Cake Decorators Do you want to save the planet?

March 5, 2009

Dear Cake Decorator:

On March 28, 2009, at 8:30 pm, tens of millions of people will demonstrate concern for our planet by turning out their lights for one hour. Earth Hour. A global event that enables us to express our collective concern about the future health of our planet, and reminds us that by working together, we can make a positive impact in the fight against climate change.

I plan to participate in Earth Hour at home and I would like to suggest that you consider taking part in this important event as a way to demonstrate to your children and friend that you care about the environment.

By simply turning out all non-essential lighting for one hour— in our own homes—we will join tens of millions of concerned citizens throughout the world in calling for action to save our planet for future generations.
Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, one of the largest and most respected conservation organizations in the world.

 In 2008, more than 50 million took part, as the lights darkened at Sydney’s Opera House, Rome’s Coliseum, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. Even Google’s homepage went black. In Israel, President Shimon Peres personally turned off lights in Tel Aviv.
Businesses, individuals and government leaders from more than 400 cities took part because they recognize that global climate change poses a serious threat to our world and the economic well-being of our plant.
This year, Earth Hour will be even bigger. In the US, cities large and small have said they’ll participate including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, and San Francisco. They will join international cities such as Auckland, Beijing, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Oslo, Rome, Singapore, Toronto, and Warsaw.
To get a better sense of the inspiring nature of the event, I hope you’ll take a moment to watch a video about Earth Hour 2008 at

Earth Hour isn’t just for big cities. Every individual and business has a stake in the future of our planet and must do whatever we can to make a difference
In weeks leading up to Earth Hour, you and your family could work together to think of ways you, waste less and reduce our environmental footprint—not only in your own home, but throughout our community.

 Joining Earth Hour is a great way to demonstrate that you care about the planet and want to cooperate in a responsible way. Perhaps we could gather a group of friends to brainstorm other ways that you  can participate.

Earth Hour is not only easy and fun, but it costs nothing. Details are available at
I hope you’ll consider  taking part and encourage your family and friends to also participate.

Thanks for your consideration.

Marivi Bassabe


cake decorators Do you know how safe are food additives?

January 26, 2009

Cake Decorators Do you know how safe are food additives?


I like to thank you all for the emails sent during the holiday season, and for all those questions and comments about the food colors information.

Today, I will present you the new sweetener in the market. A product that according to Pure Circle, the largest supplier of Reb A (RebaudiosideA), derived from stevia plant is bake-stable.

Researching about stevia plant, I found that this plant has being historically used in South America to sweeten the tea. There is a lot of information about the controversial history of the sweet food additives that we use in our kitchen.

In the web site sweet-from sugar to stevia, you will find a very well done historical account of sweet food additives that had been approved by FDA and then banned some years after being determined to be dangerous to human. Stevia was banned in 1991 or considered unsafe for the use of humans. Although unresolved questions remain concerning whether metabolic processes can produce a mutagen from stevia in animals, the early studies prompted the European Commission to ban stevia’s use in food in the European Union, pending further research: Singapore and Hong Kong have banned it also. However, more recent data compiled in the safety evaluation released by the World Health Organization in 2006 suggest that policies may be obsolete. On December 2008, 18 years after the FDA deemed it unsafe, stevia is granted GRAS status (Generally Regarded as safe).

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, in their web site, under food safety/food additives link, you will find alphabetically listed additives today in the market. It will tell you, which are safe, which to cut back and the reason to do so, which avoid, and which not to use. Scroll down to stevia. I invite you to visit: or

One of the basic ingredients of our trade is sugar. It is our responsibility as bakers and cake decorators to be informed of the quality of the products we place in our cakes and cookies. I suggest you to search for the pros and cons of additives like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose and stevia and how they can affect the health of our customers and family.

I invite you to read carefully today information and visit the links, for you to be able to make the best decision of what type of additives to place in your food.

In the mean time, I will use sugar anytime. Happy Cake Decorating.

Marivi Bassabe

Cake Decorators and crafters: Conceptual awareness in a design.

October 5, 2008

Cake Decorators and crafters:  Conceptual awareness in a design.


In any cake design, the most important consideration is conceptual awareness.  All cake compositions begin with an artist’s conceptual awareness—“the idea” for the presentation of the specific occasion request.


Technically, conceptual awareness is “visual literacy.”  Visual literacy is a competence in visual expression and communication.  It involves insights and skill no less disciplined than those required for proficiency in engineering and construction.


A decorated cake is a composition, a structure composed of various materials.  The manner in which the artist presents these materials creates a visual communication.  Therefore, a decorated cake is a visual structure which communicates to the viewer.


Acquiring the professional skills to communicate through cake design is no different from learning how to communicate verbally.  Cake decorating as a method of communication requires an artist to learn all the technical essentials of professional design. With this knowledge we develop and express our unique creative talents.


The creative foundation for every cake design is conceptual awareness. It is expressed in composition.  Understanding composition and mastering the skill to present a persuasive creation is the mark of a professional cake decorator artist.  If a cake design is not persuasive, it is no more than an obscure grouping of ingredients.  A compelling composition is essential for a cake decorator to be distinctive, pleasing and remembered.


Simply stated, composition is the specific order in which an artist present all the visual components in a design.  Composition includes the elements and principles of a design as well as the techniques used in deploying these ingredients.


In this times of uncertainty, when the global economic situation makes us wonder what is next.  This is the time to make use of your conceptual awareness and get the materials needed for your creation that are available in the cake decorating market.  Out there are very good sugar artist and suppliers of the sugar ornaments and flowers needed to suit your specific artistic need.   It is the time to work together, and help each other to overcome these difficult times.


I am convinced that a cake decorator can function effectively in a commercial atmosphere if he respect and supports the creativity of others.  I endorse the Gestalt theory of creativity which states that the whole is more that the sum of the parts.  Collaborative design enables us to combine the talents of the finest artist for a product that is far better than any one artist could create on his own.


Best regards,




Cake Decorators Do you know how safe are color additives?

June 22, 2008

Cake Decorators: Do you know How Safe are color additives?

It is very important for us, cake decorators and cold porcelain crafters, to know the importance of the request to the FDA by The Center of Science in the Public Interest to ban food dyes additives linked to children behavior problems.

Two things concern me about this request:

     1. How this will impact our business, what colors can be used to tint the icing,  gumpaste and fondant?.

The first is a problem that has an easy solution, search for natural food dyes.  A growing number of natural food dyes are being commercially produced, partly due to consumer concerns surrounding synthetic dyes. Some examples include:

*                   Caramel coloring, made from caramelized sugar, used in cola products and also in cosmetics.

*                   Annatto, a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote.

*                   A green dye made from chlorella algae.

*                   Cochineal, a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus.

*                   Beet juice

*                   turmeric

*                   saffron

*                   paprika

To ensure reproducibility, the colored components of these substances are often provided in highly purified form, and for increased stability and convenience, they can be formulated in suitable carrier materials (solid and liquid).

In the USA, the following seven artificial colorings are permitted in food (the most common in bold) as of 2007:

*                   FD&C Blue No. 1 – Brilliant Blue FCF, E133 (Blue shade)

*                   FD&C Blue No. 2 – Indigotine, E132 (Dark Blue shade)

*                   FD&C Green No. 3 – Fast Green FCF, E143 (Bluish green shade)

*                   FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129 (Red shade)

*                   FD&C Red No. 3 – Erythrosine, E127 (Pink shade) [4]

*                   FD&C Yellow No. 5 – Tartrazine, E102 (Yellow shade)

*                   FD&C Yellow No. 6 – Sunset Yellow FCF, E110 (Orange shade)

2.       What is more important for us, our children or greed?

The idea that food additives can cause hyperactivity in children was first proposed by allergy specialist Dr. Benjamin Feingold in 1975. This sparked international inquiry with mixed results. In a new study financed by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and published online by the British medical journal The Lancet researchers have conclusively confirmed this link. The study focused on a variety of food colorings in combination with sodium benzoate, a common preservative. In the six-week trial, researchers gave a randomly selected group of several hundred 3-year-olds and 8 and 9-year-olds drinks with color additives and sodium benzoate — a mix that mimicked children’s drinks that are commercially available. Their diet was otherwise controlled to avoid other sources of the additives.

A control group was given an additive-free placebo drink that looked and tasted the same.

All of the children were then evaluated for inattention and hyperactivity by parents, teachers and through a computer test. Neither the researchers nor the subject knew which drink any of the children had consumed.

The researchers discovered that children in both age groups were significantly more hyperactive and that they had shorter attention spans if they had consumed the drink containing the additives.

In response to the study, the Food Standards Agency advised parents to monitor their children’s activity and, if they noted a marked change with food containing additives, to adjust their diets accordingly, eliminating artificial colors and preservatives.

 comprehensive 2004 meta-analysis of the medical literature concluded that artificial dyes affect children’s behavior, and two recent studies funded by the British government found that dyes (as well as the preservative sodium benzoate) adversely affect kids’ behavior. Unlike most previous studies, those British studies tested children in the general population, not children whose parents suspected they were sensitive to dyes. As a result, the British government is successfully pressuring food manufacturers to switch to safer colorings.

“We spent years trying to figure out the cause of our son’s behavioral problems,” said Judy Mann, of Silver Spring, Md. “For a long time, we thought the culprit was sugar. But when we started carefully monitoring everything he ate we were able to see that artificial dyes and preservatives were the problem. Since eliminating them the change has been positively stunning.”

“The continued use of these unnecessary artificial dyes is the secret shame of the food industry and the regulators who watch over it,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “The purpose of these chemicals is often to mask the absence of real food, to increase the appeal of a low-nutrition product to children, or both. Who can tell the parents of kids with behavioral problems that this is truly worth the risk?”

Americans’ exposure to artificial food dyes has risen sharply. According to the FDA, the amount of food dye certified for use was 12 milligrams per capita per day in 1955. In 2007, 59 mg per capita per day, or nearly five times as much, was certified for use. Dyes are used in countless foods and are sometimes used to simulate the color of fruits or vegetables

“The science shows that kids’ behavior improves when these artificial colorings are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added to the their diets,” said Dr. David Schab, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, who conducted the 2004 meta-analysis with his colleague Dr. Nhi-Ha T. Trinh. “While not all children seem to be sensitive to these chemicals, it’s hard to justify their continued use in foods—especially those foods heavily marketed to young children.”.

“It’s almost impossible for parents to eliminate these chemicals from their kids’ diets on their own. The FDA could make life a lot easier for parents and children by just getting rid of them.”

“Banning these synthetic chemicals is certainly a far less drastic step than putting so many children on Ritalin or other potentially dangerous and sometimes-abused prescription stimulants,” said Jacobson. “The food industry has known about this problem for 30 years, yet few companies have switched to safer colorings. We hope today is the beginning of the end for Yellow 5, Red 40, and these other dubious dyes.”

CSPI’s petition asks the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes while it mulls CSPI’s request to ban the dyes outright. CSPI also wants the FDA to correct the information it presents to parents on its web site about the impact of artificial food dyes on behavior. Joining CSPI’s call are 19 prominent psychiatrists, toxicologists, and pediatricians who today co-signed letter urging members of Congress to hold hearings on artificial food dyes and behavior, and to fund an Institute of Medicine research project on the issue. Those doctors include L. Eugene Arnold, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University; Bernard Weiss, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Stanley Greenspan, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School.




Cake Decorators and Crafters: Cold Porcelain Recipe

April 9, 2008

Cold porcelain is a non edible paste that is used to make favors and ornaments.

I personally use it to make flower arrangements and center pieces for interior decoration.

Today I will tell you how to care for this paste, about how to knead it and of course the recipe.

This recipe is innocuous, made with non toxics ingredients. This recipe do not contain any chemicals that could be hazardous for your health.  Also,  do not need to be cooked at all and air dries.

To care for this paste, just keep it wrapped in plastic in a dry area at room temperature.  Do not place in a dark drawer for a long period of time, this will make the paste moldy.

When kneading this paste, if too sticky add some cornstarch, also rub a dab of shortening to your hands and keep the rolling pin very clean.  To prevent the paste from sticking to the table when extending the paste with the rolling pin, rub a dab of shortening on the table too, do not over do it, please.

If making a flower, to thin the petals, use a metal balling tool and use the palm of your hand to do the balling at the edges of the petals and leaves. Press softly; the weight of the metal ball will do the job for you.   And now:
Cold Porcelain Recipe

1 cup Aleene’s Tacky Glue Original
1 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon Tylose
1 tablespoon Wilton liquid white color (this is add to the paste to prevents it from becoming transparent when dried)
Mix all ingredients and knead to get a soft paste.  If too sticky add cornstarch.
Do not cook.  Keep in well lighted area, tightly wrap in plastic. Do not refrigerate.

Remember Cold Porcelain should not be use to decorate cakes, even though is made with non toxics ingredients.  Use sugar flowers and sugar ornaments to decorate your cakes.

See you next week,


Marivi Bassabe

Cake Decorators: The Law of Cause in Effect in our kitchen?

March 16, 2008

Cake Decorators:  The Law of Cause and Effect in our kitchen? 

How many times, when we decide to bake a cake, make a sugar flower or a special frosting, we end up frustrated because it does not come out as we expected?  Why the frosting is runny or too stiff, either won/t stay in place or it grab big chunks of cake destroying it?  Why the pastillage or gum paste flowers lose the shape or do not dry at all?

My friends, all these have an answer and it is in the way of The Law of Cause and Effect, because in this world, nothing happen by coincidence, everything has a reason to be.

For example: there are many reasons for the sinking of a cake.  The causes can be too much butter, opening the oven and slamming the door to close it and this creates a change in  temperature in the oven cavity, too much or too little baking powder, incorrect temperature, check for doneness too soon, and inserting a tester before the first 40 minutes lapse,  any of these will make the cake sink.

If you get a big bump in the center, it its due to excess of temperature..  It is good to have an oven thermometer for cross reference.  Too high temperature will cause the cake to rise in the center and  many times burst like a volcano.

What about the frosting?  Butter cream too runny needs more sugar.  Eggs whites frosting (also know as Italian or Dominican) when it is runny probably the egg whites were not stiff enough or the syrup did not have the correct consistency (soft ball stage) about 240F degrees on the candy thermometer.  If the rolled fondant is to brittle and cracks at the edges, it needs more kneading or you added to much glycerin.  Glycerin is an emollient and too much will make the fondant brittle.  If the fondant is too soft add more sugar and if it needs elasticity add 1 teaspoon of TyloseC or CMC.

When working with pastillage or gum paste, remember that sugar is hydroscopic, in other words, it absorb the humidity of the ambient.  If the day is too humid, dry your work pieces inside the oven or the micro oven. Just turn on the oven light, but do not turn on the oven, pleaaase.  If using the micro, just leave the door slightly open.  The light inside the oven will dry the pieces, then once they are completely dry, place in a plastic box with a lid and close it.   

Those are only some examples that things happen for a reason.  If you do not follow instructions (the cause), you have to face the problems (the effect).

Same way in our daily life, the Law of Cause and Effect affect our lives.  You may look for something more complex, by passing the law of cause and effect to explain the situation, it doesn’t matter how hard or long you look or how complicated you make it, at the end you will discover that you did something to wheel in motion sitting up the situation where you are at this moment.

The principle of cause and effect is an immutable Universal Principle encompassing the truth that nothing in the Universe can ever happen by chance, there is always a corresponding cause preceding it.  Specially the way we live our life.  The law of Universe is no respecter of persons in the sense that your own thoughts, decisions, and actions are the threads that create the fabric of your life, or in our own jargon, is the kind of ingredients we place in our cake.  Knowing this, what are you putting out there?  What sort of ingredients are mixing into our life?  What type of energy will be greeting you in the not too distant future?

You can figure out where your life has been by the quality of your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual life today.  What will you do to enhance your life?

Here is a simple and easy way to create always a positive cause and effect.  All begins with our intentions;

If you love, praise, forgive, have compassion, respect others, have tolerance, find good in others,  you will get love, praise, forgiveness, compassion, others will respect you, tolerate you and find good in you.

 When you live with the intention of loving, giving, abundance, success and gratitude, the Universe, God, will create a future full of the same.  Imagine your life being full of Love, Generosity, Abundance, Success and Gratitude.  Because in this world nothing happen by coincidence and you get back what you give out.

God Bless you,



Cake Decorators,Do you know what cold porcelain is?

March 2, 2008

Cake Decorators, Do you know what cold porcelain is?

I have received many e-mails asking about what is and how to make cold porcelain and its uses.  In this writing I will tell you everything I know about cold porcelain and  where to use it.

Cold porcelain is a non –edible paste. It is made with glue, corn starch and some chemicals.   Cold porcelain is not to be used to decorate cakes, because it contains a contaminant.  Cakes should and most be decorated with sugar paste, pastillage, gum paste or chocolate flowers and ornament.

Cold Porcelain is excellent for table decorations and centerpieces, bridal bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres.  You can make very delicate non edible favors with this paste.  Porcelain should never be place in contact with the cake or food.

Here are the reasons why Cold Porcelain is a contaminant.  I have in my file over 30 cold porcelain recipes.  People place different names to the same paste, like porcelanicron, Russian porcelain,  French porcelain, magic paste, etc.  Many of these recipes contain one or more of the following ingredients:  stearic acid, titanium dioxide, formalin or formaldehyde, baby oil, hand cream and others.  Here is some information about the ingredients or chemicals, to my personal opinion, dangerous for the artisan that make the paste and also for the consumer of the food exposed to these contaminants.

Stearic acid is a product use to make candles, soaps, plastics, oil pastels, cosmetics and for softening rubber.  In fireworks, stearic acid is often used to coat metal powders, such as aluminum and iron, This prevent oxidation allowing compositions to be stored for longer.  In the case of the cold porcelain it give elasticity to the paste and prevent it from becoming moldy if not used for a prolonged time.

Titanium Dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, “possible carcinogen to humans” This ingredient is used to help avoid the paste from becoming  transparent.

Formalin or “Formaldehyde” can be toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic.  The United States Centerfor Disease Control and Prevention, performed indoor air quality testing because exposure can cause burning eyes and or nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, headaches and has been shown to be carcinogenic, causing nasal nasopharyngeal cancer and possible leukemia as well.  Formaldehyde is classified as probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 I have a double concern, because I care for you, all of you. Why? I am convinced that we are all one.   Care about the one that make the cold porcelain using those ingredients. Do you know what happens when you mix those ingredients and cook them together?  What chemical reaction are you generating?  Do you know how harmful inhaling these fumes when heated might be for your health, your family?  Do you know about the environmental consequences? On the other side, those that buy these cold porcelain pieces, ornaments and beautiful flowers to decorate the cakes, do you know the source of the products? There is no way to know the chemicals used in their production.  Think about it, and pleeeeeeease do not place them on the cakes. There are many sugar crafters and, companies that sale the sugar flowers and will be more than happy to do business with you. We spend long hours baking, decorating our delicious cakes to be consumed by human beings.  Please, don’t place cold porcelain flowers an ornament on your cakes.  Sugar  flowers for the cakes and the cold porcelain ornaments for the tables centerpieces.  Next week I will give a recipe of cold porcelain that is innocuous and it not need to be cooked.  It is the recipe I use to make figurines, and flower arrangements for home decorations, also use it for non edible favors, but never to decorate cakes. See you next week, 


How to make a sugar paste 5petals rose or Wild Rose

February 28, 2008

Probably you all know that I recently relocated to Ocala
Central Florida.  And, of course, there are a lot of new
things I never experienced before, like the change of
seasons, the nice temperature and also the cold mornings
and the frosted grass.  I never lived by a horse farm,  or
enjoy the presence of the squirrels running and chasing one
 another around the oak trees.  Behind is the hectic life
of the big cities, where many of us get so entangled in the
daily struggle to survive, that we forget to smell the
roses along the way.
Yesterday, looking through my kitchen window I saw in my
neighbor’s garden a beautiful small flower, what really
amazed me was to see such delicate flower enjoying the 40F
degrees of that cool morning.  Later in the morning I asked
my neighbor the name of the brave flower and she told me,
“It is a Wild Rose”.  It is such a beautiful flower that I
decided to tell you:
How to make a 5 petal open rose or Wild Rose
First, make the center of the rose.  Wrap cotton thread
around two fingers about 16 times.  Using a wire number 28,
twist both ends of cotton firmly to prevent cotton from
slipping out. Cut into two equal halves.  Trim as required.
 Cut a   piece of wire gauge 24 about 4 inches long, bend
the tip.  Make a small ball of pastillage tinted brown,
moist the bended tip of the wire and attach a small
pastillage ball.  Let’s dry for a few hours.  Once the
center is dry,  paint cornmeal with yellow dust.  Dip the
dried center in the gum glue and then into the yellow
dusted cornmeal.  Paint some more cornmeal with brown dust
and dip the tip of the cotton stamen in the glue and then
into the brown cornmeal to make the brown pollen.  Separate
the stamens with a pin.  Let’s dry.  Once the pieces are
dry, with floral tape, attach the stamen to the pastillage
center, making the center of the rose.
To make the petals of the Wild Rose
For this you will need a 5 petals cutter.  Balling tool,
pad, wooden ball, and a round flower dryer.  If you do not
have a flower dryer, cover the mouth of a glass or plastic
vase with aluminum foil.  Leave it slightly loose to cup,
with a pin make a small hole in the center.
Tint a small ball of pastillage light pink.  Roll out
leaving a thick center in the petals.  This will form a
base to help secure the stamens.  Work the edge of the
petals using the balling tool, then with the wooden ball
press the center of each petal.  Lift the flower from the
pad. Place gum glue at the base of the stamen and insert
the stamen in the center and place to dry in the flower
dryer inserting the wire through the small hole you made
the pin.  When the flower is dry, tint pastillage in moss
green and cut a calyx and attach at the back of the flower.
With a very fine brush, dust the edges of the flower with a
shade of dark pink.   You will find a good set of
on how to make this flower in the book Wild Flowers by Alan
Dunn page 41. Visit
I invite to visit my site and look at the Sweet and Soul,
there you will virtually be able to browse through my
home library.  The books you will find there are the
foundation of my cake decorating knowledge and my personal
<a href=”
target=”_top”>Click Here!</a>

Cake Decorators New Years Eve 2008

December 29, 2007

In our more difficult times we pray to the Superior Being,
Universal Energy, our Father God.  We ask for help to
continue foward, we ask for strength and for guidance:
That is the way we pray.  But we can use a more effective
way that never fails.  When we give love, when giving
thanks for all we have.  Infinite thanks for being in
balance with our family, our friends and ourselves.  When
we pray giving thanks we change the drama; we change our
personal history with a real relation with the world at
God’s level.  The process is simple, in your prayers, in
your gratitude,  in your respect,  in your vision, in your
praying ceremony, the key is simply to thank God.  The
best present is to have the opportunity of over and over
again in this season that celebrates the Birth of Jesus and
the coming of a New Year, to communicate with our spirit
and give thanks in our prayers for a rebirth in our lives,
a rebirth with love for all.

Happy New Year 2008


Celebrating Christmas « Marivis Cake Decoration Blog

December 23, 2007

Celebrating Christmas « Marivis Cake Decoration Blog