Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mold Making and Airbrushing

Class this week was devoted to mold making and airbrushing. I find that airbrushing really separates the boys from the men in cake decorating, especially when it comes to sculpted cakes. Even though 3D cakes have their own natural shadows, airbrushing adds extra dimension and realism with shading. I was really happy that we spent so much time practicing lines, gradients, and texture with the airbrush. For our final exam we airbrushed this woodgrain fondant cake. On its own I think it's really odd, but in three tiers with a chainsaw on top I bet it would make a really cool lumberjack wedding cake.

Using the most basic mold-making technique we learned, I created a chocolate shell molded in cornstarch and a chocolate frame molded in cocoa powder. You simply take the object that you want to recreate and press it into the powders. As you can see, it makes a fairly detailed impression. Cornstarch molds are an old candy maker's technique that is still used today. I know Sour Patch Kids and candy corn are made this way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pastillage and the French Pastry School

After almost three years, I am back at the French Pastry School attending their very first session of l'Art du Gateau. The 16 week course focuses on everything cake, such as sugar and chocolate decoration, recipe creation, and business planning. If the school's l'Art de la Patisserie was like pastry boot camp, l'Art du Gateau is like pastry finishing school. The amount of focus and attention to detail can be maddening, but I've kept it together knowing that I'll come out with higher standards.

This week was devoted solely to pastillage. Pastillage is a dough made of confectionery sugar, gelatin, and vinegar, and is primarily used to make edible showpieces like the one I made in class. Because pastillage is slightly elastic when wet and dries hard, it can be rolled very thin. The end result is an appearance like matte porcelain.

I think everyone in class was surprised at how difficult it was to assemble our sculpture. The pieces were so delicate they snapped just from the vibrations of setting them on the table. We glued the sculpture together with hot sugar, and if used too hot the thermal shock cracked our pieces. If the sugar was too cold the pieces would falsely adhere and fall off later. The sounds of shattering leaves and stems filled the classroom for almost four hours! Only one student cried, but needless to say, we were stressed. I was thrilled that I didn't have that many pieces break and that I have something to show for all of my hard work this week.