Semi Hand Made

You're a decorator -- so by definition, you're a perfectionist. Well, Ruth Rickey is here to say that, in certain situations, you have permission to shed some of your stress of perfection. At the All Things Baking show in Houston, Rickey taught a class on creating gumpaste flowers that featured some short cuts to make your life a little easier.

By learning what's important based on the task at hand, you can simplify your life -- and actually get back to it. Think about your decorating living in one of two worlds: competition or customers. Oftentimes the demands for each can be vastly different. In competition, your work is seen by the trained eye of a professional judge. But for a cake order, it's seen by a customer, who is highly skilled in one key area: knowing what she wants. And chances are, what's important by her standards isn't necessarily what a competition judge would think. So pay attention to the parts she finds important -- perhaps it's the color, the writing or the overall feel, rather than if a calla lilly is botanically correct. "If you listen, you can learn what's important," Rickey says. "Then you don't have to sweat the rest of it."

Here are a few key questions to ask yourself when creating a gumpaste flower for  a customer order:

1. Will they notice?
2. Will they care?
3. If they notice and care, will they pay the difference?

Rickey gives some pointers for shortcuts that might lose you points in competition, but in your day-to-day operations, could get you back minutes or even hours, without sacrificing quality of your product.

  • Rose cones -- use extra fondant from other orders. Think of colors you won't use again or scraps that aren't big enough to use on a cake. Use these for the rose cone by rolling the fondant into a teardrop and placing it onto a piece of wire that has been wet with water. Then heat it over a candle until it turns black. This will melt the sugar onto the wire. Create a batch that you can store and go to as needed.
  • Lily veins -- Unless she's a botonist, it's not likely that your bride is going to recognize the correct veins on your various lily petals. So don't think you have to have an array of vein moulds for each type. A corn husk veiner will work, as well too. Or in a pinch, really go for the gusto and use an actual corn husk from the produce department. "It doesn't have to look exactly like a calla lily petal in order to wow like a calla lily," Rickey says. "But a good veiner can make all the difference."
  • Petal cutters -- Again, don't customize a specific cutter for every flower in the garden. Find a leaf cutter that you can manipulate into various shapes for different flowers. If you have an order for star gazers and you don't have a cutter, look to see what's close. You can manipulate a leaf cutter to a daffodil, magnolia or even a star gazer, like the ones pictured here.

Rickey teaches classes across the country, so visit her website to find out when she might be coming to your town.