Friday, November 7, 2014

Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards

Week one of my three cakes in three weeks was done.  Now on to week two.

Wedding cakes are high stress.  I mean, if you mess up a birthday cake, eh, they will get another one next year.  But a wedding cake?  That's a one-time thing.  And so I could also have named this post "The great hunt for violet food coloring," or, "The time my life flashed before my eyes."

But let's start at the beginning.

Tehillah had asked me to make her wedding cake.

At first, she and her fiance just wanted me to decide what to make.  MINOR PANIC ATTACK.  I know that choosing what you want on a cake can be fairly overwhelming, but what if I picked something they didn't like?

So Tehillah and I had a cake consultation.  I think it was easier for her once I showed her some options and she was able to tell me what she liked and didn't like.

We decided on a two-tier cake.  The bottom tier would be smooth fondant with a ribbon border and white pearls.  The top tier would be the basketweave.  Then I would make orange mums and lilies and purple violets, plus green leaves, to go on the top and sides.  Finally, I would pipe their initials on the top.

I made some of the flowers out of fondant and some out of royal icing.  The orange mums turned out great.  I learned how to make these in one of my Wilton classes.  The color was perfect and I didn't really have any problems putting them together.

Mum bases.

It should have been a sign.

The night I set out to make the violets and lilies turned out to be crazy.  I had already made the royal icing, now I just needed to color it and pipe the flowers.  Except, I could not find my violet food coloring gel anywhere.  I looked in every possible location before remembering that I had thrown it away.  When food gets into the food coloring, it goes bad.

At this point, I should have just decided to mix different colors to make purple.  But I thought that would take too much time and be too difficult to get the color right.  So, I thought I'd just pop over to Walmart and get some violet food coloring.  I hopped into the car and off I went.

It took me awhile to find the cake aisle at Walmart.  That place is HUGE.  I found it, located the coloring gel and then the section with violet and, wait what?????  The only color they are out of is VIOLET?  Are you kidding me?  Is this some kind of cosmic joke?  I kid you not, the only color they did not have was violet.

Okay, I can still do this, I thought.  I'll head over to the Target across the street.  Surely they will have some.

And . . . . .  that would be a no.  I actually bought some food coloring there, but I opened the package and it was the wrong kind (you do not want to add liquid food coloring to royal icing!), so I promptly returned it and rushed out to my car.  I didn't want to trek all the way to JoAnn's - so where else could I get this stupid gel?  AHA!  Hobby Lobby!  Perfect, should have that of that in the first place since it was on my way to Walmart.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to Hobby Lobby, it was closed.  This was turning into a ridiculous waste of time.  But by now, I had to get the color because I didn't have time to make my own.  And so off to JoAnn's I went.  I burst through the door, ran to the cake aisle and my heart stopped.  Could it be they are also out of violet?  What, is everyone making purple colored cakes or something?

I got the very, very last bottle of violet coloring gel.  Whew.  Crisis averted.  So far.

I finally got back home and colored the icing orange and purple.  I started with the lilies.  Now I have always liked making royal frosting lilies because they are so easy.  Famous last words.  I think that some grease may have gotten into my icing because these lilies refused to dry.  You pipe them on aluminum foil in a lily nail and then set them to the side to dry.  Later you remove the foil.  But for some reason, it did not work.

They look deceptively nice sitting on their foil squares.
So I began to freak out that I wouldn't have any flowers on this cake!  I started piping the violets and they looked horrible.  It just looked like lumps of purple icing.  I was really starting to panic now.  But I adjusted the way I was holding the piping bag and it started to work a little better.

I decided that I needed to make another "big" flower, just in case I couldn't use the lilies.  So I made some purple primroses as well.  I'm so glad that I did.

I also made some royal icing leaves and left them to dry.

Compared to the flowers, the cake part went pretty well.  The fondant went on the bottom tier nicely.

The ribbon I was a little nervous about.  It's a common thing to see on fancy cakes (I guess non-edible ribbon just doesn't count??) but I had never done it before.  I used this tutorial and it turned out to be fairly simple.  I just got the ribbon wet, squeezed out the excess and then stuck it to the fondant.  No pins or gum glue required.

Next I added the pearls.  I just sort of eyeballed them.  I did use my small spatula to make sure they were at least somewhat similarly spaced.  Then I just piped on two dots of clear piping gel and added the pearls.  I love this look.  Pearls are my new favorite thing!

I frosted the top tier and got everything ready for the next day.  The plan was to put the whole thing together at a church near the outdoor wedding and let it stay out of the sun until the reception.

The danger started early.  I had packed up my car and was heading out of my driveway, very slowly.  As I came up to the road, preparing to turn right, this car came out of nowhere, zooming down the street right in front of me.  I had to slam on my brakes.  Although I wasn't going very fast, the sudden stop caused the top tier, which was sitting in a box lid on my front seat, to fly forward.  I swear my life flashed before my eyes.  Everything went in slow motion.

And I caught the cake.  Well, technically I caught the box with the cake in it, but regardless, the top tier was saved.  Which was good, because I had no time to make another one.  I was pretty shook up after that, but I managed to make it to the church in one piece.

Of course once I arrived, I discovered that the building I was supposed to be in was locked.  I tried every single door.  I knew that the girls would be there at some point to change, but I needed to get in now so I could finish the cake.

I made some calls and discovered that the bride's sister had the key to the church.  But of course she was at the park where the wedding was going to be, helping to set up.  I jumped in the car, drove over carefully, and then sprinted across the park to get the key and back to the car.  Then back to the church where I finally was able to put the cake together.

I finished the basketweave and started to add the flowers.  

But as I feared, the lilies would not come off of the foil.  I tried several of them, but this is what happened:

So I grabbed my scissors and tried to cut as much of the foil off as I could without breaking the lilies.
I was really disappointed that they didn't work correctly.  I did not like how it looked with the foil.  But everyone else seemed okay with it.

Finally, I piped on their initials.

Not bad for freehanding it.  Here are some close ups of the flowers:

After the ceremony, my dad and I went back to the church to get the cake.  We drove very slowly but there were no more close calls.  Here is the cake on the dessert table (other desserts were added so it didn't look so tiny on this huge table).

Congratulations Tehillah and Nathan!

Two weeks down, one to go.  Will I survive?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"It'sa me, Mario!"

The challenge: Three cakes in three weeks.

I went for months without making a single cake.  Then suddenly, I realized that I had committed to three cakes in three weeks.  I would need to be Super Mario himself in order to pull this one off.  Would I rescue the princess?  Or would I succumb to the mushrooms, flying ducks, spitting fireballs or worse?

Only time would tell.

Week One: Mario

My nephew, like many young boys his age, is obsessed with video games.  He LOVES Super Mario.  And he is very good at it.  He was quite shocked to discover that I hadn't passed the first world yet (he's beaten the game and is now trying to go back and collect all of the star coins).  I have since made it to World 2.  Where I am stuck on level 5.

So we decided to make a Mario cake for his birthday.  Now, I may not be the best at playing Mario, but I was determined to be the best at caking Mario.  You know what that means.

A Super Mario fondant figure.

I've been getting better at my people/figures/fondant sculptures, so I wanted to try this out.  The idea was to make a sort of simple cake, just one tier, with a lot of the Mario elements.  Then on top, I'd put a pipe and Mario going into the pipe.  Piece of cake.

The cake itself wasn't too bad.  I made a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge filling, as requested, and covered it with light blue fondant.  I freehanded some green fondant to look like trees and hills.

That's what it looks like right?  Trees and hills?

Then I did some clouds.  I looked everywhere for a cloud cookie cutter, but I couldn't find one, so they are free-handed too.  Who knew making clouds would be so difficult?

I made some yellow fondant and cut out a bunch of stars, squares and circles to use as elements on the cake.  I also cut out red circles and ivory circles to make little mushrooms.

They are all covered so they don't dry out before I need them.
Then I started adding elements.  I decided which section I wanted to be the front and added the brown door.  I also added some piranha plants in pipes.

Awww, it looks so cute and innocent right now.
Then I began adding stars, coins, mushrooms, and question blocks.

Then one of my favorite elements - the vine.

Then I did some piping to finish off the elements.

Then I started to work on Mario.  I used two tutorials that I found on Pinterest.  Mainly this one from  by Cesare Corsini on Cake Decor but also this one which I have no idea where it came from.  I started with the body.  Cesare's tutorial is for a Mario that is standing, but I wanted it to look like mine was going into the pipe.  So I omitted the legs, but I put two little stumps there so it would like he had legs that were in the pipe and also to help balance the body.  Sometimes I think we make the mistake of trying to make the body and then add the clothes.  You have to think of it a little differently so it is easier to make.  So here we see the blue pants and the red shirt.

I add the arms in red (all of this is using gum glue to stick it on tight) and then the suspender straps.

For the head, I made a ball out of ivory fondant and made eye impressions with one of the green fondant tools.  I tried to follow the tutorial as best I could.

He used paint for the eyes, I went with mostly fondant, except for the pupils.

It took forever for me to figure out if Mario had brown or black hair.  In some pictures, he had brown hair but a black mustache!  I just decided to go all brown because it was easier and I didn't want to buy a whole thing of black fondant.  This was white fondant that I colored brown.

I made the back of his head kind of flat because I knew I would be adding the hair.  I'm still not very good at the whole weight balancing thing.  This little guy got real heavy, really fast.  I did have to adjust the head later on.  Another problem was that I had already painted the pupils onto Mario's eyes using black food coloring.  Then when I was squeezing the hair on, I realized my fingers were touching his eyes!  So it got a little bit smeared.  Probably should have painted the eyes on last.

The hands were pretty fun to make.  I just used a knife to cut the fingers and then shaped them a little and folded them over into fists.  They look pretty good!

If I ever do this cake again, I will not make the pipe the same way.  I thought that I had this brilliant idea - I would use the cake that I cut off the round cakes to make them flat.  Then I would mix them with frosting, like a cake pop, cover that with fondant, and have a great pipe!

The first problem was that I used my new baking strips.  My old ones were kind of dying so I replaced them with these purple cloth ones.  The thing I love most about these is that they have built in straps to hold them in place against the cake pan.  No more pinning the baking strips!!!! Yay!

You can get a six piece set at JoAnn's for $25 and if you use a 40 or 50% off coupon,
that's pretty close to what Wilton charges for 2 pieces.

However, they worked so great, that at first I thought I wasn't going to level them at all.  And then there would be no cake to make the pipe.

However, I did end up leveling them and using that to make a pipe shape.  I tried to freeze it after I mixed it with the frosting, but it did not stay firm.  (I know now that I used waaaaay too much frosting).

So it took awhile, but I finally got some fondant over it and it sort of looked like a pipe.  Sort of.

I brought Mario separately to my parents house, planning to put him on the cake after arriving.  Unfortunately, since he was so heavy, the foot stubs I had on the bottom had flattened in front, causing him to lean forward.  So I just added a little more blue fondant on the bottom to balance him out.

Here is the finished product, right before we cut it:

It kind of looks like he is standing on top of the pipe with really, really short legs, but oh well.

I tried to get a picture from all angles, so you can see all of the details.

You can see here how Mario's eyes got a little messed up.

And here is the birthday boy with his cake!

Happy birthday Peter!  

One down, two to go.