3 states, 3 pals, 33 hours

This, I believe, should be the last of the marathon cake trips for the summer at least…. This might be a longer post than usual- I tried to do a better job at documenting…

I had originally meant to just go to DC for this cake, but it turns out that my brother happened to be graduating on the same weekend… so it turned into a marathon trip! The itinerary? AZ–red.eye–> DC 12 hrs –night.road.trip–> AL done and done… where somewhere within the 12 hours in DC, a 3 tiered wedding cake was to be created and delivered.

Ah, much planning had to go into this trip… but it turned out ok :). Here goes! This is a wedding cake for Joanne, a three tier, chocolate/vanilla, yellow and blue polka dot cake. Let the photo tour begin!

11:00 AM Friday morning— Getting acquainted with a new kitchen and new surroundings. My sister Mel and Pezz (her fiancee) were gracious enough to let me use their kitchen. Check out the Hello Kitty toaster. And this sweet Sunbeam mixer. At first I was worried because I only ever use my Kitchenaid, but this turned out to be way better!

Right below the oven were some cute oven mitts. Catching onto the theme yet?

The spread of ingredients: Mel dutifully shopped for me so everything would be ready when I arrived.

Check this out. Harris Teeter sells 2.5 dozen eggs in one carton… I used… almost all of them.

I am pretty obsessed with taking photos of butter. So here is my contribution to this project:

Note the cup of joe in the background. I was running on maybe 4 hours of sleep on two different planes. It was necessary.

I started prepping the pans with parchment, when I notices that this is quite possibly the most perfect parchment circle I’ve ever cut. I took the time to take a photo of this accomplishment. It’s the little victories!

1:00 PM–The first cakes come out of the oven. Chocolate layer!

Joanne uniquely requested that each slice have both chocolate and vanilla in it. So each tier was chocolate and vanilla layers separated by buttercream:

6:00 PM: Covered in a generous layer of buttercream to prep for the fondant:

7:30-10:00 PM covering the cakes in yellow fondant, and creating many polka dots of two different shades of blue.

I also added some blue ribbon to match the darker shade of polka dot, per the bride’s request.

Here’s a photo with flash… it sort of changes the colors but I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition.

It was a rather unconventional wedding cake, but Joanne loved it! She said it matched her colors perfectly and was exactly what she was looking for.

10:15 PM So Pezz drove me and Mel very carefully to Herndon in a freezing car. We pumped up the A/C so that the cake would be in a good traveling environment. The plan was to drop off the cake and then start on the 14 hour drive to Sweet Home AL.

11:15 PM The cake was dropped off and we headed out!

12:00 AM- 5:00 AM… ZZZZZzzzzzzzz….

Sometime around 7:00ish AM:

I took a photo of this because we had to stop for a bathroom break. Welcome HoooMMMeeee!!!!

7:40 AM: Hello Discount Food Mart and Mr. John Deere.

Oh lastly but certainly not least, is my special helper Mr. Miyagi, affectionately known as “Mimi” and “miyags”… He’s the resident furball at Mel and Pezz’s, and a lover of fondant dots. 😉

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Let it snow, let it snow, let’s go Cubs….?

Operation Wedding has come to a close (at least for now)… The original wedding cake that I had known about since the creation of this blog is now complete. It was one crazy, jam-packed, freezing weekend in Chicago, but amazing and completely worth it, and an experience I’ll never forget!

Being entirely too ambitious and optimistic, I had thought we’d finish baking and decorating on Thursday. However….

Here was the actual oh-so-meticulous cake schedule:

  • Thursday: Bake Cakes at Bride’s House
  • Friday: Decorate
  • Saturday: Finishing touches (before the ceremony!)

Of course, I hadn’t taken into account transporting, actual appliances available, and the Hyatt kitchen staff hours, more to come on that in a bit.

So, Thursday morning, we woke up to a fresh layer of snow and treacherous roads. Our champion and groom, Chris, drove out to the Hyatt where we were staying (and also where the reception was planned for) to pick us up and bring us to Karen’s Mum’s house to bake. Once there, we set to work. “We” being myself, Amy and Caroline, two amazing cake ladies who know how to gitt’er done!

Anyways, the plan was for the bottom tier of a three tier wedding cake (14″ diameter and two layers plus buttercream filling), and a Cubs baseball and some sort of base. Amy was a mastermind at this, because she brought this nifty sphere pan for the baseball, and we were literally improvising with whatever we could find at Karen’s. The original plan for the giant Cubs cupcake didn’t come to fruition.

Here goes!

The two hemispheres (chocolate) and the 14″ layer with baking core.

Blurb on the “baking core”- the hole in the middle of the 14″ circle: When a pan is 10″ or larger in diameter, a baking core is recommended to help even baking, so you don’t have burnt edges and an undercooked middle. It’s basically a piece of cone shaped metal that sits in the middle of the pan, drawing heat towards the middle so it radiates evenly along the pan. You fill it with some batter, so whatever hole it leaves, you just pop out the piece and fill it in! No one can tell in a frosted cake.

Back to the kitchen… I tripled my normal buttercream recipe below: 9 egg whites, 1.5 c. sugar, 0.75 c. corn syrup, and… dun dun dunnnn… 7.5 sticks of butter :), unsalted. I think I gave Caroline a heart attack when she saw me cuttin’ those puppies up. But realistically, it feeds 75+ people. Do the math, it’s not that bad for you!

Next… a packing job my dad would be proud of! To transport these guys back to the hotel where we’d be doing the decorating, we used tons of saran wrap, just like on Food Network :). And also how my dad packs his products to be shipped. We had an elaborate discussion on packaging before I left home for Chicago. . . so here’s my tribute to it!

2 Square cakes for the groom’s cake base:

The 14″ tier (only one layer):

Now, the coolest experience ever- being in a commercial sized kitchen with enough decorating space for everything! Loved it, it was awesome, thank you Hyatt at McDonald’s campus!

Next: Prepping the cake- buttercream frosting, etc.

Two new things learned: how to cover squares and spheres with fondant. I’m excited as this will greatly expand the cake possibility spectrum! All parts covered:

The green square in the back was by far my favorite 🙂

I’m now skipping to the final product… I lacked some in-between detail photos. . .These were the two cake toppers I had made before arriving… I originally made the one on the right first, but revised to match the winter snowman theme preferred. So the one on the left was the winner!

Finally, the Cakes! Grooms on the left, Bride’s on the right.

Details:

Chris wanted a Cubs logo, that was pretty much his only criteria. So, we tweaked it and piped “Chris” to personalize it. The girls did a wonderful job coloring the fondant to reach “Cubs” blue. My contribution was the red “C” and the letter piping. We made a great team with all of our skill sets!

Amy’s meticulous piping on the top of the cake made for a great baseball diamond 🙂 And Caroline’s arms contributed to coloring the fondant that bright and cheery “Wicked” green.It took all 3 of us to cover that sphere in fondant though.

The Bride’s cake was definitely a bit easier. I used white royal icing to pipe the triple dot pattern on the top layer and the single dot pattern on the bottom layer. The middle was just the quilted pattern with silver dragees.

Lastly, the hotel cut and plated it, so it looked like a real dessert!

Phew. I’m so happy how it turned out, and Chris and Karen were just absolutely the most gracious couple ever. What I love about them is that the entire time they were so thankful , encouraging, and supportive as if this was more about me and my cake endeavor than about their wedding. They are just so sweet, and I know they’ll have a wonderful life together! Congratulations to Chris and Karen, I love you both! 🙂

Bengay and Phonebooks

Merry Christmas!!

It’s an understatement to say it’s wedding season.  I was recently asked to do a ceremonial wedding cake for a wedding that happened last Saturday, Dec. 19th. You know, one that can be cut into but doesn’t have to feed a bagillion people. Anyway, with all the excitement of the holiday season, the closing out of one of my rotations at work, and housing changes, I’ve been a crazed mess! But here’s my detailed account of my first ever wedding cake made for Aletheia and Josiah, happily married now- Congratulations!

What I love about making special cakes is that each cake is different depending on the person and occasion.  My prompt this time was: a small-ish wedding cake that is simple and elegant, preferably with odd-sized tiers and a blueish-grey color to match the wedding theme.

I got so many questions during the wedding about how the cake was made that I think it’d be good to post up some “in the process” photos.

Here are the two top layers: Real cake, covered in buttercream. Layer 1: 5″diam x 4″ high. Layer 2: 6″ diam x 2″ high.

I had to figure out how to color the fondant. I was matching it to the wedding invitations…

So, my friend Bri and I played with the gel colors and regular white fondant. We made the main color “core” by mixing equal amounts of violet and blue, with a pinch of grey, and then took that and added it to tons of white to get that light color. Only problem is that it takes tons of kneading to get an even color… and after… ohh… 2 and a half hours or so of kneading/making/rolling fondant… while standing on a phonebook (because I’m a little shorter than my countertops and needed leverage)… well. My arms felt like jello. And I ended up slathering up with Bengay before I went to sleep. 🙂

Anyways, I detract. Here’s how the color core was mixed in, along with fondant photos:

So below is the first layer covered in fondant:

So, the bottom layer (7″diam x 3″ height) was a fake styrofoam layer. I attached that with royal icing to the ceramic stand that they provided me (for transport) then attached the top two together with royal icing. Getting those to Bri’s house in my car was quite the feat. Since she lives closer to the venue, I could assemble the entire cake at hers and then she could drive me while I held the cake in the car.

Those were the two layers packed for travel 🙂

Final product: (no I didn’t make the topper, it was special ordered off Etsy.com, and is super cute and made out of clay).

At the wedding….

Cut open and eaten 🙂

Woo.! And Done. 🙂 Next project- Jan.9th, 2010. !

Wedding Bells are ringing…

It’s my 20th post! Coincidentally I have a bunch of wedding cake (mostly completed except for the third tier) photos to show… a culmination of “hard work” thus far… Hope you enjoy!

This Thanksgiving was really relaxing. I didn’t do much but eat, sleep, and do little craftsy things that I always have going on when I’m at home. After messing around with the snowman topper idea (posted earlier), some feedback and suggestions, I tried my hand at a cake topper that isn’t edible. (I found that molding people out of fondant and gum paste isn’t as easy as they make it look on Ace of Cakes, nor is it as simple to work with as clay.) I found some inspiration at a cute etsy store called “The Small Object…” and sort of worked from there. (She charges 135 for these wedding toppers, min. So I tried to re-create and personalize it.) Here we go:

Chris and Karen and Yu Teow, for a winter wedding scene:

Some close ups:

We had some confusion- the yarn is her arm, not hair extensions 🙂

Hello small puppy!

The base- with the navy ribbon, as on the cake.

Ok. So coming back, I wanted to see the entire thing put together (two tiers at least… I haven’t yet gotten around to tackling the 14 in. cake layer…::Shudder::) SoOoO… Here are some photos. I did the 10 in. fake tier in marshmallow fondant and experimented with royal icing. Meringue powder is a miracle invention. Who knew? Anyways… There are two options- the first is little piped dots (which I personally like better, they remind me of snow falling in a whimsical way, but don’t let me bias you) and the second is little piped star-type things. I was going for snowflake but I like simpler better. What do you think? Let me know!

Take 1:

Some details:

From above:

Take 2: Snowflakes

Phew… Who likes cake? Lots of recipes to try, coming up! 🙂

Back to basics…

Chugging along on this cake project… and making the most of motivation while it lasts! Today I returned to the cake itself, minus the fancy decorations- the vanilla base, simple syrup, and buttercream, while working on a little side experiment (groom’s cake stuff). So here was my to-do list:

  • Taste test the from-scratch wedding cake
  • Make a batch of buttercream
  • Make simple syrup
  • Dye white chocolate chips blue (for Groom’s cake)
  • Outline plan for the Groom’s cake

I completed the first four, still working on the last one. I made a small two-layer 6″ diameter test cake from a recipe found in a wedding book, and was disappointed by the lack of aroma while baking, plus the dry-look of it as it came out. So I left it wrapped in the fridge… but was pushed to shed my defeatist attitude and just taste test it. To my surprise, it was pretty tasty, although a bit on the dry-crumbly side.

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Anyways, I followed the next steps in prepping to get some practice in, knowing that this may very well have to be done to a cake more than twice the diameter of this one!

Next- Leveling and trimming the cake:

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Since it was relatively dry, I added the moistening syrup as recommended in the cake book… then brought on the buttercream. Here are some photos that I took during the process, since I’m always referring to this buttercream-meringue process all the time.

Interlude: the buttercream…

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Part 1: 3 egg whites, 2.5 sticks softened butter, and a stand mixer

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Part 2: 1/4 c. Light Corn Syrup, 1/2 C. white sugar, and a pot on the stove

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Combine corn syrup and sugar in pot…

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Heat until you see bubbles break the surface…

Meanwhile…. Beat your egg whites until white and frothy… and slowly add the hot sugar mixture a little at a time into egg whites while the mixer is on… it should start looking opaque….

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Run your mixer until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Then cube up the 2.5 sticks of butter and add a tablespoon at a time. Voila! Buttercream to die for.

…Sad, I’ve memorized the recipe.

Back to cake…

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Layer one… crumb layer and then filling to follow…

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Second layer added…

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And done… back to the fridge to chill. Tomorrow we shall fondant… take 2. Whew. Enough for a Wed. night!

Monday night activities…

I’ve realized what a sporadic blogger I am, in addition to the wide range of topics that my entries cover. I think I’ll try driving this in a more consistent direction, instead of the “hit-or-miss” random entry style of word-vomit that usually develops.

Similar to other blogs, like “Cupcake Project,” or “52 cupcakes,” I’m going to do this Julie & Julia style and work slowly towards a goal. Not quite the most original idea, but rest assured I’m sure some random tid-bits will find their ways in, especially with all the holidays coming up. Plenty of opportunities to bake!

Anyways, my friend Karen is getting hitched in January and I’m making a cake for her… as mentioned probably 5 months ago. I have been researching and reading up on things, trying recipes here and there, but now is crunch time! Here goes nothing!

Today’s experiment is marshmallow fondant. I’ve used store-bought before (Wilton brand), and it doesn’t taste good, but is pretty user-friendly. I’ve heard some great things about this marshmallow fondant and it seems to be pretty easy. Thanks to some super googling by my friend Amy, I followed this tutorial: Cakexperiment on WeddingBee

To be honest, my experience was a bit different than described in pictures. To keep it short, my fondant was much drier- not sticky at all after adding the powdered sugar, and I actually ended up having to add quite a bit of water and Crisco to get it smooth and elastic. However, some success was to be had, as I used it to practice covering a fake tier.

I started with two fake tiers: 10”x 4” and 6”x4”. Didn’t want to be too ambitious so stuck with covering the 6”… and since I bought some pretty thick dark blue ribbon (matches the bridesmaids) I opted for the 4” thick. Other supplies are pictured below, and include:

  • 2 little mounds of marshmallow fondant
  • A brand new bottle of silver dragees (little silver decorating balls)
  • Quilting and embossing tool for fondant
  • Domo Cup from 7-11 for moral support

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Didn’t include a photo of the fondant roller, but that was pretty essential. Here are a few first-time covering photos, including my quilting pattern that was obviously eyeballed for accuracy. First time, I’m allowed 🙂

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Since it’s a winter wedding, Miss K suggested a snowman topper, so I played around with that. It turned into a somewhat whimsical and childish play-dough experiment, but fun nonetheless. I have to figure out how to better mark the eyes and small features. This time ‘round I used skewers and Wilton food coloring. Not a good idea, as I look like I got in a fight with a rainbow and it won, plus it’s difficult to control color application.

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Oh yeah, the little figure at the bottom is their puppy 🙂

Here’s the final product (a few views/shoddy photos). My camera was pretty much covered in Crisco by this point. I also only took photos from one view because the other sides were pretty craptastic… 🙂 The fondant was really lumpy where I coverd the Styrofoam with saran wrap so I could re-use it, and my quilting pattern definitely was off. Overall, not too disappointed with a first try… I just have to keep practicing. Next will be the 10” diameter layer, and perhaps some piping.

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Whomp whomp… it’s going to sit there until I get tier two done. -___-