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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A bouquet of purple cupcake roses

Our family friends J & D are getting hitched and Vin and I have the honor of being in their wedding next month (so soon!).  J’s bridal shower was hosted @ our house, so I took a day off to bake cupcakes for the bride and the guests, make the shower favors, and CLEAN.

Step-by-step “egg magic”

Friday morning started off nice and easy and I loved the natural light that came in through the kitchen window.  I prepped for vanilla cupcakes, EXCEPT I used the water bottle method to separate my eggs.  The ol’ yolk extraction and drop off trick.  This is totally my new favorite thing.  I want to make custards and ice cream and macarons or meringue just to have an excuse to play with my food like this!  It was so easy and squeals of excitement ensued, and Vin watched me demonstrate the technique on my last yolk.  I just wanted to point out that the bottle loses some of its vacuum suction power after a dozen or so squeezes.  After I was done getting a kick out of sucking up and squeezing out egg yolks, I baked a few dozen vanilla cupcakes and a bunch of minis to bring to Vin’s family and give my co-workers.

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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.

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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

Cupcake rose garden

The rose cupcakes actually weren’t what I originally had in mind.  I’m somewhat annoyed so just look @ the pictures while I quietly sulk about it.  All I’m gonna say is if the day ever comes that I can no longer make buttercream roses in my sleep, that’ll be the end of the world.

"Earth day" birthday cupcakes

Note to self: requests for blue + green swirl frosting = cupcakes that look like “Earth”.

Rose cupcakes

Hrpmh.

 

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

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

In honor of the Super Bowl and not having orders for this weekend, I wanted to try out something different.  I came across recipes for beer cupcakes and thought I should give it a shot.  I love thick chocolate stouts, and cocoa would be perfect with the nice richness of Guinness (one of my faves!).  I checked out a bunch of recipes and mixed and matched some ingredients and amounts (i.e., more Guinness, less milk) and upon tasting the cake batter (yeah, yeah, I know… raw eggs… salmonella… whatever.  I do this every time and I haven’t been hospitalized… yet) I felt like it needed more sugar.

I don’t usually use the full amount of sugar suggested in recipes, but I guess the bitterness of the beer and the tartness of the sour cream called for more sweet stuff.  The cupcakes baked 10 minutes faster than stated in the recipe and I broke one open to see how it came out.  The texture was just a little bit denser than my regular cakes, and the taste was pretty interesting.  I could still smell the scent of Guinness and Vin said it tasted creamy.  The addition of the Bailey’s frosting pulled it together really well!

Over the holidays I raided my mom’s cake decorating tool set (muahahahaaaa).  I took some unique cake tips that definitely are no longer sold at Michael’s, and one of them was this neat little metal tip that made the frosting look like thin noodles.  These squiggles, or “ramen” according to Vin, looked fun on the mini cupcakes.  Perfect, uniform designs are so time-consuming,  and it was nice to be able to just play around with the icing and be messy  =)

I also took a HUGE flower tip from my mom’s cake set and piped a big Bailey’s frosting rose on a regular cupcake for the hell of it.  I didn’t have the patience to put pretty roses on the rest of the cupcakes, so I just used a star tip on the remaining 29 cakes.

Beer + cupcakes = perfection.  Duh.  =)

NOW we’re ready for Super Bowl XLV!