I wanted to start with some of the more basic techniques that are so important to giving us a professional finish with our cakes. I will be covering some of the obvious issues we come across when preparing our sugarpaste, that can then effect the cakes finish once covered.
- Air Bubbles
- Lumps & Bumps
The first thing when covering a cake is don’t scrimp on your basic tools! Yes you can get by with substituting a smoother for your hand but this is what the difference is between a professional finish and an amateur one.
What Tools Do You Need?
- Scriber Needle
- Non Stick Rolling Pin
These cover your basic tools and a professional finish can be easily obtained with these tools, not only that but if you buy the better brands such as PME or FMM that may cost 10% more than the no names, they will last you the next 20-30 years! We still have most of our original tools we used every day baking and cake decorating in the PartyAnimal Cake Shop nearly 25 years on!
Basic Kneading Techniques
Start with smaller amounts, by kneading a section at a time you will find it much easier to handle. Use a very small amount of icing sugar on the work surface to stop the sugarpaste from sticking. If you sugarpaste is cold and hard you can soften it by microwaving it for a 5 seconds – DO NOT leave in longer, sugar gets VERY hot and can burn your hands.
Use the Thenar muscle in your hand to need this is the lower palm, you want to push the sugarpaste in on itself whilst rotating it around, continuing to do this motion will work the sugarpaste to a smooth ball and achieve a good shape for rolling it out. Use as little icing sugar as possible to avoid cracking.
See video for the action:
How to Avoid Cracking
Cracking often happens in icing with the overuse of icing sugar. Yes, in most cases we need these when rolling out our sugarpaste BUT many make the mistake of using too much! A good sugarpaste shouldn’t require too much and if you use your non-stick rolling pin then you will find non is required on that.
Avoid using cornflour – this dries Sugarpaste out very quickly!
If you do use too much, you can revive your sugarpaste with a small amount of TREX (White vegetable fat) this will stop the sugarpaste cracking once kneaded in properly.
How to Avoid Stickiness
Sugarpaste becomes sticky in hot climates and can often be difficult to work with and roll out. This can also happen if the sugarpaste is overworked. If this happens, use extra icing sugar to balance the heat. If it’s very humid where you are working a dehumidifier can help stop sugarpaste sweating.
How to Avoid Air bubbles
Air bubbles are caused when air gets trapped under the surface causing it to bubble. A good way to avoid bubbling is by starting on the top of the cake, once you have folded your icing over the cake you need to lift and brush the icing along, by doing this you push out any trapped air. You can then smooth the top and move onto the sides. Quite iften by doing it this way you avoid trapping any extra air but sometimes air bubbles are just unavoidable.
Never fear, this is where the scriber needle comes in. When a bubble appears, you need to release the air. The PME scriber needle is very thin leaving barely any marking on the cake, simply pop the scriber needle in to the bubble to release the air and then you the warmth of your hand to smooth of the mark once the bubble has gone down, finish off by using your smoother on the effected area.
How to Avoid Lumps & Bumps
Lumps and bumps can be avoided by using a good undercoat on your cake. Many people use ganache, it tastes great and dries solid and smooth. Learning how to do your undercoat well makes all the difference when icing on top!
Finally, use a smoother, always! Don’t think it’s not worth spending the £5! The difference is a professional finish every time and well worth every penny. I recommend PME smoother or if you want one that also has a straight edge FMM do a great one and they are both around the £5 mark so definitely won’t break the bank.
I hope this has given you some helpful tips. Please comment underneath if there’s other tips you would recommend.