Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thank you!

WOW, I am SO blessed by all my followers! I just wanted to say thank you!! I just realized we crossed over the 400 mark! ;) Thank you for all the emails, the encouragement and for letting me know what you find helpful!! I have so many ideas for more videos, tutorials, and designs that I'm so excited to share! Sorry I'm a little slow getting things up and done at times, family reigns supreme over here and when I can, I'll post new and fun things!

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone! You make my day every day with your sweet words and emails! I have the best followers ever!!!

Many rich blessings upon you and your families!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Castle Cake

Happy Birthday Kendra!!!!
Last weekend my family and I had the privilege to spend a few hours with the amazing Jamie Zanotti of JAZ Photography out of Eugene, OR. She is not only an incredible photographer, but she LOVES Jesus with her whole heart, adores people and capturing their memories, is an amazing wife and a beautiful example of a mom, and she is my husband's cousin! :) BONUS! - she's family! :) She took us downtown last weekend to capture some sweet family memories! I'm dying to see the pics, but will have to wait a few more days!! ;)

The reason I bring all that up is because this weekend, my daughter and I headed south to Eugene to Jamie's daughter's 7th birthday party!! - and my gift to her was a castle cake! :) Perfect for a sweet little princess having a Renaissance Themed party! Here is Jamie's post on the cake (click here).
There were two different little staircases on the cake. One seen here (above) facing the front, and a little staircase just like it in the back of the cake. The staircases were my favorite part of the cake!!! - and Jamie's too! I actually had planned to make them out of rice crispy treats, but after spending an hour on them, I decided that wasn't going to was a bit too lumpy and not quite "perfect" enough...despite crumb coating it in buttercream and everything. So, my husband ate those and I sat there thinking how else I could make them! - then it hit me (thank you Jesus!) - I had some white modeling chocolate that would work beautifully!! So, I rolled it out about an inch thick, laid my stair template on it and cut them out with a sharp exacto knife...and voila', perfect little stairs! Note to self for the future!

Also, I had another issue with fading gel colors! URGH! I tinted the buttercream for the flowers on the ivy a pretty fuchsia color and piped the flowers on there. Unfortunately I didn't get pics of the cake in Portland because I was SO late and just wanted to get there. On the way down, sitting in the sun, all the flowers faded to a gray! :( Such a bummer!! It's just like Maddie's Cake when the fondant faded. Seriously...someone needs to invent something to fix frustrating!!! :)

I used a good amount of styrofoam on this cake because they were expecting only about 25 people (mostly kids) for the party...and I wanted a grand cake! ;) The base of the cake was a 10" square cake with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream. The second layer was a 7" styrofoam tier. The third tier was a 4" round cake with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream. The fourth/top tier was a 2-1/2"x6"h styrofoam tube. All the tall castle keeps were styrofoam foam (I ordered everything from Dallas Foam). The four at the base of the cake were 2"round x 6"high and the remaining three were 1-3/4" x 6" high (perfect for fitting the sugar cones). I have ordered lots of styrofoam from Dallas Foam and highly recommend them. They can do anything! - custom sizes you name's SUCH a time saver! I think each castle keep was $1.50 or something...which was a huge time/cost savings! In order to apply the fondant to styrofoam, I rubbed Crisco all over the surface of the styrofoam, cut a rectangle of fondant that would wrap around it, then laid the styrofoam "tube" on the edge and rolled it up. It worked beautifully!
The turrets were another element of the castle I really loved! Although, again, it took some trial and error...and lots of time (each one took me about 30 min to make), they really made the cake! I tried several other designs before settling on this one. I wanted it to be roof-like, but not cottagy-like (if that's a word)! :) So, I used sugar cones because I liked the thin cone look (and it made it easy). I wrapped them in strips of modeling chocolate and cut the design in each layer with an exacto knife. I took some pics of the process...scroll down for a little tutorial to make your own.
For the tops of the walls, I wanted the traditional castle tops with the cutouts, but I wanted it slightly more feminine and not so rectangular. So, I used the cutter on the far left seen here. It's by FMM and called "Straight Frill Cutters, Set 3". I love this set...I've used it on several other projects too including my scalloped cake.

Details details details - they make beautiful cakes stunning! - and I sooo wished I could have had the time to add more!! The rocks were black and gray fondant swirled together and torn off and just slightly rolled in my hands. The water was blue fondant I painted over with some shades of blue and brown gel colors mixed with vodka to get the water look. The cobblestone pathway at the front and side entrances were lots of random shaped white balls rolled and flattened together. No impression mats used here! :) - although I had borrowed some...they just didn't fit the scale of the project. Thanks anyway Deborah! :)
Again, there were SO many more elements I wanted to add to this cake, but my sweet baby girl got a doozy of a fever and didn't want me to put her down for two, a lot had to be eliminated from the scope of the project. I don't know what I would have done if Jamie was an actual paying client! - it confirmed that a cake business is NOT for me right now! :) I had planned to put the castle on a cliff, flower boxes under the windows, a draw bridge, some sign posts, etc etc. Lots of plans, not a lot of time! Fortunately my sweet cousin didn't mind one bit and understands the unexpected nature of kids and their sicknesses! :)

It is amazing how we can have our days planned out, or our cake projects planned out (our entire lives planned out for that matter), but it is the Lord who directs our steps! I kept thinking of Proverbs 16:9 and how relevant it is to me every day! I am SUCH a planner!! - and it seems every time I make a cake, something happens unexpectedly that calls for a new course of action...especially being a mom...nothing is predictable! So, I offered up this cake and all the details and plans I had for it and knew that no matter what, it would be a blessing to my sweet cousin and I needed to be with my baby for those two days...just loving on her, holding her and singing to her...not wishing things were different, because I can't control that...I can only control my attitude about the here and now. And, what's funny is that after all was said and done, the cake didn't need a big cliff, a draw bridge, some cool little sign posts and flower boxes. I got to spend the time I would have been making those things with my kids (or sleeping!)...and that's the plans the Lord had for me this week! God is always gracious and there were MANY times I saw His loving hands upon my heart and upon this cake throughout the week! Thank you Jesus for your goodness...and for pulling me through!! ;)

Let's get to the "How to's"!
How to make turrets for a castle cake! - The Jessicakes way!

Step 1 & 2: Flip the sugar cone onto some modeling chocolate and trace around it to create a base for the turret. Smooth the edges a bit so it's nice and even.
You can use water or some gumtex glue to get everything to stick. To make the glue, take about a 1/4 tsp of gum-tex (or Tylose powder), mix it with 2 Tbsp of warm water and let it sit in the fridge overnight. It won't dissolve right'll look clumpy, but don't worry. In the morning it looks great! It works beautifully to give you extra hold when water isn't quite strong enough.

Step 3: Cut out 8-10 strips of modeling chocolate 6"wide by 1/2" high. I used my pasta machine and put it on number 4.

Step 4 & 5: Add some water/glue to the first strip and wrap it around the base of the cone trimming cleanly in the back. I pinched the top edge a bit against the cone to secure the strip.

Step 6: Use a sharp edge ( I used the exacto knife) to cut little slits in the first layer. As I pressed in, I lifted up slightly to bring that bottom edge out and up a bit...just slightly. You don't want to make the slits exactly the same distance want them to be a bit natural and uneven. Well, at least I did! :)

Steps 7-8: Continue layering the strips, cutting them cleanly in the back. Make sure to add the slit detail to each layer before adding the next one.

Step 9: To get the top finished, I cut out a small circle and quartered it. I then folded the cut edges together to form a little cone and placed it on top.

And you're done! Does it look like a Christmas tree??! :) LOL! :)

Now, there is a "lesson learned" with these! I made these several days ahead of time and had them sitting on a cookie sheet with some plastic wrap draped over them...not sealing them tightly. When I went to attach them to the cake, two of them had started splitting in the back!! YIKES! See below:
They were cracking along the cones seam. As the cone and fondant dried out it created the weak spot in the seam...when I moved it around, it cracked. SO, next time, either don't make them so far ahead, or put them in a plastic bag where they can be sealed tightly to keep the moisture in.

I guess that's it! :) I hope you all found some helpful tips for when you try to make your own castle cake!! :)


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fun (and free) inspiration

I've had questions in the past about some of the unique shapes you might see that show up on my cakes and where I get those cutters/templates from. A great place to find inspiration as well as fun templates for cake making is Two Peas in a Bucket. It's an amazing scrapbook site that has oodles of inspiration. They also have 85 free digital kits you can download onto your computer to create your own digital scrapbooks...or templates for fondant and cake designs.

Here's what you need to do to find the free stuff!
1. Log in to two peas in a bucket (create your user name)
2. Click on the top bar that says "Digital", then on that pull down menu click on "Digital Shopping", then on that pull down menu, click, "Digital Kits".
3. It should bring up around 5000 digital kits. In order to get to the free ones, go over to the right pull down menu where you can sort the digital kits and click to sort by "Price - Low to High" and all the Free stuff will come up first.

Have fun downloading!!!! :)

Good bye Mudcake...I've found another!

Happy Saturday everyone!! We just had our family pics taken this morning downtown Portland!! I can't wait to see them! My sweet baby girl decided she was D.O.N.E after about an hour and half of walking, posing and being held! :) It was funny because we could NOT get her to do anything...she wanted down on the ground SO bad! - I get it! But, we got lots of pics, so hopefully they'll be a keeper in there!! :)

So sorry I've been a bad blogger lately! :) With last minute vacations, school starting, and my sweet husband gone 11 hours a day again, I'm back to figuring out a new routine with three!! I'm getting back on my feet slowly but surely and am SUPER excited to show you the latest cake I'm working on!! :) - a castle cake for a sweet princess!! :) - but that's next week - stay tuned! Hopefully if time allows I'll get lots of good progress pics this week to be able to share!

Onto the mudcake! - A few weeks ago a couple wonderful ladies came over and brought some yummy chocolate cakes for me to try out. Since they were coming, I thought I'd bake up a new mudcake recipe I've been wanting to try to compare with their cakes and my regular mudcake I use all the time. I have to say, the mudcake is my new favorite dense, yummy, fudgy chocolate cake!! :) So, good bye old mudcake recipe...hello to the new one!! Here it is:

From Best Recipes - "Chocolate Mud Cake"
250g (1 cup + 1 Tbsp) butter, chopped
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 + 1/3 cups of strong coffee/espresso
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (use good stuff!)
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Add first four ingredients into a saucepan and heat on low until melted and sugar is dissolved
Allow to cool for 10 minutes
Sift all flours together and add to cooled liquid, beating gently until incorporated
Add eggs and beat gently until incorporated well.
Pour mixture into greased cake tins and bake at 350 degrees for appropriate time! :) - depending upon pan size. My half sheet pan took 25 minutes and my 6" tins (filled 2/3 full) took 30 minutes. Every oven is different, so when it begins to crack on top, check it with a toothpick...when it comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs, it's done!
ENJOY! - it's actually better the 3rd day...I think the flavors gel, it's okay to leave out! - in fact, it's encouraged! :)

New and Improved Mudcake Recipe!