Tuesday, August 19, 2008


If ever I've had an honest-to-goodness CAKE-TASTROPHE, this one takes the cake!! Anyone else looking at how the cake turned out probably wouldn't be able to tell, BUT I KNOW. I'm sure it's going to seem like I'm beating myself up, but I had a very specific vision for this cake, and I was sorely disappointed with how it turned out. Yes, I made it work out OK in the end, but it was not at all what I originally had in mind. I was debating whether to even post pictures of it, but I decided that in the interest of honesty, I need to post the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My friend Terri's youngest little boy, Cameron, just turned 4. He came up to me at church and asked me to "pwease" make him a chocolate Pirates of the Caribbean cake. How could I refuse?! Anyway, I called Terri the week of the party to ask what pirate-y image he would like best - treasure chest, jolly roger, pirate ship, Jack Sparrow, treasure map, or something else - the possibilities are endless, you know. She thought he'd like Jack Sparrow or a ship.

Somehow, I got the inspiration to do a transfer of the face of Jack Sparrow. I had it all planned out, and it wasn't a difficult task. Or shouldn't have been.

First, when I baked the cake, I deliberately added a second mix of batter so that I would have one tall cake instead of baking two layers. I was trying to be efficient (read: lazy). When I took the cake out of the oven, it looked absolutely perfect. I let it cool for a few minutes before turning it out of the pan, and when I came to release it, the entire center had caved in. It truly looked like a volcano. So, I sliced off the top half and baked another regular cake layer. That set me back a few hours.

Then, I started decorating. I iced the cake with a crumb layer, and then also iced the sides of the cake in white. Then I colored the icing for the top of the cake a parchment-y tan color. I had found an awesome pumpkin-carving stencil of Jack Sparrow's face online.
  • So, I tried it in black piping gel as a transfer. No luck. Had to scrape it off and re-ice the cake.
  • Then I tried it with black icing. Still nothing. Not enough of the icing would "stick" to the cake icing. Scrape it again and repair the icing.
  • Tried poking the stencil with a toothpick to play connect-the-dots. But when I removed the stencil, I couldn't tell which dots went together. Roll the icing smooth again.
  • Tried again with black piping gel, but only outlined the shapes. Still not working, and it's 2 a.m.
  • Decided the design was too detailed for caking. Printed out another stencil of a pirate ship.
  • Went to bed and prayed that it would work in the morning, and I'd have enough time to get it all done.
In the end, little Cameron recognized what it was and loved his cake, though, so I guess that counts for something.
And, of course, after I finished it, my brilliant son suggested that I should've traced the Jack Sparrow face onto some rice paper I have, instead of trying to transfer it, because the rice paper just "melts" into the buttercream icing after you set it on top of the cake. You know, come to think of it, THAT probably would've worked... AAArrrgh!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Here are some pictures of my most recent original creation. My girls both had birthdays last month, and so we invited about 10 of their friends to watch the new movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl at the theater. So, I was going off of a picture in the American Girl catalog for this special cake.

So, there's a 10-inch square 2-layer cake for the base, and then the house was made with the Wilton Stand-up House pan. I ran out and bought it the day I was baking because I decided to do the 3-D thing, instead of a two-dimensional image.

The base cake is covered in buttercream, with green "grass" on top and a graham-cracker crumb pathway. (Ace of Cakes I'm not, or else I probably would've attempted the tree!)

Anyway, the clubhouse is covered in fondant "planks." (Good thing it's supposed to look rustic!) I actually made them all a little longer than they needed to be, and then snipped along the roofline with scissors after they were attached.

As for the rest of the house, the "stained glass window" was white fondant with pink, green & orange icing colors swirled in. I used one solid piece of fondant to cover the back of the house. And the roof pieces are just scored to look like shingles, (although Hayden said they looked like chocolate bars).

Obviously, the main character, Kit, and Grace (the bassett hound) are made of fondant as well. I used Wilton's Pink Pearl Dust mixed with clear vanilla to paint Kit's sweater, and her skirt was brushed with Wilton icing colors - pink, green & orange.

My girls are among the very few people I know who request lemon cake. Lemon is one of my favorites too, (especially in the summertime), but I rarely make it because people don't request it very often. So this time I mixed two lemon cake mixes with a French vanilla one, and the flavor was perfect, if you ask me. Not too sweet, not too strong.

The only hitch was convincing the girls that chocolatey-caramel ice cream and mint-chocolate chip were NOT good pairings for lemon cake! I finally got them to agree on Rainbow Sherbet!

The cake barely survived the drive to the movie theater, (see the house leaning backward?! and the smushed icing border on the front?) but I think I can put a tally mark in the "success" column for this one. The birthday girls liked it, and that's all that really matters in the end, isn't it?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

futbol at forty

Our good friend Tobe turns 40 in a couple of weeks, so his awesome wife Stacy threw him a party last night, and I made the cake. She gave me a couple of guidelines: Tobe is 1/2 German, and loves soccer, so she wanted to incorporate both of those elements. Then said she trusted me and gave me complete creative license. I told her that would be fine, and hung up the phone feeling so good that I was going to be able to do this for them, especially since Tobe has NEVER had a homemade birthday cake before.

Then I googled an image for the German flag, and I was a little shocked. The German flag is 3 stripes: black, red, and gold. If you know anything about making icing, you KNOW that black and red are the most difficult colors to produce, especially without adding so much coloring that it tastes bad. I considered using fondant, but I didn't want to cover the cake in fondant.

So...I guess this is where I'll have to admit to cheating just a little bit. Instead of spending hours trying to get those icing colors to come out red & black (instead of pink & grey), I used storebought Wilton icing. It comes in tubes or cans and is pre-colored. I discovered that the canned icing is thinner, but it tastes better. The tubed icing has kind of a weird aftertaste sometimes, but you can use regular decorator tips on them. I ended up using tubed black icing, and canned red icing, since it was just being spread smooth anyway.

I really had no idea what I would do as far as the cake design until it came down to the day I had to bake the cakes. I prayed for a last-minute inspiration, and I got it. A German flag with a soccer ball "bursting" through. I was happy that it was simple enough that I didn't have to be working on it "down to the wire" too. Especially since we had to drive an hour and a half to deliver it!

Despite those minor challenges, the cake was a huge hit. Tobe & Stacy loved it, and I had several people tell me how impressed they were. One lady asked me if I was a professional pastry chef; someone asked Stacy at which bakery she got the cake; and a few people thought that I should go into cake decorating as a business. For now, I'm happy just doing an occasional cake for friends and family. But, who knows? It's been 12 years since I took that cake decorating class at Michael's. It was definitely a good investment ($10), but maybe I should take Level 2 someday. Ha ha!

Monday, June 30, 2008

the best present of all...

My neighbor, Chase chose this cute cake out of the Wilton Celebrate With Fondant book for his 15th birthday, because he LOVES fondant. I'm telling you, he would eat that stuff right out of the box!

So, without further ado...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2-for-1 special

My good friend Monika had (redheaded!) twins one year ago tomorrow. I did her Baby Shower cake last spring, and today I made their 1st birthday cakes! Brennan and Elana love to watch Baby Einsteins videos, so that was the theme we decided to incorporate into their cakes. Baby Einsteins became popular after my kids were babies, so I had to get some ideas and images online to know what the characters look like.

I made the main cake out of the 3-D sports ball cake pan..... FIVE of them! Then the "smash" cakes for the babies were a 6-inch round cake with a little 3-D ball cupcake split in half for the 3-D turtle shell effect. I think they turned out really cute.

The only sign of a "cake-tastrophe" was that the top half of the caterpillar's head kept sliding forward. So, I straightened it out and put a couple of dowels in it, but it still slid when we transported it in the car. Also, the left antenna (made of fondant) broke off because it wasn't quite dry enough to support the weight on the top ball piece. Thankfully, nothing that couldn't be fixed when we got to the party.

Just one thing I have to say - that was a LOT of stars, y'all. But, I was thrilled that the twins recognized the caterpillar, and they seemed to like their smash cakes! Don't take my word for it, though - take a look for yourself.....

Friday, June 13, 2008

gearing up

Well, around here June is CAKE month! I have two daughters with June birthdays, as well as my son's best friend, and my friend's twins! Unfortunately, the special occasions are not even spread out over the entire month. They all take place between the 18th and 24th. Craziness!

So, in anticipation for making one Hello Kitty cake and one Baby Einsteins cake, and another cake with an unknown theme all in the next week or so, today I stocked up on:

powdered sugar
cake mixes
Here's hoping it all goes smoothly! Wish me luck, and hopefully I'll post pictures of my latest creations soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Krista's baby shower

About 4 years ago, my good friend Krista was pregnant with her third child (but her first boy)! So, I offered to do the cake for her baby shower. It was fun to make all of the little molded fondant decorations and the baby booties, of course. I think the cloud border gives it such a "dreamy" effect.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Well, graduation season is here again, but since I don't have any current graduation cake projects in the works, I thought I'd share a couple from the past, since I hadn't posted them on this site before.

The first one was for my friend Kim when she completed her Master's degree, and the second one was for my friend Angie when she graduated with her bachelor's degree in elementary education from ASU West (notice the school colors).

The one for Kim was pretty early on in my cake-making adventures. (I think I'd only been doing it for two or three years at the most.) So, I used a lot of artificial decorations and just tried to make it look festive. I like the ruffle border on that cake, though.

Angie's cake was in 2005, so I'd been doing cakes for about eight or nine years at that point. And I was just beginning to play around with making fondant decorations. So, I had lots of fun making the mortarboard and diploma. I think the tassel was my favorite part.

Interestingly, they both have the same corny "Con-GRAD-ulations" message on them, and it's even in the same font. I'm ever so creative, aren't I? Fortunately, Kim & Angie never met each other to compare notes on the cakes I made for them!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barbie Swan Lake

This is an older photo I just found in my basement last week. It's a dome-shaped cake with a Barbie stuck into it and decorated like Barbie Swan Lake. This is also one of the dairy-free cakes I did for my friend's daughter's birthday one year.

She turned out pretty cute, I think, but I could've done better with the royal icing on the doll's body. Not too bad for my first attempt at it, though. I learned a lot from doing that cake, so I do much better work now...Promise!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Baby's 1st Birthday

My neighbor's cousin's other cousin - (how's that for livin' in the South?) - called me a few weeks ago to see if I would be available to make a cake for her daughter's 1st birthday. When she sent me the image of the napkin from the paper products she was planning to use for the party, I immediately knew I'd done one previously for a friend in Arizona using the very same images. It's really cute, with pastel colors, flower, ladybug, butterfly, etc.

Anyway, she said it needed to be enough to feed 50 people, plus she wanted a "smash cake" for the birthday girl to dig into. So, this 2-layer French Vanilla cake is 12"x18" covered in buttercream, with decorations made of fondant. The "smash cake" is just a 6" round decorated as a flower, with a fondant bee on top.

It took me all day from start to finish - making the icing, crumb coating the cakes, making more icing, coloring icing, making fondant pieces, painting some of the fondant, affixing all the fondant decorations, and piping the details and borders. (Whew! It wears me out just typing all of that!)

She just came to pick up the cake with her sleeping baby in the backseat. I hope they enjoy their party tomorrow! And I hope you enjoy the photos!

(I just feel bad that my own kids never had such fancy cakes for their first birthdays!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cake Decorating with Kids - Part 1

My girls are involved in a group called Keepers at Home. It's like a Christian version of girl scouts where they can earn badges or charms for learning different life skills, or learning about different animals, sports, or academic subject areas. Today, I taught the younger half of the group about cake decorating! We split the group in half (younger girls & older girls) for this activity so it would be a little less chaotic. And I hosted it at my house. So, today we had about 7 girls and their moms here.

I taught them smooth icing, piping dots and lines and letters with the small round tip, as well as making shapes with the large round tips. I also taught them stars, flowers, zigzags, etc. with the star tip. They each practiced on a sheet of wax paper. Then they each got to decorate their own cupcake (and eat it if they wanted to). I was really impressed by how even these younger girls really paid attention and caught on to what I was telling them.
I had lots of fun, and I think the girls did too. It's always interesting to see the artisic kids being creative, and the serious kids concentrating; then there are the ones like my daughter, Hayden, who just PILE on the icing so they can EAT IT!!! (I must admit -she comes by it honestly!)

HSM2 Cake-tastrophe (almost)

Here's a picture of my latest creation. (Actually, if you'd asked me last night, I would've said it was my LAST creation!) Obviously, it's a HSM2 cake for my friend's daughter (& my daughters' friend), Lexi. When she requested a High School Musical 2 cake, I had to turn to my favorite cake decorating website for ideas on this one. So, that's where I got the idea for laminating the printed image. (Believe it or not, there ARE some brave souls who have drawn all those characters with icing. I'm way too lazy for that, though.)

So, the icing is white buttercream, sprayed blue on top. The border is supposed to look like waves (but I was kind of in a hurry). I just painted a few blue stripes inside the bag before loading it with the white frosting. The lettering is fondant painted with gold & silver sparkle dust. And the image of the characters (Chad, Sharpay, Troy, Gabriella, Ryan & Taylor - scary that I knew 5 of the 6!) was printed from a website, cut out and laminated.

Hopefully it holds together. I have a feeling it may fall apart when we cut it tonight, though. The top layer broke into about six pieces as I was transferring it from the cooling rack to the cake board. (Then I shattered into about a million pieces!) But I finally pulled myself together, put the pieces in order and glued them in place with buttercream. One of the biggest challenges in cake decorating (besides not licking my fingers) is fixing my mistakes, or making things appear to work out. Thankfully, most of my mistakes are only seen by me! Keeping my fingers crossed.....

****UPDATED to add : The party was fun, Lexi LOVED her cake, and best of all...it didn't even fall apart. Anyway, what if it had? People have to break it up to eat it anyway, right?! I got lots of compliments on the flavor/moistness of the cake too. It was a Duncan Hines French Vanilla mix with some extra stuff added in (including White Chocolate pudding mix and buttermilk instead of water). Yum-O!****