Thursday, September 24, 2015

Make Buttercream Icing look like Fondant - Win

It's birthday season in our house! Birthday #1 went off without a hitch, but the chalkboard sadly never recovered and will probably need to be repainted.
On to Birthday #2!
My son is turning 5 and had requested a Spiderman birthday. Easy enough! This time instead of cupcakes, I chose a traditional cake since it's a smaller crowd. When it comes to cakes I tend to half-cheat. The cake comes from a box but the icing I make myself from an awesome recipe I got from a cake decorator friend of mine. I've used it for years and it hasn't failed yet.

I searched all over Pinterest for inspiration for the cake. I wanted to do blue instead of red, and would need a very smooth surface for the decorating. Now I could have gone off and used fondant. However a) I've never used fondant before and b) most people I talk to really dislike the taste or texture of fondant. And I really didn't want to venture into an entirely new icing medium without a little practice.

I had come across this method a while ago when looking for icing techniques for my baby girls birthday. I searched around a little more and found that the method was very similar across the board and the effect was lovely. I won't include a link since there are lots of tutorials and videos.
So I thought "what the heck". If it didn't work, I'd have a bumpy spiderman cake!

I baked two 9" round cakes and made a double batch of buttercream icing. I iced between the cakes, lopped off the top to make it flatter, and did a crumb coat. Then I used almost an entire container of blue food colouring to get the right 'Spiderman blue'. Next time I'd use the gels.

When using buttercream you need to make sure it's at the right temperature to manipulate. Too hot and it'll melt, too cold and it won't spread. Keep this in mind.

Sorry - no in progress pics. Between the icing and the food colouring, my hands and kitchen looked like I beat up a Smurf. 

After my crumb coat had set in the fridge, I did a rough icing around the cake. Use more icing then you think you'll need, you can always work it off later. I used a metal icing spatula to get the cake covered.

Now for the smooth finish. 
Keep very hot water and a clean paper towel near by your cake and icing bowl. The method I tried worked mostly like this:

- Run spatula under hot water for about 10 seconds (until metal becomes hot)
- Quickly wipe with clean paper towel to remove water
- Sweep the spatula over the icing. No need to push or dig the icing, your just smoothing it out, not pushing it around.
- Scrape excess icing off the spatula onto the bowl
- Repeat and continue working around your cake

It's a LOT of steps and extra work, and I found I had to reheat my spatula for every pass on the cake (I had to redo the spot on the right in the pic above) or it would mess it up. So keep your hot water tap running. But I think it turned out pretty well for the first time and it definitely worth the extra work if you want a smooth finish on your cake but don't want to use fondant. 

There is an additional step where you use a Viva paper towel and smooth the icing even further which I skipped. Because it HAS to be this specific brand and no other, and I had just bought a bunch of our regular kind, I passed on this step. But if I really wanted the 'fondant finish', I'd plan ahead and get some. 
I'm pretty impressed with myself and this method.

With the amount of work aside, this is a definite win!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Removing Chalkboard Marker - Fail

I haven't had a fail in a while, especially a DIY fail.

My baby girl turned one a little under a month ago, and for her birthday I made one of those chalkboard signs. I searched on Pinterest for inspiration and text examples and freehanded the full thing. And I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself!

Hey look, I'm crafty!

Michaels was having a BOGO on chalkboards to I bought two, plus some regular chalk and chalkboard markers, which I used on the birthday sign. My plan was to reuse the large board and the markers for other events, like my son going to Kindergarten, Christmas, etc.

Now I fully admit this is partially on me. It could have been a) the markers I bought, even though the Michaels employee told me they were erasable b) the type of chalkboard I bought or c) the length of time I left the original art on the chalkboard. Which was almost a month. 

At least I remembered to prime my chalkboard before I started.
With the first day of school around the corner, I wanted to get on my newest art project and redo the chalkboard for my son. This is the point where I realized that this stuff doesn't come off. It did wipe off with a wet cloth when I was making the chalkboard and made an error, but it's pretty set it now. 

So here is the methods I used to try to remove the chalkboard marker in levels of lack-of-success

Water and a damp cloth
Fail. Made no impact. Don't even bother.

Soap and hot water
See above. Just move right on.

Magic Eraser
Ok so these things are a-maze-ing. They'd clean just about everything and a few Pins said this would solve my chalkboard dilemma. On the plus side it did remove the majority of the marker, however it took almost the whole eraser and a LOT of elbow grease, and there is still a shadow left and even some marker.

Magic Eraser with Vinegar
Slight improvement from just the Magic Eraser with water, but not much.

Well I don't have Windex but I have window cleaner. I tried it and it didn't help.

So after trying ALL of these methods on my chalkboard I'm left with this.

Most of the colour is off, but the shadow is still there. And now it seems that the marker has actually REMOVED the chalkboard paint behind it, exposing the wood board. And it has also puckered in places, probably due to the amount of moisture.

The final product. You can still see a lot of the text, and the most visible parts are where the chalkboard paint has come off

So after a lot of work it looks ok. If I'm mindful of how I use it in future (using regular chalk from now on) I can hopefully cover most of the bad spots. Or I may just go get some chalkboard paint and repaint it. 

I'm glad the chalkboard was cheap.

So learn from me...IF you use Chalkboard Markers, they are NOT for porous surfaces. And if you do use them on standard chalkboard and want to reuse it, wipe off your projects asap or use vinyl chalkboard. Or just use regular chalk.