Peace, Love, and Cake

I was super excited for this cake project- one of my coworkers found out that I bake as a hobby and asked if I could make a VW van cake for her daughter’s 15th birthday. I immediately had lots of ideas in my head on how to make this a fun, brightly colored cake to fit the theme of fun hippie youth.
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A lot of times the inside of the cake is forgotten in the whole process of cake-istry. I thought this project posed a great opportunity to make the inside of the cake just as fun with the addition of some food coloring. I baked two 9×13 layer cakes with various colored white cake batters with the intention of a fun surprise when the cake was cut open.

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I love the way the colors look like tie-dye!

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Here are the two cakes after evening out the top for stacking.


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To get the right shape for the VW Van body, I cut the 9×13 layers in half (like a hamburger, not a hot dog, you know what I mean) and stacked them for a total of 4 layers. I was given creative license with this cake so decided to put a raspberry buttercream in between the layers for a pop of flavor.

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In the meantime, I made a platform for the van out of foam core, knowing that there needed to be clearance for the wheels. One lesson I learned in this project is that the supports are just as important as the cake.

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Back to carving the iconic shape of the VW Van. I rounded the front and trimmed up the sides to make them a little more symmetrical.

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Here is the swiss meringue buttercream coating that holds it all together. At this point I carved the wheel wells also.

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I covered the top half of the van with white fondant, and created the iconic “V” shape in the front.


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Following along with the tie-dye theme, I rolled together a few different colors of fondant, which created the tie-dye effect. At this point, I started getting more focused on the details and forgot to take pictures of the rest of the process. I’ll try to talk through the things done on the finished photos below.


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I was asked to do a little cartoon version of the birthday girl driving the van so I used some fondant and a toothpick for stability to create her!

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Ok, So after adding the tie-dye panels, I tucked the fondant wheels into the pre-made wheel wells. The next steps were a white front bumper, a white “rooftop” and roof rack, and grey windows.
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The small details fell into place- the yellow lights and pink “HPY BDY” license plate. I had my in house fondant sculptor help me with the VW logo ๐Ÿ™‚

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Here is another side view. I used some purple fondant to make the lining of the tie-dye panels.

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The roof is covered with tie-dye fondant cut outs of hearts and flowers and peace signs.

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The back has a white bumper, two red lights, and of course a customized “Taylor” license plate for the birthday girl.

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Another side view of the van riding into the sunset (or my dining room lights). ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Birthday Taylor!

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Sugar Rush!

Continuing our journey through what I like to call “Birthday Season,” we have Meg’s birthday! Every year is a challenge to come up with something different and fun, and I’m pleased with the result of this year’s cake. Lauren and I decided to play on her love of candy and sprinkles and all things sugary.

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We started with a base of homemade funfetti- basically a white cake with tons of sprinkles tossed in.

IMG_0215A 6 in. tier with two layers, ready for vanilla buttercream filling.

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Sprinkles and Meg’s favorite jellybean- the Starburst jellybeans.

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We might have overdone the sprinkles- but as Meg would say, “There is no such thing as too many sprinkles.”

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Yup, we did- or actually, Lauren did- we took the frosted 6 in. tier and rolled it in sprinkles!

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This vision came together piece by piece. We had an idea for the two tiers, but wanted something fun for the top. I had been wanting to experiment with decorated slabs of chocolate, and thought this was the perfect topper for this project. Above is a photo of melted white chocolate with some food coloring mixed in, topped with pink and red heart sprinkles and pink edible glitter.
IMG_0196Once the chocolate dried, I used cookie cutters to cut a heart and circle out of the chocolate.

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Another experiment: pink and yellow tinted white chocolate mixed together, topped with nerds, sprinkles, and edible silver dragees. A note for anyone who tries this- I believe I spread this mixture on a silicone mat so that it didn’t stick. Parchment paper also works well.ย 

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The resulting white chocolate cut outs were pretty! Some were a little fragile but the good thing about chocolate is that you can glue it back together with a little more melted chocolate ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re probably wondering how we attached these to the cake top.

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We made them into lollipops! (of sorts) I’ll add that Lauren turned into a candy-maker and made some actual lollipops using a similar technique to the white chocolate, but melted jolly ranchers instead and threw in all the fun toppings.

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The finished cake- a toothache waiting to happen! The smaller tier was a 4 inch funfetti cake, filled with vanilla buttercream, and covered in careful arranged Starburst jellybeans. Lauren did the legwork there.

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We managed to arrange all of the lollipops on top in varying heights for some visual interest. I piped a small border of buttercream dots between the layers and at the bottom of the 6 inch tier.

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It was a small cake, but sometimes I think “personal” size is more fun. If you look closely, you can see the candles, but it’s hard to tell with all of those colors! It was probably the sweetest cake I’ve ever made- no pun intended- it smelled like sugar! Happy Birthday Meg!!

In a Nut(ella)Shell, Happy Birthday!

And we are back to Birthdays! I wanted to squeeze in one more post before hitting the hay. (Retroactive chain-blogging, it’s all the rage, you should really try it.) It was that time for the annual celebration of Bri Joy, and I was itching to make a cake that didn’t really resemble anything, but focus more on the ingredients. Bri loves Nutella- inspiration hit, and off I went!

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The lineup: Caramel-coffee Nips candy, Chocolate biscuits, Pirouette cookies, and the star of it all: a brand spanking new jar of Nutella.

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What do we have here? Yup, mixing Nutella into some Swiss Meringue Buttercream. (It really is my favorite buttercream to both eat and work with). It holds up well once refrigerated and tastes light but rich.

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Folding Nutella into the buttercream!

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Stacking the cake- I chose to make my go-to chocolate cake recipe that is both moist and holds up well without being too dense. I wanted a taller skinnier cake, so went with 4 layers in 6″ rounds. (This picture only shows the first 3.

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Covered in a nice layer of Nutella buttercream.

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Here’s where we get into the goodies- I lined the perimeter with Pirouette cookies, creating a “fence.”

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What shall we do with these Reese’s cups?! So many to unwrap!

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I filled the “cup” with all sorts of candies- Reese’s, Nips, and some white chocolate drops. I also think I snuck some chocolate covered biscuits in there.

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The “Happy Birthday” is just melted chocolate piped onto a small slab of white chocolate.

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We went out for Bri’s birthday dinner to a local burger joint. I was able to package the cake up sneakily and bring it in. Luckily they were really cool about helping us serve an outside cake in the restaurant! The servers even bargained for a slice. They also kept asking me if I got the idea on Pinterest. Um… not really? It’s not the most original idea but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see it on Pinterest.

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A slice! It looked better in the restaurant ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy Birthday Bri!

Fe/Male?

I think it’s time for a cupcake post! What’s more fun than revealing a secret using baked goods?! Ok, maybe a few things come to mind, but I was pretty pumped for this project.

Our friends Nancy & Brian were expecting (yes, the little one has arrived at this moment in time), and wanted to throw a gender reveal party after they found out the sex of their baby. The idea was to make male and female cupcakes and have guests choose what they think the baby is. Then the answer would be revealed later.

Nancy, being in the medical industry, decided on the universal symbols for male and female. I used this opportunity to hold a fondant making lesson as well.

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The plan was to make chocolate cupcakes for boys and strawberry shortcake cupcakes for girls.

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Here are the “female” cupcakes- stuffed with chopped fresh strawberries and a dab of swiss meringue buttercream, piped with buttercream and topped with a pink fondant “female.”

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Here are the chocolate cupcakes frosted with a chocolate buttercream (think cocoa powder, butter, powdered sugar, splash of milk), and topped with the blue fondant “male” topper.ย IMG_4270Lots of cupcakes and a mac! ๐Ÿ™‚

The secret is out- it’s a BOY!

Congrats, Nancy & Brian!

Gone Campin’

The best part about being so behind on these posts is going through projects of the past and reminiscing on the celebratory (or just because) event for which the baking was done. In this case, a Birthday! Lauren’s birthday, to be exact.

Since she is such an outdoorsy & adventurous person, Meg and I thought it would be fun to do a camping theme! I didn’t take too many process photos this time, but I thought the end result was fun (and tasty).

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Here is the cake- it’s a two layer vanilla cake with swiss meringue buttercream filling. I think we just cut a 9″x13″ cake in half and stacked it. The trees were sugar cones covered in green frosting (piped with the leaf tip). The tree trunk was a pretzel rod, and the whole thing held together surprisingly well. We had to have a creek lined with Raisinet stones, a chocolate graham cracker tent, and a fire pit made of pretzel pieces and more Raisinets. The logs were Twix bars, cut short.

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We can’t forget about the Swedish fish- what’s camping without some wildlife? ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Birthday Lauren!

Sugar cookies, baseball, and summer holidays

Summertime in the Phoenician desert means everything melts. In this sense, cake making takes a summer holiday and I end up baking other sweetsย that aren’t as sensitive to the heat (sorry, buttercream-dressed-cakes; see ya later, modeling chocolate decorations, ’til October, fluffy ganache fillings). Sugar cookies are a great alternative- they don’t take that long to bake (hence I’m not running my oven for hours), they hold up well in the heat, and the royal icing actually dries faster in the dry, hot summer air.

Along with the summer lull in caking, I notice a simultaneous lull in sports, thanks to my resident sports expert. Baseball is the only one of the “four major sports” that runs through the summer.

So, why not mix the two in a baking project?

I have a sizable group of friends who pledge sports loyalty to Detroit and their teams, having moved from Michigan. One of them, Melissa, was having a birthday and I wanted to give her something, so I had Matt help me make some Detroit Tigers jersey cookies:

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Miguel Cabrera, anyone?

IMG_3675The Tiger’s “D” & my man Chet Lemon.

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I had to make my other non-sports cookies, of course. My sister gave me 101 cookie cutters, so I had to put them to good use. An airplane, a fish, a mason jar with a flower, a doughnut, and some dinos ๐Ÿ™‚

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I had to make a nerdy dino, of course. When the opportunity presents itself…

IMG_3686Individually wrapped in cellophane baggies- always a nice touch and convenient for transport!

IMG_3696I might add that I use the sugar cookie recipe from Sweet Sugar Belle and also learned from her royal icing tips. She’s an expert at this stuff and a sugar cookie genius! I love it, definitely stop by and check out her site.

Happy Easter! And Go Redwings!

Ashamedly, this blog has fallen to the wayside for about aย year- I found this draft from Easter 2014, and it’s almost Easter again! Naturally, life has been crazy- but better late than never! I’m determined to back-blog all of the baking projects from the past 10 months or so. My apologies if they aren’t all chronological- for the most part it won’t matter unless they are holiday related ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s pick up where I left off… We had a picnic on Easter to hang out and enjoy the day, and I wanted to bring some dessert. Cookies seemed like the most robust option to hold up on a hot day, so sugar cookies and macarons it was!

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Getting some sugar cookie dough rolled out and shaped!

DSCN0310A lovely volunteer hand model…

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All baked and ready for the royal (icing) treatment!

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An assortment of Easter themed decorated cookies…

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I was having a little fun with my new mason jar cookie cutter ๐Ÿ™‚

I might add that this was around the Stanley Cup playoffs. Naturally my resident Red Wings fan had to make a few hockey-related cookies:

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A Red Wings hockey jersey!

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And… this is me getting a “sports education…” The ugly sweater is a lucky sweater belonging to Georgetown’s basketball coach. That’s basically all I picked up. Either way, I liked it for the cool retro vibe and colors ;).

On to macarons!

This was my first time making macaron shells- it was reasonably successful. I made plain shells with Nutella buttercream frosting for the filling. I used the recipe for the shells from Bravetart, as I have been avidly reading baking blogs and stumbled across hers.

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I found that parchment paper worked best for my needs (I had tried using a silicon mat with the little indented circles, those did not work at all for me). Also, I probably should invest in better cookie sheets. ย  ย IMG_3091

The tiny sandwich cookies make me so happy, and I have no idea why.

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I was proud at how they turned out for my first time- but I caught the “perfecting macaron” fever! More to come on that.

IMG_3095Happy Easter ๐Ÿ™‚