Tag Archives: Christmas

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

Merry Christmas!

26 Dec

2 Chicks Cakes and Catering hopes all your Christmas goodies turned out as good as this:

That your living room started out looking like this:

and an hour later looked like this:

and that the Bobcats win tomorrow making sacrificing time with the chicklet today all the more worth making over 60 of these:

We’ll be taking a few weeks off from the blog to spend time with our cake eaters/taste testers/honesty panels, to clean up from merry making, and to refill our sugar filled idea barrels. ‘Tis not Farewell but Lemme Catch Up so we shall returneth in 2010 refreshed, renewed, and fully New Year’s resoluted. Until then: Whatever holiday you are celebrating this month, we wish you the very best one ever and we look forward to playing  with cake with you in the next year!

One Smart Cookie

22 Dec

Day two. Yes, the Stained Glass candy, fudges, and Spritz were all made in one day. Better yet- one afternoon. It’s that quick to make them. However, now we slow down to a project that lasted three days. We didn’t do anything on the second day, but it still took 3 days to get it completely done. What could possibly take that long? Fruit cake? Ew, no. Sugar cookies. It’s not making the cookies that take so long, it the procrastinating and decorating that gets in the way. Fiddly stuff, cookie decorating. In years past, we would slather the icing on with knives and let the drips fall where they may. Santa never looked like his Jolly Old Self, the stars had craters of frosting like we were going for the moon, and the candy cane stripes were less than tidy. Even that haphazard method took forever and I usually pawned off the job on someone else. Being newly unemployed with the kiddos and hubby home, I knew I had to pitch in and at least help this year. Ugh. What’s a cake decorator to do?

Avoiding the issue and considering the options took a full 24 hours. I’m going to save you one whole day with this tutorial. I’ve cut out The Day of Consideration and Procrastination because I found the solution. One that people have been doing for eons, but in my stubbornness, I’ve never tried. I thought it would be even more time consuming, more messy, and too full of tiny details that drive me mad. Mad, I tell you. Mad, mad, mad! Cookie icing, sprinkle throwing, candy ball placing mad! Bwahahahaha!

Ahem, let’s get on with it, shall we? The recipe I used was the same one I used for my daughter’s wedding reception. You, too, can have your very own copy of this recipe by clicking here:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/The-Best-Rolled-Sugar-Cookies/Detail.aspx

Jill is one smart cookie and one smart baker. I even used her confectioner’s sugar and icing mixture to ice them- until this year.

One thing to note: the dough has to be refrigerated so plan accordingly. I hate when I’m in the middle of a recipe and run smack into “wait one hour.” Ruins the whole flow and throws off the schedule. I’m warning you now. If you want to complete the baking portion start in the morning (or afternoon if you’re a night owl). If you start at night and expect to get it done before bed, it ain’t gonna happen.

Per the usual crazy methodology of mine, gather your ingredients and tools. Wanna know why I do this first? Have you ever gotten into a recipe only to find out you don’t have something you need? Stinks, doesn’t it? That’s why I gather first. It’s not foolproof (and I am nothing but a fool- a sugar fool.) but most of the time it works for me.

Can you believe those are but a small portion of the cutters I own?  I just bought a set of letters and numbers to add to the collection. Hubby thinks my cake pan collection is bad, heaven forbid he ever realizes how many cookie cutters I possess. If you spill the beans, you’ll be on kitchen clean-up for the next year. K? Now, let’s get started.

Make sure the butter is soft, and cream it with the sugar.

 

I know, I know: why so many pictures? I always try to assume if you read this blog, you’re a newb. It couldn’t be our witty repartee now, could it? As a newb, you may not know what I mean when I say, “cream.” Hopefully, the pictures show what creaming looks like and the stages from whole ingredients to completely creamed. Some will tell you that the sugar should be dissolved and the goo won’t feel grainy. That doesn’t happen for me, at least not with this recipe. It needs to be completely incorporated, but don’t worry about graininess just yet.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

 

I’m a daredevil. Look at the bravery-adding ingredients while the mixer is running. Don’t try this unless you’re willing to clean up mess ‘cause sometimes it throws stuff like a baby with oatmeal at 6 a.m. after allowing you a whopping two hours of sleep.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, let it whirr for a bit to finish mixing, and then add the dry ingredients: baking powder, salt, and flour. I add them in that order because I fear the baking powder and salt won’t be spread out evenly in the batter. You have your quirks, I have mine.

 

See the tossing? Yeppers. Fortunately, the mess wasn’t too bad. Today, anyway. Don’t try this on the high setting, folks; or you will curse my name for years to come. Low only.

Mix until it’s all combined, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed.

 

 Aaannnd now we wait.  Scrape into a ball-like shape and cover the dough.

 

 Stick said dough in refridge for at least an hour.

 

 As you can see, it’s leftovers for dinner tonight. I gotta ditch the ghetto tupperware before the relatives arrive.

In the meantime, we really should clean up the mess we made so far.

 

 (Mixer can be found here:  http://www.kitchenaid.com/flash.cmd?/#/page/home or you can wait 5 years for your hubby to realize you seriously want one, would not have put one on your Christmas list if you didn’t, and really will use it all the time to make stuff that will give him to the roundest Buddha belly in town.)

Feel free to chill out while the dough chills out. Pour a cup of nog, put your reindeer slippers on the furniture and watch Rudolph unplugged. Isn’t it sad how much they chop up movies when they put them on the tube? Go wild and buy the originals on DVD this year. Support your local elf.

Okay, that’s enough. Don’t want to get too relaxed or we’ll never get this done and the neighbors will know what a slacker at heart you really are.

Prep your cookie sheets.

 

I like 2- one in the oven and one to put more on while the first one bakes.

Plop some flour on the counter, flour your rolling pin, and plop a smaller pile of flour nearby to dip your cutters.

 Yeah, don’t forget that second pile. As you can see, I did; and I had to start all over again. Bah humbug.

For some reason known only to Herbie, I always have to add more flour to this recipe or all it does to stick to everything. If you have the same problem, feel free to add more- but not so much the dough is dry and don’t knead it so much that the cookies are tough. You’ll have to learn by feel for this. It should stick a little to the counter or hands, but not at all to the rolling pin.

Turn on the oven before you start rolling the dough. It’s the little details like that which will delay progress. 🙂

 

Okey doke, roll it out, dip your cutters in flour, and press away.

 

 Seethe little spreader? I used this instead of a butter knife for the first time this year. It worked much better. Less tearing, less distortion, less hair pulling.

Cut them out, get them on the sheet, and slip the sheet into the oven.

 Like the Spritz cookies, you want the edges to just start to brown before you take them out of the oven. Any longer and you’ve made hard tack. You know- the bread the pioneers used to take cross-country that lasted forever. I bet more than one person met their end because they were so desperate to eat those hard things that they took a chance on the local water.

 

 Keep cutting, baking, and cooling ad-infinauseum or until your dining room looks like this:

 Once cooled, cover them up, clean up the kitchen, and go to bed. Even Santa sleeps some times.

 

 A fresh new morning awaits! Get up so we can finish these before the big day. I won’t bore you with a bunch of details, as this explanation is already quite lengthy. As I told you way at the roof top of this post, I usually make a thick concoction of confectioner’s sugar and water to ice cookies. I have used good ol’ buttercream, too. However, the results were less than impressive. They looked like a 5 year old decorated them. Slop on some frosting, load it up with sprinkles, and move on with life, right?

Being nearly in the cake biz this year, I felt it best to work on the execution this time around. I loaded up with colored royal icing and sprinkles and set to work, hoping my creative vibe had returned after being squashed in a corporate pod for months.

 Important things to know about royal icing:

Grease-free everything. Don’t just guess. I keep separate tips, spatulas, and metal bowls just for royal.

It dries quickly, so keep everything covered every moment it’s not in use- the bowl, the tips, the spreaders, everything.

Once it dries/crusts, it’s useless for anything other than throwing at your kitchen mate.

Raw eggs are bad. Don’t spend the holidays on the potty, use meringue powder instead.

Primary colors can be difficult to achieve. I didn’t have too many problems with this, but “they” say it’s hard to do.

 Generally, you make royal thick, outline the area you want to ice, thin the royal, and flood the interior of the outline. Too many steps for me today, so I stuck with medium consistency to do both. It worked okay- not perfect by any means, but the kiddos who will eat these will think they are and that’s all that counts, right?

Generally, I like the smaller grained colored sugar better than the larger. The exception was the white sparkly colored sugar. If you want snowy sparkle, that’s the stuff to use. The larger grained sugar tended to lay on top and looked exactly like what it is: sugar sprinkled on a cookie. The smaller grain looked more like part of the décor. Make sense?

The chicklet was in charge of our very first 3D tree this year. Basically, you take 2 each of 5 or so different sized star cookies, stacked them so the points are off-set, and frost away. Being the smart chicklet that she is, she frosted first.

The candy ornaments and snow drips were added after stacking. Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

Okay, enough explanation. The big day is but a few hoof beats away.  Get in there and do it. Soon your dining room can look like this, too:

 

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

8 Dec

Betcha thought I forgot about ya’, didn’t ya’? Nope. Just “busy, busy, busy” to use those immortal magician’s words. 

For a change, I thought I’d post a holiday themed cake before the holiday. I have a few holiday cake pictures in my collection but since they aren’t created until the week of the holiday, it’s kind of hard to post them after the holiday and not look like I don’t know what the date is. I gotcha this time, though.

Way back when at the Farmers Market, we held a drawing for a free 6 inch cake. The coupon was cashed in recently and the winner wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate mint frosting. The cake was for a church event and she liked the outdoors and Christmas. From there, the rest was up to me. The cake was supposed to be a simple design, per the rules, so I restrained myself and designed a mistletoe cake, thereby giving her both the outdoors and Christmas on one cake. I’m smart like that.

We start with the obvious: a 6 inch cake. This one is actually 2 six inch cakes stacked. That’s what my recipe makes, so why not use all the cake? My freezer is plum full of cake truffles already so I have no need for more extra cake. I have to have room for other holiday goodies in there, doncha know.

Level the cakes (level-ish, according to the pictures)

 

Fill and stack the cakes:

I put a dowel down the center of my cake because, as you see, it’s a bit tipsy.

Crumb coat (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

Finish coat:

Lacquer coat- wait, that’s cars; this is cake. Get a ruler and draw diamond shapes (ish, again. Dear Santa, for Christmas I would like a diamond impression mat because now even hubster cannot draw it.)

(We should have left it like that, but of course we didn’t.)

Try to figure out the circumference of a 6 inch cake, and then decide to wing it and cut a rectangular strip for the top edge of the cake. Roll it out 4 times until you remember to roll up the strip to move it onto the cake instead of picking it up while it’s flat and screaming in frustration when it rips.

Put the strip in its proper place on the cake.

Use white icing and a round tip to fancy up the intersections of the diamonds. Except you will use the smaller tip even if you think it’s not big enough because, as you see, the bigger tip looks like doody.

Try to figure out the circumference of a 6 inch cake, and then decide to wing it and cut a rectangular strip for the top edge of the cake. Roll it out 4 times until you remember to roll up the strip to move it onto the cake instead of picking it up while it’s flat and screaming in frustration when it rips.

Put the strip in its proper place on the cake.

Use white icing and a round tip to fancy up the intersections of the diamonds. Except you will use the smaller tip even if you think it’s not big enough because, as you see, the bigger tip looks like doody.

Between the mucked up diamond pattern and the gigant-o dots, I hope our winner doesn’t have her glasses on when I deliver this.

Next, cut out more leaves than you will ever use in this lifetime.

I scrounged around in my stuff to find the cutter. You can find it here:

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E30D6EB-475A-BAC0-5E5EF66C57041711&killnav=1

Dust them with sparkly type stuff.

Make teeny tiny balls of red fondant and dust them with sparkly type stuff, too. Or do what I did- use a pearl maker.

Arrange  leaves around bottom border of cake.

Arrange 3 leaves on top of cake.

Over-leaf the whole thing and remove the excess leaving the top no longer smooth and no longer able to be smoothed. Add red balls for berries on the top of the cake.

In person, it was centered. Seriously. It’s the picture that makes it look “off.” Dunno why. Ask my son, he’s the photographer. I’m sure it’s some really long technical explanation that will make you sorry you asked, but go ahead- ask. I double-dog dare you. My apologies also for the darkness of the shot. Again, ask the kiddo.

Decide the cake is “done enough for  this late at night” and go to bed wondering if you’ll remember to buy a box for it tomorrow so you can deliver it.

Two more weeks of this college class and then I promise to make perfect cakes again. Right after I buy a crap ton of gifts, wrap them, make 2 dozen confections for Christmas, and take a vow of poverty rather than work a 40 hour per week job that isn’t caking.

What do you mean it’s only 2 weeks until Christmas?

Aaaahhhhhhhh! Quick, somebody wrap something! Anything!

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