Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mini Kitchen Tour

I have had many public and private requests from a lot of you asking for a video tour of my baking kitchen.  Well, it's been a long time coming, but I finally had a slow week in the bakery where Chad and I could finish the video.  I hope the extra information I have provided afterward will be worth the delay.


To follow up on our mini kitchen tour video, we are listing some of the main items that we have in our commercial kitchen.  These items are exactly what we have or are as close as possible because things change in eight years :)

We spent quite a bit of time making an Amazon store with categories and descriptions of how we used the item.  There is a commercial kitchen category that lists many items that we will show in the longer video tour later.  Full disclosure, we will make a few pennies if you buy from our pretty pink Amazon shop!  So shop away!



Restaurant Equippers is THE best place online for restaurant supplies.  We found that our local restaurant supply buys some items from these guys, marks them up and sells them! When we bought the giant commercial fridge, they only charged $80 to ship it!  Now, they don't bring it in and set it up, but that's what strong friends are for!

Big Work able with mixers on it
Drawer for 30" wide tables
Two work tables that have custom laminate top over both 
Drawers  for 24"wide tables 
3 Compartment Sink  
Cooling rack (this isn't the one I have, but if I was buying it again this would be the one!
Reach-in Fridge
Icing buckets
Ingredient bins

IKEA can be very inexpensive, if you get the right items.  Buying cabinets is kind of complicated, so it's best if you can take a few hours and go into the store.  The legs, drawers, self closers, and doors are all purchased separately.  The sizes on the cabinets are not exactly what I have, but you will get the idea. This list is so time consuming that I didn't add to it by measuring things too!

Hand sink cabinet (two doors)
Fondant cabinet. One long skinny drawer on top with two big drawers below
Cake box cabinet.  When we used this, we actually turned it upside down so we had a solid top.  Also we bought a bunch of extra shelves.
Hooks that hang on the shelves below and the wire shelves from Lowe's
Wall Shelves
Accessories for the shelves are plentiful  I like this box because it's great for storing washed icing tips and couplers.

Wire shelves which we use in the pantry and for storage in the kitchen

We have made a much longer, more complete,  "sit on the floor and explain our organizing" kind of video.  If there is interest in seeing it, I will bribe Chaddy to get it ready.  Just leave us a comment if you want more!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gumpaste Flowers... Buy or Make?

 Do you buy any of your gumpaste flowers?  Let me guess!  If you are a cake hobbyist, you make your flowers.  It's fun and challenging and your time does not equal money.  If you sell cakes professionally, I will guess that you buy at least some of your flowers.  Why would you not?  Are you some sort of flower purist? Do you think it's cheating? I made some beautiful ranunculus for a magazine shoot and they took me eight hours per flower! 

When I meet with a bride, I ask if they want flowers and then if they want fresh or sugar flowers (they don't know what gumpaste flowers are...yet).  They will often hesitate and I fill in with "I buy most of my flowers and they are often close in price to fresh flowers".  At that point, they are interested.  If I said the flowers would be three times more than fresh, I'd hear "I'll just use fresh".  There is a rare bride in Chattanooga that would not baulk at a handmade flower price, but as I said that is rare.  On some cakes, I really want to use gumpaste flowers so I will make it even more attractive, as in price.  I charge the cost of the flowers plus shipping and the time and supplies it takes me to paint them (if needed).  I include extra flowers in the price to allow for breakage.  If I have to buy a flower that I will never need the extra (5 for the cake and have 4 left) then they pay for the whole box because that is still fair.  If you book a cake in January with gumpaste peonies, order them then because they will be out of stock when you need them.  Just write on the box of flowers so you don't accidentally use them on another project.  We also will make extra petals to add some softness and fill in gaps between flowers. 
The flowers from the pictured cake were bought from Cal-Java and Wholesale Sugar Flowers.  The challenging part was that the cake was ivory/yellow because that is the color of my buttercream (with whitener added) and all the purchased flowers were bright white so they had to be painted.  Luckily, I could paint them with the airbrush so that cut down on my time. 
We entered a contest and won so our cake picture is one the front (and some inside) of the Wholesale Sugar Flowers catalog.  We really like their flowers and the prices! Please let us know how you sell your gumpaste flowers and if you make them, buy them or a mix of the two. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Little Planes First Birthday Cake

It's great when you've created a wedding cake for a great couple and then get the privilege to make a cake for the next most important event. Jude's parents were wonderful enough to give me lots of freedom with the design.  These are always the best cakes I make, no debate.  I make them as big as I need to and spend all the time I want to just for the thrill of being creative. 

This is a buttercream cake that has three different colors of blue.  I used one of Wilton's icing combs for the texture on the top and bottom layers.  I really like the simple texture.  I made homemade marshmallows and piped them into cloud shapes.  I intended to put some clouds on skewers so that they could be coming out the side of the cake but they were too heavy and kept falling off the skewers.  It happens and that is the fun of learning and being self taught.  I like the large border on the middle tier (5 layers), smaller border on the smaller tier, and medium border on the top tier.  Just remember to keep things in scale.  Not everything has to be so "matchy-matchy". 

Lastly, I kinda stole for this cake.  There is a great site for cake decorating product but they are always out of the products I want, so I stole the shape.  I put a piece of parchment over a screen shot on my iPad.  I traced the item, and adjusted the size that I needed (used two different sizes).  I would have bought it, really.

We hope you can "steal" some inspiration from us too!  Happy caking!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Groom's Cake Collection

What happens when a bride can't decide on ONE main thing for her Groom's special cake?  This cake happens!  We had two meetings, the second one solely to nail down only what HAD TO BE included on the groom's cake.  The only item we "lost" was changing a Lakers jersey to just using logos on the sides of the stage like cake.  Here is the list of items we had to include:

Accurate pair of Air Jordon tennis shoes in black, red or white
Air Jordon box for the shoes
Beats Audio head phones in black, red or white
Panda Express box with orange chicken
Panda Express box with Lo Mein
Pokémon ball
Lakers team name and the number 24
Guatemalan flag
Blue power ranger helmet

If you are a cake decorator, take a minute and figure out how many hours it would take you to decorate this cake from crumb coated cake to finished project.  I find it's easier to figure each element and then add it all up.  I'll tell you how long it took me at the end of the post.

Due to all of these items,  I was very worried that it was going to look terrible and like a big pile of stuff.  Luckily I was able to coordinate the colors so that helped the cohesion.  I originally planned on a 12 x 18" cake, but a 16" square base cake just looked better.  It was also supposed to be buttercream, but I added the fondant over it since everything else was covered.  We used modeling chocolate on the box because it just makes a sharper looking box.  The take out boxes and head phones were rice krispies treats.  The shoes were white chocolate pound cake.  The shoe box was pumpkin spice and 16" square  was chocolate (I think...it's been a few weeks).  She had a bit of trouble deciding on one flavor too :) 

We have talked about the takeout boxes and shoes in our previous two blog posts.  There isn't much exciting to say about the rest, I guess it's more about how it all plays together and how long it took to complete.  I've said before that I charge by the serving and then charge by the hour for extra artwork and supplies.  We aren't new or particularly slow at our job.  I am better at charging the right amount of artwork for a cake, but not this time.  We spent 44 hours decorating this cake.  I was tired for a week and mad at myself for bad planning for at least as long.  It is the nature of the beast and we have to learn more and do better with our skills in cake decorating and business.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tennis Shoe Cake

We made a pair of Air Jordon shoes and their box as part of a larger groom's cake.  We have made two other shoe cakes.  A pair of Converse All-Star's and a pair of fancy high heels with a shoe box.  Lucky for us, the bride let us pick the shoe design, it just had to be accurate as the groom was a collector.   The easiest avenue for any 3D cake is to have the item in front of you, or at least a 3D model (like a car).  I find it so helpful for all those little things, like accurate measurements!  We picked these because they looked easy compared to all the rest of the Air Jordon line.  Shoes are notoriously deceiving so keep that in mind when you're planning.  It took us eight hours to make the pair.  Some people may think that is crazy long, but I have not figured out a way to "hurry" on a project like these.

Let me tell you what I learned/did wrong with this project.

1.  Black fondant FADES!  I added extra black food coloring when I started but I truly believe that the fondant faded just in the time it was exposed to lights.  I saw these girls on "Amazing Wedding Cakes" practically working in the dark to avoid their black from fading.  I thought they were crazy!  I'm sorry ladies, you are sane and black fondant is stupid.  MAYBE if I was doing this exact same project again, I would airbrush the shoes before adding the soles and edible images.  MAYBE that would have helped.  They really didn't fade until I had the details on and at the point the air brush ship has sailed.

2. Make paper templates of sections so that all sides are exactly the same.  For example the side squares with the dots and without the dots.  I should have made all the templates and pinned them on one of the shoes before I started scoring the lines.  I wouldn't have gotten "off" had I done it that way.  Every cake has a backside!

3. CK Edible lacquer is super awesome!  The shoe had shiny parts and I sprayed some lacquer in a paint cup and used a small paint brush to apply it precisely when it was supposed to go.  Lesson here, the stuff dulls the longer it sits.  What until a couple of hours before the event to apply this if possible.  It won't go away over a day or two, it's just less shiny.

4.  Edible image paper is my friend!  Chad found a little dot pattern and printed out one page.  I used my templates to cut the pieces a tiny bit larger and then used a clad tool to bend them into the seam. 

5.  The sole is so important!  I used straight fondant for the black parts, but the red and white parts were 100% modeling chocolate.  The white part was put on as one big, thick piece and I took a ball tool and carved the lines and details in.  I should have spent much more time on the sole as the real shoe had more ridges, but I was out of time.....

6.  I have lost my ticking tool.  The one that makes it look like you have a sewn line.  I used some Wilton tool, but it just looked bad so I didn't add anymore detail with it, but once it's done you have to live with it. 

Remember to plan EIGHT hours or more and charge accordingly :)  Now I have to go and order my missing tool!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Easy to Make Chinese Takeout Box Cake

I had to make these Chinese takeout box treats for a larger cake recently (coming soon!) and they were actually pretty easy to make!  Want to make your own?

I started with a couple of clean takeout boxes from my favorite Chinese restaurant.  We went there for dinner one night and I just asked them for a couple of extras.  They didn't even charge for them, so that's a bonus!

OK, we're going to use the boxes for 2 reasons - to mold the cereal treats and to make the patterns for the outside of the box, so treat it carefully!

The boxes are wax-coated, but I still gave it a good spray with pan spray so the RKTs wouldn't stick.  Then just pour in the cereal treats, let them come almost to the top (leave maybe 1/2 an inch) and then close the box so that it keeps it's shape nicely while it dries.

Once the cereal treats have set up, you'll want to coat the sides to smooth things out.  In this case I used royal icing.  While that's drying we can make our patterns.

To make your patterns, start by taking out the wire handle.  It was a little difficult to do without messing up the box, but keep at it and you'll get it.  Once the handle is out, the box unfolds nicely.  I used a piece of card stock to draw out the panels around the box, including the top flaps, but not the very bottom.  I then used those patterns to cut each side piece out of white modeling chocolate.  Once you have all your pieces, you can start assembling your box!

I used a little tylose glue on the royal icing start putting on the panels, just make sure you save the overlapping flaps until last.  Now you can start putting in the food!  Use whatever you want for food, but my extruded fondant noodles really did look the most convincing, and I had a blast making cute little noodle loops coming out of the box!  Add your desired logos using edible images and your almost done!

Almost done, why just almost?  Well, at this point you can be done. but my "food" wasn't looking saucy enough until I hit it with a little edible lacquer.  I was really surprised at how that little bit of shine really brought a lot of realism to the piece!

FULL DISCLOSURE:  As a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, I receive a small commission if you buy a product from the links on my blog.  I actually own the products I recommend and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Calla Wedding for Out-Of-Town Bride

We recently had a bride from Texas contact us.  She was getting married the Monday after the 4th of July holiday weekend.  There was part of me that thought "this just can't be right".  The Mill was kind enough to recommend us and she said they spoke highly about our work.  I believe she got most of her vendors by other vendors recommendations.  She was so sweet and EASY to work with.  She sent me a picture of almost the exact cake you see below.  It didn't have as many calla lilies and wasn't iced as pretty :)  She picked basic flavors and booked the cake.  Like I said she was easy to please.

We deal with a lot of out of town brides.  Far more than I would have guessed since Chattanooga, TN isn't a real tourist destination.  Many people move away for school and careers and want to come home to marry with their families.  The holidays are a very busy time for these brides as they all are home anyway.  I try to save weekend openings for out of town brides too.  I don't even list them on my online calendar because in towners would take them all.

If you have a bride that will do everything over email and phone, you would think that is easier but it's not.  All the information I go over in a consultation, almost two hours, is a class on wedding cakes.  They leave much more informed and understand how their particular cake is constructed and designed for them.  They get to know me and hopefully like me which leads to trust.  I really prefer sitting down and getting to know them and their event.  Sometimes the cake they want, just doesn't go with their event and you need to lead them in the right direction. 

I suppose this cake was "easy money" but I feel like we both missed out on a experience that would have added to the specialness of the wedding day.  Unfortunately, this poor bride had some other mishaps and bad vendor experiences like the hair/makeup person cancelling the day of the event.  That is just horrible!  Much less her grandmother got stuck in an airport across the country and a groomsman broke his nose in a car wreck the day before.  I'm glad that I spent some extra time making the cake a bit better than she was expecting.  I know it didn't make up for the rest of it, but I sure didn't let her down either.  Maybe I'll still meet her one day?


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