Monday, December 29, 2008

I Love My Christmas Present

While I did plan on taking this week off, I quickly changed my mind after I got my Christmas present this year from my dad, and went ahead and snuck in a last minute cake. (Sorry to everyone who I turned down!)
My least favorite part of the cake making process, after cleaning of course, is leveling cakes. I hate it. I hate hate hate it. It's very difficult to level a cake perfectly, to make the top flat and beautiful. Messing with serrated knives, accidentally cutting things unevenly-yuck! And, there are crumbs everywhere.  All over me, and the counter, and the floor.  Gah!  
Early in 08, I heard some people talking about a contraption that happened to be an automatic cake leveler, and that if their kitchen was ever on fire, that this was the one piece of equipment that they would save. Many loved it even over their Kitchen Aid Mixers! When I discovered what it was, and that it would basically make my life easier since I wouldn't have to level cakes, I wanted one terribly.
Anyways, I am horribly difficult to buy a present for, no one ever knows what to get me, because I always say "I don't know" or "nothing" when I am asked. When my husband discovered that I wanted one of these things, he covertly sent my parents an email telling them what I wanted.
Well, what I got was better than the one I had heard about before! Turns out that my dad figured out what parts I would need, and he and my grandfather spent hours making one for me! My granddad is an excellent craftsman, but needed help with making something like this, so he employed the help of a friend who happens to be a machinist. Apparently, the three of them took a couple of Saturdays out at the machinist's workshop to get this to work to perfection, and it means so much more than the store bought one would have. I basically couldn't wait to use it.
What happened when I used it was that something that normally takes me about an hour to do took me less than 2 minutes!  That was for 9 layers of cake for my 3-tiered cake.  It was awesome!  The tops of the cakes just slid off, and there were hardly any crumbs on the floor.  It was effortless, and the tops of my cakes were about as perfect as I could ever imagine getting them.  I am so excited!
Thank you to my dad for coming up with such a great idea, and to my granddad and his friend for all their hard work.
Turns out that me taking this order was a bit serendipitous for the customer as well.  I met the little boy's (Levi) mother early this week when she dropped of her deposit, and she told me that planning his birthday had been pushed aside because he had had extensive cranial surgery in the fall.  So, by the time she helped him heal, and then being overwhelmed with Christmas in addition, there was so much on her plate that she had simply forgotten about the birthday cake!  Well, I am thrilled to have been able to make them this cake, and I hope that they loved it.  The cake was designed around an adorable invitation that Levi's dad designed himself-very cool.
Happy 1st Birthday to Levi!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fabulous And 50!

I really enjoyed making this bright, vibrant cake for a 50th birthday.  Again, it's just so fun to get to do something different!
The birthday girl's sister was the one who ordered the cake as a surprise, and she wanted something with right, something spirited, something fabulous!  After a bit of discussion back and forth, we decided on this cute, funky cake.
Topsy turvy cakes used to be so intimidating, but after making several, they are getting easier and easier.  The cake is covered in Satin Ice.
You can see that I am still experimenting with the gumpaste numbers on the top.  This time I painted them with gold and vodka, and then applied little red flowers to the center.
And, of course, the bright red boa makes it even more fabulous.
This was a pretty fun cake to make, and a good one to close out the year.  I am taking the rest of the year off, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  See you all in 2009!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Been Awhile!

Being so busy around the holidays means not having too much time to post stuff in my blog.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman hired me to make 7 dozen cookies for her holiday party. She was having a trio of musicians come to her house, and wanted a musical theme, along with some Christmas themed cookies. Here are some of my favorite-the Christmas Trees and Snow Men!
I decorate my cookies by first making a dam with thick royal icing, and then flooding in the outline with thinner icing. Once the filling is set, I decorated the tops with more stiff icing. A trick that I have started doing is using plastic piping bags and cutting a very small hole at the end to decorate with. This eliminates having to deal with cleaning the metal tips, and as you can see, it works great!

This past weekend, I had two pretty interesting cakes. This first one I love, because it is girly, soft, and feminine, is pink and lavender. The client gave me free reign with the design, and this is what I came up with. Lots of flowers, inverted stripes on the bottom tier, and of course, one of my signature bows.
For the number, I have been enjoying experimenting making the numbers more whimsical. Lately I have been making ropes of gumpaste and twisting them into the right shapes. I attach a lollipop stick to the back with egg whites to stick into the cake. I like how they have been turning out!
The next cake is probably one of the most difficult ones I have done to date. It was for a groom's cake, and the groom wanted the cake in the shape of the Houston Astros emblem. They wanted it hollowed out, just like a real star.
I think a lot of people who don't make cakes don't understand how difficult these things are, and I had to think a LOT about how to accomplish this.
Thank goodness for Cakecentral! Those of you who are on Cakecentral probably know or know of Doug. He is awesome. He came up with a diagram from me, along with pictures for me to cut the cake and piece it together. From there, my husband blew the diagram up for me on his printer, and helped me piece the papers together for the right shape.

I baked two full sized sheet cakes, and filled and frosted, etc. I then stuck it in the freezer to firm it up to make it easier to cut the pieces out. I then laid the pieces of paper on top of the cake, and got to cutting! I arranged them on the cake board, and attached each piece to the other pieces with thick frosting. When I had figured out the puzzle, what I had was a HUGE star.

Covering it in fondant was hard. I'll leave it at that-lots of trial and error.

The cake board, of all things, was also very tricky. The ones at Cake Carousel that would fit this size cake were over $20 (whatEVER), so I headed out to Home Depot, and found a nice, sturdy piece of precut wood. I liked this idea for several reasons-the main being that the wood is incredibly strong and can support the weight of the cake. This would reduce any cracking or shifting that might happen with a cake board. But...what would I cover it in? It needed to be something that I could easily clean and wipe off, since the decorating had to be on the surface of the board.
I could not figure this out. I didn't want fondant, because I worried it would get dirty. I thought about a plastic table cloth, but that would look terrible! I wasn't sure how to do a board covering in royal icing, either. I walked up and down the aisles of many, many stores trying to figure this out, when I came across metal wrapping paper for Christmas. It looked just like the stuff they use on the cake drums, and was about 75% less expensive than the stuff Wilton sells. It worked like a charm! To make to cake board look better, I trimmed the top of the board with black and white ribbon. I wish I had a better photo of this thing, because really, it was pretty cool. But, am I glad I am done with it! ;)
I have also recently made this cute Minnie Mouse Cake for a friend. It's all fondant, and a big step up from the buttercream Mickey Mouse one I did about a year ago.
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