Sunday, June 24, 2012

ANATOMY OF A CAKE

People often ask what goes into making a cake of the type that I typically make.  Planning, materials, inspiration...they like to know the deets.  So, I thought this was a good opportunity to lay out how it all comes together.  The project this week was a 4th birthday cake for the daughter of my very close friend, Marilyn.  The birthday girl's name is Claire and she is the charmer for whom I made the Wicked cake a year ago.  I love that she always wants something a little different from what a 3 or 4 year old girl typically wants. This year, the request was for a "chick pirate" cake (Marilyn's words, not Claire's ;)  I was psyched!

So, the first thing I do is find out how many guests will be served and what flavor combo is requested. Then I go to town brainstorming. In this case, I tried to think of as many iconic pirate images as I could, all the while trying to figure out how I could make them fit a sassy, girly cake. I contemplated going with a sculpted pirate ship design, but I probably would have had to resort to doing part of it in rice cereal treats, which I didn't want to do.  For those who don't know, many of the sculpted "cakes" that you see on TV are actually largely made of rice cereal or even inedible construction materials covered in fondant in order to get the desired shape.  There is often a sheet cake in the wings waiting to be cut and served for eating.

After the design is sketched out, I run it by the client, with a quote based on the type of execution involved.  I typically need to have a green light to proceed at least 2 weeks from the event date.  If fondant figures are involved, I need to time to make them and let them set so that they are stable.  For this cake, I started building a figurine of Claire(as a pirate-ess) about a week and a half out.  Then on to the parchment birthday banner, anchor, skull and crossbones flag, treasure chest and gold doubloons. All were hand-sculpted of fondant.  The anchor and doubloons were painted with lustre dust after hardening.


Two days from delivery and it's time to bake.  Marilyn requested a repeat of last year's flavors, Choco-Mocha with cream cheese icing.  This year, we would also cover in fondant in order to achieve the desired design effects.  Let me tell you, I was not a fan of fondant when I started this business.  I had not tasted any where I liked the flavor, and the texture was always bizarre to me.  As I started researching though, I found a brand of fondant that is really head and shoulders above other types that I had tasted.  It's called Satin Ice and is what you will typically find in high-end bakeries.  The taste and texture are completely different and with this product, I now feel like I have a whole new world of design possibilities opened up to me.

After cakes were cooled and iced, I got to work covering the tiers in fondant.  Let me tell you, this is a very intense process.  There is a very specific technique involved in covering cake so that the fondant lays smooth, with limited bubbles, wrinkles, "elephant skin" (a very technical term) or tears.  Fondant needs to be the right texture and thickness in order to make it all work.  The bottom tier received a bright pink coat, which I then hand-embossed into a wood grain to emulate the side of a ship.  The top received a coat with a parchment effect, which I then turned into a treasure map,complete with a big pink X marks the spot.



Finally, it was time to assemble.  This cake was dense and the fondant adds extra weight, so a support system was necessary for the tiering.  I inserted wooden dowels in the bottom tier to hold the weight of the upper tier.  Each tier was also resting on a cardboard cake board to stabilize and maintain the level. Before placing all the remaining details, I created a fondant rope to act as a border for each tier and add a little more visual interest. This was done by twisting together 3 very thin strips of tan fondant and adhering to the cake with water glue.
All icons and figurines were then placed on the cake and secured in place with royal icing (also a great baker's glue).


Voila! Mission accomplished on what is one of my fave cakes so far!  That probably has alot to do with who I made it for...but regardless, I am really happy with it!

Word from Marilyn is that it was a huge hit with both the birthday girl and the guests.  Claire called me with a message of "you're amazing" and several adults said it was the "best cake they had ever had".  Holy cow!!  I feel like I have just found my own buried treasure!

Until next time...confectionately yours.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Big Life Moments

My neighborhood has a ton of graduating seniors this year.  Every street has several houses with balloons on the mailboxes and banners on the porches.  It's such a special time for so many of the families here.  This week,  I completed the last 2 of the 3 graduation projects on my calendar for this year.  Combined with birthdays and weddings, I have been slammed - but in such a good way.

The first project was for a very talented graduate in our neighborhood....a star swimmer and one of the coaches of our swim team.  Her Mom asked me to help with the graduation party, and I immediately knew that I wanted to make a figurine of Olivia to place on top of the celebration cake.  I was provided with a copy of the graduation invitation, and was able to create Olivia in her cap and gown with an exact match of the purple school color. And her tassel is a Twizzler!


Next was a cake for the son of a friend of a neighbor.  I have received lots of business from referrals, and I thank all of those who have spread the word!  The cake is a 5" tall, 3 layer White Almond Sour Cream with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream and fondant.  I love the silhouette effect and especially the flying graduation caps.


Congrats to all of this year's graduates!
Confectionately yours!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy Customers!

I was thrilled to be asked recently to make a cake for a family in our neighborhood - the third that I have made for them since I opened my doors.  They have 2 boys and to date, I have made the Batman cake, Go Cart cake and this week's project for them.  I am so very grateful for their trust in me and the creative license that they give me when designing their children's special celebration cakes.  Thank you, Bowne Family!

For any of you who have young boys or are anywhere in the vicinity of young boys, you know the recent fascination with Lego's latest creation, Ninjago.  They have created a whole franchise, with games, a TV show, video games and of course, the Lego brick sets.  Drew, the birthday boy, asked for a Lego cake and his Mom told me that he is Ninjago-crazy, so the rest was a bit of a surprise to him.  As my kids are currently immersed in the Ninjago culture as well, they were the perfect technical advisers, checking and praising or correcting my work with each step.

The cake flavor is the family favorite, White Almond Sour Cream, with Vanilla Buttercream icing and covered in fondant.  All of the details are hand-molded of fondant and the Asian script is taken straight from my son's actual Ninjago brick set of the ancient gate.  As I have recently been asked to do more fondant work, I wanted to make sure that I was offering the best product that I could find.  I am now using Satin Ice, which is considered the best on the market and the brand that boutique and celebrity cake artists use.  The flavor and consistency is head and shoulders above those fondants sold in mass retail markets.


May and June have proven to be extremely busy for me and I have, unfortunately, had to turn several clients away due to a full schedule.  Please know that I HATE doing this, but I can only manage a certain number of jobs per week.  If you have an event coming up in the near or even distant future, don't hesitate to ask me to put you in my calendar ahead of time.  Even if you don't know what you want yet, number of servings, flavors, etc.  At least I will have you in the books.  We can always work out details later, although I do need to have orders finalized 2-3 weeks prior to the event date.  That said, if things are slow, I can sometimes fit in projects a week or so out, so don't hesitate to check with me.

Thanks again to all my wonderful clients and friends!
Confectionately yours!