I am wanting to practice different techniques, gumpast, fondant, etc. Are any of you practicing on cake dummies or are you baking the cakes and practicing on the actual cake? If I want to practice gumpaste flowers, how long will they keep? Can they be frozen and used later? And the last question...do you always have fillings in your cakes or just frosting? Thanks
Gumpaste flowers can be kept for months, even years. As long as the color doesn't fade, they're fine since they aren't eaten. No need to chill or freeze. In fact, that might be bad for it.
Some people use cake dummies, others use real cake. I'm a hobby baker and a professional. I decorate for a grocery store, but I do fun decorating at home. When I "practice" it's to try a new technique and I'll usually just find a recipe that I haven't tried yet and then practice on real cake. I feel I get enough "practice" with basic techniques at work, no need to work on that at home.
And about fillings, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Just depends on what I'm feeling like doing. I feel like when I use fillings, I worry more about bulging. So if I'm just playing around and don't care, then I'll just use a bit of buttercream.
You can choose either way to practice - the pros of a dummy = no baking, reusable, no cake to eat. The cons of a dummy = no cake to eat.
Your gumpast flowers and figures do not need to be frozen. Keep them in an airtight container and they'll be fine for months.
As far as filling - I just do what the recipient wants; sometimes its a fruit or cream filling and sometimes (especially with kids) its just frosting. Totally depends on the cake/event/person.
I'm trying to build up my portfolio of wedding cakes (which is nearly empty so far, by the way!), but none of us needs to be eating cake all the time, so I've laid in a supply of dummies. On the other hand, if you have a charity or a school or some friends or someone who would welcome a cake, practice with cake. The feel is quite different. It's easy to get crisp edges on dummies, for example, and bulges are never a problem. This is not so true of real cake, unfortunately.