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!

Cat

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:

Ganache

Ingredients
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
16 ounces (2 cups) heavy cream
Directions
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 this..it'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!






YUMMY!



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!

Cat

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
Salt

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!

Cat

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!


Cat

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Indian Themed Pre-Birthday Cake Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! Friday was my birthday. Normally I'm over at our grown younger daughter's house and either we are going out to dinner or they are making me dinner there. My birthday cake is usually made by her and is always lovely. Yes, she is a "Caker" too! Being that it's in the middle of October we usually have baseball on the tv in the background and it is always lots of fun. But this year kinda messed up the schedule a bit. I had an order last weekend (the poker table cake) and I have an order next weekend (a baby shower cake) over in their area so we didn't go for my birthday weekend in between. We held off on the family celebration until next weekend. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to celebrate with my husband and 12 year old son. And that meant I got to make my own cake!!!

Now before you think "oh poor woman has to make her own birthday cake" let me be very clear. It is a total treat to be able to make my own cake. I can only think of 3 years since my daughter turned 15 that I have had a chance to make my own cake so it doesn't happen often. And, yes, she is making me one for next weekend too so this is, indeed, a chance to make my own cake, eat it and still have someone make me a cake too! So this is my pre-birthday-cake birthday cake. If you follow me. Ok, it's a good excuse for me to make a cake, play with the piping and eat cake and still get a "real" Birthday Cake next weekend.

It was a very exciting possibility until I broke my finger. As I mentioned last week, I am ambidextrous so breaking the middle finger of my right hand wasn't as big of an issue for last week's cake as I thought it would have been...until it came to the piping. The piping was murder. And my birthday cake design was all piping. Lots and lots of piping. So I baked the cake, a six inch hex shaped pink lemonade cake, on Tuesday and then kept procrastinating actually decorating it because, well, I knew it would hurt and I knew I didn't "have" to make the cake because it wasn't my "real" cake. It's just for us. Did I mention I knew it would hurt?

But, finally, on Friday morning, I pulled the wrapped frozen cake out of the freezer and filled and crumbcoated it. And let it sit for 5 hours while I procrastinated some more. I went and did some chores, played a bit on the computer, worked at my other job...putting off actually decorating this cake sitting on my table. Finally I filled the piping bags with the colors, assembled the paisley shaped cutters and frosted the cake in a flat white. And then, you guessed it, procrastinated for another half hour or so. 

This was when I decided I needed to figure out a way around my hand issue. I have a client cake next week and, yes, it has piping on it. Not a lot but it does have piping on it. So I used the cutters to gently press into the side of the white frosted cake all the way around. Then I used the dark wine colored frosting to outline where I had pressed. I quickly learned that the only way to pipe without hurting my hand was to hold the bag in such a way it, basically, looked like I was flipping everyone off! I had to hold the bag with my middle finger sticking straight out and the other fingers wrapped around the bag. I was very happy that there was no one around to offend! LOL!

The rest of the pattern I got from the plates and napkins and I just used small bits and pieces of that design to fill in the sides of the cake. A lot of people ask me how I get my ideas of what goes where and, honestly, I think it's the photographer in me that makes this easy for me to do. If I were going to tell someone how to do it themselves though, I would say to find something like the napkins and just copy the whole design. Use cutters for the hard shapes and then just follow the design on the napkins (or pillow, or invite) to fill in the spaces.

The last piece was the fantasy flower topper. I just used white fondant with a lot of tylose mixed in so it would dry up quickly. I rolled it out to the thickness of a dime and then used a circle cutter to cut out rounds. I then just folded the rounds so that there were two points, one point for the center, one to the outside of the flower. I just stuck them together with a mist of water and let them set up for about an hour. After that I painted them with gold luster dust paint. The center of the flower is just a round that I pinched two points onto and then pinched two more points making it into a square. Once the paint had dried I placed the whole flower onto the top of the cake, filled the center box with orange frosting and added a dab of the wine colored frosting.
Once served on the decorative plates you could see the pink inside and the colorful outside along with the bright plates and napkins and get the feel of the whole presentation. Totally yummy and totally pretty. Perfect for my birthday.

As mentioned, next week is a baby shower cake! I'll share next Monday! See you then!

Cat

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Poker Table Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! This week brings Vic's Poker Table Cake. It comes with a story behind it, as all cakes do, and a big "hitch in my giddy-up" to get it made.

Ok, so the first part of the story is that I've made Vic's birthday cakes for the past few years and each on is based on what he likes to do. This cake also followed that theme with the Poker idea. Along with the idea comes a bit of pressure to make each years cake better than last years. Even coming up with the idea is a hard one for his wife and is planned out months in advance.

The cake is strawberry cake with buttercream filling...strawberries and cream! The outside is fresh fondant...all of it. The cards are sugar as are the chips. I started with the covering of the cake with more buttercream and then topping it with the dyed green fondant. After that came the panels along the sides followed by the table "legs". These are just fondant snakes that have been textured with the scalloping tool and then applied along the seams on the sides with a light misting of water. I followed that with the table padding, dying the fondant black. Then I let it rest for a couple of hours so the fondant could set up and not dent so easily when I applied the decorations.
The cards are from real playing cards. I had a sugar transfer sheet made up, the cards just a little smaller than real cards, that I then cut out and adhered to sheets of fondant and let dry till they were solid. I made more than just the Royal Flush so that I could decorate the cake a bit more. All of it is stuck to the cake with a bit of water. The chips took a bit more work. I had to cut out the circles with fondant that had added tylose. The tylose helps the fondant dry out and get solid more quickly. I used a piping tip to make the indent in the center and then used an xacto knife to make the ridges on the top and sides of each chip. At that time I decided how I wanted each chip to be on the board and glued them down and together with water.

The last step, of course is piping the wording on the cake board. Now all of this should have been fairly easy work. A lot of detail, of course, but nothing I was worried about. Until I slammed my hand into a door and broke a finger tip. I did this on the same day I was to make the fondant and fill and crumbcoat the cake. The day before the actual decorating. I have never even considered cancelling a cake on a client before and I certainly didn't want to do that to a regular client! Fortunately, for most of the work, the fact that I am ambidextrous was a huge blessing. I do use my right to write so the piping was the only part that was really painful. The rest I did one handed. Since I'm "ambi" I am use to switching back and forth between hands to work. But for a good deal of this work I couldn't use my right hand at all. It certainly added a level of difficulty to the cake but I didn't have to cancel on my client! 

I'm happy to say the client was very happy with the cake and I'm hoping her husband thinks it is as great as last years cake. Check out last October's posts to see the Mah Jong cake that was his birthday surprise last year!

This week I only have my own cake to make so I can lay off the hand for a few days. I'll share it with you next weekend! (And, yes, I do actually want to make my own cake!). See you then!

Cat

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Happy Sunday! No cakes today but another yummy confection to share with you all. With the beginning of the holidays I tend to make little favors to give out or favors for clients to give out to their clients for meetings, mixers or just end of the year gifts. These can be anything from chocolate covered marshmallows to brownies to truffles. 

I had a client come to me and ask me if I could find her a recipe for wine truffles. I'd never heard of them before but went to look up a recipe and found several. When you come upon lots of different recipes for the same titled item then what you want to do is compare those and see what is the most consistent of the group. Which variation pops up more than others. This is the one that is going to be the most reliable. So I emailed her the recipe and a few weeks later she offered me the job of making them and packaging them up for her.

First of all, here is the recipe:

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, baking bar (Ghirardelli 60%)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup red wine, cabernet sauvignon
cocoa powder
Directions:

1. Coarsley chop chocolate and place into a medium sized bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer, add butter and stir until melted.
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is melted.
4. Add the red wine and stir until wine is incorporated.
5. Pour into an 8x8 baking dish and refridgerate for at least 4 hours
6. Use a metal cookie scoop to scoop out a truffle. Coat your hands in cocoa powder and gently roll the chocolate until it forms a ball. Roll in cocoa to coat.
7.Keep refridgerated. 

Ok, so now here is where the learning curve came into play. I thought, why roll them in cocoa when I can dip them into milk chocolate instead? You see the result of my first effort in the photo above. Looks pretty good, right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Then I dipped the second truffle, then the third, and realized they were MELTING into my coating chocolate. Apparently the wine lowers the melting point of the truffles quite a bit. Fortunately this recipe makes about 30 truffles and I only needed 24 so I quickly changed tactics and started following the recipe where it clearly says "roll in cocoa to coat". Sometimes fiddling with a recipe is really not a good idea. 

But here is the upside...because the melting point is much lower for these truffles than the regular type they melt in the mouth almost instantly. The "mouth feel" is incredible! And the wine flavor is just a hint in the background of the chocolate and not overpowering in any way. Because of the lower melting point though, these DO have to be refrigerated.  So keep them in the fridge till presentation and then pass them around. I boxed up two per favor but, really, one is so rich that it is really enough. All of that butter and chocolate and cream is truly decadent!

This upcoming week will bring a fun Poker Cake to share! See you then!

Cat