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Adventures in Cake Decorating

It all started a few years ago when I got a part time job at a local bakery. I was a slicer, dolloper, wrapper, boxer, smiler, and server. The closest I got to decorating anything was to add little stars of whipped cream on the top of mini-pies. Still, during my short time there I fell in love with the delicate and elaborate creations I boxed up for customers every day. After all, something so beautiful, so fun, AND so delicious is difficult to resist. So I bought a few icing bags and basic decorating tips at a local craft store and started experimenting with writing, making stars and flowers, and doing borders. Then, I got Hello Cupcake for Christmas and in my stocking was this fantastic set of gel food colors. Hello Cupcake is full of simple and creative decorating ideas, and the gel food colors? Well, they’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Just the smallest scoop of this stuff gives you rich, bright colors without any funky taste. Who knew you could have truly black frosting that tastes good? The stuff is just plain amazing. (I promise this is not a paid advertisement…I just get really excited about aqua frosting!)

Anyway, the experimentation has led to a couple of different cake decorating ventures–2 for baby showers of close friends and one for Central Community House’s (where I work) 75th Anniversary. I had so much fun making all three and having the chance to really put all that experimenting to the test. I definitely have a long ways to go, but I’m really happy with the way these turned out. I hope you’ll enjoy them too and maybe be inspired to experiment yourself!
       The start of any decorating process involves making frosting, leveling cakes, and then doing a “crumb coat.” Basically this is a thin layer of frosting you put on the cakes to catch and hide any loose crumbs. As you can see my crumb coat is very rough and filled with crumbs! I’m always surprised at how well this technique works though. The second coat of frosting goes on completely smooth! Also, as you can see in the background, you’ll want to have all your tools ready to go, and bowls set out for the different colors of frosting you’ll be using. 

       This was the first cake I completed, done for a baby shower for my cousin. The idea for the sunflowers was taken from Hello Cupcake. The centers are Oreos! Yum! I also LOVE this aqua color, especially with the yellow/orange. I think we’re taking this color scheme to our living room next!
       This is (obviously) the 75th Anniversary cake. I love the way the flowers turned out in this one, but I still need to work on centering my lettering and not writing crooked!

       Finally, these are from another baby shower. It was for a girl, in case you couldn’t tell. I used crystallized sugar for the top. I really liked the way it added texture and interest. I pick the stuff up at TJ Maxx or Home Goods whenever I get the chance! 
      I used my favorite buttercream frosting for all three of these cakes. The cakes themselves are a mixture of chocolate and white cakes. For the chocolate cake I used my Crazy Cake recipe. I had more trouble with the white cake. I tried several homemade white cake recipes and was disappointed with all of them. They just didn’t have the same moistness or texture of a box cake. So I finally gave in and used this WASC cake, which adds extra flour, sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla to a box cake mix to create an incredibly moist and flavorful cake. I’m still on the hunt for a great from scratch recipe though, so if you know of one, please pass it on!
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  • Christina May 18, 2011, 1:51 PM

    These are beautiful, Courtney! I am so impressed!
    And I love how I can recognize your handwriting, even through frosting. 🙂
    And the “it’s a girl” looks so cool with the sugar having a glittered effect.

    One tip for centering your words that I picked up from a friend when he was helping us paint garage sale signs, is if you start in the middle of the word, and go from there, it works a little better than guessing from the first letter. For example if you’re writing Happy Birthday on two lines, start with the middle P in happy, and for birhday, start with the t or h, and go from there.
    Just an idea – though I have never tried it on a cake, I’m sure it works the same way.

  • These decorated cakes are beautiful!! I especially like the “Its a Girl” cake as pink is my favorite color! Keep up the great baking and cooking! I love reading your blog every week! 🙂

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