Saturday, March 26, 2011

Third Time's a Charm

Well. This cake. Or should I say, this cake. Sometimes, when I think a cake will be "easy" I'm just cursing myself. Perhaps the name of this post should be "Murphy's Law Cake" because whatever could have gone wrong with it did. Sigh.

Before my client totally hyperventilates reading this, I must explain. The cake that was given to my client was a good cake. I'm sure it tasted pretty darn good too. But the cake they got was the THIRD cake I made for them. Yes. You read that right. THIRD.

It all started with the request. Marge wanted a birthday cake for her two daughters who were celebrating their birthdays on the same day. Dylann was turning two, and Addison was turning four (adorable names, aren't they?!). Marge sent me a picture of a two-tiered pink cake with polka dots and a little fondant crown on the side with the birthday girl's age. Yeah. I could do that. She requested the top tier to be a cherry chocolate chip cake with vanilla buttercream and the bottom tier to be a yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. Both sounded great!

I've become a total fan of the Cook's Illustrated recipes. These are the recipes that are tested like a billion times before they're published. They are America's Test Kitchen. Love them. I've made MANY recipes from them and have always had great luck. Their yellow cake is absolutely delicious, moist and perfect every time. Their white cake is the same. Love it. And that's kind of hard to say about a from-scratch white cake, which are usually a little on the dry side because of the lack of egg yokes...but I digress.

The Cherry Chocolate Chip cake recipe I used was also from a Cook's Illustrated magazine. It required a White cake recipe with added cherries and mini-chocolate chips. I know from baking as much as I do that when you add items such as these to a batter, they should be coated in a smidge (technical term, I know) of flour so that they don't sink to the bottom of the pan. But Cook's Illustrated didn't say anything about this. And you NEVER question Cook's Illustrated. So, I baked the cake as directed and when I took the cakes out of their pans after cooling, ALL of the cherries and chocolate chips sank to the bottom of the pan. UGH! I can't give that to a client! Cake pops anyone?!

So I tried again. This time, I was talking on the phone, got distracted and didn't separate the eggs. Egg yokes were added to the white cake, but I DID coat the chips and cherries in flour. When I took these cakes out of their pans after cooling, ALL of the cherries and chocolate chips sank to the bottom of the pan...AGAIN. Double UGH! More cake pops, I guess.

So I head to the grocery store and actually run into Marge, who ordered the cake for her daughters. I was secretly hoping that she wasn't looking in my cart to see the ingredients for the cake I had to make AGAIN. But, it was SO nice to see her again (haven't seen her since high school!) and catch up, if only for a few minutes. :)

So, later that night, I tried to bake this cake yet a third time. This time, I made the recipe correctly, coated the stuff in flour and turned OFF the convection on my oven. And finally, the cakes came out beautifully. Cherries and chips evenly spread throughout. I don't know if the convection was truly causing the problem, but that really seemed to work this time. And, luckily the design for the cake was pretty simple and cute (thank you Marge!); polka dots, stripes and buttercream. It goes together pretty quickly and is a VERY happy little cake.

I know some people think that I'm crazy because I don't use cake mixes and make everything from scratch. But I LOVE it. There's something really pure about making a cake from scratch. Creation. Pure. Simple. It sometimes just takes me a little longer to get there. In this case, the third time's a charm! But I learned a LOT on this one!

Happy Birthday, Addison and Dylann! I hope your cute little party was a blast!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scooby Dooby Doo!

My cake schedule these days has been pretty consistent (and may I just add that I am SO thankful for that!!). I've been averaging a cake or so a week and that's been pretty fun and incredibly manageable. Not only do I welcome the business, but doing these cakes keeps me on my game. That's more important than ever now that I'm teaching at Michael's.

For the most part, my clients give me a few weeks to a few months lead time on their cakes. I really appreciate the time because it takes time to research and brainstorm decorating ideas for each cake. Even though I really appreciate the lead time, I'm happy when I can accomodate a "last minute" order.

Earlier this week, Lorraine contacted me to make another cake for her daughter's friend Stephanie. (I did her daughter Carly's iPod/Soccer cake in December.) Lorraine and I go WAY back, so I couldn't let her down! She said that Stephanie was turning 14 and wanted a Scooby Doo cake. The colors she wanted were Orange and Purple.

So then began my research. I searched high and low for Scooby Doo cake ideas and the orange and purple cakes just didn't look "right". There's something with the color scheme that seemed a little "off" to me. So I decided there that the orange and purple colors would be used as accent colors and I went with a different color scheme for the foundation of the cake; very Mystery Machine-esque.

After the color scheme was determined, I had to figure out how to get a Scooby Doo on the cake. I decided to make a portrait of him out of gum paste and I traced the borders with an food marker. (This technique is going to come in handy with my Dr. Suess cake that I'll be working on next week - stay tuned!) I'm pretty happy with how Mr. Scooby turned out.

Here you can see the orange and purple flowers that I used to accent the cake. The entire color scheme is very Scooby Doo, right?

This Scooby Doo cake is a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream filling. It should be delish!

Happy Birthday, Stephanie! I hope you have an amazing day!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Katie + Mike's Festival du LOVE

Nothing brings me more joy than to make a cake for a dear friend. Katie was one of the first people I met when I moved from Neenah to Hartland. I met her on the bus the first day of school freshmen year. I liked her immediately and there began our friendship, through thick and thin. :)
I was so excited to get an invite in the mail for Katie's bridal shower. It was BEAUtiful! I loved the colors, I loved the butterflies, super cute! I actually thought about the kind of cake I'd make for her, if I was asked...hoping that I would be! And sure enough! I got the email requesting a Cake Mama cake for the event. We met for lunch a few days later and I told her all about the kind of cake I'd make, but the only thing I told her about the design is that it would be based off of the invitation.

And here's the sample invitation (from of which I would base Katie's cake:

I wanted to incorporate the butterfly, the word "LOVE" and all of the colors and textures. I loved the harlequin design on the back of the invite and the yellow striping on the front. I loved it all! So here's the cake I designed for Katie:

The bottom tier is a strawberry spiral cake. The top two tiers are gluten-free chocolate cakes with vanilla bean frosting. The top tier is designed to be a take-home cake for Mike and Katie to share together.

Happy shower day, Katie!! Love to you and Mike!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top o' the Cake Pop to ya!

Alright. Flashback to the end of last month when I created this monstrosity:

We, in the cake world, refer to this as a "Cake Wreck." I totally didn't mean to make a "Cake Wreck", but that's what happened. So, I decided to make this cake into something else entirely. I heard about the new trend in Cake Pops and thought the time was now for me to experiment.

I took the "Cake Wreck" and placed it right into my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl, plugged in the paddle and let it whirl. The cake instantly turned to mush. I rolled that mush into 80 little balls and set them in the freezer.

Last night, I melted down some white chocolate, added sticks to the cake balls, dipped, dotted, wrapped and transformed them into these totally festive CAKE POPS!!

I love the way they turned out, especially for my first stab at making Cake Pops. They were not only delicious, but totally fun to eat! My husband brought them into work today and shared them with his team. And yes, I made him take the basket (psst...I filled the bottom of the basket with a bunch of [chocolate] gold coins. Here's hoping the leprechauns will never find it there!)

Happy St. Patty's Day to you all!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Barter for Batter

I am ALL about bartering. Love it. You do this for me, I make you a cake. Clean my gutters? Cake. Rake my lawn? Two cakes (my yard is really big). Take my dog for a walk? Cupcake. This particular cake was a barter with my brother...over batter (couldn't resist). You can see all around this post what my brother was able to accomplish for me. He's an incredibly talented artist; he made my logo and helped spiff up the rest of this blog, to name just a FEW of the things he's done for me. I just love it.

And evidently, my brother loved our Dad's cake that I made last month because he asked for a repeat. However, he's celebrating with his employees at work today, and wanted me to put this little icon, named Johnny Tracker, on the top of the cake as part of the celebration. Evidently, all of his employees will "get it", even if we don't know what it means. Inside jokes. Gotta love them.

So again, this is a yellow spiral cake with chocolate mousse filling.

Fondant Johnny Tracker on top. Pirouettes on the outside. Just like Dad's.

Happy Johnny Tracker Day??? And thanks, Jimmy, for all of your work. I LOVE it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trans Am...[I able to do this cake?!]

I was asked to make this Trans Am cake about 9 months ago. It haunted my dreams since then. HOW was I going to do a cake in the shape of a Trans AM?!!! Of course, in my usual way, when I was asked to do this cake I said, "SURE!" And THEN I panicked. Never done one quite like this before.

So many of you may be wondering why was this so difficult? Why did this cause so much stress? Well, it's because this cake was fashioned after someone's ACTUAL car. He loves his car so much, he had it professionally photographed, and I was to recreate HIS car with cake. No pressure or anything. (Acutally, I had a LOT of fun thinking about and planning this cake...really. ;)) It's a beautiful car, hey?

So I started out with this cake. Two 9X13 chocolate cakes filled with buttercream. This is a much firmer chocolate cake (see "Steve's Cake" post if you really need to understand why I didn't use THAT chocolate cake recipe). I needed a firm cake to do the carving necessary to transform this block into a car.

Many thanks to my husband who helped plan and carve this cake with me. You can see in the photo above, Danny actually got a pound cake to practice with before helping to carve the actual cake. What a great guy!

So, now it's beginning to kind of look like a car, right?

I crumb coated it and covered it with fondant. Then I etched in the car markings.

And then I added the final details so the car cake looked like this:

I dropped the car off yesterday and Tiffany, who ordered this cake for her fiance, was so excited! I was relieved. I hope her fiance had a great birthday! (I slept like a baby...)

Ahoy, Matey!

I've been corresponding with Chad, a high school friend of mine, for a few weeks regarding this particular cake. I'm happy that I had the time in my schedule to accomodate it, because it was a really fun cake to do! He was looking for a good "gift" for his Dad's birthday but he mentioned it's getting harder and harder to find something for him. So, why not a cake?

At first, Chad and I were discussing a John Wayne cake, so you can imagine my surprise when he sent over a picture of a Navy-themed cake. His Dad served our country (bless him) and Chad saw something that would honor his dad. So he sent over this picture that he found online:

But he wanted me to incorporate his Dad's rank, below.

And this is what I made for him. The bottom and middle tier are both chocolate cakes with chocolate buttercream filling (his Dad is a fan of chocolate...). The top tier is actually Rice Krispie treat covered in buttercream then fondant.

The verdict?

"Wow!! I totally loved the cake. My dad was compleatly surprised and had a GIANT smile for minutes...Thank you for that...BUT then we cut the cake..OMG all the women were jealous at your moist chocolate was so funny. Everyone loved it. My wife said it was the best cake she has ever tasted!!! You really helped make a run-of-the-mill Saturday into a day we will all remember. Once again...thank you so much! - Chad"

Thank you, Chad! And a special Happy Birthday and thank you to your Dad!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Steve's Cake (and making lemonade)

Making Steve's chocolate lover's cake was actually a pretty simple endeavor, or so I thought. Pumping out these cakes nowadays seems second nature to me, or so I thought. (...are you getting the totally obvious foreshadowing here?!) So I'm sure you can imagine my surprise, not to mention the total blow to my ego when I created THIS cake wreck.

What makes this even funnier is that my friend (THANKfully, she's a GREAT friend of mine), was coming, that very instant, to PICK UP THE CAKE!!! There's NO way I'd send this cake home with ANYone. Despite the deliciousness of the cake, it looks TERRIBLE! (Well, the caramel oozing out of it looks kind of good, actually. The chocolate ganache, looks kind of tasty too...but I digress.) The cake literally melted. Whenever I've made this cake in the past, I've used a frozen cake, which has held up well. This one was baked that day and was too moist for the fillings at the time. I'm considering it a hilarious, not to mention delicious, learning experience.

I'm sure you're curious about what I did with the cake and I'm happy to report it will soon turn into cake pops. That'll be for another post, later this month. Stay tuned.

So, after starting over and delaying my friend's pick-up time, I was able to pop out this one.

It's a simple cake, but I'm pleased with its appearance. It turned out MUCH better than the first one.

Happy Birthday, Steve! Thanks for letting me be a part of it!