Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day: A little love for the Villains

Well I had to post something on Leap Day - I won't get another chance for four years!  Who knows what kind of crazy cakes I'll be doing then.

I was going to label this post "superhero cakes" or something like that, when I remembered I wasn't making a superhero cake.  More like a super villain.

A few weeks ago, Corissa asked me to make a cake for her son Evan's birthday.  He was at Noah's birthday party (dino cake) and he told her that he wanted that cake.  Not the dinosaur per se - but the chocolate cake filled with chocolate fudge and chocolate chips.  The kid cares more about taste than how it looks!  That is good news for me - my cakes always taste good, no matter what they end up looking like.

Most kids around Evan's age love the heroes.  Not Evan.  He likes the villains.  His first choice for his cake was Split-Face.  I had never even heard of Split-Face and I had no idea who or what he was.  Turns out he is a villain in a new Lego thing called Hero Factory. (Not sure how new it is, but new since I was playing with legos).  Split-Face is one of the guys the Heroes take down.  And this is what he looks like:

Yeah, way beyond my skill level.  Fortunately I know a web and logo design specialist who could help me out.
Future Wolf converted this:

into this:

Quite an intimidating face.

When you are doing a picture in frosting, you want it to be simple with just a few colors and as few tiny spaces as possible.  Future Wolf did exactly what I needed and created an image that was much easier to do in frosting.

This new image would go on the top of the cake - with a dark color and light color behind it.

Have to have a split cake for Split Face.
I was really excited about using this Lego block candy mold that I had ordered.  I was going to make a bunch of blocks and put them on as a border around the bottom of the cake.  Unfortunately, the mold did not arrive in time.  I was very disappointed.  So instead, I decided to try to make the sides of the cake look like Lego blocks put together.  I think it turned out well.

So remember a few posts ago when nothing went wrong with my cake?  Total fluke.  This cake seemed to cause one problem after another.  The biggest problem was when I transferred the design onto the cake.  I used the piping gel method - so I piped the gel onto parchment paper using a backwards copy of the face.  After waiting a little bit, I flipped th eparchment paper over and gently massaged it onto the cake.  The first time I waited too long.  The gel simply stuck to the paper and would not come off on the cake.  I was so frustrated! It was not an easy task to pipe the gel on.  But I had to do it again.

The second time I didn't wait as long, but this time the gel kind of smeared onto the cake and didn't stay in the design.  So I eyeballed it and tried to repair the design on the cake as best I could.  Then I began building the face with the colored frosting.

Starting to build the face.
It's like his face is slowly emerging from the cake.
 I started with the eyes and the white spots.  Next I did the black color, outlining and filling.  Finally I started adding the large amounts of color, gray first and then red.
Adding the colors of the face.

It's really really hard to make red frosting.  Most of the time it turns out pink.  No matter how much color gel you put in.  They do make no-taste red food coloring, but you have to use practically the entire container.  Usually when I need red frosting, especially if it isn't a large amount, I just buy it.  That's what I did for this cake.

(Almost) Finished face.
I also buy my black frosting because it has the same problem.  It's just easier and less frustrating to buy it.  It comes in tubes that are made so you can just screw the piping tips right onto them.  But the tubes are hard to squeeze, especially once there isn't a lot of frosting in them.  So I squeeze the frosting into a piping bag.  If I have leftover frosting, I just pipe it right back into the tube.  So much easier to use.

Finally, I added the shell border and the words.  I am not a huge fan of the shell border, probably because I'm not very good at the technique.  Hopefully that will get better with practice.  I did use my practice board before putting it on the cake.

This is actually a Reverse Shell Border.
Reverse Shell Border on the top.

"Happy Birthday Evan!"

Finally I was done.  It was extremely late and it took over an hour to clean up the huge mess.  I checked the cake again before I went up to bed - and to my dismay, I realized I had missed a spot.  I needed some darker red frosting to finish up.  But I was so tired that I just decided to fix it in the morning.

Day 2: I mixed a little black frosting with the red to make it slightly darker and added it to the missing spot.  Now I was done.

Side by side comparison:

Well, it looks pretty similar to me.  Future Wolf and I make a good team!
Happy Birthday Evan!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Amy Turns 30

Today is my big sister's 30th birthday.  I am fortunate enough to count my sister as one of my best friends.  Amy is beautiful, smart, talented, amazing, compassionate, fun to be around, dorky, and she puts up with all my issues.  Not to say that she's perfect, but I love her very much.

So naturally, when she said no one had ever made her a fancy cake before, I had to remedy the situation.  Usually my family asks for pie on their birthdays, not cake.  Amy said she used to not really get why people got excited about having cake for their birthdays.  But now she has developed a taste for it.

Let's talk about the cake.  You only turn 30 once, so it had to be a good one.  Trouble was, I couldn't think of an awesome theme.  When we were younger, Amy loved frogs.  But that became the "thing" to get her.  She has so many stuffed frogs, plastic frogs, frog shaped anything that it got a little ridiculous.  So I didn't really want to do a frog cake.

Then I stumbled upon it - the perfect idea.

I did not make this, this was my inspiration.
Amy is a very good piano player.  I mean, she isn't a concert pianist or anything, but she's good.  She is also a very musical person.  So when I found this idea, I knew it was what I wanted to do.  Of course I couldn't just do a piano cake - it would be a two tiered beauty with the piano and girl on top.  But how to make the piano?  I was searching for candy molds for other things when I again stumbled upon something amazing.

That's right, a grand piano candy mold. I wasn't sure how well this would come out, but it looked awesome.  I made the piano a few days ahead of time, just so I'd have time to make another one if the first one failed.

The night before I made the cake, I sculpted the figure.  And I use the term sculpted loosely.  I used red fondant and skin tone fondant.  Note the little purse she's holding.  I'm particularly proud of the fingers on the hand.

I know it looks a little creepy, but that's because I was adding the hair with frosting and didn't want to do that until the next day.

For this cake I made a scrumptious yellow cake.  My intention was to make the two tiers the night before and then do the decorating the next day, but alas, I was ill the day before and could only manage to make the fondant girl.  Imagine my dismay when the next morning I opened the fridge to discover we only had four eggs!!!  I needed nine and the other day I bought 3 dozen eggs because I knew I would be making several cakes.  I guess we eat a lot of eggs at home.  But my mother saved the day and went out and bought some eggs so I could start making the cake and not worry about it.

I was a little adventurous on the filling this time.  For one tier I did my usual, the raspberry whipped cream mixture, complete with fresh raspberries.  For the top tier I tried the same thing but with blackberries.  It was delicious!

Raspberry filling - looks yummy.
The secret to a great fruit filling is to use real fruit.  It really adds a nice kick to the filling.  I just mix some jam with a container of whipped topping.  Then I push the fruit into the filling.  The only problem with this is that it makes the gap between the layers kind of big.  But you can just fill it with frosting.

Green and blue are two of Amy's favorite colors.  So I covered the tiers in green buttercream frosting and did the stenciling in blue.

I also added a blue shell border.  Then it was time for the finishing touches.  First I piped happy birthday onto the piano.

I also added keys with frosting.

Finished piano.
Next I finished the figure's face.

Then it was time to put it all together.

In retrospect, I should have glued the legs of the piano to the body of the piano ahead of time so it could have dried.  When I said this, my nephew said - but then we couldn't have eaten it, it would be yucky!  He thought I meant real glue, not candy.  But we made do with what we had.

I had to put in some extra toothpicks so it wouldn't sink all the way down into the cake, but it stayed up all through dinner.

They took a quick picture while I gathered the rest of the pieces.

 Then I added then bench with the "Amy" figure.

Can't really see the shoes since they are stuck in the frosting.

 My brother brought his fancy camera and took a bunch of pictures for me.

The finished product.

And yes, the piano lid does open.
Of course the figurine did eventually take a tumble off the cake, but it was still pretty cool.

So happy birthday to the coolest sister ever!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Lincoln's Birthday

I have this tradition.  Every year on (or near) the 12th of February I make some cupcakes.  Nothing fancy or crazy or meant to look like some kind of food but is actually cake.  Just simple chocolate cupcakes.  No, it is not to celebrate V-day or S.A.D. (as some of you may prefer).  No, these cupcakes are meant to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday.  (Do you know the date of his birthday?  Hint: I just gave you the first half.  Don't wikipedia Lincoln's Birthday - it has the wrong date.  So sad.) (Someone has since changed it -  so now it's correct).

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge Lincoln fan.  Different people have different theories about how it started - but personally, I can't remember not liking Lincoln.  And of course with that comes a great deal of teasing.  I don't know why - it's not like I made the teasing easy or anything.

This is me in the 5th grade.  We had to read a biography about someone and do a presentation in class.
We were required to dress up - I didn't just decide to do that on my own.
I still have that poster.  It's now framed with a copy of the Gettysburg Address.  The frame used to hang in my room, but now it's off in the corner somewhere.  But I still have it.

A few years ago was the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth.  Of course I had to have a party, and when I have a party, there is usually a cake.

My friend Sean drew the picture for me.
I used rice paper to put the design on the cake.
This was pretty early on in my cake decorating days - I think it's pretty good for my skill level at the time.  Maybe for the 300th anniversary of his birth I'll make a 3d stand up cake model of the Lincoln Memorial.  Perhaps like this one.  I would love to know if someone proposed using this cake.  Because I highly approve.  Highly.

This couple had a Lincoln memorial wedding cake!  (Scroll down to the last picture)

I found this one on twitter - so I don't know who made it.  I want this for my birthday.

Just wow.
 And if I could make 3d cakes like this - I would open my own bakery and forget the whole lawyer thing.

Made by Roland A. Winbeckler, owner of

Apparently he is a 2 time gold medalist at the World Culinary Olympics in 1971.  Olympics for food?  Wow, who knew?

I have a few books full of Lincoln quotes and I was going to see if he said anything memorable about cake.  Then I realized that they are currently packed away into boxes on the patio like most of my books.  I do know that Mary Lincoln often made a white cake for the president.  The legend goes that Lincoln always said, "Mary's White Cake is the best I have ever eaten."  Many historians say it was never served with frosting.

Mary didn't have the advantage
of Wilton products and Michaels classes.
This is the first time that I have celebrated Lincoln's birthday as an attorney myself.  I made the cupcakes early this year because I was going to bring them to my small group.  By the time I found out we weren't having small group this week, I had already made the cupcakes, so my family lucked out.

This year I introduced my niece to the tradition - she helped me make the cupcakes.

 She helped me mix the batter and put it in the cupcake tins.

Aunt Joy, take a picture of me with the cupcakes!
She also "helped" with frosting the cupcakes.  And of course showing them off when they were finished.

 Then we loaded them into the cupcake carrier to take them to her house for dessert!

 Peter was very excited about the cupcakes.

Pretending to steal a cupcake.
I accidentally used dark chocolate cocoa to make the frosting, and it actually turned out really really good.  I may have to continue that in the future.

So next year, if you find me around the 12th of February, I may just have a cupcake for you.  If you can remember whose birthday it is.

Happy 203rd Birthday Lincoln!

. . . . . . . . .

Recipe for Mary Lincoln's White Cake:

1 cup butter                               1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar                              1 tsp almond extract
3 cups flour                               1 cup chopped blanched almonds
2 tsp baking powder                  6 egg whites
1 cup milk                                 1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift together flour and baking powder; remove 2 tablespoons and set aside.  Add sifted ingredients, alternating with milk, to creamed mixture.  Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.  Combine almonds with reserved flour and add to batter.

Beat egg white until stiff; add in salt.  Fold into batter.  Pour into greased and floured bundt pan (Or use baking release or Pam spray).  Bake at 375 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Cool 5 to 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool on rack.

(When I made this cake I didn't sift the flour.  Nor did I use a cake tester.  I also sprinkled powdered sugar on top and garnished with some raspberries and blackberries.)