Time to do some HACKING! Wait. Not THAT kind of hacking that can land you in the slammer. The clever kind that makes life a bit easier in whatever it is your attempting to hack. For us, it’s cake and sugar art. So many household items can be used in a variety of ways that we don’t necessarily think of. We need to open our boxed thinking and get creative! But first, let me tell you a story…It’s 2009 and I’m a wee intern with Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in Manhattan, New York. I’m doing what many interns do and taking in everything around me while keeping my nose buried in my assigned task. One of my most common tasks is making sugar hydrangea. (I can now hydrangea in my sleep.) Christmas break comes around and I’m inspired to get working on things at home, trying new flowers and such, but I know there are some tools I most definitely need. A gridded wire flower drying rack being at the top of my list. So I searched. I looked at every craft store near me. I was all over EVERY SUGAR WEBSITE out there from here to Timbuktu. Amazon. EBay.No one could help.
Desperate, I sent an email to Ron asking where he got these seemingly magical and elite sugar racks.
His answer blew me away: Bed, Bath and Beyond.
“Kara, they’re just shelf expanders.”
SMHROOMFN! (Smack My Head Right Off Of My Flippin’ Neck!) Yeah. Think outside the box, peeps. Lemme help.
Sugar flowers are fussy little critters and drying the petals requires certain shaping during key early drying time.
Can you use egg trays for deviled eggs? Yes! Do keep one on hand in your kitchen? Maybe not. Do you want to buy a fancy-schmancy one just for drying sugar petals? Not me. A spoon board is perfect for you then! Costing about 40 cents per board to make (at most!), and re-purposing scrap cardboard, you likely already have everything you need in your home.[/mk_fancy_title]
- Cut a rectangle of cardboard to approximately 14 inches by 10 inches
- Heat up your hot glue gun
- Mark tiny “X”s in a grid pattern, 3 columns by 4 rows
- Snip off the handles to 12 plastic spoons
- Place a dot of hot glue about the size of a peanut on your “X” and place your spoon, cupped side up, level and hold for just a second until the glue sets
- Repeat till your board is finished
If you can find different shaped spoons to make multiple shaped boards, that’s awesome! The rounder soup spoons will give you slightly different shaping to your sugar petals making them less identical and looking more natural. I tend to buy the 24 packs of spoons and make two boards at a time. They store flat and easy, and no worries if you drop them, unlike ceramic egg dishes.
Tights, the kind you get at the dollar store
Oh, tights. How I love thee. Let me count the ways!
Ok. There’s really just two ways I currently use them, but MAN do they come in handy! Remember those sugar flower petals we were just talking about? That little poofy filled sack on the right is full of corn starch (corn flour) to dust my work surface with for when I roll out gumpaste or cut my petals. Depending on the thickness of the tights, you will get a heavier dusting on your surface when you pat it with the sack.[/mk_fancy_title][mk_padding_divider size=”20″]
The middle tight I use for straining gelatin that I use for my edible sequins or my edible glitter. Drape it around the rim and inside of a cup, pour your liquid gelatin into it, gather the top in your hand and pull the end upward, forcing the liquid gelatin through the bottom.
Voila! No lumps, or clumps of gel color left behind. Perfectly smooth gelatin that won’t clog your squeeze bottle or leave lumps on your spread out sheet.
Rinse it with warm water and dish soap to clean. If you’re using colored gelatins, it will stain it. But if you’ve washed it well, that color will not get into any further gelatin you strain through.
Ribbon, Flower Nail, Knitting Needles, and a Baby Food Jar?
What’s this stuff? Kara’s nuts.
Maybe. But I’m pretty certain you’ll love my nuts. Let’s go in order.[/mk_fancy_title][mk_padding_divider size=”20″]
I find myself CONSTANTLY losing my sewing tape measure (the soft ribbon-ish kind). Truly, I have no idea how it gets up and wanders off after I’ve put it away like I always do. (Stop rolling your eyes like my hubby…) So I’ve had to improvise. At the end of a spool of ribbon that I used for lining the outside edge of a cake board, there’s always that bit left that you hope to be able to find a cake board home for. Or it’s just a rarely used color and therefore destined to a life of solitude, being overlooked with every passing cake. I use these to measure routinely. I either fold over the ribbon where I need it marked, or I make a light pencil mark on it that can be erased later. I keep a spare ribbon or two in my tools bucket so it’s always handy. (YES! I know. Just put the measuring tape in there! It’s just too long and if it comes unwound it just annoys the bejeezus out of me.)
Flower Nail (for buttercream flowers)
These look awfully similar to another cakey tool: the baking core/pin for larger diameter cakes. Hmmmm…. No cores on hand to bake off that 3 inch deep cake or that 12 inch round? Use your buttercream flower pin inserted under a parchment round sticking up into where your batter will be filled. No need for a specialty tool, espeically when a flower nail is soooo common in our cakey kitchens.
What don’t I use these for? Curling edges of sugar petals. Helping to maneuver sugar petals once they are placed on the sugar flower. Adding little balled up bits of paper towel or tiny pieces of foam into the gaps in drying sugar flowers to create depth (fingers are just too big and awkward). To sculpt details in sugar figures or modeling chocolate details. To define lines in fine work like faces. To move small decor bits if they are sitting just a little bit uneven. One of THE BEST multi-pupose tools for sugar work. Just snip it in half with wire cutters so it’s not awkward to handle and you’re good to go!
Baby Food Jars
Perhaps I’m a container junkie. Perhaps I’m missing my baby years. Perhaps these are THE PERFECT little jars for things like sugar glue, my sequins or glitter, custom mixed petal dusts, or cocoa butter. At least those are things I use them for. Glass so they don’t absorb anything at all, cheap if you don’t have a kiddo, and re-purposing if you do.
Plastic Mesh Netting
Get some nice tomatoes-on-the-vine or a sack of oranges at the grocer lately? That netting they came in is a wonderfully cool texture. And stretchy! I wonder what that would look like rolled out over fondant… 😉 While this is one nett-y texture, there are so many things you come across daily that have incredible textures for embossing. No need to keep buying those embossing packages just for a simple texture. Look around![/mk_fancy_title][mk_image src=”http://www.karascouturecakes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cake-Hacks-netting.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”true” svg=”false” lightbox=”false” group=”_general” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”center” margin_bottom=”10″][mk_divider style=”shadow_line” divider_width=”full_width” custom_width=”10″ align=”center” thickness=”1″ margin_top=”40″ margin_bottom=”40″][mk_padding_divider size=”40″]
Yep. The same ones from above.
Found at any homegoods store, or anywhere you can find storage stuff.
Seriously how did I not get this?!?
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but I prefer the collapsible ones like this. The fixed ones take up too much space for my storage abilities. Some have these gorgeous grids (which I love to keep the sugar flowers from sliding into each other if I need to move it at all). Some just have parallel bars running width-wise. No matter what, they are immensely useful. But I’m picky. And you may be too.
I not only hang sugar flowers from the rack, but if you see my Sugar Rose video, you’ll see that I use them to hold sugar flowers upright for drying as well.