Category: gumpaste flowers


Making cake is an expensive hobby. Extremely expensive. There are so many tools, gadgets, colors, dusts, cutters, and do-dads it’s overwhelming. And the more specialty the stuff is, the higher the price tag. If you do this as a profession (or addiction), you are constantly buying buying buygin, and it can get seriously out of control.

Just like anything, there are high priced tools, cutters, veiners, etc. that you can spend thousands on at the cake store.  The thing is, some of it is stuff that’s repackaged and marked up or you can just as easily use something cheap in place of that super expensive specialty item. That’s where hacks come in.

A “hack” is repurposing something for something else that it wasn’t designed for. I have a few cake hacks I want to share.

Bubbles in Fondant:
There is no purchased tool that exists and is marketed for popping those pesky fondant air bubbles. A lot of people use straight pins. I don’t. First, straight pins are not marketed as a food product so they aren’t exactly sanitary, they are also dangerous. I actually rolled a straight pin into my fondant once because I was in a hurry, set the pin down on the counter, forgot, set a ball of fondant on top of it, and rolled away. Talk about a close call!

My Hack:

I use hypodermic needles. Yes, the kind you get when you have diabetes. Let’s face it, everyone knows someone with diabetes – ask them for a few of their needles. The needles themselves are tiny, it’s much harder to loose track of them, and they are sterile. They work wonderfully and you can’t see the pin prick on your fondant at all.

The Cheapest Flower Veiners You’ll Ever Use

If you are in to making sugar flowers, you quickly realize that there is not only a special cutter for every single flower; there are also special silicone veiners for them. The cutters are generally pretty spendy, but good veiners are crazy expensive. Certain flowers have certain characteristics, and if you are a true naturalist and want a 100% botanically correct flower, you probably want to spend the money on the veiner. But if you are like me and are perfectly happy to have the flower look 95% botanically correct, you are perfectly happy with short cuts. And boy, do I have one for you.

My Hack:

Dried corn husks. Like what they make tamales in? Some only are a little rippled. Some are a lot. You can flatten them out a bit if you need to. They are marketed as food so they are sanitary and you can buy a crapton for less then a buck. I have an all-purpose silicone veiner that I paid $80 for that is mostly retired in favor of the deep groves and veins that I can get using a dried corn husk.

Another cheap veiner? Viva paper towel. Flowers like magnolias, white orchids, and roses have some texture, but not much. Sure, you can buy silicone veiners, but they are really unnecessary for those of us that just want “close enough”. Just dust a Viva with some cornstarch and press your petal into it. It leaves a very natural surface on the petal and makes them more realistic. The microscopic grooves also help the petal to grab and retain colored dusts.

What about you? What hacks do you use when making cakes?

Advertisements
Real orchids

Real orchids on buttercream cake

Most couples have a general idea of what they want in terms of a cake design (most, not all!) and at consultations a lot of times I’m told right off the bat “the florist said they’ll just stick some flowers on the cake”.

First, no florist has permission to touch my cake.  I completely respect my fellow vendors and I know they work their butt off, but I’d never presume to rearrange their flowers, they have no business willy nilly sticking stems and leaves onto my creations.  Florists do not have a food handler’s permit or a SafeServ certification.  In short, they are not licensed or qualified to handle food.

But after a particularly bad experience I had very recently, I feel I need to start vocalizing some bigger picture things.

If the cake is supposed to have fresh flowers on it, I get them when I deliver the cake.  Never once in the 3 years of making wedding cakes have I seen these flowers given any special treatment like they will be going on a food product – I’ve been handed stems picked up off the floor, pulled out of the trunks of filthy cars, or wrapped in ratty mold-smelling old newspaper.  These stems are always untreated, meaning they still have thorns, dead petals, extra foliage, roots, dirt, debris, and so forth on them.  And in a very recent cake experience, they were crammed in a box, wilted to hell, and bug infested.  When I said to the florist, “What the hell?  I can’t use these on a cake!”  She said, “why not?”  Then grabbed one of the flowers, blew on it in the DIRECTION OF THE CAKE and started laying them out on the cake table.  I presume this was her scientific way to remove the little critters scurrying around on the buds.

Horrified, I stopped her and told her I’d take care of it.  I took all the flowers meant for the cake to a bathroom sink (which is also completely unsanitary but it was my only option) to try and wash and dry them as best as I could.  2/3rd of those flowers went in the trash and I ended up taking flowers from the centerpieces (and wash them!) to use.  I wrapped each stem in non-toxic floral tape so they wouldn’t seep any sap into the cake and I attached each to a toothpick so I could anchor them on the cake.  This ringamarole took an hour longer for me to do then it should have.  I gladly did it, but it left me wondering:  why doesn’t anyone seem to care about how gross these flowers are?  Why am I always looked at like I am a loon when I deliver the cake then spend another 40 minutes wrapping stems instead of just jabbing them in and getting on with my day?

Think about it:  if a server dropped your french fries on the floor but served them to you anyway, would you still eat them?  If you found little bugs crawling in your salad would you still eat it after the waitress blew on it to make the bugs go away?  Or… what if you found out that the salad you were eating hasn’t even been washed from the field where it was grown in human waste, sprayed with cancer-causing chemicals in 50% higher doses as what is acceptable to the FDA on a food product, picked by individuals not following food handling practices (because, you know, they aren’t handling food), crammed in a filthy box and shipped straight to the restaurant to be tossed onto a plate?  You’d freak out.

And yet – couples are regularly told to use fresh flowers on the cake to save a few bucks.  Google it – I got over 2 million articles.

And if the reality of the above isn’t enough to gross you out, some of the most popular wedding flowers staples like calla lilies, hydrangea, carnations, and tulips are toxic and considered poisonous – and this season’s hot flowers like the ranunculus and many species of succulents can cause mouth blisters, vomiting and actually be fatal.  To say that these flowers and plants should NEVER come in contact with food is an understatement.

I know what you are thinking:  “Jen, you exaggerate!  My Florist would never suggest a toxic flower for my cake!”  Yeah they do.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.  And what’s worse, I’ve also seen several cake sketches made by my competitors that have these toxic flowers all over them.  I feel like I’m being underhanded pointing out to potential clients that if they choose to go with the other baker, make sure they don’t cover the cake with something that can give their guests diarrhea, but I can’t help it.

So what am I suggesting you do?  Well, if you really want fresh flowers on your cake, you should at least insist that they are organic.  That takes care of the pesticide issue, but contrary to what you may think, that doesn’t mean the flowers are food safe.  Unless you get edible flowers grown specifically to be eaten, organic flowers are still considered a decoration, not food.  It still means different growing conditions from what farmers would use if they were growing spinach, and different government guidelines on how they are handled.  It means unsanitary field workers, unsanitary shipping and unsanitary packaging.  And have you seen the cost of organic flowers???

The art of making sugar flowers is not something that every baker or cake artist attempts to learn or has a knack for, but what we make is food safe.  No bugs.  No poop.  No dirt from the field.  No cancer-causing chemicals.  Depending on the flower, they aren’t much more costly then getting real flowers and they are wonderful keepsakes.  They are also  gorgeous.

Just wanted people to know.

Sugarpaste Peony

Sugarpaste Peony. Beautiful, right?

Oh, by the way?  If you are stopping by my blog and think I’m awesome (or even if you just think I’m OK), can you take a moment to VOTE to help me win a grant from Chase Finance and Living Social?  I need 250 Facebook votes to be considered.  Please click on this link, search for Beyond Buttercream, California, San Francisco and VOTE!  Thank you!

UPDATE #1:  I got an email from one of my past brides wanting to know if the story above was her cake.  I didn’t write this post to “out” any vendor – simply to draw attention to how flowers are actually handled behind the scenes based on my experience.  One of the things that sets me apart from other bakers and bakeries is that I have extremely high quality standards.  When I say I use high quality, name brand ingredients, and have an extremely high attention to detail, I mean it and live it.  I really, really do.  I know many caterers and other bakers that advertise that they do, but have seen them use the cheapest ingredients they can get their hands on and call it “gourmet”.

I would never, ever, ever ever ever permit the use of anything on one of my cakes that I would not eat myself.  Ever.  If you were one of my past brides and I just freaked you out, I assure you I took just as much care making sure your flowers were as clean and as food safe as I could before using them.