I went on a baking binge last weekend (note: this was the weekend before Halloween; keep reading to see the dramatic turn of events as to why this post is super late).  I haven’t really made anything in a month and really wanted to do SOMETHING, but I had too many ideas.  The frazzled and flustered conversation went something like this in my head: Should I do something with apples? But I did that last time…  Oh, but I’m craving bananas and fruit… what about muffins and bread?  Do I REALLY want to deal with finding the bread pan?  But I want something with fall spices… Hmm, butternut squash?  No, it’s just because I was craving butternut squash soup… I don’t really feel like making it…  what about, what about… PUMPKIN?  Oh yes, Vin suggested I do something with pumpkin…

A beautiful pumpkin and cream cheese whoopie pie with caramel-pumpkin-cream cheese filling and chopped pecans

And that settled the decision.

Vin and I went to the supermarket so I could buy baking ingredients (eggs, milk, cream cheese, whipping cream… perishable things like that) and the rest of the town was there stocking up on batteries and water and bread and snacks for their storm sustenance.  We had heard that this hurricane was coming but figured it would just be this blue balling storm like Irene was for us.  Plus, we already have a stockpile of non-perishable/no heat required food items and tons of beverages in our basement that I accumulate anyway for non-storm use, so we figured we’d be fine, expecting we’d lose power for a day or two, tops.  (dun dun DUNNNN…)

Barenaked cakes; Left: pumpkin cinnamon vanilla cakes, Right: pumpkin and cream cheese mini cupcakes

So we went on our way as people were freaking out and driving like maniacs (all caution goes out the door @ the sign of a storm and riot mode takes over… geesh!) and I finally decided to make 2 pumpkin items: the equivalent of a Boston cream pie but with PUMPKIN… and pumpkin and cream cheese whoopie pies.

Halloween plates. The spider and the bat look so sad… they’re the cutest ones!

I made a vanilla cake batter with pumpkin puree and cinnamon and baked a couple small fillable cakes.  There was extra batter so I baked a tray of mini cupcake wrappers.  While these cakes cooled, I stood over the stove to make pumpkin spiced pudding (to substitute as the vanilla cream filling) and a brown sugar and cinnamon caramel glaze (instead of the chocolate ganache topping).  I had these Halloween themed plates (I won a pumpkin carving contest a couple years ago after spending almost 5 hours making the Death Star and these were my prize) and little mummy and witch figures and thought, “Hey, why not make this Halloween-y?”  Uhh, the assembly wasn’t as pretty as I had hoped, but it tasted delicious.  I whipped up some orange frosting for the mini cupcakes and sprinkled some crunchy toffee pieces on them.

 

My pumpkin-y take on a Boston cream pie. It ain’t that pretty, but it sure is tasty! Cake: pumpkin + cinnamon + vanilla; Filling: pumpkin spice pudding; Frosting: caramel-pumpkin-cream cheese; Glaze: cinnamon brown sugar caramel

For the whoopie pies, I added pumpkin puree to a light angel food cake batter and scooped it out onto this whoopie pie pan Vin got me last Christmas.   I added a sweetened cream cheese zigzag topping and popped the tray in the oven and then piped the extra batter and extra cream cheese into mini cupcake wrappers.  For the filling, I whipped up a pumpkin-cream cheese-caramel frosting and it went perfectly with the cake.  I was worried it would be too sweet, but the cake part balanced it out, and I smashed up pecans to add to the pies.  They looked pretty awesome, in my humble opinion  =)  I topped the minis with the extra frosting and crushed pecans.  This experimental combination tasted REALLY good.

Step-by-step pumpkin-cream cheese whoopie pies

So I finished my baking and decorating on Saturday, and then spent all day Sunday making a vat of pho in preparation of the hurricane.  We didn’t expect much to happen… maybe power would be out for a day, but we were without power for more than 5 days and the wind was super strong.  Luckily, Vin’s parents had a generator and his mom had prepared a TON of food, so we spent some time there eating properly cold food and having microwave-heated meals.  I also brought some of the beef pho and extra cupcakes and cakes to share, and we pretty much just ate and slept and ate all week until the lights came back on.  We bought some Twix and Almond Snickers for trick-or-treaters, but we didn’t get that many kids stop by.  Halloween was just a bummer this year…  We were cleaning up our busted fence and watching for costumed kids coming for candy @ the same time.  =/

A variety of pumpkin flavored mini cupcakes! Left: light pumpkin cream cheese cupcakes with caramel-pumpkin-cream cheese frosting and pecans, Middle: minus the pecans, Right: pumpkin cinnamon vanilla minis with vanilla frosting and toffee sprinkles

When I came into work the following Tuesday, people shared their war stories and some of the tales were heart wrenching.  I mean, we didn’t have electricity for a week and our fence was destroyed and there was some damage to the roof, but that was nothing in comparison to what so many other people lost.  And it was one of those situations where I just listened and all I could do was say, “Oh my God… I’m so sorry…  Oh my God…” over and over.  As soon as we got power, Vin and I turned on the lights in the basement and sorted out warm clothes and coats and extra non-perishables we could donate.  As soon as the supermarkets were restocked with fresh food, I wanted to restock our fridge with the basics and bake something for coworkers that lost so much more.  I quickly made some mini blueberry muffins for a couple coworkers and packaged them properly in pink boxes with signature ribbon and Cake Dealer labels.  Admittedly, they weren’t my best offering, but I just wanted to give something to try to cheer them up.  When I gave the care packages to a friend that had to flee from her apartment in Coney Island and another coworker that lost her house and car in Long Beach, I got appreciative smiles and huge hugs… the best thank yous ever.

These are my “I’m glad you’re safe” blueberry mini muffins

**This post was delayed because I just had to add one more pic of apple turnovers I made for another coworker that has been displaced due to Sandy.  The first day I came back to work, I emailed him and asked how he and his family fared because of the storm and if he could give me an update on his part of a project we were working on.  He didn’t answer all day, and finally I get a response saying he didn’t forget about it and would get back on the work ASAP but he was tied up with a few things since his entire ground floor apartment was destroyed.  Guess who immediately felt like an @sshole for nagging about the progress of this not-so-dire quarterly project?  So this guy has been in and out of the office for the past week and every time I had a chance to bake something, he was out.  I asked if the dude would be in tomorrow and he said yes, so I scrambled to Stop n Shop after dinner and got some ingredients together and basically made apple turnovers in speed mode.  I peeled, cored, and cubed 4 Granny Smiths in record time, and cooked them in Jack Daniels (come on now… booze makes things better!), sugar, butter, and spices (Vin’s apple turnover moment of the day: while the cooked apples were cooling, I took a break to watch Top Chef with him and he goes, “Why does the house smell so good?”  This, after he had seen me cutting up and cooking the apples =) , and rolled out some puff pastry.  After a sloppy wash of egg and sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, I popped the filled turnovers in the oven for 15 minutes.  In my haste, I forgot to put slashes on top so some of the pastries started splitting on the sides (… oooops) but they still came out well.  I boxed them up and will bring them into work… hopefully my coworker and his wife will like the apple-y efforts to cheer them up a bit =)

Granny Smith apple turnovers on speed

To donate hurricane relief funds to the Red Cross, click here.

My carefully packaged care… packages =)

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.

Black and yellow themed cakes – cheerleader pompoms and city skylines

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.

Read More

I made THE ultimate summertime cupcakes, the kind you want on a nice sunny day to have at a family BBQ, babies are playing outside, disposable plates and plastic silverware are out, and flies are trying to get at your food.  Super light margarita cupcakes spiked with just enough tequila and lime-flavored tangy frosting are the perfect way to end your meal.  My inspiration: this huge tub of margarita mix I bought when I must have been completely out of it b/c I can’t have citrusy stuff or alcohol right now anyway.  But just b/c I can’t enjoy it doesn’t mean everyone else can’t.

A beautiful bevy of boozed up baked goods.

I wanted to make these for a while and had to wait for a legitimately nice summer day.  The weather this year has been a roller coaster ride: a couple extremely warm days in February and March and a crapload of chilly, rainy days in May.  So this weekend was perfect.  Originally, I had planned to make them for the T-house mega party on Saturday to celebrate Vin’s mom’s retirement, his sister’s birthday, and Father’s Day, but since we were out late on Friday night Johnny Prime style, I didn’t have any time to bake and make fresh frosting.  But after getting a good night’s sleep after Saturday’s festivities, I woke up and started getting my things together to bake and make citrusy icing.

Read More

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?

Canon DSLR camera cake

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.

Camera angles and notes surrounding my work station

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.

Crappy phone pic of the shapely camera body + lens

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.

My dot work in fondant and "Canon" letter cutouts

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.  =(

Canon DSLR cake taken by a Canon DSLR - front view (ignore the lens sag)

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

Canon DSLR cake taken by a Canon DSLR - back/side view

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.

Canon DSLR cake taken by a Canon DSLR - top view

Happy birthday, baby!  Thanks for putting up with all my cake craziness this weekend.  I love you!  =D

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!!!”

Em and S's pastel themed wedding cake

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)…

Requested cake pic from magazine

…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.

My twin set of 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixers

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.

Perfectly spaced fridge shelves for iced cake tiers

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 =/

Pink cake balls... the lone ball in the top-middle of the pic was a lucky save. It fell off the candy dipper but it wasn't damaged @ all since it landed perfectly and didn't hit any other balls.

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!

Vanilla cake balls with pink candy coating, white fondant flowers, and pink sugar beads

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.

Hot pink rolled fondant flowers

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.

Me setting up the cake: wrapping ribbon and inserting wired fondant flowers

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.

Wedding cake close ups

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 =)

Vin and me <3

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

Left: This is such a sweet photo that epitomizes love; Right: After Em and S cut and tried their cake, I got props for the baked goods =P

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

My first official wedding cake wasn't bad... not bad @ all...

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming right up!

I was so super psyched that we were going to see my mom for Mother’s Day (she was happy about that, too).  I haven’t been feeling well lately and one of the few things that makes you feel better is just being around mom.  I wanted to get her a really nice gift since we don’t get to see her often, and I knew that my mom loves flowers so I had an idea…  not just give a bouquet that would wilt and die within a week, but one that would last forever.  Well, as long as you don’t get it wet or drop it.

Mother’s day gum paste rose arrangement

About a month ago, I decided I wanted to make a bunch of sugar paste flowers for my mom.  My friend K and I took a brief and somewhat rushed gum paste crash course that gave an overview of the general steps to make roses.  The class was the only decorating class I’ve ever taken (and probably ever will take) and it felt like I was part of a cooking show.  You know how everything is already all prepped and the perky host does a few steps, pops it in the oven, you blink an eye and a readymade ____ is done?  It was kind of like that.  We did one step, stopped, got dried parts of the rose made by someone else, did another step, stopped, got the next part of the rose made by someone else.  I wasn’t too thrilled with that, but after seeing all the steps involved I made mental notes of what to change when I made gum paste roses… mine from start to finish.

If done properly, a full bloom would take about a week to do.  You do a step, let it dry overnight, do the next layer, let it dry overnight, and so on. I bought a couple bags of prepared Wilton gum paste and was pissed to find that one bag had already started drying out.  I tried to salvage it and kneaded pink food color into the mixed paste, but it was still tough to work with.  There were tips and tricks online, saying that adding shortening or popping it into the microwave for a bit would help, but the end result with the pink roses weren’t nearly as nice, just b/c I couldn’t shape the petals more since it dried out too quickly.

Read More

First thing’s first…  I WANTED to work on making gum paste flowers last weekend, but I spent a week reeling with excitement after seeing my steak cake featured on Yummly.  You probably already know about it b/c I spammed the crap out of everyone I knew to look @ the April Fool’s Yummly article showcasing cakes that looked like savory food  =)  I wouldn’t have known about it if my site didn’t send me emails to notify me regarding pingbacks and comments.  I received an email just as I was packing up my stuff @ work on Thursday, March 29 to go meet Vin for dinner, and it said that some site had linked my steak post.  I clicked the link and it took a couple minutes to register that I was looking @ a hugely popular food site and that third one down, right under Duff Goldman’s/Ace of Cake’s bag o’ bagels cake, was MY steak cake.  Initial reaction: “Wait. *gasp* Is that–holy f*cking sh*t my cake! That’s my cake! Oh my God! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” =D

Here's a screenshot for those of you who are too lazy to click the link... or if you've seen it I'm going to make you look @ it again anyway <3

The weekend came and I was still on a super giddy high about the cake feature. I had a couple baking orders for old coworker friends: one was for chocolate cupcakes with swirled pink and blue frosting for a relative’s birthday party (I threw in some hand piped rose minis for the hell of it); the other was for a red velvet cake with cream cheese for another friend’s birthday (actually on April Fool’s Day!) and I was just really happy to be able to see them in person and share the fun news.  And I was honored some of my F&F gave me props on their Facebook pages and told their F&F about it.  I was even kind of offered an assistant pastry chef position!  Unfortunately, the pay doesn’t come close to my day job, so sadly, I had to pass on that.  I was just thrilled and humbled to have this kind of recognition =)

Pink and blue swirl for V's grandmother's birthday and a frosting rose for good measure. I asked L if he happened to take any pics of the red velvet and cream cheese cake and he said he and his staff "dove right in" as soon as they smelled the frosting. hahaha

 

This past weekend, Vin and I celebrated Easter with his family.  It was a madhouse with the food and the babies all over the place and the weather was so nice… tons o’ fun in the sun on Sunday.  I spent the last few weeks trying to decide WTF to make for dessert and nothing really special came to mind.  My cousin T suggested I make a Peep cake but I wasn’t feeling the idea (or “fillin’ it” as they say on ABDC).  The day before Easter rolled around and I was like, “I GUESS I’ll make macarons…?”  Vin and I were out most of the day on Saturday on a photo excursion, and by the time we got home, we were pooped.  I took a nap and didn’t start measuring the almond flour and weighing egg whites until… ohhhh… I don’t know… 130 am Saturday night/Sunday morning.

A nest of Easter rabbit macarons

I saw some holiday dessert ideas and wanted to try making the macs in the shape of bunny rabbits.  It got really annoying trying to pipe the ears because the more I handled the egg-almond-sugar mixture, the more “liquid” it became.  My first attempts @ bunnies came out so much better than the blobular final attempts.  After I while, I just gave up on piping bunny shapes and just made circles.

I put lighter colored tiny blobs on some of the circles so they’d look like fluffy rabbit tails.  HOWEVER, they seemed to resemble other things, mostly b/c I wasn’t thinking @ 2 am and should have used food coloring to dye the mix another color.  Seriously, I looked @ the tray after I took them out of the oven and there were rows of what looked like boobs and just thought, “… oh sh*t.”  I was too tired to make more tails in another color so I just kept them anyway.  And I’d like to keep my site relatively PG soooo… please keep your comments to yourselves about the baked bunny backsides.  =D

A close up of the cute faces and the... uh, tails.

Anyway, I was getting fed up with having to individually place all the sprinkles on the rabbit faces with tweezers and they’d either fall off or sink into the cookie, so I ended up with only a handful of rabbits.  Vin asked if they were Asian Easter bunnies b/c he thought the top whiskers were eyes.  haha   (I JUST remembered I have eyeball sprinkles I could have used; they would look more freakish than cute though b/c the eyeballs are pretty big…)  I used double chocolate frosting as the filling and sandwiched the salvageable bunny faces with the nipple-like tails and put them into the fridge so I wouldn’t have to look @ them.

For some reason, I wasn’t sure if this batch of macarons came out right and I was concerned they were overbaked (they ended up being perfectly fine; I just worry too much), so I decided to bring back up desserts if the macs were a complete flop.  Remember the extra chocolate mini cupcakes I put in the freezer from the 1920s charity event that I said I’d save for a rainy day?  I felt like it was practically pouring in my kitchen last night.  I took out the rest of the mini chocolate cupcakes and the mini red velvet cupcakes left over from last week’s baking order and used the rest of the pink, blue, and cream cheese frosting to put different designs and swirls on each cupcake.

Blue vanilla-rum blossoms on mini chocolate cupcakes

I did a basic swirl of blue for a bunch of them and thought it looked kinda “blah” and plain for Easter, so I mixed a little green frosting (blue –> green = easy!) and piped some leaves and tweezered on some edible beads to make them look more like springtime flowers.  I piped pink frosting on the rest of the chocolate minis and started to place white sugar beds on them, but then I got sick of tweezing them on one by one so I left the rest.  And the red velvet minis? I piped the cream cheese frosting on @ factory machine speed just so I could be done with all this and catch some Z’s.  haha

Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese and chocolate mini cupcakes with pink vanilla-rum frosting

Since special occasions call for special displays, I took brought my prized cake stands to Easter dinner (my precious–es…).  One of my cousins gave me this beautiful light blue plate that had little birds on it and it was absolutely perfect for spring.  I showcased the macaron bunnies and round cookies atop a cushion of festive yellow “grass”.  The pink-chocolate mini cupcakes and the red velvet ones were stacked on my glass tiers, and the flower-like blue minis were placed on the white ceramic stand Vin’s mom gave me.  After spending so much time on these, dessert was the last thing I wanted to look @, but I’m glad Vin’s fam liked them.  The plate of macs I brought was practically empty by the end of dinner.  I had some extra macaron cookies (I was extra critical and called them “rejects”) and decided to whip up some peanut butter frosting and use some leftover chocolate icing.  The result? Reese’s macs.  They were oh-so-tasty and I had quite a few leftover (I can only forcefeed Vin so much dessert) so I brought them in for my new work buddies.  It was a win-win situation for all; I got my fridge space back and people are now obligated to be nice to me when I audit them b/c I gave them delicious baked goods.  (Juuuuust kidding!)  =D

Platters of all my Easter goodies!

But yeah, next Easter I think I should just make a basic Peep cake so I can actually get some sleep before the fun festivities. =)

 

**Vin took all the really nice pics… thanks baby!  <3

This past weekend I baked for and attended this fantastic charity event sponsored by Party4aCause.  A close friend’s fiance is a member and asked me to donate some baked goods for one of their events, and this seemed like a good contender for my one good deed for the year =P  The idea was for this Prohibition era/Bank robber’s ball… complete with a sexy speakeasy, classy gin cocktails, a live band, and of course, tough guys and dames.

My film noir-ish display @ the event (Thanks Joe!)

I thought about what to make for the event and researched some 1920s desserts.  Upon discovering that Hostess cupcakes were invented in 1919, I figured that they’d be time period appropriate.  P4aC gave me a great write up to promote me as a sponsor, which was awesome!  Vin suggested that I make boozy cupcakes instead, and I realized that would have been easier on me and just as fitting, but I had already promised mini Hostesses, so mini Hostesses I would deliver.  I was told that about 100 were going to attend the event; the day before the party, I get an email saying 160 guests were expected.  Yikes? All of a sudden I felt like I was on “Top Chef” and alien-faced Padma was saying in her airy drawl, “Your challenge is to make a modern version of a retro dessert… and it’ll be for one… hundred… guests,” and then a few hours later Tom and his glistening head would interrupt with “Hey guys, there’s just one more thing… you have to make almost double the amount.  Have fun!”  You know that’s EXACTLY how it would go down, too.  haha

I wanted them to be less sugary (and less processed!) than actual Hostess cakes so I used less egg yolk and more egg white, less sugar and butter (I know, sounds like an atrocity and it was gut-wrenching, but I did it and it worked), and more dark chocolate.  It was slightly more… heart healthy, if you will.  haha  The baked mini cakes came out EXTREMELY fluffy and light and baked in only 6 minutes. I kept churning them out and I lost count of how many minis I baked after 200+.  There was STILL extra batter so I made a couple dozen regular sized cupcakes, too.  I only needed like… a gross* to bring to the event, but I knew I had to bring some for my friend A’s birthday party after the P4aC event, my mother-in-law’s birthday party with the T clan the next day, it would be a nice Monday treat for my new coworkers, and I wanted to bring some minis in to the ritzy 5th Ave salon that keeps calling me back for free amazing cuts and color (when ppl do nice things for you and hook you up, you best say “thank you!”).

I left the pile of little chocolate cakes on the dining table and attended to making the homemade marshmallow fluff filling.  For a full 15 minutes I had an internal debate whether or not I should go to the supermarket to just save time and buy processed Fluff, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t make it myself.  Plus, I got to use my new candy thermometer for this new dessert component, too.  I heated light corn syrup with sugar and whipped egg whites.  I had a mad scientist moment when the melted sugar was blended with the egg whites and all of a sudden… it was alive!  And it looked like Fluff.  It was SUPER sticky, but really delicious.  I was pretty pleased with myself for spending time to do it and not taking the easy way and copping out.  I added a tiny bit of butter to the airy mixture and mechanically injected the filling into the minis. I still have a lot of leftover unfilled cupcakes, so I might just freeze those for a rainy day.

Part 3 was the ganache.  Actual Hostess cupcakes have this texture for the “glaze” I’m not particularly fond of.  After browsing several adaptations of Hostess cupcakes, I just decided to mix dark chocolate chips and cream and squirted a dollop on each cupcake.  At this point, I was getting tired so I didn’t bother spreading the ganache out.  Whatever.  It looked fine and tasted even better.

Abstract Hostess minis

The last step was the white icing.  I was pretty exhausted from the previous 3 steps and didn’t get around to this part until the morning of the event.  And it’s not even legit icing b/c no eggs or butter were involved (but it IS less fattening).  I hand-mixed some powdered sugar and milk and made abstract loops on 17 dozen or so cupcakes, let them set, and then packaged them up in clam shell containers.  Listen, I don’t want to hear it about how the signature squiggles aren’t on these.  If I were bringing 2 or 3 dozen cupcakes, I’d consider taking the time to spend decorating these, but since 1) I don’t have a clone or robot army to squeeze out perfect little loops for over 200 cupcakes, and 2) this is a free donation/gift, you shut your facehole about it or I’ll shut it for you  <3

A gangster and his broad. (Thanks Jill!)

I stacked the 12 containers of minis in one bag (I have these “green” tote bag things with flat bottoms that are the perfect size for carrying around cupcakes and minis… I just wish they literally weren’t green!) and Vin and I got our outfits ready for the event.  For those that don’t know us too well, we win @ costume parties.  I mean, my husband shaved his beard off just to get a great “Boardwalk Empire” mustache for this, and I haven’t seen him sans beard in YEARS… THAT’S how into these things we are.  Vin’s get up consisted of a pinstripe jacket, a vest, pocket watch, and a fedora. As for me, I didn’t want to wear the whole get up into the city since I had to carry all these delicate treats and me + heels + fancy outfit + cupcakes = faceplant/twisted ankle/sugar disaster.  I brought this sequined flapper dress I bought on super sale from a boutique that I had been DYING to wear and this was the perfect occasion.  I also had long black gloves, silver retro shoes, a long strand of pearls, and a peacock feather-flower hair clip.  The finishing touch was this short curly wig I stuffed my hair into.  Gangster costume in a bag?  Ppssshhh!  Sorry, that doesn’t exist in this house  =)  We dropped off the cupcakes @ the venue then Vin and I met up with our friend and his moll for dinner (they had awesome bank robber outfits, complete with a sack full of fake $… brilliant!) and I changed into my costume to run back to the lounge to set up.

It was a pretty nice event.  Some of my friends came to show support and it was great meeting other volunteers who were into the cause, too.  Organizing this is no small feat, so kudos to you guys for all the hard work and I’m sure Broome St Academy will be forever grateful.  Thanks for letting me be a part of this, and I hope your guests were happy with the treats!  By 930, the cupcakes were gone and I changed back into my street clothes to go to A’s party, toting my costume and a dozen minis for her birthday.

The next day, I bought a couple dozen minis and some regular cupcakes to Mom T’s birthday party with the fam, and Vin’s parents said they tasted just like actual Hostess cupcakes.  On Monday, I brought some into work to share with my coworkers, and some ppl even took two.  I’ll just say what everyone is thinking: my cupcakes are simply the bee’s knees.  =)

Me in my get up next to my set up =) (thanks again, Jill!)

*in bulk speak that’s 144 minis!

Basic chocolate-on-chocolate action cake with yellow fondant cut outs

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. =)

Guess who had a full day of work and was still behind on writing cards and wrapping presents and still had not made Christmas Eve dessert by Friday afternoon on December 23?  MEEEEE!!!  That break I had the week before was more like a short gasp of air; there was so much to do @ the office before everyone else was trying to escape for the holidays.  Fun.  When I got home I couldn’t even think about making dessert @ the time and just rushed to wrap all the gifts for Vin’s family and tried to @ least sort out gifts for my family.  I took a break to give Vin the rest of his presents (super awesome knife cufflinks, shoes, tickets to see pro bull riders @ MSG,  Japanese thermal long johns).  Our romantic pre-Christmas dinner @ Maloney and Porcelli was my gift to him the day before (I don’t care if you’re vegetarian; you MUST get the crackling pork shank!).  Vin gave me mine super early: I got a second 6-quart KitchenAid stand mixer (I have now christened them Thing 1 and Thing 2) and some neat baking pans a week before Christmas =P

I woke up early on Christmas Eve to get started on the cake balls.  I had a clear vision in mind for this Christmas dessert, and it was basically making really fancy, hand-decorated cake balls that were to resemble ornaments on this wooden tree stand I bought from Godiva last year.  The tree came with wrapped chocolate truffles, but those are long gone and all that remains is this simple wooden display.   Although these aren’t my favorite things to do, I admit I’m getting quite adept @ making cake balls now.  Plus, I had some leftover cupcakes from last weekend, and what better way to salvage dry cupcakes but to process them into cake ball dust?

White cake ball with red and green Christmas trees

I took out a Godiva truffle to gauge what size to roll out the balls (1 Tbsp scoop) so that the wooden tree display would cup the balls ever so snugly.  I had a bit of candy coating leftover from last month’s wedding favor order to cover a few balls, and broke open a package of white candy coating to make different colored “ornaments”.  I made the white balls first one @ a time: dipping, setting them to dry, artfully arranging Christmas tree sprinkles, and wash, rinse, repeat with the remainder of the yellow and green coating.  The candy coating dries rather quickly (man, I thought the white coating was fickle… no way, the green coating dries super fast!), so I couldn’t just dip a few balls @ once or the decorations would never stick.  And I couldn’t just throw all the sprinkles on or it would look like crap.  These were delicate, handcrafted, ornate cake balls with a coating that dried pretty damn quick.  I’d liken this to decorating a Fabergé egg, but on speed.  haha

The three final designs were:  white balls with red and green Christmas trees, yellow balls with clear/red/green sugar sprinkles, and green balls with white snowflake sprinkles.  I WANTED to make a fourth design: red balls with crushed peppermint sprinkles, but my downfall was not having actual red candy chips. I thought I was being sooooo innovative and smart by adding red food coloring to the white coating after making several white balls…  but I overheated the candy by just a tad and didn’t have enough time to fix that mess.  It was 1055 am and Vin was already hovering over me to pack this up and get ready to go, so I just brought a not-so-Christmassy variety pack of balls.  I mean, yellow?  Come on now… =/

Hand-decorated cake ball Christmas tree

We set it up @ the T house and it did look nice. Someone said it was a really great cake ball dispenser and Vin’s crazy cute nephew Patrick was very adamant on having a “gween ball wif white snowfwakes!!!”  I made extra balls to refill the empty spots on the tree and hoarded some to bring to my parents’ house for Christmas Day.  My mom, dad, and grandma had never had one before and said they were good, my sister and her boyfriend were quite familiar with my baked good experiments, and my brother just popped the whole thing in his mouth, grinned, and ate it.  =P

And with that, I give you the end of Christmas 2011 baking. (Phew!)

Happy 2012!