Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Rose

I am sorely tempted to sit around my house, dwelling on my disappointment.  I'm missing a bridal show I had hoped to do today. 

I find it difficult to mope, however, when I am having so much fun. 

Besides the peacock feathers I showed you yesterday, which improve with every new attempt, I thought I'd try some new gum paste cutters I got some time ago and see if they lent themselves well to making a peony.

I failed in that endeavor. 

However, in place of the peony I expected, a gorgeous rose appeared!  It's not the usual tight little bloom I'm used to producing.  This is some other wild variety, but I love it.  It's big, it's full and it bears those peacock colors beautifully.

There's so much more you can do to add color and life to a sugar flower with a paintbrush.  Most often, I add the color to the gum paste and work it in well before I start forming petals, but this time, I left it white, and added layers of purple, blue and green as it dried.  The result is like holding a water color painting in your hand.  I love the effect. 

Usually, my roses look like this:

But the new rose I stumbled upon is somehow messier and less formal, like a medieval maiden.  I like them both, and they'll each serve to make a totally different kind of cake just what it should be. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Peacock Prototype

I have an exciting project for this summer: a steam punk wedding cake.  This is a cultural phenomenon that has produced some really elaborate, detailed art - from fashion to food. 

I'm excited to get a taste for this eclectic mix of Victorian garb and old-timey machinery.

I'm also excited to try my hand at some totally new techniques and create a truly unique cake for this couple.  So, even though it's months away, I have been experimenting. 

Gum paste flowers are one of my specialties, and I love making them.  Gum paste feathers, however, are much more of a challenge.  They aren't just thin, they're whispy, ephemeral.  That makes them a lot harder to mimick with sugar, which makes them a lot more FUN to try!

My first prototype looked a little...emaciated...and, well, just not right.  But I stand by my concept.  The form is there, the execution, not so much.

Is it a gaseous flame?  Is it the skeletal remains of a Star Trek alien?
But, round two has proven to be much more rewarding.  I think this is starting to look pretty cool!  And from a distance, the effect is much more convincing. 
Oh my gosh!  It's a peacock feather! 
I got that the first time.  I really did.  Promise.
This is basically a whole lot of thin, white floral wire, twisted and snipped into shape, and the center is of course gumpaste.  I used a leaf cutter, trimmed and shaped it and then added lots more wire to the top.  the color is all painted on, a mixutre of a little gel food color and a tiny splash of rum.  Yes, cake decorators paint with liquor - but don't worry, it's not enough to enjoy:). 

I'm going to keep working on this, but I wanted to share my progress.  What fun!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Project Ziggurat

UPDATE:  See Project Ziggurat Revealed HERE!

Ever wonder what the Tower of Babel looked like?  Ever wonder what the Tower of Babel was?  Ever wonder why blogs about cake are posting links to the Old Testament? 

Wonder no longer!

Hello cake fans and welcome to Project Ziggurat! 

Thanks to my MENSA-pre-qualified brother, who is studying Biblical Archaeology and Near Eastern Languages at TEDS up yonder in Chigago, I am now working on a blueprint for a ziggurat cake.

This one will be worth the wait, cake fans.  Keep checking in for progress reports!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Never Gonna Give You Up...

Disappointment has been a common theme for my long, hard slug to official businessdom. 

Every time it seems I'm on the cusp of seeing a real explosion in customers and opportunities, we're dealt a low blow that keeps me back. 

I had plans to create a table for my first ever bridal show this month.  Sadly, it ain't gonna happen.  I don't really want to bore my cake and business lovers with common tales of woe from my life, so suffice to say, the many elements required to pull it off were just not there.

But I hear my sister-in-law in my head, telling me to endure - be patient - tough it out - and I think, ok, that's what I'm going to do. 

I'm not trying to be a flash in the pan.  I'm trying to build a reputation, the foundation of a long-lived business.  Apparently, that means one cake, one wedding at a time and years of slow but sure progress. 

Maybe the explosion is just around the corner.  Maybe it's five years out, or maybe 20. 

I love baking, and I love decorating.  Those two things have endured the test of time, more than a passing interest or hobby.  So I'll let them cook a while until they're done in the middle.

When you need a cake, you know who to call.  I won't be the pretty display at the next bridal blowout, but I will be quietly waiting for brides who are doing thier homework and looking for a really, truly unique cake for their big day.   

And to my business, my beautiful, small, infant business, I can only repeat what the immortal Rick Astley once said...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Elements of a Cake Tasting, III

Welcome to the third and final post in my mini-series on cake tasting.  When January rolls around, bridal shows start popping up, and bakers have cake tasting on the brain.  Hopefully, you're taking advantage of this slow season in the biz and booking cake tastings for you and your hunk of groomliness. 

We've talked about trusting your baker.  We've talked about being prepared.  Now, let's talk about the not-so-fun part: the budget.

If you want a cake like this:

Yes, that is William and Kate's wedding cake.  Drool.
You should be expecting a price tag fit for this:

Yes, that is the Queen. 
But let's be honest, are you inviting Eugenie and Bea to your wedding along with their nine million club-hopping gal pals?  Probably not.

The first key to setting your budget is buying your dad a nice big steak, batting your eyes at him and reminding him that you'll always be his little princess.  Aha...

Actually, the first thing you have to do is finalize your guest list.  Once you know how many people you're inviting, you'll know how many servings you'll need and whether you can go for crazy, high-end flavors and decorations or need to stick to a delicious but more basic choice.

I also recommend getting a little more cake than you think you'll need.  So, for a wedding with 50 guests, I suggest a cake with 70 servings.  This gives you enough wiggle room for sweet-toothed guests to venture back for a second slice.  That's a lovely three tiered cake (10", 8" and 6") that would make any wedding reception proud.  At Bake Lore, we start our cake servings at $2.00 each for a 1x2x4" serving. (I've noticed a lot of cake sites won't quote you a base price, and I find that pretty aggravating.)  So, if you're doing the math, that makes the base price $140.00 - wow! - a great cake for a decent price!

You'll be upping that price if you go with flavors that require additional ingredients - raspberry butter cream, for example, has real raspberries in it, and you'll see an increase there.  You'll also have additional costs incurred with elaborate decorations. 

It's all up to you (and whoever is cutting the checks!), but the bottom line is that you can feed a small crowd really good cake for a decent price.  (That means no grocery stores, fake icing or freezer burned flavor.)

So what have you learned, dear bride?
1) Trust your baker and try new flavors.
2) Come prepared with design ideas.
3) Know your budget.

Do those three things, and your cake tasting should be a raging success. 

When you schedule a Bake Lore tasting, you will get a full consultation and either leave with your estimate or recieve it within a few days.

So, when will we be talking about YOUR cake?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tasting Cake is Fun!

I love cake tastings.  It's fun to prepare for, fun to experience and even more fun to have a firm cake order at the end of the day.

I prepared another eight flavor combo tray for today's cake tasting.  We had four flavors of cake paired as follows with yummy buttercream flavors...

Left to right:
Lightly Lemon with vanilla butter cream and raspberry butter cream
Orange Delight cake with vanilla butter cream and orange butter cream
Spiced Heaven cake with cream cheese butter cream and orange butter cream
Buttery Yellow cake with vanilla butter cream and raspberry butter cream

The couple was adventurous, and came up with a fantastic flavor combination for their three-tiered bridal cake. 

I always provide a few things at a cake tasting.  If you have a tasting scheduled you can expect a full menu, a complete price list for the flavors you sample and your choice of tea or coffee with your cake. 

I also always have a handful of coffee beans on hand, so cake-tasters can cleanse thier pallate between flavors.  Sniffing coffee beans is an easy way to reset your sense of taste and smell.  Nice department stores will offer that service at perfume counters as well. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for my third and final post in my series: Elements of a Cake Tasting. 

Make sure you call or email to schedule an event for yourself!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Elements of a Cake Tasting, Part II

As you'll recall, the first element of a successful cake tasting is trusting your baker and trying new flavors. 

Second (not in importance just in the order I thought of it):  Come prepared.

Theme and color are the most important ideas you need in your head.  Bring swatches of bridesmaid dress fabric, ribbons from the bouquet and ideas about what flowers you will use - bring your laptop. 

I guarantee you, if you google "pink cake" in google images, you will immediately have more ideas at your fingertips than you can count.  There's some amazing talent out there.  Find it. 

Print pictures, pin it on Pinterest (WHAT?  You're not on Pinterest???  Go...get an account and then come back in a few hours after you have become the newest addict...also, follow my boards, cuz I'm awesome and I pin gorgeous cake.) 

Come to your tasting with all your ideas and your baker/decorator will help you sort through and find the things that will make the perfect cake. 

If you came to me and said, "I want a steam punk cake."  I would have no idea what you mean.  But, if you came to me with a color scheme in mind an a picture like, say, this amazing one:

...well, I'd be right on track with you.  And as a side note, I would weep for joy if someone ordered a cake this awesome.  It would make me quiver with delight in anticipation of the project. 

Also, be open to new ideas.  Maybe this baker has a talent for sugar flowers *ahem* or is really good with some intricate piping you hadn't thought of before.  Use their talents and ideas too. 

Talking design while you're sampling flavors is a huge times saver.  Why have two meetings when you could have one?  And if you're wowed by the tasting, you can start working on the final design and sign a contract to reserve your date right then and there.  Yes, that means crossing off something on your to-do list.  Even better!

Cake Tasting Element #2: Bring your ideas and be open to new ones!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best Buttercream 2.0

I've been experimenting in my kitchen.  It's a little dangerous.  It's a little crazy.  It's a lot messy.

Project numero uno on my list has been conforming what I do to Indiana's cottage laws...those are the laws that allow you to sell baked goods made in your home for profit.  I have a double plus good test kitchen at my disposal, but frankly, it's a lot of driving and a lot more overhead.  And mamma needs to make some bank.

The major issue for me is the butter cream I make.  It's an itailan merangue butter cream, which is basically a lot of egg whites, beaten and cooked slowly with boiling sugar at the soft ball stage.  It's divine. 

But ye olde health department frowns on the use of eggs, thus making it pretty much a requirement for me to be in an up to code kichen.  The rest of my menu falls perfectly within the regs, so it's kindof important for me to find a way to keep the divine while loosing the egg.

traditional itialian meringue butter cream, with real egg whites

Don't know why I didn't think of this before: HELLO, MERINGUE POWDER!

new and improved with meringue powder

Dang!  I always have a giant tub of this laying around for royal icing and gum paste glue, so why not use it like it was intended and make some icing out of it?  Well, I did it.  And it's awesome.  Dare I say, it's even slightly more awesome than the real egg version, and also quite a bit easier to make. 

Same glorious sheen, same lightly sweet flavor, same gorgeous consistency...and for whatever reason, it's also slightly whiter, which makes decorating that much easier.  We have a winner! 

left: with meringue powder, right: with real egg whites
I can see the difference, I swear.
And Bake Lore just got one step closer to a full 2012 calendar. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Elements of a Cake Tasting

So, you are planning your wedding, and you're making a short list of bakers to try out.  What are the essential things you need to know and learn from your cake tasting? 

Welcome to my short and completely non-exhaustive series on cake tastings! 

First things first: if you have found a baker by reputation, trust his/her ideas. 

Try flavors you can' find at the grocery store.  Don't like lemon?  If it's the baker's trademark flavor, try it anyway.  You might be missing out on something amazing your guests will be talking about for weeks after you get hitched.

I'm prepping a tasting today for a couple that involves four flavors - Bake Lore's classic buttery yellow cake, lightly lemon cake, orange delight cake and spiced heaven cake. 

I'm also working to keep prices down and make the bottom line as palatable as the product I make.  The buttery yellow cake batter lends itself to new flavors so well, blending perfectly with the additional flavors to make a dependably moist and tender crumb.

From Left: lightly lemon, spiced heaven, orange delight and buttery yellow cakes

Adding real vanilla buttercream to any of these would automatically make it a hit, but I'll be soaking each in a flavored syrup and creating one additional buttercream flavor for each cake. 

These aren't your typical "wedding white or chocolate" flavors.  This is a twist on the traditional that will give wedding guests a tiny taste of how happy thier hosts are as they celebrate your marriage!

Cake Tasting Element #1: Trust your baker and try new flavors.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Studly Groom's Cake

It looks like Bake Lore is finally going to get some space at a bridal show.  My registration isn't final yet, but I'm already prepping things for my table. 

First on the list: a chocolate stud cake for the groom.  Ladies, let's be honest, the wedding day is all about us.  The least we can do is remind the groom that he is, in fact, the studliest man in our lives and what better way to do that than with chocolate?

Studly Groom's Cake
This is actually a dummy.  It's made out of cereal treat, and covered with royal icing so it will harden and stay pretty - er - I mean manly - for a long, long time. 

But the real thing would be a double chocolate cake, soaked in a sweet liqueur syrup and covered in rich chocolate buttercream, or ganache...and of course finished with chocolate studs, the mighty chocolate chip!

So brides, don't forget your stud.  He needs some chocolate on your big day, and if you're lucky, he'll share a bite with you too!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Accidental Baking

I baked a lot of bread yesterday.  It was fun, and it smelled great.

But I lacked the foresight I needed to complete my fourth loaf of bread.  That is, I forgot I had given the extra pans I had on hand back to my mother.  Tsk Tsk.

Panic ensued when I punched down the big doughy balloons only to realize there was no where for the final loaf to take shape and bake. 

So, I made accidentally on purpose cinnamon rolls!  TADA!

I had one for breakfast today, the equivalent of two slices of toast.  What a great way to wake up.  Coffee in hand, healthy and delcious cinnamon roll in the other...I'll take that any day. 

I used my usual soaking method with this recipe - basically a way of releasing the nutrition locked up in the whole wheat and making it taste that much better.  While I'm not offering bread and rolls here at Bake Lore anymore, I still enjoy making them for my family.  Perhaps one day when I can get the profit margin a bit healthier, I might consider returnign it t the menue. 

Until then, I will just suggest that you do some research into Sue Gregg's cooking methods.  I use her bread recipe and it's the best I've ever tasted, bar none. 

Why yes!  That is another new cake pedestal.  How kind of you to notice;).
And yes, they are square...because I used my super awesome Fat Daddio square cupcake pan.  For some reason, I love square baked goods.

Do you have a tried and true cinnamon roll recipe in your house?  What do you do to make it healthier for your family?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sidetrack: Being Robbed

The holidays were rough on our little corner of existence. 

Two break-ins...that's right...old school, rob-your-house-while-you-sleep kind of break-ins.  One on Christmas Eve night, and the other on New Year's Eve.

If they come back on my birthday, I will have to shoot someone.  Why couldn't it have been a good story?  You know...ninjas broke down my door looking for the stone of stealth on my back porch...or pirates attacked and our house was in their wake of pillaging and theft...but some meth-head (presumably...I mean, I love rural Indiana, but come on...) who just thought it would be fun?  Come ON!

But I digress...

That kind of stress can really throw you for a loop and keep you otherwise occupied when you might be...I don't know...blogging. 

I'm officially over it now, and I'm ready to renew my passion for my business.  I have high hopes that I'll have a booth set up at my very first bridal show by the end of the month, and if that happens and goes well, we might be blogging a whole lot more...and maybe considering moving forward on some of those amazing plans I've been making. 

Stay tuned...Bake Lore is returning to awesomeness with vigor and determination. 

Also, if you are the person who broke into my house, you are banned forever from eating my amazing cake.  FORever. 

That is all.