Learning to Let Go of the Perfectionist Baker Gene (yeah… right)

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone.

You make a cake.  Situations arise.  You run out of time and have to just give the cake as it stands at that moment.  You are disappointed with yourself and want to beat your head against a wall.

This past weekend, I was to make a “Chicago” cake for a friend who was having a surprise party for her girlfriend who finally moved to town.  I was told chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream, and other than that, just a “Chicago” theme.

My mind exploded, and I had all sorts of grand ideas for this. I finally nailed down some stuff a few days before – I wanted to make the Bean (I love the Bean), the Chicago Theater sign, the Wrigley Field welcome sign, and the Picasso (if possible) – and to have a skyline across the bottom of the cake.

I know, I know… I’m a little ambitious.  But my mind doesn’t understand the word “no” when it comes to cake decorating.  You try to tell me that when I’m in the midst of a cake.  I dare you. Continue reading

Anniversary Cake (frogs included!)

This past weekend was a full and crazy weekend – a cake and two family parties.  Lots and lots of work, ending with fun (and unfortunately, mosquitos).

When making this cake for my aunt and uncle, my aunt had mentioned that she liked frogs – so my whole idea of doing something kind of formal with their wedding colors changed completely into a cuter cake idea.  Running (or hopping) through my mind were thoughts of frogs and lily pads and cattails.  So I got to work doing my usual Google Image research.

The frog part was easy – form it out of fondant, just like you would with clay.  But I wanted to give some sort of identity to these creatures.  Since my uncle tends to wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts, I figured that would work well for one frog.  For the other, I wasn’t so sure.  I wanted to do a little pearl necklace, but figuring out a way to do that was making me want to chuck the frog across the room after a bit.  But then… viola!  I took a very thin little snake of fondant and started pinching it with a pair of tweezers.  It wasn’t perfect (my tweezers were square edged), but it definitely gave the look I was looking for!  Add a couple flowers to the lady frog’s head and it was perfect. Continue reading

Christening Cake II (aka how to save a cake)

Happy Monday everyone!

Well…it finally happened.

Just a couple of weeks after reaching my first baking milestone of creating my own recipe, I reached another baking milestone.

My first cake disaster.

I got lucky with this disaster – it could have been MUCH worse.  This wasn’t me slipping and falling with a cake on top of me, this wasn’t finding one of my cats with its head fully enveloped in cake.

But it was bad enough.

I was so close to being done.  I had finished the decorations on the bottom tier of the cake, and all I had left to do was put polka dots on the top tier and figure out where the name was going to go.  The cake was sitting on my super nifty tilting turntable, which I love.  Or loved. Continue reading

Luau Cake!

Hello there boys and girls, it’s time for a recipe-less update!

This past weekend was a surprise party for my aunt, and I got hired to make the cake (wahoo!).  When I asked, I was told the theme was “Hawaiian luau”, so that of course led to millions of ideas instantly going through my head.  In my first iteration, it was a cake with a lei gracefully draped down the side.

Until I thought it through.

While leis are beautiful, the amount of gum paste flowers I would have needed for this image in my mind was… extraordinary.  So… that idea kind of got kicked to the curb of my brain.  After that I just started Googling like there was no tomorrow.  Unfortunately, when you look up “Hawaiian Cake” or “Luau Cake” under Google Images, most of them look like the creators took every single piece of Hawaiian plastic/decor the could find and stuck it on a cake (seriously – most of them should be on Cake Wrecks, just for the amount of weird stuff on the cake)

Eventually I started sketching out some ideas, and this is what I came up with:

It’s a little hard to see as I sketched lightly so I could erase easily, but it’s just a simple topsy-turvy cake with some Hawaiian accents.  I figured this would be easy enough for me to do, as it was my first topsy-turvy cake, and still impressive enough for all the non-bakers out there.

The weekend making this cake was unreal.  I only had one of each size cake pan, so I had to waste time baking one layer of each tier at a time (luckily they were only two layers!).  It was a weekend and cake full of new things.  New vanilla bean recipe, new chocolate recipe, new fondant recipe, and new cake construction.  Looking back on it now – I was kind of an idiot for doing this, because had one thing gone horribly wrong, I could’ve lost it (very very easily).  In the midst of fondant that kept tearing, I decided it would be fun to break the faucet head off the sink and spray the entire kitchen (seriously – it was a blast! (pun intended)).  But after all of the work and craziness, the cake finally got finished.  My feet ached from standing, but I was very proud of what I got done:

For this, I made a vanilla bean cake for the bottom tier and the island (courtesy of my friend Paula, aka The Culinary Cheesehead), and found a recipe for a moist chocolate cake for the second tier on Kitchen Addiction (doubling the recipe and switching the milk for buttermilk).  I made my own version of a strawberry mousse filling topped with diced strawberries, coated the cake in Italian Buttercream and Michele Foster’s Fondant.  I purchased some Mercken’s candy melts and made little chocolate seashells (on top of the green layer) and the flip-flops, flowers, and palm-tree are all made of gum paste.

Finals – Cake Decorating & Chocolates

Well… it’s over. I have finished the Baking & Pastry certificate program as of Friday!  I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I’m done… I have such mixed feelings!

On one hand, I’m looking forward to actually coming home from work and going to sleep, relaxing, etc, as opposed to standing on my feet for 4-5 hours and stressing myself out over how a rose looks or whether my chocolate is tempered.

On the other hand… I will miss my friends I’ve made so much, and I really wish I could keep taking classes just so someone will continue to push me out of my comfort zone and make me try baking/decorating new things!

My finals for this quarter consisted of making up a business plan, decorating a 3-tier wedding cake, and putting together a chocolate sculpture/showpiece.

Cake Decorating

I LOVED the way my final cake came out, even though I had some issues along the way.   Continue reading

Advanced Cake Decorating so far…

Well I just finished my midterm cake for my cake decorating class last night.  It was interesting – both myself and one of my classmates had one of our layers collapse in the middle, leaving a huge divot to fill.  This, of course, just caused air bubbles galore underneath the fondant no matter what we did – so eventually I just gave up and let it be, because all I was doing was poking holes to pop one air bubble and then finding 10 more.  Regardless, my color scheme worked out well, I loved the roses and my butterfly ended up looking very nice!

Here is my first attempt at a square cake – definitely had some issues, mainly because the kitchen was so hot that the buttercream started melting before I could even put the fondant on, which made for a very messy process.  I did my best to cover up my mistakes with a thick border, as my corners weren’t looking too hot.  I really did like the color scheme, and I loved using the little pink buttons on the border (I used them on all sides).

The last cake is our first cake we made in class, where we were learning about draping.  I had fun cutting out all the circles and attaching them, even though the fondant was way too thick (should’ve been around 1/8″ thick) – but even though the drape/flowers don’t really match with the circles, I still like both aspects (just not together!)