Cakeriffic Competition

Once again, I’ve entered a cake competition. But this time, I’m glad that I didn’t have to carry this piece onto a plane and worry about it being destroyed in transit. All I had to do was to transport it into my car and take a forty minute drive to Caulfield Racecourse, where the Cakeriffic expo will be held for the second time, drop my cake and make any last-minute fixes, and head home.

The Cakeriffic Contemporary Cake Decorating Competition for the beginner’s category had a theme of “100 Years of Red Cross”. I instantly shied away from the theme because I had no idea on how to approach the theme. But I warmed up to it and realised that I needed a creative challenge, and so I decided to sign up for the competition, to which they changed the conditions afterwards that it does not have to be true to the theme.

Where do I start?

I needed “Pinspiration” – Pinterest was not of great source to me, in fact I still don’t quite know how to fully utilise Pinterest properly, so any suggestions welcomed! I used Uncle Google to search for images and ideas. The Australian Red Cross had a website celebrating their centenary, and it provided a history of their past achievements since World War I. After a few hours and weeks of browsing through, I have my mood board if you would call it that!

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My mood board, or inspiration board. I loved this!

And the result? Ta-daa!

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The Four Walls of Red Cross History

The Australian Red Cross has so much to tell over the last 100 years that I wanted to include as much as I can. I knew immediately that I could not possibly achieve it with a round cake, and a square cake would allow me to provide me with more surface area to work with.

As if four inches of height isn’t a nightmare to cover for a square cake usually, I opted for an eight inch tall cake, which made matters worse. As a general rule for covering cakes with fondant, you would roll out fondant to the exact width and length of the cake so you know you have enough covering the whole cake. In this case, I was very extremely  silly enough to bother trying when I knew it would have been a monumental task and the fondant will rip. And it did, twice. I ended up cursing in my head, having a oh-my-god-why-did-I-even-think-of-doing-such-an-impossible-task moment. With minimal resistance, I covered the cake with fondant panels where I cover the cakes with panels cut to size. Much easier, less stressful, and I get my sharp edges.

I wanted two side panels of the cake to have lettering. One of them would be titled 100 years of the Australian Red Cross, and the other opposite side of the cake would have the seven principles that Red Cross operates by. If I thought Clixstix alphabet cutters were a nightmare, I have yet to meet my worst enemy.  I had trouble with my new FMM Tappit alphabet cutters because I broke off the letter “n” from the strip (my brute force did not help at all!), and that meant trying to get “n” out was not easy. And it’s not even a week old!!! I could not use “u” and have invert it because it didn’t look right.  But I’ve come to learn that the fondant must be rolled out thinly, and when I mean thin, I mean reeeeeeeeaaal thin. And the acupuncture needle is your best friend. Next was to attach the letters onto the cake which meant that I had to make sure they are arranged on a straight line. In doing so, a lot of masking tape was used and rulers were used.

As for the other two, I changed a lot of the design over the weeks. As much as I wanted to use the airbrush to draw and create a lot of designs, I chose to have more words, but hand-painted onto the cake to give it a more organic look. I included a few other decorative themes like the First Aid Kit logo, the blood shaped like a tear drop for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and the membership pin that was once used for the recruitment of new members in the 50’s I believe. One panel was to document the first 50 years of Red Cross, and the opposite panel was the 50 years thereafter.

To tie all the panels together, I found this design by Anthony Grima, from Anthony Grima Designs who came up with this really modern and graphic design as part of Red Cross’s Workplace Giving Program. I loved the idea of leaves on branches intertwined to form a network, which I thought would work well in connecting all the panels together. I drew inspiration with the colour scheme,  and some leaves were painted.

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As for the toppers? That was from a photo of volunteers who formed a giant red cross and red crescent at the Sydney Opera House – grand idea, and I replaced it with little blossoms instead. The effect came out beautiful, but I would have attached the blossoms before they became rock hard in hindsight.

Lastly, what cake will be without a teddy bear? This teddy bear was based on Trauma Teddies that I learned were given to little kiddies during traumatic events, and I had a colleague bring a collection of her children’s teddies for me to look at. This was made based on one of them, and would you imagine that a teddy bear should be the easiest to execute – uh uh. I struggled trying to make it cute. But I do think my little bear is very cute too, do you agree?

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Trauma Teddy – “cute” version

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Trauma Teddy – the real, Red Cross-endorsed version

It was such a journey and it made me appreciate all the hard work and effort the Red Cross has brought to this country. And I had a drive to capture all that history onto a cake as such, I hope everyone liked it at the show. And I hope the Australian Red Cross notices this cake too!

Do You Mahjong?

For the biggest part of my childhood life, mahjong was a weekly social event for my family. It usually involves a session after lunch, that may stretch into the night, interspersed with dinner with my grandmother, my aunt’s family, and my own family. My brother picked it up at quite a young age, and I, got dragged into learning it too soon after. He always had a good eye for tiles, and would often win games between my cousin and I.

For my brother’s birthday this year, I thought this may be a great source of inspiration for his birthday cake. I immediately knew that the colour of the back of the mahjong tiles had to be gold, to remind him of the mahjong set that he has not played with since my aunt purchased for him in Hong Kong and is in my mum’s possession in Malaysia. To start, I struggled to find what would be the best way to create a replica of the mahjong tiles. And then I realized that the only way to do so is to make a mould of each of the mahjong tiles, and to do so I remembered watching Verusca Walker’s tutorial on Learn Cake Decorating Online on how to make molds – done!

I did not follow all the steps on making the mold, because heaven forbids, if anything happened to the real mahjong tiles that I had, I’d be in a lot of trouble with my family! I am sure some families keep mahjong sets as somewhat of an heirloom, and I did my best in avoiding any damages made to the set that I had. So instead of forcing the whole tile into a blob of unused fondant, I rolled out fondant “tiles” enough to grab hold of the indents and detail on each character, and I let them harden up. Once they become firm to use, I can then make an impression on the cut-up mahjong tiles. Oh wait, I just made impression moulds!

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My impression moulds! Notice the detail left on them 🙂

The mahjong tiles were made with white fondant with CMC powder so that it hardens faster. I eyeballed when I was cutting them into individual tiles, ending up in tiles of different sizes – should have followed the exact dimensions and carefully measured them, dang it! Mahjong tiles, I have come to learn over the years, come in different thicknesses depending on how the owner likes to hold it in his or her hands. Mine were fairly thick for this cake project, which gives it plenty of room to paint on the colour at the back of the fondant tiles. Once they have been cut into individual tiles, I pressed the impression moulds firmly onto each tile so that it leaves the imprint that I need to paint on later. And all there is to it is to use gel colours watered down with vodka to paint in the indentations left behind by the molds to create the characters. Do they look alike to you?

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Can you tell them apart?

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They look like the real mahjong tiles, I think

I placed a birthday message on the cake with more confidence this time, with a big thank you to Karen from Lick The Bowl, who showcased a quick video tutorial on how to use Tappits and how to arrange lettering on a cake. I found it to be very useful and it definitely saved me a lot of time, so thank you to the Australian Cake Decorating Network for organizing it!

After I had the cake, and later on the tiles and the birthday message, I thought it lacked something. It needed a burst of colour, and it occurred to me that “real” mahjong games need chips for it to feel that you’re playing. Without further ado, I went on to cut fondant “chips” – probably the easiest part of making the cake. The different colours denote different denominations when playing, and I had the chips marked with an indentation and painted gold. All that’s left was to assemble the components on the cake, and it was ready!

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“Chips” were made to give the cake a burst of colours

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Colourful!

Cakes like these are meant to impress and evoke memories, and my brother was impressed with it, I hope. And I hope that you may find some techniques useful in this blog post.

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