So Autumn is upon us and for all the people longing for a few more weeks of Summer, there are just as many Autumn fans like me who are jumping for joy at the thought of cozy snuggles, running through fallen leaves and baking up deliciously warming treats to celebrate the seasonal produce.
I got married in the Autumn in October 2002. We chose that time of year because I knew we weren’t guaranteed amazing sunshine and if the weather turned out to be good then it would be a bonus. The weekend before our wedding saw torrential rain and the weekend after the wind blew tiles off our roof. But our wedding day, sandwiched between the dull and the wet, was actually super bright with stunning blue skies. If anything it was a little too bright as we were all squinting in the photos! It was freezing cold but luckily you couldn’t see the goosebumps on my arms in the photos.
2002 was only 15 years ago but in terms of style and the wedding industry, it feels like a lifetime away. If I had my chance to do it all again there is so much I would change or do differently. Delivering wedding cakes allows me to visit the most amazing venues and see the most gorgeous range of decorations. It has also enabled me to meet so many talented suppliers who I would have loved to have known of 15 years ago. If I win the lottery I’ll have to plan a big vow renewal event so I can employ all these fabulous folk!
Many people ask about my own wedding cake and did I make it? Well the wedding cake was probably the only thing I didn’t make for my wedding. I made all the stationery, table decorations and I even made my own tiara and earrings and spent the night before my wedding sewing beads onto my shoes! Although I enjoyed baking and had decorated cakes as a child, at that time it was nothing more than an occasional hobby. I wasn’t even that fussed about our cake. I just wanted something super plain that I could put fresh flowers on. I cringe slightly when I think of how naive I was when we met the lady who made our cake. The cake was apparently very tasty but I didn’t get to eat any myself.
This year I’m making two wedding cakes for the same weekend of my own wedding. Both of these cakes are going to be so much more interesting than the plain white tiers I chose for my own day.
One is going to look like a stack of log slices with tumbling autumnal leaves, and the other is going to be a semi naked cake with trailing foliage and some tasty autumnal berries.
The foliage for the semi naked cake will be supplied by the florist but the leaves for the log slice cake will be made by me. I began to look into the different ways that I could go about making realistic edible leaves. My initial plan was to use flower paste and a variety of moulds to create the delicate veining. Moulds are expensive and are also limited to a few different options so I often choose to make my own using food grade silicone moulding compound. I had previously made some moulds from autumn leaves and although they do produce a very realistic effect, the process of rolling, cutting, impressing, thinning and then colouring takes a very long time and I had a lot of leaves to make. My thoughts then turned to edible paper. I really enjoy working with wafer paper and as leaves are delicate and paper thin, it seemed like the perfect medium for making edible versions.
I was really pleased with the results from my experiments with wafer paper leaves, so I thought I’d put together a mini tutorial. Everyone I’ve shown them to so far has not even realised that they are hand made and edible rather than just a pile of collected leaves.
First you need some reference to work from. In order to make your leaves look realistic, you need to be drawing from real life rather than from your imagination. For inspiration I took a walk to one of my local parks and collected a selection of stunning coloured leaves to work from. You could also print images of leaves from the internet, but where’s the fun in that?
You can either draw freehand or you could draw around some actual leaves. I drew using an edible pen, straight onto a sheet of wafer paper, though this meant that I had lines visible even after I airbrushed. I would advise drawing your templates onto plain paper first.
Wafer paper is quite brittle so you can’t cut through lots at a time but I stacked up 2 sheets so I could cut double the amount.
Once I had a pile of different shaped leaves, I got my airbrush out. I used water based airbrush inks which have to be layered up lightly so they don’t drench the wafer paper. I started with yellow, then added apricot, orange, brown and red to achieve the different hues on the leaves.
I airbrushed the colour on both sides of the leaves. The first layer tends to make the leaves curl up but once they are sprayed on the reverse, they flatten out a bit more. I use an open box when airbrushing to try to contain the colour, this works for protecting my kitchen surfaces but I did a terrible job of protecting my hands as you can see from the photo below.
I struck on the idea of pinning the leaves to the back of the box to stop them floating around, however I still ended up holding them to add the final colour layer. Who cares that my hand looked like it had been creosoted?!
I applied the airbrush colour to over-wet some areas which made the wafer paper curl up and wrinkle. This gave an even more natural effect.
Once all the leaves were dry I added a few veins by hand using the pointed end of a Dresden tool. I didn’t want to add too many lines, just a few to give a bit of additional detail.
If you’d like to join me to learn even more awesome cake decorating tips, tricks and techniques, take a look at my cake classes here.
And if all that autumnal gorgeousness has put you in the mood for some seasonal baking, pop here for my recipe for delicious Apple and Blackberry Crumble Cupcakes.