Sunday, November 27, 2011

 Harry's Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday and for those of us in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving Weekend! For many of us this is the beginning of our Holiday Season but for some of us there are still some family holidays to be celebrated before Christmas or Channuka preparations can begin. I know a special little girl who became a woman this week at her Bat Mitzvah! And my own husband celebrated another birthday. So Mazel Tov to both of them!

I begin this week with my husbands birthday cake and for a very important reason. Not every celebration is a huge one with lots of people filling up the house and wanting to be fed. Sometimes it's just a small family dinner that you want to top off with a special cake or dessert for 4. This Birthday Cake is just a 4 inch Mexican Hot Chocolate cake, filled with vanilla bavarian cream filling and covered in vanilla buttercream then decorated with drizzled chocolate and Reeses candies (his favorite). The fun of making a cake like this is that the surface of the cake is not smooth so you really don't have to work about filling splooshing out a bit (yes, that's a technical term..."splooshing" LOL) and you don't have to worry about your crumbcoating having any bumps in it. I purposely left the dome on the little cake so that it would be easier to make this look like a huge mound of frosting covered in candy. This way the frosting layer can be thinner and there's more cake underneath. The initial was piped out onto parchment and left in the freezer for a few minutes to set up while I used the same tip and bag of melted chocolate to drizzle over the frosting and candy. Then, before the chocolate on the cake could set up, I peeled the initial off the parchment and used the melted chocolate to "glue" the cold initial to the cake. Little cake, HUGE impression for a loved ones birthday.
 Graham Cracker Pumpkin Pie

Next up was Thanksgiving and, by popular demand, my Pumpkin Pie. I make a spicy pumpkin pie that my kids just adore, so while my younger daughter always gets tagged to do the bird, I always get tagged to bring the pie. This year I mixed it up a bit with wonderful results! I decided to try out a graham cracker crust and it was SO good. It brings a bit more sweetness and almost a nutty flavor to the pie which just adds to the spice and makes it even more perfect. There are two secrets I'll share in this week's to make my pie is the first. I use real roasted pumpkin. This is SO easy to do and you end up with roasted pumpkin seeds as a extra reward for your efforts. All you do is get a sugar pumpkin (tho' a regular jackolantern type will work too, you will just end up with much more pumpkin than you would ever want or need unless you are serious baker and a small sugar pumpkin is sweeter naturally) quarter the pumpkin after removing the stem area. Clean it out reserving the seeds to roast with a bit of olive oil. On a lightly grease cookie sheet (you can use spray) place the pumpkin, lightly salt it and then roast at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes. When it's soft, like a baked potato, pull it out and scoop the soft flesh from the skin. Mash it up and it's ready to freeze. Now, I take this one step further and I puree the pumpkin with some water to make sure it's really smooth for my pie. Then I freeze in one cup portions. I AM one of those serious bakers who will make cookies and muffins and cupcakes and pancakes, etc. all month long. Now follow the pie recipe as you always would on the side of the Libby's can (you can find it online if you don't have a copy) only DOUBLE the spices. Yup, I said "double the spices". Do not add any extra sugar, let it be spicy. Poor into your graham cracker crust and bake for 50 mins or till the knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not prebake the graham cracker crust...remember it's already cooked. And, yes, I used a prepared crust from the store for this...I find that there is little difference between the homemade one and the packaged one but you can, of course, easily make your own with graham cracker crumbs and butter. Now top with whipped cream. I love fresh whipped cream and how you can decorate with it so beautifully. Here is another use for your piping bags and extra large tips. Just drop one into a bag, fill with whipped cream and decorate your heart out! I just did a little "S" pattern and look how gorgeous it looks! In the end you get a pie that's sweet and yet spicy and Oh So Good!
Nana's Fudge

Ok, second secret...I'm the "Nana" in Nana's Fudge. But what makes my fudge so much better than most homemade fudge recipes is how I put the ingredients together and what I add to them. Most simple fudge recipes involve chopped up chocolate or chocolate chips along with sweetened condensed milk. 12oz chocolate to one can milk. You are told to put the chocolate with the milk into a double boiler and melt together then put into a buttered pan to cool. Unfortunately this can lead to a really grainy fudge that breaks, cracks or falls apart. Not exactly the rich treat you were hoping for, right? So here is my secret. I melt the chocolate FIRST. All by itself, no company. When it's all melted and smooth I turn of the heat, add the milk and when that is stirred smooth I add a teaspoon of good vanilla. Then I stir that till it's all incorporated and put into a buttered pan. I let that sit overnight in the fridge (at least 3 hours) before cutting into 1 inch pieces. This is treasured by my family because I only make it once a year at Christmas. It was a surprise for my daughters this Thanksgiving and, as you can see by the photo, our grandaughter couldn't wait to dig in! Yup, it's that good!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday, enjoyed some time off with your families and are looking forward to the upcoming month. For me and my business, the end of the year is one Christmas creation after another so I'll have plenty to share with you in the upcoming weeks!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Melissa & Jason's Wedding Cake

Happy Sunday! Today we spotlight my last wedding cake of the year. This four tier beauty feeds about 170 people and weighs a ton! LOL! The Bride is in love with Anenome flowers but November is not the time of year to have them be your wedding flowers. Fortunately sugar flowers don't have a "season" so she wanted to incorporate them in a big way on her cake.

Wedding cakes are made over days and days before the actual wedding day. This is not to say that your cake has been sitting out for days and days. I started baking on Monday with the largest tiers and ending with the smallest tier on Wednesday. All cakes are wrapped in layers and frozen. Three days before the wedding, in this case Thursday since the wedding was an evening wedding, the cakes are removed and filled and crumbcoated. I did the largest two tiers on Thursday and the smaller two tiers on Friday. Once you crumbcoat a cake the moisture is locked inside. A caker is always worried about a dry cake and this is one way to ensure it stays nice and moist. Later that day, after the cakes had a chance to settle, I covered those two tiers and then filled and crumbcoated the last two. Those were covered on Friday and, at that point, the cakes were ready to stack. Since you are apt to touch the cakes as you stack, to position them, you are likely to leave impressions on your cake if you don't let the fondant set up for a bit. Overnight works quite well. The fondant is still soft to chew but more firm to the touch. The cakes were stacked and flowers added with melted white chocolate on Saturday afternoon then delivered at 5pm for the Bride and Groom, who were thrilled with the cake.

This cake has a different flavor for each tier. Starting from the bottom, there was white cake with raspberry filling, then Mexican Hot Chocolate cake with vanilla bavarian cream filling (the Grooms favorite), then yellow cake with chocolate brownie buttercream filling (the Brides favorite) and finally lemon cake with raspberry filling. The black fondant is Duff's black chocolate fondant and the white is vanilla marshmallow fondant. The flowers are made of vanilla marshmallow fondant with some tylose mixed in and the centers are the chocolate fondant. The only thing not edible on the cake is the topper and the stamen on the flowers.

As I have mentioned before, flowers take a long time to make due to drying time. The petals have to be formed first, then allowed to dry a bit, usually a day or so, before being glued together. Then, depending on the flower, you need more drying time before you add the centers. These took a full week to make due to the fact the glue for the petals needed to be totally dry so that when the centers were glued on the petals would not move.

The really fun part of this cake was that I worked the wedding as well. I got to cut the cake and watch as people not only enjoyed their pieces but came back for more! People who had tasted one flavor came back to try another flavor. Now that's one of the best endorsements of your baking that you can get!

The cake on the Cake Table

The really cute thing is that out of the kids it was the little boys who wanted the flowers! They were fascinated by the fact that you could actually eat them! After saving some for the Bride as keepsakes I handed out the rest to the kids. Hard fondant tastes like vanilla sugar candy and is SO good. No wonder the flowers disappeared quickly!

In the end, the Bride, Groom and their families were thrilled with the cake. They thought it was too pretty to cut but the cake inside was yummy enough to make up for the destruction of the artwork.

And that brings up something that I was asked several times last night as I was cutting the cake. Is it hard for me to cut into something I have spent so much time and put so much work in? A "standard" cake, one that is round or square, isn't as hard for me but the carved cakes are still very hard for me to cut into. When it comes to a shaped cake, like a toolbox, a purse, a TV, etc. I have put even more time and effort into making that item look like a real item and not a cake. So, yes, it's hard for me to dismantle those. But I can understand how someone might balk at cutting into one of my cakes. Years ago we were on a cruise and they had a midnight buffet where the chefs had spent hours creating these wonderful works of edible art. I took tons of photos but didn't have the heart to actually dig into any of them. I saw others hacking away at fruit sculptures that looked like real flowers and my heart hurt. So I can totally understand how it would be really hard for a client to cut into one of my carved cakes and want me to do it instead. Happy to do so.

And here's a secret. I really do like to hang out and cut the cake. I love celebrations. I love cutting and serving the wedding cake while listening to the toasts. Or while watching the Bride and Groom dance their first dance. Or the Birthday Girl open up her gifts. I do charge a nominal cutting fee but my real payment is being able to share a bit of the day with share in your happiness for even that brief amount of time. It's wonderful being surrounded by joy.

Speaking of Joy! This week begins the offical Holidays for us and for my business so lots of holiday cakes and goodies coming your way over the next 6 weeks! With Thanksgiving coming up this week I will have pies to show off instead of a cake! Can't wait!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kali's Halloween Themed Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! Today I bring you the birthday cake and mini cupcakes for Miss Kali. She turns 7 this week and wanted to celebrate Halloween Style. Now I'd heard of this for kids born in October (and yet, never had my own birthday in this theme...hmmmm...maybe something to think about as my 50th approaches next year!) but have never heard of it for November kids until this year...and suddenly I keep hearing about all these kids who had Halloween Themed parties this year! Great way to get one more wearing of that costume!

The main cake is strawberry cake with raspberry filling covered in dark purple vanilla buttercream and decorated with black fondant bats and a witch flying over green buttercream brew. The original idea was just to have a round purple cake tier with the silhouette of a witch on top and then the rest of the cupcake stand would hold the 100 mini cupcakes. As an artist I wanted so much more for this idea so I contacted my client and asked if I could make this a witches cauldron instead and have the witch flying over the "bubbling" brew. She loved the idea so now Kali had a carved cake tier, not just a plain round one and a bobbling witch flying over green goo!

The mini cupcakes were pumpkin spice for the pumpkin minis, chocolate chocolate chip for the spider minis and white cake for the ghost minis. All together they made for a very cute presentation. I have made cakes for Kali in the past so she was very excited to see me with her birthday baked goods and was SO happy about her witch cake that I got a most enthusiastic hug from her! What a wonderful tip!

The one thing about this order is that the minis, like all cupcakes, have to be done in one day. Hopefully not more than 24 hours before the party so they are still really fresh. So I spent all Friday afternoon baking and decorating these so that they would look and taste great for the Saturday afternoon party. A lot of work all at once but so worth it for the completed look at the party.

This week I have a wedding cake coming up. If it turns out even close to my design it's going to be gorgeous! I'll be able to share that with you next Sunday! Have a great week!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sugar Rose Anniversary Cake

Happy Sunday! Oh, and Happy November and Happy Fall. (Although in many parts of the USA it feels like Winter already!) Today's cake is a special one for a couple celebrating 24 years of marriage. While not a "big" Anniversary they still wanted a very special little cake to share with family and friends. This one is 6 inches by 4 inches and will serve 16 "Wedding Cake" slices. The original colors for their wedding were black, white with touches of pink so that is what the color scheme for this cake ended up being as well.

Close up of Panel

The cake is Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake with Raspberry filling. It's covered in vanilla buttercream because the white buttercream makes for the perfect background for the offwhite flowers. It works as "filler" between the flowers helping to create the look of a full bouquet. The sides are panels of black chocolate fondant that have been marked in a Art Deco type chevron design and then placed on the cake. Now you can measure very carefully and place them one at a time, side by side, onto the cake but this is cake. There is going to be an extra half inch here or quarter inch there that you were not expecting due to cake or crumbcoat thickness, so what I did was to place one chevron panel in the front, then one directly in the back, then one on each side so that the four panels were now fairly equally spaced out. Then I used more chevron panels to fill in the spaces and overlap the panels. Finally the "ribbon" trim went on and bows were attached for added decoration. Then I placed the roses on top. This is much like fresh flower arranging and takes a lot more time than you would think to get the flowers to meet up just how you want them to and look right. You want them to be domed but not too perfect of a half circle. They are supposed to look like real flowers and you can't get a perfect dome from fresh roses.

A word about placing sugar flowers into cakes. Floral wire, often used in the making of sugar flowers, is not food safe. I use those little straw looking coffee stirrers, which are food safe, inserted into the cake first, then slide the wired flowers into the stirrers. This makes sure that the wire is not touching the cake or the frosting.

And finally, these roses are dusted with a sparkly pink luster dust. I didn't try to get the same amount of dust onto each rose but rather dusted them one at a time and let some get a lot of the pink tint and some only get a touch or sparkle. As I mentioned before, these are supposed to look real and the coloring of each rose is never exactly the same as the one it is gathered next to in the bouquet.

Halloween Cupcakes

As I mentioned last Sunday when I posted the other Halloween cupcake order, I had another for Monday, Halloween. These adorable little Jack-o-Lanterns were perfect for the Seniors they were meant to delight! Devils Food Chocolate Cake (perfect for Halloween, right?) topped with lightly tinted orange buttercream and chocolate fondant faces. The green stems are made from tinted vanilla fondant. These were fun to make and even more fun to hand out to the group of Seniors on Halloween Day!

This upcoming week brings mini cupcakes and a mini cake for a little one turning 7 this year. She chose a Halloween theme so I'm not done with the holiday designs quite yet! I'll share those with you next Sunday!