Going From Home Made To Professional Look?

Decorating By DriksBride Updated 1 Nov 2012 , 5:02pm by hbquikcomjamesl

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DriksBride Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:49am
post #1 of 16

My husband and I have slowly started getting into cake making more as a hobby to combat his PTSD. He did my baby shower cake this weekend and it was very yummy and everyone loved the look of the cake. However, both hubby and I thought it looked very home made and not professional. So we wanted to ask everyone how you managed to go from the home made look to a more professional look. What we mean by this is the sides and top are straight and flat.

EXAMPLE: (we did NOT do these cakes)

Here is a cake that looks more home made.

This cake we think looks more professional.

As of now we are using boxed cake mix, but slowly trying new recipes to come up with a more scratch baking method, we also use Wilton Pans.

15 replies
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jamesyay Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:54am
post #2 of 16

It's the straight edges. I think you get them when you use chocolate ganache. But I'm not a fondant person at all... I love good old buttercream. Good luck!

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AZCouture Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:56am
post #3 of 16

No need for ganache...I rarely use it. Best advice? TIME. It takes time. It takes a willingness to accept that you will do things over and over and OVER until you get it right. And also, accepting advice and suggestions from people who are NOT friends and family. They're more apt to be bowled over by mediocrity, where other decorators will give you advice that is helpful.

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AZCouture Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:59am
post #4 of 16

And when masters of ganache, meringue bcs, and American bcs can all get the same crisp looks with their respective mediums, it really fails to become a matter of what you're using...it's a matter of how skilled you are with what you use. icon_wink.gif

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DriksBride Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 3:03am
post #5 of 16

Hubby and I were both thinking it takes times and a lot of practice to get those crisp looking edges. He is very into baking and is back to the man I met and married, so I will support and help him in this as much as I can (without taking over, lol).

Here is the shower cake from this weekend.

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AZCouture Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 3:15am
post #6 of 16

Get a Sugarshack video, the one on butter cream, and start there. (Just google Sugarshack butter cream DVD). That will set you on the right path.

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Danilou Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 3:16am
post #7 of 16

Hi DriksBride I watch lots and lots of video clips from youtube. These give me lots of techniques. Inspired by Michelle cake designs is the best so far.

I've used her techniques and learnt a lot. I'm still quite slow and it can take me hours to ganache a cake. But I'm usually pretty happy with the results. Having said that you don't have to use ganache, but she has some great techniques and also shows how to smooth fondant. I hope this helps.

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cheatize Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 3:44am
post #8 of 16

Once you've absorbed a bunch of tips, tricks, and knowledge set aside a day to play. Have the cake and icing ready and spend lots of time playing with icing. I swear I have only practiced when it's crunch time and I have a cake due which makes it very stressful and difficult for me to think. If you know that you can always throw the cake away you will free to take your time, walk away for an hour or two, stop to research, or whatever. I can't tell you how many times I've stood in my kitchen feeling helpless to fix what I know is wrong and feeling pressure to fix it NOW so I can move on.

I second the Sharon Zambito dvd, if you can afford it. Other things to play with are a foam roller, Viva paper towels, a hot spatula (drying and not drying hot water on it), a bench scraper, a laser level to make sure the top is straight, an adjustable square, a bent spatula vs. a straight one, etc.... The toy list goes on and on and then you have the different mediums: buttercreams, royal, ganache, etc....

Especially with PTSD, looking at it like play I think would helpful and much more fun than the "fix it NOW" situations I get myself into.

All the best!

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Apti Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 4:25am
post #9 of 16

DriksBride~~Welcome to the forum! Cake decorating become my hobby 2-1/2 years ago, and has changed my life in many wonderful ways. As I have made new friends in person and on-line, I've discovered that many of us have deeply personal reasons for embracing this delightful hobby. I've heard men and women using this hobby to help with depression, mental illness, the loss of a family member or loved one, the loss of any number of meaningful things, as well as the simple love of making beautiful, transient, food art.

Personally, I find this hobby intriguing and exacting and exasperating and know it will take me years as a hobby baker to "master" many of the different possibilities. (That's what makes it so FUN and interesting!)

Here is a superb thread on the Wilton.com website with a compilation of tips and links to teach you how to make professional looking cakes. (Sharon Zambito's videos are one of the links recommended.)

As the others have said, the main thing is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Another important aspect is the preparation of the surface (cake board, stand, etc.) on which the cake is placed, and the packaging for the finished product. Many newbies create darling cakes and then forget that the cake board is just as important in appearance. When you photograph your cakes, make sure there are no distractions like kitchen utensils in the background.

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ajrose Posted 30 Oct 2012 , 1:28pm
post #10 of 16

I've been decorating cakes off and on for 23 years and I'm always learning more tips and tricks! A great website for cake decorating tips is Craftsy.com. Yes, each class does cost money but they offer 50% off deals all the time and very worth it. You will learn things from cake artists you've seen on all the cake challanges like Marina Sousa and Joshua John Russell. They offer great tips! Once you've purchased a class you have access to to it forever. You can also download the class instructions so you can have a hard copy.


But, like everyone says - practice, practice, practice!

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costumeczar Posted 30 Oct 2012 , 5:37pm
post #11 of 16

APractice...but don't be obsessed with perfectly sharp edges, either. Smooth icing is more important IMO. When I take the time to ask my clients if they want a sharp edge or a rounded edge it's about evenly split, and some of them don't care, so most people other than decorators don't think about it. I personally think that it's more important to get a level tier and smooth icing than it is to get a really sharp edge if you're going for a professional look overall.

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carmijok Posted 30 Oct 2012 , 8:44pm
post #12 of 16

I use smoothed buttercream as opposed to covering in fondant.  If you are learning anything...learn how to do this first.   I think you'll find that most people appreciate buttercream as opposed to a fondant covering...not that there aren't some good fondants out there...I just think most people are used to biting into frosting with less of a chew to it.   But some cake designs require fondant and that should be learned as well.   But if you can't get your base smooth, your fondant won't be either.


Go on YouTube and search how to smooth buttercream videos.  Tonedna has some of the best-- for all kinds of techniques beyond buttercream.


Get good pans.  Magic Line is the best.  Fat Daddios is good too.  They have the straight sides you want.   I always overfill my pans to get the full 2 inches for each layer.  I use a long serrated bread knife to level off the cake while it's in the pan. 


I would also suggest you practice...a lot!  And get a leveler and a bench scraper to get smooth sides.  

Pick a design you like and then keep doing it until you get your desired results.  You learn best from doing.  Don't fear the buttercream! 


I HATE piping.  I can only do a shell borders that look halfway decent.  When lettering,, invest in some FMM cut out letters...there's all kinds of styles.  Use gum paste for stand up toppers and flowers.  Invest in some silicone molds.  Honestly I've found several of the Wilton ones to work quite well.  But don't buy anything expensive first unless you're called upon to do a cake and you need it.  It's the best way I've found to slowly add to your inventory without breaking the bank.  Well OK, I've broken the bank a few times...but I try not to. 


Oh!  One thing that has really helped me a TON is the use of a clay extruder.  I use the green Makins Clay Extruder .  You can get it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby...and be sure and use the 40% off coupon you can print off their websites.  In fact use those coupons whenever you need to buy anything cake related!


Always use a ribbon around the base of your board...and NEVER cover your board with aluminum foil.   I use either Wilton foil cake wrapping or my favorite is the Reynolds white freezer wrap (shiny side out!).  It's so sturdy and you can clean anything off of it very easily.  It's cheap too!  The bakery I worked for used it all the time.  When you put a ribbon around the base, it covers any flaws in wrapping and can really coordinate with the look of the cake.   Later, learn how to decorate the board itself with fondant.   It really can take the look to a whole new level.


There's so much to learn and so many ways to do things.   Do a cake and post it here and ask for constructive criticism.   You'll hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  But that's how we learn.  Ask questions...and have fun!  

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Danilou Posted 1 Nov 2012 , 11:55am
post #13 of 16

Wow! carmijok you had some great tips for everybody!...Thanks for that!

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BabyGerald Posted 1 Nov 2012 , 2:42pm
post #14 of 16

 Driks, what city are you in?

(I've taken amazing classes from local pros in Berkeley, CA at Spun Sugar.)

That's how I've raised my game infinitely.


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sammisweetcake Posted 1 Nov 2012 , 3:51pm
post #15 of 16

It will come with time.  Try seeing if you can get on some cake decorating courses!!! They do one offs, weekends and even longer. Look at book and online to tips and advise.!!!

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hbquikcomjamesl Posted 1 Nov 2012 , 5:02pm
post #16 of 16

Personally, I think the one in the first link looks more professional than some of the ones in the second link.


And (as anybody who's seen my work, and/or read my opinions on the subject will attest), I don't place a whole lot of importance on having my own cakes "look professional." I'm more concerned with achieving the desired taste and texture, and I quite frankly prefer the taste and texture of dense, non-whipped, hand-mixed, cold-process BC (the recipe that's been on the back of . . . .) to that of any more "professional" frosting (and also prefer thin layers of frosting to thick ones, so long as I'm not being so stingy with the frosting that the cake starts to shred as I'm frosting it!).

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