Behind the Scenes of a Painted Cake
Welcome to Shannon Bond Cake Design - BLOG! I thought I would use this blog and it's casual atmosphere to share some fun, behind the scenes footage of all that goes into the design of some of my favorite and most challenging cakes. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, I love to interact and will try to answer back as soon as I can. I also plan to add some free tutorials and post some links to others I find helpful around the web. Check back often for new content, this page will be a work in progress for a while - I hope you like what you see!
The Festival of Lights Cake Collaboration was my first attempt at painting on a fondant covered cake. To say I was nervous is an understatment. Thankfully, I had the encouragment of many and the advice of the amazing artist, Jon Thuema of JT Cakes to guide me along. Collaborations are a great time to try new techniques to push yourself without experimenting on a client's special day. I will never try a new techique on a client cake if I am not absolutely sure that I can execute it to my own perfectionistic standards. So, my kids' cakes and collabs get to be my guinea pigs!
I wanted to share some of the progression photos from rough sketch to completion of the Festival of Lights Collaboration that was featured in Cake Geek and Cake Master's magazines.
Since it is completed, it is fun to look back through the progression of pictures. At the time of pictures 1 and 2, I almost threw the cake out the window. Literally. Thankfully Jon encouraged me to keep at it, adding shadows and highlights to bring a more life into the painting. For this cake, I wanted the background to look like aged parchment paper. I spackled the fondant with thinned royal icing and let dry. I didn't know if it would work, but again - hands on experimenting is sometimes the best learning tool! I painted the entire cake with undiluted food color gels (Americolor is my brand of choice.)
The sketch above was my rough sketch on waxed paper I used to transfer onto the cake. As you can see, it is reversed on the cake, so if you try this method, remember the image will be facing the opposite direction. It is not a detailed sketch, I only use it to get the approximate shape of what I am going to paint onto the cake. Craftsy offers a free class called The Hand Painted cake taught by Erin Schaefgen of Three Little Blackbirds Bakery that teaches the transfer technique and also shows you how to paint on fondant covered cakes. Erin demonstrates diluting the gel colors with vodka, but I had trouble with feathering. I prefer to use them undiluted, it is just a personal preferrence, you will just have to try and decide what works best for you! Undiluted gel colors do take a bit longer to dry, but they do dry nicely within a fairly short amount of time depending on how thick you layer colors. I am a paid Craftsy affiliate, BUT, this Craftsy class I mentioned is a FREE class - what's better than free??
This point was where I was ready to quit. I had transferred the sketch and painted in the outlines and it looked, well...bad. My design orginally had the flame going up onto the top tier with gold and red gelatin sequins in the flame, but seeing it on the cake made me realize it would look like a smoking volcano. Not exactly the look I was going for! My mind was racing, trying to come up with alternative designs because I thought this just wasn't going to work. Obviously, hand painted cakes should be left to others who knew what they were doing. Thankfully, my stubbornness proved valuable - this time. I was determined to see it through, really, how much worse could it get at this point?
After various chats with poor, patient Jon, I thought there was hope. Adding some colors and shading, it was looking better. Because of the royal icing spackling, I had to do several coats of blue background color to cover completely. I probably wouldn't use the royal icing layer again, I think I could have acheived a similar texture through painting and it caused some issues with painting straight, neat outlines. The painting still needed work, highlights and more shadows were next.
By this 3rd progress picture, I thought I would actually be able to show this cake in public without a bag over my head. The end was in sight! It needed the outlines cleaned up and a few more darker shades of blue on the background, but I was actually starting to like the painting. I loved the actual painting process, after overcoming the fear of failure, and realized how easy it was to fix mistakes by taking off color with vodka or painting over with another color. I cleaned up the edges with a little vodka and a tiny 00 brush. There is a huge difference with good brushes. You don't have to buy the most expensive brand, but make sure they will not shed easily and take care of them by rinsing out colors immediately before they dry on the brush.
Here we have the finished cake - woop, woop! The flame and the shades of blue are my favorite parts of this cake, they give a feeling of warmth and peacefulness. As a first painting goes, I was pretty happy with it, the perfectionist in me will always see parts I could have done better! I learned a lot from the process and have painted on several cakes since. It really opened up a lot of doors to designs I never would have tried had it not been for this first painted cake. I've adapted this technique to painting on buttercream, which is now my preferred "canvas" for painting. You can view my other painted cakes in my Galleries.
I hope this post encourages you to try, and not give up, on some new techniques, even if they scare the tar out of you. You may find a new love or at least learn some new things along the way. One of my favorite stories to encourage my children and the way I approach new design techniques is from Thomas Edison. The story was recorded by his friend, Walter Mallory. Edison and his team had been working to create a successful nickle-iron battery for several months. Mallory visited him one day in his workroom and saw his workbench full of the hundreds of battery corpses that failed. Feeling sympathetic, Mallory said, "Isn't it a shame, that with the tremendous amount of workyou have done, you haven't been able to get any results." Edison smiled and replied, "Results? Why man, I have lots of results. I know several thousand things that won't work."
Enjoy the creative process, and try new things. Failures can be just as valuable as successes! The trends in cake are always changing, some are short lived and others are timeless. But I believe hand painted cakes will be around for a long while!