Friday, April 23, 2010

Ella Kate's Mod Monkey Cake (click on photos to enlarge).

Happy birthday Ella Kate! This sweet little girl, barely 3 years old, is such a smarty! I was honored to be able to make her cake. Her mom gave me a party plate to go by and pretty much let me do my thing. Triple layers of chocolate with vanilla buttercream (at their request). I copied the monkey party hats from someone's site who worked with clay.  The cake itself was easy to design... just grab a shade of blue and yellow and make some polka dots!  To date, this was by far the best time I've ever had making a cake.  I'd like to send a special shout out to my wonderful husband for coming up with the idea to have one of the monkey's eating a peeled banana.  I went a step further painted them with brown food color to age them up.  This cake was F.U.N.!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cake (click on photo to enlarge).

I made this for my daughter's 12th birthday. She didn't want one of my "fancy" cakes (as she put it), she just wanted a plain ol' chocolate layer cake. I grabbed this design from a Wilton book (I think).  It was originally the décor for a wedding cheesecake.  I baked the chocolate cake in triple layers, then filled it and iced them with heavy cream-infused whipped chocolate butter cream.  For the design on top, I melted dark milk chocolate into a jelly roll pan, then cooled it and carved it into triangles. Then I scrolled the filigree design onto each triangle in warm piped tempered chocolate with a number 3 tip.  I'd never played in tempered chocolate before... it's a tough medium. It took several hours just to make the top scrolled pieces, but I learned a lot and she's worth it. <3

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Minda's Tropical Hula Cake (click on photo to enlarge).

I was given the charge a couple days ago to make a tropical themed cake for young Minda, who was turning 14 and who was having a "Hawaiin luau" type bash.  No other real direction was given, which was really fun and liberating, but also, kinda' scary.  I had no idea what she wanted on it; a beach scene? a hula girl? a pig roasting on a spit? pineapples? palm trees? a totem pole? a tiki torch? flip flops?  a beach ball? The options were endless and I was sort of in overload about it.  I had no idea what I wanted to do and worse, didn't even know what colors I wanted to use.  Luckily for me, my very sweet, talented, clever little daughter (who, and this is completely pointless, happens to share Minda's birthday) helped me finalize my decision. Together we picked out the colors and worked out a design - something bright and somewhat simplistic, with just a few palms and enough flowers to hopefully look a bit like a lei going around the top.  We didn't want this cake to be too busy, because with the bright colors, we were scared it might look like your crazy Uncle's beach shirt.  Happy birthday Minda! 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Corporate 10th Anniversary Cake (click on photo to enlarge).

This cake was another set of "firsts" for me - this was my first time to ever be asked to make a cake for a corporate function, it was my first time to ever make a fondant bow (awkward!), and it was my first time to ever work with black fondant (extremely temperamental stuff).  The cake was for an educational consulting company that just celebrated its 10th year in the business of helping children.  White wedding cake with Madagascar vanilla butter cream filling and icing.  I made a hot mess of this dang fondant bow.  It looked so much easier than it really was.  Hopefully someone will want another one soon, because Lord knows I need some practice mastering this technique!  Top half of cake was covered in black fondant to give a chalkboard appearance, and then was piped in butter cream.  This was a huge cake and weighed nearly 40 pounds!  I'm so happy to be part of JBHM Education Group - may they have many, many more birthday celebrations!

Elephant Baby Shower Cake (click photos to enlarge).

This was my very first baby shower cake, gah!  It was also my first two-tiered cake that was to be completely covered and decorated in fondant.  White almond sour cream cake with vanilla bean butter cream filling and icing on the bottom tier and triple chocolate fudge with whipped chocolate butter cream filling and icing on the top tier.  All accents are hand molded or hand-cut fondant.  Thanks to my hero, Lorraine McKay, for the free online elephant tutorial!  I had no clue what I was doing, but thanks to her generosity and that of many others like her within the caking community, I had plenty of help.  I can only hope I learn enough one day to pay it forward. 

Heidi's Turning One (and that gets her a garden-themed "Foofa" cake)! (Click photos to enlarge.)

I made this cake for my darling little great-niece's first birthday.  Emily, her mother, asked for a "Yo Gabba Gabba" cake featuring "Foofa" (The pink character on top of the cake).  The backdrop to the Yo Gabba Gabba set is kind of grey and has a boyish, industrial look to it - so I took Foofa out to the garden to girly it up.  This cake was dark chocolate fudge with mixed layers of chocolate and dark chocolate buttercream covered in fondant.  I handpainted the fondant, then put up the fondant fence, flowers, critters, and piped a ton of greenery in different shades of green.  I didn't have a grass tip yet, so my grass is pretty lame.  This was a pretty big undertaking for my first birthday party cake.  I had a ball with it and all my growing pains became worthwhile when I saw the look on Em's face when she laid eyes on the cake for the first time.  Happy birthday, sweet Heidi!  Thanks for loving Foofa so Auntie Peggy could make this cake for you! 

My very first fondant-covered cake.

Yay I finally worked up the nerve to make an attempt at whipping up a batch of homemade marshmallow fondant and then covered a cake with it.  Woo!  I found the fondant was more difficult than I imagined to make and to work with.  It's really labor intensive and time consuming to prepare it, and to top it off, I made a God-awful mess of half my entire kitchen kneading it and rolling it out.  I also learned with this cake how long it takes to hand roll 50 fondant balls for a "ball border"!  The homemade MMF tastes a lot better than store-bought fondant, so I plan to continue making it from scratch... but I might need to research a better recipe and method.  Wedding cake batter with a plain-Jane vanilla filling and frosting.  All fondant accents. 

Kristle's Baby Shower Cupcakes (click photo to enlarge).

These were only my second attempt at cupcakes - way before I ever dared even attempting to make a custom cake.  The blankets nearly did me in - since I was a noobie and didn't know that you would need to do these only AFTER the cupcakes are done.  Ah well, we live and learn.  White almond sour cream cuppies with vanilla bean butter cream.  All accents are fondant.

Feature: "Babies in Blankies" cupcakes (click photo to enlarge).

I pulled these from the baby shower cupcakes I made.  They're straight from the Wilton baking book for dummies, so they were a no-brainer.  Inverted white almond sour cream cupcakes, iced with vanilla bean butter cream, and then covered in fondant.  I was able to try my hand at painting fondant and making little tiny fondant hands with these, which I think is what pushed me over the edge and plummeted me towards this baking addiction of mine.  Everyone loved these little baby cupcakes, but they all found it difficult to eat them, so they were pretty much left untouched, which kind of hurt my heart after all the work it took to make them!

Katrina's Garden Baby Shower Cupcakes (click photo to enlarge).

Katrina is a sweet friend and co-worker of mine and we love her precious daughter, baby Courtney.  I was getting a bit braver when I tried these cupcakes for her baby shower... but just a *bit* braver hehe.  I spent about 5 hours shaping and handpainting the little critters for these, as I hadn't yet learned many of the tricks I now know.  This was my first time infusing buttercream with a really nice quality Madagascar vanilla and I must admit, I fell totally in love with it.  Cupcakes are so much fun because you get to spend lots and lots of time focusing on the best part of custom baking, which for me, isn't the baking at all, but the actual decorating! 

You have to start somewhere.

The first time I ever baked something "real," I was pretty terrified. I don't mean "open a cake mix" or whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies from the back of the chips package or slice prefabbed cookie dough and shove it in the oven - I'm talking about REAL baking. Like sifting cake flour, creaming your butter and sugar, adding your eggs one at a time - even if there's 6 of them and it takes 10 minutes, adding real flavored oils, batter that makes everyone drop their jaws. THAT kind of baking. I've kind of been lucky in that all my life if I felt like doing something, I just did it. I'd think, "I bet I could do that," and then I would do it. Maybe lucky isn't the right word. Maybe it's boldness or dumbness. Whatever it is, I seem to have had it.

The same thing happened with cakes. Not saying I was just instantly good at it - just saying that like many other things I've been interested in over the years, I just suddenly one day out of the blue decided that I felt like baking cakes. And so I did it. Whether I do it well or not, I suppose is still up in the air.
Maybe I'd seen one too many episodes of "Cake Boss" or something. God knows there's a ton of those shows on t.v. to choose from. One day, my husband, Gary, and I were watching some dude on t.v. bake. Well, I was watching. Gary was pretending to watch, but had his laptop open and was really surfing the net and was doing that fake "look up and smile and nod" thing every few minutes just to appease me. Baker dude on t.v. was making a pretty amazing cake and I told Gary, "I bet I could do that." And because he's the bestest husband in the wide world, he had my back and said, "Of course you could."

All of a sudden I was picking little things up here and there in preparation for the big baking event (which was actually for cupcakes, not a cake). It was a baby shower for a co-worker who's been a friend of mine for nearly 20 years, way before we ever worked together. I really wanted to do something special for her. I just took this huge leap of faith and thought, "I'm not making 'normal people' cupcakes. I'm making wow-factor cupcakes." (Disclaimer on the "normal people" comment, which is a crappy thing to say, and I fully acknowledge that it's not PC.)

I was happy with my little cupcakes in the end, but as Gary jokingly noted, I realized about 20 hours into the decorating process that if I was ever going make a living by baking, I'd have to charge about $300 a dozen for my cupcakes. Lucky for us, I'm not planning on quitting my day job any time soon. 
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