"Hey, I can do that!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cake Balls, Practice Run: Completed

Cake Balls
Practice Run
+5 skill points -> 155/400

The practice cake I made on Sunday yielded some high domes that had to be leveled off.  Originally these were saved for my husband to snack on, but he's too busy playing video games to notice.  Instead, I decided to do a few cake balls!

I crumbled the cake and mixed in about 2 Tb of cream cheese tub frosting.  One post on the cakecentral.com forums said that the mixture should look like cookie dough.  When I achieved that consistency, I scooped some out with my cookie dough spoon!

The scoops were rolled into a ball using the palm of my hands and were then placed on parchment paper.

I let these set in the refrigerator while I did some chores, maybe <20 minutes.  Then I popped them in the freezer while I microwaved some chocolate.

I've got a ton of chocolate left from a failed attempt to run a chocolate fountain.  Have you ever seen a chocolate fountain?  It's one of the most beautiful sights ever :)  This chocolate was for a baby shower, but once we got all the chocolate in, the fountain quit working after only 5 minutes.  So I definitely have chocolate to spare.  There's a significant amount of vegetable oil in this chocolate, so it has a very thin consistency (necessary for use in a chocolate fountain).  I really can't use this chocolate for anything else except dipping things in or drizzling on to stuff (like my practice cake).

I stuck a toothpick in a ball and dipped it in the chocolate, covering every part of it.  I held it up and let some chocolate run off, then I transferred it back to the parchment paper.

There was a hole left where the toothpick was, so I drizzled some chocolate in it to cover it up.  They are now sitting on the kitchen table ... I'm going to go try one ...

Hmph, the chocolate hasn't set yet.  You know, this chocolate might not be solid at room temperature with all the oil in it.  I'm putting the balls in the fridge.  Perhaps I should leave one out to test ...

Let's call this a fail, but I learned a lot.  My cake balls were way too mushy.  I suppose I put too much icing in?  Here's what the mixture should have looked like (and if it were red velvet cake):

I am determined to try again!  I want to make some yellow covered spice cake balls for Halloween.  I'll let you know how it turns out ... it should NOT look like cookie dough.

Practice Cake: Completed

Practice Cake, Tapered Round
+5 skill points -> 150/400

Last night I made a cake to practice a few things:
  • baking with rose nails
  • tapering a cake
  • icing with IMBC
  • piping with IMBC
  • 7" - 6" tapered round
  • French Vanilla cake (box mix)
  • milk chocolate frosting as filling (tub)
  • IMBC icing (made last Friday)
    • shell border on bottom
    • rosette border on top
  • drizzled with melted chocolate
I volunteered to make a birthday cake for my aunt's 60th birthday, and I've been trying to come up with a design that would be fun yet mature ... definitely something unique and special.  Here is a cake I found on cakecentral.com that seemed to fit the bill:


It's a tapered round cake with ribbons randomly strewn across.  After making my own tapered cake, I decided the size was not appropriate for the number of people attending the birthday party.  It was fun, though.  That will get tucked into my bag of tricks for later.

Instead of using baking strips, I wanted to try baking with rose nails in the middle of the pan.  The idea is that the nail heats up so the center can bake as fast as the sides.  The nails were covered using non-stick spray and were placed upside down in the pans.  A single cake mix was split between a 6"x2" round and my new 7"x3" round.  The rose nails didn't seem to really help as well as baking strips.  Both cakes still had domes.  Too bad ... it's a lot easier than getting those strips around the pan.

2 cake boards were cut to a little less than 6" and 7" circles.  The cakes were leveled and torted, using the chocolate frosting as filling.  I stacked them upside down (7" at the bottom) with cake boards at each end as per advice on tapering cakes from cakecentral.com.  Using a bread knife I carved the slant by pressing the knife against both boards as I cut.  The entire thing got flipped over so the widest part was on top.  This ended up working well.  The shape was fun and unique.



I let my IMBC come to room temperature after being in the fridge since Friday.  When I opened the container I could see that the icing had destabilized (looked a little chunky and you could see crystals).  Since I was just doing the crumbcoat first, I went ahead and used the icing.  That could have been a mistake.  After crumbcoating it, the cake was put in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up while I rewhipped the rest of the icing.

The icing came together nicely again after whisking on high.  I also added some ivory food coloring.

When I spread the good icing on the crumbcoat, the crumbcoat came off the cake and stuck to the new icing.  The destabilized icing stuck to the stabilized icing instead of to the cake!  It was very difficult to spread evenly because pockets of icing would detach.  Oh well, lesson learned.  What didn't help was the crazy Austin weather.  It was actually hot last night (after weeks of cool weather).  The icing wasn't going to hold very long outside the fridge!  And this morning, you know it ... COLD and rainy.  I don't think I should depend on IMBC for anything important.

The shells and rosettes were made using tip #22.  The rosettes weren't close enough to the edge, so I wanted something else to decorate with to detract from that mistake.  I heated up some leftover chocolate and drizzled it over the rosettes.  That worked well :)


Monday, October 19, 2009

Johnny & Kristen's Wedding Cake: Deconstructed

Last Saturday we celebrated the marriage of our good friends Johnny and Kristen (see this post for the engagement cake I made them).  We had a blast!  I specifically bought a new flash for my SLR camera so I could get great pictures of this wedding.  I didn't want to miss a thing!  Here's the deconstruction of their wedding and groom's cake.

That's them (above) cutting the wedding cake.  It was slightly humorous because they weren't sure where to cut and then had trouble getting the darn slice out!  What a cute and yummy cake.  Can you see the cake topper?  Johnny is Chinese ... so I'm guessing it's something special in Chinese.  This was a four tier cake (2 hexagons and 2 rounds) covered in buttercream, piped royal icing, and adorned with ribbons and roses.

I tried to get a good look at it all.  The roses were real (which I heard the photographer be surprised at for some reason).  My husband and I thought they could have been fresher; they looked a little soft.  The rest of the flowers in the ceremony and reception were gorgeous, so we concluded that perhaps the baker got these roses themselves (they were not supplied by couple's florist vendor).  It gave me a little reassurance that the buttercream was not perfect.  You can see some bumps, but overall it was nicely done.  It had some ribbon that looked like 1 1/4" organza.  I would have liked to have seen it fit more snuggly on the cake, but I don't even know if it's possible.  The ribbon was held in place by the bead border in royal icing.

Can you see the cake boards?  They look to be covered in fondant, maybe?  The rim has a satin ribbon over it.  I'm guessing this cake was assembled such that each board supported its own tier, separated by a space for all those roses.  That looked a little rough, but I'm not sure how to improve on that.

I believe it was yellow cake and had a HUGE layer of cream cheese frosting.  My husband is a big fan of cream cheese frosting, so you can bet he gobbled his slice up.  It was so thick and rich, but not too sweet.  I think the outer icing was IMBC, very nice as well.  Subtle sweetness.  The cake was moist and tasty too.  I was quite pleased we were served with an outer piece so I could look at it closely.

Classy and delicious.

On to the groom's cake ...

Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.  Johnny, my husband, and I all graduated from the University of Texas in Austin.  Hook 'em, horns!  Well, unfortunately Johnny's wedding day fell on OU weekend (we won, by the way).  In honor of that, his groom's cake has the UT logo and "OU Sucks!" on it as well as a little UT football helmet.  I was a little disappointed because when I gave Johnny the engagement cake, we chatted about Hang's groom's cake (2 weeks prior, see post here).  Johnny told me his cake was going to be a UT football helmet and would say "OU Sucks!".  I was expecting a sculpted cake.  Oh well.  This was a 2 tiered rectangular cake with IMBC.

The decorations and shell border were pretty simple.  The longhorn was shaped with a star tip and round outline.  This was a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and what I think was almond flavored IMBC icing.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Johnny and Kristen's Engagement Cake: Completed

Johnny and Kristen's Engagement Cake
+5 skill points -> 145/400

This weekend my husband and I will be attending the wedding of our friend Johnny.  His fiancee had picked out lovely invitations that I really wanted to recreate on a cake.  Here's how it all went down.

  • 8" round
  • French Vanilla cake (box mix)
  • chocolate buttercream filling and icing (Wilton recipe using butter-flavored Crisco, leftovers from Mark's birthday cake)
  • ivory marshmallow fondant
  • royal icing decorations and shell border
This was actually my third time covering a round cake with fondant.  It went pretty well for the most part!  I've decided to no longer use the Wilton cake dividing wheel mat to roll out fondant on.  All the pros use a flat surface, cornstarch, and a lot of patience ... I should do the same.  I also seem to get smoother fondant this way; no holes or imperfections that you wouldn't see because it's stuck to the mat.

I got a little excited and trimmed off too much of the fondant.  The chocolate buttercream can be seen peeking out.


My strategy was to fix the upper edge first, smooth out the sides, then the top.  There were a few wrinkles at the very bottom in some areas, but all in all, it was fine.  I had to be careful not to get buttercream on to the smoother so chocolate wouldn't get wiped all of the fondant.


I made a half batch of Wilton royal icing with meringue powder.  Half of that was colored brown and the other purple.  Using the invitation as a guide, I free-hand piped branches using tip #1.  When I got to piping "Kristen and Johnny", something must have gotten stuck in the tip.  #1 is a very tiny hole, so any little grain can stop the flow dramatically.  I should have stopped all together, cleaned out the tip, and restarted ... but I didn't.  My script looked thin and shaky because of how hard I was squeezing.  The icing kept curling as it was exiting the tip, so I had to stop and reset several times.  Tsk tsk.


Piping on the purple went much better.  I watered it down more than the brown and that helped so much.  There came a point where the tip got clogged, so I stopped and cleaned it all out.  After decorating the top, I had so much royal icing left ... well things got a little out of hand.

I used most of the brown for a nice shell border to hide where the fondant was too short.  That piped on so nicely!  I'm going to use royal icing for borders on any competition cakes I do.  What to do with all the purple?!  You can't see it (because I refused to photograph it), but there's a failed attempt of making leaves on the side of the cake.  After that came a bunch of hearts with a star tip.  Sigh, I really should have stopped after the shell border.  I then made little bunches of dots in between the hearts.




 This cake came out ok.  There are several things I wasn't pleased with, but hey, I learned a lot.

  • trimmed fondant too short
  • few pleats in the fondant
  • didn't clean out tip when it was clogged
  • piping was thin and shaky; should have thinned out royal icing more
  • stupid designs on the side ... I really need to know when to quit while I'm ahead
  • I suck at making leaves
  • pretty good third attempt at covering round cake with fondant
  • buttercream tastes fabulous
  • had fun piping branches, flowers, and leaves inspired by their wedding invitations
  • royal icing makes beautiful borders
  • no bubbles! strangely enough, I didn't get any trapped air pockets under the fondant


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mosaic Cake: Completed

Mark's Birthday Cake with Mosaic Fondant
+5 skill points -> 140/400

This weekend I met with my parents and brother to attend a baby shower for my cousin.  My brother's birthday is next weekend, so since we were all together we also celebrated that.  He requested chocolate cake and chocolate icing.  Here is the cake I made for him.
  • 8" round
  • chocolate butter cake (box mix)
  • chocolate buttercream icing (Wilton recipe with butter flavored Crisco)
  • marshmallow fondant tiles and letters
I had picked up this butter cake box mix a while back.  Be aware that in addition to the regular box cake mix ingredients, it also calls for a stick of butter.  Since I've never tried this before, I checked on the cake after 45 minutes of baking.  Regular cakes take about 45 minutes to bake, but when you use baking strips it seems to tack on another 15-30 minutes.  I pulled the rack out to look how it was coming along, but doing so shook the cake and caused the center to deflate!  The final cake had a little depression on the top.  When I torted it, I shuffled the layers so the dip would be in the middle.

I made a failed batch of chocolate IMBC.  Perhaps I didn't whip the egg whites enough?  I put the sugar in too quickly?  It came out soupy.  My husband said it tasted fine but looked unappetizing.  That batch of fail went into the fridge and a Wilton buttercream came to save the day.  Most of my chocolate squares went into the failed batch, so I ended up using 2 ounces of chocolate and 1/4 cup of cocoa.  The icing came out lovely.  It went on thick and tasted yummy.  I used butter flavored Crisco again since I wasn't concerned about the color.  My sister-in-law said she doesn't normally like icing but she really liked this one.

The cake design was inspired by a blue mosaic wedding cake posted on Cake Central:

Ready for the math?  I used my smallest square fondant cut-out, which was 1/2" wide.  This was an 8" round, so the circumference was around 24" (diameter x pi).  A row of squares would be 24" / 1/2" = 48 tiles.  Since I wanted 2 rows, that's 96 tiles total.  Between 4 different colors, that's 24 squares of each color.  I cut out 28 of each just in case some were ugly. 

Piping gel was brushed on to the cake to act as the glue.  Each tile was placed in a set color order (it went counter-clockwise as you see them on the cutting board above).  The bottom row was set first since it was easiest to line up with the edge of the cake.  The top row was the same color order except offset by one.  A clean brush helped place and press them against the cake.  I put the cake on top of the cake pan so it could be higher and easier for me to work with.  The tiles lined up well; 48 each row exactly!

I had a hard time getting the fondant out of the alphabet cut-outs.  You can see several indentations in some of the letters where I had pushed it with a chopstick.  Why did they make them so small???  I was too lazy to pipe on "Happy Birthday" with royal icing.  I really just need to buy royal icing in a tub so I don't have to make it myself for a little thing like that.

The cake was finished Saturday, but we were so tired and stuffed from the baby shower we didn't cut the cake until Sunday.  By then the fondant had softened, I guess because of the moisture trapped in the cake tupperware?  That made it shiny and easier to eat.  I wonder if that would happen if the cake wasn't in the tupperware for the same amount of time.

In the end, I was very pleased with the cake.  The simple design still had a great impact.  I minimized the amount of fondant used so the overall taste would be better.  It was exciting to be able to recreate something I saw done well from Cake Central.  I think this is a great design that could be used for just about anything.  All it takes is adjusting the colors.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hang & Sandi's Wedding Cake: Deconstructed

Now that I've been educated on cake decorating, I want to deconstruct any professional cakes I come across.  I can't help but browse the bakery section at the grocery store to evaluate the work there.  Last weekend my husband and I attended the wedding of our friends Hang and Sandi.  This post is, to the best of my ability, a deconstruction of their wedding cake (see the post of their groom's cake here).


This was a 4 tier wedding cake.  I think it was 8", 10", 12", and 14" square tiers.  Each tier was covered in white fondant and decorated with:
  • doily corners
  • royal icing piping
  • cascade of yellow orchids?
  • gold ribbon
The caterers took the cake after it was officially sliced by the happy couple.  The guests were served at least 2 flavor combinations.  My husband got a slice that was white cake with coffee filling.  My slice was chocolate cake with a vanilla filling.  The cake was moist and delicious.  I think both fillings were an Italian Meringue buttercream because it was silky smooth.  The coffee flavored filling was sweet and strong, pairing well with the subtle flavor of the cake.  The vanilla filling was just the opposite; it had very little flavor and sweetness, allowing the cake to take center stage.  I was bummed that I didn't get to evaluate the fondant closely.  Perhaps caterers remove the fondant or try not to serve cake slices that have fondant on it because of the taste.

I'm going to another wedding in 2 weeks, and am excited about having the opportunity to evaluate another cake.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cake Balls!

Last Saturday I attended the lovely wedding of my friends Hang and Sandi (see the engagement cake I made for them here).  They had an awesome cake ball groom's cake.


He's a UT fan but for some reason USC is winning (according to the little fake score board).  The whole setup was a real crowd pleaser.  The groom later told me that the cake decorator was so proud because this was the first stadium she made (it looked to be constructed with wood and cardboard) and it turned out so well.  She requested any photos so she can advertise with it on her website.  The stadium will be reused in many occasions to come!

The groom said unfortunately the bride and groom cake balls were accidentally left off of the display.  The groom ball had a tux and the bride was in white.  The football player balls had little fondant helmet guards.  I was lucky enough to taste 2 different cake balls (from the "crowd"), one carrot cake and one banana cake.  They were delicious!  I just had to know how to make these bit-size bits of heaven.

Here is an absolutely wonderful tutorial for making cake balls from www.thepioneerwoman.com:

She makes spooky Halloween treats in this post.  I really appreciate all the photos and in-depth information in her tutorial.  I'm so excited ... just need a good excuse to make some ...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Cakes for Kids: Austin

I just donated several cake decorating items to a local charity that I thought was neat:

Free Cakes for Kids (Austin)
At Free Cakes for Kids Austin, our goal is to provide free birthday cakes for Austin (TX) area children who otherwise might not have one due to their current life circumstances.  Our volunteers bake and deliver free birthday cakes for children in shelters, state custody, and other organizations.
Karen, the director, was super nice.  If you're in the Austin area, please consider donating to them.  I can't think of a better reason to help make cakes than their cause.

As Seen On

As Seen On Capital Confectioners