Constructive Criticism/ Thoughts And Opinions

Decorating By Paige_Pittman86 Updated 1 Aug 2010 , 3:48am by Paige_Pittman86

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 5:39pm
post #1 of 83

I am still very new in the cake making hobby, and yes i say hobby because i am not a home baker just yet. I would love to be able to sell my cakes one day but as of right now i know i am not ready. I would really love and appreciate if you guys could take a look at what few cakes i have done and give me any CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM as far as what would have been better, what should i have done different, and tips that could help me out next time or anything like that. Please don't be cruel I'm not asking to hear i suck even if that is the case. I have 2 cakes coming up that some friends have asked me to do. One being a Monster truck cake which i thought about making the trucks out of RKT any ideas?? and the 2nd being a guitar cake. THANKS SO MUCH icon_smile.gif

82 replies
leah_s Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 5:53pm
post #2 of 83

OK, I'll be gentle.

First, you need to practice smoothing the buttercream. The sides need to be smooth to the point that no knife marks show at all. And the top edge needs to be more defined. You can do this with a turntable and hot bench scraper held perpendicular to the cake board. Turn the turntable as you hold the bench scraper. There should be a build up of icing higher than the top edge.

Second, using a laser level, project a level line at the top edge of the cake. Using an offset spatula, pull the icing from the edge toward the center of the cake, using the laser line as your starting point.

Wipe off/dip in hot water the spatula after each "swipe."

Second, are you leveling your cakes? There is some definite unevenness in the tops. An Agbay is ideal, but if it's not in your budget there's a trick with some cardboards and a long knife that's been discussed on here numerous tines. Here's the link: http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-686946-cardboards.html

Third are you giving your cakes enough time to settle? There are visible bulges
in both the buttercream and fondant cakes. Solve that problem by doing this: http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-633571-newest.html+trick

Lastly, I'd advise you to stand back from your cakes and look them over from several feet away. My DH who is an artist taught me that many years ago. When I'm up close working, I sometimes don't get the overall effect of the design. When I step back, sometimes, way back, I see different things. You've got some smallish cakes with really big designs. Proportion is always an artist consideration.

Keep on cakin'!

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:04pm
post #3 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by leah_s

OK, I'll be gentle.

First, you need to practice smoothing the buttercream. The sides need to be smooth to the point that no knife marks show at all. And the top edge needs to be more defined. You can do this with a turntable and hot bench scraper held perpendicular to the cake board. Turn the turntable as you hold the bench scraper. There should be a build up of icing higher than the top edge.

Second, using a laser level, project a level line at the top edge of the cake. Using an offset spatula, pull the icing from the edge toward the center of the cake, using the laser line as your starting point.

Wipe off/dip in hot water the spatula after each "swipe."

Second, are you leveling your cakes? There is some definite unevenness in the tops. An Agbay is ideal, but if it's not in your budget there's a trick with some cardboards and a long knife that's been discussed on here numerous tines. Here's the link: http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-686946-cardboards.html

Third are you giving your cakes enough time to settle? There are visible bulges
in both the buttercream and fondant cakes. Solve that problem by doing this: http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-633571-newest.html+trick

Lastly, I'd advise you to stand back from your cakes and look them over from several feet away. My DH who is an artist taught me that many years ago. When I'm up close working, I sometimes don't get the overall effect of the design. When I step back, sometimes, way back, I see different things. You've got some smallish cakes with really big designs. Proportion is always an artist consideration.

Keep on cakin'!


Yeah buttercream is a pain in the butt for me i try and try forever but i never seem to get it as smooth as most people and really cant seem to figure out what im not doing. Yes i am leveling my cakes but it might not be correct i have no real training just what i have come to figure out on my own. Also what do you mean by settle?? I didn't know that was something i am suppose to do. Thank you so much because i do not have anybody to tell me any of this at home or give me advice..

leah_s Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:07pm
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Did you read both of the threads in the links I put in the response?

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:10pm
post #5 of 83

I just did.. i wrote back before i looked at the link. Thank you.. Do i just wait for a cake to settle if its more than one layer?

CWR41 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:16pm
post #6 of 83

Presentation is everything. I'd work on making a professional-looking board or use cake drums. I only looked at a few of the cakes that had jagged cut plain brown cardboard, posterboard (as you mentioned, which might be foamcore), and another jagged cut board that was white. If you cover your boards with poly-foil, it's easier to wipe off the crumbs and messy icing, if you choose to do so.

Also, one cake that was placed on a finished board, you could still see the corrugated circle underneath the cake.

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:32pm
post #7 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by CWR41

Presentation is everything. I'd work on making a professional-looking board or use cake drums. I only looked at a few of the cakes that had jagged cut plain brown cardboard, posterboard (as you mentioned, which might be foamcore), and another jagged cut board that was white. If you cover your boards with poly-foil, it's easier to wipe off the crumbs and messy icing, if you choose to do so.

Also, one cake that was placed on a finished board, you could still see the corrugated circle underneath the cake.


What are cake drums? Also with it being a hobby and it coming from my pocket because I don't want to risk getting into trouble for excepting cash for cakes I kind of just use what I have on hand and make due. Now of corse if I were to make a cake for somebody who is paying I'd go that extra mile and make eveything as nice as possible. I except all the cake request for practice so I can get better but it's not so great on the pocket book

chrisviz Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 6:35pm
post #8 of 83

@Leah... about how heavy is the tile you are placing on the top of your cakes....and when you wrap in plastic... are you wrapping really tight?

leah_s Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 7:14pm
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Wrap not tight, just get it on there so it doesn't fall off.

I use a ceramic tile, not marble, not granite, just whatever was left over in tiling our house, or whatever was the cheapest when I had to buy a specific size at the home store. For 6/8/9 cakes I use a 6" tile; for 9/10/12 cakes I use a 12" tile. Then bigger cakes get those assorted sizes I found at the home store.

Loucinda Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 7:39pm
post #10 of 83

There is a LOT of info on about any subject cake related here on CC. Leah gave some great links to get you started. For an easy way to reasearch and learn, check out You tube videos (tonedna has some great ones posted) and you can google anything. Just type in what you are looking for and put cakecentral.com at the end of it.

Studying the posts that are here, and lots of practice! You don't have to have real cake to practice on - you can practice icing a pan or a cake dummy - both buttercream and fondant will work on them...that way you're not out as much expense wise and you still get the time in.

Good luck!

Loucinda Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 8:29pm
post #11 of 83

Here is another link to the sub group for folks wanting their cakes "critiqued" - folks will give you their honest opinons on the cakes you post there. You might find that section helpful for you too, the folks that post there are usually very constructive and point out things you need to improve on.

http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-624760.html

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 9:15pm
post #12 of 83

Thank yall so much.. I was worried when I started this I would get a a lot of comments on how bad I am and no actual useful info with it. But you girls have giving me plenty of stuff to start researching on tonight when I finally get my peace and quite moment. But I do have anouther question is there like a really good tip for covering a cake in fondant how thick should the buttercream be how thick should the fondant be? How can I cover my cake without ripping/ cracking the fondant also every time I try it it looks like crap at the bottom of the Cake icing is squeezing out and there are wrinkles at the bottom where it won't lay down flat. I am typing this on my phones so sorry if I didn't make it the easiest to read.

strathmore Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 9:39pm
post #13 of 83

Hello Paige. I am by no means an expert but 2 things:the cake boards - try to present them on a nice board and I think some of them look a little small and thin - and the 2nd is photos - try to take a photo where there is no clutter around. On a table or get someone to hold a sheet up behind if you can't avoid the background. I does make a huge difference to what people see when they critique. I don't have a helper for a sheet so I try to minimise any clutter or background. Good luck and buttercream is not my friend either but I found the more accurate the edges of your cake the easier it is to get sharp edges. One trick I do is that you can sit the cake in the fridge for a few mins to get the BC to harden even though it might have crusted its still soft then put another layer on. I have been challenging myself to get perfect BC under my fondant - thats my practice before I do an actual BC cake.

JaeRodriguez Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 9:41pm
post #14 of 83

Paige, maybe watch a video on apply fondant to cake, (lots on youtube) they will show you how to smooth down the fondant on the bottom so it will lay flat, I can't really explain at all but I'm a visual learner and Youtube is my decorating friend! icon_razz.gif The fondant I like to roll thin, usually I think it's too thin but then when I go to put it on it works! And I have had my BC do what yours has done, I think my BC was just too thick. Some people say they use a normal amount of BC under fondant, I do a little less then a normal BC cake. HTH!

Apti Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 9:56pm
post #15 of 83

Paige, I also just started doing cakes about 4 months ago. I have lived online in the wee hours of the morning watching videos and how-to tutorials. When everybody says, practice, practice, practice, they are not kidding. When I did my first fondant cakes I thought they were all magicians and were withholding vital information on how to get it smooth without pleats or wrinkles. Guess what....yup, practice. Perhaps my biggest problem was going too fast. SLOW DOWN!

The hardest things for me seemed so simple.... Getting the buttercream (BC) smooth is a hard thing to do. Lots of great videos and following Leah's advice. Just do a smooth crumbcoat under your fondant that will be enough BC. Let it sit at least 30 minutes before applying fondant.

LOTS of info on CC on cake bulges, use a stiff dam, fill, and let sit with a book or tile on top.

Go slow with your fondant! If you slow down and do like the videos you will get a smooth finish at the bottom! My first four fondant cakes I had to re-roll the fondant about 3 or 4 times before I got it right. I was using Wilton fondant which is the easiest for beginners to learn how to handle (tastes yucky, but easy to work with). Fondant should be about as thick as three credit cards stacked on top of each other.

If you can, I strongly recommend you take the Wilton Courses 1-3 at a local craft store; that will give you the fundamentals. The Wilton.com site is also great for tips.

Good luck. Feel free to PM me if you want newbie tips.

mamawrobin Posted 21 Jul 2010 , 10:38pm
post #16 of 83

I agree with what Leah and the others have said.

As far as presentation goes, you can buy a huge roll of freezer paper at Wal-Mart for $5.00 and use it to wrap your cardboard cake bases. I've had the same roll for months and have covered many, many boards. It's very inexpensive and sturdy and it looks really pretty. I wrap my boards with the shiny side up.

I also agree with the videos on youtube being very helpful. Planet Cake has an awesome tutorial on youtube "how to cover a cake with fondant" which really helped me a lot.

Use smaller alphabet cutters or cut your own using an exacto knife. Also, I noticed that you used canned icing on one of your cakes. Use good icing that is easier to smooth. Canned icing is next to impossible to get a smooth finish with.

You will learn how to smooth buttercream if you practice, practice, practice. thumbs_up.gif I cannot tell you how many cakes that I baked, leveled, filled, iced and stacked just to learn how to properly construct a cake. icon_lol.gif I probably did about 10 cakes like this before I ever decorated a cake. I wanted to be able to make a cake with no bulging, that was level and actually looked pretty with only icing. I gave cakes away, threw them away and fed them to my kids til they were sick of them....LOL...

Can't wait to see your next cake. Bet with all the tips it will be awesome thumbs_up.gif

cheatize Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 12:05am
post #17 of 83

You can use nearly anything that you don't want returned for cake boards, as long as you cover it with something attractive and food safe.

If your buttercream is crusting, look up the Viva and Melvira methods. No hot knife needed. I cannot get the hang of the hot knife method. icon_smile.gif

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 1:14am
post #18 of 83

The photos I take are like right after I am done and finally getting rest so I never really x
Care to move stuff to take a pic but after the fact I wish I had. And I use my iPhone to take pics. Again I only do free cakes so the cake boards are what I have on hand to use and since it all comes out of my pocket book my feelings aren't hurt if it's a crappy looking board. But I will 100% have a nice board if I were doing a cake for s paying customer. I also spent a out 2 hours today watching you tube videos I love the ones that actually talk and explain stuff without using music and speeding everything up. Also I did take one Wilton class and I am a hands on learner and I can't pay somebody to talk to me about what to do at home I need to practice stuff in class with the teacher and it really didn't happen that way. I still can't make a dang rose and that's what he attempted to teach in the 1st course. So far google, CC and you tube has been more helpful.

CWR41 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 1:39am
post #19 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paige_Pittman86

What are cake drums?




Here's an example of a cake drum:
http://cakedeco.com/cgi-bin/webc.cgi/st_prod.html?p_prodid=6570&p_catid=250&page=1
(they're available at Wal-Mart, decorating supply stores, and lots of online suppliers.)

It's okay if you choose to use whatever you have onhand, but you can cover your homemade boards with colored poly-foil to spruce it up and prevent grease stains on the cardboard. Wilton carries rolls of foil for this purpose, as well as florist shops. If your pocketbook can't afford to purchase rolls in every color, just buy one roll of white... it will last a long time before you'll need to buy another roll. (once again, keep each cake on its own circle if you aren't certain about which coverings aren't foodsafe quality).

Tug Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 2:25am
post #20 of 83

Regarding cake boards (cake drums), you don't have to spend much money on them at all:
Step 1) I get free cardboard boxes, either from work or BJ's/Cosco.

Step 2) I cut circles out of them to the size I need depending on the cake diameter. To get a perfect circle, trace something you have around the house that's the right size. Cut two of the exact same size and glue them together (back to back) to double them up.

Step 3) Then the "free" cake board is covered in coordinating scrapbooking paper or wrapping paper. To prevent the cake grease from seeping through to the cake board, I cover the top of the board with clear contact paper. A roll of clear contact paper at WalMart is about $5-$6 and lasts forever !

Texas_Rose Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 2:43am
post #21 of 83

I don't do cakes for money either (although I do let relatives pay for supplies, because I can't afford to run a cake charity icon_biggrin.gif ). The cheapest cake boards I've found are this: Buy foamboard from the Dollar Tree or from the craft store on sale. Cut the cake circles and cake boards from it. The circles the cake sits on have to be covered with something, I use press and seal wrap. For the cake boards, when you have fondant scraps, put them in the freezer until you need to cover a cake board. Then use your scraps...if the scraps are a bunch of different colors you can mix them all together and add black. Put the fondant right onto the foamboard and roll it out toward the edges. When you're done, use a little tacky glue (a $2 bottle lasts forever) and glue a strip of ribbon (again, $2 spool lasts forever) around the edge.

About the pictures, I'm usually too tired to clean the whole kitchen to make a nice background for my cakes. So I put a black sheet over the ottoman, put the cake on it, and I have a black cardboard science fair backboard behind the cake. The backboard hides the messy house icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif I didn't used to bother with that, but I spent a lot of time looking at cake photos online and noticed what a big difference it makes having a good background. I figure that if I'm ever able to open a business, having good pictures already will be a great time-saver. I don't take pictures of every cake I ever make though...just things that are different from what I've made before.

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 3:18am
post #22 of 83

Yeah I like the diy cake board ideas the best. Because it is a cheaper than what Wilton and other places offer I actually just got done looking at micheals about an hour ago and almost bought their boards then I said these are card board also that are plain white so what the difference in buying that and using stuff from home. So sorry but didn't buy em icon_sad.gif but I do wanna say the cakes with crappy crappy boards were at home play around cakes for practice. The spongebob cake was on a black plastic tray like thing so was the baby shower and purse cake. The peace sign cake had boards I bought I just wrapped it in colorful paper.. Umm the red one with the cross was on a board bought from Wilton. That's all I can remember at the moment... But other than the boards and bad photo taking skills how can I make my cakes look as beautiful as everybody elses. Oh and I bought a bench scrapper tonight so gonna give it a try.. Oh and the cricut cake should I or shouldn't I? My husband being the wonderful man he is was gonna buy it for me tonight since it was on sale but me being me I didn't want him to spend his hard earned money on something like that unless I knew it was way worth it.

CWR41 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 3:30am
post #23 of 83

Paige:

Your post appears to be pasted twice on the same page. You can edit it as long as you make the changes within 4 hours, otherwise you won't be allowed to edit after that timeframe.

mamawrobin Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 4:30am
post #24 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paige_Pittman86

... But other than the boards and bad photo taking skills how can I make my cakes look as beautiful as everybody elses .




There are several post in this thread telling you the things to focus on to get your cakes as "beautiful as everybody elses".

Leveling your cakes, filling and allowing the cake to settle before covering with fondant, improving your technique to get smoother buttercream, learning how to properly cover a cake with fondant, basically focus more on the construction of the cake. No matter how a cake is decorated if the basic structure of the cake isn't smooth and clean..it lacks a 'professional' look.
I also will overfill my pans a little so that when I level...I still have a 2" layer. Once my cakes are stacked I like to have 4" tiers (at least). I like the look of my cake better if my tiers are taller than 3 inches. I also sometimes bake my cakes in 3" pans so that I do get a full 2" layer.

I am self taught and learned everything that I know from cc and tutorials on the internet. Like I said in my pp...when I first started I made close to a dozen cakes that I made to learn how to build the cake. I never even decorated the first 10 or so cakes that I 'constructed' when I finally liked the look of the cake that I could build I started learning how to decorate them.
I'm not saying that my method of learning is right for everyone I'm just sharing how I started doing cakes.

A good buttercream recipe was essential for me to learn how to smooth buttercream. I couldn't smooth icing for squat before I started using Indydebi's buttercream and the Viva method.
I also found a fondant that works the absolute best FOR ME. You may have to try a few different things before you find what does work best for you to make your best cake possible.

Hope that you find some helpful tips in this thread..You've been given lots of good advice from Leah_s and others. I know that it was their advice that helped me learn what I know now.

As far as the cricut..I personally have no desire to own one. I have an exacto knife and Leah_s has proven that with a little skill and exacto a cricut isn't necessary icon_wink.gif

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 4:30am
post #25 of 83

Lol sorry dang I phone I new I messed it up earlier when paste popped up but being on my phone I couldn't tell

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 5:00am
post #26 of 83

Oh yeah I agree I had great advice from
Them I'm not saying I didn't just the last few comments have Been about cake boards and pictures and not the cakes which was my main focus I know I need a lot of work. But for me it's really hard to reach my self when I don't know really what I'm doing.
I would have loved for the Wilton classes to have been more useful maybe it was just the instructor he was a nice guy but just wasn't great at teaching the people on YouTube explain stuff better. I am the kind of person I need detail lots of detail explain things in the most simple form and show me what you are talking about. You can tell me how to frost a cake all day long but untill I see it done I won't get it right. Hope that makes since to you.

CarolAnn Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 5:02am
post #27 of 83

Step 3) Then the "free" cake board is covered in coordinating scrapbooking paper or wrapping paper. To prevent the cake grease from seeping through to the cake board, I cover the top of the board with clear contact paper. A roll of clear contact paper at WalMart is about $5-$6 and lasts forever ![/quote]

Wrapping paper, gift bags and even fabric can be used to cover boards. If you use cardboards be sure and alternate the direction of the "little tubes" to give your board strength. Clear contact paper works great to protect your boards from stains and it is easy to clean. I have half and full sheet boards that I use over and over and sometimes just put the next cover over the last. Since it's washable I usually leave it on, unless it'll show thru the new paper.

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 5:09am
post #28 of 83

Oh and also about canned frosting I only used that because that's what she asked for she only likes the canned frosting so I had no problems using it if that's what she wanted. She said I don't want a big amazing cake I Just want chocolate cake with the same canned frosting I wound use if I were making it my self.

Paige_Pittman86 Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 5:18am
post #29 of 83

Okay so when starting my cake Friday I need to make it more level, let it rest with something heavy on top. Smooth my buttercream better which after watching a YouTube video earlier I think I was adding too much water to my icing so that could be why it was a pain to work with. If I left anything out I promise I didn't mean to. And yes I remember don't use an ugly cake board

Texas_Rose Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 5:38am
post #30 of 83

If you have time to go to the store before you do your cake, buy a cake leveler. It's a metal frame with a wire stretched across it. You raise or lower the notches to the right height. It costs less than $5, and I've seen it at Walmart in the cake decorating aisle, or if you're going to Michaels for it, here is a coupon: http://mic.michaels.com/20100718NonVTUSTP.aspx Anyhow, I can't cut a straight line for anything, so I really rely on that little leveler. My first one lasted about ten years. And amazingly, the leveler still costs the same that it did ten years ago icon_biggrin.gif

If the bench scraper doesn't do it for you, try the Melvira method. http://cakecentral.com/articles/126/quick-easy-smooth-icing-using-a-roller-melvira-method You can get the roller and handle at the hardware store or at Walmart. You have to use a crusting buttercream for it to work right.

And remember to have fun! I'm sure everyone's suggestions were a little overwhelming but remember this is your hobby, and you should be enjoying it.

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