Monday, May 14, 2007


So, last week was exam week, covering Wedding Cakes, Chocolate Showpieces, and Sugar Showpieces.

Monday and Tuesday were practice days, when students are free to do anything they had done in the sections covered by the exam. While those days are great in theory, my opinion is that they tend to be unproductive due to the lack of structure.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were exam days. It started Wednesday morning with the written exam, which was basically pretty easy. It seems, however, that there was one trick question on the test, which kind of pisses me off (because I missed it, and they always tell us there won't be trick questions.)

Then we were given the practical exam, which was:
  • Produce a 2-tiered cake, filled and covered with buttercream, and decorated with buttercream. This was due by the end of Thursday.
  • Produce a chocolate showpiece to mimic one produced by the Chef. This was due by the end of Thursday. This included 2 discs for a base, and a 200 cm ring with a 140 cm ring inside of it. Also, three small shiny sphere, and three shiny plaquettes. (The fact that it said "shiny" means that they need to sit for 24 hours.) Finally, there needed to be a chocolate rose, and the entire piece should be airbrushed with cocoa butter.
  • Produce 3 gum paste roses. (Due anytime.)
  • Produce 3 gum paste daisies. (Due anytime.)
  • Produce 5 gum paste rose leaves. (Due anytime.)
  • Produce a sugar showpiece to mimic one produced by the Chef. This was due by the end of Friday, but some of the elements, such as the pulled rose and the blown apple, could ONLY be done on Friday. In addition, we needed to cast several discs and include at least one pastillage element. (Pastillage must dry for 24-48 hours.) A pulled curl and/or ribbon could be done for extra credit.

So, that's your teaser for today. I'm tired and going to bed right now, so come back to see how I think I did, and hopefully I'll have my grade in a few days and we'll see how Chef thinks I did.

And then this week we start ice creams and sorbets. Umm.... ice cream...

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Sugar Showpiece

Pictured is my final Sugar Showpiece. I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. You might notice that some of the elements that I showed you in the post from yesterday are not on the showpiece. Actually, I made quite a few things that didn't make the showpiece, like all of the fruit (apples, pears), 2 white birds, 2 white roses, and another purple rose. But, that's just the nature of the beast when you're making showpieces; you always make a lot more than you end up using for the final piece.

So, you can see that the main artistic elements are the 2 yellow birds, which were made with blown sugar. Both birds began with a ball of sugar slightly smaller than a golf ball. Since they were blown, the birds are actually hollow inside, and very light (also known as "fragile.")

The purple rose was made from pulling sugar. Each petal was individually pulled and shaped from a mass of melted sugar. The rose itself is relatively heavy, being mostly solid sugar.

The main structural elements are the blackish/purplish discs and crescent. Each were made from casting melted sugar into a ring when it had cooled down from 165 to 125 C. The result yields strong, solid pieces that can be "glued" together with hot sugar, and hold a lot of weight.

The "rocks" upon which the higher bird sits is made from pouring melted sugar at around 140 C into regular granulated sugar. Once it cools, you extract the solid piece, which is lightly coated with the granulated sugar, giving it that textured effect.

The lower of the two birds sits upon a rock made of pastillage, which is confectionery sugar, water, and vinegar. I also made other decorations out of pastillage which I didn't put on my final piece. To me, they just looked a little cheap, and didn't really fit in with the other elements, so I decided to leave them off.

Finally, you'll notice a piece of bubble sugar positioned behind the crescent. This was made by placing large grains of sugar onto a Silpat, covering it with another Silpat, then baking for about 10 minutes in a 350 F oven. The sugar melts, and individual particles attract to each other, leaving you with the design you see here. I think it looks pretty cool, but I decided to only use a little for my piece, as it has the ability to take over if you use too much of it.

Anyway, that's the end of showpieces for us. Next week is exam week, where we get tested on Wedding Cakes, Chocolate Showpieces, and Sugar Showpieces. Wish me luck!

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Thursday, May 3, 2007


This week we've been working with sugar. We started with the basics, making pastillage. Think "Altoids" without the flavor. This is basically powdered sugar, a little water, and a little vinegar. You can roll it out and make it into shapes, and it dries to a brittle consistency very quickly.

The next day we worked on pulled sugar. Here, you heat sugar to 165 degrees Celcius (roughly 350 F), then let it "cool down" to a workable temperature. I say "cool down" because it's still extremely hot when you're working with it. The majority of the time you're keeping it under a very hot lamp to keep it workable. The lamps we use put out 500 Watts, only about 18" off the table. So if you have a 100 W lamp in your house, picture yourself working less than 12" under a lamp that's giving off 5 times the heat, all while you're working with the hottest ball of silly putty you can imagine. By the time it was all said and done on Tuesday, the kitchen was about 95 degrees, and we were all sweating. But the result was the roses you see at the very right of the picture. The 2 purple roses are not done yet, they each need one last round of petals. But you get a pretty good idea of what they'll look like. Working with that hot ball of sugar, you pull out pieces, petal by petal, and form them onto your rose. Hence, "pulling sugar." All the while, I wore 2 layers of rubber gloves, and my hands still took a beating. I didn't get any blisters, but I think I might have been the only one.

Then we moved onto blown sugar. Using the same basic setup, you take your sugar and insert it onto a copper tube, hooked up to a pump like that used to take blood pressure. By blowing air into the hot sugar and using your hands, you can make all kinds of shapes. Think of it like blowing glass. In the one picture, you'll see a bird that I was able to blow on one of my first attempts. I also made another larger bird, but it broke overnight before I could get a picture. Asi es la vida. We also worked on making spheres, and fruits such as apples and pears. Pictured, you'll see one of the pears I made, although the stem and most of the leaf have broken off. I'll replace them before they go on my showpiece tomorrow. Check back this weekend to see a picture of my finished showpiece.

Sugar, aw, Honey, Honey. You are my Candy girl, and you've got me wanting you.

Yopp, any chance you can get me one of those blood pressure inflater thingy's??? :-)

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