Set the right conditions beforehand. The airbrushing job is only as strong as the foundation you bake. Allow the frosting to set so that it forms a light crust. Frosting that is slightly stiff to the touch permits the optimum base surface, and the sprayed coloring will dry that much faster as a result. Cakes tend to sweat when stored under bell jars or inside cake savers. In these instances, give the cake some time in the open air before airbrushing. Frozen cakes should be thawed with condensation being blotted with a clean, dry paper towel.
Airbrushing cakes is a creative process, so no one wants to sit and watch paint dry. Amateur and professional pastry chefs alike will often lament the hours -- even days -- it can take for their masterpieces to dry. A sticky cake can result in lost income if being delivered to a catered affair, or disappointment if made for a loved one. While there are no hard and fast rules on the subject, some tricks of the trade can make for a more positive cake airbrushing experience.
Cake Is Your Canvas
Practice Makes Perfect
Application is also important. The pressure, angle and speed of the airbrush application can affect the time it takes for your creation to dry. Hold the brush at roughly a 45-degree angle. Spray from at least two-feet away from the cake, and move the gun with steady, natural strokes. The general rule of thumb is that multiple thin layers of airbrush color will dry faster than one heavy layer. Wait 10 to 15 minutes between spraying each layer.
Heat in the Kitchen
Coaxing the airbrushed cake dry may be necessary in humid conditions or if time is of the essence. There are several ways to go about this. One is to simply run one or two table fans four to six feet from the cake for roughly an hour. Waving a hairdryer over the cake is another quick fix, but the heat from the hairdryer can cause more problems than it will solve since buttercream frosting will melt from the compressed heat. If the frosting is a fondant or made with nonbutter shortening, a hairdryer can be used, but only at the lowest setting and holding the dryer at least two feet away from the cake.
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
Drying tricks can be as simple as waving the airbrush over the cake with no coloring agent attached over the cake between application layers. Speeding up the drying process also can be as sophisticated as adding a few drops of vodka to the color before spraying, but certainly never use such a drying agent if serving the cake to children or sensitive individuals. In the end, know your audience, know your restrictions, and most of all, know when to be patient.
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