Not long after I began making custom cake toppers, I started to think of ways to improve my technique – both in sculpting and actual baking. I was – and still am – trying to figure out the best way to bake items when they aren’t standing upright.
I like to insert a few toothpicks into the bottoms of my figures just before putting them in the oven, for three reasons:
- It makes it easy to securely insert them into the top of your wedding cake. I didn’t do this for my own penguin cake toppers, so my baker had to construct a little platform, or tiny ice rink as I like to think of it, to secure my penguins to the cake.
- It helps the figurines stand up better in the oven while baking. I usually make a little platform out of foil and poke holes in it for the toothpicks.
- The toothpicks make it easier to pack the cake toppers, since I insert the toothpicks into a foam brick and wrap them (in several layers of bubble wrap). That way, it sort of immobilizes them during shipping, since after all, they are fragile, and you never know what can happen during shipping.
Anyway, if the customer requests it, I don’t put the toothpicks in. Sometimes people have other ideas of how to attach the toppers to their cake, or maybe they aren’t having a traditional cake (cupcake display, sweets table, etc.). For those who would like to keep the toppers as keepsakes after the wedding, you can simply clip the toothpicks off, but some people would rather not. So, when I don’t have toothpicks in, it can be a bit trickier to get the figures to stand up straight while baking. Since the cute little birds I usually make are a little plump and top heavy, and all there is on the bottom are little webbed feet, it often takes a little baking time to harden the feet enough to support the whole body. But, if you lay a figure on its side, the spots that touch the baking surface end up with a shiny little sheen on them. So that’s what started my search for a new baking surface.
I picked up the Sculpey Work ‘N Bake Clay Mat at Michael’s. It is a non-skid silicone mat that you can place on your baking sheet or pan. I really like that you can work on your clay pieces on the mat, and then bring the whole thing into the kitchen and pop it in the oven. The mat is non-stick, so I think it may sort of grip the items a little bit better than if you were to just put it on foil or wax paper. Also, since its made of silicone, it doesn’t get as hot, and you can handle it soon after taking it out of the oven. It really keeps you from making a mess on the table during the sculpting process, and makes clean up easy (when you’re done baking, a little soap and water will clean the mat).
So, while the baking mat doesn’t necessarily solve all the issues I intended it to, it has a lot of benefits I hadn’t considered, and its convenience is a huge help in the clay-making process! Just another reason I heart Sculpey.