Answering your questions about cake dummies..
Another exciting show at the NEC is just a couple of days away. I look forward to going every year and this year is no exception. Rumour has it Paul and David may be in full highland kit for the occasion! Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School (PBSS) promises a spectacular new stand with live demonstrations from top names, most of whom you will all recognise as guest tutors on the site. We are extremely fortunate to be learning such diverse techniques from these great artists as part and parcel of the school’s premium subscription.
You can read all about the stand in here http://www.cakeflix.com/blog/come-see-us-and-our-friends-at-cake-international and see that several exhibitors are offering exclusive discounts to members wearing PBSS badges. One exhibitor not mentioned is Dummies Direct (stand C 30) who is offering a generous minimum show discount of 25%. This brings me on to the next topic in the blog …. cake dummies and some of the questions asked about
them in Q and A. How good are they? Are they food safe? Can they be reused? Most importantly how much weight can they bear?
To answer some of these questions Hubby and I have done a little research into Polystyrene (Styrofoam).
Dummies in cake decorating.
Almost all dummies are made from Polystyrene (Although Styrofoam is a specific form of Polystyrene, the term is used generically for all Polystyrene products in the USA).
Polystyrene is a versatile plastic. In its many different forms has many uses, from disposable razors to explosives, from food packaging to construction material. The polystyrene we are familiar with is made from bubble like beads, which are compressed into shape. It is a light, strong plastic, easily carveable into any shape you can imagine. It is also food safe, with over 50 years of testing to back up this fact and is approved for packaging purposes by all the major food agencies across the globe.
The material can be reused again and again. It can be cleaned simply with soapy water or by wiping down with alcohol. Covering dummies with sugarpaste is quite straightforward. In this tutorial Paul shows how it is done : http://www.cakeflix.com/online-cake-decorating-courses/carousel-cake/lesson-3-icing-the-cake. To remove the sugarpaste simply cover with a damp cloth to soften it, then prise gently off with a palette knife or just let it soak until the paste washes off. Water will not affect dummies, but they will dissolve in front of your eyes, if they come into contact with acetone or nail varnish remover. Polystyrene is also recyclable and some local councils have facilities for handling and responsible disposal, along with other plastics. Although polystyrene is highly flammable, Direct Dummy products are treated with fire retardants.
Sugar craft dummies have many uses. First and foremost they are great to practice sugar craft skills on, without the need for baking a cake. Using dummies is the best way to make sample designs for window displays or wedding fayres. They do not come just as square or round shapes. All sorts of geometric shapes are available. Today almost any shape is possible and some companies will custom make dummy shapes to order.
There are several grades of Polystyrene. The Polystyrene available from hobby shops and sugarcraft suppliers is made from compressed bubbles of the plastic. The process results in a product with a density of 10kg per cubic metre. Put another way, it is one hundred times lighter than water. Although a fairly impact resistant product, it is not particularly tough. It is brittle and breaks off easily with lots of bits going everywhere, especially when you try to carve shapes.
A more compressed form of Polystyrene, with a density of at least 16kg per cubic metre is also available. The resulting denser product is 50% stronger making is more resilient. It can be carved with a bread knife, without those awful bubbles of Polystyrene going everywhere. This Polystyrene can take quite a lot of weight. A 70 Kg man can stand on a 14 inch square dummy, without any noticeable denting. The dummies are often used to support giant two metre tall cakes.
Keith and Richard Smith, from Dummies Direct, will be at the Cake International Show (NEC). Pop over to their stand on C30 if you’d like to learn a little more about dummies and to take advantage of the discounts on offer. They will be delighted to discuss your dummy requirements with you, from simple round dummies, to shapes such as trains, boats and planes. The other day they sculpted a dummy into the shape of a bride.
Enjoy the show folks if you’re going, if you’re not I’m sure Paul, David and the PBSS team will be blogging the show and posting commentary on facebook so no one misses out on the action!