Crown Your Cake
These stunningly decorated and highly personal cakes are the creation of Sinead, a trained chef with ten years experience. She came to the technique fairly recently after launching her new business, Crown Your Cake, specialising in bespoke occasion cakes for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and religious celebrations. Her artistic talents include the ability to capture people’s personalities and quirks in utterly charming handmade figures.
On the morning of our shoot, Sinead had a prepared dummy-cake to work on and assembled her tools and colours close to hand. Sinead works with typical artist paintbrushes and uses Colour Splash Pro-gel colours, which she mixes with a little vodka in a paint pallet. A few sheets of white paper are kept to hand to test out the density of the colours and practice the strokes before application to the iced cake.
Vodka is used rather than water because it gives the colour more staying power and as the alcohol evaporates, it dries more quickly, meaning there is less chance of damage to the icing.
Sinead places the dummy-cake on a turntable, ensuring she can rotate it as she works. If you don’t have a turntable, a large platter on an upturned bowl would suffice. Just ensure it’s stable and not likely to tip over.
“We are going to start off with foxgloves. Always practice on a bit of paper first. I’ll use a paintbrush that is quite bristly – it’s quite hard so it will give a nice effect of petals. I have a smaller paintbrush here that I have cut the top off just to give another effect. You can also change the angle of the paintbrush to give a different effect. For instance, turn the brush to make the line thin at the top and thick at the bottom or vice-versa.
“To create petals, use a broad stroke using one colour. I’m using Colour Splash Violet.Then, add a darker shade or contrasting colour to the inner part of the petal to make it more realistic. It’s a good technique, not difficult at all. You can create your own personal style and vary the size of the petals.
After you have mastered the technique on paper you can try it directly on the cake. Rotate the cake gently as you go, so the cake doesn’t slide off. So its basically just dabbing it and that’s the beauty of doing wild flowers or fancy flowers, its doesn’t have to be botanically correct or too precise.
“Now it’s time to add a bit of greenery. We have two different greens. Today I’m using olive green and eucalyptus, again mixing them with the vodka. With these ones you use really thin brushes – I’m using the zero-zero and a relatively thin brush tapered at the end. It’s nice to mix different greens together so you get more variety. Again, just practice a little and create stems and tendrils.
Bring the design up the sides and onto the top of the cake. If I was painting something like foxgloves, the stem would go on the top, the curves and the flowers would fall off it and I’d add a few wild, curly leaves as well. It adds a bit of more effect – as if there is a bit of wind, a bit of life in it.
“Now we can try some pansies. With these we colour with a one-stroke brush – it’s an angular brush and makes the job really simple. Choose three different colours for these one-stroke brushes – so you can put say dark, medium and a light which will make it really simple to create these flowers.
“My main colour here is claret, this is my all time favourite – again this is a Pro-gel – a dark purple and I’m using a red for contrast. Soak the whole paintbrush first and just dip either end in– its called the toe and the heel. Check if you need more vodka, soak it up and just practice it on the paper. When you’re happy that it looks good start on the cake.
“Scrub into the cake for each petal. The colour just seems to dissolve into the fondant so you will need to add more colour to the cake. Keep going until you have a pansy — what I like about this design is that if I make a mistake, I can just say it’s a wild flower!
“For the leaves, I use more of a tapered ending brush, size 10. If you want smaller pansies you just use a smaller brush with the same shape. Again into the vodka –we’ll use the two greens; the eucalyptus and olive green and see how it looks on paper. Just add in a few leaves at a time, apply a little pressure and turn the brush slightly to create the effect of the leaves being blown. Then draw in the stems.
“Remember, if you make a mistake, you can wipe it away with vodka but sometimes mistakes turn out better than what you had originally planned!
“As the cake is getting more filled in you might need to take a step back or pop out of the room for a minute. When you come back you’ll see it more clearly and you might not need to add any more to it. If it does need more, start with some small squiggly leaves or tendrils as they fill in without over-cluttering the design. That’s pretty much it.”
The result is very elegant, ethereal-looking cake that would grace any occasion.