Monday, 25 February 2013

Ann Pickard Sugar Modelling


So on Saturday, I went on a workshop to learn something I have never done before, making little sugar animals. The course was a bit of a last minute thing, I only booked it the day before and was lucky that I got a space as someone else had cancelled due to sickness.

The workshop was led by the very lovely and informative Ann Pickard. At the start of the course when Ann was explaining all the things she was going to show us, I thought "no way" will we get through all that, Well, I was wrong, all the models that you see here were made between 09:30 and 3:00 on that Saturday with half an hour for lunch. Amazing? Ann runs workshops all over the Country publishes books, appears on TV, makes video tutorials and runs a cake decorating business.

Find out more about Ann here

The models we made on the workshop are all featured in Ann's book Cake Characters, and DVD 1 so if you can't get to a workshop, you can learn how to make theses models from the book or DVD. The animals are made using Regalice ready coloured icing and the only tool we used was a bulbous cone tool.

We started off by making this cute little duck. Ann also showed us some great ideas for using the animals on cupcakes. But that is a story for another day. All the pictures below are the actual models that I made on the day. So each one is the first one I have ever made. This is more testament to Ann's skills and methods than mine!

After warming up and building our confidence making ducks, we moved onto "Animals with four feet on the ground" starting with a pig. Ann's pig was so gorgeous, we all fell completely in love with it, at the precise moment Ann folded the ears forward. This is my piggy wiggy below.

Next up was this little pup. Ann showed us how to make this pup, one like a Westie and gave us some advice on how to vary the models to look like different breeds. Many people in the class made models resembling their own pooches. It was amazing to see the variety created from the same basic model. This is my pup, Dougal. If you want to have a go, check out this one of Ann's videos. Woof!

Next up, is my favourite from the day, though to say that feels a bit like choosing a favourite child. This is little Dorritt. My smiley sheep. I really enjoyed piping her coat with royal icing and I think it was round about then that Ann spotted my usually well concealed obsessive neat and symmetrical tendencies and moved one of the models I had made earlier, so that it was no longer part of a perfect line. And yes, I did move it back, as soon as she had gone.

After the sheep, we moved on to "sitting up" animals. Starting with the Teddy Bear below. This is palest pink Penelope.

Next up was Hettie Hippopotamus. Just look at those teeny tiny ears and enormous nostrils.

When I reviewed my photos, I was surprised that Ellie, below, seemed to be sat further back in the picture than the other sugar animals. I think she must be shy.

You must check out Ann's tutorial for Pinky and Tipsy the drunken elephants - adorable.

Look at those ears!

After the elephant we made a different style of bear. Mine is maybe a little more like a mouse? This old fashioned bear is a careful balance of size of ear and point of nose and I didn't get the balance quite right here. I've also just realised that he doesn't have a mouth! He is meant to be reminiscent of a well known bear, the red jumper may give you a clue as to who. I've named this little bear Stuart as he reminds me rather of Stuart Little. Have a look at this one of Ann's Youtube vids to see how to make both this teddy here and the one above and .. er .. what this one should look a bit more like.

Tiger time next. I think I took Ann a little too literally when she told us to roll a sausage to start. This is Fred.

We finished the class off with a couple of people. First this small stylised clown. My Mother used to teach art and I always remember her saying that clowns are easy to draw because they don't have to look naturalistic and I guess this is true of sugar modelling too. This is Charlie.

The last model of the day, a larger clown. Ann gave us loads of tips for how we could convert both of these models into other characters and how to incorporate the supports for this larger figure into your design. I think this clown is resting in the park after his lunch. He has a sort of serene look. Meet Claude the Clown.

This was such a fun and information packed day and a true Adventure in Sugarland for me, if you ever get the chance to take a workshop with Ann, they come highly recommended by me.

(Just to clarify, I have not received any incentives or discounts in connection with this course. I just believe that good products and services should be shared and shouted about.)


Always remember:

Small eyes look evil
Arms start at the shoulder
Heads on one side have more character
Use dried spaghetti for supports not cocktail sticks

That's all for today

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Best Ever Red Velvet Cupcakes

You know that I said to you when I showed you my Red Velvet Valentine Springerle Cookies, the other day, that I was not too keen on those bright red velvet cakes, because a red velvet cake is meant to be a chocolate cake? Well, I was out shopping with my son at the weekend and we had stopped in a well known chain of coffee shop, here in England, for a spot of lunch and I saw that they had a "New" Red Velvet cake of the very, very red variety. I think it is important to keep an open mind about these things and so, I decided, purely in the interests of research, that I ought to try a piece.

I am sorry to say, that I have rarely been so disappointed in a cake. The frosting / icing was passable, I suppose, though I don't think it was of the cream cheese variety usually accompanying a red velvet sponge, it did have a nice vanilla flavour. Then cake however was spongey like a bath sponge in texture and the only thing it tasted of was red food colouring. In fact, I didn't actually finish the cake and this has only happened once before, when in a local garden centre, I was served the largest piece of mint aero cheesecake you have even seen.

So today, I am going to share my red velvet cupcake recipe (a proper one with chocolate) with you and show you my first experiments with edible icing. I have to warn you up front that this cupcake recipe is an unusual method. If you don't get on with the traditional creaming method, then, this recipe is one you should try. The first time I made it, I was almost to arrogant to follow the recipe given, thinking to myself, "that's not how you make a cake", thankfully though, I did follow the given method and this makes a really lovely cake. You will also note, that the recipe has considerably less fat than a conventional cake recipe. The recipe given makes about 12 cupcakes and you will need a stand mixer to make them

Cake Recipe

(Oz referred to are imperial UK)

100g / 4oz plain flour
20g / 1oz cocoa powder
140g / 5oz caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
40g 1 1/2 oz unsalted butter / margarine
120ml / 4 fl oz whole milk
1 egg
1tbsp LorAnn Red Velvet Emulsion*

*If you don't have the Lorann red velvet emulsion use a teaspoon of red gel colour and for a more authentic flavour, replace the milk with buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 165 C Fan / 170 C / 325 F
Get your tin and cake cases ready

1. Mix together the egg, milk and red colouring or emulsion in a suitable sized jug
2. Measure the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and baking powder and butter into your mixer bowl
3. Mix with "K" beater on low speed until the mixture turns into fine crumbs
4. Slowly start to pour in the milk and egg mix until the mixture just turns to liquid
5. Stop pouring and turn up the speed of the mixer for about 1 minute to get rid of any lumps
6. Switch back to low speed and our in the rest of the milk and egg mix
7. Spoon the mix into cupcake cases
8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

Here is the cupcake with all its red, but chocolatey, glory exposed

Frosting / icing recipe

(Oz referred to are imperial UK)

Every good red velvet cupcake must be topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting / icing flavoured with vanilla. This is the recipe I  used. Both the buttercream and the cream cheese need to be soft before you start

250g / 8oz unsalted butter
1tsp of vanilla bean paste or vanilla flavouring of your choice
350g / 12oz icing sugar
300g / 10oz Cream cheese

1. Put the softened butter and vanilla into mixer and beat for couple of minuted
2. Add half the icing sugar and beat again until all mixed through*
3. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until all mixed through
4. Finally add the cream cheese and beat until all combined

*You may wish to drape a clean kitchen towel over your mixer before switching it on so that the icing sugar does not blow all over the kitchen in clouds


Everbody's favourite, the buttercream swirl. The black specks you can see are the vanilla bean seeds from the vanilla bean paste that I used. I piped this by holding the piping bad at 90 degrees to the cupcake, piping a rose out from the centre and piping another layer on top for the swirl

I had been trying to get hold of some large Ateco tips / nozzles for piping buttercream swirls, but have found them quite hard to find. I decided that I would try this one from purple cupcakes. To my delight when it arrived I found that it was the very Ateco 855 that I had been trying to track down. Just to give you an idea of the size of this top / nozzle, here it is below next to the Wilton 32 I used for piping the cupcakes shoe further down the page and the Wilton 1M which I often use for a buttercream swirl

I tried some sprinkles on the top as well

Edible Images

A little while ago, I tried some edible images on my cookies, as shown below, so thought I would try some on my cupcakes too. I find using the edible images a bit tricky, but, I do really like the results they give. The images arrive on a sheet of 12 little icing circles. Before using them you wait for them to dry a little and then carefully detach them from the sheet. I did this by rubbing the sheet over the edge of my worktop. The you put them on top of freshly rolled sugar paste, gently smooth them dow and then cut out the shape you want with a cutter.

First of all, I tried the same technique as the cookies and placed sugar paste with the edible image on top of some piped buttercream.

This isn't quite the look that I wanted, so, I used a different shape for cutting the sugar paste after having applied the edible image. Much happier with this one.

The frosting was piped with a wilton 32 and looks like this underneath the edible image

That's all for today

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wedding Cupcakes Preview

So. there are some really rather lovely friends of ours, who have been together for 28 years and after all this time, he has finally plucked up the courage to ask her to marry him and after a week of thinking about it (loving her style), she agreed. Well, as a result of this, they wondered, if maybe, I could make them a cake, or as it turns out maybe 100 cupcakes or so.

So, over a few evenings last week, helped by my four year old son, as it happens, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different designs and sizes of cupcake, to help them decide what they would like. And today, I am going to show you some of those experiments. A bit of a show and tell.

I made about 18 different cupcakes, these are my favourites

I started off with a simple fairy cake sized quilted fondant design decorated with sugar pearls and a sugar rose dusted with silver lustre 

A lacy fondant topped fairy cake decorated with a silver butterfly and silver sugar pearls

A fondant lacey dome fairy cake decorated with a silver lustred sugar petunia. (I didn't have quite enough time to let my flowers dry before using them, so this one has drooped slightly)

Whilst I love the look of the fondant topped cupcakes, I have found that most people prefer buttercream, so I moved on to some buttercream designs starting with a simple pale pink piped rose design decorated with a sugar petunia on a muffin size cupcake. This rose swirl is piped with a Wilton 1M nozzle

A variation on the piped rose swirl, this time in fuchsia pink, on a fairy cake sized cupcake and piped with a Wilton 1F, sprinkled with a little edible glitter.

Possibly my favourite, a hydrangea topped muffin sized cupcake

A close up of the sugar hydrangeas

A couple of showstoppers to finish. Double decker cupcakes decorated with a lovebird and ribbon

And finally the same in fuchsia pink

I'd love to know which ones you like best?

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