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Belaboring a Theme

7 Sep

In honor of Labor Day, let’s chat for a minute about the amount of labor that goes into our creations. Aside from the talent required to even design, much less create, a custom cake, many hours of labor are logged in kitchens all across the world to bring that idea to fruition. While I’m not going to try to talk you into spending hard earned cash you can’t afford, I would like to give you some insight into pretty much any pricing structure for custom cakery. You may be given a base price plus the costs of extras, a per-slice price, or a total price without cost breakdown, but any price generally includes the following:

doll cake WASC 002

Cost of ingredients. This is what most people use to attempt to calculate our total costs. It is but the tip of the piping bag. Read on.

doll cake WASC 013

Overhead: electric, gas, consumable and nonconsumable products. The electric company doesn’t care that I don’t have the money to pay the bill. No money=no electric. Period.

cake on board sign

Delivery charges: just the mental cost alone of having someone honk, scream, and generally express annoyance with me because I have to drive slowly during the delivery justifies this cost. Additionally, the gas station, mechanic, and bank loan dudes stick a fork, so to speak, in every delivery. Toss in my time here, too- the chip guy doesn’t deliver the greasy yet tasty crunchies for free, and neither should we. While it may seem to make sense to just pick it up yourself, there’s a snag: you don’t know how. Sorry to offend, but most of the time this is true. A lap is not a suitable place for a cake. Neither is a car seat. People and seats have a slant, just as God intended. That slant will kill a cake and it may arrive smooshed on one side. True. Very true. Put a level on that sucker and check it out for yourself. It’s not just you that wants the cake to arrive in one piece. I want the cake to arrive at your event intact, too.  Since I’m the one who knows how to make that happen, I am the chicka you need to deliver the confection.

biz car front

Marketing and office expenses: paper, ink, staples, Internet service, websites, etc…. None of this is free to you or free to me. While we make the best use possible of these resources by re-using, conserving, and taking advantage of free stuff when available, there are still costs involved.

Legal costs: one word- Bridezillas. Enuf said. Two words, actually. Better add the IRS in there before the feds come a knockin’.

 Labor: the reason for the post. Labor, labor, labor. From grocery shopping to baking to carving, to mixing, to decorating. Labor. Grocery stores may be able to toss together a cake in 15 minutes, but custom cakers cannot. Cakes are not massed baked, iced, and decorated in our kitchens. Our designs are much more than a star tip border, a couple of buttercream roses, and a two line inscription. I’m not knocking those designs. There room for every taste in this world and one is not necessarily better than another. If simple is what you want, simple is what you should get and the overall cost should reflect that. That’s why if a bride is on a budget, we may suggest white buttercream, real ribbon for the borders, and silk flowers. Simple, in this context, means keeping labor hours to a minimum. You still get our experience with baking tasty food and our talent for smoothing icing, but you don’t pay for hours on end of decorating expenses.

One hour for “ehh, they’re okay”

One hour for “ehh, they’re okay”

2 hours for 2 tiers

2 hours for 2 tiers

How much labor? That depends on the experience and skill of the decorator. For example- buttercream roses. At this point, I would have to make at least 6 roses to get one decent one. My partner, on the other hand, knocks them out like she was born with a piping bag in one hand and a rose nail in the other (Ouch! Sorry, mamma! It’s my destiny!) Ditto with writing. I can place fondant on a cake as easy as tying my shoelaces. My partner will throw a batch against a wall at least three times before it’s right enough to work. (Yes, of course, she makes a new batch each time. We’re not trying to kill anyone over here.) This is one reason having a partner makes sense. You want buttercream perfection, you get that chick. You want fondant delight- you get this chick. No extra charge. It’s not fair for you to pay for our weaknesses via extended labor charges. That’s a big bonus right there- a freebie from us to you. You don’t have to pay one hour of labor for each rose you select and I don’t have to control the urge to just get it over with and stick the danged nail in my eye. Overall, just know that labor costs are underated much more often (about 95% of the time) rather than overrated. I don’t know about you, but I can’t perfectly predict months ahead of time if humidity will add hour upon hour to a cake because everything melts, won’t smooth, or won’t dry. Only the Supreme Being of your choice knows that and he/she/it doesn’t deem me worthy enough to tell. The leaf that usually take 30 seconds can turn into a 10 minute mini-project for no discernable reason. Stuff happens, we try to cope. Sometimes by eating cookies, but we cope.

 Scroll down and have lookie at the tutorials and think about the time involved to make each vision come alive. Think about it realistically. Even simple stars don’t come out perfectly every time. Things have to be redone. Labor (and medical bills for carpal tunnel, but that’s another topic) costs happen. Covering a PITA cake in fondant can take an hour. Star tipping a soccer ball is two hours. Baking, as you know, is about an hour. Carving can take from 10 minutes to endless hours. Fondant ball borders are about an hour per tier. Seriously. Try it sometime. You will nearly go mad trying to get every ball perfectly round and smooth all while keeping the size consistent. That’s why you hire someone else to do it. Your children have already taken your sanity. You have none left to give to fondant balls so you pay for someone else’s.

 

Still think custom cakes are too high? Do you work for free? Do you say to your boss, “No problem, sir. I’d be deliriously happy to come in early and stay late. In fact, it would make me so happy that you don’t even have to pay me for the time worked. I would refuse any payment in any form. I love my work that much.” Yeah- not! You want me around next year to make your cake dreams come true? That can’t happen if I have to quietly head for the border staying one step ahead of the federales who want what’s due. Yo’, that kind of stuff is only romantic in movies. Real life is the inability to pee in the woods without removal of clothing and the lack of noggin’ space to remember which mushrooms are “magic” and which ones will keep me from finally losing the extra girth.

7 days/8 hrs at least each day, not including delivery (1 hour away) and set up (approx. another 45 minutes). How much would you get paid for 58 and ¾ hours of work?

7 days/8 hrs at least each day, not including delivery (1 hour away) and set up (approx. another 45 minutes). How much would you get paid for 58 and ¾ hours of work?

Happy Labor Day to all of you! Additionally, my apologies to those who still have to flippin’ work today because the world will come to an end if humans can’t buy gas, groceries, take-out, or whatever 24/7/365. I appreciate all of you for all your hard work and I hope you are at least recompensed enough to pay “the man” what is due. If you have today off paid work, do something radical: don’t work. Don’t clean the house, do household paperwork, mow the lawn, or scrub the crayon off the walls. Kick back, read a mag, soak in a tub. Let the kids run rampant through the neighborhood and let your partner work it out for themselves. Forget about hosting or attending a BBQ because heaven forbid someone notices your absence and knocks off brownie points. Today’s your day off. Enjoy!

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Torting Like a Pro, Almost

20 Jul

Do you have trouble torting cakes? Are you too scared to even try? Does the look of that nifty cake saw scare the bejeebers out of you? Are you worried if you bought a cake saw your husband would commandeer it and you’d never see it again or if you saw it again you couldn’t use it anymore because who-knows-what was done with it or to it while it was gone? No offense to those of you who saw away at cakes with little effort, but some of us just aren’t that handy. What’s a caker to do?

Fear not, fellow cakers! There’s another way to torte cakes and it doesn’t involve implements of destruction at all! Nope, nothing harmful here. In fact, your friendly medical professional wishes you would use this nifty little tool a lot more often. What is it, you ask? What could be so spectacular that it stops you from purchasing yet another I-gotta-have-it cake bauble?

 Dental Floss

 That’s right, take a lookie in your bathroom cabinet and see if you can find where you stashed your stash of floss to keep it out of the hands of those-who-shall-not-be-named-but-who-always-takes-stuff-and-doesn’t-put-it-back. If all you can find is the floss the fam’s been using, it’s probably cruddy with gunk so splurge a little and buy one to keep in your stash of cake stuff. It’s still cheaper and smaller than a saw. Plus, hygiene and cake isn’t such a bad idea, either.

 Here’s what you need for start-to-finish torting:

A cooled cake that is flipped out of the pan, leveled, and sitting right side up

Dental floss- flavor doesn’t matter, but I do prefer waxed over unwaxed

Cake boards

 I also used a rack, but you don’t have to use one.

That’s it- that’s all you need for this neat little trick. Now, grab your tools and meet me in the kitchen!

 lion out of pan compressed

Position your cake on the board where you want it. Go ahead and add that dab of buttercream between the board and the cake to hold it still if you like, but you can do that later if you wish.

Pull off one long strand of dental floss (make sure it’s long enough to go all the way around the cake) and place it around the cake at the height you want it torted- kind of like tying a package or wrapping ribbon around a box without the tying part. Hold it taut enough to stay in place but not so tight it starts cutting into the cake just yet. Like your hubby, once it starts moving it kind of has a mind of its own so you want to start it off right for the best results.

 torting lion 1 compressed

Now, adjust floss for level so it doesn’t cut wonky- you can use toothpicks to guide the floss if you wish, but I’ve never found it necessary. After all, as long as you replace the top exactly where it was before you torted it, everything should be fine, fine, fine.

torting lion 2 compressed

Here’s the trickiest part of the whole process: cross the ends of the floss one end over another and then switch which hand is holding which end of the floss. Crossing the ends means the floss does the work and not you. It also means that if something goes wrong, it’s the floss’ fault and not yours. J That won’t happen, though- trust me. Deep breath annnnddd switch hands! Go!

torting lion 3 compressed

Whew! Thought you’d never get that right, did you? LOL Okay, so maybe it’s not that confusing to most of us. Some of us, however, get confused a lil more than others, so go easy on our confused left/right brain challenged folks.

 Here’s where the torting/cutting actually begins: Gently begin to pull evenly on both ends of the floss, slowly. As the floss tightens, pause to make sure it’s still level before the floss cuts into the cake. It might help to have the cake at eye level if you’re having issues keeping the floss level.

torting lion 3 compressed

Here’s a shot of the process as the floss is just beginning the torte cut. The floss is nice and tight at this point and is starting to cut through the cake. At first, you will feel a bit of resistance as the floss cuts the firmer outer edge of the cake. Like punching a hole paper, resistance is to be expected but, in the end (as we all know), resistance is futile and the floss will cut through the outside. At that point, you will feel the resistance lessen so be alert for it. Once the resistance is less, it will be easier to cut and you don’t want to keep pulling on the floss like you’re starting the lawn mower or something. Easy does it!

 torting lion 4 compressed

Keep pulling the floss gently and evenly and let the floss cut through the cake. Feel free to move your hands in the direction the floss pulls them or you can keep your hands stationary and let the floss come to you. Either way works. See the pretty cut in process? It’s a beautiful thing!

torting lion 5 compressed

We’re aaallllmost out the other side. Keep pulling gently!

The floss can come out where you started with your hands crossed, the opposite side where you started, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where it comes out- as long as the cut is level and nothing gets stuck. You will feel the total release of pressure when the cut is complete. As soon as you feel that pressure release, stop and check that it’s torted all the way around. Once you’re sure it’s completely cut, release one end of the floss and gently pull on the other end to remove it from the cake.

torting lion 5a compressed

Voila! The finished cut. Oooohhh! Aaahhh! Simple, simple, simple- and no sharp objects required. You don’t have to find space to store yet another cake tool, borrow from hubster’s tool box, snatch from your neighbor, or worry about, “how on earth do I smoothly move a saw through a cake for goodness sake?” You may have to hit up your dentist for some extra floss, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to provide you with a stash for nada- just don’t tell him it’s for cake!

torting lion 7 compressed

Now that the torte is complete, gently slip a board under the top layer and lift it off the bottom. Your cake is ready for the icing dam and filling. People will think you’re a real pro when they cut into the cake and see it’s actually two filled layers instead of one tall hunk o’ cake.

torted lion compressed

I’m sure you’d like to know why I even bothered to torted a simple character cake, huh? Well, I’m not going to tell you just yet. To find the answer to that question, you’ll just have to, “C’mon back and see us y’all! Ya’ hear?”

*Note: Character pans can be purchased at http://www.wilton.com *

Repairing a Broken Cake

28 Jun

broken oval beforeOh No! Despite all the tricks and gizmos you read about online, my 16 inch oval broke when I turned it out of the pan. Okay, so I had a major brain fart and didn’t listen to my gut. When it’s the same gut that says, “eat cake, eat cake, eat caaaakkke” until you gain 20 lbs., you tend to ignore its pleading. I briefly considered asking someone to help me flip it over using my two small cooling racks but I assured myself that two people would never be able to coordinate their movements to make a safe flip. The oven rack was still hot, so I couldn’t use that, either. So, a flippin’ I went and a breakin’ I got.

 I thought all was lost and trekked back to the store for more supplies to begin again. Ten o’clock at night and the cake is due the next day. I’m pretty much screwed, right?

 When I returned home from the store, I decided I had nothing left to lose. Those are the dangerous kinds of thoughts one has when one is exhausted and it’s late in the evening. Can she do it?????? Of course she can! She can do anything! After all, she is the cake chick.

crack side one spackled compressed

Step one: sit and watch the news while considering the insanity of even attempting this when you should be baking another one. Naw! The client will understand if the cake’s not finished. Right? Right? Okay, turn off the tube. You don’t want to add an unhappy client to this mess.

Step into the kitchen; wipe the counter awhile while delaying the inevitable. When you’ve wiped all you can wipe, go ahead and torte the cake. Fold a load of laundry when that’s done to calm your nerves from that lil ordeal. Yeah, right! Grab a handful of chocolate chips to munch on to calm your nerves. Doesn’t everyone eat them from the bag like candy?

 Back to the kitchen: place one side of the bottom half of the broken cake on your cake board. Don’t forget to spread a little bit of frosting on the board to hold the cake in place first. Now, fill that icing bag as far as you dare, but don’t put a tip on that bad boy. You want to spread mucho frosting for this. Brush or blow off the crumbs (your choice, depending on the dragon breath) from the cake. Using the piping bag without a tip, coat one side of the break, then the other. Make sure it’s thick.

 bottom repair finished

Step 2: Spread a little frosting on the other side of the board to prepare for joining. Gently pick up the other part of the bottom half of the cake and bring the two sides together. Try to make sure you place the cake right the first time because you’ll only get more aggravated if you have to try to slide that sucker to fit it together.

Still using the piping bag sans tip, run another thick bead of frosting on top of the break. You want to ensure solid cohesion and not have empty spaces between the pieces. Pick up any broken pieces and use frosting to glue those suckers in there, too.

 cracked cake dam compressed

Whew! So far, so good. Onward, cakers, onward!

Add your icing dam and another line on top of the break to ensure a good seal between the two sides. Yep, I’m being extra cautious ‘cause I really, really don’t want to bake another cake. 16 inch ovals take forever to bake and this one decided to take its good ol’ time baking and the flower nails I used to help it bake evenly decided to embed themselves in the cake because they felt like leaving holes. I never knew cakes like to mark their territory that way. Man, if it’s not the kids, it’s the cakes!

cracked cake filling compressed

 Fill ‘er up! Add your filling to the repaired bottom. I decided to not disturb the barrier between the sides, just in case. Besides, the barrier is as high as the dam and I dang sure don’t want the dam to break. (almost said damn sure don’t want the dam to break, but I don’t want to offend).

Hey, it looks like you’re really getting somewhere now, doesn’t it? Go sit down and have another handful of chocolate chips. You may want to crack open a cold diet soda (to offset the chocolate chip calories) while you’re at it ‘cause the next repair is the top. Either the next step goes well or we’re up for another 2 hours baking another flippin’ cake after all.

cracked cake top on compressed

The top layer is a little trickier. Coat the sides of the break the same as before then very carefully pick up one side at a time and place it on the top of the bottom layer. Make your first placement a good one because it’s very hard to move once you set it down. Fill in with more icing and miscellaneous pieces as needed. If you have enough crumbs you can make a spackle by mixing the crumbs and icing and jam that in there, too. Okay, don’t jam it. It’d be a plum shame if you screwed this up now. Carefully use the spackle to repair the break. How’s that? Does that sound better?

  What do you think? Is it good enough? Will it hold? Will it cover? Will it break apart again in front of all the guests at the party as you triumphantly carry it to the cake table? Read on!

oval cake crumbcoat compressed

Yay! The repair is made and now you can apply the crumb coat. Notice the break is already invisible. Oooohhhh. Maaaagiic!

 oval final coat

Let the crumb coat crust over a little and add your next/final coat of frosting (this cake got one more coat after this. It was a very soft cake with lots of crumbs). Let that crust and then smooth the final coat to perfection.

oval nearly completed

Ta-Da! Okay, sort of ta-da. It’s not quite finished, but it’s getting there. The final picture will be included in a later tutorial as this cake has a whole other dimension to it.

 C’mon, you didn’t really think I was going to take you all the way to the finished cake, did you? If I did that, what would I blog about next week?

 Tune in next time for another episode of “The Cake Chick Makes a Ginormous Party Cake!”

Dum, de, dum, dum, duuuuuuummmm!

Lessons from the Lakers (cake)

20 Jun

What do you do when your sis-n-law asks for a birthday cake for your brother (who rocks)  with 3 days notice (and skillfully avoiding her own b-day the day before, that sly she-devil)?  You suck it up, buckle down, and figure with an airbrush, anything is possible!  So begins the tale of the Lakers cake.  My bro has been a Lakers fan for as long as I can remember, and after looking at their logo, I figure, “why not?”  First up, the frosting.  I tend to make TONS of frosting when I do a cake.  Why?  It’s like looking at the gifts under the Christmas tree, never looks like enough.  Moms out there know…  So,  I broke out the big girl (my favorite, an 8 qt. battleship of a bowl my hubby got me for Christmas one year, you’ll be seeing lots of her), and I make a double batch of frosting.  I’ve got this down to about a 15-20 minute process. P1010428

Crumb coat and cold cake, can’t say enough about either.  Both are important in the final outcome of the cake.  A cold (if not frozen) cake reduces the amount of crumbage (yes, it’s a word, I swear) when you put on the crumb coat.  I use the standard method, plop a wad of frosting in the middle and work your way out. Don’t worry about the appearance, hence the term crumb coat. 

P1010429

Stacking/assembly of the cake is pretty much the same as a crumb coat, again I use the plop method, and work my way out, saving the sides for last.   Sometimes a crumb or two will surface – gotta keep a clean knife!   Simply take a sharp knife and remove the crumbs, and repair the rut.  See?  Easy as pie, er cake.  I use the hot spatula method for smoothing my frosting. 

P1010436P1010432

For this cake, I decided to airbrush the Lakers logo on the top.  I printed out the logo to the size I needed, and cut out several stencils from wax paper – *lesson time*, not a great idea.  It worked in a pinch, but I’ve got to get a better medium to cut stencils.  Hmmmmm sounds like a trip to the craft store to me!  I started with the basketball stencil.  Pretty basic, it’s a circle.    After removing the stencil, this now looks like a giant egg. 

P1010438P1010440

While impatiently waiting for the basketball to dry, I cut and prepped the “Lakers” portion of the logo.  Now, the problem with this particular cake, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, is the frosting.  Cream cheese frosting is STICKY.  Fortunately, my partner in cake, sent me a recipe that actually crusted, so the stickiness was reduced.  Still, the wax paper is going to either stick to or cut into the frosting.  My solution was to have it float above the cake as close to the cake as I could get it.  I *almost* achieved this by using straight pins.  Who knew moms old sewing kit would come in handy?  Thanks mom! 

P1010441

Airbrushing is pretty basic too.  Light strokes, with as little angle as possible will give you an even coat.  Because of the stencil I made, unfortunately, there was some under blow.  That’s the beauty of making a cake for family, they think it’s great, and it’s free so there’s no complaints!  A few details added to the basketball with black frosting, and it’s almost complete.  Oh, and see those lumps in the frosting?  When those happen, just pop those suckers with a straight pin, they’ll deflate immediately.  Don’t go too deep, don’t want to pierce the cake.

P1010446

For finishing, I decided this would be a great opportunity to work on my border skills, as I haven’t done a cake since April.  It took a few strokes to get my wrists back in action, but it finally came together, my brother was pleased, and that’s the important part. 

P1010452

So, the lessons learned here:

1) Improvising is great, if you have a knack for figuring out what to do in a pinch (as I do), but for a commissioned cake, it’s always best to have the right tools for the job.

2) I really must learn to be a better photographer.  My partner in cake is sooo much better at the pics than I am, but I’ll work on it, I promise.

3) Face mask!  I always forget about the face mask!  Nothing catches you off guard like rainbow boogers!

4) Get more than 3 days notice 🙂

Chocolate Shells

10 Jun

Isn’t this a lovely cake? I know how to cover cakes in fondant so all that’s left is to see if I can make shells like this. While these shells are fondant, I’m going to make mine from chocolate because I love chocolate and I always have a tough time getting fondant out of molds. I have a few leads on how to do that, but in the meantime: chocolate shells. 

Tools and Ingredients

Tools and Ingredients

The ingredients and tools are fairly simple for this project: a shell mold, some candy melts, and a way to melt the candy. I’m using an electric chocolate melting pot my daughter gave me because somehow she ended up with two. Yay for me! I love free stuff! LOL Not pictured just yet, but you will also need luster/pearl dust, a small bowl, and a food safe fluffy brush.

After gathering your ingredients, proceed with melting the chocolate. You can use a little melting pot, the microwave, or a double boiler. Remember to heat in small increments in the microwave, stir, and heat more until melted. If you leave it in too long, the chocolate will burn, and your house will stink for hours. The smell will be so bad it almost, just almost, turn me off chocolate for awhile. If you use a double boiler, remember to not put too much water in the second pan and keep the water at a low boil. Water and chocolate do not mix. Even droplets of steam in the chocolate will cause it to “seize” and it will become unusable. If this happens, you can try stirring in a little bit of vegetable oil to get it back to consistency. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try before pitching it in the trash. So sad- chocolate in the trash. There outta be a law, I tell you. There outta be a law.

shells in molds compressed

Once your chocolate is melted, stir it so it’s smooth with no lumps at all. Then you simply pour the chocolate into the molds. After your molds are filled, lightly tap the molds on the counter top to release any bubbles. Bubbles are for champagne- not chocolate. I usually put my molds in the fridge at this point to make them harden faster and I personally think it helps the chocolate release from the mold.

unmold shells compressed

Once the chocolate is set (firm), turn the mold upside down and lightly tap the mold on the counter to release the chocolate from the mold. As you can see, a few of these need trimmed. Trimming needs to be done quickly yet gently. The longer you hold the chocolate in your hand, the softer it will get. Soft is bad. However, if they just need a tiny bit trimmed or smoothed, rubbing your hand along that area does a nice job without messing with a knife.

all shells unmolded compressed

Ta-da! Brown, pink, and white chocolate shells. Pretty, huh? But not pretty enough just yet. Coming up: the final step that will make these babies good enough to put on any beach cake- even a wedding one!

This is the step we’ve all been missing. It’s like it’s some big secret or anything; but after today, even you, yes, you!, will be able to make stellar chocolate shells! Step right up to the check-out counter and purchase these: pearl or luster dust, and a food safe brush. If you wanna get real swank, get some Vodka at the liquor joint on the way home. Clear vanilla will also work, but Vodka is so much more fun! 😉 The color of dust you buy is personal preference, but most people stick with white or pearl dust. Today I used pink and white colors.

 When you get home, shoo the kids outside so they don’t see the vodka. After all, we don’t want the neighbors talking, do we? The last thing you want is your kids carrying wild tales to school about alcohol in your home. Ask me how I know this.

Okay, the kiddos are stashed somewhere now, so open up your purchases and grab a small bowl (custard cup size works well) while you’re throwing the packaging trash away. Pour a little bit of dust into bowl (and a lil vodka, if using. A lil vodka for you, a lil vodka for me. Oh, sorry. That’s a whole other story I may tell you some time. If you’re really nice.).

dusting shells compressed

Now, pick up the brush, dip in the dust, and go wild. Okay, not wild, because that would make a mess. Tap your brush against the side of the bowl to remove the excess. Using a little dust at a time, brush your chocolate until you’re satisfied with the colors. Don’t brush too hard or too fast or you’ll be picking dust boogers for a couple of days. Not pretty. Not PTA PC, either. They’ll never believe it was a kitchen accident. All sorts of weird theories/gossip will spread. For goodness sake, go easy on the stuff!

Finis!

Finis!

Voila! Shiiinnnyyyy. Preeetttyy. Must… touch… now. I used white on the white, pink on the pink, and pink on brown just for funsies. The brown turned purple. Betcha don’t find that in nature, huh? It’s all good, though. The cake I made to put them on had PMS or something that day so the now purple shells seems like the perfect match for that cake.

Lemon Cake, Lemon Filling, Lemon Icing. Lot o' Lemon!

Lemon Cake, Lemon Filling, Lemon Icing. Lot o' Lemon!

See? When good cake goes awry. My frosting wouldn’t smooth for nothin’ that day. Good thing this is a house cake (a house cake is any cake you don’t want people to look at and think, “She/He makes cakes?”). Since it wouldn’t smooth I tried going for the whole “cliff on a beach” look but that was not to be. The sand is crumbs from a cake that fell apart. I crumbled the failed cake into little pieces; let them dry for awhile, and the processed them in a food processor. The stuff at the top is supposed to be a grassy moss thing. The side décor is how ivy looks when your icing isn’t stiff enough. The cake was too far gone in the looks department by that time so I refused to stop and stiffen the icing. *Shrug* It’s house cake, anyway. The dudes here don’t care how it looks, they just want cake, cake, caaaaaakke.

So now you have pretty chocolate shells and you’re cleaning up the mess and stashing the vodka before the rugrats interrupt you. How on earth are you going to get the brush clean? Not with water. Step away from the sink. Walk towards the pantry. Find the cornstarch. Grab a couple of paper towels or paper plates or regular plates or something you can use to pour out some cornstarch and still have room to clean the brush. Wax paper would also work. Pour a small pile of cornstarch on one side of the plate (or whatever you’re using) and rub your brush around in the cornstarch. Don’t rub like you’re cleaning the mystery spots off the wallpaper, but rub hard enough to work the cornstarch into the bristles a bit. Now, move to the other side of the plate and pounce the brush to remove the cornstarch and pearl/luster dust. Pouncing is a motion kind of like jumping on a bed. Straight up, straight down, repeat. Again, not so hard you bend the bristles permanently but hard enough to remove the dust. You can even tap the brush on the plate. Repeat until all that comes out of the brush is cornstarch, then pounce a few more times to remove the remaining cornstarch. All clean! (I believe CakeCentral is where I found this little tip.)

Once they are completely dried, the shells can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container. Again, moisture is the enemy of chocolate so check on them occasionally to make sure they’re still in good shape. You can store them for as long as you would store the chocolate you used to make the shells with so check your container for an expiration date.

So, there you have it: how to make shiny chocolate shells. Not so hard, is it? Now, go forth and cake!

 

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