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Blog > March 2013 > Squires Kitchen Exhibition - Top 10 Cake Decorating Tips!

Squires Kitchen Exhibition - Top 10 Cake Decorating Tips!

Squire exhibiton of Sugar Craft and Cake Decorating

Today is the first of three days of Squire Kitchen's 27th Annual Cake Decorating, Sugar Craft and Chocolate Decorating Exhibition. 

It's held in Farnham Maltings, a short walk from Farnham station but shuttle buses also go from opposite Squire Kitchen's shop every 20 minutes. Before you enter the exhibition itself, I suggest you look at the map at the entrance, or else you'll be retracing your steps all day as you explore this warren of rooms on various levels.
Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating Exhibition
I'll confess up front that whilst I love to bake cakes, I don't do decoration. You might have guessed this by my dredge of icing sugar on the cake I took to Clandestine Cake Club, I would not have normally bothered even with that. The most I've ever stretched to before is chocolate ganache coating a chocolate cake filled with a berry buttercream. This was, absolutely delicious, and I'd do it again.  Generally, the reason I don't is partly down to a lack of patience, partly a lack of skill and predominately because I am not a huge fan of sugar and overly sweet things. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms given my obsession with cake and chocolate.  What I like is flavourful puddings, cakes, dessert and chocolate, sweetened by sugar, not the "flavour" of sugar alone. I haven't added added sugar to drinks or cereals or my savoury cooking since I was about 8. One of my favourite chocolate truffles is a marmite water ganache, I often eat 100% chocolate (no sugar or sugar substitutes) and my coffee of choice is espresso. You get the idea. As a child, however, I was a sugar fiend, I used to dribble food dye over sugar crystals and pretend they were sweets and I'd eat soft, dark brown sugar by the spoonful, with a squeeze of lemon juice soaked over it. I guess this is what happens when the nearest shop is a ten minute drive away and you can't break into the sweetie jar...
Flower cake
I digress.  What I now appreciate much better about cake decorating is that it is far more about art than food. Whilst everything I saw being made was actually edible, I'm not sure how "eatable" it was, but nor was it expected to be.  Sugar paste is just another medium like clay or charcoal, just a little less permanent.
Miniature flowers on a tiny wedding cake
Stunning minature flowers made from sugar. A teeny tiny wedding cake!
Rooms at the exhibition are divided into display rooms showing off incredible edible creations of cake and sugar craft; rooms of stalls selling all of the equipment and ingredients to produce it and the demonstration rooms where top professionals deliver hour long tutorials in their craft.
Packets of Icing for Cake Decorating
A variety of icings (and this isn't even all of them!)
The draw of this particular exhibition is that all of the stalls had very talented people demonstrating how to use their wares.  This is handy when the options for “icing” include more than ten different names, including Mexican paste, Petal Powder and Sugar Dough.  I stopped at a few of these mini-demonstrations and listened to their wisdom.  Now, whilst almost everything about cake decorating would be new insight to me, I took down a few notes from the things that drew the most astonishment and excitement from my fellow attendees.  So here you have our top Cake Decorating Tips via Squires Exhibition:
  1. If your pliable icing starts to go hard put it into the microwave for one second bursts at a time (this particular icing referred to was made with “Pastillage Powder”. I won’t pretend to understand.).
  2. Dry pliable icing on a dry sponge so the air can get underneath it too.  You will still need to turn it over during the drying period to ensure it dries evenly.
  3. Dry, dry and dry some more.  Overnight for each piece you are doing. Each piece must be dry before you try to stick it to another with edible glue, otherwise the weight of one will squish the non-dry piece.
  4. Only make up a small portion of icing at a time, just what you need.  Double wrap the remainder in cling film and then keep in airtight container room temperature.   
  5. Don’t ever put icing in the fridge.  Sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it absorbs water so in the fridge becomes a sticky paste.
  6. When working with sugar moulding cover your hands with vegetable fat (like Trex) before you start softening the icing in your hands.  You might want to use Trex on your cutters too, but shouldn’t need to put it into the moulds if you’ve been handling a ball of icing with fatty hands (tee hee!) as the icing should get a sufficient slick of grease on it just from your hands.
  7. Squeeze the edges of more intricate moulds towards the centre to push all the icing right in to pick up the detail (this was demonstrated on a rose mould, which depending on the size of the ball of icing you can get full size or teeny tiny roses!).
  8. Get icing out of moulds by tapping the underside of them.  Don’t try and “peel” them out, they will lose their shape.
  9. You must wait for icing to dry completely before using food dye to paint anything on it – otherwise the “ink” will drag.  It definitely seemed worth investing in some of the edible ink pens I saw at the show!
  10. Use BBQ skewers cut to size to pierce through the “body” of sugar dough models to help them stand up straight.  Like in this picture below of models made by Jan Clement-May.
Sugar Dough models by Jan Clement-May
Squires Kitchen Exhibition 2013 skillsSquires Kitchen Exhibition 2013Squires Kitchen Exhibiton Sugar CrafSquires Kitchen Moulding sugar roses
Now if I was teaching you what you already know, my apologies.  The people there knew their craft so if you are a keen cake decorator it’s highly worth going this weekend and getting some advice on how to make your buttercream flower petals better! (Or whatever other more sophisticated question you might have!)  It's also worth looking around the competition viewing rooms for inspiration and intimidation!  Some highlights below...
Some of the jewellery box themed cupcakes:
Jewellery Box Cupcakes
Some fairytale cakes:
Goldilocks CakeJack and the Giant Beanstalk CakeOld man in a shoe fairytale cake

Wedding cakes:
Wedding Cakes at Squires Exhibition 2013
If you have gorgeous cakes that you've decorated please feel free to share them on our Facebook page.  We like admiring them. :-)  Let us know if you have done or plan to by posting in the comments below!

Have a nice time at the show!

Posted: 15/03/2013 16:52:16

Great Cake Places Blog

Jennifer Earle

Welcome to the Great Cake Places blog. I'm Jennifer Earle, the Content Director for Allegra Publications. I love cake. All kinds of cake. Lemon drizzle, coffee & walnut, chocolate, ginger, carrot… I love trying new cakes and baking them too. I’'m particularly obsessed with chocolate and quite partial to cheese scones, straight from the oven, spread with real butter. This job makes me a very happy girl. Please do register for access to discounts we’'ll be adding and say hi in the comments of the blog!

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