Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cub Scout Blue and Gold Mountain Trail

This is the Blue and Gold cake I made for our cub scout troop this year.  My son is one of 33 boys in our pack.  I made each boy out of fondant.  The patches are FFT on sugar cookies.  The trail spirals upwards and is graham cracker crumbs.  To avoid having so much food coloring in the frosting, I frosted the whole cake white then airbrushed it with an avocado color.

Spider Egg Sac Truffles

My husband's company has a Halloween party every year.  For lunch, they have a contest in 3 categories, appetizers, chili and dessert.  I enter the dessert category every year.  This is this years entry.  It is a spider egg sac. The eggs are oreo truffles dipped in white chocolate. I used a little dot of melted chocolate to hold the truffles together and made a large spherical pile. The webbing on top is melted marshmallow.  I placed a few marshmallows in a bowl and microwaved them for about 8 seconds just until they were barely softened.  I then stretched them out with my fingers and laid them across the pile of eggs.

It's interesting, but I refrigerated this gob so the chocolate would stay hard and the truffles wouldn't squish under their own weight.  When I pulled it out of the fridge in the morning, the marshmallow wasn't sticky anymore.  It had dried and become brittle.  It was perfect.

If I do attempt to do this again, I will wrap more marshmallow around the base of the truffles before stretching it out to the tray.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Buttercream Wedding Cake


Wedding cake to feed 350.  5 flavors: Yellow w/ buttercream, Chocolate w/ whipped cream cheese, White w/ raspberry, Yellow w/ chocolate ganache and Orange Creamsicle.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How to make a wedding cake

I've been asked how to make and stack a wedding cake.  Well, here is What I do.  This is one of the larger cakes I've made.  The base is a 16" square in Chocolate with chocolate ganache, and on it is a 12" square red velvet with cream cheese filling, on that is a 8" faded blue layer, and on the top is a 5" chocolate ganache layer.

To start, do all your prep ahead of time.  Here are the cake boards.  The bottom is a 1/2 inch piece of plywood covered in contact paper.  I use wood for the base because this cake will weigh about 75 pounds by the time I'm done with it.  Each layer of cake gets a piece of cardboard under it covered in fancifoil. Regular Foil is ok for small cakes, but tears too easily.

Day 1: Baking day.  For a cake this large, I allow the entire day to bake, fill and dirty ice.  I started baking these at 8:00 a.m. and finished and went to bed at 10:00 that night.  Keep in mind I only have 1 standard kitchen oven and one of each pan size.  I have 4 layers of cake in each level.  the 16" layer I baked each layer separately to make it easier to move and handle.  The red velvet, I baked thicker layers then sliced them in half horizontally to make a total of 4 layers.  The layer that fades blue had to be baked 4 different times because each layer is a different color.  I cut each layer to about 1" thick.  This way the finished cake will have each tier equal heights.
 This table is 4 feet wide and 6 feet long.  This is a lot of cake...

 When the cake has cooled, cut the top off so the cake is completely level and 1 inch tall.  place it on the cardboard.  This is the bottom layer, so I went ahead and centered the cardboard onto the plywood.  To keep it from sliding around, I used double stick tape to stick the cardboard to the wood.  You do not want cake to slide.  When it is all put together, it is heavy, and so easy to mess up.
 Using buttercream, pipe a boarder around the edge of your cake.  I am filling this with ganache and the buttercream will help keep the liquid from the ganache from oozing out.  This is more important when covering a cake in fondant, and more important when filling with something that has a high water content or is really soft like lemon curd, but I do it with ganache as well.

Here is my ganache.  It consists of equal parts (by weight) chocolate chips and cream.  Heat cream to almost boiling (don't boil) then pour over room temperature chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute then wisk until it is all incorporated.  Chill for several hours before using. Super yummy.  You can either us this as is.  It looks shiny and soft like below:

 Or you can beat it until it thickens and has a dull appearance like this below.  I chose to beat this because the whipped ganache is more stable.  And this cake is so big, I don't want anything sliding. 

Spread that ganache on the cake, inside the buttercream border you piped.  Keeping things as level and smooth as possible is important.  Repeat this 3 more times until you have your bottom tier done. I used just over 4 pounds of chocolate and almost half a gallon of heavy cream to make enough ganache for this cake.  You see why this is going to be heavy?
 When you have all 4 layers of cake together with 3 layers of chocolate between them, dirty ice the whole thing.  This just means to frost the cake with a very thin layer of frosting to seal all the crumbs in.  It makes it easier to frost later and keeps crumbs from creeping into your frosting layer.

Do the same with each layer.  Here is a picture of the faded blue layer before assembling.

Each layer should be assembled and dirty iced.  Put these in the refrigerator overnight.  You want to get these cold all the way to the center.  It will add stability and allow a smoother buttercream or fondant exterior.  Also, do you see the slight bulge on right of the large chocolate layer?  The next day when I pulled these out, I could easily trim off anything that wasn't perfectly square and straight.  Cold cake is so much easier to handle.  If you only chill for an hour or so, the middle won't keep the whole cake cold while you are working with it and it will squish and move while you are working with it.  Not much, but it is better to go ahead and chill overnight.
 The next day, trim anything that is not square.  Dirty ice and chill just long enough to set the frosting.  The cake will be cold all the way through, so you don't have to chill as long.  If I square one layer at a time and put them back in the fridge while I'm working on the others, the first layer is ready by the time I've finished with the last layer.

Frost each layer, decorate, insert dowels into each layer to support the tier above it, stack, touch up, and you're done. 
I've looked at so many sites trying to learn how to get perfectly smooth frosting.  I used viva paper towels on this which was helpful, but even more so, once I put on my layer of buttercream as good as I could get it, I put the cake back in the fridge to get the buttercream nice and hard.  (I used all butter buttercream, so it did get nice and hard)  Then, after a few hours, I pulled it out again and put nice soft buttercream on that hard buttercream.  It worked like Spackle.  It filled in any pits, went on smooth, the buttercream was firm so I could get those corners square.  The best advice I can give is to practice.  No amount of reading and research can accomplish what actually doing it can.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

9/11 Patriot Day Cake

This cake was made for a program on September 11 honoring veterans from WWII on. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

How to make a Grand Piano Cake

Here's the hardware you will need:
1/4" wood board 16"x20" (Piano bottom)
1/4" or 1/2" wood board 17"x24"  (Floor)
1/8" wood board 16"x16" (Piano Lid)
1/2" wood board 8"x4" (Piano Lid supports)
4 small hinges
1" wooden dowel or 3 wooden candlestick holders 6" high each (Piano Legs)
cabinet nubs
1 chopstick
black paint
contact paper
4 wooden candlestick holders 3 1/2" high each (Bench Legs)

Step 1: Build a cake board:

First: Print out a life size paper template of your piano.  I got an image off the internet and printed it on 4 pages and taped them together.  I used this for everything.  This helps figure everything out and helps it all fit.  Also, figure out the ratio of your cake to a real piano so you can use actual dimensions when possible.  I wanted the front of my piano to be 16" across so I divided the actual piano size by 3.6.  Now I know what to divide the height and bench by to make it look right.  I drew a line across my template to show where I wanted the lid to be.
Use the template to trace out a base out of the 1/4" wood board.  Fold along the piano lid line and trace out a lid from the 1/8" wood board.  Use the scraps to cut out a 3"x6" rectangle for the bench.

 Cut these out using your saw and cover in contact paper.  I really like using contact paper for my cake boards.

Next: Cut the 1/2" wood board into 3 sections.  6"x4" and 2 1"x4" sections.  These will hold your piano lid.
I didn't take pictures of this, but if you are using a dowel, cut 3 sections 6" each, or find 6" wooden candlestick holders.  I used a 7/8" dowel and I thought it looked too thin.  You could go as wide as 1 1/2"
Paint everything black.  The bottom of your base board and your lid should be painted black.  The side that will face up should be covered in contact paper

 Go outside and paint all that black with a clear coat so the paint doesn't scuff off and all the frosting and powdered sugar will wipe off easier.  Go ahead and give that a second coat the next day. You really want to be able to wipe frosting and powdered sugar off of the black.

Set those boards up, screw them all together to see what it looks like and if you need to make any adjustments.
Yes, I hadn't painted my piano legs at this point, but if I were to do it over again, I would paint them first, then assemble. Sometimes I get too eager to put stuff together.
Here are the hinges screwed into the 4x6 board.  I used an additional scrap of the 1/8" wood so my screws wouldn't go through the top.  Also, that 1/8" makes the boards even when you add cabinet nubbies to the other wood supports.  Don't forget to paint that scrap under the hinges.
Good, now while you have everything together label which dowels go where and what direction they go in.  When you put them back together with everything covered in cake, you are going to want them in the exact same position they are in now.  Of course if you are absolutely perfect and all of your holes are dead center and all of your edges are perfect, then it may not matter which one goes where.  But just to be safe, label them.
Ah yes, and drill a shallow hole large enough to fit the end of a chopstick into.  Then paint it black.  You don't want to be drilling and painting your supports after you have cake on the board.  Nobody likes sawdust in their cake.

Step 2: Decorations that can be made well in advance.
 I cut out a music stand and sheet music a 9 days early so it would be nice and stiff and stand up on their own.  I curled the corner of a few pieces of music just to give them a little movement.
 I like to set my fondant in front of a box fan to help it dry.  The white fondant (MMF) was ready after 2 days.  The black fondant I purchased (Duff), and even after 9 days, it had a little give, but was stiff enough to stay.

 Once the fondant was hard, I added the music notes.  Use edible marker and a ruler.

 I also made the name for the front of the piano.  To make the letters, I rolled fondant into skinny snakes, shaped the letters, let them dry and painted them gold.
 Here are what I like to call the "guts" of the piano.  I let these dry so they would be stiff when I put them in.  They were going to hover over parts.  (I spent a lot of time looking at pianos)

Oh yeah, cover your floor in marbled fondant ahead of time too.

Step 3: Bake your cake.
 This is a 16" square.  It's such a big cake.  I baked 2 of these.  That thing in the middle is a heating core.  I really like using it, but I don't think it is required.  16 inches of cake is really hard to work with, you could do eight 8" square cakes instead, but then you would be baking all day.

 Once your cakes are baked, and cooled, plop them on that board.  (ok, this is really tricky, but you will have to figure it out.  I actually took the lid and all side supports off, put the cake on one layer at a time, roughly trimmed each layer before adding the next.  When they were all on, I trimmed them together and dirty iced everything.  After it was all dirty iced, I cut out small sections of cake to make room for the supports on the sides.
The front of your piano should be 4 inches tall, and even with the supports.  The rest of the cake should be 3 1/2 inches, about 1/2" lower than the supports.  This leaves room for the piano "guts" and to make it look amazing.  My cake was about 1" lower.  Next time, I'll do it a little higher.  Also, I don't have a picture of this, but I put about 1/2" of cake along the front for under the keys.

When you get to this point, chill your cake overnight.  Cold cake is so much better to work with.

While the cake is hanging out in the fridge, make the bench.  Screw the legs onto the 3"x6" board you cut from the scraps.  Put 1/2" of cake on and dirty ice.  Take a straw and poke holes where you want the button indents to go.  Cover in fondant.  trace lines in the shape of an X in the divots and add buttons.

Step 4: cover in fondant

Heads up, this cake takes a lot of fondant.  I used 4 pounds of fondant and still had to roll it thinner than I would like.

Start in the front, cover the front in black fondant.  Not the sides, just the front where the keys go wrapping it up around the top and into the inside.

I rolled out fondant for the "guts" and traced lines for the strings of the piano.  Then I cut out the other parts, poked some holes, traced some lines and painted them gold with an airbrush.  Then I put them on top of the cake.  I should have put the sides on at this point, but the sides scared me, so I did something fun instead.  I made the keys.

 I use a template for everything.  I printed out a keyboard to scale and used it so my keys would all be the right size and equally spaced.

 Add the keys and the piano name.  I feel better when I can put pretty things on.  Now, on to the sides.

I rolled out a 5"x46" piece of fondant, rolled it up and with the help of 6 hands, stuck it to the side of this cake.  Here I am trying my best to smooth those sides, but some of those 6 hands were not super delicate and left finger prints.  Fingerprints are not very easy to get out of the sides of cakes.  Oh well, the fondant is on and we are not doing it over.  I added side curves to the side of the keyboard.  I also added a black strip around the inside of the piano to support the fondant that has to free stand.

Quick, get that cake in the fridge so all that fondant can firm up.  You don't want anything slipping of the sides or sagging.  Ok, it will sag anyway, but after it chills for a while, straighten everything out and trim everything even along the top and bottom.

Cover the lid of the piano in fondant too. There is some cake rule about everything visible that is not a support is supposed to be edible, otherwise I guess you could just paint the lid black.  I covered mine in fondant.  That way it will also match the rest of the piano. 

Step 5: Put on the top.

Time to screw on the top.  I took a box and trimmed it to the exact height of the piano so I could lay the lid on it while I screwed in the hinges.  After that, I added the cabinet nubbies to the other supports for the lid to rest on.  The nubbies I used were rubber so I drilled out the center of one of them and stuck it to the underside of the lid to stick the chopstick into when the lid is propped up.

Oops, I forgot to paint my chopstick so I had to dig out all my paint again.  Fortunately it is a really warm day and it only takes about 20 minutes for paint to completely dry.

Now, screw the piano to the floor, add the music holder, sheet music and bench and you're done.  Piano cake in 5 easy steps (ok, only step 5 is easy)