Friday, December 31, 2010

Carved Topsy Turvy Cake

Well, this is the last post of 2010!

I thought I'd leave you with a fun topsy turvy cake that I hand carved... and, you get to enjoy pictures taken with my brand new Canon Rebel T2i... :)  Disclaimer:  I'm still learning what I'm doing.

Let me let you all in on a little secret.
(I don't generally like topsy turvy cakes.)

*glances in both directions to watch for daggers*

Seriously-- in the right situations they can be very effective...  If you were doing a Dr. Seuss cake, it would seem appropriate, but I generally don't like the imprecision that is sometimes acceptable in the whimsy style.  Anyway, I decided to embellish the topsy turvy cakes to make them a little more exciting and elegant.

As an added challenge-- I was in my parents' kitchen when I did this cake, so I didn't necessarily have all of my usual tools.  First, I carved the basic shape that I wanted.

Figured out how the top tier would fit...

Then I carefully carved waves into the top of the cake-- this idea was very much inspired by Margaret Braun.

Both tiers were covered in dark chocolate ganache and fondant.

The cake features royal icing piping, fondant pearls, and isomalt gems. 

 Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Gift Cake

One last Christmas cake!   
I made this cake to bring home to my parents for Christmas dinner.  The ribbons and bow are all stiffened red fondant, and the cake was butter cake with eggnog filling.  Fondant pearls are on the ribbons on the sides. 

I used this cake to practice my speed.  I find that when I make cakes, I sometimes spend a lot of time trying to decide what I'm going to do.  For this cake, I got the idea in my head before I got started so I could time how long it took me to decorate.  

Have I mentioned that my new favorite toy is the pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid?  I use that to roll out gum paste for my flowers (when possible) and I also used it to roll out all of those ribbons and bow loops.  It's a time saver and makes everything nice and even.

Now looking forward to 2011...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Here are the last of the cookies...
I hope everyone got lots of great Christmas gifts.  I am so excited-- my uncle and grandfather contributed to buying me a brand new SLR camera!!!  Next year, you can look forward to even more delectable cake pictures... :)

Anybody else get any great cake gifts?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Cookies!

Here are two Christmas tree cookies for Christmas Eve!  

The left one is covered in royal icing and just has some basic green royal icing piping and is topped with a fondant pearl.  

The right tree is covered in white fondant.  I made impressions using the FMM Sugarcraft Straight Frill Cutter - #1, then dusted with moss green petal dust.  I finished it with some fondant pearls.  

Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Cookies Part 2

This cookie is covered in a circle of white fondant.  I started the design by creating the curves (next to the dragees) with a veining tool.  Finally, I added royal icing piping and silver dragees. 

These two cookies were both covered in red fondant (which really doesn't taste very good... especially on a cookie... but it's pretty!).  Both have free-hand royal icing piping, and the bow has a fondant pearl in the middle.

Now, who's getting excited for Christmas???!!!  I am!!! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookies Part 1

Hi blog buddies!  Sorry for the brief hiatus in posts-- been a busy couple of weeks with lots going on!

Time to catch up on some blog posts!

So, I was in a bit of a hurry when I did my Christmas cookies this year.  Some of them I coated in royal icing, others I just covered with fondant.  I didn't think the fondant was quite as tasty, but it's soooo much faster!

I recently bought the FMM Sugarcraft Straight Frill Cutter - #1, and I used that to create the decors across the center of the cookies in both of these designs.  Both of them feature some piping, and the one on the left is finished with fondant pearls.  For the one on the right, I cut holes in the middle of the diamonds using a tip 10. 

More cookies for the next few days!

Happy holidays!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Poinsettia Cake

Holiday Poinsettia Cake 
Photography by Prem Midha

Yesterday I entered my second cake competition.  This was the Patty Cakes Holiday Cake Affair in Decatur, GA.  My first competition was also a Patty Cakes show in September: This Cake :)

This time I was much more calm and prepared.  Okay, I don't know about calm, but definitely more prepared! 

Ivory Gum Paste Poinsettia
While the ideas for this cake definitely evolved in my head over the last couple of months, I ended up solidifying my design by making a few sketches and picking my favorite.  

The first things I made were the poinsettias and the little holly royal icing lace points encircling base of the top tier:

(Aren't Prem's pictures awesome?)

Anyway, I based the little 1" lace points on an Earlene Moore pattern which I modified to meet the holly/ holiday theme.  

As for the gum paste poinsettias (which you can see in my previous post)-- well, when I realized they were just over 8" in diameter, I figured I'd better make over-sized cake tiers so that they didn't swallow the cake whole. 

That means I baked 12 cakes (15 if you count the batch I screwed up) to make 5.5" tall tiers (standard height is generally 4").  My flavors this time were chocolate cake with dark chocolate peppermint ganache and butter cake with rum syrup and eggnog filling.  Now, normally I'm a chocolate person, like seriously.  When eating a non-chocolate cake I often find myself thinking 'this is good except that it's not chocolate.'  The exception was that butter cake with the eggnog filling.   These were some tall cakes!

Remember, I do all this at home: read, one oven and a fridge that was still full of Thanksgiving leftovers 3 days ago... ;) 

Anyway, I'll tell you more about the details on the cake and then I'll tell you more about the competition...

I covered the cake in red Satin Ice fondant.  It wasn't terribly cooperative.  Normally I have very little trouble with white Satin Ice, but the red coloring dries out the fondant and my apartment was pretty cold and dry when i was trying to roll it out.  I couldn't get it as thin as I normally do, but I ultimately prevailed.

All of the details were either fondant, gum paste or royal icing.  That round ornament is royal icing. :)  The pearls were all fondant.  Oh by the way, do you love that ribbon around the board as much as I do? 

The snowflakes were gum paste, and the fabric/ ribbon swags were a fondant and gum paste blend. 

So, the competition.  I did a lot more things right this time.  First, I finished my cake at about 1:30 AM and managed to get a full night's sleep. In the morning, I had time to eat breakfast and get packed before Prem came to take pictures.  I had a full entourage of friends with me, and we packed some wraps so that I'd have something to eat after I set up.  AND my friend with an SUV was able to drive the cake over.  Score.

I had the whole cake set up at home for pictures and it traveled perfectly.  All I had to do was un-box it, orient it, and check it when I got there.  No repairs or additional set up was required. *phew*  So I set up and ate some lunch.

For the record, as soon as I start to walk in, I get nervous.  I'm far too nervous to check out the competition when I first walk  in.  Everything is very intimidating.  This time, since I had eaten and slept (and we had chairs to sit by our cakes-- last time I stood almost the entire time), I was in much better spirits.  My competitors on either side of me were wonderful and I had a great time socializing with them and talking cakes.   Here's a picture I took after I'd set up at my table:

Not leaning this time! :)

So, in this competition they judge on originality, neatness, and taste (supposedly).  The unfortunate thing is there's no published rubric or score sheet, nor do you receive such a sheet after being judged.
After 4 hours, I was more than ready to hear the results.  My heart was jumping out of my chest.  Unfortunately, I did not place, even though a couple of the judges told me I was 'really close.' 

While most cake decorating competitions are not scored on taste and have a more obvious scoring rubric, I think it's important to remember the Earlene Moore school of thought on competition: Never enter a competition expecting to win.  I was proud of my entry and saw some great cakes and learned some stuff in the process, so that's great. 

Another 'different' thing about this competition is that after the results are announced, you cut slices of your cake for your public.  For the record, it's really hard not to doubt yourself when a kid tastes your cake and makes a face.  I guess this particular kid had tried some of the chocolate with peppermint and didn't like mint!  Eeesh.  People's cake tastes can be widely different-- all my friends loved my cake and you should have seen how fast that cake was disappearing at school today.  Clearly it wasn't grimace-worthy or people wouldn't have been flooding my lab to get a piece.  Still, these situations do come up and sometimes it's hard not to make a face back! :) 

Finally, I'd like to thank all my friends who came out and supported me yesterday.  You guys are the best!

Maybe I didn't place because I was the only contestant not wearing a chef's coat... it's just not my style! :)

Thanks for looking and let me know if you have any questions about my cake or the competition!  Hope you all have a great week. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gum Paste Poinsettias

Sorry you haven't heard from me in a little while; I was very busy making a Turducken for Thanksgiving.  This weekend I've been back at the sugar, however!  I am preparing for another cake competition next weekend.  This is another local contest-- The Holiday Cake Affair.

I've spent a lot of time playing with gum paste this weekend...  I made 3 of these giant white poinsettias.

I have a few other things in the works too, but I'll keep it a surprise...  ;)

Each of these poinsettias consists of almost 40 different pieces, so they really took quite some time.  However, I'm really happy with how they turned out.  I just hope I find a safe way to secure them to my cake.

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!  More sugary goodness coming your way soon... it's going to be a busy week for me! :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gum Paste for the Holidays

This weekend I was fortunate enough to celebrate the completion of my PhD proposal by taking Nic Lodge's 'Gum Paste for the Holidays' class.  If you ever get a chance to take a class at the International Sugar Art Collection (ISAC), I highly recommend it.  Not only do you get to spend all day playing with gum paste and learning from the master, they also serve you lunch and warm cookies.  I like to think of it as my personal heaven.

In this class we made: poinsettia, christmas rose, christmas rose bud, christmas rose leaves, eucalyptus, mistletoe, yew, juniper, pine, pine cones, variegated ivy, bird's foot ivy, english holly, variegated holly, and spruce.  See if you can spot all of these things! :)

Gum Paste Poinsettia

Variegated Holly and Berries

Christmas Rose

Eucalyptus, Mistletoe, Christmas Rose Bud, Bird's Foot Ivy, Blue Spruce, Pine Cone, Var. Ivy, English Holly

Pine/ cone, Yew, Juniper

English Holly

At the end of class, we arranged everything into basically a bouquet with the Christmas ribbon.

Here was the beginnings of it:

And the final product!

Now if only I didn't have an accounting exam tomorrow... :oP

Friday, November 12, 2010

PhD Proposal Cake

Pardon my pink roses, I have lot of them kicking around after that huge black and white wedding cake that I made for my last competition... 

Anyway, today I gave my PhD proposal presentation.  For those of you unfamiliar, this is where you present your current results and research plan to your PhD committee, and they get to have some input as to what you will do for your dissertation.  Any time you present (your masters thesis, proposal, dissertation), it is customary to have food for your audience and your committee.  Naturally, I wanted to bring a cake.

I decided to try the pumpkin cake with burnt orange silk meringue cream from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  Rose also wrote The Cake Bible, both of which are very popular recipe sources.  Her recipes are known for being delicious if sometimes a little complicated, requiring many steps and some hard to find ingredients.  I followed her pumpkin cake recipe exactly; fortunately I managed to find Walnut Oil at a local organic food store.

Rose's Pumpkin Cake

Instead of following Rose's recipe for the burnt orange silk meringue buttercream, I made my own version.  Her recipe requires 3 distinct steps and seemed like a lot of work.  So I made a more basic italian meringue base, then added heavy cream, orange concentrate, orange zest, and grand marnier.  This icing turned out awesome.  The down side-- it didn't crust.  It would be hard to work with as a decorator.

After icing the cake smooth, I topped it with some of my left over gum past flowers for a quick touch of class. :) 

Rose describes this cake as 'the best non-chocolate cake'.  Many people seemed to agree with this; the cake was delicious and I really loved the buttercream.  Still, for me, there's something about chocolate cake; nothing else seems to quite measure up.

My proposal went very well-- as well as I could have hoped for.  And most of the cake got eaten.  :)

As a reward, I am spending the weekend in another gum paste class with Nic Lodge.  I'll have some new holiday flowers and foliage to show you on Sunday!

Have a great weekend.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Fun Fondant Experiment

One of my favorite cake shows right now is WE TV's Amazing Wedding Cakes.  On that show, my favorite cake shop is Christopher Garren's.  They are so precise all the time and come up with really original designs.  I never see anything sloppy from them, ever. 

Anyway, one thing that they do that I rarely see elsewhere is wrapping the sides of the cake in fondant separately from the top, sometimes allowing for the fondant to protrude over the top edge of the cake. I decided to try this technique tonight on a 6" dummy that I had around because I may use it in my next competition (December 5!).  :)

I covered the top of the cake with a black circle of fondant, and wrapped the sides with a piece of white that I had carefully cut to size-- if you haven't guessed by now, I LOVE black and white. 

After trimming the seam, I put in the fridge to set up a little more.

While it was in there, I made a makeshift cake board for it by sticking together 2 8" cake circles, which I had to cut out by hand since I only have 6" and 12" right now...  I covered the board with black fondant and put a crystal ribbon around the outside.

I liked the simplicity of this cake (and it was getting late) so I finished it off with one of my leftover gum paste roses from the last competition.

That's all for now!  My PhD proposal is this week, so I'm trying a new pumpkin cake recipe for that-- it's customary to bring food for all proposals and thesis presentations.  I firmly believe in sweetening up the committee with delicious baked goods.

As a reward, next weekend I'm taking a 2 day Nicholas Lodge class called gum paste for the holidays. 

After that, I'll be gearing up for the PattyCakes Holiday Cake Affair on December 5! :)  Though I may squeeze a few other little projects in there, now that my proposal is nearly complete.  Have a great week!