Monday, December 31, 2012

It's close to midnight...and it's my last cake of the year

For months I had my sister try to convince my nephew that he wanted a Despicable Me themed cake for his 3rd birthday party as I just had a hankering to make some cute yellow minions. This worked for short while but soon he changed his mind and requested a Harry Potter werewolf cake. Not really wanting to try to come up with a design that might fit that request, I continued to have my sister show him cute videos of minions. Enter my older nephew. He was watching a video for Michael Jackson's Thriller and the younger one became fascinated with it. Not only did he want a werewolf cake, but it had to specifically be a Michael Jackson werewolf. For weeks leading up to the party, I hoped that he would change his mind. Once the invitations went out, I started the planning process on how I would make a Michael Jackson Thriller werewolf cake.

We celebrated my brother's birthday a few weeks ago. My sister-in-law brought out this delicious chocolate cake and my nephew exclaims, "werewolf cake!" I looked at the chocolate frosted cake and thought to myself, 'wow, if he thinks a frosting-covered chocolate cake is a werewolf, this is going to be an easy cake'. And the he added, "but I want a face on it."

For the past few weeks I have been thinking about how to make a werewolf. I definitely wanted it to be cute/cartoon-like since it was for a 3-year-old child. I thought about making the whole cake a standing werewolf but then I thought about how I didn't think my nerves could handle the drive with a cake that required significant structural support. It also would have meant the possibility of not having enough cake servings unless I wanted to make a 3-foot-tall cake.

I decided to make the werewolf jumping out of the cake. The body was made from rice cereal treats. I have recently found it easier to work with pre-made rice cereal treats vs homemade. It is much easier to get a more condense and solid shape and I don't have individual pieces of rice cereal and gooey strings of marshmallow sticking all over my hands. The head was also make from rice cereal treats. I have to admit, looking at the cereal form, I really didn't know how it was going to end up looking like a wolf. I used modelling chocolate on the head to form facial details like eyebrows and to fill out the cheeks and the mane. At this point it looked like some form of voodoo mask. I covered the head in fondant and used a modelling stick and additional fondant to make the fur. I added variations in fur colour with white, brown and black petal dust. The position of the arms ended up being a bit funny. Instead of an 'I'm going to get you' position, he looks more like he's saying 'I don't want any trouble!'

The hands, nails and teeth were made with gumpaste. I used a stitching tool to give a ribbed looked to the collar of the varsity jacket.

I also dusted the cake with petal dust to make it look like dirt and more graveyard like. I painted his name on the cake using red gel paste mixed with vodka.

I enjoyed his reaction to the cake. He hung on to his dad and said, "It's scary...."
After singing 'happy birthday' I played the Thriller song and video on my phone for him. He is so entranced by that video. I don't remember how old I was when I first watched that video but I would think that 3-year-old would be scared, especially when the zombies are rising from the graves. He can't take his eyes off the video. It's like he sees it as an instructional dance video. He does the zombie walk and he sings along and mimics all of the dance steps. He even does an excellent MJ spin!

It was certainly a fun cake to wrap up a busy year of work, school, moving and baking. I have to say, I am pretty tired though and I am happy to put the cake decorating supplies away for a couple of weeks. I think I'll start off the year with a few simpler projects. I look forward to the baking challenges of next year. I'm sure my nephews will dream up some impossible cakes for me to make.
Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fashioning a cake fit for a fashionista

When I was asked to make a cake with a fashionista theme, I didn't know if I would be able to meet the challenge. The scariest part was that I had never made a shoe before and it was a rather important part of the cake. Other minor challenges included not having very much experience (i.e. no training) in making flowers, no experience with pleating and using a temperature sensitive cake filling (cream cheese frosting) requiring refrigeration of the fondant-covered cake. 

I was pretty much given free reign with the design of the cake. I decided to go for an elegant cake design personalized with the birthday girl's likes: her favourite colour (grey), Christian Louboutin patent peep toe pumps, Tiffany & Co., Holt Renfrew and Mini Cooper. The requested cake flavour was carrot with cream cheese frosting. Since I needed to refrigerate this cake, I decided to use a different fondant. I used Satin Ice as I had read that refrigeration doesn't compromise the look or texture of the fondant. I had also read however that the fondant also dries very quickly and thus leads to a greater potential for an 'elephant skin' look to the fondant which is not desirable. The only time I've ever had an issue with 'elephant skin' was when I participated in a class where we were instructed to use corn starch rather than confectioner's sugar for rolling out the fondant. I found the corn starch really dried out the fondant. With this in mind, I made sure to use confectioner's sugar rather than corn starch to prevent sticking, and I also tried to work faster to cover the cake. I was disappointed to have some spots with a more rough texture. Luckily, I was covering the cake in pleating, so I was able to cover these spots. Overall, the fondant did set quite nicely and most importantly, not one drop of condensation or stickiness when I took it out of the fridge. I did take precautions with this though and put the cake in a box, wrapped the box in plastic wrap and also adjusted the temperature in the fridge (I have an extra fridge that I can use just for cake stuff). I also kept my house temperature on the cold side. Based on the performance of the fondant with refrigeration, I think the brand is a keeper for me. I might just knead a bit of shortening into it before rolling out although this doesn't seem to be recommended by the manufacturer.

This was the first time I had tried to make a realistic-looking flower. I think that it still ended up taking on more of a fantasy flower look than a real peony but I think it was still pretty. The last time I made a peony-like flower, I used modelling paste rather than gum paste alone. I found that it was too soft to work with and therefore the edges of the petals would tear when thinning them with a ball tool. This time I used gumpaste. It was easier to roll out very thin pieces of fondant and shape the petals. The gumpaste did set very fast though and didn't allow very much manipulation of petals after the flower was done. I set the flower in a bowl covered with foil to dry. I think next time, I will make the foil more shallow so that the petals at the bottom of the peony will be more open.

When I placed the peony on the cake, I filled in the bottom with a few extra petals. I did a very light dusting with pink petal dust to give the petals a more realistic shading/colouring. The brush I was using wasn't quite soft enough so I had to be extra careful as the petals are very delicate and fragile.

The birthday girl drives a Mini. Rather than putting a car on a fashionista cake, I decided to put a the key fob on it. This was made from 50/50 or half gumpaste and half fondant. It was challenging painting the logo on it as the key was quite small. I used a 000 size brush, but even so, I barely squeezed the word 'MINI' on it. 

The Tiffany box is made from Rice Krispie treats. I discovered that pre-made treats are much easier to work with then homemade treats. It is easier to make a more compacted and smoother structure. In the past, I have noticed that it is more difficult to really compress homemade treats so that the shape will be stable. Although the gumpaste ribbon covers most of it, I did paint the logo on the top of the box. 

The Holt Renfrew bag was one of my favourite things, mostly because of the striped tissue paper. For some reason, I found it difficult to get the right colour for the bag. It took two attempts and a lot of combinations of gel paste before I got a colour I was satisfied with. I started with 'fuschia' but found it was just too dull. I ended up brightening it with electric pink gel paste. I painted the logo onto the bag using white petal dust mixed with a bit of vodka. The striped tissue is made with gumpaste and the handle made with 50/50 and an extruder. 

At first when I thought about using grey on a cake I thought to myself that it wouldn't be a very appetizing cake colour. After looking at a few images of grey cakes, I thought it could look rather nice - modern and elegant. To make this grey cake visually more interesting, I added white pleating using 50/50 and a gumpaste pearl medallion. I brushed the pearl medallion with a bit of lustre dust so they looked more authentic. I think that they grey and white went very nicely with the pink of the peony and Holt Renfrew bag.

Now for the shoe. I had less than two weeks to figure out this shoe and after researching online, I found that it was recommended to let the sole and heel dry for a week. This meant that if the shoe broke, or looked awful, I would need to think of something else to put on the cake.
To make the sole, I carved a piece of foam to a high heel shape and covered it with parchment. I allowed the gumpaste sole to dry for 5 days along with the heel. The biggest challenge and scariest part of the shoe was the fact that it was a pump and not a sandal, meaning that I had to figure out how to cut out one piece of gumpaste to fit around the whole shoe. A sandal would have been much easier for a first shoe attempt but I was told the birthday girl had a pair of patent peep toe pumps. I'm not the best person at looking at a 3-dimensional item and being able to transfer that into a flat shape that can become a 3-dimensional item. I think I had a brain teaser game that had challenges like that - I was awful at it. I tried to make a paper template by making a foot shape out of old fondant I wasn't using anymore. This got me closer to figuring out the general shape that it had to be but it was difficult to bend the paper around the shoe to see if it would be the right fit. I need to use something more flexible to make the template, so I decided to use the medium that I would be making the actual shoe with - gumpaste.

I was really happy with the curve of the arch on the pump. I don't think that I could have hoped for a better outcome for a first shoe attempt. I think the peep toe was a bit large but that's just me being picky!
To get a 'patent' look, I used 2 coats of vodka mixed with black gel paste.

I am very proud of this cake. It was a great learning experience as I figured out quite a few new techniques. I'm not sure how soon I'd like to try another shoe though - it may have been beginner's luck! 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Celebrating the year of the dragon and a year of blogging

I started this blog about one year ago with my first entry about a cake that I made for my mother's birthday. After a two and a half-month baking and three month blogging break, I am returning with a cake for my mother's birthday (her 60th birthday to be exact, which is a big one!).

I have not decorated a cake since August. At that time, we were wrapping up our life chapter in our first home. The baking and blogging break coincided with the transition from our condo to our not-quite-finished-being-renovated house. A delayed permit from the city meant throwing all our belongings in the basement and living with my parents for a short time. This is the first cake that I made in our new kitchen. It has taken me a month to write a blog on this cake due to the ongoing process of getting settled into the house (our basement is still full of boxes), work, singing and school commitments. 

This dragon cake is appropriate in a couple of ways. The first and foremost important is that my mom is born in the year of the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of power, strength, luck and prosperity. Interestingly, the dragon also represents change and mobility. This has certainly been a year of change and mobility - literally. We bought a house in May, sold our condo in June, took possession of the house in July and started some major renovations that finished in September. Instead of designing cakes, I was designing rooms in our house. It is a lot of work picking out fixtures, tile, appliances, flooring, doors, etc. 

I am happy to be somewhat settled in and working on cakes again.

The flavour of this cake was mocha with dulce de leche buttercream as per my mom's request. 

This is the second cake that I've carved. The first one being Mater for my nephew's birthday last December.

When thinking about the best method of getting the dragon shape, my original thought was to use a straight-edge bundt cake pan and arrange the pieces into a snake-like shape. After cutting out a paper template, I did not feel that I could get the width or shape that I wanted. I ended up cutting a piece of freezer paper to the size of the cake board (20" diameter) and freehanded the shape of the dragon. I then took out some baking pans and looked at the best combination of pan shapes/sizes to create the dragon. I ended up using a 9x13" pan for most of the body and a 8-inch round pan for the tail end. It was much easier than baking a half sheet size cake.
I still had quite a bit of leftover cake that I used to make cake pops later that week.

One of the challenges I had with the carved cake was how to get it on the cake board. Normally, I cover my cakes in fondant before placing it on the fondant-covered cake board. In this case, since the cake was an awkward shape and in 3 pieces it was necessary to cover the cake once it was already on the board. It wasn't too bad. I used my freezer paper template to see where I wanted the cake to be positioned on the board. I then used an inscriber tool to lightly mark the outline of the dragon onto the fondant. Each piece had it's own cake board which made it easy to transfer to the large cake board. Once placed on the board, I covered the shape in pieces of fondant rather than one large big piece since any seams would be hidden by scales. I just had to be careful when trimming off the excess.

The scales were cut out of modelling paste and then thinned using a ball tool. This took a really, really long time! It is really best to leave the modelling paste wrapped overnight to firm up a bit. It makes thinning the circles easier and neater. I discovered this while making the cake as I was running out of coloured modelling paste. My poor sister was frantically colouring more fondant mixed with tylose and cutting out circles the afternoon of my mother's party. The dragon was dusted with various colours of pearl lustre dust. Teachable moment: when you are severely behind in making a cake, it is very important to stay calm and focused. For this cake, I did not remain calm as I was becoming increasingly late for my mom's birthday dinner. While dusting the dragon, I was gently/or not so gently blowing excess dust off of the cake board. At one point, instead of blowing on the cake board, I blew into the small container of lustre dust. I ended up with an orange face and orange teeth.

The head was made from Rice Krispie treats. I had grandiose plans for decorating the face, however I ran out of time, so it was decorated rather quickly and less precisely than what I would have liked. It looks a bit muppet-y to me but the overall dragon look is there. 

The most important thing is that my mom was surprised and she loved the cake. 

My baking projects will likely be a little less frequent in the coming year as I try to wrap up my graduate studies but I still hope to be baking and blogging once in a while for fun and stress-relief.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Running: Cake on track, moving...not so much.

Last cake before moving! Less than two weeks to moving and it's time to pack away the baking supplies. Next project will be in my brand new kitchen! How appropriate that as I'm running out of time to get ready for the move, I make a running cake. I don't know if it was the stress of moving, but I also seemed to run into a few more problems with this one than usual. 

This cake was originally going to be a small cake for two (my very athletic friend and her equally athletic boyfriend), however my friend preferred to have a full track on the cake so the scope and size of the cake grew a tad. 

This was my first time making characters in a standing position (minus the zombies on this cake, but they were much smaller). Normally the characters are sitting which is structurally much easier. These characters had to be started earlier than usual to allow the legs to set properly before adding the other components. To ensure the figures were stable for delivery, I used wooden skewers instead of my usual spaghetti to support them. The heads and arms were supported with small pieces of spaghetti and gumpaste glue. In the past, I've made hair using an extruder and modelling paste however this can be quite heavy and can weigh the heads down. As I really needed these figures to be stable, I opted to pipe the hair using royal icing.

I made the running medal using modelling paste. I used a very small silicone mold for the leaves. I carefully cut out a running figure on cardstock and then used an x-acto knife to cut out the figure from modelling paste. The medal was dusted with gold lustre dust.

I cut the track in one piece from modelling paste. I let it sit for a bit to set before trying to lift it onto the cake so that it would not stretch out of shape. At this point I also dusted the track with terracotta petal dust so it had a texture and colour similar to a real track. You certainly learn from your mistakes are you an amateur cake decorator. To adhere the track to the cake, I painted the back of it with gumpaste glue. This was not the smartest move. As I was trying to place it on the cake, sections of the track adhered to the cake and it was very difficult to move the track into place without getting terracotta coloured petal dust all over the cake. Thankfully, I was planning on piping grass in the centre anyway. Other stray bits of red were brushed away with a Q-tip dipped in vodka. In retrospect, I should have laid the track on the cake, positioned it and then lifted and carefully glued one small section at a time. 

There are many challenges that may arise with cake decorating. One of the most frustrating things for me is working very hard to make detailed items to put on top of the cake, only to find that the cake on which I'm putting them is less than perfect. I have had my share of issues with air bubbles forming underneath fondant. I have had better results with using swiss meringue buttercream underneath fondant versus frosting but even so, I still end up with some lumps and bumps. 
Sure enough, as I was packing up my supplies for the evening, I took one last look at the cake only to see that a very large bubble had formed on the side of the cake. I attributed this to not smoothing the buttercream adequately to rid it of all air bubbles and/or not smoothing the fondant firmly enough against the cold buttercream. 
At this point, the fondant had softened a bit as the buttercream underneath warmed to room temperature. While you can poke a hole and push out the air, smoothing the fondant against the softening buttercream, you need to be careful not to press too firmly or the fondant will tear. Similarly you want to be careful with your fondant smoother as the softened fondant can be a bit tacky and your smoother may be stick to the cake like a magnet. 

As it was the first time I've used wooden skewers to support figurines, I learned another important lesson: cut the skewer to match the depth of the cake before attaching a whole figurine to it! 
To ensure the figurines did not sink into the cake and also to avoid any bits of skewer wood getting into the cake, I placed a straw in the cake where each skewer would be placed. When I placed the female figurine, I came to the unfortunate realization that the skewer was too long and her foot was sticking out above the track. It is very difficult to cut a skewer with a figure on it! I first tried this out using a plain skewer to see how gentle I could be with taking off an inch of the wood. This was successful so I moved onto fixing the figure. All was going well, and then of course, the spaghetti holding the head snapped and the head fell off a half hour before I needed to leave to deliver the cake. You have to think very quickly to try and fix things like this - it is important not to panic! It was going to be impossible to extract the broken spaghetti from the figurine without risking further damage, so I used my inscriber tool to push the spaghetti piece down in the body and the other piece up into the head. This left room for another little piece of spaghetti. If I had had more time, I would have used gumpaste glue to reattach and allowed it time to set. As time was not on my side, I could not be so subtle. I quickly made a small batch of royal icing and coloured it to match the skin. I used this to coat the piece of spaghetti holding the head to the neck. I used a very slightly wet paintbrush to smooth the excess icing around the neck. It did not blend perfectly but apparently it survived a few position changes on the cake track due to the competitive nature of the couple!

While this cake certainly had some challenges with a few valuable lessons learned, I was happy with the overall look. Most importantly my friend and her boyfriend enjoyed the cake.

So now the packing continues. I bid adieu to baking for the next couple of weeks as we get settled into our mostly finished house. I look forward to getting back to baking in our brand new kitchen!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Strawberry Lemon Cake

It has been a while since my last post as I have been spending more time at Home Depot than in my kitchen, and I have been getting ready for the new house and spending as much time as possible with my family in the condo before we say goodbye to our first home. I have dabbled in a bit of baking but have had less time to photograph and write about my goodies. 

This weekend, my husband and I went to a friend's house for dinner and we offered to bring dessert. I wanted to make something summery and fruity. I considered doing a tart filled with vanilla bean custard and topped with fresh berries, but I wanted something that I could decorate a little as I think I've been in a slight cake decorating withdrawal. 

I thought about summer flavours and lemons and strawberries came to mind. If you look up lemon strawberry cakes, they are typically very light cakes with some sort of whipped cream type topping. I am not a big fan of whipped cream toppings. I don't enjoy the flavour and texture as much as frosting or buttercream, they are not particularly heat stable, and you can't do much with decorating those cakes. I decided to make a vanilla butter-based cake filled with fresh lemon curd. I covered it with strawberry frosting which is one of my favourite icing flavours. 

I wanted the decoration to be simple and to give a hint of what was inside the cake. Browsing through my books once again, I came across a quilled paisley cake. I am not a big paisley fan but was intrigued by the quilling. 

Quilling is a paper craft that involves rolling thin strips of paper very tightly around a needle/quill and allowing them to uncoil to various sizes, pinching them into various shapes to make flowers, leaves, animals, etc. There are some really elaborate designs out there. A quick google search on quilled cakes revealed some beautiful fondant cakes - some very simple and some extremely elaborate, typically involving flowers and leaves. I decided to make a quilled gum paste lemon slice. I rolled out my gum paste very thinly and I used my ribbon cutter to make 1/4" wide strips. Normally my type A personality would have ensured that each little wedge of lemon was made exactly the same but I was feeling more relaxed this weekend and rolled each strip until they looked approximately the same. If they didn't, I just readjusted and trimmed away excess gum paste as required. I was looking for overall effect rather than becoming a gum paste quilling master in one day. I thought it resembled a lemon slice, so I was pleased. 

I have made strawberry frosting on numerous occasions but I have never made lemon curd. Whenever I am about to try something new, I refer to my abundant collection of baking books and review different recipes, comparing ingredient ratios and techniques. Some recipes involved cooking the curd on direct heat (increases risk of scrambling your yolks), a few involved heating the curd over a bain-marie and one recipe involved cooking a lemon, sugar and butter mixture and then adding some of that to an egg yolk and sugar mixture to temper and then cooking the entire mixture on direct heat. I decided to go with the bain-marie method as I felt this would be the most fail-proof. 

The problem with reading and comparing numerous recipes is that there is a chance you will get them mixed up and combine elements of different recipes...or perhaps it's just me. I ended up adding twice as much fresh lemon juice to the mixture than I was supposed to. I carefully removed what I could which left me with 1.5x the amount I was supposed to use. I figured that since there was a lot of variation in the amount of lemon juice, egg, sugar, zest and butter from recipe to recipe, I could still salvage the curd. There was no way I was going to toss the mixture and separate another 7 eggs. I added a few more yolks, a little extra sugar and it turned out beautifully. Good to know you can take some liberties with ingredient amounts and it will still work. 

To finish the cake, I piped a shell border around the bottom and top borders. The top border ended up being a bit on the messy side as I did some shells too close to the edge and they were precariously hanging over the side, threatening to flop down the side. I also piped a few dots of lemon curd around the quilled gum paste lemon slice.

In the end, it was a successful marriage of lemon and strawberry. As an added bonus, we have a full mason jar of leftover lemon curd. I think it may be time to whip up some scones. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monkey Martini Cupcakes

Each year we have a year-end potluck for our interns and each year I try to create a new cupcake flavour combination, usually containing a bit of alcohol. In previous years, I have made Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's frosting, 'Cream-sicle' cupcakes containing Cointreau and Godiva white chocolate liqueur, and cookies and cream with Oreos and again, Godiva liqueur.

This year, as we are in the midst of moving, my husband has packed away quite a bit of our liquor cabinet. Apparently there was no rhyme or reason to what he packed away, with the exception of his bottles of scotch. Gone was my bottle of Bailey's and my bottle of Godiva liqueur. What I did find was a bottle of creme de banane, so I got the idea to make chocolate cupcakes with a creme de banane frosting.

A Monkey Martini is typically made with vodka, creme de cacao, and creme de banane. I have seen variations with the inclusion of Bailey's, however since that was packed away, it didn't make it into the cupcake. Creme de cacao is a colourless chocolate liqueur with a hint of vanilla. I did not have any of this but wanted to capture the flavour in the cupcake. I decided to make a white chocolate ganache to fill the chocolate cupcakes. The ganache filling was made with cream, Callebaut white chocolate callets, and a little vodka.

The frosting was flavoured with vanilla and creme de banane. It tasted like a banana popsicle. Yum!
I garnished each cupcake with a banana chip dipped in Callebaut bittersweet chocolate.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pride Cake

Happy Pride! This weekend, between appliance shopping and finalizing the kitchen plans for our house renovations, I decided to make a rainbow cake. 

Back in April, I made this Care Bear cake for my nephew's birthday. I posted a preview of the uncovered cake and a friend exclaimed, "It is a cake for the gays!" As such, I promised to make another rainbow-themed cake for June. 

I wanted the cake to be simple so that the flower stood out i.e. no other decorations, and no border around the bottom. As such, it was really important to have a clean edge on the bottom of the cake. 
I decided to try something a bit different, and propped up my cake on a 6-inch styrofoam dummy so that I could cleanly cut away the excess fondant after covering it. This did not turn out very well. The fondant ended up stretching quite a bit due to the weight and because it was so thin, it was not going to be a smooth background for the flower. In retrospect, I should have covered the cake on a flat surface, trimmed away some of the excess, and then elevated it to cut the bottom edge cleanly with a paring knife. 

To fix the messy looking fondant, I actually rolled out another 2 pounds of fondant, brushed the already covered cake with cooled, boiled water and re-covered the cake. Yes, a bit of a pricey fix, but I really did not want a lumpy fondant job ruining the whole aesthetic of the cake. Besides, if I use up my fondant, it's one less thing I have to lug over to our new home. 

I have wanted to make a ruffled flower on a simple white cake for some time. This was the perfect opportunity to try this out in beautiful bright colours. It also gives a hint of what's to come upon cutting the cake. I tried a few different tools to ruffle the edges of strips cut from modelling paste. At first I tried a ball tool however I found that I would get too many areas that were too thin and I did not find the edges ruffled enough. By the second orange ruffle, I moved on to trying a cone tool. I thought that this produced a better ruffle but I felt that it made the edges of paste a bit rough and it was hard on the fingers. I went back to the ball tool for a bit and then I tried making the ruffles with a modelling stick. I think that the modelling stick was the easiest option.

This was an 8-inch cake filled with an orange cream swiss meringue buttercream. To get the 'orange cream' flavour, I used vanilla extract, Cointreau and orange flavouring. The flavour was great, however, as this cake involves a lot of buttercream to fill the 6 layers and crumb coat the cake (I used 8 cups!), a little goes a long way in terms of serving sizes!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Canada Day and Pride weekend!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Superhero Cake

I made this cake a few weeks ago but did not write about it right away with the intention of writing about it during a baking break. Why the baking break? We were preparing our home for sale and I was reluctantly packing away my stand mixer for the showings. 
Turns out that one and a half weeks of having your home on the market is very tiring and rather stressful. It felt like an eternity and I was not in the best frame of mind for writing about cakes. Our home is now sold, and we are in the midst of planning the renovations for our new home (new kitchen yay!!!).

This was the second last cake of birthday season in my family. My nephew requested a superhero cake and my sister sent me a few photo ideas of what he liked. We kept the cake design simple since I was in the process of packing cake-making supplies away.  

I ended up rolling the fondant a bit thinner than I usually like to because I really purchased just enough fondant to get the cake done. I didn't want to have any leftover fondant since I would not have a good place to store it during the showings. 

I used modelling paste and silicone moulds to make the pearl border. 

For the logos, I printed them onto card stock and cut out the templates using an x-acto knife. I rolled modelling paste very thin and cut out the logos using the template and an x-acto knife. I smoothed the edges using a dog bone gumpaste tool.

I piped the spiderman web using black royal icing. Ideally I would have measured and marked the board to ensure the web was even as it's really difficult to correct mistakes when you are using black icing. I decided to free-hand it and it turned out just fine. I guess the stringwork class that I completed, but did not really enjoy, came in handy.

The cake was a simple vanilla cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.

I haven't unpacked my stand mixer yet since selling but I hope to be back up to baking and blogging soon. I will sadly be taking another baking break toward the end of the summer as we move into our new home. The kitchen likely won't be finished by the time we move and I am not sure I'm up for the challenge of figuring out what I can come up with using only a wooden spoon and a microwave!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Pretty Blue Birthday

This cake was a variation on Mich Turner's 'Art Nouveau' cake from the book The Art of The Cake. I loved the simplicity of the design and thought that it would be a lovely cake for my sister's birthday. 
Instead of the simple 2 layer flower on the cake in the book, I decided to try to make a more full and ruffled bloom. I used modelling paste to make this flower instead of gumpaste as the modelling paste takes a little longer to dry and gave me more time to manipulate the petals. I discovered in this process that I do not like my plastic ball tool. It actually has a seam in it that catches the modelling paste on occasion and tears or comes close to tearing the petals. I think that investing in a metal ball tool would be worthwhile for future flower-making attempts. The centre of the flower is filled with little balls of modelling paste lightly brushed with lustre dust. 

The swirly design is piped on with royal icing. The book offers a template however I just freehanded the design. I did use my inscriber tool to lightly mark where I wanted the swirls. You don't want to be too heavy handed with this as your royal icing 'strings' may not fall exactly where you want them to, especially when making big swooping swirls on a larger cake. Speaking of larger cakes, this cake is shown as a cute little 4-inch cake in the book. If you want to do a larger cake (this one is an 8-inch cake), be prepared to have a lot of patience piping on the little accent dots. 

My nephew thought that the design on this cake looked like an octopus. I guess at age 7, you are more likely to associated swirls with an octopus rather than art nouveau. 

The cake itself is Sweetapolita's Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake with a few minor variations in the buttercream. My swiss meringue buttercream recipe makes about 8 cups of buttercream so I used 2 vanilla beans in addition to a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and increased the instant espresso to 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon. I love the look of buttercream speckled with vanilla bean seeds. 

The cake flavour was nice although I felt the texture was a bit dense. It may be that it is the intended texture of the cake or perhaps I over mixed the batter, although the cake layers rose quite well in the oven.  
The flavour of the buttercream was wonderful and it gave me a great idea for another May birthday cake. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Ferrero Rocher' Cake Pops

I have a love-hate relationship with cake pops. I love the idea of them, I love thinking of flavours and designs, and I love eating them. I don't love the process. Perhaps since I've only made them twice, I haven't optimized the timing of everything as I've almost done with making cakes. Perhaps it is because I was unable to account for the unplanned event of purchasing a house this week, which changed my schedule and resulted in dipping chilled morsels of cake into chocolate at 2 in the morning. I have to admit, after a bit of sleep, I did love the end result, so I haven't written cake pops off entirely.

These cake pops were for the dessert portion of a dinner party. I wanted them to be pretty and shimmery like the pearly cake pops but simpler in execution since I was making 40 of them.
The flavour of the cake pops was inspired by the candy Ferrero Rocher. I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe mixed with Nutella frosting from Sweetapolita. I covered these in white chocolate melts.

Last time around, I discovered that if I dipped the cake pops in warmed chocolate right from the freezer, it resulted in cracking of the chocolate as the cake pop expanded and it warmed to room temperature. This time I dipped them directly from the fridge. I still had an issue with a few of them cracking and adjusted my technique to take out several cake pops from the fridge at a time. If you leave them at room temperature for too long before you get to them, they get too soft and you end up getting crumbs in your white chocolate. You also risk the chance of the cake pop falling off of the stick.

For the garnish, I wanted to use hazelnuts to enhance the Ferrero Rocher/Nutella taste. I found that it was very difficult (impossible) to find blanched hazelnuts. I learned that you can easily blanch/peel hazelnuts by placing them in boiling water with baking soda added (like when you make pretzels!). You boil them for about 3 minutes and then place them in a bowl of ice cold water.  The skins slide off fairly easily in the cold water. I then placed them on a paper towel to dry. Once dried, I chopped them in a food processor and toasted them. To add shimmer, I tossed the toasted nut pieces in gold lustre dust. I also sprinkled the cake pops with edible gold stars.

When I finished at 2:30 am, I found that I wasn't really satisfied with how they turned out. After a bit a sleep and with the added packaging, I thought they turned out to be the perfect treat for the end of a dinner party. During this process, I told my husband to never allow me to make cake pops again. After reviewing the photos and eating a few, I can't say that I am so resolved to avoid them entirely. I just love them too much.