Friday, September 28, 2012

It Took a Village...

Been planning this cake project for quite a while now. As soon as some friends of ours got engaged and set their wedding date, the bride immediately approached me to ask about making their cake. She had such a beautiful vision for the theme of the wedding, the colors, the setting, EVERY DETAIL.  One of the things that she envisioned was a cupcake tower, with a cake stand made out of tree rounds. I found some cupcake inspiration on Pinterest, and we went from there. Their flowers were orange gerber daisies, so that's the element that we chose to highlight on the cupcakes. And, at the last minute, she ordered the perfect cake topper - a wooden canoe with little oars and a heart bearing their initials.


The stories that these lovely photos DON'T tell are about several people who helped me, and about the near-disastrous delivery.  First, I had THREE generous neighbors who came over and helped me make parts of this project.  Earlier this summer, I talked to my friend Michelle about cake decorating, and she offered to come over and help me if I ever needed an extra set of hands.  I felt like having to make 150-200 daisies qualified as a big enough project to ask for help on, so I texted her.  She came over on Tuesday for a couple of hours and helped me make about half of these orange daisies.  We quickly discovered it's a process that can't be done in separate stages, because the fondant dries too quickly.  So, somebody has to roll out the fondant and cut the shapes, while the other person shapes the flowers and adds the details.  My other friend Laura (and her daughter Charlotte) also offered to come over and help me finish the rest of the flowers Tuesday evening.  It's so much more fun to work on these projects with someone else.

Then, I baked all of the cupcakes - chocolate, white chocolate, and buttery yellow - on Wednesday & Thursday.  I tried a couple different recipes, but somehow I keep coming back to doctoring up a mix. Interesting to discover that chocolate reacts differently than the white & yellow cakes to changes in the recipe.  Maybe that's another post.  So, the cupcakes lived in the freezer for a day or two.

Friday afternoon, when my friend Chase got home from his culinary classes at Le Cordon Bleu, I invited him over to practice his piping skills.  I had made three batches of buttercream icing, making sure it was a good consistency - not too thin, so it would be able to hold decorative shape, but not too thick, so we would be able to pipe it quickly and smoothly.  Chase was happy to get some piping practice in, and I gave him my newly-perfected buttercream recipe as a thank-you.  Y'all, I was stunned that we knocked out all of those 160 cupcakes in under 2 hours!  Again, the work seemed so much easier and the time passed more quickly; we had a blast.  I ran out of icing as soon as we finished the last of the cupcakes, but I had to run to the store for more meringue powder before I could make any more buttercream.

So, it's the night before the wedding, I had made another batch of icing and was sitting down to ice the top tier of the cake after dinner. It was supposed to be a super-simple design with a vertically-striped texture.  You'd think I could do it in my sleep.  For some strange reason, the cake was very crumby on the outside, so I applied a thin layer of icing to catch them all.  Then I applied the normal coat of icing and waited a few minutes.  Then, I tried to apply the textured icing, but I could never get it smooth enough or even enough.  After several attempts within two or three hours, my eyes could no longer focus, so I scraped most of the icing off one last time and went to bed.  Miraculously, when I woke up in the morning, it only took me one try to get it right!

So, we excitedly loaded up the car with all of the cupcakes, the top tier cake, the canoe topper, and all of my box of emergency cake supplies - extra icing, extra flowers, spatulas, bags, tips, knives, etc.  The wedding was over an hour and a half away from our home, so I was a little concerned about the delivery, but not overly worried.  When we arrived, I could immediately tell that the cupcakes were fine, but the top tier had a major problem... the icing had COMPLETELY peeled off of the bottom half of the cake!  It was even peeling off the layer of cake crumbs beneath the icing!

Good thing we had arrived plenty early.  I found the tiny kitchen in the barn and scraped the cake bare... again. Then, I used the extra icing to re-ice the cake... AGAIN, and piped the simple border back into place.  This time, I put the cake directly into the refrigerator until after the ceremony!


I had already set out the cupcakes before the ceremony, so all I had to do was add the top tier and the adorable canoe cake topper to complete the bride's beautiful vision... Ta-da!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Potluck Practice cake

So, yesterday I was trying to decide what to bring to a potluck for our new homeschool group, of course I thought, "Cake is my thing. I can definitely do cake." This is their pot-lucky day.

Well, it's nothing fancy. It's a 3-layer chocolate cake. It started out being 2 layers, but it looked a little puny and I remembered another single layer of chocolate cake sitting in my freezer that was the exact same size. So. Voila.  

Making a cake wasn't the only thing I had to do today, so I didn't have time for something super-creative.  Had some leftover icing from my last cake.  Been practicing with fondant for an upcoming wedding project and had a few fondant flowers lying around.  Just placed the fondant daisies in a ring, icing and sugar pearls in the center of each one, blue sugar sparkles between them all.  And last but not least, plain and simple buttercream shell borders. 



Nothing special, but oh, it tasted fantastic!  Wish I could say that I saved you a piece...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rock Climbing Bride & Groom

I've known about this project for months, and I've been so excited for it to finally be here.  My friend's eldest son was eloping out of state, and she was throwing a reception for them here.  She said that the bride and groom were very laid-back about the whole thing, and she wanted to make this reception less formal and more fun for them.  They are both avid rock climbers and would love something with that theme. Nothing too wedding-ish.

I found a few ideas on Pinterest, but when my friend said that they didn't want the cakes to be covered in fondant, I had to re-think a few of the design elements.  So, I decided to make the buttercream a rough, rocky texture and just put hand-holds all over with a bride & groom sitting on the ledge.  

I had a photo of the bride & groom, so I tried to make the figures look similar.  I have a LOT to learn about making sculptures with fondant; most of all I need to learn NOT to just "wing it." I at least need to practice, or even better, make the figures ahead of time.  OH... if only that ended up being my biggest challenge with this cake project!!



Well, I baked the cake, stacked the cake, put dowels in the bottom two layers for support, and put a center dowel through all three layers for stability.  Just like always.  I iced the cake and decorated the cake and put the finishing touches on it. Just like always.  I put it in a box and put it in the Tahoe to deliver it to the reception, about 45 minutes away.

One thing I did do differently was put it on one side of the vehicle, rather than in the center of the back cargo area.  I wanted my daughter to be able to keep an eye on it right beside her.  It was a hot, humid Atlanta afternoon, and we hadn't gotten more than 2 miles from home when my daughter started getting worried that the cake was sliding.  I told her not to worry about it because I knew that it was properly supported.

Well, let's just say I was WAY WRONG!!  When we got to the reception hall, I took the cake straight to the kitchen and tried my best to fix it (with some extra supplies that I always bring along in case of emergency). But it was SO lopsided that the ropes had fallen, the bride and groom's arms were all broken, and their bodies were sliding down the rock!

It was truly one of my worst nightmares.  I was terribly upset, almost in tears.  My friend was SO graciously nice about it, though. The only thing that made me feel better about it was knowing that they were so easy-going, and also the fact that we were going to take the cake apart momentarily and cut it up to eat it anyway.

Honestly, it all worked out just fine.  The groom was impressed at how much the figure looked like him (even though I hadn't ever met him before).  I even had several people tell me that they loved the cake, and - get this - ask how in the world did I make it look so asymmetrical?! Because, as you know, even God himself didn't create any symmetrical rocks.

So yeah, I totally meant to do that.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Brownie Pops

Some friends were having a party and asked everyone to bring a snack to share.  Why can't I just make a pan of brownies?  Well, for one thing... did you know that making pops yields more servings per batch than traditional-sized brownies?  Plus, these are SO much more festive!  Who doesn't love food on a stick?!

I have a Wilton brownie pop silicone pan, so I baked them and stuck the sticks in them as they cooled.  In the meantime, I melted some chocolate chips and filled a bowl with neon non-pareils.  I also gift-wrapped some styrofoam blocks together for the display.  

Once everything was ready, I dipped each of the pops half-way into the melted chocolate and rolled them around in the sprinkles.  I made two dozen pops and allowed them to set.


At the party, they were a hit... Zero leftovers!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Practice Cupcakes

Recently, I had about 4 cups of frosting left over from that ruffle cake, and I made a dozen cupcakes with excess batter from the Star Wars cake. So, I decided to practice a couple new flower techniques that I've watched on YouTube, or seen on Pinterest.  I've made the rose in the center many times (tip #1M), but the other two were new to me (tip #104).  I think the one on the left is supposed to be a ruffley rose, and the one on the right is supposed to look like a carnation of sorts.  They were really easy, and VERY yummy!


Here's a close-up of each type:




What occasion would you want these for? A wedding, a shower, mother's day, or something else?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Star Wars Cake

A friend I've known for several years approached me at the pool last week and said she was glad to hear that I'm finally charging for cakes, because she wanted to order one for her son's 9th birthday party.  I was  pleased that I was getting the chance to do a Star Wars cake, because it's been quite a while.

After much searching for ideas on www.cakecentral.com AND Pinterest, I came up with the idea to do the Star Wars logo on the front, with light sabers around each of the sides. After I posted a plea on facebook, a friend helped me find the font that matched the one used in the Star Wars logo. So I printed it and cut the letters out by hand.  The light sabers were fairly straightforward, and I was fortunate to have all of the colors I needed to make them already on hand.  




I wasn't sure yet what to do for the top of the cake, but I was considering making a Yoda figure out of fondant, or these cool X-Wing fighters that I saw on one of those sites.  In the end, my time crunch dictated that I make the ships, because much simpler than Yoda they were.  The X-Wing fighters seemed to be flying, propped up on toothpicks, but mine were made of gumpaste, and ended up being too heavy for flying. They sunk right into the cake. Oh well... can't win 'em all!



Of course, the MOST important thing (to ME) is that my friends love the cake, and the birthday kid is thrilled.  His mom said that he thought it was "super cool!" Mission accomplished!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ruffles for a Friend

For my friend Terri's birthday, a bunch of us met at a Japanese steakhouse for dinner to celebrate. She knew her husband was taking her there for her birthday, but she didn't know that the rest of us would be there.  My friend Sharyn, who had arranged this little surprise party, asked me to make a cake and I happily agreed. 

Knowing Terri like I do, I know she LOVES my buttercream icing. Don't even bother messing with fondant. Just go for whatever cake design gives her the maximum frosting-to-cake ratio possible!  So... I was excited to try this simple ruffle technique that I had seen on one of my favorite cake blogs, "i am baker."  I chose a teal/turquoise color to go on the scrumptious three-layer chocolate cake.


And, here's a close-up of the ruffles:

This design is a very forgiving one, just like the rose cake that I also found on that blog.  I love forgiving cake designs. They look very impressive without having to look perfect. That is SO me!  I would definitely love to practice this technique more, so feel free to request it... in different colors, with different borders, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!