Monday, March 2, 2015

Wild Wild West

This past weekend, my amazing 11 year old graduated from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts.  There's always a big ceremony for this, along with a party that's called the Blue and Gold Banquet.

For the past 5 years, I've made cakes for the banquet, but this year since my son was graduating, I wanted it to be special.  We had the group of boys over one night for a meeting, and let them design the cake themselves!

Years ago, back when they were all tiny 1st Grade Tiger Cubs, they named their den The Rattlers ("We're Den 3!  We do our Besssssssssssssssssst!"), so that was their jumping off point.  What they landed on was a wild west cake with snakes, barbed wire, and cacti.  I was excited to do that theme, because to be honest I was running a little low on the basic blue and gold colored cake that somehow or other related to scouting.  This was a very welcome change from subject matter.

The bottom tier I wanted to make it look like it had been wrapped in rope.  This was easy enough to accomplish - I covered the cake in fondant, and then twisted long strands of fondant together to make the rope, and then wrapped the cake.

The middle tier, though, is special.  I found a shadow outline of some boy scouts hiking.  I painted the tier to look like the sunset, using yellow, orange, and brown food coloring mixed with vodka.  I then placed the cutout of the boys onto to it.  Kind of cheesy, but it's the five scouts (same number we had) hiking off into the sunset towards their new adventures.  Sniff.

The top tier is a Native American drum.  

Not shown in these pictures is an arrow, supposed to look like the Arrow of Light.  I stuck it through the middle tier.  It was OK, but I didn't really like the way it looked overall, so I decided not to show it here, although it was present at the banquet.  Some boys ate it when no one was looking, though. 

Most of the decorations are modeling chocolate.  All of the cacti were hand molded.  The barbed wire is modeling chocolate I rolled in silver highlighter powder, and then used my clay extruder to make long strands before twisting the strands together.   

The snake is also modeling chocolate.  The scale texture was added with a piping tip, and I painted a diamond pattern on its back to make it look like a rattlesnake.  

The cake board was fondant.  I used a knife and a fork to make the wooden pattern, and then painted it with a mixture of food coloring and vodka.  

All of the scouts in attendance fought over the chocolate decorations, but I hoarded them off the cake and secretly served them up to the graduating boys.  :)

Congratulations to the Den 3 Rattlers!  And best of luck with your new Troops.  :)


#wildwestcake #wildwest #westerncake #cactuscake #blueandgold #blueandgoldbanquet #blueandgoldcake #blueandgoldbanquetcake #barbedwire

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chalkboard Love

It's that time of year again!   Sweet Times in the Rockies, 2015 edition.  This is a cake competition that is held at the Denver Convention Center, during the Denver Home and Garden Show.

Lately this competition seems to be one of the few times I am able to cram making a cake into my schedule (being a mom to three young kids is crazy busy!), but I am SO glad that I do this every year;  being able to be creative and stretching myself to make something beautiful.  


The design was heavily influenced by The Sweet and Saucy Cake Shop, mostly the top and bottom tiers with the little black and white ropes.  But I wanted to add some of my own elements, like the chalkboard, all the wafer paper roses, and the stripes from modeling chocolate.
For the strings on the top and bottom tiers, I used a walnut hollow clay extruder to make long strands of fondant.  I then (carefully) twisted them together.  This is tricky, and sometimes the strands will break, which basically means you will probably need to do this several times to get it to work.

The striped tiers were done in alternating strips of white and black modeling chocolate.  I made several batches of modeling chocolate, but unfortunately none of them turned out.  I think it was due to the dry climate here in Boulder, which made my modeling chocolate crumbly.  I ended up purchasing some Fondarific modeling chocolate that worked great! 

To get the stripes even and straight on the cake, I used Jessica Harris's Wax Paper Transfer Method.  It is such a wonderful technique, and everything comes out looking clean and perfect, without a ton of extra work.  I would have never, EVER, gotten my stripes on like this is it hadn't been for that method.  I rolled out the chocolate with my pasta roller, on the thickest setting.  And then just ran that through my fettuccine cutters so that every stripe was the same exact size.  Makes for quick work.    

The chalkboard element was one of the easier components of the cake.  It is a simple panel of black fondant, and I used a very small paintbrush with white food coloring to paint on my design.  One fun thing about chalkboard elements is that they don't have to be perfect.  It's OK to even wipe a little powdered sugar over the black to make it look like a chalkboard that's recently been erased.  I love the idea of that!  Slightly distressed looking.

The wafer paper flowers were very time consuming, though.  Because I don't have a food coloring printer, I had to hand paint each petal.  (I wanted a more saturated color than just dusting with petal dusts.)  To do this, I used Summer's (from Cake Paper Party) tutorial.  I made my own colors with petal dust and vegetable oil (maybe I've been out of the loop too long, but I could not for the life of me find Americolor oil based colors anywhere), then dabbed a make up sponge onto the paper to get a good saturation.  It takes time, but the deep richness of the colors makes it worth it.

The smaller flowers are ranunculus, and the largest flower is a rose.  The little tiny flowers around the chalkboard are rolled roses.  I learned how to do them from Stevi Auble's Craftsy class.  I like wafer paper so much better than gumpaste.  There's no making the gumpaste or rolling it out, or trying to figure out how to stick all the wires into your cake, or worry about breakage.  You get perfectly thin petals, that are easily moldable into something lovely.   

All in all it was a great weekend!  Looking forward to it next year.  

#sweettimesintherockies #waferpaper #waferpaperflowers #waferpaperroses #waferpaperranunculus #chalkboard #chalkboardcake #chalkboardwedding #modelingchocolate #waxpapertransfermethod #chalkboardlove #whimsicalcake #vintagecake #butterflysweets #butterflysweetscakery #coloradoconventioncenter #coloradohomeandgardenshow

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shabby Chic Modern

This cake, I'm pretty sure, is special.  I'm in a haze of infatuation over it.  I love its warm gold leaf, and the pattern on the double barreled tier, and just everything else.

This is my Sweet Times in the Rockies 2014 cake!  It was labor intensive, and a couple of those tiers were redone three times (*ahem* slightly embarrassing to admit) but I don't care.  Because it turned out just like I wanted it!

My first vision of this cake was to base it on the theme of the movie Frozen.  I researched patterns and colors for a good month (you can see that here on my Pinterest board), and worked very hard to get the colors just right.  The colors were absolutely spot on, in deep plums and inky blues.  But once I got the tiers covered, I hated it.  It was dark, heavy, cartoonish, and just a little juvenile.  I couldn't see my vision anymore, and had no idea how I would pull off my design.  So, I did what any other artist would do and ripped all the fondant off to start from scratch, with less than a week before the competition.   This turned out to be exhausting and challenging, and totally the right decision.

The other day I posted a tutorial on how to make ruffle roses.  Those took the largest amount of my time, to be sure.  However, I love ruffle rose cakes and they are so on point for the moment.  I may even make a few more of them before they go out of style.

And can we talk about gold leaf for a minute?  Because that stuff is very challenging to work with.  This is how my tiers looked three days before the competition:

A big mess!  I worked for a long while to get the gold leaf perfect, seamless, and as smooth as was humanly possible.  Gold leaf is an imperfect product and it will never be 100% flawless, but I was trying to get it as close as I could.  After all that work, though, I took a step back and didn't like it.  While it was pretty and shiny, I felt like it was a little TOO shiny.  What I decided to do, in keeping with my Shabby Chic theme, was to take a brush and a paper towel to distress the gold leaf.    It seemed a little crazy to mess up something I had just spent hours working on, but what I ended up with was a brushed gold, with white peaking through, like an old piece of repainted furniture.  That with the perfect pink roses was exactly what I was looking for and a good call for the overall theme of my design.

For the double barreled tier, I wanted a vintage pattern and I didn't want to stencil it.  So I ended up buying some Wilton icing sheets and a craft punch.  This particular punch is the Martha Stewart All Over Page Punch, in a design called Canning Pattern.  I bought it from Michael's, but haven't seen it at Hobby Lobby or on Amazon.  

It does take quite a bit of time to cut out the pattern in a precise pattern, to make sure everything lines up just perfectly.  When you're done, you just wet the back of it with some water and position it on the cake.  I do think wafer paper would also work well instead of the icing sheets.  I did practice with that material, but found it a bit too transparent to show the design well with the paleness of my pink, but if you are using colors that contrast each other, wafer paper would be great.  

Now for my wafer paper roses...I just love them.  I have never worked with wafer paper, and I liked it so much better than gumpaste.  Gumpaste is fragile, it's always breaking on me, I'm always having to deal with wires and stems and figuring out how to stick all that stuff into my cake without it showing.  Not so with these.  You just cut out the petals, and attach them with some Tylose glue, and they are lovely.

As I worked on these, I applied pieces of gold leaf randomly onto the fronts of the petals.  I let that dry, and then assembled the rose.  It was surprisingly quick and easy, and really pulled my cake together.  I'll try to make a tutorial on these soon!

So, how did the cake do?  I'm happy to say in got Third Place in the Professional Category.  Not too shabby (ha ha, see what I did there?).  These two cakes were First and Second place. 

I think the green and silver one is so pretty, and I think she might have watched the same Craftsy tutorial I did.  I unfortunately don't know the names of the artists, but if anyone else does, let me know!  Congrats to everyone!  There was some beautiful artwork at the show!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Cake

Happy Valentine's Day!  Last week I made this beautiful Valentine's cake, which I am unabashedly in love with.  This was my first time with silver leaf, a technique called the wax paper transfer method, and ruffle roses.  The techniques are time consuming, but not overly difficult.

Last year when I won first place at Sweet Times in the Rockies, one of the things tucked into my gift bag was a free Craftsy class.  It went unnoticed for a long time because it was hidden among the other papers and leaflets, but when I found it, I promptly used it for Jessica Harris's Simply Modern Cake Design.  And let me tell you, that class is amazing.  There were some techniques that I learned (such as how to get crazy sharp corners on your cakes) that I think will change the way I make cakes forever.

The first technique, ruffle roses, was not in the Craftsy class but I figured out how to make them none the less. Here's how I did it!

For the first step, I picked a circle cutter that was close to the height of my cake, but just a little smaller.  This tiers was 4 inches tall, so I used a 3 1/2 inch cutter to impress on the side, to guide me where I would want the outside row of my petals to lay.

Next I took a small amount of gumpaste and ran it through a pasta roller.  I began at level 1, and worked my way down to level 5.  I felt like level 5 was thin enough to look delicate and pretty (not thick, clunky petals), but still strong enough to handle the thinning of the edges and the spiraling I would do onto the cake.

I used my trusty wheel cutter and cut out some strips.  These were about 1/4 inch thick, but can vary based on the size of your flowers or the size of your tier.

Then using my (very old) foam pad and a ball tool, thinned and frilled the edges just like I would with a gumpaste flower.

Using the circle impression I made in the first step, I placed the ruffles in a circle.  I like to use Q-tips in this step, because it put the perfect amount of water on the cake.  Also, the size and softness is really great for manipulating the ruffles into the position you want them.  As you place the ruffle on the cake, be sure to gather it in spots to add texture - if you don't, it will look flat.

Then repeat that step again.  Here you can see that the strip I cut was a little long and I spiraled it inwards.  This works great!  Just keep spiraling in the strips of gumpaste...

until you get a nickle or so sized hole in the center.  Then, make a ribbon rose for the center.  Wet the back of it with some water, and carefully place right in the center.

And then you've got a gorgeous ruffle rose!  It really couldn't be easier!

Looking at the photo above - to fill in those white triangles between the flowers, continue to cut strips of gumpaste and place them accordingly to complete the design.  When picking where you will imprint the circle cutter, pick a spot where the petals will touch, but not quite overlap.

For the offset chevrons, I finally tried a technique that I have been wanting to try for a while now, which is the wax paper transfer method.  This was in the Craftsy class I took, and it's pretty darn brilliant.  I was skeptical, but all those pieces in the chevrons went on so effortlessly and quickly that I'm a convert.  Here is a tutorial here, if you don't have access to the class:  Jessica Harris Wax Paper Transfer Method Tutorial

Silver leaf is a beautiful finish you can add to your cake, but first it's important that you make sure it is edible.  I purchased mine on Amazon, and it comes in a little book of leaflets  The silver sheets are attached to wax paper.  It is terribly delicate, and will tear easily in your hands, so you need to be careful when working with it.  When you are ready to attach it, you get the area of your cake wet (Q-tips worked well here for me, too), then let it gently adhere to the sides.  Then take a brush and very, very lightly smooth it onto the cake.

I'm really looking forward to making some more cakes using these techniques - in fact, I'll be using a few of them for my next competition cake on February 14th.

Happy happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, December 23, 2013

My First Gingerbread House from Scratch

Gingerbread houses have always had two speeds for me:  Those kit things you get from places like Target, or those impossibly detailed ones like Martha Stewart makes with sugar stained glass windows or by the really intense competitors at OSSAS.  I wasn't really up for attempting a Martha Stewart one, and every year I let my kids make one of the kits but I try to let them do that all on their own.

A week or two ago I was on Pinterest and came across a really beautiful gingerbread house that wasn't fussy, or overly complicated, or anything else.  It was just lovely.  And as I researched more and more, I realized that there is a person on Flickr that is incredibly creative and talented with this genre or sugar art.  I can't find much information on her, but she goes by the name Sassybeautimus and she is AHmazing.  Take a look at her work, she is so inspiring!  I decided to take from cues from her, and also my very rainbowy 2013, and make a rainbow hued gingerbread house.

I'm a pretty big fan of Smitten Kitchen, and happened to find a link to a yummy gingerbread recipe online.  It worked pretty well, BUT, I got some bubbles on the panels during baking that stuck around after they cooled, making the surface uneven.  This was a bummer, but a friend of mine told me the bubbles come from layers of butter and flour. She keeps an eye on hers during baking and pops them with a pin to diffuse the built up air.  Next time!  Here's the recipe I used:

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 pound) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes

Before baking, I cut out templates to the dimensions I wanted for the house.  I rolled out the dough, then traced the templates with a knife.  After baking, I chose to let the pieces to sit out overnight to get nice and stiff to be stable enough to construct the house.  If I was making this recipe primarily for eating, I would definitely store them in an airtight container to make sure they would stay the right chewy texture.  

The next morning I got to work.  The first thing I did was cover the board I was using in a thick royal icing to give the panels something to stick to.  The panels went together perfectly with just a little royal icing on the seams.  I waited a couple of hours to attach the roof to make sure everything was stable (the roof is pretty heavy with all those fondant hearts!), and set to work with decorating the house.

I used a little bit of candy, but didn't like what I found in the candy stores and used mostly royal icing and fondant decorations.  The roof is decorated with over 200 fondant hearts.  I added the cute little snowman and Christmas tree in the yard.  I also decorated the sides of the house with fondant peppermints and other lollipop type candies!  I also used royal icing on spots of the roof to look like snow.

This gingerbread house was a lot of fun to make, I might have to make it a Christmas tradition!

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Little Pony 8th Birthday

Rainbow cakes seem to be a little common around here lately!  This week, my beautiful daughter turned 8.  That's beyond hard to believe for me, because it seems like just so recently I was making her a Wall-E Cake.  Luckily, though, she is that delightful type of eight that still revels in princesses and ponies.  
My Little Pony has gotten a bit of a revamp since I was a kid and has surged in popularity recently.  Charlotte has been obsessively watching the episodes on Netflix, and begged and begged for a My Little Pony cake for her birthday.  Done.  It's like a (prettier) slice of my own childhood.  

The cake was actually easy peasy.  As has been my habit lately, I collected inspiration on Pinterest.  The top tier is from a design I saw there.  A purple fondant covered cake with rainbow hued flowers.  The flowers are fondant, I didn't even have to use gumpaste or Tylose, and I used my tiny violet cutter for them.  I made the centers also out of different colors.
The bottom tier I wanted something very frilly and girly, because that describes my daughter pretty well.  After covering it in fondant, I used a pasta roller to roll out very thin strips of gumpaste.  I believe I used the 6 setting.  Next I cut out the thinned gumpaste into ribbons, about 1/4 inch wide.  I dampened my fondant with some water, and then just zig zagged the ribbons onto the cake.  It made these pretty little ruffles!
I did try to juxtaposition them so that when I put on one ribbon in the direction left-right-left-right, I countered the next one with right-left-right-left just so that it wouldn't look too uniform and perfect.
After that, I took vodka and sprayed down the cake, and then applied hot pink glitter to the ruffles for lots of shimmer.  The glitter stuck on the ruffles like a charm.
The rainbow on the top of the cake is thin ropes of gumpaste that I attached with wooden skewers and placed on the top of the cake.  The clouds are gumpaste, too!
The tutu I used from Aislinn's birthday last month.  And the ponies-I know in the cake world that buying plastic toys and putting them on cakes is considered kind of...lazy since you aren't shaping gumpaste into some lovely edible art.  But ya know, nothing makes a kid happier than these little figures they can play with for a long, long time.  :)  But below is a pic of the cake sans figures.
And the inside of the cake?  Chocolate with hot pink vanilla frosting of course!
Charlotte loved her cake, and so did all of her friends that came to her party.  Happy birthday to the kindest girl I know!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rainbow First Birthday!

This weekend is a pretty amazing one for us-our little baby's first birthday!  Aislinn has just been the cherry on the top of our sundae, and it has been beyond wonderful having a baby around now that the two other kids are a bit older and in school.

I saw this cake by Wild Orchid Baking Company awhile back, and the instant I saw it, knew it would be perfect for Aislinn's first birthday.

I tweaked the design a little bit because I wanted it to be a girly, almost dayglo rainbow full of bright pink and turquoise.  I think that's what I got!

This is another cake where it is important to measure and put the decorations on precisely.  After covering the cakes in fondant, I took my heart cutter and indented the shape directly onto the cake, going around the entire base, and keeping the spacing as symmetrical as possible.  Next, I took a graphite pencil and a ruler, and drew lines from the bottom point of each heart to the top of the cake to make sure the hearts would stay in alignment and not get crooked on me.

I cut out the colors for the bottom row, placed them on, and then continued on to the second row and so forth.  It actually didn't take long at all!

For the number I used a fondant/tylose mix and decorated it with purple disco dust.  Remember, disco dust is no longer considered an edible decoration so only use it on parts of your cake that will not be consumed.

For the final touch I decided to put hearts on wires.  I twisted them around my finger to make spirals and then threaded the hearts right on.  Pretty cute!

For the tutu, I went to a local craft store that sells fabric and bought a yard of each color of tulle.  Then I cut squares of the tulle, about 3X3 inches, then gathered the top and pinned it with straight pins.  I loved how it turned out and felt like it really added a lot to the cake.

I really loved A's little smash cake.  I just did a rough job frosting it.  I cut out little hearts and then attached them with string that I hung between two paper straws.  It was a perfect smash cake.  

All in all, our little baby had a great first birthday.  She ate cake, but mostly enjoyed squeezing it between her fingers.  Happy birthday, Aislinn!

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