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!