In the beginning, I did not like foam cake. I was a purist. I felt cake should be, well... cake.
I thought this was especially true for sculpted cakes. In fact, to date, I have never used foam in any of my sculpted cakes. However, I was just asked for a proposal for a sculpted cake where I do plan to use some foam if they say yes.
There I was looking down my snobby nose when my good friend, Minette, offered some very wise advise. There are really some great reasons to use foam. I live in Charleston, SC. It is HOT here. It is humid here. It's hot and humid here almost all year round. In addition, many of our fabulous venues are outdoors. This means my beautiful cake is battling the heat, humidity, and the bugs. Using foam allows the cake to be displayed outside without sacrificing the quality. Some planners prefer foam because it allows the caterers to cut and plate the cake in advance. This really helps a timeline. I am against any floral stems in my cakes. Cake is like a sponge and will absorb all those preservatives. Clients who want an intricate floral display need foam. Of course, there is the most obvious reason which is to have a big beautiful cake with a smaller guest count. The most popular reason I use foam is for a photoshoot. I do still make it a rule to never do something in foam I couldn't achieve with cake. That's my rule, but it doesn't have to be yours.
The best part of all of this is that clients don't have to give up the "cutting the cake" moment. My good friend Minette shared a great tutorial called The Hidden Slice. This allows clients to cut the cake without all the risks of an outdoor cake.
When we talk about foam cake, one of the first questions is of course price. Just like in all my other blog posts, the answer to any pricing question is always
Price = All Costs (more than ingredients) + Wage + Profit.
That's true about foam. I'll also repeat myself and say the largest chunk of that equation is Wage. Our time and expertise is the most expensive part of any cake. So, when it comes to foam, the cost is often the same as cake and sometimes more. If you need a refresher on my pricing advice, please visit this pricing post.
Remember that when using foam, you'll be substituting the cost of cake ingredients for cost of foam. If you are supplying kitchen cake, you wont be substituting anything! You'll be adding the cost of the foam! Instead of or in addition to the baking time, you will be prepping the foam. You'll still need to decorate all that foam as well. And, don't forget the final step is always to evaluate the value of the cake you design.
I'm going to share my method of working with foam. Please remember that there are many ways we artists do things. This is how I do it, but you may know an even better way. If you do, share it!
I start by inspecting the foam. Almost always, there is a dent or scratch or other imperfection including the line of where the cut began and ended. I use a nail file or fine sanding paper to smooth the line and any other imperfections.
I fill any dents with fondant or gumpaste. I fill small dents with fondant and large ones with gumpaste. Be sure to get it nice and smooth just like you would a cake. The top of the cake can be rather sharp. I like to rub my finger around the top so soften this just a bit. While we do want nice sharp edges, we don't want the fondant to tear.
I also like to mark the center on both the bottom and top of the foam. This helps me stack them. In case you don't yet know, finding the center of a circle can be a bit tricky. There is a mathematical equation to help or you can purchase a center finder. I use the straight edge and triangle ruler method.
Once all the prep work is completed, we are ready to cover the foam. I like to use a bit of shortening to help the fondant stick. I rub a thin layer all over the foam. Please note that this will change the color of your foam. It will yellow a bit. No one will know while it is covered in fondant and you can still reuse these.
Before covering, I use a wooden skewer to make a little hole where the center of the foam is. I cover the cake in fondant and trim. I then poke a hole through the fondant on top. To stack the foam, I use a then wooden dowel. We don't need these for structure. They are just meant to keep the tiers from shifting. The dowel only needs to be long enough to hold them together. I poke a hole in the center of the bottom tier. The tier that goes on top gets a hole on the bottom of the tier. I then slide the dowel into the bottom of the top tier and place that in the center of the bottom tier. I repeat with the next set of tiers as well.
Once it's all stacked up, it's ready for decor! This cake is a 5 x 4, 7 x 5, & 9 x 6.
Some cake artists refuse to create foam with buttercream. I don't mind. It would be silly for an outdoor wedding perhaps, but there are just some things that can't be achieved with fondant. This cake is foam with buttercream
Once upon a time, a photographer told me she demanded real cake for photoshoots. She declared she could always tell. I challenged her and the rest of the internet to pick the cakes in this photo that she thought were foam. To date, no one has ever accurately got them all.
As always, you get to decide who YOU want to be as a cake artist. You get to set the policies of what you are and are not willing to do. Leave me a comment and let me know how you feel about foam cakes.
For those of you with curious minds... there are only 2 real cakes..
Scroll down for the reveal.
The two cakes on the left are real cake and all the others are foam.