Baking, cake decorating

Fanciful Forest Fun

The image of a forest always has a sense of wonderment attached to it. Countless stories from fairy tales to great literary works are set in the woods because of the magic there. It’s a place that can be both delightful and spooky, and I wanted to bring a little bit of each of those elements to my woodland cakescape.

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I used a recipe from The Scran Line for the cake roll, brushed it with Amoretti toasted marshmallow syrup, and filled it with a Ding Dong Cake filling (ermine buttercream). Then I started out by trying to make a wood grain buttercream wrap using a wood grain painter’s tool. I have done this successfully before, but for some reason this time the wood grain just didn’t show through. So after wrapping the cake, I used a clay carving tool to carve some wood grain lines in, let it firm up in the fridge, and then filled in with the darker brown buttercream. Then I just scrape, scrape, scraped until the grain showed through. Problem solved.

My rocks are hunks of cake carved into rock-like shapes and coated with gray buttercream. After they firmed up in the fridge, I lightly dabbed on some white and black edible paint to give them more dimension.

The little red mushrooms are also from The Scran Line and are just piped buttercream frozen and then pieced together. I painted mine with a mixture of petal dust and vodka, instead of using red buttercream.

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Of course this is where things went sideways because, as always, I got too caught up in what I was doing and forgot to keep taking progress pictures, so you’ll have to accept my descriptions only. I cut blades of grass from wafer paper and painted them front and back with vodka and gel color, and set them aside to dry. I crumbled up chocolate cake scraps from my rock carving to make dirt. And I microwaved some cake batter dyed green to make moss. I assembled this all on my cake board, and then melted some isomalt to make my spider webs.

For the spider webs, I draped a SilPat over a roll of paper towel to create a downward curve, then I stuck a butter knife in my melted isomalt and used it to drizzle the isomalt onto the SilPat, first in vertical lines, and then horizontally across my vertical lines to make a web. After the webs cooled I had to carefully peel them up and gently break off the gloopy bits. Then I arranged them on the cake.

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The spider is make out of sprinkles, a trick I learned from my friend Charra, @charrajf. It took a bit of time and patience, but I managed to get the sprinkles in place without too much swearing. My attempt at a sprinkle dragon fly was a bit easier, but not quite as effective. I gave him some isomalt wings. I also took a few isomalt drips and placed them on the mushrooms for a dew drop look, and scattered some chocolate rocks around my forest floor.

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So that, my friends, is the story of my little woodland cakescape. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions. Also accepting short short stories on what this spider and dragon fly are up to.

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Baking

A Study in Texture

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I was recently challenged by an Instagram cake collaboration to create a cake all about texture. I was tempted to just layer every possible texture I could think of onto a cake, but, after seeing a Target ad (of all things), I was inspired to go in a different direction.

 

The ad was for a piece of faux flowers and greenery sold by the square. I believe they are meant to be bought and put together to create large decorative panels for events. For me, it inspired an idea to create a texture with a lot of depth and complexity. I wanted to cover all sides of a square cake with flowers and leaves in a way that felt like it had movement. To do this, I used a combination of buttercream, wafer paper, rice noodles, and fondant.

I created the flower stems first by taking rice noodles, soaking them in room temperature water, and then laying them out over a SilPat draped on a rolling pin. I was concerned about the rice noodles being able to support the weight of the flowers, so for my first batch of stems, I soaked just a small amount of the noodles in water dyed with Americolor gel. I soaked them just long enough to get them apart and slightly flexible. After drying on the rolling pins (to give them a slight bend), I made a test flower and stuck it on the end of a stem to see if it would break. It didn’t. Huzzah!

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The next night I decided to soak my noodles longer. My first batch hadn’t straightened out much, because they weren’t super flexible when I removed them from the water. I found that soaking them longer gave them much more flexibility. I also did not dye my water the second time around because I felt the first batch hadn’t taken the color very well. For the second round, I waited until they were dry and then painted them with gel color mixed with vodka. The problem here was, when I was painting them I realized the second batch was much more brittle. I was concerned about this group holding the weight of the flowers, but decided to go ahead anyway.

The flowers were made with fondant and a two sided flower mold. I love these little flower molds because they give your flowers a front and a back, so you have the realism without having to sculpt them yourself. I molded myself a bunch at a time and laid them all upside down on a cutting board. Then I stuck a rice noodle stem in the back of each and let them dry for a few days.

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I then cut many many leaves out of wafer paper and painted both sides of them with vodka and gel color, and let those dry as well. To assemble, I frosted my square with green buttercream and piped large leaves on all sides with a Wilton 366 tip. Then I stuck in my wafer paper leaves, followed by my flower stems. I left the stems as long as I could because I wanted to give them a very bouncy, realistic feel. This is where I had some trouble because of my brittle stems. The stems that had not been soaked as long were fine, so if anyone tries this on their own, I would recommend not soaking too long. I think it washes away too much of the starch and leaves the noodles more prone to breakage. I was still able to get enough in there and, since I wasn’t moving the cake much, it worked out in the end for me. Any flowers that broke off the stem completely, I just stuck them onto the piped leaves at the end, which gave a nice varied height to my design.

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I was so happy with the texture and movement of this cake. Whenever anyone walked by, the flowers would gently sway as if they were nodding in the breeze. And the combination of different materials created a lushness that just made me want to reach out and touch it. I can’t wait to play with texture in future bakes!

Baking

Sweetie Pie Honey Bunch

I’m one of those crazy people who have a million different nicknames for their pets, and rarely ever use their actual names. I’ve always been that way with pets. Currently I call my dog Watson things like Baba Booey, Pikachu, and Sweetie P. So when I was trying to think of something clever to do with the tiny little strawberry jelly cookies I picked up at Aldi’s, of course my mind jumped to turning them into little heart shaped pies and using them to spell out my love for my pooch.

This was a super quick but terribly fun little cake to decorate. First, I spatula-ed on some pink and white buttercream, and smoothed it out with my Cake Safe, The Quad, scraper, to give it a soft, watercolor effect. Then I spread some white and pink lines of buttercream next to each other on a piece of cling wrap, rolled it up, and stuck it in a piping bag. Using a 6B tip, I piped a border around the cake top, and chilled the whole thing overnight.

The next day, I used a 4 tip and some tan buttercream to pipe diagonal lines onto my cookies to make a lattice top for my “pies.” I set those aside and used my set of small alphabet cookie cutters to gently press each letter of the word ‘sweetie’ into my buttercream. I pressed just firmly enough to leave the outline of each letter behind. Then I used a carving tool to carve out a slight indentation through the whole of each letter.

Once my letters were done, I used my Cake Katana to fill in each letter with sprinkles. This sprinkle mix was from a mystery bag from Fancy Sprinkles, so it did not come with a name. I didn’t want the whole cake to be pastel, so I appreciated the bright pops of color in this mix.

Then I grabbed my “pies,” slapped one on the front and a pile on top, and bing, bang, boom…it was done. I have a hard time appreciating simplicity in my own work. Not that this is by any means simplistic, but it’s definitely less involved and complicated than most of my cakes these days. Finding my cake identity is still a struggle for me. Can I be both complicatedly intricate and more pared down? Is that duality allowed in the cake world? And if it is, do I even want to play both sides? Deep thoughts spurred on by this little sweetie.

Let me know in the comments which you enjoy seeing and reading about more!

Baking

The Chilling Adventures of Flammable Cakes

I am obsessed with the Netflix show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I know it’s aimed at a demographic way, way, waaaaay younger than me, but I just don’t give a damn. I grew up watching the Melissa Joan Hart version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and this is so far in the opposite direction, but I love them both equally. They’ve gone so dark with the Netflix version, but in a way that still maintains a lighthearted humor.

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After watching season two last year, I was desperate to make a Sabrina cake, specifically one that had the Herald of Hell mosaic Harvey finds in the mines. But, I also thought it was the perfect opportunity to host an Instagram cake collaboration, so I waited until they finally announced a date for season three, and asked fellow Sabrina fan Kendra from @wildchildcakes to co-host with me.

Turns out there isn’t a huge crossover between Sabrina fans and IG cake decorators, but we managed to put together a fun group of talented bakers to make this collab happen, and I can’t wait to see what they all come up with. I chose to stick with my mosaic design, and although I didn’t remember to take any progress photos, I thought I’d walk you all through my process, and my struggles, including the very exciting moment I accidentally set part of the cake on fire. Yeah…that happened.

To start, I knew I wanted to make a two tiered cake, but didn’t want to have a ton of cake around, because, let’s face it, I always have cake around, so I used a foam dummy for my bottom tier. I covered both tiers in a mix of gray buttercreams applied in a slapdash sort of way, leaving rough edges at the top of both. I stacked them, refrigerated them overnight, and then got sick the next day. I was sick for about a week, and broke a tooth one of those days. Needless to say, the cake got pushed to the back burner for awhile. I did manage to roll out a thin sheet of gum paste so that I could give it plenty of time to dry. I also cut the eye shapes, and the collar shapes for the mosaic since those appeared to be shaped pieces. Because the collar would have to be curved over the round shape of the cake side, I cut the whole collar and then cut that into smaller pieces so that it could wrap around the curve of the cake.

When I finally recovered enough to get back to work, I stalled for another few days because the task of assembling a mosaic of tiny gum paste pieces suddenly seemed extraordinarily daunting. What seemed less daunting was the wafer paper roots I wanted to apply around the cake, so I started there. I bugged my friend Charra, @charrajf, for the secret technique behind the wafer paper twigs she made for two of her fabulous cake creations, and she was gracious enough to give me the lowdown on them. With some Everclear Vodka and gel coloring painted on to soften up the wafer paper, I was able to roll up a reasonable facsimile, that I could use for the roots growing down over the mine walls.

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Once I could no longer escape the mosaic, I smashed my sheet of dried gum paste into tiny bits, and used my Cake Katana (a little sprinkle picker upper you can find here,) to slowly and methodically place my tiny bits into the shape of Sabrina’s head, and the flames on either side of her. I didn’t do the whole mosaic because I’m not insane. This took literally forever. Okay, maybe not literally, but a long time. And there was some cornstarch on the gum paste pieces so the Katana didn’t want to quite adhere, and I kept dropping them on my bottom tier and having to pick them off. It was a whole thing. I free-handed my placement because that’s just how I roll, but if you’re crazy enough to be thinking of doing something similar, you could always lightly sketch your outlines into the buttercream with a toothpick before applying your mosaic pieces.

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After I had all the pieces in place, I started to lightly press the them into the buttercream so that they would be flush with the side and the buttercream would look like grout between the pieces. Then I started painting. I used gel color mixed with vodka to make my paints. Once I’d painted all the pieces, I used black Edible Art Paint to paint in the eyebrows, eyes, and around the collar. After everything had dried, I used brown petal dust to darken some pieces and add an aged look. I also used the petal dust to try to draw in the nose. This was the hardest part for me. I redid it several times, and only seemed to make it worse each time. I ended up mixing up some brown paint instead to give it more definition. I’m still not completely sold on it, but it works.

Next came the candles. Ah, the candles. My bright idea was to mix up some crumbled cake and a smidge of buttercream and shape it around birthday candles to make thicker, pillar candles. The mixture did not want to stick to the candles however, so my candle shapes leaned more towards the phallic. I kept going, dipped them in white chocolate and let them harden.

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After that it was just a matter of sticking on my candles and roots, adding some white chocolate candle drips, and photographing my cake. I took a couple test shots, then lit my candles. I remember thinking to myself, “Gee that wafer paper root is a bit close to this candle, but I’m sure it will be fine.” I lit the candle, stepped back, starting snapping pics and then realized the wafer paper had caught fire. I quickly blew out the wafer paper, which also blew out all the candles. I re-lit them, took a few photos, and the candles started going out. I changed backdrops, and then couldn’t get the candles to light again because they had burned down to the chocolate. Basically, it was an eventful night. I didn’t quite get the shots I had hoped for, but I think they turned out okay, and I am super happy about the way the cake looks. It was a labor of love, emphasis on the word ‘labor,’ but I am thrilled to have finally brought my Sabrina cake design to life. If you’re on Instagram, please check out #sabrinacakecollab to see all the Sabrina themed cakes you could ever want.

Baking

Secret Garden Marble Cake

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Marbled buttercream cakes have been popping up here and there for awhile now, but just recently, my Instagram feed has exploded with them, thanks to Delaney’s Desserts cracking the buttercream marbling code. Once I took a look at her tutorial, and found out about her marble collab, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. This is my first dive into the world of Instagram cake collabs, and I was super eager to be a part of such a large group (150+!), all focusing on one technique, but each bringing our own unique perspective to it.

For my own marbled cake, I was inspired by the packaging of the Bonne Maman Secret Garden Jam I had purchased a few weeks prior. A combination of strawberry, raspberry, and elder flower, the jam came in the cutest box jam has ever come in. When I started planning my marbled cake, I decided I would do the marbling technique on the top and sides, but leaving a fault line gap that I would fill in with buttercream strawberries, raspberries, and elder flowers.

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I started a week ahead, piping my buttercream strawberries, raspberries, and strawberry leaves. I piped onto wax paper squares on a flower nail, using a Wilton 352 leaf tip for piping the leaves around the berries, and an Ateco 103 petal tip for piping the strawberries. I piped a few leaves in a circle for the base, then used the petal tip to pipe a rosebud shape on top. Then I used my (clean) finger to smooth the buttercream up and over the top of the rosebud to close it off and create a strawberry shape. You could wear gloves for this, if you want to be super sanitary. I finished up by placing some round, white sprinkles onto the strawberry, using tweezers, to replicate seeds.

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The raspberries started the same, with a ring of leaves, then I used a Wilton 12 round tip to pipe the basic shape of the raspberry. After that, I used a Wilton 3 round tip to pipe tiny dots all around the raspberry.

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The strawberry leaves were piped with the Ateco 103 petal tip. Starting at the base of the leaf, I placed the smaller end of the tip facing me and the wider end angled away and to the left. I moved the tip back and forth, away from me, and towards me, as I slowly moved it in a circle from left to right, creating a wide, rounded leaf. I refrigerated all of the buttercream piping I’d done, so that it would be firm when I went to apply it to the cake.

The cake was a white cake, filled with the Secret Garden Jam and a pistachio pastry cream, and covered with a lemon american buttercream. All of the piping was done using a sweetened condensed milk buttercream flavored with vanilla. The cake is four layers of four inch cakes. I used a white chocolate ganache to create a dam in each layer to hold in the jam and pastry cream. This also seemed to help stabilize the cake when I went to frost it.

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After covering the cake with one solid layer of white American buttercream, I refrigerated it overnight. In her tutorial, which you can watch here, Delaney recommends freezing the cake for a short time, but I do not have a big enough freezer for this so I used the fridge and it worked out fine. I just left it in overnight so it would be nice as firm.

Then comes the fun part. I highly recommend watching the video tutorial to see it in action, but I will describe the process, and include some pictures, for my own take on it. I used wax paper because I wanted a little more give, but you can use acetate as well. You want to measure the circumference of your cake, BUT you need to add a bit of length onto that, because adding your marbled layer will actually increase the circumference of your cake. So, if you only did the exact measurement, you would come up short. I added a bit too much extra length, but, you can cut it off once it’s firm, and I’d always rather have too much of something than not enough.

Once you have the length you need, cut a strip of wax paper or acetate the length you decided on. I also cut the width of my strip down because I knew I wanted to do one strip of marbling at the bottom of the cake and one at the top. Then you want to have three bowls in front of you: one with white buttercream, one with your colored buttercream, and one empty. The empty one is the one you’ll mix your colors in. Take a scoop of white and a scoop of color and put them in the empty bowl and swirl them together just a tiny bit. Use an offset spatula to spread them along your strip of wax paper, paying attention to your rough edge to make sure you like the way it looks. You can peek underneath from time to time to see how it’s going, and let me tell you, you will be really impressed with yourself when you realize how cool it looks. I think I may have yelled something like “that’s so cool!” at my first glance. I know, I’m pretty modest. Be sure to only mix a little bit of the frosting at a time, as you go, otherwise it will get muddied.

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Once you get to the end, be very careful to make sure the whole strip, end to end and top to bottom, is an equal thickness. You won’t be able to get it perfect, but it’s important to get it as close as you can, so it will adhere to the cake. Then you get your chilled cake out and very carefully pick up your strip and wrap it around the base of the cake, making sure it’s flush with the bottom the whole way around. Smooth it back until the ends meet, then use a fondant smoother, or your hands if you don’t have a fondant smoother, to gently smooth the buttercream wrap and make sure it’s all touching the cake. If you have places where it’s gaping away from the side of the cake, you want to try to push that part in. If you use acetate it will be stiff and difficult to do, if you use wax paper, it can be done, but you’ll get some wrinkling. That’s why it’s so important to have an even layer of marbling. Also, where the ends meet, you want to smooth the excess together and make sure there’s no gap there either.

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Now you need to chill it again before removing your wax paper or acetate. I was doing a strip along the top as well, so I repeated the process, then took my cake out and added the strip around the top, and then chilled the whole thing again in the fridge for about twenty minutes. Then I carefully pulled both pieces of wax paper off, and used an X-acto knife to trim off the excess from the ends of the strips, and to trim around the top, so nothing stuck up over the edge.

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Now here’s the part I struggled with a bit. I wanted the top to be marbled as well. To do this I followed Delaney’s suggestion to make a circle of marbled buttercream instead of a strip and then apply it to the top of the cake. The process is basically the same as the sides except you want to make it a bit bigger than the top. I traced a circle onto my wax paper, then went beyond it when frosting, but I went a little too far beyond and it was way bigger than I needed. I also made it way too thick. Then I flipped it onto the top of the cake smoothed it a bit with the fondant smoother, and chilled it for twenty minutes. Then, after you peel off the paper, you need to trim your excess. I had A LOT of excess, so trimming it required a little more care. The bigger problem though, was the thickness, because I got a definite thick line at the top of the cake, that didn’t match the sides. So, I would definitely err on the thinner side when doing the top piece. After everything was trimmed I lightly ran my scraper over the top and around the sides just to smooth out any major imperfections. You don’t want to smooth too much, or you’ll change your buttercream marbling.

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Once my marbling was done, I painted some gold Edible Art Paint along the edges of my fault line, and then began piping my elder flowers. For the elder flower leaves, I used a Wilton 352 tip, and for the flowers themselves, I used a Wilton 224. After piping the majority of my elder flowers, I started to pipe raspberry leaves and stems onto the cake using an Ateco 66 for the leaves and a Wilton 3 for the stems of both the strawberries and the raspberries. I pulled the strawberry leaves, strawberries, and raspberries out of the fridge and placed them as I went around the cake with my stem and leaf piping. I may have gotten a little carried away with the amount of these I put on the cake. I feel like I covered up my fault line detail a little too much, but I love how cute the berries look, and couldn’t help myself.

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The marbling process itself was so much easier than I thought it would be. The little things that bothered me here and there were negligible and were most likely just from it being my first time. Overall, I was really impressed with the results. Again, huge shout out to Delaney of Delaney’s Desserts for putting out this tutorial. I hope my summary of the video is helpful (I like to see things written out sometimes), but all the credit for this technique goes to Delaney. Also, big thanks to her for starting the marbling collab! I’m not sure I ever would have tried this technique without that extra kick in the pants. Be sure to check out #marblebuttercreamcollab on Instagram!

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Baking

Dance Party!

So a few weeks ago my friend invited me to a dance party she said she was holding in a space at her church. She was planning to play Just Dance videos and have everyone at the party dance along. Of course I said yes, and offered to bring a cake. What I didn’t do, was ask any follow up questions, so when I arrived at the church and followed the loud music, I was a little surprised to walk into a darkened room with a few older chaperones sitting in the back and a pack of children and teenagers dancing along to a worship song. Apparently what my friend hadn’t told me, was that this dance party was for the youth group she helps out with.

After my initial surprise (and my thought that I had accidentally stumbled into some kind of youth program practice), the Just Dance videos started up again, and I joined in the fun, with a little help from my inhaler. And then, we got to eat cake! A delicious Slutty Brownie Cake to be exact. Of course, given the nature of this Dance Party, I neglected to tell the guests the name of the cake, but they all seemed to enjoy it at any rate. Four layers of delicious chocolate cake, with chocolate fudge sauce, chocolate chip cookie dough frosting, and cookies and cream buttercream filling, covered in a salted caramel condensed milk buttercream that is absolute heaven. This cake was inspired by my go-to last minute snack recipe, Slutty Brownies, a recipe I originally came across on The Londoner. One layer of cookie dough, one layer of Oreos, and one layer of brownie batter baked until still a bit gooey inside. It is the ultimate indulgence and one I felt compelled to turn into a cake. Both the original Slutty Brownies and the Slutty Brownie Cake are total crowd pleasers. There is no caramel in the original Slutty Brownies, but I wanted to add a little something extra to really put the cake over the top, and the salted caramel condensed milk buttercream really did the trick.

The design inspiration was from Killa Cakes. Whenever I see their brightly colored cakes I think “dance party.” This is also a great design for when you want something a bit less challenging. Just pick a few colors and a few different piping tips and have at it. I used leftover buttercream from the freezer that was already colored, so it was extra easy for me. The shards are made from candy melts that I melted down, spread on aluminum foil, and then cut with a sharp knife. And then I threw on (quite literally) some Bakery Bling Sugar Glitter and some silver Wilton sanding sugar for sparkle. Pretty simple and pretty delicious if I do say so myself.

Recipes used:

American Mud Cake by Cake Paper Party

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting by Two Sisters Crafting

Chocolate Sauce from Momofuku Milk Bar

Caramel Condensed Milk Buttercream from Cupcake Savvy’s Kitchen

Cookies and cream buttercream was a random leftover American buttercream from the freezer with crushed Oreos and a tablespoon of black cocoa powder mixed in for added Oreo flavor.

Baking

Thai Iced Tea Cake

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I am lucky enough to be a part of a lovely and supportive baking group on Facebook. It’s a small group, but one where everyone is willing to share information and help whenever possible, and my fellow members often inspire me to go above and beyond my initial ideas. Which is definitely what led to the creation of this cake. My first thought was simply to try to recreate the taste of a Thai Iced Tea; the slight hint of vanilla in the otherwise simple black tea, and the sweet creaminess of the sweetened condensed milk. And of course I was going to try to make it look like a Thai Iced Tea.

As I was planning, however, I was also seeing other people’s creations in the group and I was inspired by their out-of-the-box thinking to go beyond that basic flavor profile and incorporate some more complex flavors. Thinking of Thai desserts, I first thought coconut sticky rice and mango, but I was worried about the texture of the rice in between the layers of cake. I knew I could find a mango spread, but it took some brainstorming, googling, and daydreaming to come up with a plan for representing the coconut sticky rice. Eventually my thought process led me to rice pudding, and then the thought that perhaps rice pudding cake is a thing. Turns out it is, but most of them weren’t really what I was looking for. Then, I stumbled upon a German blog, Bake to the Roots, which featured a rice pudding cake that rested on a crumb crust, sort of like a cheesecake. The recipe uses gelatin and whipped cream to stabilize and lighten the rice pudding. I decided I could adapt this to serve my purpose, replacing the rice with Thai Jasmine rice, and the milk with coconut milk. I left off the crust, so that I could use the rice pudding cake as a layer of filling between my cake layers. I also made it in a 4 inch springform pan, and baked my cakes in 6 inch cake pans so that I the rice pudding cake would be smaller in circumference. I added Thai tea to my cakes, my sweetened condensed milk buttercream, and my white chocolate ganache dam, which is another little tip I learned in my baking group.

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When it came to decorating this cake, I wanted to keep it simple, but effective. I wanted you to take one look at it, and know what it was supposed to be, but didn’t want to hit you over the head with it. So, after stacking and filling, I covered the cake in Thai tea condensed milk buttercream, some left white, and some colored with orange and a bit of brown food coloring. I applied this buttercream exactly the same way I did the Shamrock Shake cake. I popped the cake in the fridge to chill overnight, then made some gelatin ice cubes. For the ice cubes, I used the recipe for Knox Blox on the back of the gelatin box, but instead of juice, I used water, to keep it colorless and clear. I halved the recipe and poured it into a small, rectangular glass food storage container, about 5 inches by 7 inches, and refrigerated that overnight as well.

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The next morning I cut the gelatin into cubes and dried each cube carefully so that no water would get onto the cake. I re-purposed a bubble tea straw I had washed carefully, and stuck it into my cake. Then I took some leftover vanilla American buttercream, and melted it in the microwave until thin enough to pour, but not hot enough to melt the buttercream already on the cake. I wrapped the top of the cake in acetate and taped it so that the acetate fit tightly against the sides of the cake. Then I poured the melted buttercream on top of the cake and spread it with a rubber spatula. Before the buttercream could harden, I started placing my gelatin ice cubes, and stuck the whole thing back in the fridge for about 15 minutes. If I did this again, I would leave it longer, as when I pulled my acetate off, it pulled a bit of buttercream with it, but I was able to smooth that down afterwards.

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I was very nervous about how the texture of the rice pudding cake would work with the texture of the cake, but I felt like it could work, and, not to pat myself on the back, but I was totally right. Getting a bite that including the tart mango spread, the sweet buttercream, the tender cake crumb, and the creamy coconut rice pudding cake, was like a crazy cool party in my mouth. Like the kind of party I’m usually not cool enough to attend. The kind the cops usually have to shut down.

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Now, I am not a recipe writer, but I realize that this cake is a little more complicated because of all my changes, so I want to give a bit more information than just links to the recipes I used. Instead, I’ll give you links, and a brief synopsis of the changes I made, in what I hope is an organized fashion.

Cake:

Recipe used – Liv For Cake’s Earl Grey Cake

Adjustments: Replaced the Earl Grey tea in the Earl Grey Milk with two bags of Thai tea – Replaced the Earl Grey tea in the cake with 1 tsp Thai tea taken from a cut open tea bag – Replaced Earl Grey tea in the Earl Grey Simple Syrup with one bag Thai tea – Baked the batter in two 6 inch by 3 inch pans – Torted each cake into 2 layers

Thai Coconut pudding cake:

Recipe used – Bake to the Roots Orange Blossom Rice Pudding Cake with Fresh Berries

Adjustments: Cut recipe in half – Did not make crust – Replaced rice with Thai Jasmine Rice – Replaced milk with full fat canned coconut milk – Left out orange blossom water – Left out berries – Divided between two 4 inch springform pan, but only used one of these in the cake

Sweetened Condensed Milk Thai Tea Buttercream

Recipe used – Cupcake Savvy’s Kitchen Coffee Sweetened Condensed Milk

Adjustments: Replaced water and coffee with three teaspoons room temperature strongly brewed Thai tea

Thai tea white chocolate ganache:

Recipe used – Sugar Geek Show’s water ganache

Adjustments: Replaced water with warm Thai tea

To assemble the cake I piped a ganache dam around each layer, and spread with a thin layer of buttercream. The bottom layer was filled with mango spread, the next layer was filled with one of the coconut rice pudding cakes, and the next layer was filled with the mango spread again.

That is one lengthy explanation! If anyone has any questions about recreating this cake, please let me know in the comments!

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Baking

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo

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Well here they are after many trials and tribulations: my Baby Shark themed cake pops (by the way, I am never getting that song out of my head). I actually struggled with whether or not to even do a write up on these because I felt like I was so far out of my element, but I finally decided  I might as well.

I have never made cake pops before, but for some reason I thought, of course I can make shaped, detailed cake pops replicating a popular children’s animated video having never even made basic cake pops before. I don’t know if it’s a good trait or a bad one, but I have a habit of just assuming I’ll be able to do things perfectly on the first try without any previous experience. I just dive right in (pun intended).

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Which is exactly what I did here. Making the cake component of the cake pops was actually super easy. I was using cake scraps and leftover American buttercream from the freezer. I defrosted four different kinds of cake and a ton of buttercream thinking I’d make all different flavored cake pops. I started with scraps of Tessa Huff’s cherry chip cake and one leftover layer of the chocolate cake from Liv for Cake. I crumbled them up together, then beat it with a paddle attachment to break them up a bit more and get them fully incorporated with each other. Honestly, the cake mixture was so moist I probably didn’t even need to mix any buttercream in, but that seemed boring so I mixed in a tiny bit of vanilla buttercream.

Then I started shaping the mixture into my shark shapes. I made them pretty basic to start, kind of a long teardrop shape. Then I did shorter, rounder teardrops for my fish. I had so much of the cherry chocolate cake mixture, and was I only making 16 pops, so I ended up making them all the same flavor, so all my other cake scraps went back in the freezer. Then I refrigerated the shapes overnight because I planned to dip them the next day.

The next morning, I pulled my cake  out of the fridge and shaped them more carefully, adding more of a snout and smoothing them out a bit before dipping. I had big problems dipping straight out of the fridge. The biggest lesson learned here is your cake pop can’t be too cold, and your candy melts can’t be too hot. Either way and you’ll get cracking. Once I got the hang of it, I dipped each shark once entirely in white, then dipped just the top half in another color and let the excess run down its back and off the tail end. This created a slight ridge down the back, but I think this made them look more shark-like. After the second dip I let them harden, then attached the fins and eyeballs, etc with additional melted candy melts. The fins were all cut from candy melts. I used the bigger end of a piping tip to cut the curved edges. One annoyance here was that candy melts are a smaller size now so the ones I had already were a bigger, better size for this, but the ones I just bought were smaller. The smaller size probably helps when you’re melting them down, but not so much when you’re trying to use them for shark fins.

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Then it came time to dip the fish. With these, I had new problems. I still don’t know what went wrong, but when I dipped them, the orange candy melts kept bubbling up and making them look like they had welts all over their bodies. I don’t know if I thinned out my melts too much or not enough, or if my cake was too moist, but I didn’t have time to mess with them more so I just went with it.

I used candy eyes for the eyes and orange heart sprinkles for the fish fins. The fish mouths and Grandma Shark’s glasses are ‘O’ sprinkles (Michael’s carries packs of sprinkles where the whole pack is one letter). Mommy Shark’s lips are a pink heart sprinkle, and Grandpa Shark has white sprinkle eyebrows and mustache (I think he might be my favorite). The nostrils and eyelashes are painted on with black Edible Art Paint.

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Now, I might have gone a little overboard with my cake pop holder. I think I spent around $27 just on supplies for the box, and yet, the end result is underwhelming. I have to admit, I’m a little embarrassed by my work on this box, but it was for a children’s party so I guess it’s okay if it’s a little juvenile. It’s a regular cardboard box underneath, covered with foam sheets and foam stickers from Michael’s and Walmart. I cut X’s in the box top with an X-acto knife then pushed the pop sticks through. I wanted them at all different heights, but they were so top heavy they kept falling over, even when they were pushed all the way down. I ended up filling the bottom of the box with all the rice we had in the house (which was a lot more than I would have thought), so I could push the sticks into the rice and keep them from shifting around. Then I filled the top in with blue Easter grass.

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This was a fun challenge for me despite all the frustrations, but it was so far outside my comfort zone, and outside my usual aesthetic, I don’t know if this is a road I’ll be going down in the future. I thought they tasted really good though. I don’t usually eat cake pops, but these were very fudge-like and not too sweet inside so it balanced out the sweetness of the candy coating.

 

Baking

Hip Hop Hooray for Cake

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Easter is such a good excuse for adorable cakes. So much so that I had too many ideas this year, and unfortunately, I think I’m only going to have time for this one. Boo. I guess I can always save the rest for next year. With bunnies and chicks, Easter baskets, Easter eggs, and CANDY, the possibilities are endless. Speaking of candy, I’ve always been fascinated by those adorable, panoramic sugar eggs. You know, the ones with those cute little springtime scenes inside? Well, a couple weeks ago the idea popped into my head to try making one inside a cake. I was so caught up in the idea that I put my previous Easter cake plans on the back burner and threw myself into this project instead.

This cake was significantly easier than I thought it would be. The main issue was just carving the egg shaped hole in the cake, after that it was a breeze. Sort of. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For starters, I used two 4 inch cakes: one chocolate, one vanilla. I torted each into two layers so I could alternate the two flavors. I added a strawberry simple syrup to each layer (which left me with some delicious cooked strawberries to add to my morning yogurt BTW), then assembled the cake with chocolate ganache in between. I let it firm up overnight, then tackled the carving the next day.

I drew myself an egg template on a piece of paper, folding it in half, and drawing half, so that when I cut it out it was even on both sides. If only that had translated to my egg shaped hole actually being even on both sides. I used a knife to outline the shape on the side of my cake, then cut in a little deeper, angling the knife in towards the center of the egg.

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The ganache was a bit firm. I used a 3:1 ration of chocolate to cream. In retrospect, I should have used more cream. It needed to be firm, but this was a bit too firm, which made it difficult to cut through while carving. With a sharp pairing knife and a grapefruit spoon though, I was able to carefully hollow out an egg shape in my cake. It looked pretty even at this point, but then came the tricky part; frosting the cake.

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I recently purchased a set of acrylic discs from Cakesafe, and one of their icing scrapers. This was my first time using the discs and it went pretty well, although I haven’t quite gotten the hang of removing the discs yet. I think that will improve with practice. The big challenge for me was the egg shaped hole. I had used a spoon to smooth some frosting into the hole before frosting the sides, but obviously, as I scraped down the sides, my Swiss meringue buttercream would get dragged into the hole. I really just had to play around with this. I got it as smooth as I could around the edges of the hole, got the rest of the cake smoothed out, and then stuck it in the fridge to chill. Then I used my X-Acto knife to try to trim the edges and smooth them out, but I struggled to get the hole even at this point.

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Next I colored a smidge of buttercream blue and applied it to the back and top of the hole. I started out using a spoon but it wasn’t working well so I ended up dabbing it on with my fingers. I smudged some white in there too to make it look like white fluffy clouds in a spring sky. Then I used a tiny round piping tip and some green buttercream to pipe my grass. I found using this tip and piping the blades of grass individually gave a much more natural look than using a grass tip. Not sure I’d want to do that over large section of cake though. Sounds like a headache. After piping the back of the hole with grass, I stuck a cute little Wilton brand sugar bunny in, then piped more grass in front of him. Then I added a few white flower sprinkles to the grass.

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After that came the traditional sugar egg piping. I’m still in need of some classic piping skills, so I love any excuse to practice. I used a small shell piping tip to pipe a border around the hole, at the top and bottom of the cake’s sides, and around the top edge. The final touch was a bit of Bakery Bling glitter sugar to mimic the sugar texture of the panoramic eggs. My piping could still use a some work, and my egg was a little lopsided, but this was a really egg-citing cake for me. Tee hee.

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Baking

This is Not a Cake

One of my greatest disappointments in life is that I seem to be surrounded by people who don’t love cake. I LOVE cake. I think it’s safe to say that cake is a significant part of my life. I wanted this blog to be a celebration of many different kinds of making, because I do have a variety of creative interests, but let’s face it, I keep coming back to the cake.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my obsession. My boyfriend could take it or leave it. My boyfriend’s son doesn’t care for it at all. And recently, my mother started telling me she thinks she’s maybe not a “cake person” after all. This was concerning for two reasons. One, a person who doesn’t love cake must have something seriously wrong with them. And two, her birthday was coming up, so just what the hell was I supposed to make for her?

Oftentimes, I just ignore said person’s protestations, convinced that I make cakes that are so delicious, no one can resist their temptations. But sometimes, I actually try to please them. I’ve done cheesecakes, doughnuts, and cookie cake for these non-cake persons in the past, but this time I wanted to come up with something different.

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As you know from my last post, (yes I’m assuming you’ve read all of my posts), I’ve had meringue on the brain for awhile now, so I thought immediately thought: pavlova. But my second thought was “how can I make it as decorative as I would any other cake?” And somehow I came up with a tree stump. Yeah, no clue there, but it gave me a chance to make meringue mushrooms, so it was a no brainer.

I had it all planned out; I’d do three chocolate meringue discs, and stack them with a chocolate mousse and a blood orange curd, then I’d make some meringue pieces to create roots, and surround the whole thing with delightful little meringue mushrooms and buttercream violets. Then I remembered my mother was on a restricted diet due to some health issues, and both chocolate and citrus were out. After some debating, and running a few more ingredients by her, (pineapple also out), I landed on a regular vanilla meringue with an ermine buttercream and fresh blueberries. Since the meringue would be white, I decided it would be a birch tree stump.

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I made the meringue mushrooms a couple weeks ahead of time, when I made the meringue cookies I used to cover my pear cake, using a Swiss meringue recipe from the Cake Blog. I piped them using a round piping tip. For the mushroom caps, I piped dome shapes, moving my tip in a circular motion when releasing pressure, and then moving the piping tip off to the side to try to avoid creating a point on top. I did still get a bit of the point on all of them, so I just dipped my finger in some water and gently smoothed the tops. For the stems, I just piped kiss shapes, but a little more elongated. You do want the points on these. After baking and cooling, I stored the caps and stems separately in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers.

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The day before I needed the mushrooms, I poked a hole in the bottom of each cap with a toothpick, making sure the holes were big enough to fit the tips of the stems in so that the caps sit well on top. Then I melted some brown candy melts (chocolate would work well too, and taste better, but I had the candy melts on hand), smeared the melted candy melts on the bottom of each cap, and dragged a toothpick in lines through the melted candy to create the gills on the bottom of the mushrooms.

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I dipped the tip of a stem in the candy melts as well, then inserted the tip into the hole of the mushroom cap. It’s pretty simple, but effective. I dusted the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder before using them.

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Next came the meringue discs for the pavlova stack, and the pieces to make the tree roots. I traced a 7 inch circle onto a piece of paper, then placed it under my Silpat mat, so I could keep my discs a consistent size. I also traced out a few tree root shapes onto a piece of paper, making them two inches wide at the base and three inches tall, so that I could place these under my Silpat mats as well, using them as a template for my roots.

I used this meringue recipe, and then piped two disc shapes onto one of my Silpat mats, starting in the center of the circle and spiraling out. I built up the sides a little and smoothed out the middles so there would be room for the fillings. For my last disc, I piped a spiral again, but left it all one thickness, and did not smooth it, so that the spiral would resemble tree rings. Then I piped three roots facing one direction, flipped my template, and piped three roots facing the other direction. I knew that the roots would bake flat on one side, so I wanted to make matching pairs that I would be able to sandwich together to create a full root.

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My last step before baking, was to take a toothpick dipped in brown food coloring and run it through the sides of the discs and the tops of the roots to create a birch bark effect. Then I popped it in the oven. I did not follow the same baking directions as were listed in the recipe I linked. They were baking small meringues, and mine were a bit larger, so I ended up looking at a few different recipes for baking times and temperatures and kind of combining all of them. I baked on a convection oven setting, preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and then dropped to 210 right after putting the meringues in the oven. I baked the small pieces for about an hour and 10 minutes, the discs for about an hour and a half. Then I turned the oven off, but left the discs in the oven until the next day. This really helped keep them from cracking, and kept them nice and dry.

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I piped my violets ahead of time with an American buttercream, using a flower nail and parchment squares with a petal tip, piping two shorter, fatter petals on top, then three longer, skinnier petals on the bottom half, and then piping two dots of yellow in the center. I piped the violet leaves with a larger petal tip, moving the tip as I piped to create a ruffled edge. Then I refrigerated both the flowers and leaves until firm, and kept them in the freezer until I needed them.

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Most pavlovas have whipped cream on them, but I wanted something more stable, that could also be used to attach the meringue pieces together, so I made an ermine buttercream. To me, an ermine buttercream is very whipped-cream-esque as it’s less sweet than most other buttercreams and has a lighter feel to it as well.  To assemble the pavlova, I placed one disc on a 12 inch cake board, filled it with ermine buttercream and blueberries, topped with the next disc, more ermine and blueberries, and then placed the spiral disc on the very top. I put the rest of my ermine in a piping bag with a round tip and piped some frosting in between my root pieces, sandwiching them together. Then I ran some frosting down the back and bottom of each and attached it to my stump, spacing each of them out around the pavlova. I had three total roots.

Next I grabbed my green American buttercream and piped stems up the sides of the pavlova stump. This is a little tricky because the sides of the pavlova are not flat, and there are gaps between each layer. I piped in some ermine where I knew I wanted stems to be, and used that to flatten out the sides a little before piping the stems. Then I used a bit more of the green buttercream to attach my violet flowers and leaves. After that, I stuck my mushrooms around the stump, piped some more ermine around the mushrooms and roots, and sprinkled some crushed Oreo dirt onto the extra ermine.

I love a good pavlova, and this one was no exception. The crisp crunch of the meringue, the creamy goodness of whipped cream (or in this case, ermine buttercream), and the bright pop of fresh fruit is delicious, and, I’ll admit, a pleasant change from my usual dessert of choice: cake. I won’t be giving up cakes any time soon, but I may have to start working some variety into my desserts every now and then.

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