When I first saw the Cricut Cake [Scrapbook.com|Amazon.com for $297] at CHA last January, I thought it was an extraordinary idea. Essentially, Provo Craft took their very popular Cricut paper die cutting machine, and turned it into a food-safe one that could cut out shapes from sheets of sugar gum paste. Visions of being the biggest rock star of all the moms in school, and of birthday parties with the fanciest (homemade) cupcakes, filled my head and made me smile.
This was going to be cool, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and test it.
The Cricut Cake comes with the ‘Cake Basics’ cartridge, a food safe cutting mat, and a booklet that I found helpful. I should mention that I’ve never before laid hands on an electronic die cutting machine, so this was my very first time and I was up and ready to use it in minutes. I really appreciated how easy it was. I also appreciate that the cartridges will work for this machine as well as the paper ones.
To use this machine you simply place a sheet of very thin sugar gum paste onto the mat using a plentiful amount of shortening. The shortening keeps the sheet stuck to the mat, but it also seems to prevent cracking and breaking as the designs are cut.
I liked that I could ask it to cut one thing, then another, then another and it kept track of where I was on the sheet. I found this helpful when I wanted to program in a single shape (just to test) before programming in multiples. I’m also glad they have the plastic cover to protect the control panel. More than once I found I had a shortening covered finger and would have greased-up my keys!
So what do I think? Well above you can see the images that are in the ‘basic’ cartridge that was included with the machine. I like a lot of them, but imagining how I want to use it, I see a lot more cartridges would be needed to cover birthdays and holiday school celebrations. They have some cartridges designed for cakes, but for my small baked goods I have not seen any one cartridge that covers the range of images I want. I hope they add one made more for cookies and cupcakes!
I maintain that this is very cool – and truly if you know how to decorate cakes you could do amazing things. I don’t decorate fancy cakes. I don’t see myself making a fondant covered multi-tier cake that I can add the fancy decorations to. I see myself doing cupcakes and cookies (homemade or store bought) with a single image placed atop them. Some of the images look better than others, and size truly matters. Too big and it looks odd, too small and it’s lost. Getting this right will take some practice. On more than one occasion I cut out shapes and then saved them for a few days before applying. This worked out perfectly, especially when I didn’t want to have a car full of frosting covered treats making a mess, but would rather put both frosting and die cut down once at my destination.
Above are some cookies I purchased and decorated (frosting and a sugar gum paste cut-out) for a scrapbooking class I taught. The students thought it was cool – edible die cuts! That said, we all agreed the gum paste tastes like eating cardstock. Now, in my experiments, I have found that if you let it set (on the cookie, cupcake, etc) for a day or two it softens to the point that you can not taste it, and when eating it is like the image is a part of the frosting, not a separate treat. So keep that in mind if you’re not wanting people to pick them off and say “yuck”.
This may sound silly, but I expected adding these die cuts to make my baking treats amazing. They don’t. I find myself wondering if paper punches would give me equally lovely results, or if I should try adding sprinkles and more decorations to my baked goods when I use the Cricut Cake machine. I will need to do more experiments to decide for sure.
Above is my pink sheet of sugar gum paste. Just like the other two (in my $18 package) I did everything by the instructions. It did not matter. This sheet, no matter how I tried, tore to pieces when cut. I admit it could have been errors on my part, yet I really don’t think so. This makes me wonder about the consistency and quality of the pre-made sheets they sell. I am shocked at how expensive the sugar gum paste is ($18 for a package of three 10×10 sheets) and how limited the colors Provo Craft offers are. In short, I find myself understanding how some Cricut customers love the products, but have strong negative feelings about the expense of it all.
On the up-side, my young children loved decorating their treats with the shapes and were able to be involved in the process. For them to be so involved was fun for all of us, and a definite plus for the Cricut Cake machine. Where sprinkles and other small things can make such a huge mess, there was virtually no mess letting them apply the cut shapes.
My conclusion? Unless you know how to decorate cakes at a professional level, run a bakery and want little toppers for your frosted cookies,or are for some other reason turning out tons of decorated goodies, I’d hold off or go in with a few people and share a machine.
Will the price come down? Will there be some more cartridges to choose from designed for decorating small treats? I have more questions, and I want to keep trying and improving my skills with this tool. I am going to try rolling out and making my own sugar gum paste sheets, play with layering cut out images, and seeing if I can bring the price per treat down a whole lot more.
I will re-visit the Cricut Cake in a few months and share more ideas, and let you know how it’s going.