Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Impromptu Portrait Sessions & Other Things Photographers Will Sneak In

As most of you know, Carlos from 3rd Avenue Photography came out last week to photograph some of my cakes. He was also very sneaky and requested...nay...demanded to take portraits of me in my kitchen while he was there. I was not at all prepared, the kitchen was still a wreck from all the cakes I had made. Dishes were stacked high in the sink, icing globs abounded. He managed to tuck me into a tight corner and get some shots though that make me look half decent. 

I know what you are going to say, too" "For not being prepared to have a portrait session taken, you sure to look dressed up." Well, when Carlos came over, I had just gotten out of the shower. My hair was wet, I was in old blue jeans that had icing on them, no make up. As the session crept on, I had to start getting ready for Rachel's bridal shower, so I would flit back and forth between kitchen and bathroom to get get make up, blow dryer, etc. About 20 minutes before I was about to run out the door, is when he grabbed me and made me do the Betty Crocker thing. I know you have been just dying to see these. Hopefully I can arrange some real portraits of me for the blog when I have my blond hair back and my vintage dress. Until then, here you go:

"You want to take pictures of me?"

Everything is shoved into the sink by the mixer!!

"Carlos hurry!! This cake weighs 20 lbs!"

Above those cabinets are rows and rows of liquor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Olivia's First Birthday Cake!

Carlos from 3rdAvenuePhotography, sent me this family shot of himself, his wife Annie, and their precious baby girl today. She was the little lucky lady who received the three tiered cake wreck. I know, I know I have to quit being so hard on myself, I just wanted it to be perfect for her. Of course she won't remember, but pictures are floating around the interwebs a lot longer lately. Hopefully, Annie will send me some pictures of her eating on that little top layer. However, Annie tells me that Olivia has quite princess-like table manners. So, we may not have the messy face we anticipated. I will keep you posted!

A gracious gal, that sweety!

The candle makes it look less slanted. LOL.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Photographer's Visit & Other Things You've Been Dying to Read About

Hey Kids!

Sorry I have been such a bad bloggess lately. I made three cakes last week and I am completely exhausted. I completed the Rainbow Cake Thursday night. Friday I worked relentlessly on the baby cake and Rachel's shower cake. At midnight, Jon said I had to go to sleep because crying and banging my head on the table was not going to make the cake any smoother. I woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning to try to continue working on it. After the shoot I had to race across town for Rachel's bridal shower because I was helping to host. I didn't leave the shower until 4:30 p.m. I came home and practically passed out on the couch.

Truth be told, I was not happy with the Rachel's or Olivia's cake. Especially Olivia's cake. The buttercream icing recipe that I have been using is just too thin, it seems, to create a super smooth texture. It was so frustrating. I know what you are thinking: "Enough jibber jabber, let's see the goods." Alright alright, don't get your piping bags in a wad. Here's a sort of photo montage with commentary. With some simple tricks, your cakes can, too, look this...ummm..."fabulous".

"The Painted Pig"

Got an ugly cake? Simply place a giant flower in the middle to cover unsightly bits.

Still ugly? Throw some marbles or candy on the the table to distract people from the actual cake.
Then have the photographer photoshop it up a bit and no one will ever notice!

"The Masterpiece"

The prettiest cake I have ever made. Too pretty to eat.

If you build your cake on a cardboard round, be sure to remove it before the shoot.

If you have a cake too pretty to eat, you can carry it around on a pretty tray
and tease the neighbors and guests.

OMG! A Double Rainbow!!! It's so intense! What does this mean?!!!!
*crying, banging fist on desk*

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!!!"

Extra candy will make it pop!

Lean your head to the side and it will look straight....more....more....LEAN Damn you!
Keep the rolling pin handy to knock heads with.


I guess all that really matters is that everyone was happy with their cakes. I suppose that is what is important. I definitely have a long way to go with my decorating skills. I will be posting more pictures as the week goes on.

Carlos insisted on taking some pictures of me in the kitchen as well. I was not at all prepared for this, I was running around trying to blow dry my hair and put on lipstick in between shots. If you are in a rush, and you just can't wait to see the pictures of me, you can always check out Carlos' site: 3rd Avenue Photography. He also sent me some shots of Olivia enjoying her cake. Hopefully I can get those up later this week, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Cake Done for the Shoot

Last night I finished the rainbow cake for the shoot. Jon and I went round and round about leaving it plain white until the actual shot of it getting it cut, but to me it just looked too plain. I got the bright idea to do a border of rainbow candies to make it look a little more finished.

I bought some Skittles and thought everything was going to be fine. Turns out when you taste the rainbow, you only get red, orange, yellow, green, and purple. No blue. No blue = no rainbow.  Luckily, I had a stash of plain M&M candies that are about the same size so I was able to complete the rainbow. However, keep in mind that there aren't purple M&Ms unless its the Easter season or you want to go buy a custom color assortment. So what I did was use all the colors of M&Ms (because I like the taste better than Skittles) and used only the purple Skittles on the final product.

I put a nice fat layer of icing all the way around and waited for it to crust. With the help of my new turntable, I got a much smoother effect overall. There is also a paper towel trick I am going to have to show you that also helps you get a smoother coating with butter cream icing. That is for another time, though. Here I am adding the border for the rainbow cake.

R.O.Y.   G.    B.I.V. 

All done. Sorry for all the clutter in the background.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Sweets: Manly Cake vs Girly Cake

Okay, as you know I had two cakes this week. One for a friend and one for my first customer. Both turned out reasonably well, and I think both parties were happy with the results. I, being the fastidious perfectionist that I am, can always find fault with my work. The response so far has been very positive and I am thankful for that. I don't think I slept a wink on night before delivery of these two bad boys.

Okay, enough chit chat. Are you ready for the reveal? Just realize that, again the camera quality is bad, but we are taking care of that next week! Enjoy for what it's worth and let me know what you think.

Manly Cake. Happy Birthday to my oldest friend.
Err..oldest meaning stuck around the longest. ;-p

Girly Cake: The purple rose cake...precariously perched on a
upside bucket...with a lot of clutter in the background.

Purple rose cake before it was dyed purple.

GAWD! I look like a creeper! The cake creeper!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Piping Candy Letters, Simpler Than You Might Think

Hey folks, today I am going to teach you how to pipe letters out of candy coating. It looks pretty cool and it is easier than you might think. Besides, everyone will ooo and aww about your mad candy skills.
Things You Need:
  • Candy Coating, you can use rounds linked or blocks found at your supermarket.
  • Double Boiler, or you can use the technique I use (observed here).
  • Ziploc baggies, or off-brand, whatever.
  • Spatula
  • A paper clip, twist tie, clothespin or small office clamp. A binding device OK!
  • Plastic wrap
  • A flat surface to work on, like a cutting board.
  • Toothpicks
  • Water and an oven
  • A paper template if you have crappy handwriting and little imagination like myself. Print from a computer if necessary.
  • A Dish towel.
  • Shortening
  • Measuring spoons
  • Tape (any kind will do in a pinch)
  • Scissors
  • First things first, you will need to mise en place. Having everything in one place will make things go more smoothly for you.
  • Start by putting your cutting board in the fridge or freezer while you set everything up. This will help the candy to harden once it is laid on the board and not ooze everywhere.
  • Print your template off if you are going to use one.
  • Put an inch or two of water into your double boiler and bring it to a boil with the top section on.
  • Throw your candy pieces into the top part, making sure that they do not come into contact with any water. If you bought the block, break it into smaller bits with your fists. Or a knife. Whatever.
  • As your candy gently melts, stir occasionally, incorporating all the chunks. You may need to add a tablespoon of shortening to thin it out. The candy does not need to super runny. In fact, that may be bad. It just needs to get a ribbony state.
  • Pull your cutting board out of the fridge and tape your template to it.
  • Stretch plastic wrap tightly over your paper template, tape it down as well. Return to to fridge if your candy coating is not yet melted.
  • When the candy has thoroughly melted, pull out a Ziploc bag and turn it inside out over your hand or a cup. You are basically making a piping bag.

  • Start transferring the candy coating to your bag, this can be a little hot. Use a dishtowel between your hands and the bag if you have to. Fill the bag only about 1/3 of the way full to start. You can always add more.

Warning, this can be a little hot!

  • When you have added the coating, try to get as much air out as possible and seal the bag. Twist the top of the bag to work the candy down to a bottom corner. Use one of the above mentioned clamping items to hold the candy in place near the bottom. It should be a tight fit.

  • You then use the scissors to cut the tip of of the bag off. How much is cut of depends on how fine your lettering will be. I always start small and cut more if needed. If you cut too big, you will have to empty the bag and start over.

  • Resting your hand against the board, start filling in the spaces on your template. Be careful not to rest your hand on your work. Move around the board systematically so you don't smudge or get worked into a corner. You can use a towel wrapped around the bag if it is too hot for you to handle with you bare hands.
  • Store your finished work chilled until you're ready to use. Lift off the plastic carefully with a knife.
  • Enjoy your results!

I'm a freakin' genius!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don't Know What to Cook? Give this App a Whirl!

The folks over at Super Cook have devised a little program to help you figure out what you can cook with the ingredients that are on hand. You simply type in the ingredients that you have in the search box, and a slew of recipes will come up on the right. It will also ask if you have other items on hand that you might have not entered; therefore widening you recipe pool.

I've been playing around with different edibles and found a surprising number of things that you can make with only, say...ground beef, mustard, and ketchup packets. I love the fact that it asked me if I had blackberries. Obviously I don't have blackberries if I cooking with ketchup and mustard packets! Anyway, give it a whirl and let me know what you think about it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Did a Bad Thing, and Other Wordlessness

I did a bad thing...

Confessions of a Shopoholic Bakeoholic

Practice Makes Perfect, I Hope...

Last night, I began practicing on the icing technique for the Rose cake. I am a much better fondant layer than icing piper, but that can't be helped for this cake, it must be piped.

Over the weekend, I went to two cake supply stores and bought the tips. I also chickened out on the Bavarian cream, too. They sell pre-packaged Bavarian cream that was pretty reasonably priced. Because I am crunched for time, I decided to buy it instead of slaving over a hot stove to make it from scratch. I will work on homemade later. Right now, mastering the rose technique is more important.

I have seen a number of practicing guides, but what I found most useful was simply practicing on an upside down cake pan. That way, I knew what the flowers would look like in relation to the cake. I guess I could have used a baking sheet or cutting board, but hey, whatever works.

Most piping techniques require you to have a coupler attachment and all of that, but not this one. It appears that all you have to do is cut the tip of the bag back about a quarter of a inch and slide the tip all the way to the bottom. You have to make sure that the cut edge of bag does not hit anywhere where the icing comes out, our it will f up your design.

Another important thing that I learned is that air bubbles are your enemy. You want to make sure that the icing is well packed into the bottom of bag. Now, don't laugh because I am about to show you some fails. I know they look terrible, but it is a learning process.

Firm pressure equals better results
You really need to use a good amount of force to get the icing out of the bag consistently. Notice those bumpy, gloppy parts are where air bubbles blew out the tip and caused a break in the lovely rose pattern. I think a slightly warmed icing may behave better, too. I am going to try to heat it up just for a few seconds next time to see if it flows a little better.

Still not very pretty, but getting closer.
I am going to have to take another stab at it tonight. It looks better when you take your eyes out of focus. LOL. The good news is that I can just keep wiping it off and starting again until I get it right. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My First Cake Order!

A fellow at work has commissioned me to make his mother's birthday cake next week. I can't tell you how excited I am. It will be a french vanilla cake with a Bavarian Cream filling. The outside with be piped heirloom-ish roses all over. Here is what I proposed to him:

Except he wants purple roses.
Now this is a piped job, and I am not the best piper. This design appears to be pretty straight forward though. The good news is that if it looks bad, I can wipe it clean and start again until I get it right...hopefully. I, of course, have to go out and get the correct piping tip for this design, and perhaps a few pasty bags. There are some things that I am still holding out for. I just feel like I cannot justify the expense, although a turntable would certainly bring down my stress level and help with getting an ultra smooth buttercream finish. I keep hoping someone will get it for me as a gift, but what will probably end up happening is that I will buy it with the money that I get from this cake job.

Last night, I began work on the Guinness cake. I worked on it for more than 4 hours yesterday and my back is killing me today.

The culprit
I started by using an Exacto knife to cut out the paper template. Then, I tried to use the paper template to cut the fondant out. The problem is that the fondant is so pliable, that it just didn't hold its shape. After attempting this several times, I figured out that this was just not going to work. I panicked for awhile trying to figure out how I was going to pull this off. There may have been weeping involved.

Upon closer examination of the picture, it appeared to me that the lettering might be piped in white chocolate. I had part of a white chocolate block laying around so I decided to try this method. I pulled out my marble cutting board, taped the logo down, then taped a piece of plastic wrap tightly over the paper stencil. I melted some white chocolate and poured it into a piping bag. People that do this all the time, must have hands of steel, because it was HOT! I nipped the tiniest corner off the end of the piping bag and went to work. The picture is crappy, but I think that I at least have a method to achieve this cake.

 The letters are super delicate and brittle, but fairly simple to reproduce it they break. I had to keep heating the chocolate over and over as it tended to glop up as it cooled. I redid a few of the uglier letters, but managed to pipe the whole thing last night. It's in the fridge hardening right now. The black fondant should be delivered any minute now, so that will wrap up the hard work on this cake. Then I can focus on the rose cake above, the one I'm truly nervous about.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Odd Episodes in One Night

Last night, Jon heard something he thought he would never hear come out of my kitchen: "I have the ugliest balls!!"

Naturally, this peaked his curiosity, and he found me fussing over some chocolate cake balls with a white chocolate coating. They were a train wreck. He had his laugh nonetheless. Then it was time for my laughs.

You see, you should never just sample things in a kitchen unless you know what your dipping into. Jon saw a bowl of creamy, white, icing-looking stuff and stuck his finger in for a taste.

He'll think again before taste testing random bowls...he got a mouthful off Crisco Vegetable Shortening.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Fondant Tools are Here! Time to Play!

So some of my new fondant tools came in last night and I couldn't resist playing with them. The tools are for the baby button cake for the photographer's daughter. I know that cake isn't supposed to be ready for two and a half more weeks, but I just couldn't help myself.

I had some fondant in the fridge, so I pulled out a chunk and microwaved it. Here's a few tips on mircowaving fondant:

1.) Heat only like 5-10 seconds at a time or else you will get burned, crusty bits of sugar.

2.) When you DO burn the fondant like I did last night, don't think that you can mix the slightly burned bits back in. You will be digging rock candy out of your fondant pieces for the next thirty minutes.

3.) Remember that microwaves cook the center of your food outwards. So even if the outer part of your fondant is still cool, the inner part is probably molten. Work the fondant a little in your hands before zapping it further. The heat of your hands plus the lava middle with disperse throughout the chilly parts, most likely making your fondant ready to handle.

4.) If you heat the fondant too much, it will be too sticky to use right away and will have to cool down either in the fridge or at room temperature (if you are that patient). So, again, work in 5 second heating increments until you get your desired consistency.

I pulled out some Wilton rolled fondant and used gel food coloring to make three different colors of fondant. Then I went to making tons of little buttons in each of the colors. I also practiced making some rick-rack ribbon, but it did not turn out as pretty. Therefore, you only get see the pretty buttons today. I have a little too much powdered sugar on these, I hope I can dust it off with a small paintbrush instead of starting over. I'm sure it will look adorable!

Cute enough to eat. Wait! You can!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Losing Control...Running a Bakery is Expensive!!!

Once I get an idea in my head, I just can't let it go. I am so excited about the upcoming cakes that I am going to do that I just can't stand it. I wish that I could make them NOW NOW NOW! Waiting until the end of the month is going to be torture.

I went out and bought some supplies on Friday at the hobby store. Then, I did a little too much shopping at Amazon. I decided that since a true black fondant is so hard to make, I would buy a bin of Fondarific Buttercream Black Fondant instead. I also bought letter cutters so that I could actually get names and "Happy Birthday" on cakes without it looking like a disaster area.

Well, as you can see it is the middle of the night on Saturday...and I've done some more shopping. I bought some molds to help me to make more uniform fondant pieces. They will also cut back on labor and waste of (expensive) product. I also bought Satin Ice Rolled Fondant in a 5.5 pound tub. Guess what...I used up all my rewards points. Thankfully, the leftover total was only about $25 bucks. I was starting to get nervous. All this shopping here and there is adding up. Jon tolerated the $5's and $10's sneaking out the door to the hobby store for awhile, but he's having a harder time tolerating the $20's and  $50's racing out the door after them. I'm going to have to get serious about moving the cakes or I'm going to be in big trouble! I've been making most of these cakes for free for my friends' special occasions. My friends are such mooches, but I love 'em. Seeing their expressions light up when they get a glimpse at their cakes just makes my heart swell.

Meeting Carlos (the pro that will be shooting my cakes) at 3rdAvenuePhotography was very advantageous! He seemed as excited to be working with me as I was with him! I can't help myself, I want to make so many cakes to for him to turn into beautiful art portraits! He was kind enough to offer putting me as one of his preferred vendors on his site starting September 1st! How nice was that! With that, I can get more exposure to brides and families. Hopefully that will drum up some paying business. What is even more lucky is that his baby, Olivia, is going to be turning one that same week, so he's going to be getting her cake from me! God is so good at looking out for me. He even told me to surprise them, I will have full artistic licence. Let me show you what I had in mind for her...

A bow instead of the shoes, and with a more feminine color scheme
I was actually thinking about making it three layers, so that the very top can be a very tiny cake that she can have for herself. That way she can just smash into it and Om Nom to her heart's content. That is always the best part of baby birthdays. You know, the mom's dressing them up in $50 dresses only to let them get covered in gobs of icing. Priceless.

"I will make every effort to make this outfit wearable only once!"

Heaven help me, I've got to find something to keep my busy in the meantime. Decados' Guinness Cake has to be made the of the 15th. So, I'm just biding my time until then. There are a couple of sad bananas in the kitchen that are begging to become bread. I guess I can get to that later today. What I really should do is put my credit card in a block of ice.

Credit on hold until further notice.