Archive | August, 2009

Bettercreme: A Better Cream?

30 Aug

bettercreme frontIn case you haven’t read it already somewhere in the vasty vastness of the World Wide Webster, Bettercreme is all the range in some circles. Since I’m not one to miss out on all the latest and greatest (scrunchies are still in, right?), I thought I’d give it a whirl to see what all the hubbub is about. After all, if there’s something out there better than buttercream, it behooves us all to jump on the bandwagon lest we be left behind once again (Don’t ask. It involved Sea World and my sister. Very traumatic). 

I’m not sure if a rose by any other name is still the same, but I’ve seen Bettercreme used interchangeably with Better Cream, Better Crème, Butr Cream, Frosting Pride, etc…. I’ve also seen correction after correction that one is not the other. Since Bettercreme is what I could get my hands on without unduly inconveniencing myself, that’s what I purchased. After sitting in the freezer for a few weeks because I was scared (What if it is better? What if I wasted my money? You know- all that psychological chicky nonsense.) I sucked it up and tried it out for my daughter’s bday cake. I certainly couldn’t use it for the first time on a client’s cake and I knew this cake would already be too much for us to consume without eating it at every meal for the next week, so what better time than now?

 Before we start, a bit of a disclaimer: who knows if I actually did this right? I tried to follow all the info I read when I made it, but things tend to happen in my kitchen and the old grayer-all-the-time brain matter isn’t quite what it used to be concerning retained info. Sure, I could have collected all sorts of notes, studied them, created a step-by-step instruction sheet, but why do that when you can wing it? My other disclaimer is this: every one has different tastes. What I love you may find nauseating and vice-versa. My chemical overload may be your fresh as pure cow’s milk nirvana. To each their own, and as my mamma says, “It takes all kinds to make the world go round.”

Now, for the process. Step one: read the carton. I’m smart like that. Step two: realize you forgot to thaw it so set it on the counter to thaw while you continue making the cake.

bettercreme back

Now, kvetch a little bit because you didn’t chill your bowl and beaters. Then decide to think like Martha and put ice in a bowl with water to place under the mixer bowl so it will whip faster. Spill water everywhere trying to get the bowl of ice water under the mixer bowl and get the whole ghetto set-up on the mixer. Pour off some of the water and repeat. Try it one more time for good measure and then give up because you realize this is taking more time than if you had gone ahead and chilled the stuff before you tried channeling Martha. Maybe I’m not so smart after all?

 After giving that up, pour the amount you need in the mixer bowl, attach your handy-dandy whisk, and start the mixer. I read that you can flavor and color this stuff, so I carefully added a tablespoon of good vanilla and some green gel coloring. Whip, whip, whip and check periodically to see how stiff it’s getting. When it reaches stiff peak (that’s when you lightly dip your beater or a spoon onto the top of the mixture and lift straight up. If the peak doesn’t form, keep whipping. If the peak stands straight up, it’s too stiff to use for icing AKA hard peak. If the peak is stiff but the top of it flops over, it’s juuussst right, Goldilocks.) it’s ready to use-almost. First, take the bowl off the mixer, grab a spatula, and very lightly fold the mixture to ensure it’s completely whipped and all of the coloring is mixed in- that is, it’s all the same color without any blotches of lighter or darker frosting. There- all done. It’s ready to use for whatever you want. I thought I took pictures of this process but they seem to have disappeared in the Never-Never Land of my computer files. If you’re lucky, they’ll show up before I post this. If not, use your vivid imagination.

Onward towards the review part! I smeared it on the glass I was using,

covering the glass

torted the cake and filled it with the frosting,

torted and filled margarita

placed the cake in the glass,

placing cake in glass

and iced the top of the cake with it.

Per usual, the color darkened over time.

color darkening margarita cake

No problemo. After all, she’s just turning 21. She’s not supposed to know what a Margarita looks like just yet. If she does, and she’s smart, she keeps that bit of info to herself, right? So, no problemo.

 The texture is definitely lighter than buttercream. It’s closer to a whipped cream in texture, which is cool. Heavy frosting isn’t always appropriate. After all, can you imagine Strawberry Shortcake with buttercream? I think not! It’s light, it’s fluffy, it can’t be smoothed completely, it doesn’t crust (and I expected all that), and it tastes…

Blech!

It tastes like chemicals. Yes, I’m quite used to artificial sweeteners, thank you very much. Splenda and Equal taste sweet to me. I have altered what’s left of my brain synapses so they think it’s sweet and not all chemically tasting. This stuff, however, tasted awful to me. No, I didn’t expect it to taste like buttercream. I expected it to taste similar to sweetened whipped cream. Lest you think it’s my palate that is in error, let me tell you who else tried it and their thoughts.

Hubby- ick!

Daughter- what is this stuff? It’s gross.

Son- disgusting.

Hubby’s coworkers on whom I pawned off the cake: one dip of the finger and they wouldn’t touch it anymore.

All that cake into the trash. Wasted. What a shame. It’s almost a sin to waste cake, isn’t it? Nevertheless, not even I, who will eat darned near anything that approaches junk food, ate it.

Interestingly, the color started to separate over time. Perhaps I added too much coloring? Perhaps it’s not stable enough to stay together? I dunno. All I know is that it started separating even though it was kept in the ‘fridge most of the time (it’s not shelf stable). Take a look at the previous pic again. Don’t look at the top, look at the side.

color separation margarita cake

See the darker green areas?  Dang it! Separated like your kids when their arguing gets on your nerves.

 Check out the instructions on the carton and compare them to what I did. Spend a relaxing hour reading this thread on cakecentral: http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-601193.html .

A lot of people seem to like it. Not me, not my fam, and not 12-ish coworkers. It’s a dud over here. If you’ve tried it and had better results, let me know. If I did something wrong, let me know that, too. Heck, if you tried it and had the same results, I would appreciate you telling me so I know I am not alone. For now, the remainder shall sit in my freezer until I “gift” to my partner in cake. After all, there’s no point in both of us spending our hard earned pod dwelling money trying stuff.

Until we cake again!

Chick2

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Adventures in buttercream

24 Aug

Hello bloggers, Frosting Chick here.  I’ve been trying to come up with a theme for this entry, and since most of my work is in frosting, I figured what the heck?  Let’s explore just what can be done with some frosting, some time and a little imagination, shall we?

It’s not that I’m not a fan of fondant, I just don’t enjoy working with it.  I appreciate the look it provides, but, unless you have worked with it, you can’t appreciate the amount of work it can take.  For me, there are just too many variables.  We chicks don’t have a big fancy sheeter, so all fondant is rolled by hand (see the Sax cake for example).  A multitude of things can go wrong during this process, and I just find it a lesson in frustration.  Roll out, attempt to lift, get a tear, flop it back down, curse, fix dry edges/rips, curse some more, re-roll, repeat.  You get the idea.  I find it much more enjoyable to create fabulous themed cakes with frosting, and the occasional touch of fondant.  If something goes wrong with frosting, scrape off the offending area and do it again! Keep in mind that this is also time consuming.  Once the cake starts to warm up, it doesn’t behave as well as a chilled cake, so there’s a lot of pulling out/putting in the ‘fridge.  But it’s worth it.

First up; the round (ball) cake.  If you watch cake shows on Food Network, I’m sure you’ve heard the old addage ‘you can’t make a ball shaped cake’.  Shenanigans I say!  Of course you can!  And if you’re fortunate enough of have the right shaped bake ware, bonus: no carving!  I likes me a no mess cake.

First, you’ll bake the 2 halves of the cake.  Unless you’re also lucky enough to have two pans/bowls the same size and can do both at once, it’s a one-atta-time operation.  Me? Nope, gotta do it one half at a time.  Time consuming, but whatcha gonna do when you’re using Moms’ casserole dish from 1960-what?.  This casserole is also bigger than the round pans I’ve seen on the market, so more cake! There’s one dish in the cupboard, and that’s what I’m using.  Because it’s deeper than a standard cake pan, you’ll have to start watching closely around the 30-40 minute mark to prevent over baking.     P1010699  

Once baked, cooled, and possibly the teesniest bit frozen, it’s time to get down to bidness.  First thing to consider is what the cake is going to be sitting on.  A cake board?  Another cake?  Either way, the bottom half of the cake will be the first one semi-decorated.  I say ‘semi’ because the design dictates just how much frosting/decorating you’ll be doing to the bottom half.  I’ve done a couple of soccer ball cakes, and you have to get the lines matched up with the top portion, and if you’ve completely decorated the bottom half and something is off, well, let’s just say it can get ugly.  I find it easiest, at least with the soccer ball cakes, to crumb coat and chill first, then ‘draw’ the lines with a toothpick  I leave about 4-6 inches of the ‘top’ of the bottom undecorated for easy maneuverability.  For the soccer ball cakes, the ball portion sat on a ‘field’ of cake that has been grass tipped like mad (can you say ‘carpal tunnel’? Sure, I knew you could)!  You’ll have to flip it over onto the supports, hence the undecorated space.         P1010702

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Once the bottom half is placed, it’s time to fill!  Go crazy!  This part doesn’t have to be pretty, but you do want a filling that won’t ooze out or into the cake itself, so pick something sturdy.  I usually ask for the recipients favorite color, and color the frosting for a surprise burst of color when cut.  Once that is done, place the crumb coated top half.  There will be a gap that you’ll be filling in with frosting to make it uniform.  Now it’s time to finish.

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I have found, for a cake like this, you’ll at least want it to sit overnight in the ‘fridge to make delivery a breeze.  I have yet to have a ball cake roll around in the box.  I have also found that these cakes do not need internal supports in the ball itself, so there’s no warnings or disclaimers to the customers about cutting.  Except for the soccer balls. There must be supports in the ‘grassy field’ portion, or it’s all downhill from here.  So go at it bakers, see what you can do, I have faith in you!  Below are some examples of the round cakes I’ve done.

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This Pokemon themed cake was my first ball cake, thank goodness it was a simple design!  Just a little fondant for the circle thingy (sorry I don’t know what it’s called, my son isn’t into Pokemon!)

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For this golf ball, I used the end of my fondant roller to create the dimples.  Then I hand painted on the Callaway logo.

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This Death Star was my second ball cake.  I’ll admit, I was a novice with fondant, and was working on it with short notice, but the recipient was pleased as punch, and everyone pulled of the fondant anyway.  It was for one of my favorite people on the planet, who, unfortunately, lost her battle with cancer this year, and I miss her terribly.  I’m so glad I got to make this for her before she got too sick to enjoy it.  Seems strange to not be planning her birthday cake for this year. She was a total sci-fi head (a gal after my own heart), and I wonder how I would have been challenged for her this year.

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I made this pumpkin cake for a friends’ anniversary, they were married on October 31st!

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There are times where fondant can be utilized in the decor, without covering the whole cake.  I had a customer order an ocean themed cake for her sons’ “1/2” birthday.  His birthday is in January, and since that’s no fun, they party in July, how creative is that?  Of course, she also celebrates 1/2 New Years as well, but I suspect for different reasons.  I’m just waiting for her to announce 1/2 Christmas, just so she can get some gifts, greedy little wench! 🙂  She gave me creative license, so I broke out some green fondant and made fishy shapes!  Check ’em out!

 

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I airbrushed them with varying colors and layers so they would sparkle on the cake and used all kinds of utensils for scales, eyes, etc…  I also used various tips to create jelly fish and wave-like borders around the cake.  The result was pretty dang cute if I do say so myself.

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For my hubbys family reunion this year, I made a HUGE cake, airbrushed a tree, and used some fondant for leaves…  I couldn’t get anyone to cut it!  “It’s too pretty” they said.  “It’s cake!!” I replied, it’s meant to be eaten!  Finally the sweet seekers in the crowd dug in.

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And in case you’re wondering if I’ve ever done a completely covered cake, well, I have.  I made a motorcycle helmet for my brother in law, modeled after Peter Fonda’s helmet in “Easy Rider”.  4 layers of cake, carved, covered and hand painted.  I threw in the donor card as the big, bad bro-in-law is known for riding without his brain bucket.  Then we had to drive it an hour away to a state park, through some of the windiest/hilliest parts of Ohio.  For you out of staters, don’t let anyone tell you Ohio is flat, that is a misconception. I was on pins and needles the whole trip.  Thank goodness we don’t live in San Francisco!

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So there you go bloggers, don’t be intimidated because you don’t think you can do it, you can!  Remember, necessity and customers are the mother of invention!

Slip Me Some Sax, Baby: Part Two

9 Aug

We left off with the carving finished (Yay!) and putting the cake in the freezer. Remove your cake from the freezer and let it thaw while still wrapped. Leaving it wrapped is important! The moisture that was in the cake is probably on the outside of the cake and thawing it while wrapped will allow that moisture to seep back into the cake. While it’s thawing, have some breakfast, read the paper, and toss back a cuppa before the kiddos are up and underfoot. After that, let’s start making the fondant.

Personally, I use Marshmallow Fondant. It tastes good, it’s cheap to make, and it’s more likely to be eaten than some commercial fondants. Once again, color consistency is important. The sax will need 2 large batches of fondant. Make both batches separately for ease of mixing, and then knead them together until it’s all one color. If you have trouble knowing when to stop kneading in powdered sugar, check out this action shot:

 fondant consistency

Yup! I took that picture while dropping the fondant. Mad camera skills, eh? The fondant should stick to your hand and begin to stretch before releasing in its entirety (assuming, like me, that you haven’t washed your hands between the kneading and the testing). At this point, it’s still pliable but it is stiff enough to roll. All you need to do at this point is put shortening on your board and rolling pin and it should be perfecto. Mwah! (I’m making hand kissing gestures over here. Somebody stop me before I get too crazy!)

One of the more difficult parts (besides carving) is getting the color correct. Before we tackle that, set aside a golf ball sized peice of fondant (or a little bigger) while it’s still white. Wrap it well. White tends to dry out fast. Alright, back to coloring. Trying to achieve a perfect, clear gold is an exercise in insanity. For those of us who are unfamiliar with brass instruments, they age in many shades. Perfect gold only happens on brand new instruments and even then the exact shade will vary from instrument to instrument. So, relax a little, and let’s play with color!

sax color testing

Before you we have three samples of fondant. Each is a slightly different shade. I’ve arranged them from light to dark. For this experiment, you’re going to need a small cup, a food safe brush, gold pearl dust, and vodka- or clear vanilla. Your choice- depending on your preference and time of day. Using the brush, apply the dust dry to one of each color. When that’s complete, put a teaspoon of liquid in the cup and sprinkle in some dust. Stir the mixture a bit and apply it each of the remaining pieces of fondant. If you haven’t used vodka, you can call the kiddos into the kitchen and play, “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears Guessing Game.” Which one is too light? Too dark? Just right (or close enough to just right)? Whichever one you like best, that’s the color and dusting method to use.  Adjust the color of the wompa ball of fondant as needed, wrap it in plastic, and let’s get back to cake!

Your cakes should be just about ready to frost by now, so go ahead and make all the buttercream you’ll need. How much will you need? If I remember correctly, using your own personal fave recipe, make enough that it uses about 4 cups of powdered sugar. If you’re concerned about the color showing through under the fondant, color it the same color as the fondant. I got uppity and went with white.

Cover your buttercream to keep it from crusting over, and go in search of the board I told you to make yesterday. This may take awhile if the kids decided it would make an awesome sled or the original owner of the wood board repossessed it.

 Once you locate the board, cover it with the food safe wrapping of your choice. Yes, you must cover it. If not, the board will detract from the soon-to-be awesomeness of the cake. All wrapped? Cool. Let’s move on before we realize it’s about to get scary again. Smear some dabs of buttercream on the now covered board where the cake will sit. Make sure the dabs will be covered by the cake or we’ll have to do it again after we clean up that oopsie. Place half of the cake on the board and frost the end where it will join with the other cake. Slop plenty on there. It’s okay if it oozes out a bit when it’s joined. Better too much than not enough. We don’t want this bad boy to separate and muck up the whole shebang. Next, place the second half on the board as close as you can get it next to the first cake. Gently slide it into place and then press both halves gently but firmly together. Use the buttercream to fill in any gaps around the edges. Now, step back and take a look at the cake. Are they joined correctly (or at least close enough you can fudge it with buttercream? It is? Good. You’re now ready to crumb coat the cake. Go ahead; I’ll wait. I’ve got nothing better to do right now anyway. At least, nothing better I want to do right now.

sax crumb coated

Once the crumb coat is crusted a bit, smooth it some more, and then put on your final coat. You know the drill: let it crust and smooth the final coat. Make this last coat as smooth as you can get it. Any major humps or bumps will show through the fondant. Cover the cake so the buttercream doesn’t crust so much that the fondant won’t stick to it.

sax final frosting coat

This is where you’re going to need major space. I used my dining room table that seats 6 comfortably or 8 if you’re friendly. Place the cake and board on one half of the table. Put whatever you use to roll fondant on the table, smear shortening on it, and smear shortening on your hands and rolling pin. Give a heavy sigh, thinking of the work ahead, and start rolling your gold fondant out. At this point, it’s handy to remember how large the cake is, so feel free to measure it before you start. Roll, roll, roll, shake out your arms, and roll, roll, roll again. The fondant needs to be the same thickness through-out. When in doubt, roll it larger than you think you’ll need (if you have enough fondant). ‘Tis better to roll it too big and roll it once than to roll it too small and have to *&%#$@*ing roll it twice. Oops! Did I just say that? Moving on…

sax rolling fondant

Here’s a tiny tip for you: set aside a strip of fondant long enough to place in the center of the cake. See the hole in the middle? Yeah. That’s an impossible task to cover once the big piece of fondant is placed. How do I know? Don’t ask, baby. Don’t ask. Listen to the voice of experience here- you want to put that strip of fondant in place before you put the biggest piece of fondant you’ve ever rolled in your life on top of the cake.

 Is the strip in place? Is the rest of the fondant ready?

 Here Comes the Scary Part! Cover Your Eyes, Kids!

Pick up the fondant and gently place it on the cake. Before it touches even one itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny part of the cake, check to ensure it’s lined up the way you want. Removing fondant is a huge pain, and sometimes impossible, once it touches the cake. I rolled my fondant on a big piece of plastic, so picking it up wasn’t so hard. Okay, I had help.  I enlisted Big Daddy to help me move it. The fondant should be stuck enough to the plastic to stay on while you turn it over but not so much that you can’t gently peel back the plastic to remove it once it’s lying on the cake. Obviously, it was “all hands on deck” for this part, so no pictures could be taken of the process. Using whatever method works best for you, center the fondant where you need it and place it on the cake.

 sax placing fondant

There’s no time for a sigh of relief, you have to adhere the fondant to the cake before the weight pulls it down and tears it. Move, move, move! Okay, not that fast. You’ll mess it up if you try to move too fast. From here, it’s like every other fondant covering job you’ve ever done. Adhere the fondant to the top of the sides first, then the top, then the corners (or the curves in this case). Whew! The tricky part is over. 

 Now breathe a sigh of relief and plop down in a chair to work on the sides and such. There’s no getting around it. You’ll have to cut a slit in the middle of cake so you can push the fondant into the hole. If it’s your lucky day, and the fondant is stretchy enough, it will easily mold to the hole from top to bottom. If not, at least you put that strip of fondant in there first. Rare is the person who will peer far enough down into the hole to see the seam between the pieces. If someone does, snort with derision, turn your back on them, and walk away. They deserve it.

Once the whole hole issue is taken care of, move on to the sides. Trim away part (not all) of the excess fondant. Once you get the hang of making fondant the right consistency and smoothing it onto a cake, it’s not that hard. Trust me. “Get it” once and you’re pretty much set for life. Right now, it probably has what looks like a thousand pleats on the sides, doesn’t it? We’re gonna fix that right now. Getting the sides smooth is simply a matter of lightly (and I mean lightly) stretching the fondant and pulling it away from the sides. Starting with the curves, pull, stretch, and smooth; pull, stretch and smooth. It’s okay to adhere the excess fondant to the board a little to keep it in place once you have a section smoothed. If too much fondant is getting in your way, trim a little of the excess off. Not all of it and make sure it really is excess first, but go ahead and trim to make life easier. When the curves are done, the sides may looks worse. S’alright. Use the same process of lightly pulling and stretching to get it smooth. If you can’t get it all smooth, try to get the bumpy part down to the board. We’ll put a border on the cake later that will cover it. In extreme cases, you can even cut out a pleat; but I really dislike doing that. If you have to cut out a pleat, join the two sides by gently stretching them. Grease up a couple of fingers until nice and slippery and start rubbing the seam. It takes a little while and it may never go away completely but you should be able to make it only a tad noticeable. Try really hard to not have to cut it, though.

sax fondant first trim

What feels like forever later: How does it look? Are you ready for the final trim? Trim away! After the remaining excess is removed, use a lightly greased hand and rub it over the fondant one last time to ensure it’s all adhered to the cake. Ta-da! It’s all piece work from here on out! You’ll notice in the picture that I put the border on. Ignore that. I had to take it off a few times to put on some details; but you’re going to be smarter than that.

sax before detail work

They say the devil is in the details. Let’s find out if it’s true. So far, it looks like a *Yawwwwnnn* sax. You can tell what it is, but it hasn’t reached, “Dahling, it’s gorgeous!” yet. Back to work, then. Root out your circle cutters and your clay gun (if you have one). Tell the chicklet to get her hiney in here ‘cause she’s on deck? What, no chicklet? You really need to put that on the grocery list. I don’t know what I’m going to do when mine goes back to college and leaves us to do all the work- especially musical detail work. *Sigh* I guess we’ll have to cope somehow.

 It might be helpful if you can find a detailed drawing of a saxophone. For a cake this size, you’ll need tenor sax info. Yep, it’s true to life in that it’s the same size as real tenor sax. How’s that for authenticity? I would give you a link, but I have no idea where the chicklet got the one she used. I’d ask her but the communication lines are down at the moment. She’s hours away teaching a whole new generation to stop playing to the ants and get those ‘bones up. I tried finding it on my own but no such luck today. Perhaps there’s some secret website only band geeks can find? If you find one, leave the link in the comments section so everyone isn’t left to suffer and guess, will you? C’mon! Be a pal!

Going by the pictures, here’s what happened in the dining room while I was off doing something I’m sure was super-important like checking cake blogs. With your circles cutters and gold fondant, cut 4 extra large, 4 large, and 5 medium circles. Roll out a little white and cut out 8 small white circles. Cover those up and use the clay gun or whatever method you use for ropes to make long gold ropes. How long? Long enough. Does that help? I thought not. I used 3 ropes that were as long as the width of my dining room table. I know, it’s not an exact measurement but at least it gives you an idea. You need these ropes to be smaller in diameter than the rope you’re going to put on the board for the border. Done? Okay, cover up the ropes and uncover the gold circles. These are the keys. Using either the drawing you found on the ‘net or the picture here, smear a little bit of water on the back of the gold keys, and place them on the cake. Starting at the neck (the part below the mouthpiece), the order is: 5 medium and 4 large. At the bottom of the sax, place one extra large key and then move up the other side to place the remaining 3 extra large keys. That should take care of all the gold ones. The white ones will be used later.

sax before hardware

Uncover your gold rope and place it accordingly, cutting off the lengths as needed. Notice the end of each piece is balled, so make that happen after you place each piece. Don’t forget to glue them down with water, but not until you’ve formed the balled ends. You’ve got pieces that go from top to bottom and pieces that go across the sax. Place the top to bottom pieces first. It’s looking swanky now, huh? Once that’s finished, go ahead and place the white keys and glue them down the same way  you did the gold ones.

sax pearl cap placement

The bell looks a little blah, so we’re going to take a stab at adding some detail. It’s a little scary, but we can do this. Go to the cupboard and get a piece of ghetto Tupperware from the cabinet. Yes, that margarine bowl you have but pretend you don’t. Get that. No, the medium sized one. Take that to the sax. Squeeze the bowl so it forms an oval. Do not let it actually touch the cake yet. Hover the bowl over the bell while squeezing it and check it for size. Will it work? Drag bowls out of the cupboard as needed until you get the right size.

 Here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to squeeze the bowl into an oval shape, place it upside down on the middle of the bell (with the lip of the bowl against the sax) and gently press down on the cake. The trick here is to press with enough force to push some of the cake down while not tearing the fondant. I know this seems “over the top” but it will add dimension and realism to the cake.

Really, it will.

Go ahead.

Chicken. 🙂

 Look, let me add this bit of realism for you: I tore the fondant when I did it. Yup. I pressed too hard. I tore one whole curve. I almost majorly freaked out. It’s all good, though. If you tear it, repair it. Smear shortening on your finger, rub the two sides of the tear together, and smooth it as best you can. Look at the picture. The indent you are about to make will be covered by a fondant rope to give it even more dimension. Therefore, if you can’t get it repaired perfectly, all you have to do it get it repaired well enough so that the ugly part is covered by the rope. Feel better now? A bit calmer? Go ahead and puuush the bowl into the cake. Whew! That was the last scary part. I promise. Place  rope around the indentation and around the outer edge of the bell, then you can take a break to see what the heck that noise is upstairs.

 sax horn

Step back and take a look at it. See how great the bell looks now?

sax before mouthpieceWhat else is missing? Ah, yes- the mouthpiece. Measure the length and width you need to make the mouthpiece. Write it down somewhere because we have something else to do first.

 The mouthpiece is black and the ligature is gray. We need to make both colors. Using the remaining white fondant, break off a piece and knead in a tiny amount of black coloring until it’s medium-gray. Set that aside. Use gold fondant scraps and add black coloring until it’s solid black. You’ll need between a golf ball and baseball sized amount. Before you color it black, make sure you have enough gold fondant left for the border. If not, make a small batch of fondant and color it black while we continue onward with the mouthpiece.

 Roll out the black fondant and cut a rough triangle using your measurements. You’ll probably have to trim it once it’s on the cake, but go ahead and try anyway. Place it, trim as necessary, and glue it down. You can impress a line on the mouthpiece like we did or leave it alone- your choice.

sax mouthpiece before ligature

Roll out the gray fondant, and cut out the ligature. There are several different styles, so yours may differ from the picture. The shape we cut looked like this:

ligature drawing 

 

(without the lines separating the small rectangles from the large rectangle)

 Glue that down and smooth it. Still using the gray fondant, roll 4 teeny balls and glue those to the ends of the ligature.

sax mouthpiece

We’re almost there, folks!

 Step back and take another look. Vow to never again use iridescent paper because it’s too shiny and makes taking pictures a pain the patooty.

 We’re ready for the finish work. Make gold fondant ropes and glue them around the base of the cake for the border. Now aren’t you glad you didn’t put it on before? You didn’t have to take it off to put on the mouthpiece and ligature, like I did. You’re smarter than that, right?

Hopefully, you have plenty of gold pearl dust. If not, send Big Daddy out for some while we use the white pearl dust. Dust the white keys to make them pearly looking, and then dust the ligature to make it shiny, too (or use silver pearl dust on the ligature). A dab of white luster dust should be fine on the black as well. Not too much, though. You want it to be glossy, not change the color. Using gold pearl dust, brush the rest of the cake but be careful around the mouthpiece and the white keys.

 All the rough edges at the edge are covered and the cake looks anchored to the board now, doesn’t it? Ahhh, it’s all in the details!

sax before lettering

Our board looked sparse so I added the fondant letters to give it some punch. (Letter molds are available from www.wilton.com) I also added my biz card. 😉

sax finished

What do you think? Did we accomplish the mission? We must have because a week later I opened our small town newspaper and saw this:

0716ji63598-1885ac

http://www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/johnstown/stories/2009/07/19/0719jicakeauction.html?type=rss&cat=&sid=104    

  Yippee!

Slip Me Some Sax, Baby!

4 Aug

As promised, here’s the next tutorial, with one change: this baby’s so big we’ve split it into 2 parts. Part one now, part two later this week (hopefully).

On with the show! (Or tutorial, in this case.) Tute! Tute! (Yes, I know it’s toot, toot; but this is my abbreviation for tutorial. Cut me some creative license, will ya’?)

I was asked to make a cake for a local cake auction. They wanted a sax, natch- that’s what the band geek plays, after all. The guidelines were: sheet cake size, flavor doesn’t matter, and stay within the budget. I knew they knew what size a sheet cake really is, so I knew it had to be a mondo-big cake.

 How to make one, though? I didn’t want a sheet cake with a picture of a sax on it. I used to chair this auction so I know this cake has to be spectacular. The point of the auction is to raise as much money as possible in a short amount of time and to try to get your donation noticed. It’s a friendly competition amongst the town folk and the students. Whose cake sold for the highest amount? What cake was the coolest one there? Knowing all this, I put on my detective hat and did some research. I put the chicklet on the detail work because when it comes to music and instruments, she’s just anal enough to make it “right.” No pressure, the band geek would know if anything is missing or out of place or whatever. We can do a replica in cake, right? Of course we can!

 My research turned up this wonderful cake here: http://www.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1229817

Debster's Awesome Sax

Debster's Awesome Sax

Look how shiny it is! I’m digging that ligature, too! Check out how the poster carried through the theme into the covering for the board. Most excellent job, doncha’ think? Man, I hope I can do this cake justice.

I saved that picture and imported it into Microsoft Publisher. From there, I made a poster that was three pages across and three pages down- for a total of 9 pages. Publisher has a nifty ruler on the screen, so I measured my cake pans and enlarged the photo to the size I needed. Once that was done, it was time to print that bad boy and see if it worked.

sax template

Yup! The size is correct, so get out the tape and let’s attach the pieces together.

template cut out- fronttemplate cut out-back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, time to cut it out. Hmm, I think I need darker lines. If you need that, too, take a marker and draw the outline before you start cutting. See? Better now, huh? Once you have the template cut out, check once more to ensure your cakes will be large enough ‘cause it would really stink to make the cakes and have to re-bake them or re-size the template. Hmm, let’s see. It doesn’t fit straight up and down. What happens if I move it like this? Yeppers, that’ll work! It fits if I lay the template at an angle. A little tougher to manipulate once it’s cut, but this will work.

Now, it’s baking time. Wow factor is great, but it has to taste good, too. I don’t want nasty rumors spread like, “Sure, she can decorate but have you tasted them?” I’m going to go wild here and make 2 flavors: White Almond Sour Cream (AKA WASC) and Chocolate Decadence. Get your pans sprayed and floured, get your ingredients out, and don’t forget the bake even strips and flower nails (from Wilton). What? You’ve never used them before? *Sigh* (just kidding)

Okay, a short tute within a tute for the uninitiated. Bake even strips help cakes bake evenly-just like the name says. Although my personal experience has been that they will dry out a smaller cake, they are almost a must for the big daddys. You’ll get less of a hump on your cake, too- which means less leveling. I’m all for that! The flower nails will draw heat to the center of the cake which will help the center bake faster and almost at the same pace as the edges of the cake. You prepare the nails like you do your pan- spray and flour them. Some people don’t do this step, but better safe than cursing, I always say. Place the nail pointed end up in your prepared pan. They should be evenly spaced near the center. Simple enough. Before you do that, I suggest you do the strips. Otherwise, the nails will flop over and you’ll have to do it again anyway.

 

Strips

Strips

 These eel looking things in my sink are the strips soaking. You have to wet them to get them to work properly. You’re going to pin these around the perimeter of your pan using these pins:

Pins

Pins

If your pins are new or you are better than me, they are all probably still straight. Hey, they work bent, too!

Once the strips are wet, pick them up and run your hand down the length of them while squeezing a little to remove the excess water. You want them wet- not dripping wet. I suggest you pin them around the pan before you put the batter in there. That way you won’t worry about spilling the batter as you’re pricking your fingers trying to get those blessed pins stuck into the strips.

Okay, are the strips on and the nails in place? Cool, now onto the batter! How much will you need? A lot! I used 2 cake extender WASC recipes per flavor. Especially since we’ll be carving this cake, you want it high enough to keep it from breaking on you. Here’s my ginormous bowl I used for the batter.

big bowl

It was filled twice- once per flavor. Most of us don’t happen to have the industrial mixer handy (where would you store it even if you could afford it?). I have a “thing” about consistency so I made each mix separately in my mixer and then combined them in my big bowl. That’s per flavor. I made 2 batches of WASC, stirred them together in the bowl, and poured it into one pan. Then I repeated the process for the Chocolate Decadence and poured it into the other pan. Color varies from batch to batch- just like yarn, frosting, and paint. It may not be much variation, but for me it’s enough that I don’t want anyone to notice so I combine the batches for even color. When you’re pouring the batter into the pan, pour around the flower nails. If the nails flop over, don’t worry. Set them back up and go on from there. Some people don’t even put the nails in until after the batter is in the pan, so it’s honky dorey if you need to do that. Ok, you got all that? Let’s get these puppies into the oven!

WASC in pan beforechocolate decadence before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, let’s speed this up a bit. We’ve got a long way to go and we’re just now getting the cakes into the oven. I started baking them at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Then I added another 20 minutes and then another 10. Finally, they both tested done so out they come! Here they are fully baked in the pan. Can you see that they are high enough to be workable?

I used a large cooling rack and a large rimless baking sheet to flip them out of the pan. Whatever you do- make sure what you are using is big enough and strong enough to wrestle these suckers out of the pan without breaking them. No tears of frustration in the kitchen today! I can’t afford any more chocolate calories!

flipping a sheet cake

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

Level them, flip them, cool, them, get them wrapped and in the freezer. Yes, in the freezer. It’s my first time carving and I’ll be danged if I’m going to struggle with tons of crumbs and mistakes. Mamma don’t like patchwork.

While we’re waiting on the freezer to do its job, let’s sit down with a cuppa and chat about boards for a moment. These cakes don’t seem too heavy at the moment because they are separate. Once they are joined, they’re going to weigh more than that toddler that has glued itself to your hip. Cardboard ain’t gonna cut it here. Neither will foam board. Do you doubt me? Do you think I’m going overboard? Consider this: you have already spent a couple of hours doing this. You have many, many hours left to go. You want the end result to be spectacular, right? What you don’t want is to be on your knees scraping cake off the floor while that toddler dances around in the frosting “helping” you. Board this cake like you’re transporting the Pope on a dais! I used 2 foam boards plus a wood board that’s about ½” thick. All three layers were glued together with wood glue. The wood board was smaller than the foam board so I could slide it around and pick it up easier. Plus, I didn’t want the hassle of gluing a ribbon around anything to keep the wood from showing. So, man up, get thyself to the garage, steal a board, I mean borrow a board,  and get gluing!

Alrighty, the cakes are as hard as Aunt Annie’s biscuits, so it’s time to move on.

 Warning: scary stuff ahead! Not for the fearless, this carving thing!

 I know I just lectured you about the board, but we’re not going to use those just yet. Unless you have time to carve, crumb coat, and final coat today,  leave them on the cardboard for right now. If you have to put the cake in the fridge or the freezer again, I doubt it’s going to fit if it’s placed on what we’ll call “The Pope Board” -especially if your freezer door doesn’t open all the way since he-who-shall-remain-nameless placed it too close to the basement steps when you moved in 13 years ago and there it remained.

Place the cakes on the counter in the position you want them to be once the “two become one.”  Position your template on the cake where it needs to be so it all fits on the cakes.

 positioning template on cakes

Now, let’s talk about knives. Think more “shive” rather than “serial killer machete.” While you do want a sharp knife, you only need a blade the depth of the cake. The big watermelon/bread cutting knife isn’t going to give you the control you need to go around curves, keep from cutting the board along with the cake, and if your upper cabinets are hung too low like mine, you won’t be able to cut straight up and down without a lot of banging and jerking.

Since this is some scary stuff, we’re going to start easy. Make sure your template is placed correctly and isn’t going to shift on you and then score around the template. We’re not going to dig (or stab as the case may be) right in and start hacking off cake. Ease into the carving to gain confidence and get used to the consistency of the frozen cake. It’s tough to see in the picture, but I outlined the cake first by cutting lightly into it.

marking the cutsIf you start carving right away, there’s no room for correction and back to patchwork you go. Ugh! Okay, round and round you go. Once it’s scored all the way around, lift part of the template and check that you can see the marks. Only lift part of it! If you have humongous sections that didn’t mark, and you take the whole thing off, you’ll have to be anal and line everything up again. No, you’re not a failure if you didn’t score deep enough. You’re just cautious and ensuring the wow-ness of the end product. So, lift and check, correct, lift and check, correct. All done? Good, now take off the entire template and check one last time.

Whew! Take a break, you deserve it! Besides, that toddler probably needs fed or removed from the toilet or something by now.

Are you back? Is the house still standing? Great! Shoo the kiddos outside ‘cause now you’re going to channel your inner Freddy Kreuger. The first cut is the scariest so take a moment to enjoy it and relax into the process.

I stuck the knife in all the way, and let it stand there for a moment so I could take a deep breath and tell myself, “that wasn’t so bad.” I’m a wuss that way. 🙂

The first cut

Move one of the cakes out of the way, but keep the template handy. You want your work area to be clear enough to turn the cake without knocking stuff off the counter. When you cut, think about carving a pumpkin: in and out and straight up and down. If you cut at an angle, you will have to cut it twice to get rid of that angle so: straight up, straight down. If the cake is thawed enough, you can even slowly slide the knife while following the pattern. Don’t take the curves like Earnhardt. Slow down and remember it’s better to drive the knife too wide rather than too tight. Too wide and you can go back and trim; too short and well, you’re out of luck. ‘Tis far, far better to cut twice than to change the final shape of the cake. Feel free to slice out to the edge a couple of time to get the excess cake out of the way. However, if your spatial thinking skills are a tad below par, like mine, I wouldn’t risk it. It wouldn’t be the first time I cut where I should not and end up having to fix a mistake. Once all the lines are cut all the way through, scooch over the excess cake and check it for fine tuning. Place the template back onto to the cake and check that you’ve made all the right cuts.

WASC cut

One cake done? You alright? Kids still alive? Move on to the next one and cut it the same way.

Chocolate Decadence cut

Whew!!!! Glad that’s done and over, aren’t ya’? Get both cakes back on the counter and place them together as they will sit for the finished cake. Look good? Do you need to fix anything? Place the template on once again and check, check, check. The separation between the flavors is a lil funky on mine, so I’ll take a picture to include with the delivery sheet. The end consumer will want to know where one flavor stops and the other starts, so take that picture now.

 

Cut and joined

So, the carving is complete but you have lots o’ cake left. What to do, what to do?

No need to sugar overload you or the fam with the cake scraps. Put them in Ziplocs and hide them in the freezer. On another day you can use them to make cake truffles or cake pops. There are a lot of scraps and there’s no point in wasting them. We’re in a recession after all. LOL

 

Scrap cake

That’s enough for one day. The animals are probably getting hungry or getting into stuff. Wrap the cakes for freezing, put them in the freezer, find your counter top again, and order take out for dinner. You deserve it!

sax wrapped for freezing

Part deux coming soon!

 

Coming Attraction

3 Aug

Things are still really crazy around here. The chicklet had a birthday (tutorial later), we had a last minute catering do, and many other more mundane things have been happening. Thus the delay in posting this week.

In fact, it’s been so busy around here that Big Daddy had to wash a load of tighty whities himself lest he commit a fashion faux pas. I took time today to get the House o’ Cake cleaned and ready for the week and tonight I edited and compressed the pics for the next tutorial. Doesn’t sound like much to you? It took 5 hours to clean and 3 hours to do the pics. The cake gremlins present for the birthday cake branched out and mucked up the ‘puter and house cleaning. What a life!

Sooo, sorry for the delay. Hopefully, the tutorial will be posted tomorrow- with the house clean and the chicklet shipped off for the week, things should loosen up around here real soon.

In the meantime, I’m taking guesses. What do you think the tutorial is going to be? Discuss amongst yourselves while I figure out how many pictures I have space to post here. A clue for you: it involves a lot of pictures to ensure you understand the process. That’s right: ensure, not insure. My new pet peeve. I saw that mistake in a magazine, for goodness sakes! Where are the editors today? What will it take to get America to use proper grammar and spelling? Okay, I’m digressing again. Off to the shower for me while y’all give me your best guesses.

 

P.S. – congratulations to all of you and to us, too! We have over 700 views as of today! Woo hoo!

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