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So, whatcha,whatcha, whatcha want? Whatcha want?

16 Oct

Those words alone tell me the Beastie Boys either have family who decorates cakes, or have at one time themselves. The worst thing you can tell us decorators is “I don’t know” when it comes to what you want your cake to look like. Sometimes, I can pull it off, and other times, well, you’ll see…

First up, the dreaded camouflage graduation cake, with absolutely nothing to distinguish it as such. The grad wanted it camouflage with her school colors, I believe red and white (don’t flog me Fondant chick, I’m not familiar with your local school colors!), then with black as a third color and that’s all. So I ask, “what type of camo? The round blotchy type or the long streaky type?” “I don’t know, do what you want”. Sigh.

I decide to do the round/blotchy type, since I figure I can airbrush the camo. WRONG! Maybe it was having to deal with white as a primary color, but it started to go bad quickly (blow over and stencils sticking to the frosting), and I had no choice but to incorporate fondant for the black element. Thanks Fondant chick, it won’t be the first time you save the day! The grad was happy, but I was not. Lesson learned; there’s a fine line between camouflage and cow print, and fondant covers a multitude of sins.

Next, a birthday cake for a co-workers Mother-in-law’s 85th birthday. The actual ‘customer’ was the birthday girls’ son that lives in Texas, so it was my first long distance transaction! As we talked, we decided to go classic, some scroll work, etc… and I price the cake at $40 (16 inch round white 4 layer cake) and he said “Ohh this is gonna be fancy for $40. What kind of fruit filling will it have?” Sigh. I imagine this gentleman doesn’t spend much time perusing cake sites or local bakeries, but it also appears that he doesn’t watch a whole lot of cake shows either (bonus, no tv expectations!), so I reassure him that the birthday girl will be pleased, and ONLY because I have extra berry compote in the fridge that I really needed to find a reason to use before I found a reason to eat it, I didn’t haggle on the price. After talking with my co-worker (Texas’s sister-in-law) we went with a floral theme (she was leaning towards a basket weave design with frondant and frosting flowers, I was leaning towards not giving this cake away). In the end, Betty and the family were pleased and I received a lovely e-mail from the gentleman in Texas telling me to cash the check, the cake was delicious!  The next working day, I heard from several co-workers on how happy my co-workers’ family was with the cake (insert ego boost here). Unfortunately, this is the cake where I learned that my ‘cake ‘fridge’ was going on the fritz, and the frosting didn’t want to crust. Humidity? Who knows?

This next cake comes with a disclaimer. It was for my sons’ 8th birthday, and he has ADHD. Which means he changes his mind on what he wants for a birthday cake about every day or so for the 2 weeks leading up to the date. What started out as a ninja theme eventually turned into robots & army men. Sigh.

These last two cakes broke the trend of “I don’t know”.

A friend of mine celebrates ‘half’ birthdays. Her sons’ birthday is in February, we’re in Ohio, and that’s no fun, so he has a party in the summer, exactly 6 months out from his birth date. This year, he had pigs in the local county fair, and would be spending his half birthday in the stalls, caring for his pigs, so mama wanted a strawberry pig cake with a blue ribbon.

The other (snotty) boys who were there wanted to know why Ayden gets a half birthday party, and mama said “Oh, your mom doesn’t do this for you?” and turned on her spiked heals and walked away. Bonus, dad (ex-hubby) hates the concept of half birthdays, so I would have done this one for free.

Ok, cakers, here’s your challenge. Incorporate the following in a birthday cake. Music, religion, family and the birthday girls’ favorite foods; green beans, pie crust (not pie, just the crust) and breakfast cereal. G’head, I dare ya. And if you do, please submit a pic, we’d LOVE to see it!

A co-worker came to me with an order for her own birthday cake. You’d have to know Tonya to understand, and if I go into it, this post will turn into a 2-parter, I don’t know if I have the energy for it these days, and that in itself is another post. Back to the cake. She wanted a square cake with “Happy Birthday” on it, and in each corner of the cake, she wanted representations of the afore mentioned interests. She really wanted it to be ‘her’, and she was trusting me. Sigh. The only reason for the sigh here is that I know A LOT of people are going to see this cake or pictures of it for a long time, so it better be “Tonya”. Again, it’s the way Tonya is.

*quick background story. Tonya is African American, and you’ll hear her occasionally humming at work, but she’ll never belt out a tune for us, even though she makes recordings with her church choir. I’ve teased her for years that there are 2 things I’m jealous of  that black women do well, sing and wear hats. You can’t deny it. It’s just the way it is. Unless you are a member of the Royal Family or at the Kentucky Derby, white chicks can’t wear hats.  When I got married 9 years ago, Tonya brought her mother, in a stunning hat. Check out the representations of Tonya and her mama on the cake. Fondant chick to the rescue again!

*special thanks to all of my peeps who gave me suggestions for religious representations, I wouldn’t have come up with the crown of thorns without you!  And thanks for the reassurance that I wouldn’t burst into flames making a fondant Bible replica.

I’m still trying to use fondant, but as you can see, I use it sparingly. I don’t have the like for it that others do. As it stands, I’ll use it for accent pieces, but until I get off my hiney and slap some on the cakes dummies I have laying around, don’t look for full fondant cakes from me any time soon. My niece wanted me to teach her a few things about decorating cakes this summer, so I had her come over and we made a cake for her moms’ birthday. My sister-in-law has collected cow stuff for forever, so the obvious choice is a cow print cake. So, to give my niece some real hands-on work with this cake, I airbrushed the cow print and my niece broke out the fondant and made the letters for “Happy birthday”.  I was so happy with the airbrushing, that I broke out more fondant and wrapped the border of the cake board.   Well, my brother isn’t as slick as the average bear, and managed to blow the surprise cake delivery. In the end it was good, she loved the cake, and I learned yet another lesson; make sure all bits of fondant are off of your slice of cake. It’s like finding chewing gum in a piece of cake. Yuck.

So please, please know what you want your cake to look like.  An honest decorator will tell you what they absolutely know they can and cannot do for your cake.  Talk to them, exchange ideas and methods, and you and your decorator will not be dissappointed.  And give us more than a weeks’ notice, will ya?  Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lower back has a date with the heating pad…

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Ker-shoe! Excuse me while I make amends.

3 May

Shoe cakes are still enjoying some popularity and I am not immune. Since I still can’t walk in heels; in fact, every time I tried to wear them to school it was guaranteed that I would fall in the halls (and I had an awesome knack for somehow knowing just when they would be freshly waxed).  I naturally lean more towards Converse and less towards, as Carrie says, “the big girl shoes.” I also had to make up for this monstrosity:

 

It seems like a dream. You see, I once worked for “the man.” Forty hours every week. Plus college, plus marching band season, plus, plus, plus. I was a tad worn, a tad frustrated, a tad oppressed, a tad plum crazy. Yeah. That tends to show up in cake form when you have a few hours to get it done so you can go to bed and get those golden 5 hours of sleep before those-who-sign-your-check insist you be upright and at your desk again.

I wouldn’t call this cake a disaster. It’s all in one piece. The buttercream and fondant are smooth. The colors are pleasing. It’s just missing something. Stuff. It looks plain, like a grocery store cake. I suppose the purchased dude doesn’t help with that, either. Eh, looking back, it’s an okay cake; but who wants to make okay? I want spectacular, wow!, cool, awesome, how’d ya do that? kind of work coming from my cakeworld. I couldn’t do that right away (see above crazy life), but I determined I would fix this, someday. A shoe cake fit the bill, talked the talk, and walked the walk.

With such popularity, you think there would be a template online for this. Nope. Maybe there is now, but I sure couldn’t find one when I needed it. I’m lucky that way.  Left to my own devices/talent/imagination, I pondered my feet for a moment and realized my feet were still big. Not gigantic-special-order-shoes big, but there are no tiny dainties dangling from my spider veined ankles, either.  My feet, dear readers, are the perfect cake size. At long last, a reason for my suffering! All those years of my parents threatening to just strap boxes to feet have finally paid off!

Hmm, problem. Shoes are dirty. Shoes are smelly. Shoes are not food safe. Well, maybe if you’re an ogre or a goat or something; but otherwise it’s best to keep de feet away from the mouth whether you’re eating or conversating. With this dilemma began many tracings, swappings, and clean paperings to keep anything shoe or foot related away from the cake. I feel it’s important for you to know that ‘cause that’s how rumors start. You know who you are. Silly gossips, rumors are for turds.

As my biz math teacher says, with a hop no less, “Okay, here we go.”

The Tracing of the Shoe:

I wanted to have enough cake to carve away so I drew what would be called a seam allowance if we were sewing.

Notes on template: Carve under toe area, Carve under arch

At least, I think that’s what that says.

To help carve the sides, I made one more template:

Note that once again, I added a seam allowance.

I also took pictures of every side of the shoe for reference.

Don’t set the scraps aside yet. You still need an upper. One upper, coming upper!

Now that we have the basic shape, it’s time to fine tune it. The tongue area needs to be slanted more and we have to create a place to put a foot in- if we were going to put a foot in, which we’re not; but it’s supposed to look like you could. It’s all part of the illusion, folks.

“Gluing” more on to help create the slant:

I remembered to carve under the toe, but I decided against carving the arch. I didn’t want fallen arches and I was fairly sure that’s what would happen if I carved there and didn’t replace it with support. If I have to replace what I took away, why not leave it there and save myself some hassle?

I used a cookie cutter for the foot hole? Is that’s what it’s called? I doubt it, but today let’s pretend that’s its name, k? The depth of the hole may need some tweaking as you progress. Too shallow and it looks stupid. Too deep and you risk the outer sides falling apart. Start shallow and work your way deeper as needed, just like a blind date.

Once the cake is carved as close to your satisfaction as it’s going to get, crumb coat and decorate.

Looks like a clog so far. Fear not, cake friends! Have faith in the power of the caker!

Sing along with me: A fondanting we will go, a fondanting we will go….

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! I’ll smooth you, my pretty! Just you wait and see!

The tongue is quite a bit thicker on one end. Go ahead, check out your own ‘chews.

Don’t forget to narrow the end of the lace by rolling it between your fingers.

 

(cut two of the above shape)

I used a pastry wheel to quilt lines all along the cake, but I didn’t take pictures of that. I think you’ve seen enough of my man hands for awhile.

For a faux glimpse of the insole:

That’s your basic plain shoe. The rest of the décor is up to your crafty imagination. I added side stripes/arches and a bald dude. A cute bald dude, but bald nonetheless.

Yeah, I could not have done this in the three hours at night I had after working that “real” job.

Real jobs are overrated.

 I say marry middle-class and coast, baby!

Walking a Mile in Bad Cake Shoes

20 Apr

Written January 20th:

Not every cake can turn out to be a spectacular creation. Murphy’s Law is bound to visit the kitchen at least occasionally, right? If, by Murphy’s Law, you mean exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and brain dead; then, yeah. It happens. When time allows, we can laugh it off and start anew; but what do you do when time does not allow? You do your best and hand the cake over, hoping that it’s not as bad as you think. After all, by the time we’re done with a cake we’re sick of it. We see every little flaw- every slightly crooked line and every hump that shouldn’t so very few cakes leave this kitchen that we feel are perfect. It’s the nature of the human/cake beast. However, what do you do when, as much as you tried, it really isn’t right?

The basic design was good. The details were not. It simply did not look the way my brain pictured it and I had no idea how to fix it. I brought in the chicklet and she didn’t know, either. She said the whole thing wasn’t right. I said, “This is the approved design. I have to follow the approved design.” She said she didn’t like it and left me to my misery. I asked the head dude around here for his opinion. “It needs something else. This part isn’t right.” Okay, what should I do to fix it? “I don’t know. It’s not right. You need to do something entirely different.” Crud. I can’t. It’s 10 at night, I’m exhausted, I’m supposed to be in bed in half an hour and I haven’t even showered yet. There’s no time for “different” even if I could get the change in design approved at this late hour. The only thing to do is go to bed and hope it miraculously fixes itself overnight. Yeah, right.

The original drawing:

 

The only thing not pictured was a guy walking and the actual colors chosen. The birthday dude racewalked, thus the guy walking. To keep costs down (fondant figures involve a lot of labor cost), I purchased a figure that I hoped I could make look like he was walking. In my defense, the packaging prevented me from touching the actual figure. If I had touched it, I would have known it wouldn’t work. I thought he was wax, but he was plastic. Shoot! You can’t really alter plastic too much. I put gray fondant around one foot and decided he was resting that leg on rocks. That’s as close as I could get.

No one thought it was enough. No me, not the chicklet, not the head dude, and not the client. Not only that, the track didn’t look right and I wasn’t happy with the medallion (too one dimensional for me).

See? It doesn’t look like a track. Looking back, I should have narrowed the lanes, added a third lane, and outlined them-plus put in the starting blocks. The medallion should have been thicker and had a raised edge. I should have figured out how to make the ribbon flow instead of laying flat. See the fondant rocks? There’s a soccer ball underneath. Had I not been afraid I would break the plastic, I would have cut off the soccer ball and left his foot hanging in air- as if he was walking. Small catch, though. Not only is he plastic, he’s hollow plastic. I thought he was solid wax. With solid wax, I could have whacked off the ball and adhered a fondant sole to the bottom of the foot. How I would have explained him slapping his knee, I dunno. So, it still wouldn’t have been perfect, but at least it would have been within the realm of acceptability. But it wasn’t. And I was exhausted. And frustrated. And brain dead. And regretful.  Very regretful.

This cake is one of the reasons I did something I’ve never done before. I quit a job. Not “turn in two week’s notice” quit; “walk in on a Monday morning, pack up your desk, and leave” quit. I was nearly to the point of breaking down completely. It was time to go. Now. Not in two weeks. I was behind on everything that really mattered to me. I wasn’t doing things to help my family other than earning money. Christmas preparations would not be finished.  I was submitting less than stellar work for my college class. I had hardly seen the chicket or junior dude during their free time. The head dude was working by my side as hard as I was and the chicklet was pitching in when asked. It wasn’t enough. We still needed another person to do what we couldn’t. Even if that person had poofed into our lives, we were all still exhausted and brain dead. It sure didn’t help that work sucked. Yeah, sucked. I won’t go into details, but it was bad for my psyche. It was all   simply    too    much. And now I couldn’t even cake any more.

Achieving 80 years is a feat. It deserves a “WOW!” cake and I was entrusted with making that happen. I didn’t. There no “do over” on this. There’s nothing to do but try to clean up the wreckage.  I quit the job and went home to bake, shop, wrap, and clean like my butt was on fire to get ready for Christmas. Once that was accomplished, I decided to create my own “do over.” Nope, not fooling myself. It wasn’t going to make rainbows shine over the land once again, but perhaps it would give me a chance to show how truly sorry I am that the confection I provided wasn’t what was needed. I needed to apologize with more than just words. I did what I did was because I am really sorry to have given bad cake. Not cool.

Cake Redux:

THIS is what I should have done (and placed it on top of the first cake to reach the required number of servings). THIS is a celebration of reaching 80 years and dang! walking more than any of us walk at middle age, much less at 80. My sincerest apologies to Jack, to his family, and to his friends. I hope you get together with them soon and eat cake. Good cake this time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make an apology pie for she-who-put-her-work-rep-on-the-line-and-let-me-use-her-as-a-reference.

Today:

Wow! I can’t believe I wrote this way back in January and never posted it. I forgot so completely that I started writing another post about it because I couldn’t find where I had posted it, so surely I must never have written any of this. I forgot how bad it all was, the craziness that was my life a few short months ago, how much I hated that cake, and how bad I felt for letting down the people in my life.

Now that life is nearly completely hunky-dory again, I think it’s high time I posted how I actually made the “I’m so sorry my life screwed up your life” cake.

Stay Tuned for “Taming of the Wild Shoe” or “Ker-shoe!” I haven’t decided on the name yet. Discuss.

Blech! I now officially hate shaped pans!

6 Mar

Hello all, Frosting chick here.  As you may or may not have gathered by now, I’m not a big user or fan of shaped pans.  I guess they kind of come in handy, as far as a decorating guide, especially when making trade marked characters, but over all, I’m a carving kind of girl.  That got reaffirmed recently, when I had an order for a doll cake.  You know the ones, the cake part is shaped like a ball gown, and folks usually use some cheap/chintzy doll picks for the rest of the babe.  Well, first of all, I hate the picks.  I like using the full bodied doll.  Now, with my extensive (read: ONE doll cake) experience, I thought I should give the shaped pan a try.  I’ve had it for almost a year now, and finally got an order for a doll cake, so what the heck?  If I had to choose one word for the experience, it would be (#)@&*#$(*&%)#(*(*@!!!!! screamed loudly at this miserable failure.  I’m not denying that there  could be some operator error here, but damn, it shouldn’t be this bad!

Now, this is after an HOUR of baking.  Yes, an hour.  Used my trusty cake tester, it came out clean.  How could I have misread a thin metal wire that gets stuck into cake? “Impossible!” I say, but apparently not.  I sat the cake out to cool, walked by about 20 minutes later, and the above is what I found.  CRAP!  what to do!?!?!  I did what any resourceful young lady would do, I slapped that sucker back in the oven.  Alas, ’twas all in vain.  Thought I could at least salvage the cone part, but that’s where all the unbaked batter had sunk to.  It’s currently back in the oven, if nothing else, I can feed the fam some failure cake.  And that was not meant to be either.  I mean, I love my family, couldn’t possibly let them near it, no matter how much the hubby clapped in delight at the thought of cake in the house…

I mean, it’s not like I haven’t done a doll cake before…..

but it was 4 round cakes and carved.  I really REALLY wanted this pan to work.  I hate having something around, especially something cake related, that I’m not using.

Side note:  Fondant chick is at this very moment reading this, grasping at her string of pearls and fanning herself at the blasphemy I’m spewing.  She loves her some shaped pans and has quite the collection.  She could open her own “Shaped Cake Pan” museum (and cakery) with just what she has tucked away in her cake closet (and I’m not sure that the “man of the house” is even aware of her addiction).  She’s got a mean “shaped pan radar”, the likes of which I’ve never seen.  We went yard sale-ing last spring and that girl was on it!  We had pans out the ying-yang.  I frequently receive e-mails (while I’m stuck in my cubicle furiously pounding away on the computer for the man) of her latest pan acquisitions, it’s crazy!

Alright, onward and upward.  I’ve baked new cakes, have them carved, covered, and ready to go. 

Thanks to the powers that be that invented adjustable shelves in a ‘fridge!  Much better than that stupid, ignorant, icky shaped pan.  Which, by the way, while I REALLY wanted to take a hammer to that sucker out in my driveway, I have found it a nice home, with another home baker.  I warned her how much I hate it & the problems I had with it, and she’s graciously accepted it anyway.  Kind of reminds me of the old joke “EW, this is horrible, taste this!”, but instead was more like “Hey, I have this doll pan, and I hate it, want it?” she – “Sure, how much do you want for it?” me – “Just take the damn thing.  It sucks and I don’t like it.”  I guess one cakers hate is another cakers treasure.

So, how about you?  Got any cake horror stories you’d like to share?

PS: Fondant chick and I are heading to the home show tomorrow, will hopefully get to meet Mary Alice and Geof Manthorne from “Ace of Cakes”.  Wish us luck!

Twitter Gone Haywire

29 Nov

Birdhouses are so cute, aren’t they? Little homes for little critters. Someone’s mamma thought so, too, so he asked me to make one in cake-complete with critter. Armed with wild ideas and a Wilton house pan, I set forth to create mamma’s passion in cake-despite the horrible heat and humidity and a great lack of central air. The last part’s gonna be important. Remember it and be kind, k?

You can find the pan here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E3191DF-475A-BAC0-53BA3BD42B6F8C98&killnav=1

I made 4 houses and skewered them mightily to a double layered covered foam core board base. Yes, 4 houses. I wanted it to be square shaped and that takes 4 houses. Now you know why they were skewered mightily. So great did I skewer that the delivery sheet included a diagram for removal.

Everywhere there’s an arrow, there’s a skewer and they were all inserted at an angle and had to be pounded into the board below, with the exception of the one in the birdhouse door. Don’t put the birdhouse door skewer in just yet, though. We’ll do that later. Each house was torted and filled with cream cheese icing, and then the houses were glued together with more cream cheese icing. The whole shebang was then iced in cream cheese icing. Do you get the feeling cream cheese icing is important to the tale? That’s ‘cause it is.  Back to the cake:  I think that’s all you need to know before we get started on the décor. If not, holla’.

Once the cake is upright and sturdy, find a round object the size that you want the “hole” to be and press it into the cake to mark the area. Dig it out as much as needed.

From here, we start with the fondant. You will need white, teal, yellow, orange, and lilac fondant.  I made a mistake which I often make when adding gum-tex to fondant. I added it when the fondant was in the liquid stage instead of kneading it in once all the powdered sugar is added. This creates clumps. I dunno why, but is shore do. However, no problemo for this cake. It just adds to the authenticity of the wood look I’m creating. If you don’t like that look, add the gum-tex at the proper time.

Roll out the white fondant. Cut a circle the approximate size of the hole you created and stick it in there. It will get messed up, but do it anyway. I hate to muck up something alone. When that’s ready, compare your pan to the actual cake to check for size and then cut out 2 pieces of white fondant for the front and back using the pan as a guide. Mark the top and bottom edge of your pieces for even lines. Using a straight edged something that’s food safe, press board lines into the fondant. Now it’s ready to be applied to the cake. Expect the fondant to stretch. Just get it onto the cake the best you can and trim as needed. Press the fondant into the bird hole and smooth ‘til pretty.

Measure the sides of the cake from the bottom edge of the roof line down, cut 2 pieces of fondant, make the board lines again, and stick those onto the sides. Once those are on snugly, go ahead and put in the birdhouse door skewer.

I know you’re asking, “Why is the frosting so lumpy?” No air conditioning and cream cheese icing, that’s why.  Try not to obsess about it. Not a thing I can do about it but hope it doesn’t show thru the fondant so let’s move on to the fencing, huh? Cut out 4 more rectangles- each the width of the side where you will be placing the fence. The height is up to you. Cut these rectangles into boards- each the same width. Now you have sticks and they need turned into fence boards. To do this, cut the tops of each one at an angle like so:

The boards need joined, so cut rectangular strips to go across them once they are on the cake, measuring the circumference of the cake so you know how much you will need. You will need this amount twice. Apply the boards and then the joins to the cake like so:

As you can see, my fencing stops at the door. It was a height thing. Your results may vary.

Front, back, sides, fencing: it must be time for the roof. Wad up the rest of the white fondant, and seal it in a baggie to keep it fresh and soft. Roll out the teal fondant and cut circles- approximately a crap ton.

These will be applied similar to real shingles. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

Part way through, I realized it would work better if I also put shingles along the side before working upwards. This helped me plan the spacing. As you can see, you are going to work your way across the roof, placing the next row of shingles between the shingles of the previous row. Otherwise, it will look weird. Go ahead, go outside and check your own roof. The seams are staggered. They should be the same on a cake house, too.

Again, like a real roof, you have to cap it with a row of shingles:

While you have the teal out, go ahead and cut out the flower box. Roll out bits of white, yellow, and purple, and using a flower plunger cutter thingy, cut out flowers. Arrange all to your liking on the front of the house. Repeat for back, if desired.

So far, it’s been fairly simple: cut and apply, cut and apply. Now we’ll get down to the harder part: the bird. My bird is wacky, but that’s what the client asked for so that’s what he’ll get.  First the picture, then the explanation; at least as much as I remember. I used a picture to guide me and I found it on cakecentral in the galleries. Here he is in progress:

Roll one square teal oval for the body and head. Use the non-pointed end of a skewer to make his belly button.

Roll 2 white fondant balls for the eyes and cover those partially with teal for the eyelids.

For the feet, I used orange fondant and a flower cutter and removed the extra petals.

The wings were created from a rectangle. I rounded one end then used a pointed fondant tools to push in 2 areas on the other end to make it look similar to a wing.

The tuft of hair was created with a clay gun. I made a thin round strand, cut it in pieces, and then joined them together by squooshing.

The beak is 2 triangles of fondant. Before placing one triangle on top of the other, roll teeny balls for the teeth. Place the teeth on top of the bottom triangle, then place the top triangle and lightly press the whole shebang together. Press the non-pointed end of a skewer lightly into the beak to create the nostrils. After that, let it dry with 1/3 of it hanging over a low edge so it dries with a slight curve.

When all that is complete, mark the pupils with a black food marker and join all the pieces with piping gel. Keep the extra hair tufts in case of breakage. Let the food marker dry before you put it all together or you may be giving your bird the bird if it smears.

All that’s left now is put your wording on the board and place the bird. Ta-da! Not exactly a Rockin’ Robin in his ‘hood, but it’ll do.

To answer your remaining questions, the weather played a huge part in the pain-in-the-behind-ness of the creation of this cake. The frosting made everything slide. The fondant stretched out of shape and didn’t want to stay put. It was cream cheese frosting so I had to be very aware of how long it was out of the fridge, too. I kept putting the cake in the ‘fridge to harden, take it out and work on it for 5 minutes, repeat ad infinitum. It took a lot long longer than it should have, it became and stayed shiny, and I never did get it to look as professional as it should have looked. The weather is totally beyond my control. I have no idea what the weather is going to be when I agree to make a cake, so it’s a crap shoot. Nice clients understand this. Not-so-nice ones get their cakes from someone else. 🙂 My client, and his mother, was very happy with the cake, and in the end, that’s all that counts. That doesn’t mean I won’t harp on getting central air, but it does show you that sometimes all you can do is all you can do, and no amount of complaining is going to make it perfect or make it take less time.

Happy Dry Cool Weather Caking!

Let’s ready to Wrrrestlllle! With cake, of course.

23 Nov

For all of our fans who are into watching grown folks fight like cousins at a family reunion, this cake is for you. With one exception, it’s easy enough to make. Yeah, it’s the exception that’s gonna kill you; but let’s cross that mat when we get to it.

Supplies are simple: square cake, frosting, fondant, chocolate and mold, black straw shaped objects, and fondant (of course).

First, the cake. Square shaped. Anything beyond that is your choice. My line between vanilla and chocolate didn’t come out centered. Note to self: bake 2 separate cakes and join them next time.

Torte, fill with gray colored buttercream, stack, settle, and board the cake.

Crumb and final coat with more gray frosting.

Easy-peasy so far, right? Don’t freak out on me yet. The next stuff is still pretty easy, too.

Using gray fondant, create a rectangle tall enough to cover the height of the cake and long enough to go around the perimeter. Make sure it’s fairly thick to prevent tearing.

Lightly grease on side of the fondant so it doesn’t stick together when you do this:

Rolling it is the easiest way I’ve found so far to move it without stretching beyond all practical use. Roll into a tube, take it to the cake, and unroll it around the cake while adhering it to the side. Once you’re all the way ‘round, trim off the excess and finish adhering it. This is now the back of the cake so plan ahead for this and start unrolling on the ugliest side so you end there, too.

Back before final adjustments:

Front:

Grumble under your breath while you fuss with the height (mandatory).

Still keeping it easy, grab a dowel rod, skewer or other implement and begin dotting the top of the cake to simulate a mat.

The deeper dot in the middle was my starting point. That’s the only thing I measured. There are so many dots on this that unless you veer way off course, it’s not noticeable. Although it looks time consuming, it only takes about 5 minutes to accomplish unless you get obsessive about it. I didn’t. The cake had to be out the door at 7 the next morning and it was already after 9 the night before. Obsessiveness is for those who have loads of time or who don’t have deadlines. In other words, not me.

Logo-ize any way you please.  Remember: you cannot sell an exact copy. Don’t call me when the feds come.

(Loosely inspired by: http://www.wwe.com/)

Let’s see: what supplies are left? Mmm, chocolate. There’s no room on this cake for writing unless you want to detract from the look, so I chose to make a chocolate plaque that can lean against the side. Don’t tell our big boy, but I used part of a mold for a baby carriage to make the plaque. Hey, it’s not my fault I couldn’t find a plain rectangle candy mold. The cake must go on and one has to use what one has, yes? Yes. So, carriage mold it is.

Melt your chocolate, pour it into a clean mold, tap the mold on the counter until the bubbles rise to the top and pop. Refrigerate mold until set, unless you have a lot of time. If you have enough time, just leave it on the counter to harden. Once it’s set, tap it out of the mold and inspect it for obvious flaws. Repeat as necessary.

My handwriting still stinks on cake, despite practice, so I cut out fondant letters. Feel free to pipe letters if you can. I can’t (not yet, but someday!) so I fondanted.

The name has been covered to protect the innocent. Or the presumed innocent. Or the minors among us. Definitely the latter. The cake was for a teen AKA a minor, so I covered it. Pervs and freaks and all that. The age didn’t fit so I left it out. Plan ahead if the age must be on it. Elsewise, you’ll end up here: http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/ if you try to squeeze it in. As much as I love the place, I’d rather not play a starring role, if ya know what I mean.

What’s left? Thaaat’s right. The hard part. Ugh. Do we have to? Can we just skip to the final picture? Please? Pretty please with whipped cream, cherry, and nuts on top? Dang it.

Okay, the ropes. I recommend you find black licorice strings if you frustrate easily and can get away with it. I couldn’t. A caker’s gotta do what a caker’s gotta do. My supplies included 10 black straws and a box of black coffee stirrers. Stash the coffee stirrers for another project ‘cause they won’t work here, darn the luck. I purchased the straws at the dollar store. They had plastic skeletons on them that slid off the straws and make great toys for someone else’s house. No, I don’t know if your dollar store will have them. I looked everywhere for them and probably the only reason I found these is because it was near Halloween. Best of luck to you in your hunt.

The posts are easy. Stick a straw in the corner, and cut it so it’s about yea high above the cake. Nope, I don’t have a more exact measurement. Night before, remember? Remove the straw and cut 3 more just like it. Save any small pieces. I got 2 corner posts and a scrap from one straw. Stick one straw per corner in the cake.

Think and play with straws for awhile. Wake up the snoring giant on the loveseat and beg for help. Walk away when he starts showing signs of extreme aggravation. Return just in time to help said giant join the last piece.  That’s how it works at my casa. Nearly every cake is a family adventure. Bonding time. Yeah, that’s it.

As near as I can figure, this is how he did it:

Split the uprights- the corner straws. On opposing sides, cut down the length from the top to the point you want your first set of ropes to sit.

Join four full length straws together by gently shoving one inside another. You’re going for a complete square when it’s done. Repeat with 4 more straws.

You’re going to slide your ropes into the corner posts. As each corner is placed, cut a short length of straw to hold it down. Cut the length of the short pieces so they come up to where you want the second set of ropes to start. Do the same with the next set of ropes, but higher up (obviously) and cap the whole thing with another short piece of straw.  I know- this description isn’t clear enough. Hang on; I’ll take some pics that will hopefully explain it better.

Create ropes:

Slit corner posts:

Slide the ropes into the corner posts:

Cut a short length of straw:

Cap the first set of ropes:

Repeat for the remaining 3 corners.

Start from the beginning for the second set of ropes until you finally-

Cap the second set of ropes:

Expect to growl at the last cap. It won’t be happy, but it will eventually do what you need. You may need a second set of hands, though.

I know, I know. It’s not edible and it’s on a cake and I have a “thing” about that. I considered all the options- make fondant ropes and let dry, coat spaghetti in chocolate, use pretzel rods for posts, etc… etc…etc…. Nothing would work as well as this would. I needed a certain look and I needed the cake to travel 45 minutes to delivery and then another 15 minutes to its final resting place. My fondant ropes would probably show chatter from my tool and fondant never dries completely when you really need it to. If perchance it did dry, it was sure to break in transit. I’m leery of using spaghetti in general because I’m afraid it will soften, despite many people who use it successfully. I’m just not that lucky in life.  Besides, what are the odds I can coat the spaghetti to make it that thick and that the chocolate would coat evenly? Slim to none, in my inexperience. I looked for a candy mold to use, but there were none to be found. 

All that to say: give it up.

Buy black straws.

I think it’s worth it. Judge for yourself:

Monkeying Around

15 Nov

Dedicated to all those with a monkey on their back, tattooed or otherwise.

Sometimes, life stinks. There’s no getting around it. Nothin’ you can do about it but make some cake and have a party, right? Let’s get baking. Spatulas up, everyone!

Bake a square cake. Shush. Put aside those corner phobias and just relax and bake the cake.

choc cake in pan compressed

Looks a bit crispy around the edges, but who isn’t a little fried these days?

Cool the cake per usual.

choc cake cooling compressed

Yep, definitely crispy. Eh, more cake scraps for me.

Print your picture and outline it on the back (see the sax cake for more details).

monkey template compressed

(My apologies for the glare. I ironed wax paper onto it to make it food safe.)

Cut out your pic and lay it on the cake to check for size. Very important step, don’t skip it and don’t go forward until you do it. Fo’ reals. Avert disaster, test it out.

fitting monkey template compressed

Whew! It fits. Not only that, the crispy edges will go bye-bye, too. What is it about chocolate that does that? By the time the center is done, the edges are hard enough to throw at hubby in a fight. Sorry, didn’t mean to give you ideas. 😉

This is the point I choose to torte and fill the cake. If you like, you can do it after you’ve cut the shape, but I feel more secure if I do it now. One of my many cake security blankets, if you will.

torted choc cake compressed

You like my awesome big cake transfer tortey thingys? Me, too. Both Wilton, thank you very much (http://www.wilton.com).

Get your cake filled and get back here. We’re gonna get out the shiv and do some real damage.

Lay your template back on the cake and begin carving. (Again, see the sax tute for in depth instructions. It’s Friday, long week.)

Partially carve:

first carve monkey cake compressed

Aaannnd fully carve:

final cut monkey cake compressed

Now you can see my real reason for torting and filling first- cake samiches all around, folks! Guess what’s for dinner?

In between bites, crumb coat.

crumb coat monkey cake compressed

Ooh, he’s a bit fugly now. Let’s move on and final coat before I panic.

final coat monkey cake compressed

Okay. Now he’s a bit funky looking. Hmm, I hope this works.

Clean up the frosting stuff, and take a few licks for me. That buttercream is good stuff, ain’t it? Nummers.

Once all the evidence, I mean mess, is cleaned up, get ready to fondant. The colors I used were lots o’ brown and flesh, with a decent amount of red. I think it’s time for a Timely Tip from Timer. Remember him? Hankerin’ for a hunk of cheese? No? Here ya go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3jgo5ea_zc

Yes, I’m old. Shut up.

Annnyway, a timely tip. I used Hershey’s dark brown cocoa to get the right brown without emptying the entire bottle of gel color into it.

(http://www.hersheys.com/products/details/specialdark/index.asp?name=Cocoa)

 It’s delicious. I need to diet now, but it’s still delicious.

Now that your fondant is ready, let’s get rolling.

Brace yourself against the counter, Effie; we’re going to go fast for a bit. The pictures should be enough description. 

laying brown fondant monkey cake compressed

first brown fondant trimming monkey cake compressed

final brown fondant trimming monkey cake compressed

Monkey cam shot:

monkey cam shot compressed

Get it? Got it? Don’t forget it.

Yeah, I’m old. And tired. Don’t forget tired.

Now, we’re going to dissect. The good kind of dissect. Not the kind where you pretended to be sick in 7th grade so you didn’t have to go to school and tear apart that poor dead frog. Paper dissecting only here, if you please. Forget if you please, I please. Blech.

Trim away the top of the head and the ears from the template, like this:

removing top of head stencil monkey cake compressed

We’re not going to do what you think we are. Nope, we’re not. My way is easier. Yes, it is. Stop arguing. Whose blog is it, anyway? That’s right. Mine. Look, if it’s not easier for you, you can always stop and do it your way, k?

Set aside the big piece with the face on it. Think it out for a minute. The entire bottom half is going to covered with flesh fondant. It’s the top half that is bi-tonal. I said tonal, not polar. Leave your coworker out of this. More cake for us.

Roll out your flesh fondant and gently lay it on the cake. Do not adhere it anywhere but the bottom half. All you need to do for the top is make sure it’s not going to tear. You’ll peel away a lot of the top and it will be much easier to do if it’s not adhered.

laying flesh fondant monkey cake compressed

That wrinkle on the right looks like the back of my knees. Don’t tell anyone.

Place the top part of the template on the top part of the cake, like so:

placing top of head stencil monkey cake compressed

He, he. There’s a funky hair-do idea, huh? He’s got kind of a bee-hive thing happening up there.

Pick up your shiv and carefully outline the inner arch. Carefully. Remember, there’s another layer of fondant under there that you don’t want to muck up. I’m too tired to start over tonight so if you mess it up, yer on yer own.

Remove the template and check out your work.

cutting flesh fondant monkey face compressed

Make a second, deeper cut that goes all the way through just the top layer of fondant. Once that’s done, make a cut from the each side of the bottom of the arc you just cut, across the face and down each side. Refer to the next picture before you do this, because I’m not sure I described that correctly.

Once your cuts are made, peel away the excess fondant and adhere the fondant to the cake.

fondant base complete monkey cake compressed

Hmm, he looks more Princess Leia than monkey now. Maybe if she and Chewbacca had a baby? I think I may have slipped over the tired hill and fallen into delirium now. Maybe if I keep typing, no one will notice.

Dipping further into the dissection arena, cut out the facial features. Better stick to template unless you’re really good at eyeballing. I’m not, therefore I cut.

monkey facial features template cut compressed

Hang in there, we’re almost done and then we can all get some beauty sleep. According to what I saw in the mirror this morning, I can use all I can get right now. Oil of Old Lady just isn’t cutting it lately. I blame the kids.

Using the pieces you just cut, roll out fondant and cut the following:

Flesh for the inner ears

Brown for the eyes and nostrils

Red for the mouth

(I know, it seems obvious. One never knows who’s reading one’s blog, though, does one?)

Adhere the features, and declare it, “all done!” in your best speaking-to-a-toddler-high-pitched-voice.

One last picture, then let’s all hit the hay. In our own haystacks, of course. Don’t be gross. I’s tired and not even in college, k?

completed monkey cake compressed

(T- hug those lil monkeys for me tonight.)

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