Newcastle, NSW, Australia
I’m a former industrial chemist, and after deciding on a career change while at home with my two young children, I’m now a qualified pastry chef. In 2009 I started taking some classes in cake decorating and other pastry-related cookery, and taught myself many more decorating techniques from books and internet resources. In 2010 I started a pastry apprenticeship, studying Retail Baking (Cake & Pastry) Certificate III at TAFE, which I completed with Distinction in 2012. I completed my apprenticeship in December 2013, and am now working as a full time Pastry chef and Cake Decorator at 'Exquisite Cakes by Lennert' in Cessnock, NSW.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Graduation Day

My best friend completed her Master of Science degree earlier this year, and the Monday before last, her husband called me and asked if I could do a cake for her graduation dinner. His only requests were that it be a white chocolate mud cake (her favourite) and to cover it in the topaz-yellow colour of her faculty. The rest of the decoration was left up to me. It was also a surprise for Terese, hence there being no mention of it until after the event, despite how excited I was about being offered my first paid cake decorating job!

After doing a bit of searching on the net for graduation cake pictures, I decided to try my hand at modelling and make a graduation cap and certificate from modelling paste. I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that when I made my roses I’ve actually been rolling out my flower paste with a pasta maker (I love it, perfectly uniform thickness petals every time!), and it came in handy for these ornaments too.

For the cap, I hand-moulded a chunk of black modelling paste into a hemisphere and pinched out corners at the bottom. For the board on the cap, I cut a square from rolled out black paste, and I used the pasta maker’s spaghetti attachment to make strands of black paste for the tassle. To make the certificate I cut a rectangle from rolled out ivory paste, thinned and softened the edges with a ball tool, and rolled it up. The ribbon was made from strips of rolled out red paste.

The black modelling paste didn’t really look a proper black-black, so I painted it with a little black gel colour mixed in alcohol. I’d bought some Claret Wine lustre dust to use on my parents Ruby Anniversary cake, so since I had it there, I thought I might as well use some on the certificate ribbon as well. I painted the ribbon with lustre mixed in alcohol, and it looked fantastic… then I promptly went and dropped it on the floor the next morning. So yes, if the scroll looks a little different in the second picture, that would be because I had to remake it. I also used the fettucine attachment to cut the ribbon the second time around, and it turned out even better than the first one anyway!

Finding the right colour for the fondant was (pardon the pun) a piece of cake… Rohan has a Bachelor of Science degree, and he wore the same colour at his own graduation as Terese did for hers, so he pulled out his graduation photo for me to use as a colour reference. The colour was easy enough to mix from a combination of the Wilton yellow and ivory gels. I did a reasonable job of covering the cake… a few tell-tale finger marks that I just couldn’t smooth out still scream “BEGINNER!” but for my first square cake, and only my second fondant covered cake ever, not too bad. A trim of black ribbon around the bottom added to the ‘tailored’ look of the cake.

Then came the piping… still my least favoured part of the decorating process. I found a fairly casual script-ish font and made up the template in Word. I'd bought some piping gel after I stumbled across instructions on the net for how to use it to transfer designs onto a cake. The example was an outline for a fairly large picture, but I figured it should work for lettering as well. So I put my template in a plastic sleeve, flipped it over, painstakingly brushed over the back of lettering with piping gel, and laid it on the cake… only to have so little of the gel actually stay on the cake that I had barely any outline to follow.

There was nothing else I could do but quickly mix up some black icing and get the piping done while there was still enough natural light to see the vague outline. Unfortunately it was a fairly shoddy job, but at least it was for a good friend that came to be knowing I’m a beginner, and I wasn’t charging him much for it anyway. I used a bit of leftover royal icing to stick on the cap and scroll to finish it off.
So here it is, my first paid cake decorating job! Terese loved it, and the cake tasted fantastic. Unfortunately I had to put Mum and Dad’s anniversary cake on hold to do it because I started getting super-stressed… I was scared I wouldn’t be able to finish them both in the one week, so I called my parents and asked them would they mind if I postponed working on their cake until after Terese’s was done. Oh, and I had a job interview this morning too… icing and decorating donuts for Donut King at Glendale. It’s an early morning job, but we could make it work. Just waiting to hear back from them now, but it sounded REALLY promising. Fingers crossed!!!

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