Thursday, May 10, 2012

You're my cuppy cake,gumdrop,shyummkums pure




You're my hunny bun, sugar plum, pumpy upmy upmy
upmkin.
You're my sweetie pie.

You're my cuppy cake,gumdrop,shyummkums
pure,
The apple of my eye!

And I love you so, and I want you to know
that i'll always be right here.

And I love to sing this song to you

Because you are so dear!


 


******************************************************


 


It's that time of the year and strawberries are on sale. Yeah, so I made some strawberry cupcakes. Martha Stewart Strawberry Cupcakes. I didn't use the strawberry SMBC from her book because I was low on eggs, but I should have went with it. Seriously, I love SMBC and the strawberries are so good in it. But alas, I went with an ABC and carefully added fresh strawberry puree because it makes the frosting flaccid. Yes, I know, but that really is the only word to describe this process. And you can't recover from it because the only option is more powdered sugar. I'm not a huge fan of ABC in the first place, but it's so easy.


 


So when I went to frost the cupcakes, the frosting wasn't as pretty as normal since it was so soft. And then the bits in the puree clogged the tip and did weird things. Did I mention I overfilled the liners and they spread like crazy? Sprinkles make ugly cupcakes better.


 




(No fancy photos, just a cell phone pick in the carrier this time)


 


The good news is that even ugly cupcakes can taste awesome. I can't tell you how many complements I got on these things. I had two people use the word "heavenly" and two others admit to eating at least three a piece. This is why I bring in three dozen cupcakes to work.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate or poop?! Chocolate or poop?!

When using chocolate frosting, you should ALWAYS remember, there is a fine line between looking like chocolate and looking like poop. Cake Wrecks has told us this again, and again, and again, and again... the number of results when you search for poop on the site is astounding.



I tell you that to tell you this, I made chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate frosting to take to work. Baked the night before, frosting the morning of, I was bringing the treats as a thank you for some folks helping me out. Since I was in a hurry to get to work, I mixed dark chocolate ganache with leftover ABC and threw it all in a piping bag without a tip and did my thing. Covered 'em all and wiped my hands.



Then I looked at em.



Dang, poo everywhere!



Seriously, I grabbed by offset spatula and beat the little piles of poo into submission, cussing myself for not grabbing the 1M tip that makes all cupcakes adorable. Sigh. So then it looked like smashed poo. What does one do now? SPRINKLES! At least the poo had sprinkles. :)










Didn't I mention that I tried out some cupcake wrappers that didn't need a muffin tin? Just throw em on a baking sheet, fill em up, and go. Apparently, they spread... a lot... so these were weird and warped poo cupcakes. 
















 They all were eaten by the end of the day. Apparently my coworkers are undaunted by poo.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two by Two



"The most important time of Mormon
Kid's life
Is his mission.
A chance to go out
And help heal the world,
That's my mission.
Soon I'll be off in a different place,
Helping the whole human race.
I know my mission will be
Something incredible!"



So I promise to keep quotes to a minimum here (but like The Book of Mormon on Facebook and you can listen to the entire cast recording! [So freakin excited to see the show, not much longer to wait now]).



I got a request for cakes for some special real-life Mormon missionaries. And who can't help but jump at this? These young men are far from home and cut off from their friends and families, these boys need cake on their birthday! And the halfway mark of the mission! And seriously, they could have been sent anywhere around the world (like Uganda or Orlando) and they got sent to West Phoenix. They needed cake. I was making the fire extinguisher cake for the same friend needing these. You saw my excitement about the extinguisher, just imagine what these cakes did for me.



So here's what they got:





These things make me exceptionally happy. I'd never covered a square cake before and I was happy with how well it went, very few tears. Which was good since there's chocolate frosting under that white fondant.



Wasn't super happy with the writing, but dang those name tags were tiny. The cardboards the cakes sit on are 6" (ande covered with the Taylor Swift contact paper too!), so the tags were just over 1" wide and I was writing with a toothpick dipped in white food coloring.





The collars were super easy. strip of fondant, pointy ends, fold in half (hot dog style), stick on cake. Easy-peasy. Tie? Strip of black fondant plus a triangle. Each of these took no time to make.



And look how sweet they look all boxed up. Since they were gifts and super cute and tiny, I grabbed some boxes to put them in. Sweet.




 Happy Birthday and Congratulations gentlemen!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some Catchin Up to Do

I've been baking, but not posting about it. The last couple of months have been crazy. But I've got a few cakes to show you. Let's start with this one:



My friend's mother-in-law was celebrating a birthday and a fire themed cake was requested. Here is how the conversation went:

Friend-"Can you put a fire extinguisher on top?"

Me- "¡¿WHAT IF I MAKE THE CAKE ITSELF INTO A FIRE EXTINGUISHER?!"

Yes, honestly, that's probably exactly what it sounded like. I get over excited sometimes.



I thought about doing a jelly roll to get the cylindar shape like I'd done before. But I wasn't super happy with how that worked out. So carving it was going to be. The request was for chocolate cake and fluffy chocolate frosting, so no ganache :(. I was doing a couple of cakes this weekend so I mixed up a double batch of my favorite chocolate cake recipe and threw a bunch of cocoa poweder into a simple american buttercream. Wasn't super happy with the buttercream, but I find that is the issue with me and ABC quite a bit here lately. I've been spoiled on ganache and SMBC I suppose.



You know I don't take many action shots while baking and decorating, but I couldn't pass up this shot of perfectly creamed butter and sugar. It's a thing of beauty, almost spiritual I tell you. Colors look weird, one shot with the flash, one without.













Eventually, this is what came out of the kitchen (Notice that I used the Taylor Swift contact paper again to cover the boards. Love that stuff. Need more designs though.):





Covering up the bad fondant edges. Sneaky, aren't I?





We had talked about making it actually spray, like whipped cream or something, but alas it did not.





But how cute is that caution tape? Love my food color markers.





Handle and gauge, I saw the meter in a couple of pictures I'd found online and loved it, so it had to be added.




Friday, March 9, 2012

Because Sometimes a Birthday is More Than Just Another Year...

Sometimes a birthday is a celebration of a life that hangs in the balance. A joy that this date has come and hope that the next one will too.  Sometimes a birthday is proof of the blood, sweat, and tears of countess survivors, husbands, wives, sons daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, doctors, nurses, hospice workers, researchers, activists, volunteers, and so many, many more. The American Cancer Society calls itself "The Official Sponsor of Birthdays" and I love their commercials and guest artists. Something as simple as hearing the birthday song sang sometimes means much more.



I got to make a cake for someone celebrating a milestone birthday. Family, friends, and coworkers came together to celebrate a whopping 50 years! (Dang that's old!) She also started her third round of chemo this week.







The numbers actually gave me fits. I made some out of fondant, but only dried it overnight so the dang things fell apart this morning. It's one reason I'm really not happy with Satin Ice, but when I need black that's the best option. I ended up making the numbers out of chocolate. Piped them on parchment papers similar to a technique I've used before. I got smart and stuck straws in each of them to support them (you can see the one in the 5 peeking on the left side between the curly part and the straight part). Once they set up (took like 10 minutes in the fridge versus like two weeks the dang fondant takes), I covered them in my favorite Moonstone luster dust. It's a good thing you can't see the back of these. I guess you have to make two sides and glue them together to make it look good.


 I thought the black and white would make a nice theme (and keep me from having to color a bunch of fondant), but it desperately needed some color for "pop." Again, I busted out the Moonstone luster dust and hit the little pearls along the bottom for some funkiness. I suppose that's not the best word choice for food products, is it?







And flowers, oh flowers... They add color and softness to a cake. And I've seen pictures of beautiful cakes with just a simple red flower and no other decorations. I searched around and this seems to be a cross between an anemone and a fantasy flower. Super easy to make and just the perfect shade of red to add to the cake. I can promise you'll see more in the future.


And of course, my favorite, the aftermath:



My favorite chocolate cake recipe, cookies and cream filling, and covered in chocolate ganache. I snuck a bite of the filling before I used it in the cake, quality control you know, but managed to avoid temptation at the party.





Happy Birthday Donna! And here's to many, many, many more.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week!

I was surprised to learn that there is such a thing as Chocolate Chip Cookie Week, but it is so. And it is the second week of March. I was looking for a cookie recipe to take to my class since a student suggested I needed to bring in cookies to class (it was offered tongue-in-cheek but I figure they'll appreciate it since I'm also giving them a quiz).



I went in search of an awesome recipe. I have big shoes to fill since the woman who invented the cookie was Mrs. Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn. Apparently she got a lifetime supply of chocolate from Nestle for all her trouble. Sigh...if only... But this time I got fancy with the chocolate. An unusual trip to Big Lots (previously one of my favorite stores) left me with pounds of soon-to-expire Scharffen Berger. Right now there are like 12 bags of bittersweet and semi-sweet chunks in my pantry. That's in addition to the four bags of bittersweet I used in these cookies. I see lots of ganache in my future.



I decided to find the best recipe available. I usually go with the Nestle Toll House recipe, because that's what Phoebe's grandmother used.





But I wanted to make sure I had the best ever recipe. Fortunately, someone else did the hard work and I got to reap the benefits. The winning recipe was David Lebovitz's recipe, which calls for chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking. Something about liquids and proteins in the eggs. I don't try to understand the science of baking, I just appreciate the magic.



They turned out pretty good and the bittersweet chocolate was a nice touch. I hope my students like them tomorrow. And that they studied metamorphic rocks.












Sunday, February 5, 2012

The only thing sweeter than Taylor Swift is the buttercream...


I was asked to make a cake for a girl that is a big Taylor Swift fan. I'd made her brother a birthday cake not too long ago. I guess it went over well because they asked for one for the big party which included a mess of girls, a movie theater, and lunch.





Seeing as how the hubbin is a HUGE Taylor Swift fan (seriously, he puts most 13-year-old girls to shame with this), I got him to help me plan this cake. When I think of iconic Taylor Swift, I immediately think of her sparkly guitar.




That isn't my picture. I stole borrowed it from MTV. But it's such a cool guitar. I learned it is a Taylor guitar (fitting no?) that was specially created for the "Our Song" video. Apparently, it is a good guitar but must sound weird with all the sparklies all over it. But I decided my heart was set on making a guitar.




And good news! I actually got some shots of the process so you can see the crazy that goes through my head when I make these things.




My first job was to make the rhinestones to go on it. I figured that isomalt was the way to go. I priced buying some, but they're like $10 for 20 and I needed a metric crap ton of them. (Yes, that is the scientific measurement used for isomalt gems.) So off to my favorite cake store! I got a couple different types of candy molds to pick between.




 (My finger for scale)



I had initially planned to use one of the molds on either side of my finger, but since the guitar needed to be pretty small I ended up going with the ones on the top right part of the picture. Those were some seriously tiny gems.



Next step was to cook the isomalt. They make precooked sticks but they cost a whole lot more and I'm a confirmed cheapskate. And it was honestly pretty easy to do. Isomalt in a pan, add a little water (I used distilled per some suggestions on the interwebs), then heat till it hits hard crack stage. And don't burn the holy-living-crap out of myself in the process.





Isomalt is more stable than sugar, doesn't caramelize, and gets quite a bit hotter. Almost to the 340°F that it needed to be.



I didn't get pictures of the next step, but I griped about it a lot on Facebook. The molten isomalt goes into a silicon measuring cup that was easier to pour out of. Then I had to drop it one tiny drop by tiny drop into each of the holes in the mold. But if it cooled, it got too thick and the little drops became bigger little drops and overflowed the mold. So I'd stick it back into the microwave and melt it back down and then repeat. Over....and over......and over....and over....and over....................



You can see the weird tear drop shape of an overflowed mold. The gems on the plate were the first I tried so I started with the large ones and moved on to the tiny ones. You can see how much smaller the overflowed one is. That's the size of all the ones that went onto the cake.



Some of the good ones, with only a few bubbles.



I managed to burn my fingers about a brazillon times making these things. All things considered, I'd totally do it again. I'm hoping to learn how to make bubbles.



Cake planning! I found a website that had pictures of the Taylor guitar, printed it out real big and cut it out. I actually ended up shrinking it down some from this, but you see I was actually planning.





I went shopping for something to cover the cake board. I found this wrapping paper at Michael's and sent the hubbin a text that said "Does this color of pink make you think of Taylor Swift?" I got worried because the oils in the cake and frosting can bleed into some papers, so I put this back.





I found one of my favorite board covers at Target. This is a roll of Contact Paper that you use to line drawers and shelves with. It's water/grease proof and self-adhesive. Super easy to cover the board, particularly the rectangle one.





Here's the cake! I baked it in my big pan, then cut it in half and stacked it on top of each other. That was the easiest way to go about it. I actually thought I was going to need more cake (since I'd initially thought I would make it larger) and baked two of these. I cut the second one up, wrapped it in foil, and let the hubbin eat it. After a week, it was still surprisingly moist and flavorful. The mark of a great recipe.





The first step was the carve the guitar body out of the cake. I put the print out on top of the cakes and carved away. then I cut out the hole in the front and a place for the neck to go.





See how nicely they match?





Covered in white fondant and the hole filled in with black. The actual guitar is black, but I figured the sparkles would look nicer on a black background.





And the finished product!



I wrapped black fondant around the guitar body. That was actually the hardest part of the whole cake. I use Satin Ice in black and it's very soft and tore horribly as I was putting it on. Finally rolled it out on a sheet of wax paper. That added stability and kept the fondant from pulling. The gems were carefully placed one at a time. I may have complained about that on Facebook too.



The neck is cardboard covered in Rice Krispy Treats, then buttercream, then fondant. The struts are painted on with luster dust. The strings are just silver elastic string I found at Michael's. And because it seemed awful monochromatic with just the black and white, I added the birthday girl's name in pink.




Happy Birthday Ashley!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wayback Wednesday

So I don't think I've posted these pictures before and they're pretty old, but since I've made something of a theme out of it I thought I'd share. The hubbin works at TCTMNBN and they had a company softball tournament a few years ago. So I made cupcakes.





Pretty cute right? And leave it to me to have the one right in front missing some of the little string thingys. And the hubbin even caught the ball once when it was hit to him!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Since the NBA is back to doing something other than marrying Kardashians...

I had a request for a birthday cake for a 'bout-to-be 11-year-old who is a big fan of basketball. And the Miami Heat in particular. Did you know that's where Lebron James plays? I totally learned that because of this cake. :) Seriously...



I had grand intentions of making a 3D basketball with my ball pan, but one half of the cake had apparently become quite attached to the pan and who am I to argue with confectionery true love? So I ended up with a 2.5D ball. And since basketball is played on hardwood (yes, I Googled that too), I added some to the cake too. But it was really dark in color and I ran out of yellow Americolor gel. Sigh. This cake turned out pretty awesome for being such a pain in the butt. So here ya go:



 The Spaulding logo ended up looking pretty wonky. But I was freehanding it with a marker, so you can't be too picky, right?



Tiny little Heat logo and a look at the wood grain. I actually really love doing this technique.





Did you notice the awesome texture?



I regretted it by the fourth dang little dot. All done with a little round piping tip. That actually took longer than the rest of the cake combined. The fondant was playing nicely for once. Then again, wasn't summer here in AZ when I was doing it either. Have I told you about how I crank up the A/C when I do fondant? And the buttercream smoothed pretty well over the weird shape and crusted just enough to smooth it some more.  I guess the rest of the cake made up for the baking issues.




Happy Birthday William!