Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hot Wheels Cake

This past week, while on a trip for Shutterbug Traveler in Monterey, I got a special email from one of my favorite organizations... Icing Smiles. Icing Smiles works with families who have children that are dealing with serious illness such as cancer, leukemia, etc. Those children, as well as their siblings, are eligible to recieve a custom cake from a local baker for a special occasion such as a birthday or end of treatment day or release from the hospital day. This time it was for the baby brother of a young man going through treatment. A very nice family celebration at home.

We tend to take those celebrations for granted. But when your oldest has spent more time in the hospital the past year than he has at home, suddenly an "at home" celebration sounds simply wonderful. To have such a special cake, and not the expense for one, for one of your kids just makes the day that much more special. I was pleased and honored to be able to make this cake and deliver it to their home early Saturday afternoon. I'd love to share with you that photo...the one of the little guy next to his cake, but I will have to wait until Icing Smiles publishes it on their Facebook Page so you can see it.

So now about how it was made and how you can make one too! Everything except the cars on this cake is fully edible....including the track. First of all, the cake is a vanilla bean cake with a caramel toffee buttercream filling. It is four layers of yumminess! I wanted to stay within the Hot Wheels colors while staying within "background cake" boundaries so I started with the blue fondant and covered the cake, leaving the half moon shape for the front of the cake open. Then, using a graph matt, I cut out the 1x1 inch black and white squares and placed those onto the cake to make the "checkered flag" part of the cake. Next I rolled out the long pieces (two of them) to trim the cake and create the "road" surface.

Finishing details can make a world of difference. For this cake it was the white dashes as well as the black rolled fondant that separates the blue from the checkered areas. I had left over 1x1 white squares so I just used those to make the dashes. I handrolled the "snake" for the black fondant divider and then used water to attach it to the cake before adding the dashes to the cake.

Now the track. My own husband and son are crazy about Hot Wheels so we have track right here for me to use as reference. Making the loop was taking a leap of faith. I would have normally made this a week ahead of time but I only had two days to  make this cake so no real drying time! Enter my great friend Tylose. I used a LOT of it to make the orange fondant dry out quickly.  Then, like most cake decorators, I sort of MacGyver'd it. I cut out 2-1/2 inch pieces and gently folded up the edges. I used a straight edge cutter to help me smooth out the edges. Then I let that set up for about a half hour before I used a rolling pin (for the loop) that had been set up on supportive stands, and a can (for the side curve) and let them dry while saying a prayer that they actually would dry overnight.

You see that track on the right side of the cake? Yeah, that was insurance. If the curve and loop didn't dry hard enough then that long track was going to be cut in half and I was going to make a cake topper out of it and the number. And, when it came down to it, I didn't need it. But, hey, I had some cool looking track so why not use it?! Somehow the two cars I had planned on in my original sketch were now 5 and I thought, correctly, that having more cars wasn't a bad thing! I used orange royal icing to attach the side curve and loop together right where the truck now sits. I also used the same orange royal icing to attach the track to the cake and the board...and to attach the cars to everything. It makes some great edible glue that held the cars rock solid during the delivery.

A note about using non-edible pieces on your cake. Make sure it doesn't actually touch the cake. In this case, even though the cars were new and had been washed, I made sure they only touched the track, not the cake, since the track would be discarded when it came time to cut the cake. If you have a non-edible that sticks down into the cake make sure to wrap it in cling wrap or stick it into a straw or coffee stirrer. 

And it was SO worth it. Little man Nathaniel was overwhelmed by all of the cars, his older brother was amazed, already talking about his own John Cena cake for next year (and you have no idea how much that did my heart good to hear him planning his next birthday!!) and his parents very grateful and kidding around with us about making the cars edible! LOL! But the best was leaving their home and hearing the excited squeals and calls about what a cool cake it was, and let's go see the cake, and isn't that just an incredible cake?!?, coming from behind their front door. Worth the cake's weight in gold.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Happy Sunday! I know I've been away for awhile...last October I broke two fingers on my right hand. Now, because I'm ambidextrous it wasn't a big thing in my personal life but a HUGE deal in my caking life. So I didn't book any cakes for a long time. The other reason is that, when you are a blogger, you have to keep blogging or you get out of the habit of it. So I'm BACK! Today I bring you the cake I presented yesterday and then I'll work backwards over the next few weeks to get you caught up on those you missed.

This is actually my son's 13th birthday cake. He and the guys went paintballing before the party so that became the theme this year. In our family the "big" birthdays are 1, 5, 10, 13 (for boys) 16 (for girls) and 18. So knowing that this would be his last "big birthday" for awhile we wanted to make it a good one for him.  Since it wasn't a huge party (22 people is, sadly, a small party for our family) I knew I couldn't make a huge cake so I used a 10x10 and just cut it in half to make the camo wall cake. 

The cake itself is lemon chiffon with vanilla buttercream filling. But I did something new to the fondant this time. I added lemon extract rather than my normal vanilla extract and it was SO yummy with the lemon cake. I think this just became a new thing for me! LOL! 

Now, about the fondant. You have to be SO careful adding dye to fondant because food dye tastes sort of metallic and if you add too much it can taste really bad. So what I did was divided the white fondant into two pieces, then divided one piece into thirds. I added a bit of brown to one third to start out the "browns" and lighter green to make the base color for the greens. I used these two colors as my main base on the camo and then added little bits of the darker color over it, like a puzzle, so that those pieces that had more dye in them were in lower quantities on the cake. 

The splats were easier to do since I was using the white fondant as base and since I was using the super color dyes it didn't need much to make them vibrant. The cutting out of the splats wasn't so easy. To make the "logo" splats I added a bunch of tylose to the color which stiffens up the fondant rather quickly. This made cutting out the splats with an exacto knife easy. Then I just left them out to dry for a week so they would get rock hard before I "glued" them all together with water and let them bond for another day. But the splats that went on the cake were hard to make. Made of soft fondant they wanted to tear as I cut them out or when I lifted them up to place them on the cake. The main reason there were not more of them on the cake! But I couldn't add tylose to those splats because I needed them to drape over the cake. So just understand going in that those will take more time and effort.

The 13 candles were added at the venue and slicing the cake was like slicing a loaf of bread. I cut down the slice and then laid it down on the cake board to cut the rectangle slices out of it. This was especially a good idea yesterday because the day was VERY hot and the venue wasn't properly air conditioned so the buttercream under the fondant had begun to melt and the fondant to soften up so being able to lay down the big slice and then slice it up into four slices was a BIG help!

Next week I'll share another birthday cake with you all... a Daniel Tiger cake!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wedding Cakes!

 Tis the season for the Wedding Cake! Each year I do a few weddings and, for me, it's an honor to be included in the wedding day. The "average" wedding is $23,000 and the wedding cake is 1-10% of that budget. On average. That means that you could spend anywhere from $230 to $2,300 on a wedding cake. A CAKE. Yes, it seems crazy. But when you see what goes into making a wedding cake it suddenly becomes clear that you are not just paying for food but your very own piece of edible Art.
The average wedding has 100 guests but that doesn't mean that if you have much less than that number of guests that you should just have a "grocery store" wedding cake. A cake, like the one above, is $4 per slice and feeds 50. 

 Your wedding cake should reflect who you are as a couple as well as the theme of the day. This buttercream covered cake, decorated with paper pinwheels (matching the decor) is only $3 per slice and feeds 48.
 Your wedding cake doesn't need to be the boring white cake with pearls or rhinestone trim that you seem to see at every other wedding. This is your wedding and it should match who you are. This one was for a beach wedding and the shells were hand moulded and colored fondant. ($3.50 per slice and feeds 48)
 You can do "cute" in an elegant way that will even have Aunt Marge (the Miss Manners of your family) smiling. This fondant covered cake with the custom topper is $6 per slice and feeds 75.
 Are you more "modern" that the fru-fru brides you see in magazines? Maybe your fiance is the cake expert and he wants something a little less feminine? The custom cake artist can match your invitations, as I did with this one, so that your cake carries your theme all the way to dessert. This fondant covered cake is $4.50 per slice and feeds 85.
 But even a small wedding can have a "big cake" punch. This one only feeds 25 but it makes a big statement. Perfect for an intimate "family" wedding. ($5 per slice)
 If you are not the "average" couple with the "average" flowers and pearl theme to your wedding then a "carved" cake may be just the ticket. This is actually the cake I did for our own 25th wedding anniversary. A carved cake costs more because a lot more work goes into the creation of the cake but it definitely will wow your guests. This one would be $8 per slice and feeds 75.
 This past year I worked two very small family events. With just 12-15 guests the happy couples had decided to just pick up a store bought cake or cupcakes. Then they found out that they didn't need to give up the fancy wedding cake just because they were having a small event. This cake feeds 15 at $4 per slice.
 But sometimes the big romantic delicate cake is what fits the bill. If you are a girly girl then the big wedding cake as the centerpiece to your day is just the ticket. This one feeds 100 and is $6 per slice.
 This cake was for a very dramatic Black & White event. The "typical" wedding cake would not have fit the decor. This fondant cake feeds 75 and costs $5 per slice.
 Topsy Turvy is a fun way to take a traditional cake. This one plays on the "Tiffany Box" theme but adds in the Brides yellow roses. This cake feeds 75 and costs $6 per slice with an extra fee of $5 per sugar rose.
 Fun and feminine is the easiest theme for a wedding. Everyone has a mental picture of what they think a "Wedding Cake" is supposed to look like. But that doesn't mean you can't throw in your own personality into the design. For Mom, the bride kept this buttercream covered cake light and feminine but added the black filigree to the cake as a nod to her own love of hot pink and black! (This cake feeds 85 at $4 per slice)
With each client I meet with them three times. Once at a tasting so we can talk about what they want in their cake and get a chance to actually taste my baked goods. After all, a cake should taste at least as good as it looks, right? Then we meet again so I can share with them the sketches that I have come up with based on our first meeting. Finally we meet with the final sketch of what their cake is going to look like on their wedding day. I don't ever "copy" a design. I will work with you to make sure that this is your unique design for your wedding day. You deserve your own piece of edible Art! (this one feeds 60 and costs $4.50 per slice)

A word about finances. Because life can be unpredictable and because I begin working on your cake the moment we first talk about meeting up, I require a 50% deposit to book your date. The other half of your payment is due one month before the event. This is for three reasons. That is the timing I would begin on any sugar flowers or other edible decor that may need to be made and have enough time to dry solidly for your wedding cake. This is also the time I would be ordering and purchasing the ingredients and other items I need to make your wedding cake. Lastly, I won't see you on the day of your wedding to collect the final fee since you will be in the process of saying your vows while I'm in the process of setting up your wedding cake at your reception venue. It is rare that I get to see the Bride and Groom on the wedding day but it's always wonderful if I get the treat of seeing their reaction when they first see their cake.

So here we are on May 1st. The official opening of  "Wedding Season". The majority of weddings occur between May 1st and October 1st. So, while I'll be busy, know that you can always ask me any question you may have about your wedding cake ideas on our Facebook Page! We are always happy to help with any of your wedding questions!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Little Man & Little Lady

 Happy Wednesday! Hope your week is going well. If you "follow" me you may have noticed I have been gone for awhile now. Well...I broke a finger and damaged two fingers on my right hand. I am ambidextrous so it wasn't all that hard living without a hand but so much of caking is done with two hands that I basically took 2 months off so the hand could heal. But I'm back now! Ramping up slowly with only two orders this month but by April I will be posting every week again.

Now this week we had a wonderful little party for two children in one family. As they are still very small, turning 1 and 3, the parents thought this was the perfect year to throw the big bash for both kids together. And being the littlest one's first birthday they wanted to make it a "to-do". So we had a Little Man and Little Lady party.
 The theme's decor included mustaches, bow ties, pink bows and pearls. But Little Man was wearing an outfit that featured a regular tie and suspenders so we made his "smash" cake look the same. Little Lady got a personal cupcake as well featuring the heart confetti and pink bows of the other cupcakes but hers was larger and had pink pearls on it as well.
All of the cupcakes had either pink or blue chevron cupcake liners. The blue liners held dark chocolate cake and the pink liners held strawberry cake. There were a few vanilla cupcakes for those who don't like chocolate or strawberry. I also used two different tips for the "boys" cupcakes and the "girls" cupcakes to give them just a little different look. The mustache picks I bought already assembled but the bow picks I had to make myself. Just glue two bows back to back onto a toothpick using stick glue and then let them dry overnight.

The "smash" cake was chocolate with chocolate brownie buttercream filling. I crumbcoated the cake in chocolate frosting to give it another layer of flavor and then, using a flat zigzag tip, I iced the entire cake in lines. I did a chevron trim using the same tip and then added the tie and suspenders. The mustache pick was the last thing to go into it and after the first photo it was the first thing to come out. Right before he totally demolished the cake! Our Little Lady was more refined and delicately ate her cupcake one level at a time. 

Valentine's Day is coming up and I already have some fancy plans for cupcakes! Check back here on Valentine's morning to see that sweetness! In the meantime don't forget to check out the Facebook Fan Site for daily tips and tricks for your parties!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Anniversary Cake

 Happy Monday and for those of us in America, Happy Veteran's Day! This past week brought our own wedding anniversary so I got to decide upon what cake we would like to have for the day. But there are only 3 of us in our home right now...2 adults and 1 twelve year old boy. So a huge cake wouldn't work for just the three of us! So a mini cake would be perfect!

I hardly ever get to work with "perishable" icings and fillings so I decided that this cake would be eaten almost as quickly as it the moment it was done (and I barely had time to take photos before the boys were all over me to cut it!) so I knew the filling and icing wouldn't be around long enough to spoil! My husband and I both love chocolate and adore ganache. So that part was a no brainer. The filling, however, left me going "hmmmm" trying to figure it out. I finally decided upon a dark chocolate mousse filling and a semi-sweet ganache for the frosting. The cake was a 4 inch sweet vanilla cake. I really like Martha Stewart's recipe but you can you a box mix if you like but remember to cut the recipe in half for a mini cake.

Vanilla Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Mix till there is no lumps and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

I leveled them, cooled them and wrapped them into plastic wrap and set them aside while I made the chocolate mousse.

Chocolate Mousse

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold, heavy cream, plus an additional 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the confectioners' sugar and 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Stir over low heat.  

Add the semisweet chocolate chips, stirring frequently as they melt and the mixture becomes well blended.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and set this mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, beat the remaining 1 1/2 cup heavy cream on medium speed and gradually add the granulated sugar.  When all the sugar has been incorporated, beat the mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to overmix.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before using on your cake.

And then, while that was setting up I started the ganache. I use Alton Brown's recipe:


16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
16 ounces (2 cups) heavy cream
Place the chopped chocolate into a glass bowl.

Heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan for five minutes or until it just begins to simmer; be careful not to allow cream to boil over. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool, stirring occasionally until it is the consistency that you would like to use. For glazing let it cool for 30 minutes and then pour over a cake that has been placed on a wire rack with a pan underneath to catch the dripping ganache.  If you wish to make a lighter frosting, allow it to come to room temperature, approximately 2 hours. Once at room temperature, place in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 to 3 minutes.

I allowed it to cool for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, till it was thick enough to swirl on like frosting but still soft enough to use for the piping. 

I pulled out the mousse and let it come up to room temperature for a few moments while I unwrapped the cake. Then I just filled it with a thick layer of the mousse and topped it with the ganache. The final touches were added with a fine round tip and some of the ganache in a piping bag.

Now...what to do with all of the extra mousse and ganache??? I mixed them together and put them back into the refrigerator. The next night I whipped up the rest of the heavy whipping cream I had in the fridge with powdered sugar, granular sugar and vanilla (I don't have a recipe for's all a few tablespoons of this and a few tablespoons of that and a cap full of vanilla so you can cheat and buy the canned type or tub type if you want) and then layered the mousse-ganache with the whipped cream for a second desserts!


As you can see, it looked totally yummy too! I have to admit that these glasses (from a previous anniversary celebration) ended up being way too much dessert for all of us so you may want to make smaller servings!

November is the month of the Pumpkin in our house so I'll be using this space the rest of the month to share with you my several baking projects and recipes.

See you next week!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Popcorn Balls and Pumpkin Seeds!

 Happy Sunday and Happy November. Normally each Halloween I bake cupcakes for friends and family to hand out that I decorate to match the holiday but this year, with the broken finger, the idea of all that piping just didn't sound all that great to me. So this year I thought Popcorn Balls would be fun since I have some corn syrup left over from another baking project. Something that is quick and easy and just about a one handed job. After the incredible reception these little cuties got I decided to share the recipe with all of you too!

I have an "in" with a popcorn supplier so I was able to get my popcorn already popped and in a bag for easy use. But if you need to pop your own corn you can either do it on the stove top or microwave it yourself. I went looking for a recipe and found that the popcorn ball has changed since the last time I made them. Instead of corn syrup most of the recipes I found used marshmallows! If you have made Rice Krispies Treats then you have basically made this recipe already! Here is what you need:

12 cups pop corn with unpopped kernals carefully removed.
10 oz bag of marshmallows
1/2 stick of butter (you can use margarine but butter is the taste you want)
dash of salt (if you have salted butter don't add more salt)
3/4 cup candy/nuts/seeds

In a big pot melt the marshmallows, butter and salt together. Stir till smooth with absolutely no lumps. Turn off the heat and stir in the popcorn. When completely covered dump the mix out onto a cookie sheet or parchment covered counter. Spread out and then sprinkle your candy. (and/or nuts and/or seeds) and press that into the popcorn mix. At this point you can either spray your hands with cooking spray and grab small handfuls to make into balls or just cut the mix into squares. I rolled the popcorn and then placed the balls into Halloween themed cupcake liners. This gives the guest something to hold onto while eating the ball so their hands don't get sticky. At this point you can hand them out or package them in cello bags to take with you. For the best freshness you want to make sure to make these no sooner than 36 hours before eating. The beauty of them is that they take about 15 minutes to make so you could actually make these right before a party to take with you. Super easy. Super yummy. 

I also make pumpkin seeds each year to share with family and friends. This year I'll be doing this several times over the month of November since I actually roast our painted pumpkins from Halloween (after the paint has been scrubbed off, of course) and puree them for pies, cakes, muffins (and yes, I'll share all of the recipes with you too!) and this means I will have lots and lots of seeds for roasting! Here is my easy recipe!

What you will need:

Fresh pumpkin seeds that have been washed and all pumpkin pulp removed
Olive or vegetable oil

Yup that's all you "need". Now what you may want is extra spices like chili pepper and garlic for savory seeds or ginger and cinnamon sugar for sweet seeds. But this is the basic recipe.

 In a small pot you will want to boil your seeds for about 10 minutes. 
 I drain my seeds in a wire mesh colander. I then take a cap full of the oil and drizzle it over the seeds in the colander. Mix the oil up with your fingers so the seeds get covered. Then spread them out onto a cookie sheet so they are mostly in a single layer. This is the time to salt but not season. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes and then stir the seeds. Bake for 8-10 minutes longer making sure they don't get too dark. You want a light golden color and not brown.
When your seeds are done you can pile them into a bowl or onto a dish and this is the time to add your savory or sweet seasonings! I love them just with salt but I will be making the sweet variation for our Christmas gifts this year. Really yummy! 

Now just a final word on pumpkin seeds. Your seeds should be very crisp with just a bit of chewy seed center. If they are all chewy then they were not boiled long enough or baked long enough. They should SNAP when you bite into them. I know a lot of people who say they don't like roasted pumpkin seeds because they are too chewy. This shouldn't be the case if they are done up right. 

Next week I'll have a cake to share but I hope you enjoyed today's easy recipes and will give them a try!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Luau Baby Shower

 Happy Monday! This past weekend brought a cute little baby shower for a great couple! Congrats again Leslie, Chris and big brother Ben! The theme was "little girl luau" and the need to add in elements from the invitation was a must!

The Mom-to-be loves my Lemon Chiffon cake with lemon curd buttercream but I changed it up a bit by coloring the buttercream pink first and then filling the cake so when we cut into it you get a punch of bright yellow and pink too! 

 The full set up on the cake table included flower leis around the cake plate, colorful plates, cute napkins, flower confetti and the little "message in a bottle" favors on a bright purple tablecloth. If you'd like to see the full party set up just check out the Cherry Party Blog!

To decorate the cake I started with the pink buttercream. I wanted the surface to look like a rough stucco of a California beach building. Now I have no idea if other states have these buildings where you have restrooms, showers and usually a covered patio with picnic tables to hang out at but here in California we do. Ok, they don't always have the covered patio, but the buildings are there. I wanted to mimic that surface so what I did was frost the cake with the pink frosting and then before it could crust up I used the tip of the offset spatula to "swipe" horizontally along the side from top to bottom. About 3 swipes to do a side. This created a wonderful "stucco" texture!
 I then added the brown "sand" frosting and sprinkled on the gold and white "sand" sugar crystals. The trunks on the palm trees are just fondant snakes that I used a pointed fondant tool to make the texture. Those went onto the cake first and then I piped the clothesline from tree to tree. I layered on the leaves and topped those with little balls of brown fondant that I had punched 3 holes for the coconut look. The bib, onesie and socks were all cut out with an exacto knife used just for caking and then I used pink fondant to trim those. The new baby's name begins with an A so I used the onesie to personalize the cake. 

Next came the baby. I didn't make the baby. I know another caker who has the baby mold so I bought an undecorated fondant baby from her. I hand painted blonde hair onto the baby and added a fondant diaper and grass skirt. I used a mini flower punch to make the hibiscus and attached that with a dab of water. The mat is just tan fondant rolled out and scored with a fondant tool and trimmed in darker fondant. I used a bit of frosting to attach the mat to the cake and then brushed the underside of the baby with a bit of water to attach it to the mat.
The leaves on the palm trees had quite a bit of tylose in them to allow them to stand up 3D on the cake so, along with the sea turtle and baby, the trees were removed from the cake before cutting. 
The sea turtle relaxing on the sugar sand beach was hand molded out of fondant with tylose. I kneaded in some extra green into the fondant and then divided in into 8 pieces. One each for the body, head, front flippers, back flippers, tail and shell. I used water to glue it all together and then handpainted the shell with some golden yellow gel food coloring. This went into the shell "cracks" and then I diluted that color with a bit of clear alcohol. This left the cracks defined but then added a more yellow/green look to the entire shell.

This was my last major cake for the Fall. Good thing since I need to let this finger actually heal up. So for the next few weeks I'll share a few smaller items I have coming up as well as feature some really awesome cake artists that I know online. See you next week!