Being from New York, I admit to a bias towards my local cake artisans. Ms. Sullivan is a fantastic talent and anyone who knows the East Coast cake scene is familiar with her legend. Her work is cutting edge, graphic and often highly creative. In this class she lets us in on a few of her techniques. I do a fair amount of painting on cakes here at the shop, and it’s always been difficult to transfer those skills in a training situation as I have an arts background that lends itself to freehand work. I also have some experience carving stamps and cutting stencils, again all things that can have a steep learning curve if all you want to do is complete an effect on a cake without spending years in fine arts classes.
The first thing that grabbed me in Ms. Sullivan’s class is the royal icing stamp. Here is a method completely created around items most cake decorators have at their disposal. What’s more, she explains templates and planning so concisely even a novice can grasp the concept. The royal icing stamp itself is brilliant in its simplicity. Foam core is easy to transfer a drawing onto and durable. Royal icing is non toxic, easy to work with and a medium most decorators have some familiarity with already. The stamps are reusable, too. A bonus as I am always trying to economize production time. I jettisoned her templates (typical of me) and made my own drawing freehand. After that I followed her instructions to the letter. The panels worked perfectly, better than I expected. As a matter of fact, I’ve even started thinking of ways to make more permanent panels that I could use for cake after cake. I've already started using these tiles to create quick, custom stamps for clients' cakes.
I love Kimono fabrics, so I drew a peony and cherry blossom motif in two sizes. I wanted to showcase the effect of both the embossed design and the painted design. I skipped the royal icing piping over the embossed image and painted directly in a watercolor inspired manner.
Let’s have a short aside here to talk about how art impacts cake decorating: Ms. Sullivan speaks widely about techniques used to adapt the pattern to the tile, including taking an image and manipulating it on the computer. I know from my own experience that not everyone who works in pastry has image editing software or knows how to use it. It’s certainly a useful skill if you plan on doing anything with edible image printing (rice paper craft for example as covered in Ms. Costa’s review here). While I do have extensive computer background, I just as often fall on my classic arts training -- for example, drawing the peony design for my tiles freehand rather than using a third party design. If you are artistic, even without a formal background, it pays to tighten up your skills. Besides extensive cake decorating courses, a quick look around Craftsy will reveal a large range of fine art instruction. While I will cover this in Cake Corner, here are a few art classes worth checking out: Mixed Media: Pen, Ink and Water Color, Water Color Floral Bouquet, and Drawing with Colored Pencils.
As you can see, I moved away from Ms. Sullivan’s instruction quite quickly. The reason for this is simply the class is aimed at a student who has never painted with food colors or has experience in this type of work. Many students will find information here about adapting powdered colors to painting, dealing with the brush, transferring images, etc. but it will be more of a revelation to a technician just starting out rather than the seasoned pro (and the class is geared at just such an audience). Ms. Sullivan’s teaching is solid, she is clear and informative and I would recommend her class to anyone seeking to expand their hand skills as a decorator. While I did not do the other projects in the class (carbon transfer method, tie-dye cake) these are likewise extremely useful to the beginner decorator, well executed instruction and informative!
Good luck with your painted cake projects!
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Craftsy Class: Art of Painted Cakes
Skill Level: Beginner/ Intermediate
"Must Have" Tools for Craftsy Class
- Exacto knife
- foam core
- Luster Dust
- Paint brushes
- petal dust
- Piping Bag
- piping tips
- Powdered Food Colors
- royal icing
- Your imagination!
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Anna is a classically trained sculptor and illustrator who started her career in cake decorating with Ron Ben Israel in 2000. Since then she has worked for a number of well known cake studios in the New York area doing complex sugar work and design. Her specialties include freehand painting,...