Tuesday, December 4, 2012

3 days to go...

Another year has passed, another year older. In 3 days, I'll be 36. 

Yup, 36. How the heck did I end up here so quickly anyway? I can remember turning 17 so clearly, and jumping on my parent's bed, that very morning, 19 years ago. "I'm 17! I'm 17! I'm 17!", I screamed so excitedly.

Will I be doing that in 3 days time? 

I think not.

What I will be doing is visiting the biggest and baddest book sale, the world has ever seen! It's going to go for 63 hours straight, from Friday Dec 7 at 6.30 a.m. to Dec 9 till 9.30pm. We are supposed to going on Friday night some time and hopefully the  Big Bad Wolf Books are going to worth the trip. My uncle reckons he will be bringing a pallet, and how he plans on transporting this home, I have no idea.

December also is the time when I reflect on the year that has passed, and remember all the good and the bad.

2012 has been a hell of a year, with loads of major changes in my life. I for one, am calling KL my home now, after having being away for 15 years. It's been a struggle in the beginning to adjust, and honestly I am still adjusting to living at home again. But, as they say, home is where the heart is. 

I've left Sydney behind me, after being there for 12 years. It's had it's up's and down's, and certainly left a big dent in my heart. But, I am stronger and only looking forward to great things to come.

As Paolo Coehlo once said, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it." 

This is so true. KL is proving to be just that. All I need to do is, to get to it, and I believe it will happen. 

2013, look out! I am a coming!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Custom Cake Making Process

When I tell people that I am a professional cake designer, I usually get a range of responses. The most common is, "Do you make sponge cake? Or can you make ice cream cake? What about Tiramisu, do you do that?" 

Me: "Erm. No."

I try to be as polite as possible and point them into the direction of my website Miss Shortcakes
or to my Facebook page www.facebook.com/msshortcakes as the first point of entry, into my world as a cake designer.

They can view the sort of cakes I create there, and it should give them an idea as to what is expected from a cake by Miss Shortcakes. From there on, if they ask me again, "Can it be ice cream cake on the inside?", that's when I politely direct them to the nearest ice cream parlour.

Cake designing is pretty unfamiliar territory for a lot of people. Most do not realise how long it takes to create a custom cake, from start to finish. I thought this week, since I designed a cake from an invitation card and theme, it would be a good idea to share the entire process.

Generally a safe time frame to book a novelty cake is around 2 - 3 weeks prior. This gives me enough time to conceptualise the cake, design and plan, liase with the client, start making any decorations which need time to dry, and make purchases for special items if need be. 

So, the initial contact obviously comes from the client with the theme of the party. I receive the invitation card which contains the picture of the vampire girl, that she'd like as the cake topper. I also get information on the theme of the party, which is " In the Spirit of Halloween". She also tells me that the kids will be watching the new Sony movie Hotel Transylvania at the start of the party. The "must haves" on the cake are the usual Halloween suspects of bats and blood.

Invitation card

With all that information at hand, I can now start to look for ideas and references on the internet. I search for Halloween cakes, pictures from the movie Hotel Transylvania, anything at all that will give me inspiration for this cake.

Once I shortlist the pictures, these get printed out to create my "Mood Board". Then, the designing process begins. Some designs can be as quick as a couple of minutes, and some cake take up to 4 days to draw up. It really all depends on how all the elements work together on cake.

My Halloween Mood Board and rough sketches.

I toyed around with a few different shapes for this cake - Madhatter, tapered, extended tiers etc. A fun cake design like this, usually works best on a non-traditional shape (single tier or 2 tier, one on top of ther other).

After 5 or 6 rough sketches, I decide on a 2 tier cake, with the bottom tier, extended in height. So this means, the bottom tier will have 2 cakes stacked together, then iced, to make it look like one tier. Not only will this make it look tall, it will also give me the room to create the silhoutte of the hotel from the movie. 

The "mock" cake, set up in cake tin form
Final Artwork
Using the colours from the invitation card of red, black, and white, the top tier is iced in a deep red icing. The bottom tier is white, with a black silhoutte of the hotel and around the entire cake, there are scary looking trees, graves and bats flying in the moonlight. 

Vamp girl stands proudly on the top tier, with lots of bats flying around here. And to finish off the cake, blood is oozing out from the cake.

I get this scanned and emailed over to the client, and fingers crossed, all will be approved.

Thankfully this time, it's all good and I get to start work. If there are changes, then it's back to the drawing board. So this is why, it's always good to organise your cake at least 3 weeks ahead of time.

The most time consuming element on this cake, is the figurine of Vamp girl. If I'm lucky, I'll get to work on her over a period of 2 days. Parts of her need to dry overnight, before I can finish her off, as neatly as possible.

Then, it's the bats on wires. These also need a good 3 - 4 days to dry for them to hold up on the wires, in this humidity. The bats are cut out from a template I made using a picture of a bat, I found on the internet. Then the wings are thinned out slightly using a ball tool, then a wire inserted into the body. I have a cardboard setting tray which I made myself to lift up the wings on an angle. This makes the bats look like they are flying, rather than a flat one.

Then I move on to making the other bits and bobs that can be made in advance. And a couple of days before the party, the baking begins. The cakes are then cooled overnight in the fridge, before they are prepared for the ganaching process.

This is where the cakes trimmed, filled with chocolate ganache, then masked with more chocolate ganache, to create a near perfect foundation for the rolled fondant icing. I must stress that the ganaching process is THE most messy and important part of cake decorating. Some cakes can be ganached in less than 30 minutes, whereas the more complex shapes can take up to an hour and half alone!

If your foundation is rough and wonky, then when the icing goes on the cake, all the flaws will show. And this will make your cake look totally unprofessional and all your hardwork making the beautiful decorations have gone to waste.

I know I need to take pics of the cakes being ganached, but honestly it gets so messy, I don't really want to stop and get the camera out with my mucky hands. LOL! But I will, one day. I will.
Once they are ganached, they are rested in the fridge for a few hours, so that the fillings can set properly before the icing goes on.
There's the cake, iced and ready to be decorated. Fun time!

I also like to dry the cake overnight in the air conditioning before the decorations go on. This gives me a harder and drier cake surface to work on, and more often than not, the end result is always neater.

There she is!

Side view

So, the million dollar question would be....How long did it take?

For THIS design :
Cake design and consultation : 4 days, more or less
Decorations made in advance : 2 days
Baking from start to finish : 3 hours
Ganaching and icing : 3 hours, then overnight to dry out
Cake decorating : 4 hours, thereabouts

Not as easy as it looks, eh? But it's oh so much fun :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to make a sushi cake

One of my other fun projects the other week was to make a sushi cake for a little boy, who loves to eat, sushi! 

His mother sent me 3 photos of his favourite types of sushi, and then I had to turn it into a cake design.

So, we decided to go with the usual side kicks of sushi - soy sauce, chopsticks, wasabi dollop, and sliced pickled ginger.

It turned out really cute, I must say. The sushi was so fun to make, that I had to take a few photos to show you a step by step process.

Unfortunately my camera was AWOL the day I was making the sushi, so I had to use my Iphone to snap the pics. Apologies for the poor quality.

First step. Make the rice. I had to make ikura gunkan-maki (salmon roe), salmon nigiri, and tamago sushi (egg sushi). So, knead a small amount of white gumpaste into a pliable consistency. Then roll it out into thin, long strips about 1/2cm thickness. Try to get it even, then cut away 1/4 cm pieces (or smaller), with a small paring knife, until the entire strip is used up.

Then, to shape the rice, you will need lots of patience here. Take each piece, place in the palm of your hand. With your fingertip, roll the end bit of the piece into a tapered shape, with a backward and forward movement. Repeat on the other side, until you are satisfied that it resembles a grain of rice.

To the right, the original bits of icing I started out with. To the left, the rice grains.

 So, when you think you have enough. Start again, and make some more. Whenever I make fiddly, tiny things like filler flowers, or buds for flowers, I always keep going and going, until I can go no more. You always need more than anticipated.

Sorry. With the rice grains. This is a rule of thumb here. Make as many as you can, then leave them to dry for 30 minutes or so.

Next step. Making the sushi centres. The 3 different kinds of sushi have similar shapes. So instead of packing a whole bunch of fondant rice together to form the shape of the sushi, I formed a ball of white fondant into an oval shape. This acts as the "bulk" of the sushi rice. Do this for all 3 types. Then, use sugar glue to stick the "rice grains" all over the ball of fondant. This creates the illusion that it really is a ball of rice.

The egg omellette was made from pale yellow fondant, then rolling it out quite thick. Cut it into a rectangle shape, round of the corners, then use a sharp knife to create lines all over it. Stick it onto the "rice" with sugar glue, and let it curve over the sides a little.

The salmon nigiri was made with a thick piece of orange fondant, rolled out. Then cut out into a rectangle shape, and on one end, I cut it into an arrow-like shape. Secure it on the rice, and again, let it drape over the sides. It was then painted over with a deep, red, coral colour to add depth. Then, the bits of "fat marbling" on the salmon was painted on again, with white food colouring. 

Now onto the last sushi, the salmon roe. With a deep, orange fondant, make tiny balls, enough to cover the top of the final sushi. Let it dry. Then, it's time to make the nori sheets.

To get that deep green, almost black colour, I started off with a dark grey fondant, then added leaf green and black fondant, while mixing it to the colour I wanted.

Then roll it out thin. I mean, really THIN. Then use a clean teatowel, and roll over with a rolling pin, to create a textured finish.

The nori sheet. You can see it's so thin, you can clearly see the shapes of palm of my hand and fingers.
Then cut out a thick strip and measure around the final ball of fondant for size. It should wrap around the ball to fit perfectly. Use a leaf cutter with a jagged edge to "texturise" the strips of nori on the edges.

Then secure it around the ball of fondant. Use more sugar glue to attach more rice grains to the top of the sushi, then glue on the salmon roe balls on top. Make sure you cover the entire top.

With the remaining strips of nori sheet, cut out a thin strip, and using the same method for jagged edges, cut out a small piece to wrap around the egg tamago sushi.

The finished sushi decorations, let ot dry.

The rest of the elements were all made with fondant and gumpaste, including the chopsticks, plate, and soy sauce dish.

Here's the finished cake.

What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Pink and Glittery Baby Shower

Recently, a very old, dear friend of mine, had her baby shower to welcome her little girl that's arriving in a few week's time. I was supposed to attend, but due to conflicting dates with another friend's 1st Birthday party, I had to regretfully decline. 

Lo and behold, as fate turned out, I was dreadfully sick anyway the entire week, so I couldn't go to EITHER of the parties! But anyway, I still ended up making the 2 cakes for each party as promised, but only just managed to scrape through.

I decided to write a post on her baby shower as it was so pretty! Her younger sister, Azuree and husband, Mark organised the party and I loved all the little details.

The theme was based around the colours hot pink, gold, and a hint of diamonds. And the party was held the happy couple's home in Damansara Perdana. It was such a shame that I missed the event, but I look forward to meeting her little bub very soon! 

Here are some of the pics taken from the party, from her Facebook page, with her permission, of course.


Table setting with fresh lilac daisies
A peek through the clothes line :)

I love this photo. Great feature wall.

Pretty pink clothes line
Gorgeous dessert table. That gold mirror sets it right off!

Proud hubby and glowing Mum-to-be
I love this photo too :)

My cake!
 To Azwin and Mark, I'm sure you'll make the bestest of best parents to a very lucky girl! Congratulations once again! xx Miss Shortcakes


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gorgeous cakes this weekend!

It was Etto's 1st birthday weekend and what a lucky boy he is to have 2 parties. The first one was a swimming party as Etto loves to swim. His mother requested a swimming pool with Etto, of course in the pool amongst the usual suspects of beach ball, flippers, bucket, and sunglasses. 

I decided to place different shades of blue mosaic tiles around the side of the cake, to make it look like the tiles used in a swimming pool. The "water" in the pool was a flat piece of marbled blue icing, then I used cold mirror gel, mixed with a little marble blue royal icing mixture, to create "movement" in the water. I think this method gives it a much softer touch, rather than just straight royal icing, which makes it look very stiff.

I was very happy with the result of the cake, and the colours as well, were very pleasing to the eye.Will definitely repeat this design again, as is!

The next party planned for Etto, was sports-themed. His parents are huge fans of soccer and football and I think the entire family would love for Etto to be a sportsman. 

So, the theme of the party was orange and green, and I designed his cupcakes based on the invitations sent out.

And there's Etto, in his Arsenal jersey, sitting amongst his Sports-themed cupcakes. I LOVE the orange against the brown cupcake casings, and the black board also made the cupcakes really jump out at you!

And finally, I had an old friend's Baby Shower cake to do as well. She wanted something girly with hot pink, gold, and diamonds as the theme colours of the party. 

Mind you, the budget was tight, so instead of a 3D pram, I suggested for 2D, but with touches of gold and diamonds, and ruffles. I think it looked fantastic! So there you go, 3D need not necessarily be the ONLY way to go!

The rest of the cake had a few baby items such as a rattle and pacifier, and she also wanted some name blocks, with the words, "It's a girl!" on them. Instead of the creating a letter for each block, as I always do, I decided to handpaint the message using only 3 blocks.

For one, the cake was only little, so I had to resize the blocks according to the cake size. And I also had limited space on the cake board. It worked out terrific and looked so much better than having a letter for each block, in this case.

The white polka dots on the cake add some sweetness, and I also added a few gold polka dots, just to make it a little more interesting.

It was a simple cake, but I really loved how gorgeous it turned out.

Hmm....I might have to make this a Miss Shortcakes signature Baby Shower cake :) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beautiful Weddings in Malaysia

I love being a part of a wedding. As stressful as it may be for all the wedding vendors, when everything comes together beautifully, you can't help but feel proud that you were part of that special day.  

Here in Malaysia, a "small" wedding is considered for 300 people and under. The norm, I would say is around 500 - 600 guests. Everyone is invited! Most Malaysian families are quite large. One can have at least 5 aunts and 4 uncles, along with 25 cousins, out of which half of them have spouses, and children. And that's just one part of the family. It extends even further and some don't even know of these "relatives", until they get put down on the guest list!  

But they do go all out for the wedding. If I'm not mistaken, the Malays usually hold the legal and religious part of the wedding, called "Akad Nikah", at home. It still is a serious affair and lots of preparation is involved. This particular ceremony that I was involved in was for 600 people, and it was at the bride's family home.

Dozens of tables set up, outside the home and all over the entire street.

Bridal table

My cupcakes
Later that evening, I had to deliver another wedding cake, but this time to a hotel ballroom. It was decorated in fresh pink, lilac, cream, and blue flowers and I could see, all details were covered very thoroughly. It was a very pretty set-up indeed.

The cake, was a monster-sized cake. My largest cake to date, made from home, that is. It measured around 70cm tall and the base of the cake was 14" wide. The bride and groom were keen on a hexagon-shaped top tier, and also wanted some pretty and to suit the theme of the night. 

I was so excited to make this cake and I loved making all the sugar flowers too! It turned out so pretty and I was very happy with the result. Delivering the cake was the worst part of the job. But lucky me, my dearest brother gave a much-needed helping hand with the delivery!

Dessert table. Not complete. Bummer. By the very talented Izreen of Fluff & Stuff

Look at those pom pom's! I can't wait to see the photos of the table, all complete.

Bridal table

There she is!!

What a great weekend!