Vin's sneaker cake

Vin’s sneaker cake

*Because I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say “Just Do It TM” in the headline.

OK, this is a SUPER LATE post, but I figure it’s fitting since VIN IS RUNNING THE NYC MARATHON SOON!!!  This counts as carb-loading, right???  Now look at the pics….

Another year, another birthday for Vin. He started running last year for health reasons and now he’s one of those obsessed runners (meanwhile, I’m still a lazy bum that sleeps all the time as pointed out by the NYT), so the OBVIOUS cake this year was a sneaker.  To be specific, a replica of his sneaker.  The obsessed runner is very particular about his running kicks, and I wasn’t able to check out his actual shoe at home (we are physically glued to the hip when I’m not traveling and Vin is not running) so I sneakily asked Vin, “Oh heyyyy, baby… what’s the style name of your sneaker?  I think I saw it on sale and I know you wear a certain style so I wanted to make sure it was the same one…” So he told me, I looked it up, printed out enlarged pics of every angle of this shoe in black, and then hid the images under a pile of junk mail on my work bench.  (Vin NEVER looks through the stuff on my work bench; he only looks at the mounds of random shit piling up with disgust and dread and wants to throw it all out =P)

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First baking projects post move!

My precious...

My precious…

Let’s just be quick about it, shall we?  I had to bake for 2 special little boys: one hasn’t even been born yet, and the other is one of my super cute, super crazy godsons.

Underwater cake collage

Underwater cake collage… complete with a lurking shark!

The theme for the baby shower cake was the ocean, so I played around with some ideas to use on a small cutting cake for the parents-to-be.  The first order of business was to ice the little cake in blue frosting.  I was going to cover it in fondant, but liked the effect of the bubbles in the frosting, so I just cleaned and sharpened the edges for my canvas.  Light brown sugar was pressed along the bottom of half of the cake; for some reason I didn’t want all of it covered in sugar and liked the half-and-half effect.  I had used star cutters to make fondant starfish before and they worked wonderfully, so I knew I wanted starfish.  Then I found leaf cutters meant for roses, but used the shapes haphazardly to create these great seaweed/algae pieces.  I bought a whale cookie cutter from my new favorite store, Sur La Table but it ended up being rather disproportional to the algae and starfish.  I mixed a small piece of grey fondant and shaped a shark fin on top, and carefully placed little schools of fish sprinkles around the cake.  I don’t even think it’s ecologically correct… I mean, do starfish hang around the bottom of the ocean and cling to seaweed like that?  Who knows.  It looked cute and was a nice and quick little project.

Ta daaa!  A crappy 360 video clip of the cake

The order included cupcakes, so I swirled the same blue frosting over vanilla cupcakes (side note: I LOVE my new oven.  It’s huge and bakes everything so evenly AND I don’t have to guess the timing and temperature anymore!  #inheaven) and used extra pieces of seaweed and starfish as cupcake toppers.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the cupcakes BEFORE bringing them in =(

handmade fondant starfish

handmade fondant starfish. eww, what dry hands have I.

seaweed cupcake

seaweed cupcake

 

For my oldest godson’s 3-year birthday party, I whipped up a little bowling pin cake.  This little boy is one of the cutest little human beings on the planet, and he’s also one of the craziest.  haha  Since he’s my godson, of COURSE he gets special treatment and I just had to make a little SOMETHING for his party.  He’s currently obsessed with bowling and planets, so bowling pins and a ball that had Jupiter-like swirls it was.  And when I say whipped up, I mean, I hand shaped and cut 10 bowling pins with stripes and a bowling ball during the time it took for Vin to go on his morning run.  I iced that baby in minutes and added extra fondant stars, and voila… a little cake with knocked over pins.

Left: Look at that perfectly straight and clean edge. I'm GOOD.  Right: Fondant bowling pins for Timmy!!!

Left: Look at that perfectly straight and clean edge. I’m GOOD. Right: Fondant bowling pins for Timmy!!!

As soon as he saw it, he wanted to stand them up but didn’t quite get why I said no and that they’d be all sticky.  Later on, he was throwing a tantrum about having to take his shoes off and started yelling and crying, so I picked him up and took him to look at his cake.  Within in the span of 2 minutes, this little guy ate about 6 of the bowling pins.   Such an insane but adorable little kid.  <3

The birthday boy and his cake

The birthday boy and his cake

A delicate display of frosted chocolate rosettes

A delicate display of frosted chocolate rosettes

I take back all the times I thought I was busy.  I’ve been in beast mode working late every day for the past couple months and bringing home work on weekends.  A lot of people have been asking to place orders, and I feel so bummed out I have to decline due to the fact that I f*cking need sleep.  Any baking I do has to be carefully planned in advance and done given 3 hours of shut-eye.  My little baby cousin’s birthday was coming up, and since I didn’t get to see this little sweetie and her crazy awesome bro last month at our family get-together, I was determined to bake something for the party.

Left: The birthday girl is enjoying her cupcake cone treat; Right: Her superhero big brother gets his own "birthday" cupcake

Left: The birthday girl is enjoying her cupcake cone treat; Right: Her superhero big brother gets his own “birthday” cupcake (Photos by Paul Do)

A couple weeks before X’s birthday, I got one of the best emails from a then-potential customer.  She said, “Hello, First, I find your website fantastic – you’re witty, direct, and balls out. Of course, your work is amazing…” It was like, YES, this lady totally gets it!!! She was planning a party for her parents’ 50th anniversary (kudos to them!) and wanted classy cupcakes for the celebration to be delivered the day after my cousin’s birthday.  The order was basic enough, so I decided, “F  it.  I’m going to make TONS of cupcakes for BOTH events.  I can totally do this!”  I guess I was too excited to factor in sleep for that weekend, per usual. Read More

A small, summery cutting cake for the bride and groom.

A small, summery cutting cake for the bride and groom.

Summer means wedding season, and I absolutely love baking and decorating for special occasions like these.  A family friend asked if I could bake for her son’s wedding brunch, and I couldn’t refuse, especially since it was such a simple request: 36 packaged cupcakes as wedding favors and a small cutting cake for the bride and groom.  At first, she wanted simple vanilla cupcakes with sage green swirls and nice wrappers, but after seeing this, she asked if I could make grass and flowers on each of the cupcakes.

Pretty white picket fences for the pretty little garden cupcakes

Pretty white picket fences for the pretty little garden cupcakes

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Easter weekend was a huge baking ordeal this year.  Not only did I plan on bringing some desserts to the T house per usual, but my little cousin’s 4th birthday party was also the day before Easter.  My aunt just got a new job in Philly, so she and my uncle now had tons of space to host the little guy’s party, plus, I hadn’t seen him in a while and he requested “chocolate and vanilla” so I had to HAD TO make something for his birthday.  In addition to these 2 major events, I agreed to donate a bunch of baked goods to this awesome charity I worked with last year.  They were hosting an event a couple days after Easter, so I figured I might as well make some extra mini cupcakes and bring them to the charity event.  I mean, Easter + WWJD but pull off a miracle and make tons of baked goods appear, right? =)

Creamsicle and berry cream mini cupcakes with a mixed berry cake ball egg

Creamsicle and berry cream mini cupcakes with a mixed berry cake ball egg

I planned out my post-work calendar the week before Easter weekend.  It went a little something like this:

Monday: berries & cream frosting; (orange & cream) Creamsicle® frosting; vanilla frosting

Tuesday: Mix and roll out cake balls

Wednesday: Dip and decorate cake balls for the birthday party

Thursday: Bake & frost chocolate cupcakes

Friday: Dip and decorate cake balls for Easter

Saturday: Bake lemon cupcakes and Creamsicle® cupcakes; frost

I think I only got 3 hours of sleep on 4 of the 6 nights.  I’m a little slow and perfectionistic when it comes to this, and I didn’t have anything prepped so it just took FOREVER.  And once I get in the groove and I’m plugged into Pandora on my phone (after dropping my phone countless times during baking sessions, I finally got a Velcro sleeve that will hold the phone so I can listen to music and bake at the same time), the minutes just fly by and before you know it, it’s almost 3 am.

I took over the fridge with all this frosting!

I took over the fridge with all this frosting!

So the first night, I made at least 6 pints of vanilla frosting, then divvied the buttercream to make berries & cream frosting and a frosting concoction that tastes basically like a Creamsicle®.

Chocolate birthday cake balls with rainbow sprinkles for the birthday boy!

Chocolate birthday cake balls with rainbow sprinkles for the birthday boy!

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**This post is a couple weeks late… OK, a few weeks late.  We had some house-related catastrophes to deal with and much needed relaxing time to catch up on. Now that Labor Day has passed, I’ll be a little less lazy with the baking and the posts  =)

An array of mini chocolate cupcakes with blue rum and yellow vanilla frosting

Where has this summer gone???  I feel like I haven’t done that much baking (it’s just too humid and gross) and I have no idea where the time went.  It’s August and we hadn’t gone to the beach yet…

…Until my family came to visit this past weekend.  Originally, just my parents and little bro were coming over and my sister and her boyfriend were joining and we were all going to the beach and to get seafood and maybe go to the outlets and just hang out.  But my mom’s family didn’t have our usual summer get-together this year, so a last minute family BBQ was planned @ our house and my grandma, a couple of my aunts, and 2 of my little cousins joined in.  Vin and I went on a shopping spree @ the supermarket for meats to grill and bought packs of hot dogs and buns, salad, corn, ice, soda, beer, water… and we sweeped and vacuumed and cleaned and did yardwork… and then, on Saturday morning, I decided to bake.  I rarely get to give baked goods to my own family, let alone see them, so I wanted to make something special.  I bought these baking cups that looked like large disposable mouthwash cups, which would have been perfect for sno cone cupcakes.  Long story short, I wasn’t used to these baking cups @ all since they took twice as long to bake cupcakes (20 minutes for cupcakes? With THIS oven? Unheard of in this house!) and I was really rushing it with the frosting.  I used leftover frosting from C+H’s wedding and it wasn’t thick enough to hold the scooped ball shape, and it just looked sloppy.  I’m determined to try this again and put in more effort next time. Read More

Summer time means prime wedding season, and when my wonderful friend M asked if I could help out with her brother’s wedding, I was more than happy to oblige and honored to be part of such a special day.  M’s brother and his lovely new husband were originally going to just get cupcakes from the supermarket (quel horreur!) and luckily M intervened and suggested that I bake since she’s tried my goods before and thought they were up to par =)  Through email correspondence, the couple and I discussed their theme/colors and what flavors they wanted.  They decided on chocolate mini cupcakes (2 per guest) with yellow and white vanilla frosting swirls on top and estimated about 175 guests so this would be a whopping 350 cupcakes!  I have never baked this many cupcakes all @ once (and of course, I’d have to make extras), but the request was basic enough that it wouldn’t be too insane.  Of course, only a crazy person thinks baking close to 400 cupcakes will be easy… hahaha

A tower of wedding cupcakes (ML’s pic)

I ordered and bought all my supplies and containers a few weeks before the wedding and got the eggs and milk the day before.  Luckily, I am too lazy to put away the extra mixer prepared and still had the twins out to do double duty.  I mean, a 6 quart mixer can only hold so much cake batter, and it will definitely not hold enough for 6 batches of mini cupcakes.  I had the oven going for a couple hours and had 3 trays going in perfect rotation: one would be baking in the oven, one would be cooling from just being in the oven and replenished with cupcake wrappers, and the other one would be getting refilled with cake batter.  I was just churning them out like a mini cupcake factory; once I got through with the 6 quarts of batter from one mixer, I moved on to the next machine.  I didn’t have enough cooling racks and just crammed all the baked cupcakes on the dining table. I lost count after making 274, but I definitely made @ least 400 minis.  Maybe 450.  Or more.  I don’t know but it was getting a little claustrophobic in the dining room and I’m really surprised I didn’t have dreams about a menacing towers of cupcakes falling on me and crushing me.  haha Read More

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!

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!