It’s almost turkey day!
Are you guys ready? Ready for the holidays?
It’s that time of year when we have to come up with oodles of cute ideas for cakes and confections for our families, friends, and businesses. I personally spend so much time trying to think of new and interesting things to do, it makes my brain hurt. (Although, it doesn’t take much to do that. ) Every now and then I like to go back to some good old school decorating. The basics we build our skills on.
At the end of every one of my DVDs I tell you guys to practice, not be too hard on yourselves, and to always have fun. That is what this project and this post is all about. This quick cupcake cake is a great way to practice some basic techniques, but not to take it so seriously that we stress ourselves out. There are times we need to be really precise and worry about all the little details of a cake. But sometimes it is fun and liberating to not have to do that, and just have some good ole fun.
So let’s make this cute Turkey Tom cake. Do you guys recall the cupcake pull apart cake that was all the rage a few years back? It has kind of died out in popularity, but I think we need to bring it back! It’s a great item to send to school for all the kids’ holiday parties. It’s easy to make and easy for them to serve.
And it’s a great vehicle to practice on. It goes together quickly, and if you mess up, who cares? It’s just cupcakes!
Let’s do this!
Find a clip art or coloring book page that you like. Enlarge it to the size you need and print it out. Note that in my Print Shop program, I had to print it out on 4 pages to make it big enough. Tape the pieces together in alignment and cut it out. (Note: you really should transfer the pattern onto a food safe paper like parchment. But I was too
lazy short on time to do that for this blog post.)
Use the paper template to arrange your cupcakes in the desired shape on the cake board. Secure each one down to the board with a smear of buttercream under the liner.
I had some spaces after I arranged the cupcakes. I stuck some rice crispy treat pieces into those holes to take up some room and support the buttercream I was going to put on top. I wanted to prevent sink holes in the top of the icing. Each cupcake also got a little crumb coat of icing on top just to seal it for freshness.
Ice the whole top of the cupcakes and use your favorite smoothing method. I used the viva paper towel and fondant smoother. This is good practice for smoothing, but don’t stress over it! If it’s not perfect, IT IS OK. I promise! It’s just cupcakes!
Now we are going to use the pin prick method. Put the template over some Styrofoam (food safe dummy here) and use a toothpick to prick thru the paper along the entire outline of the image and all the details. That will create raised bumps on the back of the paper that will serve as an impression mat on the icing.
Put the template in place and gently smooth over the entire surface with your hands. Be sure to press along the outer edges so that you get an outer outline of the graphic in the icing. I took a photo after I did this, but the camera could not pick up the impression marks on the white icing, so please trust me when I tell you that it leaves you a nice outline to follow for your piping. You guys know I won’t lie to you! I promise you will be able to see it. 🙂
I also used the same method to imprint the message I wanted to pipe on the sign.
Now let’s talk about piping the outline. For this, I highly suggest you make some glace icing. For two reasons: 1) it’s easier to pipe a nice outline because of the glace’s elasticity, and 2) it is going to secure itself to the icing and not blow away when you airbrush the sections of the image. A regular buttercream piped outline is going to blow off the cake when you airbrush. (Been there, done that. 😆 ) If you do not want to bother with making glace icing, you can surely airbrush the entire image first, and then pipe the outline on top of that last. I have done it both ways.
To make a little bit of glace icing, just throw a couple of cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Mix in equal parts of water and corn syrup into it, about a Tbs of each at a time, blending with a whisk, until you get a smooth but very stiff icing. I used super black gel to tint it, and piped the outlines with a PME tip 2. Note: PME tips are some of the best tips for piping. You get a nice smooth string with no curling. PME’s tip 2 has a bit smaller hole than Wilton tip 2, and I like that size better for outlines. That’s just my personal preference; you can use an even bigger tip if you like a fatter outline.
Remember when you are piping outlines to not drag the tip across the cake. Hold the tip above the surface of the cake, and let the icing drop onto the cake as you apply pressure to the bag, guiding it by moving the piping bag along as you go. This will give you a very smooth and fluent outline.
Now you just got some great practice on outlining, which can be used both for images on cakes and also for decorated cookies. Yay for practice! But are we going to get upset if our outline is not perfect? No way! Are we going to scrape it all off and redo it? No way! IT IS OK! It’s just cupcakes!
So now on to airbrushing. I get lots of emails asking for help with this, but it is pretty difficult to make a photo tutorial on airbrushing. But have no fear, because I have already filmed several videos for the new online membership area that are going to cover airbrushing. From the basics of the different types of brushes, basic skills and practice drills, cleaning the gun, to full cake projects that use airbrushing in them. So be sure to stay tuned for that coming in a few months!
If you have an airbrush, this is a great cake to practice coloring on, because you basically are just going to fill in each section of the image with airbrush color. (Like a coloring book.) It gives you practice on fine control of outlines, following lines, and varying the width of the spray. And if we mess up a bit, will we freak out? No way! Are we going to cry if we get some over spray? No way! Are we going to call the airbrush police if we get some blotches or spurts? No way Jose! IT IS OK! It’s just cupcakes!
So here you see the first sections of blue color airbrushed in.
And now some more sections.
Here is the whole thing airbrushed. Note that I did not outline the sign with black before I airbrushed. I thought it would be better to do that afterwards on such a large rectangle, but really I do not think it matters much either way. You could pipe that outline before or after airbrushing.
If you look closely you can see the imprint of the Happy Thanksgiving message on the sign, which I later piped over with black buttercream and a tip 3. Again, here we have the opportunity for some great practice on piping words directly on a cake. I used the Tinker Toy font, which is a nice easy one to follow. It is just a series of straight lines and dots. If we mess up a little are we going to have a nervous breakdown? No way! Are we going to point out to everyone who sees the cake that our writing could have been better? No way! Are we going to scrape it off and re-pipe it? OK, yes we might. (Gotcha on that one!) If we really screw a letter up, we may have to. I in fact scraped two letters off and re-piped them. Can you tell which two in the next photo? BUT beware that if you do that you are going to scrape off your airbrushing and reveal white icing again. So you will need to touch up that spot with a little more airbrush color. The patch will never match exactly, which works fine for a design like this that is not precise and is variegated by nature. But keep in mind for other cakes that anytime you patch airbrush color it will not match, and that might not work for every cake you do.
So here he is all done. Go back and look at the first photo I posted and note that I had originally forgotten to pipe the rest of the details on the sign. Oopsie! Here you can see I added the extra lines and cracks to make it look even more better.
And here is a super close up. Do you see that little bit of over spray on the outer portion of the black outline? Do you see a few impression holes peaking out from behind the black lines? See a few spots where the icing is not super duper smooth? Do we care? No way! Are we freaked out? No way! IT IS OK! It’s just cupcakes!
Let’s step back to normal viewing distance and have a look:
Is it cute? Yes way! Do we love it? Yes way! Will the kids love it? Yes way! Did we get some great low stress practice on some basic skills? Yes way! It’s just cupcakes and we are very happy with it!
Here are just a few more things I want to note:
1) The airbrush colors I used for this were:
- sky blue
- egg and lemon yellow
- dusty rose
- brown (face and body)
- warm brown (arms)
- purple made by mixing pink with sky blue
- ivory (sign)
2) To make the eyes I piped fat dots of black and then white icing, let it crust, and patted it down with the tip of my finger.
3) If you do not have an airbrush, or do not want to do it that way, you can use any other easy fill in technique for this cake, such as run sugar, star tip fill in, or piped buttercream fill in. Run sugar uses the same glace icing in a flood consistency to create the image. Here are two cakes where the image was done with run sugar:
(If you are interested in learning more, our online school teaches in great detail all these techniques: pin prick method, outlining, run sugar, frozen buttercream transfers, chocolate transfers, royal icing transfers, some basic airbrushing, piped borders and more.)
I hope this post inspires you to get out your tools and go back to some old school decorating. Be sure to share a photo of your cakes on our Facebook page if you do. In fact, let’s start a grass roots movement to bring back the cupcake cake! Who is with me??