"Hey, I can do that!"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Decorating with a Ziplock Bag

Using a Ziplock Bag instead of a Decorator's Bag

Many cake decorating resources say you can use a ziplock bag for piping icing.  I finally gave it a go yesterday.

It wasn't bad at all.  I used HEB brand storage bags (1 pint capacity).  It was really easy to load and held a fair amount of icing.  It wasn't hard to twist or hold or to squeeze out the icing.  I didn't feel bad throwing them away after just one use.  The only drawback is that you'll want to cut out your corner carefully.  The right angle makes it really easy to snip off too big of a whole.  Use a coupler to make sure your tip is secure and all the icing goes to the it instead of spewing out the sides.

I only suggest this is you're using a small amount of icing (like for piping messages).  Larger tasks (like borders) will require more space and control over the icing, which the decorator's bags are excellent for.

Happy Birthday, Todd!

Happy Birthday, Todd!
Yellow cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter IMBC
(+5 skill points => 320/400)

Today my husband's family celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday.  I offered to do a cake since it was just a casual dinner at the house.  Heck, I would have offered in any situation.  I'm pleased with how this came out.  Couple of "firsts" here.

  • 8" round Duncan Hines Classic Yellow box cake mix
  • iced and filled with peanut butter and chocolate IMBC
  • decorated with strips of marzipan
I've been wanting to do a chocolate / peanut butter version of IMBC for a while now.  I sacrificed a milk chocolate bunny from Easter to do it.  The bunny melted down was ~2 oz. of chocolate.  I added a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and also cocoa powder to that.  The IMBC held up well with it.  The only problem was some bits of chocolate didn't get fully incorporated.  It tasted great.  Here's the middle after damming with cake spackle and filling with IMBC.

I've been waiting for a good reason to try the marzipan that my husband bought me.  I figured it would taste well with the peanut butter.  Working with it was soooo nice.  It didn't stick to my board (unlike fondant).  It didn't crack when rolled out (unlike fondant).  In little bits it was pretty dang tasty (unlike fondant).  I rolled and cut out 4" strips with varying widths.

It probably would have looked nicer if I colored the marzipan a dark brown ... oh well.  I wasn't really shooting for the prettiest looking cake.

Having a properly sized cake board is very important.  I was using scalloped 8" round boards underneath my cake.  It was just enough room to support the cake, but it made icing the sides difficult.  The tip of my spatula didn't have a continuous edge to slide against.  It was also too narrow to pipe a bottom border.  Next time I'll shoot for over-sized boards.

This was yet another opportunity to show how I stink at piping words.  I even accidentally spelled it as "Happy Birtha" before realizing what I was doing.  Not the prettiest cake, but it was actually pretty damn good tasting.  I was talking to my husband's cousin after dessert, and he suggested having a layer of chocolate underneath the peanut butter IMBC.  Having the cake covered in ganache first would be the BOMB.  I can't wait to have another go at this combo.  Marzipan is another medium I'm looking forward to using again soon.

My kitchen is a mess ... I'm procrastinating cleaning it and staying up late to blog instead ...

Doctored Red Velvet Cake

Doctored Red Velvet Cake
(+5 skill points => 315/400)

Last week Lonnie tells me he's doing a cake for a little get-together but wasn't sure what kind of cake to try next.  I asked him if he's done a Red Velvet cake before.  He tells me no and asks if I have a recipe.  I say "Daaahhh ... I use Duncan Hines box mix."  Since then I've been researching all about this mysterious thing we call "Red Velvet" cake.  Surprisingly there were many recent threads on RV cake on cakecentral.com's forums.  One CCer suggested to use the box mix but instead of water, use Dr. Pepper and then add a package of pudding.  So here it is.  Doctored Red Velvet Cake.

  • 8" round Duncan Hines Red Velvet (DH RV) box mix
    • substituted the water with Dr. Pepper
    • added 1 package of chocolate fudge pudding
  • cheesecake mousse filling
  • iced with white chocolate IMBC
Stupid me forgot to take photos of the finished product.  The cake was devoured by my family as we celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday.  Oh well, here's the "making of".

Notice how dark red it turned out.  Close to a maroon / wine color. 

I made cake spackle for the dam and to smooth out the sides of the cake.  Inside is the Costco mousse recipe using cheesecake pudding.

Now imagine it assembled, iced in creamy IMBC with a reverse shell border on top.

In my opinion, that package of pudding was way too much.  I should have only put in 1/2 the bag.  I couldn't taste the Dr. Pepper (but my husband swore he did).  This was a pretty dense/heavy cake ... would go much better with a tall glass of milk.  Not sure if it was worth doctoring the cake mix ... I'm pretty happy with it as is.  My family did enjoy the cake.  It was a beautiful color, especially compared to the pale icing.

What do you think?  I'm too lazy to bake from scratch ...

Monday, April 19, 2010


Total Hours of Cake Decorating Instruction:

It occurred to me that I should keep track of my official cake decorating education.  This post will be updated whenever I take a class by a professional cake decorating instructor.


Capital Confectioner's "Day of Sharing" 2010
Location: Wyndham Hotel & Conference Center in Round Rock, TX
Time: Sunday, August 6th, 2010, 8 AM - 5 PM
Total Hours: 5
  • Brian Stevens - 3D structure and airbrushing
  • Ximena Sempertegui - fondant christening gown
  • Marco Antonio Lopez Sanches - stenciling and flowers
  • Stephen Benison - unique cutters
That Takes The Cake 2011
Capital Confectioners' 7th Annual Art Show & Cake Competition
Celebrity Guest Demonstrations 
Location: North Austin Event Center, Austin, TX
Time: Sunday, February 27th, 2011 9 AM - 2 AM
Total Hours: 3.75
  • Lorraine McKay - modeling cute cartoony frog from fondant
  • James Rousselle - cutting, wiring, and decorating 3 different flowers
  • Mike McCarey - sculpting a dog cake with dowels and boards
  • Marina Sousa - making jewels and beads with Isomalt
  • Susan Carberry - sculpting a mushroom cake using PVC piping as internal structure
Capital Confectioner's "Day of Sharing" 2011
Location: Wyndham Hotel & Conference Center in Round Rock, TX
Time: Sunday, July 10, 2011 8 AM - 5 PM
Total Hours: 5

      Wilton Course 3: Fondant and Tiered Cakes
      Location: Hobby Lobby on FM 1431, Cedar Park, TX
      Instructor: Dolly Farnsworth
      Time: Saturdays 9/5/09 - 9/26/09, 1 PM - 3 PM
      (only attended 9/5 and 9/12 due to illness and work)
      Total Hours: 4
      Description: (from Wilton website)
      Reach a new level of decorating sophistication with the beautiful flowers and techniques in Course 3. Begin with intricate accents such as embroidery and lace, stringwork, garland and ruffle borders. Discover the beauty of decorating with rolled fondant — for covering cakes with an immaculate smooth surface and shaping fun figures and elegant flowers. Add several new icing flowers to your repertoire, including lovely holiday blooms like poinsettias and Easter lilies. Complete your course by assembling and decorating a towering tiered cake with beautiful stringwork, flowers and borders.
      Chocolate Clay Basket
      Location: All In One Bake Shop, Austin, TX
      Instructor: Sallia Bandy
      Time: Tuesday 3/30/10, 6 PM - 9 PM
      Total Hours: 3
      Description: Learned how to make and work with modeling chocolate.  Created an Easter basket using chocolate, modeling chocolate, and lollipop sticks.

      Cake Balls
      Location: Whole Foods Culinary Center, Austin, TX
      Instructor: Stacy Bridges
      Time: Saturday, 12/04/2010, 10 AM - 11 AM
      Total Hours: 1
      Description: Learned how to make cake balls a la Austin Cake Ball.

      Petit Fours
      Location: Central Market, Austin, TX
      Instructor: Laurie Mathers
      Time: Saturday, 2/05/2011, 10 AM - 1 AM
      Total Hours: 2.5ish
      Description: Learned how to make cream cheese pound cake, cut, fill with buttercream and jam, dip them in candy coating, and decorate with royal icing.

      Crazy Pizza Cakes
      Location: All In One Bake Shop
      Instructor: Brian Stevens
      Time: Sunday, 8/14/2011, 9 AM - 5 PM
      Total Hours: 6ish
      Description: Covering a pizza shaped cake with fondant, decorating with fondant, color theory, airbrushing techniques, and of course, blow torches!

      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      I *heart* Cricut a little less now

      The new Cricut Cake machine is out now ... and the cake and craft worlds are brewing up a storm.  If you haven't been following the drama, it mostly consists of:
      • Linda McClure (cake decorator that pioneered cutting gum paste with Cricut) feels burned by ProvoCraft for treating her unfairly
      • ProvoCraft will charge licensing fees for those who want to sell cakes using their products
      • ProvoCraft is suing Make the Cut (MTC) for circumventing and encouraging others to circumvent their copyright
      When I bought my Expression, I didn't do all my homework.  Well, I did all my homework on Cricut, but I failed to research alternative cutting machines.  I was unaware of the existence of other products and companies like CraftRobo, WishBlade, Creative Cutter, BossKut, etc.  I only knew of Cricut because that's what I saw in Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnne's.  Now I'm regretting my spontaneous purchase because I am displeased with ProvoCraft's behavior.

      Luckily I don't do this for profit.  I will continue using my Cricut for all my personal projects in however many creative ways possible.  Let's just call this buyer's remorse.

      LFMF (Learn from My Fail)

      Saturday, April 10, 2010

      Happy Birthday, Hang!

      Happy Birthday, Hang!
      Dark Chocolate Oreo Cake
      (+5 skill points => 310 / 400)

      Earlier this evening, my husband, baby, and I went to a BBQ dinner at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX to celebrate our friend/co-worker's birthday.  His wife was planning this to be a surprise birthday, then we'd all go out for dinner.  Last Wednesday I asked Sandi if she'd like me to whip up a cake or cuppies to bring ... since her baking something might raise suspicion.  She said yes, but something small since everyone would be full from the all-you-can-eat BBQ.  Here is my version of a small Oreo cake.

      • Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
      • dark and white chocolate IMBC
      • Oreo mousse filling
      • two-tone icing on side
      • bead border on bottom
      • stenciled icing on top
      • piped lines over edge
      This is the first cake I've decorated with the help of my new Cricut Expression!  There are many fabulous Oreo cakes out there.  After some research, I found that some lovely soul posted an SVG of the Oreo cookie face:


      I modified it by removing the outer ring of lines and the "OREO" middle.

      In my "craft closet" are a couple rolls of 20 gauge clear vinyl.  I cut out a 12" square and fed that to my Cricut.  It cut beautifully!  I *think* it was set to medium pressure with blade depth 6.  Afterward several of those little pieces that were still barely attached had to be popped out.  Here it is after being washed (hopefully the water beads help it show on camera).

      SCAL and the font "Action Man" helped make the middle to be the birthday boy's name instead of "OREO".

      Now let's talk about icing.  The Cake Love recipe has really been working for me.  This is where I've whipped up Wilton's Meringue Powder and added the sugar syrup.

      Adding 4 sticks of butter deflates it somewhat.  I use Walmart's Great Value unsalted butter.

      This is ganache made with 4 oz. of Hershey's "Special Dark" morsels melted with 2 oz. of heavy whipping cream.

      The ganache didn't quite make the icing batch very "dark", color and taste-wise.  After ~3 Tb. of Hershey's Dark Cocoa powder and a bunch of Americolor Super Black coloring gel ... I achieved gray.

      It's frustrating to not get a deep, rich color, but I had no time to spare.  This cake was made from start to finish (minus the Cricut part) in the ~5 hours before we had to leave for the dinner.  After torting and filling, the cake got a nice spackle layer.

      What seems like ages ago, I did a gift box cake for my parents' birthdays using a technique from http://www.make-fabulous-cakes.com/gift-box-cake-tutorial.html.  The side of the cake was iced with a thin layer of white chocolate IMBC.  

      My cake was 6 cm high, so the design was to have two 2 cm "cookie" layers with a 2 cm "filling" layer in between.  My paper trimmer helped me cut several 2 cm strips of parchment paper.  After the cake firmed up in the freeze for a few minutes, the strips were pressed/stuck to the side of the cake.  FYI, scotch tape does NOT stick to parchment paper!

      Once the strips covered the center, I iced the rest of the cake in the dark chocolate IMBC.  After another pass of firming up in the freezer, the center strips were carefully removed ... peeling away and leaving nice, straight edges.  Thankfully I achieved the look I wanted without having to make different sized cakes!

      This time around, the cake stayed in the freezer a bit longer.  I wanted the top nice and firm before I started messing with the stencil on top of it.  The cut vinyl was centered on the top and a thin layer of icing was smoothed over it.  Carefully, I peeled the stencil away, leaving the "raised" shapes that you see on an Oreo cookie.  What I SHOULD have done was put it in the freezer again before removing the vinyl (like I did with the side parchment strips).  Many shapes were too soft and were nudged while the vinyl was removed, so it didn't yield clean edges.  The "G" got a little messed up :(  Oh well, next time.

      Remember the edge lines that I removed from the original SVG?  Instead I piped those lines in with Wilton round tip #4.  It was hard to pipe all the way to the middle "filling" without getting some gray on the white.  In the end I tried to lift the tip upward at the end of my line.

      I'm pretty pleased with how the cake turned out.  It looked and tasted fine.  Hang and Sandi were very pleased. 

      I was concerned about getting the cake to the dinner safely.  It got to mid-80s today and the waiting area for dinner seating at the Salt Lick is outside.  Playing it safe, I aimed to keep my Oreo as cool as it could be.  At Walmart I picked up a large styrofoam cooler (~$7) that my 12" cake drum fit securely in.  My cake got packed up inside along with candles, a lighter, a knife, and 2 mini ice-packs.  It traveled well and was still cool as we dug in.  I'm going to label this my "Dessert Bin" ... with Cricut cut-out cardstock!!!

      • couldn't get a dark color in my IMBC to match an Oreo cookie
      • should have waited before removing stencil
      • everyone's mouths were temporarily stained dark blue :(
      • stenciling badge earned
      • Cricut + cake badge earned
      • I think it really did look like an Oreo!

      Friday, April 9, 2010

      Cricut Learning Curve

      Sometimes, I have no idea what this thing is doing.

      Remember when I said I love my Cricut?  It's still true.  But it's not all smooth like buttah.  I'm beginning to see why some people say there's a "learning curve" with using it.  That's actually not exactly what I'm experiencing.  Sometimes, I have no idea what this thing is doing. 

      To be honest, yeah, I'm tech savvy.  My day job is a programmer at a video game studio.  I work with software and hardware for 8 hours a day.  I've used the Cricut and SCAL for only a few days now, and I've already had to power-cycle it, emergency stop it, and fiddle with the settings.  It just made a deep gash across my vinyl while it was re-aligning the head.  It made an awful sound as it tried to drill into my cutting mat.  SCAL froze.  I'm hoping this is just all bad luck.

      I did experience some learning curve issues that eventually got ironed out.  I'm going to have to space out the days when I'm using this thing or my husband will probably go insane with the sound of cutting.  We have the Cricut in the den near our computers.  My free time starts when my infant finally falls asleep ... he plays computer games while I surf the web or do crafty things. The sound of the Cricut cutting is already annoying me, but I get over it cuz I'm the one initiating it.

      My first cake with help from the Cricut will be finished tomorrow.  I'm using vinyl to cut out a stencil for decorating.  Hopefully it all goes well, and you'll see the results soon!

      Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      I *heart* Cricut

      I love my new Cricut.

      Last Friday my Cricut Expression came in the mail.  After failing to find a better deal on eBay, I bought it from www.cricutmachine.com for $239.99 with free shipping.

      This machine is primarily targeted to scrapbook and/or paper craft fans.  You can modify this machine to also cut out fondant, gumpaste, modeling chocolate, etc. for cake decorating.  There's even a new Cricut Cake machine coming on to the market just for those purposes, but with more versatility and is 100% food safe.  My machine, however, is strictly for paper ... if I really want to get into cake decorating, I'll buy a separate Cake version for that.

      If you don't know what a Cricut is, imagine your computer printer but instead of an ink jet head, you have a blade.  The Cricut can cut out shapes from paper, cardstock, and even fabric.  The Cricut Expression is the biggest version of the ProvoCraft's Cricut product line.  It can cut maximum 12"x24" shapes. 

      Unfortunately there are some hoops to jump through to go from intangible shape to cut-out paper.  Cricut offers fonts and shapes via cartridges at a heart-clutching $60-80 a pop at full retail price.  The Expression came with 2 cartridges, but I don't plan on getting any more.  I'm going the more tech-savvy route.

      If you want to avoid buying expensive cartridges, you can purchase one of the 2 available 3rd party software made for the Cricut machines that allow you to cut any image or true-type font you want:
      • Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) v2.0
      • Make the Cut (MTC)
      After lots of research and demoing both trial versions, I purchased SCAL while they still had their Easter special ($59.95 plus 10% off with coupon code 8774959 => $53.95).  MTC was very easy to use, but I found SCAL had more features that I liked.

      Anywho, what's all this go to do with cake???  Easy.  My cupcakes will never be naked again.  I found templates for cupcake wrappers that you can set your cuppies in after they've been decorated.

      Here are a few that are too cute:

      (photo from website below ... I'll replace it with one of my own next time I bake cuppies)


      I can't wait to expand my creative horizons with this new toy.  Let me know if you have any tips or favorite SVG (scalable vector graphics) sites!

      Sunday, April 4, 2010

      Sunflower Cuppie: Completed

      Sunflower Cuppie
      with Oreo cookie
      (+5 skill points => 305 / 400)

      Usually cupcakes don't add to my skill points, but these were special.  A big shout out and "thank you"s to:
      • KHalstead from cakecentral.com (Tina) for sharing her method for creating cupcake bouquets.
      • The book Hello, Cupcake, which I don't own, but all the photos of the sunflower cupcakes on cakecentral say they got the design from.
      • Martha Stewart for posting her own sunflower cuppie design.
      • Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
      • IMBC from Cake Love (chocolate and vanilla flavored)
        • I used Wilton's Meringue Powder instead of raw egg whites since I'd be giving these cuppies to kids.
      • Oreo cookie

      Lonnie and I have been trying hard to make a chocolate icing that tastes better than store-bought tub icing.  Consider this another failed attempt.  I first made a 2:1 ganache with Baker's semi-sweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream.  This was added to my IMBC.  It tasted ok ... but it's not great.  I'm not used to semi-sweet chocolate except in chocolate chip cookies.  Perhaps I should have tried milk chocolate.  I was expecting a darker color too, but that didn't happen.  Oh well.  It was easy to work with, and I have plenty left over.

      I piped a generous base on to the cuppie before smooshing down the cookie on top.

      The vanilla IMBC got a hefty dose of Wilton's different yellow coloring gels.  "Golden Yellow" was too orange, but after I added a bunch of "Lemon Yellow", I got a nice, bright color that was perfect for my sunflowers.

      Martha Stewart's design called for 3 rows of "petals" using a leaf tip.  I used Wilton #68 and made 2 rows, alternating the petal placement so they could be offset.

      For the second row, I started the tip inside the Oreo so the IMBC could really fill in the space and look attached.

      I've never had any training for using the leaf tip ... my petals kept breaking off.  I tried twisting, I tried yanking, I tried coasting ... I couldn't figure it out.
      Afterward I researched cakecentral.com's forums for using leaf tips.  There were several suggestions specifically for tips like #68 to pry them open slightly.  Tips that look like "baby birds' mouths" are more likely to yield pointed leaf ends.  Mine was the "fish mouth" kind that tend to be too narrow to get much success unless you modify it.  Oh well.  Next time I'll try a different tip.

      I wanted to try making an individual cupcake "bouquet".  There are many cupcake bouquet tutorials available online, but I wanted to try to highlight just one serving.  I bought several 4" flower pots from Walmart at $0.75 each.  KHalstead from cakecentral.com shared that some of her bouquets have the cuppies sitting in a 5 oz. plastic cup.  My 5 oz. cups were a little too short for the flower pot, so I used some extra 1 oz. cups to give them a boost.  Use your favorite glue to keep things steady.

      Ages ago my roommate thought it bright to serve Jello shots at one of our parties.  Once we all moved out, I inherited the plethora of 1 oz. cups that we had over-zealously bought.  Nowadays I jump at any excuse to use them.  They are great holders for paint, glue, confectioner's glaze, you name it.  Here I attached one upside down to the bottom of the 5 oz. cup.

      The rim of the 1 oz. cup is covered in adhesive and placed in to the pot.

      The cuppie sits comfortably in the 5 oz. cup like so:

      Once everything is in, add some grass to hide the cups and provide more stability.

      Afterward I decorated the pot with cardstock and curled ribbon, personalizing it for my nephew as a fun Easter present.

      Cute, huh?  I think these would be fantastic Mother's Day presents or maybe for a house warming.  I took several of these over to a couple different neighbors with kids, and they seemed really impressed.  Give 'em a shot!  They'll brighten someone's day!

        As Seen On

        As Seen On Capital Confectioners