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!

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Cover a Cake in Ganache

 Some bakers actually 'ice' their cakes with chocolate ganache in lieu of buttercream.


Well, aside from tasting like chocolate truffle filling, ganache can have much more structural integrity than buttercream.  It is easier to get sharp corners and smoothness by using a hot knife, has no air bubbles, and best of all... WON'T BULGE!!! :)  That's right, ganache can withstand the added weight of fondant much better than most buttercreams.

I got the idea from this book:
Planet Cake isn't one of the books I use all the time, but has some nice clean, simple ideas, as well as ganache recipes and instructions for covering a cake in ganache.  
So I made an 8" round chocolate cake which I filled with chocolate mousse.  I'll post about chocolate mousse another time after I actually figure out how it's supposed to work. :)  It tasted good though!  

Since the cake was already stocked with dark chocolate a plenty, I made a white chocolate ganache to cover the cake. 

I started with 1.5 lbs of white chocolate, and added 8 oz of cream.  I melted everything in the microwave, stirring every minute or so.  After letting it stand (covered) for 5 mins, I whisked the ganache and let it set up over night.  Before spreading it on the cake, I microwaved it again for about 15-20 seconds.

After covering the cake, I smoothed it out using a hot spatula.

 I'm trying to rig a level or levels to my bench scraper so that I can get perfectly vertical sides... yes, I'm that OCD.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, I let the ganache set up in the fridge for a bit and then covered the cake in fondant. 

By the way, my fondant rolling pin is a 2 ft length of PVC pipe.

What follows is called tip 1, tip 1.5, and a small leaf tip, some black royal icing, and no plan. :)

In the future, I should probably come up with a plan, but it was fun to just practice some piping.
Oh and the cake?  Delicious.  :)