It's week four of my ten part series on modern and artistic wedding and celebration cake decorating techniques and we are talking: Models.
The first think I want to say is actually a small (perhaps controversial) caveat...
I'm not a fan of models on modern and artistic wedding cakes. There – I said it.
There are some very rare occasions when I think it works – to have a very tastefully created and style focused model on a well designed wedding cake...but it really isn't something I've seen often. To me (and this is just my opinion, you are more than entitled to disagree) models tend to tip a wedding cake too far into being a novelty cake. Now if you are wanting a novelty wedding cake – you're sorted – but if you are wanting a modern and artistic cake...models probably aren't the way to go.
So why did I choose to talk about models? I hear you ask!
Well – there are two types of modern and artistic celebration cakes that I do think models work well with: children's cakes, and Christmas cakes. Keep reading to find out more...
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE EXAMPLES
CHILDREN'S MODELS. From animals to people, and from toys to numbers – three-dimensional models on children's cakes can add so much personality to a design. Models often have a more youthful feel to them (probably one of the reasons why I don't think they work so well on wedding cakes) – so they are very appropriate on a child's cake.
Though I would never suggest replicating a famous character, for instance from a television show or book (for copyright reasons); a cute elephant or sheep on a Christening cake, or a model child or number on a birthday cake, for example, can look amazing.
To keep the overall design modern, and artistic, and not novelty – always think about the balance. Instead of lots of little intricate details and models, and an entire 'scene', just pick out a couple of really key elements and make them the focus. One big model is usually more modern and artistic than ten small pieces. Likewise, a simple stripe or patterned covering will likely look more style focused than the entire cake being turned into a treasure island (that's where the line is crossed into novelty).
If the child's personality is very fun and lively – keep lines sharper and colours brighter. If the child is quieter, and perhaps more creative and sensitive, try adding some texture and keeping the colours softer.
CHRISTMAS. The magical nature of the Christmas season opens up different possibility within design. I don't agree with 'rules' for cakes but when it comes to a festive celebration I do think there are less style constraints, and you can push the boundaries when you want to create a modern and artistic design. There is still a slight danger of models making your cake novelty but, because Christmas is fun and full of charm, it's okay to go to the edge of that line.
Great examples of modern and artistic models for a Christmas cake are: hand-crafted icing sugar canes, penguins, and Christmas trees. In fact, most Christmas 'themed' models can work well, just try to keep them on the simple and artistic side rather than comical or 'cartoony'.
How you then balance the overall design is key. As I said earlier about children's models – try to think bigger, and create one or two amazing models that create a style focused design, rather than lots of little intricate details that take you away from a modern and artistic cake and further towards a novelty design. Think about the feel you want to create in your design and balance your models by carefully considering the texture, lines, and colours of the entire cake.
WHERE TO START?
Fancy making some icing models but have never tried before? Get yourself some modelling icing – it will set you off on the right foot before you even start. Sugar-paste is fine for very basic models but to create something worthy of your modern and artistic cake you will want modelling icing (also called paste) which has a slightly different consistency as you work with it and sets firmer. The only time I would recommended a different icing would be for something like a number or letter – where you need the model to set incredibly hard to stay sturdy. For these models you would need pastillage which is an incredibly hard setting icing.
There are many model tutorials both online and in books if you need a guide, or you can get creative and experiment. Don't try to overcomplicate things. If you are a beginner it's best not to start with a model that has many different components, needs lots of setting time in-between stages, and requires a lot of support inside...start with something simple.
Sugar-craft tools, designed for modelling, should be available to buy at your local sugar-craft store. If you want to play around before purchasing any tools, however, items like teaspoon handles, fork prongs, and cocktail sticks – can all help add detail and shaping to your models.
Models always add an element of fun to a cake so enjoy making them. Even if they aren't technically perfect, they will certainly add that touch of personality to your design – and if you can keep the rest of your cake modern and artistic, your model will be the perfect focus.