Saturday, May 28, 2011

Star Wars Cookies

I made these for my nephew last year for his birthday.
He blushed. Or maybe he was just embarrassed from the surprise ambush at the restaurant. I think he liked them since he immediately posted them to his Facebook page. While we were still having dinner. Kids these days. What are you gonna do?

Both he and my son were huge fans when they were little. And still are. They can't help it. Great series of movies. I still can't resist buying them lightsabers at Christmas. Did I mention that they're in their 30's now? I HAD TO make these after my daughter spied the set of cutters while we were window shopping at Williams Sonoma.

I shared some of the practice cookies with our 4 year old neighbor boy. He loved the colors of Boba Fett but right before he took a bite, he turned to his mom and asked, "Is it okay? Is Boba Fett a good guy or a bad guy?" They decided after a minor bit of discussion that it was fine to bite Boba's head off. My favorite was Yoda. Maybe it was due to his chocolate mini m&m eyes. Very soulful. And tasty!

May the force be with you!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My First Fondant Covered Cake

I was going through my cake photos
the other day to submit some to
I was embarrassed to post mine for a very long time.
Cake Central is a great place to share and learn new techniques, recipes and cake building ideas. Everyone there is so generous with their knowledge and skills and are quick to answer any "dumb" questions from a newbie like myself.
I always ask since I'm a firm believer and promoter of the idea
that there are no "dumb" questions.
I decided to get my feet wet and bare my soul to the world of cake.
Kind of like getting the bats and skeletons out of the closet.
These were some bat cupcakes I made with fondant wings and ears.

Didn't know then
that the fondant
would "melt" back
into its original softness after I'd left it to dry for several days.
That's what happens when you put them on buttercream and bag them up all pretty like so you'll be all ready the next morning.
I learned to
either use chocolate
or gum paste
or a cookie next time.
Not a true skeleton from a closet but you get the idea.
This cake taught me that the bandages needed to be much thinner to get the best effect. Maybe next Halloween?

But that's one of the great things about Cake Central. A whole big bunch of bakers in all ranges of talent to share the do's and don'ts and the tried and true with. And if you're really lucky, you may also make a friend or two along the way.
I've been very lucky.
I have to say, stepping out into cyberspace and making that first contact at friendship was a little scary for me. It felt a little bit like what online dating must feel like.
Or cyber stalking. Putting details of more than you'd usually share with someone right away on the table at first contact. Not my style. But I'm REALLY glad I did.
I've met some amazing women that I may not have
been blessed with if I hadn't taken that first leap off the edge.
So back to the reason for this particular post.
The first fondant covered cake I ever tried.
I'd always wanted to duplicate the smooth covering that fondant is known for.
Simple. One cake and I was hooked.
Like Playdoh for girls and boys that are too old to buy it
in anything but a brown paper bag.

I used Wilton pre-made fondant, mostly because I had no idea that there were other choices at that time. How wonderful it was to learn that homemade fondant is not only easy, it tastes MUCH better and is so much less expensive than Wilton, even with Micheal's 40% off coupons. Can't tell you how much I purchased before I learned that secret! I've also tried some of the other commercial brands like Satin Ice and Fondex. No bargains to be had there. I still have a lot of fondant recipes to experiment with and compare but my Wilton fondant days are over.

And then I heard about modeling chocolate.
This was prior to the zillion baking shows currently available and countless tutorials on youtubeYou can learn just about anything there. Great source if you have time to watch. No matter what your interests, there's a youtube tutorial on it out there somewhere.
Or maybe you should make one yourself . . .

Can't wait to experiment more with it. I tried it a few years ago but was discouraged about the hardness it takes on before kneading.
It didn't stop me but I didn't get the rave flavor or texture reviews I'd hoped for by using chocolate instead of fondant. So now I have some newer modeling chocolate recipes to try. (Thanks Jessica!)And I've learned that the hardness is completely normal. Just keep on massaging until it becomes another tasty medium for cake play.

Here's a photo of my pre-fondant days.
This one won't be posted to Cake Central anytime soon if I have any pride left at all.
Guilty of gum ball abuse even way back then.
Since I'm self-taught, there is certainly much room for improvement in my piping and overall cake skills. I hope to take some classes on basic piping techniques. And flower making. And sculpting. And stacking. And on and on. So much to learn!
I've only watched a few demos. Plus every cake show on TV. Several times.
But I learn something new every time.

Most of my early cakes were based on ideas straight from Wilton yearbooks. Again, pre-Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, Food Network Challenge, Amazing Cakes, Cupcake Wars, etc. And before there was a cupcake bakery in nearly every town. Even the books in the bookstores weren't all that great or they seemed much too difficult to tackle in those days. Little did do I know.

I've had the Cake Bible for many years, thanks to the kindness of a generous friend of a friend. (Thank you again Jackie!)
It is one of the only recipe books that I've ever sat down and read, cover to cover.
But I didn't do that until just this year.
My habit is to pick only those with colorful photos then flip through until I find what I'd like to try. One of my (many) goals is to make every recipe in the Cake Bible and taste first hand all the different types of cakes, fillings and frostings inside. Rose Levy Beranbaum's years of knowledge and techniques are so fully detailed. The science behind the why of baking is explained in terms even someone like myself can grasp.

If you'd like to see some of my other baking adventures,
you can check them out on Cake Central
Have fun experimenting!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crabby Cupcakes

These were inspired from the book, "Hey There, Cupcake" by Clare Crespo.
I'm feeling a little crabby myself today since it's raining. Again. Or still.
Make that POURING at the moment.
Isn't summer just around the corner?
No walk in the sunshine today but maybe these will make you smile!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby Quilt for Wes

Must've been our year for babies. And baby quilts. I wanted to give something more memorable than clothes or gadgets to some dear friends for their first baby. The color scheme of the baby's room threw me a bit but we have a HUGE fabric store nearby so finding grey and yellow wasn't nearly the challenge I'd dreaded.

Here was the pattern I chose done up in the
blues and yellows you might expect for a boy.
And here is the un-quilted version of the one for baby Wes.
Lots of geometric patterns but I managed to throw
in some music notes for fun.
Hard to see the tiny detail of the prints here.
A geometric stitching pattern for the quilting seemed to fit the bill.
And it didn't end up in the baby's room after all.
Instead it was used as his blankie to
play on everyday in the living room.
Or so I'm told. But . . .
here's Wes as he was learning to crawl. On his quilt!
What a face! Love him!

He's up and nearly running now so his blanket on
the floor days may be limited. Fun while it lasted. 
Don't they grow up WAY TOO FAST?
Hope it serves as a picnic blanket when he
moves outside to the greener pastures of the lawn.

Hugs to you Wes!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Violet's Shower

Baby Violet is almost a year old now. This is what I made for her shower before we met her. I still can't wait to meet her in person but we've watched from afar via photos and the Internet and giggled at her cuteness. Thank goodness for technology!

Violet's signature flower and initial in her shower colors.

Tower of sugar!

Violet's baby quilt with violets & violet colored accents, of course.
Hard to see the quilting in this photo but the stitching is swirly lines kind of like the antennae. My very first attempt at quilting.

Happy Birthday big girl!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Jelly Bean Cupcakes

I promised you a rest from the jelly beans. But now they are back. There are SOOOOO many great entries by the other contestants that I've lost some of my steam. They vary from no jelly beans at all to thousands used for intricate sculptures.
Here are the rest of mine so far. They may just be the last.

Pinecone with edible needles

Bean Counter with edible adding machine tape.
Glasses are non-edible & borrowed from a Pez dispenser.

Where Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches Come From
Bread is from a Kraft Stackermallow.

What can YOU do with a jelly bean?

UPDATE: The winner has been chosen. Congratulations Lisa! You can see her winning entry here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More Candy Necklaces

You remember the bubblegum necklace. The drilling. The flying gum balls. I may have found an easier way. I like this idea because it's less hazardous and much quicker. Plus the candy is wrapped so that it will stay clean and dry until it's meant to be consumed. Unless you run through the sprinklers or jump in the pool first.

Pink, yellow & orange gum balls

Yellow & orange striped balls on pink ribbon

Yellow & striped balls on yellow ribbon

Red White & Blue striped balls

and last but not least . . . 

Patriotic Tootsie Rolls!

The Tootsie Rolls required no further wrapping and are simply tied together at the twists with ribbons. The striped candies and gum balls were enclosed inside clear food wrap & twisted then little ribbons were tied between each segment.

Have a sweet day!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bridal Shower Cake and Cakelets

        With wedding season fast approaching, I thought I'd share some cakes done for a bridal shower a few years ago. The idea came straight from Wilton but was customized with the bride's colors and names of the bridal party. The bride's dress was placed on top of the petal tier upon arrival. The dress texture is comprised of sugar crystals for the bodice and mini fondant flowers with edible pearl centers on the skirt. The hangers are black royal icing.

     I was trying very hard to make sure that I took some photos before delivery but as usual, that last hour before the cakes go out the door is always a mad rush for me. I'd failed to secure the bridesmaid's cakelets to the board for the photo shoot since I planned to transport them individually to the venue. Just as I finished and was breathing a huge sigh of relief, one of the cakelets went sliding off and the hanger broke. Luckily I had extras so it wasn't a huge disaster but what a heart attack these cakes can give us! And yet we come back for more . . .

Have a wonderful day!