People often ask me how I come up with my cake designs and ideas. For me, it’s a methodical yet creative process. I suspect that it is like this for most other cakers, too. I’ll admit that there have been times when someone has asked me to make a cake for them, without providing much (or any) direction, and at first, I’m a little stumped. This cake that I made for my work peeps started out that way. When I was asked to make a cake by our unofficial party planner, I tried to suss out what she had in mind. Her response, “You’re creative. You’ll come up with something.” Well, once again, I was stumped.
Usually, I like to personalize my cakes–it’s always fun to incorporate different aspects of the recipient’s personality and interests into the design. One example of how I’ve personalized a cake is the baby shower cake topper I made of a mom-to-be and her beloved cat. But, in this case, the cake was for three people who have very different personalities. Oh, and this cake was to celebrate two birthdays, as well as to send-off a co-worker on her last day. So, I needed a cake that was festive but didn’t scream “birthday.” Yikes. After spinning my wheels for a while, I opted for a simple and clean design.
Whenever I’m designing a cake, I always consider several things–the size and proportions of the cake’s tiers and the topper (if I’m making a tiered cake), the medium that I’ll be using (all buttercream, buttercream with fondant accents, all fondant), the overall style of the cake (whimsical, romantic, elegant, juvenile, etc.), the occasion, the colors, and personalization. Also, I always sketch the cake with colored pencils before I actually get to work. I’ve found that this is an invaluable step in my caking process. Sometimes the image of a cake in my head needs some tweaking once I’ve sketched it out.
I finally settled on a 10″ vanilla almond cake for the bottom tier and a 6″ chocolate cake for the top tier. I love the color scheme that I used of green, white, and brown. (I know, the brown looks black in the photos.) I also like the contrast of the clean, straight stripes against the scattered polka dots. For the topper, I made a few easy peasy whimsical roses out of fondant.
One of the tricker aspects of this cake’s design was the message. Usually, I prefer to place the message directly onto the cake, either by piping it in buttercream or using fondant cut-out letters. (My favorite tool for fondant letters is Tappits.) I just couldn’t do that on this cake, though. It would have been a cluttered mess. But, I had to figure out a way to convey “Happy Birthday” and “Good Luck”, as well as to make sure that everyone’s name was on the cake. Seriously, it really is important. People like to see their name on their cake. I decided to handwrite the message onto a fondant plaque using edible markers. (Americolor edible markers are my favorite, by far.) It was a simple way to personalize the cake, and it added a nice touch.
So, now you know what goes through my head whenever I am designing a cake. The next time that you find yourself stumped, try out some of these tips. Most importantly, relax! It will all come together. Even if it doesn’t, the person that you made the cake for will be touched by your efforts.