Berna García of Ilusiona Cakes is an award-winning cake designer and Renshaw Europe brand Ambassador who creates amazing realistic sculpted cakes for all occasions. She currently teaches all over the world and here she answers your cakey questions.
Q: I want to start creating cake models but I don’t know where to start?
A: Paper, pencil and tape measure. It is always advisable to draw a sketch of your project. Calculate portions of your cake first then define the size, design and colours that you will have so you can organise yourself better. Do not forget to write down it down!
Q: How do you ensure proportions are correct when creating a figure?
A: I recommend you have a pencil and paper to sketch your design and even draw it (length of the legs and arms, size of the head). Scales are advisable so you make sure that all the pieces weigh what you have defined. Resources such as circle rules can help. In my case, I do not use tools, I usually work by eye. Nevertheless, it is good to use elements that help us to define weights and quantities.
Fix Cracking Fondant
Q: How do I keep my fondant from cracking when moulding it into different shapes?
A: You must knead the paste with energetic and continuous movements. With portions that fit in your hands, when kneading, press so the heat generated in your hands melts the paste.
Q: What tips do you have for keeping my cake designs intact for storage?
A: You can apply a layer of varnish that protects it and at the same time gives it shine. I use the Rainbow Dust glaze. Apply with a soft brush and let dry. It is recommended that you do not expose your cake to the sun directly or to humidity.
Adding Shine to Your Cakes
Q: How can I create a shiny finish on my cake?
A: To shine your cake, there are many methods:
Corn syrup + alcohol (vodka, gin, etc.) in equal parts. It does not maintain brightness for a long time.
Shortening gives a beautiful satin finish that holds up just as beautifully as it looked the first day! It does not dry and will show any fingerprints, but fingerprints can be easily buffed out with a gentle rub.
Steaming worked well for permanently ridding the fondant of any powdery residue, but it did not hold a shine at all. As a matter of fact, the shine disappeared about 20 minutes after steaming.
Stacking Inverted Cakes
Q: What is the best way to stack an inverted cake?
A: Each tier must be stabilised. Stacked cakes, especially very tall ones, must be stabilised using individual cake boards and dowels in each tier. Stacked cakes are often transported as individual tiers and assembled at the venue location to avoid unsightly accidents. You can use either wood, plastic or metal dowels depending on what is available. Plastic dowels tend to be wider than wood ones so you can use less plastic ones in your construction. For example, a 16” or 18” cake will require at least eight dowels and a 10” cake will need at least six dowels.
Transporting Carved Cakes
Q: How should I transport a carved cake in my car?
A: I have a box with non-slip fabric in its base so it does not move inside the car. Carved cakes behave better than stacked cakes and I think this is because its structure is already pre-designed to withstand jumps, blows and sudden movements. The consistency of the ganache you use also influences. I usually do it with 55% cocoa chocolate and with the ratio 2:1 chocolate to 35% fat cream. This makes the chocolate creamy and rigid when dry, perfect to cover this type of cake.
Using Piping Gel
Q: What do you do with piping gel?
A: It has many uses. It can be added to your icing for lines or writing on your cake (it makes it more stretchy). You can use it to get a water look on a cake. You can use it as fondant glue to glue fondant to dummy cakes as well as dragees and fake diamonds to cakes. You can rub it on items like fondant bottles and glasses to make them look shiny like glass.
Q: I have trouble keeping corners crisp as they seem to tax, what can I do to solve this?
A: Use two smoothers to create sharper corners. Flexi smoothers also work very well. Place one on the cake and the other on the side and make movements to the edge of the cake until you refine the fondant.
Q: What is the best way to clean food colouring off hands?
A: With dish soap as soon as I’m done. If it persists (depending on colour), dilute a trickle of ammonia in water, after with the dish soap.
Q: How can I keep the fondant from sagging off wire designs such as handles or flowers?
A: You can wire with floral tape or cover the wire with a thinner wire to keep it from sliding.
Flying with Cakes
Q: Can you take cakes on a plane?
A: It depends on the size of the cake and if the airline allows you to buy the seat next to you. They can be packed in wooden boxes that are securely fastened and carried by the plane. But it is very risky.