Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tired, But Smiling

No sleep last night. Five dozen batches of Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. No, there are no ridiculous four-leaf clover cut outs on top or green-tinted frosting. I sprinkled some pastel green dragees and some leaf green sugar crystals. That's as hokey as I'm getting with St. Pat's deco. It still irked me to do the green on top. I feel like it makes them look as though there should be mint in the cupcakes. There isn't. There's Chocolate Stout baked into the cakes, Jameson's & Godiva brushed into the cake, and Jameson's & Bailey's in the frosting. I'll put up pictures tomorrow.

Since I started fairly early, I was able to rest a little and sculpt. Yes, indeedy! I have a near-perfect Muno (the red cyclops) and I'm almost done with all the components for Plex (the yellow robot). Thankfully, my partner found me an edible image of Brobee at an old cake deco store I used to hit up in Ozone Park. There was no way I would have been able to get there before they closed with work, and ordering it online wouldn't guarantee it would get here on time. He was also able to get me the supplies I needed for this cake. I can't express how much stress is off my shoulders knowing I wouldn't have to trek all over the city to over-pay for these things.

The cake is baked and waiting to be filled and covered later. I still have to sculpt Foofa and Toodee. Plex is definitely the most detailed one, but it's easy shapes and it's just more time consuming rather than difficult.  I think Toodee may take me about an hour or so to do, but I'm hoping I'll be able to get two or three hours sleep tonight. It's going to be tight. Straight after work, I have two deliveries to make in midtown, and then one all the way uptown on 72nd street for a beer meetup. I'm eating the cost on the beer meetup order because I opened my big mouth about cupcakes, but I'll hand out some business cards. If I get one order, the cost will be covered, so no harm no foul. The only thing I can't get back is time. And I need all the time I can get tonight. I'm thinking the cake may need another layer baked. It was looking a little short when I checked it this morning. That will take a good hour to bake, and another hour to cool enough for me to handle.

That's fine because I still need to finish three of the Yo Gabba Gabba figures, and I know it will take me more than two hours. Fondant needs to be kneaded and warmed in order for it to be pliable. That takes a good half hour to achieve the right consistency for a pound of fondant. If it dries out and gets hard again while I'm working on the figures, the process starts all over again.

Besides a bad shoulder ache and a little fatigue, my wrists and hands are killing me. The kneading, rolling, and kneading took their toll on my old-lady tools. That happens a lot now; my hands cramping up. That's a total nightmare for a cake decorator. Those are my tools. When my hands are shaking and aching, my work suffers. I've got my wrists bandaged up with some smelly Bengay doing it's warm-goodness inside wraps. Sure, I smell like an old lady but if it means I can frost my cake later with minimal pain- I'll walk around smelling like an old lady!

I'll have pictures up tomorrow. Like I said, I'm really happy with the way Muno came out. Even though they are fairly easy characters to try to duplicate, I've found that simple cartoon-like characters are not easy for me. I can't draw. That means I can't sculpt. What I learned I CAN do is replicate shapes. I realized that was my method to use while I was watching Southpark one night. Southpark is nothing but shapes cut out and layered to create these characters and scenery. It's simple but it works. If I can replicate the shape, if I take my time with the details, I can come pretty close to the original.

I was in a cake decorating store once with an artist. He was flipping through a cartoon cake decorating book. One cake was of Daffy Duck's head with an awesome expression on his face of being caught by surprise. As he flipped through, this artist said, "You can probably do that, right? It looks easy enough."

Immediately, I knew I couldn't. "I can't. I can't get the proportions right. I can't get the ratio perfect. It will resemble Daffy, but it won't ever be as perfect as that picture, and I know where my limits are. It sucks. I wish I could replicate characters like that."

Here's the thing; when you try to replicate a very famous cartoon character or ANY cartoon character for that matter, you need to remember they are drawn a certain way deliberately and are famous because of it. If you can't get it exactly right, then it's skewed and it makes your work look amateur and kinda off.


Pretty decent rendering.
Ratios and proportions are off.

Ratios and proportions WAY off.

By the way, none of these are my cakes. I just put them up there to demonstrate my point. If I can't get it as close to the original as possible, then I don't want to do it. Maybe I'm being too anal about it, but I truly believe that you shouldn't promise something you can't deliver. I always get nervous when I do these character cakes, but Sponge Bob came our pretty damn good and Foofa has been awesome. So, I guess practice makes perfect!

I'll update with pictures tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Mine are too achy to cross. =(


  1. Good luck with your cakes! What you should do, and what alot of artists do, is practice alot and develop your own sort of frosting style. That way, you don't put too much pressure on recreating the EXACT character, it's just your style of that character!

    Many artists do this, just adding the basic details of the characters but making them the way they want to make them, like this guy:

    then if you develop your own really cute style, people will want your cakes just because of your unique style!

  2. I've seen that guy's work before! Awesome stuff!

    I understand what you mean about developing my own style, and I think I can do that with the way I decorate. The swirly curlies are usually what I'm known for, and I can tell right away that a cake is mine because I tend to go that route when left to my own devices.

    The problem is that when someone wants a special character cake, they want it to look exactly like that character they're picking. It's usually for a child's birthday, and you can't tell a kid "That's MY take of Daffy Duck, take it or leave it, kid!" You have to try and be as accurate as possible.

    I'm no animator or artist by ANY measure, but the projects I have agreed to take on have come out pretty cool, so I'm happy with my progress. Like everyone says, though, practice, practice, practice!!