Juliet Sear’s step-by-step guide to making impressive cake decorations
I make roses with modelling chocolate (which tastes better than sugar paste, has a lovely sheen, and doesn’t dry out and crack), creating a two-tone rose, but you can make them all in one shade if you prefer. You can make them weeks in advance, leaving them on a cake board wrapped in clingfilm in a cake box until ready to use.
400g modelling chocolate, in 2 shades of red (you’ll need approx 25g to make 1 rose—once trimmed, a small rose will weigh about 10g, a medium rose 15g and a large rose about 25g)
Cut open a document wallet along the outer edge and bottom so that you can open it up like a book.
Roll out some of the dull red and bright red modelling chocolate into two sausages, about 1½cm thick. Cut the sausages into 1cm chunks with a small, sharp knife.
Lay the document wallet open on a work surface and line up the chocolate chunks in rows on one side of the open wallet (this prevents pieces sticking to your hands or the work surface). Make about 4-5 rows of four pieces across, leaving space between each one.
Close the wallet over the chocolate chunks and, with the base of your thumb, push down on each chunk to flatten it out. Gently run the tip of your thumb along the edge of each chunk nearest the seam, to thin it out and make petals. Repeat with all the petals.
Carefully peel off the top of the wallet and pick up one darker red petal by its fat base. You will notice that as you lift it from the wallet, it naturally curls one way. Make sure that the curved edge is facing towards you as you work with it. For the centre of the rose, gently tuck in the petal at one edge and roll into a tight cone.
Now take a second dark red petal off the wallet, making sure it’s curling away from the rose’s centre and attach it to the first central petal, making sure that the second petal is 2mm higher than the first one. This will ensure that the middle part doesn’t stick up above the outer petals. Wrap petal number two around the first one, gently pressing your fingers on the base to attach it. Only handle the fat base of the petal—the top thin part is easily damaged.
Continue adding further petals, this time in the brighter red, in the same manner: overlapping the previous petal and making sure each petal you add is a little higher up than the previous one, until you have a uniform, circular rose (you’ll probably need 6-8 petals per flower). You can make them different sizes: three petals will give you a rose bud, more petals (up to 12) create a larger, open rose. This cake design looks lovely using a few sizes.
Gently pinch each petal at the edge to create a little movement. This adds a delicate touch and makes the flowers look more real. Roll the base of the flower between your fingers to make sure it’s completely stuck and, using a sharp knife, gently cut away the excess chocolate (this can be wrapped and re-used) to make the rose flat at the base. Place on a spare cake drum. Make as many as you need for your cake—for the Mexican Day of the Dead cake, I used about 30 in various sizes.
Recipe: Juliet Sear
Image: Helen Cathcart