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!