I’ve been wanting to write some blogs about my favorite things for a while. I really enjoyed writing the Top Ten on the cake events and wanted to do something similar on other parts of decorating. When I started making lists, I found it was hard to keep things at 10 all the time. So, I decided it would be easier to do like Oprah and just call these my favorite things…that way I don’t have to worry about how many I have.
I’m going to start with tools. These are the things that get us through every project or class. I know some of you will think this is horrendous because I am not listing my mixer, but I am making a list for DECORATING this go round. For each tool, I will tell you why I like it, where I got it and how I use it. Some of these are very cheap; a few are not. The key for all of them is that they make my life easier.
My Mini Ruth Mat
I used to use large silpats or pieces of upholstery plastic to work on. I still use those when I cover cakes. But most of my time is actually spent on making smaller things like flowers and figures or rolling out small pieces of paste to cut out designs. As I was teaching, I realized that when I gave my students a large placemat to roll out on, they would grab a larger piece of paste and never quite got it thin enough. My employees at the shop faced the same issue. One day I realized I wanted a small silpat for my students, to make them work smaller and thinner. After an online search, I bought all the 6″ round silpats on the market.
They worked like a charm. People’s flowers were better than ever! There was just one problem; they worked so well the students all wanted to take them home. I tried and tried to find more of them, but the company had stopped making them. I found a place in China to make them for me. Now I have 8″ mini Ruth Mats. They work perfectly for my classes and now people can buy them to take home. The other reason I like them is that they are small. I can tuck one in my tool bag, in my purse or in my delivery kit. They are awesome for kneading color into fondant…I work on them and don’t get color all over my work space. Washing them off is a breeze. They also fit in my 8″ baking pans, so I don’t have to cut parchment circles at home. They work with modeling chocolate, gum paste, fondant and isomalt. They have been exactly what I needed. Before you ask, I sell them on my web page, www.ruthrickey.com, click on online shopping. They are $6. NY Cake now makes a 9″ mat like mine. Check their page for more information.
My Clay Gun
This isn’t a tool I use a lot, but it is invaluable to me when I need it. I tried many of the smaller, cheaper ones on the market, but they hurt my hands or gave me trouble when I tried to extrude from them. This one is a bit pricey, but I looked on it as an investment tool. If I only need one and it will last me 10-40 years, it is worth it. I have had mine for well over ten years, making its price seem affordable.
I use this to create hair, flower centers, borders, tassels, ropes and so much more. I checked and Global Sugar Art carries these. www.Globalsugarart.com. Norman Davis has become a huge fan of a giant extruder. I have used it in a cake challenge and it is very efficient for large projects. Earlene Moore came up with a holder for the large extruders. You can buy that on her page. www.earlenescakes.com
My Dusting Brushes
Oh the joys of a good brush! I have tried so many brushes over the years, but my favorites are absolutely my shaders and filberts. These are available from all your arts and craft supply stores. I usually use a 6 or 8 for dusting. I will use a 2 or 4 for brush embroidery or more detailed dusting. These also work well for spreading gelatin on the sheets that they sell at Cake Connection. www.Cakeconnection.com. While I do sometimes offer these for sale when I teach, I don’t offer them online. A quick online search will show you lots of places to get the brushes!
My Baby Spatula
It is actually a mini spatula, but the girls at my shop called it a baby spatula and the name stuck for me. This is an artists spatula and is much finer and thinner than the cake spatulas. I use this for everything. I lift delicate gum paste petals with it. I cut with it. I mix tiny amounts with it. I always have three or four in my tool bag. When I closed my bakery, the one thing every single employee wanted from my supplies was a baby spatula. Wilton has come out with a new tool set and it looks like they have gotten close to this spatula. I tried the Wilton one the other day. It is thicker and stiffer, even though it looks the same. I do sell these online and at my classes because my students fall in love with it just like I did. Mine is available here, www.ruthrickey.com, click on online shopping, but many other artists carry it on their webpages.
My Ribbon Cutter
This is made by FMM. I had one in every delivery kit at the bakery, as well as several more at the shop. I think I’m pretty good at free handing straight lines, but always use this for even bows and stripes. It comes with some groovy cutting wheels, but I only use the smooth edged ones. I love it enough that several times when we would lose the tiny nut that held one together, I would go to Lowe’s and go through all the drawers until I found the perfect one to put it back in operation! These are available through a number of web sites, including Nick Lodge, www.nicholaslodge.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=7896.
A Great Ball Tool
There is something wonderful about having a ball tool you love. It fits your hand just right, the ball is the size you need every time and it lasts a long time. The plastic ones are fine to start with, but when you can, graduate to a metal or acrylic one. If you find one with an ergonomic handle or a cushion grip, all the better. I carry three sizes from Geraldine Randalsome. www.ruthrickey.com, click on online shopping. I also love the one that Dianne Gruennberg sells on her site, www.avenueschoices.com.
My Face Brush
Oh my goodness I love this brush. It is an 18/0 spotter. This is the kind of brush that, once you discover it, you cannot live without it. Just ask anyone who has painted faces or brooches with me! The key is that there are few hairs and that they are short, so you have perfect control of your paint. A liner brush is just not the same. I’ve used this type of brush for years. I used to keep my newest ones hidden so that no one at the bakery would use them. I am happy to say that I sell these, because they can be hard to find at the craft stores. Buy mine here: www.ruthrickey.com, click on online shopping.
My Fondant Knife
Ok, it is really a lettuce knife, but I like calling it a fondant knife. Nick Lodge figured this out. He told Susan Carberry, who showed it to me. Oh my, I was hooked! It slices through fondant, gumpaste, modeling chocolate, Rice Krispie treats and so much more without sticking. Yes! Metal knives and spatulas gum up all the time and make me nuts. I was constantly trying to clean them off before the next cut. The plastic knives even cut through fondant covered cakes nicely, I hear. I found some in fun spring colors and carry those on my site, www.ruthrickey.com, click on online shopping.
My Embroidery Scissors
When I first started doing gumpaste work, people told me to get the stork scissors from the sewing department. So of course I did. I loved them. They were a little pricey, but the blades were thin and sharp and I could get perfect cuts on flower centers. When I started teaching, I needed to have scissors for every student. That was going to be too expensive if I bought the stork scissors. I started wandering around the sewing department to see what other options were out there. I found the scissors pictured above. They are comfortable for my hand, they can achieve tiny delicate cuts on even the smallest orchid center and they cost around $5!! These are the scissors I use in all my classes. Buy them at Michael’s in the sewing department.
My CelCakes Cel Shredder
I didn’t want to buy this. It costs around $60, which seemed crazy to me. I bought a cheap yellow tape shredder to cut my floral tape. It gummed up constantly. It was unwieldy and irritating. I had studied enough that I knew I needed to cut my floral tape to achieve better results. I use a third width tape. I even tried cutting the tape by hand…time consuming and anything but straight!
Finally I gave in and bought a Cel Shredder. I swear I could hear the angels sing when I used it. You just place a roll of tape against it, rotate the tape and it cuts through several layers at a time! It has a dial system to let you choose whether to cut the tape in halves, thirds or fourths. Genius! It is easy to take apart to replace the razor blades when they become dull. This is another investment tool that is SO worth it! Bye them here: www.nicholaslodge.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&Products_id=7506, You may notice that Nick has a new one with his name on it for around $30. I just heard about it and hear it works really well, too. It cuts into fourths and halves. I will pick one up at Cake Camp and experiment!
So there you have it, a few of my favorite things. I know I haven’t listed them all, which means I will probably follow up with more information about tools in future blogs. Coming soon is my blog on my ten favorite books/book series that I highly recommend. I can’t wait to share those with you!
Now that you’ve read my list, do you agree? Are you tempted to go buy anything that you don’t currently own? Which favorite of yours did I leave out?