Monday
Mar152010

Pink "Damask"

What I enjoy second most about decorating cakes is setting creative design challenges for myself, just to see if I can do it. With my latest project, I set two goals... stenciling and candy jewels. I failed on the jewels, so back to the drawing board with that one. The stenciling, however, went rather well. There were huge learnings along the way, of course, but I am completely happy with the final product!

This is a Baby Shower cake inspired by the party's Damask patterned invitation. All three tiers are three layers of White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cake with Raspberry filling and White Chocolate Buttercream. At 4", 6" & 8" round, this is a very tall and narrow cake. I was thrilled with my fondant work on this one, it was surprisingly easy to cover! The double-barrel tier, which is the tallest cake I've covered in a single piece of fondant yet, was quick and easy, and not a single curse word was uttered! It definitely helped that I took great care in icing the cakes evenly this time, chilling and frosting the layers twice while using a bench scraper to square off my angles. It really did make all the difference in the world!

For the stenciling, I used Wilton's basic Royal Icing recipe and thinned it down to just before flood consistency. (I've tried a number of other Royal Icing recipes over the years, but for me, this one is the easiest to work with). I went straight to the cake with my stencil in hand. No practicing. Maybe I should have practiced, but for some reason, this was a design cliff I felt compelled to just jump off of, no looking back. I started with the pink tiers and my stenciling is a little heavy handed for sure (this is were that practice would have com in handy) but by the last tier, I think I had the process down... and I am absolutely loving cake stenciling!

My original design called for diamond-like edible cake jewels to adorn the curves of the pattern, but after one botched batch of isolmalt, a cracked candy mold, a pile of melted jewels (how does sugar melt at room temperature?), and a nasty little burn on my pinky, I settled on gum paste and luster dust so I could at least add a little bit of sparkle to the cake. They ended up looking more like pearls than diamonds, but it worked... and the pretty cake plate I had stashed in my closet brought the needed bling to the table, so to speak.

The cutest part of this cake is of course the pair of little sneakers! Since the the cake was already so girly, I wanted to make the subtle point that girls can play hard, too, albeit in patent leather sneakers. Made of fondant with gum-tex, the shoes were painted with vodka & corn syrup for the glossy look. I used a pattern for converse baby shoes shared by a fellow caker on CakeCentral.com

My take aways after this cake are that, first, I am getting better at this cake thing with every project. My icing technique and my fondant work are leagues better than even a year ago. I even (I think) keep the kitchen cleaner and more organized while I'm working, Boyfriend appreciates that. Second-ish, I will master isolmalt cake jewels... someday. Other than the occasional brittle during the holidays, I've never really worked with sugar candy before so I'm not upset that it didn't happen for me the first time around. Thirdly, I really do love taking pictures of my sweets, almost as much as I love making them. Oh, and I need a new candy thermometer because I think mine's broken now... no I didn't throw it.

Coming in April: Sushi Cake #3 and Froggy Cupcakes! And some time soon, I'm going to sit down with my SugarVeil Starter Kit and see what happens... I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday
Feb222010

Jungle Themed 1st Birthday

I have a bit of a cold today, so this post will be short, but I wanted to share with you the pictures from yesterday's cake.  From top to bottom: 6" Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream, 8" Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Buttercream, & 10" Chocolate Cake with a Peanut Butter filling & Vanilla Buttercream.  The Chocolate & Peanut Butter was outstanding, if I don't say so myself.  All three layers were covered in Chocolate Fondant in varying degrees of color.  

The leaves, vines & animals were all modeled from fondant using the party decorations as inspiration.  Unfortunately, the scale of my animals didn't quite correlate correctly with the size of the cake, but it all came together in the end... even if I was an hour late to the party.

I'll leave you with a couple of detail pictures of the Jungle Animals, they were so much fun to make & I am really proud of the finished product... I'm actually quite smitten with the Zebra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Feb182010

Sneak Peek...

Go ahead and take a peek at something I'm working on for this weekend, betcha can't guess what...

On a side note, I've added some pictures to the Cookie Gallery for your enjoyment AND...

I am officially employed again after having three wonderfully fantastic months off from the grind!!! I started this past Monday with a well known food/beverage & retail company and I am over the moon excited!!! Not only do I get to get back to my favorite part of the Hospitality Industry (Operations), I will be working reasonable hours, no more 50-60 hour work weeks... come again, you ask? Yep, you read correctly! That means I get to keep on baking! Speaking of which, I've got to go get a couple of cakes into the oven now. I'll be back on Sunday with the finished product.

Have a fantastic Friday!!!

Saturday
Jan232010

In a Pineapple Under the Sea...

 

My cousin Michaela's oldest son Ashton turned four years old this week (they grow up so fast!) and I have had the pleasure of making all but his first birthday cake.  Typically, I'm given a simple instruction as to the theme of the party and then allowed free reign on the design.  This year was no exception.  I got "Spongebob Squarepants, January 23rd."  So, using a couple of cartoon images as inspiration, this is what I came up with:

All of the characters (except for Plankton, as Ashton cheerfully informed me) were present for the celebration... 

The "pineapple" barrel cake is made of four, two-layer 6" round tiers of Pineapple Pound Cake with a Pineapple Glaze filling and Vanilla Buttercream (Mmmm!  I'm working on a Pina Colada version!).  The "Ocean Floor" is a two-layer 12" round Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and is covered in Vanilla Fondant.  The decorative accents were hand-modeled from Fondant and Gum Paste, and painted with Silver Pearl Dust where applicable.  The window glass and Sandy's helmet are made of Poured Sugar.  All said and done, this cake stood between 18 & 20-inches tall.  

 

I have to share one more picture of the gang because they are just so darn cute!

Happy Birthday, Ashton!

Friday
Jan082010

Anatomy of a Cake (Cliff's Notes Version)

My brother's girlfriend's birthday was yesterday and I volunteered to make a cake to help mark the occasion.  I had seen a photo of a cake design on another website and knew it would be perfect for her.  I believe that the original design is by Gateaux Inc., as seen here.  

Two thoughts occurred to me while working on this project.  First, I think I'll start naming some of my cakes after their recipients when applicable, and secondly, it'd be fun to document the assembly of my cakes step-by-step.  So allow me to share with you, "Lisa".  Of course the second thought didn't occur to me until a few steps into the process of this cake, so this is, as the title of this post suggests, a severely modified version of the whole show:


I start with two 8" round Chocolate Butter Cakes (recipe from "The Cake Bible") torted into 1" layers and filled with Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream.  We're standing almost 6" tall here already.

 

Next, it's covered in Buttercream out to the edge of the cake board that you can see about 1/4" of in the first photo. The Cake is then placed in the fridge to chill down for several hours.

 

Once the Buttercream is firm to the touch, the cake is ready for fondant.  I have covered this one in White Vanilla Fondant by Satin Ice.

Now for the fun stuff!!! 

I've used Black Vanilla Fondant and a pasta maker for the vertical stripes.  The Fettuccine setting is perfect!  The base border is cut from the same Fondant using a ribbon cutter set to 3/4".  This is where I got carried away in the decorating, lost sight of the fact that I was attempting to document it's progress ...

 ... and then realized that I was finished.  The monogram was formed the night before assembly to ensure it would stand up when it needed to.  The roses and leaves were made earlier in the day and left out to dry a bit.  All embellishments were dusted with Wilton Pearl Dust, then attached to the cake with Royal Icing (although I did use toothpicks for the larger roses).  "Happy Birthday" was piped with Royal Icing and then painted with Silver Pearl Dust/vodka "paint".

This is one of my top three cakes at the moment.  I had a blast putting this one together and I think it really does suit its recipient well.  Beautifully elegant, while being simply stated and completely fun!!!

Happy Birthday, Lisa!!!