Product Review: Composi-Mold – And it’s AWESOME


Have you ever sat around thinking about your craft and wishing there was a tool that would meet your needs, but figuring that your dreams of such a thing could never come true?

I frequently look at the vast numbers of decorative molds available and think, “That’s lovely, but I’d probably only use it once and it’s so expensive. Plus I only do cakes for donation most of the time so I can’t cost justify a whole set of fancy molds, nor those silicone mold-making kits.” So I’ve often thought how cool it’d be to have some kind of re-castable medium that’s also food safe. I’ve even tried playing with things like the wax that comes on Baby Bel cheese, frozen buttercream (which does work okay for gummy), and various contraptions made from foil and/or cling wrap. Nothing worked well for casting fine detail, especially from smaller objects.

So when I received a free sample of Composi-Mold FC to review from Composi-Mold – which promised to be a microwaveable, food-safe, reusable mold medium – I was intrigued. I watched their introductory video and their video about using the product with chocolate and fondant, and started to get excited:

It just so happened that I’d just received my Kickstarter mega box load of plastic RPG minis from Reaper, so I decided those would make excellent test subjects. I had no doubt based on the videos that Composi-Mold would do well with large objects, but how would it do with very fine details?

I watched Composi-Mold’s video on making two-part molds and set about doing that with one of the wings from the Reaper Griffon since it seemed like two-sided wings might be a reasonable thing to want for a cake decorating project. It was big and flat so easy from that perspective but would challenge the mold on detail of all of those feathers and would push the limit when casting because of being thin. I figured if this worked, it’d be instant proof that bigger stuff would also work.

At first I decided to see if it’d work to do a more standard two piece mold than they showed, so I tried filling a container with some melted Composi-Mold and laid the wing on top of it.

Composi Mold test 1 - photo 1

I was pretty sure it’d float, especially with that much surface area.

I let that set up hard and cold in the fridge, then froze it for about ten minutes, applied cooking spray to the whole thing, and poured the top half of the mold on.

Composi Mold test 1 - photo 2

This is about where I realized I’d forgotten to add some excess fondant or something to form a sprue hole into which the casting media could be poured. Whoops.

When that half was fully set, I removed the top half which made a beautiful impression. Unfortunately, the floating thing didn’t work at all and the mold on the lower side was riddled with bubbles that got trapped under the wing when I put it on the surface:

Composi Mold test 1 - photo 3

Clearly there were reasons why their video said to do it differently. But at least this reusable material means I didn’t blow money on a mistake like this!

I used the good top half as a push mold with fondant just to see how that’d work, and was quite happy with the result:

Composi Mold test 1 - photo 4

I just pushed Satin Ice into the still-lightly-greased mold as I would any other push mold and it came out with great detail.

Composi Mold test 1 - photo 5

Here’s that one-sided wing trimmed of excess. That’s a perfectly serviceable piece for many cake decorating applications. The residual cooking spray gets absorbed into the fondant in a few hours so don’t worry about cleaning it off.

So then I figured I should actually use their instructions for a two-piece mold! They use polymer clay to affix pieces to the bottom of the container so they don’t move or float, but to keep this entirely food-safe I used a bit of fondant instead and it worked well enough. I stuck the flatter side of the wing down with fondant and poured some Composi-Mold over it:

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 1

If you tap it lightly as you pour, the bubbles come up and away from the item you’re casting.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 2

Here’s that mold solidified. You can now see the fondant I used to stick it to the bottom. Some Composi-Mold got underneath but that’s fine because you just trim that away with an x-acto knife.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 3

Here is the same thing as the photo above but with the excess trimmed away and the fondant removed. I also trimmed the sides with scissors so it’d fit back into the container easily.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 4

This time I remembered to add a bit of fondant on the side as a sprue/filling hole! I also sprayed the whole thing again with cooking spray as a release.

Success! Once it had all set up, I was able to separate the mold along three edges by running my finger down the seam and leave the fourth slightly attached so the whole thing opened like a stiff book.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 5

I also used my x-acto blade to widen the sprue/pour hole a bit, but other than that it looks like I got this mold right!

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 6

Close-up of half of the mold, showing how it really captured so much detail of the original plastic wing. This product is really impressive! (rim shot)

I got an appropriate amount of fondant and pressed it hard between the two halves of the mold. Voila, a lovely two-sided wing that just needed a bit of x-acto work to clean away the excess from the edges:

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 7

Press-molded fondant wing, side 1.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 8

Press-molded fondant wing, side 2.

I trimmed that wing and set it aside to firm up, and later put it on a flower former curve to let it dry solid with a bit of a curve to it.

Meanwhile I sandwiched the mold between two flat plastic tub lids and taped it together tightly with packing tape to hold it firmly shut. I positioned it in a tub mostly upright.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 9

I foolishly put some of the packing tape in the way of the pour hole, but then cut it away with my x-acto blade.

I happened to have some Opaque Gummy around from a separate experiment (which I’ll post about later), but any of my gummy recipes should work just fine and as always the translucency could be used to fantastic effect.

I warmed the gummy up and then let it cool to just before solid and also put the mold in the fridge. That way I’d lessen any chance of hot gummy melting the mold. And therein lies the only fault Composi-Mold has compared to silicone molds: I very much doubt you can cast hot sugar or Isomalt with Composi-Mold because the working temperatures with those media will likely exceed the melting point of Composi-Mold. Think of Composi-Mold in the same light as chocolate molds, not hard candy ones.

Anyway, when the mold was cold and the gummy was liquid but not very hot, I used my standard baster technique to pour it into the mold. Voila! Another success!

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 10

Gummy wing, side 1.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 11

Detail from side 1, showing how well the mold translated the original plastic feather lines to the end product.

Composi Mold test 2 - photo 12

Gummy wing, side 2.

I put the mold back in the freezer for a bit and warmed up some Wilton Candy Melts. I quickly realized though that even when melted, they’re too thick to run down through a thin, cold mold. I could tell that they’d clog up part way down instead of filling out to the ends of the feathers. So instead I held the mold open and filled the recessed cavity side overfull with melted candy melts, then closed the mold and pressed down hard. My first attempt was actually too hard and I think the mold was too cold, because it set up fast and then cracked in there. I cleaned it all out and while the mold was still cool but not fridge-cold, I tried again and pressed firmly but not as hard. Then I let it all set up in the fridge for half an hour and voila, another lovely detailed wing:

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Wilton candy melt wing, side 1. Some edge cleaning is required but an x-acto takes care of that easily. Obviously you could use lots of colours of candy melts or chocolate to spectacular effects.

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Wilton candy melt wing, side 2.

Here are all of the wings together, including some gel-painted details on the one-sided fondant one to highlight the details:

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From top to bottom: the original plastic wing, half of the two-piece mold, the one-sided wing with gel colours added on one side, the two-sided wing dried in a curve, the Opaque Gummy wing, and the Wilton Candy Melt wing.

Clearly, Composi-Mold is fantastic at capturing fine detail and works very well in a variety of edible media. I was wholly impressed by this experiment.

That made me want to really push the limits of the mold and see how small I could go. I grabbed another Reaper mini, this time a man holding a shovel and a lantern. I watched their video on casting plastic army men and followed the directions precisely. Unfortunately, while that clearly works for an extremely liquid medium like casting urethane – which you can easily pour in and manipulate in the mold before it sets up – it didn’t work for edible media. Gummy solidified in the tiny leg holes immediately and wouldn’t progress through. I didn’t even bother trying candy melts. And when I split the whole thing open to make a push mold for fondant, you can see by the photo below that the fondant just wasn’t up to holding that fine detail:

ddd

There was just no way I was going to get that tiny shovel handle out intact in soft fondant.

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Even pushing hard on the outside of this thick mold couldn’t get the fondant between the legs very well. This figure is too small for fondant.

Of course this isn’t the fault of Composi-Mold, but it does illustrate a limitation of using edible media versus other media. Which brings up a another note: even though Composi-Mold sells filters for cleaning the mold medium, I personally would recommend against using non-food media in any Composi-Mold you’re using for food. I would strongly recommend that if you want to make non-edible molded items, get a separate batch and mark them so you can easily distinguish between them. (Update note: Composi-Mold FC is their food safe stuff, LT is their regular stuff, so that might help keep them distinct for you as well.)

Anyway, I decided to give the mini concept another try, but this time found one that had a wide base with a skirt. As you can see from the photo below, my first attempt with the gummy solidified before making its way to the bottom of the mold. For the second attempt, I made the gummy thinner (which makes it much more delicate and hard to get out intact) and used the baster to really shove it down in, but even then it trapped bubbles in the arms and unlike with the urethane in the video linked above, there was no time to squeeze bubbles out before the gummy solidified. So once again I tried shoving fondant into it, but even this broom hand and arm kept breaking off on removal from the mold because fondant just can’t go that small without serious fragility issues.

ddd

The original plastic one on the left is 1.25″ / 3.5 cm tall, so this is super-small scale stuff. It’s possible if you found a mini with the right shape and did proper mold-casting along seam lines you could replicate it in edible media, but at this scale it’s very difficult to work with in general. Again, that’s the edible media that’s tricky: the Composi-Mold picked up the detail and worked just fine.

Summed up: Composi-Mold is a convenient, reusable mold medium that picks up excellent detail from original pieces and translates it well to all kinds of media, including edible ones. The limitations I found were more the fault of the edible media than the Composi-Mold. It is rare for me to be this enthusiastic about a product, but it really does fill my personal need to be able to have on-the-fly molds for cake decorating without purchasing tons of expensive silicone molds.

I will be eagerly demonstrating and recommending Composi-Mold to the Capital Confectioners Cake Club in August, and I know there will be a bunch of dropped jaws followed by applause. I will also send this review out to everyone I love in the cake world, because I know this is something a lot of people have been wishing for!

I am so impressed with this product that I’ve even agreed to place an affiliate link on the sidebar of this blog, which otherwise doesn’t accept advertising. I will get 10% of sales from that link but honestly I’d post their link even without that because I heartily recommend it.

Composi-Mold rocks. Get some and make things on your cakes that nobody else has ever made before!



UPDATE: This post is actually referring to Composi-Mold FC, their Food Contact version. There is also Composi-Mold LT which is the original version not meant to be used for food. If you are purchasing some for food, be sure to stick to the FC stuff.

Posted in Experimental Techniques, Gummy, Products, Severe Nerdery | 1 Comment

“Pretend It’s Healthy Because It’s Got Oats In It” Microwave Snack Cake


So you know those evenings when you’re sitting around and want a nice snack but you don’t want an over-sugared box mix brownie or cupcake because it’ll wreck your sleep or be diabetic-bad or whatever? You want something tasty and chocolatey, but you’d like it to have some kind of decent ingredient in it to mitigate the bad ingredients? And you don’t want to bake something for an hour because then you’ll be forced to spend that time playing your favourite video game instead of going to bed? FORCED, I say! Yes.

A few weeks ago I wanted something like that but had had such bad results from the various microwave mug chocolate cakes I’ve tried that I went desperately Googling for something different. I tried putting oats in the search because I’ve got lots of oats on hand and they’re healthy and filling.

I found a lot of minor variations on something called a Toll House Microwave Snack Cake (mostly like this one), but can’t actually find it as an original on the Nestle recipe site. All of the versions I found were too big for what I wanted, and the fat and sugar amounts were really quite high.

After some tweaking around, I have come up with a smaller, healthier version that I love so much it’s become my regular snack-attack go-to deliciousness. I cut it in half for two really generous servings but it could easily serve four as a dessert.

oat snack cake with chocolate chips

Dense, oaty, mildy sweet, very tasty and filling. Add your own other ingredients to suit your tastes and needs.

"Pretend It's Healthy Because It's Got Oats In It" Microwave Snack Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A dense, mildly sweet, very tasty oat cake with chocolate chips or your preferred ingredients.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup (half stick) of regular butter, softened
  • ¾ cup oats, quick or old fashioned, uncooked
  • ¼ cup flour, whole wheat or AP
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar (I actually don't fill my ¼ cup, so I'm doing a bit more than an ⅛th cup but I don't like things sweet)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips, or semi-sweet, or whatever you like
Method
  1. In a microwaveable bowl (I like our Corelle large stew bowls for this, a cereal bowl is probably too small), mix everything up to the milk. Make sure it's thoroughly blended.
  2. Add the nuts and chips. Mix in.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic and poke one or two small vent holes.
  4. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes depending on your microwave. It's done when the top looks dry and is springy to the touch.
  5. Use a knife to separate the cake from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Handle the bowl with gloves because it'll be hot. Tip it out onto a plate. Scrape out any remaining chocolate chips and eat them. Obviously this is a required step.
  7. The original recipe said to let it cool because it was clearly written by criminally insane people. Eat it warm and gooey. You're welcome.

 
 

By the way, this happened so my posts might not be so frequent for a bit. I’ll do my best but sleep is suddenly at a premium!

Posted in Links, My Recipes, Other Food, Other People's Recipes | Leave a comment

The Last Cookie Bender


Or maybe the first. Probably somewhere in between. It was either that or a Futurama joke and I do try to keep this blog family-friendly.

Anyway.

COOKIE BENDING!

A friend on G+ challenged me to make a bent-clock cookie as seen in Dali’s famous piece The Persistence of Memory. I Googled around to see if anyone else had made such a thing and found that the Dali Museum apparently sells two-dimensional bent-clock cookies, but that was all I could find.

So I made one:

Dali Cookie

Chocolate cookie with fondant painted with food gel and edible ink marker.

The decorating wasn’t any particular challenge, but to get the cookie to bake bent – plus unbroken and stable for decorating – took some experimentation.

I was making some of my favourite rolled chocolate cookie dough for some facehugger and sonic screwdriver cookies for friends anyway, so I decided to experiment with some extra dough.

At first I thought I’d hang the cookies to bake with the hopeful result that they’d hang of their own accord after decorating. But I wasn’t sure if the dough would move too much, so I ran some tests.

I cut some ovals out of the dough and hung them on a flour-sprayed inverted cake pan:

cookie experiment 1

I tried to support them up against the rolled lip of the pan. It felt stable while cold, but I could already tell they would probably shift at least a little during cooking.

In short order, though, it became apparent that there was going to be a weak spot at the bend:

cookie experiments 2

Sure, that crack would be covered by the fondant I planned to put on top, but weakness is never good in cookie construction, even when hidden.

Thus, even though I already had doubts about this working I knew people would inevitably ask, “Have you tried…” so I persisted. With memory. See what I did there? Heh. Yeah. Ahem. Anyway.

I tried adding extra material to the bend point and put that cookie on the pan along with the other two regular ones.

cookie experiments 3

I was already anticipating failure as a meaningful result at this point. Science works whether you want it to or not.

Annnnnnd…yup, there’s the negative result as anticipated:

cookie experiment 4

Cue the sad trombones.

cookie experiment 5

This is the one I added extra material to, which you can see just weighed it down more.

But as Adam Savage so wisely said, “Failure is always an option.” It’s important, because it gives us data. And what do we do here at Eat the Evidence when we have an aesthetic failure of a tasty baked good?

Cookie Monster animated gif.

That’s right, Cookie. We Eat the Evidence, nom nom eye-wiggle nom. Image from here. Intended for parody/educational purposes only. Don’t sue me…all I’ve got is a stale Dali cookie in my cabinet. Plus I’m a sustaining PBS member so that surely counts for something, right?

In fact, since one of them actually came off the pan intact, it at least gave me hope that cookie bending was plausible by some other method.

cookie experiments 6

Yes, my daughter and I ate this. And the broken bits of the other two. And we scraped the delicious crumbs out of the cake pan’s rim and ate those too. Don’t judge us. What? Nothing. Yes.

Next I thought I’d try the Simi Flex Form Molds I had just been reviewing for use with gummy. I thought maybe if I could use some foil to hold the ends in place, I could somehow curve the strip under the cookie and hold it up during baking like an underwire. But just like underwires, this proved to be a hassle-prone idea because the flex form just didn’t want to stay in place, especially once it got slick with the flour spray:

cookie experiment 7

This is why I don’t post videos to this blog very often, because the language I was using with this all flopping around all over the place was decidedly not family-friendly.

To be fair, the flex forms were not made with this in mind so this is not in any way a strike against them. I was just trying to see if I could repurpose them for something else.

I bailed on the idea of using an inverted cake pan entirely and decided instead to try a muffin pan. I rigged up one cookie with no spray and one cookie with spray. I knew the top end would sag into the other cup, but figured this was worth a proof-of-concept try anyway.

cookie experiment 8

I thought maybe being bumped up against the bottom of the cup would stop the dough from going too far. I have had success in making hollow-sphere cookies before (oh yeah, I should probably post that since I promised to um…a year ago…heh…), so this was at least plausible.

If this had worked, I’d have done it again with foil or something in the other cup to hold the top edge up. But as shown below, it didn’t work. The sprayed side was a particularly bad result:

cookie experiment 9

Oh the cookianity!

cookie experiment 10

This side isn’t horrible and may have been made to work with some support for the top edge, except that it was really, really hard to get off in one piece. I don’t like posting instructions for other folks that are likely to make people frustrated, so while this had promise, it still was not an acceptable methodology for cookie bending.

cookie experiments 11

Mind you, it did look kind of nifty when it came off, and was reasonably stable like this.

The time had come to realize that hanging it to bake just wasn’t going to work. I needed to prop it up face-down, meaning the interior corner would puff out and not be well-suited for actual hanging against a cornered edge, but at least I could get a stable bent cookie out of it.

So I cut another couple of ovals and propped them up against a silicone mini pan I won as a door prize and haven’t used for much else other than making a big candy star for a holiday cake:

cookie experiment 12

I made sure to push them up against the little pan firmly for as much of a bent edge as possible. At this point I was reasonably sure this would work, since I’ve had cookies come out slightly curved from parchment paper bumped up on pan edges.

Sure enough, this worked:

cookie experiments 13

Bent cookies! Hurrah! Be sure not to remove the support until they’ve cooled, though, or else the hot, tender dough will just slump over. But once cool, these are pretty strong in this shape.

It sat around waiting to be decorated for several days because I was so busy with other projects. But eventually I got around to rolling and cutting some white fondant in the melted shape of the Dali clock and applying that to the cookie with some water and corn syrup. I then made a very dilute mixture of water and blue food gel and painted it on to look as close to the original painting as possible. I let that dry for nearly 24 hours to be sure it was completely dry.

Next I made the markings for the clock and wrote on the numbers. I then rolled a long snake of yellow and wrapped it around, pushing it gently to overlap the face edge, fixing it in place with corn syrup and water. I sculpted the teeny tiny bee and teeny tiny hands, then added the top knob and voila, a Dali-inspired actually-bent melted-clock cookie:

Dali Cookie - side view

Side view so you can see the bend. The colour jar used for support is the one I used for the painting. I usually prefer Americolor gels but I still have some of these Wilton ones around from my early decorating days, and in this case I wanted a more dilute color so Wilton is better for that.

Dali Cookie - Bee view

View from the other side so you can see the bee better. Note how I indented the yellow border more harshly in some places to accentuate the wobbly-melty design. The timey-wimey-ness, if you will. And if you clicked the link above to the sonic screwdriver cookies, I know you will.

Dali Cookie - back

The back side, where you can see that the dough has pinched itself so while it’s strong enough, it won’t sit flush against a corner.

There you have it. You can bend cookies, as long as the recipe allows for it and you have it fully supported. Some doughs turn almost to liquid during baking (which is why they spread so far) and thus may not work as well as more stable doughs. I happen to know that this chocolate dough doesn’t spread so much, which is why I keep pushing it beyond sensible limits. If you want to make a bent cookie, be sure to test your preferred recipes in advance. You will likely not have trouble finding an audience to help you eat your evidence!

Posted in Cake Decorating, Cookies, Experimental Techniques, General Freakishness | 3 Comments

Gummy Stars and Stripes


Last weekend I attended the 2013 Frosting Creators of San Antonio Day of Sharing and decided to do some further gummy experiments with the excuse of entering a piece into their “Born in the USA” themed contest.

I wanted to find out the following:

1) Could I get a translucent white gummy, as in, not use the Opaque recipe but somehow use the Clear recipe without resorting to adding white food colouring, which clumps up and makes speckles?

2) Could I cast gummy directly onto plexiglass instead of doing the more labour-intensive Flexible, Edible Stained Glass methodology of creating sheets, drying them, cutting them, and fusing them?

3) What would happen to the gummy cast directly onto the plexiglass as it dried? Would it be stuck to the plexiglass enough to keep it in place, or would it eventually curl the glass or split apart?

Thus, I made the US flag in gummy, figuring I probably wouldn’t win anything in the competition but that it was good impetus to answer those questions.

First, I sized a graphic of the US flag to the width of my plexiglass, which I got inexpensively as part of a poster frame from Target. I had some printing issues but managed to get the stars section and enough of the stripes that I could then use a ruler on the paper that came in the frame to draw out the rest of the lengths.

While prepping some blue Basic Gummy and warming/cooling it several times over for optimal clarity, I clipped one of the frame sides on to keep the gummy from flowing over the side and used Simi Flex Form Molds (which I recently reviewed here) as dams on the other three sides, held down with small fondant buckets especially along the frame clip to ensure there was no leaking.

gummy US flag 1

The Simi silicone strips stick to the plexiglass well, but I used tubs just to be sure that joins and overlaps were pinched tight.

Then I used a baster to carefully apply the blue gummy into that space.

gummy US flag 2

See those blue drips in the upper left corner? Whenever I do gummy work, I make an effort to approach with the baster from an angle where drips will matter the least. Sometimes there aren’t any drips, but if there are, you don’t want them to land on your actual work surface or other portions of your piece if you can avoid it. Although the stained glass ebook does cover how to recover from such a mishap, should it happen.

I let it set up on the kitchen table for a very long time (mostly because I had to go pick my kid up from school) and then removed the strips and the side clip carefully to reveal a lovely blue rectangle:

gummy US flag 3

Any slight remnants were easily trimmed off with an x-acto blade, and otherwise this was perfectly aligned on my printout.

Next I used a star cutter as close as possible to the size of the stars on my printout. This would have been easier if I’d done it when the gummy was still freshly poured and just solid, but because as mentioned above I had to pick up my kid, take her to karate, come home, make dinner, get her to bed, etc., it was evening before I got to cutting and the gummy was really solid. I had to push the cutter down fairly hard and give it a wiggle each time to cut through (which probably scratched the plexiglass but I didn’t mind since I was only using it for this project and the seams would hide those scratches). On that first hole, you can see some ragged edges because I didn’t cut down far enough and had to go in with an x-acto blade to remove the star. After that, I cut harder and they came out more cleanly.

gummy US flag 4

By the second last column of stars, my thumb was bruised from pushing on the little cutter and I thought of Grandpa Simpson.

Next is where that first question came into play: how could I get a white gummy that wasn’t the Opaque recipe (because I thought opaque would be too harsh against the translucency of the red and blue, and half the point of doing stuff in gummy is the translucency)? I still need to write a separate post all about the speckling that occurs when you add white food colouring to gummy, but I knew that that wouldn’t work. So I tried an experiment of adding a tiny bit of milk to the Clear recipe. It worked! After a few experiments, I decided that two teaspoons of milk to a single batch of Clear was the right level of white for what I wanted. I then carefully filled in each star hole with that result, letting the beads of liquid rise a little above the holes to help ensure there was enough to settle into the pointed ends of the stars without leaving gaps.

gummy US flag 5

These puffs did flatten out a bit as they firmed up and dried.

Then I lined up some of the Simi strips along the lines on my sketch, pushing them up against the blue field, and put one of the frame’s side clips on the other side to once again help contain the gummy as it flowed.

gummy US flag 6

I took the time to write R and W in every stripe on my guiding diagram because when you’re working closely on a piece and getting tired, it’s far too easy to make a mistake. Always build in extra safeguards against silly errors, especially the kinds of errors that will offend people.

gummy US flag 7

The key when filling a trench like this is to go in a smooth, steady motion and let the flow of the gummy push its way along. Remember that you can use your baster to suck up any bubbles that come out, and be sure not to overfill the area or it will flow over the far side. You want to put enough in there that it makes a thick piece that wells up against that side clip without bulging over.

Then it’s simply a matter of working your way down, letting each stripe solidify and then using one of the Simi strips to make a dam for the next one.

gummy US flag 8

This was a fairly easy project at this point: cast, go do something else for half an hour, repeat.

gummy US flag 10

Progressing down the stripes.

It is important to mention that the plexiglass does flex under the warmth of the gummy, even when you let it cool down substantially. You can see in the photo below how the flexing created highs and lows in the stripes, and if you look at the blue section you can see that it’s lighter in the middle because it’s thinner there. I thought this might happen but wasn’t worried about it, and as the piece progressed and the “waves” lined up with each other naturally, I decided it was a good look for a flag. But this might not be so good if you wanted it to be perfectly even, so keep that in mind.

gummy US flag 9

You can somewhat combat this by paying close attention as your filling the trench and adding a bit more gummy to the thin spots, but that can usually just flow along anyway so you can only do so much about it. If this will ruin your piece, don’t cast directly onto the plexiglass; use the more standard techniques shown in the Flexible, Edible Stained Glass book instead.

When I got to the longer stripes below the blue field, I had to use two Simi flex mold strips end-to-end because the longest is 21″ and I was making a 24″ wide flag. But my earlier tests had shown that they were pretty good about not allowing leaks, and even when a bit dribbled through it would self-plug the hole as it set up, so I wasn’t too worried.

gummy US flag 11

End-to-end Simi Flex Molds on the wider part of the flag. No leak! These really are great products for this sort of thing. They’re made for isomalt but work very well for gummy.

When it was all done and very definitely set up, I took it outside for some sunlit photos. I wish I had a way of suspending it against the clear blue sky, but this was the best I could do because our neighbourhood has so many lovely tall trees:

gummy US flag 12

Behold the gummy glory of Old Glory!

gummy US flag 13

A direct view.

gummy US flag 14

Detail of the stars which actually sparkled in the sun quite nicely.

The reason I put it on plexiglass was so that it could be mounted in a curved fashion on a stand at the actual show and I could write on the information sheet that judges are invited to bend it to see how incredibly flexible it is. I did that for the Lady of Shalott piece for the Austin show in 2012 but the judges there didn’t understand and actually knocked points off for the plexiglass. Thankfully in San Antonio they understood and later told me they thought that was a cool aspect of the presentation.

In fact I guess they really dug it, because they gave it first place in the Special Techniques category! And this was in the Masters division! I entered it at that level because the way their show writes the rules, I guess I’m a master of gummy since I’m the only one who has done this much work with it and put out a book on the subject. I didn’t expect to win anything, though. And to be really fair, it was the only piece in its category and division that was on-theme. Still, I’ll happily take that pretty blue ribbon!

gummy US flag 15

Ooo, shiny!

Now for the bad news: remember my question above about what would happen as the gummy dried? The answer is it splits apart at the joins. It actually had started to do this by the morning of the show, which was frustrating. By the time I got around to making this post a week later, several deep splits had shown up:

gummy US flag 16

This is the most recent split, which I noticed yesterday, about a week and a day after creation.

gummy US flag 17

This split was there on the Sunday morning of the show, a few days after creation. It hasn’t gotten any bigger, though.

gummy US flag 18

Some splits at the side started showing up through the day during the show and have been slowly getting worse since. That makes sense since they’ll be drying out the most with the increased surface exposure on the ends.

So what does all of this mean? Summed up, you can cast pieces directly onto plexiglass for a short-term display and they will fuse together, but you need to be aware that as they dry, the fused edges will start to pull apart in random places. I could have cast this whole thing on the plexiglass in one day and then carefully removed it to form one whole piece, then laid it back down or put it on something else and that would have relieved some of the tension from the drying, especially if I repeated that a few times. But remember that I likely scratched the plexiglass when cutting the stars and trimming the sides of stripes, so if I’d lifted it and put it back down, those hidden scratches may have become more apparent.

You could, of course, make a piece like this on a food-safe super-smooth mat and then wrap it around a cake (in this case, a very large cake). You could even allow it to drape and fold like thick cloth, and the fused joins should stay together fine as long as they’re not stressed in any way, including as they dry further.

Just be aware that you can’t make a long-term piece of large pieces fused together unless you allow for drying and shrinkage, or the fuses will pull apart.

Here’s to hoping some of you make something cool for the 4th of July with this information. Maybe it’s time to do something other than a blueberry, strawberry, and whipped cream cake this year? Why not make a cake, cover it with white buttercream, and make a small flag out of gummy and lay it right on the buttercream? That’ll impress your friends and family to be sure!

And yes, despite becoming a US citizen last year I am still also a Canadian citizen. I could make a giant gummy Canadian flag, but it’d be much trickier to cast those two big red stripes and then a vast white field in the center. Then I’d have to cut out the maple leaf and fill that area with red, right up into each of the eleven pointy corners and do it as evenly as possible. That’s harder. If someone nearby holds an event where I have an excuse to do it, though, I will…

Posted in Experimental Techniques, Gummy, Praise from others | 1 Comment

Clear Gummy Recipe Posted!


At long last I’ve posted the recipe for Clear (as in colour-free) Gummy:

http://www.eat-the-evidence.com/gummy/clear-no-colour-gummy/

part of a sailboat made in the gummy stained glass technique

The sails are Clear Gummy cast thin with nothing else added. The light blue is Clear with the tiniest amount of blue added. The green and darker blue are both Basic Gummy.

Up until now this recipe was only available in my Flexible, Edible Stained Glass ebook. But now that all three of my gummy recipes are here on the website, I can finally catch up on posts about the various pieces I’ve made using the recipes, including my Austin cake show stuff from February and a piece I just did last week for a San Antonio show. Spoiler alert: I have a shiny new ribbon!

I’ll try to get those other posts out as fast as possible, given the real-life stuff I have going on.

Posted in Gummy, My Recipes | Leave a comment

Product Review: Simi Flex Form Molds


One of the things about our huge cake show here in Austin every year is that we get a lot of amazing folks in from all across the country and around the world. One of the other things is that there are so many of them and so many wonderful things to see and do at the show – and that’s aside from the massive volunteer hours we on the core team pour in – that I inevitably miss doing some things or talking to some people.

Thus I spent the bulk of the show at the kids’ area which was diagonally across from the super-talented Sidney Galpern‘s vendor booth. Throughout the show I meant to go over and chat with her and check out her cool Isomalt wares, because even though I’ve never worked with Isomalt (I want to but haven’t been able to cost-justify it), a lot of the silicone tools made for gumpaste or Isomalt work very well with gummy.

Alas, the show came to an end and although I was literally the last person to leave, I didn’t manage to get time to check out Sidney’s wares. So I emailled her after the show to ask if her Simi Flex Form Molds – made to allow for free-form Isomalt pouring – would work for gummy.

She didn’t know but wanted me to test them. And because she’s not only amazingly talented but also as sweet as the sugar she sculpts, she insisted on sending them to me for free to test. That’s my way of saying the necessary disclaimer that I got the products I’m reviewing for free and that I consider the maker/seller a friend, but I swear my opinions are 100% honest nonetheless.

So: can you use Simi Flex Form Molds to pour gummy shapes? Short answer: yes! There are some caveats but if you want to pour pre-shaped, thicker sheets of gummy than you can just with open-flow, you can absolutely use these products to help. Sidney and I had wondered if piping gel would be required to prevent the very runny gummy from pouring out all over the place but as you’ll see in the tests below – even using texture mats – no piping gel is required.

For my first test, I used one of the flex form strips in a random, fairly tight shape on a smooth silicone mat. I filled it with basic gummy in orange.

test 1 - 1

Random loop with orange gummy added as full as possible without risking overflow.

I was worried that the join would leak, but it didn’t, at least at first. I had it pushed together fairly firmly and the whole thing pushed down on the mat, and that worked well.

test 1 - 2

Closeup of the ends of the flex form strip pushed together. You can see the gummy through there but it isn’t leaking out.

But after a short time I noticed that the other side was leaking from beneath. I tried to get a picture but the camera couldn’t focus properly because as I took the photo the tight inner curve popped out, which explains the leak:

test 1 - 3

That curve popped out just I snapped this photo so there was no time to try for a better one.

When it popped out the whole thing expanded so fast that it actually left a bubble which then slowly filled itself in:

test 1 - 4

Seconds later as the whole thing flowed out to fill the new space and the bubble left behind.

So definitely be careful not to make a shape that the silicone doesn’t want to hold, or at least weigh it down (I have done this on a separate project since which I’ll post about next week, but can’t yet because it’ll be in competition this Sunday).

I let the piece firm up on the counter for a good 15 minutes and then put it in the fridge to be extra-sure that it was solid. Then I was able to easily remove the strip, which left a nice smooth edge everywhere but at the join, and even there it was pretty good:

test 1 - 5

The dribble to the left is incidental from the baster and not related to the test, but the excess left along the top inner ridge illustrates how the level fell when the edge flipped out and expanded the area.

On the other side where it had flopped out, there was still some leakage from below. But as you can see, it has a clear trim line and it’s no problem to cut that flap off and throw it back in the pot.

test 1 - 6

Other than the tight curve popping out, this was otherwise a pretty good test that yielded a slab of gummy that couldn’t be made just using standard open flow.

I tried a less-curved shape for a second test, this time on a very shallow texture mat to see if it would leak.

test 2 - 1

This time I didn’t make such harsh curves and also gave it time to sit and sure it wasn’t going to pop out. It’s also on a lined texture mat.

On this test, the join parted a little, probably because the strip didn’t stick to the texture mat as well as it did my silicone mat. But I was very pleased that the small leak cooled as it came out, becoming a self-plugging leak.

test 2 - 2

This very slight leak firmed up quickly and plugged itself. So yeah, this is kind of a gummy scab. Yum!

Here’s the piece solidified. It looks like there was some very minor leaking around the sides, but again, this can be easily trimmed off. In fact, most of the time it’ll tear off, but if you’re concerned you should of course use a blade on a separate surface for neat trimming.

test 2 - 3

You can tell where the ends joined by the little scab-bump, but that and the other leak bits are easily trimmed off.

This sheet is considerably thicker than the ones I make for my Flexible, Edible Stained Glass technique, which flow out without barriers. This would be much more useful for making something like a pond on a cake (with the caveat that fresh gummy has enough moisture to turn fondant to goo and will actually tunnel its way through over time).

test 2 - 4

The texture came through quite nicely, as it always does with gummy.

For my next test, I moved up to a deeper texture mat and tried looping the strip around itself to see if that would affect leakage.

test 3 - 1

This is a brick texture mat with deeper indentations than the previous fine-line mat.

This one did leak on the underside a little bit more, but again, it was self-plugging.

test 3 - 2

A self-plugging leak under the bottom edge, no doubt because it’s impossible for the mold strip to lay perfectly flush against a texture this deep.

test 3 - 3

A slightly larger gummy scab, but again this cooled and set to hold the rest back.

So these flaps are bit thicker and probably can’t be torn off, but it can still be trimmed. Further, the wrap-around method did let me make a tighter circle, although there’s a clear step to the edge. This could also be trimmed, but that’d be a bit trickier to do smoothly.

test 3 - 4

Pushing the molds to a reasonable limit still yielded perfectly usable results that just need some trimming.

Again, you can get nice, thick sheets using these:

test 3 - 5

You could use sharp cutters on these to make shapes of all kinds.

Sidney also sells various shapes that can be put on your mat before you pour to leave indentations. Here I tested a flower and a sea shell, and they work perfectly fine:

test 4 - 1

Just make sure they’re flush with your surface so nothing flows under them.

test 4 - 2

The shapes pop out easily once you get ahold of them. Be careful not to damage anything with a sharp tool; just use something enough to catch an edge of the form and lift it out.

Based on other similar molds I’ve played with, I know that as long as this first piece is very cold and firm, you can fill the indentations with another colour or type of gummy. I also know that some colours disappear into others. For instance, if I filled these shapes with yellow, they wouldn’t be seen. If I put some black in, they would, but at this thickness would still be obscured (which you can glean from how obscured the shapes themselves are two photos above). However, you could definitely fill your piece to just deep enough to make a super-thin covering over the inclusion, and then carefully add a different colour that way. There are a lot of different creative possibilities here.

Overall, I give the strips a solid thumbs-up for making thick gummy sheets. As mentioned above, I’ve used them for a project since that I’ll reveal after this Sunday. If you want to be able to cast guided sheets – especially thick ones – you should definitely get a set of the strips. If you’re playing with gummy with kids or have lots of creative possibilities, the inclusions sets are fun add-ons.

Posted in Gummy, Products | 1 Comment

Austin Bakes for West


I got an email via Bake a Wish that there will be a bake sale to benefit West, TX hosted by Austin Bakes. Details and a sign-up form to bake or volunteer can be found here.

poster with more info

I’m already committed to something else so I can’t participate, but if you’re in the central Texas area and are available – even if it’s just to go purchase some delicious noms! – please join in.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Donated Items | Leave a comment

Free Hugs For Your Face


I recently made some cookies with nerdy things on them to send to friends. I will protect their privacy but I still want to show the rest of you the nerdtasticiosity. Yes that’s a real word: I’m a perfeshunal writer.

Anyway.

First up: one each of every Sonic Screwdriver used by Doctor Who. I used this wonderful art by CosmicThunder on DeviantArt as a guide. I printed them and put clear packing tape on both sides of the paper. Then I cut them out so I could roll the cookie dough and cut the shapes out with a knife. Then I propped them up by the cookies as I applied the royal icing, and later again as I used an edible ink black marker to add details.

sonic screwdriver cookies

Tasty and they fix everything in the universe, including plot holes. Oh snap! Heh heh heh.

Next: I promised some Google staffers cookies if they fixed problems I was having with the G+ page belonging to a character from my latest novel. They fixed the page, so I made them cookies! I figured if they were having a bad day it might be fun to chomp their work logos, and if they were having a good day then they could absorb the Powers of Google by nommage. Again, that must be a real word because I’m a perfeshunal writer.

I was a bit disappointed in how my Google logos turned out, and at the later bleeding of the red on the G+ logos, but I don’t think the recipients minded either issue. Funny how free tasty cookies can enhance aesthetic appreciation that way.

Lastly, I made a friend some facehugger cookies because they asked and that amused me. If you don’t know what a facehugger is and you’re reading this because you’re young and this is a family-friendly blog, then I assure you that it’s a very sweet and loving alien creature who just really wants to hug your face and stuff chocolate into it. Yep. That’s all. Nothing terrifying here whatsoever.

As with the screwdrivers, I found a picture online (in this case of the plush toy, which only emphasizes how entirely family-friendly and non-scary these creatures are, really really), printed it to the size desired, taped either side, cut it out, and used that as a template to cut the cookies and later decorate them.

Alien facehugger cookies

The trick to getting the knobbly look is to do every other blob bit first and let those set up, then go back and do the others in between. The trick to being willing to stick one of these in your mouth is starting off with a twisted mind.

facehugger cookie detail

Detail of a facehugger. Although if anyone can tell me why I keep getting those bubble-sink-holes in my royal icing despite all attempts to reduce such things in the first place, I’d be obliged!

I also started an experiment with this cookie batch that isn’t quite finished yet, but pay no heed to the cackling you hear from my kitchen. I’m sure your memory of said cackles won’t persist anyway. You’ll just have to stay tuned for more.

Posted in Cake Decorating, Cookies, General Freakishness, Severe Nerdery, Sick and Twisted | 2 Comments

Fondant On, Fondant Off


I made a cake for a fundraiser for SunDragon Martial Arts studio where my daughter takes karate lessons. It’s a wonderful dojo in south Austin with a self-defense focus and a very female-positive attitude. I highly recommend it and was honoured to make them a cake!

I made six batches total of this Beat and Bake Orange Cake, but with an extra 1/4 cup of milk added to each. I still think it ended up a little too dry, but the flavour was good. I also added significantly more zest than called for, plus a few drops of orange oil. I also used my standard buttercream recipe (based on Carol Deacon’s recipe from her books) with zest added, since the recipe that comes with this cake is far too sweet for my tastes.

The fondant used was Satin Ice since I had some leftover from the kid’s table at the Austin cake show. Thank you to Satin Ice for donating it to the show: it went to yet another good non-profit cause!

The cake was designed in five layers because Seido karate has five belt colours and five words in their code of ethics. Of course I was halfway finished the cake when I realized it’s five colours plus beginner white! So I suddenly had to adapt my design and put the black belt on top. I mean…I meant to do that. Yes.

I covered the bottom in black (or rather purple with Americolor Super Black added since I didn’t have any black on hand), then the second up in red, then orange, and then the top two in yellow. I then airbrushed them all to give them a gradient look to match the dojo’s sun-style logos.

Full karate cake - facing belt knots

This is all Satin Ice except the red on the bottom, which is my homemade recipe, rolled with a texture pin and lightly airbrushed and then wiped for a recessive-wash effect.

Next I rolled out belts and wrapped them around, including faux knots. I deliberately made the white belt knot untidy because it seems that new students never can get their belts right. For the others, I tied my daughter’s belt around a chair properly so I could examine the knot. Always look to reality if you can when trying to replicate it!

Then I made the figure, building her directly onto the black belt on top, which is unusual for me. Usually I make them separately but I was worried about getting the legs and feet right if I did her on a hard surface. I rolled her legs separately and joined them at the hips rather than my usual method because I wanted them to look like loose, round pants more than usual, and I knew her jacket would cover any seam at the torso. I formed her chest using a foil ball and toothpicks going up for the head and down to anchor the body. I also used a body mold instead of my usual human figure printout because I wanted to match the size to the face on that mold. I’d only used the mold for gummy before (more on that coming soon) and wanted to try it with fondant. It stuck too much for actually molding the limbs, but it worked okay for the face. However, I used sculpting tools to soften the face and adjust the expression.

Partially made karate figure

I wasn’t worried about the figure being perfect at this layer other than the face and pants, because I knew I’d be putting a jacket over her. What was important was to ensure any curves I wanted to show through the jacket be pronounced at this point since a fondant overlay can mask subtle curves.

I rolled out very thin bits of fondant for the jacket in pieces more or less matching my daughter’s, based on where the seams were. Then I hid the torn part with a belt, used a pounce wheel to mark some seam lines, added arms, feet, hair, and painted-on details. The insignia are loosely based on my daughter’s jacket, but changed slightly for being teeny tiny. The hair was deliberately done in messy chunks with added tendrils to look like she’s just had a workout. I didn’t intend originally for her to come out with such a butt-kicking expression, but there you have it! The dojo’s motto is “I Fight Like a Girl” so it’s apropos.

Figure - front

Figure - front right

Figure - back right

Figure - back left

Figure - left

Figure - Front Left

Once the figure was done, I rolled out some yellow fondant, sprayed it quickly with my dwindling supply of Wilton Color Mist in red (I’m letting the stuff run out now that I have an airbrush which is far superior…I’ve been meaning to do a review of the Color Mist for some time which boils down to meh: it works in a pinch but smells awful and leaves a chemical taste on cookies), and then used the small Wilton alphabet cutters to cut out the letters for the five words in the Seido karate code of ethics. I would have preferred to arrange them with the smallest at the top going down to the largest on the bottom, but I let my daughter choose the order.

Full cake - words side

To center words, write it out on a piece of paper, find the center point, put the central letter(s) on your cake first and then work out to the sides. Just be sure to read it when you’re done to ensure you haven’t messed up the spelling. In fact, do that for everything written on a cake ever.

Lastly, I printed out two copies of the dojo’s logo to the size I wanted, cut out the red pieces from one copy and the yellow from another, and trace-cut those out of thinly rolled fondant. I had pre-determined where I wanted pieces to fit or to bend so it was easy-peasy to fashion them and fix them in place. Then I cut out the letters for the dojo’s name and voila, done!

Full cake - Sun Dragon logo

It helps when someone gives you a cool logo to work with in the first place!

The cake was served at a fundraiser party, and surrounded by small children the entire time who couldn’t keep their eyes off and some could barely keep their hands off as well. Once it was cut, I let some of them poke at the chunks of fondant that were no longer needed.

cake being served

Me and my daughter on the left, as I pretend to not notice that the boy in blue keeps sneaking pieces of the belts. I let unsupervised children eat fondant and might start handing out espressos and puppies one of these days…

Posted in Cake Decorating, Donated Items, Fancy cakes, Figures | 1 Comment

Kids’ Classes!


My classes for kids on making fondant animals just got listed at Make it Sweet:

KIMBERLY’S KIDS – FONDANT FIGURES
Kids should come join Kimberly Chapman in this fun hands-on class. They will learn the basics of making animal figures out of fondant. We’ll start with a basic bear, show how some small adjustments turn it into a spiky-maned lion, and then get a little more advanced with an adorable elephant. Each figure will be on it’s own cupcake, so kids will bring their tasty creations home. All supplies and tools provided. Classes are designed for kids only and separated into groups of 5 to 9 year olds and 9 to 12 year olds.
Cost: $20
Register here.

Ages 5 to 9 yrs old | April 28 | Sunday | 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Ages 9 to 12 yrs old | April 28 | Sunday | 2:00 – 2:30 pm

Here’s the photo from their newsletter of the animals placed on cupcakes:

fondant animals on cupcakes

Photo from the Make it Sweet Newsletter

Here are some close ups of the animals from my kitchen:

Fondant bear

Basic Bear

fondant lion

Punky Lion

fondant elephant

Elephant

I’ll tailor how detailed the animals get based on the kids who attend: if they’re more advanced and patient, I’ll show them how to do more details. For the younger ones in particular, there’s no requirement to make the animals as shown. I’ll encourage creativity and having fun with the food!

Even if you can’t attend, please help me spread the word. There will be more classes in the future if these do well.

If you have suggestions or requests for other classes, just let me know.

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Posted in Cake Decorating, Classes, Working With Kids | Leave a comment