Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Congrats Jack & Jiejin!

My friends Jiejin and Jack got married this summer in China. Since it was literally on the other side of the globe, a lot of their friends from Gainesville couldn't go to the wedding. They decided to have a little party here this week with a traditional American wedding cake and a champagne toast. This was my first wedding cake!

The cake was 2 tiers and each teir was made up of 3 layers - chocolate, marble, and yellow cake with raspberry cream filling. The tiers were covered in white fondant and decorated with various shades of ivory. There were about 27 roses on top of the cake...and I can make about 6 roses in an hour so that was time consuming! I put a little sparkle dust on the pearls and bubbles around the cake and then wrote their names around the base of the cake board. Here's a few close-ups:

I had a few "caketastrophies" with this weekend. First, my 10-inch chocolate layer decided to just crumble into pieces when I tried to ice so I had to completely re-bake it. Then, when I stacked all the layers, they were too heavy and pushed the raspberry filling right out! I guess I shouldn't be experimenting with the icing recipe while making an important cake! I had to scrape all the icing back off and remake it. When I iced the cakes a second time, it was a little better, but you can still see some bulges on the sides of the cake. I was really upset about it, but I always tell my students that part of becoming a "profesional" cake decorator is learning to cover your mistakes so I knew I had to keep working on it. I should have taken a before and after picture - the cake was so ugly it was making me sick to my stomach! I guess I did an OK job of covering up the problems, but you can still see them a little. In general, the cake was acceptable when viewed from 3 feet away and only from the front. haha!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Michael's Gingerbread House Demo

Today was very rainy and I was fortunate enough to be obligated to work at Michael's so I could watch the rain from inside rather than from under my poncho at a Gator game. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it! I had 2 hours to sit at the entrance of Michael's and decorate a gingerbread house. Yes, I got paid to play with a gingerbread house! Can it get any better???

Well, I must be an extremely slow gingerbread house decorator because when I looked at my watch an hour and a half into it, I thought "Whoa, I better get moving so I can finish this in the next 30 minutes!" I did manage to finish the house, but I had a LOT of candy leftover. I guess I was a bit too conservative... But look, you can see my little snow people! Fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas!

This weekend, I'm making a Christmas Gingerbread House at Michael's to be used as a store display for the rest of the holiday season. If you live in Gainesville and want to see the display, they usually put it on top of the end of an aisle near the cake decorating stuff. As soon as you enter Michael's, look to your left and up. It should be up there. :) I made these sugar snow people to put in the yard of the house I make. Aside from the gator and flamingo I made at the ICES conventions this summer, these are the first characters I've modeled from fondant and gum paste. I'll post pictures of the gingerbread house this weekend when it's completed.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I just love tulips! They are my all-time favorite flower. I think I especially their simplicity & clean lines and their large waxy leaves. Adam bought me some tulips this weekend and I just love looking at them! I'm designing a wedding cake around tulips for a competition in February - I hope I don't destroy the tulip's beauty when I attempt to make it out of sugar!

Triple Threat Throwdown - Round 1

Lourdes, one of my labmates, recently challenged me to a bake-off. Of course, I was up for the challenge - any excuse to bake! We put various categories into a "hat" and Jiejin, the official Throwdown Director, drew the category at random. Round 1 = A Delicious Simply Decorated Cake. To make it more interesting, I recruited a third competitor, Elise. And so it became the Triple Threat Throwdown!

Coincidentally, all 3 of us made a variation of a chocolate cake! Here's Lourdes' cake - Chocolate Decadence with Luscious Mocha Frosting (Cake 1).

Elise's cake was called Chocoholic's Dream Cake (Cake 3). I have to give a shout out to Elise who competed in the throwdown with a 5-month old baby at home AND the baby got sick the night of the throwdown! Talk about multitasking!

And my cake was Strawberry & Chocolate Delight (Cake 2):

Each person received a plate that looked like this:
Each person also received a ballot where they rated each cake up to 5 points in each of the following categories: Presentation, Texture, Taste, and Overall Balance. In all, there was a possible 20 points from each person and, since 13 people voted, a total possible value of 260 points.

And the results:
Third place = My cake with 213 points
Second place = Elise's cake with 222 points
First place = Lourdes' cake with 235.5 points

Congratulations Lourdes! Soon we'll be drawing for the category for Round 2. A new group of judges (ones that aren't so partial to Lourdes...all 13 voters knew Lourdes while only 4 knew Melanie and 1 knew Elise) will be invited and it will be held at either Melanie's or Elise's houses! Also, a special thanks goes out to Thomas and Jiejin! Jiejin did an awesome job preparing the ballots, creating the award certificate, counting the votes, and directing the throwdown! And Thomas was a terrific assistant director! In fact, here's a picture to show how seriously Thomas and Jiejin took their votes!

And last, but not least, here's a shot of the 3 competitors - Elise, Lourdes, and me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Great Season Fusion!

This is my last season playing soccer. I know, you're thinking..."You've been playing since 5th grade, are you sure you can quit???" We all know I've tried to quit at least 2 other times in my life, and I always come back to it. But, this time is different. Life is much busier now and I have other things demanding my attention - especially cake-related things. Between labwork, teaching cake decorating classes, and decorating my own cakes, I just don't have time to make it to practices anymore. In any event, I made a cake this weekend to celebrate a great season with my teammates. We played the first game of the tournament on Sunday and lost, unfortunately, but I don't think that completely knocks us out of the tourney. I think the cake helped cheer everyone up - at least a little bit!

This cake is a yellow cake flavored with some orange zest so it has a hint of orange flavor. The buttercream was also flavored with Grand Marnier and orange juice concentrate. In between cake layers, I put a thick layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. Next time I make this cake, I probably won't put the ganach in the center...I don't really enjoy a hard chocolate center. I like cakes with a soft, mousse-like center.

Adam had to guard the cake with his life during the game. It started raining midway through the first half so he had to run the cake to the car and then go back to get it when the game ended. He's my special assistant! Not only is he good at washing dishes and running to Publix for forgotten ingredients, but is also good at transporting cakes!

Dog Days Race

This weekend we took Nani to a 1-mile race that you run with your dog. There were all kinds of dogs there - from a dog that looked just like the one from Beverly Hills Chihuahua to large, powerful ones. Coming into the race, we knew they were going to give away prizes like "Most Likely to Pull Owner," "Dog-Owner Look-Alike," etc. Of course, we were hoping for a prize, but we really just wanted to have some fun with Nani and attempt to socialize our little scaredy cat!

She did really good in the race! We let the majority of the pack go ahead of us before we even started running. Nani is especially nervous when things are behind her. Once we started running, it worked out well because there was a little boy running right in front of us. Nani loves to chase kids so she was having a great time! We ended up passing the little boy and the pack spread out enough that no one was directly behind us anymore. By that point, Nani was really running in stride and she was doing awesome! Every once in a while, we'd pass a dog on a poopy pit-stop and we'd crack up laughing. We have no idea what place we came in, but we were proud of her for running the whole mile!

After the race, they started giving away the prizes. Our little Nani won the highly coveted prize of "Cutest Dog"! Here are a few pictures we took of her back at home after the race.