Sunday, October 19, 2008

Time Spent

One of the most common questions I get "How long does it take you to make something like this??" Well, I work in the lab until about 4pm every day so I can only work on these cakes in the evenings. I usually bake the cakes on Wednesday evening. Then, I can start the decorating on Thursday evening. If the cake is due on Friday, I have to get it all done on Thursday. If it's due on Saturday, I have a little extra time.

For example, the pool cake was due Saturday morning. All the stuff you see on top of the cake (chairs, dog, girl, beach ball) were made a week in advance because they need time to dry and become sturdy and hard. That cake was decorated in all buttercream so it was much faster than one with fondant.

The poker tournament cake was especially difficult to find time for this week. Adam's parents came into town on Thursday evening because his mom had surgery on her back on Friday morning. Like usual, I made the cakes on Wednesday and iced them with the chocolate buttercream on Thursday. On Friday, I covered the cake in fondant and then added all the hardened, pre-made poker chips, signs, and cards on Saturday. It may seem like I'm taking too long to do each step, but I like to let the cake "rest" between each major change. Sometimes, the weight of the icing or fondant can cause the cake to slide or slump. If I let it rest between each step, it's easier to fix things like that.

If I had more time during the day, these cakes could be made in a couple of days but it's more difficult for me right now since I can only find a few hours here and a few hours there. What's nice is that I can make a lot of stuff ahead of time - cards, chairs, etc - and have them ready to just set on the cake. One day, I'll log how many hours I put into a cake. I'll be willing to bet that I easily work 30-40 hours on any one cake. That's how many cake decorators can charge so much! I imagine that the poker cake could EASILY be sold for $150 at a bakery. One day, maybe I will be able to charge that too!

Speaking of ...if you'd like me to make a cake for you, I prefer at least 2 weeks notice so that I have time to completely think it through. This way, I can think through any problems that may occur and make a lot of stuff ahead of time. If worse comes to worst, I can make a cake with 1 week notice but it's a bit more stressful for me. When someone comes to me with an idea, I like to hear what they have in mind and then work up a couple of sketches over the next 24 hours. Then, I'll run those by the person, get their feedback, and make the final cake plans.

Poker Tournament!

About twice a year, one of Adam's poker-obsessed coworkers organizes a large poker tournament. Part of your entry fee includes dinner (hamburgers, hotdogs, and chips) and I always thought we needed desserts so I usually brought cookies or brownies or something like that. This year, I decided we needed an official poker tournament cake (Elise took care of the other cookies, brownies and goodies)! Here's the cake I brought:

I paid a lot of attention to the playing cards so here's a close-up on them:

This cake was marbled (chocolate and vanilla swirled) with chocolate buttercream frosting and covered with both marshmallow and chocolate fondant.

Many of you already know that Adam and I have played in this tournament for a few years now. My goal is to always get at least one seat further than Adam. What can I say, I have a very competitive spirit but I set realistic goals - to expect to win every year is just ridiculous! haha! Anyway, usually I do end up beating Adam by a hair - I get eliminated right after him. This year, however, was a different story! I made it to 8th place, like usual...and Adam got 3rd! Way to go! He won $65 which covered our entry fees ($20 each) AND helped recover the cost of the cake!

Friday, October 10, 2008

2nd Order from Ph.D.-serts!

I've just completed my second official cake! This request came from my labmate Mike, who wanted a cake for his sister's birthday party. Apparently his sister really likes her new pool so he wanted a cake that resembled the pool. I was told the following: his sister is "busty" and has brown hair, she has a dog that digs all the time, the pool has a waterfall on one end, and she has 2 reclining beach chairs. Of course, I was told a lot more about the pool, but there's only so much you can fit on a 9x13-inch cake! :) Ok, so here's the finished cake:
In case you can't figure it out, that brown thing in the bottom left corner is the dog digging with his hiney in the air. haha! Here's the view of the cake from the side:

And here are a couple of close-up pictures to give you more details:

This is a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream filling. It's decorated in buttercream and the flowers, girl, dog, chairs, beach ball, and towel are made of fondant.

Mike, thank you for your support! This cake allowed me to explore a little more of what can be done with buttercream. Not all cakes must be covered in fondant to be beautiful and fun!

Lessons learned from this cake:
1. Decorating with buttercream is much faster than fondant!
2. Next time, use a double layer of cardboard under the cake to better support the weight.
3. Don't try to multitask while carmelizing sugar. This cake was supposed to have a carmelized buttercream filling...but after 2 batches ruined, I had to scrap that idea and go with chocolate filling.

Thanks again, Mike!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I just want to send a special note to my mom: Happy Birthday!!! I hope you have a relaxing weekend and really enjoy the cake Robin makes for you! :)

April - I just saw your comment to the Babies Galore! post: I'd love to make Mitchell's birthday cake! Yay, what fun!