Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cake Lace - Making it work for me

It was at this year's Cake International that I decided it was time to try Claire Bowman's Cake Lace and purchased a starter kit. The starter kit included a pot of cake lace mix, a Cake Lace mat and a Cake Lace Spreading knife.

I have tried other brands of cake lace before, with mixed results. Perseverance is the key to success and I love the look of lace on cakes, so I decided that this new brand was worth a try.

Depending on where in the world you are from or based, you may also know this product, or a very similar one as Magic Decor Cake Lace

As you might expect, the Cake Lace comes with a list of comprehensive instructions, which when making my first batch, I followed to the letter and so, of course, my cake lace came out right first time, yes? Well, actually, not quite.

This is probably a good time to mention that I live in England, in the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. Beautiful, but humid, or, well, damp. It is more likely for freshly made sugar flowers to wilt than dry in the watery air around these parts. I suppose what I am trying to say, is that conditions are different, according to where we live, or the type of house we have, so that we can't expect manufacturers to produce a set of instructions that will meet them all and that is why this post is about how I make Cake Lace work for me.

What's in the mix?

In your pot of cake mix, you get a bag of powder, a little pot of viscose liquid and your instructions for mixing. 

One of the first things that I do with any new product is to see what the ingredients are, mainly because I like to know what I am eating but, also because I like to maybe get a bit of an insight into how a product works. The cake mix ingredients for this original mix that I used, with a few science bits are:

Wheat - I think we are all familiar enough with this, a cereal grain that grows in fields all around us and is used for making flour.

Starch - A carbohydrate derived from plant sources

Fructose - Fruit sugar

Glucose - Another type of sugar. Can be found naturally in plants and can also be synthesised. (Made in a laboratory)

Thickener E440 - Also known as pectin. This is a gelling agent extracted from fruits. It is used a lot in jam making to help the jam to thicken and set

Colouring E171 - Titanium Dioxide a naturally occurring oxide of titanium found in minerals. This is used as a white food colouring

Flavour vanilla - a familiar flavour derived from the pod of an orchid

Preservative E202 - Potassium sorbate this is a soluble white salt used as a preservative, this occurs naturally in some berries but is usually manufactured synthetically

Emulsifier E433 - an emulsifier is something that holds water and oil in suspension (prevents them from separating). This particular one is polyethylene sorbitan mono-oleate. This is derived from vegetable oil using a chemical process.

Mixing it up

To make the cake lace, you measure the powder and some water and mix this together. I used the "K" beater in my mixer, though I note from a video (see below) where Claire Bowman makes the Cake Lace that she uses the whisk, so maybe I need to try that next time.

When you have mixed this for a couple of minutes, you add a little of the viscose liquid and mix a bit longer.

Spreading it Out

The next stage of the process, is to spread the mix onto a specially made silicone mat. The mat I used is this Chantilly design.

Place some good dollops of the mixed cake lace all over the mat and spread it around, you can either use the cake spreading knife that comes with the starter kit or a rubber spatula. Once you have spread the mix all over, you need to used the knife to take off the excess. You can see Claire Bowman doing this in the video below. When I am doing it, I try to think about pushing the mix into the mat rather than scraping the mix off.

This is Claire Bowman's video of making cake lace

TIP: When you remove your mixing bowl from the mixer, if you are leaving the beater in situ, pop a piece of kitchen towel underneath to catch anything that drips off the beater. Watch out for the dripping Kitchenaid beater in this clip!

Drying the Lace

Before it can be used for decorating cakes, cupcakes and cookies, the lace has to be dried out. Bearing in mind the humidity in my location, I knew that it would be prudent to dry the lace in the oven rather than leaving it to air dry and so popped it in the oven at 80 C for 15 minutes as directed.

Peeling the Lace off the Mat

Once "cooked" and cooled, time to peel! You can see the peeling technique in the video above.

It is always very exciting when trying a new product, because you can't wait to see how it turns out and then go on to use it on a cake or cookie, but, this is one of those times when, you really need to take a minute, take you time and focus. Definitely a task for after the kids have gone to bed, trust me, you can't be peeling cake lace with someone shouting "Mum!" every two minutes.

When you are ready to peel, it is a good idea to start by putting some baking or parchment paper on your work surface ready to peel the cake lace onto. Start by bending back a corner of the mat and peeling off a little of the lace, then turn the mat face down and fold it back upon itself. As you peel, you can use the spreading knife to hold the peeled lace down

This is where it all went a bit wrong for me the first time. The lace was just stretching and breaking away rather than peeling off. If this happens to you too, remember this is time to stop and a think, rather than chucking the whole lot in the bin or peeling it all off in tiny little bits.

After a few moments of reflection, I decided that my layer of cake lace was too thin and maybe a little too sticky, so I spread another layer of cake mix over the top of the existing one decided to bake it for thirty minutes this time. And Hurrah! this worked for me, once the cake lace had cooled, it peeled off like a dream.

For my first attempt, I had used about half a batch of mix, so the next time I tried, I used the whole of the batch in one layer and baked for 30 minutes and this also worked beautifully.  It maybe that these minor issues could be remedied by mixing the cake lace with a whisk, I will be trying this next time and I will let you know what happens.

If the 25 minute video above is a little long for you, you might prefer this shorter one

A Few Notes on Black Cake Lace Mix

I have also tried the ready coloured black cake lace mix (see picture and link below) so just thought I would share a few tips
  1. It is a good idea to put some cling film over the areas of your worktops that you will be using to spread the lace over the mat (just in case)
  2. Don't worry if the mix looks a sludgy purple when prepared, it will dry to a lovely deep black
  3. The black mix may stain your hands a little, so consider wearing gloves if this worries you. My hands were a little stained in places, but the staining washed / wore off within a few hours

Cleaning Up

When faced with an intricately detailed, sticky and possibly black silicone mat, cleaning up can feel a bit daunting. I found these cake lace mats really easy to clean, I put mine in the sink with hot soapy water for about five minutes, this lifts off most of the cake lace remnants, quite magically it seems. To ensure I get every last bit, I then put a chopping board  or baking sheet in the sink, put the cake lace mat on top and wipe it down with a washing up sponge. I pat the mat with kitchen towel to dry and then leave the mat face down on a couple of sheets of kitchen towel to finish off drying. 

Cakes using Cake Lace

My first cake lace cake. Daphne's Birthday Cake, made with the lace you see being made above.

These Black Lace Valentine Brownies were made using the pre-coloured black cake lace mix.

That's all for today
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