Whether you’re a professional baker turning out creations for the paying public or a keen home baker catering to friends and family, saving a few pounds on your cake decorating costs is no bad thing.
Having been in this business for a while I’ve come with a few cost-saving cake ideas to keep your overheads down.
- Make your own sugar glue
Sugar glue is a really useful substance for a whole host of cake decorating tasks – sticking petals on flowers together, gluing fondant animals and getting rice paper to adhere to name but a few. But I don’t see the point in buying commercial pots of them. Not only are they tiny pots, you really don’t need to when you can make your own.
Simply, crumble a few bits of fondant into a small pot, add a little water (just enough to cover the fondant) and heat on high in the microwave for 30 seconds. You may need to stir it a bit but once it’s cool and the fondant is dissolved it will make the perfect sugar glue and it will last for several days.
- Freeze leftover royal icing
I always find I have a tub of icing left over after I’ve made royal icing and inevitably I stick a damp tea towel over the top, leave it on the side where it sits for a couple of days until I forget about it, it dries out and I throw it out! But did you know you can happily freeze royal icing and it lasts for ages?
Just pop it in a disposable icing bag and tie the top tight before freezing. When you need to use it, let it defrost for half an hour or so and you’re ready to go.
- Use cake off cuts to make cake balls
We make a lot of sculpted cakes and it really bugged me for ages the amount of cake offcuts we were throwing away. Cake balls, however, are a great way to use up any offcuts. Much like cake pops, but without the stick, you crumble the remaining cake, mix it with whatever flavour buttercream works and roll it into balls. You can either leave them like that or dip them into chocolate.
They make great little gifts or treats, and if you’re not using them straight away you can always freeze them – just make sure to wrap them well before you do.
- Freehand your leaves and simple flower petals
There are literally hundreds of cutters you can buy but guess what? You don’t need to! If you don’t have a Victorinox pairing knife in your equipment, then buy one right away. These knives are fiendishly sharp but only cost a few pounds and are ideal for cutting all sorts of shapes without tearing. Leaves are mainly simple shapes and so are things like rose petals. Unless you’re a purist or doing competition pieces, nine times out of ten what you cut freehand will be just fine.
- Make your own pastillage
There are loads of different varieties of pastillage available online depending on usage. They may come in different names – flower paste, modelling paste, gum paste and so on – but they all pretty much do the same thing. They’re more stretchy than fondant but they set rock hard and are idea for flower work, building sugar objects or structures or creating edible supports. You might have a favourite but I prefer to make my own from a recipe I found in a very old book my mother gave me about 20 years ago.
Here it is:
500g icing sugar sifted
1 medium egg white
3 tsp gum tragacanth ( this is the only thing you can’t get in the supermarket but you can buy it online and a pot will last you for a while)
2tsp powdered gelatine
4 heaped tsp vegetable fat
2 heaped tsp liquid glucose
- Put the icing sugar and gum tragacanth, mixed well together, in the bowl of a standing mixer.
- Add the water to a heatproof bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine, allow to bloom for a few minutes
- Either melt in a microwave or over a bain marie, then add in the vegetable fat and glucose until all is melted and you have a gloopy, liquid substance.
- Put the egg white in the mixer and turn on a slow speed. Add in the liquid gelatine substance and turn up to high speed for a minute once icing is incorporated. It should resemble chewing gum at this stage.
- Quickly scoop it into plastic bags. I find it easiest to turn the bag inside out and scoop it up with my hand in the bag, then turn the bag the right way – it’s very sticky stuff at this stage!
- Double bag it, then put it in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
- It will be stiff when you first get it out but with a bit of kneading it will work fine. Just remember to keep any pastillage you’re not using in a bag as it does dry out quickly.
- Use supermarket sugarpaste
Are you a sugarpaste snob? I know loads of people who won’t use anything unless it’s a particular brand like Saracino, Renshaw or Massa Ticino. It’s okay to have a favourite and those are all great pastes but they are fecking expensive at times. If you’re looking for something that does the job, then you can’t beat supermarket fondant. We use Tesco’s own brand, loads of it in fact and it works just fine for most things. Cost per kilo it is far cheaper than a lot of the branded stuff and if you get it nice and warm by kneading it before you use it, it stretches really well without tearing too.
- Use Facebook Marketplace for second-hand bargains
Cake equipment can be expensive, but you’d be surprised how much you can buy second-hand on Facebook Marketplace these days. Lots of people by stuff for a particular project or start making cakes then quite for whatever reason. Most of their stuff has hardly ever been used so fill your boots and grab a bargain!