Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Cookies!

I have to be honest with you.  Cut-out cookies are my least favorite cookies to make.  They take so much time, they take so much work, and they make such a big mess.  But you know what?  My kids and my husband LOVE them and it gives the girls the opportunity to "help" me in the kitchen.  That bonding time is what makes all of the work and mess totally worth it.  

This was Maren's first cut-out cookie experience.  She loved eating the toppings more than decorating, but who cares?  She made some brilliant cookies!

Josie has developed into quite the artist!  She took her time and made some delightful designs.  


I went through and added the green leaves when they were done.  

I've blogged about these cookies before, but if you'd like the recipe, click here.  The blog post also has a link for the most wonderful frosting.  Happy Halloween!!!!

Pumpkins for Amy

Sofia walked over to my house with her dad and placed an order with the Cake Mama for her mom's [Amy's] birthday.  Shh!  This was going to be a surprise!  Sofia wanted a dozen cake pops, but they had to look like pumpkins.  AND!  She wanted "medium-sized" pumpkins for the top of the cake she was going to make for her mom.  I had to clarify what size "medium" was and Sofia held up her hands made a circle, "yay" big.  Got it.  

Sofia said the her mom's favorite cake was a funfetti cake, so that's what I made the cake pops out of.  I rolled them in orange chocolate, covered them in orange sprinkles and used a little green Tic Tac for the stem.

Here are the cake pops and the medium sized pumpkins for the top of Amy's cake.  I made these pumpkins out of Rice Krispie treats and rolled them orange chocolate.  They, too, got the Tic Tac stem. 

Happiest of birthdays to you, Amy!  I hope you were surprised!  

Aaliyah's Design

Aaliyah was so excited to show me the cake that she wanted me to make for her birthday.  She sketched out her design on this paper and was very specific about how she wanted her cake to look.  Isn't she so talented?

She loves to play basketball and volleyball, her favorite colors are orange and purple and she absolutely loves moustaches.   (You read that right.)  It's kind of "her thing."  LOL!

Aaliyah wanted a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting on the inside.  And not just any chocolate frosting, she wanted mini-chocolate chips to be mixed IN with the frosting (indicated in her picture above - all of the dots...).  Here's a picture of that creamy frosting with chocolate chips.  

The end result can be seen here.  Orange and purple are very present, so is the basketball, volleyball and moustache.  She added balloons and so did I.

It was a fun cake to deliver.  I love seeing the look on their faces.  And this was even more special because it was HER design.  

Happy Birthday, Aaliyah!  

Sports-Themed Baby Shower

Jackie requested cupcakes for a sports-themed baby shower she was hosting.  She said that the nursery for this soon-to-arrive little baby boy was to be decorated with different sports balls and I thought that they would be really cute on top of a mound of blue frosting.  

I made the baseballs, basketballs and footballs out of gum paste and used royal icing and edible food marker to make them look just right.  

Jackie requested a batch of chocolate and a batch of vanilla cupcakes, filled with buttercream for the special event.  I hope that they had a wonderful time and congrats to the mom-to-be!!!

Happy Birthday To Me.

So what does the Cake Mama get for her birthday?  A deconstructed chocolate cupcake filled and topped with salted caramel buttercream with a drizzling of homemade caramel.  

Yep.  A happy birthday indeed.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Super Heroes Smash Up

Braden was having a Super Heroes party and wanted a cake to include his favorite Super Heroes. The Hulk is his favorite, but he also loves Batman, Superman and Spiderman.  So how do I make a cake and include all FOUR of those Heroes?   EASY!!!  I break the cake into four quadrants and decorate away!

Here's how it turned out.  Notice, Braden's name is under the Hulk.  I figured that should be the front of the cake.  

Braden wanted a chocolate cake with Oreo buttercream and fudge filling.  DELISH!!!

I hope he had a fantastic birthday celebration!  I had so much fun making his cake!

A Cake Fit For a Stylist

My neighbor stopped by requesting a cake for her daughter, Karissa.   Karissa, I was told, is a hair stylist, her favorite colors were turquoise and orange and she was turning 25.  That's all I knew about Karissa.  That, and she wanted a chocolate cake.  Challenge accepted.  

I actually had a really fun time with this cake.  Sometimes, blank slates can be REALLY fun and do my best work.  No expectations, just surprise.  I love it!

And here's what I came up with for Karissa.  

I hope that Karissa had a wonderful birthday celebration!  (I'm told she enjoyed her cake!  Phew!)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cake Pops Tutorial

So...  Cake Pops.    Yeah.  

I know these can be one of the most difficult things home-bakers take on to make themselves and they sometimes turn out and they sometimes look like this:

A few years ago, my Wilton Instructor, Karen came over to my house and taught a few of her students (myself included) how to "officially" make cake pops.  Her class was invaluable and so I opted to do the same and offer a class to some of my friends and students who really wanted to conquer the cake pop.  They're not difficult when you know how to make them correctly.  Time consuming, yes.  But not difficult.

STEP ONE:  Cake Pop "Dough"
The first thing you work on is the cake pop itself.  You want to keep the cake pop a cake-y consistency.  I'll never forget one of the first times I made cake pops I added way too much frosting to my mix and they were, as my mom called, "kinda gluppy."  My dad actually spit his out and thought they were "raw."  I had to assure him, they were made out of cake and frosting (and then made a mental note to call Karen...STAT!!)

So, here, I started out with a chocolate cake and I crumbled it up and placed it in my mixer.  When I make cake pops, usually, I use whatever scraps I have in the freezer.  You know, those extra cake domes you cut off the top of your cakes to make them all level?  Yeah.  I turn those into cake pops. But you can use a freshly baked cake too which is what I do when I make these for clients.  It just hurts your soul a little more when you see it crumble in front of you.  My condolences.  

The next step is to add some frosting.  Recipes online will tell you to add 1/2 cup of frosting to each cake mix cake recipe you use.  I say, throw that recipe away and burn it because the only way you can successfully make the right cake pop consistency is by watching it carefully and adding a little frosting at a time.  I explained to my class that each kind of cake has a different level of moisture.  Chocolate cakes, for example, don't need as much frosting as a yellow or white cake.  So I add a small scoop (tablespoon or so) at a time, until the cake starts to come together like a big ball of bread dough.  Then, add a small scoop just for good measure and you'll be ready to roll.

STEP TWO:  Roll Cake Pop Balls
The next step is rolling the cake pop "dough" into balls.  I make my cake pops about 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter, but you can make yours larger or smaller depending on your design.  I roll mine out and place them on a cookie sheet if I'm going to make them the same day, or in a Pyrex 9X13 pan with a cover and refrigerate them for about 30 minutes or overnight.  

STEP THREE:  Get Your Chocolate Ready
This is probably the most messed up step.  You really want to make sure that your chocolate is a smooth and almost runny consistency.  Thinner than pudding, but thicker than water.  You can see from the picture below, it nicely drips off of my spatula. If it's too thick, you'll really have a hard time dipping the pops.  They'll be weighted down and you might find them sliding off the sticks.  

If your chocolate is too thick, add Crisco Shortening, about a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. You'll see that adding the shortening will also add a nice sheen to the chocolate as well.  Good stuff.

You can also see that I'm using the Wilton Chocolate Pro Melting Pot.  It is the most wonderful item I've added to my kitchen in the last decade.  Please invest in one.  You can use it for so many other things outside of cake popping (like fondue, all of your Christmas's awesome).  It's electric, it keeps your chocolate at just the right temperature for melting (but not burning).  I can't say enough good things about it. 

If you want to COLOR your white chocolate (and you don't use the already colored Wilton Candy Melts, (which I prefer over ALL OTHER CHOCOLATE for melting purposes) use CANDY food coloring.  Wilton sells some, but you want to make sure that it's oil-based food coloring.  Adding water-based food coloring or even the Wilton Gel colors will cause issues with the chocolate.  Don't do it.  Get the right kind of stuff.  


STEP FOUR:  Add the Sticks
This step is optional.  If you want to make the official cake POP then continue on.  But you can skip this step if you just want to make some cake truffles (which taste the SAME as Cake Pops, by the way...)

To add the sticks, remove your rolled cake balls from the 'fridge.  Take a stick (I like the Wilton Cake Pop sticks - they come in a variety of lengths) and dip it into the chocolate, THEN into your cake ball, about half-way to the center (not all of the way through the cake ball).  Do this for all of them and return them to the 'fridge for about 20 minutes or so.  Re-refrigerating them here will allow that chocolate to harden and will keep the stick securely placed in the cake pop.

Everyone in class got to impale a cake ball with a stick.  

STEP FIVE:  Dipping the Cake Pops in Chocolate

Now that your cake pops are nicely chilled again, take them out of the 'fridge and let them rest for a few minutes to get the chill and condensation that will build to dry off a bit.  Chocolate absolutely HATES water.  It's a bad mix.  So the condensation on the chilled cake pops can ultimately ruin your chocolate consistency if you add them to the chocolate right away.  This is also why I don't freeze my cake pops before dipping them any more.  I found that once they came to room temperature, the chocolate would begin to crack.

So, once you see that the condensation is gone, start dipping your cake pops.  You want to make sure that the chocolate is covering the entire cake pop, up to and including the stick area.  Once it's all covered, you'll have to remove the excess chocolate by tapping the chocolate off.  I use the rim of my Chocolate Pro and tap the stick against that while keeping the actual cake pop right above the chocolate below.  The excess chocolate just drips right back into the pot.

Continue to tap the cake pop and rotate it as best as you can to ensure that all of the excess chocolate is removed.  But here's the trick - if you plan to add sprinkles to your cake pop, you can't do this too long or the chocolate will harden.  But if you don't do it long enough, the chocolate will slide down the stick and create a mess.  This is, unfortunately, a trial and error skill.  You'll just know (eventually) when it's ready.

STEP SIX:  Decorating your Cake Pops

One of my favorite ways to decorate cake pops is to simply roll them in sprinkles.  Because this class took place in October, I themed all of the decorations to Halloween, but you can certainly modify the decorations as you see fit.  

To get them covered in sprinkles, after you've tapped and removed all of the excess chocolate from the cake pop (in Step 5), you gently roll the cake pop in the sprinkles (like I'm doing below).  Make sure that you get the top of the cake pop too.  

I'm not even kidding.  It's that simple. 

You can also add items to the cake pops after the chocolate has hardened by using melted chocolate as the glue.  

STEP SEVEN:  Finishing the Cake Pop

Technically, you could be done with your cake pop.  I always like to wrap mine and I use decorative ribbon to finish them off.  I think it adds a really nice finish to the cake pops and it allows the cake pops to travel a little more graciously.  

We had such a great time making and decorating cake pops!  Here's my fabulous class (minus Nicole who had to leave a little earlier) with their bouquets of cake pops!

Thanks, Ladies, for a wonderful Saturday afternoon! 

(And also thanks for the pictures!  The only one I took was this last one of the group.)