Thursday, February 23, 2012

My first two fondant cakes

 This is a flashback post. I thought it might be appropriate to highlight where I started with fondant.

I remember seeing this incredible cake my sister-in-law, Jenn, made for my brother's graduation I think - it was one of those multi-layer cakes where the layers are askew. A few years later, we were talking about fondant and I was saying it was too hard to do. Jenn gave me the recipe for marshmallow fondant, so I thought I would try.

Once I figured it out, it really wasn't hard at all. The first cake I did is shown here on the left - your standard Barbie cake. It was great for me because all I really did was cover the dress part with fondant. You can't see it, but I covered up my flaws with those icing details. And, of course, you can see my awesome buttercream work on the cupcakes - ha!

My second cake was a bit more ambitious as I had to carve the cake into a shape. In this case, "King Boo" from Mario Kart. Obviously this was for my son. This was my first attempt at covering a shaped cake with fondant. What I love about fondant is the face that you can hide so many flaws in the cake by just laying fondant over it. Wonderful! I was pleasantly surprised when the cake turned out great. It wasn't as hard as I expected it to be. I know you are loving my foil-covered cookie sheet that I put it on, but I wasn't thinking presentation at this point. I was more concerned about getting it to look like Boo. I think it turned out pretty great!

This is where I started... we'll see where I go from here!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Smurfday Cake

This cake takes me back to my childhood, when everything was "Smurfy." Everything was also "berry" this and "berry" that, too, but this cake is not about Strawberry Shortcake (though I can still smell the purple pieman figurine even now as I reminisce). Ha!

My client wanted a Smurf cake for her daughter's birthday, so we came up with the idea of a mushroom with a couple figurines. Her daughter loves Brainy Smurf, so we were definitely going to have him on the cake. And you can't have Brainy without Smurfette, right?

Because I am a perfectionist, the figures took me way longer than they should have. First, it took me forever to get the color I wanted. Once that was set, I can't tell you how many times I shaped and re-shaped the heads. I finally ended up with what I thought was a good representation. I rested Smurfette on a wine bottle to allow her dress to dry without losing the shape.

Now, here's the part where I should have taken more pics, but my neighbor dropped by and we ended up chatting while I made the cake. For the cake base, I just used a 10" cake. For the mushroom, I made a 6" cake and then used the Pampered Chef large batter bowl for the mushroom top. The only problem I ran into, was AFTER I had covered the mushroom top and base with fondant. I put the top on the base and they were the same size. Well, no problem, I thought. It will look fine. Then I put them on the base, and realized the figures would not fit because the base was too large. So, off went the fondant, and I had to trim a couple inches off of the base. More fondant, and it was much better! Thankfully my cake was dense enough that cutting off the entire crust didn't ruin it. I was concerned I would end up with a crumbled mess and have to make a new cake.

I added details around the cake, like windows, a door, stone path and flowers. I decided against the chimney but you could add that as well.

The only thing I would change about this cake would be to make a smaller mushroom. It ended up being top-heavy and was a challenge to transport. I was worried I would not have enough cake, as usual, but this was more than sufficient for the client's needs.

Another fun, challenging cake project in the books!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whimsical Birthday Cake

I have to admit that when I was faced with making this cake I was stumped. We were celebrating my mom's 70th birthday, which normally would be a joyful occasion, but my mom has been sick and in the hospital for several weeks, so I was feeling down.

What I really wanted was to make it all better with a cake, but that is obviously unrealistic. So, without being too much of a downer, let's just say I was uninspired.

Basically, I took a look at the colors of fondant that I had on hand, and decided to just wing it without a plan in mind. Thankfully it came together! I didn't want to emphasize her age, but wanted to symbolize it somehow, so that's why there are seven candles. Those were fun and pretty easy to make. My 4 year old nephew said, "Those aren't REAL candles!" But you can't eat real candles! Once I told the kids they could each have a candle, they didn't care if the candles were real or not - they were dessert!

So even if the cake isn't an incredible masterpiece, it helped to put a smile on my mom's face, and that's all that matters.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cookie Fail

As we begin a new year, I thought I would begin with a baking FAIL. What could be better? I can only go up from here.

From Wilton

I usually have chocolate chip cookies in my freezer- they stay remarkably fresh frozen, and I always have a cookie at my disposal when I need one (which is pretty much every day). I like them frozen better too. I also like frozen grapes and peas, but that's obviously another subject.

Well, today I did not have any cookies in the freezer, and I needed one, so I thought I would try this idea I saw on Pinterest for cookie bowls. You turn a cupcake pan upside down and put cookie dough on the bottoms, bake, and voila! Cookie bowls for ice cream. If you look at the picture and DON'T READ THE RECIPE, as I obviously did, you would think at first glance that these are chocolate chip cookies. So that's what I did.

And this is the result:

I went back to the link and read that it's actually SUGAR cookies (not sure what those black specs are in the picture). And it's probably a special crunchy kind that doesn't spread as much. Anyway, mine tasted awesome. Warm, gooey and chocolatey. I think I will go have another.

Oh, and this post is also for those of you who think everything I bake turns out perfect. Just keeping it real!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Jesus cake

When I first heard about a Happy Birthday Jesus cake years ago I thought it was a neat idea. Then I mentioned it to a friend at church who thought it was super cheesy. Well, heaven forbid if I was going to do something cheesy! 

However, over time I realized that I do a LOT of cheesy stuff and love it! So there. 

Last year I made a cake similar to this one for a client and I loved how it came out so I made a smaller version for our family. I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the baby Jesus figure, so if you come over to my house I can show it to you! Yes, a year later. Still in the fridge, looking not too bad for year-old fondant and buttercream. 
small baby Jesus cake
This year I created one for a luncheon at school. It's really a very simple cake. It just requires some prep a couple days in advance so the fondant can dry. I made the manger on a small bowl - I cut out the shape of the manger using the top of the bowl, then molded the fondant on the upside-down bowl. It had to sit for at least two days to harden enough to keep it's shape, but then you just fill it with buttercream and baby Jesus.
Baby Jesus with eyes
For Jesus, I molded fondant into a cylinder and then shaped the head. I rolled Him up in a fondant swaddling blanket (knowing how to swaddle does come in handy later on in life!, and tada! You could add eyes with edible marker, which I tried, but I think I like the one without better.
The star is easy - it's just a star cookie cutter. I rolled the fondant pretty thick - about 1/4 inch. Then after cutting out the shape, I carefully inserted a dowel, leaving a few inches at the bottom for inserting into the cake. This has to dry for at least a couple days, so it doesn't flop over when upright. 
What I like about this cake it it's so pretty to display for Christmas. It can be used at a formal party or a kid's party.

Oh, and one important note. I made NEW baby Jesus figures this year. I have a feeling that after a few years I might need an extra shelf in the fridge to hold all the old ones. Or be OK throwing them out!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rocket cake!

I think my sister likes to challenge me. When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for my nephew's birthday, she said, "Oh, he loves Little Einsteins. A rocket cake would be cute." Oh, sure, NO problem! Let me add that she would have been fine with anything, but I really wanted to make a rocket cake. And I love a challenge.

Up until the day I started the cake, I really thought it would be a total bomb. No way can I do Rocket! I thought for sure my fondant would fall apart with so much red coloring (I make my fondant from scratch - I don't like store-bought), I had no idea how I was going to pull off the shape, and the people! Too much detail. My head was spinning.

Well, in the end it turned out to be so cute. I used my regular almond cake for the rocket body, and two Twinkies for each engine (the kids keep asking when I will be buying more Twinkies - they had never had them). The top dingly thing (it's a technical term, you know) is made from fondant with a dowel inside to keep the shape. The fondant held up just fine with the color. And because I didn't want to make four people, not to mention 9 fondant colors, I decided to put my nephew in the rocket instead. I think that was cuter anyway; he sure liked it! I piped a bunch of buttercream on the plate for clouds and sky - they aren't really successful, but I think it was OK. I would have done that differently if I had a second chance.

It was a fun centerpiece for the party - the kids loved eating "Rocket."

Christmas ornament "tree" centerpiece

Here's my version of an ornament tree in my dining room. A really cute idea! It could be much better if I had a better chandelier in my dining room ;)

The idea is simple - fishing wire and ornaments of different sizes. I have a candle in the center as the "trunk" of my tree. Time-consuming, but really easy to do, and something different than the norm.