Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Piece of Cake!

I was asked by my friend to come up with a cookie favor to honor her coworker, Kim, who is getting married next month. When I asked my friend if she had a theme in mind, she told me she wanted me to make a cookie to look like the bride-to-be's upcoming wedding cake. She said it was to be a three-tiered white cake with a burnt-orange ribbon and chocolate filigree all over.

From what I understood, I did a pretty good job in the replication department. It was a fun cookie to do, and it certainly made me start thinking about fall with those rich dark colors. it ALSO got me thinking that this is a scenario where I can ALMOST say that someones wedding cake was made to look like my cookies.... but I know that might be pushing it. still.... when you think about it... the cookie came first.....

I had one extra cookie left over so instead of the filigree, I made up my own designed 'cake' with polka dots and flowers. you know.. just for fun. I guess I'm just a fan of polka dots?

So here's to Kim and Joe! good luck with the upcoming nuptials and may you have a lifetime of happiness together! I hope your bakery does a good job replicating my cookies, too. (KIDDING!) Thanks also to Michelle for asking me to help with the shower.... it was fun to get to do something for you!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

an a-DORA-ble idea!

Have I mentioned how much I love a themed party? well if I haven't... let me just say this--- I love a themed party!

My friend's daughter is turning two, and two of the daughter's most favorite things (in her short 2 years of existing, that is) are Dora the Explorer and cake pops. Imagine my delight when the mom asked me to come up with something for her Dora-themed birthday party this weekend.

My kids were never HUGE Dora fans, but I can definitely admit to having seen my fair share of episodes, as well as knowing the proper thing to say to a particularly klepto-prone fox named Swiper. So--- what Dora-based creation could I do in the form of a cake pop so as to seal my fate as the birthday girl's favorite baker? Visions of Dora heads and miniature purple monkeys began to dance in my mind. HOWEVER... this was supposed to be 'family fun week' in my house. A week full of family activities and togetherness to celebrate my husband actually having some time off of work! I decided to scrap the more labor-intensive ideas and go with something a little easier to recreate.... I decided on a centerpiece full of explorer stars.

RIGHT??? I know!! super cute! and fun!!! and while a *little* tricky with their shape... not so bad when using a star-shaped cookie cutter. And lets face it... having two buckets full of Explorer Stars is a TEENY bit more plausible (and personally decided a little less creepy) than having two centerpieces full of dora-heads on sticks. Seriously-- think about it. definitely better with the stars..... see?

So that, ladies and gents.... is that. 50 star-shaped cake pops artfully placed in two centerpieces later, and we have a nice theme-related addition to a Dora party. Oh, and a happy birthday girl. That's really the most important part!

So here's to Sienna! Happy 2nd birthday to an aDORAble girl! (get it? aDORAble? hahahahah)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feeding an Army

This past weekend, I got the chance to challenge myself in a whole new way. I was tasked with sculpting a TANK CAKE to serve about 40 people.

(insert nervous laugh here)

Now most of you know I went to an aeronautical university. Now, I may know my way around a plane (or at least I USED to... not sure what all I actually remember from those engineering days gone by!) but a TANK? I was nervous I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Luckily, after a little research, I found that the shape of a tank wasn't TOO extreme, and I psyched myself up into believing I could do it. Of course... knowing I had a star wars project to work on, which is TOTALLY in my comfort zone.. eased my worried mind.

The target client was a 5 year old boy, and the cake of choice was chocolate, with a cookies and cream filling.

The cake itself had a rectangular base of 11x15 inches. with two layers approximately 2 inches high each, the filling, and the rice crispy/fondant covered shaped turret on top.... well... you can imagine the tank was a beast.

By far, this cake was the largest I've made to date, as well as the heaviest. I used approximately 6 pounds of fondant, and probably pulled a muscle trying to color it. It was certainly a good workout!

This was also the first time I used color-mist, to give the camo-effect. I like the final effects, but will concede that it's not for every cake. also? next time I need to wear a mask or lay down a tarp... that green mist got EVERYWHERE.

All in all, I think the cake turned out great. I credit The Cake Store with being my inspiration... there were a lot of tanks out there, but I loved their design; especially how there was chocolate 'mud' under the cake. Happy 5th birthday, Marco!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Sith Fifth

When a good friend and neighbor asks you to make a cake for their turning-five year old, it's just a no-brainer. when that 5 year old is one of your child's best friends, there is no doubt that the cake has to be GOOD.

However, when that very same cake happens to have a star wars theme, a topic that is literally eaten and breathed in your house... such that you are forced to act in character most days before your feet even hit the floor in the morning... well.. you'd best believe the cake better go big or go home. like to a different galaxy, if it doesn't measure up to the critical judgement of your own house of padawans.

I was ready, though. I had successfully created a Star Wars themed cake for another boy, and like I said.. every day in this house is like my very own Jedi-training camp. Of course, I did retain some hesitation, because I had also signed up to create a tank cake for the very same day... but I was up for the challenge.

My target client was a 5 year old boy, and he wanted something to focus on Darth Vader, and the 'Blue Storm Trooper.' No-- not the blue CLONE Trooper we all love and adore as Captain Rex... he wanted a blue STORM Trooper. (Totally different helmet, dude!) I was gonna work the Sith for this Fifth.

The mom gave me free reign to do what I do, but requested that there be 2 dozen cupcakes to serve to party-goers, as well as a small centerpiece cake for candle blowing etc. Vanilla cupcakes, vanilla buttercream, and the cake was to be chocolate with cookies and cream filling. Easy peasy.

After creating my own Darth Vader and Storm Trooper cookie cutters, it was simple to create my 2 dozen fondant cupcake toppers.

I created a larger, 2.5-D replica of Darth's helmet to use on top of the cake. (yes, I did write 2.5-D... it wasn't totally three dimensional, but it was more than the flat fondant toppers. you can thank me later for introducing you to 2.5-D) From that point, it all just kind of came together. (with a little use of the force, that is!)

The end result was a 3-tiered, 8-inch round cake, covered in black fondant. a little light-saber red fondant trim here and there, some painstakingly tedious hand-cut lettering and 5 more blue storm trooper guys (get it.. FIVE stormtroopers? cause he was turning FIVE?) oh, and a fondant cape and a light-stick for a light saber... and you get the following.

My live-in advisory board gave me high-fives and deemed the cake to be "AWESOME"... so with confidence I brought everything to the party for set up.

Once all the cupcakes were in place on their towers flanking the cake, I MIGHT have started humming the Imperial March... but I won't admit to anything else like breathing like Darth himself. Cause you know... THAT would be weird.

In the end, Jacob seemed to like the cake, and his crew of pals also got a kick taking a bite out of the Dark Side.

Happy birthday, Jacob!!! May the force be with you always!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blooming Cupcakes

When it comes to birthdays, I love a good cupcake. However, if I'm being honest.. I get a little bored of just arranging them on a platter when presenting them to the birthday boy or girl. Sure for a party, they look nice when arranged on a cupcake tower.... but this spring I wanted to do something a little different.

Recently, I was able to put my creative juices to work when I was asked to make some cupcakes for a teacher in my daughter's school. I was told she likes blues, greens, butterflies and chocolate. After trolling the internet for inspiration, I decided to do a blooming flowerpot of cupcakes, and finished with some fake leaves and butterflies.

For the first 15 minutes after assembly, I think the bouquet looked amazing. But then... the weight of the buttercream started to prove too great for the angle in which some of the cupcakes were attached, and started to slide off the cupcake bases. Overall, I'd rate this project GOOD.... but not awesome.

When I delivered the bouquet to the school, another teacher saw the cupcakes and contacted me to see if I could do something for her daughter's birthday that weekend. She was having a shabby chic theme, and thought it would be great to have a cupcake centerpiece. not being able to resist the chance to improve upon the last concept, I eagerly agreed and set about thinking of a way to make it better... and less heavy.

What I came up with was essentially a topiary structure (all pale pinks, greens and ivory... totally shabby chic!) which hosted MINI cupcakes instead of the full sized buttercream beasts I used last time.

I absolutely loved the way this came out, and at the center of a long table, it looked completely darling next top the lace napkins and china place settings. As seen from the picture below, the mini cakes were able to defy gravity much better than their heavier counterparts.

My only regret is that the icing roses got a bit hard... especially the thinner edges of the rose 'petals'. At least the cupcakes were soft! Next time I do a centerpiece like this, I will be sure to find a hybrid solution. perhaps just a single dome structure, but use the minis instead of the regular sized cupcakes. I think the lighter weight and removing the need to defy gravity will allow me to use a softer buttercream that won't dry out so fast... OR slide off.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Elephants on Parade!

have you been to Erin Cooks' website yet? you should totally go there. she's like the mac-daddy momma of food love. recipes, pictures... and she's just the sweetest thing, too!

At any rate--- I couldn't have been more thrilled when Erin emailed me asking if I could come up with a cookie to send her to use for a baby shower she was hosting. She talks about it in her post on her blog, as well as shows links to the original invitation which was the root of the party theme. I fell in love instantly, and came up with a fun little cookie to send her way.

I just loved the blue, brown and green together! and that elephant! so adorable, right??? Each favor bag contained an elephant cookie and a thank you message, as well as a custom tag.

I love when I can create something that is the perfect little touch, be it in theme, color, design, or whatever. It's just a completely satisfying element to know I'm adding something special to someone's celebration. When I can do it for a friend, however? well.... that's pretty much why I do what I do.

Here's to Erin! thanks for letting me help create a cookie for your friend's special day!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dr. Seuss Week

In order to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday, my daughter's school hosted "Dr. Seuss Week", in which they had a chance to partake in something Seuss-related each day.

Wednesday seemed like a great day to bring in a Stepford-version tribute to the famous author, so after some arranging with her teacher, I created a platter of Green Eggs and Ham. The ham is, of course, not really ham. I molded some rice crispies treats and covered with a fantastic shade of green, then used my edible black marker to cartoonize it even more. Fondant must have been created with Seuss in mind.... looks like it came right out of the book.. including the fancy fork! The Ham was flanked by some basic butter cookies, including a handful of gluten free cookies for a child who had allergy concerns.

of course I couldn't stop there, and had to add another thing or two. Or, Thing 1 and Thing 2 cupcakes, to be more precise. Behold some chocolate cupcakes, topped with a very blue buttercream, garnished with blue cotton candy "hair".

together they made for a fun presentation, and the kids (all kindergartners, by the way) truly enjoyed celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday with a little party.

Once at the school and all set up, I also added 2 more final gluten-free cookies to my cupcake towers. While I did not make gluten free cupcakes for Thing 1 and Thing 2, I did create two decorated cookies in their names.

So here's to Dr. Seuss, and all of the wonderful ways he's sparked our imaginations over the years! Happy birthday!