Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Sunday! We just finished a series of Christmas Weddings over on the Cherry Party Blog so this week we feature a Christmas Anniversary Cake. This is a very special one...60 years of Happily Ever After for this couple! My mind spins! 

The daughter came to me needing both cake and party help and I was happy to help out. The original wedding was Christmas themed so the kids all wanted the Anniversary party to have the same theme. My client had seen another one of my cakes and thought the sugaring would be that perfect touch of "snow" for their gold and red color palette. 

The cake is Double Chocolate for the top and bottom tiers with chocolate brownie buttercream filling and the extra tall middle tier is Lemon Chiffon with lemoncurd buttercream filling. The construction is pretty much the same as all stacked cakes. Dowels in each level to support the tier above and finished off with a dowel right down the center for stability. This is especially important due to that extra tall middle tier.

Sugaring is actually very easy to do. Once your cake tier is covered with fondant you just spritz the entire cake with water (making sure to then dry the cake stand or plate it is sitting upon with a paper towel so that the sugar only sticks to the cake and not the base). At this point I would recommend moving the cake on whatever base you have it on into a larger sized cake pan. This will catch the sugar that falls down off of the cake. I start by pouring some large crystal sanding sugar on top and gently scooping off a bit down each side, one hand scooping, the other catching and pressing onto the side. You will need to scoop some more into your hand and press it gently to the side of the cake. Even then you will have a few areas that are not covered. Just use a cake paint brush that's been dampend and re-wet the bare spot and then press more sugar there before it dries. I used a wavy trim on this cake to give it the impression of "snow drifts" at the bottom of each tier. 

The middle tier also got a "snow drift" edge and I just used the paint brush to wet the trim only and then pressed the sugar onto that. As you can imagine, this makes quite the sugary mess. This is why you have the stand/base in a cake catch that excess sugar. You can re-use this to cover your cake tiers as you go. 

The top tier got 3 small red sugar roses to fit it into their floral design and those were set into a small "drift" of white buttercream that had a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. The middle tier got the big gold ribbon touch to bring the cake back to the Christmas motif. This was the only non-edible part of this cake and was removed before cutting.

I was fortunate enough to meet the happy couple and find out that they adored their cake as well as the rest of the party design. That is always the best part of this job. Knowing that the person was surprised and very happy with my work.

This Monday, due to New Year's Eve, we will be featuring a NYE party plan over at Cherry but you will be able to see the rest of this party design next Monday. You can always check out what is going on at Cherry here on blogger: and get tips every single day on our Facebook fan site:

See you next week and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Sunday and MERRY CHRISTMAS! In honor of the holiday I thought I'd post something pretty but easy for you to be able to copy and take with you to your family dinner this Christmas.

Cupcakes are great for family gatherings because you can make different flavors as well as eliminate the need for plates or forks, both of which are usually used up with the large family dinner! So cupcakes are an easy way to please everyone and easy to eat and clean up after. 

A word about decorating cupcakes. They have become all the rage in the past few years with everything from full size figurines on top to castles to ships. While very cool looking and definitely a show stopper, these personal sized toppers are very impractical for actually eating. Very rarely do these toppers get eaten so in order to eat the rest of the cupcake they must pick off the topper and do something with it. Suddenly we are back to needing plates so that the topper has somewhere to go and we are back to having to clean something up in the end. So I'm not a huge fan of these spectacular cupcakes with their own toppers. I prefer the type you only have to unpeel the wrapper and just eat. This doesn't even go into the cost of all those man hours needed to create these elaborate mini cakes!  A Caker would have to double or triple the cost just to cover that labor time. This means that the cupcakes are no longer cost effective either.

So now we are onto today's confections! Triple chocolate fudge cake and vanilla cake cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream and little green buttercream "trees". All that is needed to make these are one large star tip and one mini one. Pipe the white buttercream with the large star tip as "flat" as you can beginning with the outside of the cupcake and working your way in, trying not to run over the other line as you work your way into the center. Normally you would be using the outside line to build up the next one and the next one to make an ice cream cone effect but for these you want them as flat as you can. Then you just pipe on the trees starting from a point and working your squiggles a bit wider with each pass till you end with a point in the middle again at the bottom. Top this with a silver dragee or other candy. You can, at this point, if you would like, sprinkle the whole thing with white sanding sugar to give it a bit more sparkle.

And that's it. I used some Christmas cupcake liners but you could use any type that you have on hand or that you feel fit the theme including foil wrappers. The idea is to be able to make something that doesn't take long, isn't complicated, and makes your busy holiday life easier. 

Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be back next week with a beautiful Anniversary Cake to share!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

 Happy Sunday and, as we say here in our home MERRY CHRISTMAS! As is with many offices, we have a Christmas gathering. We each bring something to share and have a lovely time hanging out all afternoon and catching up. My donation was the cupcake Christmas Tree. I'll go more into that later on but first...
 Let me share what others brought! This is a photo of our "starter" table with just a few treats set out on it. As you can see, it doesn't take much to make the food look yummy! A start shaped plate, a crystal bowl, some wire trees and a red tablecloth set the mood and spotlight the food!
 This wonderful danish was filled with raspberry puree and topped with buttercream glaze and then cut up into little 2-bite pieces. Easy for each person to add to their plate but not too much of any particular item. It's fairly easy to do. Start out with a sweetened dough base, like you would for cinnamon rolls, and roll it out into a HUGE rectangle. Spread with the raspberry puree. Now carefully fold one in to the center and fold the other end so that it just laps over the other edge to create a seal. Now use an eggwash to make the top bake up nice and shiny. Take buttercream frosting and thin with a bit of milk. Once the danish is completely cool, drizzle with this thin frosting. Let set up so that it crusts just a bit then slice with a big knife before setting out onto a plate.
 You do NOT need to know how to bake to make a lovely donation to your potluck dessert bar! Packaged mini candy canes for people to take home and light and dark chocolate covered cherries are wonderful for the whole crowd!
 And there are always cookies! These came out of a tin. That's right, not homemade. But really good cookies all the same. Don't cheap out if you are headed to a holiday party. Yup, it might cost twice as much as those Oreo's but it's the holiday...splurge! 
 But if you do bake then there is nothing like an old fashioned Gingerbread Man! Real homemade gingerbread, rolled thin so that they were a bit crunchy along with the soft centers. They used raisins for the eyes and buttons but you could use dried cranberries or blueberries or even mini chocolate chips. And that delightful grin? A little bit of lemon zest tucked into the unbaked dough and baked right into the cookie face! YUM!
And speaking of YUM! Not every offering needs to be sweet. In fact, with a whole bunch of sweets on the table something to cut that sweetness is not only a good idea but much appreciated. This is homemade Challah bread. She was upset because it was more "dense" than she liked...using a different type of flour to make it healthier...but I have to say it was wonderful. Served with softened butter it was just the right type of bite to offset the sweets.
Of course there was coffee...I mean, I was there so there was coffee...always. LOL! We offered sugar, sugar substitute and creamer for those who wanted it but we started out with a really good coffee to begin with. As hostess you want to make sure you always have the best you can afford for your guests to drink if you are having a potluck type of event. Your drink is your anchor. It can either add a bit more pleasantness to your party or make people wince. My aim is to never make my guests wince. The coffee was a hit, we made several pots of it over the course of the day, but we also had punch. I meant to take a photo of the punch and never, somehow got around to it. Yes, it was a very fun party!

I know that this is a cake blog so just a few moments about that cupcake tree we featured at the beginning. To start out with I didn't have a base big enough to hold the cupcakes in tree formation so I had to "make" one. I used a rectangular stoneware base and covered it in parchment. Now here was the tricky part. I was using parchment, which is nonstick, on a pizza stone, which is nonstick, and trying to cover it with tape...yeah, that didn't work so well. I ended up using duct tape (that stuff really does stick to anything!) to make the parchment cover the stoneware. Then I set out the cupcakes in the tree formation. I picked out which ones I wanted to be the "ornaments" and moved them off to the side. Then I "flat frosted" the green ones and sprinkled them with some white sanding sugar. I then flat frosted the ornaments with white frosting and sprinkled on the different colors of sugar, covering the top of the tree ornament with gold sugar. I tucked the ornaments back into the tree and then flat frosted the two white cupcakes for the "trunk", sprinkled them with mini chocolate chips that I then pressed down into the frosting, and put them into place. The last thing I did, and it wasn't necessary, just something I wanted to do, was to add the dragee garland. Yes, you have to place them one at a time to criss cross the tree but there is another way to do garland...just fill a piping bag that has a small star tip on it with any color, except green, frosting that you'd like your garland to be and then just pipe stars in a criss cross fashion. A much less labor intensive process than what I did but I was out of buttercream at this point and didn't want to make a whole new batch for just garland! 

The next couple of weeks I have off. This doesn't mean I won't be baking, it just means I'm not sure what I'll feature here on the blog yet. We always make cupcakes for the "Seniors" that we know so I have to come up with something...I'll share with you what we do!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

 Happy Sunday! Today's cake is a very special one since it's for my Mom. Friday was her 71st birthday and we did go out and celebrate together but the family couldn't get together until today so I put a hold on the cake! We have a family gathering each year at this time and the "theme" this year is snowmen but instead of doing an average snowman cake I decided it would be much more fun to include the playful penguins!

The cake is Coconut cake with lemoncurd buttercream filling. The frosting is vanilla buttercream topped with white shimmery sanding sugar. This is the easy part of this cake. I just made the cake, filled it and then crumbcoated it as always. Since I wanted it to look like swirled snow I just, pretty much, slapped the buttercream onto the sides and top. But here is a little tip. I used a 1M tip in a bag filled with the frosting and did a swirl on top and a zig zag on the side. Then I used an offset spatula to swirl it. This mean that I had a more even amount of frosting to deal with when it came to texturing. After the swirling I just sprinkled on the sanding sugar around the bottom edge and on top. Keep in mind that sanding sugar IS gritty so you don't want too much of it on top of your cake. Go lightly at first and add a bit more here or there once the figures go on top.
And speaking of the figures! I have to say that making little figurines is one of the most fun things to do. It's like playing with edible clay. I, literally, take a blob of fondant and roll it around in my fingers till I get the shape I want and then use fondant tools and scissors to make the marks I want. 

I will tell you that the first time I did this I was totally intimidated. I really didn't think I would be able to make much of anything but blobs of fondant which didn't resemble anything. What I found is that it is ridiculously easy to make these little cartoon characters as well as being so much fun. 

For the penguins I made little oblong egg shaped balls of white fondant. Then I rolled out the black fondant, cut circles out with a round cutter and then rolled those out to an oblong shape as well and folded the black around the white. I then stuck half a tooth pick in the top and rolled a smaller black ball of fondant for the head and stuck that on top. Next came the wings. I rolled out little tiny egg shapes from the black fondant and then flattened them, pulling one end to a rounded point. Then I used water to adhere them to the body. At this point I positioned the wings and tips. The eyes are just little white flattened balls with smaller black flattened balls on top then stuck on with water. The beaks are cones of orange that I used scissors to cut apart. Some of the penguins are talking so the beaks are apart and some are not. The feet are just like the wings, egg shapes that have been flattened. I then used scissors to cut the tips and then pulled on the tips to make the claws. Brushing with water to hold the body and feet together was the last thing I needed to do to finish the penguins. You may notice that one of the penguins is on the snow hill on his belly. I just used folded up Press and Seal wrap to hold him at this angle while he dried. 

The snowmen are just white fondant. I was going to use white chocolate but found out that the white chocolate is actually more yellow and we all know we don't want yellow "snow". So I opted for fondant instead. Black fondant for coal and orange for the carrot nose. A strip of red with tassels cut into the ends made the two scarves and I just formed the hat and brims from black fondant pieces. One of the scarves I draped over the penguins wing while it was still soft and the other I curled up on the mat so I could drape it on a wing after it was dry and it would hold it's shape. 

I had originally thought to put an igloo on the cake but found that on this 8x3 inch cake there just wasn't any room. So I opted for a snow block wall instead. It is just a rectangle of white fondant that has had lines scored into it, gently curved and set on the cake then sprinkled with sugar. Some fondant "snow balls" that had been rolled in the sugar completed the cake. 

What is fun is that this cake would work for any age. In this instance it was for a Senior but I happen to know a little girl turning 2 this week who is having a penguin themed birthday party and this cake would fit right in! So Happy Birthday Mom and Lyla! Hope you both had SO much fun celebrating!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Sunday! This week's cake is for a special Mom and knitter, Trish! It wasn't a big birthday for her but her family wanted to get her a cake that reflected her passion and favorite hobby, knitting. 

When meeting with a client some of the questions I ask are "what are their favorite hobbies, colors, things to do with their free time?" Even though this Mom works a full time demanding job and volunteers for everything she still loves making lots of different knitted items for family and friends. Apparently, this time of year, if she isn't working then she's knitting so her family thought it was the perfect theme for her birthday cake.

The cake is lemon pound cake with vanilla buttercream filling, covered in more vanilla buttercream and then colored fondant. The only non-edible part are the knitting needles which are just food skewers with fondant on the ends. More on those later.

This is the tool I used to make the "yarn". It's called a Fondant Extruder. See the plate with the three holes in it, that is the one I used this time. This works like a garlic press. For a large project like this one it is a bit hard on the hands so be aware that you will need to take breaks to rest them from time to time. You will also need your fondant to be softer than normal so it presses through the extruder easily. I break off about a quarter cup size fondant off the larger colored piece and warm it up for just a few seconds to soften it up. I laid out 12 inch lines of three, working my way through the roll of fondant I had colored, until I thought I had enough and then started laying them out onto the cake. 

I started from the ends and laid out a "pad" of lines on each end and then did the same in the middle. Then I began criss crossing them to build up the roll until all of the buttercream had been covered. By pressing the lines together gently I was able to pick up large "pads" of the lines to place onto the cake. A lot easier than trying to place them on line by line. After that was done I rolled out the "wrapper" piece of white fondant and laid that onto the "yarn". Finally I was able to use some lighter blue fondant to trim the wrapper and pipe the wording on with dark blue colored buttercream as well as trim the cake with this color. 

The last touch was the knitting needles. To make them I just used two food skewers. I then took a snake of light blue, white and black fondant and twirled them together. I then cut that into equal halves and rolled the pieces into balls. This makes for the marble type pattern without combining the colors. I gently stuck them onto the ends of the skewers and then pushed the skewers into the cake. 

This little cake feeds 12 easily so it made it perfect for this small family birthday dinner. Happy Birthday Trish! Hope you loved your cake as much as your family loves you!

Next week another birthday cake...this one with a Winter Theme!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

 Happy Sunday and to those in America, Happy Thanksgiving! We have had a lovely time celebrating up lots of birthdays in our family and friends circle. This past week was my husbands birthday so I made him a very special cake. 

Our family is definitely a Disney Family. Both of my guys love the Mickey Sorcerer part of Fantasia so I figured it was a pretty safe bet to make this into a cake. I wouldn't say easy, but a safe choice. Here is how I did it.

I started out with two 6x3 inch cakes. I split them and froze them. It's easier to carve a frozen cake and easier to torte, or split, the layers while they are just out of the oven. When I was ready to work on the cake I took them out of the freezer, filled the almond cake with apricot filling and stacked them on top of each other. Normally you want to put a cake board and dowels every 4 inches but, in this case, I knew that most of the top tier would be carved away. 

I used an upside down sugar cone that I stuck into some buttercream I smeared on top. Once it was set I used the cone as a guide and angled the carving out so it gently sloped to the bottom tier which I left whole. I broke off the end of the cone and placed a skewer down inside the cone all the way to the cake board to hold it steady. Once it looked like a cone I crumbcoated it and then let it settle for 3 hours.  I will admit that at this point I was worried that it looked a bit too narrow and pointed at the top but had faith that I could even it out with fondant.

For the next step I rolled out the dark blue fondant till it was a 12x12 square. I then trimmed the corners off the upper part of the square and then gently lifted the triangle up onto the cake. This almost covered the entire cake but I rolled a smaller square, trimmed it, and placed the triangle on the back. I let this set up for an hour so the fondant surface would be a bit more firm for placing the stars and moons on it. 

I used more blue fondant and cut out the stars and moons using cookie cutters. The moons were cut out with circle cutters, one large and then one smaller one to make the half moon shape. I adhered these to the cake with water and let them set up while I rolled out the hat brim. 

To paint the shapes I used a gold luster dust mixed with a bit of vodka (which burns off as the paint dries) and hand painted the shapes on the cake. This takes a steady hand but if they are painted before placement then the paint cracks when you put the shapes on the cake so it works better to paint them after placement. I also used the same paint to write the wording onto the hat brim at this time. It took two coats so I worked on the ears while waiting.

The ears are just two large chocolate chip cookies. I trimmed one side of each to make the flat side that sits on the hat and then I covered them with a thick sheet of black fondant. I put a skewer through the cake where I wanted the ears to be and then stuck toothpicks into the ears and finally put that into the cake once the two coats of gold paint were dry. While placing the ears onto the cake I gently pressed in the toothpicks to see where the ears would set and then trimmed the shapes that fell under where the ears would sit. I used a bit of water to help hold the ears and then sat there holding the ears until they set up solidly onto the cake.

Looking at the cake at this point I was "happy" with it but not thrilled. I finally decided to use a bit of the luster dust to add a dash of sparkle and, just like that, it turned the cake from good into great. It took me awhile to figure out why but I finally decided that it made the cake look like it was ceramic and no longer cake. At that point I was really really happy with it. 

Happy to say my husband was very happy with it too! The great thing is that at his birthday we were able to celebrate two more birthdays at the same time so this special cake was even more special! 

Now this week I didn't make a cake, I made Pumpkin Pies in a Jar! I have made cupcakes in a jar but never a pie in a jar so I went for help...and, of course, found it online!
Here is how you do it! Take your regular crust and roll it out. Now cut that into fourths. You can use the type of crust from the store that comes in sheets and just cut that into fourths. Press and mold that fourth of a sheet into the jar. These are half pint jars. Fill with your normal recipe of pumpkin pie filling. I follow the Libby's recipe on the side of the can and double the spices for mine. Fill to the place where the lip rings begin and then freeze them for 10 minutes. Bake on a cookie sheet or stoneware slab at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes. Set the jars out on a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before you put the lids on top. While the jars were in the freezer I took the left over crust dough and cut out the little leaves and pumpkins and then let them brown up in the oven. Once the jars were totally cool I placed 3 on top of each one and then put on the lid, the ribbon and the wired fuzzy ribbon. We gave these out to the other guests at the Thanksgiving Dinner we attended. They were a big hit!

Just a small birthday cake for this upcoming week but it will be fun to share it with you all next Sunday!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

 Happy Sunday! This weekend brought two birthdays and two very different cakes! Today I'm going to share Kali's 8th Birthday cake! Little Miss picked an "Under the Sea" theme this year. Not really Ariel, not really Nemo...but with that same flavor. I couldn't wait to make the cake!
 First things first...all of the little critters that go on the side of the cake have to be made a little bit ahead of time. I wanted them to still be soft yet firm so I made most of them the day before I worked on the actual cake. When making a "cartoon" cake you don't have to be all so careful about the real natural details about the animal but rather just enough detail that people will know "oh yeah, that's a jellyfish" . All of the little guys on this cake are hand moulded from fondant.
 I started out with two layers in a hexagon shape of vanilla cake filled with apricot filling. Then I covered the entire cake in vanilla buttercream. I made two fondant panels to go on the sides of the cake and leave the top open for the "water" buttercream. I then added a trim strip of fondant for the "sand". I piped on buttercream over the strip and used a paintbrush to swirl the frosting around the cake. Then I used graham cracker crumbs pressed into the buttercream for the seabed.
 After I finished prepping the sides of the cake I piped on the "water". To make the water look more realistic I mixed in blue gel color but didn't mix it very well. I wanted white bits along with the blue. I then used the paintbrush again to swirl and make the water choppy looking.
 Then it was time to add the details. I added the seaweed, the island and the fish on the sides as well as the tube coral then the last touches were placing the starfish and crabs. The eyes on all of the critters are just white fondant with a black food dye dot painted in the center.
Finally I made the umbrella for the island. To do this you just cut a circle out of scrapbook paper, then cut a slit into the center and fold the paper around to create the cone. I put a ball of fondant into the inside center of the cone and pushed a skewer thru it so the tip stuck out of the top. I then secured it into place with a red ball of fondant for the final color touch. Super easy to do.

I was thrilled to, once again, be part of Kali's special day! Happy Birthday Kali!!

Next week I'll share with you my husbands birthday cake since his birthday was also this weekend!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Sunday! Hope November is treating you just fine and that you are enjoying the Fall colors and not suffering from it's many storms. I do know of lots of people last week who got slammed by Hurricane Sandy and just as they got power back got slammed by the Nor'easter snow storm. So I hope that you are doing well, even if you fit into that unfortunate group who has had to weather two storms in two weeks.

This week I get to present to you a Wedding Cake that I'm particularly proud of. This cake proves, again, that you don't have to be big to be gorgeous. The bottom tier is an 8x4 inch round and the top tier is a 6x4 inch round. Just enough to feed 50 people. The theme was an Art Deco black and white with touches of red here or there and I figured a Tuxedo along with an Art Deco designed Wedding Dress would help set the mood of the party. And, yes, that is Mickey and Minnie up there on top in that delicate crystal and blown glass cake topper.

The cake was lemon chiffon with an orange creamsicle filling and covered in vanilla flavored fondant. As always, the black fondant is Duff's brand. I love the way it tastes. The white fondant is freshly made so it tastes wonderfully too. 

The Tuxedo is all angles and not as hard as you would think to do when you break it all down to it's geometric shapes. First I covered the entire cake in the black and then cut out a triangle of white. I scored the white in vertical lines and then applied it to the front of the cake. At that same time I made the little collar triangles and set them aside to dry a bit. Then I made a big rectangle of black and cut it diagonally. I then tipped one of those triangles over onto the other so "fronts" were face to face and then made the angle a bit more severe to create the lapels. After placing those onto the cake I made the little bow tie and placed it at the top of the white "shirt". I backed away at this point and let everything dry for a bit so the sugars could adhere. When that was done I just took little black candy and pressed them into the white. Then, using a damp brush, moistened the indention's with water and placed the candy into them to secure them to the shirt. Then it was time to set the collar on top with a bit more water. Finally I made the tiny Calla Lily boutonniere and placed that onto the lapel with a bit more water. At last I was ready to move the cake over to the stand and add the trim. The trim is just a strip of black fondant that I have scored every 1/8th of an inch or so from end to end. I set all of that to the side and began work on the white tier.

As with all Wedding Dresses, the construction of one out of fondant is complicated. This is actually a lot of little pieces that have been carefully put together like a puzzle. I started off with covering the entire cake with a thin sheet of white fondant. Then, using 1/2 inch strips, I laid on the draping one strip at a time so that it created a pleated look. Finally I used rounded end strips to create the Art Deco styled emblem on the front. All of these are adhered to the cake with a light brushing of water. I added the trim to match the black trim and then came the real work, the pearls. I have a pair of bead tweezers that are angled just for putting small candies on cakes like these candy pearls. I brushed the surface with water first and laid down a whole bunch of pearls onto the moist surface so they could adhere and then, one by one, filled out the edge and trim. This is tedious work because you have to dip the edge of the pearl into water and then place it onto the cake. This is complicated by the fact that they want to pop right off again if you don't hold it into place long enough for the sugars to adhere. But the effect is stunning, like complicated bead work on a real wedding dress. I let this set up until I knew the pearls were solid onto the cake and then stacked the Wedding Dress onto the Tuxedo. 

When transporting a cake like this always have back up pieces for the candy. The vibration of travel can knock the pearls or candy "studs" right off of the cake and you may have to replace them when you reach the venue. Fortunately that didn't happen with this cake until it came time to cut it and then pearls were rolling everywhere!

So no matter the size of the wedding you are having you can have a stunning cake. This little work of art was $4 a slice and the talk of the event. Even the Groom was Wow'd by it and loved the fact that "he" was part of the cake as well as his wife. 

Next week we begin the Birthday Cakes for this month! Can't wait to share with you next Sunday!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Happy Sunday and Happy November! This month is a hectic one in our family. Lots of birthdays and Anniversaries along with Thanksgiving thrown in there just for fun! This means lots of Pumpkin flavored items so you will see quite a few items featured in the November blogs this month!

But today we focus on a Birthday. Since this is our Anniversary week, I took the week off, but this is a cake I did a couple of weeks ago. It has a bit of an inside joke to it. The client loves boats. Ok, to be clear, the client loves Tall Ships. He turns 40 in a few years and wants an all out cake with masts and rigging, the whole 9 yards. Well, he will wait till he's 40 but really wanted a ship cake this year. His wife and I came up with this kids sail boat for a laugh this year. He got a really good laugh out of it too!

It's really a simple cake to make. Just start out with a square cake. This one is a 10x10x2. Cut it diagonally and then cut off the point of one of those halves. Now you have the big sail, the little sail and the base of the boat. I used vanilla buttercream for the sails and whipped chocolate ganache for the boat. 

Whipped ganache is really really easy. Just make regular ganache and let it sit, covered, overnight in the fridge. Then put that into your mixer and whip. It spreads easily and pipes easily and it just SO good! I used a basketweave tip for the wood "planks" and then a round tip to trim. The "life preserver" is a gummy lifesaver candy with some fondant wrapped over it and then attached with a dot of the ganache.

The sails were just smooth iced. I didn't want to make it too smooth since there is supposed to be wind in those sails. Finally I used the ganache to pipe the mast and stuck a paper flag into the top. The lettering/numbering refers to the clients and their birthdays. A way of personalizing the cake for them both.

So if you have a little one, or a big one, who is in love with ships or you are having a Sailing or Sailor themed party then maybe you could make this cake for your group to enjoy!

See you next week with a new wedding cake!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Sunday! This week brought our 25th Wedding Anniversary Party! It is tons of fun to be able to work on your own cake as a cake artist. You get to choose everything that YOU like. Since this is our party we also did all the planning work on it as well. We picked a "World Travelers" theme since we both love to travel and have, together and separately, traveled a good part of the world for either business or vacation. 

The mans Valise is modeled after a real one that sells on Amazon for $1200...yup, someone out there is actually buying this beat up looking valise for that kind of money. We know that they are buying them because there is a big "Only 2 left" sign on the post as well! LOL! Anyway, I wanted a small masculine looking case that looked like it had traveled the world, been bumped and beaten along it's way. 

I started with a 6x10 shallow cake pan and baked two layers of chocolate cake. I filled that with chocolate brownie buttercream and then, because I knew the covering fondant was going to be dark, I also crumbcoated the cake in the same buttercream. When it came to the fondant I tinted it a medium brown and then "paneled" the cake using long strips of fondant rather than a full covering. I find I get sharper corners this way and wanted to construct the case more like the real case would have been constructed. Once I had all the base panels on the cake I started working on all the little details from the little leather "posts" to the straps to the lock I let it sit up for about an hour to let the sugars bond before I started painting it. 

When it was time to paint I knew I wanted a very very dark brown with black overtones so I mixed up some vanilla flavoring with a bit of water and brown gell color. I then added a "hunk" of black gell into the container and stirred it up just a little bit. I wanted to pick up the almost pure gell so that there would be really dark patches here or there on the cake. I didn't want a uniform look to the finish since it's supposed to be well weathered leather. When mimicking wood you want to make a "grain" so you paint all in one direction, but with leather you want to paint in all different directions, let it dry a short bit and then paint it in all different directions again. This gives you layers of color and patterns rather than a flat or grained surface.

The last things to do is to make the handle, which I painted and let sit overnight before attaching it to the case, and the lock. The lock was painted with some bronze luster dust mixed with vanilla. I then went over that with the other brown/black color to make it look worn.

Now onto the Train Case. Much easier than the valise the train case is just a 6 x 3 inch cake that has had a bit cut off one side to make the "bottom" of the case. With it lying on it's side I then cut the cake into vertical thirds, not horizontal like you would normally. I then stood that up on the flat edge, with a cake board under it, and filled it with vanilla buttercream so that the filled and crumbcoated cake was a standing round. Just like with the valise I paneled this cake. I put on the rounds first and then added the strips for the sides. Once those were in place I added the white strips. These were punched with a pronged tool to make it look like stitching before application and then applied with water. The last pieces were the lock and the handle. All of that was made from the light blue fondant and then the handle and lock were painted silver, let dry and then placed on the cake. The handle was then inserted into the button and the final piece of fondant panel was placed on the base where the handle meets the button and painted on the cake. 

The final step was the banner. This strip was a 14 inch long piece of fondant rolled out really thin. Then I gently stretched out the sides here or there before I handpainted the wording on. The saying "No Matter Where In The World I Travel, The Best Part Is Coming Home To You!" is because, even after 25 years, we still miss each other greatly while we are apart. I handpainted the saying to match the seating cards which are in a similar font. Piping it would have given too clean of lines and not matched the concept as well. I just used a fine tip brush and black gell paint that has not been watered down at all. If you use clear alcohol to thin it then it's going to spread into any cracks or pits that are part of the fondant surface so you need to use it in pure gell form.

The only non edible parts on this cake are the keys and tags. The keys are part of the overall party concept and the tags match the Seating Cards and Favor Tags. To see the entire party plan just hop on over to the Party Blog: where I have posted the entire event.

Next week is Halloween so you know that there will be treats to share!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Good Morning! Happy Monday! I know, I know, I'm a day late but I have a great excuse! I was out celebrating up my 50th Birthday with family in San Jose. Two full days of fun that landed me so tired back home late last night. I figured I could give myself a break...and bring you all a special cake.

Now, as a caker, and I'm sure there are others out there that can relate, I often take on projects that I think "sure I can do that" and then when it comes time TO do that I start to wonder what in the world I was thinking. This Mahjong cake was one of those times. Now creating the "box" wasn't the hard part. I could figure out exactly what I needed to do to make it look right. But, here's the thing...I don't speak Chinese. I don't write Chinese. And all I have ever heard about writing either Japanese or Chinese is that it is really really easy to write something completely different from what you intended just because you put a blunt point on one end and a pointed end on the other when it's supposed to be the other way around.  So when it came to hand painting the tiles I was really stressed that I wasn't doing it right and might insult the client rather than overjoy her. At that point I was seriously wondering why I didn't have the characters made out of edible transfer paper and just smooth them onto the fondant with a bit of buttercream! But it was too late for that so I just dove in. 

The client loves exotic cake and filling flavors so this year we went with coconut cake with lemon filling. The combination was heavenly! The trick is to not go too heavily with the flavoring. You want a lightly flavored cake, not one that overwhelms you with coconut. Recently I went to Hawaii and while there found a small bottle of coconut flavoring that ended up being perfect for this process. Fortunately I have found that I can order it online so I can use it again and again if I need this wonderful tasting cake again. I used 2 teaspoons per cake layer and that seemed to be just right. 

Basically you start off with a square, cover it in buttercream and then I rolled up "snakes" of fondant to go around the top edges of the square. This was to create an inset area on the top of the cake for the "felt" board. I then rolled out a thin layer of green fondant and put that on the top so that it draped a bit over those fondant rolls and then gently pushed it down into the well and smoothed it out. After that I started paneling. I cut out 8x4 inch panels for each side and then 1x8 inch panels for the trim. The trim covered the green rolls at the top to create a rounded lip on the box. Then I painted the box. Normally I use vodka with gell food colors but this time I mixed a bit of the coconut flavoring into that as well so the cake smelled divine when I was done painting! Two coats of that and the "wood" was done. I swear it feels magical how quickly the fondant looks like wood!

Now came the tiles. I rolled out a thick piece of white fondant and then turned that over so the smooth side was facing down. Then, on another mat, I rolled out a thinner layer of lighter green fondant. I brushed the white with a thin mist of water and then laid the green on top. You have to walk away at this point because the sugars need to melt together to form a bond. I waited an hour but two would have been better. Then I used a rectangular cookie cutter to cut out the tiles. I cut out 36 because I knew I needed some for the top, some for the "Dragon hand" and then some for the Happy Birthday lettering. 

I let these set for another 30 minutes and then picked out the tiles I knew would face white side up. These needed to be the most perfect and smooth of the group so I picked them out carefully. Now here is where I get honest. I actually picked out more than I needed because I knew I'd mess up on the lettering. And, sure enough I did. 3 or 4 of those stacked tiles on top of the cake have failed paintings on the white side! LOL! So give yourself a little wiggle room when it comes to this part of the process. 

The "Dragon Hand" is supposed to be the perfect Mahjong hand that you can get. Now I only play the online version which is basically matching things up so I know nothing of what the real game entails. I looked up several different photos of these tiles so I could stand a chance of getting them right for the cake. The "window pane" tiles are my favorites. I thought they would be really hard but they turned out looking right almost immediately! The only ones I felt confident in were the rose plant tiles on the top. So, no, as a caker, you don't feel like you are doing anything perfectly all of the time and there is a little stress, as well as excitement, when you are making a cake like this.

The Happy Birthday tiles are just piped letters so as long as you practice your piping this should be the easiest part of this cake! I decided to use a blue piping because it was a totally different color than any I had used on the cake and I wanted to try to coordinate it with the little light blue chips and the light blue "window pane" tiles. The chips are just colored fondant that have been cut out with a small circle cutter then stacked. I did use a drop of buttercream between each chip to make them sturdy. The dice are also just cubes of fondant and I used a food color marker to make the dots.

I delivered the cake to the client who was out at a Chinese restaurant celebrating with family and was SO relieved that I managed to thrill and not insult everyone there. Even the servers were thrilled with the cake. For an artist that is a bigger payoff than the price of the cake. To know that you got everything right on it and that the client as well as the Birthday Guy was very happy with your creation is a wonderful feeling.

The client this upcoming week is ME! We are celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary on Saturday so I am making a stacked cake for us. We are gathering with lots of family for this celebration and making it quite the event. I will share all sorts of photos with you all here and over at our Party Blog site next Sunday!

See you then!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy Sunday! Today brings an "out of the box" type of Wedding Cake. This one was for a small family occasion with only 11 people in attendance. The theme was Mexican Fiesta but the cake was a nod to the Southern background of the family as well. 

For some a white buttercream or fondant covered cake just isn't what they had in mind for their wedding day. In this instance, the Boston Creme Pie, is a family favorite and a treat that is not had too often so it was the perfect choice for this day. 

I had to do some research to find out why this dessert, which is clearly a cake, is called a pie. Turns out that in the mid Nineteenth Century there were a whole lot more pie tins than cake pans around so many cakes were baked in pie tins instead. The Parker House Hotel in Boston is credited with the creation of this amazing dessert and still makes and serves it to this day, even though the hotel is now part of the Omni line. 

Somehow this became one of those Southern Desserts that is so popular along with "Ice Box Cake" but it's not so well known out here in California. I have had Boston Creme Pies several times in my life because it was my Dad's favorite. Raised in Tennessee it was something his Aunt made from time to time. So over the years this yellow cake filled with vanilla pudding and topped off with ganache appeared from time to time on our table but I had never made one, until now. 

It's a standard vanilla cake recipe but with an extra egg added to firm up the texture a bit. Even if you don't make homemade vanilla pudding you can use the box instant kind. It doesn't taste as rich but it works in a pinch. Homemade vanilla pudding isn't the easiest thing for a beginning cook to make but it's worth the hassle. Lastly is ganache. That is a 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream recipe. Just break up the chocolate, I like to use dark chocolate, and then pour over the heated cream. Let that melt for about 30 seconds and then stir till smooth and glossy. It will be too runny to pour over the cake at this point. You will need to let it cool down and thicken up for at least 20 minutes before you can pour it over. The recipe I have literally says: bake a cake, split and fill with vanilla pudding and top with a chocolate sauce like ganache. Yup, that simple. 

Now traveling with this is dicey. I only had about a 40 minute drive but I decided to put a skewer down the middle of the top to hold this cake together for the trip. With the filling being such a soft filling it would be natural for the cake to start to slide. Using the skewer holds the top to the bottom until you arrive at the venue. When you pull the skewer out just swirl the ganache to make a little point on top for decoration.

The soft filling also makes this cake a challenge to cut. This is what I do. I cut the first slice and then insert the guests fork on one side as I cut the other side to form a wedge shape. Then the fork makes a good reinforcement for laying the cake onto the plate. The fork ends up under the cake slice and the slice is all in one piece. Keep working your way around the cake in this fashion until the very last slice. As you cut that last wedge into two pieces another hand with a fork is a handy thing to have. So you end up with a fork on each side of the big wedge and then when you cut in between them you just let the two slices fall onto the forks for serving.

After a spicy dinner of chile rellenos, beans, rice, salsa, quesadillas and Mexican casserole, the Boston Creme Pie was a cooling creamy treat at the end of the night. It was a fun celebration and we are very happy to have been included.

Next week is a fun cake...a Game Box Birthday Cake! I'm keeping which game it is a secret until next Sunday!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Happy Sunday! This week brings Dinner Party Cupcakes! This client is a huge fan of chocolate with caramel but since the last few orders have been dark chocolate cake she wanted to mix it up a bit. So I suggested yellow cupcakes with chocolate and caramel accent flavors instead. She loved the idea!

Adding filling inside a cupcake is pretty easy to do but adding candy to the inside is a bit tricky. Yup, there are actual tricks to this process. First of all you need to make your batter a bit more dense than normal. This means you can either add another egg, giving your cupcake a poundcake type of consistancy, or you can add less water or milk to make the batter thicker. I always add the extra egg to mine. The reason this is so important is that if the batter is of normal consistancy the candy is going to drop right to the bottom of the cupcake instead of being in the center. I have used Hershey kisses, mini Reeses cups and now I can say I've used ROLO's.

After you have put the batter into the cups take the candy and submerge it about 3/4 of the way into the batter. You will still be able to see about 1/3 of the candy sticking up out of the top. Now as the batter cooks and rises it will cover the candy and the weight of the candy will also help it to sink down into the middle.

ROLO's are a bit heavier than any candy I have worked with to date so I had no idea how far they would actually sink. Turns out they ended up about 3/4 down the center of the cupcake, not half way like I wanted. So next time I use them I will know to only put the candy in so that half of it is sticking up out of the batter.

But you can see that it leaves a yummy gooey caramel and chocolate surprise for the guest to discover! Really YUMMY!

The topper is also a ROLO. I just sprinkled graham cracker crumbs onto a baking sheet and then placed the candy on top. Into the oven at the same time as the cupcakes except that these only bake for 5 minutes. Once they came out I used an offset spatula sprayed with cooking spray to flatten them out over the graham cracker crumbs. Then, while still warm, sprinkled them with gold colored sugar. Then I took them off the tray and put them in the freezer to set up while the cupcakes finished baking and cooling.

I used a soft buttercream recipe so the top would be soft and creamy, drizzled it with chocolate sauce and added the rounds of melted ROLO's to the top. The hostess and her guests were very happy to see these arrive and, of course, I saved a few for my own family so we can have a treat as well!

Next week I get to share with you a special family treat! See you then!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone had a really wonderful week while I was on vacation. I have to say it felt extremely weird to not have work to do for a whole week and even weirder not to post a blog! I was in Hawaii on The Big Island with family enjoying a getaway that brought about some thoughts about the Destination Weddings I have worked or have been privileged to share with friends this summer.

So many times the Bride and Groom think they have to sacrifice a cool looking or personalized cake because they are having a Destination Wedding or a small wedding that only includes immediate family members. The cake above is a prime example of just such an occasion! This small 8 inch by 3 inch cake feeds just 20 which is perfect for a small wedding of mostly family with just a few friends. 

The dark chocolate fudge cake filled with brownie buttercream and covered in vanilla marshmallow fondant fit in perfectly with the black and white themed wedding. The little touches of red echoed the color of the wedding flowers. The only part non-edible on this cake was the banner, the rest was just plain yummy!

Whether you have a smaller wedding or one away from home you can find a bakery to make you a very special cake like this one for your day. And if you have someone in your family who bakes this is an easy design to copy. All you need is a heart shaped cookie cutter, white and red fondant and black sanding sugar. 

After I cut out the white hearts I used a pattern press to press in the filigree onto some of the hearts and then I brushed the rest of the white hearts with water and sprinkled them with the sanding sugar. After they were dry I set them out onto the cake and then used black buttercream to pipe on the balloon ties. The last thing I did was add the bow using a toothpick so it would stick easily into the side of the cake. 

Finally it was time for the banner. Since banners were used as part of the wedding theme in general I thought a small "Just Married" banner would be adorable on the front of the cake. Since this is non-edible I had to figure out a way to attach it to the cake. Finally I decided to use a toothpick that had been broken in half. The pointed end went into the cake and the broken end was covered with a small ball of red fondant. Not only did it anchor the banner to the cake but it also put another splash of color onto the cake.

Since the design of this cake was fairly simple the cost for it was $3 a slice. Normally my buttercream cakes begin at $3 a slice and the fondant cakes at $4 a slice but this one wasn't my normal 8x4 was only 8x3 so I only charged the buttercream price instead making this sweet little cake total up to $60.  Average wedding cake prices fall between $200 and $600 but this little intimate wedding was anything but average so the small cake, and lower price, was perfect for their event. Personalized doesn't mean expensive, it means that your cake artist works with your budget to give you a personal cake that fits your event. Most cake artists will be able to work with your budget or give you options for your budget so you can afford your cake and eat it too! Just ask.

See you next week when I will share with you some delicious Dinner Party Cupcakes!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

 Happy Sunday! Today's cake is what I call a "Dinner Party Cake". A long time client is having her girlfriends over for a dinner and she requested a particular cake. For one of her dinner parties last year she asked for dark chocolate brownie cupcakes filled with caramel and then topped with ganache and drizzled with caramel. These were such a huge hit that she wanted me to do the same in cake form this time. Let me show you how I did it...
 I baked the dark chocolate brownie cake and the "torted" it. This means to divide it into layers. I then wrapped each layer, stacked them and then wrapped them again and put them in the freezer. When I was ready to use the cake I took it out of the freezer, unwrapped it and then filled it and let it thaw out for 2 hours. The filling is a mixture of caramel sauce and buttercream with a bit of powdered sugar to firm it up a bit. I didn't want it to be a really firm filling since the whole idea of this cake is to have puddles of wonderful chocolate and caramel on the plate.
 When the cake was thawed completely I made the ganache. Ganache is just a chocolate sauce and it is really easy to make. It is a 2 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream. So I chopped up 8 ounces of really good chocolate and put it into a ceramic bowl. You need the glass or ceramic to help evenly melt these so don't use plastic. I then heated the 4 ounces of cream to a boil and poured it over the chocolate pieces allowing them about 30 seconds to melt before I began stirring with my wisk. Keep stirring until it is solid, dark and shiny. Then walk away. I know, I know, it's SO hard to walk away from that lucious sauce but you need to do so for at least 15 minutes. The longer ganache cools the thicker it will be. I wanted puddles for this cake but I did want it to actually cover the cake so I ended up waiting about 30 minutes before pouring it over the cake. If you don't want to pour it you can cover the container and put it in the refridgerator for a few hours or even overnight. When it is solid you can then whip it in your mixer and spread it on like frosting. 
 Start pouring from the center of the cake and pour about half of the bowl on top. This is a six inch cake so you may want more for a larger cake. I wanted puddles and not a perfectly smooth finish so I just gently spread the ganache to the edges from the middle and let it drip down the sides. I then used the rest of the ganache on top to fill any parts of the sides that had been missed the first time around. After that was finished and all of the cake was covered I popped it into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the ganache.
 Next came the caramel sauce. My goal was to end up with a perfect pool of caramel around the edges of the cake so I was careful not to use too much on top. I poured a small puddle and then pushed that off the edges in 4-5 directions. I didn't want to cover the cake, just drip it off of the cake. Back into the freezer for 15 minutes.
 I melted more of the chocolate in the microwave and then put it into a plastic ziploc bag that I had snipped just the tip off one corner. Then I piped a random design onto parchment along with some swirls for the sides of the cake. These went onto a sheet pan and in the freezer for 5 minutes to set up.
Once they were set up I was able to easily lift them off of the parchment and place them onto the cake. The caramel acted like glue and they went on very easily.
As you can see, the caramel kept dripping down the cake until I had a nice ring around the cake. But here's the is almost impossible to gauge how much caramel you really need since it keeps dripping down. I just put the stand onto parchment and let it drip off the sides of the plate. I then used a damp napkin to clean the edges. 

The client was amazed at how I translated the decadent cupcakes into cake form! No better pay off than that!

Next week I will be a bit late with the cake blog. I'll be bringing it to you on Tuesday instead of Sunday. I will see you then with a brand new cake!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy Sunday! Today it's all about Cupcakes! Ok, cupcakes and cupcake LINERS! This week I had lemon cupcakes on the docket with plain old vanilla buttercream. Yup, it tastes very well together but can look fairly boring. That is until you add a fancy wrapper and bow! 

In the past few years cupcake liners have really made a change. Before you could buy the pastel colored ones. Pink, blue, green, yellow and white came all in one package. And I do still use these quite a bit. Your other alternative was the foil liners that come with a really thin white inner liner. These can look very cool all by themselves but invariably I get burned on them so they are not a favorite of mine. But since the "revolution" of cupcake liners there are getting to be more and more available in the store....yup, the regular old grocery store...that you can buy and turn your every day cupcake into a mini work of art. 

One of the complaints I hear from clients is that they could bake a cupcake but not have it turn out like one of mine. Part of it is the ingredients I use. So the taste of the cake. But, mostly, it seems that what they really like are the look of the cupcakes. This week was no different. Small birthday party for a 2 year old. She wanted "Minnie Mouse" cupcakes. I suggested the ones above but with mini cookies for the ears but she didn't want to take a chance of the little ones in the group choking on the pieces. So I promised I would make the icing a bit more fancy and keep the bows and polka dots. 

The bows are just thin strips of fondant folded over into the middle and then another strip for the center piece. That's it. Really. It is really that simple. I used a 1M tip for the piping and just piped strips of buttercream from the outside edge into the middle and then stuck the bow right on top. And while the bow would have been cute on a cupcake in a white liner it is the red and white polka dot liner that says "Minnie Mouse". 

Here are a few of my favorite liners I have used over the past few years...
 The red of the liner really works to coordinate with the little lady bug on the topper. Just that hint of red made all the difference.
 There are fun themed liners as well. These Gingerbread Men liners helped to add even more whimsy to these reindeer cupcakes for a Christmas Party last year.
 They can add a bit of elegance to the party as well. These sweet little heart patterned liners really set off the simple yellow cake and vanilla buttercream cupcakes and coordinated beautifully with the little fondant arrows.
 Sometimes it's a mood you are trying to set. You want to be funny or romantic or elegant. These cupcakes were meant to just look sinful. Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes filled with caramel then topped with buttercream and drizzled with, a plain white wrapper would not have done them justice. But this dark purple one sets the decadence off just right.
 The other fun product out there are cupcake wrappers! Bake the cupcakes in any type of liner and then slip them into this outside wrapper for maximum effect. The "popcorn" cupcakes were baked in plain white wrappers and then put into the striped wrappers before the marshmallow "popcorn" was added on top. Too fun!
Wrappers also span the range between funny and elegant. These chocolate starfish cupcakes are perfectly adorned by these gold wrappers that pick up the gold sugar that was sprinkled on top. Very elegant indeed.

So the next time you need to bring cupcakes take a few minutes to browse the liners at your local cake store or craft store...or even your grocery store aisle! It is a lot easier to have a fun looking, or elegant looking, cupcake than ever before!

Speaking of order this week is for ganache! Can't wait to share this sinful cake with you next Sunday!