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!

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. =)

Sometimes, a girl needs a good challenge.  Something she really needs to do b/c it’s fun and rewarding even though she barely has time to breathe… or b/c she’s just mental.  I’d like to think this is a little of both  =)

Mardi Gras cake ball set

A while back, one of my friends referred her engaged friend to me and suggested that I do her wedding favors.  (To be consistent, R also recommended me to do the baked goods for the bridal shower.)  Her friend was planning a Mardi Gras-themed wedding and wanted party favors that could double as escort cards.  I got really excited about being hired to do this and had sooo many ideas, I kinda went overboard in making suggestions.  haha  But the lovely bride-to-be and I finalized the favors to be cake balls.  This would probably be best option for easy transport and set up since the guest list had about oh, I don’t know…like, 400 guests.  Other options would have been nice, but just for the sake of making things easier for organizing and alphabetizing purposes and having gone through last minute things on my wedding day (i.e., sorting escort cards while getting my hair done an hour before the ceremony), I wanted to make things go as smoothly as possible for her.  So we decided to have cake balls and small cube favor boxes and labels.

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Beach cupcakes and cutting cake... complete with shells, sand, and sea!

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.

Fondant starfish

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

Spending the day at the seashore... rather, spending a day recreating a whole bunch of tasty seashores.

 

 

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  =)

 

The beautiful arrangement at the bridal shower... it looks fantastic! (Photo credit: one of the bride's friends took this shot.)

 

 

 

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

 

 

Putting extra frosting, cupcakes and fondant stars to good use

 

 

 

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…

Hello Kitty cupcake

It’s been a year since I started this so-called biz.  How do remember the date?  It’s been one year since I made custom Pinkalicious cupcakes for a coworker’s daughter’s birthday.  This year, Hello Kitty cupcakes were requested.  Due to time and budget constraints, I had to think about how to make some basic cupcakes that still clearly screamed cutesy Japanese white cat without going overboard.  (BTW, did you know that Hello Kitty is 37 years old???)

The abstract art idea popped into my head after browsing the ThinkGeek catalog (I love the stuff from that store!) and seeing a tee shirt that was a play on Hello Kitty.  It was just a white cube with the trademark bow with the headline “Hello Schröddy” and that was perfect for a cost-effective cupcake design.  I got a kick out of the physics joke about Schrödinger’s cat, too (yes, I wholeheartedly embrace my nerdiness).

A crackly and "eh"-looking experimental first bow... which is why it's called a "test bow"

I made a super light vanilla cake batter and whipped up some white vanilla frosting for basic swirl designs.  That part was easy.  Making the bows turned out to be a bigger undertaking than I expected, even when I used *gasp* ready-made fondant.  Yeah, I know… I said I’d never use it again, but I was in a pinch.  And in hindsight, MAYBE I should have just made my own.  The bright red fondant-from-a-tub was the perfect color, but it dried up soooo quickly.  After rolling out the fondant, I was barely able to cut out shapes for three bows @ max without the fondant starting to crack.  WTF?  I had to toss a chunk of it out b/c the fondant was rock hard and useless, so I just rolled out a small ball of it and cut a few shapes @ a time.  I don’t have bow-shaped cutters and had to improvise so I used circle cutters that were two different sizes: a tiny one for the middle of the bow and the sides are actually pinched-in larger circles.   After making about ten of these, I realized I left out a little nub on each side of the bow but decided eh, I was over it.  They look pretty close though, right?  The fondant dried within minutes, so I immediately placed each bow on the corner of each cupcake.

There you have it: abstract Hello Kitty cupcakes with signature red bows.  So simple and yet so kawaii!  And I saw a pic of  a really happy birthday girl loving her cupcakes =)

An army of totally cute cupcakes

Vin’s bro got married last year and he and his wife are expecting a little baby boy in a month.  They’ve decked out the baby’s bedroom in this nice yellow and got these cute elephant-related bedding and decor for little Timmy’s arrival.  Since their theme was quite obvious, I wanted to create cupcakes for my sister-in-law’s shower that had elephants… and yellow.

My test elephant on a red frosted cupcake; the final cupcakes had green frosting.

I guess the best thing to do was make cake toppers for the cupcakes.  I made batches of blue, grey, and yellow fondant (there goes 2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar) and had extra green frosting from the Sesame Street cupcakes so the toppers would stick.  I already had alphabet cookie cutters for the “T” for “Timmy” (“Timmahhh!”) but I couldn’t find a decent elephant shape that didn’t look weird or would fit on the little cupcakes.  Necessity being the mom of invention and me being of creative and adventurous spirit, I hand cut my own elephant shape.

A few months ago Vin and I were browsing HomeGoods and I was scouring the kitchen/bakeware section for fun new things (I have a tendency to buy cool sprinkles and rarely have occasion to use them so if anyone would like anything with cute sprinkles, please ask!) and I came across this random set of cookie cutters from Italy.  There were letters, numbers, generic shapes like stars and hearts, holiday cut outs, a few animals, etc. etc.  I bought this mostly b/c it was supercheap (plastic instead of metal), there were a lot of cutters (and b/c the size of the letters and numbers would fit perfectly on cupcakes.

I scanned the box to see if they had an elephant for me… there was one, but it just looked odd and was too big anyway.  And then I did a double take.  Included in this box of cookie cutters were a few dinosaurs.  There was a brontosaurus.  Its head and long neck were PERFECT FOR AN ELEPHANT’S TRUNK!  I cut out 3 small fondant circles and made a test cut of the dino head in the fondant then laid it out.  The original idea was to see the elephant’s head straight on using 2 circles for the ears, one as the head, and then the trunk.  It was cute, but way too big for the cupcake.  I rearranged the pieces so that the elephant would be facing the left and 2 circles would be used as the ears.  Not only did it fit better (the trunk was hanging off the side but it was kind of cool like that), but it actually looked more “realistic”.  Quite happy with the outcome, I was… which really was no surprise since I’m a genius and all.  =)

Fondant cake toppers

The next steps were a breeze.  Rolling out the yellow fondant then cutting out circles to be the base for the toppers wasn’t bad @ all, and punching out little “T”s were easy.  I assembled the toppers and stacked the layers on paper plates to stabilize in the fridge for a day.  I actually couldn’t attend the baby shower b/c we were heading upstate for my best friend from high school’s wedding party (<3 you, K +P!), so I had to bring all the naked cupcakes, the green icing, the toppers and a piping bag to Vin’s parents’ house to put everything together.

In the end there were 14 cupcakes with blue “T”s and 14 with elephant faces, and I threw in some chocolate minis with plain green icing.  I didn’t have a chance to get final close up shots of the cupcakes before the shower.  (I guess I’d better teach myself how to use the SLR to take my own photos.)  I heard the party was fun and that the cupcakes were enjoyed (phew!).  Can’t wait for little Timmy!!!

Photo of the baby shower table set up

Vin’s birthday meal + dessert all rolled in one

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).

My ghetto fabulous microwaved cake in a plastic container

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!

What a fine piece of raw meat! I’m a fantastic butcher, if I do say so myself =)

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.

A 35 oz. porterhouse

My hand mixed, gel food coloring paint palette on cake board. It looks like watercolor.  Cézanne would be so proud.

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)

I think I’m most happiest about how the bone came out… (see last pic)

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  =)

Green beans and mashed potatoes with butter

The full steak dinner… and yes, I know the fork and knife are set backwards.

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.

Vin cutting his medium rare birthday steak/cake =)

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

The “meat” separated from the “bone”… I think the bone looks pretty realistic, don’t you?

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Close up of my fondant flowers

I took last weekend off to visit my cousin in DC and we indulged in Viet food and ogled watched “Thor.”  Both activities were quite awesome.  =)  And since the silly “Rapture” didn’t happen this weekend (or, I just wasn’t taken), I baked salted caramel & candied bacon brownies.  Because it was a relatively easy order (OK, OK… so “easy” is subjective; I meant I didn’t really have to use the big stand mixer for this one since I had made the caramel frosting in advance and brownies require manual wooden spoon stirring), I did a quickie personal project afterward =)  It’s not like I have extra free time; I did 3 loads of laundry in-between baking and playing with food coloring (see below)… it was just that I didn’t feel like dusting or vacuuming.  haha

Candied bacon & salted caramel brownies

After I cooked, candied and chopped the bacon, frosted the caramel icing, and sprinkled pink Hawaiian sea salt on the brownies, I neatly packaged the brownies in a pink cake box.  The in-between steps required a lot of hand-washing since I was running up and down the stairs loading/unloading the washer/dryer and getting cocoa or bacon grease on clothes would be the end of the world (pun!).  But since this really didn’t require a lot of time or agonizing decorating compared to my other baking projects, I wanted to try a simple fondant design.

The entire random design

I had seen cherry blossoms on fondant cakes, and it seemed pretty and easy enough, so I did a haphazard riff on buds/blooms/branches on fondant.  While I caught up on “The Office” (man, it’s not the same without Steve Carrell) and “SNL” (I have newfound respect for Justin Timberlake), I alternated from kneading little individual balls of brown, green, yellow and white fondant with scrubbing my hands raw before touching the laundry.   It’s not like I have ADD (@ least I don’t think I do?), but I just need to do something with my hands sometimes.  And due to the aggravation of my adoring husband, I can’t really sit still for long. This was just a way to wind down while still being productive or I would have gone to bed wired, still thinking about my mile long “to do” list.  This was just practice, I guess.  I don’t really have proper tools for fondant yet… just a rolling pin and a couple shape cutouts of circles and leaves.  I shaped the branches by hand (they looked like worms) and punched out green leaves with metal cutters.  The odd experimental flowers were made from circles I formed into buds or had taken a knife to and cut tiny slices out of to look like four-petaled blooms.  To make them look more “unique”, I put a blue sugar bead as the pistil.  The finished design didn’t look half bad for an entirely-fondant decoration… maybe next time I’ll actually try decorating this on layered cakes (or stacked boxes that will end up LOOKING like cakes).

Stay tuned for next week’s baking adventure: Vin’s birthday cake  <3

 

LA Lakers cupcakes (Excuse the smudge on the gold cupcake on the left... it was too big for its own good and the edge of the container hit it. Boo.)

One of my orders this past weekend was for LA Lakers-themed chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and player numbers in white fondant.  The frosting was a bit testy; cream cheese frosting is a little melty and soft to begin with, and the addition of food coloring made it a little more melty.  This whole good vs. evil battle I have with taste vs. texture of frosting is getting out of hand; I prefer it hard and stiff (twss) but I don’t want it to taste gross (another twss).  There may forever be imbalance in the Force since I tend to sacrifice consistency for taste b/c really… no one wants a mouthful of shortening or tongue-numbing amounts of sugar with their cake, no matter how good it looks.

Artest, Brown, Bynum, Barnes, Blake and Caracter in cupcake form

On the plus side, I think I’m getting used to working with fondant.  I rolled it out to the ideal thickness for the cupcakes and punched out the players’ numbers with cookie cutters.  However, I had plastic ones, which aren’t as sharp as metal cutters, so I spent some time smoothing out the edges and shaping the fondant numbers with one of the best all-purpose tools (a toothpick) to make them look super clean and perfectly cut.

Number 24 in all its glory

Anyway, this was what I came up with with the request given.  Since Mr. Bryant was the guy’s favorite, I put #24 on a cupcake with BOTH purple and gold frosting and gave it some sparkle with sugar crystals.  Kobe, you’re such a diva with all that bling.  =P

Last Mother’s Day I made two small vanilla cakes for Vin’s mom and decorated them with some of the first frosting roses I’ve ever made.  I remember one had chocolate frosting with pink roses cascading down the side, and the other had white vanilla frosting with lavender roses.  I didn’t take any pictures @ the time b/c I considered it to be practice and didn’t think I’d really continue decorating cakes and baking.  Oh well.  I guess if anyone orders a wedding cake from me in the near future, I can make basic tiers with borders and *drumroll please* cascading roses.  Because I haven’t tried anything else.  haha

It’s weird to think that a year has passed since I took up this hobby.  I don’t feel like I’m significantly better @ it since I haven’t really had a chance to practice or learn any new techniques, and to be honest I really don’t think I’ll ever have the time to ever take legit cake decorating classes.  I guess being meticulous and adventurous helps make the baking look and taste good.  And having a photographer for a husband and a studio in the basement isn’t a bad thing, either.  But I do strive to make things that are slightly out of the ordinary or challenge myself to make things outside of the cake mix box, so to speak.  Being that it’s Mother’s Day, I had to make something special for Vin’s mom that was better than last year’s cakes.  (Unfortunately my mom is too far away to get the same gift; the best I could do was have flowers sent  =(  Boo.)  With my current work schedule and still being tired/achy, I didn’t have time to construct a cake masterpiece.  So I thought, what could I do that’s relatively simple yet still be spectacular? What am I good @? Cupcakes… frosting roses… I’ll make huge rose cupcakes!

 

um, I guess I went overboard...

I made some chocolate cupcakes… well, 96 chocolate cupcakes to be exact, since I also had to fulfill another Mother’s Day order and had another request for Lakers-themed cupcakes (and I always bake extra).  It was a pretty big baking weekend for me, but it felt good diving headfirst into the deep end again.  It made me feel “normal” again.  That and baking in wedge heels = I was back in business.  (I used to bake and decorate barefoot but spending hours flat on my feet really hurt and I’ve since worn 4″-heeled wedge shoes to put less weight on the balls on my feet… b/c wearing sneakers would simply be too obvious of a solution  =)

I crushed some chocolate, graham cracker and pretzels in the food processor to simulate “dirt” in the planter for my mother-in-law’s baked gift.  And I was going to make green fondant leaves to put it instead of green icing since I figured, hey, might as well go big or go home (wait…). Unfortunately, the rest of my awesome plan didn’t work out so well.  I kneaded green food coloring for the fondant leaves to put around the pot, but everything else took so long that the fondant started drying out before I could place it where I wanted.  And then I couldn’t get the perfect frosting flavor + consistency (again, the balance between taste and stiffness drove me up the wall) so my icing flowers came out a little softer than I liked.  And then I didn’t put enough stabilizing sticks in the planter so the cupcakes didn’t stay on the pot.  My original plan to put 6 roses in the pot surrounded by fondant leaves turned out to be a disaster b/c I was out of time (had to make a delivery for a customer and head to the T house for dinner), I was THIS close to smashing the clay pot since this really shouldn’t have been this difficult.  So with Vin’s assistance, we ended up with one single rose cupcake in a planter as a quick fix.

Et voila…

Single rose cupcake in flower pot

Here’s to constantly one-upping myself all the time…  this may kill me if I keep it up.  haha

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and grandma, too!  <3