Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CakeCentral Magazine - A Second Time!!

Hello! Welcome back! Many of you already know that one of my cakes made it (again!) into CakeCentral Magazine. I was so honored to have cakes in back-to-back issues!

This second cake was for the October issue. CakeCentral sent me a picture by the illustrator Arthur Rackham from the Grimm Brother's story, The Seven Ravens. It is an amazing illustration! I was lucky to get to work with it.

Most of all, I wanted to capture the eerie feel of the illustration. It is a little dark, but not overly so, and cool in tone. I wanted to make sure my cake design reflected all of that. I focused on the pattern and colors of the waters in the picture and used that as the main element of my cake.

I painted the waves onto the cake using a watercolor technique with vodka and food coloring, going from darker at the bottom to lighter moving up the tiers. I left the very top tier unpainted.

This painting actually went a lot better than I had anticipated. I thought I would have trouble with it, but it was actually really simple. I used a very "watery" paint, using more vodka than I normally would to paint with food coloring on the fondant. I then put the tier onto my turntable and spun it slowly while moving my brush up and down against the side. Does that make sense? It all went on really well and I was so pleased with the effect!

To bring in more of the Ravens story, I covered the very bottom tier in jet black fondant and made some fondant feathers, which I dried on a curve and set around the entire tier. I used a leaf cutter to make it easier and make sure the feathers were more uniform. Then I took my knife tool (you could also use the dull side of a butter knife) and gently scored a line in the middle of each feather and all along the edges to create the feather look.

As the finishing touch, I decided to do sugar pieces to reflect the ice mountain, against which the girl is standing. I ended up using Isomalt to make my sugar pieces because it dries clear and that is the look that I needed. Real sugar is cloudy when it dries and opaque and it just didn't look right. After the Isomalt was heated to the right temperature (per package instructions), I added a drop or two of blue and black food coloring, gently swirled it, then poured it onto a parchment-covered sheet pan. After it was completely cool and hardened, I cracked it into large and small pieces. I then took the pieces and attached them to the finished cake.

I really loved these sugar pieces! They were just as I had hoped they would be! The only problem was that they don't photograph super well. It is difficult to photograph a clear piece of sugar! But my photographer for this cake, Lisa Vargo, did such a fantastic job with it. By the way, Lisa is an amazing photographer! Check her out here!

I had so much fun doing this cake. I hope that CakeCentral Magazine continues to call on me to make cakes for their awesome publication! If you would like to check out all of the amazing cakes in the October issue, or any other issue, visit CakeCentral.com and click on the "Magazine" link. You can also buy individual issues for download from iTunes.

I am so, so thankful that I get to make cakes and hopefully bring smiles to those who see, and often eat, my creations. During this holiday season, this week at Thanksgiving and through the end of the year, I hope that you all take the time to think about all of the gifts and blessings you have been given and to give thanks for them! I am also so thankful for all of you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fashion-Inspired Cake

Many of you may already know that I had the awesome privilege of being featured in an online magazine that came out last week. I am so very excited about this! And I've been waiting an awfully long time to tell you all about it.

I actually made this cake back in April. Remember when I said I had something exciting coming up? Well, this was it. I just didn't know that "coming up" meant waiting five months! I was ready to accept the rejection when the magazine finally came out and there was my cake, on pages 75 and 76. I jumped up and down when I saw it, then emailed a bunch of people and posted it all on FB. It is really incredible to see one of my creations in print!

Don't you all just love the pictures? Aren't they amazing? I could not have done this without my friend, Heather Foy, who came over and took pictures for me. She overcame some bad lighting and a rough set-up to capture the very best of my cake creation. Thank you Heather! All of you should go over and check out her FB page, Heather Foy Photography. If you are in the Geneva, Illinois area and want some fabulous family photos, give her a call!

The cake was inspired by a photo sent to me by CakeCentral. This is the fashion issue, so the photo they sent was from this spring's fashion week. The dress that inspired my cake was done by Valentino and is just incredible. I really loved the details and the pattern on the dress. This picture came from the Vogue website and is the exact picture sent to me by CakeCentral.

I started this project by making a sketch. I do this with all of my cakes. Here is my sketch for this cake. You can also see it in this article on CakeCentral.com.

To make the cake, I covered styrofoam cake dummies with tan fondant. You may be asking yourself now, why didn't I use real cake? Well, there are two main reasons. First, I don't have to worry about styrofoam staying fresh and tasty. That means I don't have to do all the decorating work the day before or the day of the event. This gave me a little more time to make sure everything was perfect. Second, I used styrofoam because I want to keep this cake on display and I can't do that with real cake. I now have the cake in my living room for all to see. Well, all who come over to my house, that is!

I painted the tan fondant with gold dust mixed with a little vodka and water. This created the gold, somewhat shiny background for the red design, just like in the dress. I then used extruded fondant and a lined template to make the design. I placed waxed paper greased with a little bit of shortening on top of my template and extruded the fondant onto the waxed paper. I then used the waxed paper to place the design onto the side of the cake. It was tricky to get it all on straight! And, after awhile, my fingers were aching from the extruder! It was worth it! I really love how it all came together! Simple and dramatic all at the same time.

I wanted the pattern on the very bottom of the cake to hang down below the cake for a dramatic effect and to highlight that pattern, just like on the bottom of the dress. To do this, I raised the cake with a small "riser" made from styrofoam and covered with black ribbon. I then extruded more fondant and draped it to create the design. All of the extruded fondant is attached to the cake with a little vodka brushed onto the fondant with a very small paint brush. This bottom part is my favorite part of the cake!

The finishing touch was the two flowers made from fondant. They are fantasy flowers, meaning they aren't really reflective of any real flower. I wanted to put a softer touch on the cake as an accent, so that the overall feel of the cake was softened but the pattern could still take center stage.

The most amazing thing about this cake is that the request to do it came at the exact perfect time. I could not have planned it. The night before I got the request to do the cake, I had committed to doing something that was very difficult for me. I wasn't sure how I was going to keep that commitment and then the next morning, the needed distraction was waiting for me in my inbox! I kept my commitment because I had something else to focus on. I absolutely believe, 100 percent, that this opportunity was a gift from God. You see, my commitment was to something He required of me and I know that He helped me by giving me this opportunity. There was really no reason for CakeCentral to notice my work or ask me to be in the magazine. I didn't apply for the opportunity or do anything to get their attention at all. What a blessing and joy it was to be able to do this!

Thank you all for your support and for sharing in my excitement about all of this! YOU are a blessing to me!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Filled Up, Poured Out

Last week, I had the wonderful privilege of making a dessert for a Women's Ministries Kick-off event for my church. As I was thinking about what to make, I thought of the theme for this year, "Filled Up, Poured Out." It stems from Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." I really love this verse and the theme for this year! Hope, joy, peace, filled and overflowing with and through the power of God! Wonderful!

The image that goes along with the theme is a pitcher overflowing with water. I thought that would be perfect for a cake! So, I carved a pitcher out of cake and made it "pour" out water. Pretty cool, huh? I was very excited about how this one turned out!

I haven't carved a lot, so it took quite a bit of planning and thinking for me to get this to work. I wanted the pitcher to appear as if it was tilted, pouring out the water. That was the most difficult part! To make the shape, I took 6-inch and 8-inch cakes and stacked them on top of each other. Then I carved the shape of the pitcher little by little with a thin serrated knife. I covered the top of the cake with blue candy clay so that I could later make it look like the pitcher was filled with water. The rest of the pitcher was covered with gray candy clay. Normally, I would not cover an entire cake with candy clay or modelling chocolate, but I wanted to make the top of the pitcher appear thin and higher than the water. Unlike fondant, candy clay holds it's shape and will stand up even with nothing supporting it directly. The seams are also easier to blend away with candy clay, which melts slightly until the pressure and warmth of a finger.

To apply the candy clay, I rolled it out as thinly as possible onto a sheet of waxed paper, then used the waxed paper to wrap the candy clay around the ganached cake. I then peeled away the waxed paper and smoothed out the candy clay onto the cake using my fondant smoothers and my hands. The edges didn't come together everywhere, so I took scraps of the candy clay and pieced them onto the cake where they were needed, smoothing the edges with my fingers. It was definitely a process and not as easy as it sounds!

I decided to leave the finish on the pitcher a little rough. So, I marked it up a bit and colored it a little with black and silver petal dust, brushed on randomly to create a tarnished look. In the verse, we as humans are the vessels. We are the pitcher being filled with hope from God. We are imperfect vessels, yet we are fully accepted and even welcomed by God and freely given the gifts of hope, joy and peace. So, my pitcher cake needed to be an imperfect vessel, too. Sometimes imperfection can be beautiful!

To make the "water", I used more candy clay, a long rope for the water pouring from the pitcher and a flat piece to be the puddle of water on the board. I tinted some piping gel with blue coloring and swiped it with a spatula over all of the blue candy clay to make it look watery. It worked perfectly!

The board is cut from 1/2-inch foam core and covered with black and white fondant, marbled together. I like the effect, but I wish I would have done a different color. The board matched the pitcher a little too well! The letters and numbers were cut out of an icing sheet.

Inside this beauty is some serious deliciousness. Lightly lemon blueberry cake with blueberry swiss meringue buttercream. White chocolate ganache covered the entire thing underneath the candy clay. It was enjoyed by all!

Here is the recipe so you can make it yourself! Enjoy!!

Lemon Blueberry Cake with Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For the Cake:
3 cups (12 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 (1/2 ounce) tablespoon potato starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
3 whole large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
3/4 cup (6 liquid ounces) buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

For the Buttercream:
6 egg whites
12 ounces granulated sugar
Pinch salt
12.5 ounces unsalted high-quality butter (I use Kerrygold), very soft room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ - 1 cup fresh blueberry puree*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans by greasing them with shortening, lining them with parchment paper and dusting lightly with flour.

Whisk together the flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and a splash of the buttermilk. Set aside.

Add the rest of the buttermilk and the butter to the flour mixture and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed for 90 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Whisk the lemon juice and lemon zest into the egg mixture, then add in three parts to the flour/butter mixture. Add each part on low speed then mix on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Gently mix in the frozen blueberries. (Adding them frozen keeps the batter from turning purple, as does mixing them in quickly and gently.)

Divide evenly into the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in pans on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely. Tort and frost as desired or wrap tightly and carefully in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for up to one month. Thaw completely before unwrapping.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream. Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in a large bowl that sits comfortably on top of a saucepan, or in the top bowl of a double boiler. (The bowl should have no trace of fat (including egg yolks) in it anywhere or your egg whites will not whip up properly. I often wipe my bowl down with some vinegar or the cut side of a lemon to remove any residue then dry it before putting my egg whites in.) Bring about an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan upon which the bowl will sit without touching the water, or in the bottom pan of a double boiler if that is what you are using. Make sure that the water will NOT touch the bottom of the bowl in which the eggs are placed or the eggs will scramble. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer and set the bowl with the egg whites mixture on top. Whisk continually until the egg white mixture reaches 165 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or until the egg whites are very foamy and all the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

When the eggs reach 165 degrees F., pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Immediately put the bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the eggs reach stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to the touch. This can take 10 minutes or more. Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, turn the mixer to the lowest setting and add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all of the butter is incorporated into the egg whites. Continue to mix on the lowest speed until the buttercream comes together. It will look soupy and curdled at first. That’s normal! Keep mixing on low speed and it will come together. Just keep an eye on it and stop the mixer when the buttercream looks smooth and silky.

Once it comes together, switch to the paddle attachment and add the vanilla extract. Mix on low until incorporated. Add the puree a little at a time to ensure that it is fully incorporated. Add more to taste, being careful not to break the buttercream by adding too much.

*To make the blueberry puree, heat 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries in a medium saucepan with a few tablespoons of water until the blueberries begin to break down and the liquid is boiling. Once it is boiling, mash the blueberries with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. For a very smooth sauce, puree with an immersion blender right in the pot or briefly remove from the heat and puree in a blender. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Celebrating 90 Years

Hello Everyone! I hope that you are all enjoying your summer! We just got back from a wonderful vacation up in Michigan. Though it was a little colder than we would have liked, we had a fantastic time.

Before vacation, at the beginning of July, I had the opportunity to make a cake for the grandmother of one of my very dear friends. Vi was turning 90 and they were throwing her a huge party. I was honored to be asked to make the cake!

For inspiration, I was sent a copy of the invitation and I took my colors from that. The design of the invitation matched a stencil I had, so I wanted to use that too. I kept the whole design pretty simple, with a gumpaste gardenia (Vi's favorite flower) on the top.

I'll start here by showing you the picture of my sketch and inspiration pieces. Maybe you'd like to see how I start? If not, just skip this part! :) My drawing isn't the best, so you'll have to excuse that, but drawing out my cake gives me an idea of how all of the elements will look before I begin my cake. Sometimes I get an idea on paper and realize it wasn't a great idea to begin with. Seeing that right from the start saves me a lot of time and trouble in the end! I also use my sketches to show others my ideas to see if I am on their page about what the cake will look like.

Here is my sketch, the stencil and a picture of a gumpaste gardenia I found online. (Jacqueline Butler from PetalSweet made this one. If you like sugar flowers, go check out her site. You will be amazed!)

This was by far the biggest cake I have made for another person. It was meant to serve 75 people, though some of those servings came from a separate sheet cake so that I could keep the main cake more simple and save costs by not using fondant for the sheet cake.

Here is the main cake finished.

The stencil is my favorite part, I think. I love that it is subtle and adds an element of sophistication and simple prettiness to the cake.

The message on the cake was what was written on the invitation. The whole thing reads "Celebrating 90 Years. And her story continues..." I really love this for a milestone birthday because it shows that it is not only the life lived that is celebrated, but also the life yet to be lived. I was going to use fondant to make the message, but in the end it didn't seem right for this cake. The spacing would have been off and the block letters just didn't seem to "go" with the rest of the design. So, I chose to hand-paint it with food coloring. I really love how it looks on the cake! I was so nervous painting black onto white because every little mistake would show and I'm not really used to painting, especially letters. It was so much fun to "write" with that long, thin brush. Makes me want to learn calligraphy! You know, because I need another thing on my to-do list! :) It would be fun though...

For the topper, I made the birthday girl's name out of modeling chocolate and placed it on top of the cake next to a gumpaste gardenia.

Competing for my favorite thing on this cake is the gardenia. These little guys gave me a bit of trouble, but in the end, I think they are beautiful!

The sheet cake (actually a quarter sheet cake) was iced in smoothed buttercream and decorated with a fondant plaque. I admit that the look of this one isn't my favorite, but I do like the different elements. And I heard that the cake as a whole was loved by all! That absolutely makes my day and makes all of the effort totally worth it!

For those of you who would like to imagine eating this beauty, let me share the flavors with you. The top two tiers were vanilla bean cake with raspberry vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream filling, covered with white chocolate ganache. The bottom tier was chocolate cake with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream filling covered with dark chocolate ganache. The quarter sheet cake was chocolate cake covered with vanilla buttercream. Of course I had to taste the scraps. You know, just to make sure I'm giving away a quality delicious cake. I may have had a bowlful. I won't tell you how big the bowl was! But I will tell you it was delicious!

Thank you Ginny and Julie for letting me be a part of this celebration! And to Vi, may you have many more happy birthdays to come!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Baby Turns Six

Last week, my baby turned 6. I know it's a total cliche that time flies, but it is so true. It doesn't seem that long ago that Kate was itty-bitty, screaming her head off at me over absolutely everything. Yep, she was a crier.

All. The. Time.

I am glad the days of crying are over and I really love the age she is at now. Apparently, Kate got all of her anger out during that first year because she has been pretty much happy with everything ever since then. She is a breathe of fresh air and a joy. And I'm not just saying that because I'm her Mom! :)

This year was the first year Kate had a friend party. (I know, she is so deprived!) She invited all of her best friends, mostly from her school class, to a Princess & Superhero party here at home. What a lot of work that was! But it was also so much fun. The theme fits Kate to a "T". She loves superheroes and princesses equally and can hang with both the boys, all rough and tumble, and with the girls, with dolls and sweetness.

I had elaborate plans for her cake, too. It was going to be a castle, with many turrets and different sized tiers of cake, stacked up and decorated like a real castle. On it would be standing a sweet princess. A dragon was going to be climbing the side of one turret, breathing fire, and Superman himself was going to be saving the day.

Did I mention that I have never done any figure modelling before? That proves important later in the story!

I made the princess and was pretty pleased with her. I think I could do better next time, but I thought she was very nice for a first effort.

Here she is...

A few nights later, I began the dragon. He was coming along fine, but wouldn't dry. So, I propped him on some tissues to keep his shape and started molding Superman. Let me tell you, that was NOT easy! Two hours later, I had a figure that was just okay. It was nearly one o'clock in the morning and I could barely see straight anymore. I set my headless superhero down and realized he was bigger than the dragon. And about four times bigger than the princess. Ugh! I think I will blame extreme focus on the task at hand for my not noticing the size discrepancy earlier! The bottom line is he was unusable on this cake. The proportions were just all wrong.

It was two days before the party. The cake was baked, but not trimmed or assembled at all. None of the turrets, which were to be styrofoam, were covered with fondant or started at all. The buttercream for the filling and the ganache for covering the cake (under the fondant) were still unmade. And I had a day's worth of party prep to finish. I'm not ashamed to say I cried a little!

The next day, Kate and I had a heart to heart. It turns out the only person really invested in having an elaborate castle cake was me. So, we came up with an alternative, thanks to some inspiration from Sweetapolita. The dragon, which was still not dry a full 24 hours later, and headless Superman were scrapped and instead, I did a sweet and simple stacked and buttercream covered cake in pink, blue, and white. The princess stood alone on the top and simple fondant flowers were placed beside her and scattered around the base of each tier. I also sprinkled some pink sugar stars around the edges and on the top.

All the kids, including my own, greeted the cake with many ooh's and ah's, proving that really all one needs is cake. And sometimes simple is better than crazy. Crazy as in me turning into a wild crazy yelling person with no sleep and too much stress. No good for kids or birthdays!

Ahhhh...such a long story this time, huh? I bet you're ready to see the picture of the entire cake! Without further ado, here it is in all it's simple glory. I hope you like it!

It's definitely not fancy and not perfect, but that is part of it's charm. For me now, simple is in and over-complicated time-consuming designs are out!

Do you want to know what's on the inside? Even if you don't, I'm going to tell you! So just skip this paragraph if you don't want to know! :) The bottom tier was made with two chocolate layers and one strawberry layer with vanilla American buttercream (the powdered sugar buttercream that most of us know and love) filling and covering. The top tier is strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream. The strawberry cake was a sort of experiment that turned out pretty well. I used fresh strawberry puree that I reduced to about half as the liquid in the recipe and threw in chopped fresh strawberries just before baking. It tasted really good, but I had some problems with the baking, so I'm going to tweak the recipe before I share it. That's a little recipe teaser for you!

Want a peek at the insides? Here you go!

The chocolate layers tasted a little like brownies. Mmmmm....

Most importantly of all, my little now-six-year-old princess loved it!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

40th Birthday

Hello friends! I can't believe it has been almost a month since I've posted! Sorry about that! Things have been pretty busy around here and I've got a big project in the works. If it all works out, I'll be posting about it soon...

In the meantime, a few weeks ago I had the privilege of making a birthday cake for a friend of mine. Happy Birthday Matt! I was given a little guidance in the design, which I always like, but was given some creative license, too. So this one was a lot of fun!

Here it is!

This was my first time attempting a square cake. I think it turned out pretty well, though the fondant gave me some fits. Perhaps I need to tweak my recipe. In any case, I really like how it turned out in the end! I really love the combination of colors on this one! Very simple, but elegant and masculine. Perfect for a 40th birthday party.

The decorations are all made of modeling chocolate, which is so nice to work with! It cuts beautifully, holds up very well, and tastes delicious. You can also fix little imperfections by simply rubbing them out with a finger. The warmth of your finger will melt the chocolate just enough to fix the flaw or join a seam.

The hardest part of this design was the argyle pattern on the bottom tier. I thought it would be simple math, especially on the flat side of a square cake, but it ended up being surprisingly difficult to get the diamonds to line up properly. After about the third try, though, I managed to nail it! Ahhhh....learning is never simple, is it? And learning was never so tasty either!

The dashes are made from royal icing that I piped on by hand. To keep them straight, I marked out the lines first using toothpicks and a ruler.

I am usually the one taking pictures of my cakes, but my friend insisted I be in one with the cake this time. I guess it's kind of nice to be in a picture with one of my creations!

This cake was also so, so tasty. One of the best combinations: chocolate cake with coffee buttercream filling, covered with chocolate ganache. I have never been so thankful for cake scraps and leftover icing!

One of these days, I should have a cake scrap party and, when I'm finished with a cake, invite friends over to sip coffee (or wine) and eat the cake scraps with the leftover icing. Who's in?? :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sunny Spring

Hello all!

Spring is finally here! Or so I think. For now maybe. I'm pretty sure the weatherman said "snow" when describing the next few days. I can't give you details because I'm pretending it didn't happen.

Instead, I'm consoling myself with this little beauty. Bright, colorful and cheerful enough to overcome all of the bad feelings brought by the weatherman! (I should really just stop watching him, huh?)

I don't like to play favorites, but I really love love love this one! Though the base color of each tier is fondant, all of the decorations are made from modelling chocolate. Now, I have only made modelling chocolate once before and it was a total disaster. I really didn't understand how anyone could use the stuff, let alone love it. But I kept reading and hearing how wonderful it was, so I watched someone make it on YouTube and tried again. As it turns out, all those lovers of modelling chocolate were right! And I had just mixed it a little too long on my first attempt, turning it into a broken, oily mess. This time, with the proper tips, it turned out beautifully and really was great to work with. For a recipe and tips, just search for Lauren Kitchens on YouTube and watch her own video on making modelling chocolate. She also has a great class on Craftsy.com if you want to learn even more.

Back to my cake! :)

The bottom tier is 8 inches around and nearly 5 inches tall, a little taller than I usually make my tiers. I found a pattern online that I liked (brackets stacked on top of each other) and turned it into a template. I sized the template so that it was the exact height of this tier and would repeat evenly without overlapping. So, I had a template for one panel and would need to repeat that panel 7 times to cover the entire tier. Once that was done, I copied it and cut out just one of the brackets. I took that little paper bracket and covered it on both sides with packing tape, or "poor man's lamination" as I've heard it called. That kept the bracket from sticking when I used it to hand-cut all the brackets used on the cake. I was also able to wipe it down afterwards and keep it to use in the future. Hand-cutting the brackets individually was definitely a time-consuming process, but worth it in the end!

To make the colors and create the ombre effect, I started by making two colors of modelling chocolate: white (or off-white in this case) and yellow. I just used Wilton candy melts because they are easy to use and I had them on hand. Once those two colors were prepared, I took about a quarter of each color and mixed it together. That gave me a lighter yellow. I needed five colors in all for the five brackets in my template, so I continued blending the colors by taking some of the original yellow and mixing it with the new middle color to get the fourth shade and by taking some of the original white and mixing it with the middle color to get the fifth shade. This leaves you with a perfectly subtle graduation of colors from bright yellow to white. I then cut out all the brackets and left them to dry a bit on the counter. One of the nice things about modelling chocolate is that it doesn't dry out like fondant does, so you can take a little more time with the overall design. You could do this design using fondant, but you wouldn't want to let the fondant sit out or it would lose the flexibility it needs to mold onto the curve of the cake. To get all the brackets on the cake, I used my template and Jessica Harris' wax paper transfer method. She teaches it on her blog and in her new Craftsy.com class, which I highly recommend! Her method worked so well for this design!

For the top tier, I did just a simple little band with a bow in the bright yellow color I started with. The flower on the top is also modelling chocolate in that same bright yellow with a white center. I think I will be using these flowers a lot more often. They are so easy and require no drying time at all. The modelling chocolate petals will hold their shape right away and can be joined together by simply warming the ends with your fingers and pressing them all together. (You could also use melted chocolate, which may work better with a larger flower.)

I hope you liked this cake as much as I did! There are so many more detailed instructions I could give, but perhaps I'll save those for another time. Or this post would have no end!

Until then, here is a slice of the top tier for you. Lightly lemon cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. Delish! I would have saved some of the bottom tier for you, too, but we were hungry! That one was chocolate cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. So good! Enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mini Lemon Bundt Cakes

Here's another little taste of spring for you all.

These little cuties are just as delicious as they look!

I made these in a great pan with 4 mini-bundt cake molds. It is great because each cake is different and oh-so-cute. Perfect to give away, too!

Check out the details, which you can see a little better before the glaze covered them.

I think this little one is my favorite.

A lightly-lemon glaze was the perfect finish!

It fits perfectly on my little DIY cake stand! You can read about how I made the cake stand in this post.

And, so you can all make these for yourself, here is the recipe! If you don't have the mini pan, this recipe will also work in a full-size bundt pan or 2 8-inch round cake pans. Enjoy!

Lightly-Lemon Bundt Cake
(makes approximately 6 cups batter)

For the Cake:
3 cups (12 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
3 whole large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons freshly-grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (6 liquid ounces) buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare bundt pan by spraying thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray or greasing with shortening, making sure that all the nooks and crannies are well-greased.

Whisk together the flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and a splash of the buttermilk. Set aside.

Add the rest of the buttermilk and the butter to the flour mixture and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed for 90 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Whisk the lemon juice into the egg mixture, then add in three parts to the flour/butter mixture. Add each part on low speed, then mix on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

Divide evenly into the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes for mini-cakes or 40 to 45 minutes for a full-size bundt cake, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in pan on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely. After the cake(s) are completely cool, drizzle with the glaze, below.

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Heavy whipping cream

Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice (the amount you use will depend on your own taste). Whisk in the heavy cream a teaspoon at a time until you have a glaze that falls in ribbons from your whisk or a spoon. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cooled cakes.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Has Sprung


That title is wishful thinking for me. Spring has not made it here quite yet, though I am wishing hard for it! Maybe soon it will be here. And maybe I can help it along with this cheerful little cake.

I recently saw a clutch on Pinterest with cute little folded circles on it. I immediately thought of cake and fondant circles. This week, I had the opportunity to try it out and I love how it looks!

I so wanted to post the inspiration picture here, but in my non-tech-savviness I cannot figure out how to do it. But I can give you the link! I do hope you take a look! Click here to see the inspiration for this cake! Here is the direct link to the blog post where I found the picture. Go and visit and show her some love too! And if any of you sew, she has some really fantastic ideas!

Now, back to the cake.

I wanted to use spring colors and my kids helped me to choose. We decided on green for the main color and a peek of yellow and orange in the circles, though in the pictures it looks all yellow. Of course, you could do this in any color combination or design.

To make the design, roll out some green fondant pretty thin and cut out all the circles. This design, including the little flower in the top of the cake, used 18 circles and a 1.5-inch round cutter. Cover them all with saran wrap to keep them from drying out while marbling some orange and yellow fondant. Use big pieces of each color and don't knead them together very much at all because they will just blend more when you roll it out. You can see from mine, above, that by the time I was finished with them, the orange had nearly disappeared. Roll and cut the marbled fondant just like the green, creating 18 new circles. Next, place the marbled fondant circles on top of the green fondant circles, sticking them together with a brush of vodka. Roll each one just a little to bond them together. Make sure to keep the rest covered so they won't dry out. The rolling will stretch out the circle a bit, so cut a new one with the same cutter and smooth the edges with your finger. Immediately fold over the top part of the circle on each side to make a little roll at the top with the bottom flared open. Seal the fold with a bit of vodka and press lightly but don't flatten it altogether. Place them on the cake beginning with the lowest line. Cover the pinched tops with the next row of circles. The pinched tops of the upper row can be covered with a strip of fondant.

For the flower on the top, Place six of the folded circles together with the flared ends facing out and cover the center pinched ends with tiny balls of fondant bunched together to look like a flower's center.

This cake was just for my family, so it is pretty small (6 inches). It is lightly lemon cake with strawberry jam and strawberry swiss meringue buttercream filling. I covered the cake in swiss meringue and then in fondant.

The whole time I was planning and working on this cake, I had in mind the inspiration that I linked to above. When I was nearing the end, it finally dawned on me that these little rolled circles were shaped just like calla lillies! There is nothing new in the world, huh? Well, I think this is a new spin on the calla lilly shape. I hope you like it!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gluten Free Almond Caramel Cookies

Today, I have another recipe for you! These cookies are AMAZING. Very good with a cup of coffee. And gluten free! You all are going to LOVE them! I promise!

You're going to need some almonds for this. You will be grinding some and making your own almond butter. You will see how absolutely easy making your own nut butter can be. A lot of recipes will call for added oil, but I never add any. Just keep your food processor running until the almonds (or other nut) release their own oil. Not only is it healthier, but it tastes fantastic! Also, the oil doesn't separate from the butter, so no pesky and annoying stirring to get the oil back in like with the natural nut butters you can buy in the store.

Okay, I'll end the infomercial on homemade nut butters now! :)

You will also have a chance to make your own caramel for this recipe. It sounds intimidating, but it's really not hard. You will need a candy thermometer, though. I use one just like this one and I love it.

If you just don't want to make your own caramel sauce, though, don't worry. Melted store-bought caramels will work too! Just add a little heavy cream (also sometimes called "whipping cream") to the melted caramels to thin them out a bit if you need to. Drizzle leftover caramel sauce over ice cream, on top of hot chocolate, on a slice of cake, or on just about anything! It is also excellent by the spoonful. Or so I've been told...

These cookies are also very good without the caramel sauce on the top. Yum! Enjoy with a nice glass of milk.

Here is the recipe! Enjoy!

Almond Caramel Cookies
For the Cookies:
1-2/3 cup (4-1/2 ounces) almond meal/flour, lightly spooned and leveled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2-1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed (5-4/5 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Caramel:
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (4 liquid ounces) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

To make the cookies, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the almond meal, baking powder and the salt; set aside. Place the raw almonds in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Remove approximately 3/4 of a cup and set aside. Continue to process the remaining almonds until the oil is released and it turns into almond butter. This may take 5 minutes or more.

Place almond butter, butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the egg and the vanilla. On low speed, gradually mix in almond meal mixture and reserved chopped almonds.

Drop tablespoon-sized balls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If the dough or dough balls are getting too warm, briefly chill in the refrigerator. They should not spread at all before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes, then gently flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass. Bake an additional 6 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture just barely begins to simmer. Stop stirring and boil undisturbed until the mixture turns a medium-dark copper brown color. While it is boiling, brush the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to get rid of any sugar crystals.

Remove the pan from the heat, immediately and carefully add the cream, which will cause the mixture to bubble vigorously. When the bubbling subsides, add the butter and stir until the butter and cream are fully combined with the sugar mixture. Clip on a candy thermometer and return the pan to the heat. Boil the caramel until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F. Pour immediately into a glass jar or other open container.

Using a spoon, drizzle the caramel over the cooled cookies. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for one week or freeze for one month. Store extra caramel in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one month.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gingerbread Cupcakes

It's another cupcake post! Don't you all just love cupcakes? I especially love mini cupcakes. They are so cute and little. And easy to eat.

You will love these mini cupcakes. They are easy to whip up and sure to impress.

I made these little beauties for Christmas, but I think they would be delicious any time of the year!

You can also make these into a cake. That would also be delicious.

I topped my mini-cupcakes with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (see the recipe here) and some candied ginger. You can make your own candied ginger. That does sound like something I would do, doesn't it? Stop laughing, those of you who know me! :) I did not make my own, though. I love the candied ginger pieces made by The Ginger Poeople and I always have some on hand. I get mine at Williams Sonoma. Remember that a little goes a long way!

Once your cupcakes are baked and cooled, top with a swirl of the buttercream and a sprinkling of the candied ginger. Yum!

Here is the recipe for the cupcakes! Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cake

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups (11-2/3 ounces) brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons molasses
3 whole large eggs
2-3/4 cups (9-2/3 ounces) sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by lining with cupcake wrappers. Or prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans by greasing them with shortening and lining with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the molasses and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing after each addition just until blended.

Fill each cupcake liner halfway (or divide evenly between the two cake pans). Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes for mini-cupcakes, 20-25 minutes for regular cupcakes or 35-45 minutes for cakes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove cupcakes from pans immediately and allow to cool completely on wire racks before frosting. If baking as cakes, allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.