Turn your cakes into works of art

Learn the secrets to creating beautiful cake decorations out of chocolate and fondant from Club Chef de Cuisine Kauri Kondaschek

Cake creation by Kauri Kondraschek
Cake creations by Kauri Kondraschek
Cake creation by Kauri Kondraschek

If you are interested in cake decorating, Club Chef de Cuisine Kauri Kondaschek can help you turn your cake into a work of art. Along with tips for working with fondant icing and chocolate, she provides easy-to-follow instructions for making candied flowers for that finishing touch. 

Tips for using fondant icing 

  • Ensure your work surface and hands are clean and dry, as everything will get caught in the fondant and liquid makes it sticky.
  • Cornflour is best for lightly dusting your work surface and moulds. 
  • When rolling out fondant try to work fast to prevent drying out. A no-pores rolling pin is best. 
  • Knead the fondant well before use. The more you work it the softer it will become because you are heating and melting the sugars. If it becomes sticky it has overheated, so wrap it well and leave it in a cool place for 20-30 minutes. 
  • If colouring, remove a small amount of fondant and add the colour, then knead that back into the larger amount. This makes it easier to mix the colour in evenly.  
  • Colours such as red and black are easier to buy already mixed, as it takes a lot of colouring and that can make the icing very soft to work with.  
  • Gel colours are best for fondant as they can provide vivid colours without changing the composition. 
  • When not working with the fondant or when storing it, always keep it covered in plastic to prevent drying out. If, while being stored, it becomes hard on the outside, trim off the hard parts and use the remaining fondant. 
  • To remove a mark, such as a chocolate smudge, use a small amount of milk on kitchen towel and dab it off. 

Tips for using chocolate 

  • If using block chocolate, chop it into small, evenly sized pieces so that it melts evenly.
  • Melt chocolate gently, so it does not overheat or burn. Use a double boiler. If using a microwave, melt in 20-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth. 
  • Liquid will cause chocolate to seize or clump up, making it unworkable, so take care that drips from the condensed steam don’t get into it, if melting over a pot of water.
  • When colouring chocolate use a gel or oil base colouring, such as Colour Mill, to get vibrant colours without the risk of seizing.  
  • When chocolate forms a white cast on the surface, it is known as bloom. Bloom is not harmful but does affect the appearance of the chocolate. There are two types of bloom, fat and sugar, and both will disappear when the chocolate is melted and tempered properly. 
  • Fat bloom is a result of cocoa butter rising to the surface. This can happen when chocolate is not tempered properly or is stored at too high a temperature.
  • Sugar bloom is a result of tiny sugar crystals rising to the surface. This can happen when chocolate is exposed to too much moisture or humidity. 

Making candied flowers 

You can use violets, pansy or rose flowers or petals. Get at least 20 in excellent condition with stems still attached and free of chemicals. 

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • caster/fine sugar (to dust)
  1. Wash the flowers very gently using a gentle water spray with the flowers sitting in a sieve. Keep the stems attached to allow for ease of handling when preparing. 
  2. Leave to dry on a kitchen paper towel, wire cake rack or sheet of plastic wrap. 
  3. Heat the sugar and water together in a saucepan over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  4. Dip each flower in the liquid using a pair of tweezers. Remove and dust with fine sugar, making sure that each flower is well covered. 
  5. Remove the stems, using fine scissors to snip them off.
  6. Lay the sugar-coated flowers out on wax paper, then move to a cool and dry place to set. 
  7. Leave the flowers to dry for 12 hours or more. 
  8. Once dry, store in an airtight container. Keep in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. 
  9. Use to decorate cakes, ice cream or just by themselves. 
If you need to layer the flowers when storing, place baking paper between each layer to prevent the candied flowers from sticking together. 

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