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Review: Half-Sphere Multi Mould and Edible Transfers by The Old Piping Bag

The school holidays are finally here and do you know what that means? I can finally pay some attention to the mammoth, cakey ‘to-do list’ that I have been ignoring for the past few weeks. I actually have a dedicated shelf in my cake room that is purely for projects that I want to get to ‘at some point’ and, if I’m honest, lately it has been looking rather full.

I know some people think that blogging is all getting sent free stuff, but actually, for every product that you get sent for review, you need to come up with a creation to go with it and that’s before you even start putting pen to paper. It’s a lot of work.

And actually, many of the products or tools that I share with you are things that I have bought myself – either because I think that you would all be interested in seeing them in action or because I think they will be useful within my own cake artistry – and today, I finally got the chance to play with a product that fits into both of those categories.

The new Half Sphere Multi-Mould and Edible Transfers are some of the latest innovations to come out of the workshop of Rachel Wyatt-Brown of The-Old Piping Bag: Handmade Silicone Moulds for Cake & Craft and she told me they allow sugarcrafters to create realistic eyes, eyeballs and sports balls.

The combination of her isomalt mould and the pre-cut transfers ensure that even a complete isomalt-noob like me can achieve the sort of realistic eyes that used to be the exclusive purview of only the finest cake artists and sugar sculptors.

Now, if I’m honest, one of the main reasons that this project has been left languishing on my shelf (besides time) is because I have never used isomalt before and I’ve always been a little bit scared of it. Isomalt is an ‘inverted sugar’, which means that it is sweet like sugar, but it has a slower rate of crystallisation. This makes it ideal for modelling and moulding, because it doesn’t break down as quickly as regular sugar sculpting.

The other reason I had shelved this project for a while was due to the fact that Squires Kitchen Ready-Tempered Isomalt seemed to be out of stock absolutely everywhere. While there are other brands available, I had only heard good things about the Squires isomalt, so I was keen to use this during my first experience with the medium. However, it seemed that the rest of the world had had a similar idea and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Luckily, my lovely friend Vicky Teather of Yellow Bee Cake Co had a little bit left over from a previous project and she was generous enough to post it to me.

You also need a fair bit of kit to work with isomalt, it seems. Number one on your purchase list needs to be some silicone containers. Melted sugar is sticky – and hot! I bought a pack of silicone cupcake cases from Amazon and they seemed to do the trick perfectly.

If you want to achieve a perfect finish to your isomalt art, you will also need a blowtorch – I have this one by Andrew James – and some PME Clear Edible Glaze Spray. This will stop the sugar absorbing moisture from the air and breaking down over time.

Finally, I would advise that you wear some heat-proof gloves while you are working with your isomalt. Perhaps stupidly, I just used my usual food-safe vinyl gloves today, which of course do not offer any protection from the heat. However, I was able to whip mine off quick enough to ensure that I didn’t get badly burnt by the molten sugar when I inevitably shoved my finger into the discarded pot of leftover mix.

While I was using Rachel’s moulds for the first time, the thing I struggled with the most was patience. You need to let each step of the process cool before moving on to the next and I didn’t really do this. I won’t show you a picture of how my first attempts came out, but luckily I had just enough isomalt crystals left for one final go.

This time, I allowed myself to be distracted between each step so that I could allow sufficient cooling time and the results were much better, as you can see here.

Next up, I want to see how I can incorporate these realistic looking eyes into a chocolate sculpture like the one I made during my time with Carla Puig earlier this year.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the similarities between Rachel’s new product and another, devised by Lizzo Marek with Simi Cakes, that also became available this year. It seems that both of them had them in development at the same time and, although she is aware that people may think she copied Lizzo, whose eye moulds and transfers came to market first, Rachel explained that she had already invested far too much time and money into her product to be able to discontinue her work on them.

I don’t know about you, but I think there is plenty of space on the market for both of them – particularly as one is US-based and one is here – and I was certainly thrilled with the results I was able to achieve on my initial play with Rachel’s kit.

So much so, that now it seems to be back in stock everywhere, I have ordered a load more isomalt so that I can carry on with my explorations – before tackling my chocolate bust of course!

If you fancy having a go at creating realistic isomalt eyes, then you can pick up Rachel’s Half Sphere Multi Mould and Edible Transfers via her website here.

To get your hands on some of the elusive Squires Kitchen Ready-Tempered Isomalt, you can head to my other online home, Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd. And don’t forget to take advantage of my exclusive discount code MRBAKER10 while you’re there, to save 10% on all of your essential cake decorating needs.

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Review: The Sharp Edge Smoother by Cakes by Carol

I always follow new product releases with great interest, but none have piqued my interest quite so much recently as the one that I was playing with last week.

The Sharp Edge Smoother by Carol Smith of Cakes by Carol is a food safe acrylic cake smoother, designed to help you achieve sharp edges and smooth vertical sides on your cakes.

Like most of you, I always strive to achieve a perfect sharp edge on my more traditionally-shaped cakes and have sworn by my acetate smoothers for years now. However, I do have a tendency to be rather heavy-handed with them and I have lost count of the number of times that I have given myself the dreaded bulge around the top rim of my cakes!

As a result, Carol’s smoother had been something that I had been umming and ahing over purchasing for quite some time, so when she got in touch to ask me if I would like to have a play with her exciting new tool, I was eager to have a go.

I guess my initial hesitation was based on the fact that I have previously bought ‘short cut’ gadgets and been disappointed with them. I have discussed this in a previous post, saying something along the lines of, “if my three (now four) years of cake artistry have taught me anything, it’s that for the most part, a lot of practice and mastery of the essential cake decorating techniques cannot be replaced by a gadget.”

That was before I tried Carol’s Sharp Edge Smoother.

Honestly, I was expecting it to be another faddy tool, like – well, I suppose it would be a bit controversial to name specifics, but I’m sure you can all think of one – but these often throw up their own complications and usually require mastery of a whole new set of skills. This wasn’t the case with Carol’s Sharp Edge Smoother and I was so very pleasantly surprised.

I decided to crack open my Sharp Edge Smoother while I was working on the cake for last week’s Love Reading Festival. I was absolutely against the clock on this one and, when I got home from work at 6.30pm the night before it was due, it still looked like this:

Yeah, panic stations. I hadn’t even made ANY of the decorations, so I really didn’t have any time to waste on trying to create a perfect sharp edge with my usual acetate smoothers.

Every purchase of the Sharp Edge Smoother comes with the Sharp Edge Smoother demonstration video and a Square Cake pdf tutorial. As my cakes were round (let’s not run before we can walk!), I started by watching the video to learn how to use my new tools. You’ll notice that I say tools plural – to use the smoother, you also need acrylic plates that are 6” bigger than the cake itself.

Battling the heat, I covered my cake with a 50/50 blend of my favourite sugarpaste, white Renshaw Extra and Renshaw’s Ready to Roll Icing in Poppy Red. I was planning on painting and airbrushing my top tier to achieve a deep red colour, but I wanted to start from a reddish base. Of course, Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing can be tricky to work with, particularly in the heat, so I was really putting the Sharp Edge Smoother through its paces right from the off.

If you take a look at the cake as it looked before I started using the smoother and compare it to the finished cake, you will see that, in spite of using a rather tricky sugarpaste, I have managed to achieve a super sharp edge and some perfectly straight sides – and it only took a couple of minutes. Yes, MINUTES! I would usually spend AGES trying to achieve this sort of finish – and this my FIRST go!

Ignore the shoddy painting – it was also my first go at mesh stencilling and I didn‘t read the instructions first…!

If I can be completely frank and honest with you right now, I genuinely love this tool. In fact, I love it so much that I think I might have to do my first ever Facebook Live demonstration, just to show you how quick and easy it is to use. If you’d be up for watching that, then let me know in the comments below – it’ll help psych me up for the challenge!

Check out this incredible before and after! *swoons*

I’ve also persuaded Carol to offer all of my readers, who would like to try the Sharp Edge Smoother for themselves, an awesome 10% off their purchase.

As I mentioned above, to use the Sharp Edge Smoother by Cakes by Carol, you will also need acrylic plates and these should ideally be 6” larger the cake itself, otherwise your precious smoother will get scratched. Now, I know some of you will have these already, so you can pick up your smoother right here for 10% off, using the discount code: MRBAKER18.

However, if, like me, you are new to acrylic plates and need to grab some of those along with your smoother, then Carol also offers a Smoother Bundle – which contains the smoother itself and a whole set of acrylic plates in 12″, 16″ and 20″. You can find the bundle here, again taking advantage of a 10% discount, using the code: MRBAKER18.

The code will be valid until the 9th August 2018 – so get in there quick!

If you’d like to see the Sharp Edge Smoother in action before you decide, keep an eye on my Facebook Page – I’ll be announcing the date and time of my Facebook Live demonstration soon!

Carol Smith is the award-winning cake artist behind Cakes by Carol, based in Peterborough. If you’d like to learn more about Carol and her fantastic tool, you can visit her website or why not like her page on Facebook?

On a personal note, I’d like to congratulate Carol on achieving the impossible and designing a tool that has made a fairly tricky cake skill super simple. It really is fabulous Carol and you should be so proud of yourself.

Thank you for inviting me to have a play with it and I can’t wait to use it again on my next cake!

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Review: The Rapid Rose from Immaculate Confections

Natalie Porter is the founder of Immaculate Confections and the talented designer responsible for many of the most beautiful wedding cakes that light up our newsfeeds.

Her journey into the world of all-things-sugar began back in 2012, when Natalie created her first wedding cake – her own.

When she and husband Chris were planning their wedding, they decided they wanted something very personal and a little bit different for their cake. They weren’t able to find what they wanted from their local cake decorators, so, much to the horror of their families and friends, Natalie decided to take on the challenge of making their wedding cake herself.

Luckily, Natalie’s edible recreation of Lord of the Rings’ Minas Tirith was incredible and she realised that she clearly had a real talent for sugar art.

Roll forward six years and Natalie’s eye-catching designs are now regularly featured in magazines and blogs, she has won a multitude of gold awards at an international level and she is now teaching sugarcraft to other designers and artists.

However, her award-winning cakes are not the only thing that Immaculate Confections is known for, because in 2016, Natalie introduced her first time-saving product to the market: the Rapid Rose – the Five-Petal Rose Support Pad. Natalie explains that her Rapid Rose allows users to create beautiful non-wired roses from flower paste in just a few simple steps.

As a very reluctant sugar florist, the idea of being able to save time (and effort) on my usual one-petal-at-a-time method of crafting sugar roses sounds like a real winner to me and, after one of my subscribers reached out and asked me if I could demonstrate the Rapid Rose, I decided to get in touch with Natalie and ask if I could have a play.

Included in Natalie’s Ultimate Rapid Rose Bundle are the Five-Petal Rose Support Pad, a set of Five-Petal Rose cutters in 90mm, 80mm, 70mm and 60mm, a set of Extra Large Five-Petal Rose cutters in 100mm & 120mm, a Water Brush Pen and a sample pack of prepared 20mm and 25mm Poly-Buds for use with the rose cutters.

With such an array of goodies included in the pack, one could become a little bit intimidated by all the bits and pieces, but fortunately, every purchase of the Rapid Rose comes with a free digital tutorial, packed with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions to help users make impressive and perfect sugar roses. This is where I decided to start, before I even unpacked the kit.

The tutorial was incredibly detailed and full of lots of helpful pictures, which made the process of using the kit for the first time very easy.

Natalie’s guide recommends that we use flower paste to craft her roses, but with the variety of amazing products that have been coming to the market over the last year or so, I thought I would try using my Rapid Rose kit with a selection of different products, namely Renshaw’s Petal Paste, Renshaw’s Flower & Modelling Paste and Renshaw’s Modelling Paste.

For my first attempt, I decided to use the Renshaw Petal Paste – simply because I hadn’t got around to trying it yet. Available exclusively in white, I decided to colour it, and all of my other pastes before I used them, with Sugarflair’s Blush Pink. It took quite a while to fully blend the colour with the paste and I have a feeling that I may have overworked it in the process. My petals quickly became very dry, in spite of storing them using Vanilla Valley’s Petal Shield. When I went on to construct my first rose using the coloured Petal Paste, you may notice that some of the edges cracked and frayed a little.

For my next attempts, I was careful not to overwork the other pastes and I was keen to see which one would produce the best results.

When it came to crafting my roses using the Rapid Rose, the process was incredibly simple. Natalie’s photo-tutorial really makes each step clear and I actually found that regardless of the paste I used, I was able to create some very pleasing roses – that, if I am honest, were just as good as the ones that I usually spend days painstakingly crafting.

I arranged my flowers on a dummy so that I could keep track of which paste made each rose, but then I needed the dummy for something else in a hurry and they got moved. Now, I couldn’t even tell you which rose was made from which paste! I think it just goes to show how versatile the Rapid Rose kit is that I was able to create some pleasing roses using ALL of the pastes that I tried.

When it came to presenting some finished roses for this post, I had originally planned to dust and finish them, before presenting them in a complete arrangement on a dummy tiered cake, but then I got to thinking… My reader wanted to know what the Rapid Rose was like to use, not to see another post featuring a beautiful cake stuffed with beautifully perfect blooms.

Plus, Natalie already has that covered with beauties like this one…!

Instead, I decided to share a snap of a set of roses at various stages of the construction process so that you can see the sort of results I was able to achieve during my first play with the Rapid Rose.

Here are some roses with one layer of petals, some with two and some with three. To create even fuller blooms, one can continue adding another one or even two more layers.

Can you tell which ones are made from Renshaw’s Petal Paste, Flower & Modelling Paste or Modelling Paste? I bet you can’t!

Obviously, there are incredible sugar florists out there who are able to create stunningly realistic sugar flowers and, if that is what you want to be able to achieve, sadly there are no shortcuts to perfection. However, if you want to create a lot of good quality roses quickly, then the Rapid Rose is the perfect tool for you. As I’ve already said, if these were to be finished off fully, then they would easily stand up next to the usual roses I usually take days to create and yet these took me just over an hour. Yes, really!

Having been stung by other ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ rose Makers before (think colourful cabbages) part of me was initially skeptical about how these would come out, but I think it’s safe to say that I am converted.

If you think that the Rapid Rose from Immaculate Confections is the answer to your sugar-themed prayers and you would like to find out more, then you can visit Natalie’s website right here.

And while you’re there, you may wish to check out Immaculate Confection’s Perfect Peony as well.

I love peonies – they are absolutely my favourite my favourite flower – and I was so excited to see that Natalie had added them to her line up. I’m definitely going to have a play with the Perfect Peony next. I’m already seeing a projects to combine some fully finished Rapid Roses and Perfect Peonies together to create a beautiful floral cake. Not my usual style, as you know, but that’s how inspired Natalie has got me…

If you haven’t already subscribed to Mr Baker’s Blog, make sure you do before you go – you won’t want to miss out on my first attempt at peonies!

But until then, I must say a massive thank you to Natalie for letting me share her fabulous Ultimate Rapid Rose Bundle with you all. I hope you have enjoyed finding out a bit more about it…