Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gumpaste figures, tips...

... and embracing your inner artist.

You know that old joke about making something from scratch? (First, create the universe...) This comes to mind often when I'm learning something new.

Painted gumpaste frog
I want to take better pictures for my blog! Okay... researching how to do this... a few weeks pass, the next thing I know, I'm in the living room trying to build a lightbox out of parchment paper and poster board.

I want to make better gumpaste figures! Okay, first, learn to make gumpaste. Learn to make figures. Research. Learn that I need to learn to draw first. Think about acquiring mad fine piping skills with the ability to draw, be inspired.

Luckily (!), as you know, I've been madly sick for over a month, which gives me some time to work on drawing skills and pile up stacks of paper by the bed.

Learning to draw is amazing. They really mean it when they say everyone can learn to draw, they just need practice. I'm sad now that I didn't take any art classes in school, it seems I missed out on a lot of fun! (Is it weird that I don't consider myself an 'art-person'? How about if I make cakes and jewellery and craft a lot?)

Noah's Ark Cake

I'm learning more about things that I already do - for example, the sugar frog above I made after looking at many, many pictures of frogs and trying to draw my own. I'm learning to really, really not skimp on sketching the cake ahead of time.

I'm also learning about 'how to see shapes' - breaking down figures into ovals to make sure you get the lines right. This is extremely helpful for building figures, since they're essentially formed from those oval pieces and then smoothed.

The Noah's Ark cake was my first cake with so many gumpaste figures on it. It was semi-sketched in advance, and I really hope to get another chance to make a similar cake again. I love those elephants.

I learned a Valuable Lesson about leaving appropriate drying times for gumpaste figures when making those elephants, though.

If you're learning how to make gumpaste figures, I strongly recommend that you make sure to leave more drying time than you think you need. And then leave some more. It might be a bit difficult to get over the feeling that if you make figures and flowers too far in advance they won't be 'fresh'... but gumpaste lasts for a very, very long time.Trust me. Sometimes, clients will keep the gumpaste figures as souvenirs, and a year later you'll spot them at their house (and then possibly escape into the bathroom for a private, sniffly they-loved-it!! moment).

Princess Pillow Cake with Gumpaste Tiara
Gumpaste might also be a little bit stronger than you expect it to be. My first gumpaste tiara was made for my friend dee's birthday.

A pillow cake covered in fondant with fondant ribbon roses and cameos, little pink pearls and a gumpaste tiara, I loved every moment of working on this cake... except for the terror every time I needed to move the tiara.

I put it in a plastic ice-cream container to travel, with a few paper towels to hold it in place and proceeded to drive the bumpiest roads in Toronto to dee's place. Solid as a rock. A sparkly, swirly rock. A sparkly, swirly rock that I dropped once, banged into the car door once (still in the container!) and still, it stayed intact.

(On a slight aside, there should be a therapy group for people who deliver cakes. Crazy stressful, that is. Or perhaps a group for the drivers, to help them get their adrenaline levels under control after delivering a fragile cake that a stressed baker is holding on to while screaming about bumps?)

I'd like to do more figures with modelling chocolate. I love the convenience of gumpaste. It's easy to make, to shape, to paint or colour, but even though it's primarily sugar, I'm not crazy about the taste. Modelling chocolate, however, tastes like fresh Tootsie Rolls and I could eat an entire batch of it.


Actually, maybe I should stick with gumpaste...

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