A Flowerpot Cake with Gum Paste Orchids

I always knew I would end up in Urgent Care because of the Blackhawks; I just always figured it would be cardiac-related. So now, older and wiser, might I suggest: Do not attempt to cake decorate while watching a Stanley Cup Final game.

This particular cake was for a pair of dear colleagues who were retiring from my school. A cake, shaped like a flowerpot, fit both their interests and so I set to work. The first step was to create the gum paste flowers, a task that is time consuming, but pays off big in the end. (Just set up your Netflix and the hours will pass by.) You’ll need to first cut the petals out of gum paste, attach a wire to the back, and drape them across wax paper to let them dry. After they’ve dried (a day or two), you can paint them with food coloring mixed with clear extract. Once they’re painted, gather the petals in an artistic fashion and wrap them with floral tape. Viola!

step by step teal purple gum paste orchids Stick them in some styrofoam to dry:

gum paste orchids dryingattaching gum paste flowers to stickAs these were orchids (well, they were supposed to be orchids. They morphed into something else. 🙂 ), the flowers were supposed to be clumped together at the top of a stick. I had an idea to create a little divot in the top of the stick, and then I would rest the wire in that divot, and it would ensure the flowers wouldn’t slide down the stick. (You can see the divot pictured above. It came at a price.)

It was a good idea in theory, just carried out in a really, really dumb fashion. First of all, I don’t own a saw, and was trying to cut into the wood with a big knife. (Stupid Idea #1.) Then, I was holding the wooden dowel rod between my fingers with one hand while sawing away with the other. (Stupid Idea #2.) Thirdly, I was watching a very important game on TV during which the players were playing like complete doofuses. (Stupid Idea #3.) So as I was yelling something at the TV during the second period, a thought quickly flitted through my brain, like the fleeting glint of sunlight on a butterfly’s wings… “This isn’t safe.” And then a millisecond later, the knife slipped.

To their crIMG_5442edit, the staff at the Urgent Care was very kind and almost completely hid their sighs of resigned exasperation at the patient who enters the building at 9:58pm when they close at 10. The women were so eager to get home (probably wanted to catch the third period), that all three of them were working on me at once. I felt like I was a patient in “Grey’s Anatomy,” except I wasn’t even sick.

The most important piece of information here is addressed to my many friends who were at this party, and who oblige me and read this blog: This contraption was made several days before I made the cake, and in a different place and with different tools. So don’t worry, everything is safe and clean as always. 🙂 gum paste orchids internal cake structure

The last step was the actual cake. I tried a new oreo cake recipe that was pretty yummy! It had oreo frosting, with chunks of oreos inside, which made for bumpy fondant. Luckily, the squares of fondant I placed around the pot to create a “tiled” look also hid some of the bumps. Once the fondant was finished, I topped it off with some more frosting and then crumbled, dry oreos. (To look like dirt.)  IMG_6248gum paste flower 1           


gum paste flower 2teal and purple orchid gum paste flowers with cake flowerpotInjury aside, I think it came out fairly well. And I learned something very important about myself: I cannot handle the sight of the inside of my own finger.

Fondant and Chocolate and Icing, Oh My! Creating a Wizard of Oz Cake

Last November, I attended the “America’s Baking and Sweets” show here in Illinois. It was an amazing show with vendors galore, beautifully-made competition cakes, and of course Duff, their keynote speaker. (This is also where I first heard of Icing Smiles, and amazing organization you can read about here.) I told myself that someday I would enter a cake in that competition, and so when this year’s show rolled around, I decided to make good on that promise.

The theme of the show was, “Wizard of Oz.” Naturally, during the entire process of creating this cake, the lyrics to the many songs were floating around my head. As much of this cake construction took place during the wee hours of the night, I naturally began to adjust the lyrics to fit my sleep-deprived circumstance. I offer below my favorite selections:

At the beginning of the process:
“I’m Off to Make the Cake Now” (We’re Off to See the Wizard)
I’m off to make the cake now, a cake of the Wizard of Oz.
It’s time to try and show what I’ve got, if ever a time there was.
If ever a time, it’s now, oh heck- No matter I’m busy and swamped and a wreck,
A wreck, a wreck, a wreck, a wreck, a wwwrrrreeeecccckkkkkk….
I hope I can finish this long, long trek!

Partway in, beginning to feel apprehensive about next week’s deadlines:
“Somewhere In the Near Future”
Somewhere in the near future, next Thurs-day.
There’s a deadline I’m dreading, my least favorite day.
Somewhere in the near future, grades are due.
I sure hope I can finish, I’ve only done a few.
Someday I won’t procrastinate, despite the projects on my plate, oh, maybe!
I’ll finish with some extra time, and then relax and feel sublime, oh, won’t I feel free…
Somewhere in the near future, next Thurs-day.
There’s a deadline I’m dreading, my least favorite day.
If happy teachers finish first, it can’t be too hard!
Why, oh, why, can’t I?!!?!

Midnight the night before the deadline:
“If I Only Had a Brain”
I don’t know what I was thinking, eyes now tired and unblinking,
If I only had a brain. (do do, do do do do do.)
I signed up to make this cake, but it sure takes so long to make-
If I only had a brain.

Three a.m. before the deadline:
“Ding Dong the Cake is Done”
Ding dong the cake is done, it weighs a ton, I hope I’ve won.
Ding dong the wicked cake is done!
Wake up you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed! ( <– that line is applicable so I’ve left it)
Ding dong the wicked cake is done!

The cake was completed in multiple stages, beginning with the modeling chocolate faces. Modeling chocolate is one of my favorite mediums to work with- so pliable! Each face took a few hours to make.

modeling chocolate face of scarecrow wizard of ozmodeling chocolate face of lion wizard of ozmodeling chocolate face of dorothy wizard of oz

The faces were each finished with a little highlighting with luster dust. Check out the difference here in the lion’s face- the left side has no dust, but the right side does. It just highlights the shadows and makes it come alive, doesn’t it?lion with and without luster dust

After the fagum paste poppies cake how to makeces were done, I went to work on the flowers. I had to improvise on making poppies- each flower petal has an attached wire, which was taped around the black center. Each petal had to dry in the white flower formers (pictured on left). The center of each petal was painted black.

The stamens were made of black thread that was taped around the black gum paste bud. Poppies were then inserted into the cake with straws. Voila!

Once the faces were set on the cake, I used white modeling chocolate to make a rainbow going around the entire cake. The modelingfondant rainbow in stages chocolate was covered in frosting and then a piece of white fondant was laid atop so it was smooth. I then used gel food coloring to paint the fondant rainbow. You can see the progression here on the right:




The final step was to cut out letters using gum paste. I cut out two of each letter, and then used gum glue adhesive (gum paste mixed with water) to stick them together, with a toothpick in between. That way I could stick them into the fondant rainbow and they would stand up. The letters were then painted with silver pearl dust so they had a nice sheen.

gum paste letters for cakeHere is a close up of each face:
wizard of oz cake character faces made of modeling chocolateThe final result:

wizard of oz cake dorothy scarecrow lion tin manI’m sorry to say that I lost the competition, but there were a lot of really cool cakes there! And there’s always next year! 🙂

Improvising with a Musical Cake

See what I did there?

But clever play-on-words aside, this cake truly was an exercise in improvisation. Last weekend, I sat down, table loaded with gum paste and iPad loaded with Netflix episodes. I tinted the gum paste but suddenly came to the quite tardy conclusion that I had forgotten all but one of my flower tools at home. Sighing, I weighed my options: go back and get them (nope, too lazy), go buy new ones (nope, too cheap), or just.. make something up. Yes, yes, that’s it!

I did have the large and small rose petal cutters, and I did have the shaping foam. (Whew!) But after making several roses, I knew I needed some bigger flowers. I looked at some photos of flowers, remembered some types I had seen on cakes before, and attempted to use a spatula to cut some interesting petal shapes. Improvising again, I was forced to wait until they dried so that I could attach the wires onto the back. Moral of the story: double check your materials list before leaving home!

various gum paste flowersAnother tool I didn’t have was my set of flower formers, which are small white cups that allow you to dry your flower so that it has a shape, as opposed to laying flat. So my homemade flower formers consisted of cling wrap rubber banded lightly across a cup. I left it loose so that the weight of the gum paste would weigh down the flower, creating that “cup” shape I was after.

gum paste flowers dryingI wasn’t too happy with the way these flowers turned out. Despite my best intentions, they were relatively flat. And the color was flat, too. So I mixed a little teal gel coloring with some lemon extract (or you could use vanilla- or vodka! You just need clear alcohol!). I painted the extract onto the edges of the petals in an attempt to give it a little more life:
teal gum paste flowers with and without shadingFor the layer of piano keys, I covered the cake in white fondant first, and then added white strips, and then black strips after that:

piano cake I was honored to create this cake for a benefit for a beloved high school teacher and his family. Many of his past students are gathering today for a day of sharing music and offering encouragement to the family. There will be raffles as well as items up for silent and live auction. Should you be interested in helping the family cover medical costs for the triple transplant, as well as various costs associated with travel to and from the transplant site, please check out their site and make a donation!


teal gum paste flowers music cake close up teal gum paste flowerteal gum paste flowers music cake sideways

Orchids in the Snow


Like most Midwesterners, I spent the majority of the past week inside bundled in scarves and slippers. (Aside from a brief sojourn to the front lawn for photography purposes.)

I decided to make use of the time and create this cake because, well, I have to be honest: my advisor/manager, aka my brother, has informed me that my twitter page is bordering on ridiculous. (https://twitter.com/MelodiaCakes) After spending half an hour showing me “good” twitter pages, he has advised me to make a cake that incorporated the same colors as my website, and this cake would serve as the background for the twitter page.

orchid2With this in mind, I set to work creating some nice gum paste flowers to sit atop the cake. Here are the steps I used:

1. Color gum paste and cut petals to desired shape. Drape petals over things to get a shape that suggests movement and fluidity.

2. Use a knife or other straight edge to texturize the petal.

3. Use luster dust to add color to the edges of the petals. (first, use a paintbrush to dust on the dry luster dust. Then, mix a little lemon extract with some luster dust. The more lemon extract you have, the lighter the color will be. More luster dust = more color.)


Once the leaves are dry (gum paste dries quickly!), attach wires to the backsides. I let these dry overnight. In the morning, I wound all the petals together with floral tape and they evolved into pseudo-orchids!



And now, a preview of my next post: “What? You Don’t Iron Outside in -50°?”


White gum paste roses

Gum gum paste roses smallpaste roses are a time intensive process, but in the end, they look so delicate and beautiful!

It takes a few days to create these, because the buds need to harden. You simply take a small amount of gum paste, shape it into a teardrop shape, stick it on the end of a piece of spaghetti, and let it dry. (The flowers pictured here were created using the Wilton method.)

The flowers on the right are Day 2, when I’ve added another layer of petals. Adding one more layer (below) creates a large and open blossom.

gum paste roses medium

Here’s a question I have- once you’re ready to use the flowers, do you just stick the piece of spaghetti in the cake?! That’s what I did! Once it’s time to eat, you pull them out? How weird is that! Please comment below if you have a suggestion!

gum paste flower cake 

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