"Hey, I can do that!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Uh ... I do cakes?"

As I was leaving work today I stopped to ask my buddy co-worker how his Thanksgiving was.  I haven't had a chance to catch up with him in a while.  He starts telling me that his mother-in-law has gallstones and is scheduled for surgery today.  Luckily it's not too major; they can just do laparoscopic surgery.  His wife will probably go stay with her and help out even though she's swamped with school work for her master's degree.  He just found out his dad has had a mild stroke (he's ok now), and also that he has had multiple strokes in the past but hasn't realized it.  After a few more moments of slightly depressing updates, he asks how I've been and what I've been doing in my spare time.  I could only respond with, "Uh ... I do cakes?"


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Cuppies: Completed

Happy Thanksgiving!
(+5 skill points -> 200/400)

These are the first cuppies (a.k.a. cupcakes) I've made since I started my cake decorating hobby!  Pretty cute, I think.

  • standard size cupcakes
  • Wilton white cupcake cups
  • Betty Crocker's Butter Pecan box cake mix
  • white chocolate IMBC
  • swirl with 1M tip
  • topped with candy and cinnamon
  • boxed in Wilton's "Cupcake Heaven Cupcake Box"
I made these at my parents' house, so I wasn't very prepared for taking photos of the process.  I only got the end results recorded :(

My family was celebrating Thanksgiving at my parents' house.  I wanted to make some yummy treats for the people celebrating with us and also for some of my girl friends that I would see afterward.  I brought my muffin pans, white chocolate, plastic piping bags, and 1M decorating tip from home.  This was the first time for me to make cupcakes since I caught the cake decorating bug.  The Wilton page taught me how to do the cupcake swirl here.  There were also some good youtube videos that demonstrated this.

Ok, that Butter Pecan box cake mix is good.  It made the whole house smell fantastic.  It tasted excellent as well.  I made some more white chocolate IMBC to pair with it.  My only regret is not purchasing a bismark tip.  I didn't the ratio of cake to icing when taking a bite.  If the cuppy was injected with IMBC ... oh man, look out ... they would never make it to the dinner table.

I was able to make a nice, even 24 cuppies.  They baked up well and consistent.  The only problem was that I could only fit enough IMBC into my piping bag to pipe 1M swirls on 8 cupcakes at a time.  I had to fill up the bag 3 times.  But they do look perty, don't they?

From home I also brought a bag of Brach's Autumn Mix (basically candy corn and little pumpkins) to use as toppers.  My mom showed me the loads of un-used Halloween candy she had, so I busted out some peanut M&Ms.  Some got showered in a little cinnamon.

8 were boxed up in 2 groups of 4 inside Wilton cupcake boxes so they wouldn't get eaten.  Those went to my girl friends' families on Friday when we met up with them for dinner.  It wasn't until I got home that I saw that I didn't use the cupcake holder insert for the boxes ... oh well ... they fit fine and didn't really slide around in the box anyway.

  • didn't have big enough piping bag
  • didn't use cupcake box properly
  • earned 1M swirl badge
  • successful 1st cuppies!
To my disappointment, not all the cupcakes were eaten at Thanksgiving dinner.  There are still 5 sitting on my parents' kitchen counter that I know they won't eat.  I should've taken them home!

Happy Anniversary: Completed

Happy Anniversary, Mark & Erin!
(+5 skill points -> 195/400)

Sigh ... I really had good intentions for this cake.  I couldn't seem to get it together enough to pull something special off.  Perhaps it was ok in the end ... my brother and his wife were too sick and congested to really taste anything anyways.  Oh well.  Happy Anniversary to Mark & Erin!

  • 8" round
  • Betty Crocker's Milk Chocolate box cake mix
  • white chocolate IMBC
  • dark chocolate MMF
  • reverse shell border on top; regular shell border on bottom
This is the first time I've used the Milk Chocolate box cake mix ... and probably my last.  It was too dry and not very chocolate-y tasting.  It also baked up real weird ... so tall in the center.  Here it is after using baking strips ... I've never had a cake do this:



That would be the least of my troubles.  The cake got torted fine, with still almost 3" in height.

I made IMBC with white chocolate again.  This is my fav from now on.  The chocolate just makes it so much more stable.

I had some left over dark chocolate MMF that I mixed with some other brown fondant.  Luckily it kneaded smoothly and I didn't need to add much moisture back in.  Here is my clear vinyl with my Wilton Cake Dividing Wheel underneath.  I dust it with cornstarch before rolling out my fondant.

My fondant was rolled to 14" (8" round x 3" high).  It went on pretty smooth; I was pleased.

I had several designs in mind, but decided to go with swirls on the sides.  The top would say "Happy Anniversary Mark & Erin".  To try the piping gel transfer method again, I printed the message out in reverse.

This was covered with parchment paper and piped over with a little piping gel.  This was then placed on the top of the cake and brushed (the back of the paper) lightly.


I thought I could make Royal Icing with a little Bailey's Irish Cream in it ... to give it some color and flavor ... that was my undoing.  It just didn't come together.  After piping it seemed melty ... my script was awful looking chicken-scratch.

I was so unhappy with it, I scrapped all the decorations and started over with more fondant.


I was going to use my left over IMBC to pipe.  It had been sitting in the fridge for over an hour and had begun to separate ... my Kitchenaid was still dirty from the Royal Icing, so I just went ahead and piped it without re-whipping it.  Another big mistake.  Now my icing seemed drippy and not smooth.  Oh well.  No script this time either ... didn't feel like rolling the dice on that either.

  • runny Royal Icing (I must not deviate from recipe just yet!)
  • runny IMBC (no matter what, make sure IMBC is stable)
  • Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate box mix isn't good
  • chocolate fondant was good to work with; it even tasted good!
  • learned how to do reverse scrolls (thanks to everyone who answered my plea for help on cakecentral here)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aunt Mimi: Completed

Happy Birthday, Aunt Mimi!
(+10 skill points -> 190/400)

Yesterday the Wingler and Scannell families celebrated Aunt Mimi's 60th birthday in Johnson City, TX.  When we first received the e-vite, I asked Aunt Mimi if I could supply the cake.  She was thrilled that I asked, but then I got nervous.  This cake had to be special because this was such as special occasion!  Here's the scoop ...

  • 2 tiers: 6" and 8" round
  • French Vanilla cake (Duncan Hines box mix)
  • white chocolate IMBC icing and filling (top tier)
  • white chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream IMBC icing and filling (bottom tier)
  • royal icing accents
This was definitely a challenging cake; it took about 12 hours to complete.  Earlier in the week I baked, leveled, and torted the cake ... and, of course, made cake balls with the scraps.


 With my last cake for Jenny, I made coffee IMBC (Italian Meringue Buttercream).  For Aunt Mimi, I took it up a notch and made IMBC with a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream.  This was for the bottom tier since it would be bigger and for the adults.

The icing was being a little fussy while I was making it.  I had to throw it in the fridge to firm up so it could stabilize.  When I added the crumb coat to the cake, it seemed rather thin.

Afterward I made the white chocolate IMBC and found that to be much more firm and stable.  It went on smooth and thick.  I then added white chocolate to the Irish Cream icing to see if it would help and it did.  It also made it even yummier!



The cakes went into the fridge to firm up until I could finish everything on Friday evening.  There wasn't much time for me to take photos at the end.  My mother-in-law and sister-in-law came over to lend a hand.  I had made some biege MMF (marshmallow fondant) earlier in the week for the top tier.  The bottom tier was going to use the left over fondant from Halloween's cauldron cake.  The top tier was covered without a hitch, but the bottom tier was a whole different story.  The bottom tier fondant was made with dark chocolate cocoa powder.  We believe that the cocoa threw the whole batch out of wack.  I took it out and saw it was incredibly dry (it crumbled into dusty clumps when I kneaded it), so I added some drops of water and some shortening.  I rolled it out again and tried to place it on the cake: disaster!  The fondant cracked everywhere and looked awful.  Luckily the cake was firm enough for me to lift the fondant back off.  There was no way I was going to make another batch of fondant this late at night.  In my stubborn head it was either this fondant or no cake at all!  Anne and Ashley watched me struggle as I added more and more melted marshmallows trying to save this fondant.  Thankfully it finally loosened up and began to behave.  The bottom tier was covered (again) but this time successfully.

Now for stacking the tiers.  I was concerned about the drive from my house to Johnson City and how the cake could survive the trip.  The cakecentral.com forums provided a lot of information on how to travel with cakes, and I took away some great tips.

The cake sat on a 12" cake drum, which is basically a round cardboard cylinder.  To support the top tier, 4 wooden dowels were cut and inserted into the bottom tier:

Using the 6" round pan, I traced a circle on to the top of the bottom tier.  A pat of icing was smeared within the circle to help the top tier stick.  The top tier was placed on the supports and centered.  In order to keep the top tier in place, another wooden dowel was pierced down the center of the entire thing, including the cake drum.  I eyeball-measured the height of the cake including the cake drum and cut the dowel appropriately.  One end needed to be sharpened to be able to pierce 2 cake boards plus the top side of the cake drum.  I couldn't find my husband's pencil sharpener so I used a knife to whittle a point.  The point wasn't getting sharp enough ... I wasn't going to risk trying to skewer my cake with a blunt end.  I searched for the pencil sharpener again and finally found it.  Anne and Ashley watched me in silence and probably slight horror as I took a hammer and "staked" my cake.  Luckily the dowel went into place without any excessive damage.

The design piped on to the cake was inspired by a logo made by Jan Zabranski.  Royal icing was mixed with brown food coloring and piped using a disposable plastic piping bag.  This is my first time to use the plastic bags, and I must say it was a delight!  I may only go back to parchment if I need a small amount of icing piped.  Anne and Ashley helped make the candy cup on top.  They melted candy bark into Wilton's Cordial Cups candy mold.

On Saturday morning the cake got packed into a large plastic bin.  The bottom was lined with non-slip material (the stuff you put in your kitchen drawers so your dishes don't slide around when you open them).  I made it snug in the trunk by surrounding it with other things I had back there.

The cake made it through the 1.5 hour drive to Johnson City just fine.  When it was time to cut the cake, I explained that some people don't like the taste of fondant, and I wouldn't be offended if they wanted to peel it off of their slice.  Kathy said it was the best tasting fondant she's ever had!  Kim said it was addicting and kept nibbling on it after her cake was gone.  I thought it was ok, but peeled it off anyway so I could taste the IMBC better.

A big thank you to Anne and Ashley for helping me with this cake!  Happy birthday, Aunt Mimi!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jenny: Completed

Happy Birthday, Jenny!
(+5 skill points -> 180/400)

Friday was my co-worker's wife's birthday.  Poor thing has a broken toe!  This was a nice opportunity to make something for her and try out a few things.

  • 8" round
  • French Vanilla box cake mix (Duncan Hines)
  • iced with white chocolate & coffee flavored IMBC
  • shell border on the bottom
  • rosette border on top
  • script using thinned IMBC with a squeeze bottle
French Vanilla Duncan Hines cake has got to be my favorite cake in the whole wide world.  I'm going to bet this cake tastes awesome.  I made everything in one night, so this took a while and I was pretty pooped at the end.

I'm sticking with using baking strips from now on.  The rose nail method just doesn't work for me.  This cake baked up very nicely in an hour. 

IMBC is so fickle ... I was worried about it destabilizing when both chocolate and coffee were added.  The milk chocolate was heated in the microwave first so it could cool down by the time I was ready for it.  Chocolate remains viscous for a good while, even when not hot.  The IMBC needed something liquidy but not hot.  Here's 3 oz. of baker's white chocolate.  I actually should have used more, but I wasn't thinking correctly.  It should have been 6 oz.

The coffee syrup was 1 1/2 Tb of instant coffee with 1 Tb hot water.  Again, made early so it could cool down before being added to the IMBC.

The IMBC was a little frustrating.  The meringue part of it went fine, whipped up real nice.  The cake got leveled and torted while the meringue cooled down.

After I added the butter it went soupy.  Perhaps I didn't let the meringue cool down enough?  I gave up whipping it and stuck the mixing bowl into the fridge for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile I prepared the cake box.  The "secret" Walmart by my work has a little section for cake decorating!  I found 10" x 10" x 5" cake boxes for $1.  Oh I call it the "secret" Walmart because it's pretty hidden from the road it's on.  There are a bunch of trees that block visibility to the store.  There's only one sign and it's not properly lit at night.  You have to know exactly where it is or you'll miss it completely.  The other day I meant to stop by it after work, but I must have been listening to the radio or thinking about something.  I drove right past it and didn't realize until it was too late!  The next day I made sure to pay attention.  I bought some non-skid material for cake transportation.  It's the stuff you put in your kitchen drawers to keep things from sliding around.  I cut out a square and put it in the cake box.

The IMBC when back to whipping ... no dice, still soupy.  I thought, "Uuugghhh ... I don't have all night to do this!  I'm exhausted already!"  Back into the fridge it went, this time for 15 minutes.  After that, it started to stabilize.  The chocolate and the coffee were added without difficulty.  The icing was thinned more than usual, but it was just fine.  It glided on to the cake like a dream.  It also tasted awesome.  The white chocolate was subtle, but it made the IMBC taste even smoother.

I hate making small batches of royal icing, so tried piping the "Happy Birthday" with melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle.  That did NOT work.  The chocolate was too runny and it looked awful.  I was able to scoop it off the top and re-ice the cake.

I tried thinning down some of the IMBC with the chocolate.  That got loaded into the squeeze bottle and I piped again.  This time it wasn't that bad.  I wasn't shooting for knock-out looks.  Simple shell border on the bottom, rosettes on top.  I wanted to put coffee beans in the rosettes, but when I practiced one on a piece of foil ... well, it looked like a little booby.  Ah, I should have taken a picture!  Ha.  Well, no beans for the cake.

I'm not pleased about how it wasn't so smooth on the sides of the cake.  Last week I bought Viva paper towels for smoothing down icing.  I would have had to refrigerate the cake for a while to do that, but I was already running out of time for the night.  Maybe next time.

  •  IMBC was too hot when I put the butter in ... patience is a virtue!
  • squeeze bottle piping might be good for some things, but maybe not script
  • don't make cake boobies
  • not enough milk chocolate
  • IMBC tasted awesome!  I'll use this next week for Aunt Mimi's 60th birthday cake
  • IMBC pipes so smooth ... I loved the rosettes ... I want to use this on cupcakes one day with my 1M tip
Happy Birthday, Jenny!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cake Balls: Completed with Badge

Cake Balls I'm actually proud of!
(+5 skill points -> 175/400)

After Halloween, no one wanted to take any cake home with them.  I was stuck with 2/3rds of a cauldron cake!  I also had a lot of left over red velvet cake from the Dragon Age Congratulations cake.  Cake balls is the best way to get rid of scraps.  I learned that I can use my Oxo Good Grips Dough Blender for crumbling the cake and mixing in the icing ... which is awesome because I had yet to use that thing for anything else!

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of what happened to the cauldron cake.  Those cake balls got dipped in Wilton's red candy melts.  My husband loved those!  I don't own a double boiler, but I wanted to try using my little crock pot to heat the candy melts.  I've used it before for chocolate fondue.  It actually worked well, I think.  The bad thing was that the candy melts were so thick!  The cake barely survived being dipped in it.  I even added a lot of shortening and vegetable oil to make it thinner, but I'm not sure how much that helped.

The chocolate was the complete opposite.  It was the oiled chocolate fountain chocolate I used before in my first cake ball attempt.  The red velvet cake was dipped in this, but never "set" (see photo above).

I thought both tasted yummy!  When I took them to work, I called them "Tainted Darkspawn Blood Drops" (from the Dragon Age video game).  It was a hit!  Here are some of the responses I got:
Wow Chris,
The tainted darkspawn blood drops are sooo good!
^_^ Thanks,
- James
holy cow those blood balls rock 
excellent job chris
- Stacy
The chocolate ones are on the top ten list of best things on the planet! I think it helped that they didn't set. :)
- Nancy

Quick Congrats Cake: Completed

Congratulations to the Dragon Age development team!
(+5 skill points -> 170/400)

Dragon Age was released in stores today!  It's been getting amazing scores from game sites.  I whipped up a cake last night to bring to work so we could celebrate.

  • 10" square
  • red velvet box cake (Duncan Hines)
  • IMBC icing and filling
  • decorated with cherries
  • drizzled chocolate
I gave rose nails another shot, but they still didn't seem to prevent "doming" while baking.  I ended up cutting a lot off the top and having to build up the corners with extra icing to make them appear level.  That was ok, though, because the scraps went to cake balls :)

There wasn't enough left-over IMBC from last weekend, so I made a 1/2-batch while the cake was baking.  IMBC can be difficult to ice with.  Sometimes it slides off the cake or off itself when layering.  It's a good thing it tastes great, at least.

After crumb coating and adding a final layer, I was all out of IMBC.  "Crap!" I thought ... what to do, what to do ... I looked at the cake balls I made ... no, too big to go on to the cake ... Eureka!  Cherries!  I had some frozen cherries left over from last weekend's punch.  Cherries made a quick border and some drizzled chocolate finished it off.

It was neat to use my new squeeze bottles to drizzle the melted chocolate (that I was using with the cake balls) on to the cherries.  It even let me do a simple script!  I was pretty pressed for time because I started so late.  It's amazing what chocolate can save!

Now for the bad news!  It didn't look that good by the time it arrived at work.  The cherries had thawed and were leaking dark red juice everywhere.  The cake shifted around in the box a little and the edges got slightly damaged.  No one at work seemed to care; they loved it anyway!  Congratulations to the team at Edge of Reality in Austin, TX for helping make such a great game!

  • cherry juice got everywhere!
  • ran out of IMBC
  • couldn't find appropriately sized box for transport
  • cherries were a good border substitute
  • chocolate in squeeze bottle worked well
  • pretty good cake in such a short amount of time
  • getting more XP with IMBC

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