Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Whimsical Panda

One of my pastors, Anita, also works for Children's Relief International.  She helps to raise money for Tessa Grace Nutrition Center.  Tessa Grace exists to help malnourished and under-developed babies in Mozambique.  Anita was hosting a fundraising dinner and asked me to make a cake to auction off.

Since the cake was for Tessa Grace, I wanted to make something whimsical and fun.  I chose pastel colors because that felt more "childlike."  I chose pandas because they are cool and I had some black and white fondant I wanted to use up.

I started by making the pandas.

These are the legs and arms.

I guess I stopped taking pictures after that.

I used this rather useful cake pan that my sister gave me a few years ago.  It creates a space in the cake so you can have more filling than just the thin layer you get when you tort a cake.

Each half has the space.

You fill it with something scrumptious.

(The best part of the filling is that I don't use a recipe, I make it to taste, so I have to keep trying it until it is just right.  Yum.)

And then flip on side over on top of the other.  This was the bottom tier.  I also made a six inch top tier.

Anita said to make it fancy.  So I decided to do a basket weave on both tiers.

If you have never done this before - practice first!  I hadn't used this technique for a while, so I made sure I remembered how to do it before I started piping on the cake.  Make absolutely certain that your icing has trans fat in it.  So use shortening with trans fat or use 2% milk or whole milk instead of water (which you should do anyway because it tastes ten times better).  I realize this may be difficult since our government is trying to make food with trans fat illegal, but if you don't, the basketweave will fall right off the face of your cake.  I saw it happen when someone didn't use trans fat in her frosting.  There is nothing more discouraging than putting all that work in only to see it tumble off the side.

I made button flowers and fondant leaves ahead of time.  So now I just had to add everything to the cake.

I love this picture because it's exactly what I was going for.  A panda sitting in the midst of all these beautiful flowers.  And the little leaf he's holding - perfect touch.

This panda is relaxing on some leaves.

Back view.

And here it is on display.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

May the Force be With You

One of the great joys in life is introducing young children to good science fiction.  It's that moment when this little person sees something for the first time that you know they will love and that you have loved for many years.

My nephew has fallen in love with Star Wars.  I watched the first movie with him and my niece (they had already seen it a few times at this point) and they kept telling me all of the awesome things that were going to happen.  "Wait, you've seen this before, Aunt Joy?  Do you know what happens next?"

By now he's probably seen those movies more times than the rest of my family put together.  So naturally, for his birthday, he requested a Darth Vader cake.

I don't know why, but for some reason, both he and my niece love Darth Vader.  Maybe it's the voice.  I don't know.  But I was not loving the idea of making a Darth Vader cake.  I mean, it would be cool.  But do you know how much black fondant I would need?????  Way too much.

Fortunately, when I presented the idea of Star Wars cupcakes with ALL of the characters instead of just one, he was on board.

I made chocolate cupcakes and sprinkled some gold sprinkles on top to look like, well, stars.  I know, clever.

That was the easy part.  Now I had to make all of the characters.  Suddenly that Darth Vader cake wasn't looking so bad . . .

While doing some research, I discovered these star wars cookie cutters.  There are a few different versions (including one with ships) but I got the one that included Yoda, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper and Boba Fett.

Now I was a little nervous about these.  Some of the reviews of the product said the cutters were hard to use and they couldn't get the dough out of the cutter.  However, I found that they were extremely easy to use, at least with fondant.

First I cut out some storm troopers in white fondant.

I made a lot of these because as any Star Wars fan knows, the storm troopers always far outnumber the good guys.  Good thing none of them can hit the broadside of a barn.


They look pretty cool just like that, but I wanted to add the black as well.

Next I made Darth Vader.  I know that there is only one Darth Vader, but since I knew both Peter and Elisa would want that one, I made two.

Wilton has this new product - it's like edible modeling clay.  I used this instead of black fondant because it was a little bit cheaper.  It's fairly similar to fondant, but it seemed to be less sticky.

I love Yoda.  Too many Yodas, you never can have.

I had to make the rest of the characters without cookie cutters.  The first one (and my favorite) was C3PO.

I used yellow fondant and just cut out the shape with a knife.  I used the small round cutter to cut out the eyes.  Then I dusted it with gold petal dust to give him some shine.

I thought he turned out great!

I used the medium circle cutter to make the faces for Han, Luke and Leia.  I also used it for Luke's hair.  Han and Leia's hair - frosting.

I just eyeballed R2D2.

Chewbacca was a little darker than I intended.  I just used the grass tip for him.  There was another cookie cutter set that included him, but everyone recognized who it was supposed to be.

Leia's close-up.

It's the good guys vs. the bad guys.

Vader and his army.

The good guys.

Who doesn't love robots?

These were his favorites.  Of course he picks the bad guys.

Happy birthday Peter!  May the force be with you!