I made the mistake of asking my friend if there was anything in particular I could bring to her daughter’s baptism. She said I didn’t need to bring anything, but she would really love for me to decorate her daughter’s cake for her. Apparently it’s tradition to use the top tier of your wedding cake as the baptism cake for your firstborn (I don’t have children so I had no idea!) and the cake is in the shape of a heart. She’s asked me to “decorate the top with a cross and have the words Congratulations on your Baptism, Emma on one side and the date underneath”.
I’m terrified - I’ve never piped text before. My handwriting isn’t exactly neat, so I’ve always been too afraid to wreck my cakes by trying it!
My experience with decorating is limited mainly to cupcakes (piped swirls and flowers, shaped fondant and gumpaste flowers) and really REALLY simple cake frosting (as in smooth top and sides and piped shell borders - I prefer to spend more time eating them haha).
Er.. I’m thinking what she’s asking for may be a bit beyond my level of expertise..?
Would there be a simple way of pre-piping the text and then transferring it to the top of the cake (so I can practice without causing any permanent damage to the cake)? Or should I just tell her that her faith in me, as much as it is appreciated, may be unmerited and she should really take it to a professional?
Any tips, advice or ideas would be gratefully appreciated and of course I won’t be offended if I’m told to step away from the piping bag and leave it to the pros! =)
If I were in your position, I would pass it on to a professional since the cake is essentially irreplaceable. I never write on cakes, so I would be really nervous too and say no ! One way I know of that you can transfer the writing to the cake is to pipe the letters in royal icing and let them dry. I think I read about it in the cake bible—not sure though.
The writing I find easiest to do is with chocolate, and you can make it easier still by using chocolate melts. That’s what they’re called in Canada. US bakers have a lot of different names for them: compound chocolate, summer coating, confectionery coating or simply, coating. They’re low cost little wafers and easy to work with because unlike pure chocolate, they do not require tempering to remain glossy. They come in different colours, and you can use paste colourings to tint them a different or deeper shade if you like. Okay, so it’s not gourmet chocolate, but for a small bit of writing and your comfort level in decorating…who cares? You can splurge on doing a fabulous buttercream and/or the other decorations.
Get the writing done on paper first. Upend a pan the same size and shape as the cake. Put the paper on top to give you a good sense of how it’s going to look. When you’re satisfied, slip that piece of paper inside a plastic sleeve—the kind of heavyweight clear sheet protectors used in 3-ring binders. Tape your sheet protector to the bottom of an upended sturdy cookie sheet or other surface that’s absolutely flat and can fit in your fridge. Practice piping until you get the hang of it and/or produce something with which you’re satisfied.
Heat the melts in your microwave, 20-second bursts at a time. Stir and repeat until the stuff is pourable but still a little thick. You can add a bit of glycerine to help with that. Read Rose’s instructions p 388 TCB for the chocolate lattice band - the same instructions apply for how to prepare the choc melts for writing. The section about chocolate writing on the next page is also good, but mainly for telling you how to do the transfer after chilling. The only tip I’ll stress from experience is to pipe the lines thick enough to have some strength for the transfer, and each letter must be connected to the next.
I like using small parchment cones (see Rose’s instructions on how to make them, p 394 TCB.) It also works to use a small food-safe disposable plastic bag. You cut the barest amount off the end of your parchment cone (or one corner of the plastic bag) after spooning in a small amount of the melted chocolate.
So no, don’t step away from the cake. You’ve been handed a chance to extend your skills. Grab it! You might just surprise yourself. Also, there’s so much help available now on the computer - lots of how to videos. Google writing with chocolate. Have fun!
Another option is to buy an plastic embosser set shaped like the letters of the alphabet. You place each letter on the cake to form a word, press it slightly, and then lift off the plastic embosser letters. What is left is an imprint in the frosting, which you then pipe over with icing. Wilton makes such an embosser set—check their website.
I’ve also heard that you can paint with food color on rice paper, then place the rice paper on the cake. The rice paper is edible, and melts into the frosting, leaving the color sitting on top of the frosting. I have personally never tried this technique (even though I have rice paper sheets in my baking cupboard), so I can’t say how it works. Maybe somebody has posted a how-to video on YouTube.
Hi again, kitstar. Was thinking about your question again this morning and realized that I allowed myself to get carried away in my enthusiasm. There’s no right or wrong answer to your question.
Do what you feel most comfortable doing. If that’s saying no, say no! You can always play with some of these other techniques to be ready for a future request. Or not. Matthew’s not the only one who doesn’t write on cakes. Rose prefers to use other design elements, but she recognizes that sometimes the occasion calls for writing. Then she makes it an integral part of the design.
My feeling is that if you can pipe shell borders, you can certainly do writing in chocolate, royal icing, etc. Think about it, and let us know. We’re here to support and help members with whatever baking projects interest them, as and when the time is right.
HI Kitstar! I too would encourage you to take it on - with the caveat to your friend that it is a risk for you - and do it out of love & as a growing experience! Although a saved wedding cake tier definitely has sentimental value - who knows if it’s even edible anymore?? so don’t fret too much! It’s only cake for heaven sake! (You can always bake her another as an anniversary gift! I make one for Hubby & I every year!). Given the amount of text she wants, my suggestion would be to make a separate little decorative Plaque out of chocolate, gum paste or fondant, to pipe the words onto. Even a nice big chocolate bar will work! You could even make it in a heart shape to match the cake! I often do this when the size of the cake limits my lettering, or when the frosting would cause lettering to bleed. Also - it’s nicer for the people eating it the next day when the lettering is still legible! This way you can do it at your leisure, even re-pipe if necessary, without worrying about “ruining the cake”. I like to use royal icing, thinned a bit for some flowability. But certainly the chocolate works as well. I would do a stencil of the lettering on waxed paper and then transfer it to the plaque using a fine needle to prick holes along the lines. This way you have the free-hand feel and look with the control of a guideline to follow! When you are happy with your piping, let the plaque dry. Set it up against the front or side of the cake on the platter, angling it slightly, and use some sugar cubes attached with Royal icing behind it to support it if necessary. You can also pipe little flowers or swirling vines along the edges of the plaque to make it look more like a little picture frame. Finally - one more word of advice from a seasoned wedding cake baker - try not to drink too much coffee before piping! Have fun and enjoy the accolades!
OOOOh! I just had another idea pop into my head! As your friend wants a cross on the top etc… a gum paste heart the same size as the top of the cake with the cross shape cut out of the center, & fine piping around the edges would be so lovely. The lettering around the edges. Suspend the pre-made topper at an angle on top of the cake, using stacked sugar cubes. Instant Showstopper!
Oh my goodness thanks SO much everyone for all your advice and support! I think if it was anyone else, I would have said no straight away but she’s a very good friend and as strange as it may sound, I know her request was actually really thoughtful and well-meaning (she explained I might be more comfortable to do this in lieu of a gift, as the kinds of gifts given tend to be religious and I am Buddhist (tho of course I would be more than happy to buy an appropriate gift, no matter how religious it might be!)).
I’ve written to her explaining the situation but saying it was an honor to be asked and I will do my best, if she is willing to take the risk!
Kuchenbaaker - I love your idea about plaques and using a stencil! That never would have occurred to me - I can’t wait to go home and have a bit of a practice! If my friend is happy to go ahead, I might give the heart/cross a go too - the Baptism is this Sunday so I’ll post pics if it doesn’t work out to be too much of a disaster!!
Hey Kitstar how did the Baptism Cake turn out? I just posted some photos on the thread pertaining to taking the internal temperature of a cake to determine if it is done - have a look there - the Snowball Cake has a Greeting Plaque on it - as I described for you to consider doing!
Lol I was almost embarrassed to come back here - there were such dramas - for various reasons Michelle couldn’t get the cake to me until the Saturday night before the baptism on the Sunday morning and when I looked at the cake, it was such a mess, flowers and ribbon half hanging off it and the fondant was pitted and stained… It was also suspicously light for a mud cake, but I thought maybe it had dried out a bit in the freezer or something. As you can tell, I don’t have any professional baking experience and didn’t know what to do so I thought I’d just try and take off the fondant and re-coat the cake afresh. The fondant was hard as a rock even after thawing so I was shaving it off, and shaving and shaving and shaving… and about 1.5 cm later I was concerned about how thick it was so I lost patience and sliced a bit off the side.
The ‘cake’ was made of polystyrene foam. There was no actual cake. (I dug a hole in the top to double check)
My friend had unknowingly been keeping a foam cake ‘fresh’ in the freezer for 3 years! When I called and told her, she was almost in tears. She had asked and paid for a 3-tiered wedding cake, the top tier to be white chocolate mud, middle tier marble cake and bottom tier chocolate mud. I offered to bake her a new cake and she accepted. So yeah, a bit of a last-minute rush! I didn’t have any white chocolate so I made the white velvet butter cake from TCB in a heart shaped cake pan (there was enough left over for cupcakes too yay!), split it into two layers, sandwiched and coated it with strawberry classic buttercream (also from TCB) and then just used some shop-bought fondant over the top. First time I’ve covered a cake in fondant too so it was a bit bumpy at the sides lol. Don’t even get me started on the bottom tip of the heart hahaha
I had made the heart-shaped plaque with a cross cut out of the centre from gum paste, but for some reason (I think my cross might have been a bit too big or something) it looked to me like something you’d put on a tombstone or a request for blood donations (I have no idea why! lol) so I just stuck on the text I’d practiced on baking paper the week before (was in too much of a rush to risk piping directly on the cake and getting it wrong) and made a cross out of some flowers I’d had lying around. It’s not terribly exciting but I didn’t have time to do much else. Fortunately, my friend was so grateful to have an edible cake to offer the Father that I probably could have come up with anything and she would have been just as delighted.
So yeah, attached is a picture which I’m so embarrassed to post!!