Thursday, September 10, 2015

Glam, glitter, confetti and cake

My sister-in-law recently celebrated a milestone birthday and I offered to make a cake for the occasion. My brother wasn't particularly helpful in the cake ideas department. I wanted to come up with something that reminded me of her and what she likes and I wanted the cake to be elegant and pretty since it was such as special birthday. I also had to keep in mind that I have a baby who naps for only 25 minutes at a time and thus it had to be relatively simple in design. We were getting her sparkly jewelry for a gift, so I thought I would make a cake to match. As they say, 'when in doubt, just add glitter'. 
It has been so long since I have made a cake that I actually had fondant go past the best before date (the Year of the Ram cake was red fondant). That never used to happen! I made a list of what I needed: white fondant - check!, silver glam ribbon - check!, edible silver dust - check!, cake board - check!, piping gel - check!, 5 pounds of candy confetti/sequins - check what?! That's right. I bought 5 pounds of sprinkles. To make the sequin top tier, I had no idea how many candy sequins I would need to cover the cake. I did not want to run out, and as I added up the small bottles of sprinkles, I realized that it would be most economical to buy a 5 pound package. Well, I only used a tiny fraction of the box. All subsequent family birthday cakes shall be covered in sprinkles. 
The one thing that I did run out of was edible silver dust for painting the colourful sprinkles. I bought two containers of silver dust which ended up being darker than I would have liked. I went over that with a 3rd container of lighter silver dust that I already had in my cake supply stash. Then I sent my husband to the store to get me some additional containers for touching up the next morning. Just a note to all who wish to make sparkly cakes: 'non-toxic' does not mean edible! My husband went to the store armed with this knowledge and it came in handy when the salesperson tried to sell him silver dust that said 'non-toxic' rather than edible. Disco dust, which is the really sparkly stuff used on the centre of the gumpaste flower on this cake is non-toxic but not really edible. So if you eat some of it, it's not a big deal but you should not cover an entire cake with it (unless you aren't going to eat the fondant). Okay, I'm done venting. 
So for the top tier, I covered the cake in fondant. Once set, I covered the fondant in piping gel and used my hand to cover the whole cake in candy sequins. Once that dried, I mixed the silver dust with vodka and painted the whole cake. At first, I made my paint too thick which is partly why I believe I ran out of silver dust too quickly. You want the paint to be thick enough to cover the coloured sprinkles but not so thick that you use an insane amount of petal dust. Once it dried, I touched up spots that still had multicolour sprinkles showing through. 
For the flower, I used an anemone cutter. I do not have a silicone mold kit to give lifelike texture to the petals so I just roughly used a veining tool. I did not try to make it look real - I just wanted it to have a little texture which is why the lines are so far apart. The centre is black gumpaste that I painted silver and covered with disco dust. The stamens were white and I painted them with silver dust mixed with vodka. One day it would be nice to actually try to make a realistic looking flower, like an open peony. The thought of having to put wire through petals without ripping them is a bit daunting though.
The bottom tier is covered in silver 'glam ribbon'. The ribbon is very easy to use. Just wash it with a bit of dish detergent, let it dry, cut to size, paint a bit of edible sugar glue onto the cake and attach! The only thing to be aware of is that if your cake is not straight, it is really going to show with this ribbon, so take the extra time to ensure your cake is level and your buttercream is straight on the sides of the cake. 
I loved the simplicity of this cake, even with all of the glam, glitter and confetti. I have 4 pounds and 15 ounces of candy sequins left. That's a lot of sprinkle type projects in the future...

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Red Egg & Ginger Party Cake - Year of the Ram

In April, we celebrated our little guy's 30th day with a red egg and ginger party. This celebration is a Chinese tradition during which a baby is named and introduced to friends and family. This was based on high infant mortality rates and the thought that babies were out of the dangerous period by the 30 day mark. This also coincides with the end of the mother's confinement. After childbirth, it is felt that the mother is in a weakened state. There are a whole lot of rules to follow during confinement for example, you aren't allowed to wash yourself or wash your hair, you can't go outside, there are a number of foods you are not allowed to eat, you must rest but not sit for too long, and so on. I am half Chinese and my mother is not particularly superstitious, so there was no delay in naming our little one and no confinement. Basically the red egg and ginger party was just another fun celebration of our new baby with family and good Chinese food.

William was born in the year of the ram/sheep/goat. Apparently there is only one Chinese word for both sheep and goat which is why you may see the sign referred to as all of the above. Based on this, he is supposed to be kind, creative, loyal and empathic. I wanted the cake to be very simple (it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a sleep deprived new mother with a baby who would only sleep while being held and who ate 20 times a day). The main element of the cake was a little baby dressed in a ram costume. This was something that I could make ahead of time and in stages with William in my carrier. My dad came over during the week so that I could bake the cake (somehow leaning into an oven with a baby strapped to my front didn't seem like a good idea). It was so sweet seeing my dad sing Rock-a-bye Baby over and over to William until he fell asleep in his arms. I had no idea that my dad knew any lullabies. William seemed so peaceful. My mom was working at the time and was quite jealous! She came over the night before the party with my sister to hold William while I finished the figure and covered the cake in fondant.  
I went back and forth on whether or not I should put horns on the ram. Apparently they don't all have horns. I decided to make little horns to make it more obvious what animal he was supposed to be dressed up as although he looks a little like a patisserie with a body made of cinnamon rolls, croissants on his head and coffee bean shoes. How appropriate given my love of cake and pastry. 
I did a simple border at the top of the cake using a crimper and painted it gold along with the letters and a fondant ribbon border at the bottom of the cake. I also made cupcakes with hornless sheep and the Chinese symbol for ram/sheep/goat. Thank goodness the symbol was an easy one though the gold paint did not show up well in the photos. 
Along with the cake and cupcakes, we offered our family members red eggs and candied ginger. Eggs are a symbol of fertility and renewal of life and red represents happiness and good luck. The ginger is to balance cold and hot or 'yin' and 'yang' and is important particularly for the mother to regain her strength. 

William behaved wonderfully at the restaurant (he slept through all of dinner). Back at our house, he spent a good portion of the evening eating (he was a marathon feeder). By the time we got around to taking a photo with the cake, William had hit his 'witching' hour and was having none of it. This was the best photo we could get with him. Note the colour of his face matches his shirt and the cake. 
I cannot believe how much he has grown and changed since April. In only 6 and a half more months, I'll be working on a cake for his first birthday. I don't have any ideas yet for a theme. I almost don't want to think about it and hope that the next 6 months go by at a snails pace allowing me to savour every little moment. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

And then there was one more...

I have not done a whole lot of baking or blogging in the past year for a number of reasons. Life just got too busy. I have been working on my MSc for much too long and I really needed to focus on wrapping things up. The other reason was related to being very tired...but not too tired to make this rather fun cake.

Is it obvious what is represents?

I think that I knew how I wanted to announce my pregnancy before I actually became pregnant. Of course I wanted to tell my family through some sort of cake project. I liked the idea of a 'bun in the oven' cake and I love things with a vintage look, hence the vintage oven. I think that had I known they make modern 'vintage' ovens now, I may have gotten one for our kitchen renovation, although I might not have been able to commit to a colour.
Having a higher than average risk of miscarriage, we decided to wait 3 months before making the announcement to our families. We were approaching the end of summer (almost 1 full year ago), and we had not entertained at all. We had decided to have some landscaping done in our backyard late summer, so we got everyone over under the guise of seeing our new and improved yard. The photos  of the cake aren't the best as I didn't have time to take pictures before we had everyone over.

To start off, I made a square cake. I must say, covering cakes with corners are a lot harder than round cakes. Since the cake was just for family, and I was rather tired, I wasn't as picky about how perfect it looked.
I really wanted the bun to be in the oven, rather than just on the front. This meant carving a shallow section out of the cake once it was covered in fondant, and lining it with black fondant. I had to be careful not to have it too close to the edges, so the cake wouldn't fall apart on that side. To have the oven rack elevated (because it just wasn't accurate to have the bun sitting on the bottom of the oven where the element should be), I used a black rectangle of modelling past in the back of the oven to prop up the gumpaste shelf. I used royal icing to pipe the oven rack. The tray and the oven door are made with gumpaste.

I wasn't in love with how I did the elements on the range but it wasn't the most important part of the cake and I still had to fit some naps in my schedule. Growing a kid just so happens to take a lot of energy! 
The date on the range 'clock' was our due date.
We hid the cake upstairs while we had food. When it was dessert time, I brought the cake downstairs. It was perfect as both of our mom's were facing the direction of the cake as I was walking in. The fun part is that English is the second language for both of our moms, so the phrase 'bun in the oven' was a little lost at first. My mom was asking my dad, 'What does that mean? Does that mean she's pregnant?' My mom was so sweet, she asked if she could bring the little bun home. She wondered why we chose blue for the cake. We did not know what we were having at that time. I chose turquoise as I think I would have chosen that colour for a range in our kitchen.
Here is a photo of the hubby and me with the cake. I love my polk-a-dot apron. It was perfect for hiding my little baby 'ponch'. I have matching oven mitts too! 
Now that our little guy is here, I really don't have much time for baking. He is a cat napper which translates into really not getting anything at all done during the day. Just as his naps start to improve, he will be starting solids so my time in the kitchen is going to be spent making baby food rather than sweet treats. 
I am loving parenthood so far. I am sometimes saddened at how quickly time is passing and how fast he is growing but I am excited by each and every new accomplishment. Just this week alone he has started saying 'mmmm' (in preparation for the delicious baby food I'm going to make him), spitting (not the greatest thing but so cute), eating his toes, rolling over and sitting in a tripod position for a couple of seconds. I look forward to when he is old enough to help out in the kitchen and we can cook and bake things together. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

That time I made an edible colon...

Over the years, word has gotten around that I make cakes as a hobby and sometimes I get requests to make cakes for friends or acquaintances. If things align with my schedule and it's something that I think is feasible in terms of my skill set, I will try to do it. This cake request came at a really busy time in my life and at a time when I wasn't sure how I'd be feeling health wise (more on that in a future blog post) but I could not pass up the opportunity to make such a fun cake combining two things I love: healthcare and baking. Notice how I didn't say 'colonoscopies' and baking...because that would just be weird...who would want to combine a colonoscopy and a cake?? Ahem. 

This blog has primarily been about sharing my experiences making cakes. I think I have posted one recipe and I have not done any tutorials. The lack of tutorials is because I am not an expert at cake decorating and also because I am usually pressed for time and cannot take step-by-step photos. For some reason, I felt compelled to take step-by-step photos of how to make the colon for all those people searching the internet on how to make an edible colon. If by a minuscule chance you've arrived at this page by searching on edible colons, I hope you find this helpful. If you weren't looking for cake decorating information, I just don't know what to say. 

It has been over a year since I made this cake. Time has flown as always with other things on my plate and I also wanted to edit the names off of the front of the cake for this post but had no idea how. Please note that my photo editing skills are non-existent. 

Since the colon was going to be on top of the cake and was relatively small, it didn't make sense to carve it out of cake. Making it out of pure fondant, gumpaste or molding chocolate is too heavy and would also be difficult to transfer to the top of the cake. I went with good ol' rice cereal treats. As I've mentioned in the past, I find the prepackaged treats easier to use as I feel you can condense them much easier into the shapes you need and get a smoother surface versus freshly made homemade rice cereal treats.
Alright, so where does one start when making a colon? The first step was to make a template for the colon. I did an image search for a colon I was happy with (I think it was from a textbook) and printed it to a size to fit the top of a 9-inch cake. I printed it slightly smaller than I wanted the final colon to be as items tend to get larger as you add layers of fondant/chocolate (1).

I taped the colon onto a cardboard cake board and covered it with wax paper for my work surface. That way I could easily see the picture of the colon and also had a way of sliding the completed colon onto the finished cake.

Next, I rolled little balls of rice cereal treats to closely resemble the size of each distinct section of the colon as per the picture (2). Once I completed all of the pieces (3), I melted some white chocolate candy melts and used a small brush to attach everything (4). After that, I painted the entire colon with melted chocolate to be certain everything was secure and it makes it yummy (5).

The next step was to give the colon a bit more dimension. I used modeling chocolate to round out some sections and to adjust the size, as well as to shape the rectum (6). Once I was happy with the overall shape I used a flesh-coloured mixture of modeling chocolate and fondant to cover the entire colon. I added details using the same chocolate/fondant, such as the polyps and the appendix, and finished off by using various colours of petal dust to add depth to the colours (8).
I let the colon settle for day (covered in the fridge) prior to transferring it to the cake, and while I worked on the endoscope controls, the cytology brush and forceps. Now for my PSA: Cancer Care Ontario recommends all individuals over the age of 50 be screened for colorectal cancer every two years (Fecal Occult Blood Test or colonoscopy depending on your risk). Now before you start running, my cytology brush and forceps are not to scale! If caught early, colorectal cancer has a 90% chance of being cured. So get screened!
The forceps and cytology brush were made with both modelling paste and gum paste. I used small scissors to make the teeth on the forceps and the bristles on the brush. 
The "semi-colawn"
So there you have it. This is the closest post I have to a tutorial and it's about a colon. 

I had a lot of fun making this cake. After it was complete, I threw the printed picture of the colon (which had been severed by this point) into the recycling. The following week, my husband was leaving for work only to find the colon picture on our lawn. My husband sent me a picture and I laughed out loud all the way to my doctor's appointment. I had to phone my sister so I didn't look crazy walking down the street laughing to myself. His friends started making colon jokes like, "did you perform a colawnoscopy?" or "was it a whole one or a semicolon?". 
My husband said that I have a knack for making scary or gross things cute. I hope I achieved that with this colon cake! 
My next post (if I ever get to write it) will be about why I haven't been baking/blogging very much in the past year so stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Celebratory Layer Cakes!

I have disappeared for the last several months - almost eight months to be exact. Life has been busy and I have not had very much time for baking and blogging. I've been working, researching, organizing, purging, crocheting, singing and doing a little bit of baking here and there. I thought I would take some time to post a few of the cakes I did that I didn't get a chance to write about as I do not foresee a lot of time for blogging in the near future - more on that later in a couple of posts.

I had no idea what to call this post. What cake isn't 'celebratory'? These are two cakes that I did for family way back in May 2014. It has been so long that I'm not even 100% sure of what the flavour of the first one was. It definitely had something to do with almonds! I rarely do cakes that don't involve fondant decorations but I wanted to try some simpler but no less scrumptious looking cakes.

The first one was a Mother's Day cake - I know it doesn't look very Mother's Day-ish but really it was about the flavour. My mom doesn't like chocolate cake - although she has admitted to enjoying mocha cake with dulce de leche buttercream. I know she likes coffee flavour, so I made an almond flavoured butter cake with espresso based swiss meringue buttercream (I'm 98% sure that was the flavour) and garnished with toasted almonds. 

I was insistent that the almonds had to be sliced almonds but not blanched. Without the skin, they would just blend into the colour of the buttercream. They were a little harder to find but they look much better than blanched! 

The second cake was for my sister's birthday (same weekend!). I learned that my sister really enjoys chocolate malted milk balls and decided to run with that for a cake flavour. I wanted the cake to have the flavour of malted milk throughout and have a similar texture. 

I started out with a chocolate butter cake. For the crunchy texture found in a chocolate malted milk ball, I thought dacquoise would work well but it is a meringue that is traditionally made with nuts like hazelnuts or almonds and layered with buttercream or whipped cream and I did not want any nutty flavours overshadowing the malted milk flavour. I ended up making pseudo-dacquoise which was essentially large layers of chocolate meringue (piped in a large swirl) that I also added Ovaltine (original, not chocolate) powder to in place of some of the cocoa powder. The swiss meringue buttercream was chocolate with more Ovaltine added to it. I was worried that the Ovaltine might add a gritty texture to the smooth buttercream but it ended up being fine. The result was my cake version of a chocolate malted milk ball. It was very hard to cut into slices to serve but the flavour and texture was exactly what I wanted. 

I wanted the outside of the cake to be fun and birthday-like and you can't achieve that any better than with colourful sprinkles a-la-Sweetapolita. I originally did not plan to put the sprinkles that far up the cake but I got a little carried away - it just got higher and higher. You can never have enough sprinkles though. I decorated the top with large piped shells and chocolate malted milk balls. I must confess that I think I bought a pound of malt balls of which only 17 ended up on the actual cake and the rest ended up in my stomach - not all at once but they were gone much faster than I'd like to admit!