Monday, May 31, 2010

Cricut Cake back to basics

In Reply to a lot of the queries I've had for Cricut Cake , I am going to set out some basic observations and discoveries I've made. Where I mention one product being better than another, I have road tested several options and these findings are in my humble opinion what I found to be the best.

The edible adhesives (for sticking the icing to the cutting mat)
Vegetable shortening - Crisco was the best product I tested (and is the product reccomended by the manufacturer). Any one purchasing Cricut Cake from Kiwicakes will be supplied Crisco free of charge. The reason we are supplying it with the machine is, it is not readily available in New Zealand (In the USA, you can purchase it at the supermarket). I have cut hundreds of pieces of icing over the last week, and I have barely put a dent in the top of my container, as you use it sparingly. It has a shelf life of aprx 1-2 years once opened, so you need not worry about it going off. Kiwicakes stocks Crisco, should you ever need to top up.
Crisco has the consistency of margarine, so you spread it on straight from the container with a pastry brush.
In New Zealand we only have access to Kremelta (in Australia they have Copha), which as you'll know is solid as a rock - this means you need to melt it before use, you cannot brush it on hot, so you need to wait for it to cool, I got tired of waiting for mine and got busy doing something else, when I remembered it, it had set again ARGH! It also has the tendency to set back to solid, unlike the Crisco which remains soft.

Spray oils
I hadn't thought of this - but it seems many of you have. By Spray oils, I mean the ones sold in an aerosol can. The coating of oil was just too fine the icing slipped and slid and did not actually ADHERE.

Yes! the Gumpaste (or sugar flower paste or modelling paste) works great. I find 100% gumpaste tiresome to roll out, as it is so springy - but I did it for you all. I cut out this simple Koru type swirl, amongst other things, from the Cake basics cartridge (this cartridge comes with the machine at time of purchase) I couldn't resist picking up part of the design and giving it a wee twist. I then let it air dry. However at 7.95 for a 200g pot, unless you actually make your own, I would just use fondant. However there is a need for gumpaste some times, especially if you need your elements to stand up on a cake. The piece I created here - without the twist, could easily be made in to Koru for a wedding cake (teamed up with some of the koru type borders). And don't forget, with cricut cake, you can make them anywhere from 1 inch up to 12 inches wide (In quarter inch increments).
With gumpaste, when you have finished cutting pick up all your scraps knead in to a ball, wrap in plastic and return to an airtight container. If it becomes a little dry. Simply knead in a little Crisco - it is a great gumpaste reviver.

FondantI road tested many brands of fondant. I had a pretty good idea before I started, that the fondant that came out on top would be the winner. However in case I was able to prove myself wrong, I went ahead with the tests. The supermarkets offer up quite a few brands to try, I stock 2 brands myself at Kiwicakes and there are yet more at speciality stores around the country. The brand that came out on top was Bakels Pettinice. The reason I suspected it might, was due to reading online posts about what was working in America, the brands they were suggesting worked the best, have similar working properties to Pettinice. For those of you that haven't tried Pettinice I'll endeavour to explain. Pettinice is somewhat elastic, when you pull it, it stretches quite a bit before it breaks, other brands I found to be more granular and "sugary" for want of a better explanation, when pulled they break with a coarse fracture and little stretch. This elasticity also meant when the Pettinice was being lifted off the mat, you could do so by lifting at the edge and peeling it off. Other brands of fondant broke when I tried to do this - to get them off the mat, I had to use a spatula like I was moving a hot cookie from a baking sheet.

Pettinice also required a much shorter resting time before it would cut cleanly (if you cut too soon, you get a jagged edge). In all of the reading I have done regarding people having trouble with fondant, the advice that seems to be consistently offered is to either freeze it or let it rest for one hour (and in some cases overnight). I wasn't too keen to freeze my fondant on the cutting mat, as I felt no matter how careful I was in my freezer, I would likely knock some ice crystals on to the icing, resulting in it getting sticky or wet. On top of this, the icing is so thin, it would thaw quickly and by the time I reached the end of the sheet with my cuts, it would be a different consistency to when I started (meaning I would need to adjust my cutting times/speeds). Based on my assumptions, I decided to skip the freeze test all together. I tried cutting all of the fondant immediately, with varying results from very bad, to slightly jagged. I found the Pettinice required only 15 minutes to air dry, before it cut nicely. I thought about my cake decorating habits. I figured if I rolled my icing out on my mat first up. Then proceeded to unpack my other cake decorating items, plug in the cricut etc, it would just about be ready for me. Whereas if I had to wait an hour, it might be a bit too much of a wait. I do think when I get my own Cricut Cake, I will invest in an extra cutting mat, so I can have more than 1 sheet rotating at a time. (I have to wait for mine, just like the rest of you)

Many posts suggested adding tylose or Gum trag, my testing was WITHOUT - i wanted to try the fondant under more difficult circumstances to see which performed best.

For my beginners I will point out, it does not matter if your fondant is coloured, this will not affect how it cuts. any coloured pettinice behaves the same way.

I also tried Chocolate Pettinice, this I was a little apprehensive about. For those of you that have used the chocolate before, you will know it is stickier than the other fondants. I had some left over from the chocolate cake I had made earlier in the day (see yesterdays post). I took it from its plastic wrap, rolled it directly on the mat and walked off to check my email. I'm unsure as to exactly how long I was gone, but it was under half an hour. It was dry to the touch and cut BEAUTIFULLY. I was ecstatic, I wanted to do the dance of joy, right then and there.

For those of us, that have deocrated cakes in the height of summer or high humidity, you'll know how sticky icing can become, I do believe when the weather is like this, some additional icing suagr will be required for dusting the surface or kneading in. I had no adverse weather conditions during my testing.

I have examples of my work with chocolate Pettinice, but its too dark to photograph them right now, so they'll come along a little later.

At this stage I think it is wise for me to point out, you need not worry about rolling your icing out exactly to the shape of your mat, you can use any shape, as you can direct the blade, to where to start cutting.

Edible image sheeting (is another post in its entirety still to come)

I wish I'd had time to cut pie pastry, cheese slices & pizza dough, like some of the posts I'vebeen readin - but I'll have fun with some of those crazy things, once I get my own machine in hand.

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