Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2 Year Old Birthday Tea Pot Cake

I did this cake for a friend of mine who I've worked with for the past 5+ years. We refer clients to each other and I help him with some of his permit drawings when he gets backed up. Well, he just referred a client to me and I was able to secure a nice sized interior design project, so I told him I'd make his daughter a tea pot cake for her birthday because a while back he had seen the tea pot I made for my daughter and loved it. So, here is the cake I made for her birthday party yesterday. I tried a new cake recipe that was great, but really dense...made for a great recipe for sculptured cakes. But, I think I'll add a simple sugar syrup to each layer before I stack them to add some more moisture. The tea pot was vanilla cake with ganache filling and the bottom cake was vanilla cake with buttercream filling. The bottom cake had a modeling chocolate coating before I added the blanket of fondant on it. I got the modeling chocolate recipe a bit firm, so the chocolate firmed up on them and made for cutting it a bit difficult! :) Lesson learned #1! :) At least it tasted good! :)

Here is a picture of the tea pot after I ganache'd it, before I put the fondant on...
I got it really smooth, but there is a little "bulb" in the middle from not getting it carved just right. But, I'm still working on carving...that's a whole new skill! :) I'm not a sculpter! :)
Another new thing I tried was using GumTex or Tylose Powder to make gumpaste. I made the pink fondant, colored it just like I wanted, then I took out a tennis ball size for the handle and spout and added some GumTex/Tylose-type powder to it. I kneaded it in and let it rest overnight wrapped up/sealed well in plastic wrap. The next day I kneaded it and began shaping it into the handle and spout and within a day of it sitting out, it hardened just like gumpaste! And, the cool thing is, they're all the same color...the fondant and the gumpaste! So, I'll definetly be doing that again! Here's the only problem...Lesson Learned #2: When I was rolling out the fondant to put on the body of the tea pot, I rolled it too thin (I was distracted/playing with my kids, etc and wasn't paying good enough attention). It was probably 1/8" thick and should have been 1/4" or so because I was laying it over dark ganache! It's like putting a light colored shirt over a dark colored shirt...you're going to see the color under a bit. But I didn't notice that until AFTER I decorated the body of the tea pot and went to put the handle and spout on...the pinks are different colors!!!! AHHHHHHHH I thought! At midnight I ALMOST took off all the flower/vine decorations to put another pink layer of fondant on...but a half a second layer was like, UM, NAH! :) It was too late! But, now I am more aware of that!! Go back up and look at the first pic...you can tell the body of the tea pot is a duller shade of pink than the handle, spout and lid. Oh well, Lessons learned! :)

The other thing I'm going to do next time I make a tea pot is make a mold for the spout out of syrofoam and then wrap it in fondant/gumpaste. Having that whole spout gumpaste makes it really heavy and it's hard to get the shape right. It ended up cracking a bit and just didn't look as pretty as I had hoped. So, I think making a mold by carving some styrofoam would be better...and it wouldn't be so heavy. Just an idea.

Other than that...it was a fun cake to make! They all enjoyed it and several people at the party told Darin they wanted me to make a cake for their kid's parties...so, we'll see if anything comes of it! I keep thinking my next cake is going to go flawlessly...but I have to remember I am still learning and there is a BIG learning curve! So, I'll continue to practise and enjoy every minute of it!! Because afterall, it does make people smile...and isn't that what it's all about anyway?! :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Birds Nest Baby Shower Cupcakes

I had the pleasure of making some cupcakes for a sweet sweet friend's baby shower. My friend Sara is the world's most amazing woman, friend, mommy and wife! Everyone she knows LOVES her!! She is having another baby girl and so a few friends threw her a shower. The invites had a little nest with a pink egg on it and the baby room colors are blue, pink and red. The fondant covered ones are lemon poppyseed and the nest ones with the swirled buttercream is a dark chocolate cake with a ganache center. I found a bird's nest made of katafi online, so I decided to use katafi (shredded phyllo dough) for the nests. I put butter, sugar and cinnamon all over them and baked them to carmelize it. The egg is a little ball of fondant. This was the first time I made fondant covered cupcakes. They have a dome of buttercream frosting under them to give them that smooth domed shape. The red cupcake topper is white chocolate modeling clay, the chocolate colored cupcake topper is semi-sweet modeling chocolate, the pink and blue cupcake toppers are fondant. The blue one was a new recipe I used and ABSOLUTLEY LOVE! So, here is my new MMF recipe (Rhonda's Ultimate MMF recipe from cakecentral.com) below...I will be using this every time I make MMF from now on...it's THAT good!

MMF Ingredients:
16 oz. mini marshmallows
2 T water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
2 tsp light corn syrup (helps w/ pliability)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 lbs (approx 7 C) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 C Crisco or vegetable shortening

Grease microwave proof bowl w/ Crisco. Also grease wooden or heat proof spoon. Pour marshmallows and water into bowl. Microwave for approximately 2 minutes stopping and stirring at 40 second intervals. Mixture should be soupy.

Take out of microwave and immediately add corn syrup, lemon juice, salt and extracts. Stir well. Sift confectioner's sugar into mixture, one cup at a time. After approximately 6 cups you'll barely be able to keep mixing, so grease your hands and work surface really well. Put the remaining sifted powdered sugar on top of the greased counter top and turn the marshmallow mixture out of the bowl on top of the remaining powdered sugar. Knead well. If mixture seems soft, add one additional cup of powdered sugar a little at a time.

Shape into a mound and put a coating of crisco on outside. Double wrap in cling wrap and insert into ziplock bag. Press air out of bag and seal. Allow to rest overnight, but, it can be used after sitting for a few hours.

Thanks mom!
I have to send a big thanks out to my mom!!!!!! She came up and helped me watch my kids all day so I could I bake and decorate the cupcakes. She even sat and helped me cut out and paste over 200 polka dots!! I love you mom...thanks so much for your help!

Lessons learned...money wasted!

Well, hopefully you all can learn from my mistakes so you don't have to waste money on being ignorant! :) I've made two blunders that have cost me money that I'll share with you. If you've been around cake, you'll probably say "DUH!" to these, but I am so new at anything culinary that I don't have a clue!! So, I fall down, get back up and make sure not to do the same thing twice! - although, I did do one of these twice...slap me for being stupid! :)

The first is pretty simple, but life-changing for me when working with marshmallow fondant. I've had issues with it sticking to the worksurface when I've rolled it out. I use powdered sugar as do lots of people in the blog-o-sphere and youtube world. I've also "invested" in two sets of mats to roll it out on. But still, depending upon humidity and the fondant, I've still had a bit of sticking...and lots of frustration. Well, one day while walking down the baking section at the store, I saw cornstarch on the shelves. Now, I've read from some of the professional cake makers that I love, that they use cornstarch. So, I thought, hmmm, maybe they are smarter than I, I'll try it!
I had a HALLELUJAH moment the first time I used it!!!!!!! I was like, "The people on youtube have NO idea what they're talking about!" :) I was seriously sliding the fondant all over the countertop...not ONE bit of stickiness...I could roll it paper thin and NOTHING...NO STICKING! I guess that's why the professionals get paid the big money! :) LOL! So, lesson #1 learned: NEVER use powdered sugar for rolling anything made of sugar out...use cornstarch! Don't buy the silly mats either...you won't need them once you use cornstarch!

The second lesson learned Meringue Powder does NOT equal egg whites! This is the silly mistake I made TWICE...I'm such a dunce!! The first time I made the amazing Swiss-Meringue Buttercream, I almost cried because I loved it so much and it's so nice and stable for filling a cake! So, on the purse cakes I made, I thought I'd use the same recipe. Now, enter my CHEAP side! - I saw meringue powder at Michael's, had a coupon and saw on the side, 2tsp powder + 2 Tbsp water = 1 egg white! - perfect...with coupon, it's much cheaper than buying eggs and using just the egg whites! Plus, I've got it on hand for whenever I make it...no worries about having eggs around...cuz it takes a LOT of egg whites. Anyhoo, long story short, I get this amazing meringue in the blender and start adding the butter and it almost liquefies! I couldn't figure out what I did differently except the egg whites were a bit warm, so I though, Okay, that melted the butter...let's start over and do it again. The next time I made it, I made sure the egg whites where room temp and began adding the butter. SAME thing happened. I couldn't get it to a frosting-like consistency! WHAT THE...
The only thing I changed was the powder. So, I called a pastry chef and asked her about it and she said meringue powder is NOT egg white...you need egg white powder. Meringue powder has starch and other stuff in it, so when you add the butter it chemically messes it up! Okay...lesson two learned: When a recipe calls for egg whites, don't be cheap...use egg whites! :)

So, learn from me...and don't make the same mistakes!! Happy baking! :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My next purchase...

A Beater Blade!

Check out this video! I've been looking for accessories for the Kitchenaid and came across this AMAZING idea! No more scraping the sides of the bowl!! If anyone has one of these, let me know if it's really this cool!!!

What's on the inside?

Click on picture to enlarge

This was the first time I've seen a picture of one of my cakes AFTER we cut it open...revealing all the scrumptious goodness!! What's great about this shot is that you can see the two chocolate layers on the outside of the brownies. One is the chocolate clay I wrapped the cake in, and one is the ganache layer that tasted like the inside of a truffle. Oh YUM! I think it's cool to see a cake like that...almost like the cross section of a building! I guess that's my construction side talking!! :) But it's fun to see a beautiful cake's interior structure!! :) - and sad at the same time!! - because now it's gone! :) Oh well, it was memorable and will be forever kept in pictures!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Purses

Happy Mother's Day to all you hard working moms!

I was so excited to create these cakes for my mom and sister! I've been thinking about them for the past few weeks, so it was so fun to see them finally turn out - and be happy with them!!
The giraffe print was for my momI tried two new techniques on them and LOVED both of them...so, they will become my standard "tools" I use, especially when creating the sculptured-type cakes. I tried ganache for the first time...I used buttercream in between the three layers of brownie and then ganache'd the outside. It created this smooth, hard shell that made it so easy to put the fondant on. I need to practise getting it really smooth with a warm knife, but it was a bit difficult because this cake wasn't flat. I'm so excited to use it on the next cake!
The other new thing I tried was making chocolate plastique...it's basically chocolate clay! My friend summer sent me this recipe which worked the best...I tried another one before this and it wasn't so smooth and easy to work with. It ends up having a similar consistency to fondant. All the brown cut outs are the chocolate clay. It SO yummy and fun to work with!!!! So, instead of using chocolate fondant, I'll use the chocolate clay.
I also got a new Kitchenaid mixer for Mother's Day - WOOT WOOT! I'm so excited about it, but realized there is a learning curve when using it because I messed up my buttercream on these two cakes. It tasted good, but totally collapsed on me...I think I used too high of a mixing speed and collapsed the meringue base I used. So, that's another reason I used the ganache...to give the cakes some stability. So, I'll have to use a lower speed and try it again. But, wow, was it easy making stuff...I could actually leave it mixing and get other things done instead of standing there holding up my arm because it was falling asleep when I used my hand mixer!! :)

The zebra print was for my sister and her first mother's dayStay tuned for more cakes to come...I have several treats coming up over the next month or so...thanks for looking!