Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'm Gettin' Married In the Morning!

I met Leslie and Darren at my church.  Leslie saw the Whimsical Panda cake and thought it looked like it could have been a wedding cake.  She and Darren had been cake tasting, but they hadn't found a place that made cake they liked.  And it was very important that it taste good.

So they came to me.  Ooooh, I'm famous!

I had a meeting with the two of them a few months before their February wedding to talk about what they wanted.  Leslie showed me some pictures and we talked about the elements that they liked.  We ended up deciding to do a three tiered cake, with quilting on the top and bottom tiers and their initials on the middle tier.  The topper would be red roses and each tier would also have some roses.  Then I would also make an extra sheet cake to ensure we had enough to feed all the guests.

As we talked, I mentioned a groom's cake that I had done.  Darren had never heard of a groom's cake, so I explained the concept.  Be careful what you tell prospective clients!!!!!!  He thought it would be great to have a groom's cake.  Darren is British, so his idea was to have half the cake be the British flag and half the American flag.  Alright, so flags are pretty much lines and shapes, that shouldn't be too hard.

I was nervous about the red roses.  Red is such a hard color to get right.  And I did not want it to look pink.  But, I remembered that I had used Wilton Spray on my red dance shoes and I thought that might work for the roses as well.

I knew I wanted to make at least 40 roses to make sure that I had enough.  I'd be assembling the cake the morning of the wedding, and it was my worst nightmare that I would run out.  I literally had dreams that I was putting the cake together and didn't have enough.

So a few weeks before the wedding, I started making roses in every spare moment I had.  Fortunately, I learned how to do this in one of my cake classes.

You start by making rose bases.  You have to make these first, on spaghetti (or wire if you are using wire instead) and then let them dry before you start putting the petals on.

You roll the fondant very thin and then cut out a bunch of pieces using the large rose cutter.  While keeping the rest covered, one by one you add the petals to the base (the process is slightly more complicated, but we won't go into boring details).  I made 4 different sizes, rosebud, 3-petal rose, 5-petal rose and 7-petal rose.

7 petal and 5 petal rose.
After the roses dried, I sprayed them with the red Wilton spray.

Here you can see the difference in color.  The one on the left is made with red fondant but not sprayed.

I think the final count of roses was 46.  That's a lot of work.  I went through a lot of episodes of Alias and Eureka while making these.

I baked the cakes on the Thursday before the wedding.  One six inch, one 8 inch and one 10 inch round, plus the 9x13 grooms cake.

I'm still pretty nervous about fondant ever since the Monster's Inc. cake.  And although Chicago was in the middle of negative-this-is-crazy-14 weather, my apartment was a balmy 85 degrees.  I was the only one in Illinois with my windows open!!!

I don't control the temperature in my apartment, my downstairs neighbor does.  And heat rises . . . . . I knew there was no way the fondant was going to work in that heat.  I actually had to ask my neighbor to turn the heat down so that I could make the cake.  Which she very graciously did (she didn't know it was so hot in my apartment).

So with a breezy 75 degree apartment, the fondant went on smoothly and I got the three cakes filled and covered.  Then I had to do the quilting on the top and bottom tiers.

There are several different ways to get the quilted look.  I chose to use a diamond cutter.

You line it up and press it in the fondant around the sides of the cake.  The hardest part is learning how hard you need to press.  Too soft and the lines aren't visible, but too hard and the frosting underneath starts to show.  You also have to do it quickly because the fondant starts to dry and crack.  I did have some cracks and I wasn't really happy with how it looked.  I had to remind myself that no one would be standing one inch from the cake, examining the smoothness of the fondant.  And later when I added the pearls, it looked much better.

For the groom's cake, I had my brother (futurewolf) create the custom design for me, which turned out great.  But then I had to print it out as a 9x13.  My printer can't handle such a task.  So I took it to Kinkos.  On the phone, they told me that it was going to cost around 5 dollars to print.  WHAT?  Five dollars is ridiculous!  But what else could I do?  The wedding was the next day.  So I had them print it.  Of course when I got there, the picture was facing the wrong direction and it was in color.  Way to follow instructions Kinkos!  They did fix it fairly quickly.  I almost fell over when they told me the cost was $0.25.  That was more like it!

I taped down the image on the table and taped parchment paper over it.  The tape is very important so that your image doesn't move.

Then I piped clear piping gel on all the lines of the image.

After letting it sit, I flipped the parchment paper over onto the cake and rubbed the piping gel onto the frosting.

Then I started filling it in.



And red:

To achieve the smooth look, you pipe the frosting in.  Then dip your finger (clean finger, of course) in cornstarch and spread it around evenly.  The cornstarch keeps the frosting from sticking to you.

For the stars, I used little star sprinkles.  They were perfect!

American flag on the top left and bottom right;
British flag on the top right and bottom left.
I used the same technique to put the initials on the middle cake.  It didn't work quite as well so I had to kind of freehand the letters.  But it turned out nice.


Another snow storm.  We have had our share of snow this winter!!  So the snow was thick on the ground and more was falling.  I loaded up my car and my sister, Amy, arrived to be my assistant.  The roads were really slick, so I had to drive very carefully, but we made it in one piece, albeit a little later than I had planned.

My sister helped me put the tiers together.  As she put it - she doesn't really like seeing the behind the scenes work that goes into making the cake, she'd rather just see the final product.  Apparently it ruins the magic.  But I could not have gotten this done without her.

I added the border on the tiers while she put the pearls on the quilted pattern.  I thought the quilting looked pretty good, but when you add the pearls, it really makes it pop.

My beautiful sister adding pearls to the cake.

To get the pearls to stay, you just put a dollop of clear piping gel on each "X" and the place the edible pearl on top of it.  The piping gel holds it in place.

And then the big moment arrived.  I put a mound of frosting on the top tier and prepared to place the first rose.  My trusty assistant was very nervous that I was going to mess it up.  Thanks for the encouragement sis!

The first flower went on and everything was still fine.  So I just kept adding flowers.

Once the top was finished, I moved on to each tier.  I think I would do the top a little differently in the future, but it turned out okay.

I'm not sure how long this took, but finally all the roses were in place.

With a sigh of relief, I began to add my favorite part, the leaves.

The leaves just add that extra dimension, don't they?

I'm really proud of these roses.  Everyone said they looked like real flowers.  They represent a lot of hard work.  So here's some close up shots:

Seriously, this picture looks like it could be from a magazine.

Funny story - Leslie's daughter, Georgia, came in the room as we were working on the cake.  She was all dressed up in her white flower girl dress and had her hair done.  (Can you tell where this is going?)  She asked if she could have a flower.  So I said sure, as long as I had extra.

She came back later to collect her rose.  My sister handed her one.  Both of us thought she was going to keep it and take it home with her.  But no, she just took a huge bite right out of the flower!  I think Amy and I were a little shocked.  I mean, they are edible, but we just weren't expecting her to gobble it down.  Right then.  Shortly before the wedding!

And of course the color from the flower rubbed off on her hands, her mouth, and even got on her neck!  Oh boy, we narrowly averted getting into some major trouble.  None of it got on her dress, thank goodness.  We sent her off to the bathroom to clean herself up and told her NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING.  Hah, sorry about that Leslie.

The last step was to add the border to the groom's cake.  (I almost ran out of frosting, but I had just enough)

And finally I was finished.

The cake was so heavy and the base was not really sturdy enough (I was trying something new, but I won't use this kind of base again).  So I was really, really worried that when the caterers moved it from the cart to the cake table it would collapse in on itself.  I had visions of cake everywhere and my lovely creation destroyed.  I didn't see them move it, but apparently all went well because the cake was in one piece.

Displayed at the reception

I love that the color of the roses matches so well!

Thank you Leslie and Darren for trusting me enough to make your wedding cake.  Congratulations and I hope you have many happy years together!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Jim and Amie are good friends of mine who attend group swing dance classes with me at Chicago Dance Factory.  They are so much fun!  They are always hamming it up and making me laugh.  I had the privilege of competing in West Coast Swing with Jim.  They are some of my favorite people and I always enjoy hanging out with them.  Unfortunately, whenever we go out to eat, we end up with one of us having a bug(s) in our food!  So far Jim has escaped unscathed . . . . .

The week before Amie's birthday, Jim asked me if I could make her a cake.  He didn't really have any specifications, other than requesting chocolate.  Amie has a dog, Petunia, that she loves very much, so I decided to make a puppy cake.  No, this is not a replica of Petunia.  Amie said it would have been difficult to eat a cake that looked like her dog.  (Obviously it's not because I don't have the ability to make an exact replica of a real, live dog).

Now since the last fiasco with the fondant, I was very, very nervous about this cake.  It was a similar concept, with a dome instead of a ball covered in fondant.

I used the small sports ball pan again but only made half.  This would be the head.

I made an 8-inch round cake and the larger sports ball pan went on top of that.  I did have to carve it down a little bit to get the shape that I wanted.

Then I frosted both and put them in the fridge to harden.

Here was the moment of truth.  Would the fondant fail me again?  I opened the package of plain white fondant and relief swept over me.  It was soft and pliable, like PlayDoh, the way fondant was meant to be.  I rolled it out, covered the smaller cake, and . . . . .

Perfection!  No rips or tears.

The bigger one was slightly more challenging because it was, well, bigger.

But that one came out great too.

Then I put the two pieces together on the cake board.

I made three white feet and one black foot out of fondant.

Here's the three white feet.

And the black one.

The nose.

I freehanded the ears.

I added blue eyes with a little bit of blue fondant I had left over.

Finally I added the spots on the back and the tail.

Okay, now the collective, "awwwwwwwwww!!!"

I'm not a dog person, but that's a cute puppy dog face . . .

View from the rear.

I snuck the cake into class before Amie arrived.  Then afterwards, we surprised her with it and ate cake in the back room.  It was a hit!

Happy birthday Amie!!!!