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.

My version of the melted crayon painting

I'm sure many of you have seen several versions of the melted crayon picture on Pinterest or other web sites. I thought it was a cute idea and needed a piece for the kids' bathroom. Usually the drips are flower stems, which is what I thought I would do. However, I had this large canvas but didn't want to buy 12 packs of crayons just for 4 colors, so I bought a few and then raided our crayon stash for the rest. I used reds, browns, yellows, greens and blues instead of just greens.

Well, when I started melting them, the colors blended together, which I did not plan for. Plus, the large size of the canvas meant that the drips didn't stay straight and were really wide at the bottom. When I was finished the kids said it didn't look like flower stems. My son said it looked like seaweed. Yeah. They did. Not what I planned.

After I let it sit for a couple weeks, I thought the seaweed idea wasn't so bad, so I added a few fish (one for each child). It turned out pretty cute, and the kids love it. The only drawback that people don't mention with the project is that the crayon cracks easily (duh), so you have to treat it gently. Otherwise, a fun project!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just in time for Fall - Owl Cake Pops

My daughter's best friend loves owls. Her mother asked me if I could do some owl cake pops for her birthday. Anything for a friend!

There are plenty of ideas for these cake pops online. I think I first saw them on Bakerella. I had no idea how simple these would end up being. I thought I was in for hours of assembling. To begin, I shaped the cake pops in ovals. Then I attached chocolate chips on the "naked" pops for the ears. Next, I dipped the pops in chocolate candy coating. Some took two dips. The wings are black M&Ms, and the beak is a butterscotch chip. I made the eyes out of fondant and edible marker. That's it! Super easy and super cute!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Cake

My mother-in-law is not a cake eater, but she loves seeing my cakes, so if course I wanted to make my her a pretty cake for her birthday. And the children are more than willing to eat the leftovers! Since her birthday is in October, I wanted a fall theme, but not Halloween.

I saw this cake on Pinterest, and thought it was so pretty. So it was my inspiration. I also saw these felt flowers and thought they might be interesting to try with fondant. I'm really happy with the look of the cake, though of course there are a couple things I would change (always). Perhaps the vines could be smaller (it just takes so long to make those ropes thinner!), and I would try making the flower with smaller petals and more of them. It was a fun cake to make, and wasn't terribly time-consuming. And my mother-in-law really liked it! That's all that matters.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Twilight Cake

I got an email from my friend, Kirsten, asking me if I "had time" to make a cake for a mutual friend with a Twilight theme. Kirsten is Twilight fanatic (don't they have a term for it?), so there was no way I was not doing this cake for her! Anything I can do to help her in her time of need [for more Twilight stuff ] ;)

Well, I have not read all the books, or seen the movies, so I needed some inspiration. After perusing the abundance of examples online, I decided to go with an icon theme. Each of the elements pictured are featured on one of the book covers.

So, for those of you wondering how I pulled it together, I started with the apple. It's made of marzipan, with a clove for the stem. Marzipan has a nice texture to it that makes the apple look realistic (in fact, the birthday girl asked me if it was real). I made the chess pieces a couple days ahead of time, in separate pieces, to give them time to harden up. They were made with fondant, and are reinforced with small wooden dowels so they wouldn't bend over.

When I started covering the top layer with the chessboard, I regretted my decision to do a round cake. Because of the shape, I had to tweak the squares on the sides to make it all fit. It gives it a kind of perspective, though, which I ended up liking. The flower was pretty easy - just white and red fondant pressed together and then rolled out to give it the mottled look.

All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of the cake. It wasn't as involved as some of my cakes have been, and I delivered it, so that made it a stress-free project.

I refused to send Kirsten a picture of the whole cake ahead of time, and teased her with a couple of close-up shots. It was so fun to get her excited about the cake!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Timmy Time!

So, I love to make cakes for my sister, Kim. She has to like what I make, right? She's my sister... It's in the family code.

All kidding aside, when I asked my sis what kind of cake she wanted for her son, I had never heard of Timmy Time. Needless to say, we were hooked. Such a cute show!

So, I made Timmy a few days ahead of time out of fondant so he could dry a bit. I think this was my first figure made out of fondant. His ears are held in with toothpicks so they could stick out. [Sidenote: even though I make my own fondant, I always purchase black. It's just too hard to get the coloring without the fondant crumbling. I like Duff's brand of black fondant.] I'm glad I added the teddy bear. And the green color turned out to be really pretty.  What a fun cake to make.

Monday, October 3, 2011

$7 roll of contact paper + acrylic paint = Instant, temporary, room makeover

The girls have been begging me to paint their rooms - bright pink is what they are asking for. Um....yeah. That will look awesome. So, to tide them over I thought I would decorate their walls. I didn't want to paint anything permanent on the walls though, because we really don't know what we are going to do with their rooms yet. And I wanted to do something myself, versus purchasing one of those pre-made sets.

So, I bought some contact paper, cut out a bunch of butterflies, painted them, and stuck them on the wall. Took me about 2 hours. And the girls are happy, which is the best part! I will probably add some more to the room with the green butterflies, but I ran out of paper.

Now my son wants a room full of footballs, lacrosse gear, and team logos. Butterflies are easier! We'll see what I figure out for him. Let me know if you have any ideas!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roast Pig Cake - Big Success!

Every spring our school's parents club hosts a luncheon for the facilities crew. It's a BBQ theme, and I offered to make a cake. I had plenty of ideas, but none of them seemed right, until I thought of this idea. Granted, it is not an original, as I found out upon a web search, but I was grateful as there were so many examples from which to pull. I had no idea if this would work or not, I mean, how do you do the pig's feet?

Here's the pig before the details were added
First, I made two (or maybe three) 9x12 strawberry cakes (had to be pink on the inside, of course!), and froze them. I stacked  them, then carved the pig shape. I saved some leftover bits for the legs and snout, then used fondant for the feet, ears, tail, and lettuce (I made the ears several days ahead of time, then laid the pieces in a bowl so they could dry in the rounded shape). The apple is from marzipan.

I used one sheet of fondant to cover the pig, then molded it to fit. It came out better than I ever expected. It was so fun. And a big hit at the luncheon!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Angry Birds Cake Pops

Our son originally wanted a Lego Ninjago cake for his birthday, but:
  1. He didn't like the cake pop Ninjago idea
  2. The Lego man cake mold is $40. I was not about to spend that much ;) I didn't think I could do the figure justice carving it out of cake (too many angles), so I scrapped that idea.
So, I asked if he might want Angry Birds cake pops. I had seen the idea on a couple of sites (like this one). He was very excited about that idea! I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If you haven't figured it out already, I am detail-obsessed.

This was one of the most involved, but most fun, projects I have tackled. I was dipping licorice and candy corn into candy coating for the beaks and some of the feathers.  I made eyes out of fondant, and cut endless amounts of licorice and gummy candy for the eyebrows. After nearly an entire day, I had about 50 cake pops. They were so adorable - I could not wait to share them! They were a huge hit at school, or course.

Now I have been asked to make Angry Birds cake pops again... along with towers and slingshot so he and his friends can play with them. Not sure I'm ready to sign up for that!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer Art Camp

Collage Name Cards
So this summer I decided to embark on an adventure into art with my children. Randy has been asking me for years to teach the children art, but I've always felt they were too small (some excuse, eh?). So, when Naomi asked to go to art camp this summer, I thought, why not do an art camp myself? She was super excited, and we invited a few friends. With our three children, that made 9 children.

I might be an artist by trade, but I am not a certified teacher. So, I needed to get some ideas for this camp that were age-appropriate for the 7-10 age group. I found a ton of them on Lots of great ideas for which I cannot take credit. Having a minor in Art History, I really enjoyed bringing in the history about art with the projects. I love abstract art, so I introduced the kids to a lot of artists of which they had never heard. I thought that was fun, and made for an interesting learning experience.

Camp went from 9-12 each day for a week.  Here's what we did:
Collage Name Bowls and Burlap Weaving Bookmarks

Monday - Recycling Day!
  • Recycled Magazine Bowl
  • Collage Name Book 
This was a super busy day, as the bowls took a lot of time. The kids did a great job. The collage name book was a combination of collage, crayon rubbing, and watercolor. They looked beautiful. 

Batik Japanese Windsocks
Day Two - 3-D Day! We created: 
  • Kandinsky shrinky dink jewelry
  • Metal Tooling
  • Burlap Weaving
  • Japanese Windsocks

Metal Tooling
Kandinsky Shrinky Dinks
There was so much information packed into this day! We learned about how colors interact when placed next to one another; about Batik painting (ours was a simplified version using glue and acrylic); embossing; and simple weaving. For our metal tooling project, the children interpreted Van Gogh's Starry Night and/or Sunflowers to create their piece. Our windsocks took three days to complete - one for the drawing, one for the glue layer, and one for the painting. Then I had to rinse and sew them all. I definitely took on a lot with this project, but it was worth it!

Mondrian Watercolor
Wednesday Was Abstract Day - I think my favorite day. 
Rothko Oil Pastels
  • Mark Rothko  - who often invoked strong feelings with his oversized canvases with soft, rectangular forms. We learned that art isn't just about color and composition, but that it can be an expression of emotion. The children were asked to think about an emotion as they were selecting their colors. 
  • Piet Mondrian - a master of geometric shapes, who was influenced by the rhythms of modern music. We learned how sounds can influence your art, as well as the balance of colors within a page.
  • Laurel Birch - a folk artist who is known for her brightly-colored cats. We learned about using colors creatively.
    Laurel Birch Cats
    Glue and Pastel Landscapes
    Thursday was Living Things Day. 
  • Glue and Pastel Landscape
  • Watercolor sheep

Watercolor Sheep

Some of our budding artists
We learned how glue, when it dries, can create interesting outlines on a page. We used black paper, and pastels once the glue dried. For the watercolor sheep, we learned about crayon resist with watercolor. The sheep were drawn with white crayon, then the children used watercolor to create the background. They turned out so cute!

Art Show!
On Friday, we spent the morning finishing our projects and preparing for the big art show. All the parents came, and we had a great show. We created so much artwork in one week - I was so proud of the children!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flash Forward - Noah's Ark Cake

Here's a pic of my most recent cake. My friend wanted a Noah's Ark theme, and as usual, I see a challenge. If you've seen any of my illustrations of animals, you'll realize I love quirky animals. This project was so fun for me. I had tried to make a boat before for my sister - a pirate ship to be exact, and it was a Fail. I thought pulling the fondant up from the bottom would work for some crazy reason, and didn't reinforce the cake. The weight of the fondant caused the cake to split in the middle - and this was for my sister! I wanted it to be great, but it wasn't in the cards that day. Shockingly I forgot my camera and didn't get any pics of the cake. Need to get them from my brother in law so I can upload them...note to self here.

So I found an example of doing the boat using individual planks, and I loved the look of it - much more realistic than using my edible markers to draw the plank lines. It was a bit time-consuming (shocking, I know), but it looked great. Needless to say, this cake is well-doweled to make sure it would not split like last time. Glad I did that too, because when my friend picked it up she told me she was driving two hours away for the shower. Nothing stresses me out about my cakes EXCEPT for the transport portion. Thankfully, the cake stayed intact (even the animals), but it did shift on the plate a bit. It weighed a ton.

I spent my Project Runway watching time making the animals, which were super fun to make. I'm not sure what my favorite ones are.
I'm glad she took the cake with her, because if this was a cake for my family I would have been tempted to keep the animals forever. I still have the Baby Jesus from my Christmas cake from last Christmas because I can't throw him away :) Yes, perhaps I am a cake accessory hoarder...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Man, Woman, Dog, Bird and Banana

One of my favorite projects in college was the grab bag illustration. Our professor chose words out of a hat and we had to create an illustration using each of the elements. The elements were: a man, a woman, a dog, a bird and a banana. I created these people with bananas through their noses. It was so fun that I made a series of them with each character and some of the birds around them. After all these years, they are still some of my favorites.

My First Logo

Going with the theme of my earlier work, here's a scan of my first logo design from college. Now this will date myself, but my logo was designed on PAPER - each element was cut out (and I hope you can appreciate my Exacto blade skills here) of colored paper and assembled. We had a computer lab at school, but we were required to do most of our designing by hand. And, since computers didn't have much power back then, any effect took forever (a blur in Photoshop could take over an hour - for real), so it was actually easier to design by hand.

Anyway, the logo was for an actual store, though it was done unofficially. Wild Pair was a shoe store I really liked, but I didn't like their logo. Some of you might remember it.

I definitely gained a lot of knowledge by doing everything by hand, and it helped me in my first job at a print shop when I had to do paste up (which no one even does anymore). However, I am so grateful for the computer, where I can create endless variations of a logo in a snap. For some of my more recent logos, you can look at my web site:

Monday, September 19, 2011


I guess I have to start somewhere
... For my friends who are not on Facebook, this is for you!

I came across this photo of one of my older cakes (the train) - it was made for my daughter's second birthday (she's 8 now). I
thought it was so great at the time. Of course, this isn't really a cake - it's rice krispie treats, but you can see how not-great I am at buttercream.

The other photo is from a cake I made when I was a teen. I think I made this for my sister, who acted in a lot of plays in high school. If you count the candles, it looks like this was her 16th birthday, which would make me 19. Notice that I have the candles
in, but have left the toothpicks I put in the cake to keep the foil from sticking. Nice touch. Still, for being a teenager, not a bad cake really.

On another post, I will see if I can scrounge up some old art of mine. That will be fun.

Thanks for visiting!