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Thursday, March 05, 2015

How Does a DIY Sugar Lace Recipe Stack Up?

DIY Sugar Lace Comparison
This cake was made using a DIY Sugar Lace recipe and the Claire Bowman Cake Lace Chantilly mat.

A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that I hadn't purchased any new cake toys in a while, so I could therefore justify ordering a Silikomart Daisy small mat and some of their Tricot lace mix. Let the fun begin!

I mixed up the Tricot lace according to the directions and worked it into the mat. It went in quite easily. It didn't come out the same way.  I went through quite a few pieces of the Silikomart lace that either tore, or crumbled, or were just so gummy that it all stuck together. Turns out, that was probably my fault. Well, not my fault - my oven's fault. Everyone's oven is a little different, so do yourself a favour and spend 5 bucks on an oven thermometer. Once I did that, the lace came out much better. The mix comes in white, but can be easily coloured with a little bit of gel paste. It has a hint of caramel in the taste.

Next, I purchased a Claire Bowman Chantilly Lace mat and some of her pre-mixed cake lace in Pearlized White. I was surprised at how small the container was when it arrived, but was reminded that a little goes a long way. The product handles beautifully. The lace came out a little bit thicker than the Silikomart lace and was very flexible.

I wanted it in every colour! That would really add up, so I started searching the Internet for other options.

That's when I came across this YouTube video by Sugar Tree Cakerie on how to make your own sugar lace. To be honest, I didn't have high hopes. But, what I did have was all of the ingredients, so what the heck!

I was blown away at how easy (and inexpensive) it was to make my own sugar lace mixture and at how well the lace itself turned out.

I made a couple of small changes to the You Tube posters recipe (outlined below). The result was a mixture essentially the same texture as the Cake Lace. It spread beautifully into the mat. I will say, however, that the Claire Bowman cake lace seemed to shrink less than either the Tricot Mix or the homemade lace. To remedy that, you can always put a second coat onto the mat once the first coat has dried to give you a stronger lace. I stored the lace pieces in individual ziplock bags.

One week later, this is how they looked.

The Cake Lace was still perfectly flexible, the DIY lace less so, and the Tricot lace cracked when I took it out of the bag.

However, The Tricot lace was the whitest white - the others are more of an ivory colour.

Top: Cake Lace Pearlized White (one coat)
Right: DIY Sugar Lace (two coats), sprayed with Pearl Lustre
Bottom: DIY Sugar Lace (one coat), sprayed with Pearl Lustre
Left: Silikomart Tricot Mix (one coat)

There are a number of factors that will determine how your lace will turn out, including how much water is used (the more you use, the drier the result will be), how well you scrape the mat, your oven temperature, how long you leave it in the mat once out of the oven, etc. You just need to play around with it and see what works for you.

For this cake, I tinted the homemade sugar lace mix with a copper gel colour. Then I brushed copper lustre dust right into the mat before spreading the mixture onto the mat. I love the result! And, the lace came out of the mat much easier with the luster dust.

The colour possibilities are endless!

Will I always make my own lace mixture? Probably not. It depends on how and where I am going to use the lace. In fact, I am already eyeing the pre-mixed Cake Lace brand in Pearlized Ruby Red. I love how the Claire Bowman Cake Lace stays so flexible and I love the convenience of a pre-mixed product.

On the other hand, I also love that I have found an inexpensive alternative that is easy to make from ingredients I always have on hand and that works almost as well for my purposes.

This recipe cost me just $1.27 to make. The Tylose powder is the expensive part, but GumTex (Wilton) works just as well and with a 40% off coupon from Michael's or Hobby Lobby your cost would be even lower.

Here's How - DIY Sugar Lace

If you look at the video by Sugar Tree Cakerie and read the comments below it, you will see that everyone does this a little differently. You will find other videos and blogs that talk about different variations of that same recipe. All I can say is that this is what worked for me.

1/2 cup distilled water
1 Tbsp Tylose Powder (or Gum Tex)
1 Tbsp Icing Sugar
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
1/4 tsp Meringue Powder
1/2 tsp glucose (or clear corn syrup)
1/2 tsp food grade glycerin (optional - keeps the lace more flexible)
white gel colour

In the video, they use a hand mixer. I don't have a hand mixer and to put such a small amount into my 6 quart Kitchenmaid caused it not to mix up very well.

So, the next time I made it, I just measured all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl, liquid ingredients into another, then mixed the liquid and dry ingredients together, stirred briefly and placed it all into my mini Cuisinart. (No need to mix Tylose and water first) Less than a minute later, I had a mixture that was the same texture (almost like thick mayonnaise) as the Cake Lace.

Here is the second part of the video which shows how to spread the lace mixture into the mat and bake it.

I found that leaving the light in the oven on as well as the convection fan and setting at a low temperature (the lowest setting on my oven is 135F) works well. I also left the door of the oven slightly open to let out any humidity. Fifteen minutes worked perfectly for me for the large mat; about 10 - 12 for the smaller mat.

So, give it a try and enjoy your own sugar lace at a fraction of the cost.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine Sugar Cookies - Fondant & Royal Icing

Fondant covered sugar cookies with royal icing and fondant accents

My granddaughter's school has to be one of the few schools around that still allow treats to be brought in from home. A few weeks ago, she placed her order for Valentine cookies. She told me there are twenty-two kids in her grade four class, but I better make her twenty-five - "just in case". Just in case she eats a few before they get to the classroom, I suppose.

My Pinterest feed is filled with fabulous brightly coloured cookies that are meticulously decorated with royal icing. I really wanted to give royal icing one more shot. You see, royal icing and I are NOT friends. This goes way back to long before I started decorating cakes and such. One Easter, I decided to make my own kids cookies shaped like Easter Eggs and bunnies. To this day, in the Martha Stewart cookbook on the page with the royal icing recipe is a post-it note that says, "Don't do it!!! Remember last year!?!"

Attempt at decorating with royal icing
Nevertheless, I decided to try again.

Sigh. Two hours later, my kitchen looked like a disaster zone with squeeze bottles all over the place, and tips, and long needles for spreading the icing, and bowls of royal icing in different colours and in varying consistencies. I still couldn't get it right. I tried the outlining method and didn't like the look. So, I tried doing it all in one shot with a thinner icing. That didn't work for me either.

In the end, I scrapped the whole idea and went back to my trusty fondant covered cookies with royal icing and fondant accents. I'm happy and I am guessing that my granddaughter and her class will be happy too.

Will I try decorating with royal icing again? You bet - probably at Easter! I will get the hang of it one of these times!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

50 Shades of Grey

Oh my! My daughter-in-law is turning 40! That is cause for a great celebration cake. Well, seriously, what birthday isn't cause for a great celebration cake?

50 Shades of Grey Cake www.butterfacecakes@blogspot.ca

With the 50 Shades of Grey Movie coming out in less than a month, we thought that might make a great theme for her party. I looked at dozens of "50 Shades" cakes on line and there were some awesome cakes. (Do a Google or Pinterest search.)

I had always wanted to make a totally ripped male torso cake and you'll find plenty of those in your search for 50 Shades of Grey cakes. But, there was just something about cutting into a torso that I just didn't find appealing. Plus, I wanted to make it family-friendly just in case there are any kids that show up.

So, this is my take on a 50 Shades of Grey birthday cake. 

The bottom tier is a 12" square Chocolate Fudge cake filled with a Nanaimo Bar inspired Swiss Meringue Buttercream, covered in a beautiful, rich, dark chocolate ganache, then covered again in grey fondant. The shimmer comes from giving it a little shot of Pearl Lustre Spray. (I love that stuff!)

The middle tier is obviously inspired by the Red Room and features (what else) Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream, covered in white chocolate ganache and covered with red fondant. (I used Fondx Elite, Candy Apple Red for this tier. It's expensive, but it's the best tasting red fondant I've found.) I then applied a quilting effect to the fondant.

What 50 Shades of Grey cake would be complete without some Vanilla? The top tier is a Vanilla Bean cake with a Cookie Dough Buttercream, covered in dark chocolate ganache, then topped with black fondant (also Fondx Elite - great flavour on the black as well). I then covered the whole tier in black sugar and tiny silver dragees. (Yes, I will be finding little silver balls all over my kitchen for months to come!) Suffice it to say, this tier was a messy proposition. But, I love the effect. I gave it a little shot of Pearl Lustre Spray as well.

The mask and handcuffs are made from gum paste and are decorated with silver highlighter and some silver disco dust, which makes them decoration only and not for consumption. The tie is made from fondant and brushed with a pearl petal dust. 

This was a time-consuming cake, and so heavy, but all-in-all it was probably the most fun cake I've done to date.

Happy Birthday, Stacy, as you say "Laters Baby" to another decade!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cake

The Ugly Christmas Sweater trend shows no indication of slowing down. One no longer has to hunt through the racks at Value Village to find a second hand ugly Christmas sweater. Manufacturers are producing them and flooding the market. They are at Walmart. They are at The Bay. You can order an ugly Christmas sweater with your favourite NHL team logo. Still, it is not the same as finding a one-of-a-kind treasure.

Oh, how I wish I'd kept the sweater that an elderly neighbour knit for me years ago. It had a big green Christmas tree on the front, wrapped packages under the tree, and - the best part - there was a little battery pack and a string of tiny lights sewn inside the sweater. At the press of a button my sweater would light up and start playing Jingle Bells.

But, I digress. The purpose of this post is to reclaim my Ugly Christmas Sweater Cake!

This is a cake that I made for my daughter, Jayna, back in 2010. Her birthday is just four days before Christmas and I often joked that I was going to buy her an ugly Christmas sweater for her birthday. Then I thought, why not make her a sweater cake? So, I did and she loved it. I posted it on Cake Central (under my pseudonym - Martha) and then I kind of forgot about it.

I was searching around recently on Pinterest and found a pin of my cake. I followed one of the links that took me to someone's blog. There are almost 15,000 pins of that cake! There are hundreds of other pins directly from Cake Central. Flattered! I have even had people post the picture as their own. That's where I draw the line. So, I am here to say, "That's my cake!"

It was a simple 9 x 13 vanilla cake with a dark chocolate-mocha whipped ganache filling. I assembled all of my tiny cookie cutters and set to work without much of a plan. I used an impression mat (the basketweave mat from CK Products) to give the look of the knitting and then patched the different coloured pieces of fondant together. The yellow "rick-rack" is just royal icing. To make the zipper, I cut a strip of black fondant and pressed a real zipper into it for the impression and used a snowflake plunger/cutter for the zipper pull. Mini cookie cutters helped form the gingerbread people and the lights around the neck of the sweater. The snowman was free form; the trees were royal icing with metallic looking dragees for lights.  As a finishing touch, I added a little "Jayna" tag at the neck.

This cake was a hit at Jayna's birthday party back in 2010. And, from the looks of Pinterest, Ugly Sweater Cakes at Christmas parties are the "thing" again this year!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Paint Splatter Cake

After seeing a number of paint splatter cakes on Pinterest and other cake decorating sites, I knew I just had to make one.

After reading various instructions and tutorials, all I was able to gather was that you just "fling" the "paint" at the cake and that you have a big mess to clean up afterward. One video tutorial was particularly dramatic with the decorator flinging a fork full of icing from about five feet away! I knew there had to be a better way and so I started to investigate the options.

There are two mediums you can use for the "paint" - melting chocolate (candy melts) and royal icing. Actually there is a third - one person suggested just throwing food colouring or colour gel at the cake. Umm ... yuck!

Chocolate candy melts come in a variety of colours, so there is no need to mess around with food colouring or colour pastes/gels. But, on the other hand, the colours are somewhat limited. Also on the con side, if the least bit of moisture gets into your chocolate, it will seize up and hence not become "flingable".

The royal icing colours are limited only by what colours you can find and/or mix together. Both Americolor and Duff have a line of neon colours called Electric Blue, Electric Purple etc. that would just "pop" on a black fondant-covered cake. With royal icing, you have to get just the right consistency - too runny and the icing would drip off and pool on the base; too firm and you would end up with big blobs and no splatter.

I decided on the chocolate/candy melt process and to just drizzle rather than fling - it just seemed like it would be easier and less messy. Here is a step-by-step little tutorial:

Start with a chilled black fondant-covered cake. Don't even worry about getting every little wrinkle or air bubble out of the fondant because a little paint drizzle will cover any imperfections. That's what makes this cake a great choice if you are short on time or if you are new to cake decorating.

Next, cover your counter with a large piece of plastic and place the cake on a turntable on top of the plastic. If you don't have a turntable, you may want to tape your plastic sheet down so you don't have to keep rearranging it as you move the cake around.

Then, melt your chocolate candy melts in small bowls in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds, then check and stir, then another 10 - 15 seconds depending on how many melts you are using and the wattage of your microwave. As a rough guide, this 8" round, 4 high cake took about 10 or 12 melts of each colour .

Using a small spoon, stir the candy until thoroughly melted and smooth. If any of your colours seize, simply add a little bit of vegetable oil and stir until smooth. The more liquid the chocolate the finer your paint splatter will be.

Drizzle the first colour of chocolate from the spoon to the top of the cake. Because the cake is cold, the chocolate will set quickly.

Then, holding the cake up on a bit of an angle, drizzle a little bit down the sides (turning the cake at intervals to get the entire cake drizzled).

Continue with the rest of the coloured chocolate, making sure that it is still liquid enough to drizzle. If not, return to microwave for a few seconds. (I learned this the hard way. There are more "blobs" on my cake than I cared to have and that is because my chocolate was cooling off.)

As you can see, in the end there really wasn't much mess. I just folded up the plastic and threw it away! I  intend to try the royal icing method next and will update this post after I do.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chocolate Covered Oreos using Spinning Leaf Cookie Molds

If you love chocolate covered Oreos (who doesn't), and you have not yet discovered Spinning Leaf, you are really missing out. They offer a variety of cookie molds (seasonal, sports, baby ... you name it) that are designed to accommodate Double Stuff Oreos .

I have used other molds that barely allow for coverage of a regular Oreo. But the molds from Spinning Leaf are strong, sturdy, and deep enough that the cookie can be completely covered with chocolate or with candy melts.

I find the candy melts work best as the real chocolate has to be tempered. If it isn't tempered, it will only look good when it first comes out of the mold, but will soon look dull and pitted. The candy melts come in a great variety of colours and can be bought at either a bulk food store or at a craft store like Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I often mix two different colours to get the exact shade I want. They pop out of the mold with a nice shiny finish. 

Easter Egg Cookies with a little Pearl Lustre Spray for a little extra sparkle.

Most of the molds come with 6 cavities. Since people often wonder how much chocolate/candy melt they need, I did calculate it for the Easter Egg mold cookies (as shown). I used 6 double stuffed Oreos that weighed 92 grams. The 6 cookies, when finished, weighed 264 grams, so that means I used 172 grams, or a little over 1/3 of a pound of candy melts and chocolate for each half-dozen. (I knew that arithmetic would come in handy one day!)

There is a great tutorial on the Spinning Leaf website. I urge you to check it out.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Easter Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes

Inspired by the many different pins on Pinterest, but not liking the sound of a regular vanilla buttercream, I came up with this version. I wanted a frosting to be a little more in keeping with the centre of a Cadbury Egg. It has been a hit here!

So, we have a Chocolate Cupcake with an Easter Creme Egg baked inside, topped with a fluffy Marshmallow Frosting. The dollop of yellow frosting on top is a sweet, buttery, vanilla custard flavour similar to the centre layer of a Nanaimo Bar. 

Makes 12 Cupcakes


1/2 box chocolate cake mix plus applicable ingredients (i.e: 1/2  the amount of oil, 1/2 the eggs, etc.) (or use your own favourite chocolate cupcake recipe)
24 Cadbury Easter Creme Eggs

Marshmallow Frosting

1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 7 oz jar of marshmallow creme (Fluff)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Nanaimo Frosting

1 cup butter (room temperature)
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder (Harry Horne's or Bird's)
2 cups confectioners' sugar


Unwrap and freeze 12 of the Easter Creme Eggs. Unwrap the other 12 and set aside.

Cupcake – Mix ingredients for cupcakes and fill cupcake wrappers just under 2/3 full. Bake as per instructions, but at the halfway point, pull the cupcakes out of the oven and place a frozen egg on each one, pushing down gently. The egg doesn’t need to be covered at this point, as the cupcake will continue to rise and bake around it. Place cupcakes back in the oven until finished baking. Remove, cool in pan for 5 minutes and then place on a rack to cool. (Make sure they are completely cool before decorating)

Marshmallow Frosting – Whip butter with mixer until soft. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Whip for about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until all sugar is incorporated. Cover and set aside.

Nanaimo Frosting – Whip butter until soft. Meanwhile, mix custard powder with milk. Add to butter. Whip until blended. I find it never completely mixes together (or maybe I’m just impatient) but that’s okay. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Cover and set aside.

To Decorate – Using a piping bag fitted with a #809 tip (or other round tip), pipe marshmallow frosting on cooled cupcakes. Then using the same tip, pipe a smaller circle of Nanaimo frosting in the centre of the cupcake. Place an unwrapped Easter Creme Egg on top. Keep the cupcakes cool until the frostings set. (I placed mine in the fridge for about 20 minutes)