Recently a co-worker came to me to make a cake on pretty short notice. When I say short notice, it was like a Monday, and she wanted the cake for today. *ahem* Anyway, the cake that she wanted was for her daughter, and it was a fairly simple cake to do, so I agreed. Her daughter was having a High School Musical party, and her thoughts were simply to have a cake, the same cake I made for Sweetpea's birthday, with the East High Wildcat on it, and for it to say "Happy Birthday Maddie". Ok, I can handle that. My problem was that the cake we talked about seemed too simple. Rather plain, actually. And you know I must always take every cake one step further. Always. I'm beginning to think it's a curse. So I started playing with ideas. This is what I ended up with:
Overall I think it turned out pretty well, though I was not pleased with the amount of crumbs that were visible in the frosting. Frankly, though, because this was done on such short notice, I did not have enough frosting to put down a crumb layer and then a top layer, and I simply did not have enough time to make another batch of frosting. So the cake had crumbs. My co-worker said she couldn't even tell what it was I was talking about, and her daughter liked the cake, so that's really all that matters. I played with several ideas for the Wildcat, and actually made a color flow version of it first. I just ran into the difficulty that I made the red entirely too dark, and it ended up not matching the lettering or the border. I took the color flow piece, still on the wax paper and cardboard, to work with me, and let my co-worker choose between it and my putting the Wildcat on with frosting. She chose the frosting. Good choice. I also played with several ideas for the lettering, and decided it would be best to use the lettering from High School Musical. Can't get more authentic than that, right? So, a little girl got her name in lights! The music notes were completely my idea, since I felt the cake needed something around the sides. They turned out a little bigger than I intended, but again, the customer was happy so it didn't matter. And now to what I learned:
1. Always make more frosting than what you figure you'll need. This should be a rule, never to be disobeyed. It is always better to have too much, than not enough. Though it seems to me that I have learned this before...
2. When using already colored fondant to make black fondant it is important to remember that using different colored "base" fondants will result in different colors of black. Really, I'm not kidding about this. You didn't know there were different colors of black, did you? Yeah, well, neither did I.
3. Store-bought red icing sucks. Sorry, but it does. It is the wrong consistency (too thin), it takes too long to crust over, and when it does crust, it gets TOO hard. It makes it difficult to fix peaks in icing where you don't want peaks to be. Plus, because it is too thin, and, I suspect, made with too much Crisco, it doesn't stick to the cake very well. While it's a great short-cut to try to avoid having to make red icing yourself, and therefore chance getting the wrong color red, it still sucks to work with.
4. Anything colored, icing, color flow, fondant, will darken in color over time. I know this. I've known this since the first class I took. For whatever reason, I can never remember it. Thus, I think I will have the correct color of red, and instead I end up with maroon. I must have this tattooed to the back of my hand, or write it backwards on a sticky note and stick it to my forehead. Something.
5. You can find just about any alphabet you want on the internet.
6. An alphabet printed off of the internet, then copied to provide a larger or smaller version of such alphabet, then cut out of the paper, makes a wonderful set of templates for fondant cutting.
7. The cutting of items with minute details, sharp corners and rounded edges out of fondant would be so much easier with an exacto knife. Wish I owned one.
8. A paring knife kind of works for such cutting. Kind of.
9. When cutting letters out of fondant, it is best to cut them out backwards. What I mean is, when you are looking down at the letter template and it is facing the right direction, flip it over so that it is facing the wrong direction instead. Therefore, the fondant cut out can be turned over the right way, and you will have the smooth side of the fondant, with no crinkle marks around the edges where you drug the paring knife through in the process of cutting it out, to display on the cake.
10. It is important to practice cutting out fondant letters before-hand, so that you are aware of crinkled edges and can find a solution before such ugly-edged pieces make it onto your cake.