“There’s a moment when it suddenly comes to you leveling the top of the cake. Working with a palette knife, it’s the move in the air, then coming across the top of the cake. Beginners tend to go around it, making a dome of it…it’s not something you get right away, then suddenly …” – Martin Howard.
If you are a serious home baker, then you know what I mean, smile…
Those elusive sharp edges and straight corners….truly a learning curve for those who take cake decorating seriously…at least it was, for me. Clearly remember the times I winced when I saw those super sharp edges and pristine corners on Cake decorating sites and in the magazines … how in the world did they achieve that?, I wondered, time and again.
And it sure did elude me for a long time…
Either I’d end up with a leaning tower of Pisa, or ‘d leave the bench scraper marks everywhere on the cake and the cake would lack finesse.
Yes, there are a lot of video tutorials and write ups, put up by generous people, who have devised various techniques to achieve the super finish- and absolutely Yes, they are incredibly helpful – which is why I am able to blog abt it and post my pictures.
But it was not something I could achieve at the drop of a hat!
I so remember the time I had just made a barell cake, again with a visible slight slant- to be served at a gathering – and a humourous guy light heartedly said to me, Chech (Sis), your cake resembles Mohanlal!!! (a popular Malayalam movie star who has a characteristic slanting gait.) Gosh! But he was right. And I made my resolution once again.
I did check on You tube videos, and I have found that I am most comfortable with the upside down technique, since I don’t do massive structures yet.
I did not make use of the acrylic boards, though I assume they are a very convenient and stress free option to employ.
I use two cake boards or cardboards cut to the same size (slightly bigger than the cake) and wrap them in aluminium foil – One for the bottom, and one for the top.
Stick cellotape to secure the aluminium foil onto the cake board that is to be placed on the top part of the cake. The portion where u stick the cellotape should be the one facing you, not the other way round. Set aside.
Put a dab of Chocolate ganache on the bottom cake board and place the cake on it, inorder to secure the cake in place.
Then you fill your cake and place another cake on top of it. (Or torte your cake and fill.)
Cake artist, Jessica Harris, has a detailed write up on how much ganache may be used to frost each layer, so do run by her site to get an overall understanding.
Apply a liberal amout of ganache on the surface of the topmost cake and put the second cakeboard that you set aside earlier (the one covered in Aluminium foil and secured with cello tape) on top of it and squish down, softly but firmly.
I use a leveler, to ensure that the cake is flush and level.
Next, crumb coat and leave to chill in the fridge.
Once the cake is set, place it on a turntable, and check to see for bulges.
The cake should be contained within the two cake boards, and should not be jutting out on the sides. I use a Square tool to go around the cake to check. Gently cut off excess cake that’s protruding to the sides.
Apply ganache or buttercream liberally to the sides, covering both cake boards.
I use a piping bag to do this, with a big, round tip, going all around the cake using the turntable.
Scrape off the excess with the help of a bench scraper kept perfectly straight. You may be here for a while, but you surely are on your way to those super sharp edges.
Scrape more if you find an excess build up or apply more ganache to those areas that need to be filled, with the help of a spatula.
Turn your cake upside down, and place the level tool on top to check if it is level. If not, slightly push down and ensure it is level. Scrape again, if necessary.
Turn your cake right side up. Go to knee level or bend over and check your cake on the sides. Believe me, it will add to your confidence to do so, it means you are ensuring those straight sides as the final outcome.
I am one of those many people who have done quite a bit of Bharathnaatyam and Mohiniyattom, going around my cakes, obsessed with the sleek, sharp look..,lol!
Place in the fridge again till perfectly well chilled.
Remove the cello tape off the top cake round first and take out the Cardboard.
Carefully peel off the aluminium foil sticking to the cake. If the cake is not well chilled, you may rip some of the ganache off, which you may always fill., but can be messy and time consuming. I don’t think you may encounter this problem with acrylic boards.
Whatever happens, don’t panic, and give yourself time. Many a sharp corners that you see, is a result of constant practise, and a good ganache to cream ratio.
I use a 2:1 combination, two parts chocolate to one part cream.
I also use an immersion blender after I pour the scalding cream over the chopped chocolate and give it a stir with a Silicon spatula. This ensures I have a lump free Ganache with a good consistency to work with.
Now go around the cake with a warm spatula (dipped in hot water and then wiped clean)
Take a lil bit of your ganache and add more cream to bring to a slightly more viscous consistency and dab on rough areas, and smooth out with a spatula.
Chill again if required, and smooth out one last time, the sides and the top, with the spatula dipped in hot water, wiped clean. Again, you may be here for a while, this is where u can get really obsessed, going round and round your cake … but you will soon learn.
If using Swiss Meringue or Italian Meringue buttercream to frost your cakes, avoid the hot water technique as it may discolour the buttercream.
And in all this, keep a wet wash cloth next to you, so that you may wipe your hands occasionally. Your hands are going to get sticky playing with ganache. It helps relieve stress … or maybe it’s just me.
If you are one of those people whom straight sides and sharp corners are evading, realise that it is just a matter of time. With the immense support we have on the net, it is not one that is impossible to achieve.
I also realise that not all cakes need to have razor sharp edges and be super straight all the time … like the chic, the abstract has its appeal too.
Thanks for stopping by.