I originally learned the Bas-Relief technique from the acclaimed Maggie Austin, whose cakes are true pieces of edible art. I was specially intrigued on how she could achieve those beautiful organic textures, that worked as perfect backdrops for her marvelous creations.
This technique is so versatile, and from the production point of view, so very efficient!
I've incorporated this technique to my repertoire, and it was used for a cake design that was published in Cake Central Magazine, and per their request, now I share it with you!
Make it your own, enjoy the process and create memorable designs that will sure have people asking, How did you do that?
1. Start by choosing a food grade silicone mold that has depth and irregular texture. The one featured below is from Stephen Benison's seasons of the year collection. It is the winter mold.
2. Sprinkle your mold with a fine layer of confectioners sugar. I use a custom made pouch made with a fine knee high.
3. Use your preferred recipe or brand of fondant and roll irregular strips of approximately 1/8". Due to it's moisture and malleability, Fondant is the preferred sugar paste used in this technique.
4. Tear sampled pieces from your fondant stip. The more irregular, the better!
5. With your fingers, firmly press your fondant. Reposition the piece to achieve a full coverage of the pattern. Sprinkle confectioner's sugar if your fondant starts to stick to your fingers.
6. Make a few pieces at a time, and place on a plastic bag to prevent them to dry. Some pieces will be used as background, small and detailed ones will be used as foreground and are intended to create smooth transitions among pieces.
7. At this point you will need a flat tip brush, cooled boiled water and a dresden tool like the one featured below.
8. Brush a fine layer of water over the back of the textured fondant piece. Pay special attention to moisten the edges of each piece, as this will assist in the next step.
9. Overlap each textured strip. Remember, this is not a technique that looks for perfection. On the contrary, the more organic the look, the better!
10. Thin the borders of each piece using a dresden tool. It is a good idea to apply these overlays to a cake that has been iced ahead of time and not too soft.
11. The thinner the edges of each piece, the seamless the overlap effect will be.
12. Once most of the background is been covered, you will proceed to create smaller "accent pieces". Position your fondant piece over the mold and press over your favorite shapes within the mold. Remember, we are looking for a random, organic look.
13. Position foreground pieces and blend its borders with previous pieces.
14. There are different finishes and looks that you could use to enhance your bas-relief texture. I chose to use a couple of platinum dusts, diluted with grain alcohol (Everclear).
15. You could decide to blend in the bas-relief pieces with the rest of the cake or to have them stand alone.
16. Brushed luster dusts enhance the look and dimension of your bas-relief texture.
17. You can choose to accentuate your design with an additional focal point. I chose an ascending cluster of fantasy sugar flowers, colored in the same palette as the rest of the cake.
Give this technique a try, use a combination of molds and even textured rolling pins...mix and match textures, and make this technique your own!
I hope that you have learned a thing or two, and thank you for being part of my Sugar Kingdom!!!
Since opening in 2010 in Cincinnati, Venezuelan born Ileana Saldivia’s studio, Sugar Realm has become a preeminent wedding and celebration cake design boutique. In 2018, due to her husband's job, Ileana and her family relocated to Philadelphia, and so did her Sugar Kingdom. Sugar Realm’s cakes and confections are known for their sophisticated flavors, unique designs, artistic sugar flowers, innovative techniques, and architectural compositions. The studio’s wedding cakes are regularly featured in leading bridal, lifestyle, and cake decorating magazines. In the December 2015 issue of “Cincinnati Magazine,” Sugar Realm was named “Best of the City” and featured on the cover. Saldivia’s blog “Life in a Sugar Kingdom” is regularly visited by hundreds of cake enthusiasts and professionals.
Our online cake decorating class "Make-ahead techniques for stunning cakes", covers ileana's favorite cake decorating techniques, as well as the recipe of her signature Rolled Chocolate and her favorite tools and resources.