Cake designs often follow very simple traditional lines with round, square and rectangular shapes stacked in clean lines. However, other cakes need to be carved into specific shapes to impart the impact required for a design. Once you have mastered the basic carving technique you will be able to produce just about any type of cake for astonished and delighted guests from ships to pretty purses and everything in-between.
There are a few basic guidelines to consider before attempting your first carved cake design. These "rules" will simply help ensure b success for your hard work and planning.
- Make a plan before applying your knife to the cake. This means researching the shape you want to create from every angle. Most complicated cake carvings will need a series of templates so try to get images of your shape from every angle. Print off pictures or use real objects when possible as guides.
- Decide what base shape will work best for your finished cake, for example a heart shape from a round cake. Sometimes a design needs to be created from different shapes put together rather than one big cake cut down. An "S" shaped cake can be created from a round cake cut in half and then moving the halves apart with the edges still touching. This is easier than carving an "S" from scratch. Remember if you are stacking different pieces to create a finished shape take the time to follow standard foundation rules for cakes. Use dowels when possible for stability and carve your cake on the prepared cake board to avoid moving the finished shape too much. It is heartbreaking to watch your carefully crafted cake break when moving it.
- Choose a cake recipe with a dense crumb that will stand up to cutting. A light chiffon cake with silky mousse filling would not be a feasible choice for carving. This type of cake won't usually stand up to being covered with fondant or heavy icing either. Try a nice carrot cake or mouth filling fudge creation!
- Don't fill your cake unless it is necessary. Most people like a layer of rich icing between their cake layers but this addition can make carving more difficult. If you must fill your cake keep the icing, jam or glaze layer thin to prevent slippage. Stability is the key to a good cake carving.
- Never attempt to carve freshly baked and filled cakes because this type of cake will usually crumble. Anyone who has iced a fresh cake knows the frustration of crumbs and falling edges. This is why we "crumb" cakes to avoid erosion. Freeing your cakes will ensure that the carved edges will be sharp and accurate. Freezing will also make more detail and complex designs possible.
- Use a very sharp knife to carve your cakes, or an assortment of knives for intricate details or awkward edges. A serrated knife can be a good choice too.
- Make sure your cut edges are clean if you are covering the finished cake with fondant. Fondant is a very unforgiving product which will show every bump, lump and crevice on the surface. This can ruin your design unless you are piping icing details on top of the fondant.
- Carve with a bit of exaggeration in the shape almost like a caricature of the finished shape because detail will be lost when you coat the cake with icing and fondant. You want a spectacular finished cake not a vaguely recognizable blob.
- Do the best you can and accept the fact sometimes a design turns out different than what you envision from the start. Often icing, fondant or added design elements can camouflage errors so be creative. With practice your "errors" will be minimal so take heart and cut with confidence.