Tiny Toes for a Baby Shower

October 26, 2010

My friend Leslie asked me if I could make a cake for her friend’s baby shower, and I was happy to! The mom-to-be and her mother requested a chocolate chip cake with chocolate buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream icing. They also gave me the picture below as inspiration for the cake decoration.

[photo source]

I made two 9×13 cakes that I would then stack to make a quarter sheet cake. I had made chocolate chip cake once before, but while that cake was good, it was SO buttery that the cupcake liners were greasy. I looked around for another recipe to try this time, but I had a hard time finding anything. I ended up using my normal yellow cake recipe and adding about a cup of mini chocolate chips to each cake.

For the filling, I made a single batch of chocolate buttercream. For the icing I made a double batch of vanilla buttercream. I had plenty leftover but I prefer to have too much rather than too little!

For the decorations, I made up 6 different colors of fondant (blue, green, yellow, tan, white, and brown). I used letter cutters for the inscription and circle cutters for the “bubbles”. For the feet, I enlarged the inspiration picture and printed out a copy. I cut out the feet and placed it over the rolled out fondant and cut around it.

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 🙂

Baby Turtles

July 31, 2010

July 2010

Yesterday morning I delivered cupcakes to my first repeat customer! I asked my husband if that was a good sign and he assured me that it is!

I made the IU engagement cake for Tyler back in February and a few weeks ago she asked if I’d be willing to whip up some cupcakes for her pregnant sister-in-law. Now since I have a baby shower cake for this weekend also (stay tuned for that post!), normally I wouldn’t take another order in the same week just to save my sanity. But I thought that they wouldn’t be too difficult and the cupcake idea was so cute that I couldn’t resist taking the job 🙂

Tyler showed me these inspiration pictures from Georgetown Cupcake.

She asked if I could top the cupcakes with little turtles and though I don’t own (and couldn’t find online) a small turtle cookie cutter, I was sure I could use what I did have to come up with something cute!

I tinted some plain white fondant light brown and green. I used various icing tips (and upside-down icing tips) to cut out the shapes I would need to create the turtle. I used the lid on my container of toothpicks to cut out the perfect size brown circle for the background. I am nothing if not resourceful!

For the actual cupcakes, Tyler asked for chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate ganache, and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream…oh my! Someone is a chocolate lover! I was excited to make the chocolate chip cupcakes because that was a new one for me. I used a recipe from Annie’s Eats. This recipe is for chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes, but I just used the cake recipe. Honestly, I thought they were good, but VERY buttery – probably too much so. For the chocolate cupcakes, the chocolate ganache icing, and the chocolate buttercream I used recipes that I have used before.

I purchased an extra large round icing tip (2A) intending to pipe giant blobs of frosting on each cupcake. But, can you believe it, the tip wasn’t big enough! I must need a really HUGE one for those blobs. Side note on the blobs: I see this on a lot of bakery cupcakes and I honestly thought, how boring. I mean it’s just a big blob of icing (have I used the word “blob” enough?). But I must admit that when tasked with actually piping a giant blob (one more time, sorry) it was harder than I thought! I ended up using my 2A tip to pipe rings of icing on the cupcakes that were then covered with the little turtles. The effect was pretty similar so I was pleased with it.

Sean’s Jungle Cake

July 26, 2010

July 2010

This past week I worked on a cake for Carrie, a fellow Nestie. Her little boy’s first birthday party was this weekend and they needed a cake for the occasion. Carrie chose yellow cake with strawberry filling and vanilla buttercream icing. She also asked for a jungle theme.

As I usually do, I made the fondant decorations several days ahead. I had never made fondant animals before, but I gave it a go. I am NO artist (that’s for sure!) but I found a couple of examples on the Interwebs and I tried to mimic what I saw. Below on the left is my inspiration photo (source) for the lion, and on the right is the lion I created.

For the monkey, I only looked at a few different inspiration pictures, but the one below on the left (source) was the main one. My monkey creation is on the right.

I also made a palm tree. I’ve made a palm tree before, but that time I used royal icing for the leaves instead of fondant. I thought the fondant leaves turned out well, but I wasn’t too happy with the shape of the tree. I think I should have used royal icing for glue/stability instead of just fondant and water.

Also a few days ahead, I made up the strawberry filling using the same recipe I used to make raspberry filling a couple weeks ago. I just replaced the raspberries with strawberries and it came out very well.

For the cake, I made 1 1/2 batches of Wilton’s yellow cake (my go-to) and filled 2 10″ round cake pans. I made 2 batches of Wilton’s buttercream and tinted it green using Leaf Green gel.

I filled and frosted the cake and then added some more color to the remaining icing to make a darker green. I used a multi-opening tip to pipe “grass” around the edges for a border. I added the fondant decorations (including fondant letters for the inscription) and Sean’s cake was complete!

My First Wedding

July 17, 2010

July 2010

No, not my OWN wedding – my first wedding where I was playing the role of cake baker! I think this was the perfect first wedding cake for me. First, it was only partially a cake – the rest of it was cupcakes. And second, it was for a very small crowd of only 30 people and that suited me very well. Andrea is a friend from The Nest, and coincidentally also someone who I have known since elementary school. She asked me to do this cupcake tower for her cousin’s wedding.

Based on all of the info I got from Andrea about flavors and colors and quantities, I came up with a plan:

  • 10 cupcakes with yellow cake, light blue vanilla BC, red liners, and a blue fondant heart on top
  • 20 cupcakes with yellow cake, light blue lemon BC, red liners, and a red fondant heart on top
  • 6″ round yellow cake, light blue vanilla BC, red fondant hearts on the sides
  • red fondant roses and heart for the topper

I started making some of the components for this cake a week in advance since I knew I had to deliver it mid-week. I mixed up 1.5 batches of Wilton’s lemon buttercream icing and dyed it light blue (I left out the lemon zest because I wasn’t sure how that would turn out after being dyed). Then I did 2 batches of Wilton’s vanilla buttercream and dyed that light blue also. I put the icing in plastic containers and put them in the fridge until I would need them several days later. Refrigerating the icing had no adverse affects. When I was ready to use it, I took it out of the fridge and gave it a quick mix with a hand mixer.

For the fondant decorations, I tinted some fondant red and some blue. I used cookie cutters to cut out the hearts I needed to top the cupcakes and a few larger hearts that I was thinking of using for the topper. I would wait to cut out the hearts for the side of the cake until the last minute because I wanted them to be very flexible (ie, not dried at all). For the rest of the decorations though, it was actually preferable to let them dry for a bit, so they were fine to make up early.

I also made 5 red roses out of fondant. You can read about how I did that here.

Two days before the wedding, I made up 2 batches of Wilton’s golden yellow cake (my favorite yellow cake). This was enough cake batter to make 2 6″ round cake layers and 36 cupcakes. I used red liners that I found at Michaels.

The day before the wedding, I got out everything I had made so far and started decorating. The cupcakes got a simple swirl of icing with a 1M tip, and topped with a fondant heart. For the cake, I did a filling, then a crumb coat, and then a final coat of icing with vanilla buttercream. After I waited for the icing on the cake to crust a bit, I rolled out my red fondant very thin and cut out hearts in two sizes. I attached them to the sides of the cake with a tiny smear of buttercream. For the topper, I used my five fondant roses arranged in a circle on top (secured with tooth picks) and I added a larger red fondant heart in the middle. The heart was held up by a lollipop stick. I wasn’t 100% happy with this topper – especially since it only just barely fit underneath the cake dome I was using! But I didn’t have any other ideas, so I just went with it.

For the cupcake tower, I used 3 different diameter plates and two 4″ pieces of tubing to create a stand that was the perfect size. I actually had to cut one of the existing pieces of tubing in half to accomplish this, but it turned out so well. This stand is actually from my own wedding, just a little rearranged.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this cake! It was amazingly stress-free (sometimes I stress over the cakes, I can be a bit of a perfectionist). And best of all, I’m told that the bride and groom LOVED it and that it was delicious. That’s really what I’m aiming for 🙂

Memorial Day Stars

May 31, 2010

May 2010

Faced with a lovely 3 day weekend, I decided to tackle a cake experiment. Covering a cake with rolled fondant. Yikes. I had numerous issues with this cake, but overall I’m happy with my first attempt. My husband says it looks like a 4th of July cake. Yes, I suppose it does, but Memorial Day is a patriotic holiday too!

I used my standard yellow cake recipe (Wilton’s) and substituted lemon extract for the vanilla extract for a lemon flavored cake. Note: overfilling cake pans is a very, very bad thing. I used two 6″ round pans and filled them to about 3/4 full and they rose and spilled on the bottom of my oven. Hot mess. But, the cakes came out in one piece (sort of) and they were delicious, so no serious harm done.

Next I made up a batch of buttercream icing (Domino’s recipe) and again replaced the vanilla extract with lemon extract. I also added the zest of one lemon.

I was planning a raspberry filling – just seedless raspberry jam. When it came to filling and icing this cake, I had the same problem I had the last time I made lemon raspberry cake: raspberry jam is very slippery.  I did pipe a ring of buttercream around the filling to keep it in the middle, but it did leak out the sides a little. Had I not been planning to  cover the whole thing in fondant, I would have been angry – it was looking messy! But, because I planned to cover it all up, I didn’t have to worry about crumbs in the frosting, etc. After frosting it, I popped it in the freezer for a few minutes. When I took it out it was much easier to smooth the sides and get a flat (ish) finish.

I used Wilton’s ready-made fondant for this. I used about 1 package (24 oz). I tinted most of it blue, and then a smaller part red, and left a tiny part white. With the red and white, I cut out some stars with cookie/fondant cutters and skewered some of them on lollipop sticks.

Next came rolling out the fondant. This took 3 attempts. I dusted my counter top with powdered sugar and rolled out the fondant to about a 16″ circle. I lifted it over my cake and it cracked around the edges. So I took it off, put the cake back in the freezer, and headed to the interwebs to find out what to do. I read tips about using shortening to fix cracks and using cornstarch to dust the work surface (especially in a humid climate – and today its VERY humid!). I rolled it out again and it was better – much less dry. But I tore it. So onto attempt 3. One more time and it seemed to be working. I lifted it over the cake and it didn’t crack (as much). I smoothed the top and sides with a fondant smoother and my hands and it was working pretty well. Except  for the folds on the sides. I wasn’t sure how to get rid of them. Should I cut them? (No.) I think my fondant was still a little dry so it wasn’t standing up to the stretching that it should have. I assume that a little stretching would have smoothed out the folds. Luckily I was planning to cover the cake with fondant decorations, so the imperfections were covered!! I attached the stars to the cake with water. I brushed a little onto the back of the stars with a tiny paintbrush and that seemed to work.

Jen's Bridal Shower

March 15, 2010

March 2010

Jen is my future sister-in-law. She is marrying my husband’s brother at the end of April! She was also a bridesmaid in my wedding and I am a bridesmaid in hers, so I was very excited to throw her a shower (with my mother-in-law). It was the first shower I have given and I thought we all had a great time. And naturally, I volunteered to make the cake!

Jen said she wanted chocolate, but for some reason I didn’t want to do chocolate icing. For one thing, her wedding cake will be chocolate icing, and I wanted to do something different, and for another, I was thinking “light, springy” so I wanted to do something else. After much contemplation, I finally made the decision the week of the shower to go with chocolate cake, cream cheese icing, and chocolate cream cheese filling. I would make the decorations with fondant.

I mixed up 3 colors of Wilton’s fondant using Wilton’s colors: blue (Royal Blue and a touch of Black), yellow (a touch of Lemon Yellow), and green (Leaf Green and a touch of Black). I used a tulip cutter and alphabet cutters to make the flowers and the letters. I used a pizza cutter for the flower stems. I’ve decided I love using fondant for decorations. It’s surprisingly easy to work with and I think it looks very nice.

I made 2 10″ round chocolate cakes with this recipe. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe – it is moist, chocolatey, and delicious! I also made a double batch of cream cheese icing and tinted it light blue. I used Royal Blue color, but since the icing itself was slightly yellow-ish due to the butter and vanilla, it came out a little on the green side. And finally, I made a 3/4 batch (I know, odd) of cream cheese icing and added some cocoa powder. This was the filling.

I filled and iced the cake using my new offset spatula. Have I raved about this yet? It’s amazing how that tiny little bend in the spatula can make icing SO much easier!! I’ve used it on my past couple of cakes. Anyway, I finished the icing with a bead border. I arranged the fondant letters to spell “Congratulations Jen”. And I arranged the tulips into a bouquet.

I was really pleased with the way this cake turned out. And on the stress scale, it came in very low!! And it was well received at the shower which is the important part 🙂

An IU Engagement

February 28, 2010

February 2010

My friend, Tyler, was there for the baby shower when I made the jungle cake. After the shower, she emailed me and asked me if I could make her a cake for an engagement party she was throwing. She wanted a sheet cake to feed about 50 people – and for decoration, the Indiana University logo with an engagement ring hanging off of it.

I made 4 9×13 cakes – 2 chocolate and 2 yellow. I stacked them and placed them side by side to make a 1/2 sheet cake that was approximately 12×18. I also made a quadruple batch of Wilton’s vanilla buttercream. A quadruple batch! A pound of butter, 4 pounds of sugar…I was stunned by the sheer quantities of butter, sugar, milk, and eggs I stocked up on for this cake!

For the logo, I purchased ready made fondant (Wilton) this time. I found it slightly less tasty, but quite a bit easier to work with. I assume because the ready made stuff is exactly the perfect consistency, where as my homemade stuff…isn’t. Anyway, I tinted some of it maroon using Red-Red and Burgundy colors. I rolled it out and used a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut out the pieces for the logo. For the ring, I used gray and white fondant and used cookie cutters to make the shape. I also tried using luster dust for the first time. I mixed some silver dust with lemon extract and painted the gray ring to try to give it a sparkly finish. I wasn’t too impressed with the results. Perhaps I should have used a much lighter gray fondant as the base – or just white. I also used pearl white dust on the “diamond” on the ring.

I thought the hardest part of this cake would be the logo. I was wrong. That was the easiest part! I thought sheet cake = easy, right? It’s just a rectangle, no tiers, nothing fancy. Yeah…it was a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I just don’t have the space in my kitchen or the equipment to make a cake of this size efficiently. I was having trouble with the cakes themselves – cooling them, flipping them, etc. Plus I needed space to lay out 4 cakes, plus work space for two huge bowls of icing. It was certainly a challenge, but I am pleased that it came out well!

Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!

February 28, 2010

February 2010

January through March is birthday season in my family! First my birthday in January, then my both of my parents in February, and then my sister’s in March. We had a combined birthday celebration for my parents and since there are two of them, naturally we needed two cakes! My dad loves and always requests spice cake with vanilla buttercream icing, so that was a given. And for my mom I decided to go with chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.

My parents are avid bridge players and when I discovered I owned heart, spade, club, and diamond cookie cutters when I was making my Valentine’s Day cupcakes, I knew I had to do something with a bridge theme!

I made two 9×13 sheet cakes – one was spice cake and one was chocolate cake (both box mixes). I also made a double (or maybe it was 2 1/2, I can’t remember) batch of Domino vanilla buttercream. And in addition to the peanut butter filling, I also decided to whip up a 1/2 batch of chocolate buttercream. When the cakes were cooled, I cut them each in half and put one half on top of the other and trimmed them into playing-card-shaped rectangles. I filled the spice cake with vanilla frosting and the chocolate cake with the peanut butter and the chocolate. I covered both cakes with the vanilla icing.

For the decorations, I used marshmallow fondant again. I made a small batch, split it in half and tinted half of it black and half red. I used my cookie cutters, plus my brand new letter/number fondant cookie cutters to put each of my parents’ new ages on their cake.

In my last post, I was saying how I was so pleased to have given the Domino buttercream another chance with such great results. And now, I’m iffy on it again. For the first cake, it was too thick and I was having real trouble spreading it on evenly. So before I started the second cake, I thinned it with some milk. And that helped a lot and it was much easier to frost. But it was too thin – later I noticed the icing was sliding off the cake!! Ugh, I can’t win. I really need a good all purpose vanilla buttercream recipe that can be piped and spread.

Valentine's Day came early this year…

February 7, 2010

February 2010

On February 6, 2010, we all made it through the “snOMG” event of our lifetime – the Blizzard of 2010. We got 28″ inches here at my house and it was a very good excuse to stay inside and do some baking! So since Valentine’s Day is next weekend, I decided to go ahead with these little treats a week early 🙂

So far I have tried only one chocolate cake recipe from scratch and it was kind of “meh” – not too chocolatey. So I Googled and came up with this recipe from Hershey’s. A batch of cake mix always makes far more mini cupcakes than I am expecting, so I ended up quitting after 4 dozen, but I probably could have gotten another dozen out of it.

Next, I was going to experiment with homemade marshmallow fondant. I have never eaten, worked with, or made fondant of any variety before and I was definitely excited to try! I found this recipe from Wilton for rolled marshmallow fondant and followed some instructions to make a smaller batch. I found it very easy to make and work with. Once I was done kneading, I divided it into 2 parts and used Wilton’s Red-Red color to tint one part pink and one part red. This is probably the first time I tinted something red and had it actually come out RED! I wrapped each part in plastic wrap and put them in a ziplock bag until the next day.

When I was ready to work with the fondant again, I popped it in the microwave for about 7 seconds to soften it up again. I kneaded it and rolled it out and cut out some hearts with a tiny heart cookie cutter. I kept the little hearts in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap overnight and they hardened a bit, but they weren’t brittle.

This morning I made up some vanilla buttercream icing following a basic recipe from Domino (if you buy the 1lb box, the recipe is on the box, but I bought the store-brand 2lb bags, so I had to look up the recipe here). This is the recipe my mom has always used. Last May when I made my first try at piping icing, I made this recipe and it did not hold up to piping and it melted. I blamed the icing, and switched to a shortening/butter recipe after that. But I have since learned that it really wasn’t the icing’s fault afterall – I had added too much milk and made it too thin and that’s why it didn’t hold up! So today, with many more months of experience under my belt, I gave the recipe another go and was able to identify the right piping consistency. And I’m so glad I did, because I think this all-butter recipe has a better taste than when shortening is used.

As an experiment, I also made up some of my usual cream cheese icing because I wanted to see how it tasted with chocolate cake. The verdict is not in on that yet. Also, I split the cream cheese icing into two batches and added some cocoa powder to make chocolate cream cheese icing. The combination sounded a little weird, but I wondered how it tasted. My husband thought is was really good, and I have to agree! I will add this to my recipe book.