Since starting out on my cake decorating journey a year ago, I have spent more money and bought more tools and equipment than I would have thought imaginable, from extra pans to a whole variety of cutters, embossers and palette knives. Many of these I have found to be quite useful, others quite unnecessary and still others have yet to be pulled out of their factory packaged cellophane wrapping to be tried for the very first time. Much like the colorful attractive shelf in a toy store or the crowded sugar laden counter at a candy shop, everything appears enticing at first glance, but few are the purchases that are returned to and made use of time and time again. Needless to say, all this adds up to quite an outlay, and since I don’t sell my cakes, it also makes for one heck of an expensive hobby.
With that in mind, every once in a while I do listen to the words of reason and wisdom that come from experience, Chef Yener’s, for example. In most of his tutorials he doesn’t use the fancy costly equipment. He shows us how to make the most amazing creations from even a simple circle cutter, a ruler and surprisingly enough, sometimes even from just a piece of paper. I’m not quite there yet where I can fast forward and pass up the pretty new and alluring tools that are sold on E-bay, Amazon or Aliexpress, but I have begun to reapply my dormant ex-teacher instinct of collect (even though the use of the items may not be at all apparent) and save. I retired eight years ago and still have stashes of learning related, if inedible goodies, clogging up my cupboards. Who knows, maybe someday, some of it will come in handy.
So here are a few of my new favorite things, most of which cost me nothing:
Perhaps a bit unconventional, but a recent tool discovery presented itself as a piece of uncooked pasta. In Israel, during the month of May we celebrate the harvest holiday of Shevuoth and symbolically, in honor of the festival, one of our major pasta companies makes pasta in the shape of wheat. Unfortunately this is not available all year long, but I did manage to save a few pieces just to see what could be done with them. I tried to utilize the firm dry pieces as cutters to provide interesting looking leaves, but the modeling chocolate just got stuck inside the pieces of pasta. Not quick to give up, I used the piece to form an impression on the modeling chocolate instead of trying to cut thru it and that worked wonderfully as you can see in the examples below. After having the impressions I simply used a craft knife to cut out my one of a kind leaves. I’m sure that other variations of dried pasta would produce similarly interesting results.
A wooden line embosser, for lack of any better term, is next on my list of favorites. I found it in a miscellaneous bucket of sale items at a kitchen accessory shop. No one in the store knew what it was called or what it was supposed to be used for and certainly neither did I. When I mumbled out loud that it might work as a fondant impression tool, another customer who also didn’t know the function of this weird wooden mallet, said that that wouldn’t work because the fondant would stick to the wood. I guess I’m stubborn. I bought it and have since used it many times to add lined impressions to both fondant and modeling chocolate. I’m just careful to sprinkle well with corn starch before using.
Window screen material has also found its way to my kitchen counter. Recently when I had the screens on my windows replaced, the workman left me with some scraps of brand new screening that he was supposed to clear out and didn’t. Lucky me! In addition to new screens I also got a fantastic and absolutely free embossing tool which would probably be great to use in the making of a fondant waffle cone, or anything else for that matter, that would require the imprinting of fine criss-cross lines.
Recently while visiting with my little granddaughter and sitting on the grass in the garden I noticed what appeared to be peach pits, but with much coarser grooves. Immediately I thought TEXTURE! I made sure that they weren’t the fruit stones of anything poisonous and promptly collected a few. Below is a photo of my find and the beautiful texture that it created on a cake board.
So while I am far from abandoning internet shopping, I have begun embracing some of the so very sensible and money saving ideas that come across from the masters.