NB: while some of these attempts are practices done on a flat surface, the spiced orange & rum cake, the Purple Rain coffee and rum cake, the blood orange & raspberry cake and the planet cake are real cakes. I will post recipes for these in due course, but feel free to contact me in the meantime about any of them.
As its name suggests, a mirror glaze is a very shiny covering for a cake or dessert that is so reflective you should be able to see your face quite clearly in it.
Coloured mirror glazes have, in recent years, become very popular thanks, in no small part, to the spectacular creations of Olga Noskova: just type her name in Google and marvel at her truly jaw-dropping mirror-glazed delights.
An easy, effective finish
Mirror glaze is actually very easy to make. You can make up a batch from the recipe below (any colour or just as it is) and go for a simple, elegant covering without any “effects”: stunning in its simplicity.
Or you can get some striking designs in moments – it is very similar to mixing different coloured paints and splashing them on a piece of paper! The few cakes and desserts I have made recently using mirror glaze have been a great excuse to experiment.
The recipe below is pretty much a fairly standard one that can be found online, although I use a little less gelatine so that the set glaze is not too firm or gummy. You can add a little more gelatine, but go to no more than 2½ sheets: I have tried this glaze with 3 sheets, but the finished glaze was a touch too thick: not quite rubbery but certainly gummier than I would like. When it comes to cutting, a sharp knife dipped in hot water helps get clean cuts.
It might seems to be a lot of glaze, but the excess – including the glaze that drips down – can be re-used, even frozen until you want to use it: simply re-heat it gently until runnier and leave it until it is no longer warm.
Don’t get put off by the proportion of sugars in the glaze: while it is certainly a sweet glaze, you will only have a thin layer and that will have a sweet and slightly chocolatey flavour.
If using fruit purée, little bursts of sharpness cut through the sweetness beautifully.
I sometimes like to add rum or other alcohol of choice, too, depending on what is inside.
For very quick and easy practice
The quickest and cheapest way to practise is to make an instant icing using just icing sugar and water, going for a fairly runny mixture and colouring small portions of this. While this is not a mirror glaze, it behaves very similarly in terms of making patterns and colour merging, so is a quick and cheap way to practice.
Rather than practice on a “live”cake, use whatever comes to hand: the work surface, a flat plate, a polystyrene cake dummy or even an upturned cake tin are excellent things to practise on.
- the cake needs covering before applying the mirror glaze: ganache, mousse, buttercream icing or even rolled out fondant icing or marzipan work well.
- the covered cake (as above) needs to be as smooth as possible and without blemishes: any blemishes such as cake crumbs, tears etc will show through the glaze, no matter what colour glaze you go for.
- the cake must be very cold so the glaze starts to set on it as quickly as possible. Ideally put the covered cake in the freezer for an hour before pouring over the glaze. You can also smooth out any lumps and bumps easily on a frozen surface.
- once the glaze has been made, it needs to be cool and slightly thicker before using: it should pour off a spoon with just a little resistance – I go for the consistency of pouring honey.
- add the colours gently, stirring rather than beating, aiming to avoid getting air bubbles.
- if using different colours, ensure each batch of colour is at same level of viscosity for each colour. With this in mind, if some portions have firmed up too much, just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time, stirring gently between each burst, until runnier.
- if there are bubbles on top of the glazed cake, you can pop a cocktail stick into them as soon as possible after applying the glaze. You can also very lightly and rapidly hover a blow torch over them from several inches away, on a very low flame: the heat will melt the bubbles almost instantly.
- there will be a lot of the glaze that has dripped down into the tray below. This can be poured into a bowl and used again: simply pour or scoop it into an airtight container and leave in the fridge or even freezer. When you want to use it, defrost it if it was frozen and re-heat gently in the microwave or a small pan over a very low heat until it is runnier again. Remember to let it cool down before using.
Recipe: coloured mirror glaze – will completely cover a 9″ cake, with spare glaze
- 2 leaves of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
- 120ml water
- 150g liquid glucose
- 150g granulated or caster sugar
- 100g condensed milk
- 150g white chocolate, chopped fairly small – or use dark chocolate for a standard dark chocolate glaze (without any colourings)
- food colouring – gel or liquid here (powder can streak here)
- 2-3 tablespoons rum or liqueur of choice, fruit juice or sieved fruit purée – optional*
* if using liqueur, fruit juice or fruit purée, reduce the amount of water in the recipe to 100ml
(1) Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.
(2) Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the the condensed milk.
(3) Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, trying to minimise getting air bubbles in there. If there are tiny streaks of chocolate that don’t seem to be disappearing, leave the mixture for a few minutes and then give it another few stirs.
(4) Leave the glaze uncovered for an hour at room temperature for the glaze to cooled and be slightly thickened: if it is too runny you will get too thin a layer on top, colours will not blend well and less glaze will cling to the sides of the cake. This is the time to pop the cake or dessert in the freezer.
(5) You can now colour the glaze, or put small portions of it into different bowls for multiple colours.
Applying the glaze
(1) Once the glaze has cooled for about an hour and is slightly thicker, lay a sheet of greaseproof or clingfilm on a baking tray. Place a jar/mug/tin of beans on the greaseproof: this will be a make-shift column for the cake to stand on while the glaze is poured over, with the excess glaze that pours off being collected conveniently on the greaseproof for re-use.
(2) Put the cold cake on a board or a base of a loose-bottomed cake tin that is smaller than the base of the cake. Rest the cake (& its board/base) on top of the jar so the cake is effectively suspended over the baking tray.
(3) Pour the glaze slowly over cake, starting near the top edge, working towards the centre. The glaze will cascade down the side easily. If it doesn’t seem to be clinging much to the sides, wait for about 5 minutes and pour over again: there is plenty of the glaze to pour over several times if you want: and the glaze that pools in the tray can be spooned out and used too.
This is the standard glaze effect: it just needs to be left for about 15 minutes to set (or until the drips no longer hang off the bottom). Gently press the drips that are hanging off the bottom against the underside of the cake.
You then carefully transfer the glazed cake to a serving plate or cake board – a couple of fish slices or large palette knives makes this easy: place underneath, lift the cake from its base, place it on the board and slide them away.
This glaze is stunning just as it is, perhaps with some fresh fruit on top to set it off.
If, however, you want very easy effects……………….
Simple creative flourishes
The trick is all about mixing colours and having each colour at the same viscosity, so they blend into each other seamlessly to give a striking effect.
You have have as many different colours, or shades of the same colour, as you want. When you are ready to glaze the cake remove small amounts (a few tablespoons or so) of the cooled white glaze and place in small pots and colour each as you want.
Colour the bulk of the glaze, which will be the initial coating, whatever colour you want, and pour over the cake – as described above. Then dot, drizzle, dollop, swirl to your heart’s content with the other colours.
And if you are not totally happy, you can easily pour over more of the main glaze which won’t give you a “clean slate”, but it will give you a very subtly patterned effect to add to.
Below are some of my favourite simple design approaches:
(1) With a small spoon, let droplets fall over the surface, big, small or a mixture of sizes…….Or even do a few swirls or spirals. Do a few just near the edge so that gravity takes over as the shapes and colours shift slowly downwards, merging with each other. Add a few more droplets a few minutes later if you want to.
(2) Using a spoon, drizzle fairly straight thin parallel lines of a different colour all over the main glaze. Or go for totally random drizzles, again ensuring some to near or over the edge. Leave the glaze to set naturally or run a palette knife on top gently first. This is basically what I did on this planet cake, going over several times with the glazes about 5 minutes apart.
(3) Add drops of whatever size and colour you like over the main glaze. Now drop smaller amounts inside those of a different or the original colour: these give beautiful ring effects. The ones in the photo below show the idea: white drops on red, followed by another drop of red inside the white drops (done with some left-over glaze on a plate):
You can take this further by putting smaller drops inside, alternating the colour, giving a kind of wood grain or peacock feather effect. In the practice one below (using normal icing sugar and water as I ran out of glaze), I placed drops of green first, then put drops of yellow inside, then green dots inside the yellow and so on…..it is seriously therapeutic!
(4) For an easy marble effect, once you have applied the initial glaze all over, drizzle the other colour over it fairly thickly. Swirl a palette knife very lightly either over all of the surface or just in a few areas.
Cake making and decorating tips : this post also has the recipe for a different dark chocolate glaze using cocoa powder in place of chocolate.