Saturday, October 31, 2009

How 'Bout Some Cake to Go with That Pumpkin Topper?

Remember the pumpkin cake topper I showed you how to make last week? Well, here's the cake I created to go with it.

The cake is made up of 6-and 10-inch tiers. I cut the sides at an angle to give it a more whimsical feel. Then, I carved the staircase out of the side of the 10-inch tier. The whole thing was iced in buttercream and covered with fondant. Next, I airbrushed it with both blue and purple so that the cake got darker towards the top.

The pumpkin topper was made of Styrofoam so I was able to do that ahead of time. When the cake was ready, I just stuck the pumpkin on top and added leaves & vines.

To create the stone staircase, I rolled out some grey fondant and pressed it into a cobblestone pattern mat. Then, I just laid it over the carved staircase.

The house was hand-cut out of black gum paste that I had rolled to about 1/16-inch thickness.

The trees & fences were made the same way as the house.

To make the pumpkins, I rolled orange fondant into a ball and pressed a straight edge in the side to create the pattern. I rolled a small snake of green fondant and curled it slightly for the vines and stuck a small piece of brown fondant on top for the stem.

The spiderwebs were made with royal icing and tip 1. Hint: this tip is SUPER small so it will save you a lot of frustration if you make sure you don't have any large sugar crystals in your icing that will clog the tip. I like push my royal icing through the foot of some unused pantyhose to do this.

The tombstones were made of gray gum paste and stuck onto skewers so they could easily be added to the cake.

Did you create anything special (edible or not) for Halloween? Will you be dressing up tonight?

Adam & I went to a costume party last night. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures, but Adam was Capt'n Jack Sparrow and I was Rainbow Brite! Do you know who Rainbow Brite is? She was an adorable cartoon character from the 80s - check this out.

Happy Halloween!

1. Vote for me at Iron Cupcake Earth: Music! Voting ends noon central time on November 5th.
2. If you live in the Gainesville area, we're having a cake get-together tomorrow, November 1st 2-4pm. Check Icing on the Cake for details & directions.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vote for Me on Iron Cupcake Earth: Music!

Voting is open of Iron Cupcake Earth: Music! This is my second time competing in this online cupcake competition, and I would appreciate any and every vote you throw my way. There are 49 entries this month and you can vote for 3 - choose wisely. There are some really great ones!

My step-by-step instructions for creating this cupcake based on the Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever can be found here. And don't forget to vote for me at the Iron Cupcake Earth! Voting ends at noon central time on Thursday, November 5.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Corn Maze & Fall Festival

(Photo by Elise Kersey)

Last weekend, Adam, Nani, and I went to the Coon Hollo Corn Maze in Micanopy, FL with James, Elise, and Lorelei. We had a great time! Well, at least the girls did...I think the guys just participated out of "family duty." But, it was great to relax and have some good old-fashioned fun.

And when I say old-fashioned, I mean old-fashioned. They had tractor rides, huge basins of corn to roll around in, kiddie car rides, haystacks to play on, and a huge corn maze!

None of us had ever been in a corn maze so we started there.

Here we go!

Uh oh, our first fork in the road! Nani was a little unsure of which direction to take so she waited for Lorelei. Don't worry, Lorelei hustled to the rescue and led us all the way through the maze!

We finally found the exit! Way to go, girls!

Nani made lots of friends that day, including an energetic dog and a girl who was super cute, but very intensely interested in Nani. Thank goodness Nani is good with kids because this little sweetie was on her like white on rice!

Nani experienced her very first pumpkin patch, but I'm not sure she fully realized what a milestone it was. Wow, we really need to have a child...Nani is just a dog! Anyway, she's a cutie and she's all we've got right now.

(Photo by Elise Kersey)

Then we took the girls on a hay ride. They both loved it, and Lorelei even got to enjoy a special snack, which she promptly stuffed in her mouth in its entirety. Cuteness!

The hayride took a pit stop to feed some cows. Yeah, cows! They walked right over to the trailer...

gave us these funny "feed me" looks...
and stuck their long noses right through the wooden slats on the trailer!
Whoa! You're a little close, Bessy*!
Lorelei wasn't intimidated though! She stepped right up to feed the beasts. Look, her whole hand is inside Claribell's* mouth!
After we all thoroughly cleaned our hands, we said goodbye to farm life and headed home. But Elise took this great photo of us before we left! Don't you just love my shirt? Adam hates I love it even more! [insert evil laugh]

*I made up the names of the cows. I really have no clue what their names are, or even if they have names. For all I know, they might be known as #17 and #31.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Make a Pumpkin Cake Topper

Just in time for your Halloween cakes, here's a tutorial for how to make a cute pumpkin cake-topper. Since the topper is made of Styrofoam (or rice cereal treats), you can make it ahead of time, and just put it on your cake when you're ready.

What you'll need:
A Styrofoam ball or ball of rice cereal treats (I used a 5" ball because it will sit on top of a 6" cake.)
fondant (I used black, white, brown, and orange.)
ball & veining tool
dresden tool
pairing knife
rolling pin
cutting board or other cutting surface
3 bamboo skewers or cake dowels
royal icing

1. Carve your Jack-O-Lantern's face into the Styrofoam ball.

2. Press black fondant into all of the cut-out parts of the face. This step doesn't have to be perfect - it's mostly just to cover the Styrofoam temporarily. We'll actually do this step again at the end so just focus on filling the space here.

I used my dresden tool and ball tools to push the fondant around the cut-out space. Then, I trimmed the edges with my pairing knife.

3. Roll a 1 to 1 1/2-inch ball of white fondant.

4. Roll this ball into a long sausage shape that's approximately 6 inches long.

5. Using a rolling pin, flatten one side of the sausage, leaving some bulk in the center.

6. Now, flatten the other side and the ends. You should now have a piece of fondant that's fatter in the middle than on all of the edges.

7. Trim the edges with a pairing knife so that it resembles a rough ellipse. Again, it doesn't have to be perfect, and you can see mine definitely isn't!

8. Using royal icing, "glue" these pieces all around the Styrofoam sphere. You can leave some spaces between them. When we cover the sphere with orange fondant, these pieces will give it that typical lumpy pumpkin shape.

I mounted my sphere on 3 bamboo skewers so it would be easier to work with. You can even leave these skewers in when you transfer the pumpkin to the cake. The skewers will provide extra stability so there's no fear that your pumpkin will roll right off the cake!

9. Carve out the face shapes from the white fondant pieces. Oooo, it looks a little creepy now, don't you think?

10. Roll out a large piece of orange fondant. The size you'll need will depend on the size ball you're covering. Basically, calculate the circumference of your ball and add a few inches to that for your total size. For example, I used a ball with a 5-inch radius so the circumference [Circumference = 2*(3.14)*Radius] is approximately 30 inches. I rolled my fondant to approximately 35 inches, just in case.

Need help with covering something with fondant? Check out this YouTube video from Country Kitchen Sweet Art (one of my favorite cake and candy supply shops).

See how pumpkin-like your sphere looks because of those white fondant strips?? Nice!

11. Repeat Step 1, pushing black fondant into the carved out facial features. This time, be careful to make it look good because this will be the finished product. Then just stick a stem on top using brown fondant.

Finishing touches: You can brush a little brown petal dust (or airbrush it) in the creases to give it depth. Also, consider adding leaves and vines to really bring it to life!

Good luck on your pumpkins and with your Halloween preparations! I'll post pictures of my final cake next week!

Iron Cupcake Earth: Music

Remember back in December when I competed in the online cupcake competition Iron Cupcake Earth? (See Chocolate Mojito Cupcake and Chocolate-Orange Cupcake.) Well, I couldn't resist entering again this month! The theme was music so all competitors were supposed to choose a song and design a cupcake around the title.

With Adam's help, I settled on Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.

And, of course, I couldn't decide on just one cupcake so I made 2. They're just slightly different. The first one is a traditional vanilla cupcake topped with Mozzarella Cheese Icing (yes, it's yummier than it sounds) so you get that increasingly popular savory-sweet sensation.

And - SURPRISE! There's a whole strawberry baked right in the center of the cupcake!

The second one, which I didn't enter in the competition, is a vanilla and strawberry swirled cupcake with Mozzarrella Cheese Icing.

Since I decided to compete at the last second (the deadline to enter is noon today), I went with the KISS methodology - Keep it Simple Stupid! The cupcake is just a Pillsbury White Cake mix. Doesn't get much easier than that, huh?

Let's start with the first cupcake:
1 white cake mix + ingredients required on box
12-18 fresh, small strawberries

Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box.

Drop a little bit of batter into your paper cupcake liner. Then, place a whole strawberry (that has been washed and the greens leaves have been removed) in the center. Continue to add cake batter until the strawberry is covered. However, be careful not to overfill or you'll have a cupcake with a huge muffin top! Bake the cupcake as directed on the box, or until the center is set. Then cool it on a wire rack.

Ok, now let's try the swirled cupcake:
1 white cake box mix + ingredients required on box
1/2 cup seedless strawberry preserves
red food coloring

After mixing the cake batter, transfer approximately half of it to another bowl. To this half, add 1/2 cup of seedless strawberry preserves. I added a little bit of red food coloring to give the color a boost.

Spoon a small amount of the vanilla batter into the bottom of a cupcake liner. Then, spoon a small amount of the strawberry batter on top. Using a toothpick, swirl the flavors together. Bake according to the package instructions, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Here are the cooled cupcakes ready to be decorated:

Now, it's time to make the icing:
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups fresh mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt

In a food processor, process the mozzarella cheese until you have crumbles.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and shortening in your stand mixer.

Gradually add the mozzarella to the stand mixer and mix until combined. Add remaining ingredients. Whip the buttercream on high for a few minutes to get it nice and fluffy.

Using the decorating tip 1M, pipe the icing in a swirl on the top of the cupcake. Top it with red sugar sprinkles, a fresh basil leaf, and a fresh strawberry.

The prizes for Iron Cupcake Earth have been generously donated by:
Voting begins soon at Of course, I'll remind you to vote for me. Hey, they're great prizes - can you blame me?!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food52 - Possibly the Next Big Food Wave!

I love the concept behind Food52! Every week for 1 year (get it? 52 weeks...Food52) they will be encouraging home cooks to submit recipes to their website. Each Monday, they announce the contest theme. Then, you have 7 days to submit your recipe. They choose 2 finalists and then they go up for a good old-fashioned democratic vote on the website. Both finalists win awesome kitchen stuff from Oxo and a copy of the Food52 cookbook, and the winner's recipe goes in the book!

They're on Week 19 right now, and you have until Sunday to submit your recipes for your best "Ham and Cheese" and "Chocolate Cookie." Too short of notice? Sign up for their newsletter and/or check their website weekly to see the new themes.

In fact, the people at Food52 just challenged Chris Kimball at Cook's Illustrated to a recipe throwdown. The details will be posted in November, but I bet it's going to be a fun (and possibly gory) one!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cake Walk Blog Button & Tutorial Links


My blog now has an official button! What's a button? Well, among many other uses, buttons are used to advertise your blog or to visually display the blogs you follow. After all, wouldn't you rather look at buttons like the one above versus a boring list of hyperlinks?

Scroll down on the side bar of my blog. Do you see the Fabulous Fun Finds and Boutique Stitches blog buttons? Cute, huh?! (I didn't create those so I'm allowed to brag on them.)

Now, scroll up a little bit. See my blog button? If you want (hint, hint), you can "grab" my blog button by copying the code underneath it and place it on your blog!

If you have a blog and want to create your own button, check out these tutorials. If I can follow these tutorials to make mine, anyone can! Trust me.
How to Design a Blog Button by Musings of a Housewife
How to Design a Blog Button with Code Box by A Heart for Home

'Tis the Season for Creativity

I love the changes of the seasons because that means I get to be creative with decorations and gifts! I'm already brainstorming some new home decor ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas...if any of them are successful, I'll be sure to post them here.

I totally stole this idea from Elise. She bought a plain wreath from the craft store and decorated it with relatively inexpensive fake flowers and leaves. (Hehe, when I originally wrote this post, I used the word "flours" instead of "flowers"...Freudian slip, I guess.) Check out her wreath. I liked the idea so I ran over to JoAnn's last weekend! Of course, I couldn't decide on one color I made 2. Here they are:

The first one has the traditional autumnal colors - oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. I wanted this one to look slightly rustic so I kept the decorations to a minimum so you could still see the wreath underneath.

Here's a shot where you can see the base wreath under all the added decorations:

On the second wreath, I picked yellow and purple flowers to go with my leaves and berries. This one is more full and reminds me of something you'd find in a Southern Living Magazine.

There are a few reasons why I really love this idea (thanks, Elise!):

1. They're cheap, customizable decorations. The first wreath cost $15 and the second was $20! If you look closely, you can tell I used the same leaves on both. I bought one "leaf garland" and just cut it up to put on the wreath bases and grabbed a couple of different flower and berry bunches. To make the wreaths, just push the stems of the leaves and flowers into the wreath base. The base will hold the decorations surprisingly well - no glue mess required!

2. You can change the wreaths with the seasons. Since you didn't use any glue, you can just pull the decorations out of the wreath base and insert new ones for Christmas and Spring! Wow, Elise, you're so smart! Why can't I think of things like this?

3. Every wreath is different. Look at how different mine came out even though I used the same leaves. If you make a wreath, share it with the rest of us - email me your photos and I'll post them for you!

And now I'll leave you with a fun video clip from the creative people at Improv Everywhere: