Friday, February 24, 2012

Heart Cakes

Remember that cake giveaway I did on Facebook about a month ago? Well, the cakes were baked, decorated, and delivered 2 weeks ago, right before Valentine's Day. I thought you might like to take a look. And I also thought I'd better do this post now before February is over, because, let's face it, everyone is really tired of Valentine's Day once March hits!

Maybe you're tired of Valentine's Day already. If so, keep it to yourself and enjoy this post anyway! :)

Just kidding.... maybe...

I did two versions of the decorations, both red on a white background.

The first was a heart with a cut-out in the middle.

The second was two hearts, one smaller and on top of the other. I'm calling it a "double heart."

Which is your favorite? I just love how the red looks against the white background. And with the red cake stand. So pretty!

This is the first time I've attempted to do so many cakes at once. I wanted to test myself and this certainly was a test! Of stamina, organization, and stress. Overall, I'm glad I did it, but I did learn that at this stage in my life, with young children running around, I can't do quite so much at once. So, for now, I will stick to one cake at a time.

Do you want to see some of the process? There is a lot that goes into making even a small cake. These pictures show some of it.

First, of course, baking the cakes. I ended up making my vanilla recipe 4 times and my chocolate recipe 3 times, though I miscalculated and ended up using one I had made the week before and frozen. Shhh....don't tell! This picture shows about half of the cakes. They are already baked, cooled, and wrapped waiting to be all dressed up in ganache.

After the baking and cooling comes the trimming. I trim any domed tops off carefully to make a nice flat and level surface at the top of the cake. Then I tort the layers, or cut the cakes in half horizontally to make two layers out of one cake. Cakes baked in my 3-inch tall pans sometimes get torted into three layers. I keep the scraps in a big bowl for snacking. Hey - don't judge. I deserve a little of the fruits of my labor! And I have to make sure they taste good, right? The scraps from these cakes filled two large bowls, mostly because I baked some layers in 12-inch pans and cut them down. This left a lot of excess at the edges.

I used to do my torting with a little tool, but to simplify things for myself, I'm training myself to tort and trim with just a large knife. I use a really nice bread knife that my mother-in-law was kind enough to give me a few years ago. It is very long and perfect for trimming and torting cakes. I hold the knife with the blade on the cake where I want to cut. Then, keeping the knife very straight and still, I turn the board the cake is sitting on around and around until the knife goes all the way through. I brace the arm holding the knife against my body so it doesn't move. This way, the knife stays even all the way around and the cut is much more level the first time. I check with an actual level, then trim if necessary.

After the trimming comes the filling and covering with ganache. Here are the cakes all in their ganache undergarments. Look all you want. They won't be embarrassed! :)

They are kind of pretty just like this, aren't they?

Here is one all by it's lonesome. It is almost finished, but I still needed to clean up a few divots and bumps in the ganache.

The smoothness of the ganache layer is everything to how smooth the fondant will be! You would think that the fondant would be a little forgiving and mold on the bottom to any slight bumps in the ganache while maintaining a smooth top. Sadly, it doesn't work that way. The fondant will show everything, and I mean everything. Kind of like a sheer shirt - you want to make sure what you are wearing under it is fit to be seen! The fondant will hide the color (unless it gets rolled too thin, which I have done before too! Oops!) but not the bumps and divots. This is one part of the process that takes a TON of practice.

I let these sit overnight to make sure they are nice and firm. I will usually put a ganached cake in the refrigerator to firm up, but I couldn't with these simply because there were too many to fit in my refrigerator. So, they sat a little longer to ensure a nice firm surface for the fondant.

I put the fondant on one cake at a time until all had the white base. Then I did the decorations.

Wait a second, how did that get in there? Hee Hee. This is my beautiful, er, handsome little nephew Caleb. I got to meet him last weekend and couldn't resist sharing a pic or two so that you can admire him too! He is such a nice baby, too, so sweet and peaceful. I don't think he cried at all while we were visiting. Though I've been told that he doesn't cry much ever, I prefer to think that he was just so enamored by my presence, he was too happy to cry! :)

Take a look at his perfect little face.

Okay, back to the cakes...

It was so much fun to just give these little cakes away and (hopefully) bless some families with a nice treat. I hope they all enjoyed the cakes!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I did this little cake to learn/practice the quilting technique. Do you like it?

The "quilting technique" consists of the lines on the sides of the cake, in a criss-cross pattern. I put mine a little too close together, I think. But overall, it was fun and I really like the look. I put tiny little flowers at the points where the lines crossed. Kate helped with that part! :)

I also love the rolled roses on the top.

This was the first time I made these, too. They are whimsical and fun. The green of the leaves was the perfect accent on this all-yellow cake. What a great cake this would be for Mother's Day or just for spring. Bright, sunny, and fun!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Heart Cookies

Last week, Kate celebrated her half birthday at school. I love that they allow this in her preschool because my darling's birthday is in June and she will forever miss out on celebrating her birthday in her classroom. So, this year, she got to have this fun day! Yeah!

For her half-birthday, I was able to bring in a special treat for the class. Kate chose cookies and I steered her towards a lace design I've seen on several blogs and websites. I just wanted to try it and what better excuse? I was happy Kate approved!

Here they are:

I tried a new method for the background/base icing and it didn't work super well for me. That is why you see rough edges on the pink in these cookies. But I was really pleased with how the lace patterns turned out. It is surprisingly easy to do. Just start with dots and add little details one at a time until you end up with the whole lace design. I used a Wilton #1 piping tip and royal icing to do the white piping.

I used a new recipe for the cookies themselves and it is fantastic! The recipe isn't mine, though, but is from A wonderful site if you want to check it out! She does truly amazing cookies! Click here for the recipe.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dora and Diego

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of creating a cake for a sweet little girl, Gwen. Her grandmother is in my Bible study group and I was thrilled to be able to do this cake for them. Gwen's parents and I also have several mutual friends, so I was excited to finally meet them!

Gwen's party was done with a Dora and Diego theme, so that was also reflected in the cake. Here it is!

This was the first time I've done a topsy-turvy style cake. See how the tiers look "crooked"? That's what they call "topsy-turvy" if you haven't heard that term before.

The Dora, Diego, Baby Jaguar, and Boots figures are chocolate transfers. I made them out of candy melts to avoid the tempering process that you have to do with real chocolate and to get the nice colors.

To create these, I started by finding pictures of each of the characters online. I then printed those pictures that I liked and taped waxed paper on top of them. I melted the candy melts in the proper colors, then put them in piping bags with small round tips (I used #1, #2, and #4 round tips). To keep the candy melts from hardening in the bags and clogging the tips, I set them on top of a heating pad set to medium and covered by a towel. This kept them warm enough to stay melted so I could easily go back and forth between the colors without having to stop, empty the bags, unclog the tips, and re-melt the candy every two minutes. So much easier!

If you do this, first outline the outer edge and main lines of the picture, then fill in with the color. Remember that the bottom is what will show when you remove, so work from the outside in. Anything that you want in the background of the image should go on last. You can also add relief colors and lines to the image after you finish it by removing the waxed paper and then piping it on the front (originally the bottom). Does that all make sense? If not, just ask me to explain the confusing parts and I will try!

The transfers are really just standing free and leaning up against the cake. In the end, I decided that to try to secure them with chocolate or fondant would just make it look messy. I was delivering it to the place of the party, so it worked out well to just set them against the cake. I knew the cake wouldn't be moved.

For the rest of the design, I wanted to generalize on the Dora and Diego theme, so I chose the colors that generally appear in the cartoons to create the idea of grass/jungle and sky without being literal. The flowers were a little girly touch because the case was for a little girl. I think the flowers are my favorite part!

Here is a pic of the cake before the transfers were added.

The final version also included a candle in the shape of a tree with Dora and Boots sitting against it. I didn't want to attach the candle until I delivered the cake and it wouldn't stay on the top otherwise, so I don't have a pic of the cake with the candle. But it was really cute! You'll have to just take my word on that. Don't worry, you can trust me! :)

For those interested in all the yummy details, here you go. The bottom tier was white/vanilla cake with milk chocolate ganache and the top tier was my dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate ganache. I hear that the plates were licked clean! Yeah!

I hope you all enjoyed my topsy-turvy Dora and Diego cake! Have a blessed week! Check back here often to see more cakes I have coming up. I also did cookies and another cake this weekend that I will show you soon!