Friday, August 17, 2012

Steampunk, Baby!

What an adventure this last big cake has been!

Orange and lemon cake, raspberry, strawberry and vanilla buttercream...copper gears made from hand-piped royal icing, peacock feathers, flowers and ivy vines made out of sugar...and yes, even fondant work for a cereal treat false-tier, hand painted and carved.

Sound a little overwhelming?  Yeah...I thought I bit off more than I could chew this time...but it turned out just fine. 

Here's the big reveal...lots of pictures to save my hand from cramping up.  All that piping takes a toll after a while!

Isn't she maaaahhhvelous, Dahling?

Peacock Feathers!  All original gum paste work up top. 

The Corset:
Cereal Treat, Fondant, hand painted
Rose: gumpaste

One of my trademark lilies...all metallicized and steampunky

Royal Icing Gears!  Those were a labor of love fo'shizzle.

Arrrround behind...what did you call me??

When nerds party...

When nerds marry...
Check out my fascinator!  Love that thing:)

The Groom (aka the husband's super double plus good friend)

Cutting the Cake!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Cake So Nice I Baked It Twice

Last weekend, I went through close to 20 pounds of sugar and 15 pounds of butter.  Perhaps gallons of vanilla extract and a million joules of electricity have passed through my kitchen. 

I have all but exhausted my capacity to bake, not to mention my poor oven, which sadly looked like this mid-morning on Saturday:

Oh yes, yes it did.  Whilst pulling the most perfectly, evenly baked cake in the world...I slipped, the cake flipped and onto the burning hot element it went.  Cry...cry a little.  I did.

Not only did I get to re-bake my Grandmother's birthday cake, I also got to give my oven a spa-day.  Thankfully, she approved of the treatment and the second cake turned out beautifully. 

Only wish I'd taken a picture before this happned:

It was really very pretty...white cake with vanilla butter cream.  I even went old school and got out my petal tip...piped out some roses...

Sorry you can't see them better.  They were much prettier in person...and you know, before they were smooshed around and nudged to make room for the knife. 

It was a pretty little thing.  Glad I could show you how pretty it was on the inside at least!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Time for a Cupcake or 60

Just finished topping five dozen cupcakes with icing rosettes.  They look a little something like this:

And three dozen of them are gonna be stylin with some toppers that look a little like this:

Should be a pretty beautiful display for a bridal shower!  Hopefully I'll have a picture or two of the final product, but it's not likely.  I'm not responsible for set up on this one, so I'll be at the mercy of the party planners.

Also - I have EXTRAS - so I'm running a special right now:

SPECIAL: LIMITED TIME ONLY! Try an assortment of Bake Lore cupcakes, 4 for just $6.00!!

Each box contains one Buttery Yellow, one Lightly Lemon, one Chocolate Delight, each with Bake Lore's trademark butter cream and one Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese butter cream.

First come, first served! Delivery is FREE in Greene County!  I'll also throw in a Terre Haute delivery if I can get at least four orders. 

And if you want a different assortment, just ask.  I can hook you up.  This is a great deal!  Don't miss out!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cake and Census-ability

I have been wading through census data all afternoon.  ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz

Yes, I'm getting to the nitty-gritty, facts and figures sections of my business plan, and despite the horrible needle-in-a-haystack work that it is - I am learning a ton about my market. 

I'm focusing on women - now, male readers, feel free to say "hey, what about me??!!!" - cuz if you're out there, I would love to know.  In the three or four years I've been doing this, my customers have been almost exclusively female.  Twice I was contacted by a man - and both times they seemed a bit dazed and confused by my questions.  Usually, if there's a party to plan and food to be eaten, the ladies are taking care of that.  Am I right??

Ok, so I'm narrowing my research down to a nine-county region I think most likely to order from me on a regular basis.  I have the occasional call from the Indy region, sometimes from the hinterlands of Illinois, but mostly, I'm heading to Terre Haute and various other nearish-by destinations. 

I hit up census data for Greene, Vigo, Clay, Owen, Lawrence, Knox, Daviess, Martin and Monroe Counties, and I've learned a ton.  We all have a general idea of where the population centers are near us, but it's a bit more impactful to see it in government-font black and white. 

Not surprising anyone here, but my main market is focused on three cities: Terre Haute, Bloomington and Vincennes.  There are more pastry chefs than I can count in B-town, so I am not going to spend overmuch time there.  But Terre Haute and Vincennes, I can make some noise there. 

Looks like the future holds a few conversations with campus newspapers, taking out an ad or two, and maybe someday, if my cake-ship comes in, finally having the moolah to join the Wabash Valley Bridal Society.  Le sigh...

Make no mistake, I'm still a Greene County gal - and this is a Linton business.  But with only 2,598 women between the ages of 20 and 34 living in my little corner of the state, I have to think bigger or not bother. 

Now, back to those census reports...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beautiful Cake, Beautiful Bride

What is it about a really great wedding?  It makes you weep and laugh and by the end you are thoroughly exhausted if you had anything to do with the months of prep leading up to it.

I so appreciate the confidence a bride puts in me.  It's not some thing I take lightly, and I do everything I can to make her special cake a true centerpiece at the reception.  When that bride is a friend, you do even more. 

This very special cake took me through every skill set I need in this buisness - fondant (for the ribbon at the base of each tier), gum paste (for the originial topper and flowers), piping...and piping and piping, and of course from-scratch baking and butter-cream making.

Turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself:).

Original cake topper, gum paste, hand painted, 100% edible!

Red Velvet (the kind you actually want to EAT!)
with cream cheese butter cream and Chocolate Fudge
with vanilla buttercream, fondant accent.

The center food table - there were red roses everywhere!

Back of the topper - I love the silver swirls.

From the back...

My beautiful friend and her new husband, cutting their cake!

Ready to eat - mmmmmm

Thursday, July 19, 2012

(Spoiler Alert!) Here's to the Bride

Yes, don't look if you don't want to know what I've been working on this week!

I just can't leave this one alone. 

I've had these lovelies on my drying rack for a while now...still a bit of wet "paint" before their final dusting of color.

Bake Lore sugar flowers drying...just a small peek at the
original topper debuting on Saturday
This is a sneek peek of one really unique, gorgeous cake topper.  Can you tell I'm excited about this one?

Let me tell you, though, it's not just about the flowers.  It's about the bride.

I met this amazing woman when I moved home from a few years of east-coast insanity.  Talk about beautiful, inside and out.  You become fast friends with the people who are walking with you through times of extreme change, and this lady was part of the whirlwind of life that surrounded me when I got married. 

Partnered with her equally awesome best friend (who I hope will get her own Bake Lore post one of these days), she threw me a beautiful wedding shower and helped make my wedding invitations.  She was a charter member of a briefly convened group we called "The Hot Mammas Club," and she helped me, on more than one occasion, survive my incredible propensity to get lost WHEREVER I GO. 

She's gonna marry a hunk of Latino preacher this weekend, and I couldn't be happier for her.  She's made me wait a long time to enjoy blessing her a little bit in the same way she has blessed me.

Here's to you and all the Hot Mammas out there - love and miss you all!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Baking Matters: The Rant Part Two

Pausing from another marathon of cake baking, building and beautifying, your friendly neighborhood cake maker returns to finish her long-overdue discourse on why baking matters.

Did you feel yucky after reading about the grocery store S.O.P.? 

I did. 

But I don't feel yucky anymore...because I've got a house full of fresh, flavorful, baked-from-scratch cake that I'm about to turn into a gorgeous wedding confection. 

In case you were wondering about the life and times of a Bake Lore is your window into the oven.

First...I collect the best possible ingredients.  I use dry goods almost exclusively from the Dutch Pantry in Odon, throwing some love to my local shop-keeps.  Thier cake flour is fantastic, and they have all the hard to find things - in bulk! - any time I need them.

Clearly prepping for a cake for the husband
The man can't get enough PB and cocoa:).
I spend a day or two baking from scratch - I use Fat Daddio pans (awesome!) and I don't rely on timers very much.  Once my cakes have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, I check them constantly to make sure they are never over-baked.

Using a great technique for level cakes:
soaking long strips of linen in cold water,
wrapping around the pan, securing with pins.

When they cool, I level the layers - each Bake Lore cake has 4 layers.  They call that torting, I do believe, and for me, it's part of the inner beauty of the cake.  It's pretty inside and out. 

Four layers...minus a bite...who can wait when there's cake to be eaten?

For a wedding cake - yes, I freeze the layers!  But never for longer than a day or two.  These cakes have to travel, they have to hold up all through a wedding and a reception, and the colder they are on delivery, the prettier they are in your pictures.  They are always completely thawed and ready for action when served.  They also spend some quality time in the fridge, aclimating to the perfect temperature for travel and eating. 

The butter cream is next - this gorgeous stuff lasts weeks in the fridge, so it can be made well in advance.  I use an Italian merangue butter cream - starts with stiffly beaten egg whites, then I add molten sugar and loads of real butter and vanilla...or whatever the taste-du-jour may be.

Mmmm...Bake Lore butter cream, as inspied by the one and only, Sylvia Weinstock

I then layer the cake and butter cream, add a crumb coat and a final perfect finish of butter cream before the decoration begins.  Sometimes it's a flourish of fondant...sometimes a gallery of gum paste...sometimes just piped perfection. 

Then I deliver, set up and (sometimes) serve.

Setting up in the reception hall!

Depending on the size of the cake, it's never longer than a week from start to finish.  It's always in the window of peak freshness, and it's always been met with rave reviews and smiling guests. 

Speaking of which...I have some work to do.  Delivery day is coming!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Baking Matters, The Rant Part One

You'll forgive me if I take a moment, as I catch my breath between cakes, to give a little time to a fight that's been going on for quite some time. 

It's  real barnburner.

In this corner, I give you the heavy-weight champ of the modern age, INDUSTRIAL BAKING! 

And in the other, still fighting and scrapping by after years of domination from it's bigger, badder opponent: FROM-SCRATCH BAKING!!!!!

Can I tell you a secret?  I've been in both worlds.  I know what's going on in the bowels of your grocer's bakery department.  Let me tell ya.  Some of it ain't pretty.

I'm a cake guru, so let me just leave the bread and donuts where they lie.  I'm gonna walk you through the life of a typical grocery store cake. 

Mixing, Baking, Cooling and Packaging - happen at a nameless factory somewhere - en masse.

Cakes are delivered to grocery stores across the nation, frozen, and expected to stay frozen until they are pulled for decoration...who knows when that will be?  Also, they come in a variety of sizes ranging from rectangle to extra-rectangle.

In the "bakery," the rack of cakes - in ubiquitous white and chocolate - is rolled in and ot of its freezer home, and depending on when they arrived and how many orders are coming in, the cakes could potentially thaw and freeze every day for a couple of weeks before they're used. 

I'm not saying every grocery store does it that way, but some do.  It's not a health hazard, unfortunately,  But it is definitely a TASTE hazard.  Nothing says "celebrate" like the taste of freezer burn.  Sadly, I speak from experience there as wedding cake was a grocery store cake.  I know...I was before I knew better. 

Even better, if you're in the market for a wedding cake, the industrial baker will supply you with centuries-old round cakes in your choice of white...white...or...wait for it...white cake.  (Disclaimer: Centuries-old may be a conservative age estimate.) 

credit guess...99 years, give or take a few months.
Now, there is only one way to make medicocre cake something people will come back and buy again and again. That is where the tub of "buttercream" icing comes in.  (Quotations used to their fullest grammatical potential.)

Ingredients: Shortening (that's crisco, fyi), high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring (mmm...butter in a bottle!), and few poly-syllabic, hard-to-pronounce items that industrial bakers love to throw into things. 

Slap that on an inch thick, top it with a couple icing roses, and you have yourself 12-18 servings of $14.99 cake that will leave your guests feeling slightly nauseous and heachachey. 

My apologies if this post came off just a smidge caustic.  It's hard to watch good people eat bad cake.  It truly is. 

If you're going to celebrate - make every calorie a party!  It's not an every day food, so don't let it be an every day experience, for you or for your guests. 

Tune in soon when I walk you through the life of a Bake Lore cake.  But bring a might make you drool just a bit.  :) 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's...shower time!

Oh, dear cake lovers, I am once again, exhausted.  I have just come through a week turned up to 11 in every way possible...cake, Vacation Bible School, major day-job stuffs, major volunteer commitments and a few other things...including but not limited to my husband getting attacked by a deer in our brand new car. 


That said - I delivered a rockin' bridal shower cake this weekend, and the pictures are here for you to feast your eyes on and tell your friends.  

Gorgeous set-up...these ladies have some serious froo-froo talent!

Original gum paste topper - how cute are they?

There's a story behind the sandal.  Kind of like a beach-version of Cinderella...ish.

My beautiful friend, Amy, who gets to call herself "MRS." in another month!

I think she likes it:).

Three tiers of Buttery Yellow Cake and Vanilla Buttercream
Only thing better than sitting with your love on the beach
at sunset would be sitting on CAKE with your love at sunset.  

Congratulations, Amy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Te Amo!

Anyone who follows this blog regularly knows that when I am silent for a few days, it's because I have a consuming project (or five) to work on.

I've been going back and forth in my mind over the past few weeks about what I thought was an overwhelming schedule for this summer.  Many factors combined to lead me to the place where I was overwhelmed at the stack of orders I had for the wedding season, and my sanity demanded that I stop shopping for new orders.  I even turned down an order:(. 

I really just thought I had too much to do already, and couldn't do it justice.  One thing I never want is a sub-par cake with a Bake Lore card in front of it. 

But here I am, halfway through what I thought was a crazy-busy season, and I find I am handling it all just fine.  In fact, I kind of wish I had a few more orders. 

Live and learn.  That's what this whole process is about. 

In the meantime, I am happily working away on a gum paste topper for a bridal shower cake.  I'm giving you a sneak peak's going to be great!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

You Quit When You're Done

I have a singular goal for Bake Lore this summer: finish the business plan.

I have no intention of pursuing investors at the moment.  I'm doing this so I know where I'm going.

So far, I'm sitting pretty with my one-woman, one-kitchen show - I want that storefront, but I want it when I'm ready for it. 

I got some good news from the health department this weekend, indicating I have crossed yet another hurdle to official business-hood.  It's all falling in place.  Dare I dream that Bake Lore might finally be ready to make it official?

So I guess the long-term list looks a little something like this:

1. Finish business plan.
2. Purchase insurance - shout out to our local Richard Brown company here in Linton.  They actually insure start-up bakeries, and they are very affordable.  Got a great quote from them.
3. Register with local, state, federal agencies.
4. Advertise...a lot.
5. Join some bridal societies and take up beautiful booth space at bridal shows.
6. Fill up Summer 2013 calendar.
7. Get paid!

My passion for this business has waxed and wanned over the past few years.  I've really contemplated giving it up, calling it a hobby and forgetting the stress and mess of creating an actual business. 

Then I realized - work is work.  Yes, I love cake.  I love to make them beautiful, and I love to see people enjoy my creations.  But I am not doing this for my own amusement or as some sort of sugary philanthropy.  I'm doing it to create a new source of income for my family.

That independence is a huge motivator.  This is work, make no mistake.  I enjoy it - most of the time - but you don't get to quit working when you're tired.  You quit when you're done.  And I ain't done yet. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Green, with Percy on it"

"Andrew, what kind of birthday cake would you like this year?"

"I want a green one, with Percy on it."

That was the conversation I had with my now 4-year-old son several times over the past few weeks.  I kept asking, because I expected the answer to change every time.  But no - every time I got the same answer: green, with Percy on it. 

Were you ever four and knew exactly what you wanted? 

Ah, the joy of knowing what you want...and being Batman.
Andrew got two birthday parties this year.  His actual birthday fell on a Wednesday, so we had a small gathering with pizza and a little pile of Saturdays.  He knew his "Green with Percy on it" cake would come a few days later when the family gathered en masse. 

"It's a UTILITY BELT!!!!!"

His response to, "What would you like for your birthday?" has consistently been, "toys."  So we had some wiggle room there, but we really hit it out of the park.  He opened one of the packages and yelled, "It's a utility belt!!" with all the joy and satisfaction of being young and getting what you really wanted for your birthday.  That was a great guess, and I give full credit to my husband for that one. 

Finally, Batman's long wait for his green cake was rewarded:

8" Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse filling, Vanilla Buttercream

I kept it simple this year, and it was just what he wanted.  Nothing's better than giving your child a gift you know they are longing for. What a shadow of a sliver of a taste of what God feels when he satisfies our righteous desires...what a gift to experience even a whiff of that sweetness. 

Percy the train...thank you for being a toy an not making me
craft you out of gum paste at midnight last night:). 

This year we had chocolate cake, filled with chocolate mousse (a la Joy of Cooking...mmmmm) and topped with the signature Bake Lore buttercream. 

This cake may not have topped the style of years past, but it was by far the best-tasting cake I've ever made for my son's birthday.  And yes, I let him have two pieces. 

I love you, dear, sweet boy.  Happy 4th Birthday to you!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Happy Marriage

I supplied the cake for a 50th wedding anniversary party today.  I have known the couple for 15 years, and they are the model of fidelity, godliness and strength we all strive for.  It's good to have role models like that. 

They asked me to make a replica of their original wedding cake.  While the pictures they had on hand were great, they didn't provide a lot of detail for their cake.  So we went with simple and elegant. 

Celebrating 50 years and counting!

The topper is not a Bake Lore original.  The flowers are silk, and yes, those are Wilton pillars separating the tiers.  I usually balk at the pillared look, but this is just simplicity itself.  I love it. 

Actually, this is my first ever cake with pillars.  I've never had an order from anyone who wanted them.  I usually hear someone from Food Network in my head saying something snide like, "Hey, um, the 80's called, and, um, they want their cake back!" 

But I can't help it.  I love the way this turned out.  Honestly, it's a lot easier than sawing dowels to just the right height for stacked cakes.  These hidden pillars are pre cut and ready to go - plus they are super stable.  Gotta love it. 

Close up on the Chocolate Cake
Sometimes, less is more.
This cake was three flavors - Bananarama, Chocolate and Buttery Yellow.  I need to think up a better name for my chocolate cake...any ideas?  I love good ideas:).  It's iced entirely with Bake Lore vanilla butter cream and topped with some silk flowers. 

Bananarama Cake and Vanilla Buttercream
Just perfect. 

Congrats to Pat and Gary.  God bless you and THANK YOU for your wonderful example of leadership and faithfulness in our church and in our community. 

When I grow up.  I wanna be like you:).