All Content, Blog, Review

Review: The Wafer Paper Peony Class with Rhianydd Webb

At the weekend, I had the very real pleasure of being invited to attend a class with my good friend and Mr Baker’s Blog favourite, Rhianydd Webb of Dragons & Daffodils Cakes by Rhianydd Webb. Active within the cake world for over 20 years, Rhianydd is a veritable font of knowledge when it comes to cake decoration and design and, as you can imagine, I leapt at the chance to be able to learn from her.

Based in Pontypridd, in South Wales, Rhianydd has managed to find a wonderful local venue in which she hosts many of her taught classes and it was to the Pantygraigwen Community Centre that I headed bright and early on Saturday morning (after a rather early start).

Growing more and more in popularity recently, wafer paper flowers were the order of the day – in particular, a wafer paper peony, with blossoms and twisted willow twigs.

I arrived nearly an hour early (what can I say, I’m super keen!), which gave me plenty of time to catch up with Rhianydd before my classmates arrived, and I was struck by what a well-oiled machine Rhianydd’s set up was. As someone who clearly teaches a lot, she really has got things down to a fine art. I also thought it was a nice touch that she had a selection of the tools we would be using within the class available to purchase at the end. That isn’t always the case when taking a class away from a storefront, so it was nice to have that option open to us.

Once the rest of lovely ladies had arrived (yes, as usual I was the token male), it was time to get started and, having spoken to Rhianydd about the history of sugarcraft a lot over the last few months, it came as no surprise that, in addition to loads of extra tips along the way, like how to make your own wafer glue using spare wafer paper (although you can also buy it from Saracino if you would prefer – that’s what we were using in the class) and a really clear explanation of the difference between carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and gum tragacanth, one of the things that really sets Rhianydd’s classes apart is her incredible knowledge of the history of sugarcraft. All her teaching points were accompanied by shout outs and references to the incredible sugarcrafters who came before us.

Rhianydd started by talking us through the kit we would be using and pointed out that if anyone was silly enough to cut themselves with the craft knives or scissors, they would have to wear a brightly coloured ‘plaster of shame’ (I wonder if you can guess where this is going?).

We learned a variety of different ways that one can colour wafer paper, including using an airbrush, with powder colours and more besides. The wafer paper we were using had been airbrushed for us in advance using Rainbow Dust’s ‘Rose’ colour, while the calyces were airbrushed with a combination of ‘Spring Green’ and ‘Holly Green’. Rhianydd also explained that to store heavily coloured wafer paper, we needed to separate the sheets with a layer of plastic.

Having worked with wafer paper before, I hadn’t realised how much I still didn’t know about using the material. One of the biggest things I learned straightaway was that one needs to condition wafer paper before one works with it. Rhianydd shared a variety of different methods for doing this, explaining which ones work best in different weather conditions and, of course, which legendary sugar artists developed each of the techniques before showing us her own method.

She also introduced the incredible number of individual pieces that go into making a single open peony. If I had had to cut them all out with scissors, I would probably have cried a little bit however Rhianydd had kindly used her snazzy Silhouette Cameo 3 to pre-cut them all for us.

Once we began making our own pieces, it wasn’t actually as hard as I had expected. The repetitive nature of some of the elements meant that we all had plenty of chances practice them and by the last of our wired central pieces, we were all assembling them like pros.

My neat freak-ness was the subject of much mirth…

Of course, there is usually that one person that seems to go out of their way to make as many mistakes as possible (sorry about me!), but I like to think that I was merely providing Rhianydd with plenty of teachable moments… Right, Rhi? I’m not sure whether the highlight of my ineptitude with all-things-dainty was when I managed to use floral tape to cheese-wire straight through one of my wired central elements or when I managed to cut myself, becoming the sole recipient of a ‘plaster of shame’.

I must mention the lovely bunch of people that I met on the course too – that Rhianydd affectionately refers to as ‘my ladies’. I was sat with the lovely Tracy, who was an absolute hoot, as well as Rhianydd’s sister, Beth, who had decided to take her first ever sugarcraft class. Of course, I had to find out why, after so long, she had decided to take the plunge and give sugarcraft a go and she had this to say:

“I don’t tend to bake cakes, as I’m lucky enough to have a sister who makes fantastic cakes – I tend to leave it to the professionals (and subtly hint whenever I haven’t had cake for a while). I saw Rhi’s Wafer Paper Peony class advertised and, because it was something quite different to the norm, I signed up.

“The thing I found trickiest was getting past my nerves at the beginning, when I was unsure if I would be able to do it. But the way Rhianydd taught the step-by-step methods helped to make it much more manageable. If I’m honest, I was blown away by her knowledge and teaching skills. I’ll definitely be back for more and have already been looking at which classes I’d like to do in the future.”

Halfway through the day, it was time to break for an eagerly anticipated lunch. As is usually the case, I had failed to take a second look at the class’ joining instructions, until the morning actually arrived, but when I did, I was delighted to see that lunch was provided. As a complete Last-Minute-Larry, I usually have to make a mad dash to a local shop whenever I’m out and about on my caking adventures, so knowing that this would be taken care of for me was a very welcome surprise. And what a slap-up lunch it was too – with lots of tasty vegetarian options for me to enjoy!

After lunch, we moved on to some of the other elements of the piece including the miniature blossoms and the twisted willow twigs. I have always wanted to have a go at creating decorative twigs, so I was really excited to learn how to make the willow. I couldn’t believe how simple they actually were! If only I had discovered this sooner! I’m going to be putting twigs on ALL my cakes from now on… 😉

All too soon though, it was time for final assembly and the class came to an end. Making my Wafer Paper Peony was a real learning experience for me and I loved every second of it – well except for when I cut myself maybe!

Rhianydd teaches a huge variety of regular classes, both locally at Pantygraigwen Community Centre and nationally at a variety of locations, including Liverpool’s The Renshaw Academy. Her repertoire is inexhaustible and her current schedule includes classes on wafer paper flowers, figure modelling, sharp edges, sculpted cakes and even more besides. To find out what she has coming up next, you can visit the Classes and Demonstrations section of Rhianydd’s website.

I highly recommend learning from Rhianydd Webb because, in all honesty, the experience was fabulous. There were people on our course at all stages of their Sugarcraft journey, from an experienced BSG instructor, right through to Rhianydd’s sister Beth experiencing her first ever brush with sugarcraft – yet every single person was able to produce a stunning wafer paper peony arrangement. If that isn’t a real testament to the quality of the teaching and learning experience, then I don’t know what is.

Thank you to Rhi for inviting back to the Motherland and for giving me a fabulous experience. I really did have a wonderful time and can’t wait to have another play with wafer paper soon.

All Content, Blog, Review

Review: The Celtic Cakers Tutorial Book

In the most recent issue of Something Sweet, I was most excited that I was finally getting to tell you about a truly remarkable book that was coming very soon – however that’s nothing compared to how excited I am to say that The Celtic Cakers is now available!!

Compiled by Corinna Maguire of Lovin’ from the Oven, The Celtic Cakers has brought together a team of some of Ireland’s top cake designers to produce a huge array of step-by-step pictorial guides to creating fantastic cakes of all skill levels.

Paired with the fabulous tutorials, The Celtic Cakers also take you on a journey around the stunning Emerald Isle itself, introducing themselves and their cake stories, alongside beautiful photographs of their local regions.

It offers readers the chance to learn techniques such as hand-modelling, creating stunning sugar flowers, crafting wired figures, carving cakes, structuring cakes, working with gelatin and much, much more.

From the adorable Big Brown Bear by Paul Redmond of Purple Feather Cake Design to the stunning cover cake, A Seaside Wedding by Corinna herself, there really is something in the book for everyone. But don’t just take my word for it! The cover quotes, from some of the cake world’s greats, speak volumes about how fabulous the book is:

I love this book! Such cute ideas with such detailed instruction from the basics to the advanced … enough to get the casual Cake admirer to jump in and test the waters. And some new ideas as well for those who have already dabbled a bit. A definite must!

Shawna McGreevy
Cakeheads – McGreevy Cakes

 

A fantastic collection of tutorials from a group of the best cake decorators! From simple
techniques to more challenging projects, a fantastic book.

Rosie Mazumder
Editor at Cake Masters Magazine

 

This book covers so many useful tips and techniques, a truly great resource for any decorator at any experience level.

Avalon Yarnes
Avalon Cakes School of Sugar Art

When I first received the advance copy of the book, I literally spent about two hours just reading it from cover to cover – I genuinely couldn’t put it down and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it is quite simply breathtaking. Corinna and her team of talented cakers have managed to capture the beauty and well… almost the very essence of Ireland and combine it with some truly stunning tutorials from some of the greatest talents their little corner of paradise has to offer.

If you’re looking to try something new or to really challenge yourself, I would highly recommend you grab a copy from Amazon (you can find it here).

In fact, I’m so convinced you’ll love it, to celebrate the book’s official launch weekend on 28-29 April, I’ve bought an extra one to give away to one of my lucky subscribers.

Yes, you heard that right! I’m giving away a copy of The Celtic Cakers right here!

To be in with a chance of getting your hands on this fabulous book, you just need to ensure you have subscribed to Mr Baker’s Blog before the competition closes on 29th April 2018.

To subscribe, simply scroll to the subscribe button in the sidebar on the right (or at the bottom of the page if on mobile) and pop in your email address. Not only will this enter you into my Celtic Cakers giveaway, but you’ll never have to worry about missing a Mr Baker’s Blog post again!

Regretfully, after having to shell out almost £80 to ship my last giveaway prize to the states (Yes, really!), I am going to have to limit this one to UK-only entries, I’m afraid. But don’t panic, further-afield subscribers can still grab your copy direct from Amazon.

Congratulations again to Corinna and the Celtic Cakers team on an absolute masterpiece and good luck for your launch next weekend!

All Content, Blog, Review

Review: Squires Kitchen Edible Wafer Paper by Natasha Collins

A few weeks back, you may recall that I visited the Squire’s Kitchen Exhibition for the first time and, while I was there, allowed Rhianydd Webb of Dragon’s and Daffodils Cakes to take me on a very resolve-testing walk around the show’s marketplace – resolve-testing because I had promised myself that I wouldn’t buy anything. Luckily, I was able to stick to my guns – well at the show at least – but alas that didn’t stop me hitting the web when I got home…

One of the products that had really piqued my interest at the show was the new Cake Smoothies, from Sherry Hostler with Squires Kitchen and I must confess that these may have already have found their way into my cake tool box (You can pick them up here if you are interested and why not take advantage of my exclusive 10% discount at the same time – just enter code MRBAKER10 at checkout).

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about today. No, today I want to discuss the other new product from Squires that had got me thinking. The new Squires Kitchen Edible Wafer Papers by Natasha Collins were designed by the British cake artist and cake-painting specialist behind Nevie Pie Cakes – ‘the home of the painted cake’. She teamed up with Squires Kitchen to produce a whole range of beautiful ‘painted’ designs on strong, flexible and ultra-fine wafer paper, making it suitable for all kinds of uses in baking and sugarcraft.

When I first mentioned them in my blog from the Squires Kitchen Exhibition, I explained that if you are not confident in your cake painting abilities or are looking for an easier alternative, the wafer paper designs by Natasha Collins would be perfect to add pretty painted effects in seconds.

This got me thinking and I wondered if it would be possible for a cake decorating novice to use the papers to create a show-stopping cake without the time and effort that professionals usually put in, and thus, my Painted Giftbox Tutorial was born.

In addition to ‘the cheat’s solution to a painted finish’ as one of my friends has dubbed it, I also used a purchased floral spray  to create this cake. Although a couple of the other techniques are not quite so noob-friendly, the tutorial will hopefully make it nice and easy to blend the slightly more-challenging techniques with some simple shortcuts to create a cake with real wow factor.

To find out how to create the full cake, you can find the tutorial via the menu at the top of the page, but today I want to talk about the part of the tutorial that concerns the wafer paper itself.

When it came to applying the wafer paper to a cake, I will admit that I initially struggled. There are no instructions on the packet and, having only used wafer paper a few times in the past, I wasn’t sure how best to attach it. Luckily, I had enough knowledge to know that water would not be my friend, so steaming the cake like one does to apply edible lace was not an option.

I decided to try using piping gel instead and heated a small amount up in the microwave for 45 seconds (stirring every 15) to reduce its viscosity. Around this time, I realised that I still haven’t yet replaced my large paintbrushes for cakes and instead applied the piping gel to the sides of the cake using a flexible smoother. This actually worked really well as it gave me a really smooth finish without any excess gel that could cause pockets when I applied the paper.

I measured the cake and, using a metal ruler and a scalpel, trimmed the top of the paper to just below the height of the cake.

Applying the paper to the cake was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be and I managed to do this fairly simply. Unfortunately, I did end up with some bubbling, but that could be because my cake wasn’t as perfectly flat as I had thought, so it’s worth spending some time with your smoothers and a spirit level to ensure this is as perfect as you can get it.

I also discovered, when applying the second piece of paper, that the patterns don’t join at the edges, like with wallpaper. I had been expecting this though and I figured that this would probably be the case with a real gift box too.

Because the bottom of the cake was the part that would be most visible when it was finished, I concentrated on getting that part looking the neatest and then used the giftbox lid and ‘stitched strips’ to cover the other edges of the paper. I had to spend some time with my smoothers to allow the sugarpaste to absorb and mask the lumps and bumps caused by the edge of the wafer paper, but I was mainly happy with the overall effect.

All in all, I pretty pleased with the finish that I was able to produce with the Squire Kitchen wafer papers. I don’t think anyone would immediately realise that the cake isn’t actually painted and, when used as part of an overall design, I think it looks incredibly effective – it also has a very subtle, sweet flavour that would complement all of your favourite recipes. The experienced cake artist could easily smarten up my beginner-level design, using some petal dust colours to add more depth to the sugarpaste embellishments and really pull out the other colours in the design, and, if the Squires Kitchen papers were used as part of a larger piece, such as a multi-tiered wedding cake, I could imagine the effect would be incredibly dramatic.

That said, applying the paper isn’t something that can be rushed and I would advise anyone wanting to have a go to ensure that they practice a few times before using it on a client cake. I’m now planning on using the rest of my paper to create a geometric design inspired by something I saw in a book recently – more on that later though.

The wafer paper comes in packets of two sheets, with different patterns on each, and the set I used for my tutorial was from the Big Blooms collection. Because there is only one of each sheet in a packet, I needed two packets for my cake. Thank you to Natalie in the Squires Kitchen press office for sending me plenty of packets to experiment with though!

Natasha and Squires Kitchen have come up with a whole range of fabulous patterns and finishes, including more child-friendly designs such as the Kawaii Hearts and the Dinosaurs collections and a whole selection of Christmas-themed papers too.

To check out the whole range and to buy, you can find them at Squires Kitchen Shop or you can take advantage of my exclusive 10% discount at Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd by entering code MRBAKER10 at checkout.

And if anyone else has already had a play with the new Squires Kitchen Edible Wafer Paper by Natasha Collins, do let me know what you thought!

And until next time, happy caking! x