How to Create Bark or Wood Effect Cakes by Rhianydd Webb of Dragons and Daffodils Cakes

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Have you ever seen a wood effect cake and wondered how someone has done it? Well the super talented Rhianydd Webb, tells us how in this guest blog post.

Every now and again, we come across people, businesses and cakes that stop us in your tracks and make us think "Wow, this person has talent!". This very thing happened to us, when we came across Rhianydd's from Dragons and Daffodils Cakes last year. For the past few years, Rhianydd has won consecutive Gold Awards at Cake International, and her cakes and talent have certainly not gone unnoticed. We instantly fell in love with Rhianydd's Woodland Wedding Cake! So we decided, who better to tell us how to recreate a bark and wood effect on a cake, than Rhianydd?!

Check out her Facebook page and website to "oooo" and "ahhhh" at her stunning cake designs. Now, it's over to Rhianydd...

I have always wanted a more commercial way of producing a realistic bark effect on a cake, so when FPC Sugarcraft launched their bark mat, I thought…YES! I just had to have a go. It is so easy to use, really detailed, and stands up well to my bullying. You can buy the FPC mat from here or any good cake retailer. You can create the cake as I have done, starting with white and airbrushing, but you can also start with chocolate modelling paste or chocolate flavoured sugarpaste and have a fantastic instant effect.

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Equipment

  • Bark Mat by FPC Sugarcraft
  • Pastry brush
  • Rollling pin
  • Sharp knife
  • Palette Knife
  • Non stick Board
  • Air brush
  • Large flat Dusting brush
  • No 1 round paint brush
  • Dresden
  • No.0 round grey-tipped colour shaper

Edibles

  • Your cake (or dummy)
  • Icing sugar Shaker
  • Air brush colours – Kroma: Brown, Black, Green and Squires Kitchen Bulrush
  • Dust Colours – Sugarflair Nutkin Brown and Moss Green
  • Paste colours – Sugarflair Cream, Autumn Leaf, Dark Brown, Liquorice
  • Clear alcohol (Vodka)
  • Cornflour puff
  • Sugarpaste
  • CMC

Prepare your Dummy or cake

So let’s start! I have carved a series of dummies from 10”round up to 8” round into a suitable tree cake, but you could easily use a standard size round dummy fixed to a cake board in place of those slices of tree you often see cakes displayed on. Perfectly food safe and can be used again!

1. For a simple “Tree slice” cake base, use a 4” high 10” round dummy. It will need four sections of sugarpaste embossed with the mat but you can even add sausages of icing if you would like the tree slice to be a little more irregular in shape (as in the four tier cake above).

If you wish to cover a cake, coat with ganache, and brush with warm water to fix the embossed panels.

For this project I carved multiple dummies to shape as in the image below:

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Creating the Branches of the Tree

2. I used sugarpaste with CMC added to the ratio of 1tsp CMC to 400g paste. Pin our your sugarpaste to 4-5mm thick. Lightly moisten the cut branch and place sugarpaste on. Trim away the excess.

Mark the circles on the surface using a size 0 round grey tipped colour shaper or the narrow end of a Dresden tool. Next, Draw your Dresden across the surface from edge to centre, decreasing in pressure as you go to mark the splits in the trunk.

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Adding the Texture to the Tree

3. Cut out a piece of sugarpaste the same size as the mat, dust the mat lightly with your cornflour puff and place the sugarpaste on top of the mat. Use the heel of your hand to press the sugarpaste gently into the grooves of the mat. Brush the cake/dummy with water, and press the mat onto the cake to fasten, peel the mat away from the cake leaving the embossed paste on the cake. You can also push the paste into the shaping of the cake using the mat itself, creating more depth of texture.

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4. Work your way up the tree, it is quite therapeutic and you feel really artistic adding sections of paste and watching them magically blend together using the mat. It really is satisfying to watch it all join up. If you are working on an irregular shape such as the tree trunk, you will need to cut some pieces roughly to size before fixing in place, but you can always use your knife to trim away any excess and press the mat over a join or “mistake” to hide it completely.

Tuck the icing around openings for a more natural finish. Work your way up the tree, completing the covering on the same day in order to blend the pieces well.
For short branches, pin out sugarpaste, roughly cut a piece to size, texture then add it on. Trim away the excess once in place and use the mat to blend any joins by pressing it back on.

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Hand-Painting Option

5. Mix Sugarflair dark brown paste colour thickly with isopropyl alcohol using a large flat paint brush in the creases and cracks, then dilute it down with more isopropyl before painting a wash of brown over the whole cake. When dry, dust lightly with nutkin brown to create depth and moss green to age.

To Airbrush

First cover the cut edges of the branches with greaseproof paper pinned into place.

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6. Start with Kroma black and airbrush into the recesses. Don’t hold the airbrush too close to keep the lines less definite. Don’t panic that it looks a little like a zebra at first!

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7. Rinse your airbrush with water then use Kroma green with a few drops of Kroma brown and airbrush random sections of the cake with a light coat. Rinse out your airbrush with water, then spray any white areas using Kroma brown, so that the cake is covered with a camouflage effect of green, black and brown. It will look patchy at this stage.

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8. While it is still wet, airbrush the tree trunk sides with Kroma brown.

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9. Without waiting for the cake to dry, fold kitchen paper into four, run under the tap and use it to dab away colour from the cake. Remove colour from the sections of the trunk that protrude for a more natural effect, then leave to dry for an hour. Perfect time for a cuppa.

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10. For the final airbrush coat, use Squires Kitchen liquid Bulrush and paint the whole of the sides of the trunk.

Colour Tip – If you are new to Airbrushing and nervous with colours, or just short of time, pre-colour your sugarpaste to a mid brown with Sugarflair Dark brown paste colour to make the bark and try airbrushing lightly with just Squires Kitchen Bulrush liquid colour. You can still put a little more of the colour in the cracks and creases to create depth. Quite good if you don’t own any other colours yet, so you only have to buy one little pot of liquid colour.

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While it is still wet, grab the kitchen roll and dab away at the cake again to leave lighter patches.

Below is what it looks like after it has time to dry. We have the light patches where we dabbed away with the kitchen roll. What a difference leaving it to dry overnight makes.

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Painting the cut branches

11. Now let’s work on the cut branches. You will probably have a little overspray if the airbrush colour got under the greaseproof, but I liked that so I didn’t wash it away. Using Sugarflair cream paste colour mixed with vodka , paint the cut branches of the cake with a flat brush. Next mix sugarflair Autumn leaf paste colour with vodka and use a no.1 brush to paint the lines you embossed onto the cut surfaces.

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12. Finally, mix a little Sugarflair Dark Brown with vodka and paint again into the larger cracks.

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Finishing touches

13. Use a large flat dusting brush and dust loosely over the sides of the tree trunk with Sugarflair Nutkin Brown. Dust a little Sugarflair moss green onto areas that you would like to look “mossy”

14. For the earth at the base of your tree, pin out sugarpaste dark brown sugarpaste, and press the bristles of a nailbrush all over the paste. Moisten your board and use this textured paste to cover it. Trim away to fit in the recesses at the base of the tree, and use your nailbrush to push into any nooks and crannies.

Dust this with Sugarflair nutkin brown while it is still soft.

15. To make the stone steps, marble white sugarpaste with sugarflair liquorice black paste colour. Next, recess your “earth” area with a ball tool and press a ball of the paste into the space.

Finally, dust the stones with nutkin brown and moss green to age them.


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Ta-da! Here you have it, a lovely, life-like tree trunk!

A big thank you to Rhianydd for this insightful blog post - we look forward to seeing all your wood effect inspired cakes.

Remember, give Rhianydd from Dragons and Daffodils a Like on Facebook if you love her designs as much as we do 🙂

If you give this technique a go, please share your photos with us on Facebook or on our Community page, we would love to see them!

Happy Caking! x