Bee colored birthdays
I took a few weeks off to go on vacation (*sigh* one week of vacation is too short) and to gear up for the rest of this summer’s baking projects. This past weekend I had 2 orders for birthday cakes. Coincidentally, both requests were for predominately yellow and black designs, making me think of the monstrously large bumblebees we saw in Playa del Carmen. Thankfully, they were harmless. I just remember them being very vividly yellow and shiny black, and they were my inspiration for the colors I mixed for this weekend’s cakes.
The first cake was for a coworker’s bf’s birthday. She wanted something symbolic and since they have a long distance thing (she’s in Manhattan, he’s in Chi-town), she was thinking of incorporating things from both cities for the cake. Her first idea was for me to make a 3-D airplane to signify the mode of transportation to see each other. Instead, I suggested that since this was going to be a small cake, why don’t I just do a silhouette of both city skylines around the base of a small cake and have the buildings morph into each other. This would totally fit a 6″ round and it was basic yet meaningful enough. She picked chocolate cake with vanilla icing for the cake flavors and wanted the background in yellow with a black skyline.
While the cakes were baking, I mixed the frosting and kneaded a crapload of yellow fondant, knowing I’d be using some for the next day’s cake. After the cake layers cooled and were dirty iced, I rolled out a big blobular sheet of yellow fondant to cover the cake round. @ the time, it looked like the cake was covered perfectly with no rips or bubbles or wrinkles anywhere. I thought to myself, “Hah! I’m getting good @ this fondant thing.” (Clearly my hubris meant some bad foreshadowing ahead…)
I googled images of Chicago and New York skyline silhouettes and printed them as large as possible. However, stock images are always so tiny and crappy in quality unless you bother paying for them (which was unnecessary), so they were pretty blurry. I started cutting out a section of the Manhattan skyline but it was kinda tedious. I would have hired my patient and perfectionist first grade self to cut out the paper silhouettes. haha After mixing in black gel coloring to the marshmallow fondant (and staining my hands purple), I rolled out a thin layer and lay the cut out on top of the fondant. With my handy dandy chef’s knife, I started cutting the building outlines. The fondant was still sticky and the edges weren’t as clean as I liked. I took a toothpick to sharpen the lines and lined up the Empire State building to cover a spot in the fondant where a chunk of powdered sugar was embedded in the yellow (shhhh….) I felt like the paper cutting/fondant tracing/edge sharpening process was taking too long, so for the Chicago buildings I freehanded it. I rolled out another thin sheet of black fondant, marked guidelines for approximate building sizes so these would be relatively in proportion to the NYC skyline, and just cut away @ the fondant. The Sears Tower was a b!tch because of the super thin spikes so I just cut out a flat top and added thin strips afterwards.
There was a gap inbetween the Chicago and New York skylines, so I found an image of the Statue of Liberty to fill in the blank. I can’t say if the angle was correct, but it DID kind of go from north to south (Chrysler building – Empire State building – Statue of Liberty). I took a toothpick and scraped in some vertical lines to give the buildings more texture, and it looked pretty good =)
The last step was piping “Happy Birthday” on top. My coworker requested black lettering, so black lettering she got. I was a bit disappointed with the “H” since it didn’t have the same super slight slant as the rest of the lettering, but it looked OK. Vin and I ran out to get a fancy, healthy and nutritious dinner from McDonald’s (I know, I know… I shouldn’t be eating this crap) and when I came back home, a thin crack was forming near the edge of the cake AND this obnoxious little bubble came out of nowhere right @ the top of the cake. They weren’t that noticeable, but still, I was like… what the hell? Everything was great until I stepped away for 20 minutes. *sigh* I did my best to straighten and sharpen the edges and just waited for my coworker to come pick it up.
She said she loved it (maybe she was being nice b/c I was a bit bummed with the small crack and the small bubble) and I boxed it up and tied my signature white/black/hot pink ribbon and slapped a sticker on the box. Haven’t heard back yet with their feedback….
The next morning I rolled out of bed to bake for a friend’s surprise birthday party. Her bf wanted something cheerleading related since C is a top rated HS cheer coach. I suggested doing pompoms in her school colors (ALSO yellow and black) and he was down for that. His only request was that the cake have red velvet and cream cheese. (Damn you, red velvet! I can’t get away from you, can I… haha) So I bought this ball cake pan mold and it came with 2 hemisphere pans. These would be perfect for the shape of the pompoms, and I decided to bake a big one layer 14” round sheet cake for the base.
I was worried that the red velvet half-balls would be dry since I had never used the pans before. I kept checking the oven and one minute they were still wet and the next minute the toothpick came out dry. Yikes. I made extra chocolate cake batter the day before so I baked chocolate cake for the edible base. I had some extra chocolate and red velvet cake batter, so I tested out some new baking pans and just churned out a bunch of mini cupcakes, squeezed leftover icing on the tops and threw pink and white piggy sprinkles and neon-toned dinosaur sprinkles on them. (I’m a sprinkle hoarder. I bought a whole bunch and had to use these sooner or later haha) I packed some up to bring to a friend as part of her belated birthday present (Happy Birthday, Bubblegrrrrrrrrrl) and the rest will be for coworkers that “voluntarily” help me out with audits =D
While the cakes cooled, I whipped up cream cheese frosting and purposely did not add a sh!tload of sugar. The cakes were dirty iced and stored in the fridge while I rolled out the black and yellow fondant. Using my trusty chef’s knife, I hand cut long ¼“ strips of gold and midnight-hued “ribbon”. It looked like squid ink pasta and fettuccine. And I was so stupid and thought about this AFTER I had cut everything, but I think we have a pasta attachment for the KitchenAid mixers that may or may not have made this easier. Oh well. I did a nice and quick job cutting the fondant strips anyway.
I put another layer of frosting on the base cake and plopped the half ball cakes on it. Yes, to answer what you’re all thinking, they did look like boobs. I took my time and strategically placed the thin ribbon pieces on the cake, having them fall “just so” off the edges and trying to make them look as close to real pompoms as possible. I made sure all the frosting on the balls were covered and then took chunks of white fondant and stuck them onto skewers for the handles. I purposely put them in @ angles so it would look less symmetrical and hopefully less booblike, but one of the handles just didn’t sit right and I kept trying to shape it to make it less globby, but it kept sinking. Meh. You could still tell these were long-nipped booby tassels thin ribboned pompoms. I think it came out nicer with the thin cut fondant since the wide ribbons would have looked more cheap (a.k.a. fake).
I rushed to shower and get ready for the party so I didn’t have time to hand pipe “Happy Birthday” before we got there. Transporting this was another memorable adventure; I think my subconscious blocks out the times I had to bring elaborate cakes b/c each time I say, “I’m never doing this again!” and then lo and behold, a month or so later, I am freaking out over driving with a cake. Hahaha Vin helped me carry my shoes (high heels + Katherine + heavy cake + walking = terrible, terrible idea), purse, black frosting and a piping bag, and C’s gift to the car while I carried the huge cake atop a stand (I didn’t want my perfectly placed ribbons that were cascading off the edge to be ruined) and we drove to the train station to pick up his friend and his friend’s wife to go to the surprise party. That five minute ride was pretty harrowing enough; the cake was starting to slide off the cardboard cake base b/c the weight distribution was SO not even. After Vin’s friends got in the car I readjusted the way I was holding the cake so that I held the cake by just the cardboard base, not by the cake stand and base. The ride felt like an eternity and my biceps and forearms were so tired holding that heavy ass cake.
When we got to the party house, I carried the cake barefoot up the stairs into the kitchen and filled the piping bag with black icing to hand pipe “Happy Birthday Crystal”. I should have taken more time to steady myself b/c my arms were still strained and shaking from holding the cake up for so long so the “Ha” were a little bit messy, but the rest of it came out nicely. I purposely put the big “B” over an area in the frosting I accidentally hit with my hand putting the handles in to hide my f*ck up haha
Unfortunately, while the cake was sitting in the kitchen and before the birthday girl got to see it in perfect form, some @sswipe swiped some of the frosting off. It wasn’t by accident b/c it looks like they took a knife to it to cut out the frosting so the cake looked like sh!t. First of all, who the f*ck does that to a cake that’s not yours??? What a f*cking d!ckhole. Secondly, if you’re that much of an impatient @sshole who really just HAD to friggin’ try the frosting, why did you take it from front and center of the cake? Why not try a little from the back? It now looked like it said “Happy Birthday Cry”. What a complete f*cktard for ruining my hard work and messing up a great surprise. Seriously. I’m also pissed I didn’t get a good shot of the cake before the mystery douchebag destroyed my handiwork, too. Whatever. Crystal was super happy about it and said she absolutely loved it and that it tasted delicious. I’m just glad she liked it and was properly surprised =)
It was a long and busy weekend, but it was fun. I will just say that 1) I am super tired (my eyes have been red for the past 2 days; I think too much powdered sugar got in my face); 2) I am worried my vacation tan is fading (I think El Dorado Royale/Casitas is our new favorite resort); and 3) my arms are totally JACKED, bro =D
Stay tuned for next week: it’s summer wedding time!