"Hey, I can do that!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day of Sharing: August 8th

Day of Sharing
August 8th, 2010
Round Rock, TX

I've recently joined the Capital Confectioners, the greater Austin area cake decorating and sugar artist club.  We're having our "Day of Sharing" on Sunday, August 8th that will feature several cake artists such as Stephen Benison.  Unfortunately I don't have the time or money to sign up for any of the classes available before the show, but I will be there all Sunday to help run things.  I've volunteered to be the A/V girl since I'm somewhat familiar with techie-type shtuff :b  Let's hope I don't screw things up or set something on fire!

Please come and learn with your fellow decorators and enthusiasts!  All skill levels welcome!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes!

Happy Birthday to Jon and Robin!  Last Wednesday my co-worker Jon said it was his 30th birthday.  Whoa!  The big 3-0!  I'll hit that later this year.  I knew he liked margaritas and I've been really wanting to try this recipe out.  We were also going to a party on Saturday to celebrate my brother-in-law's girlfriend's birthday at a pool party.  Since she's currently pregnant, I wanted to give her a safe margarita that she could really enjoy.  I made these on Wednesday night and gave one to Jon on Thursday.  The rest were frozen until Friday so they could stay fresh until the party.

  • white cake mix exchanging 2/3 cups water with margarita mix
  • lemon IMBC (but colored green)
  • colored sugar rims
  • trimmed straw accents

I searched online for a margarita cupcake recipe, and most of them were just white box cake mix with margarita mix instead of water.  That quantity sounded a little gross to me, so I only replaced half the water.  It had a nice subtle flavor.

I'm not a big of a fan of white cake.  I like my yolks.  Could be that I'm used to denser cake?  When my mother-in-law ate one, she thought it was angel food cake.  

We've had this canister of colored sugar for a while.  It's the kind that you use on the rim of your cocktail glasses.  It was perfect for these cuppies.

I flavored the IMBC with LorAnn's Princess Cake & Cookie emulsion.  That gave it a subtle lemony flavor.  I added some lemon juice and margarita mix to give it more of a boost.  A few drops of green food coloring brought it home.

Here's a finished one.  I think this is using a 2A tip.  I don't have much experience with icing cuppies with anything but a 1M swirl.  I learned that I had to make the base pass first, otherwise the cuppie would be too top heavy for me to rim it with sugar.  My first cupcake was dropped completely into the sugar.

The pink on green was pretty.  Helped detract from the ugly mound that my piping ended up as.

I trimmed some bendy straws from both ends and stuck them in to the cake.  It does confuse people though.  But no, just for decoration ... no hidden pocket of booze in there.


Monday, June 21, 2010

God Bless Zoey

God Bless Zoey
Cake for my little angel's baptism
(+5 skill points => 345/400)

 What a great weekend!  My little girl was baptized in front of family and friends on Saturday.  We held a little reception at a nearby hotel's event room.  This cake was a great learning experience and a real eye-opener.

  • 8" and 6" round doctored Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake
  • iced with Sharon Zambito's buttercream
  • filled with strawberry IMBC
  • decorated with satin ribbon and yellow carnations
The cake recipe used was entitled "The *Original* WASC cake" (White Almond Sour Cream) from cakecentral.com (here).  Well, the actual cake was neither white nor almond flavored ... so let's just call it "doctored".  I did a double batch of this recipe using Duncan Hines French Vanilla box cake mix and no extra flavoring.  This cake came out very dense, almost like pound cake.  It tasted great but I think I prefer the texture of un-doctored DH French Vanilla.  But from a decorating standpoint, it was great to work with.  Very sturdy and had a fine crumb.  I used a bit too much batter in the pans ... you can see the centers aren't the same "done-ness" as the rest of the cake.  It wasn't raw or anything, but you can see the difference in color and texture.  A flower nail or less batter could have prevented this.

    I threw some of the scraps into the food processor so I could make cake spackle.

    I had a good bit of leftover pink IMBC.  Here it is mixed with some cake crumbs and used to make my dam for the filling.  I used a ziplock bag that was reinforced with some tape to hold the tip.

    The filling was the rest of the IMBC mixed with strawberry jam.  De-lish!

    I was short on time so I decided to weight my cakes so they could settle.  This helps reduce the risk of air bubble blowouts later.  The 8" (left) got a loose tile and the 6" (right) got a ceramic cake-shaped container.

    Not exactly the kind of cake stacking I had in mind!  I let these sit while I made my buttercream icing.

    If you want to get serious about cake decorating, then you need to know who Sharon Zambito is.  You may have seen her on TLC's Ultimate Cake Off.  She has a wonderful line of instructional videos for cake decorating: http://www.sugaredproductions.com/.  I have her buttercream dvd.  This cake was made using some of the tips I learned from that.

    The most important tip was to use high ratio shortening.

    My local cake supply shop sells Wesson's "Super Quik Blend".  This was my first time to use high ratio shortening. 

    From baking911.com:
    EMULSIFIED/HIGH RATIO SHORTENING: also known as cake, icing or high ratio shortening, can absorb more sugar and liquid than regular shortening. It gives a finer and smoother texture to cakes and help keep them moist, as well as keeps icings more stable. However, it should be used in icings and cakes where the recipe contains a large percentage of sugar. For home use, it can be found under the brand names Alpine Hi-Ratio Shortening or Sweetex.

    I guesstimated that my 1.5 lb container was approximately 3 cups of shortening.  The whole thing was dumped into my mixer so I could start creaming it. Typically if I wanted a crusting buttercream, I'd use Crisco.  I noticed a difference immediately.  The expression "smooth like butter" doesn't even apply.  It's smoother than butter.  It's creamier than cream.  This had excellent performance.  I wonder if the other brands are noticeably different.

    Above is a pic after adding powdered sugar.  You can tell how smooth it can be and how well the shortening absorbed the sugar.  I didn't even sift it.  If you need a comparison to Crisco buttercream, here's one I did back in February.

    I didn't use Sharon's recipe exactly.  In fact, I didn't even measure.  I slowly added powdered sugar and whole milk until it was the consistency that I wanted.  I added just a touch of the LorAnn's Princess Cake & Cookie emulsion to give it some mystery.

    The icing never got crusty or gritty.  It was so nice to work with.  As for the taste, well, it's no IMBC, but it's MUCH better than your typical Crisco buttercream.  It didn't taste or feel greasy.  It was light and held flavor well.

    There wasn't much time for smoothing.  Besides the baking, most of this was done the night before.  My parents were there as I worked, chopping vegetables for the dinner reception.  Recently I've been "dirty icing" my cakes with a large tube tip.  That way it is a consistent thickness all around.  I didn't want to get the Wilton cake icing tip because it was GINORMOUS.  I think I used tip 1A?  2A?  Anywho, after applying the base coat I did some rough passes, smoothed it more with a hot, dry spatula, then used Viva towels with a fondant smoother.  Here it is after the first pass:

    I left the 2 cakes un-stacked out on the counter overnight.  I woke up at 7:30 in the morning knowing for sure my cakes had settled, sinked, bulged, and were too ugly to salvage.  Luckily that was all a nightmare (doing cakes is stressful!) and they were in the same condition as I left them.  Not bulging one bit!

    The bottom 8" tier got 4 bubble tea straws to support the foamcore board of the 6" tier.  I had actually forgotten to start off with my cake on a 6" board, so my top tier was previously resting on freezer paper.  After inserting the straws, I cut out and covered my 6" board and pressed it down on the bottom tier using leftover buttercream as glue.  My cake turner helped me gently take the 6" cake and put it on to the board.  After another pass of hot spatula and Viva towels, I deemed it crowd-worthy.  I'm not sure what's up with the top tier's left side, but I'm sure no one at the party noticed ;)

     Ok.  Sit down for a second and "rap" with me.  I've come to peace with some things, and I want to share it with you. The following are things I can now say to myself in a mirror.

    I am NOT a professional cake decorator
    ... and that's ok.

    At this point in my life, I cannot devote a lot of time and money to this hobby
    ... and that's ok.

    Sugar art is beautiful and talented cake decorators can recreate the most gorgeous flowers.
    I, however, will most likely never learn how to make a stargazer lily out of gum paste.
    In fact, I had to look up on google to see what a "stargazer lily" was
    ... and that's ok.

     I will find what works for me, and share that with you.

    Now that that's out of the way, we can take a deep breath and learn some shortcuts.  I bought some fake carnations from Hobby Lobby (those are carnations, right??...no, they're not...I don't know what these are) for $10.99 but on sale 50% off.  After yanking them off their stems, I hot glued some tooth picks to the flowers.  This gave me an easy, pretty, and fun way to decorate my cake.

    I've always loved the look of cakes wrapped in thin ribbon, especially when it's angled and offset.  Here's my first attempt at achieving this look.  The base of each tier was wrapped with a 1/2" satin ribbon for a border.  They were then wrapped with 1/4" ribbon, starting high on one side and then coming to the bottom of the other side at one point.

    I didn't even need any type of adhesive to hold the ribbon.  The ribbon just needed to be smoothed into place and firmly tightened around the tier.  The buttercream was just sticky enough to hold it there.  I let the cake chill in our mini fridge so it could firm up before I inserted the flowers.  I saw that the ribbons loosened a bit when I took the cake out, but I was able to just pull them tight again..

    I had a great time inserting the flowers in to the cake.  It hid the places where the ribbon ended well.

    I had just enough flowers for each tier and for a nice bouquet on top.

    At the reception I used IndyDebi's cake cutting method (here).  The slices came out looking beautiful (sorry, I forgot to take pics)!  The only thing that bothered me was the brown crust of one of the layers.  On a slice you could see 2" of lovely yellow cake, 1/2" of delightfully pink filling, a peculiar thin brown line, then more lovely cake.  Next time I will level both the bottom and top of the cake that will be the top layer.

    • center of cakes could have been cooked longer
    • not enough time to smooth each tier 
    • was too lazy to decorate the cake drum
    • forgot to put each cake on their own board before decorating begins
    • failed to prevent crust from showing on inside 
    • high ratio shortening badge earned
    • gained more experience with stacked cakes
    • had fun using ribbon and flowers as accents
    Happy Baptism, Zoey!

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Wilton Silver Cake Platters

    Wilton Silver Cake Platters

    I just saw these at Michaels and bought the only round ones they had in stock.  These are the 12" scalloped, grease-proof "platters" intended for 10" cakes.  This 8-pack was $8.95, but I used my 50% coupon.  Has anyone used these before?

    They look to be made of some sort of composite cardboard.  Like what puzzles are made of.

    Unfortunately they are flimsier than I thought.  It didn't take much to bend it.  I'll have to put a foamcore board underneath if I wanted to use it for anything.

    The look pretty enough though.  It will be a time saver not having to decorate a board with contact paper + wrapping paper + some other food-safe barrier to go in between.

    June Cupcakes

    June Cupcakes!

    So I took my first cake "order".  My neighbors were celebrating their daughter's 6th birthday and asked me to make ballerina cupcakes.  Since it's illegal in Texas to profit from home-kitchen baked goods, I asked her to just buy me the box mix she wanted and 4 sticks of unsalted butter (the things I always seem to have to run out to the store for).  These took me 4.5 hours from start to finish! I wanted these to be special, and I got to try out some new things.

    • Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
    • vanilla and "Princess Cake & Cookie" flavored IMBC
    • 1M swirl
    • sprinkled with sugar pearls
    • Cricut-cut cupcake wrappers

    So I've been sifting my cake mix as per tip from cakecentral.com.  I've found that changes the cake almost dramatically from what I've been used to.  After 23 minutes in the oven, the tops looked fantastic!

    It wasn't until later that I noticed the bottom rims were a little dark...I might have burned them :( Oh well...lesson learned.  I'm not sure if it was because these were Betty Crockers and I'm used to my Duncan Hines cuppies baking perfect after 23 minutes or what.

    I finally had the chance to try out my new emulsion.  This is Lorann's "Princess Cake & Cookie" emulsion.  It tastes lemony with a hint of almond (in my limited palette's poorly educated opinion).  I added a teaspoon of this to my regular Cake Love IMBC recipe instead of any other flavoring.  It was AWESOME!  Very light and slightly citrus-y.  A little somethin'-somethin' you can't put your finger on.  Great for summer.

    I made regular vanilla IMBC in pink in case the Princess flavor was not their cup-o-tea.

    Here's one of the final cuppies all dressed and ready to party.  I love sugar pearls!

    On Saturday I purchased SVG cupcake wrapper files from Visual Designs by Chris.  This was the one from the sets that was most appropriate for a ballerina theme.  On a side note, I'm SUPER excited about a new Cricut cartridge coming out July 1st: Cricut Lite Cartridge Cupcake Wrappers.

    It was very annoying to have my Cricut grinding and buzzing away to make 24 wrappers.  I was able to fit 4 templates in one page of cardstock, but that's still at least 6 pages to do.  I did encounter some weirdness.  On the 4th page, the cuts started tearing in certain places and my subsequent pages tore in the exact same spot.  I changed the orientation of the paper and rotated the file and that seemed to fix it.  All I can think is that my cutting mat has worn out in that spot.  I went to Michael's the next day to get a new mat, but all they had were the 12"x6" ones.  Grrr!  Who uses those??

    These disposable aluminum pans from the grocery store were perfect for holding 12 cuppies in each.

    For extra cuteness I bought some ballerina scrapbook trinkets.  My handy hot glue gun helped me attach these to cut skewer sticks. 

    These were inserted into some of the cuppies.  I guess I forgot to take a picture of that though.  Here they are un-flagged.


    I used my left over Princess IMBC to try my new bismark type for filling another batch of cupcakes.

    Unfortunately, I didn't do it well enough.  It was my first time trying to fill cuppies.  You can see what's going on inside the dang thing!  I think I wasn't injecting enough icing.  When I bit into one, you couldn't tell I had tried to fill it.  I should've tested one upfront instead of after they were all crappily filled and iced.

    Whipped Ganache: Attempted

    Whipped Ganache: Attempted
    Happy Birthday, Lonnie!
    (+5 skill points => 340/400)

    Happy Birthday to my co-worker and cake-buddy Lonnie.  He asked me the other day if I've found us a good chocolate icing yet.  I told him I think it'll be whipped ganache.  Well, that didn't quite work out like I expected.  Instead I used my runny mess as a crumb coat and then made chocolate IMBC with it.  After one slice of cake, I felt like I ate a whole chocolate bar.

    • 8" round Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
    • base coat in milk chocolate whipped ganache
    • filled with Oreo mousse
    • iced with chocolate IMBC
    • shell and rosette borders with tip #22
    I got a 24 oz bag of Nestle Milk Chocolate morsels and melted it with 10 oz of heavy whipping cream.

    It took a lot of stirring and re-heating in the microwave to get everything melted.  I let it rest on the counter overnight before trying to whip it.

    Cakecentral.com members told me to use the whisk attachment so it could incorporate air into the ganache.

    Um.  I don't think it worked.  I might have used too much cream?  Maybe I should have used semi-sweet chocolate instead?  It was way too runny to ice a cake with it.  Bah!

    Defeated, I quickly whipped up a batch of IMBC and added some ganache to it for some chocolate icing instead.  Then I had the idea to use the left over runny stuff as a crumb coat to give the cake another chocolate boost.  I still have yet to really take the time to smooth out the sides of a non-crusting iced cake.  It's hard!

    I've been wanting to branch out on some piping skills.  I used IMBC with a thicker tube to make the message first, then I used tip #2 with ganache to pipe on top.  It looked kinda neat and different.

    Shells and rosettes.  I need to learn some different borders!!!

    • runny ganache
    • still trying to smooth and IMBC cake
    • was too chocolatey with the ganache + cake + filling + icing ... made my stomach ache a little!  I hope no one else's did!
    • was nice to try different message piping
    • ganache makes a good crumb coat

    As Seen On

    As Seen On Capital Confectioners