Happy 60th Janice!

September 29, 2010

When Bill and I got married, we had his best friend’s mother, Janice, make our wedding cake and we loved it! So now, just about 2 years later, I was thrilled to be asked to make a birthday cake for Janice’s surprise 60th birthday party.

Valerie was making the arrangements for the cake and the design was going to be a full sheet cake, carved into the shape of an open book. Half of the cake would be chocolate and half yellow and it all would be covered in cream cheese icing.

I’ve made a full sheet cake once before so this time I knew to allow plenty of time and as much space as I could. I also picked up this tiered cooling rack that really saved my life. Best $10 ever. For this size cake, I was going to make four 9×13 cakes that would then be stacked and pushed together to make one huge cake. The major issue I had last time was handling the cakes – flipping them out, cooling them, moving them, etc. But this rack really helped me!

I made this cake over the course of 3 days. On the first night, I baked the cakes. I made 2 yellow cakes and 2 chocolate cakes. Each cake was a 1.5 recipe, so a total of 6 batches of cake. This is the first time I ever wished for 2 KA mixers! I did the chocolate cakes first and had one`batch in the mixer and one batch in a mixing bowl with my hand mixer. After they were baked and cooled, I did the yellow cakes. Five and a half hours later, it was 1:30am and I was done for the night.

The next evening, I made a double batch of cream cheese frosting. I filled the cakes, stacked them, and pushed them together to make a 12×18 sheet. Next up was carving this into the shape of an open book. I found a few inspiration pictures on the web and I even grabbed a large book off my shelf and opened it up to get a good idea. I was nervous about the carving because I didn’t want to over-carve and be left with a too-small cake! After I got it into a good shape, I covered it with a crumb coat of icing and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, I made a triple batch of cream cheese frosting and covered the cake. I used an icing comb like this one [credit] around the edges of the book to make the “pages”. It was a little tricky because I had to have the icing thick enough so that the comb wouldn’t scrape too much and show the cake, but I only had a half inch edge on my cake board to work with.

After the cake was iced, I tinted some fondant using Teal gel and rolled out some thin strips. I put these around the edges of the cake directly on the board – they were the “cover” of the book. Finally I tinted some of the left over icing using Teal, and some using Golden Yellow. I used a stencil to do the decorative swirls and then added the inscription.

I was told that the cake went over well and it was delicious – which I’m always happy to hear!!

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Happy 60th Larry

September 26, 2010

Two weeks ago I made a birthday cake and cupcakes for the father of a dear friend, Valerie. This was one of the few (if not the only) cakes I’ve made specifically for a man and I found that somewhat challenging. By that I mean I wanted it to be decorated nicely, but I didn’t want it to be too feminine. In discussing the design with Valerie, she suggested two toasting glasses of red wine as the main decoration. From there I added some confetti and I think it came through as “festive” – in a very manly and distinguished way 🙂

After deciding on the wine theme, I went with maroon/wine, gold, and ivory for the color scheme. I made a 6″ round chocolate cake and filled and covered it with cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes were yellow cake, also with cream cheese icing. I searched high and low for gold non-foil cupcake liners and finally ordered some from eBay (much to my husband’s amusement). I happened to pickup some gold sprinkles in the grocery store that I used on the cupcakes and around the edges of the cake as confetti.

For the fondant decorations, I used a combination of Red-Red, Burgundy, and Black Wilton gel colors to tint the fondant. I was going for a dark red color (similar to this that I did with Red-Red- and Burgundy) but this time it ended up a little more purple. I used my fondant cutters to cut out little 60’s to top the cupcakes and I used a variety of cutters and a pizza wheel to make the wine glasses. For a little extra shimmer, I used a light painting of gold pearl luster dust. I tried gold, white, and red dust, but the gold looked best so I went with that.

I was so happy to hear that the cake got rave reviews from the birthday party attendees!


Boston Cream Cupcakes (sort of)

September 25, 2010

I had some left over yellow cake cupcakes from another project (see next post) so I thought I’d try to throw something together to resemble Boston Cream cupcakes.

I mixed up a box of vanilla pudding and made a basic chocolate ganache. I used the cone method and filled the cupcakes with the vanilla pudding. I had planned to dip the cupcakes in the ganache to create a nice smooth top, but since I had cut into the top to fill them, the top was not smooth after the dip. So then a spread a (lumpy) layer of ganache on top.  Going from bad to worse here. Finally I dusted the top with powdered sugar to try to detract from the icing job, but that wasn’t a good idea either.

So these cupcakes, while they tasted perfectly fine, were a FAIL from a decorating standpoint.  They also were a poor imitation of real Boston Cream. I’ll make another attempt at these at a later date and make the cream from scratch rather than using filling – maybe that will help!


Cupcake Tutorial

September 12, 2010

September 2010

Several people have asked me how I ice my cupcakes, what tip I use, etc.  Others have commented on my piping skills and wondered how I do it. I’ll share my secret…it’s the tip. That’s really all it is. If you have the right tip, the rest is a cinch!

So this weekend I had some extra cake batter and made a couple cupcakes so that I could do a tutorial on how to pipe icing on cupcakes. This is the first time I’ve taken “process” pictures (I normally just take a picture of the final result). It makes for an image-heavy post, but hopefully that will be helpful in this case!

First, my supplies…Cupcakes, icing, an icing bag, a large coupler, and large tips.

Large tips are the key. The regular sized tips are great for piping borders on cakes and things like that, but these giant ones are what you need for cupcakes. I am going to demonstrate 3 different techniques using 3 different tips: the Swirl (1M), the Ruffle (2D), and the Blob (2A). (Disclaimer: I totally made those names up, they may or may not be the official names of these techniques!)

First, we need to assemble the icing bag. I’m using a coupler so that I can easily switch between tips, but a coupler is not necessary. If you are not using one, you start by dropping the tip inside the icing bag and pushing it down as far as it will go. The wide end of the tip will make an indentation on the plastic bag.

Next, take the tip out of the bag and cut the end off of the bag with a pair of scissors. Make your cut about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch below the indentation in the bag. Next you would put the tip back into the bag.

I’m using a coupler, so I have done the above step with the coupler base. The tip fits over the coupler base.

And the coupler top screws in over the tip holding it in place. Once the tip is in place, I filled my bag with some icing.

And now we are ready to go!

The first technique is the basic Swirl using the 1M tip (a large open star tip). You’ll want to start by holding the icing bag over the cupcake at a slight angle. Hold the bag in your non-writing hand (twisting the top of the bag to keep it closed). Hold the bottom of the bag similar to how you would hold a pencil. You’ll use your writing hand to guide the bag and your non-writing hand to control the pressure on the bag.

Using light pressure, pipe a circle around the outside of the cupcake. (Sorry for the blurry picture – I had the camera in one hand and the icing in the other.)

Next, cut inside and make another smaller circle to fill in the middle. Stop squeezing the bag, then pull up and away.

And that’s it – a Swirl!

Next up is the Blob. This one seems to be a favorite of bakeries and it really couldn’t be easier! We’re using a large round tip for this, 2A.

Start with your icing bag held about 1/4 inch over the cupcake, straight up and down. I’m holding it at a slight angle, and you’ll see in a minute what effect that has.

Keep your tip stationary and apply moderate to hard pressure to the bag. Icing will spread out in a circle around your tip. Don’t pull your tip up!

Once your blob has reached the size you want, stop pressure on the bag, then lift the tip. (You can see that because I wasn’t holding my bag exactly upright, my blob is slightly skewed.) If you want a single blob, you’re done at this point. I did a double blob so after the first one was done, I repositioned my tip at the top of the blob and piped a slightly smaller one on top. And that’s it for Blobs!

The last technique is the Ruffle. This uses a drop flower tip, 2D. It’s not my favorite, but I’ve used it before so I included it here. For this, you’ll be using the same outside circle, inside circle technique as you did with the Swirl. I use a lot of pressure on the bag and a very slow movement around the cupcake. This gives the icing room to “ruffle”. I also try wiggling my hands up and down very slightly.

Once you’ve done the inside circle, give it an extra squeeze to ruffle in the middle. Stop pressure on the bag, then pull up and away.

So that’s it! Three different techniques and tips for lovely cupcakes.


Labor Day Weekend

September 6, 2010

September 2010

We are having a gorgeous Labor Day weekend this year! We’ve had the doors and windows open, the A/C off, and it’s been great. Yesterday, we invited both sets of our parents and Bill’s brother and his wife over for dinner. We were able to kill a variety of birds with this stone: 1) having guests over forced me to clean the house, which I admit I do far too infrequently; 2) we haven’t invited parents over to our house in years so it was long overdue; 3) and I keep saying I want to entertain so this was my chance!

We had a casual dinner and I tried out 3 new recipes. Unfortunately, I only have pictures of 2 of them.

First up is a pork BBQ recipe from my Friend, Dani. I knew I wanted to do BBQ sandwiches but my dear husband is a little on the picky side when it comes to this. He doesn’t like BBQ to be too “ketchup-y” so since Dani’s recipe had only 1 cup, I thought it would work – and it was great!! I put everything in the slow cooker on Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning to the delicious smell of BBQ! I shredded it easily with a fork and kept it on warm until dinner time. I am definitely saving this recipe!

And what goes great with BBQ sandwiches? Well macaroni and cheese of course! I went on the hunt for a good recipe and I ended up with Pioneer Woman’s. Her pictures just looked so good, I was sure it would turn out well. I made it up the day before and reheated it before serving it. It was definitely good, but I think it would have been even better if it was served immediately after it was made.

The 3rd thing I made was another Pioneer Woman recipe – a peach crisp/cobbler. It was fantastic! I didn’t make the maple cream to go with it though. We served it with vanilla ice cream. As with the macaroni and cheese, I also made this ahead of time and reheated it. Although in this case, I don’t think it had any effect on how delicious it was. I can’t wait to make it again!