What is Lino-Cut?
Do you remember, perhaps in elementary school, when the art teacher would give you a bit of linoleum and some sharp tools and let you whittle away at it, and then you’d coat it in paint with a roller and smack it on some paper? Well.. I figured, if one could do that to make prints, why not try to use some of same techniques on cake. And thus was born, the Lino-Cut Cake!
Figuring it out
Originally, I was totally inspired by a Russian cake artist I saw on Instagram – you can see her work here . I don’t know what medium she used on her cake, but I started thinking about how one could carve into cakes, and see different colors, and how I could make that happen. I first thought about thin layers of fondant, but then I didn’t think that the cuts would be sharp enough and that the fondant could be tough to cut. I did not want to work with buttercream, so I decided that ganache could work.
This cake has two distinct phases – the ganache phase and the carving phase. The tools you’ll need are:
Offset spatula (or your favorite icing tool)
Blade of some sort (I love PenBlades)
Dry paint brushes
If you decorate cakes at all, you’ll totally understand the first few items, but you may not be as familiar with the last couple (which are easily found at the craft store, or on Amazon, etc.).
A linoleum cutting tool looks like a red bulb, but inside it, when you unscrew the bottom, you find a bunch of different sized blades that can be used to carve into linoleum (or ganache, natch!)
Clay ribbon cutting tools are technically for cutting “ribbons” out of clay as you make designs. No reason one cannot use them on ganache!
It took me a failed attempt to realize that a very stiff ganache was necessary, and that if I wanted interesting colors without a lot of work, I could work with heavy cream and Wilton Candy Melts. I experimented with the ratio and found that 1 oz. of heavy cream to every 6 oz. of candy melts gave me a nice soft consistency for spreading but then it solidified nicely – but not hard as a rock. (NOTE: these ounces are by weight, not volume) I would not recommend going softer than that – it will make it hard to carve and you can’t get your layers as thin.
My way to make it work quickly and easily was to combine the candy melts and cream in a bowl and microwave it for 1 minute at 50% power. I then stirred the mixture for a while and then heated for another 30 seconds at regular power if it wasn’t completely melted. This resulted in a smooth and creamy ganache, easy to spread and make a thin layer!
For the purposes of this tutorial, I used a cake dummy. This made it actually more difficult to coat it in ganache because the dummy wanted to roll away from me constantly. The good news is that real cake will be heavy enough to sit on your turntable just fine.
I made 3 shades of ganache for coating – a darker blue, a lighter blue and a white. The first two blue coats needed to be smoothed to be even, but it was not necessary to get a really true finished, smooth side. That would be more important for the final white coat
This really was the fun part. I first went to my favorite place for inspiration – Pinterest!
Now – this is important – repeat after me – Do NOT LOOK AT CAKE PICTURES ON PINTEREST!
Look for other things to inspire you. Other cakes won’t do that for you – they will just put images in your mind of cakes that already exist. Look at pottery, fashion – PRINTMAKING!
Anyhow – I looked for linocut designs and found a botanical design that inspired me. Now I could get to work.
I raised my cake up off my turntable a bit so that the cake was closer to my eye level. (PS – make sure your ganache is set up and dry – letting it sit overnight would be best)
First I made some lines with my linoleum tools. Depending on the thickness of the white ganache, you may need to make more than one pass to get to the color under neath.
Then to make leaves and small petals, I used a triangular ribbon cutting tool:
To make more “poofy” flowers, I used the round ribbon cutting tool:
I used the paint brushes and also my fingers to help sweep away or blend in any rough edges that resulted from the cutting. In retrospect, a chilled ganache cake would have possibly resulted in cleaner cuts, but that’s for the next time I try this.
Here is a rough timelapse video of me doing more carving:
Be prepared to have a huge mess on your hands when you’re done. All those little pieces you carve out will have to go somewhere. Your hands will also get covered in candy melt as each time you carve a line you have to rid your tool of the ganache. It’s not for the squeamish or the people who like to stay super clean. I suppose you could wear gloves – but the mess will still happen, it’s NOT just me (at least I hope not!).
In the end, I ended up with this – the finished product. (Yes, I added some sugar flowers – but that’s a story for another blog!)
I hope you give this technique a try and post your creations in the comments below – I’d love to see them! I also have a cute tutorial on how to make dragonfly cupcake toppers – seems appropriate for a botanical cake too, no? Check that out here.
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