Article Courtesy Scrapjazz.com: by Georgina Hefferman
One of my earliest memories is of me, standing on stool at the kitchen counter, about 3 years old, with a wooden spoon in my hand, mixing a batch of cupcake batter with Mum.
I have adored baking for as long as I can remember and it is one of my great loves in life. Never a week goes by when I am not in my kitchen whipping up a batch of cupcakes, a Victoria sandwich or some cookies! Not only is it a great stress reliever but it is a ton of fun too.
I have to say though, presentation is my weak spot! I often find myself frustrated at my inability to make something look really pretty instead of “just passable.” I practice and practice but am never fully satisfied. Apparently my creations taste delightful (or so I am told) and many of my friends and family boast to me over how yummy my homemade treats are, often giving me custom requests and orders for birthdays and events. But I am a perfectionist however and have never truly been content with the look of my finished product. You eat with your eyes first after all. It has to look good.
That’s why when I first discovered that Cricut were bringing out a Cricut Cake Machine I was beyond excited. I spent weeks imagining the possibilities, all those cakes I could make, all the different food decorations I could create. When I heard that the machine would be red, it quite simply tipped me over the edge! My kitchen is red and the machine would sit perfectly next to my Empire Red KitchenAid. I was sold on the product before I even saw it.
As soon as was humanly possible, I purchased my machine with great anticipation. I rushed home, pulled it out of the box, and oohed and aahed for a good half hour at the pretty red sheen, the stainless steel trim and the cute blade housing. I discarded the instruction manual (I have a bad habit of not reading things before I jump in. I call it my trial-and-error method and it’s how I learn best.), rushed to my kitchen and set the machine up to give it a try.
My first impression was in respect to the size. It is the same size as the Cricut Expression, and therefore a little larger than my standard Cricut machine that I use for my paper crafting. It was a little heavier than I was used to as well, but this is not a bad thing. The machine is very sturdy, doesn’t slip on the work surface and is really fantastic quality. You certainly feel you are getting your money’s worth with the look and feel of this machine. I had a little issue trying to make it accessible for me in my kitchen. I have quite narrow work surfaces and not much room. I had to clear a space to put the machine and have angled it on the worktop to ensure I have enough room either side to enable the mat to move freely. It was workable; however, it just means I have to put the machine away in a cupboard when I am finished cutting.
The Cricut Cake works in the same way all other Cricut machines work. You attach a cartridge of your choice to the machine and select the speed and pressure of your cutting blade. You select an image or font from the cartridge and then rather than loading paper onto a sticky Cricut mat, you use gum paste or rolled fondant which you lay out onto a special red, food-safe Cricut mat. The mats come in two different sizes, 12” x 12” or 12” x 24” for longer borders. You stick rolled gum paste to the mat using Crisco and then feed it into the machine in the same way you would feed a paper mat.
After you press the cut button, the machine cuts out the image or font you selected. You are then able to attach this gum paste image to your cakes or cookies in order to decorate them.
I was a bit nervous about the quality of the cut, especially because of the texture of the gum paste but actually it was pretty accurate the first time I tried. I wasn’t over-the-moon happy though, and honestly, it wasn’t perfect. I tried a couple of times that night before becoming frustrated at myself for not being able to make it work how I wanted. I gave up and walked away! It was quite overwhelming, spending all that money on a machine and feeling it wasn’t delivering what you expected. I was actually quite disappointed.
I was not about to give up, however, so I actually took some time to sit down and read the handbook. I totally should have done that in the first place! I searched Internet chat rooms and message boards to see how others were getting on with their new machines, learned from their mistakes and began to feel more positive again. By all accounts I wasn’t alone! I had to remember I wasn’t working with paper anymore and the fondant could be unpredictable . So many factors could influence how it worked (weather, heat in the kitchen and so on). I picked up a huge amount of tips to help make the cut more precise and started to gain my confidence back. I gave it another try and made my first cupcakes with the only blue fondant icing I had on hand.
The biggest thing I learnt was that you actually need to either let the fondant dry on the mat for at least an hour before attempting to cut, or if you are eager, roll the fondant on the mat and pop it in the freezer for half hour before cutting. This means the fondant is a little more set before you begin your cutting. Once the image has been cut out, I pop the mat back into the freezer for ten minutes more to enable me to lift the image off the mat with ease. Applying my newly found knowledge, I then really started to enjoy using my Cricut Cake. My work started to look a little more professional and I was getting more consistent results. Now I use my machine all the time. There are so many uses. You can cut not only fondant or gum paste for decorating cakes of all sizes, but you can cut cookie dough (and then the icing to match), tortilla wraps (great for lunch boxes) and even fruit roll ups! You can cut anything that is edible and can be rolled out flat!
You can use any of your existing Cricut cartridges with the machine, as they are interchangeable. This is such a positive thing. You can have thousands of images and fonts at your finger tips and you can customise every project. The exciting thing is, you can create a whole theme. You can decorate a cake with your Cricut Cake, but then using your standard Cricut or Cricut Expression you can create party decorations and invitations to match the cake. The possibilities are endless. You can even use the Cricut Cake with your Gypsy or Design Studio software.
The whole machine is really easy to clean when you have finished. There is a transparent silicone skirt that you pop over the keypad and there is a port cover to slip over your cartridge to prevent food getting in when you are cutting. The whole design of the machine has been really well thought out.
I’ve made all kinds of cakes now! If you have been considering purchasing the Cricut Cake, I say go for it. You will love it (just remember to read the manual first!) and if you have a machine already and are struggling to get the best out of it, visit the Cricut message boards as the girls there have lots of great advice! Research, research, research! And be confident in the machine’s ability. Practice makes perfect and practice is fun!