Thursday, December 29, 2011

White Christmas

I don't know about where you are, but around here we are wishing we could have had a white Christmas. No snow was to be found at all last weekend! But it was still a very nice Christmas!

We did have a hard time convincing my daughter that Santa would still come even though there was no snow! She was very nervous...

I didn't end up having time to do the Christmas cake designs that I wanted to do, so the day after Christmas, I decided to do one of them on a faux cake. This "cake" is actually a styrofoam dummy. Cool, huh? And no calories! :)

The cake makes me feel like we had a bit of white Christmas at our house!

The whole thing is covered with white fondant. The "trees" are sugar cones turned upside down. The two shorter ones are cut to make them a little smaller, so the heights of the trees would not all be the same. I frosted them with buttercream and then rolled them in sparkling sugar. Next time, I think I will use royal icing and dip them, maybe multiple times, to get a nice thick coat, instead of frosting them. I was disappointed that the cone showed through and that the icing showed a bit because it was slightly more ivory in color than the fondant and the sugar. But overall, I love the look of it!

Here are a couple more shots for a closer look.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! May God bless you on this New Years' weekend and throughout the coming year!

Stay tuned for shots of more Christmas treats!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

This year I wasn't going to do gingerbread houses. I thought it seemed like too much work and, frankly, too much of a mess with the children. But then I saw my good friend doing little houses with her kids and I saw how much fun they were having. My friend said she got the kit at Target, so off I went to look.

And look...

And look...

The gingerbread house kits were nowhere to be found! So, I decided to bake my own. I had seen a wonderful video tutorial on She also shares her recipe and a template for the house pieces.

So, I printed everything and got to baking! I baked the pieces on Monday and began to put them together over the course of the day Tuesday. It takes awhile because you have to let everything dry during assembly and then make sure the completed piece is dry before decorating so it holds together.

Yesterday afternoon, we got to decorate. I had bought an inordinate amount of candy for these houses! I'll have to hide the leftovers. From myself, I mean. I am a candy addict! :)

Will and Kate each got a little house to decorate. While getting them set up, I was wishing I had made one for myself too. But Will kindly let me help with his! He gave very specific instructions on how and what I should do, though! Ha! Sounds just like him, doesn't it? I don't have any idea where he gets that....

Each child also got a little baggie full of royal icing with one of the corners cut off. That way, they could pipe some icing out to attach the decorations all by themselves. I did the icicles for them with my own bag fitted with a #5 tip.

Here is Will's.

The front:


Did you see the little snowman? My contribution. I think he's so cute!

And the back. He went for the minimal approach on the front and back!

And here is Kate's.

That was the front. Here are the sides:

Kate insisted that her snowgirl have eyelashes. Can you see them?

Here is the back of Kate's house:

Both kids were so pleased with their creations! Even better was how tickled they each were with what the other had done. They each squealed with delight noticing things about the other's house. I love that!

And it was a lot of fun to see them make the houses come to life.

Today, I will probably let them eat some, but part of me just wants to keep the houses and look at them. Maybe put them on the mantle. They remind me of how much fun Christmas with the kids can be. And how some tasks that seem daunting end up being the most rewarding. Isn't that true of a lot of things in life??

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011


A new hobby? No, not for me anyway! The title of this blog refers to the most recent cake I've done.

This cake was done for a sweet friend of mine, Julie, who surprised her mother last week for her mother's birthday. How fun is that? Her mother was truly surprised, too! I love it!

Well, Julie's mother likes to cross-stitch and her favorite color is purple, so I ran with those two things in my design. Julie helped me think of ways to incorporate the cross-stitch.

What do you think??

I admit I was a little nervous over this one! I didn't have a lot of time to practice the cross-stitch piping before doing the actual cake and I wasn't sure my piping skills were up to the task. But, I must say, I'm pretty proud of the result. That was a lot of little X's to pipe! And, yes, I did each little X one by one to make it look as much like actual cross-stitch as possible.

Here's a close-up of the flowers.

Do you think it looks like cross-stitch?

After the flowers were done, I thought the design needed a little something, so I added the little swirls and sugar pearls off to the sides.

For those of you who want to imagine you are eating this lovely thing, here are the details! :)

The bottom tier is an 8-inch dark chocolate cake with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream filling. The top tier is a 6-inch vanilla-chocolate marble cake with oreo filling. The entire cake is covered with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream and iced smooth. The flowers, stems, and scrolls are all piped with colored vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. I used a Wilton #1 tip to do all of the piping so that the lines would be as small and fine as possible.

I did learn one thing: when using a #1 tip, which has a very small opening, it's best to NOT include the vanilla bean seeds in the icing. I never would have thought a vanilla bean seed would ever plug anything up, but I had to keep unclogging my tip while piping those X's! Lesson learned. :)

I hope you enjoyed my latest creation! It was so much fun to make!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Toffee Cookies

I have been so busy in the kitchen lately! Lots of goodies to share with you in the coming weeks, if I can find some spare minutes in all of the Christmas craziness! I must say, though, that God has granted me a good deal of peace this year and I'm using that to focus more of my attention on Him. Christmas is, after all, all about Christ!

Back to the cookies...

I decided to try something new this year. I know the concept isn't new at all. There are tons of toffee cookie recipes out there. But I didn't use one of those. That would have been too easy! No, I wanted to create my own.

It wasn't too hard, though. I already have my own sugar cookies recipe. Add to that some homemade toffee, which I just learned how to make, and voila! My own Toffee Cookies! And, I must say, they are fantastic!!

Take another look at this toffee goodness....


Ahh, went into a bit of a cookie trance there....

Let me show you some details and give you the recipe! Yeah!

First, make the toffee. I used a recipe from Country Kitchens. I paid for a class to get my recipe and don't want to step on their toes by giving it to you for free. But I did find a similar recipe online that they have already chosen to post for all to see. So, you can have it! Click here to get the toffee recipe. Just omit the chocolate and the nuts. We are making plain toffee here to put into the cookies. But you should make the full version with chocolate another time because it is a very tasty treat!

Start the toffee by melting the butter in a large pot over low heat. You want a large pot because it will bubble up quite a bit once it gets going. After the butter melts, add the sugar, salt, water, and lecithin. This is what it will look like.

Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then put your candy thermometer in the mixture and cook to 290 degrees F over medium heat. Stir it occasionally. You want the color to be even and, especially towards the end, you will notice it darkening a bit more in some spots. Watch it carefully! As soon as you walk away, it will burn. That's like the law of candy-making I think. Kind of like Murphy's law. It just always seems to happen!

While that's bubbling away...

...let's talk about a couple of things. First, the lecithin. Some of you may be wondering, as I did at first, what in the world is this stuff? And why do I need it? Well, lecithin is an emulsifier. A fancy way of saying that it is something that will help the butter blend with the sugar a little better so that your finished toffee will have a surface that is more dry and less greasy. And so that your mixture comes together the way it should. Yes, you can make toffee without it. But it's not that expensive. I got mine at Country Kitchens candy and cake supply store. You can order it from them online and I am sure there are other online suppliers if you can't find it near you.

The other thing I wanted to talk about it preparing your pan for the hot liquid. You will need to be ready because as soon as your toffee reaches 290, you must immediately pour it from the pot. I use a silicone mat. Silpat is the most well-known brand and it is pricey, but worth it for things like this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sticks to it. And it can withstand very high heat. Mine is not Silpat brand and so it was a little less expensive. Put the mat into a heat-proof pan. This recipe is perfect for a quarter-sheet pan. I don't have one. At least not one without high sides. So, I used a cookie sheet with sides and put parchment under my mat just in case the liquid flowed off of the mat. I didn't want to scrape it off the pan later! You can also just butter some aluminum foil really well and put that in a pan. Either way works!

Once you reach 290, immediately pour the toffee onto your prepared pan. It's better if you pour in a circle motion or back and forth instead of pouring into one spot. This way the heat is distributed a little better and it will cool a little more evenly. Once it starts to set, you can use a bench scraper or something similar to start scoring your toffee. You will have to go over your score marks a couple of times. Scoring the toffee while it is cooling will allow you to break it into even pieces later on. Of course, you could always just let it set and break it unevenly too. Whichever way you like it is fine with me! For the cookies, we are going to crush it all up anyway.

Here it is all set and scored. Mine got a touch dark this time, but still tasted fantastic!

Now mix up your cookie dough. I've included my fluffy sugar cookie recipe at the end of this post. That is the recipe I used. Crush up as much of the toffee as you would like, keeping in mind that it will melt a bit while the cookies are in the oven, so if you incorporate too much, you may end up with a sticky mess. Play around with it and see how you like it! I used about a quarter of my toffee, but I wasn't using a full batch of dough. (I used part of my cookie dough to make peppermint pinwheel cookies! A yummy treat for another post!) You want the pieces of toffee to be fairly small.

Stir the toffee pieces into the cookie dough.

Then spoon or scoop into tablespoon-or-so sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 8-9 minutes, then cool on a rack. Try not to eat all of them at once!

Soft and Fluffy Sugar Cookies
2 cups (7 ounces) cake flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening**
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 whole large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream shortening with sugar. Add extracts and mix well. Add the eggs and mix just enough to blend. Add half of the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until blended. You may have to do this last mixing by hand. The dough will be thick. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack.

* You can substitute self-rising flour for the cake flour, salt, and baking powder. That is what I do!
** I know, I know. Shortening is evil, right? Why am I using it here? Well, I do have my reasons. I wanted a fluffy cookie and it's difficult to get that with butter because of butter's low melting point. I admit that the shortening makes me cringe just a bit, but it really is the right ingredient for this type of cookie. Feel absolutely free to substitute a good unsalted butter, though, understanding that your cookies will spread a bit more. This recipe is delicious either way!

You can make these as-is and then frost them with a nice buttercream frosting. Or you can mix in pretty much anything - toffee like in this post, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. It isn't a good recipe for rolling out, like for sugar cookies cut-outs, because it is a little sticky. I'm still working on adapting it for that!

Time for you to get baking! And time for me to get another cookie! Enjoy!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Little Cakers

Aren't they just the cutest little cooks in the kitchen? They have their own aprons, decorated themselves, and everything!

A few weeks ago, I let Will and Kate decorate a couple of little cakes. They said it was for my birthday, though my birthday had passed already and after they were done they had a touch of a problem with sharing their masterpieces. But man did they have fun! And so did I!

Here are some more pics of them hard at work.

Kate is trying hard to decide what cutter she wants to use next. Lots of flower shapes to choose from!

Will is very serious and very focused. He knew exactly what he was going to do before he started. Those of you who know him won't be surprised by that at all!

Will has issues with the way Kate is doing her cake. I think he's about to give her some instruction. Helpful of course! :)

I'm not sure what Kate is doing with her hand in that last picture. And I'm sorry it's blurry! I still thought it was worth sharing!

Here are the finished cakes. First, Kate's creation. Lots of flowers, some butterflies, and some bears. The one bear has her name stamped into it. Very girly and just lovely!

And Will's. Those are bats in memory of Halloween and a Star Wars spaceship in honor of Will's first love right now, Star Wars. I love how neat and organized it is. He did such a great job!

Each had definite opinions on which was the best cake. I love them both equally and can very clearly see the personality of each child is his/her cake. It's funny how their decorating reflects their personalities!

I hope you enjoyed my kids' creations! I did supply the modeling chocolate (that's what the cut-outs were made of), the cutters and tools, and the supervision. But I let them each do whatever they wanted and tried not to help at all unless they asked. I am so proud of my little cakers! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Don't hate me. I don't have any pictures or recipes ready for you today. But I wanted to jump on here quick and let you all know what's going on and what I've been doing. I was so blessed to be able to take a candy class with my sister last week! So, there will be many posts to come on candy making. And one cake next week! So, sorry about the delay in new posts and pics, but stay tuned! I promise lots more to come this holiday season! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dessert Table

Wow - it's been awhile since I posted on here! Sorry about that! Time always seems to start going faster and faster this time of year!

I hope you all have had a fabulous Thanksgiving with lots of good food and good company. I am so thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful family. This year, though I missed my extended family, I really enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with just my hubby and kids. It was so relaxing and fun! I am also very thankful for the joy that baking and decorating brings to me! That joy is a gift from God and I am loving every minute of it!

Enough gushing... Now for what you've all been waiting for. Well, maybe some of you have been waiting for it. :)

I hosted a little get-together at my house along with a good friend of mine and I volunteered to make the food for it. This is the first dessert table I have been able to create and it was so much fun! Here is the whole thing:

Don't you just love it? I don't know if you can tell, but I even made little cards with the names of each item. How very Martha of me, right? I decided to go with a silver and white color scheme, since it fit a lot of the plates and things I already had and because it seemed festive for this time of year but not too Christmas-y. After all, it wasn't a Christmas party. (It was a Thirty-One party, actually.) It was also fun to be able to use several of my cake stands and plates!

For decoration, I bought an inexpensive silver tablecloth from HomeGoods. If you haven't been there, you should seek one out and go! It is the best store for cake plates, cake stands, and table linens. And a lot of fun to shop in. I try to limit myself in that store, but it never works. The other thing I did was take two tall vases, which I already had, and line the inside with silver and white wrapping paper. The paper added a pop of color and hid the stems of the flowers in the vases. I thought this was genius! And I thought of it all by myself! :) I'm sure it's been done before, but it's fun to pat myself on the back just a little. The flowers themselves are fake. I normally very much prefer fresh flowers, but I found these for $1 each at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago and thought they would be perfect for this.

Want to see the food? Of course!

There is a lot of it! And all was very good!

First, the centerpiece item.

Almond Champagne Cake with Champagne-Chambord simple syrup, Champagne-Chambord Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Raspberry preserves and fresh raspberries. I've really got to come up with a simpler name for these babies! Oh, they were sooooo tasty. And don't they look pretty in the little jars?

Next, I made Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes topped with the same Chambord buttercream and a sprinkling of chocolate jimmies.

These cupcakes were almost like eating brownies, though they had a lighter crumb and were not quite as dense as a brownie. They are absolutely packed with chocolate flavor! And the little swirl of buttercream gave the perfect hint of raspberry flavor. Yum! Watch for the recipe for these coming up in another post soon.

Finally, the caramels. Last but definitely not least.

It took me a couple of tries to get these right. I think I still need to tweak it a bit, but mostly that's for workability and ease in putting them together. The flavor of these is spot-on and delicious. I seriously could eat all of these in one sitting all by myself. If guests weren't coming over, I probably would have!

Oh, but you're waiting for a description probably. These beauties are soft salted caramel topped with chopped pecans and a very light sprinkling of ground cayenne pepper, then coated in milk chocolate and a touch of fleur de sel. They have a bit of everything - soft, crunchy, chocolatey, sweet, a hint of spice, a hint of saltiness - and they pretty much melt in your mouth. Divine! I will be sharing this recipe, too, as soon as I perfect it.

Rounding out the table were mixed salted nuts, red hots, sour candies (Lemonheads and Friends), spicy Chex Mix and water with lemons and raspberries.

What a fun night it was! And though it was a lot of work, I can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flower Birthday Cake

My friend's little girl, Kyla, just celebrated her 4th birthday last week! She is the sweetest little thing and I hope that she just loved this cake I made especially for her!

The cake is dark chocolate with cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream filling. So good! I covered the cake with milk chocolate ganache before covering it with fondant. The flowers and vines are fondant. Bright pink and purple are Kyla's favorite colors. I added the green vines as an accent and put some sparkling sugar on for some shine and sparkle. What little girl doesn't like sparkly shiny things? I also added some white dragees (little sugar balls) as the flower centers and as accents.

Happy birthday Kyla!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Almond Ginger Spice Cake

Here is my latest cake, decorated for the MisoBakes Project. This time, the challenge was to use the basketweave tip without doing any basketweave. I played around with the top for a little while on a piece of waxed paper and this is the use that I ended up liking the most. It was fun! And I don't think anyone would guess that this piping this was made for doing basketweave!

Check out the other participants' cakes on the MisoBakes Project blog, here.

When I baked this cake, I knew it would be for my family only, so I decided to try a new recipe. I took what I had on hand and transformed my basic yellow cake recipe into Almond-Ginger Cake. It turned out lovely!

Here is the recipe, in case you want to make this spice cake for your family! Enjoy!

Almond-Ginger Spice Cake

3 cups (10-1/2 ounces) sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crystallized ginger pieces (I used The Ginger People crystallized ginger chips, which I found at Williams-Sonoma)
1/2 cup ground almonds (chop 1-1/2 cup whole plain almonds in a food processor until finely chopped)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/4 cups (8-3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, softened
6 egg yolks plus one whole large egg
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake flour, baking powder, salt, crystallized ginger, ground almonds, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and granulated sugar. Mix on low for at least 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup cream and the butter. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, then mix on medium-high for 1-1/2 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup cream. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, adding each part on low speed and then mixing on medium-high speed for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and pour into a greased, parchment-lined and floured 8X3-inch round cake pan or two 8X2-inch round cake pans. Bake until top springs back when touched with a finger and toothpick inserted in the center comes back with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 45-55 minutes.

This cake tastes great with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. Fill with the vanilla buttercream and more crystallized ginger for an extra pop of flavor.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Take a look at these. Don't they look delicious!

My sister made this recipe and was kind enough to share with us. She is the best! And so are these brownies!

Here is what Amy had to say... Enjoy!

"I got the idea to find a good peanut butter brownie recipe after visiting a bakery in town. The brownie I had there was so good and I wanted to try to make something similar. After trying a couple recipes, I decided to combine two recipes from Martha Stewart’s Cookies Cookbook. I took the brownie part from her Double Chocolate Brownies. It was nice and fudgy. Then I took the peanut butter filling part from her Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies. The only thing I changed was that I increased the peanut butter from what she had. I’m telling you this is probably the best brownie I’ve had and it’s certainly the best one I’ve made. These are so good.

"I also tried a couple different peanut butters to see if that made a difference. It does make a bit of a difference. Get one that you really like but I liked the creamy Krema brand. It’s one with just peanuts in it. You don’t really need anything else since these are already sweet.

"After they cool, I like to cut them into squares and put them in a big freezer bag. That way, I’m not eating dried up brownies a couple days later. I can have a fresh tasting one anytime! I have a piece defrosting on the counter right now. Better go…I’m going to top mine with homemade vanilla ice cream!"

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies Cookbook

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside.

Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until butter and chocolate are melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined.

To make the filling, stir together melted butter, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.

Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan; spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop dollops of remaining filling on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Angry and Adorable

They're angry, they're cute, they just want their eggs back! Yep, angry birds. If you haven't played that game yet, you should. It's totally addicting!

I had the pleasure of making these little birdy cupcakes for a friend who was going to a Halloween party dressed in the Angry Birds theme. I believe her kids were angry birds and she and her husband were slingshots. (Erin, correct me if I got that wrong!) Cute idea!

These were very detailed and so took a little more time than I originally expected. But it was a lot of fun putting them all together and getting to share them! The toppers are made from modeling chocolate (also called candy clay). Modeling chocolate is so much fun. It is a little like working with fondant, except that it doesn't dry out quite as quickly and it tastes fabulous. I used candy melts. You can buy Wilton candy melts in different colors at Michael's, Joann's or Hobby Lobby. Just take a package of candy melts, melt it according to the directions on the package, and then stir in 1/3 cup light corn syrup. It will thicken and stick together, like chocolate seizing. When it does this, just place it in a lump on some waxed paper and let it cool. Then knead it a few times until it is smooth and malleable. After that, you can roll it and cut it like fondant (or like playdoh!). It might not be the best for modeling figures because it doesn't harden and won't "set up" like fondant or gumpaste. You also can't roll it quite as thin, so it's not the best for some flower work. But it's great for things like stripes or cut-outs.

The cupcakes themselves are oh-so-good chocolate with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream. Yum!

Here are some more pics.

Apparently, my camera didn't like the close-up on the red and yellow birdies, so they turned out a little blurry. I'll show them to you anyway!

I left a few of the cupcakes without a topper and with a swirl of the buttercream. I think it looks fantastic all on it's own too!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

You all are going to think I'm crazy, but I had some free time yesterday and what did I do with it? I baked a cake of course! I guess baking and decorating a 3-tier cake wasn't enough to satisfy my cake obsession for this weekend!

Here she is...

Isn't she pretty? She's rustic. But that's on purpose.

I can't really take credit for the design. I got it from Miso. Some of you may remember that I have done some challenges for Miso's blog. She is an amazing decorator that also does some cake-related posts for Half-Baked, the cake blog. She did a post on Half-Baked last week in which she shared this design and her recipe. It is delicious! You can read her post, her instructions, and her recipe here.

For mine, I used a smaller bundt-type pan that is shaped like a donut. It is the giant donut cake pan from Williams-Sonoma. I got it as a gift from my mother-in-law last year and I love it! (Thanks Mitzi!) To give my pumpkin a bit more height, and so it wouldn't look like just a donut, I also put a little of the batter in an 8-inch round cake pan. I didn't cut and fill the halves of the donut, but instead put my 8-inch round (trimmed to fit) in between the two donut layers with ganache on each side. (I hope that made sense!)

Maybe this picture of one of the slices will help you see what I mean.

I'm not sure why I cut such a measly piece. I will definitely make my own slice bigger! Don't judge! :)

I will say a word of caution. Don't be too heavy-handed with the chocolate or it will overwhelm the pumpkin flavor and spices of the cake. A thin layer is perfect! Or, you could use some cream cheese icing instead for a more traditional, but no less delicious, combination. I also noticed that Miso's ganache recipe calls for chocolate chips. You may recall that I told you not to use chocolate chips. And I stand by that! Chocolate chips contain extra wax that makes them more challenging to melt. So, I recommend a good-quality chocolate instead of the chips. But if chips are all you have or all you can find, by all means give it a go. Just be aware that they may not melt as well or behave for you like other chocolate in non-chip form.

I covered my pumpkin with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream that was tinted orange. I think it was perfect! Not quite as artsy as Miso's, but I love it all the same. (I really love Miso's too though!)

Actually, I had some orange left over from the last MisoBakes cake that I did, as well as some white from the baby shower cake and a little green from another cake. I mixed them all together and covered the pumpkin with the resulting perfect pumpkin color. I love it when using leftovers works out so well!

One batch of batter was enough for my little pumpkin. Miso's was a lot bigger, I think, and would serve more people.

This is a perfect cake to try this fall! It's moist and wonderful, with good pumpkin flavor and a boost from the chocolate ganache. Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baby Shower Cake

My latest creation is probably my favorite one to-date. Check out those swirls! I did this cake for a friend who was bringing the cake to her sister-in-law's baby shower. The colors and baby buggy topper were done to match the invitations. I really love this one - the simplicity of the design, the colors, the topper, and the overall effect of all of those swirls.

Here is another view of the cake, without the topper on yet. This would be good for a wedding cake, I think.

Want to see that topper up close? I thought you might....

It's a little hard to see the details, but I hope you can make them out. I free-handed a little drawing based on the invitation onto the back of some photo paper, then cut it out. I rolled out brown fondant and used the photo paper, which I lightly brushed with some shortening for some extra insurance against sticking, as a template to cut the back piece for the baby buggy. I then used the same technique to cut out the pieces of the buggy in green and brown. For the bottom part, the basket/bassinet part (does that make sense?), I used one of my rubber stamps (never ever ever used with ink, so clean and perfect for caking) to imprint a pattern, then I painted the raised portion with a mixture of brown gel food coloring and vodka (to thin it out to paint consistency). I used a lighter version of my "paint" to brush the whole thing to give it a bit of a washed look and to dull the remaining green portions as a contrast to the top part of the stroller. There are sucker sticks between the back and front fondant pieces to hold the baby buggy in place on top of the cake.

On a side note, I really need a better system and lighting for taking pictures of my cakes. If any of you are photogs and have suggestions, I'd love to hear them!! Right now, I take the pictures in front of a big window, on a table usually with wrapping paper as the backdrop/underneath the cake. I use a big piece of white foamcore board as a reflector, but, like in these pictures, sometimes it doesn't seem to work very well. I'm trying to avoid buying a huge "booth" for my cake pictures, but if that is the best way to photograph my cakes, I'd try it (if it's not too much moolah). I've discovered that a good picture can make a huge difference!

Anyway....back to this baby shower cake.

I also decorated the cake board by marbling the green and brown fondant used for the baby buggy and rolling it onto a piece of 1/2-inch foamcore board cut a few inches larger than the cake. I stamped "congratulations katie and steve" into the front and then painted the letters with edible gold dust mixed with a tiny bit of vodka to make it into a paint-like consistency. I used the tiniest brush I have to get into the grooves of the letters without getting gold all over the place. I like the effect! Subtle and pretty.

The entire cake is covered with mini-swirls similar to a cake I did awhile ago for my new neighbor. You can see that cake here. This one is exactly the same, but on a much larger scale! I used vanilla bean buttercream made with vanilla bean paste. The paste and the butter give the icing an off-white color that was perfect for this cake. I love how the creamy icing with little flecks of vanilla bean looks against the green and brown ribbons and the baby buggy on the top.

The ribbons are real and the only inedible decorations on this cake. The little bows are made with the brown ribbon. All are fastened onto the cake with a dab of buttercream. I do think that in the future I will use royal icing or something like that to attach the ribbons, though. I think that may hold a little better. I was really nervous that the ribbons would fall once the buttercream softened. These held on, but I think a stronger "glue" would help my peace of mind!

Do you all want details about the cake itself? I thought so!

The bottom tier of the cake is 4 layers of marble cake with vanilla bean buttercream filling. The marble cake is my vanilla bean cake swirled with my newest chocolate cake. I think this is my favorite cake yet. It was sooooo good! I could barely keep myself from cutting out a big slice of it while I was putting it all together! And when I torted the cake (that's cutting it into layers), it revealed the most beautiful swirls of chocolate inside. The cake itself was so pretty. I took a picture so you could all enjoy it too!

Doesn't that look amazing? Don't you just want to reach into your computer and grab a slice or two? I've never been happier to have a little dome on the top of my cake. I cut it off to level the cake and I got to taste the cake that way. Delicious!!

The middle tier is an extra-tall (I think it ended up at around 7 inches tall) 6-inch round vanilla bean cake with milk chocolate ganache filling. Also delicious! The top is a 4-inch chocolate cake with vanilla bean buttercream.

Now I know you are wishing right now that I would give you some recipes. And I will. I promise. But in another post. :)

And there you have it. My baby shower cake. I hope you enjoyed it!