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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

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Could I be Britain’s Next Top Model-ler?

The short answer is no, but after Vicky Turner of The Yellow Bee Cake Company went Live! on Facebook to reveal that she had been beavering away behind the scenes with the lovely Rachel Wyatt-Brown of The-Old Piping Bag to create a line of exclusive food-safe silicone moulds, cast from her very own models, I must admit that I was itching to have a play with them.

Well-known for her cute and adorable modelling, I have often wished that I was able to model adorable figures like Vicky’s (not to mention work as cleanly as she does!) and when I realised that Vicky and Rachel had made it possible for us all to emulate Vicky’s stunning work for ourselves, I was genuinely excited! As a result, I featured the new moulds in that week’s Something Sweet and, on seeing my comments, Rachel very kindly sent me some to try.

Thank you again, Rachel! 😍

Now, of course I have already posted my Easter offerings for this year’s big day, but I still wanted to give the new moulds a go as soon as I could, so I decided to whip up a batch of Easter-themed cupcakes for us to enjoy at home over the bank holiday weekend.

To give me a base to build my models on, I used the leftover sugarpaste that I had used for the boards of my Easter Buddies and replicated the same scrubbing brush technique to create a grass effect for my cupcake toppers. Once I had done this, I used a fluted cutter to cut out a selection of shapes – way more than I needed, of course, but it never hurts to be prepared for the worst!

When using the moulds themselves, Rachel recommends washing them in hot soapy water and allowing them to air dry before the first use. She also advises that one uses modelling paste or flower paste to get the best results. Luckily, I had a packet of Renshaw Modelling Paste tucked away, so I was good to go.

To mould the bunnies themselves, I used my white paste as it comes and I was watching Vicky’s Live! video religiously on playback to ensure that I did it right. I left them in for a few minutes to firm back up, but I did struggle to remove the more delicate parts (the arms) from the mould first time. I decided to pop them into the freezer briefly and that worked like a charm.

However, the smaller parts on the accessories moulds were much easier to use, even with freshly coloured paste, and I found myself making oodles of each accessory – way more than I needed – simply because they were so quick and simple to do. I even started to experiment by adding multiple colours to one accessory – like the patterned Easter egg and the daisies – and I loved the results that that produced.

I did have one sticky moment (literally) when I tried to handle the just-out-of-the-freezer bunnies a bit too prematurely, so if you do resort to a bit of chilling, remember to let any condensation dry first, but other than that, I found the moulds incredibly easy to use – and I should clarify that I don’t really use moulds, so those that are used to working with them should find these a dream.

Assembling the pieces together is best done with edible glue and do allow your models time to dry before handling them too much. Running around the house to show them to people just after you have put them together is not advisable – unless you want a trail of ears, tongues and feet littering the ground behind you. *ahem*

Available in two different poses and with a choice of accessories, each of the sets of bunnies come with two moulds – one Cute Rabbit mould and one Accessory mould.  You can also mix and match, by purchasing the extra Accessory mould or take advantage of the special launch offer for all four of the unique moulds – for the bargain price of just £27.50! They are all available directly from Rachel’s website, The Old Piping Bag NOW!

The cupcakes I made used all four of the moulds and I can already see many ways that they could be used for other projects too. The bunnies themselves could easily be adapted to other animals with the substitution of some different ears and accessories (and a little bird tells me that some extra moulds might be on the way to do just that), the carrots are perfect for decorating a garden cake or even to top a miniature carrot cake and the daisy is so adorable, I think I’ll be put them on everything I make from now on!

A quick preview, from my ‘little bird’ friend, of how the new accessory kits can completely change the look of your mould.

Annoyingly, I took my photos before it occurred to me to dust my bunnies ears, cheeks and belly with a little blush pink to add some additional colour (like Vicky suggests in her video), so learn from my mistake and ensure you allow time for that. It really helps bring your creations to life.

And while I don’t think my modelling, even with the help of her wonderful moulds, will be vying for Vicky’s modelling crown anytime soon, I’m sure you’ll agree that my tasty Easter treats would brighten up any special celebration.

Thanks again to Rachel for sending me these lovely moulds and to Vicky for her oh-so-helpful video (and for answering all my annoying questions). And if anyone else has had a play with the new moulds from The Old Piping Bag with The Yellow Bee Cake Company, do let me know what you thought!

And until next time, happy caking! x

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Why everybody needs to be Baking IT… …like a Pro

Over the last few weeks, I have been posting a lot about Baking IT. If you’re not a regular reader, you might just be wondering why, so let’s get you all caught up…

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone on behalf of the team at Baking IT to see if I would be up for having a play with the software and then writing an impartial review about it here on my blog. I’d seen Baking IT’s stands at the cake shows during 2016 and I was already a little intrigued.

During the discussions that followed, my big mouth managed to develop it into something a bit more ambitious. Could I design a cake over Facebook Live, with input from all my watchers and then bring it to life in time for my murder mystery-themed birthday party on 27th January? I love trying new things, particularly when it comes to cake and so the answer was a definite yes!

The Baking IT team set me up on the system and straightaway I had a quick play with it – naturally heading straight to the 3D cake designer tool. It reminded me of a number of design programs I’d used before, meaning that for those used to onscreen design, it should be fairly intuitive.

One nice touch though that I think really sets Baking IT Pro apart from other similar programs (although, I don’t know if there are any programs that compare) is that when you register, you are encouraged to book a live demonstration slot, which means that one of the Baking IT team will conference with you to walk you through the software firsthand. This is a perfect opportunity to ask any questions about Baking IT and ensure you know exactly how it can support you and your business.

I’ll admit that after my demonstration from Sam at Baking IT, I was completely blown away. The 3D cake designer aside, the back office capabilities of Baking IT Pro are immeasurable. It offers everything from inventory management to recipe conversion, via contact storage and communications, real time scheduling and business insights along the way. I’ve said it numerous times before, Mr Baker’s Cakes is not a business, but my undergraduate degree was actually in small business management and I can totally recognise the possibilities offered by Baking IT to support small-to-medium bakery businesses.

But anyway, I digress. Rolling forward, I decided to invite a friend to join me for the Facebook Live event – I always feel a bit of a numpty talking to myself – so I asked Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar to be my plus one. In the meantime, the hive minds of Facebook and Twitter had decided that they preferred a weekday collaboration so on the Monday before my birthday, Laura and I sat down ready to talk Baking IT.

For those of you who weren’t able to join us, we had a glance through all of the back office features, before heading to the 3D cake designer to get designing. After a demonstration of many of the effects available, we decided on a two tier cake, with an 8″ double-barrelled circular tier (10″ tall) and another regular height 6″ tier (5″ tall). Our audience chose an hombré design ranging from black up to a deep deep green and topped with a crown and some luxurious drapes in honour of my character at the murder mystery evening, Prince Reynard and his palace.

We then decided to add a dagger stabbed into the cake, which oddly wasn’t a default Baking IT topper. Luckily, to add this, it was as simple as googling an image and importing it into the software. To represent the other more macabre aspects of the evening, we decided to go with a blood red drip adorning the top tier and, although I couldn’t figure out how to add it to the on-screen design, some blood spatter to the side of the main cake.

Once we had finished with our design, the software offered numerous opportunities for sharing it, but I merely saved mine ready to get making.

Over the course of the rest of the week, I baked a big ol’ pile of vanilla madeira sponges and stacked them up to form my two tiers, filled with yummy vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam. To ensure a perfectly even finish, I coated both tiers in lashings of my white chocolate ganache before covering them in Renshaw’s new Extra sugarpaste. This was then airbrushed from white to achieve the hombré effect.

To craft the crown, I used Renshaw’s Flower & Modelling Paste and the dagger was handcrafted using Renshaw’s Belgian Chocolate Modelling Paste. Both were finished with Rolkem’s supers range in gold and silver respectively.

The drips and splatters were done with royal icing, which I coloured red using Sugarflair’s Red Extra and I think I splattered more of it around my cake room than actually made it on to the cake! Oops!

Finally, it was time to face the dreaded drapes. I’ve never done drapes quite like these ones before – so large and flush to the top of the cake and it took a few attempts to get them to where I wanted, but I was pleased with the final result. To make them, I mixed Renshaw’s new modelling paste (the non-Belgian Chocolate variety) with some more Extra sugarpaste and coloured it with a mix of Sugarflair’s Claret, Red Extra and Black Extra. I finished them with a little airbrushing to add texture and depth.

Once it was all assembled, I was pretty thrilled with the final result, although it’s definitely one of those cakes that looks a million times better in the flesh than in photographs. As you can see, there was definitely more than enough cake for my seven guests at the murder mystery dinner, so I think I’ll be forcing cake on my friends and family for a few days to come.

To summarise, Baking IT is user friendly, intuitive and, as it was ‘Made by Cake Makers for Cake Makers’, in my humble opinion, it does everything you would need a back office piece of software to do for you bakery business. It’s web-based, which means you don’t need to download anything AND you can access it from any computer with an internet connection. The 3D cake designer is sure to impress even the trickiest of clients and you can update and share your designs with them in real time. Bhav and Sam, the geniuses behind Baking IT Pro explained that they set out to create the perfect tool for bakers and cake makers and do you know what? I think they might just have nailed it.

All that remains is to thank the team at Baking IT for letting me loose on their software and to thank all of you that joined me over Facebook Live to help me design my Murder Mystery Cake.

For those wondering, up next in the Mr Baker’s Cakes kitchen is something altogether more family friendly, so stay tuned… 😉