Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Two years ago, I was on a bus from Washington D.C. en route to Manhattan, when I took my iPad out to watch the film “Woman in Gold”. It was an insightful film about Maria Altmann’s quest to reclaim the Klimt painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I that was stolen by the Nazis during the second World War.

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Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann in Woman in Gold

And it was also then, that I realised the painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was sold to the son of Estée Lauder and was on display at the Neue Galerie in NYC. Guess what I did the minute I arrived in NYC? Dropped my luggage at my Airbnb, and dashed off to the gallery, braved the long crowds, and saw the piece in person. It was one of the most breathtaking moments in my life.

This has become the inspiration for my tutorial for the Australian Cake Decorating Network’s February edition of Cake! magazine. I’d like to showcase my latest cake, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Many elements from that painting were used to design this beautiful piece, and one of my personal favourites is the textured gold leaf!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial, as much as I was inspired to make it!

To read on how to create this piece, click on this link http://joom.ag/wH5W/p22

Happy Birthday, QEII!

I wanna brag a little. Ok, may be a little more than just a little.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned the big 9-0 this year, so a big “Happy Belated Birthday” to her because her real birthday was in April. It will be a public holiday here in Australia for the Queen’s birthday on Monday, so I thought this post is rather timely. When Nadiya Hussain, the winner from the Great British Bake Off made her a cake for Her Majesty to cut, my heart only wished if I, little ol’ me, would ever have the same privilege  to make one too.

Then Cake Masters Magazine, in the UK had a call out for submissions on cake designs to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, and I jumped on the occasion. I may never make her a real cake since she’s kilometers away, but hey, I can make one as though I was asked to, right? And as though she’s made another official trip Down Under. This is probably one of the very few opportunities that I can do so, and off to the drawing board I go!

I thank my friends and family (yes my parents had some input) on the design that I decided on, and ta-daa!!!!

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

Yes, it’s very clean and simple. I was gonna go for the Queen’s favourite flowers, but Uncle Google didn’t seem to have an answer for that (or there are what people believe that she likes). The one thing I knew before getting on the Internet was she loves her corgis. Like, they’re fluffy. And ridiculously cute with their little bums. So I knew I wanted a feature on the cake with a corgi, so I thought why not have a corgi wear St Edward’s Crown?

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

The next design element (thank you Robyn!) was the overall tiers. I picked the Queen’s gowns and dresses. The top tier was what the Queen wears to formal white-tie functions, simple, a lace dress that seem to catch the light a little, with the navy blue sash. I fashioned it as though it was an embossed design for the top tier, and I used an impression for it and added a pearl luster so it catches the light. I added the Queen’s royal cypher painted gold (which stands for Elizabeth II Regina) against a purple plaque which happens to be one of the colours on the jockeys who ride Her Majesty’s horses.

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

The bottom tier was designed based on Her Majesty’s coronation robes. This was a fantastic challenge on picking what elements of the robes to use. I later on decided to paint on the Tudor rose, the maple leaf, the fern, the wattle, and the four leaf clover. The dress itself was so ornate with gold and silver threads, with pearls and crystals arranged in a lattice design. I decided on a simpler approach and to have them piped instead.

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

I think this cake screams “Her Majesty!” quite fittingly, and I secretly hope deep inside, she will like it! Thank you once again to Cake Masters for allowing readers to make such a momentous celebration sweeter! It’s available in their June edition, together with some amazing tutorials. I may be biased, but I think it’s one of my favourite editions to date 🙂

 

Vincent x

Getting My Cake On with Kaysie Lackey

When I started cake decorating as a hobby, I was so immersed in it that I wanted to learn from as many resources that I could find – books, magazines, online tutorials, you name it, I had it. It was when I went on to Cake Masters that I was introduced to Kaysie Lackey. Her tutorial on the Klimt cake really got my head spinning. Everything in that tutorial, I absorbed as much as I can. She referenced artists, took their techniques and styles into an edible medium and achieved spectacular results. She had a great eye on colour and had a very carefree attitude. That was two years ago, when I knew I must attend a course with her!

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The finished product! Beautiful, isn’t it?

When she was coming to Australia this year, I was excited. She was going to be teaching a series of classes at Special Treats by Carolyn, which were Nigel the Owl, Blown Away Betty, and Benedict the Bull. PS: I love Carolyn when she gets such amazing teachers! Big ❤ to her!

International cake artists like Kaysie don’t come very often, and I knew I had to attend a class, which I chose Benedict the Bull. She first appeared at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show in Sydney last month, and I jumped on a ruching and gold leaf workshop instantly when I learned of them. Fondant is such an amazing thing – give it some modelling chocolate, and it stretches like a dream. Stab into it with some modelling shapers, and you get this beautiful fabric-like texture. Add some coloured dusts, and you create dimension of the textures that you made. And a deep cerise heart, and some gold leaf – bam! Fashion-inspired cake! But poor cake suffered in Sydney’s dreadful humidity, and it went out in the bin when I checked out. RIP cake 😦

When August came, I waited in anticipation for the weekend to come where I get to spend two whole days with Kaysie. Kaysie’s classes have been known to include very unique armature. She has a Craftsy class, called Sculpting Magic, which takes you through creating safe and sturdy armature for novelty cakes, and going for a class in person will better familiarise me with armature and the endless possibilities.

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Kaysie Lackey with her pavlova!

Kaysie is an excellent person – apart from sharing her life experiences, she talks about what she learned from teaching in other countries. Her suggestions are well-rounded and objective, and very willing to listen to other people’s knowledge. She studied the whole anatomy of the bull and explains what needs to be done to our cakes to achieve them. She looks at each student’s piece and shows you what needs to be done and encourages you to be confident every step of the way. Did I mention she loves show tunes and musicals? Her eclectic taste in music reverberates the room over the two days on her iTunes as we move along from construction of the armature to making the bull’s tail. Or cow’s tail, as some decided to add udders as part of the gender reassignment process.

The one thing that I’ve been nervous about is modelling chocolate. I’ve had some success making it, and then I struggled to get it to the right consistency. But Kaysie showed us how to make it her way, and using it during the two days reminds me of how beautiful it is to work for sculpting and modelling, so much so that when I touched fondant, it felt weird. Its pliability and ability to blend are big advantages, whilst its heat labile property may not be so appealing to people who have hot hands like me. Kaysie then shows us in marrying both fondant and modelling chocolate together, you get a product that showcases the best of both medium! I’m in love!

Kaysie also shows us throughout the two days on how to use the Innovative Sugarworks sugar shapers – they are amazing! Sadly, my hands struggle to go into certain corners, and Kaysie uses different tips effortlessly to achieve the texture that she wants from the bull’s nostrils right to the buttcrack (haha!). The shapers are an extension of the finger tips and it creates more effects on sugar work than what my fingers can physically do, and so I cannot wait to slowly familiarise myself with the different shapes of tips and making full use of them.

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Kaysie explaining how to use the sugar shapers

Somehow, we managed to spend way more time than expected with Kaysie. We spend an extra hour on Saturday, and a whopping four an a half hours after 5pm on Sunday. Oops. As hungry and tired as I am, I think I managed to get as much as I can out from my time spend with Kaysie and everyone else, and it was a great success.

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We’re finally done!

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Moo!!!!

As much as we spent such long hours during the weekend, I didn’t finish my cake. We got to the part where I painted my bull’s spots. Kaysie gave me some direction on finishing the colours, which I did a week after. The result?

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Moo!

Yes, this bovine beauty. My recollection of this cake was when we were creating expressions with the eyes, I wanted excitement in his eyes. He turned out looking anxious and in desperate need of a Xanax. Thank goodness for Kaysie who came to save my poor bull. I love Benny, but he will be cut up for some good cuts of “meat” as he is hogging a lot of space in the house. He is a reflection of the fantastic memories I had with Kaysie, and that big learning curve that I had from the weekend.

Thank you Kaysie for your efforts in bringing your knowledge and wisdom Down Under, and I know we will get to see you very soon!

A Day with Faye

Photography by Van Goh Cakes

Gold… and flowers. Welcome to Faye Cahill Cake Design studio!

I’ve been in Sydney for a week to be part of the Australian Cake Decorating Network Luna Park art gallery project at the Cake, Bake & Sweets show. Being a home-based cake business owner, it is often refreshing to be meeting faces of other decorators who are interstate and pursuing their passion from their home kitchens. Getting to know people through Facebook and forums feels like pen pals – you know who they are, you see profile photos of them, but it’s not the actual human connection that we sometimes forget or do not get to establish in this day and age. These decorators whom I’ve come to know and love as dear friends or “cake family” inject life into what I love doing, and that makes me want to strive for better cake designs. Last year, the Cake, Bake & Sweets show was the highlight of my trip to Sydney. It was the first time a show of such magnitude was held in Australia, and I was excited to be a part of it. This year, I was fortunate enough to visit Faye Cahill’s cake studio in Marrickville. In case you’re wondering who’s Faye Cahill, Faye is one of the top cake decorators in Sydney, who produces the most exquisite wedding cakes that are not only the envy her brides, but many other budding decorators like myself from all around the world. Her work have appeared in wedding magazines, and her craft has such warmth and a distinct style, you could tell if it is a Faye Cahill cake.

Photography by Van Goh Cakes

With these as window displays, how could you not stop in your tracks to look at these cakes?

On the long awaited day (and the last day of my trip in Sydney), I was having the jitters as I hopped on the bus that will take me to Faye’s studio. As I made my way down Addison Rd, I was nervous as I stepped into the studio to catch a glimpse of what it is like to be in the Faye Cahill Cake Design studio. What was two short years of ogling and seeing Faye’s studio in photos on Facebook and Mr Google became surreal – I was finally standing in Faye Cahill’s cake studio.

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

Photography by Van Goh Cakes

Aren’t the figurines the cutest?

I felt very welcomed at the studio as I got acquainted with Faye’s team that produces the amazing cakes – Maree, Michelle, and Rebecca. There was so much to take in that I don’t think it’s ever enough – Maree making sugar flowers, Michelle mixing colours to paint on flower petals, Rebecca working at the computer (how I’d love to have someone do all my admin work!), and Faye adding the lace embellishments on to a cake. You could not help yourself but embrace the positive energy of being in a studio setting as opposed to working from home. Alone. It was a refreshing experience watching how everyone works together in a studio making cakes, when it is usually me, myself and I doing everything that they’re doing. I watched Faye as she explains to me how a lace pattern on the bride’s dress ends up being a sketch onto tracing paper. She carefully maps out where the lace pattern will go on the cake, and what she does next is simply amazing – watching how she cuts pieces of fondant which mimics design motifs from a lace with an embossed lace pattern, making beaded designs out of moulds, and lastly the part which I love watching, is getting the colours just right as she mixes copper with gold to achieve the perfect colour on the cake. Faye had me colour some filler flowers for the cake which I couldn’t be more obliged to do, and again watched her work her magic with achieving the right colour for her filler flowers. Casual conversations were thrown in here and there, and it made my time at the studio very light and enjoyable.

Photography by Van Goh Cakes

This eight-tier cake is really something!

Just as my visit was reaching an end, Faye had visitors, and not just any visitors. Sharon Wee, Miso from Miso Bakes, Margie Carter and Weennee Tan who from Sugar popped by before I left.

Am I starstruck yet?

One should feel starstruck, but you are subconsciously reminded that they are regular people who do regular things, you know, like hanging out with the incredible Faye Cahill. 🙂

I left Faye’s studio in a hurry to the airport to board my plane back to Melbourne. Thank you Faye and co for letting me have a sneak peek into their daily activities. It was a short visit, but really, it lasted a lifetime and it could have gone forever. It has got me thinking of the possibilities of a studio of my own in the future, and this has planted a seed in my head. Faye’s hospitality has truly touched me, and I can’t wait to get back there to hopefully create something truly amazing! 🙂

Photography by Rebecca

L-R: Weennee Tan; Me; Faye Cahill; Margie Carter; Sharon Wee; Miso

What Australia Means To Me

Happy 2015!

I hope everyone had great Christmas and New Year celebrations, and heading into the new year with lots of great plans for the year!

I wanna share with you my excitement – my first sugar artist/cake decorators’ collaboration ever!!!

I couldn’t be more happier with the opportunity to work with some fantastic veteran cake decorators in the business from Australian Cake Decorating Network to showcase our creations for Australia Day today! Our theme for this showcase was “What Australia means to me”, and we could not wait to share our different interpretations of our own Aussie experiences in sugar art.

I’ve been in Melbourne for ten years now, and I asked myself what was the common theme in my so-called developmental years of my life living on my own in a foreign land and becoming myself. And it was always food… then there was wine… and then coffee. Before I came to Melbourne, I did not touch a glass of wine or coffee as I didn’t know how to appreciate them. But in recent years, I’ve come to learn how to taste it and appreciate it, and now I have a better understanding for it I seem to enjoy it a little more now. And so my mind was set on having these elements part of my cake design.

I wanted a challenge, and I came up with an idea of a bottle of wine pouring into a cup of coffee (I would never know what coffee and wine tastes like, it may be an acquired taste but who knows?). The cup of coffee will sit above a chef’s hat, and I’ll have something next to the chef’s hat. Easy!

How wrong I was!

When cake designs don’t fit the mould of standard cakes or stacked cakes, the challenge comes in creating a strong and stable structure inside the cake so everything pretty much stays the way it is! I usually get nervous because it means having to work out what kind of tools are required that I will have to go to Bunnings to buy them. I get intimidated in Bunnings – something about hardware and power tools just doesn’t sit well with me. And so I looked up as many novelty/gravity defying tutorials to understand and construct a structure that I find best suits this piece, and headed to Bunnings.

On to the details of the cake.

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I’m somewhat a foodie, and as much as I love just having two-minute noodles, it’s interesting to know of upcoming restaurants and fantasise of the restaurants that are on my bucket list. My chef’s hat is representative of that – fine dining is vogue these days, with food styling and #foodporn going off in social media. It is also a tribute to all the great Aussie chefs – what great culinary talent we have in this beautiful country, showcased by television shows such as Masterchef. I could go on, but we have Jacques Reymond, Shannon Bennett, Luke Nguyen, Christine Mansfield, Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong, Peter Gilmore… et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I really can go on. Lastly, the chef’s hat is symbolic of the logo that is on The Good Food Guide that many foodies refer to to find out the ratings on the go-to restaurants not only in Melbourne, but in other states too.

DSC_0348A little cup of coffee ended up in this piece because I think it is a personal habit of mine that I order when I go to a good cafe for breakfast or brunch. I’ve been hooked to coffee in the last two years or so. My favourite is mocha (in case you have a trivia competition about me), and not everyone makes a great mocha. My housemate Lynn made a remark about “brunching” – it was something that I observed many people do these days as a main meal on a weekend morning and myself, and having a cup of coffee seems to just make it all better. I can share one of my New Year resolutions, and that is to sign myself up for a barista course this year. After all, it is something that I intend to pick up to fulfil my dreams of having a cafe, isn’t it?

I had to chuckle 🙂

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The wine bottle is very Australian in my opinion – it is something that I notice from my days in university, people bringing a bottle to a restaurant or ordering with their meals. I never fancied it, and to date I probably don’t really drink that much. Something about pairing the right notes of a wine with the food that you eat is such an art, I think my taste buds have not acquired that talent yet. But I do enjoy a good little sip of a good bottle, and it would be blasphemy to not include wine into my piece.

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The last element on my showcase is the cheese platter. This idea was thrown to me to create the cheese platter like a map of Australia. Boom! Why didn’t I think of it?! I had a great time creating it, and having brie cheeses and green olives with some crackers is like an indulgence after a good meal.

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I hope you liked my piece, and do look out for the other pieces on the Australian Cake Decorating Network page to look at some more awesome creations from the other decorators!

x Vincent

Cake Competitions – Part 1

Competitions are hard.

But most of all, there’s so much work and preparation that goes into any competition. Any. Well, except for the spelling bee competition that I entered when I was ten which I didn’t know how to prepare for other than reading the dictionary which I felt was rather aimless – I didn’t go through in the end.

I’ve done my fair share of cake competitions this year, but wanted to bring you into my amateur-ish take on this world of decorating cakes for competitions.

My decision to enter the Royal Melbourne Show was influenced by Hannah from Storytale Cakes. It never crossed my mind to enter the show, as I was still unaware of the cake competitions available in Victoria. Within a split moment I said, OK, I’ll do it! Mind you, I had entered the Art of Cake challenge which was happening during the Cake, Bake & Sweets show in Melbourne in October, so to have put my hand up for this competition meant more work from me.

I chose to enter the Birthday Cake or Celebration Cake category, which is a different take from my point of view. Competition cakes for me has always been wedding cakes or novelty cakes, and picking this category was a fresh take. I started having a boy’s birthday cake in my head, but as the weeks went by, I changed my mind and decided to create a birthday girl’s birthday cake. I’ve made several boys’ cakes, and a girl’s cake would be something to expand my portfolio.

I don’t sketch any of my cakes – I’m a terrible sketcher, and that is surprising given my avid interest in drawing as a child. I guess so many years in between were dedicated to studies that I just lost touch. The one thing that stuck with me when designing this cake was a maypole (the pole with lots of ribbons and people go around with it with the ribbons in their hands – yeah I had no idea that was what it was called!). It kept popping in my head for a long time, and I knew the design had to have a maypole in it.

The cake was going to be a two-tier cake, and I knew I wanted to try a new skill with it. During the brainstorming session, I have been watching Faye Cahill’s tutorial on Paul Bradford’s Sugarcraft School. She gave an in-depth tutorial on how she creates her signature cakes, which involved piping, silver leaf, appliques, and luster. what I loved most about the tutorial was that I had creative control as to how I can colour lustre, but most of all, you don’t need to keep hundreds of lustre colour when really you could make them all yourself! Because the lustre can have almost a silky sheen to it, I wanted a colour which was feminine, young, and playful. So I chose a yellow lemon tone to it. DSC_0565The maypole was going to be the feature on the top-tier, and so I wanted the tier to look as though the maypole is perched high and proud along plains of grass, and I will achieve that with a bit of watercolour. I added pieces of teardrop-shape white fondant to look like rolled clouds in the sky, and that gives it a bit of dimension. This project was where I wanted to have elements in both 2D and 3D to play with the eye a little, tacky as it may sound, but I know my eye gets drawn to such things.

 

DSC_0570The ribbons on the maypole was achieved using thin strips of coloured fondant, and I didn’t know how best to place them. So I thought, give it the illusion of the ribbons floating in the air . That required a lot of manoeuvring the strips so that it stays in place and doesn’t flop. People may start to think that it will need CMC so that it firms up fast enough, I’ll say if I’m impatient and I can do without it, so can anyone else. I may have gone overboard, but I think the effect just looks colourful. People’s eyes tend to go for something a little more colourful, doesn’t it? 🙂

Now I had to tie the two tiers together because at the moment they don’t look like they flow from one cake to another. Hence I decided to have little pink blossoms that flow from the top-tier to the bottom, in a ombre fashion. Genius, I thought. I started to pump these little babies out like there was no end to it, as they say, if you think you’ve pumped enough, you need to pump out more. And thankfully I did, and it looked like a cohesive cake piece.DSC_0569

Did I forget to mention that I had piping on this cake? Yes I forgot to mention that Faye’s tutorial heavily influenced this piece, and so I took a leap of faith and grabbed myself a piping bag with royal icing, and piped out a monogram that surprisingly did not take very long to do. After the monogram was done, boy did I feel triumphant! It may not sound like it is a big deal, but I am sure a lot of cake decorators may agree piping with royal icing, even buttercream, may be arduous and messy and stressful!

Here’s the finished piece!

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The complete competition piece

 

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Front

 

 

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This baby’s got back!

Delivering this cake to the competition venue was a stressful event for me – I lost my way and had absolutely no clue where to go. Finally after 40 minutes of driving aimlessly, I told myself I must place in this competition after my horrendous drive!

And guess what?

I did place! Second! This project is still very dear to me as it is my first win after many competitions, and I get a red ribbon too! (Blue ribbon is for 1st place winners, but blue isn’t really my colour anyway 🙂 )

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I’ll be keeping this piece for a while, but not too long as I have more plans ahead for amazing new projects!

The Japanese BFG

Remember my Chanel bag cake for my friend last year? This year, I had to make something better, and I had no idea what she wanted. What better way to know than to ask her myself. Her response? “I want a Totoro Cake” and she provided a few photos of a mini figurine she had.

Who is Totoro?

My head goes into drive as to how I would make it. I only know the existence of this animated character but have never watched the movie. I think he’s like a BFG from the Roald Dahl book, just fluffier, and it is an animal. After looking at some images, character cakes like Totoro don’t scare me as much as it did a year ago, simply because I know it does not require a complicated internal structure.

I, have never, ever, watched this movie before. I knew of its existence, but it never grabbed me. Not until now! He does look like a more adorable BFG I think 🙂

In order to create his shape, I would make him as I did with my Minion months ago – a double barrel cake, and then carve to create this almost oval shape. And the rest will be to create detail on his face and body, and I think I’m he’ll look perfect.

I usually search on Google for any cake project if it was made into a cake, and I did the same for this Totoro project. There were a few that I found to be my source of inspiration, but the one that grabbed me the most was the one from Mike McCarey from Mike’s Amazing Cakes which I referred to often because Google did not have a lot of photos of Totoro in the movie which was rather inconvenient (if you looked up Totoro on Google, there is a lot of images that are not from the film, and I struggled to make sure there is some resemblance to the character in the film.

Looks like the animated character I think! Cake by Mike McCarey of Mike’s Amazing Cakes

My friend requested that the cake needs to be packed with flavour as well, and so I went with my white chocolate and banana mud cake which I wrote about in a previous blog post. Without going into much detail, I’ll post some photos for you to look at and you can see the progress of this edible Totoro goodness!

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The cake was stacked to double-barrel height – I used the white chocolate banana mud cake with peanut butter ganache as in the previous post 🙂

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All ganached and ready to be dressed in grey fondant

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Cake scraps!

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Cake carving time – I needed this photo to know what I’m doing with this cake, plus I had my housemate cast her eyes over to see if I got the right shape

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Fondant is on! And I’ve textured the cake board with some scrunched up foil.

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Totoro’ leaf hat – I placed it on a sheet of aluminium foil that has been scrunched and not laying flat on the bench. This gives the leaf some movement

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I added some colour to the leaf with some petal dust – This gives it some texture and doesn’t look so flat

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Making the umbrella – to be honest, I should have measured each point of the umbrella correctly to make it look uniform. But I can assure you the final effect looks great!

 

After a week’s worth of work, I finally got to present this to my friend at her birthday dinner.  She was in awe, and surprisingly some other guests at the restaurant caught a glimpse of the cake as it was brought out they had to sneak a few photos. Hehe!

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It’s an amazing process as a cake decorator that you know what you’re doing is leading towards a really awesome masterpiece. Character cakes are really fun to make, and the challenge is always to replicate how to really look. Did she recognise it? Indeed she did, and I hope you think it looks the same too!

 

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Totoro – I liken it to the anime version of the BFG, mild and caring 🙂

Cake Photography Continued

Hi everyone!

I thought I’d take the time to give a shoutout to Louise from Learn Cake Decorating Online  for her handy video on how to photograph your cake with a white background.

In my last photography blog post Through The Lens, I mentioned how some cake decorators photograph their cakes with this white background that makes the cakes have such an ethereal quality to them?

Aside from the fact that the cake looks bloody amazing, the background works so well with this cake!

Rachel from Flower and Fondant – amazing photography, but the cake is so exquisite as well!

Emma from Emma-Lee Cake Design and another beauty of hers – with a white background too

Love it or hate it, there is a place for it in cake photography. Today, Louise posted a blog post with a video explaining how to achieve this shot – and you don’t need a fancy set up to achieve a blowout of the background. And she showcases a beautiful Jemima Puddleduck that will be featured in next month’s tutorial of Learn Cake Decorating Online! Can’t wait for that.

 

I recently did a similar style of photography on a cake, and I had slightly different settings to what was in the video but it looked beautiful too!

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I hope mine is just as pretty! Loving the light that goes through the flowers to give it an almost translucent effect.

To read more about this blog post click here to be amazed by how you can do the same!

Happy photographing your cakes!

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!

Through The Lens

I had the urge to write about this post, simply because I wanted to share my experiences being a cake decorator. I have learned not only do I decorate cakes so that it looks beautiful and a masterpiece, but how do I capture it through a camera lens so that it looks beautiful and desirable, and for potential customers. It has been a big learning curve so far, looking at my photos when I first started and what I could produce now.

When I started Van Goh Cakes, I had my trusty little Canon G1X. I have been eyeing a DSLR camera prior to, but did not have the confidence to commit to it without the skills. During my fairly poor attempt in researching for a camera that a friend of mine, Adam, suggested I get the Canon G1X. The camera served me well for my personal use, and produced SLR-like quality photos which I really like (thanks Adam!). My earlier photos demonstrated little skills and comprehensive understanding of photography.

It was only after introduced to a course with Frank Selmo from How to Photograph Your Cake, that I learned the basics of photography. Aperture, ISO, shutter speed soon became common lingo when I started taking photos. I was now more confident in using the manual settings on my Canon and experimented more with differing settings.

Now, I do find that the Canon has limitations – as much as it “does the job”, it does not do a lot of close up shots perfectly – I often find myself using the macro settings a lot, especially with cakes where there are a lot of fine and little details that I would like the camera to capture. So now, I have a new camera (love my gadgets!), presenting to you my uber cool Nikon D5300! I must admit this time around I did not do any research, went to JB Hifi and had it purchased with the help of Adam again – feels good to have a friend who is camera and photography savvy! Since then, I have found the photos to be uber beautiful, and it focuses on the details that I want yay!

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My new baby!

 

I guess I really need to learn more about showcasing a cake. I love cake studios that provides such beautiful shots of their cakes…. Let me find you some examples:

1. Faye Cahill from Faye Cahill Cake Designs – her cakes speaks volumes as it is without needing an elaborate backdrop/setting. All it needs is a neutral background, and some awesome cake stands!

 

 

2. Kara from Kara’s Couture Cakes – she wrote a blog post about the importance of photography herself, and has demonstrated different backgrounds for her beautiful creations. To read the blog post, it’s titled Photographing Your Cakes To Look Awesome

3. Lori from The Caketress – what I love about her cakes is that they are paired with almost editorial/Vogue-ish shots in such great settings. And she looks so haute couture herself too that the pairing is just perfect.

4. Emma-Lee from Emma-Lee Cake Designs – I learned a photography tip from her through the Australian Cake Decorating Network forum, and I noticed it has been a growing trend of taking photos of the cake with a luminescent background, it has such an ethereal quality about it 🙂

5. Brenda from Sugar High Inc. – Her figurines and cakes look beautiful, because she has such great backdrops (which by the way, are for sale) that goes so well with them. Some other amazing cake decorators have featured her backdrops on their portfolio too.

 

I tried a few techniques of my own in the last year, some produce mediocre results, and some just fell absolutely flat. Reason?
1. Natural lighting is just waaaay too important for a good photo. Taking photos of a cake in the dark is just not worth the effort whatsoever.
2. The little unit I live in has absolutely no beautiful corner where I could take organic and beautiful shots of the cake in a setting, but I am aiming to work on that. Eventually.

So any suggestions would be helpful, pop over to my Facebook page, have a good look at my photos (but not too close, ok?) and see what would you suggest. With cake comes happiness, so eat lots of it!

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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Who Am I?

I intended to write a blurb a few months ago, introducing myself and how Van Goh Cakes came about on this blog but never got around to it. And for the fear that I might sound narcissistic. It was not until I was approached by Rolaine from the Australian Cake Decorating Network this week who wanted to feature me in their June newsletter to their members that I almost hyperventilated in excitement. The deadline given was a Friday; it was a Wednesday when I was asked, I pondered on how do I showcase myself, my love for cake decorating, and the business and not sound dreary and boring at the same time?

So allow me to reintroduce myself and Van Goh Cakes with this blurb that I wrote for the newsletter:

“By stroke of luck, cake decorating found me – a dear friend casually asked me to make her wedding cake a couple of years ago, and I freaked out. I had no idea how to decorate a cake, and set the silly idea aside. Few months after, I was introduced to Buddy from Cake Boss by my boss at work. As I watched episode after episode, I was hooked more and more. The idea of cake decorating intrigued me, so I took the plunge and signed up for a Wilton course in 2013. Since then, the art of cake decorating drew me in, I bought more books, tools and ingredients, wanting to create more. My creative juices flowed with the endless possibilities I could make with buttercream, with later introduction to ganache and fondant.

Friends and family suggested I should consider selling cakes professionally, and after enrolling a course with Louise Vansleve on Start Your Cake Business, Van Goh Cakes was born in August 2013. I picked Van Goh Cakes because of how my name Vincent Goh often rhymes with the great Van Gogh, and quoting a friend, “every mouthful is a work of art”.

I did not make my friend’s cake because it was too risky to bring a wedding cake all the way to Hong Kong, but I am blessed to have made some amazing cakes so far. I hope to gain more skills, and hopefully open my own cake studio one day.”

Thank you once again to the Australian Cake Decorating Network for allowing me to have my little segment of fame, I was pleased with myself when I saw it in the email tonight 🙂

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Greetings!

Hello and welcome to my first posting on this blog!

I must admit that it has been so long since I posted on a blog, and who knew I decided to have a blog now for my cake business, Van Goh Cakes. I decided to have this blog other than having my Facebook page, and my website at http://www.vangohcakes.com.au to share my experiences with specific cake projects I encounter. As we know, the Internet is a  melting pot of sorts – you have cake decorators sharing photos of their lovely creations, and some offer some advice on cake-related problems, even tutorials on how to make certain smashing cake toppers. I started this business out of the love of cake decorating. Every cake is different from one another, and it’s a masterpiece, some better than others. Even as I am typing this, I am constantly inspired by other cake decorator’s work and I strive to better myself and to learn what others do. After five months of learning and decorating, I wanted to share my two cents worth of what I know of baking cakes and decorating them, so I hope you’ll stay to read some of my posts.

Thank you and stay tuned!

Vincent