birthday , buttercream , cakes , cupcakes , custom design , experiments , fondant
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.
birthday , cakes , custom design , experiments , fondant
My sleep schedule has become completely out of whack b/c of this weekend. Ever since I didn’t sleep the night before Em’s wedding to work on her cake, I feel like I’m becoming a vampire and wanting to sleep (or @ least nap) during the day and stay up all night. On Sunday night Vin and I were getting ready for bed around 1 am and I just couldn’t fall asleep. Vin was already passed out, so I snuck out of bed and tiptoed into the kitchen to take out these containers holding hunks of extra red velvet and chocolate cake, along with 2 tubs of cream cheese frosting. I couldn’t catch those zzz’s so I might as well work on Vin’s birthday cake, right?
I guess I blew my cake decorating wad last year when I made him that steak cake platter, and so I needed to make something really great for this year. My husband is an amazing photographer so I had this outrageous idea to make him a camera cake. Really good cameras and equipment are $$$$ and making a camera in cake form was the only way I could afford to give him a sweet @ss Canon DSLR. I already bought him some smaller gifts of things he wanted, and I knew Em’s cake would be priority for this weekend, so I didn’t know exactly how much time I could actually devote to Vin’s cake. Even so, I printed out pictures of every single angle imaginable of the meagerly priced $15K (yikes!) Canon EOS 1D C and studied how I’d make each part, the relative external dimensions, noted the areas where there were indents and ridges, where there was texture for the grip… it was pretty elaborate. I didn’t know when I’d be able to make it or how long this would take, but I scribbled out my plans anyway.
Luckily, the cake was all ready to be cut and shaped and spackled with frosting when I started that night. I had mixed the leftover chocolate and red velvet cake batter from Em’s cake and had baked it into a square pan and 2 small rounds on Thursday night. I cut it into 6″x 3″ pieces and stacked 2 cake layers on top of each other like a bricklayer using cream cheese frosting instead of cement. I sliced up extra cake pieces for the top ridge where the viewfinder and flash bracket would be, the hand grip on the right, and the ridge on the base of the camera body. Indents on the corners and hand grip were carved out, and I dirty iced the entire cake to hold it together. For the lens, I layered 2 pieces of the rounds and took a chef’s knife to pare out the concave shape for the front of the lens.
I mashed together all the pieces of leftover fondant from the wedding cake (pink, blue, green) and added black gel coloring to cover the camera. If you look closely @ the pics, you can see that the color came out more bluish grey than black for some reason. Compared to the huge tiers of the wedding cake, putting fondant on a smaller area was a breeze. I rolled out the fondant and shaped it onto the camera body like a pro; all the dents and ridges came out BEAUTIFULLY. I mean, seriously… look @ the groove on the right where your right hand would grip the camera… see how the top ridge where the flash bracket goes is just so even and curvy. And I did it in one perfect shot (pun!). The seams were a little sloppy; I should have checked out how to fix that before I fondanted the cake, but oh well. I took a toothpick and started drawing outlines on the camera where the textured grip was, the outlines and borders of shapes, and marked where all the buttons would be. I layered rolled fondant on the lens piece, but since I kept handling it too much, the fondant started to get too soft and I had to put a double layer (this time in strips) of fondant to repair it.
For the glass components (lens, viewfinder, screen) I WAS going to make them out of sugar, but I just didn’t have time to make molds and shape out wax paper and perfectly melt the sugar. I ended up rolling out a bit of white fondant and cutting out the screen and lens pieces, then dusted them with silver petal powder to give it a shiny sheen. The powder was annoying and got everywhere; it kept sticking to the black fondant on the lens.
I rolled out the last piece of white fondant and took a toothpick to basically outline the “Canon” logo by hand. I formed the signature “C” by poking. one. hole. @. a. time. Then made dotted lines for the rest of the letters, putting painstaking detail in my freehand work to make them look as close to the logo as possible. I took a sharp chef’s knife (I realize a knife and toothpick are my favorite fondant tools) and carefully cut out the letters by following my dotted lines. I figured if this didn’t come out nicely, I’d just cut out the logo from one of the pictures and stick it on the cake. haha Luckily, the letters came out great and didn’t crack or break! I let those dry out and used tweezers to stick the letters on. I think after the camera body shape, this was the best part and my favorite component of the cake.
With the last of the dark fondant I punched out circles for all the camera setting buttons with cake tips. I took some cut up straws and poked it in the front of the camera body so I could insert the lens. I took a knife and scratched lines into the front of the lens and rolled out some red fondant to make stripes for the lens. You know, I was considering buying one of those fondant ribbon rollers, but I heard they weren’t that great and for some reason the metal pasta ribbon cutters (which would work great on fondant and gum paste) are obscenely expensive. Then again, I realized I cut pretty straight lines with–you got it!– a plain old chef’s knife so those tools were unnecessary anyway.
I left the cake out and crawled into bed to snuggle with Vin for a couple hours and nap. When he woke up, I was like an excited little kid jumping up and down dragging him out of bed: “Baby, wake up! I made you a present! It’s in the kitchen! Are you going you look @ it? Go to the kitchen! Don’t you want to see what I made you? Look! Look! Look!” And he was impressed. =) I knew it wasn’t as good as the steak, but this was more complicated as it wasn’t a flat cake. Unfortunately, the weight of the cake started pulling the fondant down and it started to fall and tear a bit, and all of a sudden these stupid air bubbles came out to warp the shape and the lens started to flatten and sag… *sigh* It was nice while it lasted. Bummer, dude. =(
Vin took pics of this Canon camera WITH a Canon. He posted a couple cell phone shots on Facebook and when his dad saw them, he asked if Vin had bought another camera and said, “It looks like it’s an underwater camera…” then burst out laughing when he realized it was a cake. haha
It wasn’t as awesome as I thought it would be, but I’d say it was a special enough cake for Vin’s birthday. I mean, I did it in about 6 hours, which was half the time I spent on the steak last year. Next year… that’ll be a tough one.
Happy birthday, baby! Thanks for putting up with all my cake craziness this weekend. I love you! =D
birthday , buttercream , cake pops , cakes , custom design , experiments , fondant , roses/flowers , wedding
Part 1 comes with big news: I made my first official wedding cake for one of my closest friends. Em and I met while we were camp counselors for inner-city kids (it was hilarious b/c a lot of them were bigger than we were) and we shared a cozy apartment in Jersey City during college. Our boyfriends (now husbands) got along b/c they were both conservative and liked talking politics and Em and I got along b/c we were both super sarcastic tiny tough cookies. =) When we turned 21 (our birthdays are just 5 days apart), we trudged over to the fancy Astor Place Wine and Liquor store during a blizzard so we could proudly whip out our legal drinking age driver’s licenses. We bought some obscure orange-flavored vodka just b/c they were giving free samples of it and @ the register… nothing. I distinctly remember that we were bundled up and had cute woven hats and big puffy winter jackets b/c it was so cold and sh*tty outside so I’m pretty sure to most people we looked like we were eleven… MAYBE twelve years old, but the cashier didn’t card us or ask for ID @ all. That was a relative bummer. haha I was super psyched when she told me S had proposed, and when she and her fiance asked me to do their wedding cake and favors, I said, “YES!!!”
I met up with Em and the now-Mr. Em for lunch several months ago and they brought me a tear out of the cake they wanted from some bridal mag. I took one look @ it and said I could definitely do it. I asked them about what flavors and how many people, the color and theme, etc… and it seemed pretty straight forward. Em wanted the cake and favors to be pastel themed, and I said I could make her cake look exactly like this picture (minus the flower toppers)…
…and for her wedding favors… I suggested cake balls. I would make them pastel pink, packaged in white boxes in pale green tissue paper. The future Mr. Em was more interested in the cake flavor itself, and gave his input for one tier being chocolate, one tier red velvet, and one tier vanilla. I hugged them both and said, “You got it!” and started buying ingredients and equipment for their cake.
The local Michael’s has a big cake supply aisle, but the stock changes on a weekly basis. I’d say that half the stuff in that aisle is useless to me. I found they had cake pans, but wasn’t thrilled with the selection so I bought them on amazon. They DID however have a sale on the candy coating I needed for the wedding favors AND I had a coupon for the entire order, so I stocked up and filled a whole cabinet shelf in our pantry with candy melts. And when Stop ‘n Shop had a sale on butter… I stuffed AT LEAST 20 pounds of it in our freezer and downstairs fridge. For the next few months, I just collected equipment and materials needed for their wedding cake so that I’d just have to buy fresh eggs and milk to bake a couple days just before the wedding.
I requested 2 days off before their wedding to have ample time to bake and decorate. With this big project, I needed additional equipment. I broke out the “twins” and opened the 2nd mixer I bought myself as a Christmas present. I used both Thing 1 and Thing 2 to mix the chocolate and red velvet cake batter, baked one tier @ a time and while the cakes were baking in the oven, I cleaned out the mixer to get ready for the vanilla cake batter. Preparing 2 batters at the same time is WAY more efficient than prepping one at a time. It was so awesome. While the cake layers were baking (they took MUCH longer than cupcake batches), I prepped bright pink fondant for the the flower accents on the middle tier. Once all the cake layers were baked, I set them on the dining room table to totally cool and whipped up gallons of frosting: vanilla to go with the chocolate and vanilla tiers and cream cheese frosting to go with the red velvet.
I dirty iced the cakes and left them in the fridge overnight. Look how awesome my packrat and storage skills are in the above pic; after readjusting the shelves I made use of every nook and cranny in that refrigerator and crammed everything into the “Snacks/Fruits”, “Vegetables” or “Meats/Cheese” drawers to make room for the cakes. That was end of day 1. Day 2 started with mixing crumbled cake with vanilla frosting and hand-rolling cake balls. I let them harden in the fridge and melted pastel pink candy melts for dipping, then hand-punched white fondant blossoms and added pink sugar beads to top off the favors. The favors were the easier part of the wedding project; out of the 79 balls I made, I only had two f*ck ups. Nice job, Me. Anyway, I wrapped up the balls in pale green tissue paper and boxed them up as individual favors. I wish I had more time to let the fondant harden though… I realized the pressure of the tissue paper may have squished the fondant flowers a tiny bit =/
Now that the wedding is over, I have a confession to make; I almost had a baked good breakdown @ 10 pm on day 2, a mere 12 hours before I had to deliver the cake. I didn’t have time to make tons of marshmallow fondant (also known as “MMF”), so I shopped and sampled around and found a readymade fondant that actually tasted pretty similar to MMF. I ordered a huge @ss 10-lb tub of it and didn’t open the container till last night b/c I didn’t want to expose the fondant to air before actual use. When I ripped off the lid, I found that the plastic covering for the fondant was not airtight and secure, so the fondant was pretty damn stiff to the touch. A wave of panic started to set in and I sliced off a small section of the ten-pound chunk to see if I could zap some life into it in the microwave. Thank God that trick worked, otherwise I would have just broken down in tears since the only other option was to make my own fondant, and I was already on a time crunch. I would never, ever tell Em all this BEFORE the wedding since that’s the worse thing you could do to a bride before she gets married!
I started off kneading pink food color into a hunk of fondant for the top layer. Kneading salvaged fondant is a highly recommended upper body workout… wow. I’m surprised full time cake decorators don’t all have Michelle Obama arms. Around 1015 pm I started getting tired so I decided to take a powernap. Vin was all irritated with me and was like, “… Baby, what are you doing you have so much more to do you can’t sleep now!” And I just told him to wake me up in an hour and I needed a little sleep @ SOME point to recharge a bit, so might as well do it now. @ 1115 he poked me to get up and I said, “15 more minutes.” @ 1145 he was going to bed and I mumbled something in my state of half-consciousness about my cell phone alarm waking me up @ midnight, but like a good husband, Vin made sure I got up. I rubbed my eyes, tied up my hair, washed my hands, and got back to decorating the tiers. It took a couple tries to put fondant on the cake tiers. The fondant was too sticky and would start to tear, or I didn’t roll out a big enough piece… or it was always SOMETHING. The top layer was the first one I did, and to be honest it looked a little rough. Luckily, I knew there would be white ribbon covering the bottom so that would hide some of the wrinkles. The middle tier had blue fondant, and it took three attempts to get it right. By the time I got to the bottom tier I finally figured out to patch 2 pieces of fondant together and knew this would be fine since strategically placed fondant stripes would cover it. I rolled and punched out white fondant circles for the top layer and worked on measuring and cutting the fondant ribbons for the bottom tier. I tried my best to match the colors from the photo (I’ve been studying it everyday for the past month as if I were the bride-to-be getting married and couldn’t wait to see her cake haha). For the middle tier, just measured and marked where the fondant flower buds would go. The last prep step was putting in hidden straws to keep the cake from collapsing into itself. I put in @ least 10 straws on the bottom tier (these cakes were wayyyy heavier than they look) and stuck 7 in the middle tier. I found a box that would fit the bottom tiers, and my 10″ cake boxes were used for the top and middle. The sun was coming up as I let the cake fondant dry out a little and started to get ready for the party.
When we were packing up the car with the cake tiers and rest of the decorations (and emergency disaster supplies), paranoia and fear started to set in and I was on the verge of freaking out. We had secured the cake boxes with random boxes of stuff from the house, just to stabilize the cakes and HOPEFULLY prevent my hard work from sliding around in the car. The night before Vin had said, “I worry about the drive up… I hope the cakes will be OK, ya know?” and I said, “Eh, they’ll be fine,” and brushed it off. But just as he backed out of the driveway and made a sudden stop to avoid hitting a cute bunny, we heard a quick distinct “swoosh” of something heavy shifting in the trunk. I gasped and held my breath and the color drained from my face as the doubt started to set in… Did I secure it enough? Maybe I should have put them in the back seat instead of the trunk of the SUV? Were the boxes too big? Too small? Would the fondant sag? Would the cakes get dented? Would the fondant tear and crack or fall off? WOULD THIS BE A COMPLETE DISASTER???
If this ended up being a mess, I would have cried more than Em about the cake; she’d brush it off and say it was fine, I’m sure of it. haha It was the most nerve wracking 90 minute drive ever. I was so neurotic and kept saying things like, “Maybe we should pull over so I can check… Maybe I can climb into the backseat and peek into the trunk to make sure the cakes are OK… Maybe–” and luckily, when I’m a bundle of nerves, Vin takes his turn being the sane, calm one (usually my job) and wouldn’t stop the car and wouldn’t let me look and kept reassuring me everything would be fine. As soon as we pulled into a parking spot @ the restaurant, I jumped out of the car and made a beeline to the trunk and moved the junk boxes away and… they were pretty much OK. Thankfully, Vin was right <3 I think I finally let out the breath of air I was holding the whole drive. There were a few tiny dents in the fondant on the bottom tier and top tier, but it really wasn’t bad at all. Vin and Em’s sister helped me carry the tiers into the restaurant and I started to set up the cake.
I got a little anxious seeing that I was supposed to finish stacking and decorating right out in the open while people were watching, but after the initial “whoa” I just focused on getting this done. I bought this nice white cake base and put the bottom tier on it. Centering and stacking the middle tier was tricky; you kind of only get one shot and you have to be quick about it. I held the second tier with the edges of my fingertips, looked down over the bottom and eyeballed the center… and then basically just dropped it on to the bottom with a big plop. I did the same with the top layer, but since it was tougher to gauge the center as it was more elevated and I couldn’t look straight down, I think it was a TEENY bit off center. And I was mad @ this stupid air bulge that had formed under the fondant. Bah. But the cake was solidly stacked and was totally even and stable and I was glad the hardest part was done. Not bad for an engineering school drop out, eh? I wrapped pink and white ribbons around the bottom of the tiers (yay for masking most of the unsightly amateur fondant wrinkles!) and poked the fondant flowers into the middle tier. Em’s mom had given me the cake toppers (they were cute little bride and groom birds that looked like the Twitter logo and matched perfectly!) and I placed them facing each other. Once that was done, I think I finally smiled a little for the first time in a couple days.
I ran up to the bridal suite to get changed (my pants were covered in powdered sugar and Vin said I got it all over the passenger seat) and I got to see the bride. Em looked absolutely stunning. So beautiful! S looked spiffy in his suit and Vin complimented his cool vest. They had such a nice ceremony with the sun shining and a gorgeous view and special tear-jerking vows they wrote for each other. I gave her and her new husband a huge hug and was so happy for them. They looked so sweet and in love. <3 While they were busy with photos, Vin and I mingled and sampled some delicious food. Everything was excellent. It really was a perfect wedding day for a wonderful couple =)
I still didn’t feel like I was off the hook yet until the bride and groom tried the cake. Em fed her newly minted husband a forkful from the bottom tier (chocolate) and I wiggled my way up front to watch their reaction. He gave a thumbs up! Then he fed Em a bite and she gave me this knowing smile. I think that’s when all the worry slipped away. I was finally satisfied and relieved and had this huge grin on my face. I slipped in and got a pic with the lovely bride and groom with the cake and Em pointed out to everyone, “This is the baker. She made the cake AND the delicious cake balls you have as favors, too.” =) Our table was served the middle vanilla tier (though I was the lone wolf and was given chocolate… but it was good I could check to see how that tier came out) and I got feedback saying it was light and fluffy and tasted really good. I was so incredibly happy everything turned out well and that my friends loved their cake. Em said that everyone kept telling her how beautiful the cake was, and she had gone around telling the guests that her old roommate made it. Actually she said, “People keep coming up to us raving about the cake and saying how amazing it is and I just keep saying to them, ‘See that pretty little Asian lady? My friend Katherine made it.’” <3
I passed out in the car ride home and I wanted to type up this post, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long. But all the work, worry, and lack of sleep was well worth it to make a special bride and groom happy. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Congratulations, you two!!! =D
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming right up!
My coworkers and I were throwing a surprise birthday party for the audit director and since it was a milestone event, I offered to make a small cake for our group. I was told he liked chocolate, so double chocolate devil’s food cake with chocolate frosting it was. I rolled out some fondant and punched out “HAPPY 40TH”, but did a not-so-great job placing it on the cake. I should have just taken the time to make more frosting to pipe out “Happy birthday” like a sane person instead of driving myself nuts trying to place fondant letters and still doing a crap job of it. Ugh. I didn’t really put much into decorating the rest of the cake since the baking and frosting-making took some time, so I admit this wasn’t one of my best-looking pieces. =( Oh well. What can you do in one short evening?
I brought this into work and my coworker and I bought candles for the cake. (We also spent our lunch scouring the area for birthday presents. FYI: if you’re looking for decent photo frames around Penn Station-Herald Square, your only option is KMart… which is absurd.) Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a shot with all the candles lit up; as soon as the birthday guy got the cake, the candles were blown out and cake was immediately divvied and distributed. Everyone said it was good, and the director had two pieces in the matter of minutes so I think it came out well. haha
Afterwards, we all went to a bar and met up with former AP IAD members, and Vin even came down to hang with my new coworkers. It was a really good time. I think I’m liking this job. =)
birthday , buttercream , cakes , cupcakes , custom design , fondant , holiday , kids/babies , wedding
After this weekend’s baking project, I wish I were on a nice beach instead of creating mini edible vacation scenes. A friend of a friend is getting married and the theme of her bridal shower: her honeymoon in the Caribbean. As soon as I heard that, I had the perfect idea in mind. I suggested doing a beach theme: half sand and half ocean with a couple seashells scattered on the cupcake.
This was one of my more organized baking endeavors. The execution went just as planned (save for one minor design kink, but that’s what test cupcakes are for) and I finished an hour ahead of schedule. The baking went smoothly, the frosting wasn’t a complicated fiasco, and cutting and shaping the fondant was a breeze. Why? B/c I used my homemade fondant for this. I really don’t know why I keep thinking that MAYBE using ready made store bought fondant would be better; it’s like I keep going back to it thinking it’ll be easier and faster than making my own, thinking that hey, maybe this overpriced factory processed fondant will work this time, maybe it’s changed for the better and won’t try to piss me off so quickly or be so difficult… but no. Purchased fondant is just like that bad relationship you can’t get rid of until you meet this NEW wonderful home made fondant and learn to open up to it. How’s THAT for an analogy, eh? Life lessons AND pretty baked goods all in one website. hahaha
Back to the cupcakes. I rolled out homemade yellow fondant and punched out stars and then hand shaped them into little starfish. I felt like the tiny starfish wasn’t enough, so I cut out forms to hand shape into those skinny, long, swirly-looking shells (kind of like conch shells… but not…). I took a couple of the “reject cupcakes” (smaller or misshapen cupcakes) and used them as test subjects. I frosted half of the cupcake and then patted brown sugar on it to resemble the “sand”. (BTW, graham cracker crumbs will also work, but the texture of brown sugar is much closer to sand.) Then I piped wavy rows of blue frosting for the water, and then pressed one of each shell onto the cupcake. It looked pretty much as I imagined in my head =)
I was also requested to make a small cake for the event in the same design as the cupcakes, so I cut out larger stars to shape into bigger starfish. I pressed the brown sugar on the cake first, then piped the ocean waves. And I used extra icing to “glue” the fondant shells onto the top and side of the cake. Pretty cute, right? I was happy about how these came out. The bride texted and said they were amazing and perfect and my friend (one of the maids of honor) said they looked awesome and tasted delicious. I think I can say from the sound of things, this was a job well done. haha
I punched out extra stars and made some extra cupcakes to donate for this West Islip Family day event. They’re going to give my cupcakes out as one of the prizes and my cards will be passed out. I’m not really looking for more business or press around here since I’d like to be out of this house soon, but I have a ton of cards so I might as well distribute them. Couldn’t hurt, right? And I don’t feel too shabby about helping a good cause, either.
Taking a hiatus from baking for a couple weeks. This has been too exhausting with work. I need to recharge…
birthday , buttercream , cakes , custom design , kids/babies , other treats , wedding
Things have been quite hectic these past few weeks so I’m just posting a quick blurb. I’ve actually been doing a lot of baking, but a massive workload has been dumped upon my desk so I haven’t been able to take pics or write anything witty or creative about the goods. Here’s a rundown of the past 3 weeks:
1) My lovely friend C asked for angel food cupcakes again for her 29th birthday (she looks 24, people ;o) and of course, I couldn’t refuse. She requested almost double the amount from last year, and this time requested half with vanilla frosting and half with chocolate frosting. Done deal, woman! C was kind enough to meet up with me @ my office for the pick up, and I felt like a d*ck for not being able to celebrate with her b/c of my workload. =( But I think this time around the angel food cakes came out better than last year’s batch. I can tell b/c Vin ate all my extras… even the test “rejects”. He said they were like eating fluffy marshmellows. haha I was in such a rush that day that I didn’t even remember to snap a cell phone shot of the goodies. *sigh* So stupid of me.
2) Our friends J and D just got engaged a few months ago and I baked red velvet cupcakes for their engagement party. I made cream cheese frosting for this event and tried to make half of it appear to be fall colors, but homemade cream cheese frosting is fickle; I wanted a nice bold, orange color and ended up getting a peachy orange. Meh. The lovebirds and their guests liked them and said they were great so I could care about the color. It was a last minute request so as long as they tasted fine and looked half decent… it’s all good.
3) My little brother and sister’s birthdays were the end of September, but since my bro was coming to town this past weekend for Geekfest 2011, we had decided to wait to celebrate their birthdays later. (And by “little” I’m making a reference to the age order. I’m the oldest but I’m also the runt of the group and I have a mild Napoleon complex so I pull rank and still call them “little” =) I don’t quite remember the exact details that led up to this situation, but a few months back, I asked my sister what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday and somehow we were talking about being old and if she was cake decorating, then her cake would look like a My Little Pony taking a poo. Really. Don’t ask. We discuss really random things and I think the two of us take the cake (pun!) when I say we can really talk about anything. haha So… since I didn’t have the time to sculpt a My Little Pony out of fondant or molding chocolate, I just bought this little cake topper thing from Amazon. I had left over cake batter from the previous week’s red velvet engagement cupcakes, so I made a little 4″ filled cake with cream cheese frosting. The top of the cake box caved in and smushed the top of the cake so I did a quick fix and covered the edge with shaved chocolate. It didn’t look half bad for a speedy on-the-spot repair. In went the plastic figurine, and I brought a little sandwich bag of chocolate frosting for the poo and made a little blob by the tail. It looked weird as hell and you wouldn’t get it had I not mentioned the odd backstory, but eh, it was funny and everyone liked it. haha
My little bro (he’s almost 6 feet tall and if he didn’t have such a baby face, he’d make a good linebacker) has a thing for pies. I don’t know why he’s obsessed with pies, but since I’m a caring and thoughtful big sis, I made little banoffee pies for him instead of cake. Last month, a girl friend and I checked out this place in the Village that was apparently known for this British dessert made of banana + toffee. I got a slice to go and it was really tasty! And I realized it was super easy to make for those times you’re in a time crunch (I was working on my sister’s cake the same time I was prepping the pie)! I was in a bind so I bought ready made graham cracker crusts, but I still made the toffee, sliced the bananas, whipped the cream and hand shaved the chocolate. You pretty much dump those ingredients into the pie crust, refrigerate, and eat. As long as my brother and sister liked their speedy birthday baked goods, I was happy. It was a nice way to end our family dinner =)
4) We had our open house the day after my sibs’ birthday dinner. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to sweeten the pot (another pun! I’m on a freaking roll!) for potential buyers checking out the house, so I made about 4 dozen mini red velvet cupcakes when I made my sister’s mini cake. I used the last of my cream cheese frosting batch and made quick ghetto swirls on all those minis. A few of them looked sloppy, but eh, I was being speedy since I needed to set them out quickly (what else is new these days?) and plopped them onto my glass cake stands. Vin made a nice little sign and laid out my baking cards and napkins, and we rushed out the door so the realtor could work her magic. She told us later that the cupcakes were a hit and that quite a few people were really interested in the house… but we haven’t heard anything since =( We’re just waiting for those offers to come rolling in. Any day now. C’mon, people… my house is realllly nice…
I’m pretty much spent. I have a bridal shower order for this weekend and wedding favors for the same beautiful bride-to be, then making mini cupcakes in support of a rising actress friend’s play, but other than that I can’t really take anything else on with the borderline suicidal workload and all the extra effort needed in keeping the house neat and clean. Such a Catch-22 getting all this business now and I have to turn people down b/c of my real job. Meh. I was thinking of making something pumpkin-y for Halloween, but who knows. Aside from these projects, I’ll probably just be baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas family holiday dinners… and catching up on sleep. And I’m kiiiiinda sick of red velvet now. =P
birthday , buttercream , cakes , cupcakes , experiments , kids/babies , wedding
(I had technical issues with my hard drive so this post is a week late. As they say on Spartacus, “Apologies!”)
Vin’s brother hit a milestone birthday and I knew I HAD to make something better than last year’s cake. At the same time, I was crrrraaaazyyy busy with work and other events so I needed to make something with impact, but nothing TOO complicated. Vin emailed me this really cool shot of a clean white and vibrant rainbow cake and I knew I had to make it. I know it’s totally ripping off someone else’s idea, but it just looks awesome. I had to save this for a special occasion, and FT’s birthday was perfect for it.
I made a crapload of basic white cake batter then divided it into 6 containers. (I think I’ve come up with the perfect white vanilla cake recipe. Extra steps make it time consuming as hell, but it’s so worth it!) Then I added food coloring to each plastic container (ROY G. BV–no indigo in this cake) and mixed in the color by hand. I only have two 8″ round cake pans so I couldn’t prep all the pans at once. I wanted Red to be the base layer of the rainbow cake, so I made this layer a little thicker so it could support the rest of the cake. Assembly was easy: cake layer, white frosting layer, cake layer, white frosting layer… wash, rinse, repeat till out of cake layers. Then I dirty iced it, let it sit in the fridge overnight, and then put the final crisp white frosting layer on the next morning.
From the outside, this looks like a clean, simple, plain @ss white cake. I mean, I feel like I did a REALLY nice job making the edges perfect and smooth. BUT, that can’t be an all boring white vanilla cake b/c 1) it’s a milestone birthday; 2) FT’s a really creative and artsy guy and would probably consider this cake “blah”; and 3) everyone expects more from me @ this point in the game. I can’t blame them; I would be pissed @ myself too if I presented a mediocre, bland-looking cake right now. AND, I’d also be pissed if I gave boring birthday presents. I LOVE picking out the right gifts for people, and knowing his love for Alice in Wonderland, I got FT a set of tumblers with John Tenniel illustrations… in January. haha When FT was about to blow out the candles, everyone asked what kind of cake it was, and I said, “You’ll just have to wait till it’s cut,” and someone even asked if the cake was going to ooze blood or explode. haha Maybe next time. But still, everyone was pretty surprised. I was looming over FT while he cut the cake to make sure the layers looked OK; I’m so technical about this that’s all I care about. Everyone else was like, “Ooohh it’s so colorful! It’s so summery!” and in my head I was thinking, “yeah that’s nice… I need to check to make sure everything is clean and even or I’ll be mad @ myself.” haha I didn’t eat any (I had a bite of one of the extra cupcakes to make sure it was ok) and was told that this was “the most amazing tasting and looking cake we’ve ever had.” Awww, shucks. =)
My co-worker (expert mochi reviewer) also asked me to make a small birthday cake for her husband, so I used some of the extra batter to make a psychedelic little cake with yellow filling. (Side note: her birthday is coming up later this month and I will make her something for that, too.) AND, it was also my friend J’s birthday (SO many August birthdays!) and she had requested, “All I want is one cupcake from you!” and so I made some trippy rainbow cupcakes with the last of the batter. In return, she showed me off to her office mates and booked me for birthday cakes for her family. What a good friend. haha
I have to say, this rainbow layer cake is perfect for recent NYS news (gay marriage!), kids’ parties, anyone who loves color, or any all around fun person that deserves a cool surprise in cake form. Actually, this would be pretty cool for weddings, too. It’s got the clean white look on the outside and the beautiful splashes of color inside, and it would be AMAZING in multiple tier form! Any takers on a rainbow wedding cake? I just want to have a reason to make it and see how awesome it would look as a massive multi-tiered cake!
Happy birthday, FT!
Happy birthday to my amazing husband!!! We got this party started when I surprised Vin with a custom Intramural Zombie Hunting League shirt, complete with his nickname, fave number, and plenty of fake blood all over the tee. It should be a staple in any respectable zombie enthusiast’s collection. And I took him to a shooting range to shoot .22 caliber rifles. It was really fun; we’re both better shots than we expected and I have the target sheets to prove it! I don’t see myself joining the NRA any time soon, but I’d really like to do it again (.22s are fine with me but Vin wants something bigger with a painful recoil haha) After getting all amped up @ the shooting range, I took Vin out to lunch @ Old Homestead. He has a steak blog where he gives thorough reviews of NYC steakhouses, and he requested this place for his birthday dinner. Since Vin’s been on a red meat binge, he gave me the perfect idea for what to make for his birthday cake…
I’m pretty freaking proud of myself of myself for not only planning this thoroughly, but that the actual outcome vs. expectations matched pretty damn well. I wrote out all the things I needed (2 different cakes, different-colored icings, and LOTS of fondant) and divvied this project into phases: baking the cakes, making a crapload of white frosting (always good to have extra white icing on hand), rolling the fondant, shaping the cake and the fondant, and the “sides” (more on this later).
Knowing this was a very ambitious and elaborate cake (seriously, when have I NOT given myself a baking challenge? I allowed myself to use box mix. I know, I know… it’s against my principles but this time I’m focusing primarily on aesthetics and it’s not like it’ll taste completely like @ss, but time is of the essence. I used two kinds of cake mix: strawberry, since it was already pink and the perfect color for “medium” cooked steak; and white for the side of mashed potatoes since one needs a “starch” with one’s “steak” =) Since the oven was preoccupied with the strawberry cake pan, I decided to only use part of the white cake mix and “bake” it in the microwave. I’ve said before that my oven is insanely hot and food cooks very quickly in there, but cake in the microwave? Less than 7 minutes. I sh*t you not. I used one of those quart-size Chinese soup containers; if you tried nuking cake in a mug, I’m sure it would be done in half the time. This was the first time I ever tried zapping cake mix, and it was pretty cool. The cake was light and dry (I used less liquid on purpose) and spongey… perfect for “mashed potatoes.” I probably won’t microwave a cake again, but I do admit it WAS neat. And I’m sure kids would like it; besides, microwave cakes are WAY better than those Tastybake lightbulb ovens!
While the cakes were cooling, I made about 2 quarts of frosting. Butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla… easy! I then sketched out a porterhouse steak on a sheet of blank paper, giving attention to that “T” bone that splits the filet and short loin. I cut the “bone” part out and used my template to shape the strawberry cake into the meat. I used this sample of white Fondarific fondant and rolled it out to cut the “T” bone. Since the steak… cake… whichever… was so thick, I needed to do this twice to roll out 2 bone layers. After putting the fondant bone and the cake together, it pretty much looked like a steak: a huge, raw yet fluffy piece of steak… that looked like the continent of Africa. hahaha
Amateur hour with fondant is officially over. I graduated with flying colors with the completion of Vin’s cake =) Last week I tested the waters with store bought Wilton fondant and made those silly flowers and branches. I’m not a fan of that fondant; it tasted like chalk and dried up pretty quickly. Not the most fun stuff to use or eat. The Fondarific stuff didn’t taste bad @ all, but I didn’t have enough to cover the rest of the cake so I researched recipes for homemade fondant. Needless to say, I found something that actually doesn’t taste like flavor-free Tums and was pretty great to work with. I kneaded 2 shades of brown: one for the cooked meat part and a lighter tan for the outside of the bone and a strip of flavorful fat section along the side.
I mixed a shade of frosting that was similar to outer “meat” fondant layer and dirty iced the cake. I rolled out the fondant, cut out the shape of the bone, set the rolled fondant on the cake and trimmed the excess. With the lighter tan fondant, I pieced out a strip for the fat along the left side of the cake, and then cut out the shape of the bone and laid it over the white fondant bone section. The fondant fit like perfectly matching puzzle pieces and held up so well… I was so freaking psyched! (This fondant part turned to be easier than I thought it would be but I didn’t want to jinx myself with a happy little booty shake till I was completely finished… knowing me, I’d knock over the cake or something just as catastrophic haha)
Since I didn’t have clean paintbrushes, I painted brown gel coloring on the bone with my fingertips and a toothpick. I used a chopstick to make “grill” indentations and painstakingly dabbed black gel coloring with a lollipop stick to make the grill marks. After shading the edges with brown gel and sprinkling “salt and pepper” (sugar sprinkles that looked exactly like sea salt and black pepper), I thought it was semi-believable as a cooked steak, or @ least a plastic-looking steak. haha Just imagine all the awesomely incredible damage I could do if I just had an airbrush machine and how realistic it would look then…. muahahahaaaa
By the time I left the steak alone and cleaned up the kitchen, I think the sun came up. The side dishes were a cinch in comparison and I had already prepped most of it, so I got a few hours of sleep before finishing the components @ Vin’s parents’ house. I crumbled up the microwaved white cake and mixed it with some white frosting for my mashed potatoes. I realize I could have just plopped dollops of white frosting on the plate for the mashed potatoes, but I wanted it to actually be edible (or maybe I’m just the only person that would never ever eat 10 spoonfuls of frosting plain). The consistency of the cake crumb mixture was just right and the flavor was not too sweet @ all. There was some yellow fondant leftover from last weekend so I lightened a tiny piece of it to shape into a small pat of butter. I took the rest of the remaining Fondarific fondant and kneaded a shade of green for the green beans. While Vin and I caught up on “Game of Thrones” (AMAZING show with brilliant characters… if I had time to read I’d check out the books, for sure), I half-consciously formed the beans since most of my attention was on the TV show. I can totally make fondant green beans in my sleep now, just like little frosting roses. haha Yes, I know, the vegetable portion size is very small in comparison to the amount of steak (I weighed it and it would have been about a 35 oz steak!), but really… who would want to eat (fondant) beans when you could have steak (cake)? My thoughts exactly =)
I transferred the steak onto a huge dish and plated the mashed potatoes and beans around it. Vin took pics of his own cake once I was finished, and I snapped a few shots with his camera while he sliced it. The effect was JUST what I wanted. Everyone was like, “Ohhh, it looks like it’s medium rare inside!” and Vin said that when he cut into it, he forgot it was really a cake and thought, “Why is this steak so soft?” The chocolate frosting and the fondant blended in so well with the strawberry cake that if you did glance @ it quickly, it did look like a piece of sliced meat with the pink center and cooked outer layer. It looks even better when the “meat” was cut away from the bone so you could see the fondant inside… as if it was a real steak and not just a solid piece of cake. I had a small bite and the cake tasted pretty good, especially with the homemade fondant and chocolate frosting.
I’m just so incredibly thrilled this was a hit. I wanted to do something really, really special for my husband’s birthday, and if he’s happy, I’m happy! Originally Vin wanted robot cake pops, but I think this was a much better request. And, I’m very surprised and impressed that not once did I get frustrated or annoyed that something went wrong b/c everything went as planned. I mean, I don’t think I could have done a better job given my current “experience” @ this point. Now, what awesome cake could I possibly make for Vin’s next birthday? =P
Happy birthday again, baby! I love you soooo much! <3
OK, this post is a day late, but that doesn’t mean the cake doesn’t taste good! I took a couple weeks off from baking because my butter and sugar supply had depleted to nothing and because this little project damned near wiped me out. We went to Costco over the weekend and I restocked on butter and powdered sugar, so impending panic attacks were averted and we were good to slowly get back in the game. The suggestion to make a king cake for Mardi Gras was perfect for what I’d like to call my “physical therapy and recovery” phase. haha
Vin took me to New Orleans a couple years ago for my birthday and we ate and drank our faces off. Un/fortunately, I’ve never experienced full-fledged Mardi Gras insanity in the Big Easy before Ash Wednesday and making this king cake is probably as festive as I’m going to get for it. I’ve never made it before (really, like nothing else in this blog is about first time baking experiments) but I remember having it in elementary school and that it was basically bread with colored sugar and some kid almost broke their tooth and choked chomping down on the plastic baby Jesus inside. We learned AFTERWARD that you were supposed to have good luck for the year if you got the Christ child in your piece of king cake. Luckily, I don’t have a little figurine to sneak inside the cake so your teeth are safe.
|Purple food coloring tastes terrible. Even in sugar. Eww.|
There are several variations of king cake: plain or filled, usually with cream and/or fruit. I picked strawberry and cream cheese filling since it sounded delicious (thank you, Danielle). And the consistency is more like bread than cake. I made the bread dough from scratch and felt obligated to use the mixer (the monster looked dusty and lonely and was giving me this forlorn “you don’t love me anymore” look) so I used the bread hook attachment. It probably took the same amount of time as it would if I mixed this by hand with a wooden spoon. Whatever. I waited an hour for the dough to rise and prepped the cream cheese and strawberry fillings in the meantime. After flattening out the dough and layering the fillings on top, I rolled the mess into a Bundt pan and let it rise again before popping it into the oven. Meanwhile, I worked on the sugar icing and colored sugar topping. Vibrant yellow, green, and purple drops of food coloring went into the sugar cups and I made a slightly runny glaze to drizzle on top of the cake. I admit I was worried with sugar being included in every step of this, but as my sister said, “wow, this sounds amazingly unhealthy.” Enjoy the gluttony before Lent!
Apologies for the sloppy decorating. And because of the soft filling, it looks pretty unappetizing inside, but all I can say is that it’s supposed to be ooey and gooey and it tastes awesome and one slice covers 200% of your daily recommended intake of sugar. haha If you ask nicely I’ll bring you a piece! No boobs or beads necessary, thanks. =D
I’m planning on making something this weekend, not necessarily Irish-themed since I already made these a couple months ago… I’ll get back to you on that and will have a new post on Monday!