Beach Theme Wedding Cake

Last month I attended a Wedding Cake Basics class at Kitchen Window in Minneapolis, led by a local baker. I had many hopes for this class and thought she'd provide pointers on building, assembling, stabilizing and designing wedding cakes...unfortunately she didn't... at least not proactively. 

Although, there were dowels nearby we didn't get to use them and they weren't even mentioned until I inquired.  The response was that we wouldn't get to use them because the cakes we would construct weren't going to be high.  I guess that makes sense, but it would have been great if a discussion about the topic was at least planned (w/o my probing).

Also, although she distributed handouts on how to cut a wedding cake (pulled off of Wilton's website), there wasn't any discussion about it, or pricing, or transporting, or design trends or much of anything else until students probed.  Basically the class felt like a beginners course where we were given the great opportunity to put a small cake on top of a larger cake, ice it, throw on a few designs and take it home to feast on (I'm being sarcastic if you couldn't tell).

With that said...here's what I want you to know:
1) I will be following up with additional post on constructing wedding cakes within the next week. Check back!
2) Here's my final product.  As my friend said, it's a "hurricane" themed beach wedding cake (due to my sad looking tree).
  • Palm Tree
    • insert wooden skewer in tootsie roll leaving about 2" or more exposed at bottom for inserting in cake.  The longer the exposed part, the more stable the cake will be. 
    • as for making the palm leaves...as you see I didn't do a great job, so I'll wait to I nail it down, before I give you tips.
  • Sand
    • used brown sugar. However the taste of  the sugar with each bite wasn't good.  
    • next time I'd go for crushed cookie (shortbread, graham....)
  • Blue Waves
    •  on parchment paper add white buttercream. Using the back of a small spatula, pick up some of the cream.  The apply thin coat of white cream to side of cake using upward motion, but only go 3/4 of the way up.
    • once white strokes have been applied, using the remaining buttercream on parchment, add a bit of food coloring (I used powder) to side, and with spatula, spread everything around (loosely) to incorporate color into buttercream unevenly.  You don't want the color to be uniform. It's okay to have some lighter and darker areas.
    • using the back of spatula, pick up some of the color and add thicker coat of cream using upward motion, but this time only go 1/2 - 2/3 of the way up


Transformers Cake

Before this, I knew very little about Transformers.  Yes I saw the movie with Shia Labeouf; yes I recalled the cartoon theme song; and yes I knew it was about cars that turned into walking, talking robots.  However, beyond that...I was lost.  Therefore, I took to the internet to research toy packaging, cartoon posters and other cakes.  Through that I was able to identify a few key elements, which helped with designing several concepts for a former colleague.

A few tips for you:

1) To acheive silver color on the plaque, try Silver Food Coloring Spray from Chefmaster.  I got it at my local supply store for $9.95.

2) The black foil used to cover the board is what you'll likely find at any supply store. In the past I've used white, purple, silver and gold with no problem.  Unfortunately, I found with black the color rubs off easily.  In some cases (like this) it's fine because you'll end up with a worn & antiqued look. However, in other cases where you want a sleek look, this color may not work since you'll end up with areas where color isn't uniform.

3) For the red color, I used color Red Red from Chefmaster.  It took about 8 drops to get to this color.  Also, I found that as time went on, the color became more vibrant.  So when creating dark and vibrant colors, if you reach something close let it rest for about 5 mins to see if color improvess. 

4) One thing I learned (at the supply store) about this brand of food color is when using it for icing, you should use milk instead of water in your (icing) recipe.


Cake Flour vs. Pastry Flour vs. All Purpose Flour

Ever wondered the difference between flours?  Aside from the scientific answers such as the levels of protein, the parts of the wheat kernel they come from, more noticeable differences (at least to the home baker) can be identified in the final product. Simply put...

Cake Flour: creates a softer cake.

Pastry Flour: not as soft as cake flour, but more so than all-purpose flour.

All-Purpose Flour: creates a denser cake. (note: I use this for my carrot cake, but the apple sauce and oil eliminate the "dense" problem).

 If you combine cake flour and all-purpose flour (2:1 ratio), you'll end up with......Pastry flour.


Justin Bieber cake with shooting stars

Here's my word of advice: One should not try to make the color purple; instead one should just buy purple food coloring

We all know that yellow + blue= Green; yellow + red= Orange; and blue+ red= Purple.  However, when working on this cake, my blue and red equaled grey, dull, dirty and WRONG!!!!!

Thankfully with a quick trip to a local store, I was able to pick up colors colors violet, fuchsia (both from AmeriColor), and color Electric Purple (from Spectrum) and create this fun Justin Bieber cake. 
To learn how I made the Star Cake Toppers see my previous post.


Creating Fondant/Gum Paste Star Cake Toppers

Recently I was asked to make a cake, which was to include stars connected to wires that shot out of the top.  Although it sounded easy, being that I never made fondant shapes connected to wire that's meant to be a cake topper I decided to do some research beforehand.

At the cake supply store, I was advised to use gum paste because it hardens faster/better than fondant.  Online, I found sites that said to use fondant and others that said to use half fondant and half gum paste. However beyond that bit of info and some pretty pictures (of the final product), these sites offered nothing.  With that said, I decided to test out a few different methods in hopes of answering the below questions for anyone who finds themselves in this position one day:
1) Why it was best to use one over the other? Although all three hold the shapes well, I liked the half and half blend b/c it's more pliable dries quickly.  The fondant is a bit tougher, but it also dries quickly.  The gum paste is also pliable, but dries slowly and never gets as hard. 
2) How do you connect the shapes to the wire? I used 26 gauge floral wires and stuck them in the stars so they could dry together.  However, they were easy to pull out & took 9 days to stay in securely.  Also, they didn't support the weight of the stars and I doubt the thicker 20 gauge would have worked.  On top of that, I read that for food safety reasons, you shouldn't insert the wire into the cake and therefore need to take extra steps to cover it and prevent contact when inserted.  With all that said, I switched to bamboo skewers.  It was safe and supported the stars. The only challenge was since the stars were not thick, I couldn't insert them.  Therefore, I stuck the skewer on the back of the star using a 3:1 sugar water mixture (corn syrup might also work) and applying a thin piece of the gum paste/fondant blend on top.  This held everything together while it dried.  Also as you see in the last picture, on the largest star I wrapped wire around 2/3 of the bamboo to cover the wood, but left the bottom 1/3 without wire since that would go into the cake.
3) How thick should the stars be? No less than 1/8" and no more than 1/4".
4) How far in advance should they be made?About 4-6 days. This allows time for drying.


2011 Weddng Cake Trends - Pt. 2

In respect to wedding cake design, there's a growing trend towards minimalism.  As much as I love a beautifully ornate cake, I can appreciate this shift.
  • It offers simplicity without cutting back on elegance.
  • It's modern, sophisticated and clean.
  • Less details equals less money allowing those saved dollars to be reallocated to other areas of the event.
One thing you don't want to do is mistake this style for boring.  Think beyond cakes which feature nothing more than buttercream and a satin ribbon, or a few flowers thrown on top, or flowers thrown between tiers.  


Writing with Chocolate

I'll admit, this cakenista is still learning to write...on cakes that is! So when asked to make an anniversary cake for two lovely friends I decided to find a way around this obstacle, by writing on chocolate with chocolate!  

It's easier because:
  • once tempered to the right consistency chocolate squeezes out in smooth continuous strokes.  
  • writing on a chocolate plaque is more forgiving.  If any mistakes are made, it's easy to just wipe off and start again.
Prior to this cake I always had issues creating chocolate plaques, curls and other decorative elements.  Nonetheless I took on the challenge and came out the victor.  I believe that the reason for the win is that I specifically used melting chocolate (opposed to Hershey, Nestle or Ghirardelli).

Here's how you can do it:
White Chocolate Plaque (sorry, but nothings measured)

  •  Chop melting chocolate into small pieces and place in a DRY microwave safe bowl.
  •  Temper chocolate in microwave by setting to 1 minute.
  • At 30 secs, stop the microwave, stir chocolate pieces with DRY spoon/small spatula. At this point it will most likely be nowhere near melted so put it back in for the remaining 30secs.
  • Stop, check and, stir again. If necessary put back in microwave for another minute.
    • This may seem like a slow and tedious process, but it's very quick and easy to burn chocolate.
    • By frequently performing the Stop/Check/Stir process you're minimizing the risk.
  • Spread melted chocolate in a baking sheet and try to get it an even level. If you're working with a small amount of chocolate, you can do this in a small cake pan or try to limit the spreading to one section of the sheet.                                                        
  • Refrigerate for 10-20mins till hard. Wipe a hot/wet paper towel beneath the sheet to help with release (onto parchment).
  • Although you can now cut the chocolate into desired shapes, be careful and cut slowly using repeated slicing (not sawing) motions. Since it's hard any rough movement can cause it to crack.

Writing with Milk Chocolate

  • Using the same method from above, melt the chocolate.
  • To write you can use a piping bag and fine tip, but I used the squeeze bottle shown below because: 
    • You can easily store any unused portion in the fridge and then re-temper in the same bottle when needed again.
    • It has a removable tip and coupler which allows  you to use other tips as needed. 
**TIP: If at any point you need to start over, wipe off the writing and put the plaque in the fridge for about a minute.  Doing this will help prevent any melting potentially caused by the wiping off action and of course the room temperature. 


2011 Wedding Cake Trends - Pt. 1

What's new in the world of cakes?  Height!!!

  • Skyscraper cakes with  5+ layers in a tier is an absolute perfect way to add a dramatic affect to what would otherwise be a simple cake.
  • This looks best when applied to only one tier; applying to all or several is overkill.
  • Much like the Royal Guard, cakes designed in this fashion command attention adds a wow factor. 


Vanilla and Chocolate Mix

 From bland to ............




Looking to take cupcakes from bland to grand?  All it takes is a bit of planning and some patience.  For this job my most valuable tools were a pencil and some paper.

My tips for you are to do some math.  How many cupcakes do you have, what are your different cake flavors and frosting flavors.  Since you won't need a full batter of frostings...how much do you really need to make?  Think about how you can mix and match by creating combinations that highlight taste and beauty. Also important is what will the guest want and how can you incorporate their preferences into your final plan.

Lastly if you haven't already, invest in some serve ware (cake stands, cupcake stands, dishes, etc) and a few embellishments (flowers, bling, etc.) because contrary to what anyone says.....looks matter! 


Lavender Cupcakes w/ Browned Butter Frosting

I've been dying to try something new...and oh it was worth it.

Lavender isn't only for freshening your linen closet or for relaxing shower gels. As of today (for me) it's also for cakes.  I was so excited by the results and even more happy with how much the browned butter frosting complimented it.

Lavender Cupcakes
 Use any vanilla/yellow/white/butter cake recipe desired.  However, here's what makes this different: 
  • Boil 1/4 cup of lavender in some of the liquid required in the recipe(milk, buttermilk, juice) for about 10 mins.  This will speed up the process of extracting the flavor.  When done, strain out the flowers and add the liquid to the remaining of your liquids.  Since some of the liquid may have evaporated, be sure to remeasure your and accomodate so it's exactly what the recipe requires. Allow to cool off before adding to cake batter. 
    •  lavender can be purchased from any spice store or gourmet market.
  • Add about 2tsp of lemon zest (do not use extract or juice) to the batter.  It helps add a nice refreshing contrast to the lavender flavor.

Browned Butter Frosting
1 stick butter @ room temp
1 stick butter (for browning)
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp heavy cream

  • Melt 1 stick of butter in sauce pan at low/medium heat until brown; about 7 mins (watch carefully & do not burn).  allow to cool about 4 mins
  • In mixer beat 1 stick of butter  (with flat paddle) till creamy; about 1min.  stop and scrape bowl.
  • Add the cooled browned butter to the mixer and beat about 3mins till fully combined with creamed butter.  stop and scrape bowl
  • Add vanilla and mix about 30 secs
  • Add in sugar 1 cup at a time stopping to scrape bowl after each addition (frosting will look really gritty and coarse)
  • Add in heavy cream in 2-3 additions and mix after each.  Mix until smooth creamy and everything's fully combined.
**FYI- the final product is light brown, but I added food coloring which why it looks purple.