Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mountain Biking in Colorado

This was a busy week for cakes! The second cake I made was for Steve's graduation party. Steve and Lindsay are moving to Colorado in a matter of days so Lindsay wanted the cake to represent this move and Steve's love of biking. My first thought was that I didn't want the Colorado mountains to look scrawny! We all know how majestic and beautiful they are so I had to do them justice...but I also had to keep the cake size rather small and the costs relatively low. After all, they didn't have 500 people coming to the party to help them eat a mountain-sized cake!

I decided to make paper mache mountains as a 3-D background (I haven't done paper mache since grade school!). Then, the cake was the "rough terrain" leading into the mountains. I made a gum paste station wagon with Steve's bright yellow bike on top. The entire thing was edible except for the 4 pieces of toothpick that made up the "bike stand."

Lindsay also asked me to make the car's license plate one from Colorado with the letters being "Knievel." Such a cute idea! The license plate was easy to make: just cut some gum paste and allow it to dry for several days. Then use food-writer markers to draw the license plate and the letters! Piece of cake! (Sorry, I had to say it. Have I used that phrase on this blog yet? If not, shame on me! If so, sorry, I'm forgetful sometimes so you get to enjoy it again!)

Thank you SO MUCH, Ben, for giving me an airbrush kit! It worked perfectly for this cake! You'd be amazed at how much depth a little brown airbrushing gave to this rough terrain! It was like a transformation!

Side note: To anyone thinking about airbrushing a cake, do it outdoors! I placed this cake in a big cardboard box, from which I'd cut two sides. I thought this was rather smart so that the cardboard box would catch all the airbrush color that went past the cake. Apparently, I have no concept of where the color goes when you airbrush...the color was EVERYWHERE! I only did quick little spurts of color on this cake and the entire thing took about 5 minutes! But later, Adam and I were walking around the kitchen and noticed the bottoms of our socks were turning brown...uh oh. I mopped the kitchen floors 5 times and I was still picking up the color! Dang, and I thought I was being so clever with that box. Oops!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

This week, I made a cake for Jordan, who is graduating from high school. She told me she liked the bright colors and the whimsical flowers on this cake. She wanted a cake that was "fresh, pretty, and sophisticated" with "retro orange, celery green, vibrant pink, sea-foam blue, and brown."

When creating a cake like this, the key is to plan ahead. All of the gum paste flowers need to be made days ahead of time so they have plenty of time to dry before they are placed on the cake.

To make the flowers, roll your colored gum paste to the desired thickness. I used a pasta roller on the largest setting so I was sure to get a consistent thickness for every flower.

Cut the gum paste into strips of even thickness. I used the Wilton roller with a 1/4-inch spacer in between the blades, but there are many other ribbon cutters available. Alternatively, you could just use a ruler and a pizza cutter.

Cut six lengths of each of the following sizes: 2-inch, 3-inch, 5-inch. Place them under plastic wrap so they don't dry out.

Fold the first 2-inch length in half, without creasing. Pinch the ends around half of a toothpick.

Fold the 3-inch length in half around the curved 2-inch length, again without creasing. Do the same for the 5-inch length. Let the six petals dry until they are hard to the touch (usually overnight is long enough).

Once the petals are dry, roll a ball of gum paste and insert the petals into it. You may have to use a small amount of royal icing (it's best if the royal icing is the same color as the flower petals or center) to adhere the petals securely. Let the entire flower dry for several days before putting them on the cake.

The flower created in this tutorial is rather basic, but these same techniques can be used to make many different flowers. The only thing that changes is the lengths you cut and the way you pinch and shape each strip. Here are a few examples:

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A new blog, a slightly new topic

This summer, I registered for an online course called "Web Skills for Everyone." The course is basically teaching us how to use new internet technologies and how to keep up with the technologies as they advance in the future. It's really interesting, and I'm learning a lot! Anyway, our assignment this week was to create a new blog. My new blog, called Just for Dessert, is about desserts available in and around Gainesville.

I know, it's no surprise that I'd blog about sweets...what can I say? It's an obsession - I mean passion.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Twist on a New Classic

I received another request for a giant stethoscope cake, like the one I did in early May. This time, she wanted the cake to be a bit more colorful (specifically, orange and blue) and have a doctor gator (Dr. Albert from UF) on it. Since I have already done this cake, I've already done all the trouble-shooting and I was able to crank it out in about 6 hours - start to finish!

Dr. Albert was made using the Frozen Buttercream Transfer Method. Stay tuned for a future tutorial on this cool & versatile skill!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Relay for Life Mother's Day

Adam and I both love participating in Relay for Life and raising money for the American Cancer Society, but we couldn't make it happen this year. Time just wasn't on our side. So when one of my students said she was selling cakes at Relay, I was thrilled to be able to contribute in some way! Her team held a cake walk and sold cakes for donations to the American Cancer Society. She's amazing because she made 5 cakes in one week! Since I had to do the stethoscope cake this week, I was only able to do 2 cakes for her. We decorated the cakes in somewhat of a Mother's Day theme...and I decided to do one whimsical cake and one regular one.

Before I show you the cakes, I want to take a quick time-out to say HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all the mommies out there!

Anyway, here's the regular cake, which I decorated with shades of purple since that's Relay's color:

And here's the more whimsical cake with ribbon roses on top:

Which do you prefer - serious or whimsical? Reality or fantasy? Elegant or fun?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Stethoscope that Trumps All Stethoscopes!

A friend of mine recently asked me to make a giant stethoscope out of cake for her brother's graduation from medical school. My first thought was that the only part that can be cake is the round metal part that the doctor holds against your chest. If that's huge, then the tubing and ear pieces will also have to be huge, right?! Turns out, she only needed to serve 10 people so a 6-inch cake was plenty big enough for them (thank goodness!).

So I knew that doing the giant stethoscope was feasible...but, how should I spruce it up a bit? I mean, a giant stethoscope just lying there is kind of boring, right? So I decided to decorate the cake board like a huge prescription pad with the graduate's name on top. Sounds easy enough...

But then I remembered that writing with BLACK royal icing on WHITE fondant is just a recipe for disaster! Any little mistake and you're done. If it were almost any other color, you could "erase" the mistake with a little water, but the black color is just so potent that you just can't mess up!

Well, I did! I say all the time that one of my mottoes is that professional cake decorators are not perfect, they're just good at covering mistakes. Wow, I just leaned something new! I didn't know that is how the plural of motto is spelled, did you?? Anyway, I digress. When I began writing the brother's name on the cake board, I realized halfway through the first name that I didn't leave enough room for the entire thing! Not good! So, I removed the black royal icing as best I could, leaving a huge stain on the white fondant...and turned the board around! I redesigned the layout of the stethoscope so that the cake would sit right on the stained spot. Go back to the picture - can you tell where the stain is??? See? It's all about covering mistakes!

Anyway, then I knew I had to be careful. I carefully spaced the rest of the words and it all worked out in the end. Phew! With working full-time in the lab and teaching classes 2 nights a week, I really thought I would need to work on this cake for a couple of nights before I completed it. But, I finished it all in one night - about 5 hours of decorating work. Does that mean I'm getting faster or am I becoming less of a perfectionist??? You decide. *wink*