Thursday, December 29, 2011

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

I made this delicious cheesecake for my nephew's 15th birthday.  He loves fruit and cheesecake, so I thought this would be perfect for him.  Everyone loved it.  I actually think it is now my very favorite cheesecake ever!

The recipe that I used called for chocolate wafer cookies for the crust.  I don't particularly like chocolate and raspberry together, so I used an organic vanilla wafer cookie.  I made a pretty basic raspberry sauce on the stove, strained out all the seeds and let it cool while I made my cheesecake base.  I used very little sugar in this cake and mostly sweetened it with the melted white chocolate.  I swirled in the raspberry sauce in two different layers.  There was a lot of raspberry sauce left that I intended to serve with the cheesecake, but I forgot it the night of his birthday.  Raspberry sauce is so versatile, though, that it will never go to waste :)  I always bake my cheesecakes in a water bath, and of course this was no exception.  The cheesecake was beautiful, creamy and super delicious.  In fact, after writing this, I am thinking about making another one very soon!

A lot of people complain that when they make cheesecakes, the top cracks.  One reason that the top cracks in some cases is due to over-mixing which causes too much air to be inside the batter which results in cracks  on the surface.  So, aside from being sure to not over-mix your batter, the best way to avoid this is by using a water bath.  Be sure to wrap the bottom of your springform pan in a few layers of foil.  Place your cheesecake wrapped in foil inside a larger pan and fill it with water about halfway up the side of the springform.  Never bake your cheesecake at a temperature higher than 325°.  To get the best results,  let your cheesecake bake gently in a water bath at a lower temperature.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Raspberry Lemon Tart

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I decided to try some different recipes for my Thanksgiving desserts this year.  Lemon tart was on the list, but it didn't quite work out as I had planned, so a raspberry sauce was added.  I came up with an easy, delicious solution to my lemon tart problems.

I started with a basic short dough.  Of course I rolled it out and chilled it for several hours before baking.  I wanted to brown the crust before adding and baking the lemon filling.  When I pulled my crust out of the oven, it was cracked.  I thought I would proceed as I normally would because when this happens with my chocolate tart, the chocolate is thick enough to not leak through.  Well, that was not the case for the lemon.  It leaked all out of the shell and all over the sheet pan I had put underneath it.  I ended up with a very thin layer of a very tart lemon filling in the shell.  I quickly decided to just make a simple raspberry sauce.  I threw some frozen raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a pot.  I let this cook and thicken then strained it to eliminate seeds.  I poured this on top of the lemon filling.  It set up somewhat in the refrigerator and was a deliciously sweet counterpart to the super tart lemon layer.  It ended up being a hit!

Keeping lots of different kinds of fruits in your freezer is a great way to be able to make all kinds of different desserts and sauces when needed.  You can throw any kind of frozen fruit into a basic muffin batter.  You could make a sauce or a syrup out of lots of different kinds of frozen fruits by just adding some sugar, cornstarch and water.  You could make a fruit pie or turnovers.  So, if you keep a freezer well stocked with frozen fruits, the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Maple Pecan Tart

I decided to make some different things this year for Thanksgiving.  Instead of your typical pecan pie, I decided to make a maple pecan tart.  It was pretty similar to a pecan pie and just as tasty.

Pecan pie is not one of my favorites.  I like a very small piece, but it is just too sweet for me.  My mother in law makes an excellent pecan pie, and normally I use her recipe with my own crust.  I just did not feel like making pies this year, so I made all tarts.  I use a basic short dough crust which has to be very cold before it is baked.  Otherwise, the dough will just not hold up to the heat and basically melt.  I made my dough, rolled it out, and put it in the pan.  I then put it in the freezer for about a half hour before I filled it with the pecan filling.  I used real maple syrup and lots and lots of pecans.  It was very tasty but very, very sweet.  It was a big hit with the pecan pie lovers.

 Maple syrup is generally made from sap from the sugar maple, red maple or black maple.  These trees store starch during the winter in their trunks and roots.  The starch is converted to sugar and rises in the spring in the sap.  Maple syrup was first collected and used by indigenous people of North America.  Quebec is by far the largest producer of it and produces about three-quarters of the world's supply.  Vermont is the largest producer in the US.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cupcake Wedding

I recently did a wedding for a very nice couple who was having a very small wedding.  They had been together for 11 years and were getting married on 11.11.11.  They were super easy going about what they wanted from me.  We ended up with three dozen cupcakes and a small six inch cake for them to save for their first anniversary.

I did a tasting for the couple a few weeks before their wedding.  They decided to do a combination of lemon and red velvet cupcakes with two different kinds of icing, cream cheese and French buttercream.  The colors of the wedding were purple and black, so we just did a very simple purple icing with black cupcake papers and black sugar pearls.  The small 6 inch cake was decorated like their invitations.  Everything looked so pretty in the window of the Tin Front Cafe.

 A great way to please a large crowd when making cake is to make a variety of cupcakes with a variety of icings.  You do not necessarily always have to put cream cheese icing with red velvet.  You could make three different kinds of cake with three different kinds of icing.  Just mix it up as much as you want.  This gives a nice variety for lots of people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Perry the Platypus Cake

I recently made a Perry the Platypus cake for a boy turning 9.  I had no idea who Perry the Platypus was, but of course looked him up and quickly found out that he is from Phineas and Ferb.  He was actually a pretty easy character to do.

I only had a quarter sheet cake to work with here, so I decided to just keep the design simple.  I sketched Perry by hand on a piece of paper.  I then used that template to make him out of fondant.  It took me a little while to get the colors right, but I think they were pretty close.  He sat atop a vanilla flavored cake iced with French buttercream.  I thought he turned out pretty cute!

People are always telling me that my cakes are very moist.  They always ask how to achieve this.  One of the best tips that I can give you is to find a recipe that uses oil instead of butter.  In my opinion, butter cakes are always much drier than oil based cakes.  There are lots of great sources online for recipes.  Just try a bunch and see which ones work best for you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

This is a very unusual recipe that I got from my mother-in-law.  She always made it for my husband's birthday because he loves it so much.  This is not a pie for everyone.  As I said, it is a little odd and very, very sweet.


I of course started with my own pie dough.  I had a few extra portions of pie dough sitting around in my refrigerator from an order earlier in the week.  I thought I would surprise my husband with this pie when he came home from work.  I had not made one in years.  It is a super simple pie to make.  The base of the pie is simply water, baking soda, corn syrup, and molasses.  Then, you mix up peanut butter, brown sugar, and flour and drop chunks of it into the molasses mixture.  During the baking process, the bottom crust pretty much just dissolves into the pie, so structural integrity can be a bit of an issue for this pie.  Also, it leaks over the sides of the crust horribly, so if you don't have a pan under the pie dish, you will be doing some serious scrubbing in your oven.  This pie is just fabulous with a strong cup of coffee to help cut the sweetness, but I just love the sweet and somewhat salty gooeyness of it.

Molasses is the by-product of making sugar from sugar cane or beets.  The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaҫo, which comes from mel, which is Latin for honey.  Up until the 1880s, molasses was the sweetener of choice in the United States because it was much cheaper than refined sugar.  After World War I ended, the price of refined sugar dropped drastically which resulted in a drop in molasses sales.  In 1919, the U.S. per capita consumption of refined sugar nearly doubled that what it was in 1880.  In 1919, a huge vat of molasses at a distilling company in Boston exploded.  It became known as the "Great Molasses Flood" and resulted in 21 deaths and 2 million gallons of molasses in the streets.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nut Horns

I am continuing my posts on holiday cookies.  So, so much has been going on in my life, I haven't really had much of a chance to bake.  One of my mom and sister Leah's favorite cookies are these scrumptious cookies.  They are not the easiest cookies to make, but I do make them every year for Christmas.

Nut horns are a staple for a lot of people for their holiday cookie trays.  The dough for these cookies is a very mild, not very sweet dough that has to be kept very cold.  I like to let this dough sit in the refrigerator over night before I use it.  It's a very sticky, difficult dough to work with if it warms up at all.  I use walnuts to make the filling and grind them very finely.  I add some sugar and vanilla and just enough of a binding agent to make them stick together.  These cookies can be pretty messy to make.  I use sugar to roll the dough out instead of flour.  I usually end up with sugar all over my kitchen!  Also, the filling is very sticky.  I usually have a very sticky mess everywhere after I make these cookies, but since my family loves them so much, I make them every year.

Do you have a simple filled cookie recipe that you love?  You can really fill it with any kind of filling that you like.  You could substitute pecans in the above recipe if you prefer pecans.  I have filled these cookies with apricot on many occasions.  But you could use a poppy seed filling, raisins, or date filling.  Just use something that you like if you don't like what the recipe calls for.   

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pecan Tassies

With Christmas right around the corner, I decided to do a post about some holiday cookies that I never got around to last year.  Pecan tassies are classic holiday cookies that always please a crowd.

Pecan tassies are one of my favorite cookies.  I cannot resist fresh pecan tassies.  Tassie dough is a very simple dough with just a few ingredients.  A lot of recipes for this dough call for just two ingredients, flour and cream cheese!  I like to actually make some pecan and some walnut tassies when I make these cookies.  Everyone in my family loves walnuts, so they would all prefer the walnut ones.  I love them both, but I think I like the pecan ones better.  The filling is the same whether I use pecans or walnuts.  It is a mixture of brown sugar, eggs, and butter.  Put all these simple things together in one little cup and you have a delicious little bite of gooey brown sugar filling, crunch and nuttiness from the pecans, and tartness from the cream cheese in the dough.  They are perfect with a cup of hot coffee on a cold winter evening!

Did you know that pecans are not actually nuts?  They are technically drupes, which are fruits with a single stone or pit, contained in a husk.  Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats.  They are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, although contain about only half as much as walnuts.  Pecans can also help to reduce cholesterol by reducing the "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.  Clinical research suggests that eating a handful of pecans a day may help lower cholesterol levels similar to the effects of cholesterol lowering medications.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

I was asked recently to make cookies for the out of town guests for a wedding.  The bride specifically requested Chocolate Chip cookies but gave me a few ideas about what she would like the other cookie to be.  I ultimately decided to do White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies mostly because I love them so much!

I love making cookies almost as much as I like eating cookies.  There is nothing better than a warm cookie with a cup of hot coffee to brighten my mood.  And to me, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are just the perfect blend of salty and sweet.  Almost every time I bite into one, I am reminded of salty buttered popcorn, but then the sweetness of the white chocolate hits me.  I just love these cookies, especially when I get the "perfect" bite with a little bit of salty macadamia nut, some sweet white chocolate, and perfectly crumbly cookie.  Yum, yum!!!

Just a reminder that I am now accepting orders for the upcoming holiday months.  Take a look at my Holiday Cookies page for pricing info.  But remember that I am also available for pies or rolls for your Thanksgiving feast.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cheeseburger Cake

I got an order from a friend for a cake that looks like a cheeseburger for her son's 2nd birthday. She also wanted a little one just for him to eat by himself. I thought it was a fabulous idea, and it turned out super cute!

It was unusual for me to make a cake where I did not use a pastry bag at all.  It didn't seem right.  I kept feeling like something was missing, but it did not need any piping.  I made the "buns" out of white cake with French buttercream.  The "burger" itself was chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.  So in each thin slice, you got a nice mixture of all those flavors.  I used a large slice of orange fondant for the American cheese and green fondant for my lettuce.  I made a decision to leave the lettuce and cheese off of the small cake for the birthday boy.  He had three layers of cake, he didn't really need two layers of fondant too :)  All in all the cake looked awesome and tasted quite yummy.

If you want to cover your cake in crumbs, it's super easy.  When you level the cake, keep that part that you cut off and stick it back in the oven briefly to crisp it up a little bit.  That will make it a bit easier to crumble.  Just make sure you let it cool before sticking it onto your iced cake, otherwise your icing will melt.  Cake crumbs are great for lots of reasons.  They can add some texture to your cake.  They can make your cake look pretty without lots of decorating.  But also, they can help cover up mistakes on your cakes if you are not great at covering your cakes smoothly.   

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blueberry Pie

My husband's uncle had a birthday yesterday. He LOVES pie, and last year I made him pumpkin pie. This year I decided to make him blueberry pie because he absolutely loves it. Of course, I made an extra one since they are my favorite too.

There is nothing like a fresh berry pie. Blueberries tend to turn somewhat bitter during the baking process, so a fair amount of sugar is necessary when baking a blueberry pie to allow them to retain their sweetness. A lot of fruit pies, like apple or peach, require time to macerate in the sugar before being baked. Blueberries, however, do not, so this is a fairly quick pie to make. I always make my pie dough way ahead of time so that it has a lot of time to chill. Pie dough is best when it is super cold. So, I made that the night before. All in all, it took me about 10 minutes to get these pies in the oven. If you are not experienced with pastry, it may take you a little longer to get the dough rolled, but with a little practice, you could whip up some pies very quickly too :) The berries are a nice blend of sweet and tart. A little bit of lemon zest make this filling just divine with the crumbly, somewhat salty pie dough. I could eat blueberry pie after every single meal, happily :)

If you are someone who likes fruit desserts, the best tip that I can give you is to buy fruit when it is in season and freeze it yourself. It may not actually be fresh, but I can guarantee you the quality is better than what you can buy already frozen at the grocery stores. The fruit that you can buy in bags in the grocery store is called IQF, or individually quick frozen. That means that the fruit was laid out in a single layer and frozen very quickly in a blast chiller. This prevents them from sticking to each other. Never buy a bag that is just one solid clump. That means that it most likely thawed and was re-frozen at some point. You definitely do not want that fruit. That is why if you freeze it yourself, you have a lot of control over how the fruit is treated in the freezing process. I just prep the fruit how I would for a pie, lay it out in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze it. Once it is frozen completely, I put it in a freezer bag and label it. So, if you find an exceptionally good batch of Chambersburg peaches, go ahead, buy a bunch. Now you can have peach turnovers, pie, dumplings or whatever you like all winter long when you cannot buy a decent peach.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fresh Beat Band Cake

I was asked if I could do a Fresh Beat cake. When I first read this in an email, I read it as Fresh Beet being that I had never heard of The Fresh Beat Band. I reread the email because I knew this cake was for a 5 year old girl and I thought fresh beet cake might be an odd choice. While I myself, and most likely my kids too, would love a fresh beet cake, most people contact me for a cake with a character or something of the like on it for their kid's birthday parties. I was right to reread this email. Apparently, Fresh Beat Band is a very popular show :)

I did a little research on the show and realized that they are real people. I am not quite that talented to make real people out of fondant, so I decided to just do a cute little guitar to replicate one that one of the characters plays on the show. She asked for dark purple icing because she loves purple so much, but the other colors on the cake were based on the logo for the show. One of the things that baffled me about the cake, however, was how to do the strings on the guitar. It takes a lot of practice to be able to pipe super skinny strings. It is a skill that I have not yet mastered. My wonderful husband suggested that I do the strings out of fondant. I thought it was a great idea, but was a little nervous about moving them onto the cake for fear that they may break. My wonderful husband then offered to make the strings for me. I knew it would be quite time consuming to make these super skinny fondant strings that were strong enough to be moved around. It took him a while to do, but he did it, and I think they were fantastic. All in all, I was proud of the cake. I thought it was super cute, and I know the vanilla cake and French buttercream tasted yummy :)

Have you ever experimented with different extracts or flavorings? If you have a nicely stocked baking cabinet, you most likely have several different flavorings. You can change your vanilla white cake to a white almond cake easily if you have almond extract. You can turn your simple yellow cake into a lemon cake by adding a few drops of lemon extract. You may not always have a fresh lemon, but it's easy to keep a bottle of lemon extract in your cabinet. Just make sure you buy the best extracts and flavorings that you can. Obviously, "immitation" flavorings or extracts are not going to yield as good of a flavor as the real thing. They can often lead to off flavors along with undesirable, underlying alcohol flavors.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Piano Cake

Before I start my blog post today, I would like to say that my family suffered a loss of a family member almost 2 weeks ago. His presence was greatly missed at L's birthday party this past weekend. This post is dedicated to Mark who will forever live on in our memories.

My older daughter turned 4 recently. I absolutely cannot believe it. We had her birthday party last weekend. At first she said that she wanted a guitar cake, but since she takes piano lessons, I asked if she would rather have a piano cake. She said yes, so a piano cake I made.

I always make some white, almond cake and some chocolate cake for my kids' birthday parties. I just like to have a little of each flavor for everyone to choose, although most people have a little bit of both. I decided to do chocolate icing this time around for several reasons. I thought that I could just use the chocolate icing to ice the piano so that I would not have to use a bunch of food coloring. Plus, my chocolate icing does not need to be refrigerated. We have a teeny tiny refrigerator and I knew this huge cake would not fit in it with all the other food for the party. I cleared this with L first, and she excitedly said that she would definitely like chocolate icing! I carved up the white cake in the shape of a grand piano and iced it with my chocolate buttercream. I always consult with my husband on cake design because he is superb at coming up with great and interesting ideas. I was not quite sure how to do the piano keys. After talking it over with him, I decided to use white chocolate and dark chocolate for the keys. I think it turned out very well, and my girl was happy with it. Plus, it was quite yummy :)

Birthday cakes have been a part of western culture since the middle of the 19th century. The addition of the candles to the cake began in America in the 18th century. The use of cakes at birthday celebrations however, dates back to Ancient Rome. Originally, birthday cakes were reserved for only the wealthy. Many variations on the birthday cake or in some instances the birthday pastry exist around the world.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Curls

I had an order for a red velvet cake. He wanted something really special for his dad's birthday, so he ordered a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and white chocolate curls. Sounds delish!

I love when someone orders something from me that is different from the typical things that I make. Trust me, I love baking everything, but generally I am baking white or chocolate cake and one of my buttercream icings. It is nice to make some different things sometimes! I baked my red velvet cake when my kids were napping/resting during the day. I figured I would do the icing and chocolate curls after the kids were in bed for the night. Turned out that we had a storm and lost our power. So, I had to wait until almost 11 to start. Thank goodness I had already baked the cake! While the white chocolate was setting up, I made the icing and iced the cake. It looked pretty, and I definitely wanted to eat it! I think next time I need to make a cake for a special occasion, I will make this!

As you have probably heard, white chocolate is by definition not actually chocolate because it does not contain cocoa solids. Dark colored solids of the cacao bean are separated from the fatty content during the production of chocolate. With milk, semi-sweet, and dark chocolates, these two items are later recombined. With white chocolate, they are not. In the US, white chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% total milk solids, and 3.5% milkfat, and not more than 55% sugar or other sweeteners.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wedding Shower

I had a last minute opportunity to make a wedding shower cake for last weekend. Of course I said yes! She basically wanted a miniature square wedding cake. I was happy with the results, but more importantly, my client was happy too :)

We needed a cake to serve 40 people, but we wanted it to be stacked like a wedding cake. I decided to do an 8 inch, 6 inch, and 4 inch cake. Each tier was 3 layers each, so it would easily feed 40 people. We did the biggest tier in chocolate and the other two in white almond, all of which were iced with French buttercream. I covered the cakes with fondant, but did the decorations with the buttercream and edible sugar pearls. When I arrived at the venue, we added some fresh flowers to it. I think the tiny wedding cake was simply adorable!

Don't have different size pans, but want to create a stacked cake? I did not use an 8 inch, 6 inch, and 4 inch pan for my cake. I simply baked half sheets and cut them into the sizes I needed. That saves a lot of money, time, and space in your kitchen!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Carrot Cake

We had some friends over this past weekend for a little get together. We had cookout style food, but I was just baffled at what to make for dessert. I bought a large bag of organic carrots for salad, so I thought I would make carrot cake. I had not made carrot cake for years but thought it is relatively healthy, for a cake ;)

I love any kind of spicy cake with cream cheese icing, and carrot cake has some ingredients that are actually really good for you. I shredded my carrots, used crushed pineapple, and coconut in my cake. A lot of people add nuts and raisins, but I hate raisins, and I knew little kids would be eating the cake, so I left out the nuts. I used cinnamon and of course some freshly grated nutmeg. I also used vegetable oil in it which makes it incredibly moist. I felt like the cake was going to fall apart when I flipped it out of the pan because it was so tender, but it didn't. It held together nicely and stood up to the cream cheese icing as well. It was quite yummy, and the kids loved it :)

Carrots as a main ingredient in sweets dates back to the medieval period when sweeteners were not common and very expensive. Since carrots contain more sugar than most vegetables and were readily available, they were an obvious choice for sweet cakes. Carrot cake did not become available in the US until the 60s when it was a novelty dessert. However, people liked it so much that it became common dessert fare. In 2005 The Food Network listed carrot cake as #5 in the top 5 food fads of the 70s.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A&P Spanish Bar Cake

It was my dad's birthday a few weeks ago. He never wants us to buy anything for him, so I always try to bake him something special. He and my mom have been talking for years about something called A&P Spanish Bar Cake. My parents loved this cake that was once available at A&P stores. However, it is kinda difficult to recreate something that you have never tasted!

I decided to google A&P Spanish Bar Cake. Lo and behold, my parents are not the only ones who wish that they could eat this cake again. There are tons of postings about this cake online, along with many, many recipes. Since I didn't know what the cake tasted like, I just had to sort of pick and choose recipes. Apparently it was a very moist spice cake with raisins and a creamy white icing. The recipe that I chose for the cake had applesauce in it which made the cake extremely moist. Also, I soaked the raisins in water until they were plump before adding them to the batter. I have to say that the cake on its own was super yummy (minus the raisins) and very, very moist. I think that the cake would have been better with a cream cheese icing, but that's not what the original had. It was a pretty basic buttercream that I chose to use. My parents were very happy with it and said that it was almost exactly like the original, except that my icing was better :)

If you want to make a lower fat version of your cake, use applesauce instead of oil. It makes for a very moist cake and even lends a little bit of sweetness to your product. Be careful not to over do it though. Too much applesauce will make for a very dense, heavy cake. Start small by just substituting a small amount of applesauce

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blueberry Buckle

We have been in the same playgroup for a few years now. I have never been able to host because our old house was just way too small. We recently moved and hosted our very first playgroup. I made blueberry buckle, and it was super delicious!

I had fresh blueberries and lots of them, so I wanted to use them in a breakfast coffeecake kind of thing. A buckle was the perfect thing! I made a simple batter almost similar to a butter cake batter and stirred in some blueberries. I topped it with a delicious crumble of butter, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. It was so yummy when it was still warm that I had to have two pieces. My husband had a piece and said it was one of the most delicious things that I had ever made. For him to say this about a dessert that did not contain chocolate is pretty amazing. I have been wanting to make another buckle ever since this one was gone because it was so good. Maybe later this evening...

Lowbush blueberries, also known as "wild" are the smaller variety of blueberries. Highbush blueberries are the larger species. Maine produces 25% of all "lowbush" blueberries in this country making them the largest producer in the world. The Maine crop requires about 50,000 beehives for pollination. Michigan is the leading producer of the "highbush" variety in the US.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon Cake

This was a difficult cake for me. I have never seen the movie and had no idea what to do. I made a white cake with sweet buttercream, but was stumped at that point. I ended up sculpting a dragon out of rice cereal treats and covering it with fondant. I think it was cute, and my client was happy with it :)

I ran into so many road blocks trying to conceptualize this cake. My client, at first, did not want a fondant character. So my next idea was to come up with something cool with edible paper. However, I do not have a printer with edible ink. The local grocery store will print things on edible paper for you, but not of a licensed character. Then, I was going to go to the toy store and pick up a toy to use on the cake. I was at three different toy stores, and no one had any How to Train Your Dragon toys. I was getting a little nervous at this point. I had no idea what I was going to do. I contacted my client and explained the predicament that I was in. We then decided to do a fondant character, so I started my search for what character to do. I thought the dragon was adorable and would not take me a year to do. It was the night before the cake was needed, so I didn't have all the time in the world. Luckily, I had everything for rice cereal treats and fondant. I was happy quite with the end result and so was my client, which is really all that matters to me.

If you are interested in making sculpted figures, I would suggest that you start with rice cereal treats. It is much more difficult to do a sculpture completely out of fondant, especially a large one. I just melt marshmallows in the microwave and stir in crushed rice cereal until it is a good consistency for sculpting. I like to crush it so that it makes a smoother surface to cover with fondant. You will need dowels or something to hold the pieces together. I like to use plastic coffee stirrers in my smaller pieces because I know that no one will get hurt on them. Even if someone accidentally bit into it, they would not break their teeth :) It just takes some practice and patience, but these sculptures make really cute additions to cakes .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scooby Doo Cake

A friend of mine requested a Scooby Doo cake for her son's third birthday. I thought about what I should do with this for weeks. I always agonize over cake designs for weeks, then come up with something the night before. She and her son were very happy with the cake, and I think it was super cute! And, on a side note, she made me some awesome Empanadas. Check out her facebook page if you are in need of delicious food :)

I debated for weeks about what to do with this cake. I decided the night before that I was going to sculpt a Scooby and a box of Scooby Snacks out of fondant for on top of the cake. I worked on Scooby for maybe an hour or two and let him sit over night. This was my first time sculpting a character completely out of fondant. He was not perfect, but he was pretty cute. I iced the cake with sweet buttercream in a chartreuse color and decorated the cake with a dark purple color. I added Scooby at the party and added some cereal to act as the Scooby Snacks. I was happy with the results. The birthday boy enjoyed Scooby's ears and the box of Scooby Snacks :)

If you are interested in cake decorating, you need to have the right kind of food coloring. DO NOT buy the liquid kind at the grocery store. It takes a ton of it to turn the icing any rich color, and it waters down the icing. You can buy the Wilton gel paste anywhere that they sell Wilton products, like Michael's. I prefer the liqui-gel kind in squeeze bottles, like Chefmaster. I would recommend going to a cake decorating store or shopping online and just buying a bunch of colors so that you can just mix colors to achieve the color that you desire.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Baptism Cake

I did not make the cake when my older daughter was baptized. She was only 3 weeks old, and I had a pretty rough pregnancy toward the end. Things were totally different my second time around. I had a great pregnancy, worked out all the time, and only gained 7 pounds! I felt great after my second daughter was born and was completely up to the challenge of making her cake for her baptism.

I went to my favorite cake combination when I was making this cake. I really watched what I ate when I was pregnant, so I wanted something super yummy for her baptism that I could really enjoy! I made my famous chocolate cake with French buttercream icing. I decided to do a pretty standard design for christening cakes with a cross made of roses. With a 6 week old, I wanted to do something fairly easy and fast, and for me, roses are easy and fast. With sleep deprivation playing a role, I was pretty happy with the results of my cake. Everyone loved it, and more importantly, everyone loved eating it :)

If you have a desire to learn to decorate, there are many things that you can do to help you along your way. Firstly, you can buy Styrofoam cakes that can be decorated over and over again. And, this will prevent you from eating lots and lots of cake ;) Secondly, you want to use a very stiff buttercream. I always used this recipe when I was learning in school. It tastes awful, but it's a good consistency for learning. There are many places that offer classes as well. Joann Fabrics and Michael's have Wilton decorating classes. I know many local community colleges offer decorating classes as well. But most of all, don't be afraid to fail. It is not super easy, but definitely gets a lot easier each time you try. You just need the right tools, some instruction, and lots of patience.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


As mentioned in an earlier post, my family loves cream puffs. My husband loves éclairs even more than cream puffs. Since they are almost exactly the same thing, I can please everyone with one recipe!

I had made a lot of pastry cream for another project and had a lot left over. Since everyone loves cream puffs, that was the first thing that came to my mind to make for Mother's Day. My husband pointed out that he likes éclairs a lot more, so I decided to make them since they are almost exactly the same thing. Éclairs are made from Pâte à Choux which is also the same thing that you use to make cream puffs, profiteroles, beignets, and many other pastries. You just pipe the paste differently for the éclairs than for the cream puffs. I made a double batch of the choux paste thinking that I would get a lot of mini éclairs out of it. However, I ended up getting a lot less mini éclairs than I usually get of the cream puffs. I guess next time I will have to triple it ;) I just made a simple dark chocolate glaze for the top of each éclair. They went quickly, and I wished that I had made more.

Éclairs first originated in the nineteenth century in France. The first known English language recipe for éclairs was in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884. In some parts of the US, Long Johns are marketed as éclairs, although they are not the same. Long Johns are made with donut dough and filled with vanilla pudding, making them much cheaper and easier to produce.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wedding Cupcakes

An old friend from high school contacted me months ago asking me if I would do her wedding cake. Of course I said yes! This was my first wedding cake on my own. I had done some wedding cakes at my previous job, but none where I got to choose exactly what I wanted to do.

I visited my friend a little over a month ago with a few different options of cake and icing. I took white, red velvet, and devil's food cakes. And I took two different kinds of icing, buttercream and
French buttercream. Since the bride wanted cupcakes, I told her that she could choose any number of combinations that they liked. They chose white with French buttercream and red velvet with regular buttercream. My red velvet cupcakes are not very sweet, so the sweet buttercream is a better pairing with this cake instead of the French buttercream. On the other hand, the sweetness of my white cake is a perfect pairing with my less sweet French buttercream. The couple also wanted a small eight inch square cake for the top of their cupcake tower so that they could do a traditional cake cutting.

I went back and forth with decorations for the cupcakes. I tried a few things that did not end up
working out for me, so at the last minute I had to rethink my previous designs. I decided to do drop flowers with royal icing. The colors of the wedding were black and white damask and fuchsia. I decided to just stick with black and white in my designs. I made 300 black drop flowers with a white sugar pearl in the middle. Each cupcake got one flower in the center along with
some black and white sugar pearls scattered around it. I think they turned out beautifully. As for the cake, I just did a small 8 inch white cake with French buttercream icing. I covered the top with the flowers that I had made and did a simple bead border around the bottom. I put a small black sugar pearl in between each bead.

Royal icing is fairly easy to work with and is a great tool to allow you to get some decorations done in advance. Royal icing is simply meringue powder, powdered sugar and water. If you fill your pastry bag and have some remaining in the bowl, you must keep it covered with a damp paper towel. Otherwise, it will harden in the bowl leaving it unusable. When making lots of drop flowers, I like to cut small one inch squares of parchment paper. I put just a dab of icing on my flower nail, then stick the paper square to it. I make my flower on the paper and can then just lift up the paper and set it aside to dry. These flowers will last for quite a long time. They are a nice addition to the top of a brownie square for a more formal occasion. You can add these drop flowers to any decorated cake or cupcake. They are fun to make and come in very handy. If you are interested in learning how to decorate, this is a good place to start!