Mummies and Spiders and Eyes, Oh My!

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I made some Halloween cupcakes today, for no real reason or purpose, other than it’s almost Halloween and I felt like being creative. I baked up two dozen apple caramel cupcakes, which, although quite tasty, kinda reminded me of that apple cinnamon oatmeal from the pouch I used to eat as a kid. In this case, the cupcakes were to serve more as a canvas anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned, and besides, I liked that oatmeal. I decided to do four different Halloween-ish designs.

Design #1: Pumpkin.

the obvious choice.

the obvious choice.

I had recently made these same cupcakes for a wedding, and I still had some of the candy corn pumpkins left over, and I wanted to put them to some good use. So I did.

Design #2: Mummies.

mummy is so yummy.

mummy is so yummy.

A friend had posted a pic of similar cupcake mummies to my facebook page, and I thought they were just so darn cute, I had to try them myself.

Design #3: Spiders.

is that a spider on your cupcake?

is that a spider on your cupcake?

I had done these a few years ago, but with mini Oreos. All I had were a bunch of regular Oreos in the cabinet, so I opted to try these using those this time, instead. Plus, I had a tub of cookies and cream frosting leftover from that same wedding a couple weeks ago (I made Oreo cupcakes for it as well), so I busted it out,slathered it on, and slapped a giant killer Oreo Spider on top.

Design #4: Eyeballs.

Eat with your eyes...

eat with your eyes…

I was thinking of these the other day when I was telling a friend I made eyeball cupcakes like 6 years ago, using a green lifesaver for the retina. I had no lifesavers, but I did have a ton of light purple icing…so that happened.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty cute, and I think I’ll bring them in to work to share with my coworkers on Halloween. Let’s just hope they all liked that cinnamon oatmeal in the pouch as much as I did growing up….

taste like...oatmeal?

tastes like…oatmeal?

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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!!

More Fun With Chocolate Pumpkin…

pumpkin cake

I was so pleased with how the Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins turned out, that I decided to use the same recipe to make a birthday cake for a friend (minus the cream cheese filling). I made a small 6 inch cake, cut into two layers, and iced it with a chocolate buttercream. I went extra light on the chocolate in the main icing, and used a more chocolate-y darker icing for the piping details to make them stand out, giving it that kind of two-tone effect.

it's deeper shade brown.  yeah, yeah.

it’s deeper shade of brown. yeah, yeah.

Being that the cake was, in fact, made with pumpkin, I thought I’d add some pumpkin-themed decorations as well. So I crafted a small pumpkin out of fondant, and surrounded it with fondant leaves in fall colors. I forgot just how much I love playing with fondant…it’s like edible Play-Doh. I guess in theory, actual Play-Doh is edible. At least, I think most kids have eaten it at some point. But either way, it’s not as tasty as fondant.

fall fondant fun.

fall fondant fun.

So, The cake turned out pretty close to the way I had envisioned, and I proudly presented it to my friend on his special day. And then we cut it, ate it, and lived happily ever after (for at least the rest of the day).

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 – I even took a handful of fashion design courses. How does this relate to cake decorating? Well, decorating a cake is like dressing it – choosing 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. 🙂

eat your heart out, Roy Lichtenstein.

 

 

the graduate.

I always loved that movie. Perhaps in part because I always envisioned myself at 50 as a Mrs. Robinson-type, still wearing fishnets, and hitting (successfully) on boys half my age.  Being that a boy half my age at this point would really still be a boy, I have to focus on other things for the time being – like baking cakes for real-life graduates.

would you like me to seduce you? is that what you're trying to tell me?

This past weekend, I baked a lovely graduation cake for a lovely graduate (I’m assuming she was lovely – I never actually met her, but at the graduation party in my mind, she is as lovely as the cake at which she squealed delightfully over when graced with its presence). 

Anyway….here’ the cake:

would you like me to seduce you - i mean, happy graduation!

In addition to the cake, I also made a variety of cupcakes, including vanilla sugar cookie, chocolate cookies and cream, and salted caramel:

put it in your pantry with your cupcakes.

Along with getting to make some fun flavors, it gave me an opportunity to show off my script piping skills, which, a year ago were kinda embarrassing, particularly for someone who claimed to be a cake decorator. However, you know what they say, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”  Swap out Carnegie Hall with Charm City Cakes, and this old adage takes on a whole new life — like Mrs. Robinson.

what a drag it is getting old.

chocolate girl.

Sure, I could be talking about myself, as I am a girl and I do love chocolate. But, I’m actually referring to a girl made out of chocolate, in this particular case. I learned a new and very valuable skill – making chocolate people, people!

chocolate rocks.

 Being a self-proclaimed rockin’ chic, I opted to create a chocolate homage to chic rock.  I used the cartoon character Jem again (because I think I might be obsessed with her in some weird repressed child kind of way), and then added the guitar, because real chics play instruments (a tambourine counts).  To further illustrate the fabulousness that is a chic rockstar, I included a bouquet of white chocolate roses, which was tossed on stage by an adoring fan.

you don't bring me flowers...you throw them at me instead.

 

So, if you need a chocolate person, let me know. If you need a chocolate anything, let me know. The beauty of this skill is that you can use any image you like (Phillies logo, hint hint).

A funny aside – someone asked me if this chocolate “Jem” was me. Maybe I’m a little more obsessed with Jem then I realized. Let me consult with Synergy on that.  😉

modern sugar art.

Pronounced “pah-stee-yazh”, pastillage is, in simple terms, a sugar paste. Don’t worry, I never heard of it either, and I’m supposed to know these things. But that’s why I go to school, right?

Anyway, I just learned how to make and decorate with this lovely pasty substance, and it really wasn’t all that hard. That is, the working with it wasn’t that hard. The stuff itself dries so hard that if you drop it, it shatters. You could make weapons out of this stuff. Edible weapons. For the ninja on the go. I’m so patenting that.

give us some sugar...weapons.

Anyway, my first and only pastillage creation to date was not a weapon (not intentionally anyway), but it did look a little….spikey.

it's a bird. it's a plane. it's sugar paste!

I admit, in the photo it looks…odd. Kinda like  Frank Gehry meets Jurassic Park. It’s just not very photogenic, sadly. Live, it was pretty cool. My teacher even said so. So nyah nyah.

a sugar jem.

I made this thing called a sugar disc (I believe that’s the technical term). It’s one of those things that messes with you – it appears to be extremely hard to create, yet, is ultimately quite simple. Unless you have no drawing/painting skills whatsoever. Basically, you mix sugar and water, pour it into a giant ring, let it cool, and paint on it. Simple, right?

The hardest part was deciding what to actually paint. The teacher suggested cartoon characters. Being that I’m over 30 and have no children, I only know cartoon characters that were popular when I was at cartoon-watching age. So, I reached into the depths of my brain, and perused the log of characters I enjoyed as a youth. The Smurfs? No, too simple and small. Scooby Doo? Hmm…now we’re getting somewhere. Then, I remembered the cartoon of all cartoons – the one I loved so much, that even when I wanted to sleep in, I forced my younger brother to get up and watch and report every detail of whatever I missed. It was THAT good. Can you guess what cartoon character from the 80’s a fabulous pink-wearing diva like myself would hold dearest to her rock and roll heart?

 

well, duh.

I must say, the painting part was a little challenging. It really does require a bit of a steady hand. But in the end, I was pretty pleased with my sugary shrine to the best cartoon rockstar ever drawn.

Synergy would be proud.

My teacher said it was truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous. Ok, he didn’t really.  He actually broke it. The sheer magnificence of the piece must have made him nervous.

gel-ous?

So I’m going into this post unsure if I’m actually going to be able  to make its subject matter sound interesting. We’re talking gel transfers here, people. And no, I don’t mean hair gel. It’s that gelatinous substance you often find the words “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” written with on your celebratory cake. It’s this stuff:

 

 or, if you still don’t recognize it, a more readily available form, found in the baking aisle of every supermarket:

 

So, I just learned a new skill, that blows that lame-o generic cake message out of the water: the gel transfer.

now, that's a badass cake.

You can do whatever character you choose, which is the beauty of the gel transfer – you just trace, and pipe and voila! I chose this lovely Pokemon character whose name I don’t even know, because of his cute little fangs. There is one downside– it takes about 3 days to dry completely. So, if you plan on doing a gel transfer for your next confectionery commemoration, plan accordingly. Or just ask me to do it because I’m kinda awesome at piping gel. Yeah, that’s right. You all wish you could pipe that Pokemon character whose name I don’t know with the cute fangs now, I know it.