CC: What was your design process like? How did you create your cake concept?
NS: From the moodboard [that Cake Central sent me], I decided to have the main colours as grey, black and turquoise, and incorporate skulls, roses and some sort of scroll patterning and the geometric shape/texture based on the metal fence and repeating patterns [in the photos]. In the UK, the standard cake height is 3 inches, however for the Gothic cake theme, taller, 4-inch cake tiers suited it much better. From there, the design started coming together with a slender and tall 3-tier cake with each tier being a different colour and focal micro theme. If you have a look at the sketch, I added a note with each element as to where the inspiration came from.
CC: Your sketch is very detailed. Are your sketches always like this?
NS: I try to put as much detail as I can on the sketch as this is what I send to my clients with their order form and it is what I use to create the cake when it is due. Since it can quite often be several months to a year before I start the order, it is a great aid.
CC: How did you begin making a cake from your sketch? What were your first steps?
NS: Once I had the sketch, I could order any materials that I did not have already. The tiers of the cake were polystyrene so they needed to be ordered in first. I also had to make a template for the scroll pattern to fit the middle cake tier properly.
For the skulls, I made my own mould from a great little skull I had at home already – it was the perfect size! The creative plaque cutters, dove/bird cutter (both from PME) and everything to make roses and pipe I had in my supplies already. Once the Polystyrene arrived I could start building my cake design, the first step being to cover the cakes with fondant and stack them so they were ready to decorate. If I have time beforehand, sugar flowers are made in advance, but on this occasion I made them as I needed them on the cake.
CC: How closely do you like to work from your sketch?
NS: If it is a customer order, I follow it exactly. If it is a cake that I am going to use for display purposes only, then I use it as a guide, but if I feel that something needs taking away/adding or changing at the time, I will go with it!
CC: Were there any complications in making your cake?
NS: I actually had a terrible time covering that cake in fondant. I had a very dry and crumbly batch and I think I covered each tier about 3 times before I was happy with the finish! You may also notice that the roses are really shiny black (like PVC/leather). This is because I airbrushed the colour on, however, the colour I used was not alcohol-based so it made some of the rose petals a bit damp and floppy. These roses went on the back of the cake! Lesson learned from that— next time I would either use gel paste diluted in vodka in the airbrush or make my petals from black gumpaste and spray them with confectioners varnish to make them shiny. I think some of the well-known cake decorators say something along the lines of “It is impossible to make a flawless cake, a good decorator knows how to cover the flaws!” and I believe this is true. And most of the time cake decorators are way too hard on themselves (including me!).
CC: Did you use any special techniques on this cake?
NS: [I used a few special techniques] to give the cake a high level of detail for greater impact— the dusting of the skulls to bring out the fine detail and the textured finish (using brushed royal icing over painted [royal icing] with rust and copper tones to give a metallic look) and the creative plaque cutter border. I also used delicate filigree piping on the base tier for texture and to help make the skull plaques pop! The further royal icing work on the middle tier was a combination of piping details and filling and brush texturing the scrolls inside the arches to provide a bit more interest. Royal icing is a fantastic way to add texture to your cake to create all sorts of effects— it doesn’t always have to be traditional.
CC: Did you have to make changes to your original plan? If so, what did you have to change?
NS: When I went round the base tier with the skulls/birds/plaques, I had calculated that I needed 12 of each, but by the time I worked my way round the cake, there was a gap big enough to fit in another. I had to make a couple of new parts to fill the gap and it ended up being 13— lucky for some and quite appropriate really!
CC: Do you have any final thoughts on the finished cake?
NS: This was the first cake I was asked to do by Cake Central and I still love it just as much a year later. I was also lucky to have such amazing pictures taken by my photographer (www.gavinphotography.co.uk) at the church/cemetery down the road from me, which I thought really took the cake up another level. It comes out with me to most of our wedding fairs and always attracts people. It’s nice to show people that Gothic is just as classy and beautiful as a more standard cake!
Natasha owns Tasha’s Tasty Treats in Sandwich, Kent, UK. For more from Natasha (including tutorials!), check out her website and Facebook page.