Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 16-Winter Cake

Today I finished the Winter themed cake. I used three layers of cake for the bottom tier, and two layers for the top tier. I colored the fondant on the bottom tier with a mix of blues. To get the pattern on the top tier, I painted food coloring on the fondant instead of kneading the color into the fondant itself. I mixed a little bit of color in water and used a paintbrush to lightly sweep the color onto the cake. I found an icing with sparkles in it, and so I used that for the design on the top tier as well.

As added decoration, I made my first attempt at creating fondant figures by making some penguins. I briefly debated giving the penguins a separate head from their bodies, as well as feet. After a few minutes of molding the fondant, I decided that blob penguins were much more practical. Also, I made my penguins based on the assumption that they are all sitting on their feet to keep them warm.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 15-Theme cake day 1

My assignment today was to make a theme cake. Because we're supposed to have a huge ice/snow storm tonight, I decided to make a winter themed cake. After spending half the morning looking for a snowflake cookie cutter (which apparently are out of season in January?), I set out to make a two tier cake. After making a two tier cake a few days ago, I decided that I wanted each layer to be taller on the next multi-tier cake. Instead of having two layers for each tier, I am trying to make each tier three layers.

I spent the rest of the day working on my cake layers. I decided to make the homemade cake again because the layers are taller. The smell of cinnamon is still a little overpowering, but I now have seven layers of cake cooling on the counter. Tomorrow, I will try to stack them and decorate my cake.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 14-Valentine's Day

Today, I made a Valentine's Day Barbie cake. I used a Wilton mold for the skirt. The mold came with the top half of Barbie's body. I used fondant logs underneath the pink fondant to create the illusion of folds in the skirt. I used white gum paste flowers as decorations for the dress.

I had to cover Barbie's body and the skirt with separate pieces of fondant. Because Barbie is made of a hard plastic, I had to use royal icing to make sure the fondant stayed in place and that Barbie did not experience any wardrobe malfunctions. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get the fondant off of her when the cake is eaten. Royal icing is a pretty strong glue.

Barbie's hair is quite a mess because I haven't played with barbies in a while and have lost my skill as a Barbie hairdresser. I'm really not ashamed of that, I'm just glad that her hair is out of the cake.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 13-Art Eats Bakery

Today was a great day! I spent my day at Art Eats Bakery in Greenville. The owner, Jackie Bishop, shared the history of the bakery with me and patiently answered all of my questions while she made a ton of cakes, conducted cake tastings and consultation appointments, and decorated cakes. I learned a lot of general baking and decorating tips, as well as about the baking industry.

For example, I was shocked to learn that many bakeries use cake mixes instead of fresh ingredients. However, Art Eats Bakery uses all fresh ingredients and the resulting cakes are much tastier than the standard bakery cake. I also learned how to pour eggs into a mixer while making sure that no egg shells sneak into the batter, how to decorate a butter cream cake without getting crumbs into the icing, and how to make a sheet cake level. I also learned how much work a cake decorating bakery requires. I would definitely be intimidated by the sheer volume of dedication and drive necessary to make a bakery succeed.

I cracked close to four dozen eggs into a large bowl, and when I was finished I looked into the bowl. I was struck for a moment at just how many almost-chickens never reach chick status thanks to baking.

I definitely suggest going to Art Eats Bakery!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 12-Cakes for Kids

My assignment for today was to make a cake for children. I used a box cake mix because I thought children might like it more than the spicier, richer taste of the homemade recipe I used previously. The bottom layer of the cake is chocolate, while the top is a yellow cake. I tried to use fun, bright colors for the cake. I think the end result was a baby shower cake, which is still fitting because baby showers generally occur before children anyway.

I used buttercream frosting to decorate the cake because throughout this month, I have come to the conclusion that fondant is just not delicious. After my last vine attempt, I learned the importance of adding corn syrup to the frosting. My designs came out much smoother on this cake because of this addition. This cake seems a little bit busier than my past cakes, but I think that's fitting for a child's cake. I took this cake to the children's shelter.

My next assignment is a holiday cake. Unfortunately, I think the closest holiday is Valentine's Day. I also have a Barbie cake mold that I've been dying to use. The combination of Valentine's Day and Barbie might just lead to the tackiest cake ever, but I'm secretly pretty excited.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 11-What a Process

I woke up to dried gum paste flowers that had (much to my excitement) maintained their shape. I decided that I would try to make a chocolate cake from scratch today. I had to make one emergency trip to the store while my cocoa powder, oil, and butter waited patiently next to a stove burner because I didn't think that using expired buttermilk seemed like the best idea. The cake smelled a little like pumpkin bread once it got into the oven because the recipe called for cinnamon, which also made my whole apartment smell great for the rest of the day.

I decided to make a layered cake because my online class lesson was on wedding cakes. I learned that the current trend is to have different patterns on different layers of the cake, and that couples are opting for non-traditional colors and patterns.

After the cakes cooled, I trimmed and torted the layers to make them stronger so that they could hold up against the weight of the fondant and the top tier. The homemade cake was definitely more sturdy than box mixes, and it was much easier to decorate.

I finished my Calla Lilies today by adding centers to them and sprinkling them with what might have been too much luster dust. Luster dust or not, they were able to hide the green food stain I accidentally got on one of the cake corners.

This is the first tiered cake I have made, so I hope that my straw supports and royal icing hold it together.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 10-Gum Paste Flowers

Today marked my first attempt at gum paste flowers. Though I set out with the ambitious goal of star gazer lilies, I currently have seven Calla Lilies drying on paper cones in the kitchen. Tomorrow, I have to royal icing glue the center of the flowers into the outer petals, as well as paint them with food coloring and a luster dust. I'm hoping to master the plumeria flowers and Star Gazers tomorrow.

Making the Calla Lilies was quite and adventure. Because I didn't actually have paper cones when I started making them, they spent a little time propped up on a stick and a rolling pin, held up by the cornstarch. Actually, hanging from the end of the rolling pin seemed to help them gain a more realistic shape. However, it did impede the use of the cornstarch.

Hopefully, my lilies will still be intact a) in the morning and b) after I paint them

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 9-Rolled Buttercream

Today I used rolled buttercream to decorate a chocolate cake. Instead of the normal buttercream that you spread with a spatula, rolled buttercream handles and looks like fondant. However, it supposedly tastes better. I found it both easier and more difficult to work with than the fondant I have already used. I had a tricky time covering the cake with it while avoiding tears, but the tears were easier to patch than fondant tears.

Somewhere between coloring the buttercream and cutting out the shapes, I realized my cake looks a little bit like, well, Barney. I had pictured more of a mint color with lavender instead of a dinasour cake. When I voiced these concerns to my roommate, Sara's response was "well, I think Barney is actually a little bit darker purple." So my pale Barney cake is not the most beautiful creation ever, but I did discover a new icing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 8-Royal Messes

So today I tried to figure out what royal icing does besides act as a glue to stick other decorations on cakes or to decorate fancy cookies. I decided to make shapes on wax paper and use them as toppers on some cupcakes. After trying to figure out the different consistencies, I attempted (key word) to make some shapes to dry overnight to be used as decorations. I think my icing consistencies may have been a little off because the flooding technique didn't quite flood. Also, they don't look as lovely as they did in my mind. However, I am letting them sit overnight and will hopefully be able to take them off the wax paper and use them on my cupcakes.

One good thing about the royal icing is that it will allow me to attach gum paste flowers to cakes. I can't wait until I learn to make the realistic looking gum paste flowers, so the royal icing technique will be useful.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 7-More Buttercream

Today, I continued my adventures with buttercream. I found an article online describing how to make buttercream look almost as smooth as fondant without making a rolled buttercream icing, so I decided to try it to try it on a cake that I made for a raffle at the Men's Wofford vs. Davidson basketball game. To make the icing smooth, I iced the cake and then refrigerated it for a few hours. When I took the cake out of the refrigerator, I dipped a spatula in hot water, dried it, and then lightly made a stroke with it across the cake. I re-dipped and dried the spatula inbetween every stroke. While the resulting product was not quite as smooth as fondant, it was definitely much smoother than other buttercream cakes I have made.

I finished the cake with brown swirls and brown, white and robin's egg blue flowers; the color scheme was the same one I used during the two previous days becuase a)I really love that color blue and brown and b)I was trying to use all the fondant I had already made and colored. However, even I have gotten a little tired of this color scheme and promise to try something new on my next cake.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 6-Buttercream

Today, my assignment was to practice using butter cream. After getting attached to the colors I used yesterday, I stayed with the same color scheme and also used the opportunity to get more practice with fondant flowers. Between all the colors I used and the cupcakes I decorated, I used an entire box of butter. I tried not to think too much about that as I worked on my cupcakes.

Because I have used butter cream several times already, I didn't have too difficult of a time today. However, the icing was a little too thin and soft and was a little droopy. I probably should have thickened it with a little more sugar, or turned down the heat in our apartment. For my next butter cream adventure, I am planning on trying rolled butter cream. I am hoping that it will handle like fondant, but taste better.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 5-Marshmallows and Crisco

While fondant makes beautiful cakes, it does not boast a reputation of deliciousness. Therefore, I tried to make my own fondant because I though it might taste better if it was fresh rather than from a box. I made a marshmallow fondant which involved melting marshmallows in a double broiler and kneading it together with two pounds of powdered sugar. I followed the fondant recipe precisely, so I found myself wrist deep in Crisco. Crisco covered the counter top, my hands, the fondant. It took over. The really satisfyingly gross part was when I had to keep dipping my sugary-marshamallowy-Criscoey hands into the Crisco to keep the fondant from sticking. The grease piled on so thick that I had to scrub my hands with a sponge to get off all the grease when I was finished.

However, the grease paid off, and I wound up with a legitimate chunk of fondant. While covering the cake, I struggled with preventing little tears in the fondant. I'm not sure if it was too soft or too moist (maybe too much Crisco?) or even too dry (doubt it). After covering the cake, I practiced making fondant decorations by cutting out little flowers and drying them in little shaping cups. The shaping cups are supposed to maintain the curved shape of the petals while the fondant dries. However, since my fondant was so soft, I'm not sure what "dry" means, so I'll have to check the petals in the morning to see if they fell.

Contrary to my cherished belief that making food fresh at home almost always yields a tastier product than buying something from the store, I'm actually not sure that making the fondant myself was worth it. The taste was not significantly different than the boxed fondant, and it took a lot of time (and Crisco) to make. Also, the store bought fondant's texture proved to be sturdier.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 4-Whipped Topping Adventures

My assignment today called for whipped topping. Instead of the thick, sturdy fondant I worked with yesterday, today I battled with tempermental egg whites and cake crumbs. After baking a simple chocolate cake, I trimed and torted the cake. Next, I embarked on whipped topping attempt number one. To make the topping, I needed to mix egg whites, sugar, salt, and water in a bowl over simmering water. For some reason, the water either wanted to boil or do nothing. After my roommate tried simmer therapy by asking the water what was wrong, whether it felt it had been treated unfairly, or if we could help it any way, it finally sort of simmered. After mixing the ingredients, I beat the mixture to make it stiffen enough to add vanilla. After a long time in the mixer, it still wasn't the right texture. When we hit the 10 minute mixing mark, my roommate pointed out that perhaps the egg yolks were the problem. When I glanced at the recipe, I took "egg whites" for "white eggs." Though I thought it was strange that egg color mattered, I didn't really give it a second thought. Clearly, whipped topping attempt number one went down the sink.

Whipped topping attempt number two went much better with just the egg whites. I used this batch to ice the cake. Even though I made the topping correctly the second time, it still had a fairly thin texture. When I iced my cake, I missed the smooth, thick look of the fondant. The little cake crumbs that were invisible yesterday seemed so prevalent in my cake today. Since the only thing I can really make by way of decoration right now are flowers, I tried to disguise the topping with flowers and vines.

I have come to the conclusion that whipped topping tastes delicious, but that I don't love decorating with it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 3-First Cake Attempt

Today, my assignment was to practice baking and decorating my first cake. The practical lessons on the different aspects of decorating, such as icing recipes, piping and decorating techniques, and fondant techniques, are all future lessons; therefore, I relied heavily on the Wilton website for direction.

Initially, I planned a blue cake with green flowers and vines. However, my cake took on a life of its own and I wound up with a different product than planned. I decided to try fondant rather than butter cream because, well, it looks pretty on cookbook covers and I really wanted to try it. However, I still used plenty butter cream as the cake filling andl as a base layer under the fondant.

I got quite a workout kneading in the food coloring, and ended up with a robins' egg blue color. Covering the cake with fondant proved to be a simpler task than I imaged, until I tried to trim the edges. Luckily, frosting borders are a staple of cake decorating.

After smoothing the fondant, I filled a wax sheet of paper with practice flowers, rosettes, and shells. After devoting almost an entire butter cream batch to the wax paper, I clustered flowers onto my cake. I used the rosettes to hide the zig-zagged edges of my cake, and called it a day.

After cleaning the kitchen, which was quite an accomplishment becuase at one point it looked like Frosty the Snowman's powedered sugar brother had imploded by the mixer, I boxed up my cake and stored in the fridge. I keep peeking at it to check if my flower petals have wilted or if my rosettes have detatached themselves from the fondant. Hopefully, it will make it to the children's shelter intact.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 2-Baking Basics

Today was not a very intense day in my world of cake decorating. My lesson discussed the general time course for baking and decorating, as well as measurement conversions and baking substitutions. I made some handy cards so I can have the standard conversions and substitutions whenever I need them. I also took my second online exam today, and when I finished a video of cheering men in tuxedos accompanied my exam submission. The cheering men, along with the pop up of a cheering crowd that has accompanied my other assignment submissions, makes me question the legitimacy of my online class. However, I will not be deterred and will set out to bake and decorate my first cake on Monday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 1-Supplies

My cake decorating endeavor of the day involved figuring out what supplies I will need. Not one, but two online class lessons focused on listing the necessary tools. After several trips to Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Michael’s, I now have five cake pans, two jellyroll pans, a spring form cake pan, lots of spatulas, pastry brushes, and one very long knife whose purchase prompted the cashier to ask me who I was planning to “chop up.” I failed to find the pastry triangle comb, and since I don’t know what it is or how it works, I have no idea if it is really a necessary tool. I guess I’ll find out soon. When I moved on to the part of the lesson that dealt with creating a “cake decorating workspace,” I realized that I am going to have to un-decorate our apartment kitchen to free more of the elusive counter space. The snack basket, decorative rolling pin (that never made much sense as a decoration anyway), martini shaker, and cookbooks are going to have to find new homes for the month. Tomorrow, I start planning cakes and maybe practicing with some frosting.