90 Years of Cake.

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This past weekend, I attended a birthday party for my Aunt, who is turning 90 (how awesome is that???). I was tasked with baking her a cake. As you know, I love baking cakes, so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. At the same time, I was a little nervous. Here was a woman who in her prime was an amazing baker herself (she’s the one that gave me all the baking pans, including the infamous Lamb Pan), and she has had 89 other cakes to compare this one to. I had two pieces of knowledge that could give me an edge over at least some of the previous cakes – I knew she loved chocolate, and that her favorite color was purple. So, I went with that, and here’s what happened.

90th cake

Because the cake was for a party, it was kind of big (a half sheet cake). We had to clear out the entire bottom row of our fridge to make a space for it!

that's one big cake.

that’s one big cake.

I did have a lot of fun making all the flowers though. First, I mixed the icing until I came up with the perfect shade of purple.

and it was all...purple.

and it was all…purple.

Then, I started piping flowers. As I went along, I mixed in some plain white, so they wound up being varying shades.

shady.

shady.

My aunt loved it. I really don’t know how it stood against the 89 other cakes, but really, that doesn’t matter. She loved this one, and she was happy on that day. And that’s really what life’s all about, whether you’re 90, or 38. ūüôā

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Red Cake, Pink Frosting.

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Over the weekend, I made a cake by request for someone – a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, covered entirely in rosettes. They needed it to feed about 40 people, so I made it two tier – one 8″ layer, and one 6″ layer. ¬†The baked cake looked pretty rad (or should I say, “red”).

red is the new rad.

red is the new rad.

Due to that rich red color red velvet cake boasts, I decided it best to crumb coat the cake first, to keep the final iced creation free of red specs.

crumb free.

crumb free.

After the initial coating, I refrigerated it for a bit, and made the rest of the cream cheese frosting. I tinted it a very light pink, to make it more rose-like (and because pink is just flat-out pretty).

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

A rosette cake uses a lot of icing, thus the finished product was a little on the heavy side. So, be extra careful when picking it up and make sure you pack it in a sturdy box.

heavy petals.

heavy petals.

All in all, this cake was a success – you really can’t go wrong with the red velvet/pink cream cheese frosting combo. It’s also one I really enjoyed making. It just goes to show you – when you do what you love, you love what you do (and other people love it too). I think Dr. Seuss said that. ūüėČ

Two Cookie Cakes, One Recipe.

I’m all about saving time and reducing waste. So last week, when I realized I had to make not one, but two cakes for two entirely separate events, I started thinking of ways I could somehow lessen the work and the waste, while still pleasing both cake recipients. Event #1 was my anniversary; the recipient of this cake being my boyfriend. Now at first I thought maybe I would just make him a batch of cookies – he absolutely adores my chocolate chip cookies. Event #2 was my dad’s birthday; the recipient of this cake being (obviously) my dad. My dad is not a dessert fan, but he does have a few things he enjoys – gingerbread, lady fingers, cookies.. COOKIES! There was the common thread. But I had really wanted to make my dad an actual cake that I could write on….COOKIE CAKES! And so it was written.

My standard chocolate chip cookie recipe made two cookie cakes – one 10″ ¬†and one 8″. As they cooled, I started mixing up some colors for the decorating portion of tonight’s show.

the colors of the wind (or icing).

the colors of the wind (or icing).

I decided to use the larger cake for the anniversary, for two reasons: 1. like I said, my dad doesn’t eat too many sweets, and 2. I wanted to eat some too. I went with the blue theme for this one.

i guess that's why they call it the blues.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues.

I went with a complimentary dark purple for accents and writing.

complimentary.

complimentary.

Don’t for a second think that I wasn’t thinking ahead here. For my dad’s cake, I chose light yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

Which also looks great with a dark purple.

purple planning.

purple planning.

Both cakes were a hit! My boyfriend liked his so much, he ate a piece for breakfast.

the breakfast of champions.

the breakfast of champions.

And then asked me to marry him. ūüôā

must've been something in the cake...

must’ve been something in the cake…

I guess it’s true what the say about the way to a man’s heart. ūüėČ

 

The Making of a Birthday Cake: One Cake’s Story on How it Became a Birthday Sensation.

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So, I made a birthday cake for my mom – her birthday was yesterday. As I was making it, i took a ton of photos and documented it’s progress from generic un-decorated cake layers, to celebrated birthday star. Here is one cake’s journey, in photos, from average unknown plain jane, to birthday stardom.

Stage 1: assemble the layers.

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Top one layer with buttercream, spread it out evenly, and place the other layer on top.

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Stage 2: Ice the entire cake.

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Smooth it out, but be sure to save some icing to color for decorating.

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Stage 3: adding shell border and flowers.

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Color your icing as you see fit. I chose a kind of mauve-y tone for the flowers and border, and a light green for the leaves.

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Stage 4: Personalize.

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This cake was for my mom, so I added the appropriate message.

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Stage 5: eat and enjoy!!

The Power of the Flower.

I am terrible at identifying flowers.I mean, I know what a rose looks like. Every girl does, right?¬† But why? Why is the rose the flower that symbolizes love? The one flower to rule them all.¬†It’s not rare, or incredibly interesting to look at, or only available a certain time of¬†year. But when a fella wants to woo his lady, he gives her roses.

Frankly, I’m not impressed.

Now if this fella were growing his own roses and cut them from his own garden, that’d be a different story. But any guy¬†can go out and buy a girl a red rose practically anywhere, at any time, and for not that much money.

With so many absolutely gorgeous flowers out there, many more beautiful than the rose, and many that would require a bit more effort to locate (and by locate, i don’t mean cost more), why are we all so inclined to settle for that same red rose every time?

interesting AND beautiful.

I have received¬†roses, and I’m not ungrateful for them. I am grateful for every gift I receive, even if it’s one I already have (that just means the person really knows me!). No, I’m not trying to play down the act of giving – I’m merely observing that with so many options, we always return to the same one. Is it out of fear of something new? It is because we don’t feel like (or have the time to spend) thinking about it? Or is¬†it just human nature to¬†repeat the same patterns?

break the mold.

I have a garden, and just this year it’s really taken off. It was planted two years ago, and last year, basically nothing happened. But suddenly, this year, it exploded. Sadly, I can’t identify a single flower in it. However, each is beautiful. And any of them would make a unique and¬†lovely gift.

my personal favorite.

Screw human nature. Try a new flower. Stop and look around once in a while – you’ll be glad you did.

*All the flowers in this post are from my own garden.

Cake art.

I never fancied myself a cake artist. I mean, I made cakes with pictures and writing and stuff like that. But I never really thought that was my strength – I would describe myself as more of a baker than a cake decorator. But often the two go hand-in-hand, so I have learned a few cake decorating tips and tricks in my time.

However, I never really thought I was awesome at it. I was decent. I could decorate a cake that looked better then something an untrained or unpracticed individual could make, but I’m certainly no Cake Boss. The taste of the cake itself was always my game, with decorating coming second.

Then, one day I was forced to take a wedding cakes class. I was not pumped – in fact, I even complained to my mom that I didn’t even like wedding cakes and didn’t know why the school was making my learn this..grumble, grumble. However if I planned on graduating, I had to take the class. So, I did.

And I was wrong. The reason I didn’t like cake decorating was not because I didn’t like¬†doing it or didn’t think it was worthwhile¬†– it was solely based on fear – fear that I just couldn’t do it, so instead of trying I wrote it off as something not worth my time. How mature. But we all do it – fear makes us act¬†in funny ways –¬†ways we’d never imagine we’d act, especially as adults.¬†I should have known better – as a kid,¬†I loved play-doh.¬†As a young adult,¬†I loved polymer clay.¬†Fondant and gum paste are so similar to those mediums, yet they’re even better because you can eat them after you sculpt them!¬†And I¬†had¬†completely forgotten about¬†my¬†clay sculpting past.

sculpts like clay. tastes like sugar.

Secondly, I love fashion РI even took a handful of fashion design courses. How does this relate to cake decorating? Well, decorating a cake is like dressing it Рchoosing the right color combinations, the right placement of various accessories, how much to cover (or let show). So fashion + clay + baking = no more fear. 

I have created cake art. And it’s¬†quite tasty. ūüôā

eat your heart out, Roy Lichtenstein.

 

 

heart-shaped box.

I was tasked to make a box, entirely out of chocolate, for a class I’m taking. We were given free rein¬†on what it could look like, we just had to be able to construct it out of chocolate. I thought long and hard about my box, and what form it should take and came up with a couple of ideas, but nothing that really struck me. So, I let my hand be my guide, sat down with a piece of cardboard, and just started drawing.

The result? Why, a heart-shaped box, obviously.

Kurt Cobain would be proud.

It’s like¬†I said before,¬†when left to my own devices, my confectionery creations seem to¬†spew forth from some alternate level of consciousness. In this case,¬†out¬†spewed¬†a¬†heart-shaped box, complete with broken heart lid.

this heart was made to be broken.

 

And on the inside….

a heart full of love (and chocolate).

 

My teacher really dug it (maybe he’s a closet Nirvana fan – he’s only got about 3 years on me, I think). He had only good things to say,¬†particularly about my¬†modeling chocolate flowers (see “flower power“).¬†But he¬†did ask if there was any significance to the broken heart lid. Sure there is – it’s easier to get inside a heart that’s broken. And inside is where the good stuff lies. ūüôā

flower power.

I have discovered a new hidden talent – making flowers out of modeling chocolate. I wish that I had discovered this earlier – I could have been wowing¬†people with tiny perfectly sculpted yet edible chocolate decorations on their cakes, cupcakes, whatever. But better late than never, and now I’m obsessed with making them. I just want to sit at home and sculpt more flowers. When you find something you both love and are great at, you have to go with it.

Frankly, I should have known this was something I’d be good at for various reasons, the main one being my naturally cold (and often times freezing) hands. Thanks to my mom, who passed her genetic condition of poor circulation in the fingers on to me, I am able to handle modeling chocolate for much longer than the average person, without it melting (the same goes for icing). So mom, if you’re reading this, thanks for the cold hands – they really are good for something!

Also, I’ve always loved clay. When I¬†was kid, I was obsessed with Play-Doh. Like, I played with it well past the recommended age group on the side of the box. Because I grew older¬†while Play-Doh¬†remained the same, the relationship was bound to fail eventually, so I attempted to move on to polymer clay. I discovered that one thing I could make really well were flowers (possibly because that was all¬†I¬†really tried to make, go figure).

But, as I often did with various¬†crafty endeavors¬†before I found my true calling (baking, of course), I became bored quickly with the art of polymer clay sculpting, and shelved the books and packed away the clay in the deep dark depths of the plastic tub in the craft closet, only to be unearthed again accidentally when I moved into my new house, discovered the box and exclaimed with wide eyes, “What could possibly be in here?” as if¬†I’d discovered Black Beard’s treasure.¬†¬†Then, back away it went. ¬†

gold ain't got nothin' on polymer clay.

Anyway, I really can only blame my lack of knowledge as far as cake decorating options go for my¬†late arrival¬†into the world of modeling chocolate. Up until a few weeks ago, I never imagined such a thing existed. Clay, made out of chocolate?? It’s like my childhood fantasy, come to life.

I can now have my clay and eat it too. Some fantasies do become reality. (and some don’t and never will, so forget it).

you don't bring me flowers...unless they're chocolate.