You’re familiar with the halo effect, right? The theory that (and I’m paraphrasing) if something is packaged beautifully, its contents will be looked upon more favorably. A term paper, for instance, neatly assembled in a beautiful folder with fancy writing, might be thought to be better than the paper that’s been written in crayon and stuffed into a back pocket before being turned in. Or, that a present wrapped within an inch of its life in gorgeous paper and tied up with an abundance of silk ribbon will contain a similarly spectacular gift, rather than a gift given in a wrinkled brown grocery bag.
This theory can be applied to cake, in my opinion.
Picture if you will, a very special celebration cake, tiers stacked expertly, or carved into a sculpture that would wow Jeff Koons. The fondant or buttercream is as smooth as satin, the gumpaste decorations, the buttercream flowers, have been modeled to a level of perfection that even Kerry Vincent would die for.
Except for one thing.
This beauty is sitting on naked foil cake drum.
Why, oh, why would a cake decorator spend all that time sketching, baking carving, piping, schmearing only to cast a blind eye on how to display this masterpiece?
It’s like wearing a ripped hose with a cocktail dress (that’s IF one wore hose these days.). Scuffed shoes with a tuxedo. Grandma bloomers with a bias cut charmeuse dress (I’m not making this one up. I have seen a MAJOR TV star in the flesh flaunting this glamour don’t).
Cake people, if you do this, in my opinion, you’re devaluing your own work. The presentation is flawed. You want the cake to be a centerpiece that is oohed and aahed over, right? You want ‘the halo effect’!!!
Now, if you’re planning on using a cake pedestal like any one of these, in the words of the great Rosanne Roseannadanna, “never mind”.
If you are not using these and are using a gold or silver topped cake drum for your base, here’s a look at what I do to set up my cakes so they look like this:
I attach my ribbon around the circumference using Magna-Tac. It’s a wonderful adhesive that doesn’t seep through to leave wet dots on the ribbon.
After the ribbon has dried for at least an hour, I shpritz about 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup of royal icing with water so it’s pretty runny and pour it on top of the cake drum, evening it out with a offset spatula. I’m not worrying about spreading it all over the board, just the perimeter that will show. Working like greased lightning is key here; I don’t want the royal to begin to form a crust at all.
Now I heavily sprinkle AA Confectioner’s Sugar onto the wet royal while holding the board over a bowl. AA Confectioner’s Sugar is a very, very coarse sugar that I think is best used for decorating. Then I deftly (I use the term loosely) turn the board over and knock the excess off into the bowl, just so I can scoop it up and resprinkle it again.
This is far from a beauty shot, since I’m holding the camera AND trying to sprinkle the sugar at the same time.
But, you can see the bowl catching the sugar, which is being sprinkled from the container in the upper right corner of the photos.
Now, let the board set up over night and by the next day, you can start building your cake.
Oh, you don’t have to use the sugar, I just like how it looks. I like non-pareils, too. Piped royal decorations, like leaves or grass are also sweet. Use your imagination and explore other options.
If you cover your cakes with fondant, schmear a little piping gel on your board to act as glue, and cover the board with the fondant. Affix the ribbon after it’s dried.
When your cake is the center of the dessert table, believe me, no one will say “Now THAT’S a nice cakedrum!” But that cakeboard will enter their brains in the most subliminal of ways and those guests will think your cake is the most gorgeous creation ever, beg the hostess for your info so they can book you immediately for their next fete. And, you can raise your price now, too, since you’re so in demand.
And you know what that is? That’s the halo effect.
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There’s a new website in cyber-town. And, it’s dedicated to all devotees of cookie decorating. It’s call “University of Cookie” and it’s going to be a great resource to everyone who’s ever wanted to step up their own cookie game. The “Dean” of this impressive institute of higher learning is my friend Bridget Edwards, the blogging cookie mistress of www.bakeat350.blogspot.com. She’s invited me to join an already impressive lineup of ‘Visiting Professors”, all of whom will contribute decorating lessons and tips in video format.
The best thing about this school? It’s all pass and no fail. And, you can eat your notes!Read More »