Sunday, May 29, 2011

Monster Truck - How to make tires (Part 1 of 3)

I'm creating a monster truck themed cake for my son's 4th birthday coming up in four days! YIKES! - I can't believe my sweet baby boy will be four!!!!!!
I've got the sketch done and a plan of attack ready to go! This is my first vehicle/car/truck type cake, so I'm nervous!!!! :) I'm learning as I go, so I thought I'd share my adventures along the way. I wonder if the nervousness ever goes away when I have a new cake!? Perhaps on my hundredth cake I'll feel more confident! :)

Here's what it's "supposed" to look like! :) Although, since this sketch we're flipping the green and red...he decided just recently he didn't want a green truck anymore. He wants a red one! :)
Today, I tackled the tires and part of the truck. I'm going to do four different posts as I create this cake. My goal is for this first one to explain how to make the tires. The second one is how to create the truck, the third a video tutorial on how to frost a cake using the upside down frosting technique, and the last, the final result!

So, today, this post will be about how to make tires...monster truck sized tires! I started out by making my rice krispy treats in a loaf pan and cupcake tins. The sizes would be perfect and I could jam the cereal treats into the containers to get them as packed as possible...and to not waste as much!

I began by removing the RKT (Rice Krispy Treats) from the muffin tins and took one of my circle cutters that was the right size and cut off the angled part of the cupcake to give me nice flat edges for my tires.
I then cut a cone out of the top side for the rim of the wheel. This will be the front of the tire.

Next, I found a diamond cutter that was a little bigger than the width of my tire (see below). I was going to create treads using this cutter. You don't need to own a diamond cutter. You can just cut strips from fondant or modeling chocolate and proceed to the next step.I then cut out overlapping diamond shapes from some modeling chocolate I had. The color doesn't matter because you'll be hiding the treads with black fondant. I only overlapped four cuts because otherwise, the treads would have gotten too small to fit around the width of the tire.
Place your treads on. It took 10 treads per tire...and I eyeballed the placement.
Flip over the tire and place a black piece of fondant on the back. You can use the same circle cutter you used earlier for this.
Next, flip the tire back over, and lay a piece of fondant over the front and sides. Smooth it down and cut it off so the two black pieces of fondant seam together. I flipped the tire upside down to make sure they joined well and sealed the RKT in. Then, use a modeling took or even your pinkie finger and begin pressing in between all the treads to accentuate the design.
Voila! A tire! Something I found a bit helpful is at this point roll the tire along the counter top with slight pressure onto the counter. It flattens out the tread a bit and makes it more like a tire...less rounded. Almost done...now for the rims.

Place a small gray ball into the center of the tire.
Using the ball tool, press down and smooth it out like the picture below.
Now for the sparkle...silver luster dust. And the details came from a few icing tips. I just pressed them into the silver fondant to create some patterns. Again, I don't really know what I'm doing...but this worked great and gave me a nice look. Plus...my son won't care! :)

And, here you go...four monster truck tires...ready for their ride! :) Stay tuned!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Cake...in a cup!

Last night I had a weak moment...I "needed" some chocolate! But with nothing in the house except some cocoa powder, I knew I was going to have to bake something if I wanted to taste that rich chocolate flavor I was "hungry" for. But, I didn't want to wait to bake an entire cake, or have the entire cake sitting around my house! What's a girl to do!???

Then it hit me...the best thought I've had in a while! I remembered I had saved a recipe for a chocolate mug cake that I had found on line probably a year or more ago! So, the search began for the recipe...I found it! - and it delivered!

Here you go:
Chocolate Mug Cake - Serves 1
2 Tbsp flour
1.5 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp gooooood quality cocoa powder (I use Pernigotti)
1/8 tsp salt - or a pinch
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp oil
Wisk all ingredients in separate bowl until combined. Pour into mug (I didn't coat it in oil/spray or anything) and microwave 1 minute. Note that the batter doubles in size...so use a cup that is large enough or you'll have a mess on your hands in the microwave! Also, depending upon the height of the mug, you might have to do it for 15 more seconds. Better to under cook it than over! 1 minute was perfect for this fat cup I had! ENJOY!

Also, here's another one I just found for making a brownie in a cup: click here. I'll have to try that one next! :) Use coffee instead of water if you have it for the brownie recipe (fyi)

See how moist it is! Yum...I can't wait!!! :)
And then I remembered I had some frosting in the fridge! - cold frosting...perfect for a hot cake! And a big scoop just happened to fit perfectly in that hole where I took my first bite from! :) :)

Ahhhh, sweet tooth satisfied! :)
Ohhh, I'm going to pay for this tomorrow! :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cut to pieces...and enjoyed!

HA - yes, this is Ian...the one I made the green meeple cake for!

And here is that poor meeple being tortured! ;)
I got a sweet email from Mindy saying that Ian loved the cake and their son Cade thoroughly enjoyed the "beheading" procedure that quickly followed the presentation of his cake!! :) "Chop his arm off too Daddy!" was one of the replies after Ian cut off the poor meeple's head! :) I love it...silly boys!!! Check it out...

So fun!!!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meeple Cake

My husband and I love strategy board games!!! We own over a hundred games! :) It's a hobby and a passion and has given us many fun evenings with family and friends.
We play a lot of games with one couple in particular, Ian and Mindy. Ian's birthday is today and Mindy comes over on Wednesdays for a playdate...so I figured today was a perfect day to make a cake together for her husband! I baked some brownies last night (although I over cooked them a bit - LOL - sorry Ian!) and this morning we worked together on a little meeple cake.

Meeple? - you might ask?! - here's a whole bunch of meeples so you can see what they are. We use them for several of the German strategy board games we play! - and Ian always plays with green ones! - I always play red, my husband is always yellow and Mindy is always blue...don't ask me why...it's just what we do! :) - and now if I play any other color but red I'm thoroughly confused! ;) LOL! So, of course we had to make Ian a green meeple.


Last night I baked one recipe of brownies in two 8" pans...which was why I overcooked them a bit. They were so thin...but I wanted to put frosting between them and knew I couldn't cut fudgy brownies in half! :) I also made up a batch of green modeling chocolate for the outside from Wilton's green candy melts. Once Mindy arrived I put her to work!! - she carved the cake from a template I made, then she embossed the wooden fondant board and painted the wood grain! She's totally a pro now...I need to convert her from an amazing photographer to a cake maker! :) hahaha!! In order to cover the meeple, I did it in two sections...We cut green strips for the sides, then a meeple piece for the top. I then trimmed the edges to make it as square as possible...like meeples are. Thanks Mindy for all your work on the cake (and for making lunch for the kids, and for cleaning up after them!)...it turned out awesome and it was super fun working with you!!

And, Happy Birthday Ian!! May the Lord continue to bless you and your family this year!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How NOT to build a movie reel cake...my story!

Doesn't this look like a movie reel cake? - Can't you see the reels????

No??!!

Well, that's because they're in the garbage right now!! LOL!! Oh, more lessons learned on this one! :) I didn't even take a good picture of it (hence the pic above) because I was too frustrated when we left the house with it...so, I'm glad the guys pulled out their camera phones when we got to the restaurant because what I presented did turn out pretty cute...just not at all what I had envisioned!

I had the best intention of making a movie reel cake for a great friend of ours who is the founder and CEO of an amazing multi-media company called Funnelbox. My husband has known Robb since 4th grade so I thought it'd be fun to make him a movie reel cake for a dinner celebration we had last night. Fortunately this was my gift to him, and not a paying client!! I don't know what I would have done if I would have had to have had this cake done with reels...oh my!! Another reason I'm not going into business anytime soon!! :) :) I truly thought this cake would be simple...what's so hard about making some thin cakes, slapping some reels on them, creating some film strips and whallah...good to go! - right!?! Hmmm, I guess not for me!! - maybe I should have researched it more!!

A couple days ago I designed the metal movie reel around this photo I found on flickr...I loved the design. The actual film round (that sat between the metal reels) was going to be rice krispy treats and then the film reel would be a fondant/gumtex mix (gumtex is a powdered you add to fondant to make it set up hard like gumpaste). I created a template from cardstock, rolled out my gray fondant, added a whole bunch of gumtex to it and spent an hour cutting and "fabricating" the reels to look like that photo. I was really pleased with how they turned out. So I let them sit under a fan for a day or two to dry out before painting them...that was my first mistake! I had never sprayed anything with color before and didn't realize how long it can take for pieces, that are spray painted, to dry. One of the biggest problems I had was after I sprayed them with metallic color, they bowed and lost their rigidity!!! With only 4 hours until we had to leave for the party, I had to leave them behind because they looked horrible!! :( :( Here's a picture of the aftermath (although it's missing the top piece because that got ruined when I pulled the cake off so I threw it in the garbage in frustration)...the cake was meant to sit on the top of the two reels on this cute little red cake stand.
This picture is embarrassing for me...but my husband said you all needed to see it! :) And then he said, "It's a good picture!" :) - commenting on the actual photo...not the horrible reels! :)

I was sooo sad! All that time spent making the reels, the rice krispy treat rolls, and the actual film strips that came off the roll complete with white rectangles and punch out holes along the edges...down the drain! :(

Another thing to remember if you attempt a cake like this is to wait to put on the white film squares until after you put the film strips on the cake. See how they're a bit crooked (in the pic above)?! They all shifted a bit when I put the strips on and ended up a bit crooked for my tastes.

Now, looking back I should have done one like this (I found this today...why couldn't I have seen this last week!) :) where the metal reel part overlapped the flim strip by only a 1/4" or so...not 1"+ like I had planned. It would have looked so great with that cake sitting on top of the reels if the film strips were closer to the same size as the metal reel...8" in diameter. Having the film strips sitting inside the reel so much made it hard to see them...lessons learned! :( Ohhhh, my famous last words..."next time"! :) So, learn from me...DON'T make the metal reel much more than 1/4-1/2" bigger than the film round...and spray/paint days before you'll need them so they'll be nice and dried out!! You could even dry dust the gray fondant with silver luster dust and by-pass the entire spraying/drying process.

Fortunately I had a cake though...and a clapper board which at least mentioned Robb's B-day (although that also broke). HA! I had the little top piece of the clapper board set up at an angle like it was opened, but it was too heavy and ended up breaking off while I attempted to put it on the cake, so I had to glue it closed. And I had made it HUGE because I thought it was going to sit a the base of all the cakes stacked...but now, with only the 6" cake left...it looked ginormous! :) HAHA! I guess I just have to laugh at the whole thing...otherwise, I'll start to cry!!

There's no crying in cake right?! :)

All in all everyone enjoyed what I presented and said it tasted great. I used my basic vanilla cake recipe and added a can of Dulce De Leche to it...yum! The filling was vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache. My husband said it tasted like almond roca...and it did! That perfectly described it for me. However, it was a bit dry for my taste...I think I probably overcooked it a bit! Next time I'd use a little simple syrup!

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day!! Thanks for spending time with me today!! I hope if you make a movie reel, it'll turn out beautiful and I have saved you all some tears! :)

Many blessings!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Most Commonly Asked Questions

If you'd like more information on anything you see in this post and would like me to demonstrate everything you see below, take my Craftsy class!  Check out THIS post for more information and pictures on all the things I cover in that class!

I get a lot of emails from bakers and cake makers with lots of questions. They range from "how I do "x" technique" or "can I have your "x" recipe?" or simply sweet emails with cries for HELP! :) I try to get back to everyone as soon as I can, but I thought I'd post a list of the most commonly asked questions so you can get the info you need super fast! - and not wait on this busy mama! :) I'm going to keep a link over on the side so it's easy to find the FAQ's page! :)

What fondant do you use?
It depends...I have two recipes I use. I've found both on Cake Central's website. One is a marshmallow base fondant and the other is a cooked gelatin base. The marshmallow is super quick to use, a little stickier, a little softer, but tastes great! It's called Rhonda's Ultimate MMF...click here. The only change I made in her recipe is I don't use the lemon juice, only the extract, and I boost the vanilla extract to compensate for that and use 2tbsp of corn syrup.

The other gelatin base fondant is amazing to work with...not sticky, sets well on the cake and lasts for a while. It's a bit more labor intensive to make, so you have to have the ingredients and a bit of time...but it's worth it! :) Click here for Michele Foster's Fondant. The only change I made to her recipe was to use whatever milk I have on hand. I hardly ever have cream in the house, and the recipe works just as good with regular milk.

 If you want to make black fondant, I've used this recipe before and it worked great!  Use 16oz marshmallows and 2lbs powdered sugar.  If you want to make red or black without adding chocolate, then use Americolor Super Red or Black and add it right to the marshmallows after you've melted them.

Remember a few things for any fondant recipe...Let the fondant rest after you make it for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight), use cornstarch to roll it out (not powdered sugar), and cover a chilled cake that you've spritzed with water or a 50/50 water-corn syrup combo...and have fun! :)

How do I get cornstarch off my fondant?!
There are three ways I've found that work. I usually use Crisco and rub a small amount evenly over the entire surface with my fingers. Then, I go back over it with a really smooth clean towel or tissue and buff it out to leave a satin-like surface. I've found tissue works great because it's so smooth and soft and leaves a great finish.

The second way is vodka. I'll use a small paint brush on flowers, decorations, etc to get rid of the cornstarch. The alcohol evaporates to leave a very clean finish.

The third way is to take another piece of fondant (from the left overs) and put a ball in your fingers and buff the cake with the fondant. It works really well to remove any left over cornstarch and buffs the surface a bit.

What's modeling chocolate? - do you have a recipe?
Modeling chocolate is my preferred decoration medium because it cuts so beautifully, is quick to make, hardens to hold it's shape (as long as it's thick enough), and tastes amazing...better than fondant! I never use it to cover a cake (that's what fondant is for) because it's too firm and hard to smooth without tearing. But it's perfect for most decorations after you cover your cake in fondant! :)

Basically it's a mixture of chocolate and corn syrup. There are two recipes...one for using real chocolate (click here) and one for using Wilton candy melts (click here).  For darker color candy melts (like black, red, purple) I use a .15 multiplier for corn syrup to candy melts.  So, if you have 10oz of candy melts, multiply that by .15 and you'll need 1.5oz of corn syrup in it (by weight).  For lighter candy melts (like pink, yellow) use a .21 multiplier.  Now, after you add your corn syrup to your candy melts, only give it like 20 slow stirs...maybe 25.  Don't over mix.  Let it sit out like I do on my class for an hour, then knead it till it's smooth...a minute or two.  Wrap it up and let it sit overnight before using it on your cakes or as decor.  Modeling chocolate naturally hardens as it cools, so if you're rolling it out and it's firm and cool, it can crack a bit.  Just make sure before you roll it, it's nice and warm and soft so you won't have those issues.  You also can't get it super thin like you can with fondant...due to that reason of cooling then cracking.  Also, the more you knead it and play with it, the more cracked/broken it can become.  So, try kneading it to begin with just to warm it, then get it rolled out and cut out quickly. 

I mix my fondant/modeling chocolate in all different ratios...there's not set amount.  The more fondant, the thinner you can roll it and the more elastic/stretchy it is.  The more modeling chocolate, the less elastic, but more stable and easier to cut since it won't stretch as much.  So, you'll have to play with it.  But, adding fondant does help to smooth out the modeling chocolate.  You can also try adding a little crisco to the modeling chocolate and see if that helps! :)

Here is a video (click here) for making it...it can be a little tricky because it seizes...but that's okay! :) Once it cools and hardens slightly you can knead it together like play doh. Make sure when you're mixing your candy melts/chocolate and corn syrup you mix very slowly and only 30-40 turns of the spatula...don't overmix!  A little trick...after I mix the chocolate and corn syrup together, I pour it out on wax paper or saran wrap, and dab it once or twice with a paper towel because sometime it releases wax (if you're using candy melts and if you over-mix it slightly). After it begins to firm up (but is not completely hard...say 1 hour +  later), I begin kneading it and getting it really smooth. It's easier to do that when it's not 100% hard and you can incorporate the wax and chocolate together! Then, when you store it away, it'll be ready to go. All you have to do is just warm it up by kneading it on the counter for a bit.

 I've recently found that you can use regular gel colors (Wilton or Americolor) when making modeling chocolate, in order to color it...but you have to add it to the corn syrup first - NOT the chocolate!! You need to mix it into the corn syrup, then, add that mixture to your melted chocolate. It works perfectly!  If you want to color the modeling chocolate AFTER you've made it, then you can use regular gel colors too...the more concentrated the better.  Because the chocolate has already seized, it won't seize again when adding standard gel colors.  If you want to color the chocolate BEFORE you add the corn syrup, then you have to use candy/chocolate colors.  But, I always recommend coloring it after so there's no issues and it'll save you from buying a ton of candy colors! :)

NOTE:  If you want to color or paint or write on something you've made from modeling chocolate, you have to use candy colors...or gel colors made for chocolate.  The standard Americolor or Wilton gel colors will just bead up on the modeling chocolate. So, make sure if you intend to paint on it or write on it, you get the right colors or pens! :)  Also, you can use luster dusts mixed with vodka or PME luster spray on modeling chocolate to get gold finishes.

EDITED 5/15/2013: I added a single, thorough, post about modeling chocolate...see it HERE.

What's ganache? - when do you use it?
I LOVE ganache! The flavor is beautiful! Basically ganache is the inside of a truffle...the better the chocolate you use, the better tasting the ganache is. I buy the pound plus bar from Trader Joe's. I think you get 17.5 oz for $5. It's imported chocolate from Belgium and is smooth and beautiful! To make ganache, you use 1 part heavy cream to 2 parts dark chocolate (over 53% cacao). So, for every 2 oz of chocolate you use, add 1 oz of heavy cream...or for every 2 cups of dark chocolate, you use 1 cup of heavy cream. If you're using couture white chocolate (at least 25% cacao) then the ratio is 3 parts chocolate to 1 part heavy cream.

To make it, simply heat up the cream in a microwave safe bowl (don't boil it).  In another bowl, measure out your chocolate and make sure it's in tiny chips/pieces.  Add the hot cream to the tiny chocolate pieces and let sit for a minute.  Slowly begin wisking/stirring until the chocolate is melted, incorporated and smooth. Let sit at room temp until you have the desired consistency for spreading on a cake or crumb coating a cake before fondant. You want the consistency to be like smooth peanut butter or tooth paste. Once it sets up overnight, it creates a beautiful firm shell on your cake that makes it super easy to apply fondant.  Make sure you brush on a 50/50 corn syrup-water mixture so the fondant will stick to it! :)

Click here for a few videos that you might find helpful!

EDITED 5/15/2013: I did a post called, "How much ganache do I need?".  See it HERE.


What buttercream do you use?
Again, I have two recipes! :) I guess all great things come in two?! ;) I LOVE my Swiss-meringue recipe.  I use the SMBC (Swiss Meringue Buttercream) for pretty much everything.  I used to use it for a crumb coat on all my cakes, but have since switched over to ganache.  So, it's not very often I use it as a crumb coat now...mainly always as a filling!!  YUM!
Here are the quantities:
5 oz pasterized egg whites
10 oz sugar
12.5oz unsalted butter
3 Tbsp vanilla
It's a 1 : 2 : 2.5 ratio that works out beautifully! The mixing method is the same on all Swiss-Meringue Buttercreams, so click "here" on how to make it. This video explains everything beautifully!

I also use a powdered sugar based frosting when I'm in a hurry and making cupcakes!! :) I don't usually use this for cakes as it's not as stable as the SMBC.  It is NOT a crusting buttercream because there's too much yummy fat in it! :) Here it is:
1 lb unsalted butter at room temp - whip for 10 min on high
1 - 7oz jar of marshmallow cream - whip until incorporated
1 lb powdered sugar - whip on high for 5 min
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (add a tbsp at a time until right consistency) - whip on high for 5 minutes
3 Tbsp vanilla - whip until incorporated.
This makes a really light amazing buttercream. You can add more heavy whipping cream (the liquid, not actual whipped cream) if you want, depending upon the consistency you're looking for.
*You can also throw in a block of room temp or softened cream cheese at the end to make it even more yummy! - remember to use full fat cream cheese and not let it whip too long or it can curdle it.

EDITED on 5/15/2013: I did a post called, "How much buttercream do I need?" to help you know how much to make for your cake project.  See it HERE.

What cake recipes do you use?
Unfortunately I keep just a few to myself because I've spent soo many hours trying recipes out, tweaking them and testing them. BUT, I have shared a few amazing recipes...here is a link:

Jessicakes Recipes

A good place to look for recipes is food.com and foodnetwork.com. Search for whatever cake flavor you want, and click on "most popular" and you'll get some wonderful recipes!

If you need a great vanilla cake recipe that is good for carving, try this one:
Mermaid Vanilla Butter Cake

How do you support/stack your cakes?
If I'm making a tall tier/double height cake, I will only stack 4 layers high before I add support and a cake board.  I use cardboard circles or foam core for the base of all my cakes. After I stack 3-4 layers of cake (or half the height of the final cake), I place bubble straws into the cake in a circular pattern with one in the middle. Then, add a little frosting, melted chocolate or royal icing on top of the straws and place a cake plate on top and continue stacking. Easy!  If it's just a regular height cake (up to 5"h) I don't use any internal support.  If you want more info, I did a post about bubble straws...you can see it HERE.

Better to use more straws than less! - a good rule of thumb is use how ever many straws as the diameter of your cake. A six inch cake needs 6 bubble straws. You can find them at Bed Bath & Beyond, grocery stores, Asian stores. I love bubble straws because they don't displace the cake like dowels, no worries of splinters (from wooden dowels), easy to cut and store.


How do you paint on your cakes?
I use Americolor or Wilton gel colors. Mix them like acrylic paint to get the right consistency...but use vodka instead of water. You need to use an alcohol base medium to thin...never water! Water will make your fondant sticky whereas vodka won't...the alcohol evaporates leaving the paint to dry nicely. No worries about the alcohol being left...it's okay for kids! :)

 NOTE:  If you want to color or paint or write on something you've made from modeling chocolate, you have to use candy colors...or gel colors made for chocolate.  The standard Americolor or Wilton gel colors will just bead up on the modeling chocolate. So, make sure if you intend to paint on it or write on it, you get the right colors or pens made for chocolate! :)


How do you take such nice pictures?
Here's a post on my DYI photo booth (click here). The trick is that no matter the camera, try not to use a flash! Try to get up against a window, or outside in a covered area. Also, get some photo editing software to help boost the lighting levels and sharpen the pics a bit. I use Photoshop Elements 7.0.


What is your process in building a cake?
After baking my cakes, I remove them from the oven and press any dome down with a wet paper towel thus making the cakes nice and flat. See pics at bottom of THIS post. I then turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack and let them cool for 5-10 min. or so. Usually, not longer. I wrap them (still warm) up in plastic wrap (I love using Glad "Press and Seal" because it doesn't shrink and change the shape of the cake but still seals in all that moisture) and place them in my freezer. I let them sit in there at least over night or up to two weeks. I've done some experimenting with this...honestly, every cake I've frozen was more moist than the non-frozen one! So, that's why I do it. And, being a busy mommy, it helps a lot with planning ahead!  I usually don't have 2 or 3 solid days to work on a cake.  I have to work in a small spurts! :)

Once frozen and I'm ready to start decorating, I  put them in my fridge with a light weight on them (usually a book or something weighing at least a pound) to help them settle as they un-thaw. This helps with bulges. You can also use a cookie sheet with a few pounds of something on it. After they've sat another 10-12 hours un-thawing, I take them out, torte the layers while they're nice and cold (cut them in half to give me two layers of cake) and begin stacking my cake. I weigh out each layer of frosting. I place my first cake layer on a board, then on the scale. I add my frosting and weigh it out to see how much works with that cake. Usually it's about 4 oz for a 6" cake and 6 oz for an 8"cake. I use SMBC (see recipe above) so, I'm not sure how it weighs compared with other types of frosting. You might have to experiment with that yourself...but I like a lot of frosting! :) I then add my next layer of cake, put it back on the scale and measure out my frosting again so it's the same as the first layer. I do this up to 4 layers of cake or 5 thin layers of cake. If I need anymore (for a tall or double height cake), I add bubble straws and another board...then continue to stack my layers. Once the cake is stacked, I place it back in the fridge for 30 min or so until it firms up and put a small weight to the top to help it settle/smoosh a bit if necessary.  I do this because when you add fondant to the cake, you're adding a few pounds to it depending upon the size of the cake.  If you can get it to settle under that weight, you won't get buldges in your fondant.  Once it's sat in the fridge for a bit (sometimes overnight depending upon my schedule), I take the cake out and I carve the bulges/edges off the cake all the way around to make it nice and straight and to make sure it's about 1/8" in from the cake board...so that when I put the crumb coat on, there's at least 1/8" thick coat of ganache/buttercream on it.  Then I add my crumb coat (ganache or buttercream).  Once the crumb coat is on and it's nice and smooth, it goes back in the fridge to firm up...sometimes for only 30 min. and sometimes overnight - again, depending upon this busy mom's schedule.  At this point, if it's a buttercream covered cake, I cover it in fondant right from the fridge because I want sharp corners and the SMBC is nice and hard from the fridge.  However, you have to be quick because the fondant will get tacky.  If it's a ganache covered cake (which I almost use exclusively), I let it sit out for a good hour then cover it in fondant and begin decorating it.  I want it to not be super cold, but closer to room temp so I have time to smooth the fondant and play with the edges to get them nice and sharp.  Then, decorate as usual!

What program do you use to design your cakes?
I am a commercial interior designer who specializes in Dental Office design.  Yes...it's a funny niche' but I love it! :)  I use AutoCAD for my profession so I use it for my cakes too!  Unfortunately coloring things in AutoCAD doesn't work that well, so I create a PDF of my drawings and import them into Photoshop Elements to color them in and add additional notes/fonts if necessary.  AutoCAD is a very expensive program, so I wouldn't recommend it for cake decorating.  If you already use it/have it, awesome!  If not, there are other options out there that don't cost $1000 to purchase...including Photoshop and Illustrator.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My new photo booth

Today I made two identical little purse cake for a few moms at my daughter's school. These ladies have blessed me so much with unexpected gifts, cake stands and beautiful hand me down clothes. So, what better way to say thanks than to make them a cake! :) I had a 9" single round that was perfect for little cakes. I cut it in half to form two small cakes. A little trimming here and there, a crumb coat, some fondant and some hand painted zebra stripes and it was done! - WHEW! All within 30 min of picking my daughter up from school! :) They loved it.

But what was even more fun was using my new photo booth to take the pics! :)
Here's the cake in my new "photo booth" (nicely lit hugh?!):

And here's how I took it...my "photo booth" over my kitchen sink (don't mind the mess)! :) LOL!! Yes, I had to climb up on my counter a bit, but hey, anything for a well lighted photo!! :)

My girlfriend Mindy (who is a crazy good photographer - click on the link over her name) was over for a playdate and I was telling her how my camera seems to take such dark pics and that I have to boost the lighting all the time (I have the original 8 megapixel Canon Rebel XT...6 years old). She and I were looking around for other places to take pics of my cakes and she suggested over my kitchen sink. I've been using white foam core as the base/backdrop lately, so I could easily set it up over the sink and against the upper cabinet...whallah, a new photo booth with amazing lighting! :) Thanks Mindy...it worked! :) And, hopefully everyone has a kitchen sink with a window and lighting overhead...so now you too can take some great cake pics!!

Happy picture taking!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My first wedding cake...sorta! :)

I had the privilege to take part in a wedding shoot here in my area. A local wedding coordinator, Dani Ross, put together a shoot with another local photographer and asked if I'd make the wedding cake. They staged the entire shoot at a beautiful studio in downtown Portland and had everything from a model bride to a beautiful table scape to amazing dinnerware and silverware all set up. The sneak peek pics look wonderful! I can't wait to see the rest of the shoot. The photographer and coordinator are sending it to a few publications, so I can't show you the cake from the shoot or any other pics, but they said I could post my own pictures of the cake, so here you go! :)
When I got word of this shoot, I was given these plates from Anthropology as inspiration. These were going to be used for the place settings. From there I created this design based on the wedding being white on white. What was super amazing was when I saw the sneak peek pictures, all of the elements I put on the cake were part of the wedding decor...and I wasn't even trying to do that! It was a pleasant surprise...the cake fit perfectly! So, I can't wait to show you the rest of the shoot. Stay tuned to Dani's blog or mine when the pictures are published.

Now, something super funny happened after I put the cake together for the shoot. I had to get the cake down to the shoot and had limited time, so I glued the cake together, took pics, loaded it in the car and headed down to drop it off. The whole way there, I kept looking at the cake wondering what it would look like if I flipped the bottom tier upside-down. I liked the cake as it was, but there was something about flipping it that totally intrigued me. So, when I got the cake back after the shoot, I took it apart and flipped it. I loved it even more!!
Here it is flipped:
Pretty funny how flipping it totally changed it's look. It almost looks like a dress now. Pretty funny!! Oh well, either way I like it! :) And I really enjoyed working with a dummy cake!!

A few tips/tricks I learned from my first dummy cake experience...
1. I ordered the crazy sizes from this place: Dallas Foam. They were AWESOME to work with. They customized the sizes I needed and with shipping I didn't pay more than $15! - and that included 6 little 2.5"x3"h dummies for each place setting.
2. I used crisco to adhere the fondant to the dummy. Worked awesome! Oh, and I used a fine sanding paper to smooth out any rough edges on the dummy before putting on the fondant.
3. Fondant dries INCREDIBLY fast on a dummy!!! So, I couldn't take as long tweaking things, smoothing things, etc like I could normally! So, I got some cracking on the ruffles that I wasn't expecting. So, work quickly! :)

That's it! It was super fun and I have sooo many more ideas for wedding cakes! I might have to make some more dummy cakes just to try some more techniques! Stay tuned!