Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Sunday! I believe that Bridal and Baby Showers have become such big events for our society because smaller parties are too expensive to have all of the time. So now people are having one huge party to celebrate. This usually requires a multi-tiered cake or lots of cupcakes for everyone. But not every party is a big one and sometimes it is a small cake that you want to make that big impression.

Today's Blackberry Rose cake was for a small party of 10. This 6 inch yellow cinnamon cake was filled with vanilla buttercream and fresh blackberries and then covered in more vanilla buttercream and topped with more blackberries. The party theme was English Tea and, of course, the color palette was different shades of purple. They wanted fresh berries, either blueberries or blackberries. I felt blackberries fit the color palette better and, here in the USA, we can get fresh blackberries this time of year. If you are somewhere where you can not get fresh berries you can use frozen berries that have been thawed or even pie filling with a lot of the extra liquid drained off.

To get the variegated effect with the frosting is very easy. First I lightly tinted the buttercream with violet Americolor gel food color. Then I put the large tip into the piping bag and, using a skewer that had been dipped into the jar of food color, I ran three lines of dye inside the bag. When you pipe the frosting out the color automatically attaches in those three spots to give you this effect. 

Two things to note about using fresh fruit inside or on your cakes. Make sure the fruit is firm.  If you decide, for the filling of the cake, to cut it, it seems too juicy, or you are using frozen or canned berries then make sure you stir it into the buttercream first or it will weep into your cake and possibly out to the outside of your cake showing blotches of juice. Even though these blackberries were firm I still put a layer of buttercream first and then nestled the berries into that before putting on the top layer of cake. On the top of the cake it is also important to put a moisture barrier of buttercream down on the top of the cake before adding the berries or you stand the chance of your top layer of cake getting soaked with juice and becoming squishy. If you want the look of the juice dripping down the cake you can add sugar to the fresh berries, let them sit for about 30 minutes and you will have a nice amount of liquid along with your berries to spoon on top and then, artfully of course, drip the liquid down the sides of the cake. It can make a very beautiful presentation. 

When you add whole berries to the filling, like I did with this cake, you get the pleasure of having your guests oooh and ahhhh when they first see the cake and then ooooh and ahhh again when they are served the cake and see the whole berries in the filling! Not a single guest walked past the cake without noting how beautiful it was and that left a huge smile on the face of the hostess!

This week coming up I have a birthday cake as well as cupcakes for a CubScout Pinewood Derby Day! As always, can't wait to share them with you next Sunday!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

 Happy Sunday! Well this week brought me a fun time making up a dessert plate and so I thought I'd share each item with you and how to make it as well as present it. This was a week off for me and my own family dinner was the only "work" on the table so it was fun to get together a dessert that the entire family (15 people attended!) could enjoy. 
 First up were the Cream Cheese Balls. These we saw years ago at a Fondue restaurant named La Fondue in Saratoga California. They are like mini cheesecakes and OH so good! Take a small spoon, I actually have a little gold "tea" spoon like you would use if you were throwing a High Tea, scoop a small bit of cream cheese up and then roll it into a ball in your hand. Drop it into some graham cracker crumbs (these you can get on the baking aisle already ground up) and roll till covered. Stick in a toothpick and dip it into the chocolate and set onto a plate that's been lined with parchment paper. These will go into the freezer for a few minutes before you will be able to pop them off the paper and onto your tray.
 Next up are these SO delicious S'mores Pops. All you do is put marshmallows onto skewers or lollipop sticks (even Popsicle sticks will work) and dip them into the chocolate and then roll them into the graham crackers. These were a huge hit at the party!
 For those who were not marshmallow lovers I wanted to put something chocolate covered on the plate that they would enjoy. These round cookies are filled with vanilla cream. They come in a package, each about 8 inches long and in various flavors so pick whichever fits in with your party. I cut them in half and dipped the cut half into the chocolate, placed these on the parchment lined plate along with the cream cheese balls and put the plate into the freezer for 10 minutes.
Last on the list was Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. These are always a hit at any party I have ever thrown and they are easier than you think. The real trick here is letting them set up. I use cups to hold up the strawberries until they are totally dry before putting them into the presentation. Now I put one of them in before it was totally dry to show you how they look before totally set up and how they look after. Shiny is still unset and the mat finish is totally set. Now to do them all you have to do, after washing and drying the fruit, is put the skewer (that has had the pointed end cut don't want your guest poking themselves when they take a bite) into the end of the strawberry. This is why you leave the green part on the strawberry, to help anchor your skewer. Dip it in, tip first, till the strawberry is covered 3/4 of the way in chocolate. Lift it straight out and move it around in a circular motion. This gets rid of the excess chocolate and forms the cute little curly-Q on the top. Then set it into a jar or cup that is deep enough so that most of the skewer is inside the cup and only a bit is showing. This will hold your strawberries quite stable while they set up. 

While waiting for the strawberries I set up my tray with the rest of the treats. My tray, in this case, is actually a cake stand that had been turned upside down. Now this particular cake stand is made for this purpose and has the different divided wells for serving different foods but I think you could use any cake stand that has a lip on it to keep the food from sliding off. I removed the treats from the freezer and placed them in their wells and after the strawberries had set up I placed them into a mound of fondant to keep the skewers upright like a flower centerpiece.  If you like you can just cut your skewers shorter so that the strawberries can rest on the lip of the middle piece like they did in the cups. You can also use part of a styrofoam ball, oasis, or clay you may have around to help hold them into place. When removing them just remind your guests to spin the stick first, to release it from what is holding it, and then pull up. 

I always use the best grade of chopped chocolate that I can afford but a bag of chocolate chips melted over a double boiler or in the microwave would work just as well. I used a double boiler so it kept the chocolate nice and smooth the entire time I was dipping but when working with smaller amounts of treats I have used the microwave technique. You just have to be very careful not to leave the chocolate in the microwave too long because it can burn quickly. As with all chocolate melting, be sure not to get any water into the chocolate or it will seize up and you will have to start over again.

This upcoming week brings another dinner party for clients who have not yet been able to get together to celebrate the holidays so that means Dinner Party Cupcakes! This is the third order for the same client so I have to come up with something completely new...a real challenge that I can not wait to tackle! See you next Sunday!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy Monday! In the US this is Martin Luther King Jr. Day so it's a holiday. So I'm a day late with the blog...not due to the holiday but due to all the client meetings I had this weekend out of town. This is the time of year that Cakers begin to book for the rest of their year. Some get booked the previous year but, for me anyways, January is when I book up. So I had meetings for 2 baby showers, 2 birthday parties, 1 Oscar party and a wedding this weekend and now I can NOT wait to get started on all of the cakes! 

The cupcakes featured this week are edible demos for the wedding clients I met with for their wedding later this year. They are doing a combination of a wedding cake along with cupcakes for their reception. So I made up a sample of what they could have for their day. They are filled Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream swirled on top and decorated with a fondant medallion with a monogram in royal icing. They were filled with chocolate brownie buttercream. 

So that's the "secret" today. How to fill your cupcakes easily for a wonderful hidden treat. Now, cake decorating books may tell you to use a small round piping tip on your bag filled with whatever flavor icing you want to use, stick that down into the cupcake, squeezing gently as you lift the tip back up out of the cupcake. This works by compressing the cupcake around the filling to make way for the icing. I'm not a big fan of the compression. I like light and airy cupcakes and the compression removes that airy part and it's hard to tell just how much filling you have injected into the center. So what I do, instead, is to use a small cookie round cookie cutter. The one I have comes from a set of graduating circles that grow from about 1 inch to 5 inches. So I use the smallest of the rounds. I press that into the center of the cupcake and then remove a little cake "plug" (wonderful for snacking!LOL!) and then, using a piping bag with no coupler or tip, just fill in the hole until it's level with the top of the cupcake. Then all you have to do is pipe whatever frosting you would normally use on top of your cupcakes to hide the secret filling. These are always a hit. In the case of this wedding we are matching the fillings of the cupcakes with the fillings of the cake tiers so that they match. 

This upcoming week brings another dessert tray! Can't wait to share this idea with all of you so you can use it for Valentines Day (Yup, that means the centerpiece is chocolate! YUM!)


Sunday, January 8, 2012

 Happy Sunday! The beginning months of the year is a Cakers slow time. It's a welcome break after such a hectic Holiday Season but we still have small orders to keep us going. January is full of birthdays and even small dinner parties with friends catching up and having their Holiday celebrations a bit later due to family commitments. 

This week's cake was for just this sort of get together. To evoke the spirit of Christmas this cake is a Gingerbread Spice cake. To make it a bit more special for the dinner party it has Caramel Buttercream for filling and for the top and then was drizzled with even more caramel. This is a very rich cake so this little six inch cake feeds 12. Yup, tiny slices for a rich dessert like this one but oh so good! 

To make this is fairly easy. Bake the Gingerbread Spice cake in a 6 inch pan and do not worry about leveling the dome. You want the icing to appear domed so your cake will help achieve that effect without having to use more icing. To get the icing just make your regular buttercream recipe and add in enough caramel to your taste. This will loosen up the buttercream so you will need to sift in more powdered sugar to make it the consistency you want and need it to be for the cake. You want to end up with something that peaks but doesn't crust up too hard, otherwise it won't sploosh out of the layers. I know, I know, usually you don't want sploosh in your layer cakes but with this cake you want to define the layers so sploosh is wanted and needed. Cut your cake into 3 layers and then, using a piping bag with no tip or coupler, swirl a dot in the middle of the bottom layer and then a ring around that. Add the next layer and gently push down just until the filling starts to sploosh out. As you add the layers it will sploosh a bit more due to the weight of the cake and icing so make sure not to push down too hard on that first layer. Once you have done the same for the next layer just swirl the icing on the top of the cake. Now let that sit up for just a few minutes and then, using a back and forth and then side to side motion with the caramel sauce, make your caramel pattern on top and let it drip down the sides. Done! You want it to set up so you don't end up with rivulets in your icing. This will take just a few minutes in between steps to allow your icing to crust up just a bit.
Now I bring you the other celebration popular in January and February...Birthdays! This "Coach" style purse cake serves 15. The trick to making a purse cake is your measurement of width vs height. You need to make sure your width is at least 2/3rds the height of your cake. Even so you will need to insert dowels into your cake in order to make it more stable. There are 4 in this cake spaced out evenly from end to end. You can choose to lay the base fondant on in one sheet but this can weigh down the cake so, more often than not, I use panels instead. Then all of the details are added except for the trim, zipper pull and handles. Once the details are on I added the trim which is just fondant snakes that have been added in, as often as possible, one long strip per section. The handles are a bit harder. They need to set up a little bit but not too much. You want them to stand up on the cake like real purse handles but if you get them too solid they will crack or even break when you try to curve them to the cake. A combination of both fondant and gumpaste or fondant and tylose powder will help it dry quickly but not too quickly so you will have a chance to mold it to your cake. Even so, with this one I used crinkled rolled up Press&Seal to hold the handles into place until they were dry enough to hold their own weight. The last touch was adding the zipper pull. Making these is really like you would do it with real leather. You make a long rectangle, cut it vertically to make the strips but do not cut all the way to the top. that way you have a solid piece with the strips below. Now let that sit up for a few minutes to dry out a bit. Then beginning with one end, roll up the solid piece and you will end up with the tassel effect. Next make a ball of fondant and then, using your thumb, start to hollow out one side of the ball until you have a cap for your tassel. Poke two holes into the top of it and then attach it to the tassel. Finally, using a thin rolled fondant snake, make a loop. Thread it through the zipper and then attach that to the cap where you put the holes. 

Yup, a lot of detail work goes into a cake like this but your guests will be amazed and will be talking about the cake for years to come. I know this for certain because this particular birthday cake was made a few years back and I still get requests for purse cakes because of this one! When was the last time someone brought up your floral centerpiece??? But a cake like this will be talked about for years to come....that sounds like a solid investment with the added delight of the joy from your birthday honoree and the delicious cake you get to eat as well! 

This upcoming week is a cupcake week! They are wedding cupcakes so that makes it even more fun! I'll also be featuring a wedding cake in order to get everyone in the mood for the wedding season which is on it's way!