Monday, November 11, 2013

Anniversary Cake

 Happy Monday and for those of us in America, Happy Veteran's Day! This past week brought our own wedding anniversary so I got to decide upon what cake we would like to have for the day. But there are only 3 of us in our home right now...2 adults and 1 twelve year old boy. So a huge cake wouldn't work for just the three of us! So a mini cake would be perfect!

I hardly ever get to work with "perishable" icings and fillings so I decided that this cake would be eaten almost as quickly as it the moment it was done (and I barely had time to take photos before the boys were all over me to cut it!) so I knew the filling and icing wouldn't be around long enough to spoil! My husband and I both love chocolate and adore ganache. So that part was a no brainer. The filling, however, left me going "hmmmm" trying to figure it out. I finally decided upon a dark chocolate mousse filling and a semi-sweet ganache for the frosting. The cake was a 4 inch sweet vanilla cake. I really like Martha Stewart's recipe but you can you a box mix if you like but remember to cut the recipe in half for a mini cake.

Vanilla Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Mix till there is no lumps and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

I leveled them, cooled them and wrapped them into plastic wrap and set them aside while I made the chocolate mousse.

Chocolate Mousse

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold, heavy cream, plus an additional 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the confectioners' sugar and 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Stir over low heat.  

Add the semisweet chocolate chips, stirring frequently as they melt and the mixture becomes well blended.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and set this mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, beat the remaining 1 1/2 cup heavy cream on medium speed and gradually add the granulated sugar.  When all the sugar has been incorporated, beat the mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to overmix.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before using on your cake.

And then, while that was setting up I started the ganache. I use Alton Brown's recipe:


16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
16 ounces (2 cups) heavy cream
Place the chopped chocolate into a glass bowl.

Heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan for five minutes or until it just begins to simmer; be careful not to allow cream to boil over. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool, stirring occasionally until it is the consistency that you would like to use. For glazing let it cool for 30 minutes and then pour over a cake that has been placed on a wire rack with a pan underneath to catch the dripping ganache.  If you wish to make a lighter frosting, allow it to come to room temperature, approximately 2 hours. Once at room temperature, place in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 to 3 minutes.

I allowed it to cool for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, till it was thick enough to swirl on like frosting but still soft enough to use for the piping. 

I pulled out the mousse and let it come up to room temperature for a few moments while I unwrapped the cake. Then I just filled it with a thick layer of the mousse and topped it with the ganache. The final touches were added with a fine round tip and some of the ganache in a piping bag.

Now...what to do with all of the extra mousse and ganache??? I mixed them together and put them back into the refrigerator. The next night I whipped up the rest of the heavy whipping cream I had in the fridge with powdered sugar, granular sugar and vanilla (I don't have a recipe for's all a few tablespoons of this and a few tablespoons of that and a cap full of vanilla so you can cheat and buy the canned type or tub type if you want) and then layered the mousse-ganache with the whipped cream for a second desserts!


As you can see, it looked totally yummy too! I have to admit that these glasses (from a previous anniversary celebration) ended up being way too much dessert for all of us so you may want to make smaller servings!

November is the month of the Pumpkin in our house so I'll be using this space the rest of the month to share with you my several baking projects and recipes.

See you next week!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Popcorn Balls and Pumpkin Seeds!

 Happy Sunday and Happy November. Normally each Halloween I bake cupcakes for friends and family to hand out that I decorate to match the holiday but this year, with the broken finger, the idea of all that piping just didn't sound all that great to me. So this year I thought Popcorn Balls would be fun since I have some corn syrup left over from another baking project. Something that is quick and easy and just about a one handed job. After the incredible reception these little cuties got I decided to share the recipe with all of you too!

I have an "in" with a popcorn supplier so I was able to get my popcorn already popped and in a bag for easy use. But if you need to pop your own corn you can either do it on the stove top or microwave it yourself. I went looking for a recipe and found that the popcorn ball has changed since the last time I made them. Instead of corn syrup most of the recipes I found used marshmallows! If you have made Rice Krispies Treats then you have basically made this recipe already! Here is what you need:

12 cups pop corn with unpopped kernals carefully removed.
10 oz bag of marshmallows
1/2 stick of butter (you can use margarine but butter is the taste you want)
dash of salt (if you have salted butter don't add more salt)
3/4 cup candy/nuts/seeds

In a big pot melt the marshmallows, butter and salt together. Stir till smooth with absolutely no lumps. Turn off the heat and stir in the popcorn. When completely covered dump the mix out onto a cookie sheet or parchment covered counter. Spread out and then sprinkle your candy. (and/or nuts and/or seeds) and press that into the popcorn mix. At this point you can either spray your hands with cooking spray and grab small handfuls to make into balls or just cut the mix into squares. I rolled the popcorn and then placed the balls into Halloween themed cupcake liners. This gives the guest something to hold onto while eating the ball so their hands don't get sticky. At this point you can hand them out or package them in cello bags to take with you. For the best freshness you want to make sure to make these no sooner than 36 hours before eating. The beauty of them is that they take about 15 minutes to make so you could actually make these right before a party to take with you. Super easy. Super yummy. 

I also make pumpkin seeds each year to share with family and friends. This year I'll be doing this several times over the month of November since I actually roast our painted pumpkins from Halloween (after the paint has been scrubbed off, of course) and puree them for pies, cakes, muffins (and yes, I'll share all of the recipes with you too!) and this means I will have lots and lots of seeds for roasting! Here is my easy recipe!

What you will need:

Fresh pumpkin seeds that have been washed and all pumpkin pulp removed
Olive or vegetable oil

Yup that's all you "need". Now what you may want is extra spices like chili pepper and garlic for savory seeds or ginger and cinnamon sugar for sweet seeds. But this is the basic recipe.

 In a small pot you will want to boil your seeds for about 10 minutes. 
 I drain my seeds in a wire mesh colander. I then take a cap full of the oil and drizzle it over the seeds in the colander. Mix the oil up with your fingers so the seeds get covered. Then spread them out onto a cookie sheet so they are mostly in a single layer. This is the time to salt but not season. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes and then stir the seeds. Bake for 8-10 minutes longer making sure they don't get too dark. You want a light golden color and not brown.
When your seeds are done you can pile them into a bowl or onto a dish and this is the time to add your savory or sweet seasonings! I love them just with salt but I will be making the sweet variation for our Christmas gifts this year. Really yummy! 

Now just a final word on pumpkin seeds. Your seeds should be very crisp with just a bit of chewy seed center. If they are all chewy then they were not boiled long enough or baked long enough. They should SNAP when you bite into them. I know a lot of people who say they don't like roasted pumpkin seeds because they are too chewy. This shouldn't be the case if they are done up right. 

Next week I'll have a cake to share but I hope you enjoyed today's easy recipes and will give them a try!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Luau Baby Shower

 Happy Monday! This past weekend brought a cute little baby shower for a great couple! Congrats again Leslie, Chris and big brother Ben! The theme was "little girl luau" and the need to add in elements from the invitation was a must!

The Mom-to-be loves my Lemon Chiffon cake with lemon curd buttercream but I changed it up a bit by coloring the buttercream pink first and then filling the cake so when we cut into it you get a punch of bright yellow and pink too! 

 The full set up on the cake table included flower leis around the cake plate, colorful plates, cute napkins, flower confetti and the little "message in a bottle" favors on a bright purple tablecloth. If you'd like to see the full party set up just check out the Cherry Party Blog!

To decorate the cake I started with the pink buttercream. I wanted the surface to look like a rough stucco of a California beach building. Now I have no idea if other states have these buildings where you have restrooms, showers and usually a covered patio with picnic tables to hang out at but here in California we do. Ok, they don't always have the covered patio, but the buildings are there. I wanted to mimic that surface so what I did was frost the cake with the pink frosting and then before it could crust up I used the tip of the offset spatula to "swipe" horizontally along the side from top to bottom. About 3 swipes to do a side. This created a wonderful "stucco" texture!
 I then added the brown "sand" frosting and sprinkled on the gold and white "sand" sugar crystals. The trunks on the palm trees are just fondant snakes that I used a pointed fondant tool to make the texture. Those went onto the cake first and then I piped the clothesline from tree to tree. I layered on the leaves and topped those with little balls of brown fondant that I had punched 3 holes for the coconut look. The bib, onesie and socks were all cut out with an exacto knife used just for caking and then I used pink fondant to trim those. The new baby's name begins with an A so I used the onesie to personalize the cake. 

Next came the baby. I didn't make the baby. I know another caker who has the baby mold so I bought an undecorated fondant baby from her. I hand painted blonde hair onto the baby and added a fondant diaper and grass skirt. I used a mini flower punch to make the hibiscus and attached that with a dab of water. The mat is just tan fondant rolled out and scored with a fondant tool and trimmed in darker fondant. I used a bit of frosting to attach the mat to the cake and then brushed the underside of the baby with a bit of water to attach it to the mat.
The leaves on the palm trees had quite a bit of tylose in them to allow them to stand up 3D on the cake so, along with the sea turtle and baby, the trees were removed from the cake before cutting. 
The sea turtle relaxing on the sugar sand beach was hand molded out of fondant with tylose. I kneaded in some extra green into the fondant and then divided in into 8 pieces. One each for the body, head, front flippers, back flippers, tail and shell. I used water to glue it all together and then handpainted the shell with some golden yellow gel food coloring. This went into the shell "cracks" and then I diluted that color with a bit of clear alcohol. This left the cracks defined but then added a more yellow/green look to the entire shell.

This was my last major cake for the Fall. Good thing since I need to let this finger actually heal up. So for the next few weeks I'll share a few smaller items I have coming up as well as feature some really awesome cake artists that I know online. See you next week!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Indian Themed Pre-Birthday Cake Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! Friday was my birthday. Normally I'm over at our grown younger daughter's house and either we are going out to dinner or they are making me dinner there. My birthday cake is usually made by her and is always lovely. Yes, she is a "Caker" too! Being that it's in the middle of October we usually have baseball on the tv in the background and it is always lots of fun. But this year kinda messed up the schedule a bit. I had an order last weekend (the poker table cake) and I have an order next weekend (a baby shower cake) over in their area so we didn't go for my birthday weekend in between. We held off on the family celebration until next weekend. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to celebrate with my husband and 12 year old son. And that meant I got to make my own cake!!!

Now before you think "oh poor woman has to make her own birthday cake" let me be very clear. It is a total treat to be able to make my own cake. I can only think of 3 years since my daughter turned 15 that I have had a chance to make my own cake so it doesn't happen often. And, yes, she is making me one for next weekend too so this is, indeed, a chance to make my own cake, eat it and still have someone make me a cake too! So this is my pre-birthday-cake birthday cake. If you follow me. Ok, it's a good excuse for me to make a cake, play with the piping and eat cake and still get a "real" Birthday Cake next weekend.

It was a very exciting possibility until I broke my finger. As I mentioned last week, I am ambidextrous so breaking the middle finger of my right hand wasn't as big of an issue for last week's cake as I thought it would have been...until it came to the piping. The piping was murder. And my birthday cake design was all piping. Lots and lots of piping. So I baked the cake, a six inch hex shaped pink lemonade cake, on Tuesday and then kept procrastinating actually decorating it because, well, I knew it would hurt and I knew I didn't "have" to make the cake because it wasn't my "real" cake. It's just for us. Did I mention I knew it would hurt?

But, finally, on Friday morning, I pulled the wrapped frozen cake out of the freezer and filled and crumbcoated it. And let it sit for 5 hours while I procrastinated some more. I went and did some chores, played a bit on the computer, worked at my other job...putting off actually decorating this cake sitting on my table. Finally I filled the piping bags with the colors, assembled the paisley shaped cutters and frosted the cake in a flat white. And then, you guessed it, procrastinated for another half hour or so. 

This was when I decided I needed to figure out a way around my hand issue. I have a client cake next week and, yes, it has piping on it. Not a lot but it does have piping on it. So I used the cutters to gently press into the side of the white frosted cake all the way around. Then I used the dark wine colored frosting to outline where I had pressed. I quickly learned that the only way to pipe without hurting my hand was to hold the bag in such a way it, basically, looked like I was flipping everyone off! I had to hold the bag with my middle finger sticking straight out and the other fingers wrapped around the bag. I was very happy that there was no one around to offend! LOL!

The rest of the pattern I got from the plates and napkins and I just used small bits and pieces of that design to fill in the sides of the cake. A lot of people ask me how I get my ideas of what goes where and, honestly, I think it's the photographer in me that makes this easy for me to do. If I were going to tell someone how to do it themselves though, I would say to find something like the napkins and just copy the whole design. Use cutters for the hard shapes and then just follow the design on the napkins (or pillow, or invite) to fill in the spaces.

The last piece was the fantasy flower topper. I just used white fondant with a lot of tylose mixed in so it would dry up quickly. I rolled it out to the thickness of a dime and then used a circle cutter to cut out rounds. I then just folded the rounds so that there were two points, one point for the center, one to the outside of the flower. I just stuck them together with a mist of water and let them set up for about an hour. After that I painted them with gold luster dust paint. The center of the flower is just a round that I pinched two points onto and then pinched two more points making it into a square. Once the paint had dried I placed the whole flower onto the top of the cake, filled the center box with orange frosting and added a dab of the wine colored frosting.
Once served on the decorative plates you could see the pink inside and the colorful outside along with the bright plates and napkins and get the feel of the whole presentation. Totally yummy and totally pretty. Perfect for my birthday.

As mentioned, next week is a baby shower cake! I'll share next Monday! See you then!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Poker Table Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! This week brings Vic's Poker Table Cake. It comes with a story behind it, as all cakes do, and a big "hitch in my giddy-up" to get it made.

Ok, so the first part of the story is that I've made Vic's birthday cakes for the past few years and each on is based on what he likes to do. This cake also followed that theme with the Poker idea. Along with the idea comes a bit of pressure to make each years cake better than last years. Even coming up with the idea is a hard one for his wife and is planned out months in advance.

The cake is strawberry cake with buttercream filling...strawberries and cream! The outside is fresh fondant...all of it. The cards are sugar as are the chips. I started with the covering of the cake with more buttercream and then topping it with the dyed green fondant. After that came the panels along the sides followed by the table "legs". These are just fondant snakes that have been textured with the scalloping tool and then applied along the seams on the sides with a light misting of water. I followed that with the table padding, dying the fondant black. Then I let it rest for a couple of hours so the fondant could set up and not dent so easily when I applied the decorations.
The cards are from real playing cards. I had a sugar transfer sheet made up, the cards just a little smaller than real cards, that I then cut out and adhered to sheets of fondant and let dry till they were solid. I made more than just the Royal Flush so that I could decorate the cake a bit more. All of it is stuck to the cake with a bit of water. The chips took a bit more work. I had to cut out the circles with fondant that had added tylose. The tylose helps the fondant dry out and get solid more quickly. I used a piping tip to make the indent in the center and then used an xacto knife to make the ridges on the top and sides of each chip. At that time I decided how I wanted each chip to be on the board and glued them down and together with water.

The last step, of course is piping the wording on the cake board. Now all of this should have been fairly easy work. A lot of detail, of course, but nothing I was worried about. Until I slammed my hand into a door and broke a finger tip. I did this on the same day I was to make the fondant and fill and crumbcoat the cake. The day before the actual decorating. I have never even considered cancelling a cake on a client before and I certainly didn't want to do that to a regular client! Fortunately, for most of the work, the fact that I am ambidextrous was a huge blessing. I do use my right to write so the piping was the only part that was really painful. The rest I did one handed. Since I'm "ambi" I am use to switching back and forth between hands to work. But for a good deal of this work I couldn't use my right hand at all. It certainly added a level of difficulty to the cake but I didn't have to cancel on my client! 

I'm happy to say the client was very happy with the cake and I'm hoping her husband thinks it is as great as last years cake. Check out last October's posts to see the Mah Jong cake that was his birthday surprise last year!

This week I only have my own cake to make so I can lay off the hand for a few days. I'll share it with you next weekend! (And, yes, I do actually want to make my own cake!). See you then!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Happy Sunday! No cakes today but another yummy confection to share with you all. With the beginning of the holidays I tend to make little favors to give out or favors for clients to give out to their clients for meetings, mixers or just end of the year gifts. These can be anything from chocolate covered marshmallows to brownies to truffles. 

I had a client come to me and ask me if I could find her a recipe for wine truffles. I'd never heard of them before but went to look up a recipe and found several. When you come upon lots of different recipes for the same titled item then what you want to do is compare those and see what is the most consistent of the group. Which variation pops up more than others. This is the one that is going to be the most reliable. So I emailed her the recipe and a few weeks later she offered me the job of making them and packaging them up for her.

First of all, here is the recipe:

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, baking bar (Ghirardelli 60%)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup red wine, cabernet sauvignon
cocoa powder

1. Coarsley chop chocolate and place into a medium sized bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer, add butter and stir until melted.
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is melted.
4. Add the red wine and stir until wine is incorporated.
5. Pour into an 8x8 baking dish and refridgerate for at least 4 hours
6. Use a metal cookie scoop to scoop out a truffle. Coat your hands in cocoa powder and gently roll the chocolate until it forms a ball. Roll in cocoa to coat.
7.Keep refridgerated. 

Ok, so now here is where the learning curve came into play. I thought, why roll them in cocoa when I can dip them into milk chocolate instead? You see the result of my first effort in the photo above. Looks pretty good, right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Then I dipped the second truffle, then the third, and realized they were MELTING into my coating chocolate. Apparently the wine lowers the melting point of the truffles quite a bit. Fortunately this recipe makes about 30 truffles and I only needed 24 so I quickly changed tactics and started following the recipe where it clearly says "roll in cocoa to coat". Sometimes fiddling with a recipe is really not a good idea. 

But here is the upside...because the melting point is much lower for these truffles than the regular type they melt in the mouth almost instantly. The "mouth feel" is incredible! And the wine flavor is just a hint in the background of the chocolate and not overpowering in any way. Because of the lower melting point though, these DO have to be refrigerated.  So keep them in the fridge till presentation and then pass them around. I boxed up two per favor but, really, one is so rich that it is really enough. All of that butter and chocolate and cream is truly decadent!

This upcoming week will bring a fun Poker Cake to share! See you then!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy Sunday! This week we continue our series on Mini Cakes! Last week I mentioned that you can make mini cakes in two ways. One is to purchase a mini cake pan (which you may want to do after you make your first mini cake and get hooked on them!) or you can bake your cake in a sheet pan or other shallow baking dish and cut out the rounds or squares with metal cutters. 

Today I present a cake made with the latter method. I have this set of cutters made by Ateco that cost me about $15. I use them for everything from cutting out fondant to cutting out cookies to cutting out cake rounds. For today's cake I used the largest of these rounds which is almost 5 inches. 

The cake is lemon chiffon cake that was baked about an hour before I was going to serve my "shortcakes". I used my regular recipe and then sprayed my baking pan (I have the Pampered Chef Stonewar Bar Pan pictured above) and poured my batter into it, spreading it as evenly as possible. If I were using a baking sheet I would line it with parchment paper after spraying it for easy removal. You can just use a rectangular cake pan and just not fill it up as much as you normally would. You don't want your layers to be too thick. Remember that, since it is a thinner cake layer, you won't have to bake it very long so keep a watch on it!

Once the cake is baked just use your cutter to cut out rounds from your rectangular pan. You can save the left over cake for a trifle for later in the week so no need to waste the extra cake! Lift your rounds out with a spatula and set on a wire rack to cool for a few moments. While they are cooling you will have time to prepare the whipped cream and the strawberries!

If you have never made whipped cream from scratch you are in for a yummy surprise. Yes, canned whipped cream can be used...even Cool Whip can be used...make it as "semi-homemade" as you want it to be...but whipped cream from scratch is a real treat. 

Take 2 cups of whipping cream and place it in the mixer on medium speed. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring and let it whip until it starts to firm up. Now add in 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Once that is incorporated add 3 tablespoons powdered sugar. The powdered sugar will help sweeten your whipped cream but, more importantly, will help stabilize the whipped cream so it holds it's shape and doesn't melt on you after piping it. Now a tip on whipped cream. Sweeten it to YOUR taste. If this recipe doesn't have enough sugar for you then add more of the white sugar. If it is too sweet then add more cream. But once you see how easy it is to make you may never use the canned or tub version of it again.

Now the strawberries. This is the easiest part of this whole process. Wash and then slice up a whole carton of strawberries. Leave out a few to just cut in half for the toppers. Place those cut up slices into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Mix and then leave that to set up for 15 minutes. The sugar mixes with the juice of the strawberries to make a wonderful sauce!

While your strawberries are setting up take your whipped cream and place it in a piping bag fitted with a large tip. The tip I'm talking about is one of the big ones you just drop into the bag, you don't use a coupler with these tips. I used the large open star tip (Wilton tip 2110) for my cakes.

Now it's time to put it all together. Just set the cake on your pretty plate, layer with a few spoons of strawberries with the juice and then top with the whipped cream and half of a whole strawberry! SO easy, SO pretty and SOOOOO good!

Last tip. You can cut out your cake with smaller cutters and make LAYERS of strawberries and whipped cream! How pretty of a dessert would that be for your guests? Or, layer up the strawberries and whipped cream and then "frost" all of it with more whipped cream and top with a whole strawberry fan. 

There is SO much you can do with a mini cake and over the next two weeks we'll show you a bit more that you can do with these small treats! In the meantime you can get daily tips and tricks over at our Facebook Fan Site

See you there!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Monday! This week starts a new series about Mini Cakes. These adorable little cakes are great for small family occasions and we are happy to give you some easy tips and tricks so you can make them too!

The question I hear the most is "You have to buy special cake pans, right?" and the answer is no, you don't. Sure, I have an adorable little mini set of cake pans that are sizes 1", 3" and 5". But you can, and I have, made a mini cake using just a round cutter and cake baked in shallow baking pan like a cookie sheet. Just bake the cake in the shallow pan and then use your round cutter to cut out the size of layer you want for your cake. Then stack them just like you would in a bigger pan. 

Mini cakes are great for small family birthday's, celebrating the new job or promotion, but I think the most common use for a mini cake is for a Baby's 1st Birthday "Smash" Cake. But they can be used for other kids birthdays as well. Make the mini cake for the Mom, Dad, kids and then serve cupcakes to your guests! 

The cake today is a white cake with vanilla buttercream filling. This happens to be my son's favorite combination so he was really happy that I started this series with HIS favorite cake! Once the cake was cooled and leveled (the dome trimmed off of it so that each layer was even and flat) I wrapped each layer well in Press & Seal wrap and popped it into the freezer overnight. 

A quick word about that. I have found that freezing cakes seals the moisture into the layers. Once I'm ready to fill them I unwrap them and, while still frozen, I fill the cake and ice it with a thin layer of frosting called a "crumbcoat". I then let the cake thaw out and "settle" over at least 3 hours to over night. As gravity starts to work, the cake will settle and will push the filling out to the sides of the cake. If you end up with a "roll" of filling sticking out you can smooth your crumbcoat again before the final coat of frosting. But this is why allowing time for settling is so important. Once you apply the crumbcoat onto the cake it will help seal in the freshness and moisture into the cake. After this step do NOT put the cake into the refrigerator. The reason is that refrigerators draw out the moisture and your icing will suck up all of the smells of the other food. It is a much better idea to put your cake out on the counter instead. After your final coating of frosting or fondant you still do not want to put your cake in the fridge because it will effect the look of the surface of your cake. It can cause "weeping" in buttercream or "blooming" on fondant. Weeping is when the butter oil separates from the sugar and cream and blooming is when moisture (condensation) forms on the surface of fondant making it shiny in some spots and dull in others. So keep your cakes and cupcakes out of the refrigerator except to put a chill on them before filling/crumbcoating and only if they are well wrapped.

Now onto the decorating. I just used a flat tip (Wilton #45) that has smooth sides on both sides. Like a basketweave tip only with smooth edges. You could do straight lines down the sides of the cake but I decided to go wavy. Once I finished piping all the way around the cake with the wavy lines I just used the same tip to make ruffled type circles, starting from the outside and working in, on the top. I finally trimmed the cake in that same manner, making the trim a bit ruffled.

I used small candy pearls for the snowflake design on the top and sides but you could use white frosting and a fine tip to do the same. But since I was making this cake for my son and he loves the candy I used the candy pearls instead. To do this I used one of the best tools I have added to my tool box in the past few tweezers. 
You can see that they resemble the ones that might be used to pluck out an eyebrow hair or splinter but they are angled which makes it much easier for the placement of candy onto the cake. Now here is the great thing...they only cost a few dollars. A wonderful mini-investment for your cake tool box.

Once the pearls were in place the cake was done! This little 5 inch cake serves 5. It is about 4-1/2 inches tall so when you cut this into five pieces you will get a 1x4.5 inch piece of cake. This is what makes mini-cakes so perfect for a family event. Just enough for after dinner.

Next week I'll bring a new mini-cake with new techniques that you can easily do at home too! In the meantime you can join us over at our Facebook Fan Site for daily tips and tricks!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

This week begins my Fall Break. There are a few cakes in the next two months but it's a nice slow down after a very busy summer. So this week I'm going to share with you photos, and a few tips, of some of my favorite Wedding Cakes from the past two years.
 This cake was the first time I had ever paired hot pink and black. It was also the very first time I had ever really worked with piped royal icing figures. That is when you take royal icing, pipe it out onto parchment or wax paper, allow it to dry for a LONG time and then peel it off and use it on the cake. You break as many as you save so, if you try it, make sure to make at least double of what you think you will need!
 My one and only "topsy-turvy" cake and still one of my very favorites. I have to say that making this one was more than a bit nerve-wracking. The tiers were stacked on dowels and held in place with royal icing and the bond of the sugars where the fondant edges met. When it was all done, even though I knew it was stable, it still gave me a heart attack to move it. I love this one but won't be doing another any time soon.
 One of my brides saw the cake above and decided that "feel" was how she wanted to go with her own cake. We took 3 different styles from cakes I had made before and created a one of a kind for her wedding. And I think that is very important to point out. If you are planning your own wedding and are thinking of cake you may want to consider taking a few photos of cakes you like to your cake designer so she can create your one of a kind work of edible art for your wedding. You deserve to have a cake that is beautiful and unique for your day, not a copy of what some other bride had on hers.
 I do a lot of "little weddings". But this one was my favorite. The design is based on their wedding invitations and it was the first time I had ever used paper on a cake. Occasionally a local bride will rent a cake stand from me and I had just the right one in stock that complimented her cake perfectly. 
 I have to put this one into the mix since it is my own! My husband and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary last year and the theme was World Travelers. Separately and together we have traveled the world so the banner, which says "No matter where I travel, the best part is coming home to you", was the perfect touch for this cake which features a man's valise and a ladies overnight case. Just a reminder that your wedding cake doesn't have to be the traditional 3 tier round or square cake. It can be anything you want it to be!
 I adore Art Deco and I love Disney so this cake was the perfect mix of the two! The man's tuxedo was easier than I thought it would be and a perfect example how we can talk ourselves out of trying something new because we think it will be too hard or out of our skill range. Try it anyways! This cake was one of those where I began it with a "what was I thinking" and ended with a "oh, that's JUST what I wanted". So don't be afraid to push yourself. You may just find that you are up to the challenge!
 The directions for this cake was "yellow and grey on white buttercream with pinwheels". Well, I had just been browsing Martha Stewart's cake section when I saw a cake they had decorated with paper banners! So I thought, why not! The cake is frosted and trimmed with buttercream and then decorated with paper pinwheels. It was perfect for this outdoor wedding!
Finally a word about making cakes I am really not sure will look all that great. When I met with the bride and she said her colors were pink and grey I flashed back on Steel Magnolias "Grey Icing? I'm not even sure how to make grey icing!". So I talked the bride into silver instead of grey hoping against hope it would help make the cake as beautiful as I wanted it to be for their wedding. Low and behold I was totally wrong about the color combination! She used this combo in her entire wedding and it was simply stunning! The blush pink of the pearls, fondant stripes and roses along with the silver lines and ribbon against the white fondant made for a very elegant cake for their very elegant wedding. Sometimes you just have to have faith that it will all work out perfectly.

Next week I have one of the few cakes for this Fall Season to share with you and, yes, it's a wedding cake!

See you then!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jilly's Barbie Birthday Cake

Happy Tuesday? I know this is a few days late but here in the US we had "Labor Day" weekend and that always pushes everything by a few days.  My last cake of the summer was actually for our Grand daughters 4th Birthday Party! As you can see, by the cake above, the theme was pink and zebra print Barbie. 

The Barbie is a real doll, not just the top of a doll with a pick that sticks into the cake. She was cleaned up at the party and then redressed in her clothing and given to the birthday girl to play with after the cake cutting. What I used to bake this cake was a Pampered Chef Batter Bowl. To bake in a deep container like this you need to turn the temperature down to 300 and let it bake until it is completely it takes a bit longer as well.
The inside of the cake was Zebra Striped too! It's really fairly easy to do but I wasn't sure it would work in this particular baking dish...I was SO happy that it did! Now what you do is make up your two batters of cake batter and set aside in separate bowls. Then use a measuring cup or ladle (it just needs to be the same size for both bowls) and, starting with the lighter colored batter, ladle in a scoop or two. Then into the center of the lighter color ladle in the same amount of dark batter. Alternate this until the container is full. Then don't touch it. Just bake it. And this is how it looks when it comes out! Zebra Striped!

After it was the cake was cooled I sliced it for filling and then wrapped it and put it into the freezer overnight. The next day I filled it and crumb coated it as well as, using a long bread knife, cut a hole into the center so I could slip in my Barbie doll when the time came.

After the cake was settled (I let it sit for 6 hours) I wrapped the legs of the Barbie in plastic wrap so that she wouldn't actually touch the food, and put her down into the cake. This is where I got into a bit of trouble. I have made Barbie cakes before but always with regular Barbie dolls. This doll is actually Ballerina Barbie and is about 2 inches taller! So when I slid her into the cake I realized that the cake didn't come to her waist, it only came up to her hip! So all of a sudden my dress became a dropped waist design!  What I ended up having to do was to spread buttercream up to the actual waist of the doll and smooth it down so it would look like part of the cake.

Then I started on the actual decorating. There is no easy way to do this. You have to eyeball everything. I added a bit of tylose to my white fondant and then rolled it out and cut that into strips and "ruffled" those up and placed them on the bottom right front of the cake so that she would have peek-a-boo ruffles in front. Then I cut out a heart shape piece for the front of the bodice and pressed it onto the doll, covering up the blue painted on "dress" she actually wears as a ballerina. Next I cut out the large triangle for the front of the dress and added it to the front of the cake, being careful to position it up and over the ruffles. I let that set up a bit before rolling out the black fondant rectangle. I have done zebra stripe before so I had learned that the best way is just to cut out the shapes from a big rectangle in a diagonal direction. Some of them are just slightly jagged strips and some of them are forked strips. Then I just used a tiny bit of water to position them onto the white dress front. You have to be SO careful here. Wherever you place the black is instantly died black. So there is no re-positioning or second chances. 

The light pink pieces are really just large "tear drop" shaped pieces that I cut out and placed, starting at the true waist of the doll and over lapped, first from the front to the back on one side and then from the front to the back on the other side, topping with one last tear dropped piece in the very back.  Then I rolled out a bit of white fondant for the back of the bodice and pressed it to the doll. Then it was time to add the dark pink fondant side/back pieces of the bodice. As with the front I just eye-balled it but they are basically large triangles.Once those were on I used a circle cutter to cut out the dark pink upper dress panels. For these I cut a straight edge onto the circle so it would fit easily to the waist. I just wrapped one from the front to the back on one side and then on from the front to the back on the other having them overlap in the center of the back.
The finishing touches were to add the piped on corset lacings (royal icing) and the black fondant bow. Then I just piped little white dots for trim on the light pink skirt and rolled dark pink ropes for trim on the dark pink skirt. Here is a tip...something I didn't think about till it was too late and ended up having to do it the hard way...trim the dark pink skirt BEFORE adding the bow. I ended up having to piece the trim in the back and it was much more difficult than if I'd just remembered to do that before adding the bow and ribbon tails. One last detail was adding the little black candy pearls to the bodice front to zebra stripe it too. I piped thin lines of royal icing on the bodice and then, using candy tweezers, added the pearls to the bodice. But the very last detail was the little present Barbie is holding. Since she is a Ballerina she has arms that are folded in such a way as to curve over Barbie's head like a ballerinas do when she is on pointe. So it looked awkward to me. That was when I decided she should be holding something. I didn't have time to let a purse dry so I took a bit of dark fondant, squared it off, cut strips of black fondant for the stripping and then made up a little bow. All of this I slid onto her thumb to hold it into place.
Here is Barbie at the party! Surrounded by the other decorations she really fits in and the Birthday Girl was over-joyed! I will be posting the party photos soon on the Cherry Party Blog so you can see all of the party details!

This week begins the time of year when I take some time off. I have a few cakes over the next few months so on my "off" weeks I'll share some of my other favorite cakes or spotlight friends wonderful cakes for you all to see. In the meantime you can always get daily tips and tricks on our Facebook Fan Site!

See you next there!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Sunday! Another summer birthday came our way this week. This little beach bag cake is filled with everything Jayne can wish to take with her to the beach. There's sunscreen, her travel journal, her sunglasses and her towel all sticking out of the top.

I learned a great many things making this cake. It is a standard 8x2 inch cake that has been cut into thirds and then trimmed down to 5-1/2 inches across by 6 inches high and 2-1/2 inches wide with the trimmings adding height to the cake. Yellow cake filled with chocolate brownie buttercream is Jayne's favorite combo so that is what is inside the vanilla fondant "bag".  It is staked twice down into the cake board with wooden skewers, one on each side of the cake from top to bottom. Then it was crumbcoated with vanilla buttercream and allowed to set up.

I then started on the stripes. What I found out is that they don't "glue" together easily. I finally took the strips and laid them out onto a parchment covered rack and brushed water in between so they would glue together in pairs of two. Then I was able to put them on the cake, trim them down to fit the cake two at a time. One of the reasons I give myself plenty of time to decorate a cake is due to set backs like this one. It added 6 hours of wait time to this cake. 

Once I had the front strips on and the back strips on and trimmed down I added the white side panels. I mainly let the front semi-hard strips help hold the soft white fondant to the sides since it, like the hard strips, had to stand up, like a bag, but couldn't be stiff because I needed them to look like fluid fabric billowing on the sides. So I brushed water, not just on the cake but also the fondant edges of the hard front and back strips and then smoothed the side fondant on pressing it gently to the front and back wet edges. 

After they were dry and allowed to set up for a bit it was time to do the cording. I have an extruder that I simply love. It has many different screens with different size and shaped holes so I can just change out whatever I need to whenever I need to do it. The screen for today is the one with three small holes in it that allows me to make long thin "snakes" of fondant. I made white and blue snakes and then just twisted them together. Then I brushed on a thin line of water to act as glue and ran it along the edges of the front and back panels. I used just one strand of white to edge the top and bottom edges of the side panels.

I used this same screen to make the snakes I needed for the braided handles for the front and back. You have to work really, really carefully or the snake will break and you will have to start all over again. Once the braids were done I set them aside, the U shape of a handle, to firm up. While they were drying, I made the "grommets" for the bag. Just cut out with a piping tip and then punched with a smaller tip, I just painted these silver and let them dry.

While everything was drying I began working on the items to go into the bag. Keep in mind that they are supposed to be peeking out of the bag so you do not need full sized items. The panels stick about an inch or so over the actual cake so you only need a few inches of the item to stick out. The towel is only 4 inches long, the sunscreen is only about 2-1/2, as is the book. The sunglasses are fronts only with one partial earpiece folded under. For the book I took a block of white fondant and then rolled out a marbled piece of blue-green fondant really thin to cover it. Lastly I used my xacto knife to score the "pages". The towel is a thick piece of pink and white marbled fondant that was rolled and then texturized using scrunched up plastic wrap. Both the sunglasses and the sunscreen are just hand molded until I thought they looked right.

The last touches were painting the SPF 30 on the sunscreen and Jayne's initials on the journal in silver paint and then adding the grommets and braided handles to the bag. The grommets went on quickly but I did have to use toothpicks to hold the braided fondant onto the cake. I put them through the folded over braiding and then pushed them into the cake gently, making sure to hide the tip of the toothpick. The sand is just gold sanding sugar that I sprinkled onto the board using a small spoon.

Smaller cakes are sometimes the most challenging but being a "Beach Baby" myself I was very happy to do this cake! 

Next week is time to Party with Barbie! See you then!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nate's Propane Tank Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday! It is always fun when I get to do a family members cake! Today is Nate's birthday. Nate is my son-in-law and one of the best guys you would want to know. Nate also owns a propane franchise. Thus the propane tank cake! LOL!

Making this cake wasn't the easiest but I did find out some pitfalls along the way. Making a carved cake can be challenging but the first issue I had was making the collar and the nozzle for this tank. Since it had to dry for several days I made it before I had actually baked the cake. Well, when I baked the cake I found out that the collar and nozzle were too small! So I ended up making it again. I was very happy that they were dry enough when it came time to top the cake with them.

The cake is 3 four inch layers. This feeds 10 people which was perfect for our guest list. I leveled off two of the layers and left the dome on the top one, just trimming off enough to give me a flat surface for the nozzle. Lastly I carved into the bottom tier so it would allow room for the bottom collar. In retrospect I didn't carve in enough so the collar doesn't look as recessed as it should. It is vanilla cake filled with chocolate brownie buttercream...and yes, it was very yummy! I stacked the cakes and then took a wooden skewer and nailed it through the top of the cake, slightly to the side, into the cake drum below. Then I covered it all with a crumbcoating of buttercream and let it set up overnight. 

Now it was time to cover the whole thing with fondant. It is a strange shape for a cake so I had to go very slowly and carefully with the fondant, smoothing it out one small section at a time until it was completely adhering to the cake. When this was totally smooth I nailed in another skewer into the top of the cake (also to one side) and down into the cake drum below. We had to travel 200 miles with this cake and with it being much taller than it is wide, it meant it could topple easily and I didn't want that going anywhere!

This is when I added the bottom collar and the middle roll of fondant. I use an extruder to make the long snake of fondant but it's still a real challenge to get it so it looks even around the middle of the cake so I brushed the roll with a mist of water and then put it on the cake and then adjusted as I needed before it set up on the cake. You only have seconds before the sugar bond occurs so you have to work fast!

I then set the collar up on the top of the cake where I wanted it to sit and marked the cake in three places. I removed the collar and piped in a layer of royal icing. This not only sets the collar up above the cake like a real tank but also sticks the collar to the cake securely. I went back a few times and piped more lines on top of the first lines to build it up, letting it dry between layers. Finally I set the color up on top of the last wet layer and then used the royal icing to smooth it out so it looked like the welds on a real tank. Next the nozzle was put into place with a toothpick and some water to hold it into place.

The last part on the cake was the hand painting. Now the logo of his company is something close to this one but you can't put a trademarked logo on a cake so I just changed it a bit. I cut the arrows out of blue fondant using two sizes of circle cutters. The I cut the circles in half and then carved the arrows with an exacto knife I have just for cakes. Then it was time for the hand painting. There really is no easy way to hand paint. You just dive in and hope for the best. Over time and with practice you do get better at it...I'm not quite there yet but I'm working on it! LOL!

Finally there was the writing on the drum. It's royal icing because I wanted to be able to paint on it and you can't do that with frosting. So I piped out the letters in white and then let them totally dry. After I made sure they were totally dry I started coloring them in. 

The birthday guy was very surprised by the cake so it was great! We all enjoyed eating it too! And there was the last challenge. How do you cut a cake that's not shaped like cake? I'd love to say that there was a tried and true method but there just isn't. With this one I removed the toppers, grabbed an extra paper plate, then just cut the cake right down the middle. I carefully took one half of the cake and put it on the extra paper plate and laid down the other side on the drum. Then I just cut the appropriate sized pieces which worked out perfectly to give cake and a bit of filling to everyone. 

This upcoming week brings another carved mini-birthday cake! I'll share with you on Sunday!