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

Valentine’s Day Mini Cake #4: A Cake to Die For

This one goes out to all you Valentine’s Day haters out there. I’m not talking single people. There are plenty of single people out there who still enjoy Valentine’s Day. I was one of them when I was single. Valentine’s Day is all inclusive in my book. Not just romantic love, but filial love and platonic love too. However, I know there are people out there who just aren’t fans. So, this one’s for you guys.

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My anti-Valentine’s day cake was inspired by the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. A little dark, I know, but hey, sometimes you need a little bitter to balance out the sweet. I didn’t want to go too gory, though, so I used some movie posters and DVD covers for inspiration. The cake is an American mud cake by Cake Paper Party. I loved this recipe, so chocolatey delicious. I filled the cake with another Cake Paper Party recipe, the Easy Foolproof Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and just for fun, some massacred Valentine’s day chocolates. Then I covered the outside with a black American buttercream frosting by Chelsweets. This recipe uses black cocoa for most of the color, which allows you to use less food coloring. It worked really well, but it does have a distinctive Oreo-ish flavor, so I’m not sure it would pair well with everything. I wasn’t sure how the chopped up chocolates would work inside the cake, as far as texture or flavor, but I thought it was very good, and very decadent. My only regret was including the maple cream chocolates. But they weren’t terrible with it.

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Once I had a good coat of the black buttercream frosting on the cake, I used a Russian piping tip to pipe red roses onto the cake in a heart shape. I wanted the heart to look rough and like it had bullet holes in it,  which was good since it was my first time, in a long time, working with Russian tips. My prior experience did not go well. This time I used a very stiff version of Life, Love and Sugar’s American buttercream, but with extra powdered sugar and less milk. I think it was actually a little too stiff. As I said in my previous post, some of the flowers did not want to adhere and ended up with no centers, and some of the petals ended up tearing off when I released pressure. But since I was trying to make it look like it had been shot up anyway, I went with it. After letting the whole thing firm up in the fridge again, I used a palette knife to break off more of the roses and gouge out some more bullet holes.

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Technically, this cake was pretty simple. After frosting and piping the heart, the only thing left to add was the newspaper headline. I used wafer paper for this, and hand-painted the lettering with Sweet Sticks edible art paint in black and a very fine brush. I used an image from a movie poster I found online for reference. It ended up a little bit longer than I had intended, so it was a tad over-sized on the cake, but as long as it wasn’t completely hanging off the sides of the cake, I was happy.

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When I went to attach the headline to the cake, however, I had a bit of trouble. The buttercream roses had already set, so the wafer paper wouldn’t adhere to the frosting. I grabbed the only frosting I still had in a piping bag and piped two more dollops of frosting onto the heart and stuck my headline on. And then immediately realized the the pink frosting I had used clearly showed through the wafer paper. I scraped it off as best I could, found some white frosting and tried that instead. It worked much better.

I think this mini cake was probably the most fun for me to create. It was nice to do something a little bit dark and a little bit tongue-in-cheek. And it gave me an excuse to order some wafer paper which I’d been dying to try!

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Baking

Valentine’s Day Mini Cake #3: From Russia with Love

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Ah, Russian piping tips. One of those things that’s supposed to make your life easier, but takes some getting used to. In my opinion anyway. They’ve been everywhere for a while now, and I’ve actually been gifted a set. Twice. By the same person. That’s how long it was in between. I tried using the first set once about a couple of years ago. The tips came with a note that mentioned a website with a recipe for an American buttercream that was supposed to be the appropriate stiffness. That was the key, from what I had read. You needed to have a very stiff buttercream in order for the tips to work. So I used the recommended recipe, tried to pipe some flowers, and got just some big blobs of frosting. They were shapeless. I tried adding more powdered sugar to the frosting. Still nothing. I chilled the piping bag in the fridge, and I was finally able to get some kind of shape out of it, but it still wasn’t looking right, so I gave up on them, and just left the flowers off that cake.

I stayed away from the Russian piping tips after that. There were so many other avenues to venture down with cake decorating, so many new techniques or things I hadn’t tried, I just didn’t feel the need to revisit that chapter of my life. Until this Christmas, when my mother gave me another set of Russian piping tips. I thought about trying my hand at the snowflake tips that came with the set, but then I saw a cake from the White Flower Cake Shoppe where they had covered the entire cake in flowers piped with a Russian piping tip, and then added bigger flowers on the top and around the base. You can check out that cake here. It was beautiful, and a more interesting way to use the tips than I had been seeing elsewhere. I was gearing up to make this series of mini cakes, and I thought it would be a cute and effective way to decorate one of them.

My original plan was to pipe some roses and maybe some mums ahead of time, and then transfer them onto the cake. I don’t really know how to pipe buttercream flowers. I don’t have any experience with it, unless you count rosettes, or my previous attempt with the Russian tips, which I don’t. The main reason for my lack of knowledge is a lack of interest. I’m usually trying to think outside the box when it comes to cake decorating. Don’t get me wrong. Buttercream flowers are beautiful, and I’ve seen some really original designs using them, it’s just not something I’ve had the desire to try. However, I interviewed for a cake decorating position last month and they of course asked me to pipe flowers and write something on a cake (which is another thing I haven’t done much of). Since that experience, I’ve realized that if I do decide I want to pursue a job as a cake decorator in someone else’s business, I’m going to need to get over myself and learn the basics. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my first mini cake post, I was struggling to get all four cakes done. In the end I decided, in the interest of time, and my sanity, to just do one large flower on top.

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But first, I needed to master the art of the Russian piping tips. I went with a different American buttercream recipe this time. I started with the Life, Love and Sugar Vanilla Buttercream, but used much less liquid to make sure it would be stiff. This recipe uses half shortening, half butter, which I thought would be helpful in making a more stable buttercream. I actually used the Russian tips on a different mini cake first, with an even stiffer buttercream (more sugar, less liquid) but realized some of the flowers didn’t want to adhere, and there was some tearing at the edges, so I made this buttercream a bit smoother by using less powered sugar and slightly more liquid. That worked much much better. But, it still took A LOT of practice to get the hang of, and even once I felt like I had it down, I still had a lot of mistakes that needed to be scraped off and redone. The biggest issue was that sometimes the middle of the flower didn’t adhere to the crumb coat, so I’d end up with a flower with a hole in the middle. The other problem was that my hand would start to warm up the frosting in the bag and my flowers would start to lose  definition. When that happened I’d have to stick the piping  bag in the fridge for ten minutes or so, take a break, and then start up again. I started by doing one full round around the base of the cake. Then did another round above that, placing the second round of flowers slightly off from the bottom row so that they nestled in between the flowers below them. I repeated the whole way up until I reached the top. Then I did one round right on the edge, and then filled in the top. Even with the need to stop and start to let the frosting chill, the whole process didn’t take too long, and I think the effect is very pretty. My only other note is that I wish I had done a second coat of frosting over the whole cake because you can see cake through the flowers in some places.

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The last step was for me to pipe my one big flower on top. I had a piping tip in my set of Russian tips that looked similar to the one White Flower Cake Shoppe sells to recreate their signature flowers. They also offer a class on how to pipe those flowers. I have not taken that class. What I learned from this experience is that I need to. LOL. Something I thought would be simple was anything but. For starters, I had no idea about the placement of the petals, and I sort of just went in there and started piping willy nilly. I also had trouble with the petals just falling over. The buttercream that had worked so well for the other tip, did not seem right for this petal tip. In a panic, I just kept adding petals and hoped they’d look ruffly, sort of like a peony. Any of the petals that had fallen over, I gently lifted with a knife, and flipped back up onto the other petals. Then I used a grass tip and a bit of yellow frosting to pipe a center into the flower. I added some leaves around the flower and decided to call it a day.

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Overall, I think it came out okay. I’m not thrilled with it, but as with anything, I’m sure there’s a learning curve. What’s important is it was delicious! I didn’t eat this one, but I’ve had the cake and frosting before and it got rave reviews from those who did get to eat it. The cake was the Liv for Cake vanilla cake that has become my go to vanilla cake. I filled it with the Cake Paper Party Swiss meringue buttercream (also a staple), and some store-bought (blasphemy!) raspberry jam. I’m not making my own jam, people. 😉

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Baking

Valentine’s Mini Cake #2: Knit with Love

My second Valentine’s Day mini cake is a design I’ve been dreaming up for a while now. When I’m not working, making cakes, or writing, I’m often knitting, and I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate that knitted look into a cake. I love how the stockinette stitch kind of looks like little hearts, and I wanted to expand on that idea. I purchased some knitting themed silicone molds last year, fully intending to use those, but never got around to it. I generally only use touches of fondant decorations on my cakes and I didn’t want to cover a whole cake with fondant knitting.

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Then, last month, I saw The Flour Girl on Instagram using a 1M piping tip to give a lovely knitted sweater vibe to one of her cakes, by simply piping diagonal slashes to represent the stitches. I thought her idea was genius, and I used it as the jumping off point to create what I’m calling my Knit with Love cake. I originally intended to make this a white and red cake, but as I mentioned in my last post, I had a bit of a struggle with the red food coloring, and decided to go pink instead. I think it gives the cake a much more sweet and charming look, so I didn’t mind the change.

The inside of this cake is Liv for Cake’s vanilla cake, filled with Cake Paper Party’s Swiss meringue buttercream and a passion fruit curd.I used a stiffer American buttercream from Life, Love and Sugar for the piping because I thought it would hold up a little better. The passion fruit curd gives a nice tart freshness to the warm flavor of the vanilla cake that I just love. Plus Valentine’s Day…Passion fruit…get where I’m going with this? Wink wink. You can find my passion fruit curd recipe down below. You can also switch this out to mango for something a little different.

So to make my version of the knitted buttercream cake you need a 1M tip and then 2 small open star piping tips. Mine did not have sizes on them, so unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what they are. They are part of a cheaper plastic tip set that I bought on a whim on sale. I’ve only used the larger size tips from the set prior to this, and haven’t noticed any issues, but I did find with the smaller sizes that the outcome was a bit disappointing. The plastic tips just didn’t give the same sharp lines as the metal tips so some of the definition was lost.

I had one piping bag of white buttercream with the 1M tip and one piping bag of white buttercream with the smaller open star tip. And then one piping bag of pink frosting, with a small open star tip. I started with piping a column of larger knit. Starting at the top, you want to pipe a diagonal line from left to right, dragging towards the cake at the end, while releasing pressure. Then you’re going to start from the right and pipe to the left, using the same technique, but crossing over the flattened bottom of your first stroke. Then you move just underneath your first stroke, and start your second stitch in the same way. Forgive my photographs. I took a bunch but somehow didn’t end up with any that went in order.

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Once you get to the bottom, pick up your smaller tipped white bag, and start at the top, next to your first column. You want to use the same technique to pipe your smaller column, but once you do your first two strokes (one left to right, and one right to left), you are going to switch to your pink bag to do the next two strokes, and back to the white bag for the next two strokes, and so on. Then repeat, alternating, bigger and smaller columns, until you get back around to the beginning. You can also click here to see a video of how The Flour Girl did hers on Instagram. (And check out her other cakes, she’s amazing!)

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I didn’t put my columns close enough together so I ended up with some gaps. I chose to fill them in with little stars of white.

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If I make this one again, I’ll make sure not to leave any gaps, because I think it takes away from the pattern a little. I would also probably start the lines closer to the top of the cake.

To finish it off, I piped a little heart on top using the same technique.

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I love giving these little mini sized cakes away as gifts. The four inch size is perfect for a couple or a small family. Or even for one if you’re feeling especially hungry. 🙂 No judgement here.

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Passion fruit curd

(I halved the recipe for a 4 inch, 3 layer cake and still had leftovers)

Ingredients:

½ c passion fruit puree (can be found in the frozen food section, let thaw before using)

1 c sugar

4 tbsp lime juice

2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed

6 egg yolks

Directions:

  1. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine yolks and passion fruit puree with sugar and lime juice and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add butter and whisk over low heat until butter is melted.
  3. Keep whisking until thickened, about 8 more minutes.
  4. When curd coats the back of a wooden spoon, strain into a bowl through a mesh sieve.
  5. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the curd to seal it and prevent a skin from forming.
  6. Refrigerate until well chilled.