Friday, October 8, 2010

Mmmm. Cake!

Betcha didn't know I used to be a cake decorator! Yup! I started out painting on Dairy Queen ice cream cakes when I was 17 and it was my profession for the next 10 years. I worked in grocery store bakeries and even a high-end cake shop. At one time being a cake artist was what I thought I wanted to do with my life, but working with food wasn't on my list of things I really liked to do! I liked the decorating; icing was a form of paint for me - hated the baking and prep work before hand!

Now, the only cakes I decorate are for my own kids. It's something I look forward to with each birthday and now that they're getting old enough to tell me what they want I usually know what I'm doing far in advance!

Since May of this year my son has been telling me he wants a police car cake for his next birthday. Well, his next birthday is finally days away and his big birthday party is this Sunday. I thought I'd give you a little glimpse at my police car creation from start to finish and hopefully make you think a little bit outside the pan when it comes to cake decorating! So, here's Reid's 4th birthday police car cake step by step!

I've never been much of a fan of the shaped cake pans. Too small, too main stream, too expensive! Who needs a special pan anyway? Watch how I make a police car out of two, 9x13 slab cakes!

**Editing to add that I ALWAYS work with frozen cake! It makes cutting so much easier and way less crumbs!**

I start with this:
Two slabs side by side on a board that admittedly I cut a bit too small for what I was about to do!

I looked online for a cartoon style police car that I liked and used it as my guide. With white icing I draw a rough outline of the police car, not worrying about keeping within the constrains of the cake:

Now you're probably scratching your head and wondering how I go from here! Well, I use a small serrated knife and cut out around my outline. Carefully removing the extra cake pieces and setting them aside.

Now I have to add onto the parts that aren't complete such as the bottom of the tires and the front of the car. Using the pieces I cut away, I hold them in place where I need to add cake. Again, I use the white icing and draw the missing pieces.

You should have enough cake scraps to add the remaining parts unless you went ridiculously too large with your original drawing in which case, if you've already cut the cake, I can't help you!

Again, I use my knife and cut away the areas that aren't part of the car. Using my icing like glue, I cover the joining edges then press them firmly together.

Do this for all the pieces and in the end you should have your shape! ( Like I said, I cut my board a little too small, but oh well!)

I clean up my board and get rid of the crumbs and the rest is all just painting! Using a round decorator tip I fill in my colors where I want them.

Now, this is a KEY piece of equipment that anyone decorating a cake should have in my opinion! A small pallet knife! With the angle it has it makes smoothing icing so much easier! After I fill in a section with icing I use my pallet knife to smooth it.

I continue doing this for each section and color until I have the police car done. If you want to go as far as the highlights, I do those by dipping my pallet knife into the white icing and just lightly smearing/smoothing it on. Like I said, icing is like paint. Lots of room to get creative and lots of forgiveness if you make a mistake!

Now you're probably wondering about those exposed edges? Myself, I always end up with a bunch of leftover icing in all the colors I used for my cake. So, I throw them all together into one container and fill up an icing bag. I didn't even mix them! You can use a star tip or a round tip for this (a larger size works best)and in an up and down zig zag motion cover the sides. Easy to do, fills it in and you don't have to worry about trying to smooth it all out! I like it because it uses up all my left over icing!

Lastly, you of course want to put an inscription on there but who wants to write on top of a piece of artwork? I write right on the board! The best part? If you make a mistake you can just wipe if off and start again!

Here's my finished cake! Can't wait to see my son's face when I bring it out on Sunday!


  1. Ok, so that's unbelievable...a work of art. Unfortunately mine would probably end up looking like a big artistic talent.

  2. I love cake decorating! This post was so much fun for me. I loved seeing someones process other than my own. Wonderful cake...just excellent.

  3. ok, so, logistical question looks like you made the cake on Friday and served it on Sunday. How far in advance do you make the cake and how do you store it?

  4. You are right! With being so busy I must do things ahead of time! I bake it, freeze it. Then decorate it frozen then back in the freezer. For such a short period I just put it in the freezer the way it was. If I had baked it earlier I would have wrapped it in tinfoil. I took it out the night before the party and let it thaw. Sometimes if you use darker colors like i did for this one you will get some "sweating" if you just take it right from the freezer to room temp. To prevent that it's best to thaw it in the fridge. (I didn't have room in my fridge!) Cake freezes beautifully with or without icing!