Friday, December 17, 2010

Laptop Cake

Given a strange combination of seemingly unrelated interests, I had this mini "epiphany" to make a cake that looked like a replica of the birthday guy's laptop, and to add to the "fun", incorporate a lolcats image.


I had never made a laptop cake before, so I tried to research what others before me had done... both the successes and failures... I'm always trying to avoid catastrophic cake events.


The "screen" was the only part of the cake that was not for consumption- I used a cardboard sheet as the base, used chocolate to "glue" huge wooden skewers  to the back (to later affix to the cake itself), and a handy dandy laminated printout of the lolcats image... then covered it in fondant (and even got a little "Apple" icon on the reverse side!)


The "keyboard" and base cake were yellow cake with vanilla buttercream icing.  The keyboard also had Satin Ice fondant as the main covering, and Duff's fondant for the little keys.  I typically make my own fondant, but since I would be "painting" the cake with edible silver spray, I used a pre-made fondant to get a perfectly smooth surface to spray.  The 77 (yes- I did count them all) typewriter keys were made from Duff's BLACK fondant and royal icing to draw the white symbols.  Making the keys perfectly proportioned and straight was my biggest goal- I had seen so many computer cakes that just looked really sloppy when it came to the keyboard, and that is just something that I knew I could avoid.


I have to thank K for sending me copies of the photos she took of the fully assembled cake- due to transportation concerns, I kept all three pieces separate until they made it safely to their destination :)  Good job getting it all put together, K :)















I was glad to hear that everyone enjoyed the cake- it's a very nice feeling to be able to make someone's day with something that I made :)  Happy Birthday... or should I say, Hapi Birfday? :P

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Space Cake

My daughter wanted a "space" theme for her 4th birthday (where in the world she gets this stuff... sometimes I just don't know!)... and of course, a "space cake" to go with the party.

I racked my brain for what seemed like forever, not really knowing how to go about the whole thing.  I showed her various pictures online of other space-themed cakes, and she seemed to like just about everything I showed her, but the stuff with the stars and galaxies were clear winners.  The topic of "space" is a little broad, so I think that's was where my lack of inspiration began.

I had plenty of time... several months, really... then it was down to weeks... and then only days... and all of a sudden her party was *ACK* in less than 24 hours, and still I had NO CLUE how I was going to make her cake.  I talked to my mom on the phone and kinda brainstormed with her, and finally figured out what I was going to do for this cake.  I bought some necessities at Michael's, and stopped at the grocery store for the cake ingredients, and came home intent on getting this cake DONE!

First thing's first... the plan... using the ball pan, 2- 6" rounds, 2- 8" rounds, and 2- 10" rounds (note that I only have one of the 10" pans- hmmm... oh well- it all has to bake in batches anyways- my oven is not NEARLY big enough to handle everything at once!!)


About 4 hours later, all the cakes are done... the 10" and 6" cakes were chocolate, the 8" cakes were fudge marble, and the ball halves were lemon.


Time to start decorating... first up, the "sun", since it will need to fully set in the fridge for added stability... it will get a little airbrushing of red/orange highlights later...


All the complete layers, each slightly different aspects of "space"... I give Duff's coloring gels (black this time) another A+++ :):


And lastly the final product, after transporting to the party location, where I assembled the whole cake :)  Note the hand-painted planets orbiting around the sun (notably, NOT edible... out of concern for weight, I opted for styrofoam) :)  Still fun... and Laura will get a mobile of the planets as a keepsake in her room :)  There were elements that I would have liked to have added, but having my self-imposed time restriction due to procrastination, there simply wasn't enough time to do everything I wanted :(  Boo... maybe next time!


And what you DON'T see here is my look of panic worrying about the whole thing toppling over (we had a near miss with the sun trying to roll right off the top... whoops).  After the near miss, I was a little obsessed with keeping the kids away from the cake, and I kept hearing "Mayhem" chanting.... "Cakey, cakey, cakey!" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CocgDJJCBFI)

All said and done, decorating the cakes took 6 sticks of butter and 3 pounds of powdered sugar for the buttercream, and an additional 2 pounds of marshmallows, 3 pounds of powdered sugar, and at least a stick and a 1/2 of butter to make the fondant.  Healthy stuff, huh??  And just think - I only use the "good" stuff (no Crisco!).  Still... I only ate one piece, and I think I need to go to the gym now...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tiered Soccer Ball

I am very pleased with how this cake turned out :)  No major issues with gravity, and despite my daughter's best attempts to thwart me, it all came together very nicely :)  And I even finally figured out how to do a cursive capital "J", hah :P


The soccer ball itself is all yellow cake with buttercream only.


The bottom layer is my new fave chocolate cake recipe, with fresh strawberries (yum!!!).



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tom & Jerry




One of my favorite little girls is turning 4, and she requested a "Chocolate 'Tom  & Jerry' cake".  Originally I was just going to do a very simple sheet cake design, but I wanted this to have that "wow" factor... after thinking about how I could make it more special, I decided to incorporate the location of the birthday party into the design.  For those who have never heard of "Pump It Up", it's like an indoor bounce-house extravaganza.  Case in point- imagine a whole building FULL of this type of inflatable fun: 

So... there was my inspiration :)

I hand-made small figurines of Tom and Jerry (thanks to Julie for assisting with the body work!) out of gumpaste.  The cake was a dense sour cream chocolate cake on the bottom (which received RAVE reviews!) and a box-mix yellow cake on the top layer, all thinly coated with almond flavored buttercream icing, and topped off with homemade MMF (I used the new line of color gels created by Duff Goldman- WOW the vibrant colors were just SPECTACULAR!).  I was very pleased that the colors I made matched the location so perfectly- while it was technically intentional, I hadn't exactly gone to compare swatches or anything :P

Voilà!






And of course, when we walked in for the party and I saw my daughter climb up to go down the slide, I couldn't help but turn to a friend and say, "Hey, that looks like my cake!!" :P



Monday, August 16, 2010

Pure chocolate and raspberry decadence!!

It is my mother-in-law's birthday today, and I have made her a beauty of a cake (as a surprise!)!

This is a three layer, no sugar added, egg-less chocolate cake with layers of chocolate mousse and the most beautiful fresh raspberries, topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache and more fresh raspberries, with homemade chocolate buttercream icing for the sides and decorative border, and fresh Lindt dark chocolate shavings all around!

It seems that all too often I do not get to enjoy my creations, but I simply cannot WAIT to bite into this one later tonight!





Here is the recipe for the cake, ganache, and chocolate mousse (augmented from the Hershey's chocolate cookbook):

Cake:

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1 stick butter
1 C Ideal sugar substitute
1 C milk
1 T white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350.  Line bottoms of 3- 8" round pans with parchment paper and lightly grease sides.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Melt butter, stir in Ideal sugar substitute.  Add milk, vinegar, and vanilla to the butter mixture and stir until blended.  Add dry ingredients and whisk until well blended (batter will be thick).  Dollop batter evenly into pans and try to spread into a thin even layer.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remover from pans (and remove parchment paper) and allow to cool completely before assembling.

Ganache:

Heat 1 C (1/2 pint) of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat until warm.  Add 1 1/2 C chocolate chips (for the above cake, I used Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips) and stir constantly until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour and a half.

Chocolate mousse:

1 t unflavored gelatin
1 T cold water
2 T boiling water
1/2 C Ideal sugar substitute
1/4 C cocoa powder
1 C (1/2 pint) cold heavy whipping cream
1 t chocolate extract (can substitute vanilla if you don't have the chocolate extract)

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and let stand for 1 minute.  Add boiling water and stir- allow to cool slightly.  In a small mixing bowl, stir together Ideal and cocoa, add whipping cream and chocolate extract.  Beat at medium, until stiff peaks form, then pour in gelatin and beat until well blended.  Refrigerate for 20+ minutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mini wedding cake

I was approached by the desk manager for Laura's summer camp program to make a small version of a wedding cake as a surprise for their boss, who is to be married this upcoming weekend (congratulations!!).

Elegance and flavor were the theme of the day.  The base cake is a 2-layer yellow cake with fresh ground almonds in the batter, filled with buttercream.  The top layer is white cake with (oh-so-yummy!) almond filling!  The icing was also flavored with pure almond extract- the smells were heavenly!

This was my first experience with a "wedding" cake, as well as scroll piping decoration.  I was very pleased with how everything turned out :)





Sunday, June 27, 2010

Winnie the Pooh, and Hunny, too!

This is my 2nd Winnie the Pooh cake, but with a little twist... this Pooh needed to feed more people than a single-layer Pooh could do, so it was stacked on a sheet cake, plus I carved a small smash cake for the birthday boy.

The top layer (Pooh) is all chocolate, and the base sheet cake was French vanilla with strawberry preserves.  The adorable little "Hunny" pot was my first real CARVED cake, so I am quite pleased with how the shape turned out :)  I made the smash cake from scratch, with a little less sugar than normal, and a little heavier texture (more like a pound cake) so that it would stand up to carving, as well as look good in pictures of the birthday boy tearing it up :)  The top of the hunny pot is clear yellow piping gel.



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mini cupcake Rainbow

Every time the issue of a potluck style event occurs, I never know what to bring.  This time I figured, "Hey, why not cupcakes?"  I made the mini cupcakes with the "Funfetti" box mix.  My original idea was to "paint" each cupcake a different color and then artfully arrange the colors into an arc, with sparkly white ends to look like clouds... and then I realized that it would have taken up A LOT more room than I originally allocated.  So, the backup plan was to set the mini cupcakes in a grid like a canvas, and then paint the colors on that way.  I used sprinkles in various colors to outline my rainbow, and color mist to accentuate the arcs.  I spritzed a little extra blue mist above the rainbow to simulate a cloudy sky, and silver sparkles beneath the rainbow (it is a rainbow, after all).  Cake sparkles made it all a little glittery :)

That makes me feel a WHOLE lot better...

Quite possibly the worst thing in the world to happen to a cake decorator is when gravity/physics/temperature or WHATEVER works AGAINST you.  Learning how to FIX the problem is what will make or break you.

Thank you Ace of Cakes for showing me that :)  Ace of Cakes "Caketastrophes"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Giant Cupcake

This cake was a 1st birthday for a sweet little princess :)  The Giant cupcake was multi-colored sprinkles with a layer of fresh strawberries, buttercream icing, and fondant decorations (the crown was handmade gumpaste).  To top it off, a miniature "smash cake" duplicate was made, identical in practically every aspect to the main cake :)  Not included in the photos is the additional undecorated cupcakes (the party guests were given bags of colored icing and sprinkles to decorate their own cupcakes- messy, but LOTS of fun!!).



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boston Creme Cake

This was a first for me, and I must admit I am very pleased with the turnout :)

My neighbor asked me if I could do a yellow cake with chocolate buttercream.  I asked her if she wanted any type of fillings, and her eyes lit up as she asked me if I could do a cream filling, like they do for √©clairs.  After a momentary bout of panic and a "Sure, no problem!", I scoured around for a trustworthy made-from-scratch recipe online.  My fave out of them all was this one- Pastry Cream

This cake came together beautifully, and the custard filling was just a perfect addition.  The chocolate buttercream was as smooth as silk :)


Tee-time

This golf-themed cake was made at the request of one of my local mommy-group friends.

The base is chocolate, and the top (ball) is white cake with fresh strawberries.

Physics was my friend this time around- which is a good thing because I was starting to feel a little intimidated by the ball pan :P

Those little indentations were a very painstakingly slow process, but it turned out pretty cute :)


Wow... I just noticed that my cursive J's look like T's.  I wonder how long I've been doing that?!?  Sorry, Jeff!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Diabeti-cake

My father in law monitors his sugar very closely after being borderline diabetic for several years now, so when I was presented with the challenge of making a TRULY diabetic-friendly cake that even HE would enjoy, I had to think a bit outside of the box.  I scrapped all notions of a typical chocolate or yellow cake, since the sugar content is practically astronomical.  I kept leaning towards a carrot cake... and since I make it from scratch, I could easily alter the ingredients.

This is the recipe I came up with:

2 C unbleached flour
2 C Ideal xylitol (a sugar replacement)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 T cinnamon
3 cups freshly grated carrots
4 eggs
1 C oil (I would have tried coconut oil, but in favor of not changing too much at once, I stuck with the Smart Balance blended oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1 C freshly chopped walnuts
1/2 C raisins (I used regular raisins since I couldn't find my golden raisins)

I baked in 2- 8" round pans at 350, and they were done at the 30 minute mark.  It didn't rise as much as I would have liked, and was a little drier than I prefer, so I might play with the ratios a little in the future.

And now comes the trick of having something to frost the cake... yes, I want my cake and I want to eat it, too!  Icing uses powdered sugar, so I powdered the remaining bit of xylitol (just over 5 oz) in my blender.  I added a spoonful of cornstarch to help it out (as per my research on making my own powdered sugar).  In my opinion, carrot cake should always be frosted with a cream cheese frosting, so I whipped up an 8-oz. block of cream cheese with some vanilla and added the powdered xylitol to the mix.  WOW it was a lot sweeter than I anticipated, so I added another 4 oz. of cream cheese and some egg white powder to (hopefully) stabilize it a little.

I put a thin layer of my frosting in between the layers and put it in the fridge so that it would handle a little better, then iced the sides and rolled in freshly chopped pecans (that was kinda fun!!)






When it was evenly coated with the chopped pecans, I placed it on the final cake board:

Then I took some of the remaining pecans and did a free-hand monogram

Voila!!

The ultimate test is to come- the official TASTE!!!

(edited to add) The taste test went over VERY well!  My concerns about the density and moisture content were proven incorrect, and I had a very hard time discerning the flavor difference from a sugar based recipe.  Laura ate almost a whole piece (she despises carrots!), and 2 taste testers took second (generous) helpings... including his Excellence, the Arch Bishop of Slovakia, Jan Sokol!  THAT is a high commendation, indeed!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soccer Ball

This was my first attempt at making a soccer ball, and I learned a few things along the way.  1) Physics does work against you, and 2) If you can't fix it, HIDE it.

So this cake was a nice moist yellow cake (first problem) with buttercream frosting.  I neglected to cut a small sliver off the bottom of the cake (second problem) to create a flat bottom.  I used creatively attached plate pegs to keep it from moving, and thought I could forgo making the bottom flat by doing this... guess not!  So as I started decorating... actually, as I was almost FINISHED decorating... the bottom layer started to give.  The quick-fix was to fix it with icing as best as possible and then put it in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set and hopefully help hold things together.  When that seemed to prevent any further damage, I was left with the task of trying to HIDE the injury.  I made a banner out of gumpaste and tacked it down with lollipop sticks attached with candy melts.  Here's the finished product (name on cake board blocked for anonymity):

Doesn't look too bad from the front (pardon my fridge contents)...

As long as you don't look TOO closely, it seems fine!

But the side view shows a little of the amorphous quality that the ball was trying to take...

While the client was very pleased with the final cake, I will forever have this lasting image... and the thought of "It came from beyond..."  Hmmm... maybe if I were going for a helmet...

Note to self- a little less oil in the batter will provide a firmer cake without affecting the taste or overall texture, and cut a dang slice to make a flat spot!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home...

I made this lovely little ladybug for my daughter's God-mother for her birthday :)

The cake is devil's food, with a low-sugar homemade chocolate buttercream (uses only 1/4 of the confectioner's sugar in my typical buttercream).  The black fondant is Satin Ice's dark chocolate with black coloring added, and the red fondant is from Duff Goldman's new line of cake decorating supplies.