Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow Leopard Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! This week brought a birthday cake, several appointments for wedding cakes and, of course, time for Halloween Treats! I'll start out with the birthday cake first.

This little 4 inch cake was white cake with raspberry filling covered in black (chocolate) fondant and white (vanilla) fondant and decorated with handpainted fondant dots and details. The Birthday girl just happens to be an upcoming Bride that I'm working with so it was fun to be able to do a mini birthday cake for her as well!

This brings up a topic that I may not have covered before. Fondant. I have heard over and over again "I don't like fondant" or "I don't think I'd like that stuff". What they mean is that they have heard over and over again how awful fondant is or they have tasted old fondant. As with most of food preparation, fresh is best. If you are eating something that has been sitting in a can, jar or tub for months it may not make you ill but it just won't taste as good as freshly made. All of my fondant is either freshly made by me, within the week of your event, or is Duff's fondant. I have no idea how "fresh" his brand is but it tastes fresh. It doesn't taste chemically or like it's had all the flavor leached out of it and all that is left is something that tastes like you'd be better off chomping on the cake box than the cake. Without fail I have been able to make converts out of people once they have tasted my fresh fondant. The Birthday Girl this week is one of my newest converts. We were going to do a buttercream covered cake, now it's being covered in fondant because it's SO yummy! I also make my buttercream fresh each week. So that means not only do you have a freshly baked cake, covered in freshly made buttercream but it's also topped in freshly made fondant! In the food world, fresh is best!

Halloween Alien Cupcakes

Pictured is just one set of many that were made this weekend for a client. These funny little aliens are something you can SO easily make at home. I lightly tinted buttercream after baking the cupcakes and then used prebought sugar candies to make funny faces on top. These were intended to make lions, bears and clowns but I mixed up all the pieces, using eyes for noses, ears for mouths, mouths for ears, etc. to create some funny little Aliens.

These were yellow and white cake cupcakes and they were SO good that I wish there had been more extras of this order! Cupcakes are the one baked item that HAS to be made as close to delivery time as possible. The paper cupcake liners let alot of air into the cake portion of these and, for cake, air is the enemy! An unsealed, by icing, cake is prone to drying out very very quickly. This is why you crumbcoat a cake. It seals in that moisture. But you can't do that with a cupcake since a small bit of icing goes only on the top. So with time and air as your dreaded enemies you have to make sure that you deliver your completed cupcakes within hours of finishing the baking/decorating process or you end up with a dry crumbly cupcake. I actually had the client ask me how I could possibly have such moist cupcakes...aren't cupcakes dry and crumbly? NO! Cupcakes are suppose to be moist little morsels of yummy cake!

The kids thought these funny little critters were just hysterical. Since they were made for kids we were pretty happy to see the smiles and hear the laughs, followed by "these are GOOOOOD!" after they finally ate all the candy off the top and dug into the actual cupcake!

Since Halloween is actually tomorrow I do have have one more order of cupcakes to go. Those will be made fresh tomorrow and delivered soon after. I'll share those with you next week!

Speaking of next week...I have an Anniversary Cake order that I am SO excited to be working on! The design is so romantic and yet so avante guarde, I just can NOT wait to get started on it. I'll share it with you next Sunday!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cat's Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! Yup, you read the title under the cake correctly....that's MY birthday cake! As I've mentioned before, it's fun to make cakes for your loved ones. You have all the freedom in the world to create whatever you want for them. This is even more so when you make your own cake. You have the freedom to try out new techniques without worrying about what to do if it doesn't work out! As you can see, it worked out beautifully! But not without a few hiccups....

I'd been dying to work with chocolate but I wanted it to be different than the types you normally see. Normally the melted chocolate is spread onto acetate strips and then wrapped around the cake to cool. When you remove the acetate you have a very smooth collar of chocolate. I wanted a more textured, free form version of this idea. Having not really worked all that much, outside of ganache, with chocolate I wasn't too terribly sure how this idea would work out. Here is what I did...

First I took out a silicone mat and melted the white chocolate morsels in the microwave. You have to be very careful with this as chocolate burns very easily. So I started with 30 seconds and worked my way to melting point from there. After the white chocolate was melted smooth I put in another bowl of milk chocolate pieces to melt. While that was melting I put the white chocolate into a piping bag with a number 3 tip on it. This is a writing tip. By this time the milk chocolate was melted and I was able to spread it onto the mat with an offset spatula. One of the hiccups, and lesson I learned, is that you really need to spread the chocolate very evenly for clean breaks later...I managed to do this fairly well but not perfectly so I ended up with some jagged bits that I still put to work later (or my husband ended up eating as a snack!LOL!). As soon as I had the milk chocolate spread on the mat I took the white chocolate filled piping bag and started swirling the white chocolate over the surface of the milk chocolate. Since the milk chocolate was cooling but not yet set, the white chocolate settled down into it but held it's shape. Remember to keep your hand moving or the white chocolate will pool in one spot very quickly! I finished off the piping by piping a frame of white chocolate around the edges of the milk chocolate. Then the whole thing went into the freezer for a couple of hours. I'm not sure it really needed hours to set up but we went out for a few hours right after this step.

I had already filled and crumbcoated my cake at this point. It's an Almond Cake with Passionfruit filling. You may remember that combo from last weeks Jersey Cake..well, we got to try the trimmings off that cake and fell in love with the flavors! I just knew this was the combo I wanted for my birthday cake! When we got back to the house I put on the final coating of buttercream at this point so it would still be soft enough and able to act as glue for the chocolate pieces. Enter hiccup number Two!

Working in my own home is a tricky business. Unlike the commercial kitchen I normally use, my home has only one work area...the same one with the oven and the dishwasher. Well, the oven was currently cooking our dinner and the dishwasher was cleaning up the mess from the chocolate and cake baking process. So it was warm AND humid in my decorating area. This is where my inexperience with chocolate made itself well known. Chocolate planks don't do well with any heat and they surely don't like humidity added to the mix. I took the mat of chocolate out of the freezer and it began to melt immdiately. I was able to get some full planks but then the thinner and the melting sections broke up into jagged pieces. Now if this had been for a client I would have started all over again...and that would have been unfortunate. The combo of planks and jagged pieces ended up really working well together and giving me the texture I had been going for all along in this design! So, as you can see, not all mistakes are fatal...some make your design even better.

After I got the planks and pieces onto the cake, which was fun...sort of like putting together a puzzle with the added challenge of the pieces speed puzzle making! LOL! I then topped the cake with fresh raspberries and drizzled on more melted white chocolate. I added the sunflower just for me. I had made it, trying out new cutters I had just gotten as a gift, just for myself and I thought it added a beautiful accent to the cake.

Now here is where we found out a delicious secret. When you combine all of these flavors into one bite...the almond, passionfruit filling, chocolate planks and get one really perfect bite! It's is delectable together! Who knew? I figured that the chocolate and the raspberries would be eaten seperately but when combined with the cake and the filling it was sublime!

This year was a treat for me. My younger daughter, and partner in our business, is a caker as well. She always makes me the most yummy and beautiful cakes each year. But this year they took us out to a fancy dinner including a really fancy dessert the weekend before my birthday. So for my midweek birthday I got the treat of making my own cake. Hope you like the outcome of my little experiment with chocolate! I sure do!

Next week is Halloween!!! So I will get to share with you some Halloween confections next Sunday since the client needs them that day, not actually on Halloween! See you then!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oliver's Baptism Cake

Happy Sunday! This week brings two celebration cakes! The first one is for baby Oliver who was baptised this weekend. Topping this cake was Little Louie the Lamb. We had become quite attached to Louie over his drying time but his new family loves him and thinks he's just as cute as we all do!

Louie is made of fondant mixed with tylose and yes, every single curl is handrolled. I took this photo in the middle of this process so you could see the shape of his head and how his feet are constructed with half toothpics so they fit into the body the next day.

The next morning I continued with the curling and assembling of Louie. I used extra curls for the bottom and to cover the toothpics on the legs and to act as extra glue to hold the feet to the body. The bow was the very last piece to add to the piece and then he was ready to dry for about 2 weeks.

The cake is one tier almond cake with raspberry filling and one tier chocolate chocolate chip cake with chocolate brownie buttercream filling. After covering the tiers with vanilla marshmallow fondant I divided and colored the left over fondant. Then I mixed in tylose with a small bit of the blue and rolled out enough to make the bow. After forming the loops around paintbrush handles, I let the bow dry the rest of the day. Then I cut out the thick strip for the top tier and the thinner strips for the bottom tiers and used water to glue those to the white fondant. I stacked the cakes and then started the time consuming part of the cake. Rolling out all of those fondant marbles. After using water to glue them to the cake tiers I added the plaque. The plaque was cut out at the same time I made Louie so it would have time to dry. Since it had to be thick enough to hold the bow on the bottom tier I knew it wouldn't stick to the cake with just royal icing. So I placed the plaque, with royal icing on the back, onto the cake and then I used two toothpics inserted into the cake under the plaque so it held the plaque up. I let this dry for about a half hour then rolled out the green trim for the plaque and glued it to the plaque. I then made the bow and slipped it over the toothpics and glued it to the plaque as well as to the cake. Then, after letting that dry up a few minutes, I pushed in the toothpics just barely enough so that you can't see them and the cake was done!

The client was thrilled with the cake, as were her family that were at the house when I delivered it. Truly a wonderful feeling to have someone appreciate your work that much! And speaking of appreciation....

Vic's 40th Birthday Cake

Here is the second celebration cake this weekend. This was a complete surprise for my clients husband who had no idea at all that she had such a grand gift in mind for his big birthday! When we delivered this cake to the restaraunt he was just shocked and thrilled with this cake.

Meant to resemble the jersey of a certain Bay Area team, this cake was fun to do but a challenge as well. As with all copyrighted items you can't copy a logo exactly without breaking the law but you want people to know what you were after so it has to be close. Well, close enough for this birthday guy!

I baked then froze the almond cake and while still frozen I filled it with passionfruit buttercream filling and then immediately carved the shape out and crumbcoated it. Then I let it set up and thaw out before covering it with the fondant. Put together much like a real jersey, this cake is covered in fondant pieces rather than in one solid sheet. I then covered the "seams" with rolled fondant to give the impression of the raised seams on a real jersey. I used my Cricut Cake to cut out the letters/numbers and made the logo out of ovals of what I hoped was just the right colors. I matched it as close as I could without getting TOO close to the actual team color. I let these dry up over night so that they would be stiff enough to place on the cake. I used very little water to glue the letters/numbers to the cake. You have to be SO careful when you do this. Once you touch the colored fondant to the white fondant you are committed! The colored fondant instantly stains the white fondant so you have to be sure that you are placing the colored fondant in just the right places. It's a little nervewracking until it's done! I then trimmed the cake with flattened snakes of the red fondant to make the jersey really pop off the base.

The last touches were the ones on the cake board with the logo being the very last piece to this cake puzzle. My own husband being a huge fan of this team was my critic and fact checker on this project and he said he'd be thrilled to have this be his cake. I couldn't wait for Vic to see it! And I was not disappointed. The whole table was impressed with the cake but you could tell that the Birthday Guy and his loving wife were thrilled with it. As I said, no better feeling than to know someone loved and appreciated your hard work.

Well, this upcoming week I get to share with you MY birthday cake! Usually my partner, and younger daughter, makes my cake but we went out to dinner this weekend and I had a fantastic dessert there. So I get to make my own creation this week and I have some GRAND ideas! I'll share them with you on Sunday!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hunny Pot Cake

Happy Sunday! This week brought a Baby's 1st Brithday Cake for Joey. His party was decorated Winnie the Pooh but, as I have mentioned before, I can't do a copyrighted piece but I can do a "background cake". To show you how it all ends up on the table I made sure to take this "Before" photo and, below, the "After" photo where all the trimmings have been added to take this Hunny Pot Cake to a Winnie The Pooh Hunny Pot Cake!

Fully Trimmed Cake

Joey's Mom had all these really cute paperwear for me to match the cake color with and help make the cake feel like it was really part of the party. I also added the little "smash" cake on the right so that Joey could have a personal cake to dive into all for himself! I added their figurines to the cake base as well as tied in the dots from the paperwear into the banner for Joey's cake.

Now, the secrets for this cake! The cake is actually baked in Pampered Chef Measuring Cups! Yup, they can be baked right into the bowl and they come out the perfect shape. You have to treat this as a tiered cake so there are actually four layers to it. Two on the bottom, cup side up, and two on the top, cup side down. There are dowels and a cakeboard in between the two layers. However, unlike a typical two tier cake the tiers are stacked before crumbcoating, then they are crumbcoated and then covered with the very long fondant snakes. Start from the bottom and work your way up to the top. There is also a very long skewer right down the middle of the cake and into the cake drum below to keep it steady even though it's tall compared to it's base.

If you look at the cake I featured last week you will see the similarities but also the differences in the two cakes. The original looks more like a bee hive and this one more like a pot. The first has the hive texture all the way up while this one has a "collar" and the first one doesn't have a lid and I truly think the lid on this one makes the cake! They both have bees buzzing around. Remember to NEVER stick wires straight into the cake. They are not food safe so I use coffee stirrers stuck into the cake first and then the wires are placed inside the stirrers. The final touch was the banner. There were adorable dots in all of the paperware for the party and I so wanted to incorporate them into the design. I rolled out a white banner then cut out the dots in the coordinating colors and, laying them down one layer at a time, I rolled them into the white banner to make a multilayered, colored dot banner. Then I used white royal icing to pipe the saying and trimed the whole thing in a very long fondant snake the same color as the pot. As you can see by the "After" photo, it fit right into the decor!

Happy Happy Birthday Joey! You are simply adorable and it was wonderful to be part of your day!

See ya'll next week when I will have two very special cakes to share!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Winnie the Pooh Hunny Pot Cake

Happy Sunday! This is the second week of my vacation so I thought I'd bring an oldie but a favorite cake to share with you! This Winnie The Pooh Hunny Pot Cake was done for a baby shower a few years ago. It was a two tier cake, top tier was lemon cake, bottom tier was marble cake. It was divided in the center of the pot and then sliced from there. The covering is marshmallow fondant as were the bees.

As a cake artist it is illegal for me to sell copyrighted cakes. That means if I make a figure that looks like Winnie or Mickey or Hello Kitty, it has to be a gift, it's can't be sold. The way around this, and what supermarkets have been doing for years, is to make a "background" cake and place the copyrighted figurines on top! In this case, the theme was Winnie and Friends and the favors were little honey pots so making this a Hunny Pot cake was a natural way to take the design. It wasn't the easiest cake I have ever done. I swear it felt like I rolled fondant snakes for hours in order to complete this cake! But it is one of the most popular designs I have ever done. Oh! And the figurines were actually a brand new bath set that the baby was able to play with later on!

And I'm spotlighting this cake because I'm making a mini version of it this upcoming week. That brings up another part of being a cake designer that is very different from working at a bakery or supermarket bakery. Those places make the same designs over and over and over again. But for a cake designer we like our edible "works of art" to be different each and every time. So when designing say a Wedding cake, we ask that the Bride sends or brings in 5 designs that she likes and then I sketch out a new and original design based on those choices. So, in this case, the Mom of the 1st Birthday Boy wanted the Hunny Pot design but we want it to look original just for his party, not a copy of someone else's party cake. So next Sunday I will share with you the new Hunny Pot and you will be able to see the simliarities of the two designs and how the new one fits in with the whole party concept better than the original design would have!

I also have a Memorial coming up this week. A Garden Dedication in the memory of someone we loved. I'm making garden themed cupcakes for that one and can't wait to share them with you. Yup, Fall Cake orders have begun and I'll have tons of new stuff to share with you!