Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yo Gabba Gabba Cake

I was asked to do a cake with Foofa from Yo Gabba Gabba for a little girl's 3rd birthday.  I was excited to design a cute cake, and my kids were equally excited when they saw the Foofa that I created for the first time.

Instead of a standard half sheet cake, we went with a 12 inch round cake which feeds approximately the same amount of people.  One layer was yellow, the other was chocolate.  It was covered in my French buttercream.  At first I considered making Foofa out of fondant alone, but that is a bit risky.  Sure, she wasn't going to be super huge, but the party was in a park.  We have been having some very hot weather here in Pittsburgh, I wasn't sure she would hold up!  I could have made her entirely out of gumpaste, but who wants to eat a gumpaste character?  So, the night I was going to craft her, I sent my wonderful husband to the store to get some marshmallows and crisp rice cereal.  I formed her out of crisp rice cereal treats and covered her with pink fondant.  I used gumpaste for the flower on her head because it dries much stiffer than fondant.  All in all, I was happy with the cake, and I believe my clients loved it.

Although gumpaste may seem like the same thing as fondant, it is very different.  Gumpaste dries hard, almost like glass.  It will shatter if dropped after it is completely dry.  Fondant will get stiffer, but will not harden completely.  You would never want to cover a cake with gumpaste.  It is really great for delicate flower work, straps for handbags, 3D figures, shoes.  It is perfect for something that you want to maintain a specific shape.  It requires time to dry as well.  I like to let gumpaste decorations dry over night.  If you are interested in learning how to decorate with fondant or gumpaste, don't be afraid.  Pick some up at the store and play with it like you did with playdoh as a child.  It's fun!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Baking with your kids

I feel that kids should get used to being in a kitchen and feel comfortable in the environment.  I know people that went away to college and literally did not know how to boil water!  Sounds crazy to a lot of people, but it’s true.  I get my kids involved in cooking and baking as much as I can.  I want them to be able to thrive in the kitchen some day because as we all know, eating at home is much healthier and cost efficient.  

To me, there is no greater joy than sharing my love of baking with my girls, and they are great helpers!  It is something we love to do together.  However, I have to switch gears when I bake with kids.  I was a professional pastry chef, so I am highly efficient in the kitchen and can multi-task very easily.  It was a little difficult for me to switch to “teaching” mode.  I had a lot of student helpers at my job at a local university, but they were adults.  It is a little different teaching a 3 or 4 year old.  Patience when working in the kitchen with your children is an absolute must!  As parents, we are the first teachers that our children have.  I take this job very seriously and try to remember to teach my kids little things every day.  Imparting my love of and knowledge of baking to my kids is just one of those things.  

Here are some things that I have learned from my experiences in my own kitchen with my kids:

  • Don’t choose a day that you have a gazillion cookies for a bake sale or birthday party to make to teach your children.  As a mom, it’s hard enough to get those kinds of things done on your own sometimes!  
  • I am a perfectionist when it comes to my baking.  I have learned to let that go when my kids are helping me.  It is just food after all!
  • Be patient

  • Give them tasks that they are able to do
  • Have fun
  • Expect a mess on hands, counters, etc.

Some simple steps to baking with kids:
  1. Decide what to make.  Cookies or muffins are always a good choice.  My kids LOVE to scoop both of these things!
  2. Read through the recipe completely.  This is always a good idea!  There is nothing worse than mixing a dough for a cookie and then realizing that it needs to be chilled overnight or that you don’t have one of the ingredients.  It is especially frustrating when you have a very disappointed 4 year old who wants cookies!
  3. Wash hands.  Often.
  4. Assign Tasks.  Divide the tasks if you have more than one child.  Make sure that the child that you have assigned the task to is able to complete it.
  5. Get all the ingredients together, or Mise en Place.  Mise en Place literally means putting in place.  This is a term that I heard constantly in culinary school.  It is especially important when baking with kids.  They can measure everything out.  You ensure you have all the ingredients, and it keeps little hands from roaming when it is time to actually mix the recipe.
  6. Use safe tools for small hands.
  7. Clean up and put things away as you go.  It is an important lesson to teach your children, to clean up after themselves!  If you do this, you can have your kitchen almost back to new by time the cookies are out of the oven!

I hope this has helped some of you get the courage to get your kids involved in the kitchen.  All these tips can be used when cooking with your kids too, they don’t just have to be for baking.  So, get in the kitchen and bake some cookies with your kiddos!