Tuesday 8 May 2012

Handbag cakes - cake decorating class #5

My latest cake decorating class was something I was really looking forward to - handbag cakes!

Edit: As I have explained further down in this post, the cakes were damaged on the walk home from the class (you try carrying a box of cakes and a bag of equipment including a giant rolling pin...) and in any case these weren't my best work as I was a novice learning the technique. I put the post up anyway in the hope that it would help people learn what to do (and what not to do). However I am getting fed up with the number of rude comments I have received recently and if this continues, will take this post down entirely.
It was an opportunity to learn how to carve cakes and also practice my fondant skills. Which as you can see from the picture above are far from perfect, but we'll come to that later!

Apparently the best type of cake for carving or shaping is a madeira cake, as it is less crumbly and more solid than something like a Victoria sponge. However I didn't have a recipe for madeira cake to hand and decided to use a recipe from a cake decorating book I've got called Planet Cake. A lot of the cakes in the book involve carving or sculpting so I figured if they recommended a particular kind of cake, then that ought to work.

I made their chocolate mud cake on p.23. The method is a little unusual but it worked really well. First melt the butter in a pan

Add instant coffee powder, pieces of chocolate and water.

Heat until the chocolate is melted and the other ingredients are combined
Sift flour and cocoa powder, make a well in the middle  and add eggs, oil and buttermilk - which was handy as I had some buttermilk left from a previous recipe I needed to use up.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir

Pour into a cake tin and bake for 1 hour 40 mins - that seemed like a long time but it turned out perfectly.

A lovely square cake!

So for the cake decorating class itself, I decided to colour some fondant in two different colours - pink and caramel, which I hoped would look like a pale brown leather colour and also go well with the pink.

So all of the above was done before the class. In the lesson, the first thing Lorna told us to do was cut our cake into four squares.

Then take one square and shape it slightly to make the bag. This involved cutting down diagonally from the top to make the slanting sides so the piece of cake is now narrower at the top than the bottom.

When making a handbag cake this size, you could cover the whole thing with one piece of fondant. However, Lorna wanted to show us a technique we could use if we were making one big handbag cake and couldn't cover the whole thing in one piece of fondant. As you can see below, you simply need to cut a piece of fondant the right size and shape for each side of the bag. It's easier if you make it slightly bigger and trim off the excess with a sharp knife once it is on the cake (stuck on with buttercream).

As you can see, the joins are quite visible.

Putting the top on last

So this is the trick to covering the joins - roll a thin piece of fondant in a contrasting colour (you could also do it in the same colour) and use edible glue to stick along the seams.

We also created a flap to go over the top from another piece of fondant

We made a handle and I decided to make a small Chanel-style logo to stick on the front. It didn't look quite as professional as I'd hoped, but it was quite cute.

Lorna then showed us how to make a different syle of bag, which is more like a clutch. Getting the curved top was actually very easy - we used a circle cutter to draw round but you could also use a cup to give you the curved shape, then cut along the line using a sharp knife.

I covered two sides of this bag in fondant but unfortunately that was all we had time to do in the class. So I decided to finish them off when I got home...

I was making this up as I went along so I'm not really sure what's going on with the handbag flap here...

I decorated it using edible coloured balls

I decided to tackle the third square of cake... I shaped it in the same way as the first one

I rolled out some chocolate sugarpaste as I decided the caramel colour I used on the first cake was a little too pale.

Covering the cake - this one looks much neater than the one I did in the class! I like the colour too.

Repeating the technique of hiding the seams

Lorna had also told us that to make the handle more stable we could use florists' wire. I happened to have some at home I had bought on a whim from a cake decorating website but had never used, so I threaded a small piece through a cylinder of sugarpaste.

When you bend it, it holds its shape - and the ends of the wire are useful for sticking into the cake to anchor the handle.

Ta da! I'm quite pleased with this one.

Even though it was getting late I decided to make a fourth handbag as I didn't want to waste a big chunk of cake. I was going to see my family at the weekend as it was my sister's birthday - it was actually the weekend in between my birthday and her birthday. She's a big fan of all things zebra, so I simply had to make her a zebra handbag cake!

First I shaped the cake as before and covered it with white fondant.

I used a pizza cutter to cut out some randomly-shaped slices of black fondant...

...and simply stuck them onto the cake using edible glue.

I made a handle using florists' wire as before and added an edible silver heart as a clasp. I like the way this one turned out!

So here's the cluch bag again.. probably my least favourite.

The zebra bag

The brown and pink bag

The original bag I made in the class. I think this one the least, as the colours don't work together as well as I'd hoped, and as it was my first attempt I definitely improved on the later bags. Also this bag unfortunately fell over inside my cake carry case while I was walking home from the class, and it landed in the chocolate cake crumbs from the remaining pieces of cake. As this cake was covered in a fairly pale fondant, which was still quite soft, I did my best to brush the cake crumbs off but to no avail!

All four bags together

I am entering my handbag cakes into this month's Alphabakes challenge as the magic letter is H.


  1. Aww these are cute caroline! I like the brown and pink one. I find that the chocolate mud cakes work best when carving is required.

    1. Thanks! They're not very neat as they were done quite quickly but at least I know the technique now!

    2. Passion for Baking is in the outcome of the product, the look is very important , sadly to say this looks very untidy and needs more attention to ensure that they are worth the entry. texture of the cake looks good though

    3. They are certainly not the neatest but part of the problem was that they fell over on the way home and so were partly ruined by the time I took the final photo! I don't think it's fair though to say these need more attention to be worthy of putting on my blog, I was learning how to do this in an evening class and it was my first attempt. I put up this blog post to give people ideas and show how to do it, not because I wanted to showcase a fantastic design. Interesting that you chose to remain anonymous for that comment!

  2. they were yummy.

    1. The cake was a chocolate mud cake, I really liked it!

  3. I love reading all about your experiences at the class- thank you for passing on the great tips!

    1. I guess I'm giving a lot of tips away that you should really pay to attend a class for... but there are so many 'how to' videos on You Tube and instructions on the internet and not everyone can get to a class... and really what I'm doing is blogging about my experience!

  4. Still jealous that you get to attend these cake decorating classes ;) Your handbag cakes look cute - the zebra bag is my favourite. I'm sure your sister was pleased :) Great entry for AlphaBakes!

    1. They were slightly battered by the time they got down to my sister's but she really liked them! You'll have to sign up for the cake decorating class near you next term... in fact they might take registrations this far in advance since they generally are very popular!

  5. I really wish I can go to a cake decorating class! I wonder what I'll make first thing!

    1. Mine is at a local adult education college, they offer classes in everything from accounting and first aid to sewing and cake decorating. I was lucky to get into this class though as there was a waiting list!

  6. I have not make any 3D fondant cake before and I would love to attend a proper lesson to make all these cakes. So lucky of you that you have a chance to attend this lesson.

    1. I'm really enjoying the classes but there are only a couple left to go now! If you want to take a course I'd recommend checking out the local colleges near you, you don't have to go to an actual cake school as while those are very good, they are generally more expensive!

  7. Now they really are stylish - what fun.

  8. HY!wow so lovely and amazing your recipe for handbags.Thanks for share.
    guess handbags


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