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Recipes & Tips

What is the best cake for cake sculpture?
A firm but moist cake is recommended.  If you prefer to use a softer recipe then it would be fine but youíd need to use internal support so the weight of the cake, filling and covering doesnít compress down causing the cake to collapse.  Even with a firm cake for sculpture I often still use internal supports like food-safe wooden or plastic dowels.

I recommend any dense cake like banana cake or chocolate cake (Devilís Chocolate Cake is the main one I use and is featured in some of my titles) as these are usually very rich but with a dense texture, perfect for sculpture as theyíre not too crumbly.

Hereís a basic firm but moist butter sponge recipe to try.  Keep your oven low and if it browns too quickly and cracks badly at the crust then your oven temperature may not be true.  Also turn down a degree or two if you have fan assisted oven.

To settle the crust, allowing the cake to bake perfectly evenly on top, cover the top of the tin with a metal baking sheet which rests on the top edge of the tin.  This also ensures the cake keeps moist during baking.

12oz unsalted butter, softened
12oz caster (superfine) sugar
6 large eggs
14oz self-raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons Buttermilk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150įC/325įF/Gas 3, then grease and line the bakeware.  The recipe amount above is suitable for a 10in round cake.

Sift the self-raising flour into a bowl.

Soften the butter and put in the food mixer or large mixing bowl with the caster/superfine sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time with a spoonful of the flour, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla essence/flavouring and buttermilk (optional).

Using a spatula or large spoon, fold the remaining flour into the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the bakeware, leveling the surface.

Bake in the centre of the oven until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the bakeware for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.  When cold, store in an airtight container or double wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) for at least eight hours, allowing the texture to settle before use.

What cake filling and crumb coat is best to use?
Cakes require a filling when layered and a crumb coat which is the spread over the surface of the actual cake so the sugarpaste sticks to it.  You can use many different fillings, i.e., Chocolate Ganache, English buttercream, Swiss Meringue buttercream or even just a plain jam.  Be careful as some are more perishable than others and never use fresh cream unless you leave yourself no more than one hour to decorate your cake and work in a cool environment.  For intricate sculptures I prefer to use Chocolate Ganache as this sets firmly giving the structure good support:

750g couverture chocolate
450-750ml fresh whipping cream (the less cream the firmer the Ganache will set)

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water (or a bain-marie) to 40C (105F)

Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Allow the cream to cool slightly and then whisk the cream into the melted chocolate until combined.

Allow the Ganache to cool, then transfer into an airtight container and refrigerate.  Use within one month.

What is sugarpaste?
Sugarpaste is as the name suggests, a sugar (fondant) that has been processed into a paste so can be used as a rolled covering, so another name for it is rolled fondant.

Can I make my own sugarpaste?
Yes of course, itís relatively easy but time consuming and I would say now with the many different brands of commercial pastes available where many have perfected the recipe so itís very stable to use, I would rather purchase than make myself.  If youíd like to try or find it difficult to find in your country, hereís a recipe:

Makes 625g (1 1/4lb)

1 egg white made up from dried egg albumen (see recipe on pack)
2 tablespoons liquid glucose
625g (1 1/4lb/4 1/2 cups) icing sugar
A little white vegetable fat/shortening if required
A pinch of CMC or Gum Tragacanth if required

Put the egg white and liquid glucose into a bowl, using a warm spoon for the liquid glucose.

Sift the icing sugar into the bowl, adding a little at a time and stirring until the mixture thickens.

Turn out onto a work surface dusted liberally with icing sugar and knead the paste until soft, smooth and pliable.  If the paste is a little dry and cracked, fold in a little vegetable fat and knead again.  If the paste is very soft and sticky, add a little more icing sugar or to stabilise further a pinch of CMC or Gum Tragacanth.

Put immediately into a polythene bag and store in an airtight container.  Keep cool room temperature, or can refrigerate.  Bring back to room temperature and knead thoroughly before use.

Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

How do I use sugarpaste?
Make sure no matter what brand you have that you knead until the paste is soft and pliable and almost sticky.  Donít take too long doing this as it can start to dry out and I donít use any icing (powdered) sugar whilst I knead as when incorporated into the paste can dry it out and cracks may appear.

When rolling out it depends on the brand, some need loads of icing (powdered) sugar sprinkled on the work surface whilst others need only a little and some work better just with a little white vegetable fat spread over the work surface prior to rolling out.  I tend to use icing sugar and rub a little into the top of well kneaded paste just before rolling out.  When rolling out keep moving it around otherwise it can stick underneath.  Roll to a thickness of between 2-4mm depending on how stretchy the brand of sugarpaste is.  The thicker the covering the easier it is to gain a smooth surface but some people prefer a thinner covering.

How do I gain a smooth surface on sugarpaste?
You need to ensure your covering is as neat as possible.  I smooth out dimples and imperfections with a professional cake smoother but if you havenít one of these then a thick piece of food-safe card will suffice.  For top edges and hard to reach areas you can make your own cake smoother by rolling a small ball of sugarpaste, dust with icing sugar and flatten the bottom.  Now place on the sugarpaste surface and rub gently back and forth, it works brilliantly!  If you donít like sticky fingers though you can pop this into a thin polythene bag and it still works fine, plus your hands stay clean.

How do I colour sugarpaste?
I recommend you colour sugarpaste with paste colours which are a thick paste or gel based so when incorporated they donít change the consistency.  I usually colour a small ball deeply with chosen colour and then knead this into the quantity required.  Be careful when adding colour as itís very easy to add too much resulting in a colour that is too deep.  Paste usually dries a shade darker too so take care when colour matching.

Some sugarpastes seem to take ages before the colour disperses, again that depends on the brand as some are more stretchy than others making it harder to knead.

Can I model with sugarpaste alone?
Simple models are fine but as itís formulated as a covering paste it is usually too soft so I recommend the addition of a thickener like CMC (Carboxymethylcellulose) which is a synthetic substitute to Gum Tragacanth, both gums that thicken the paste making it firmer to use, making it into a modelling paste.  CMC brand names include Debbie Brownís Magic Powder (CMC), Tylose, Tylopur and Sugarcel to name some.

What is modelling paste?
Modelling paste is a sugarpaste that has been thickened with a gum so itís easier to shape.  There are many different brands that are ready made but I usually make my own as itís quick and simple:

450g (1lb) sugarpaste (ready to roll fondant)
1-2 level teaspoons CMC powder (depending on the firmness of your brand of sugarpaste)

Knead CMC into sugarpaste.  The sugarpaste starts to thicken as soon as CMC is incorporated so can be used immediately.  More thickening will happen gradually over a period of 24 hours.  Amount of CMC can be varied depending on firmness of sugarpaste and usage.  Also dependent on room temperature, atmospheric conditions, etc., so adjust accordingly.  Store airtight.

How do I make an edible glue?
Water sticks many brands of sugarpaste and modelling paste together fine, but others need something stronger.  I usually use a mixture of CMC and water, making a thick but still loose clear gel.  Another simple glue is a mixture of sugarpaste and water and for an extra strong glue I recommend using royal icing.  Hereís a simple CMC edible glue recipe for you:

1/4 teaspoon CMC powder
30ml (2 tbsp) boiled water, cooled until warm
Mix powder with warm water and leave to stand until powder is fully absorbed.  The glue should be smooth and have a soft dropping consistency.  If the glue thickens after a few days, add a few drops more water.  Store airtight in the refrigerator and use within 1-2 weeks.

To use, only brush a thin coat over the surface of the item you wish to glue, leave for a few moments to become tacky, and then press in place.

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