October 2, 2014

Carving cakes successfully – a few tips from Lindy

Having a cake of the correct shape is fundamental to any good cake design. If, like some, you shy away from carving you are limiting yourself to just basic shapes and yet with a little bit of courage and armed with a sharp knife it is perfectly possible to sculpt a shape from cake that can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

carving a handbag cake

Students carving handbags to shape from a square cake

Having the correct cake.

It is very important when attempting to carve a cake that you choose a recipe that is dense enough to carve successfully. I tend to use flavoured Madeira or a good quality chocolate cake, however other recipes do work as well, so experiment with your favourites. However do not attempt a carved cake with a lovely light fluffy sponge, it will of course taste delicious but will be very difficult to carve and may well collapse with the weight of the sugarpaste once covered!

To fill or not to fill!

It is not necessary to add fillings to the cakes however I have found that many people do like their cakes filled with jam and/or flavoured buttercream. To add a filling split the cake into a number of horizontal layers and add your choice of filling. For best results when carving, add only thin layers of filling, thick layers tend to make the cake more unstable and so less suitable for carving. Also do not be tempted to put jam and buttercream on the same layer as this will cause the top layer to slide so making the cake unsteady.

Tips:

Sharp knife: It is very important that you use a large sharp pastry knife when carving. If you use a blunt knife, it can be hard work and the cuts you make may not come away cleanly. You may also find that sections of cake fall away as you carve, which although they can be repaired are not ideal.

Freezing cake: It is much easier to successfully carve a partially frozen cake than it is a fresh cake. Freezing also allows you not only to bake the cakes in advance but also to carve more intricate shapes with out the cake crumbling and falling apart. How hard your cake freezes depends on the settings of your freezer so you may be necessary to let your cake defrost slightly before attempting to carve.

Measurements: How accurately you need to carve a cake will depend on the shape you require. A handbag is an organic shape so it doesn’t matter if it is not completely symmetrical however for a wonky style cake, for example, you need to be more exact.

If you are interested in being expertly guided through the carving process, why not join Lindy on one of her carving workshops?  Click here to see our current class calender. Lindy teaches many carving courses from simple hearts, designer handbags, stylish cats to her world famous wonky cakes – why not treat yourself and learn some fundamental skills at the same time?

 

Comments

  1. Hi lindy

    Just a quick question regarding freezing my Madeira cake, I usually bake fresh and ice within the week but I have several cakes around the same time. What do I freeze the cake in? And how long before I need to ice it do I bring it out of the freezer? can I bring it out on the fri decorate sat and take it to the venue Sunday?

    Thanks

  2. Dear Melissa

    Thank you for yourq question.

    Wrap your cakes in greaseproof/baking paper before putting them in the freezer.

    How hard your cake freezes depends on the settings of your freezer. If you are carving your cakes it may be necessary to defrost them slightly before attempting to carve. You can ice the cake when you take it out of the freezer.

    Good luck!

    Zoe

  3. Hi,

    I have been asked to make a cushion cake for a little girl’s birthday. It will only be one cushion (with a crown topper) as opposed to the stacked cushion cake in Lindy’s most recent book.

    The cushion cake needs to feed around 25 – 30 people. Please could you advise on what size madeira cake I should use that would leave enough cake (once carved) to feed 25 – 30?

    Many thanks for your time, and this fabulous website! Your tips have been indispensable to me over the years!

    Kind regards,
    Jade

  4. Hi Jade

    Lindy has used an 11″ square cake for the bottom cushion on this cake. This will make around 57 2 x 1in slices. A 10″ square cake will make 47 portions. Therefore either of these sizes should be big enough once carved.

    Good luck with your cake!

    Zoe

  5. hi
    I am going to attempt to make a fairy cake for my daughter’s bday.
    i want to use the wings as the cake but how do i make the person should it be gum paste? can you send me images of cake like this or any other you may have.

  6. Hi Angie

    Lindy’s Celebrate with a Cake book, shows you how you can model a person. When Lindy used to make people she made them with modelling paste, but now uses Artista Soft, which makes a non edible model, but it dries very hard and lasts! I have listed some links below which I hope are useful!

    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Celebrate-with-a-Cake-by-Lindy-Smith.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-White-200g.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Green.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Red.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Yellow.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Black.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Blue.html
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Artista-Soft-Mixed-Colour-Magenta.html

    Good luck with the fairy, and hope your daughter loves it! Send us a picture we would love to see it when it is finished!

    Fiona

  7. Hello,

    Can pound cake be used for carving too?

  8. Hello MK,
    Yes pound cake can be used for carving. Pound cake is the American equivalent to our British Madeira Cake.
    Happy carving!
    Marina

  9. Hi
    I am wanting to try a carved cake but have never baked a Madeira cake before, what’s the basic mixture to a Madeira that turns out nice a moist? Whats the best method for calculating different size cakes. Also you say here for carving that Madeira or chocolate cake is best, is that a chocolate Madeira cake or a chocolate sponge? Also one more Q how long should you freeze before attempting to carve and how long to defrost before edible?
    Many Thanks
    Matt

  10. Hi Matt

    So many questions!! Here a few links to Lindy’s blog where she covers the issues you have raised;
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/2011/08/12/carving-cakes-successfully-a-few-tips-from-lindy/
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/2009/12/17/baking-the-perfect-madeira-cake/
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/2009/07/27/how-to-i-change-a-cake-recipe-quanities/

    In relation to the chocolate flavoured madeira cake v chocolate cake:
    http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/2011/02/02/lindys-chocolate-fudge-cake-recipe/

    Hope these help to answer your queries and good luck!
    Fiona

  11. hi would it be possible to carve a basic sponge if i freeze it?? or does it have to be madeira.

  12. Hello Amanda,
    The problem with a basic sponge is it is not dense enough – it’s too light and fluffy. You could probably carve it from frozen, but it would not support the sugarpaste. If you follow our instructions for the Madeira cake on the blog you should be able to produce a beautifully moist tasty cake.
    Jane

  13. Hello lindy,
    I am designing a stargate cake for my dad, it’s his birthday next week, he doesn’t want any icing just wants the cake to be designed with food colouring would it be ok to freeze a basic sponge cake and just to carve the cake into the shape he wants, we want some custard with the cake that’s why he doesn’t want icing.
    Thank you.

  14. Hi Siobhan
    If you are planning to carve the cake you need to use a denser cake, for example a madeira cake, and then there would be no need to freeze it.
    Good Luck!
    Fiona

  15. Hi i have got my first cake order. I need to make a Labrador cake which i have never done before, can you give me any suggestions on how i can do this please.

  16. Hi Jessica

    Lindy has done a Dog cake in her book “Party Animal Cakes”, a link to the book to on our on line shop is attached, http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/shop/Party-Animal-Cakes-by-Lindy-Smith-Paperback.html, that details carving the cake and gives a template. Good luck, and let us see a photo of the finished cake!
    Fiona

  17. Is there a certain type of knife you recommend. I don’t like any of mine and need to get a good one. Thanks!

  18. Hi Lindy
    I have my first big order to do and I was wondering what material to use as a good framework? I have never done a cake of this size? Your advice would be very appreciated

  19. Hi Chloe

    Thanks for your enquiry. Could you e.mail us directly at enquiries@lindyscakes.co.uk giving us some more detail about your cake and exactly what advice you need. We will try and help you once we know more about what you are trying to achieve.

    Thanks
    Susie

  20. Hi Pam

    Thanks for your enquiry. We do sell a carving knife, if that’s the type of knife you mean, but unfortunately it is collection only due to the age restriction.

    Ours is serrated, so if you were to buy one from a shop then that is what we would recommend. It needs to be quite long as well – ours is 10″.

    Hope that helps.

    Kind regards
    Susie

  21. HI, I’m thinking of learning to decorate cakes but just for family. I have 5 children and 13 grandchildren they all deserve a nice birthday cake. My question is what is the difference between model paste, gum paste and fondant. I thought I would play trying to make flowers and some cake TOPPERS like animals and such ALSO for the little ones. I’m confused after reading around the web. #1 what’s the difference is and #2 which should I use to make flowers and which to make say a teddy bear out of. THANK YOU for any help , if it wasn’t for people like you I wouldn’t even attempt this adventure. I truly appreciate your talents and kindness.

    Pat

  22. Hi Pat
    Lindy always uses sugarpaste (called fondant in the US) to cover cakes and modelling paste (which is sugarpaste with gum added eg gum tragacanth) to make deocrations for cakes as it is firmer and the paste holds its shape better.
    Good Luck and have fun experimenting!

    Fiona
    The Lindys Cakes Team

  23. Karen Whybrow says:

    Hi – I have been asked to make a hand-bag cake, which I have the how to in Lindy’s Cake Decorating Bible book that I have, but wondered how many servings this approximately gives, as although it uses 10″ square cake some will be lost due to carving?

    Many thanks
    Karen

  24. Hi Karen

    I don’t know exactly how many servings this cake makes. As a guide, a 10″ square cake has 95 fruit (1″ slices) or 47 sponge (2 x 1″ slices).
    It looks like the cake is approx 9″ long, 5.5″ high and 5″ deep when carved if this helps.

    Regards

    Zoe