I want to thank you all for the questions that you have send about cakes and cake decoration for Jean Michel Raynaud. He have written back some very interesting answers and I hope that you all will enjoy reading them.
CJR: Would you please tell us about your career path? Where did you learn you skills? What are some of the other places/companies you have worked for, and how do they compare with Sweet Art, where you are working now? Where do you get your design inspiration?J
JMR: I started in apprentice in 1981!! I was lucky to work under the tutelage of one of the best chef in France; whilst he was getting his masterpiece for his MOF (best chef in France) I instantly developed a passion for decorating. When I graduated, I was employed as the head pastry chef for a 3 Michelin star restaurant called Le petit nice, however, the culture of restaurant didn’t meet my path of specialisation in decorating. I moved to Australia, and after a brief detour as a pro sportsman, I was given an opportunity to head the kitchen at Sweet Art. This organisation is a worldwide institution and gave me the opportunity to bring my own style, inspired by formal French training. After 6 years, I left to help Paris and Billy set up planet cake but we eventually fell out, and returned as the general manger to sweet Art. All along, I pro actively continued my learning, going to seminars around the world, and won gold medals as a decorator on several continents. I started the classes at Planet cake, and am currently putting the finishing touches on sweet Art courses. After over 20 years of constant learning, I now go around teaching specialised subjects in the myriad to schools and organisation around the world.
CJR: Would love to master the art of cake decorating. What type of classes should I be taking to master the art of Cake decorating? Should I attend a culinary art college?
JMR: That would depends on what your intentions are, long term. Do you want to make a career of it, or simply learn new, exciting skills? If you chose decorating as a career path, I strongly encourage you to learn the basic of cake making first, it will help you become a more viable proposition for prospective employer, more over if you open your own business, you will be able to not only decorate, but bake, set up and understand the underlying needs of pastry cooking, as such you should go to a culinary school or professional school. If you only want to specialise in decorating, you want to look for specialised courses such as the one offered by small decorating businesses, they are expensive but will be more focused on what you want. Keep in mind that the two best decorator I know, Faye Cahill and Margaret Carter are not trained as chef, but come from an art background, decorating has more to do with art than the cooking!!
CJR: If you have to choose only one decorating techinique and one tool that you can’t live without, what will that be and why?
JMR: Definitely Pipping, it is still the one aspect of cake decorating that separate good decorators and great ones!! Anyone, with a bit of patience can master the skills to cover a cake sharply, pipping takes years of painstaking practise and enable you to really express your own style. The tool would be my life long spatula, a Sabatier, soft, sharp and precise.
CJR: Have you written any books?
JMR: Unfortunately, not yet, I am quite busy as it is, I am setting up my own web site with a forum and dozens of designs and explanations
CJR: Many of the SweetArt designs have double-height tiers. (some even look like triple-height). I’d like to know what kind if supports are needed for this type of cake. And is it necessary to cover the tops and sides of these tall cakes separately? Or can it be done all at once?
JMR: SweetArt have hundreds of designs, we actually design every cake to our client requirement. I do try to push the double or triple high, I call these shapes spring time; they always look more sophisticated and light than traditional 4 inches cakes. You need to set your cakes on boards slightly smaller than their diameter, for instance a 7 inch cake is set up on a 6 inch board to avoid a line in your icing later on in the covering process. Each board has a whole in the middle and is supported by skewers. Once they are on the top of each other, ganache the whole 2 or 3 cakes together. A secret when you set up tall cakes, you will not be able to cover your cake like you do traditionally if the height of the cake is more than the width of the cake, if it is, you will have to roll the icing around and hide the junction with a design of some sort.
CJR: Which brands of color do you use and recommend for coloring fondant?
JMR: All our colours are imported from the US, we use Americolor and ChefMaster. For your fondant (plastic icing or pastillage), never use Airbrush colour. I use gels as much as I can, for very specific colour match, I supplement with pastes.
CJR: Are your figurines made from icing or fondant or clay or foam? There’s a christening cake on your website of a stork and baby….i’d like to know how you balanced him so perfectly!
JMR: The Baby and Stalk id made from polystyrene and BBQ skewers for the legs. I use masking tape to reinforce them so they don’t break. Most of the figurines you see have a base of styro, smoothed out with sand paper and covered with icing.
CJR: Since Orchard are no longer manufacturing their red fondant, where are you getting yours from? It’s so difficult to get a true red color.
JMR: Deep colour fondant are difficult to make as the more colour you put, the less workable it becomes. I prepare a base icing saturated in colour in black and red with very high gelatine content, and use this paste to colour proper icing. You will find it hard to go about it any other way. Alternatively, uses gels and mix your icing using corn flour, unlike icing sugar, it does not dry out the icing as much.
CJR: I’ve noticed that scratch recipes are not as stable as the mixes. do you bake from scratch or from a mix; and are you allowed to share a basic recipe with us? Please?
JMR: I never use pre mixes, simply because they are full or preservatives and processed ingredients and frankly, it takes the same amount of time to mix a cake from scratch using fresh ingredients. This is a great point that highlight my comment in question one about the difference between culinary college and decorating classes and their limitations. I would be more than happy to share my recipes but I don’t know if Louise will let me use 5 pages to answer this question, may be we will do a “baking special”
Part 2 will be posted in the next couple of days.