).
One you’ve finished all four corners, you’ll now need to even out your edges. Measure the size you want for your lid and mark where you need to cut with a skewer. Using a small knife, slice off the excess fondant.
Ta-dah! Now you should have a lovely, realistic box.
Phew! I hope this is comprehensive enough for you all. Feel free to ask me any questions, or even if you’ve got some tips of your own - I’d love to hear them!

Next up, the shoe. Stay tuned folks!