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!