Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let the decorating begin

Today we are joined by cozy mystery author Gayle Trent, whose latest book DEAD PAN has just been released from Bell Bridge Books. DEAD PAN is the second book in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series. Gayle is here to help us decorate our holiday cakes.

To learn more about Gayle and her cake decorating mystery series, visit her at http://www.gayletrent.com. If you Twitter, be sure to enter her Twitter contest to win a copy of DEAD PAN, a copy of MURDER TAKES THE CAKE and a red Murder Takes the Cake apron. E-mail Gayle for more information at gayle@gayletrent.com.

And now -- Gayle!

Can you believe it’s that time again? I looked at the calendar the other day and could hardly believe it was November already. So, of course, I started thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. As the author of a cake decorating mystery series, people expect me to know how to decorate beautiful cakes. Unfortunately, knowing how and being able to actually do something are often two separate things entirely! Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional to make a beautiful, elegant dessert you’ll be proud to tell your guests, “I made it myself.”

Artificial flowers (fresh, too, but check to make sure they aren’t poisonous), ribbon, strands of pearls or beads (from your local hobby shop) and fruit can all make beautiful decorations for your cakes. One simple decorating technique – the Swiss dot—can add an additional touch of elegance to your cake.

Note: If you’re using flowers, ribbon or other inedible decorations, be sure and wash them in hot water and let them dry thoroughly before using them on your cake. I like to wash inedible decorations in a salad spinner.

First, crumb coat your cake. A crumb coat is the first coat of icing put on your cake. That way, if you have crumbs in your cake icing, it won’t matter because you’ll be putting a second layer of icing over the first. Let the cake set for 15-20 minutes between coats of icing.

After applying the second coat of icing to your cake, smooth the cake with a spatula. Then place a small round tip (number 4 or smaller) in a decorator bag and fill the bag halfway with white frosting. Pipe small dots on the sides and top of the cake. The lighter the pressure, the smaller the dots. If your dots have peaks, smooth them with your fingertip dipped in cornstarch.

Use pearls, beads, Jordan almonds or ribbon to create a bottom border for your cake. Then, if using artificial flowers, pipe a mound of icing in the middle of your cake. Arrange the flowers in the mound. This makes the flowers stand up better and also facilitates removal with a spatula before serving.

If using fruit, arrange it artistically on the top of your cake. Some suggestions: kiwi, banana, apple, pineapple, strawberries, grapes. Be sure to dust fruit with sugar before putting it on the cake to prevent it from turning brown.

Use your ribbon to make small bows to go on the sides of your cake or to be draped down the sides from the top of the cake like fondant bows. If you’re using flowers, make sure your ribbon is in a complimentary color.

How you display your cake is another important part of its appearance. Gold or silver foil doilies on a cake plate are always a good touch for the holidays.


Anonymous said...

Here I am in work, starving already at 9 a.m., and I want a piece of that cake with coffee! It is beautiful and looks delectable. xoxoxo

Gayle said...

Don't you love a good piece of cake in the morning...esp. chocolate? With coffee.... Now, you've got me wanting it, too! :-)

Camille Minichino said...

Chocolate cake with coffee -- hard to top at any hour of the day!

Thanks for getting me all mouthwatery, Gayle!

Gayle said...

Sorry! If it makes you feel better, I'm sitting here eating Quaker rice snacks. At least, they're honey nut, so they're actually pretty good. Still, chocolate cake, they are NOT.

Camille Minichino said...

My husband eats rice cakes. I don't see the point :=)

Seriously, the cake in the photo looks amazing! And all the writeups of the Daphne books have put her on the top of my list to taste!

Gayle said...

Thank you! You're so sweet. The point (to the rice cakes) is that I love to eat but a recent foray onto the scales said I should quit. So I thought I'd try flavored air. LOL! It might help offset the chicken & dumplings I'm planning to make for dinner.

Camille Minichino said...

Oh, good, chicken and dumplings. For a minute there, I thought you ate only air!

I'll bet everyone looks forward to the holidays at your home ...

Gayle said...

The air is just to tide me over until lunch. LOL!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

That's lovely! I wish I wasn't on Weight Watchers!

Betty Hechtman said...

The cake in the photo does look delicious, but I'm not a big chocolae cake fan. I was thinking the inside was a nice moist yellow cake.

I don't bother with rice cakes. You can eat a thousand and not feel anything. I'd rather have a small piece of something really good.

Welcome to Killerhobbies, Gayle.