"Hey, I can do that!"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chocolate Cuppies with Caramel IMBC

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cuppies
Caramel IMBC

Who needs a reason to bake?  I sure don't.  My in-laws came over today for grillin' and chillin'.  I've been itching to make another batch of IMBC, so now seemed as good of a time as any.  We all enjoyed these yummy numbers.

  • Duncan Hines' Dark Chocolate Fudge cake 
  • IMBC with some melted caramel and cream
  • 1M tip swirl
I complained to my husband.  I don't understand how people can make cupcakes without a huge mess.  I got batter everywhere trying to pour into the cups.  My arm ached from holding up the bowl.  I told him I've been making cupcakes since I was a kid and can't seem to get a good system going.  I don't understand how professionals do it.  He pointed out that I don't make cupcakes every day.  There must be some secret.  On TV I've seen bakers use ice cream scoops to transport batter from bowl to cup.  I couldn't find our ice cream scoop and I think my batter was way too runny to do that.  Maybe a pancake pourer ... that's a real thing, right?

For a while now I've had this bag of Caramel Bits, convenient little balls of caramel ready to melt.  After making IMBC normally (except for forgetting to add vanilla), I melted about 1/4 cup of caramel.  After nuking it in the microwave, stirring revealed it to be very thick and gummy ... which is, I guess, what caramel is like (hey, I've never done this before).  I was afraid it wouldn't mix into the icing ... there would be huge globs of sticky goodness in my silky smooth IMBC.  I poured in some heavy whipping cream to thin it out and it worked nicely.  It mixed in fabulously and gave the icing a lovely light, nutty color. Everyone loved the taste.  This is definitely a keeper.

Yesterday my family and I went to the cake supply store yet again.  I needed to pick up some cake dummies for the upcoming cake competition.  While I was there, I bought a 21" canvas decorating bag.  Ok, I didn't realize this at the time (the bag was folded up), but this thing is huge.  My father-in-law called it a dunce cap.

The whole batch of IMBC took up less than half of the bag.  I wasn't even sure how to wield this thing, but managed to ice the cupcakes without incident.  Here they are with a swirl using the 1M tip.  I didn't do the full-blown 1M swirl (requires 2 passes), which was a good thing because 1 batch of IMBC can't cover 24 cuppies with that technique.

Monday, January 25, 2010

February is going to be busy!!!

I've got a busy month ahead of me.  On February 12th, my brother-in-law is graduating from Universal Technical Institute.  He has been accepted into BMW's school and will soon move out to Rancho Cucamonga, California for training.  To celebrate, well, what else do I do but make cake!  It'll look something like this:

I've been wanting to make a BMW cake ever since my hubby and his 2 brothers bought BMWs all within a few months ... and now this???  It's a sign.  Well, no, it's a logo.  And it will also be cake.


My dear cousin's little girl is turning 1, and we're celebrating with tons of family and friends.  I asked to do the cake and was so excited that they said yes!  The birthday party theme is bouncy balls.  There will be a little ball pit for the babies (which I'm sure my little one will be enjoying), and plenty of balls the older kids can bounce.  Hopefully the weather will be nice enough for a bouncy outside!  It was requested that the cake match the theme ... hey, no prob.  I'm going to start sketching designs tonight.  I even get to make a smash cake just for the birthday girl!


The end of the month is the big one.  The "That Takes the Cake" Sugar Art and Cake Show.  I'm so excited, but no where close to prepared.  I still need to buy cake dummies and drums.  I still need to prototype all the cakes.  I still need to make several batches of fondant in different colors.  I still need to make at least 3 dozen gum paste roses.  Heck, I still need to design one of my entries.  My first few ideas for the "Special Occasion / Novelty Tiered" cake were dismal failures.  I exaggerate, but still.  I'm back to square one.

Thanks in advance to my family who let me do all these crazy things.  My husband is concerned about all this cake that I've volunteered to make ... but hey, it's family.  I'll do crazy cake things for family any day.  There's a mountain of work ahead of me ... good thing I get to eat it when done.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wedding Cake Prototype: Completed

Wedding Cake Prototype
Preparation for Cake Contest
(+15 skill points => 250/400)

Woot!  15 more skill points!  What a weekend.  I'd like to thank my husband and daughter for letting me do this.  What you see here is my first 3-tier cake.  It is a generic wedding cake, serving as a prototype to help me practice for the cake contest.

  • 6", 8", and 10" rounds (each about 3.5", total cake is almost 1' tall)
  • top 2 tiers are Duncan Hines Red Velvet
  • bottom tier is Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge
  • iced with buttercream icing (top 2 are a nod to Sharon Zambito's recipe, bottom tier is from IndyDebi)
  • filled with tub cream cheese icing (I forget if it's Pillsbury or what)
  • shell borders at the bottom of each tier
  • rosettes top the bottom tier
  • reverse shells top the top tier
  • swirlie thingies on bottom tier with dots
  • quilt impression on middle tier
  • dots on top tier
  • fondant roses on tippy top
I learned sooo much from this cake.  I'm a little shaken though.  I'm definitely not where I want to be for competition, but this is definitely a step forward for me.  Here's the scoop.

Two words: cake spackle.  See my previous post for more info.  It's awesome.  Try it if you haven't.  I put the cake scraps I had into my little food processor.  When I had ground up a bowlful, I sifted through it with my fingers to see if there were any chunks that got by.  Man.  In my version of heaven, that's what the clouds would be made of.  Bits of cake.  It was so soft and fluffy, I'll dream about it later.  Anywho, my cakes did not bake up well.  I tried shooting for 2" layers, which means less batter into the pans than I'm used to.  The cake pulled away from the sides, making a slant.

Even with baking strips and a flower nail, my 10" round domed.  After leveling, I wound up with 1 1/2" cake layers to work with.  But it's ok, because cake spackle is FTW.

I've been watching Sharon Zambito's Perfecting the Art of Buttercream DVD.  I tried to apply her techniques and had some fails and some successes.  I did not have good like with a similar recipe for her buttercream.  I'm going to stick with IndyDebi's.

Stacking tiers ... ya ... that's a challenge.  It's not so bad when they're covered in fondant, but I can't tell you how many times I cursed very loudly when I smudged and/or almost dropped a tier.  The middle tier wasn't placed well, so I had to wedge my spatula underneath it and shimmy it over.  You can see the indentation on the right side there:

 Holy crap, I made a mess of my kitchen!

The top has some fondant roses that I made the other day.  I learned this in my Wilton Course 3 class.

Well, I could go on and on about this cake, but I'll just sum it up for you.

Things I learned:
  • When icing a tier, it needs to be elevated on a surface smaller than the cake.  Otherwise, it's difficult to lift up the cake/cake board without damaging the bottom of the cake.  I eventually put all my tiers on  upside-down bowls while icing them.
  • When placing a tier, hold it underneath with a hand and a spatula.  Your hand will guide it to approximately the spot it needs to be.  Set it down and let the spatula park it in to place.  Otherwise your fingers will damage the bottom of the tier you're holding as well as the top of the tier you're placing it on.
  • When applying the quilting mat, be sure to have a the cake on a flat surface so the mat can rest against it.  If you do it freestyle (my tier was still elevated on a bowl), the impression can become uneven.  And my glasses kept slipping as I tilted my head to the side.
  • Cut all supports evenly.  Dowel through the center evenly.  My cake is leaning :(
  • Give yourself LOTS of time to do all this.  You can't rush this.  My "rushing" lasted over 5 hours.  And that was just the decorating part.
  • For the competition, I'm going to use 6" and 8" dummies as my top 2 tiers.  This cake was heavy.  I should've weighed it.  I took this cake to work which consisted of: taking the cake out of my trunk, going down 3 flights of stairs in the parking garage, crossing the street to my building, elevator ride up to the third floor, then a few paces to our break room.  It took a half hour afterward for my arms to stop trembling.  No way am I doing that the Friday before competition with 4 entries.
What a relief to have this done.  I'm beginning to dread the week before the competition!

Cake Spackle: Technique

Cake Spackle Technique

I finally tried "cake spackle", a concept from Toba Garrett's book The Well-decorated Cake (http://www.tobagarrett.com/meet.html).  I'm thoroughly impressed!  See for yourself!

I baked 2 6" rounds of Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake (Wilton 6"x2" pans). 

The left pan did not have baking strips, but the right did.  There's a pretty noticeable difference there.  The cake with the baking strips baked more level and to the edges.  The non-strips cake domed and cracked.

The cakes were so delicate!  The sides are all ugly and part of it stuck to the pan as I was taking them out to cool.

After leveling and stacking them, it was clear that something needed to be done.

Cake spackle looks a little gross, but it tastes fine.  It was difficult to get it to stick to the cake at first, but I got the hang of it after a while.  With a little TLC, my little cake became awesome.

Here it is iced (I wasn't done with the top at the time though):

From now on, I'm a spackle-girl!  Thanks, Toba!

Sculpted Cake: Mostly Completed

Sculpted Cake
Prototype for Cake Contest
... Mostly Completed

Even though I'm not going to reveal just yet what my plans are for the cake competition, here's what my prototype looked like when it finally gave up the ghost.

It lasted about 5 days out on the kitchen table until it got mushy enough to lose structural integrity.  I only used skinny wooden skewers for support.  There was a dull thunk and I heard my husband say, "That's not good..."

The head had toppled over, taking a chunk of the body with it.  I was already done learning what I could from it a couple days earlier, so it wasn't a biggie.

I dumped the body in a plastic garbage bag.  You didn't see anything!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Extruding Fondant: attempted

First attempt at extruding fondant.

Last weekend I bought a clay extruder from Hobby Lobby (thankfully with a 40% off coupon).  It seemed like a nice set that could last me years and years.

I tried the disc that looks like 3 circles smashed together.  Somewhere I read if you extrude with that and twist it, it looks like rope.

With left over MMF, I kneaded in some shortening and a drop of glycerin.  The extruded piece unfortunately looked rough.  It did look nice and like rope when gently twisted.

I'm not sure if the roughness is from the fondant or the extruder.  Next time I will try using gum paste.

White Almond Sour Cream Cake (WASC): attempted

White Almond Sour Cream Cake
... Without the Almond ...
... Oh and with a Package of Vanilla Pudding ...

For my 3D/sculpted cake entry in the upcoming cake contest, I needed a firm, fine crumb cake to carve.  Several decorators on cakecentral.com recommend the famous White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) cake recipe for carving ... well, heck, for anything.  People rave about this cake.  Some cakers say it's practically the only recipe they bake.  I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Unfortunately, I had to doctor the recipe so this post isn't 100% ... hence the "attempted" tag.

1.5 batches of this recipe was made, which is actually a LOT of cake.  The first batch almost overflowed my KitchenAid!  I kept cringing at every additional ingredient as it went into the bowl, hoping I wasn't going to end up with a batter-covered counter.  A package of vanilla pudding mix also went in (a suggestion made for extra firmness in a cakecentral.com post about carving WASC).  I had enough to fill 2 8"x3" rounds, 1 7"x3" round, and 2 6"x2" rounds.

All the pans went into the oven at the same time, but the 6" rounds came out early.  If memory serves me right (which it does not necessarily do), everything was done after an hour and a half.

My poor 6" round suffered the most deformation.  One side was very fluffy and stuck to the pan.  It also peaked high in the center.  I used baking strips on all of the pans ... maybe next time I'll have to use flower nails too.

But they do look delicious, don't they?  The outside was a nice golden color.  The inside would have been whiter if not for the pudding mix.  It ended up looking somewhere in between white and yellow cake.  Torting it really shows how a nice and fine the crumb is.

The cake was firm, but not too firm or heavy.  It had a nice density and was pretty good for carving.  Here's the 7" and 8" rounds torted, leveled, and stacked.

My edges unfortunately baked up a little hard.  After watching me struggle with my serrated bread knife, my husband suggested we buy an electric carving knife for when I have to do this all over again.  We found a $10 one at HEB.  I'll let you know how that goes later.

This was also my first time using Indydebi's buttercream.  I'd love to try that recipe again on a regular cake.  So far it has performed very well for me.  The recipe was simple, it was easy to work with, and it got a nice crust.  The taste, well, it tastes like regular ole buttercream.  Nothing blow-your-mind new, but a good, safe taste.

After leveling and carving the cake, I had a considerable amount of scraps.  I made cake spackle for the first time (a technique in Toba Garrett's book The Well Decorated Cake).  The scraps were thrown in to my little food processor, pulsed with "Grind" mode.

This produced very consistent crumbs ... I don't know why I bothered using anything else for making cake balls!

Spackling my cake was fun!  I used it to build up in areas that needed more cake.  This is definitely a handy technique.  Toba suggests covering whole cakes with spackle before icing.  My contest entry will most likely have a layer of it.

Well, not all of the scraps went into spackling.  Like I said, that was a LOT of cake.  And what do you do with left over cake?  Make CAKE BALLS!!!

This time I used Baker's semi-sweet chocolate.  It melted in the microwave nicely, and I finally got to use my new candy dipping tool.  These were by far the prettiest cake balls I have ever made.  I even put them into little individual candy cups (they look like mini cupcake wrappers) before setting them out on the "taco table" at work.

I'd like to try cake balls with more expensive chocolate, like Ghiradelli ... but I not made of moneyz.  Maybe I'll have an excuse in the future to splurge.

Oh I should probably mention how the cake tasted.  It's hard to say what was WASC and what was vanilla pudding.  Oh I should probably mention how I didn't add almond flavoring ... so it was more like WSCVP.  Anywho, it tasted good to me.  My favorite Duncan Hines cake is "French Vanilla", and it tasted pretty close to that.  I realize, though, that not having almond and adding the pudding really kinda removes all the features of WASC.  The cake is no longer white ... it's yellowish.  White cake is also pretty light and fluffy (because it's egg whites without the yokes) ... and adding pudding weighed it down a lot.  The sour cream was to make it moist ... and I don't know how much of the moisture factor was sour cream or pudding.

In the future, I will have a true 100% WASC cake post so I can have a fair tasting ... as soon as I find my bottle of almond flavoring ...

competition and flying under the radar

I'm so excited.  My first cake competition is at the end of February.

"That Takes the Cake"
Austin, TX

I qualify for the beginner division and have registered to enter 4 categories:
  • sculpted cake
  • special occasion / novelty tiered
  • wedding tiered
  • special techniques (not on a cake)
What have I gotten myself into???  That's a lot of cake ... and one category doesn't even involve cake!  Looking at the calendar, that's not a lot of weekends for me to practice.  I've started designing and prototyping, but am still no where near where I want to be.  The sculpted cake I've been set on for a while, and started practicing last weekend.  I think I know what to do for my special techniques.  My family and I went to the cake shop and hobby stores on Saturday to pick up some supplies.  My new toys include:
  • clay extruder
  • gum paste mix
  • "Super Black" Americolor gel
  • impression mats: brick and cobble stone
  • glycerin (the CP brand was cheaper than Wilton)
  • electric carving knife
  • extra 8" round pan
I wanted to buy cake drums, but they were $5 for a 12" round (plus I haven't even decided what my cake dimensions will be).  I'm determined to find a cheaper alternative. 

Anywho, I want these entries to be a surprise, so I won't post any pictures of them until after the competition (hence, the "flying under the radar").  I've already learned a lot but am worried about how I'm going to get everything to where I'll be pleased with it.  Here's a post from cakecentral.com that has several tips for competing:


The most important thing I'm taking from that is:
7. Do not try to decorate to please a judge. This rarely works. Decorate to please yourself and to improve upon your own skills.
 All my entries need to be something I want to do.  So ... I think I need to make my wedding cake ... not the wedding cake I got (which was beautiful, BTW) ... but the one I want to make now that I'm a cake decorator.  Something I'll be proud of and would want at my wedding if I had the opportunity to do it all over again.  Same guy, different cake ;)

For the novelty cake, I'm considering making a cake for my daughter.  It's definitely something I want to do.  Something to celebrate her first year on this planet!

That's all for now ... I'm super excited ... come say "hi" to me if you see me there!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Merry Christmas to me!

My family and I had a lovely Christmas holiday.  My dear husband and his family got me many baking goodies for me to play with.  2010 will be a good year for cakes!

My presents:
  • bundt cake pan
    • nice dark and heavy pan with non-stick surface; it's just begging for it to be filled with pound cake
  • glass turn table
    • glides so smoothly and looks beautiful; I will photograph my cakes on this in the future
  • Cake Doctor books
    • soooo many recipes for me to try! even if I did one cake a week it'd still take years to get through
  • gum paste tool set
    • handy dandy tools for playing with fondant and gum paste
  • fall themed cookie cutters
    • originally given to my mother in law from her mother, then passed down to me
  • cake decorating book
    • especially informative on royal icing
  • cake lifter
    • so awesome, I'll never accidentally split a cake again
  • quilt impression mats
    • 1" and 1 1/4" wide diamonds
  • marzipan
    • I will attempt to cover a cake with this and then ice it with royal icing ... very European ;)
A big thank you to my family who has been very supportive of this sudden and crazy new obsession of mine!  Lots of love to my husband who even cleaned up the huge mess I made from baking last Friday!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holidays 2009

Happy Birthday, Ashley!
Happy New Years!
Hook 'em, Horns!
(+10 skill points -> 235/400)

What a week.  You know, I'm gonna have to take a break from caking!  The holidays almost killed me!  My kitchen looks like hell.  Unfortunately, I was so busy making the sweets pictured above, I didn't have much time to stop and take photos of the process.  Here's the play-by-play, though.

Stats (Happy Birthday, Ashley):
  • 8" round
  • Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
  • filled and iced with semi-sweet chocolate ganache
  • covered in MMF
  • quilt pattern with impression mat and quilting wheel
  • borders and script in royal icing (shell bottom border and reverse shell top border)
My husband got me a couple of impression mats for the quilted effect.  I tried the 1 1/4" version first.  The cakecentral forums suggested to roll the fondant a little thick so the indentations could make it look like the fondant "pillows" out more.  I pressed the mat to the fondant and gently rocked it back and forth.  The lines were not very visible ... I complained to my husband of the poor lighting in the kitchen that didn't help.  My husband, bless him, also bought me the 10-piece gum paste tool set.  Following the indentations, I rolled the quilting wheel also gently back and forth.  It was an ok first-try and definitely worth mastering in the future.

The royal icing was mixed with Americolor burgundy.  I must have a different idea of what "burgundy" is ... but I probably just am thinking of maroon.  The color came out lovely, just not what I expected.  Unfortunately royal icing dries so hard ... it chipped and broke off, somewhat flying, as Ashley cut the cake.

I guess my fondant was too dry.  You can see the cracks near the top of the cake.  When it came time to eat it, it was a little hard :(  Back to buttercream, me thinks.

  • fondant was too dry
  • royal icing was too hard
  • earned quilting badge

Stats (2010 Cake):
  • 8" round
  • Duncan Hines Butter Pecan cake mix
  • filled and iced with white chocolate ganache
  • covered in Satin Ice black fondant
  • white dots are MMF
This was my first time making ganache from white chocolate.  A 12 oz. bag of Nestle White Chocolate Morsels was added to simmering 4 oz. of heavy whipping cream.  Ok ... after it was all mixed in and melted well ... it looked like snot.  It was yellowy and too thin.  What was interesting was that it gummed up as I was spreading it on to the cake.  At first I thought it was going to slip right off the cake, but after I got it on, it started to "set" ... the ganache turned sticky / gooey.  I'm going to research this more before I attempt it again.

I wanted to do a New Year's cake for my husband's extended family party, but I wasn't sure about the design.  At the last minute it came down to "cover it with black and throw on some dots".  There's a border of dots on the bottom of the cake that's hard to see.  These were made with my smallest circle cutter and left over MMF.  Satin Ice fondant was lovely to work with, but I still had some cracks on the corners.  It was neat to use my heavy marble rolling pin, which is super smooth.  It took out a lot of work that is usually required to roll out fondant thinly.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to figure out how to get rid of the dusty cornstarch.  I was too hesitant to try spraying and brushing on PAM (suggested by many on cakecentral.com) and I don't have a steamer (like what Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes show them using).  The black fondant looked gray and dirty :(

The cake tasted lovely but I'm still not crazy about the Satin Ice fondant.  I much prefer the taste of MMF.  One little girl ate all the dots underlining "2010" while the rest of us were in the living room unwrapping presents!

  • again, ditching fondant and going back to buttercream
  • black fondant turned our mouths blue
  • white chocolate ganache was weird
  • fondant was dusty looking
  • white chocolate and Butter Pecan cake was so yummy
  • earned badge for covering cake with Satin Ice fondant

Stats (Longhorn cookies):
  • NFSC
  • using Longhorn cookie cutter
  • iced with MMF
My husband's extended family party included a White Elephant gift exchange.  Because everyone is a little tight in these economic times, we were supposed to re-gift items that we already had but didn't want.  I wanted to get rid of some of our extra pyrex mixing bowls.  My brother-in-law's girlfriend suggested to me earlier to make cookies.  In celebrating of the University of Texas Longhorns going to the Rose Bowl this coming week, I made Longhorn cookies placed in a bowl with a rose on top!

I decided to try making the cookie dough and rolling it out without chilling it first.  After filling a cookie pan, I put them in the refrigerator to firm up while I rolled and cut more cookies.  Half of my intentions were fulfilled.  Chilling them on the pan helped the dough not spread while baking.  Unfortunately the dough was so soft to work with, there were many smudges during cutting and placement.

I cut and baked these right after 3 dozen round cookies for more of my "Texas Snowmen".  What I didn't realize was that the Longhorn cookies would take less time to bake up because they're so narrow.  Several of my horns got too burnt to serve :(

Cakecentral.com had many forum posts about getting the UT "burnt orange" color just right.  Most suggested making the icing bright orange and then adding a small amounts of brown.  It took FOREVER to get it to the color I settled for in the MMF.  I had to add more brown than I expected.   It looks close enough, right?

I used the cutter to also cut out the fondant.  Brushing the backside with water helped it stick to the cookie well.  Impressive, eh?

  • narrow cookies need less time and/or less heat to bake correctly
  • can't skip chilling the dough
  • dough did not spread
  • fondant cut-outs fit well
  • earned "burnt orange" color badge
I should have taken a picture at the end :(  They were so cute individually wrapped and tied with ribbon.  No one "got" the whole play on words with the Longhorns in the rose + bowl, so my husband and I had to relay the message.  Oh well.  Hook 'em, Horns!

Like I said ... I may take a little break from all this for a while ;)  Happy New Year, everyone.

As Seen On

As Seen On Capital Confectioners