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.