Thursday, December 30, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On

On the cusp of a new year, I'm looking back at my 2010 cake file.  It was a good year for the butter industry, thanks mostly to moi. 

I'm posting a fun cake today, because I need to keep optimistic about the future - for a number of reasons.  So here's a look at a baby cake I did for a dear friend.  Babies are the very definition of optimism, and thus I give you the adorable, two-tiered, baby boy cake.

10" and 6" tiers, yellow cake, chocolate buttercream,
covered in marshmallow fondant
Here's a close up for you:

Gum paste figures

Ah!  Babies!  Praise God for their little chubby cheeks and the hope they inspire for the future.  Happy New Year, dear readers. 

As they used to say in England..."Keep Calm and Carry On!"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Royal Lesson

So, just wondering, how many pairs of non-descript slippers, ugly sweaters and other why-bother gifts were wrapped and stamped with your name on them this year? It's always my fear that when gifting people I'm related to, but not necessarily close to, that I'll give them something awful, wasting my time and forcing them to lie to me and tell me they love it.

But this year I had a great idea for all my cousins, some more distant than others.  I made gigantic sugar cookies in the shape of their initials and decorated them as best I could at midnight on Christmas Eve.   

Here are a couple pics of the girlie cookies, sort of a winter wonderland theme:

For Paige, Courtney and Abby

Yes, edible sparklies.  Love me some luster dust!

And for the boys, I went with yellow and what's supposed to look like a Christmas ornament made out of gum paste, fondant and a little floral wire.

For Wes and CJ

T is for Tyra!  Don't eat the wiya...get it wire/wiya...okay, it rhymed in my head.

And for those who are curious, I used one of the cookie recipes from the Joy of Cooking and added some almond extract.

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT ROYAL ICING: This is a substance I learned post-project can easily be turned into that gorgeous smooth finish you find at professional bakeries and such. 

Dang it.

But that's what this is all about...learning the art.  Turns out, if you build a dam of icing around the outline of your cookie, then water down that same icing and sort of flood the inside of the cookie dam, you can move it around with a toothpick and it'll set up smooth as glass. 

Lesson learned for next year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Project is Finished! TA DA!

Here is the final Christmas Tree Cake!  I'm so pleased with it, and I hope it's a hit for the dear people who ordered it.

The Christmas Tree Cake

As you know, if you've been reading previous posts, it's made out of spice cake and cream cheese buttercream.  Stacked and hand-carved, covered with two colors of green fondant, topped with a gumpasted nosegay bow and finished with luster dust and those cute little royal icing teddy bears.

And here are a couple of close ups on the detail work.  I used a gum paste tool to create the look of evergreen needles.

A close up on the evergreens and bears
Tree Topper

Merry Christmas to all!  I hope this Christmas Tree Cake has put you in the Christmas spirit.  Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree...verse two

I'm not really capable of much coherent thought today, given the marathon I pull every year in the kitchen for Christmas.  Frankly, I'm exhausted, But I did manage to get the tree cake carved, stacked and crumb coated.  I thought you might like to see the next stage...even if I can't think of anything witty to say about it!

Christmas Tree Cake - carved and crumb coated

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ribbon Tree Topper

I just finished wrapping the ribbon loops for the tree topper.  Here it is!

Gumpaste Ribbon Nosegay
(I think that's a dumb name for a bunch of loopy ribbons,
but I don't make the rules.)

Buttercream, Spice Cake, and Sylvia

This is the first of I'm sure many tributes to my cake idol, Sylvia Weinstock.  She is often credited with creating the modern wedding cake industry.  People say she was creating beautiful, jaw-dropping masterpieces before it was popular, that she made it popular, a cultural fixture. 

I use her book, Sweet Celebrations, as a cake bible.  Her recipes are flawless.  Her directions are perfect.  Her creations are to die for. 

When I'm baking from scratch, I always turn to her recipes first, and my Christmas Tree cake is no exception.  I have a full batch of her buttercream and cream cheese filling, several layers of spice cake in the freezer and her ribbon design hardening on the back porch. 

Sylvia Weinstock, my cake role model
To say that I aspire to her level is like an ant saying it aspires to do particle physics.  I can dream, but really, the woman is AMAZING.  Her cakes inspire me to try everything, take on the challenge of gumpaste flowers and learn how to turn meringue into the world's smoothest, most delicious icing.

I love this woman, and yes, I would LOVE to have a pair of glasses like that.  I mean really - it's possible she's able to do the intricate stuff she does because she can see microscopic detail through those things! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Da Bears

Couldn't help myself...the bears are all dressed up and ready to go.

Royal icing teddy bears 
They'll break your teeth, but they sure are cute!

Now, thinking seriously about tiny little Santa hats...hmmmmmm....

Ribbon, Bows and Bears, Minus the Bears

Are you a fan of Cake Wrecks?  If you're not, you should be.  I visit that website daily for the latest jaw-dropping, eye-rolling creation.

One thing I've learned from Cake Wrecks is that brown icing always looks like poo...always...especially if it's in a little swirl on top of a cupcake or something.

That is why I will NOT be showing you a picture of the first stage of my awesome royal icing and gumpaste teddy bears.  They are drying on the back porch, but until they get their white tummies and red bow ties, they look a little like brown icing tends to look.

And I am not ready to be on Cake Wrecks myself just yet, thank you very much.  The teddy bears are going to be ornaments on my Christmas Tree cake, along with long strands of gumpaste ribbon, and on top, I've decided to create a big, beautiful bow.

I have finally gotten the first stage of the cake topper done.  I have sixteen ribbon loops drying...

Golden gumpaste drying on a cookie sheet.

I'll be using 12 of these, in red and gold, to assemble a big, beautiful, loopy bow for the top of the tree.  A little floral tape, a lot of patience and it should look completely awesome and wonderfully festive. More soon!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gumpaste Is Not Toothpaste

Have you been having one of those days?  One of those days when your to-do list is longer than your Christmas wish list, and everything feels out of balance?

That is no time to make a cake.

That is no time to try to craft something out of delicate, easily broken gumpaste.

That is in NO way time to craft something out of gumpaste with your two year old son standing on a chair next to you.

There are no pictures of the beginnings of a beautiful gumpaste bow to top my Christmas tree cake today.  No, no pictures, dear reader, because gumpaste, although a paste, is not a good substitute for toothpaste.  And somehow, my son, love of my life, thought it was important to learn that lesson first hand.

He ate it.

He ate it all.  And what he didn't eat, he licked, or spat on or chewed or otherwise mutilated.

The Gumpaste Eater

So, tomorrow I'll be at the store buying another pound of that million dollar stuff, but tonight, I've just got to ignore that defeating to-do list and laugh at the memory of my son looking up at me with yellow, blue and red gumpaste clinging to his chin and saying, "I love you, Mommy!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snake...On A Cake!

Last month was my husband's birthday.  He likes to say I robbed the cradle, being a whopping two years younger than me, and since I know he'll never stop thinking that's funny, I smile and nod affectionately.

This year, I wanted to do something special for his cake.  Not unlike the Giant Ding Dong Cake I posted last week, I took chocolate cake, layered it with ganache and covered it with another good coat of that chocolatey, fudgey goodness.  The cake itself was a set of stairs I carved, mostly a prop for the real work of art - Liquid Snake, of Metal Gear Solid fame. 

That's right.  I made a manly, cigarette smoking video game character out of rice krispie treats and gumpaste.  See for yourself:
Snake! Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!!!!

And here's a shot of the whole shebang:

He's always ducking behind stairs or hiding in barrels so he can
shoot people in the head.  Hence the chocolate cake staircase.
I'm no fan of the video game - heck, I'm no fan of ANY video game - but my husband loves it.  It's one of his top five favorite games ever, and I love my husband.  So even if I do think video games are dumb, I am paying attention. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

C is for Cookie...

I've had this blog for less than a week, and I've literally had to sit on my hands not to post five times a day.  I've blogged before and struggled to find content, but when it comes to sugar, I always have a project.

I have no cake to show you today, but I do have cookies!  I did a fast order for my best customer, my mom, who needed something to feed a ravenous group of piano and violin students.  She's a music teacher who has finally realized her dream to teach in her own private studio.  I'm so proud of her, and I love her more than I can say.  So when she calls and says "Can you make four dozen sugar cookies for me tomorrow?!"  I say, "Of course!"

Her little studio kids will be munching on candy canes, snowmen and Christmas trees as they entertain each other with a few tunes of the season.

Bring me a plate and some white milk!

So there they are, four dozen cookies, iced, decorated and ready for some party action tomorrow afternoon.  I love ya, Momma!  Tank those kids up on sugar and send 'em back home.

One more...close up on those trees...fa la la la la, nom nom nom nom!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

I've got a new project to work on.  As usual, it's a bit ambitious, but that's why I'm so excited about it.

I was watching Ace of Cakes a few days ago, and I saw them deliver this cake:

Duff's amazing Christmas tree cake
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Melissa Rodrigues)
So of course, I think...I can do that!  This thought usually gets me into monumental projects that turn my kitchen into a federal disaster site.  I become the kitchen zombie, covered in powdered sugar and food coloring gel, hair askew and feeding like the undead on sugar and cold coffee.  

I have two weeks to descend to that state, and the prep work starts tonight.  Gum paste ribbons and ornaments, spice cake, cream cheese butter cream, a knife and a whole lotta green fondant.  It may not defy gravity or stand the height of a small child, but I think it's something you'll want to see...if not to admire, then at least to make snide remarks!

Oh, speaking of snide's my sketch.

When it's'll look so much better:).

Yes, for those art lovers out there, that's a crayon on notebook paper original!  My medium is sugar, not crayon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Giant Ding Dong Cake

I know I said "tune in next week..." just a few days ago, but I just couldn't stay away.

Today, I'm showing you a creation I affectionately call the Giant Ding Dong.  It's chocolate cake, covered in ganache (which is essentially melted chocolate with heavy cream) and layered with real, vanilla whipped cream.

The Giant Ding Dong...and yes, that's my washing machine in the background. 
I like to keep it classy.

My Grandma Nell used to make these famous concoctions known as Whipped Cream Cakes.  They were legendary on my Dad's side of the family, and since she passed away, I've often tried to mimic her recipes.  I do it because I miss her, because it helps us remember her and because she was a wonderful cook.

The cake I made was delicious, in a death-by-chocolate, kind of way, but it was NOT a Grandma Nell Whipped Cream Cake.  I understand her creation came about as an emergency pitch-in concoction from a cake mix, a tub of cool whip and a mystery stove top icing I'm still not sure how to make.

I confess I left the cake close to the edge of the table on purpose. 
Still, my attempt was well least, Andrew liked it!  Whether it was a perfect replica of a family memory or not, it made my Dad's birthday special.  And that's what I love about cake.

To paraphrase the great Ina Garten, you can be sad before you eat cake, and even after you eat it.  But you just can't be sad WHILE you're eating cake.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Greetings, cake lovers!  It's blog time. 

I may be creating a lot of great new source material for Cake Wrecks, but it's a chance I'm going to have to take.  I've decided I'm never going to transform my love of cake - that is, truly flavorful, beautiful cake - into more than a hobby, unless I have to perform on a regular basis.  So, here I will publish my attempts to be a self-made pastry artist - pictures, horror stories, woe and success. 

This may be the worst idea I've ever had, or it could be just what I need to get really good at something I love doing.  My goal is to post a cake once a week.  It may be one from the files, or it may be the latest creation.

Here's a picture of the cake that started it all, my son's first birthday cake.  I have to credit my brother, Josh for the fondant elephant.  He needed a project that day too!
These were inspired by Mega Blocks and Leggos.

Not bad for a first try...but yeah, it's a little rough.  I've gotten a little better at the whole fondant thing. Here's Andrew's 2nd birthday cake...with a whole bunch of gum paste work.

Super Why! and the Super Duper Computer
 So there you go.  Thanks to my son, I found something I love to do and a great creative outlet.  Tune in next week for another cake creation.

Thanks for visiting Cake Lore!