Ella Buitrago's Holidays Birds Sketch to Cake

Ella Buitrago’s Holidays Birds Cake, featured in Cake Central Magazine Volume 4, Issue 12 deserves a second look. We asked her about her creative process and creating a cake to fit a holiday birds theme.  Keep reading to hear about her cake decorating process.

Cake Central: What elements of the inspiration photos attracted your attention?
Ella Buitrago: Actually the inspiration photo was very simple, I loved the bright red and the subtle snow flakes, the image inspired me, lots of tranquility and love.

CC: Where did your ideas come from (if not from the inspiration photos)?
EB: Pretty much everything came from the inspiration photo. In my technique to create or in my creative process I have to stare at the picture for quite a long time, lets say half an hour, and imagine the world around the image. Like I can see it in movement, I can see the colors and in my mind I can start to put the cake together. This is like an animation. when I saw the birds and the snow they looked pretty lonely, then I thought that they are in love and they had a nest, then I decided to incorporate the branches in-between the tiers like little birds stack branches and leafs for their little nests.

CC: What was your design process like? How did you create your cake concept?
EB: After I created the movie in my head (hahaha) I took a pencil and paper and I started to draw. I drew pretty much exactly what I saw in my thoughts. I drew the sketch flat with no volume because I didn’t know yet if the cake will be round or square, this technique allows me to be a little more free when I decide the shapes to pursue. I don’t write too many details like sizes, highs or colors. This cake was a personal creation, it was a relationship between the cake and me, and so I will do what the cake tells me to do. But, off course, if it would be for a client I would add more details because the client has specific requests and you don’t want to forget what the client wants. (Principal rule)

CC: How did you begin making a cake from your sketch? What were your first steps?
EB: In this case I when back to the inspiration picture and mixed the first color palette based on the picture. I decided the exact mix of icing colors to get the ones I want. I used a 6-inch cake circle and I attached little fondant pieces (with the colors just mixed) to the cake circle, now I had my color reference. After this I decided the cake shape. I put together the dummies in a stacked position and I finalized the shape.
When I decided the tiers’ shape and height, I took the little amounts of color mixed fondant and I covered a small area of the dummies and try to add one element of each detail that is in the sketch, now I was able to see if my idea was working or if it needed something different. After that was decided, I started to make the details (roses branches and leafs) and put the cake together.

CC: How closely do you like to work from your sketch?
EB: Very close, as close as I can, of course not everything that you put on paper works in a world ruled by the laws of physics and the limitations of sugar but I try to work with the sketch and not to derail the vision too much. Maybe just make it better.

CC: Were there any complications in making your cake?
EB: Maybe the roses gave me some more work. I had in mind a specific shape for them; I wanted a little unreal rose, not gigantic but fuller and dreamy. Then my idea led me to redo the roses a few times, lets say 5 times, until I got the correct shape and the correct color, deep and velvety almost like in literature the experts will call magic reality.

CC: Did you use any special techniques on this cake?
EB: I would say no. Everything is fondant and gumpaste folded and shaped in realistic shapes but with a more fairy finish. My snow is simple dots painted with silver dust and lemon extract.

CC: Did you have to make changes to your original plan when it came to execution? If so, what did you have to compromise?
EB: Not really, with time and experience you know what works and what doesn’t, in my sketch I have the birdies on top of the branch but after making the branches I though that the birdies would be too small for the cake; so of course I compared it against the image in my mind and yes I was wrong! The proportions would not work! Then I did them real size and placed them directly on the cake. It was just logic.

CC: Do you have any final thoughts on the finished cake?
EB: Oh yes! I love it! I felt exited and in love with it. When you are working on top of the cake you can not see the whole thing so it takes a little bit of time after you finish to absorb the complete image. I couldn’t stop starting at it, I got the effect that I was looking for, the simple tiers and busy branches, roses and leafs. If somebody asked me to do this cake again with even more tiers, I would do it again no questions asked.

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