Tag Archives: Torting

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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Twitter Gone Haywire

29 Nov

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

You can find the pan here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Dry Cool Weather Caking!

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

23 Nov

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

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

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

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

Crumb and final coat with more gray frosting.

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

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

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

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

Back before final adjustments:

Front:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create ropes:

Slit corner posts:

Slide the ropes into the corner posts:

Cut a short length of straw:

Cap the first set of ropes:

Repeat for the remaining 3 corners.

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

Cap the second set of ropes:

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

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

All that to say: give it up.

Buy black straws.

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

Monkeying Around

15 Nov

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

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

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

choc cake in pan compressed

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

Cool the cake per usual.

choc cake cooling compressed

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

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

monkey template compressed

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

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

fitting monkey template compressed

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

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

torted choc cake compressed

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

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

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

Partially carve:

first carve monkey cake compressed

Aaannnd fully carve:

final cut monkey cake compressed

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

In between bites, crumb coat.

crumb coat monkey cake compressed

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

final coat monkey cake compressed

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

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

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

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

Yes, I’m old. Shut up.

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

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

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

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

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

laying brown fondant monkey cake compressed

first brown fondant trimming monkey cake compressed

final brown fondant trimming monkey cake compressed

Monkey cam shot:

monkey cam shot compressed

Get it? Got it? Don’t forget it.

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

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

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

removing top of head stencil monkey cake compressed

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

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

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

laying flesh fondant monkey cake compressed

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

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

placing top of head stencil monkey cake compressed

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

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

Remove the template and check out your work.

cutting flesh fondant monkey face compressed

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

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

fondant base complete monkey cake compressed

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

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

monkey facial features template cut compressed

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

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

Flesh for the inner ears

Brown for the eyes and nostrils

Red for the mouth

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

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

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

completed monkey cake compressed

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

Bettercreme: A Better Cream?

30 Aug

bettercreme frontIn case you haven’t read it already somewhere in the vasty vastness of the World Wide Webster, Bettercreme is all the range in some circles. Since I’m not one to miss out on all the latest and greatest (scrunchies are still in, right?), I thought I’d give it a whirl to see what all the hubbub is about. After all, if there’s something out there better than buttercream, it behooves us all to jump on the bandwagon lest we be left behind once again (Don’t ask. It involved Sea World and my sister. Very traumatic). 

I’m not sure if a rose by any other name is still the same, but I’ve seen Bettercreme used interchangeably with Better Cream, Better Crème, Butr Cream, Frosting Pride, etc…. I’ve also seen correction after correction that one is not the other. Since Bettercreme is what I could get my hands on without unduly inconveniencing myself, that’s what I purchased. After sitting in the freezer for a few weeks because I was scared (What if it is better? What if I wasted my money? You know- all that psychological chicky nonsense.) I sucked it up and tried it out for my daughter’s bday cake. I certainly couldn’t use it for the first time on a client’s cake and I knew this cake would already be too much for us to consume without eating it at every meal for the next week, so what better time than now?

 Before we start, a bit of a disclaimer: who knows if I actually did this right? I tried to follow all the info I read when I made it, but things tend to happen in my kitchen and the old grayer-all-the-time brain matter isn’t quite what it used to be concerning retained info. Sure, I could have collected all sorts of notes, studied them, created a step-by-step instruction sheet, but why do that when you can wing it? My other disclaimer is this: every one has different tastes. What I love you may find nauseating and vice-versa. My chemical overload may be your fresh as pure cow’s milk nirvana. To each their own, and as my mamma says, “It takes all kinds to make the world go round.”

Now, for the process. Step one: read the carton. I’m smart like that. Step two: realize you forgot to thaw it so set it on the counter to thaw while you continue making the cake.

bettercreme back

Now, kvetch a little bit because you didn’t chill your bowl and beaters. Then decide to think like Martha and put ice in a bowl with water to place under the mixer bowl so it will whip faster. Spill water everywhere trying to get the bowl of ice water under the mixer bowl and get the whole ghetto set-up on the mixer. Pour off some of the water and repeat. Try it one more time for good measure and then give up because you realize this is taking more time than if you had gone ahead and chilled the stuff before you tried channeling Martha. Maybe I’m not so smart after all?

 After giving that up, pour the amount you need in the mixer bowl, attach your handy-dandy whisk, and start the mixer. I read that you can flavor and color this stuff, so I carefully added a tablespoon of good vanilla and some green gel coloring. Whip, whip, whip and check periodically to see how stiff it’s getting. When it reaches stiff peak (that’s when you lightly dip your beater or a spoon onto the top of the mixture and lift straight up. If the peak doesn’t form, keep whipping. If the peak stands straight up, it’s too stiff to use for icing AKA hard peak. If the peak is stiff but the top of it flops over, it’s juuussst right, Goldilocks.) it’s ready to use-almost. First, take the bowl off the mixer, grab a spatula, and very lightly fold the mixture to ensure it’s completely whipped and all of the coloring is mixed in- that is, it’s all the same color without any blotches of lighter or darker frosting. There- all done. It’s ready to use for whatever you want. I thought I took pictures of this process but they seem to have disappeared in the Never-Never Land of my computer files. If you’re lucky, they’ll show up before I post this. If not, use your vivid imagination.

Onward towards the review part! I smeared it on the glass I was using,

covering the glass

torted the cake and filled it with the frosting,

torted and filled margarita

placed the cake in the glass,

placing cake in glass

and iced the top of the cake with it.

Per usual, the color darkened over time.

color darkening margarita cake

No problemo. After all, she’s just turning 21. She’s not supposed to know what a Margarita looks like just yet. If she does, and she’s smart, she keeps that bit of info to herself, right? So, no problemo.

 The texture is definitely lighter than buttercream. It’s closer to a whipped cream in texture, which is cool. Heavy frosting isn’t always appropriate. After all, can you imagine Strawberry Shortcake with buttercream? I think not! It’s light, it’s fluffy, it can’t be smoothed completely, it doesn’t crust (and I expected all that), and it tastes…

Blech!

It tastes like chemicals. Yes, I’m quite used to artificial sweeteners, thank you very much. Splenda and Equal taste sweet to me. I have altered what’s left of my brain synapses so they think it’s sweet and not all chemically tasting. This stuff, however, tasted awful to me. No, I didn’t expect it to taste like buttercream. I expected it to taste similar to sweetened whipped cream. Lest you think it’s my palate that is in error, let me tell you who else tried it and their thoughts.

Hubby- ick!

Daughter- what is this stuff? It’s gross.

Son- disgusting.

Hubby’s coworkers on whom I pawned off the cake: one dip of the finger and they wouldn’t touch it anymore.

All that cake into the trash. Wasted. What a shame. It’s almost a sin to waste cake, isn’t it? Nevertheless, not even I, who will eat darned near anything that approaches junk food, ate it.

Interestingly, the color started to separate over time. Perhaps I added too much coloring? Perhaps it’s not stable enough to stay together? I dunno. All I know is that it started separating even though it was kept in the ‘fridge most of the time (it’s not shelf stable). Take a look at the previous pic again. Don’t look at the top, look at the side.

color separation margarita cake

See the darker green areas?  Dang it! Separated like your kids when their arguing gets on your nerves.

 Check out the instructions on the carton and compare them to what I did. Spend a relaxing hour reading this thread on cakecentral: http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-601193.html .

A lot of people seem to like it. Not me, not my fam, and not 12-ish coworkers. It’s a dud over here. If you’ve tried it and had better results, let me know. If I did something wrong, let me know that, too. Heck, if you tried it and had the same results, I would appreciate you telling me so I know I am not alone. For now, the remainder shall sit in my freezer until I “gift” to my partner in cake. After all, there’s no point in both of us spending our hard earned pod dwelling money trying stuff.

Until we cake again!

Chick2

Good Character-istics

27 Jul

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

Character cakes: love them or hate them? I used to think they were just for amateurs- you know, people who couldn’t think beyond the star tip. Then I got an order for one. Ugh. What to do? Since the client told me to “be creative, have fun” I decided to do just that and perhaps conquer my dislike once and for all. Since I had a prejudice against them, I thought y’all might have the same issue and would like to know how to move past your old ways and thoughts and move on to the new.

 To start, bake your cake as usual.

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Get it flipped out of the pan and cooled. Make sure all the pieces-parts are intact.

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Now, for the first special step that will make this cake go from “Ugh” to “Cool!”- torte the cake as shown in the previous post.

torted lion compressed

Dam it, fill it, stack it. Take a break.

Go ahead and use a specialty filling instead of “Yawn” buttercream. This one is a banana cake with Twinkie filling. Yum!

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baby shower and graduation 2009 198compressed

This step is something I missed the first time I made a character cake: crumb coat the cake. I know, I know- you’re afraid you won’t be able to see the cake and won’t know what to put where. Trust me, it will be okay. In a lil bit this won’t look like this anymore. Make sure you use a crusting buttercream recipe for this part because you’re gonna need it. See? Even before smoothing, you can still see some of the design. Not to worry, soon “all shall be revealed.” This step is important for several reasons and 2 in particular: crumb coating seals in the moisture. No more dry cake, thank you very much. The other reason is that if you simply go to town with the star tip without a crumb coat; not only will the cake be dry, this dryness will cause all those hard squeezed stars to dry out faster and fall off the cake. The horror! Carpal tunnel for nothing!

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Once the buttercream is crusted, use your favorite method and smooth the crumb coat. The Viva method is particularly useful here along with a small palette knife (the one with the pointed end, not rounded). Character cakes tend to have tiny corners that can be difficult to get into to get everything purty and the small palette knife helps a lot. Okay, so smooth, smooth, smooth. Pay attention to all the areas- where there’s too much, where’s there’s too little, and where all the little details are that you need to see are hiding. How’s that? Better? Not worried anymore, right? Mwah! Perfecto!

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Now that your mind is at ease about the crumb coat (told you so, told you so!), we can move on to the star tip-almost. First, we’re gonna need a map. Yes, even the cake dudes among us shall need a map. Why come this far and wing it? I decorated this cake differently than the instructions that came with pan called for, so I scanned the black and white picture included in the instructions, saved it on my computer, opened the picture, enlarged it, and printed several copies. Steal the crayons from the kids. (They’ll get over it. It’s not like you’re keeping them forever.) Color away. Color as many copies as you like until you are satisfied with your war plan. Yes, I know my map has another cake. Don’t worry about it. It’s got nothin’ to do with this here tutorial. I over-caked for the event. Yes, I regret it. No, I probably didn’t learn my lesson. No, I did not charge the client for my over-caking zeal. Yes, the extra cake can be frozen. Again, don’t worry about it.

 Got your map ready? Give the kiddos back the crayons so they’ll calm down, for goodness sakes, and let’s go back into the kitchen.

baby shower and graduation 2009 207compressed

Armed with your map (you did bring that along, didn’t you?), color all the frosting you’ll need. I suggest you use a recipe that’s not uber-crusting for this part, like I did. Really hard crusting frosting will crack on you- especially on the outline. Somewhat crusting is fine, hard crusting is not. Get several piping bags and star tips-plus one round tip, set up and ready to go. Fill ‘em up! One more thing before we tempt fate and carpal tunnel- is your board sturdy enough? Remember, this is not your usual ho-hum character cake. Pick it up and feel the weight. This sucker is heavy. Double, triple, quadruple board, or break out the plywood if necessary- just be sure your board is heavy enough to take the weight and won’t let the cake flex. Don’t forget to cover your board with pretty paper if it’s going to show. If your cake is going to be stacked on another cake, cover both sides of the board with plastic wrap, Press n Seal, or freezer paper so the grease from the frosting won’t weaken the board. Okay, you got all that? Are you ready to star tip ‘til you go mad? Let ‘er rip!

 Wait! Notice how I didn’t star tip the sides? You can do that if you like. However, to really set off the top of the cake and make it look almost like you carved it and didn’t use a character pan, leave the sides alone. No star tippy, por favor. It looks a bit funky at this point, doesn’t it? Have I taught you nothing? Do you still mistrust me? Harrumph! Read on, you doubters, you!

baby shower and graduation 2009 203compressed

Better? Happy now? Once the stars are on, outline the cake in a contrasting color so the details really pop. That’s where the round tip comes into play. I wish I had done a better job on the box, but in my defense, the box really stinks on this pan. A 3D box was a big mistake. Sorry, Wilton, but I stand by my opinion. I wanted to write a message on the box, but the client preferred dots to match the invites, so that’s what I did. We all live and learn, I guess. I still have a little finish work to do at this point, but I’m sure you get the idea. I’m lovin’ the Lion ‘Fro on this cutey, though! Raaawwwrrr!

baby shower and graduation 2009 206compressed

The finished product- complete with a bottom border. Even if you aren’t putting your cake on top of another cake, it needs a border. This one was done with a large basket weave tip with the toothed side pointed towards the cake so that the frosting is smooth on the border when piped. I piped, stopped, pushed, piped, stopped, pushed over and over and over again to get the ribboning effect. It’s really easy to do and it gives the eye a break from all those stars. Again, at this point, I still had a bit of straightening to do on the bottom décor, but it’s pretty much finished. What do you think? Not too shabby, huh? Not your run of the mill character cake even ol’ Aunt Tilly can make, is it? It’s character caking brought into the 21st century. Spectacular, if I do say do myself!

 speck baby shower 008compressed

For those of you who think this is a whole lotta trouble for one lil cake, here’s a side-by-side comparison. I apologize for the poor picture quality on good ol’ Marvin there. The pic was taken with a film camera many years ago and then scanned into my computer. Anyway, Marvin looks snazzy, but he also looks like he’s laying on a bed of grass. Either that or like he’s overweight and his blubber is still catching up to the front of him; which is really weird because look at how thin he looks when he’s not torted and filled. Poor Marvin! Hopefully, this convinces you to back off and leave that star tip away from the sides of the cake. Besides, why pipe more stars than you have to when you’re already piping bazillions of them?

Happy Caking! May the Kitchen Gremlins visit someone else’s house this week!

august2007 Marvin Martian compressedspeck baby shower 008compressed

Torting Like a Pro, Almost

20 Jul

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

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

 Dental Floss

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

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

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

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

Cake boards

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

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

 lion out of pan compressed

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

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

 torting lion 1 compressed

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

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

torting lion 3 compressed

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

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

torting lion 3 compressed

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

 torting lion 4 compressed

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

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

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

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

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

torted lion compressed

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

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

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