Happy Birthday Dawn

August 31, 2010

August 2010

Just 3 weeks after ordering a birthday cake for her daughter, my co-worker Dawn asked me to make a birthday cake for her own birthday which is today! Dawn asked for chocolate cake, and again asked for “less sweet”.

I made a 6″ round chocolate cake with my go-to recipe from Hershey’s. And for the icing, I went with the adapted Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). I know for sure that this icing is less sweet than American buttercream.

I’ve made SMBC about a half dozen times and I’ve messed it up about half of those times. So naturally, the normal SMBC stress ensued. Would it curdle? Would it be soupy? Would it thicken up? Would my digital meat thermometer work in place of my recently ruined candy thermometer? (Yes!) So after successfully whipping up this icing, it was time to ice the cake. I’d never used this icing for a cake before. I’d only used it for a filling or for cupcakes. I was very pleased with how it worked on a cake!! It has a beautiful sheen and it was relatively easy to smooth. (Please excuse the bad picture – the lighting is even worse than usual at 11pm!)

As is often the case for me, I decided on the decoration at the very last minute. I piped a shell border and decorated it with multi-colored nonpareils. Those tiny little things bounced all over my kitchen, but I thought it made for a nice festive birthday cake. Oh and I used some orange icing I had leftover from Nancy’s cake to write the inscription. I think my writing skills are improving – very, very slowly!

Lisa’s Baby Shower

August 6, 2010

August 2010

Lisa is a friend that I met through The Knot while planning my wedding. A couple years have passed and her first child was due to arrive in September. I was honored to make the cake for her shower!

Originally, this post was a place holder. Lisa asked that I not reveal the cake until after her son was born. I was more than happy to hold the post until after the birth, which I am thrilled to say took place on Labor Day!

Now back to the cake! I had a tip off from one of the shower hostesses, Dani, that Lisa’s favorite cake was SugarBakers signature cake: almond cake, with amaretto buttercream and raspberry filling, and vanilla buttercream on top. I tested all of these out on cupcakes back in June so I would know what I was doing when it came time for this cake!

For the cake, I made my go-to yellow cake recipe (one 8″ round layer and one 10″ round layer) and replaced the vanilla extract with almond extract. I also made 2 batches of Wilton’s buttercream and tinted it a light tan. Then I made a 1/2 recipe of raspberry filling. And then, I made a 1/2 recipe of modified Swiss meringue buttercream and flavored it with a couple of tablespoons of amaretto. (I made the fillings a few days ahead and put them in the fridge.)

When it came time to assemble the cake, I took the amaretto filling out and tried to rewhip it. And it curdled. And it was ruined 😦 And did I mention that it was about 11pm the night before the shower? There was nothing to do but make another batch, which I did. I’m not quite sure what happened because I thought this could be refrigerated. I’m guessing I should have let it come all the way back to room temp before whipping it.

So after I had my fillings squared away, I torted both cakes and filled them with a ring of raspberry on the outside and filled the middle with the amaretto filling. I then frosted the cake with the vanilla BC icing.

And now for the fondant decorations. For the sides of the cake I cut out various sizes of circles and rings using cookie cutters and icing tips. (This design sort of mimics the bedding Lisa picked out for the nursery.) The picture below on the left was my inspiration picture for the cake topper. And on the right, is the one I made. It took several attempts to get the wheels to stay on and to support the plane. And I also had issues with the wings, but was able to get it to work eventually!

[I cannot find the original website where I found this inspiration picture. Here is the link to the full photo.]

I cut out a banner  to wave behind the plane. I cut it to size with a pizza cutter and then positioned it over some rolled up wax paper to make it “wave”. After a day or so, it was hardened into place. I cut the letters out with my fondant cutters and glued them on with some water. I had planned to attach the banner to the plane with some ribbon but I ran out of time.

The cake went over very well and everyone seemed to love it, so I was very pleased! Here is a picture of the inside of the cake.

And a picture of the lovely Lisa cutting and serving her cake 🙂

Experiments in Cupcakes

June 27, 2010

June 2010

I have 3 cakes to do in the next 6 weeks so I thought this weekend would be a good time for some practice. I had a list of 5 different things that I wanted to test out – mostly things that I will need for my upcoming cakes – so I whipped up a batch of cupcakes to help me out.

First, Almond Cake. I used this recipe from Wilton for a basic white cake (which I had not made before) and replaced the vanilla extract with almond extract. I quartered the recipe and came out with an even dozen cupcakes, so I can only assume the full recipe would yield 4 dozen (!).

Next up was, Raspberry Filling. I have made cakes with raspberry filling before but I have always used seedless raspberry preserves out of a jar. They are delicious, but slippery and tend to bleed through the cake, so I thought I’d try my hand at a homemade filling. I picked this recipe at random and I found it to be easy and tasty. I halved the recipe and got a little more than a cup of filling. The only downside to this was that it was not seedless.

My next step was Filling the Cupcakes – another first for me. I cut into each cupcake on an angle and sliced a circle out of the top. I just used a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off to pipe the filling into the cupcake, and then I replaced the top. Cinchy!

Now for icing. First up was Dark Chocolate Ganache. The family friend who made my brother-in-law’s wedding cake (and mine also!) used this icing on their cake and it was SO good. She kindly shared the recipe with me and I whipped up my first ganache. Delicious!!

Finally, I wanted to try an Amaretto Buttercream. I ended up with sort of an adapted Swiss Meringue buttercream. I started with the same adapted recipe that I used for the Margarita Cupcakes (Annie’s Eats, adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe). I had planned to replace the tequila and lime juice with amaretto. Except that I didn’t get around to stopping by the liquor store. So I used some almond extract instead. It turned out well. Next time I will not be so lazy and I’ll pick up some amaretto!

Margarita Cupcakes

May 16, 2010

May 2010

I found myself with a weekend completely free of any plans or commitments – bliss! I hadn’t planned on baking, but I couldn’t resist 🙂

I was reading Annie’s Eats and found a recipe for margarita cupcakes. I love margaritas and of course I love cupcakes so this was a no brainer. I actually used my standard yellow cake recipe (Wilton’s) instead of the recipe on the blog because I knew I had all the ingredients on hand. I just left out the vanilla extract and added about a teaspoon of lime juice and a teaspoon of lime zest (this was for a 1/4 recipe).

The frosting is basically Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream – but with lime juice and tequila added. The first time I made this icing, it was honestly too buttery for my taste. This time, with the added lime juice, and the slightly different ratio of butter to sugar, I thought it was an improvement! Of course, it’s all a matter of your preference.

As Annie notes in her blog, the tequila flavor really doesn’t come through. She recommended brushing the cupcakes with tequila, but I opted not to do that. I’m not a huge fan of alcohol in desserts so I was worried it may be too much. I did like her idea to make a simple syrup with the tequila, but for this time, I just added it to the icing.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

March 28, 2010

March 2010

I finally decided to experiment with something other than American buttercream! I wanted to try a meringue, or something with cooked sugar, but I didn’t have a candy thermometer and I honestly had never really worked with egg whites before. But I found this recipe for Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream on Annie’s Eats – she adapted it very slightly from Martha Stewart’s recipe – and I decided to give it a try.

I picked up a candy thermometer at Walmart and it seemed to work pretty well. Then it came to putting the sugar/egg/salt mixture in the KA mixer until it formed “stiff peaks”. I had a general idea what this should look like, but never having done it before, I was flying a little blind. But I think I got it right. Next, I added an un-Godly amount of butter. I mean I like butter as much as the next girl, but when a recipe calls for it in pounds – yikes.

So, after finishing the icing and piping it onto some plain white cupcakes, the verdict is…YUM. It is very delicious and it definitely solves the over-sweet issue with American Buttercream. But it is SO RICH. I couldn’t even eat one cupcake! I’m actually not sure I’d want to ice an entire cake with it. Next time, I may try to adjust the butter/sugar ratio and see what happens.