Monday, July 27, 2009

ICES Convention - Here I Come!

I leave tomorrow for the ICES Convention in St. Charles, IL! Like always, I'm going to try to participate in the convention in every possible way - go to as many demos as time allows, take hands-on classes, take TONS of photos of the cake gallery, volunteer, and bring a sugar display! Because I'm flying to the convention this year, it's much more difficult to bring a dummy cake. Instead, I made a bridal bouquet made of sugar! I've packed it up as tightly as I can so hopefully (a) they'll let me carry it on the plane and (b) it survives the trip!

The bouquet is made up of pink roses, white stephanotis, pink hydrangea, and yellow & pink calla lilies.

I've been working from home on my dissertation a lot lately. During the day, I write...and at night, I work on cake stuff! I usually move the dining room table into the living room so I can take TV breaks occasionally. Anyway, during the day, Nani constantly wants to sleep in my lap. One night last week, Nani jumped on this chair all by herself...she KNOWS she's not allowed up there, but she did it anyway. It was like she felt like she was entitled to it since it was empty. Please excuse the condition of the living room. If you were ever wondering what it looked like while I worked, now you know! The flowers in the background are the ones I used in the bouquet above.

The best part, though, was when Nani stood on the chair and leaned over to the banister. Check out this photo Adam caught (yes, her open eye is scary...they always turn out like that in photos...oh well!):

Is she seriously winking? She's mischievous alright! But that face is so could you do anything but laugh???

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gator Gala 2009 - Fight Against Breast Cancer!

The Collaboration of Scientists for Critical Research in Biomedicine, Inc. (CSCRB) is comprised of a group of current graduate students and alumni from the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Science at UF (this is the program I'm in too). The group works as a nonprofit to help raise awareness and funds for research in areas that they feel are currently lacking attention.

For example, one of their committee member's mother was recently diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a very rare form but one that spreads rapidly. Her mother chose a treatment program that promised to prolong her life for anywhere between 2 months and 2 years...unfortulately, she passed away only 6 weeks later. Her diagnosis, however, sparked these graduate students to conduct literature searches to see what research has been done about TNBC. To their surprise and horror, very little was known about TNBC - except that there is no effective treatment for it!

You see, cancers usually secrete certain hormones in order to grow. Cancer treatments usually target these hormones to prevent their growth and cause the cancer to slowly die. However, TNBC secretes none of the hormones that you usually see from cancer so scientists and doctors have been unable to develop effective treatments against it.

Earlier this year, the CSCRB hosted a 5K run/walk fundraiser. They got a terriffic turn-out and raised a lot of money, but their ultimate goal is to fund a seed grant at UF for a laboratory to specifically research TNBC. They began planning the Gator Gala in hopes of reaching their goal. Recently, I was recruited by the group (I know, you were beginning to wonder what any of this had to do with me, right?) because of my abilities to "decorate my house"!

The theme of the Gala was Set Sail for Discovery, and I was put in charge of event decorations. Of course, I volunteered to do the cake too! I, in turn, recruited Elise, whose major in event planning REALLY came in handy! The event was a success! We had a silent auciton, heavy hor d'oeuvres provided by Cabana Cove Caribbean Grill (yummy!), my cake, a special ballet performance, a jazz band, and a keynote address! The numbers are still being crunched, but so far it looks like at least 100 people came to the event (some people purchased tickets but didn't come to the event) and we raised at least $10,000!

My Cake:

Unfortunately, it was a very rainy day so my waves wilted a bit...but you knew it was supposed to look like water, right? Gotta love this Florida humidity! Anyway, each of the four tiers was a different flavor:
-Gluten-free chocolate cake with raspberry cream filling
-Yellow cake with lemon curd and raspberry cream filling
-Chocolate cake with honey-soaked bananas and peanut butter filling (this seemed to be everyone's favorite)
-Yellow cake with orange cream filling

Here's a photo of the Gala in action! All the volunteers worked hard while guests began to check-in:

Oh, did I mention that the president of UF came??? Oh yes, here is Deborah posing with Chris & Bernie Machen!

Our jazz band:

Here is a photo of me, Nicole, and Elise hanging out by the silent auction:

This is Edith Perez (a pioneer in TNCB research and our keynote speaker) and Lisa (the president of CSCRB)

Me, Elise, and Michelle (both the Gator Gala and the 5K were done in her mother's honor). During the Gala, Michelle gave a beautiful speech, and I don't think there was a dry eye in the crowd.
In honor of the Gator Gala, I'm giving away this great book Cancer Vixen! It's a graphic novel, meaning it's written in comic strip format, and it's a really good read! I won it at the Gala's silent auction and thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but now I want to pass it on so someone else can read it!

Everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another - whether you've had it yourself or you know someone who has. To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment about how cancer has touched your life - or just say hi! I'm going to the ICES convention next week (woohoo!) so this contest will run until August 3rd. For those of you having trouble leaving comments, just click the link that says how many comments have been left for this post (underneath this post). A pop-up window should come up allowing you to leave a comment!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Congratulations to Our Second Contest Winner

Congratulations to Sue for winning an delicious bag of M&Ms! Thanks to both of my faithful blog followers for attempting the quiz. haha! You each had a 50% chance at winning the prize - way to go!

Update: The Gator Gala was a success! My cake had a few humidity-related problems, but everyone still seemed impressed. Stay tuned for the full story!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Contest #2

This week's contest will be a blog scavenger hunt of sorts. Leave a comment with your answers to the questions. The comments will be hidden until the contest ends on Friday, July 17th at 5pm. Everyone who gets all 3 answers will be entered in a drawing to win a FREE bag of M&Ms! Yay! Who doesn't love M&Ms?!

1. What band was featured on my birthday cake this year? Hint: My birthday is in March.
2. What was the title of my very first post on this blog?
3. What kind of dog do we think Nani is? Hint: Look in June 2009.

Good luck!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pirate Cupcakes

This Saturday, I did a demo at Michael's to celebrate the release of the new Wilton Yearbook! Pirates are in this year so I made some cute little pirate cupcakes.

But the fun doesn't stop there! Look at the center of the cupcakes! So fun!

I'm just DYING for someone to ask me to do a wedding cake like this! Can you imagine? A beautiful, traditional wedding cake...then the bride and groom cut the cake...and behold! It's hot pink!

Oooooh, this will also be great for sports orange and blue Gators cake anyone???

Contest Winner!

Congratulations, Elise! Your M&Ms are on the way!

That is my hubby, Adam! Can you believe it?! His parents and I have been trying for year to convince him to grow his hair out like that again. He'll have none of that!

I had a lot of fun with this contest so I decided that I'm going to have a contest every week for the months of July and August. In the future, though, everyone who comments with the correct answer will have a chance at the prize! I'll put all the correct answers in a hat and draw one at random. I'll post the new contest on Sunday or Monday of each week - be on the look-out - and he winners will be announced every Friday! Good luck!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mystery Cutie

Who could this cutie patootie be??? To the first person who comments with the correct answer, you get a FREE bag of M&Ms!



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Is this normal???

A couple of nights ago, I was minding my own business working on some gum paste flowers to take to the ICES convention at the end of the month (yay!) while Adam was playing video games. I happened to glance at him and noticed that he was making some pretty amusing facial expressions! He would get this dejected look when he "died" or a surprised look when someone would jump out in front of him. Best of all, though, was this one....

What is that? Concentration? Constipation? Did Nani pass gas? Does he need his eyes checked?

Anyway, it really cracked me up, so now I want to know - is this normal? Do other gamers do this? Should we seek help?!

Soccer Cake & June Tutorial

It seems like it's been a while since I've posted about a cake! Last week, I made a cake for Thomas' friend Jess. Thomas requested a cake with a female soccer player on top and the words "Go Bucs" and "Go Gators" on the sides. I made the soccer girl using the Frozen Buttercream Transfer method so this seems like a great opportunity to post a tutorial on the topic! I'm calling this the June tutorial because I didn't find time to post one yet...I know, I'm a day late, but you'll forgive me, right?

First, here's the cake:

And now for the tutorial! The photos were taken while I made the Gators Stethoscope Cake, but the technique was the same for this cake.

First of all, you need to find your pattern There are so many good patterns on the internet - just do a Google search for whatever you're interested in. Tape your pattern to a piece of cardboard and then tape a piece of plastic wrap or acetate on top of that.

Hint #1: Acetate is basically a thicker clear plastic. If you go to a bakery and see a Boston Cream Pie, it's often wrapped in a piece of acetate. Acetate is not edible, but it is food-safe. You can buy acetate at many different cake supply stores, including Country Kitchen Sweet Art.

Hint #2: Think about which way you want your design to face on your cake. When you use this technigue, you're working backwards. The front of your design is actually down on the plastic wrap/acetate so be sure your design is facing the opposite way you want it on the cake.

Outline your design in whatever color you choose. I decided to outline this one in black so that all the borders and lines really stand out. Remember, you can use your paint brush (which has only been used for food prep - not painting!) to correct any small mistakes you make. At this point, you can place the entire project in the freezer for 10-15 minutes so that the borders get stiff.

Next, fill in the areas - just like you're coloring in a coloring book! Some tutorials recommend that you start with the smallest areas first. I just fill in all of one color at a time, and then move on to the next color. The key when filling in the area is to keep your piping tip burried in the icing so that all the spaces are filled. Be careful not to move your outlines though! This technique is a little tricky in that you can't see your finished product until you're, well...finished! Remember that the top of your design is actually the bottom now so you have to work kind of blindly. Just do your best to fill in all the spaces, we can check on it when you're finished filling in the entire area. If you find that your borders start moving, don't be afraid to put the project in the freezer again for another 10 minutes.

Ok, you've finally finished filling in the entire pattern. Congrats! Now, let's check your work. If you used acetate, this step is very easy. If you used plastic wrap, be careful here. Untape the bottom and both sides of the acetate/plastic wrap, and carefully lift the design. You should be able to see if there are any small holes in your icing. If you see holes, lower the design and fill them in by applying more icing or gently moving the icing with your paintbrush. Keep lifting and fixing until you no longer see any holes.

Tape the design back in place. I like to stick the whole thing in the freezer at this point - just long enough so that the icing gets stiff. When you take it back out of the freezer, spread a small amount of icing over the whole design. Don't get too close to the edge because you don't want this icing to show on the front. The point of this step is to "glue" the whole design together. Up until now, you've used different colored icings which are essentially different puzzle pieces. If you were to try to remove the design, you'd probably get multiple pieces, rather than the whole thing.

Again, put the project in the freezer, but this time leave it for 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, ice your cake and get it ready for your design.

Hint #3: For the Gators Stethoscope Cake, I covered a 6-inch cake in fondant. Then, I put this pattern right in the middle. For the soccer cake above, my pattern was much larger - big enough to cover the entire top of an 8-inch round cake. I crumb-coated the top of the cake so that when I put the Frozen Buttercream pattern on top, I didn't have inches and inches of icing.

Remove your pattern from the freezer and work rather quickly to transfer it to your cake. Untape all 4 sides and carefully flip the pattern over onto your cake.

Hint #4: If you're putting this pattern on a buttercream-frosted cake, you can smooth out the edges with additional buttercream and hide all the seams.