Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Birch Yule Log Cake. Yellow cake with vanilla buttercream
filling covered in handpainted vanilla marshmallow fondant
and decorated with a sugar pointsettis and fondant mushrooms. All edible.

One of the great things about being a cake artist is when the holidays hit you get to make a great cake just for you and your family. The only time schedule you have to follow is your own and the only artistic input needed is your own imagination. This week's cake is the one I made for our own huge family Christmas dinner.

When deciding what to make I took into account the other holiday cakes on the books and suddenly knew I wanted to do a very different type of cake for our holiday celebrations this year. A Buche Noel, or Yule Log, Cake is usually a rolled sponge cake that is covered with chocolate buttercream icing that is scraped to look like a wood finish. The mushrooms are usually white to stand out against the chocolate coloring of the log and they are usually made out of meringue. Well my son is not a fan of chocolate and my youngest daughter is 6 mos pregnant and chocolate is just not part of her palate choices right now so I wanted to make something very vanilla for my kids. And, yes, if my other daughter had been here this year she would have appreciated the anti chocolate theme as well. Go figure, eh? LOL. So while the usual choice for a yule log cake is chocolate buttercream I chose vanilla fondant instead. So my thought was to make it look like a white birch log which is one of my favorite trees. Then, having just seen The Nutcracker this year, I thought why not make the mushrooms the red capped variety so they would stand out against the white fondant as well as represent a favorite thing to do with my kids during the holidays, which is see The Nutcracker. (For those who have never seen this ballet, there is a certain part where lots of red capped mushroom children fill the stage).

The work began weeks ago when I made sugar pointsettias for a client cake. I made an extra one just for us to use on whatever cake I decided upon. Then a week ago I formed the mushroom caps and stems and set them aside to dry. They need to be totally dry before painting. Getting a bright red is not easy to do so I handpainted the caps with several coats of red gell color mixed with vodka. This took a few days to get the depth of color I wanted. Everything else with the cake has to be done last minute so I could get the fresh taste and texture I wanted for the final result. Now the secret of the week comes with the cake. I bake all of my cakes a few days before I need to decorate them then I wrap them well and freeze them. After I take them out of the freezer, unwrap them and fill them with whatever filling I am using I then "crumbcoat" them with buttercream and let them thaw out for several hours before the final coat of buttercream or fondant goes on. The freezing captures the moisture inside the cake making for a wonderful moist cake when you finally do cut into it. The crumbcoat seals in that moisture as well. Once the cake comes out of the freezer it doesn't go back into it or the fridge for more than a few minutes to set up icing coatings, nothing more. The fridge will actually dry out your cakes! So there's your tip of the week...just make sure to wrap the cake well. My wrap of choice is Press and Seal. LOVE it!

For this cake it was just a matter of looking at what a real white birch tree looks like and try to copy the look of the bark on the cake. And I have to say that once you get to the finishing touches like piping the "grass" then setting the mushrooms into place, it all starts really coming together and what started out as a vision in your mind comes to life in cake. It truly feels amazing.

Today began our holiday celebration of Kwanzaa and it goes on till New Years Day so the only cake in this house will be cupcakes my son and I will make later this week for New Years. I'll post what we come up with next Sunday! In the meantime I hope you are enjoying your holidays and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yellow cake filled with Raspberry Buttercream and
decorated with colored vanilla marshmallow fondant and buttercream!

Another Holiday Cake to share with all of you this week. This cake was for an office party and rather than do a typical sheet cake we decided to do something a little more fun. There is a home craft out there called a "Brick Santa" and it's made by taking a regular brick and painting on a face, belt and buckle then using a special acrylic "snow" to make the beard and fur for the hat and pom pom. So I figured with this cake I could do that same thing using edible materials.

The cake is a standard 10x10 size cake that's been leveled and then cut directly in half then stacked upon eachother to make a 10x5x4 inch high cake. This feeds about 25 people. For the fondant I started out by coloring white fondant with a brick red gell coloring. Then I painted it with a vodka and Christmas red gell coloring mix and quickly textured the surface with a net bag to make the appearance look more like a real brick. After waiting a short while for this to dry I then was able to create the face and finally finish it all off with the swirled buttercream! Such a fun little cake to present to the office full of people.

The "secret" on this cake is that you could just use colored buttercream that's been almost smoothed out for the covering of the "brick" and then use regular buttercream to create the face, beard and fur. This would be a wonderful beginners cake for any inspired baker. My only advice would be to go onto and look up how to make a true Christmas Red. It's hard to dye either fondant or buttercream any vibrant color such as red, black, dark blue or purple. But the result is worth it!

This upcoming week I have another holiday cake. My own twist on a Buche Noel! Have a Very Merry Christmas and I'll see you here the first day of Kwanzaa!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holly Berry Cake. Double chocolate cake with Raspberry buttercream filling covered in
fresh vanilla buttercream and decorated with fondant holly leaves and chocolate candy berries.

This week was a busy one so I have 3 cakes to show you! The holidays are usually filled with home cooking, home baked cakes and cookies so for a cake artist it is usually the slow time of year. But, recently, it has become a trend to take a pretty cake or cupcakes to a party as a Hostess Gift so this year I'm a little busier than usual. The Holly Berry Cake was fun for me to do because I don't work a lot in buttercream and I love to play with fondant. This gave me the opportunity to do both! Being Disney fans, and that's putting it mildly, it was also a chance for me to create my own "hidden Mickeys" on the cake! So this ended up being a very nice Hostess Gift for my client to present to her friends.

Mom's Birthday Cake. Double chocolate cake with Apricot filling covered in
fresh vanilla buttercream, edible transfers and topped with a sugar yellow rose.

This next cake is, as the title says, Mom's Birthday Cake. Every year I make my mom something special for her birthday. We have a family dinner and the cake tops off a wonderful meal. It's a challenge to come up with something new each year and see if I can top the year before! This year, and this weeks "secret", I got some of Duff Goldmans edible cake "tattoos". What you do to apply these is just put on the final layer of buttercream and while it's still "wet" you smooth on the edible transfer. And just like that your cake is decorated! You can find these at Michael's Craft Stores in the cake decorating section and they are really just that easy to use. You do have to be careful to place them exactly where you want them because they are just sugar. Once they touch the buttercream the sugar melds with the buttercream and you will not be able to move it. Then it's just a matter of adding a trim to your cake and some candles! In this case my Mom loves yellow roses and requested one for her cake this year so I made a huge yellow sugar rose and placed the wired flower into a coffee stirrer. The stirrer was just a teeny bit taller than the cake so that the rose didn't actually sit on the buttercream. This meant that she could remove the rose easily and be able to keep it as a keepsake. Sugarpaste, or "gumpaste", dries rock hard and you can keep it forever once it is totally dry.

Holiday Cupcakes. Gingerbread cupcakes topped with fresh
vanilla buttercream, colored sugar sprinkles and a chocolate candy berry.

The last "cake" of the week is actually cupcakes. I love baking these cupcakes because the smell of gingerbread brings back all my childhood holiday memories. As I mentioned above, these would make wonderful Hostess Gifts if you are going to a party or potluck dinner. These were treats for a senior community. Helping those who can not bake for themselves have a little taste of home baking at the Holidays. The Seniors eyes lit up at the site of these gingerbread treats and it was wonderful payment for this caker and her son.

This upcoming week brings another holiday cake. This time a 3D one! Can not wait to begin work on this one since the theme is such a fun one to bring to life. I'll post it next Sunday!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Double Chocolate Cake filled with Chocolate Fudge and covered in
Vanilla Buttercream and decorated with sugar Pointsettia flowers

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We certainly did and I enjoyed having a whole week off. Having a full work schedule is surely something to be grateful for but a week off from work is certainly wonderful too!

This week brought a Christmas Party Cake for friends. They throw this amazing party each year and so I created this cake as a centerpiece for their event. Now, I've made it fairly clear that I'm not a buttercream fan, more of a fondant girl here, but this turned out so pretty I was thrilled to be able to present it at the party. Unfortunately 150 rough graded freeway miles had a different idea for me and my creation. Delivery is the worst part of this job in my opinion (others would say it's cleaning up from this job but I think delivery is horrid!LOL!). You spend hours upon hours working on what you hope is just this side of perfection only to take a huge risk that your edible work of art will end up in a pile of cake rubble. Fortunately, for me, cake rubble wasn't quite how far it went but about 75 miles into our trip I saw that the buttercream was literally sliding off the top tier of the cake in a nice neat line. Think of rolling down a window...only with icing slowing revealing the cake underneath! Having delivered cakes for a few years now I always carry a kit with me and knew that I could fix what needed to be fixed when I arrived. Once we did arrive I seperated the tiers, found out that only the bottom one was needed (the top tier was frosted and used as a treat in leftovers), removed the damaged front pointsettia and the damaged trim and gold decorations, reiced the whole cake, retrimmed with buttercream and new gold decorations and placed the pointsettia cake topper on top of the now single tier cake. I added a few new decorations on top and...

The final version of the cake.
Fortunately, in this case, the cake was for friends and it wasn't a set design but rather left up to me and that there was plenty of cake still for their guest list. Sometimes as a cake artist you have to think quickly on your feet because it IS cake and anything can happen. I do have a fancy cake delivery case which prevents toppling of a cake but nothing can prevent vibration damage. You just have to learn how to work around it when the damage happens and worse comes to worse??? Apologize and refund if the damage is total and you have nothing to deliver but cake rubble. Thank goodness I was able to put a beautiful finished cake on the table for this event, their guests none the wiser!

This upcoming week brings two smaller cakes. One is for a birthday and the other is a simple holiday cake. I'll share those next Sunday!