Happy 1st Birthday, Ezri! (Sun, 17 Mar 2013 22:00:00 +0000)
Happy 1st Birthday, Ezri!
My baby is finally 1 year old! She had a wonderful birthday party filled with family and friends. Her party theme was storybook fantasy (blame her mom for recently re-reading Lord of the Rings and watching Game of Thrones). I wanted her party cake to look like an old tome of fairytales (a la Grimm brothers).
Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the cake in progress (I had a lot to do!), but I can explain the process. I have Sharon Zambito's Book Smarts DVD (which I love) but didn't quite do that same process for this cake.
The book covers were fondant covered cake boards (2 per book). I textured the fondant after covering the boards by crumpling up foil, flattening it out, then pressing it against the fondant.
The cakes were sitting on a cake board slightly smaller than the book covers. A strip of ivory fondant textured with an all-thread rod covered 3 sides of the cake.
A strip of fondant for the spine was sandwiched between the cake and the covers. The brown fondant spine accidentally didn't cover all of the cake at one end but instead of re-doing it, I left it looking more old then originally intended! This is probably the first time my crummy fondant job actually worked in my favor!
I diluted brown airbrush coloring with Everclear and "washed" the fondant to make them look dingy. The embellishments were gold luster dust mixed with Everclear painted on. Specifically for the text, I had printed out "Happy Birthday Ezri" with Ruritania font on a piece of paper. Then I free-handed painted the letters using the printout as reference. That's why the spacing is inconsistent for the different words!
The cake was put right in the middle of the serving table surrounded by food. Apparently some people didn't realize what it was and were really confused why I (of all people) didn't have any cake!
Decorator's Triangle (Tue, 12 Feb 2013 19:14:00 +0000)
On Sunday my family attended a memorial for Bill, a lovely man that always had the biggest smile. I brought a last minute cake with left over icing, mix, and some apple filling that I had in the pantry. As I was icing it, I figured the cake shouldn't look too fancy, but it should still look nice. In the back of my cupboard I had the Wilton Decorating Triangle. I had never used an icing comb before, but gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.
This was an all-butter American buttercream. With the comb gently against the side of the cake, I gave the turn table a spin and that was that! For the top I gently placed it so the edge of the comb was in the center and spun again. You can't press too hard or it will scrape away your icing and you'll see cake underneath.
I was pleased at how thin and sharp the plastic was, making the icing shapes smooth and consistent. I'll have to try out the other sides with future last-minute cakes!
Happy 1st Birthday, Kai! (Tue, 12 Feb 2013 01:44:00 +0000)
Happy 1st Birthday, Kai!
My co-worker's special little man, Kai, just turned one year old! This was a fun, stress-free cake. Kai's mommy requested buttercream, so I only used fondant for the accents.
Wish I looked this good naked!
Kai's mommy Amy has been taking some decorating classes at Make It Sweet. She requested that I use that shop's cake mix and icing recipe, which made things super easy for me! The American buttercream was made with high ratio shortening. It's been a long time since I've iced a cake with American buttercream, so I relied on Sharon Zambito's techniques and busted out the Viva paper towels!
I'm not so good at getting straight buttercream :( Hopefully no one really noticed. Here's some wavy fondant accents to draw away attention!
The texture for the darker green was from rolling an all-thread rod against the fondant. The lighter green had texture from the JEM fabric texture roller. Looks like crepe!
The plane was cut by hand from gumpaste. I cut 3 of them, staying on the safe side, which turned out to be a good choice. My first one broke while drying. The second I outlined with black royal icing, but didn't like it because I didn't have black anywhere else on the cake. The gray outline worked better with my colors.
The plane was secured to a wooden skewer with left over royal icing. The cloud puffs were piped buttercream, gently shaped with a flat paintbrush dusted with powdered sugar. I never knew you could sculpt buttercream this way, but I figured the sugar would allow me to manipulate the buttercream without it sticking to the bristles. Worked well!
Royal icing "1" on top of a buttercream "1". The clouds here are also piped and sculpted buttercream. At the party some people had never heard of a smash cake. Wonder if it's a regional thing?
Happy Birthday, Kai!
Best Seat in the House (Tue, 21 Aug 2012 05:10:00 +0000)
Best Seat in the House
This post is for all those wonderful people who travel around the world to teach sugar art to others through classes, demonstrations, and competitions. The follow-up post is for the wonderful volunteers that inadvertently help you teach.
Hi! Remember me? Probably not, but during your entire demonstration I may have sat about 5 feet away from you. I'm the one who attached the lapel mic to your chef coat, apologizing for having to mess with your clothes or maybe cracking a joke about needing to buy you dinner first. I'm the one who told you that you have 10 minutes left or maybe (hopefully) don't worry, you have plenty of time to finish up. I'm the one behind the video camera, worrying about that awful feedback noise from the PA system or how washed out the video projection looks on the screen. Behind me are anywhere from 40 to 250 people depending on me and my equipment to be able to watch and listen to you teach. Even with all that stress, I still have the best seat in the house.
I'm the local cake club's A/V coordinator. What does that mean? Well, that means I'm the volunteer for all "that techie stuff". That means I'm hauling all the cameras, projectors, microphones, tripods, etc. to and from cake events. That means I'm hooking everything up, taping wires down, testing all the inputs and outputs of various electronics. Am I an A/V expert? Not by any means, but I seem to know more about "that techie stuff" than your average cake lady. In my years of volunteering for my local cake club, I've had the pleasure of being A/V coordinator (or assistant) for 3 Day of Sharings and 2 Sugar Art Shows. I've been learning throughout my experiences and am ready to share some tips, do's and don'ts, and suggestions to both the professional sugar art demonstrators and any "cake-techies" out there. If someone wrote a manual on this stuff, for the love of God please link it to me. Otherwise, let's blaze a trail ...
SUGGESTIONS FOR DEMONSTRATORS
First I'd like to say thank you to all the sugar art demonstrators that I've had the honor of learning from. You are a special breed: funny, smart, talented, and passionate. It is a joy to watch you work and be a part of your audience. I, however, have a unique perspective of you, because of what needs to be done so you can successfully teach a large group of people. What follows are not criticisms, but suggestions. There are dozens of things that need to fall into place for an excellent show, but there can be a lot more things that are unseen or unavoidable. We all hope for the best, but let's prepare for the worst. In the end, don't forget to relax and have fun. We wanted you here with us, and we're a fun bunch of people. I've never heard anyone heckle at a cake show.
Double check what time you are presenting.
Many of you are hauling products because you are a vendor or are teaching classes in addition to all your equipment for demonstrating, and things get crazy. As soon as you get yourself and all your gear settled down, ask the show coordinator when your time slot is. We had cases where demonstrators who were listed to go first were still stuck in traffic or even running behind in their classes. The show coordinators might compensate by having another presenter go first. Or heck, we might have released the schedule with errors, or maybe you only had an old copy. As soon as you can, ask and make sure. Show coordinators must also try to proactively remind you of your time slot, but like I said, things get crazy. No one wants you taken by surprise and rush to set up. And by all means we can help you get things in order. Forgot or can't find your tool? Let us fetch one so you don't have to come up with any plan Bs.
Be mindful of the colors of your sugar work.
This requires some technical explanation (with my limited understanding of "techie things"). The video camera is processing brightness and color information with its own brain. When presented with areas of high contrast or a large areas of a deep color, it has a hard time understanding. The kicker is that we're projecting the video feed to a screen in a well-lit area and the image looks washed out because of all the light. In the end, it's hard to get crisp, clear video in a large room, especially when the light you need to work is also directly competing against making the projection look good. This particularly becomes a problem when you are demonstrating with fondant or gumpaste. If you're cutting, molding, texturing, etc. your sugar paste, all the wonderful detail can be easily lost depending on the colors you chose.
So what are you to do? I find that neutral colors show detail better. Pastels, soft beiges, off-white, etc.
Be mindful of the colors you are wearing.
All the tips above apply to you as well. Also, don't demo sugar paste that is the same color as your shirt! Whenever you hold up your work, your shirt becomes the background. For example, if you try to show the audience the black piece of fondant you are working on and you are wearing a nice black blouse, we're not going to see a thing! Here's an excellent excerpt from http://www.videomaker.com/article/12990/ "Just What Should I Wear?"
High-contrast clothing is another major problem. Video cameras cannot handle high contrasts between bright and dark objects, and this includes skin tone and clothing. Dark-skinned people should avoid wearing white or very light colors. If they do, their shirts will glow when you set the camera to expose the face properly. Extremely light-skinned talent should avoid black or very dark clothing. A black shirt will become a formless hole in the video, because it will have to be very dark if you set the camera so that the skin tone is properly exposed.
Place items you want me to zoom in on onto the table.
It's easy to forget that you are on camera. You're in the zone, explaining all your valuable tips and tricks to us, and you hold up your work for us to see. You forgot that the closest person to you (besides me) is maybe 20 feet away. They're not looking at you, but at the large projection screen behind you. You ask, "Can you see this?" and you starting moving it toward the direction of the camera. Chances are that I've already zoomed in on your work, but now you've moved it and I have no frame of reference of where to adjust the camera. Best thing to do is put your work down in front of you on the table, and I'll have an easier time tracking and zooming. Try to consistently put your items back in the same spot in front of you, and I can anticipate when to close in. When you put your work down, the item is still and the camera has time to auto-focus and adjust coloring. This is usually not a big problem because you are wonderful decorators and teachers, which means your hands are always steady. If anything, you just need to slow down your muscle-memory movements so the audience can follow what you are doing.
Don't stop talking!
Some of the work in your demonstrations gets repetitive (e.g. cutting, molding, dusting, wiring 5 petals the same way for a flower). What kills the energy in the room is whenever you stop talking while you're repeating the same actions. Talk about anything, talk about nothing, talk about the weather, your cats, your flight in ... tell us your anecdotes, tell us jokes, tell us anything, just don't stop! Don't forget that we paid to hear you talk, so you're not bothering or boring us. If you run out of instructions for what you are currently working on, come up for air and ask if we have any questions. Don't be afraid to repeat the instructions either, someone might not have heard or understood it the first time.
Have the finished items pre-made so you can refer to it.
Try as we may, sometimes we just don't follow you. That's when it's good to have a before and after example of what you are demonstrating. Keep your finished product nearby so I can move the camera to it when you're explaining where a piece goes, what order things should be assembled, etc. Keep several example pieces to show techniques executed in different ways. You know what I'd really like? If you're demoing a sequence of many steps to produce a single item (e.g. a complicated flower), show me the finished product first. Point out the different parts in the order that you are going to make it. After a few stages, do it again for the remaining steps. Pretty soon you'll see a wave of head bobbing as we "get" it.
That's all I can think of from my mental list that's now 3 years old. I hope this helps someone out there, either in front or behind the camera! Even perching on my stiff folding stool for +5 hours, constantly controlling the camera, I still have the best seat in the house. But don't be offended if you catch me drinking several cups of coffee or stifling a yawn ;)
Fondant Accent Tutorials (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 05:47:00 +0000)
Fondant Accent Tutorials
Today I had a wonderful time demonstrating some fun things with fondant to my local cake club, Capital Confectioners. Here are the links to my new tutorials!
Scratch It: Wacky Cake (Tue, 31 Jul 2012 21:23:00 +0000)
I've been following America's Test Kitchen's "Cooking Through the Decades" contest and this week's recipe is from 1945: Wacky Cake.
Even in wartime Americans were not about to deprive their sweet tooth. Unless they were dabbling in the black market or using precious ration points, homemakers found ways to avoid butter and eggs in their desserts. Wacky Cake sounds goofy but it is really a domestic science experiment gone completely right, in which the chocolate cake is moist and fluffy despite containing no eggs or butter. American bakers learned to have their cake and eat it too, realizing that serving their country and serving dessert were not mutually exclusive.This is probably the easiest cake ever to make. The lack of dairy makes it vegan too. From my internet research, some people suggested that this recipe was made during the Depression and others from WWII. Lots of people have made this from recipes passed down generation by generation. It's definitely wacky, from the ingredients to the mixing process.
Ingredients go directly in the pan! Dig holes in the dry to hold the wet.
Pour water all of the top, then stir. Bake. Done!
Top with some powdered sugar.
My first reaction was, "Meh ... not the best chocolate cake I've had ..." Then I looked down at my plate and wondered where my slice went. Apparently I inhaled it.
The texture is pretty impressive for a cake with so few ingredients. It was fluffy and moist. You could really taste the natural cocoa.
I baked this cake early Saturday morning. My daughter woke up and came downstairs by the time I was taking pictures of it. Lucky her got cake for breakfast!
I kept trying to get this top-down picture of a cake slice on a plate,
but she kept taking the plate for her to eat.
"Mushrooming the Cookies" class with Peggy Higgins (Mon, 30 Jul 2012 21:06:00 +0000)
"Mushrooming the Cookies" class with Peggy Higgins
It's been a while since I've signed up for a decorating class, but this I just couldn't pass up. Peggy Higgins from Top That! Cake Designs has been teaching "Mushrooming the Cookies". These are the techniques she used for her entry into the Confections category of the That Takes The Cake! competition in 2011, where she won 1st place in Adult Intermediate. When I saw this piece, I was floored! These were cookies!
Photos of these cookies also appeared on Cake Wreck's: Sunday Sweets that featured entries from the competition. Notice my green/white/black wedding cake photo is next to it :b Here is a blog post from Somara Maggi, the 2nd place winner, congratulating her on her entry:
Peggy's tutorial on these cookies can be found in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of American Cake Decorating Magazine.
In class we made a more whimsical version with a fantasy face on the stalk. The students and I had a wonderful time! Thanks, Peggy!
Working on the cap ... which is a shaped cookie!
The stalk was a dowel wrapped with rice cereal treats and fondant.
Many techniques Peggy taught for the face were based on her experience with Lorraine McKay. I've never had a class with Lorraine McKay, but she's awesome. I, however, am not. Lorraine is teaching at my cake club's upcoming Day of Sharing!
It was nice to spend a day with other cake ladies. In the future I hope to take (i.e. afford) more decorating classes.
Ruffle Flowers (Fri, 27 Jul 2012 22:47:00 +0000)
I've been asked to do a demonstration at my cake club's next monthly meeting. Specifically, I was asked to figure out how to do the fondant billows, but I like to demo several techniques when I get the chance. The demo will be called "Trendy Fondant Accents" and will cover 3 decorations: billows, pom poms, and ruffle flowers. These are items I'm seeing all over Pinterest, facebook, and in cake deco magazines. After some internet-scouring research, I came up with my own way of doing things.
First up are the ruffle flowers. These are fab because they don't require many fancy tools, they don't take long to make, and they don't need any dry time if you're in a hurry. I don't know who invented or made these very popular, but here are a couple sites that helped me.
1. Roll out your fondant (or gumpaste) very thin on a non-stick surface. Here I am using a cutting board dusted with powdered sugar.
2. Cut out several sizes of the same shape. Here I am using my Progressive Biscuit/Cookie Cutter Set with the scalloped side.
3. Place your shape on top of a foam pad. This is optional if you don't have one, but it does make ruffling a bit easier.
4. Using your favorite tool for curling edges, thin out the edges of your shape by applying pressure. Once the edges are thinned out, apply more pressure to really start curling.
Here I am using the thin stick tool from Wilton's gumpaste tool set. To thin out the edge of my fondant, I rock the tool back and forth within a single petal. Once thin, I press down firmly with the tool and rock back and forth again, still within a single petal.
Notice that I'm placing the stick tool so that the edge of my fondant meets with where the tool begins to taper. I found that this is the best way to get a tight curl. I don't roll the tool along the entire edge; I pick up the tool and start again on the next petal section. Make sure the end of the tool is always pointing to the center of the cut out.
5. Curl all your shapes until they are nice and curly and frilly.
If you are using the ball tool for ruffling ...
6. Dab some edible glue in the middle of your largest cut out. Here I am using tylose glue.
7. Place the next size cut out on top. Apply pressure to the middle of the cut out so it can adhere to the bottom piece.
You can use your ball tool or just your finger tip to gently apply pressure.
8. Repeat with remaining cut outs.
Gently fluff up and re-shape any smooshed sections with your stick tool.
9. Now for something to go in the middle! Here I dabbed some edible glue on the top-most piece and dropped in some dragees. Use the stick tool to help place them nicely.
I made sure the middle dragee I chose was large and the rest were smaller.
10. You can allow your flower to dry if you like. Clean up any residual powdered sugar by brushing clear alcohol gently on the flower.
Try cut outs of different colors!
Here is a round cut out curled with a ball tool.
The center is a mini m&m!
Large with small cut out. Edges painted with gold luster dust mixed with Everclear.
Easy peasy! Have fun!
Scratch It: Cold-Oven Pound Cake (Fri, 29 Jun 2012 05:26:00 +0000)
"Cold-Oven Pound Cake"
Color me happy! I'm pretty sure I knocked this recipe out of the park. In all fairness, it was pretty simple, but still! I followed all the directions correctly (except using 2% instead of whole milk) and didn't over-bake it. This cake is probably the best scratch pound cake I've had so far.
This recipe uses cake flour and was baked in my Chicago Metallic Angel Food cake pan. The trick to this recipe is not to pre-heat the oven. While I was getting my ingredients together, I actually made the mistake of turning on the oven right away. Felt pretty weird to have to turn it back off.
Finally, a pound cake recipe that didn't yield some weird puffy, crusty top.
It's been over 24 hours since this cake was made and the house still smells amazing. Nice, tight but tender crumb. And the taste? Pretty darn good. Yup, this one is going in "the binder" (my collection of printed-out internet recipes that I've made successfully).
Scratch It: RLB Yellow Cakes (Wed, 20 Jun 2012 21:43:00 +0000)
"Buttermilk Country Cake"
"She Loves Me Cake"
by Rose Levy Beranbaum
I'm still working on scratch baking with the help of some experts. I've recently purchased Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum as suggested by fellow CakeCentral.com members. Several people said it is worth it to own both her Cake Bible and Heavenly Cakes. My most recent scratch cakes are her "Buttermilk Country Cake" and "She Loves Me Cake" (featured in photos), both of which are variations of her "All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake".
On the books' suggestion, I spun some sugar in my blender to make "super fine" sugar. I don't recall seeing super fine sugar at the grocery store, but next shopping trip I'll take a closer look. I can't really tell the difference in the final product, but I'm hoping experience will help me with that later.
Scratch baking is not easy. I have yet to really follow a recipe 100% correctly. With the "She Loves Me Cake" I poured all the milk into the liquids bowl, not reading that only 1/4 cup should have gone in. The rest was to go with the butter into the dry ingredients. I also over-baked it :( That's probably why my cake came out dry.
With the "Buttermilk" cake, I didn't follow the directions on my powdered cultured buttermilk container. If you mix the powder directly with water, it clumps up. You're supposed to add the powder to the dry ingredients and add the water to the wet. I tried to split this recipe into 2 6" round pans and that was wayyyy too much batter. It overflowed in the oven and made a big, burnt, smelly mess. The cake that I salvaged was moist but very delicate. It crumbled when sliced.
Please don't judge these cake recipes on my failures because I'm sure I messed them up! Instead, give me a virtual hug and know that, if you're also one who can't seem to read ahead, I'm right there with ya!
A Feast of Ice & Fire (Sun, 10 Jun 2012 02:32:00 +0000)
A Feast of Ice & Fire
If you haven't read any of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire book series, drop what you're doing and go buy A Game of Thrones (the first book in the series). Then sit back for several days for a good read.
If you haven't visited the Inn at the Crossroads food blog inspired by the Song of Ice & Fire series, drop what you're doing and click on that link!
See? Aren't you glad I told you?
I have recently purchased their new official cookbook for the series. It's pretty enjoyable to read their research on their blog or in these pages for medieval recipes. Hits me up on many geeky levels. I hope to make a few of these savory and sweet foods inspired by my all-time favorite book series.
Crusty White Bread
This recipe was ridiculously easy. I was pretty skeptical on the outcome because the ingredients were so basic, and I'm such a beginner at bread making ... but hubby and I were pleasantly surprised. We devoured all of one of the small loaves right out of the oven.
The exterior is pleasantly crisp and thick ... much like my favorite pizza crust. The inside was soft but hearty and yeasty.
How fun! I'm looking forward to trying the desserts listed in the book. They often offer both a recipe for a dish old-world style and also a modern spin version. Not much cake decorating going on here, but still an adventure!
Happy Birthday, Zoey! (Tue, 08 May 2012 01:33:00 +0000)
Happy Birthday, Zoey!
My little girl's birthday isn't until Friday, but we've already celebrated her birthday 3 times with various family members on different days. Still not sure if I'll make yet another cake later this week! The first cake is when we doubled her birthday with my nephew and celebrated with my side of the family. The second is when we celebrated with my hubby's family.
It's been a while since I've done a frozen buttercream transfer. Last time I did one, the parchment paper I had piped on to seemed to crinkle while freezing. This time I used some nice acetate, but it still managed to warp slightly as the buttercream contracted. Maybe next time I'll tape the acetate down firmly to my small cutting board.
Instead of piping all the colors, I used a paint brush for some of the smaller areas. I dabbed the colored icing into the proper spots instead of wasting icing bags and time for less than a square inch of coloring. It turned out well, especially for having done it in the middle of the night. The next day I plopped on the frozen slab and threw crumbs on the side of the cake right as our guests were walking in.
My daughter's one request for her birthday was dinosaurs. For this cake, I put the leveled cake tops into the food processor to make crumbs. After filling and icing the cake, I sprinkled the crumbs to cover the top to look like soil. With melted almond bark in a squeeze bottle, I piped some dinosaur bones. She thoroughly enjoyed picking out the bones and eating them.
Happy Birthday, kid!
Scratch It: America's Test Kitchen (Sat, 05 May 2012 04:54:00 +0000)
While on maternity leave, I've been watching a lot of America's Test Kitchen online with my website subscription. Whenever the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, she nurses while I watch dessert episodes on my laptop. I've had the opportunity to make a few of the recipes that interested me. They've been great learning experiences and several are now my go-to recipes.
Their science segments have really helped me understand the different ingredients used in caking ... dutch-processed vs. natural cocoa, cake vs. all-purpose flour, cocoa butter vs. cocoa solids, etc. Watching their chefs use different mixing methods and hear their explanations have really opened my eyes. Scratch baking is very scientific, and my sloppy, bad habits just won't do if I want to succeed.
I know that America's Test Kitchen isn't the highest echelon of pastry art, but it has held my hand as I transitioned to scratch living ... and not just desserts. This week I made chicken tikka masala and thin crust pizza from scratch. I haven't attempted using yeast in ages!
I've tried their dessert recipes for:
Unfortunately there is no turning back. I'm afraid the next time I taste a box mix, I won't be able to keep a straight face. The host of the show once humorously (but emphatically) referred to box cake mix as "the decline of Western civilization!" I distinctly recall the moment when tub frosting became disgusting to me. After years of loving Duncan Hines' chocolate and cream cheese flavored icing ... trying them again after gaining experience with scratch icing was a wake-up call.
I know it must be good if my daughter eats it all. She's not a picky eater, but somehow she's not big on cake. When I picked her up from school today, I told her I had made brownies, and we'd try some when we got home. Sitting at the kitchen table, I cut a piece for her. She insisted that the piece I gave her was supposed to be my piece and then indicated which piece she wanted from the cutting board. So I ended up with the small portion and she got the big slice. She ate the top crust first and insisted I do the same. We enjoyed our brownies with some cold milk.
At some point I'll try their red velvet cake recipe as well as their chewy chocolate chip cookies. I go back to work full time in a little over a week, so I need to enjoy my baking free time while it lasts!
Scratch It: Pound Cake v2.0 (Fri, 13 Apr 2012 02:13:00 +0000)
"Cream Cheese Pound Cake"
Ok, I'm convinced: I don't like pound cake recipes that use cake flour. This cake and the last pound cake I made have this particular texture that I just don't think pound cake should have. This one did taste better than the last, though.
I can explain what happened above. Well, I can explain why it's a bit over-cooked. I can't explain the puffy top crust. Anyways, due to traffic, my hubby needed me to pick up our toddler from daycare unexpectedly. The cake was almost done baking ... so I turned off the oven and left the cake inside to coast, then ran out the door. When I finally got back and had the cake cool, I shattered the crispy, puffy top and removed it. It tasted yummy ... I love me some pound cake crust!
Other than that crust, I didn't care for the cake at all. Luckily I have an office full of co-worker guinea pigs that love free food.
Scratch It: Pound Cake (Wed, 21 Mar 2012 06:16:00 +0000)
"Perfect Pound Cake"
from Cake Bible
This is my second cake from Cake Bible, and I'm a bit disappointed. I've made a couple different pound cakes from scratch before and this is my least favorite. The recipe describes this cake as "melt-in-your-mouth" texture. It reminded me of melt-away cookies, the variety made with powdered sugar and cornstarch. In my opinion ... pound cake should not be like that. In addition to that, hubby and I really didn't think it tasted good either.
What I liked about this recipe was that it was the batch size was intended for a loaf pan. In this testing phase of mine, it's nice to not have to use up so many ingredients. It had been so long since I had used my loaf pan, I wondered if I even had one at all. Sure enough, a dusty but undamaged non-stick pan was in the back of one of my kitchen's cabinets.
The cake baked up well and was easily cut with a serrated knife. Like other pound cakes, the crust parts are somewhat yummier. I did not grease my pan, like the recipe suggested. Instead I did my usual of cutting out parchment paper for the bottom. The cake actually pulled away from the sides all on its own. I'm not sure if that was due to the non-stick pan or the recipe.
I'm convinced I did not screw up this recipe, I just don't like it. I'll have to try out some other recipes I have for pound cake. The one I got from my petit fours class, I recall, tasted good and contained cream cheese.
Scratch It: Chiffon Cake (Sat, 17 Mar 2012 04:04:00 +0000)
Everyone once in a while, hubby and I manage to catch a little bit of America's Test Kitchen on PBS. We always enjoy watching what they make and hear their explanations of their experiments and discoveries. The episode called "Retro Desserts" that featured Banana Pudding and Chiffon Cake definitely caught our eyes. I've never had chiffon cake before, but the recipe describes it like so: "Chiffon cake should have the airy height of angel food cake with the richness of pound cake." Color me intrigued!
I made sure to buy fresh baking powder so it would not be a repeat mistake of my last scratch cake. While separating the eggs, I managed to get some drops of yolk into the bowl ... gingerly, I fished them out using the egg shell halves, but figured the cream of tartar and the sugar added would help stabilize things as I whipped the snot out of them. Everything went just fine.
This recipe required the purchase of an angel food cake pan. America's Test Kitchen recommended the pan by Chicago Metallic, which I got from amazon.com for $15.56. The pan worked great! When first making the recipe, I thought no way was there enough batter to fill this pan. Afterward I began folding and folding in the whipped egg whites and was soon glad I had chosen my biggest bowl to work in! I made sure not to under or over-mix the batter ... incorporating all the egg whites but without losing much volume.
The cake is just slightly over-baked, but only noticeable at the crust. You can see how it's just a bit dark. After some research online, I concluded the best way to cut it was with a serrated knife. I like how tight the crumb looked ... the cake was very consistent throughout the interior, which meant that I was successful at incorporating all of the whipped egg whites.
I'm very pleased with how this cake turned out. It was spongy yet delicate, rich but not heavy. No topping required! Tonight even my daughter asked for seconds ... and she normally does NOT eat cake (just the icing). I was quite complimented by that! This seems like a great spring-time cake, especially with Easter coming up.
Scratch It: All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake (Fri, 16 Mar 2012 05:14:00 +0000)
"All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake"
from Cake Bible
My first attempt at scratch baking is the Cake Bible's All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake. I'm pretty convinced I screwed this one up. The recipe called for baking powder, but I accidentally started off with baking soda. I managed to recover a lot of the soda off of my dry ingredients, but still ... that was definitely not going to help. Also, I'm not quite sure how old my baking powder was. It hadn't expired, but I think it was approaching a year old.
Besides the baking powder incident, the batter seemed very thick to me. The recipe warned about over-mixing, and I could swear I didn't. I tried to follow directions, but it's not like I had a stop watch on me to make sure I was mixing for exactly 20 seconds after step X, Y, and Z.
The cakes seemed to bake up nicely and on time. I cut off the top to see what was under the hood and was not very pleased. I was hoping for a tight, delicate crumb ... but I got something bordering on dense and with some big holes.
Waste not, want not. I used the left-over egg whites from the recipe to make coffee-flavored Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the filling and icing.
This is what I call the poor man's petal effect. Instead of using a spatula to smear each icing blog, I just dragged my tip down into it and stroked the icing away.
Things I like about the petal effect technique are:
This is definitely going to be my go-to, no-stress cake finishing technique.
The taste was fine, but like I said earlier, the texture was not ideal. If someone could show me a picture of how it is supposed to look, I could be more sure. I'll give this cake another try later.
My co-workers didn't seem to mind eating it all up!
Baking itch? "Scratch" it! (Fri, 16 Mar 2012 04:34:00 +0000)
I think after each annual Austin cake show I participate in, I'm allowed to be a little turned off of cake decorating afterward. This year I'd really like to practice baking cakes from scratch. Now that I'm officially on maternity leave (no baby yet, but at least off of work), I'm already getting bored and got that "itch" to bake. Must ... eat ... cake ... the baby demands it! I'm jumping on the scratch cake bandwagon for a couple of reasons.
For Christmas my brother bought me Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible, which I've seen a lot of cakers swear by. Is it wrong for the only bible in my nightstand to be the Cake Bible? It's got a lot of great scientific information and explanations of methodologies, which appeals to the geek side of me.
On CakeCentral.com, I've have heard talk that Duncan Hines has reduced their cake mix sizes from 18.25 oz down to 16.5 oz, which is the same size as the Betty Crocker mixes. I usually buy Duncan Hines for all my cakes, but if the store is out, I'll get Betty Crocker. I've noticed with the BC mixes that I'm always one cupcake shy of 2 dozen! I never had that problem with DH. I figured this was a good sign that I shouldn't rely so heavily on box mixes. They're not sturdy enough for my liking when decorating them with fondant. By the time I'm done slicing the cake, it's all a crumby mess.
Last but not least, the recent Austin cake show/competition had King Arthur Flour sponsor the tasting competition portion. The winners got great prizes, and I ended up getting a free box of King Arthur cake flour from the leftover sponsorship materials. Hopefully they'll be back next year, and I'll be ready for them!
Expect my next few posts to be about my Adventures in Scratch Baking!
That Takes The Cake 2012: Garden Gnome (Wed, 29 Feb 2012 23:57:00 +0000)
That Takes The Cake
8th Annual Sugar Art Show and Cake Competition
February 25th - 26th, 2012
Division: Adult Advanced
Category: Special Techniques
Title: Gnome with Cake
This is the most intensive cake project I have ever done. Unfortunately he did not win any awards, but I'm really quite proud of myself and this little guy.
Of course I'm disappointed that I didn't place, but jeez, look at my competition! The dragon took 3rd, the lilies display 2nd, and the orchids were 1st.
Adult Advanced Division
Special Techniques Category
Like always, I had a blast at this year's show. There were so many amazing cakes! Since I reduced my volunteer hours, I got to enjoy the show thoroughly ... I think I have a picture of every single competition entry! Coming soon is a separate blog post about the show. Now here's me blah blah blahing about what I did ...
Ever since last year's competition, I've been kicking around the idea of making a garden gnome. This was not my first choice for this year's competition, but since I'm pregnant I wanted to limit myself to something less ambitious than what I had originally wanted. The garden gnome "let's do it!" decision was made after shopping at Hobby Lobby one day and seeing a whole display of gnomes and accessories. They are so cute! After thinking it over for a few days, a went back to pick out my gnome. Here he is:
01/30/2012, ~1 hour
The metal flange was attached with 1/2" screws. My gnome needed some kind of armature that could support weight horizontally, so I drilled some tiny holes into the PVC pipe to insert bamboo skewers. Thankfully drilling into the PVC went well!
01/31/2012, ~1.5 hours
Last year, I had difficulties trying to build my cake over the flanges. Instead of compensating and compromising my figure, I decided to build up the base around the flange. I cut out a circle from 1/4" thick foam core and placed the board over my base, trimming the sides to fit neatly on top. Now, if I like, I can decorate my base and start building my figure flush with the bottom!
I made a batch of gumpaste using soft peak royal icing + Tylose. It took a long time to knead and there were little chunks of powdered sugar throughout the batch. I really need to sift my powdered sugar before using it instead of just dumping in the whole bag. Using my KitchenAid pasta roller at setting 2, I rolled out some gumpaste and cut several circles to use as practice tiles. These will help me figure out how to control my paint on gumpaste and try techniques without having to risk doing something that doesn't work on my entry.
02/01/2012, ~1 hour
02/02/2012, ~1 hour
02/04/2012, ~1 hour
I colored some gumpaste to match the black, blue, and green parts of my reference gnome. I used Americolor gel paste: super black, chocolate brown, navy blue, and leaf green.
02/05/2012, ~1.5 hours
Disaster! His pants fell off! I tried to apply my green gumpaste to sculpt his pants, but it just wasn't working. The gumpaste didn't stick to the initial foundation, the gumpaste didn't stick to itself, the gumpaste wouldn't smooth out, the gumpaste started to stretch and his pants started to fall off ... I was so upset, I tore it all off and had to reset myself. I decided gumpaste wasn't going to work and pulled out some old modeling chocolate from my pantry, colored it green, and let it rest. I'll try again later and see if it works.
02/07/2012, ~2 hours
02/08/2012, ~1 hour
02/09/2012, ~2 hours
02/11/2012, ~1.5 hours
02/12/2012, ~1 hour
02/15/2012, ~3 hours
It's truly inspiring! Unfortunately I'm no where as skilled as that. It took me 3 hours to sculpt my gnome's head. Just the flesh parts, not the beard! He looks pretty freakish without the hair because I wasn't sure what he should look like underneath and I was just trying to build up some foundation for the beard to go. I think he looks like Yoda crossed with Dopey from Snow White. I tried making his eyes by hollowing out the eye sockets, sticking in a white ball, and covering it with flesh colored eye lids, but that did not work. Perhaps if they were bigger or if I had teeny tiny tools, it'd go better. I gauged his eyes out and stuck in a lump of flesh and just carved the eyes out.
My metal tools were wonderful. I could smooth out and carve easily, but I did find it difficult to scrap modeling chocolate away. It's different there than clay, and just clumps and clings to the tools whenever I tried to scrape.
02/16/2012, ~1.5 hours
My reference gnome is holding a bird in his left hand, but I want mine to be holding a small plate with a slice of cake. I cut out a prototype from cardstock to get my desired sizes using a cutter and the end of one of my large piping tubes. I cut a small circle out of gumpaste, then a larger circle. I covered the smaller circle with the larger, trying to create an indentation so it wasn't just a flat plate. Once it dries, I'll turn it over and see how I like it. I don't think it's exactly what I want, but I haven't come up with a better solution just yet.
The recipe for gumpaste I've been using says to refrigerate it ... now I know why. My gumpaste had mold growing on it! Luckily it's not for eating.
02/18/2012, ~6 hours
With some red royal icing, I smoothed out the seam in his hat and tried to even out the rim. I busted out my airbrush and compressor and put on several layers of AmeriColor "Holiday Red". It's a pretty, bright red. Hopefully it won't class with his other colors.
The other day I wasn't really happy with the gumpaste plates, but I like them a lot more today. They dried nicely and I was able to sand them smoother with a scrap of sandpaper. I have 3 plates, so I'm going to try to coat one with "edible varnish" and leave the others matte to see which I like best.
I had some fun making little slices of birthday cake! I colored gumpaste ivory for the cake part, and made some pink for the icing. I used some sort of drywall scrubber to make texture on the cake. With my extruder and the smallest hole plate, I made skinny pink ropes. After some practice, I made a 3 layer cake filled and iced with pink icing. Since it looked so plain, I tried different techniques to make it look like it was piped along the border. I ended up coiling gumpaste around a toothpick and glued it to the bottom of the slice while making the coils slant. It doesn't exactly look liked piped buttercream, but it's still neat.
02/19/2012, ~4 hours
The airbrush paint on his hat finally dried completely, and I was able to attach it to his head with some royal icing. I first had to put down some more hair to get his hat to fit snuggly, but it looks great! Well, except for the seam at the back. During a dose of insomnia last night I figured out that I can make the seam look intentional if I add some "stitching" to it ... like the gnomes sew up their hats roughly. I can add more stitching around his coat, too, so it will look more consistent and give it more character.
His irises are little blobs of the navy modeling chocolate from his coat. He still looks creepy, though, without pupils. I'll let the irises "set" before adding those. My model reference also has painted brown eyeliner ... perhaps I'll paint on some chocolate to his upper lid as well.
At some point I need to give this guy a belt. Previously I had made a deep grove for where the belt should go, but I decided I took away too much. I put back some navy clay and built up a flat base for the belt to sit on.
Any artist will tell you that doing hands is hard. Sculpting tiny hands out of chocolate is no exception. I used my own hands as reference several times. At first I thought his left hand would be easy because it would be obscured by the plate of cake. I did a rough pass and then put the plate on top and was dismayed to see how much of his hand was visible. I had to add a lot more detail to the underside of his hand ... which is not easy for a preggo to do. I've found that sitting upright and working close to my competition entry makes my feet swell.
02/20/2012, ~1.5 hours
I made a long list of polish items that I'd like to do for my entry if I have time (and don't go into labor). The closer he is to being complete, the less happy I am with him. His coloring looks to flat ... he doesn't look jolly enough ... I want to look at him and have him make me smile (like his model reference does), and somehow I've lost that lovin' feeling.
02/21/2012, ~2 hours
It went on dark and glossy and didn't take forever to dry. His buckle is also gumpaste colored with gold luster dust + Everclear.
Not sure if my idea for the base board border is going to work, but since I haven't come up with anything better, I needed to go for it. Using my Wilton bead mold, I lined his board with gumpaste glued on with the Tylose glue.
Hopefully tomorrow I can sand it down a little, smooth out the edges with royal icing, and cover it with more gumpaste to simulate a concrete garden border. My parents' house had these and it makes me sad to remember them (my folks have sold their house and retired to the Philippines).
02/22/2012, ~1.5 hours
02/23/2012 - 02/24/2012, ~7 hours
Ok, the last couple days were a bit of a blur. I took that Thursday and Friday off of work to concentrate on finishing my entry and also allowing time to volunteer at the show.
On Thursday I hit up my local Hobby Lobby and bought several vials of Wilton's Color Dust. I don't usually dust my work, so I'm not sure if these products were good or not as compared to, say, CK Petal Dust. What I noticed immediately was that the powder was itself was inconsistent. Some of it was like dust, some clumped into little balls. I poured a little bit at a time into a disposable plastic cup to work with. I had to break it up using my paintbrush before applying it. The other bummer was that there were clumps of white coloring, most noticeable in my red. If I didn't break up the dust, I risked applying streaks of white. My gnome's hat was almost irreparably colored with white streaks.
I dusted his cheeks, nose, ears, tongue, and hands pink. His beard was dusted with a mixture of brown and white for depth. His eyeliner is melted chocolate applied with a tiny paintbrush.
I ended up re-painting his belt using AmeriColor Super Black mixed with Everclear. The original coat of AmeriMist Black somehow ended up with a green sheen. I had to use this black paint anyway to help give him shinier black gumpaste pupils.
I used the Tylose glue to secure the plate to his hand and also the cake to the plate. I like how the Tylose glue is clear ... you could see a little of it on his fingers if you looked hard enough, but it was mostly invisible.
With some green royal icing, I piped vines (Wilton tip #3 and #4) and leaves around the "planter". I don't particular like the leaf tip I used (I forget which number it is). The shape is prone to break off the leaf at the end. I jammed a modeling tool into the tip to spread the metal end a little and that helped.
A while back I made some chocolate cupcakes and I used my food processor to break 3 of them into crumbs for the soil. I put these crumbs back into the oven for another 25 minutes on 250 to dry them out. The gravel is actually Carbon Dulce (a.k.a. Coal Candy) that I made back at Christmas-time using the recipe from Sprinkles Bakes. Looks real, doesn't it??? I just loved how it turned out ... and the cake crumbs made it smell really good.
Well ... that's it! Piece of cake, huh? Heh ...
Don't Trust a 2 Year Old (Mon, 20 Feb 2012 17:20:00 +0000)
FYI, don't trust a 2 year old alone with parts of your cake competition entry. Don't get me wrong; I have a great kid. I suppose I set myself up for this one.
Sometimes I work on my competition entry in the kitchen and leave my stuff out. My daughter will come along as ask what it is. She's about 2 and 3/4 years old and is used to seeing "Mommy's toys" out on the table. She sees me working with gumpaste and asks if it's Playdough. I explain that it's a lot like Playdough and Mommy is using it to make things. I let her have a piece and have her squish it. I explain the shaker has powder in it to make it not sticky. She gets to roll the gumpaste around on my mat with powdered sugar. I explain to her that Mommy is letting these other pieces dry so they can get hard. I tell her not to touch those pieces and she nods, fully understanding. I go to the bathroom and come back, then noticing one of my pieces is gone ... she is squishing it and pushing it around on the mat. Luckily I had made 3 duplicate pieces "just in case" and she had grabbed the one that I didn't like that much. After a brief exchange of me expressing my shock, we both got over it and moved on. We enjoyed playing with gumpaste together.
Oh well. At least she didn't eat it.
St. Valentine's Day Cookies (Wed, 15 Feb 2012 03:49:00 +0000)
St. Valentine's Day Cookies
My kiddo's class celebrated Valentine's Day today! She came home with a whole bag full of goodies ... I didn't know she'd be getting a bigger haul for Valentine's Day than Christmas! It's been a long time since I've celebrated this holiday at school ... maybe it's always like this. She got a fairy wand, crayons, stickers, tattoos, and bunches of candy. I felt bad that I spent 2 hard hours making and decorating cookies, only to give each kid just one. I thought everyone was just going to get some generic Disney perforated card! Next year I'll have to up my game.
Yesterday we picked up some cheap heart shaped cutters from the grocery store. They worked well enough for my usual gingerbread cookie recipe and fondant. I mixed some red and white food coloring into my leftover blue fondant and got an ok shade of purple.
Several months ago I bought this alphabet set at Michaels from the mosaic section. They are for imprinting messages when making your own stepping stones. This is the Victorian Style set and it worked awesome for my fondant! I can't wait for another excuse to use them.
I busted out my airbrush and compressor to spray the cookies down with pearl sheen. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing with my airbrush, but I'm convinced I need a compressor that can handle lower PSI more consistently. Luckily the more sparkles, the better on these kinds of cookies.
Happy Valentine's Day!
That Takes The Cake 2012 (Tue, 31 Jan 2012 20:03:00 +0000)
That Takes The Cake 2012
It's that time of year again! I'm "going dark" to focus on my entry for the 8th annual "That Takes The Cake" Sugar Art Show and Cake Competition in Austin, TX. This year is a little different for me. Our family is expecting our 2nd daughter to make her debut on/near March 17th. It is very possible that I might miss the cake show completely if she decides to be an early bird. I've limited myself to minimal volunteering and only 1 competition entry. Hopefully it can be finished early, then it'll be packed up and ready to go in case someone else needs to deliver it for me. I really hope that I can make it to the show. Last year I was volunteering so much that I didn't really get to savor all the show had to offer. I'm sure if the baby comes early, I won't give a flip, but at the moment I'm super excited!
Hope you like the graphic art for this year's show! My buddy/co-worker Jon Wofford designed it. I can't wait to sport it out on the show t-shirts. Hope you like the show website, too. I had a hand in setting that up, and I'm pretty proud.
If you see a preggo waddling around the show, that's me! Hope to see you there!
Congratulations, Francis & Ann Marie! (Mon, 23 Jan 2012 22:50:00 +0000)
Congratulations, Francis & Ann Marie!
I had the distinct honor of providing the cake for my older cousin's first baby shower. Congratulations to Francis and Ann Marie! Their baby should arrive a month before mine. I have to say that cake decorating while preggo is not ideal! This cake was also particularly challenging because I was trying out so many new techniques. Super mega post incoming ... when I get some time and more photos this post will become several separate posts.
For this cake I had the foresight to start very early. All my icings were from scratch, and probably the most time consuming part of my cake endeavors. Sorry for the lack of original pictures and the overabundance of words that follow. First, let's talk about Swiss Meringue buttercream.
SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Typically I make Italian Meringue buttercream using the Wilton meringue powder instead of fresh egg whites. It has always yielded excellent performance, but lately I have been unsatisfied with the taste of the meringue powder. Since I'm pregnant and already have a toddler, I need my icings to be pretty darn safe (i.e. no fresh egg whites). I've never been able to successfully make Italian Meringue buttercream using pasteurized liquid egg whites in a carton, so I decided to give the Swiss Meringue method a try. The instructions didn't seem difficult, and I've watched a chef make it during my petit fours class.
I found a recipe on a hand-out from Make It Sweet, my local cake supply store that was pretty much the same quantity of ingredients that I used in Italian Meringue buttercream. I substituted the fresh egg whites with AllWhites® Egg Whites and was pretty skeptical at first. The carton said that 3 Tbs was the equivalent of 1 large egg white. I poured 15 Tbs into my KitchenAid mixing bowl and thought that it was way too much, and it'd never work. Normally I use 2 Tbs for an egg white.
I put in the sugar and sat the KitchenAid bowl into a pot of boiling water and stirred away with my hand whisk. At 160 degrees F (approximately 3 minutes later), I removed the bowl, put it in my standing mixer, and whisked the snot out of it. It didn't get to really, really stiff peaks, but it didn't look that bad. After adding the butter, I was amazed. The look and texture was exactly like the Italian Meringue buttercream. The taste was subtle and I did not miss the yucky additives that came in the meringue powder. I made another batch the next day and had the same results. Hallelujah! 2 out of 2 success! I like having pasteurized liquid egg whites on hand for making royal icing; making Swiss Meringue buttercream gives me another reason to use it up before it expires.
TIP: Melting caramel and trying to mix it into cold buttercream is an awful idea. I should have taken a picture, but was too embarrassed by my stupidity. The caramel immediately hardened and either crumbled or wrapped around my beater blade in long ribbons. I had to toss out the buttercream because it had caramel chunks in it. The big pieces of caramel I saved with the buttercream stuck to it and melted it down again. The residual buttercream was enough to thin down the caramel for another try without it clumping into a huge mess. Tasted great after that!
Next, ganache. I must have stood in the cake aisle at the grocery store for at least 15 minutes, comparing chocolate brands and the price per ounce. First I grabbed a bunch of boxes of Bakers chocolate like normal, but then thought better of it. It was time to try something new with a bigger bang for my buck. I put it back and then stared at Hershey, Nestle, Guittard, and Ghiradeli chocolate. Hershey didn't come in convenient forms for buying large quantities and for melting down. Nestle had large bags of chips, but the taste is nothing really to write home about. I knew Guittard made a line of melting chocolates (A'Peels) that cakers like to use for dipping cake balls, but I had never tried it. They came in bags of chips too, but didn't have a white chocolate version. Ghiradeli was way out of my price range. I bought Guittard's Real Milk Chocolate Chips and Nestle's white chocolate chips. Melting chocolate in chip-form is tedious work, but they both turned out nice and yummy. I might stick with Guittard for a while because it did taste good. If I can sneak into a Sam's Club I'll try Ghiradeli at a cheaper price.
NOTE: The Guittard chips were not the same size as Nestle chips. They were slightly bigger ... almost too big to use in, say, chocolate chip cookies. I dunno, maybe they're awesome in cookies. Another day.
Fast forward past all the baking, torting, leveling, and filling ... enter new cake toy: Fat Daddio's Turntable. My mother-in-law bought me this for Christmas, and now I don't know how I lived without it. This turntable is super smooth and steady. It's very heavy but the rubber lining on the bottom helps me not carve gashes in my kitchen table as I try to drag it around.
Also to help me ice cakes, I used Room Essentials 9"x12" cutting boards (from Target), Grafix Dura-Lar 9"x12" sheets, and a new triangle tool (from Hobby Lobby).
I wanted to buy some acetate sheets to use for any icing or chocolate transfers and for working with cakes. Parchment and freezer paper curl up sometimes and don't come in conveniently sized sheets. At Hobby Lobby, this pack of 25 9"x12" sheets was $15. The clear sheet goes on top of the cutting board and then cutting board becomes an excellent surface to work and hold my tiers. Whenever I need to take the tier off, I pull the sheet slowly off the edge of the board and let my tier's cake board peak over enough for me to grab hold. Look how I made a ghetto shelf using the boards and 4 plastic cups inside my mini fridge:
For icing the cake, I used the 6" triangle tool to make sharp, straight edges. On Amazing Wedding Cakes, I've seen Christopher Garren's decorators use all kinds of drafting tools when icing their cakes. This was skinnier and easier to wield than my Sur La Table dough cutter.
In my previous post, I used a threaded rod to make a ribbed impression in fondant. For this cake, I made panels of ribbed fondant to apply to the sides of my cakes. First I rolled out my fondant to my desired thickness. Then I rolled over it with the all thread. Then I cut out the panels so the impressions were perpendicular to the top and bottom of the rectangle.
Powdered sugar is my preferred anti-sticking agent.
Because long rectangles of fondant can get pretty unwieldy, I could only do half the cake at a time. Before manipulating it, I popped the panels in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up. I used a strip of freezer paper dusted with powdered sugar to flip the panel on to, then held the fondant + paper up to the cake so the panel could slide down into place. Water brushed on and the condensation from being out of the fridge are my only "glue".
Not my best work by far ... I still have a long way to go for perfecting fondant paneling on a cake ... lots of air bubbles and residual powdered sugar that had to be corrected. Hubby pointed out that the ribbed impression makes it really easy to see imperfections and how the fondant was stretched. Thanks, babe! Another problem was the condensation. I store my tiers in the fridge and removing them will make the fondant sticky and gooey for a period of time. That meant I couldn't touch it with anything but air. No corrections, no smoothing, no squeezing out air bubbles, nothing or else I'd get big smudges and ruin the ribbed texture.
The panel for the 10" round tier was too long to put in the freezer, so I cooled a baking sheet and then let the fondant lay on that for a few minutes.
Got a lot better at it when it came time to wrap the 6" round tier.
I might give up on paneling fondant on cake for now. The seams are just too hard to cover up and it's not worth the effort until some sort of epiphany hits me on how to do it well. Getting over it and moving on.
Hurray! Another successful loopy bow! This made me pretty happy because it was my first time to use Nicolas Lodge's gumpaste recipe (found here). Don't know Nic Lodge??? He's a sweetheart and so very talented, especially when it comes to gumpaste flowers. I've had the opportunity to see him in previous That Takes The Cake shows in town and his classes always seem to be popular.
The only gumpaste I've used previously was the Wilton powder mix and also just adding Tylose to fondant. The Wilton one turned out soft and sticky ... perhaps I made it wrong. The fondant + Tylose version didn't really seem to work like I expected. This recipe was great, despite my initial skepticism. It's basically royal icing + Tylose. It feels very malleable and dries fast. Sugar flowers don't really interest me, so I'm not sure about its performance there, but I do know some people swear by it and will only use that recipe for their flowers.
Enter new cake toy: KitchenAid Pasta Roller.
Again, the threaded rod made some ribbed impressions. These strips are 6" x 3/4", glued with just a dab of water, and the corners trimmed off with a paring knife. They dried enough overnight to be handled, but were not actually used for several days later.
To assemble, I cut out some parchment paper to fit inside my 6" round cake pan. My "glue" was orange royal icing. There were 3 "layers" of 6 strips each.
I wanted to assemble it inside the cake pan in case the loops felt the need to slide outward. The pan was a great size to keep it contained, safe on the inside and the outside.
I made 20 loops but only used 18. Some bunched up paper towel strips supported a few of the loops while the royal icing dried.
After drying, it peeled right off the parchment paper nicely. I put it back and kept it in the cake pan until the cake was delivered and ready to be set up. It was a 3 1/2 hour drive and made it there safe and sound.
In my last tiered cake, I was unsatisfied with how thick the Wilton plates were for stacking. There was a large gap between the two tiers that had to be hidden.
Previous tiered cake gap:
This time I wanted to try out an idea. What if I inserted the internal structure first, then covered the tier with fondant? The layer of fondant would hide some of the gap. For this cake I cut the hidden Wilton pillars at 3" long, slightly shorter than the height of the tier itself.
This time I made sure to insert the pillars first, then stick the plate on top. Last time I tried inserting the plate with the pillars already attached and the pillars started to skew its alignment as it went into the cake.
Then I cut out a ~2" wide strip of fondant, rolled it up, and unrolled it on top of the cake. Here it is after trimming around the plate with a pizza cutter and tucking it in.
This definitely helped reduce the height of the gap, but I'm not convinced it was a good idea. There still needed to be a border on the top and bottom of each tier to hide the seams. Plus the seam on the top was ugly and hard to hide. Painting in some of the left over orange royal icing helped a little.
At midnight before the day of the delivery, I had to quickly come up with a plan to hide some of the ugliness. With my left over gumpaste rolled at setting 2, I cut out "buttons" with a wide round piping tip. I've seen cakers do this on Amazing Wedding Cakes to make sequins. It was fast work because you can cut 6-8 at a time before dumping them out of the tip. What helped was keeping the tip slightly moisturized with some shortening. While cutting, some residual gumpaste would stick to the tip end and make subsequent cuts more ragged. I had to rub off the excess with shortening every once in a while so I could get clean circles. Each button got a good dose of AmeriColor's Pearl Sheen with my airbrush. The looked like delicate baby buttons!
The thread holes in the center were just 2 pokes with the tip of a mechanical pencil that had the lead retracted. Super fast, super cute! I didn't even have to wait for them to dry. By the time I finished cutting, poking, and airbrushing, they were ready to go on to the cake. Each button was attached with a dab of orange royal icing. NONE fell off during transport, but I did have a few spares in my "emergency cake kit" that came with me. I let my daughter eat all the extras.
1/4" white satin ribbon wrapped around the bottom of each tier.
To "finish" the cake, I used my airbrush to blow off the excess powdered sugar from the fondant. Then I sprayed it lightly with AmeriColor's Pearl Sheen, but you really couldn't tell ... I think to a discriminating eye it did give it a better look than without it. I did a heavier coat on the loopy bow so it wouldn't look so matte and so the ribbed texture could stand out better.
The cake was snug in the trunk of my car for 3 1/2 hours. I actually put it in the Fat Daddio turntable cardboard box and it was the perfect fit. A few days before the shower, my lovely cousin e-mailed me to offer for my family to spend the night at her house. She also expressed her concern on driving the cake:
I was curious, were you going to drive the all the way from austin with the cake already decorated? That seems a little precarious. (Maybe because I'm always slamming breaks and things go sliding everywhere).
At the party, a few people asked about the drive as well. Honestly the transportation was the easiest and least stressful part of the whole thing. The entire cake was chilled in the mini fridge the night before. The bottom tier had wooden skewers hidden inside the Wilton pillars, piercing through the cake board into the cake drum. All the upper tiers were attached securely to each other. Short of a fender bender, the Wilton support structure wasn't going to let anything happen to the cake. The box had the flaps taped upward and Press 'N Seal covered up the top. The box was snug in the corner of my trunk, and various trunk items prevented it from sliding around. No biggie; I got this!
At the baby shower:
Melted white chocolate "glued" the tiers to the Wilton plates.
After coaxing a cake server in between, it took just a few snaps to dislodge the tiers.
Luckily my cousin helped me plate the cut up slices I made.
Cutting this cake was difficult. The fondant was soft and smooshed against the knife instead of splitting. The cake was just box cake mix, so it was moist but not very sturdy. The Wilton hidden pillars are pretty wide, but I'd rather that than having more than 4 supports inside a tier. I really need to up my game and branch into doctored or scratch cakes that can take a beating. It's not enough to look pretty just on the outside. Each slice should look pretty too.
People seemed generally pleased with the cake. I learned a lot and am grateful for that. Definitely taking a break from large cakes for a while, but am glad that I typed all this out to refer back to. Hope you guys gained some vicarious experience as well!
Cake Hack: All-thread (Tue, 10 Jan 2012 05:49:00 +0000)
Cake Hack: All-thread
In a few weeks I'll be delivering a baby shower cake to my cousin. To match her theme, I wanted a tool that could make a texture similar to ribbed ribbon. When I was a teenager, I used to work at Joann Fabrics ... moms would come in and buy ribbed ribbon in all kinds of sizes and colors for hair bows (typically for cheerleaders ... I don't know what that was about though). That's what I want my next loopy bow to look like.
The first thing that came to mind was the ribbed / smocking rolling pin by PME:
$9 shipping for that??? Really? I couldn't find any online store that could get it to me for less than $27 total. I posted a facebook message to my cake club to see if I could borrow someone's. The club president reminded me of a trick that was demonstrated at one of our meetings a while back: use all-thread.
All-thread is a steel rod that is threaded (like screws) down the entire length of the rod. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be used for, but I found a section for it at my local Ace Hardware store. There are different lengths and thicknesses (again, like screws). After some pondering, I decided to get the 1/2" x 1' rod for $2.70 ... that's 1/10th of the cost of the PME pin.
I rolled out some fondant and then rolled the rod over it. Remember, the rod is threaded ... not ribbed ... so it does move towards one side as you continue to roll. The 1' length was plenty of room for what I was testing on. This is pretty much exactly what I wanted! I'm thrilled and can't wait to make my loopy bow.
NOTE: This product has not been declared food-safe. Use at your own risk.
Product Review: Cupcake Carousel (Thu, 05 Jan 2012 06:30:00 +0000)
Product Review: Cupcake Carousel
My very supportive family has lavished me with all kinds of cake toys for Christmas! Expect several production reviews in my upcoming posts. This one, however, was a spontaneous purchase from a run to the grocery store.
I had been on the look-out for a new cupcake carrier since my old one broke. I was excited about this one because it looked roomy inside, and my previous carrier always smooshed the tops of my cuppies.
The top of the carrier features a handle and 4 locking tabs. I did notice one of the carriers in the store had one of the tabs ripped off, so we made sure mine was sturdy.
There are 3 removable trays inside, each can hold 8 cupcakes and features its own handle.
The trays can rotate around the center column. The product tag seems to present this as a desirable feature, but I'm not sure why.
The trays sit on top of each other with their own hollow, center column. That only gives about 2" of vertical clearance. Hope your cupcakes don't need to be tall!
These cupcakes are sporting a melted cinnamon marshmallow topping, so they are not very tall at all. Notice the problem? Sure, my cupcakes are nice and secure. These babies are not ever going to tip or slide. In fact, it's too secure. As soon as I inserted the cupcake, it sunk right down to the bottom and they were difficult to remove. My family and I got pretty sticky trying to get them out. Trying to not touch the icing was like playing the board game Operation. The best way I found was to pry them out with a small offset spatula, but that's far from convenient. Ideally there would be a small finger hole at the bottom of each cup so the can be slightly pushed upward from the bottom and easily grabbed from the top.
You know what doesn't work? Trying to drill a 1/2" hole in the bottom with a power drill. Luckily no one was hurt in the process, but I did manage to split my guinea pig cup in half.
After doing some online research for this product, I've concluded that what I bought is a newer, improved model. The images I see online for purchasing this product only have 2 latches for locking the lid. Low score reviews said they had the lid accidentally come off during transport.
Here is another blogger's post on 10/25/2011 about this product, and it looks like she has the same one I have but in pink.
Heart, Soul & Flour: http://heartsoulflour.blogspot.com/2011/10/can-you-guess-what-this-is-for.html