Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Art Deco Cupcakes & Purple Icing

Art Deco Cupcakes was a theme that was inspired by a cupcake that was produced in a vintage class - thank you Clare!

I loved the combination of colours and the design that Clare used that day, so it seemed like it would be a great idea to do a whole class in that style.

But, once I'd scheduled the theme, it was in the back of my mind that - actually, I had no real concept of "Art Deco"!
And once again, I landed up sitting at my work table thinking "what was I thinking?"! while waiting for inspiration to strike /smack/slap/ stumble into me (I'll take it anyway it comes some days! ).
Thankfully, there's always Google. Not much in the way of #Art Deco Cupcakes out there, but plenty of Art Deco images and patterns. Once I got going, I was struck by how Egyptian many of the designs were, and for a reason. Apparently during the 20's and 30's when Art Deco became popular, there was great excitement in the excavations and discoveries ( imperial looting!) happening in Egypt at the time.

But I only made that connection halfway through my demo cupcakes.
If I'd realized it earlier, the colour scheme might have been more obvious! Thankfully though, I'd managed to come up with a pharaoh-ean palette of royal blue, regal purple, gold and black without that insight. Or maybe that insight was already there - and just needed excavating?!

While the ancient Egyptians had to rely on soot, insects, plants and minerals to create their colour palettes, we have conveniently packaged E-numbers - aka food colourants!

Lets talk about purple(s).

Purple is notorious for changing shades. Especially if exposed to sunlight. Leave icing - buttercream or fondant - out in the light for a couple of hours, and you may well come back to a completely different shade of purple to the one you started with.

It is hard to see in the photo, which was taken a few hours after the first - but the middle colour was the worst culprit, and you may just be able to make out the faint pink marbling in that ball of fondant.

And on the above picture, the original colour was Regal Purple. The left hand piece shows the colour after a few days exposed to sun and air; the right hand piece is the flip side, that was protected from those factors.

Apparently the volatility of purple has something to do with the red colours in the base - purple being made from reds and blues. And red is unstable. There used to be a very stable red couring on the market, but the small matter of it being a carcinogen meant that it became an unpopular food additive!! 

I find that strange, though - because whenever my purples change colour, they seem to become more pink, which would be a loss of the blues rather than the reds....
And, I haven't had reds discolour nearly as much as purples do. But, on the other hand pinks definitely pale. 

What to do...

If you are using purple in butter icing, apparently the addition of milk helps prevent the colour changes.

If you are using fondant, be aware that it may be an issue - and cover all parts of the cake at the same time - I was involved in making a teapot cake once, where the spout was a very different shade to the body of the teapot because of the time elapse between covering the cake and making the spout!

If the particular shade of purple is very important for accuracy, make the icing up the day before, and see how it matures overnight.

Avoid exposing the icing to sunlight, if possible.

And, if all else fails - remember, it's cake. It will be eaten!


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