Tag Archives: birthday

God Bless America and Give Me Some Cake

1 Jul

I’m alive! I’m alive! It’s a miracle! Err, okay, not a miracle. A miracle would be if something missed me by an eighth of an inch and I lived to tell about it. Or if people saw vining stuff growing up a telephone pole and didn’t think it was a sign from God. Anyhoo, nothing miraculous around here other than my bills are paid. Why I haven’t blogged in awhile is too boring a tale to tell and all that matters is that I’m here now, right?

Aww, don’t be mean. I mean well, I promise. I have good intentions. Almost always.

I have no segue so I’ll just start.

The good ol’ US of A is about to celebrate its independence from some nearsighted king the other way across the pond. I know this because I grocery shopped with the entire population of us’ns today. When do y’all go to work?

If you recall, a few years back, we did this crazy thing called Farmer’s Market. It was a lot of work and we lost a lot of money. During our insane period, I made two cakes that fit the bill for the 4th: a star cake and a flag cake. They’re fairly simple to do and they both could easily be translated into all buttercream if you like. I think someone needs to blog about buttercream cakes. Don’t you? I know I want to advance my skills and would love ideas that don’t involve fountains, stairs, or a star tip. I am going off topic, of course, but still….

Ok, the star cake. Step one: bake a star shaped cake. Wilton has a pan for this. I think. I’ve got one. I don’t know if they still sell it or not. If they don’t, bake a square cake and cut triangles out of it to make it star shaped.

Torte and fill the cake.

Ice the cake.

Smooth the icing and cover it in blue fondant.

Roll a rope of red fondant and place it around the bottom edge of the cake for a border.

Cut out a bunch of white fondant stars using a cookie, fondant, or electronic cutter.

Place stars randomly on cake.

Roll out two strips of white and one strip of red fondant. Roll this out on the thin side. Now place the red strip in between the white strips and roll over them to stick them to each other.

Alternatively, roll out one wide rectangle of white and one strip of red that is 1/3rd the width of the white. Very lightly moisten the back of the red strip and place it on the middle of the white strip. Look for moisture seeping out and dab it away as necessary. Roll over the whole shebang to adhere it.

The alternate way is easier, I suspect. I don’t know for sure because I did it the first way and it was not easy to get those strips to stay together. I think they were only children and therefore did not have experience being herded as a group.

Lay the strip decoratively across the cake and pinch it together in the two or three places you think would look best. Pinch the ends of the strip, too. Yes, that’s an awful description. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. I do, however, have a final picture of it so you can see what I mean. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that.

Ta da! If I were to do this cake again, I would definitely roll the strips thinner and I would make the pinched parts look better. At the time, it was the best I could do. Now that I know better, I do better- thanks to Maya Angelou.

Oh, that other cake? Eh, next year. Maybe. Right now, I gotta go try to blow off my foot with a sparkler.

Happy Independence/Three Day Weekend America!

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Sawing Logs

21 Apr

Oh, Wilton Bear Pan, how many ways to use you! There’s bears, lions, and uh…and uh…I know there’s a ton more. Beaver! That’s it! Beaver.

Ever notice how there’s not much beaver stuff around? Ever see a stuffed beaver in the toy aisle? A beaver chocolate mold? A beaver anything? The naughty girl industry has taken over the beaver and I say we take it back! Back, I tell you! No more shall we ashamed of the word in public! No more shall we hide our liking for such an industrious beast! Chant with me: Beaver! Beaver! BEAVER!

 Uh hum. Pardon me. Must have missed a dose of meds somewhere. Today’s post is about a furry mammal that builds dams, is the original “Baby Got Back” in the tail department, and has teeth the Osmonds envy. The Castor Canadensis also happens to be the mascot of a certain fraternity (you know who you are, I need not name names).

This beaver starts with the aforementioned Wilton Bear pan. I do not promise to show you miracles for arms, as I still do not possess such enlightening. However, I can show you some stellar tail.

The pan comes with instructions. Follow them. Mostly. Lose your instructions? Here ya go:

http://www.wilton.com/downloads/paninstructions/2105-603Stand-UpCuddlyBear.pdf

While we’re clicking away, here’s a link that shows you some of the many uses for the bear that never poops in the woods:

http://www.wilton.com/shapedpan/Stand-Up-Cuddly-Bear-Pan

 Lose your clips? Wilton occasionally sells replacement here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E3107DF-475A-BAC0-517051D099ACA8A8&killnav=1

I read on the internet, back when it was the Internet, that you can use binder clips, too. Cause you know everything on the www is the gospel truth. The hubster and I conversed about such an option. After he informed me that there may be leftover oil on them from production and considering the possibilities of heating paint in the same small enclosed space as food, I decided against such folly.  So buy them when you see them.

Back to cake. The instructions will confuse, befuddle, and thrill you. Tis true, you bake him on his head. 

Tis also true you best set him on an old cookie sheet lest you like cleaning your oven.

Look, Ma! Beaver poop!

Ooooh, I don’t think he feels so good. Must have been on his head too long.

All better now? No kissing boo boos until you cool off!

Okay, enough goofiness. Someone remind me to take those meds tomorrow, k?

Take out the core, but don’t clean it just yet.

(I’ve never had one, but this is how I picture the aftermath of a colonoscopy.)

Here is the portion of the evening where I veer from the Wilton pros. I put the core back in and leave it there while it cools. Your choice, your comfort level. Other than that, follow the cooling instructions. First one side…

…then the other.

 

Now, let’s decorate! You will need brown/chocolate buttercream and some yellow and white (a small amounts). If you’re going to decorate the board, you’ll also need green. For the fondant, I used tiny amounts of black and white.

Crumbcoat your beast.

Doesn’t help with the defecation image, huh?

Using the grass tip (#233, found here: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=402-233), convince the chicklet to pipe the bear. After all, you’ve got a tail to form. Remind her that his tummy and inner ears shall be yellow, or white, before you rush out of throwing range.

While she’s planning her reveng, get out the following schtuff:

Chocolate for melting

Wilton garland marker (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E30D6CC-475A-BAC0-58FEDC73887B09DD&killnav=1)

Tape

Wide straws

Wax paper

Table knife

Sharp knife

Ruler

This is the part where we really improvise. Put a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Assemble your garland marker to a size called, “looks right.” (Poinky part facing up) Put one straw on each end of the bendy part of the garland marker. Move the other end of the straws until they are touching or almost touching and tape them to the wax paper so they don’t move. Take another straw (or trim one of the other ones before taping. That’s what my cheap tail did.) and clip off a piece to the length of “that’ll work.” Place the short straw in between the other two. Confused yet? No worries, I took a picture. It should look like this:

Look like tail you’d chase yet?

Before you melt the chocolate, read how to make the tail so you can move as quickly as you need to before the chocolate sets up. Even though my sentence will say, “Melt the chocolate,” don’t do it yet; don’t believe me, I lie.

Melt the chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the mold to a depth you are comfortable with. Too thin and it may break. Too thick and you’ll be on a sugar high until your trainer uses lunges to cleanse it out of you.

Let the chocolate cool a bit, but NOT completely. Once it  firms up a bit (but not completely hard), use the ruler and the table knife to score it into a diamond/criss cross pattern. Do NOT cut all the way through or you’ll have to start over. I am not responsible for do-overs. Now, let the chocolate harden completely and remove the mold from around the tail. Use a sharp knife to carefully remove stray bits of chocolate.

Thank the chicklet for her services, promise her you’ll pay for her carpal tunnel surgery later in life, and carefully place the beaver on the board. Use a round tip and pipe the eyes. Using the black fondant, cut small circles and place them in the appropriate pupil place, AKA “about there.” Cut a small triangle and place it in the proboscis area. Cut two small rectangles of white fondant and put them in the chopper area.

Realize that you have 5 minutes before the beaver leaves to build a dam, smear green buttercream on the board and pipe extraordinarily long grass. Consider it the beaver stocking up on vegetation for the winter. Place tail on the board in the buttage area, wave bye-bye to it, and wish it luck on its two hour car trip. Don’t tell it a horde of college kids who are always hungry and love free food almost more than checks from parents await it, should it survive the trip under the watchful eye of Mattimeo, the chinchilla.

 

Good thing I didn’t name him.

Buh Bye, Beaver Boy!

Ship Shape

2 Mar

It’s been coming up lately: How do I ship cookies? While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I have done this and according to my amigos, they are arriving mostly intact.

Supplies Needed:

Money- this is not cheap. At least to me, it’s not. Maybe you have more moolah. It’s not as much as a Benz, but it’s more than mailing that long overdue thank you note to Uncle Willie. It will cost you more to prepare them for shipping and to ship them than it will to buy the stuff the make the cookies.

Bubble wrap- Hobby Lobby sells it. They also often have nifty 40% off coupons. The cost of the bubble wrap will break your nasty habit of popping bubbles and save it for shipping instead.

NEW cardboard box- Yes, new. No one wants to get cookies in an old beer box. Well, most people, anyway. Let’s not examine our friends too closely, hmmm? Walmart sells them in the office supply or craft aisle, depending on the location. You want one bigger than your cake box. I mention this because when I’m in Walmart my mind tends to stop working properly and I come out $200 poorer and haven’t purchased everything I need and a lot of stuff I don’t or the place is packed and I grab “whatever” to get out of there before I see one of those “People of Walmart.” Head down, straight to the box, and out, k?

Cake box- the usual, nothing fancy.

Cake board- to give strength to the cake box.

Newspaper- a lil something extra for the recipient if you include the Sunday funnies.

Packing tape

Cellophane tape- I almost said Scotch tape, but that’s a brand.

Black marker or shipping labels

Cookies- don’t try to ship anything delicate for your first foray. You don’t have to stick with plain rounds but anything delicate or with thin pieces will likely arrive broken. Free calories!

Cookie bags and ties or a nifty sealing machine (I got mine at a thrift store. You can’t buy it new anymore but it still works and didn’t cost so much that my electric bill was late.)

First up: package your cookies in the cookie bags and seal/tie the bags. I recommend sealing over tying to keep out as much air as possible. Air=stale.

Box assembly: make your husband do it. I don’t like taping boxes ‘cause I suck at it. The tape doesn’t stick, the box won’t hold still, the tape wrinkles, the box collapses, etc…. Generally, the box wins.

Tape the bottom opening shut with the packing tape and do it again on either side of the opening. Now tape across the other direction so that it crosses the other pieces at a roughly 90 degree angle, if that makes sense. Hold up a sec- we’re not done with the bottom yet. Tape the two sides, too- where the flaps are. You want to keep out air and critters. No hitchhikers on this trip.

Bottom of box with flaps shut (the colored part represents where the flaps meet):

Yeah, it’s a lot of tape and boxes are wiggly. Good luck with that. Try not to tape yourself to the table or something equally embarrassing.

Flip it right side up, grab some newspaper, scrunch up the newspaper, and layer the bottom of the box with said newspaper. Toss in a business card or a piece of paper with an address on it, in case something happens to the outside of the box.

Put this box somewhere away from the kiddos before the lil pirates commandeer it for a boat and then assemble the cake box. Put this aside, too, as these have been known to attract teenagers in search of crap keepers. Actually, just hide everything and put a comment on here telling where you put it so you can find it again.

Clear off the dining room table. I’ll wait; I understand this may take some time. We don’t use our tables much for family eating anymore, do we? Oh well, better to have a use as a dumping ground than no use at all, I guess.

Ready?

Okey dokey. Get the bubble wrap, scissors, cookies, and cellophane tape. If you’re lucky, your cookies are all the same size. Unroll the bubble wrap the length of the table, making sure to put something behind it to keep it from rolling off the table. God only knows what’s on the floor, right? Set a cookie on the loose end, measure the bubble wrap, and cut off a piece (of bubble wrap, not cookie).

If your cookies are all the same size, you can use this first piece as a template. HOWEVER, test if for size first. I refuse to admit that I have ever forgotten this step and ended up with a bunch of pieces that were either too small or way too big.

Wrap the bubble wrap around the cookie and tape it where the ends meet. If you’re really nice, you’ll turn the end of the tape under first so it’s easier to remove. Continue this way until they’re all wrapped in their bubble blankies.

Retrieve the cake box. Not my fault if you can’t find it, I told you to post on here where you put it. Go get another one and back up a few steps. You’ll just have to catch up with the rest of the class on your own time.

Toss a biz card in the box in case the cake box gets separated from the other box. Cut a piece of bubble wrap and put it in the bottom of the box. You did put a cake board in there first, right? *Sigh* Geez, I ASSUMED you knew that. Let’s not fight, k? We’ve got to get these shipped ASAP.

Place the bubble wrapped cookies in the box, preferably standing up, if possible. I have no solid proof, but I’ve read they’re sturdier this way. However, the ones I shipped laying flat arrived okay, too, so it’s your choice, your risk. Pack them in snugly but not so tight you’re jamming them in there breaking cookies.

 

Cut another piece of bubble wrap, place it on top of the cookies, shut the box, and tape the box shut.

Optional step:

If you have any concerns about moisture or the newspaper ink dirtying the box, wrap the cake box in bubble wrap and have a tape orgy with it.

Whew! Still with me? Nope! We’re not done yet. Retrieve the other box and place the cake box in the center of it.

Firmly, but gently, pack scrunched up newspaper around the cake box. Test it for wiggle- you don’t want these moving at all while in transit. Once you’re fairly confident, run out of newspaper, run out of time, or just plain ol’ give up, place a final layer of scrunched up newspaper on top of the cake box.

Shut the flaps and tape it closed the same way you did the bottom of the box. HOWEVER, leave room for the shipping and return address somewhere. After the addresses are in place, I use the packing tape one last time and put it over the addresses so it doesn’t get smeared if water or something drips on it. Give the box a final shake; flip it upside down, too. Does it sound good? Good meaning: silent. Nothing rattling around? Cool. Get thee to the Post Office. They should ask, but if they don’t, tell them three things:

It’s perishable

It’s cookies

There are no liquids in the box

I thought I took a picture of the boxes ready for shipping but I dunno where they are now. Camera gnomes at work, I suppose. Before you ask:  No, shipping cakes or cupcakes is not the same. I haven’t tried to ship those, but I have read it’s extremely tricky/difficult without using a door-to-door service and I surely do not have the spare cash for that and neither do any of my friends; or if they do, they’re not telling me. J

Cookies I have shipped:

(Practicing cornelli. As I suspected, I don’t have the thought patterns to do this naturally.)

(On this one, I learned you need thicker icing than outline consistency to make hearts that keep their shape.)

(I got the inspiration for these from pood on here: http://cakecentral.com/gallery/1917990 . I created mine a little differently and have a few uplifting tips I’ll share later.)

I did ship a small music note, too; but I don’t have a picture of it. I included it as a test of shipping something small and something with a fragile piece (the neck of the note). It did not arrive intact.

One last tip about timing: I bake cookies and freeze them until I’m ready to decorate if I’m not doing it that day so they stay as fresh as possible. I decorate them all in one day, give them a full day to dry, and ship the third day. The way my post mistress ships them takes 2-3 business days. I have shipped them on a Thursday and they have arrived two states away the following Tuesday still okay to eat, according to the recipients. You really have to plan the timing carefully as unlike local deliveries, you have to account for 2-3 days shipping time. Unlike the cookies you purchase at the grocery store, there are no preservatives in these cookies and this must be taken into account. After all, this face is counting on you:

Photo courtesy of Peanut Butter Monster in the greater Philly area:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150105571126543&set=a.86028146542.80434.516821542#!/pages/Peanut-Butta-Monster/124311800939154

 

Close but no Cigar

17 Nov

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Whether it’s buttercream, fondant, or the finished product, caking is all about consistency. Which I don’t have. And I’m pretty sure I may never have- but that could be the scale talking. Ask fellow cakers how they got so good and how they learned to turn out a consistent product and every one, and I mean every single one, will tell you, “Practice, practice, practice.” Ahhh, but my scale says I’ve practiced far too much. My doc will tell you the same, but his scale needs fixed ‘cause there’s no way I’m that much. No… flippin’… way.

So you tell these lovely cakers that you can’t hack more cake sitting around and they tell you, “Use dummies. Decorate on the side of a box or pan.” Okay, the dummy thing. I’m a dummy with dummies.

 (See this post: https://2chickscakesandcatering.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/fake-it-%e2%80%98til-you-make-it/)

 Aside from that, dummies don’t work for everything unless you want to spend a lot of money and be personally responsible for killing off the wildlife in a 1000 ft. radius of your nearest landfill because once you shape Styrofoam, there’s no putting it back to the original and you will never need that exact shape again.

 Then they tell you to give away your practice cakes. The problem with this is:

1. I don’t know that many people and even they’re sick of cake.

2. It is highly unlikely in this current society of weirdos and freaks that I’m going to walk into a nursing home, fire department, school, whatever, and give away cake. This little town thinks I am odd enough as it is; I don’t need a total shunning happening. “Here comes the crazy lady with more cake. Don’t make eye contact. Just walk away, quickly.”

3. It does not make sense to me to continually give free cake to the people who are your target market. Why would they buy when they can just wait and get free cake the next time I practice? I see lots of “I’ll buy the ingredients and you can get the practice” conversations in my future with this route.

4. It’s obvious I have no solid solution so let’s move on, shall weeee????

I tend to run across cake pans at thrift stores. Of course, I have to buy them. One of my finds is this pan:

http://www.cakesnkitchens.com/servlet/the-725/wilton-holiday-candlelit-3d/Detail

If you don’t have it already, you’ll have to get it used somewhere ‘cause this is older than my kids and my kids aren’t kids anymore, if ya know what I mean. I got this home and thought, “I bet this would make a good body” and felt another practice cake comin’ on. I was able to wait a few weeks, but sure enough, another cake was acomin’. Unfortunately, the execution was a tad problematic. I should have stopped after trying to get the black fondant to work for 2 hours. Yeah. Two hours. On the other hand, my bat wings are looking better.

At first, it was going to be a Bobcat mascot; but I’d already made a Rufus cake this Fall. I’ll show you that one another time. Never heard of him? Here ya go: http://www.ohioalumni.org/bobcats-mascots Instead, I had what I thought was wonderful idea, and it would have been, had I been able to get along with fondant that day.

The directions for this cake don’t say to fill the core tube thingy, but I did anyway. I dunno if Wilton learned later how handy a core of cake is and then the changed the instructions for the newer pans or what, but I filled mine. I used a cream cheese pound cake recipe so it would be sturdy, but having that core still seemed a wee bit necessary to me. Enough explanations, let’s get caking!

Using a paring knife, I trimmed off some of the bumps so it would be easier to frost smooth. I also whacked off the top so it would (hopefully) look like shoulders.

After that, I set it aside and started working on the head and limbs. I made a ball from crispy treats mixed with a little modeling chocolate (optional, but it worked really well to hold everything together tightly). I stuck a skewer in the head so I could install it and checked it for fit/size.

The arms/hands and the feet/legs were shaped from trial and error and previous experience with cakes. They looked rather penile but I kept on trucking and turned the radio on to get my mind out of the gutter.

 When the crispy treats were cool and solidified, I used a small grater to smooth the surfaces a bit more. I got that little tip from cakecentral and it worked fabulously! I’d give you the link but the site is still having issues so I seriously doubt I can find the thread again.

I stuck skewers in the arms before they were too solid to poke. I tried them on the cake for size. It turns out I am occasionally good size guesser, as these were perfect.

Yeah, I know. Penises on a stick. Think I could sell these at the fair? Hey, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do, right? Uh hem. I better turn that radio up louder, huh?

Here they are, awaiting further construction:

I crumbcoated everything- no easy feat with the undersides of everything- let it crust, and then the final coat and smoothing.

It’s time to drag out the fondant. As the above picture shows, I started with the head and that’s when it all started to go to heck in a fondant bucket. As you can see, I had a few problems covering the head smoothly. I used a new fondant recipe and it really really really didn’t work out. I’d tell you the recipe, or link to it, but I think it was possibly user error or a combination of user error and recipe poster error. Either way, the stuff would not stretch for God or country or nothin’. It would stretch a little if I heated it, but never ever ever did it stretch enough to make is usable for anything other than flat cut outs.  

I set aside the head thinking I would get back to it in a bit to fix it because maybe the fondant was tired and needed to rest a bit. One two hour black fondant kneading session later, and it was too stiff to fix it. I told myself to stop worrying about it right now and move on. THIS is where I go wrong with cakes; why I lack consistency in my work. I should have kept at that head until it was fixed. I didn’t want to get so frustrated that the rest of the cake would go to crap, too; so I took a deep breath, turned up the radio a little more, and moved on to the torso.

The black fondant is why we had leftovers for dinner that night. After two hours of kneading and tweaking the fondant, I gave up using it by itself. I added more water, more glycerin, more corn syrup, and more powdered sugar.  I melted marshmallows and added it in, I added marshmallow fluff, I tried corn starch and heating it up in the microwave.  I even walked away and let it rest for about 15 minutes, but no go. This stuff would shred when I tried to roll it out, no matter what I did to it. I finally sucked it up and mixed my remaining Fondarific in with it. So sad. No more Fondarific. 😦 That finally got it workable enough to use so I covered the torso and appendages with it and walked away for the evening, still hoping the cake fairies would arrive in the dark of night and fix the head. Failing that, surely the wrinkles would be hidden when the head was installed on the torso. Or the collar of the uniform would cover it, but something surely would save that head. Right?

 

Wrong. Very wrong. This far into it, the next morning I pushed on, telling myself it was a learning experience at this point and I didn’t ever have to show it to anyone if it sucked when I was finished. So, of course, I blog about it.

I used fondant from a previous batch made with a different recipe and extruded the hair, made the facial features, the uniform, and the cutest lil spats I ever did see.

The close up shows the ongoing problem with the fondant. As it dried it started cracking. One of the arms eventually split and fell off. I suppose the crispy treats sucked the moisture out of it. Or the fondant just hates me. Whatever.

 I didn’t have the heart to finish the shoulder nests.

He developed an acne scar looking divot on his face. I have no idea why. Maybe prom was the next day or something.

In the end, Jack (for that was his name) never made a public appearance. There was no way that I could find to fix his flaws, which were numerous, glaring, and ugly. I tried sealing him a box, hoping the fondant would soften without air. After that, I put him the fridge for a few hours hoping that when I took him out, he would start to condense and that would soften the fondant. I guess that only happens when you don’t want it to, ‘cause it sure didn’t work for poor Jack. I gave up and didn’t even try to add more crispy treats to make his legs look more natural or add the white fondant for gloves on his hands. He looked so cute from far away, sitting there on the counter- like a real doll so both creepy and cute. However, up close, he looked like the cake failure he was.

Three days later, I ripped him apart, removed all the fondant, re-iced the torso, and sliced him up for the family’s snacking needs.

R.I.P., Jack.

This Just In

2 Aug

This week is gonna be bussssyyy. Groceries, periodontist, the Chicklet’s birthday, last week of class, and possibly Primitive Boy moving out of the manse. Y’all are lucky I’m here at all. LOL I’d like to find the highly degreed person who decides students should have one less day to complete the work plus an extra assignment that includes a long paper for the last week of class and have a “chat” with that person. Do they really think we worked on that paper all quarter as suggested? Yeah, right. Also, I would like that person to know that some of us notice things like the abstract is due before the final paper and the link you gave the students that explains an abstract says clearly that the abstract is written last. Cart before the horse or forcing students to turn in work before it’s officially due so the professor can knock off work a couple of days early? You decide. I’ll keep my opinion to myself until they slap that degree in my hand while I’m shaking hands with someone Important that I’ve never met while trying to smile and face a photographer who apparently is getting a shot up my gown from the looks of his position below. But I digress. Once again. I’m good at that, at least.

I blew off some things I didn’t want to do anyway and updated our PowerPoint portfolio. (Yes, it really is spelled that way.) We would LOVE it if you’d look at it and leave comments with your opinions. How is the layout? Colors? Organization? The fonts? (I kept them all in the Lucida family because Primitive Boy’s explanation about fonts and foots and all that stuff made my eyes cross. Never ask the opinion of someone who wears a t-shirt that says, “All I care about is ink, fonts, and crap like that.” Just shut up and kern for me, k?) I took out the character cakes and such even though they were all made as gifts. No sense in angering the mouse, eh? I think we’re far enough along in this adventure and therefore have enough cakes in the portfolio without them, anyway. We want to know it all- the good, the bad, the ugly, the few, the proud, the chosen…oops! Wrong blog for that.

Let us know what you think while I’m off pretending to be a grown up. Or working on my tan at the beach. Whichever.

 2Chicks Cake PowerPoint

Truffle Board

14 Jun

Whew! Modem problems, graduations, final exams, and cakes have kept me away far too long! Fear not. I have not forgotten nor forsaken you, my lovely cake friends. I have files upon files filled with scrumptious cake happenings to show you, starting with this:

For the two people who haven’t heard, one of the latest crazes in cakes is cake truffles. Please, call them truffles. They are time consuming to make and if we keep calling them cake balls no one is going to want to pay what they’re worth. Think marketing, k? Besides, some people are immature and snicker when you say, “balls.” 

Cake truffles are a great way to use leftover cake, but they can also be made with an entire cake. You will, however, have to invest mondo amounts of time to do an entire cake. Just sayin’. Plan accordingly. Basically, you smoosh the cake into crumbs, add icing, roll into ball shapes, and dip the truffles in chocolate. You can use any combination of flavors that strikes your fancy. You can add flavored oils to them if you like. You can use up leftover frosting. You can magically use vanilla cake and turn it into chocolate cake just by using chocolate frosting. They can be frozen. Watch out for bloom, though. If they bloom, thaw them until they are dry and sift either confectioner’s sugar for white chocolate or cocoa for regular chocolate over them to cover up the white spots. The spots aren’t harmful, just fugly.  I actually prefer them frozen. I should warn you: they are addictive. These are not “I need to fit into a smaller size” treats.

I’ve figured out all sorts of things along the way, but there was one issue left and I think I may have solved it. How does one set them down after dipping? I’m jumping ahead, though. Let’s start at the beginning.

The cake needs to be broken up into small pieces. It should be bigger than grains of sand, but smaller than chunks. Chunks will make it difficult to roll a smooth truffle. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is in my food processor.

Now add the buttercream. Some people use canned frosting, but the best flavor is with homemade, in my opinion. Here, I’m using bits of leftover frosting from other projects.

See the dark chocolate frosting? That’s what is going to turn this vanilla into chocolate.

The amount of frosting to use varies from cake to cake. Start small and add more as needed. Don’t go by the amount shown above as the bowl is potato salad for a family reunion huge. Start with one of the dollops shown and go from there. Test it by rolling it into a ball shape. You want it to firmly hold together without cracking.

(I added cocoa to this batch to make it more chocolately and to correct adding too much frosting.)

It will probably stick to your hands a bit once you’ve rolled 3 or 4 of them.

(Shoes are for sissies or paid orders, LOL)

Once you’ve reached the correct consistency, roll all of the truffles and as you roll them place them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.

When the sheet is full (or you run out of mix, whatever happens first), put them in the freezer. At this point you can freeze them until they are solid, toss them in a Ziploc type bag, put the bag in the freezer, and stop here until you are ready to dip them. This is handy if you don’t want to risk chocolate bloom but don’t have time to do it all right now.

Once you’re ready to dip, have the paper lined cookie sheets handy. I like to start with an empty one so I’m not maneuvering around the undipped ones. However, with my latest method, this isn’t a problem.

The type of chocolate you choose is personal preference. You can use chocolate chips, candy melts, leftover Easter bunnies, or go high class and use couverture (that’s so fancy I don’t know how to spell it). Let your budget and personal preference guide the way. The important thing here is that the chocolate must be tempered. It what you use isn’t already tempered, you’ll have to learn how to do that first. A topic for another day and for someone much more experienced than me.

Note: Chocolate and moisture do not mix. It will make the chocolate seize. You will know it has seized because it won’t be all melty and smooth anymore. You can try to rescue seized chocolate by stirring in shortening a teaspoon or so at a time until it returns to the correct consistency.

Now that you know that, chop the chocolate.

Hang in there, we’re almost done. It’s time to melt the chocolate. There are three methods to accomplish this:

Double boiler (see above pic)

Microwave (which is difficult for me to achieve the perfect temp: melted but not burned)

Crock pot type melting device (see below pic)

(The pictures I’m using are a combination of batches. The ones shown above are coconut flavored cake truffles.)

Get the truffles from the freezer while you are melting the chocolate. If you dip them when they are too cold, the chocolate will crack so you want them solid enough to hold together while dipping, but not too solid or you’ll have to dip twice to cover cracks. Dip to your heart’s content, let the chocolate set up, and they’re finished.

This brings me to my dipping experiment. As I said, I don’t have a lot of luck moving the truffle from the chocolate dipping area to the cookie sheet. I have tried all sorts of devices: toothpick, fork, spoon, and several special instruments made for chocolate dipping. None of them work to my satisfaction.  Tapping the instrument against the side of the pan helps the excess drip off but you can’t do that with a toothpick. If you don’t use a toothpick, you have to cover them completely with chocolate, which means there’s no uncovered “blow hole” to prevent blow outs. It’s a dilemma.

Instead of using cookie sheets to place them on to harden, get out your cooling racks and cover them with waxed paper. This method uses more toothpicks, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. Using one of the toothpicks, poke holes into the waxed paper.

Hopefully you can see the spaced holes in the picture. Dip the truffle into the chocolate, covering almost completely. Remember: you want a small spot left uncovered. The sensible place for this is near the toothpick which you stick into the middle of the bottom of the truffle so it won’t be seen unless someone has an uncontrollable urge to look at truffle butts or something.

(The uncovered area should be a lot smaller than shown above. This picture also shows the difficulty in dipping when the chocolate level gets low.)

Now that the truffle is dipped, you are going to put the toothpick (still stuck in the truffle) into one of the holes in the waxed paper. It’s easier to start in the center of the rack and work your way outwards.  One hand holds the toothpick from above while the other waits underneath the rack to receive the toothpick. Move slower than you think so it’s doesn’t drop from one hand to the other.

 

Place the toothpick into the hole, pause, put your other hand underneath and grasp the part of the toothpick sticking through the hole. Remove the hand that’s above the rack, and with the hand that’s grasping the toothpick below the rack, lower the truffle until it is sitting on the waxed paper. Let go of the toothpick and slowly remove your hand from beneath the rack.

Ta da!

Your truffle is now sitting on the rack and it hasn’t rolled anywhere, you didn’t scrape off chocolate getting it from the toothpick to the rack, and your fingers aren’t chocolate covered in the process.

You can dip about 6 truffles and then the chocolate is set enough on the finished truffles to enable easy removal of the toothpicks so you can reuse them for the rest of the truffle dipping.

Other than using more toothpicks, the only problem I have with this method is removing the chocolate that pools at the bottom of the truffle. When using the cookie sheet method, you can score around the bottom of the truffle before the chocolate is completely set. You can’t do that with this method. However, I always had to fine tune them with the other method, so it’s no biggie for me.

Once the chocolate is completely set and all the toothpicks are removed (you can place the racks in the fridge or freezer to hurry this process), use a cookie sheet (rimless is best) and slowly pull the waxed paper off the rack onto the cookie sheet. Most of your truffles should stay stuck to the waxed paper. If not, as long as the chocolate is firmly set, it’s not a problem. Now that they are on a solid surface, you can trim the pooled chocolate with the knife of your choice.

Eat. Enjoy. Place in mini cupcake wrappers and impress your friends with their elegance.

Just don’t try this unless it’s Halloween because people freak out far too easy and won’t eat them.

 

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!

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