Tag Archives: carve

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.

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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.)

Here Kitty, Kitty!

26 Oct

Sheeee’s popular, sheeeee’s cute, sheeee’s copywrited, she’s Hello Kitty!

Yup, can‘t do Hello Kitty. What you can do is make a Kutie Kitty, not to be confused with the copywrited Hello Kitty. Got it? NOT Hello Kitty. It’s a different bow, so it can’t be. It’s Kutie Kitty. Got it? Got it?

Alrighty, then. Let us proceed to make a Cute Cat Cake.

I’m a slacker at heart, so my kitty starts with a shaped pan you can find here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=2105-4945

bear cake compressed

Using a sturdy cake recipe, make a bear cake. Yup. Bear. Not cat. Bear. S’alright. You’ll see.

Now, in a grown up, cake addicted, adult version of Operating Table, we’re going to perform a lil non-plastic surgery on Mr. Bear ‘cause his whole life he’s really felt like a cat inside. Who are we to stand in his way? All you need for the surgery is a knife and for the kids to be out of the room. Unless you want to traumatize them. If you do, that’s a whole other post on a whole ‘nother blog.

 creating kitty ears compressed

Slice the roundness off the ears by cutting a straight line perpendicular and a straight line horizontally. Don’t know your perp from your vert from your hort? Memorize this song and you’ll never have that prob again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spaw8bCZMHc

Wow! Those were the days, huh? I can hardly remember what it was like to be that cool.

crumbcoat kitty compressed

After you’ve run a towel into one ear and out the other to clean those images out, crumb coat the bearcat. This time, keeping the facial details is not important, so slather away at it.

final icing coat kitty compressed

You know the drill: final coat and smooth.

Geez, that song is still playing in my head. I think I’ve aged at least 30 years in the past 1 ½ minutes. Can you believe leggings are back in style? No, you cannot wear them. Remember: if you wore it the first time, you cannot wear it the second time. By the third time, you’ll be so old people will accept your little quirks as age issues, so don’t toss your originals just yet. But I digress….

Where were we? Let’s see: carve, crumb, final. What’s next? Oh, yes! Fonnnnddaaaaannntt!

rolling kitty fondant compressed

The rolling pin (found here: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=B46C2136-802D-F658-044AFB328E609BEE&killnav=1) was left in the picture as a guide for you. Okay, I really didn’t think about it at the time, but it is a happy circumstance, isn’t it?  The pin is 20 inches long, for those of you too lazy to click and look right now. Roll your fondant and prepare for launch- onto the cake, of course.

cover with fondant kitty compressed

Cover your kitty (insert your own joke here). Adhere and smooth the fondant to the cake. Ignore that it’s not quite kitty kat shaped. Again, s’alright. Your friends won’t notice. Or coworkers, in this case.

adding kitty details compressed

Begin adding the details. The nose and eyes are ovals, not circles. You can use an oval cutter- or a round one if you’re good at that kind of thing. I’m not. Those things only happen by accident in this kitchen. The bow you add is up to you. Consider your time, skills, and tools at hand and go bow-making-crazy.

Awww, ain’t she adorable? She still needs whiskers. We wouldn’t want her to get her head stuck somewhere because her curb feelers are AWOL. I used 3 long black coffee stirrers cut into halves for my Kutie Kitty. You can try dying spaghetti black or getting string licorice stiff enough if you like. My time, talent, and fear of color bleed kept me firmly on the coffee stirrer path; but hey, you may be superior to me.  😛

The final touch was a dusting of white pearl dust to make her shiny. Every gal needs a little glitter for her big debut.

Red carpet, errrr, office pod- here we come!

finished kitty compressed

Happy B-day, J!

(P.S. I told you it would be alright. When will you learn to trust me? Yeesh, some people. )

Cake Chicks Undercover

21 Sep

Have you ever wondered what a cake decorating contest is like? If you could “hang” with that crowd? If you have a snowball’s chance of competing? So did we. What’s a cake chick with a longing to do? Spy, of course! We’re so good at it, we didn’t even have to lurk around corners to get the story. We walked right in, spoke to people, gawked, took beau coup pictures, and boldly snagged pieces of each cake even though we were supposed to limit ourselves to one. Hey, it’s not my fault they didn’t say that before they started passing the plates!

Here’s the set-up: contestants arrived one hour prior to the competition to set up. They have one hour to finish decorating their partly finished cakes in front of a live audience. And they were definitely live. A little too live at times. Kids, young adults, and way grown people alike were both nervous and excited- too much so at times. While the contestants are decorating, judges interview about their creations. Eek! Go away! They only have an hour!

 After the time allotted has passed, the judges get to work and eat cake while we watch and are served our own pieces. Badda bing, badda boom, winners are announced, and we all go home entertained, full of cake, and a little more educated.

 There you have it. That’s how it works. Satisfied? *Sigh* I thought not. Okay, here’s the whole scoop on this particular contest:

 We arrive at the much disclosed location and pull up to the little booth where they keep the parking attendant hostage. When we fork over our hard-earned-we’ve-got-bills-to-pay five bucks for parking, he sees our swank attire and posh vehicle, takes pity on us, and gives us two free tickets to the event. Score!

 Park the hoopty, walk into the building, and wander around acting like we belong. The contest is being held during a home improvement show so we totally blend in. We look like we drop a hundred grand on a patio, right? Suuurrrre.

 Okay, in our zest and excitement, we’re a lil early for the contest. We get the lay of the land and now the contest starts in….an hour and a half. LOL Hey, at least right outside there’s a horse show of some sort. Let’s go check that out…. Well, city cake chick is not fond of the aroma and country cake chick still can’t stand to see a whip used so let’s not hang here too long. Blah, blah, blah, kill time and check on progress. Nope, zoo dude is still hogging the stage. Lunch? One taco, two drinks, and too much money later, it’s time to check again. Whoo hoo! Snag a couple of seats and wait for the big event to start!

 Waaiit a minute. Where’s the nekked cake? Why are these covered? They look almost done. What’s going on here? Hmmm, guess I should have read the rules a bit closer. I was ready for them to start from baked nekked cake and end with a completed masterpiece. I mean, that’s why I said, “No way am I ready for that” when asked if I was interested in competing. Shoot, had I known all I had to do on site was the actual last hour of decorating any cake I might have tossed my spatula into the ring. Or not. I’m pretty chicken, that’s why I’m a cake chick and not a cake lion or something else equally fierce.

 Cake chicks and cake roosters, there is fondant everywhere! As far as the rolling pin can reach, there is fondant. Out of 5 contestants, there is 1, yes 1, fondant free cake. Here. In middle America. In a town nicknamed Cowlumbus. Fondant. Huh. Whoda thunk it? And not just accents, either. Entire cakes covered. In fondant. I thought for awhile there I’d have to pull my fellow chickie out from under the folding chair where she was rocking herself while in the fetal position. Fondant has officially taken over the world if it’s here.

 Hey, I’m a fondant fan. I’m also a buttercream pipe dreamer. I can eat buttercream literally by the bucket if not stopped but fondant? Yes, I’ll have one piece, please- but only if it’s a kind that tastes good. I’m a wannabe buttercream piper. I’m practicing my skills dreaming that one day a client will ask for an 8 tier wedding cake with royal string work and intricate scrolls and I’ll say with confidence, “I can do that, no problemo.” In the meantime, I fondant. Not that fondant is simple or easy. It’s just a different talent and skill. One I already have. Piping does not come naturally to this cake chick- which makes it all the more exciting to try to conquer.

 Anyway, fondant is definitely here, but there’s some buttercream work, too- along with *gasp* chocolate! Yum, white piped chocolate! *Swoon* Now it’s my partner’s turn to pick me up from the floor. Where I’m crawling towards the table trying to sneak a taste. “Whoa, there, Nelly! Don’t make me harness you and put you in the ring outside!” Alright, alright, I’ll sit back in my chair. For now.

 After we peruse the offerings, the contest starts with minimal fanfare. The crowd quiets for a bit as the work begins- but no for long. Every contestant has their cheering section and some lend quiet support, but others, not so much.

Dispatch Cake Contest supporter compressed

At this point, one of us is sliding in and out amongst the chairs and onlookers taking pictures whilst the other is “standing on ballerina toes trying to see over the heads of the RELATIVES WHO GET TO SEE THESE FOLKS WORK ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!!!!!!!!” Ahem. As I said, some were calm and others were not.

 La, la, la, la- contestants are covering cakes with fondant, applying borders, covering cake boards, piping basket weave, etc….etc…etc…. It was difficult to see due to people standing and the set up of the whole shebang. Every 15 minutes or so one of the judges announces the time left. Roughly half-way through, a local reporter/judge talks to each one of the contestants asking about the inspiration for their cakes and each caker’s experience with cake. Near the end, the crowd’s patience is at an end and they start filing by the tables, completely blocking the view of anyone polite enough to stay back and let them work without interference. Argh! A child’s curiosity gets the best of her and I see her reach out and quickly slap a cake. Aaaahhhh! I swear, this next part was pure reflex on my part. I’ve been a parent too long. I should have been given more time off as a parent. You would have done the same, I swear.

 I slapped my fellow caker. Yes, slapped. Reflex, I swear. It was as if I was reaching out to slap that child’s hand away from the cake. At the same time, I gasped, “She’s touching it!” Fortunately, the slap was gentle enough that my bud just said, “what?” like a fellow exasperated mother who’s been interrupted one too many times. Security like people (if you can call people in golf shirts security) quickly set up a barrier and the cake was unharmed. Whew! Disaster averted.

 The whistle blows signaling the end of the allotted time and we are all given one more chance to take pictures and shuffle by the cakes. Contestants cut into their masterpieces and the judging begins. We were, umm, too busy eating cake to watch much of the judging. J Hey, you have to know if it tastes as good as it looks, right? I mean, in the end, cake is for eating.

  How did it taste? Disappointing. Then again, I had pretty high expectations so my disappointment was partly my fault. I was looking at the decorators as semi-gods. Obviously, they were confident enough to enter. If they entered, they must have thought they had a decent chance of winning. Judging by their supporters, other people thought so as well. I naturally assumed a person with such high decorating skills would have equally high baking skills. I mean, it’s cake, right? You eat it. Your family eats it. Your friends eat it. Your coworkers eat it. There must be something extraordinary about it, right? Nope. Box mix, box mix, box mix, box mix, probably altered box mix. Call it fudgy chunky pumpkin whatever. It’s a box mix. Huh. So what’s all fuss about scratch vs. box again? Hey, I like box mixes. I make them a lot. It’s just that I had different expectations. I definitely didn’t expect the chocolate to be burnt, but let’s not point fingers at what I’m sure is already an embarrassing enough situation. Can you imagine when that caker got home with the leftovers and discovered that little oopsie? Oh my!

 Other unexpected discoveries were:

 Wilton boxes. Yep, flimsy as they are, every box I saw was a Wilton.

 Not a Viva paper towel in sight. I guess they all trusted their icing to remain perfect. The paper towels I saw had prints or patterns on them.

 Fondant- the homemade one was okay- tasteless, which can be a good thing. It didn’t compete with the cake or buttercream flavor at all. The stuff that wasn’t homemade and that was served was…weird. Very stretchy. The person who flavored their fondant with pumpkin pie type spices- don’t do that. Weird and ick, ick and weird.

 Square corners with ripped fondant. As we all know, that’s what décor is for, right?

 Crooked borders

 Not an airbrush in sight, but there was a can of Wilton spray color involved.

 One person out of 5 wore gloves. None had their hair covered. In fact, one long haired contestant didn’t even pull the hair back in a ponytail. Not all wore aprons.

 The buttercream layer under the fondant was maybe 1/8” thick. Mine is closer to ¼”

  Just interesting observations. Observations that make me think I’m too hard on myself and perhaps I’m ready to play with big guys. Or maybe the medium guys.

 In the end, the little details didn’t seem to matter that much. As someone said to me, “You could have Jesus spinning on top of a pumpkin, and the ‘shoe would still win.” Sorry if that offends anyone, but there’s a truth to it.

Dispatch Cake Contest 'shoe compressed

The horseshoe stadium wins every time. Something to remember, no? I’m not saying she didn’t deserve the win, not at all. She gave a terrific explanation of her inspiration for her cake and she does a mean, fast, straight basket weave, after all.

 Check out the detail on this apple:

Dispatch Cake Contest apple compressed

“Gorgeous!” (must be said in a certain tone of voice with jazz hands) Again, to be fair, the judges were not cakers. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. Only cakers truly know the exquisiteness of a well turned out shoe:

Dispatch Cake Contest william's shoe compressed

or perfectly executed cutey pie pumpkins:

Dispatch Cake Contest baby pumpkins compressed

or the real difficulties of a chocolate collar (even if the decorator says it’s easy):

Dispatch Cake Contest chocolate collar compressed

I guess I just wanted all the cakes to win or something. Each one had their own specialness to it. Each stood on its own as a work of edible art. But dang, did you have to go all ‘shoe on them??? LOL

So, judge for yourself. I know you can’t taste them so you’ll just have to go on decorating skill alone. Which one would you have chosen?

Dispatch Cake Contest 091 'shoe cake done compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 090 pumpkin and stump compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 074 chocolate cake compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 092 pumpkin house compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 093 square cake compressed

 

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!

Slip Me Some Sax, Baby: Part Two

9 Aug

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

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

 fondant consistency

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

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

sax color testing

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

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

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

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

sax crumb coated

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

sax final frosting coat

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

sax rolling fondant

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

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

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

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

 sax placing fondant

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

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

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

sax fondant first trim

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

sax before detail work

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

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

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

sax before hardware

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

sax pearl cap placement

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

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

Really, it will.

Go ahead.

Chicken. 🙂

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

 sax horn

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

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

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

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

sax mouthpiece before ligature

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

ligature drawing 

 

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

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

sax mouthpiece

We’re almost there, folks!

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

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

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

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

sax before lettering

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

sax finished

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

0716ji63598-1885ac

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

  Yippee!

Slip Me Some Sax, Baby!

4 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

Debster's Awesome Sax

Debster's Awesome Sax

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

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

sax template

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

template cut out- fronttemplate cut out-back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

Strips

Strips

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

Pins

Pins

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

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

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

big bowl

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

WASC in pan beforechocolate decadence before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

flipping a sheet cake

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

WASC Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

Chocolate Decadence Half-Sheet Baked

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

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

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

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

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

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

 positioning template on cakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first cut

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

WASC cut

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

Chocolate Decadence cut

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

 

Cut and joined

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

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

 

Scrap cake

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

sax wrapped for freezing

Part deux coming soon!

 

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