Friday, April 22, 2011

King of the Jungle Baby Shower Cake

Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to go a little over the top.  As my mom always put it I "oversubscribe" myself.  So when I was hired to make a cake for a friend's baby's homecoming, I got a little crazy.

Yeah... see?  Got a little crazy.  It was really just supposed to be a cake/cupcake tower that matched the decorations, but my desire to work with gumpaste got the best of me.  So I decided to make a whole gang of jungle friends to sit on top of the cake.

Having never worked with gumpaste before, I figured I should start early.  And it's a good thing because my dog once again couldn't resist the smell of sugar and ate the first elephant I made.  This isn't the first time he has been tempted by my cake decorating.  View my previous post to see how he devoured a bridal shower cake.  I thought at first that maybe I moved the elephant without remembering... or maybe he fell on the floor... nope, he was gone.  10 minutes upstairs, unattended, and he was gone.  Gumpaste, toothpick (holding the head to the body) and all.  Gone.  I was in denial at first - how on EARTH could a dog devour en entire 3" high gumpaste elephant in 10 minutes???  It must be here somewhere... But the dog's guilty look and the absence of any trace of the elephant whatsoever finally convinced me that somehow, it could be done.

It took me a couple weeks before I could face the gumpaste again, but I'm glad I did.  First I remade the elephant:

Then I moved on to the lion:

Then the monkey:

 And then my favorite, the giraffe:

Isn't he cute???  To be honest, he was the hardest to make, so that may be why I have a certain affinity for him.

Here's a close-up of the cake with cupcakes and jungle friends topper:
The cupcakes are pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate with vanilla buttercream.  The cupcake toppers are dark chocolate rounds with white chocolate feet dyed to match the decorations.

Congrats to Jen and Alan on their adorable Caleb!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Shameless Self Promotion
If you go there you'll get a sneak peek at the content of my next blog update.  Exciting, I know!

Super Bowl XLV

Tisk, tisk, I'm writing about Super Bowl in April.  Shame on me, it's been a while!  Maybe I'll try to blame it on taking this long to get over the ultimate sell-out of watching Guns N' Roses' Slash play with the Black Eyed Peas at the half time show... So.  Very.  Sad.

I've had my eye on a recipe for Irish Car Bomb cupcakes for a while.  I got the idea from this book, Who You Callin' Cupcake?  A wonderful little recipe book with crazy cupcake recipes.  You might be asking yourself, "what do Irish Car Bombs have to do with the super Bowl?"  Nothing. It really was just an excuse to finally make them.  No one at the party questioned the theme and judging from the lack of left-overs, I'd say they were a big hit.

I modified the recipe a bit by using my go-to Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcake recipe from The Cake Mix Doctor and made them mini... that makes them guilt free... or so I like to tell myself.  Then I soaked them in whiskey, spread some chocolate whiskey ganache on them and topped them off with Bailey's Irish Cream chocolate buttercream icing.  And, tada....
Oh yes, and my favorite part - the footballs are made from caramels and the laces are piped white chocolate.  You can see the schmear of chocolate whiskey ganache just sticking out from under the buttercream.

And since there were going to be kids attending the party, I made some kid-friendly, plain chocolate and vanilla butercream minis for them:
I added the green sprinkles in an attempt to make somewhat of a connection to the game and in defiance of the Steelers making it to the Super Bowl over the Ravens once again... grrrr...

Here's a photo of the whole lot:

I'd like to give a little shout-out to "Mom" Harris who helped me roll and pipe the footballs until 3am the night before!  Thanks!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bug Cupcakes!

I'd like to try to claim that I wait to post my baking activities until well after the event because I like to relive the moments months later... really I'm just a complete slacker and take my good ol' sweet time getting around to it.  The following was a project from my nephew's 7's birthday in June.  Yes, it's quite embarrassing how long it's been, but better late than never, right?

For my nephew's 7th birthday I was tasked with making cupcakes.  But not cute cupcakes... that wouldn't be cool at all.  They had to be gross cupcakes.  So since the party was at a mini golf course with an Indiana Jones theme, I thought bugs would be perfect.  Big bugs like the creepy crawlies in the Jones trilogy (yes, I know there was a 4th Indiana Jones movie, but it was so bad that I refuse to acknowledge its existence).  Big, nasty, gross bugs...
Ok, so that guy is kinda cute.  The spider's body is a Ferrero Rocher with an M&M head.  Eyes are made of white sprinkles with two red food dye dots.  The legs are piped chosolate. 

Since the spider ended up not being gross enough, I had to work on some other bug options and came up with this one:
That is an edible cicada that looked a little too realistic for me to actually stomach eating.  The body is made from a date, the wings from caramels that were rolled out and cut into wing shapes the head is a half of an M&M and the antennae are piped frosting.

I couldn't decide on one over the other so I thought I'd top the cupcakes with all different types of bugs so the kids could choose which they wanted to devour.  The whole lot looked like this:
I liked how some spanned a few cupcakes to make it look like they were crawling all around.  However, I had planned to transfer them to a nicer looking plate (this is just my cupcake carrier), but after they were assembled I realized that because some were spread across two cupcakes that moving them would be impossible.  Plus it was a REALLY hot day in June and the bodies were assembled with chocolate, so too much handling meant they all fell apart.  So this is what the kids got.  Eh, they're 7 year old, I'm sure they won't notice!

The beetles:
Made of a Pretzel M&M, regular M&M and half a Raisinet for the head.

I made two different types of scorpions:
Both were made mostly with M&Ms (both whole and cut in half for the smaller parts of the legs) and a Pretzel M&M for the large part of the body and a half a Raisinet for the head.

The centipede:
The centipede was all M&Ms with chocolate legs.

A few of the happy customers:
They gobbled up the candy bugs, but hesitated once they got to the cupcakes.  They were red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  I thought the kids would think the color of the cupcakes was cool, but I think the cream cheese frosting weasn't sweet enough and they never really got past that.  Oh well, lesson learned.  Next time I'll stick to the super sweet Betty Crocker for the kids.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do you like Pina Coladas?

Happy summer!  I got a hankering for summer time cookies... oh who am I kidding?  I bought this cookie cutter recently and needed an excuse to use it...

Isn't it ADORABLE?!  Little Webber grill cookie cutter!  I know, it's totally useless, but too cute not to have in my cookie cutter arsenal.
And what says summer more than pina coladas?? So put them together and you have pina colada cookies!  Take your favorite sugar cookie recipe, add 1 cup shredded coconut and 1/2 cup dried pineapple (blend them together in a food processor before adding to the dough) and voila!
I struggled a bit with how to decorate a grill cookie - next time I need to add some grass and maybe the 3rd leg in the background.  I would have done that this go around, but used all my green on my pineapple cookies...

Yeah, got a little crazy with the tops.

And my personal favorite... crab cookies!
Here's a close-up so you can see how adorable they are...
Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Congratulations Melissa and Keith!

A few weeks ago I was asked to help with a groom's cake for my friend.  Only it wouldn't be a simple little fondant covered cake with some random design... no, no, the bride had grand plans for this cake.  Given the groom lives and breaths Chicago sports, it made sense to give the cake a Chicago Cubs theme.  So the instructions were to make the bottom tier look like Wrigley Field with ivy all over, a second tier with the Cubs logo and incorporate a cake topper that bride had gotten with a Cubs theme.  Yikes.  Given that this would be only the third fondant covered cake I've ever made, I started to have a mini panic attack. 

Thankfully, another bridesmaid was helping me and she was in charge of making the cake.  A yummy pumpkin spice cake... BTW, Jen, if you're reading this you still owe me that recipe.  It was to die for!  Dense and moist with a fantastic mix of spices.  The problem was, the traditional icing she used for this cake was cream cheese... which if you've ever read any baking forum, cream cheese icing and fondant do NOT mix.  So I scoured the web and found this recipe from Earlene's Cakes.  It uses something called Butavan which sounded to me like something you'd take to get rid of some sort of infection, but it is actually a butter/vanilla emulsion.  Since the recipe used very little cream cheese (which is apparently what causes problems for the fondant) the Butavan helps strengthen the flavor.  To be completely honest... this isn't the best cream cheese icing recipe.  It does the job and it didn't melt the fondant, but it doesn't taste nearly as good as a traditional recipe.

So away we go... Jen arrived with cakes on Wednesday night around 6pm.  Here's the first layer getting its icing:
And one word of caution if you use this recipe - you've gotta work fast.  The point of it is to crust so the fondant can be placed on, but it crusts fast.  Like, warp speed fast.  So I'd recommend having all the cakes trimmed and ready to go before you even mix the icing.

Putting on the fondant:
Oops, you can see our cheat sheets behind the cake... don't judge!  I wasn't familiar enough with the Cubs logo or Wrigley Field to go off of memory.
Now, how to create ivy... more fondant!  Tinted in 3 different shades of green and three different sizes for variety.

Lots of ivy...
While Jen got started on applying those to the bottom layer I got started on the top...
Turns out I'm much better at icing round cakes. 
And of course my dog, Indi, had to supervise the project...
This time he promised not to eat the cake.

Jen had gotten an edible Wrigley Field sign made to stick on the front.  How cute!
Jen was doing a great job with the ivy so I got started on the Cubs logo... this turned out to be a bigger pain in the A than I thought it would be.  I have fondant letter cutters but the "B" looks more like an "8"... that is, if you can get it out of the cutter in one piece!  This thing really had me pissed off.  There were many four-letter words said at this point.  But it turned out alright in the end!
So maybe it was all the sugar fumes, or possibly the fact that it was around midnight at this point... but we thought that sitting on the cake board like this, the top tier looked a lot like an old fashioned campaign hat.  Don't you agree?  Maybe you need to see it on my head to convince you...
Yeah... we were a little loopy at this point in the night.
Enough playing around, it's time to join the two cakes.  In hindsight, it would have been good to do this PRIOR to decorating the top tier.  Once again, lots of four-letter words and cake nearly ending up on the floor, but the only casualty was that the blue band got a little messed up.  Nothing a little shortening and smoothing couldn't fix though. 
DONE!  Well, almost.  The topper came with all sorts of Cubs themed extras to decorate.  So we got a little crazy and thought the bride might look good with a hat on...
Yeah... at this point it was at least 1am. 
Here are some photos from the wedding. 
The groom checking it out with some buddies from Chicago:
Looks like a satisfied client!
Cutting the cake.  They cut ours in addition to the real cake! 
I have to admit it hurt a little to see the cake like this...
But what good is a cake that doesn't get eaten?

Congratulations Melissa and Keith! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My dog ate the cake... seriously!

Here's a little tale about how this...

became this in a matter of 20 minutes...

Let me back up and explain what happened...

A friend of mine was having a bridal shower and I offered to make the cake.  I was all excited because I had a couple designs in mind and I couldn't wait to try one of them.  I'm new to using fondant so I did a trial version the week before.  It was a funky one-tier square cake with zebra stripes.  If I ever dig up those photos, I may post that eventually.  But since the shower's theme was a tea party, I thought a zebra striped cake might be a bit much.  So I settled on a classic two-tier cake with pink and yellow flowers.  Starting the night before I made 4 square cakes - two 8" and two 6" - using the most fabulous recipe I got from Bakerella that you can find here.  It's honestly the best yellow cake ever!  Very moist...

That's the cake with the sides cut off to make it as square as possible.  Then off comes the top...

Then use Martha's buttercream recipe to stack the two 8" squares and two 6" squares.  Here's the 8" all frosted and ready for the top tier.

I love that buttercream recipe and use it for most cupcakes and cakes I make.  Mmmmm.... buttercreammmmmmm....

Anyway... while the frost-covered cake set for a bit in the fridge I tinted and rolled out fondant to make some flowers.  Here's a close up of a couple of them drying on parchment paper.

The next morning when they were dry I rolled out the fondant and covered the cake, added the flowers and had a bit of fun with some left over icing which I used to make little vines.

All finished just in time for me to take a quick shower and then make it to the bridal shower right on time... or so I thought...
Upon coming out of the shower I discovered that the dog had gotten up on the counter, pulled the cake off and proceed to lick and pretty much destroy the entire top tier and most of the bottom.  I found him innocently lying on the kitchen floor next to the remnants of the cake.  Desperately hoping to salvage some part of the cake, I turned the top tier over on the pan it had baked on... maybe if I cut off the portion he licked....

Nope, not gonna happen.  The fondant was in a pile on its own (apparently the dog was more interested in the buttercream than the fondant) and no matter how I cut the cake it had no chance of survival.  I'm sure everyone at the party will thank me for giving up on the idea of saving some portion of the cake.  Sorry, Melissa... these pictures will have to suffice.

For the animal lovers in the group, the dog is fine (he's lucky it wasn't chocolate cake)... although if he ever does this again, he's not going to be with us for much longer...

And for the bridal shower lovers in the group, Cake Love came to the rescue with a last minute layered chocolate cake.