Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fake-n-Cake


Project: Fake Cake

Materials: Foam (Insulation or White Bead Foam), White Acrylic Caulk (4-6 Tubes), Acrylic Paints, Green Glue (3M Fastbond Contact Adhesive.)


Tools: Spatula, Disposable Pastry Bags, Decorator Tips 32, 104, 4, and 352, Lazy Susan/ Cake Decorating Turntable (Optional)

First, a word about tools.  Cake decorating is a perfect example of a project which uses real food preparation tools with non edible chemicals. Always be sure to store food safe tools/containers separately from non food safe tools, and label them well.  If you are storing actual, food-safe, prep supplies in the shop, make sure they are stored in closed containers to protect them from contamination. Remember, once a tool or utensil is used once on something that is not food-safe, it is no longer to be used for edible food preparation. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Foam is a really good base for onstage cakes, it is lightweight, easily shaped, and fairly durable. Best of all, it doesn't crumble like real cakes do, so it is easy to frost.  For this cake, I used white bead foam, first cutting it to size (9" Diameter circle) on the band saw, then gluing the two layers together with green glue. Before frosting, I rounded the top edge slightly with sandpaper.

The frosting is white acrylic caulk. The caulk is easy to work with, can be colored by adding acrylic paint, and can be smoothed with water when wet. When dry, it is paintable, durable, and somewhat flexible.  When frosting a cake, you want to start with a big blob of frosting on top, and spread it outwards with even strokes of your spatula. If you need to add more frosting, add it to the center blob, and work it into the frosting that is already down. This helps to make a smooth finish (and, in real cakes, keep crumbs out of your frosting.)


When you get to the edges, let the frosting fall down the sides of the cake before smoothing it down. To get the sides straight and smooth, hold your spatula upright, at a 45 Degree angle to the cakes edge and, in one continuous motion, gently smooth the frosting around the cake. See how the blade is tilted away from the cake in the photo? Don't do that....hold it straight. (It's hard to take a photo and frost at the same time.) This is where the Lazy Susan really comes in handy. Being able to turn the cake while you smooth is a big help.

Like real butter cream frosting, acrylic caulk can be smoothed with water for a nice, finished look. Wet your spatula lightly, and smooth over any folds or lines. Keep the blade of your spatula clean by wiping it often with a damp rag. No frosted cake is as smooth as glass, so some imperfections will give it a realistic look.


Once the first layer of frosting is complete, you can start piping. For this cake, I used a simple shell border on the top and bottom of the cake. (See my next post for more details about decorating this cake.)
 
  
After the caulk had dried, I dusted it with Design Master Butter Cream paint, to dull the white down a bit. Then, I mixed small amounts of white caulk with yellow, orange, and green acrylic paints to make the colored frosting for the cake's decorations. (And by the way, this isn't an incredibly awkward bundt cake, the hole in the middle is the fixture I installed for the fake candle that is taken out of the cake during each performance.)
I piped the decorations on, let the cake dry, and TA-DA!

 
Some cakey links:
As I mentioned earlier, I plan to do my next post detailing the decorations on this cake. However, if you just CAN'T wait to see how it's done, I recommend visiting the Wilton site for more information.
While you can buy a decent selection of cake decorating supplies from the big box craft stores, I always like to frequent local businesses when I can. Your local cake decorating store will most likely have a larger selection of tools and, more importantly, staff who actually decorate cakes and can answer your questions. If you don't have a local cake decoration supplier, and you have the time to order online, please consider Cook's Cake and Candy Shop, located in Milwaukee and on the internets. They have thousands of items for cake and candy making, and helpful staff who know what's what about cakes.  When I needed silver edible ink to write on sheets of dried seaweed, these ladies pointed me towards silver fondant glaze. When I retire, I hope to be a Cook's Cake lady.
If you are looking for some hilarious cake failures, this is your site. You can spend hours looking at fail cakes, with the occasional success thrown in for good measure. I promise that you won't be disappointed here.

32 comments:

  1. And where was all of this cakery advice when I was making a wedding cake this summer?

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  2. Anna...I need your help. I can't get my caulk "icing" to be the right color. When I add the paint, it's then too thin to hold up for piping. Any ideas on how to color the caulk without making it too runny?

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  3. Hmm, that's strange. What type of paint are you using and how much are you adding?

    I've used acrylic paint- the kind that comes in little tubes or jars to color mine. If you needed really intense color, Cal-Tints might work- though I haven't tried them.

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  4. Dear Anna,
    I have used puttyfiller for my prop cakes. However, sometimes the finished cake piping developed tiny cracks. Any ideas on how to prevent the development of those tiny cracks.Is there anything that i should add in the filler cream to avoid the tiny cracks?Please help me...TQ

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  5. TQ-

    Have you noticed that you get more cracks under certain conditions? If it's cracking more in the heat or cold, you may need to make sure the drying environment is better.

    You can also try to add something more flexible to the putty. Flex glue is sometimes a good additive to help with cracking - but be sure to give it a try before you cover a whole cake with it!

    I've had trouble with things like putty and joint compound as well. They are made to fill a hole or crack between hard surfaces, and aren't meant to be spread out as a coating. I think that the problem is that they shrink when they dry, which is why you get the cracks.

    So, try adding some flex glue or white glue to the mix. If that doesn't help, it might be time to switch to a different icing.

    Hope that helps!
    -Anna

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  6. any recommendations for a "fondant finish"? I don't want to use real fondant... it might attract critters in storage...

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  7. Good question- I've rolled this one around in my head on a number of occasions and haven't come up with a good solution yet. I think it might be worth trying Crayola Model Magic, I am honestly not sure if it would work or not, but....maybe. Also, depending on what you want the 'fondant' to look like you could try fosshape with some sort of coating (flex glue?). That said, if you just want a simple fondant look, you can probably accomplish it by smoothing the heck out of acrylic caulk; especially if you sand your foam base so that it is nice and rounded.

    I hope one of those suggestions helps, if one of them works out, let me know! If I think of anything else, I'll post it.

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  8. So happy to have found your blog! I have used caulk for cake dummies in the past but I'm hoping you can give me some advice on what I can use to make fake cake and be confident enough in it's longevity that I can actually sell them (have had requests but I heard caulk will eventually get brittle with time).
    Thank you for any input.

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  9. I think caulk is still your best bet. Caulk is designed to stand up over time in harsh conditions. Think of what it is used for: sealing windows, edging bathtubs, and filling cracks. The stuff is made to stay flexible and durable. You can always get the acrylic caulk plus silicone if you're worried- but most caulk should stand the test of time.

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  10. I am so thankful to have found your blog! I need to make a prop cake for our production of The Secret Garden, for Mary's weird kind of Alice and Wonderlandy dream at the top of act II. I'm a company member at the Regional Theatre of the Palouse in WA. Excited to get my hands in the caulk this weekend. Will let you know how it turns out. :) Rena

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  11. Hi, cold porcelain works for fondant finishes, just be aware that it shrinks as it air dries. There are some great tutorials on youtube for making it, and it works for fake gumpaste and fondant flowers as well.

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    1. Thanks, I will keep that in mind!

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    2. Can you please give me some links of those videos?

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    3. Saumya, if you go to youtube and search for 'cold porcelain cake' a number of tutorials come up. Good luck!

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  12. Hi, I bought some DAP brilliant white acrylic latex caulk + silicone (since that seems to be the only acrylic caulk available at my local Home Depot), but it has a nasty sheen to it that makes the frosting look like plastic. Do you find that your frosting has the same problem? Or is there another brand/kind of caulk available that works better?

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    1. Amanda, hmm, I didn't have that problem, I wonder if it is the 'brilliant' that is the issue. Is your caulk paintable? I would go ahead and paint it with a matte finish to take it back to a frosting look. I'm out of town right now, but when I get home, I'll try to remember to check which brand of caulk I use. Good luck!

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    2. Amanda, I'm back in town and I checked on our caulk- I think I'm using the exact same caulk as you are. I think painting is the way to go, here, unless you have the time and money to experiment with other brands and types of caulk. Let me know how it turns out.
      Anna

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  14. This fake cake is just what l am looking for! How do you think the 'caulk cake' would react to being underwater? I am looking to make a cake for an underwater prop for underwater photos at birthday pool parties... I would make my fake cake more of a large cupcake that a child could hold and pretend to blow out the candle. All your fake baking photos are AMAZING - you are VERY talented... Any suggestions would be great!

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    1. Thanks for the compliments!

      I can't think of why and underwater caulk wouldn't work. Here are a few suggestions.
      Make sure your item is completely sealed, and water can't get into any holes. Make sure that the caulk is completely cured before you dunk it. I wouldn't paint on top of the caulk as the paint might not be waterproof, tint the caulk or use the color as-is. If you add any sprinkles, make sure they are beads or something else water proof. Dry the cake thoroughly after use before storing. Think about weight- styrofoam floats, that could be good or bad for your use.

      Let me know how it goes! I'd love to see some of the pictures- especially if I can share them on the blog.

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  15. I loved this tutorial for the prop cake- it is everything I've been looking for! Could you give me some insight to the candle you mentioned? I'm trying to figure out how to create a prop birthday candle but I'm not finding much. I would appreciate all the help I can get!

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    1. Sure thing! For one cupcake I did, we painted a dowel to look like a candle, and made a sparkly 'flame' out of glue-on sequins and crystals. If you're looking for a candle that will look like it is burning, that's more complicated. You can buy some commercial fake flames- that's probably your best bet there. What are you trying to accomplish?

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  16. Hi Anna,
    I love your blog! I just took a props food course this weekend and it looks like I've ended up using pretty much the same technique. I used caulking, gel medium, a polyurethane stays clear acrylic, and acrylic paint for the icing, all over top of foam coated in Super 77. For a first attempt I'm pretty happy with it, though I'm jealous of your piping skills!

    You can see mine here:
    http://bygonetheatre.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/let-them-eat-cake-making-fake-cakes/

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    1. Neato! Thanks for the pics- I'm a sucker for pink frosting- so your prop made me want to eat cake! As for the piping skills, stiff frosting and lots of practice are the two secrets. I usually lay down about 12" of shell border on a piece of cardboard before I start on the real cake- just to get back into the groove.

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  17. Hi Anna - so glad to have found your blog and hoping you have some advice for us.
    We are doing a production that requires a birthday cake to have 30 candles put into it each performance, and in the last moment of the play, the cake is cut and one bite is eaten.
    Obviously, we want to avoid buying a real cake every night or (gulp) making one. Putting the 30 candle holes conundrum aside, is there any foodsafe way to create a partially fake cake that is married to a real cake part that gets eaten? Or does the fact that the cake touches the chemical surface of the paint/caulk frosting automatically negate that option?
    Thanks for your help!

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    2. Thanks for the question-

      The candle holes shouldn't be too hard- you can actually buy little plastic candle holders that are meant to go on cakes- check a party supply store. They look like little flowers, often.

      The food bit is tricky, because putting real frosting on caulk or paint would contaminate it- but there are some sealants that are not toxic. Shellac, beeswax, paraffin wax, and some types of aquarium silicone (check the label) are food safe for that sort of contact. I would see you if you can give a liberal coating of one of those materials to your fake cake- this will take some experimenting to get the right finish. Also, make sure the finish is something that can be cleaned between performances- you don't want mold or other spoilage.
      I worked on a show which had a huge creamy dessert, which the actor dipped a finger into, and licked the frosting off of their finger. We sculpted the dessert, and embedded a clear plastic food-safe cup into the top of the 'frosting' which we filled with real frosting for the actor. Is there a way you could hide the 'bite' in a little sample cup imbedded into a fake cake slice? If so, this may be the way to go. Let me know what you guys do!

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  18. Thanks for the advice, Anna - we'll keep you posted on how we end up solving the problem!

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  19. Hello, I know this is coming in well after the original post but we're in a bit a pickle with a prop. We need a prop cake that can get pushed into someones face 2 during the show. We'd like to build a fake cake so that we can reuse it everynight...if we hollowed out the centre of the cake and place a plastic container with "whipped cream" do you think this would work. Also would like your thoughts on the material outside of shaving cream to use as the filling.
    Thank you,

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    1. I think that basic concept could work, yes. What I'd do is build the cake out of soft upholstery foam instead of hard insulation foam. Then, I'd carve the divot out of the middle, and ice the entire thing with acrylic caulk. Once the caulk is fully cured, you can clean it with soapy water, so it can actually act as the container for the frosting.

      As far as foamy things go- shaving cream is good for clean up, but not so good to get into your mouth. Cool Whip is fine to get into your mouth, but needs to be cleaned up soon, or it will smell and attract pests. If there's a sugar free version, I would go with that- it will help a bit.
      I hope this helps!
      Anna

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  20. Thanks Anna. you are a lifesaver! I am making a 4' tall gingerbread house from a cardboard playhouse. I was struggling with what product to use to mimic the look of the royal icing that would be used on a real gingerbread house. This may be just the thing. I am going to use it on a practice board and will report back to you.

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