Tuesday, May 19, 2015

McCallie Graduation Cake

Well, it's that time again... summer is just around the corner and millions of high school students across the US are closing one huge chapter in their lives and starting a new one.  Yes, it's graduation time!

This graduation celebration cake was made for a young man who went to The McCallie School in Chattanooga.  He was very into football and baseball and will begin his new chapter in life at Auburn University in the fall.

The bottom tier was all about his high school experience, his school's logo along with their team logo.  The sports memorabilia sits around and atop the first tier, as the great memories he'll carry into college.  The top tier contains the Auburn paw prints along with their battle cry "War Eagle!"  On top of the cake we made an Auburn University topper from modeling chocolate.  The graduate's favorite treat, peanut butter cups, adorn the entire cake.

The footballs, were made using chocolate molds, and I made the baseballs using a cakepop (cake and icing) mixture.  It was pretty firm and I thought it held its shape reasonably well, although after sitting for a while I got a little droopage.  The Tornado logo was printed on edible image, and that was really just because it didn't lend itself well to any other method.  All the other logos and text were cut from modeling chocolate using the cutting machine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy Birthday Cole!

Bakers, do you know how to make a cake that has copyrighted material? According to Icing Smiles, give it away! That means don't post it on your website for sale or advertise how much it would cost on Facebook. That's about the only way to get past the strict laws that many companies WILL ENFORCE (and some will still debate that). I'm not going to lie, it's a little scary when you get an overnight letter from FedX, that you have to sign for, that says "cease and desist" from a big company. All you can do at that point is to take the pictures down from your website and social media locations and hope that's the end of it.

Unfortunately once it's out there you can't get it all back. Take that Copenhagen. We received one of those C&D letters once, and when we searched the web for other cakes with the same content, ours was really the best.  I mean if you're going to tell someone to cease and desist, shouldn't they start with the UGLY cakes?  Copyright is one of the most talked about topics in cake chat rooms and many bakers are absolute about their stance and won't take a chance on any questionable material. Others are more practical and do what they have to in order to make a sale.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bakers Gotta Bake!

When do you not call your baker?  The day before the wedding!  Or the day of the wedding!  We had both happen recently and just wanted to tell you why it's not a good idea.  Toward the end of the month I pull all my orders for the next month and read through them.  I make a list of supplies I need, make sure no payments are needed, make sure everything is very clear (since it may have been months since I booked the cake) and make a task list for each week.  This is a best practice, even if I don't always do it, but I try!  If I'm really on top of my paperwork and cakes, I will email a bride a short note confirming the delivery date, place and time as well as any questions I may have.  Now this is the time for questions!
Here is an example of an email to send a brides a couple of weeks in advance of the wedding.

Your wedding day is almost here!  Please read over your contract, which is attached, and ask any questions or advise me of any changes that you need to make.  Here are the delivery details:
Date:  (include day of the week, like Saturday June 14, 2015)
Venue location:
Time we will be there with the cakes:

Please provide the name and phone number for the person that is going to return the cake stands the week after the wedding.

If you have a topper, please make sure it is at the venue and on the cake table.

Have you made arrangement for the florist to have the necessary flowers at the venue?

Brides that don't have a planner are typically more stressed shortly before the big day.  GOOD wedding planners will confirm the above details well before the wedding and often email all the vendors a list of all the other vendors and a time line.  If a bride has family help them out, they need to make a list of vendors, their contact info  and the expected delivery times.

We had a sister call us a 10pm the night before the wedding.  She was leaving a message with very inaccurate information when I picked up the phone.  She knew nothing other than I was making a cake.  She was panicking that they had been calling and calling and sent me several emails and I had not answered.  I was in the kitchen all day next to the phone.  I checked my email at Noon that day, but not since then because it's FRIDAY AND BAKERS GOTTA BAKE!  If I had sent the bride an email the week before , this would not have happened.

Then Saturday, the day of the wedding, a planner called to ask me when I was delivering the cakes.  Really? The day of the wedding?  What kind of planning is that?  We got to the venue and the bride had forgotten items for both the bridal and groom's cake!.  It's going to happen because they have so much on their minds, that's why GREAT wedding planners are awesome!

So if you are a baker, send that letter two weeks ahead of time!  If you are a bride, get a planner or at least make a really good "day of" list!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Piped Lace Wedding Cake

I'm going to post a little quick entry today.  It's the first week of May and I have a BUNCH of cakes to work on!  We are getting a lot more requests for colored wedding cakes and I think that's great!  This a khaki color which isn't always the easiest color to achieve.  I sure wish I had one of the paint color mixing machines at Home Depot!

I used an Evil Cake Genius lace stencil and the piped an outline with a #1 tip.  I really like the look of the lace with that extra step.  The people at Evil Cake suggest putting a piece of tulle fabric  on the cake with the stencil.  I guess it's just to have a more realistic texture.  I personally don't think it's worth the effort, but that's just my taste.  My tip for the week is to add your edible pearls and silver dragees to your cake a few house before the cake is due.  If you put them on the day before they will break down and not be pretty.  OK, bonus tip!  Only make your pearl borders with Fondarific or modeling chocolate (or add 50% to your fondant).  The fat in those products will let you put the pearls in the freezer for just a couple of minutes and they will harden.  Then unmold them and they won't get all stretched out and disfigure.  When you see a really pretty cake with stretched pearls, it makes me a little sad that the decorator didn't know this tiny thing that makes a big difference.

Chattanooga Lace Wedding Cake!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sweet Sushi Cake!

I get so excited when we get to make something new and different, even when I don't know how to do it. The table/tray didn't require anything new and different.  I made it easy on myself which is how I priced the cake, so not everything was edible.  I covered two pieces of cardboard for the two layers of cake (9"x 13"). For the "legs" I used several strips on cardboard hot glued together and then covered in black contact paper.  I combined several shades of modeling chocolate to get the marble/woodgrain look.  I cut panels to fit all the sides and the legs (except the inside pieces-I just left them black).

Now for the fun part!  The only real plan I had was to use a new product called Deco Gel for the orange roe eggs.  I was going to buy orange, but they only carry a bronze (with glitter) color so I bought clear.  I used a little of the product and added one drop of orange food coloring.  I used a syringe to fill up some pearl border molds.  They came right out after they set up, super easy.

Cut an indentation into marshmallows for the "goodies"
I did a little research and found a few tips for making sugar sushi, but most didn't really apply.  Using grape fruit roll ups as the nori (dark seaweed paper used on most rolls) was one suggestion.  That was a good idea but they don't seem to make grape roll ups anymore.  Many people just used black fondant and that's what I was planning to do, but Chad had a better idea!  He suggested coloring the deco get black and just poring it out onto a Silpat mat.  I should have used the bumpy side for more authenic texture, but I had time for one trial.  I just poured it out and tilted the gel until it was all spread super thin.  When the Deco-Gel is heated, it's a pretty thin consistency.  When it set up, I just used a pizza cutter to make strips in the width I needed.  You will want to give yourself a little overhang (1/2" or more) because it sticks best to itself.

You can see some of the Deco Gel on Silpat. 
You can make it nice and thin
I bought some jumbo marshmallows and cut a big hole out of the middle for all the "goodie" to fit into.  I tried placing them on top of the marshmallow and trying to make the "seaweed" higher than the marshmallow and filling in with buttercream and rice, put it just didn't look good.  Recessing the fillings looks way better.  I made some fake wasabi, cucumber, crabmeat and tuna and glued them in with buttercream.  For the rice, I used white sprinkles and not as many as I thought.  I only used a bit more than one small containers worth.

My second attempt (back row) is much better
than my first attempt (front row).
The more I made, the better the sushi looked.  I kept the first three in case of a sushi emergency.  One of those pieces I used a piece of black gel on the outside of the marshmallow, then added a thin layer of buttercream and rolled it in the sprinkles.  It looked fine, but the next day the black color bled a little bit and it was not pretty anymore.  I think everything else is pretty easy and doesn't require more explanation.  I saw a tutorial that used a mold for a California roll.  I would not waste your money, this is too easy not to give it a try on your own! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gold Sequin Wedding Cake

I'm so glad to make a cake that is new and not made from someone else's design.  I can't even tell you how this design came about.  I think the bride liked so many popular wedding cake trends that we just used them all.  All tiers were buttercream and about 5" high except for the gold tier which was about 3.5". We used an Evil Cake Genius lace cake stencil and outlined each piece with a #2 tip.  We then added some pearls and silver dragees on top.  The bottom tier was buttercream with fondant "fabric ruffle" look.  We didn't want to  cover the entire tier because it would have been too heavy looking.  It was a 20" tier, so it took a long time!  We made the fantasy flowers with gold button centers and the fondant teardrop shapes. 

I'm sure you have seen lots of tutorials on how to do a tier with a sequin-like look.  There are so many ways of doing this and since I've only done it once, I can't speak to the other techniques.  I used some very large quins.  I highly recommend buying them from  cakedeco.com because the 5 lb carton is a LOT and cheap!  These were 1/2" big and I tried to push a handful into the buttercream covered cake and it was just a mess!  I ended up having to put them on one at a time and that was big fun......not!!  So I then chilled the cake really well.  Some people use a paint brush to get these completely covered.   I then airbrushed this old gold and bronze over the entire tier.  I had to cover the neon colors and it took a while.  You want to do this is several coats and not in a couple because you will have drips.  Now, my complaints.  It looks a bit like scales, probably somewhat because I'd been looking at it a long time.  I may do it in smaller quins next time, but I've got 4 lbs of the giant ones left!   I was happy with the look of the cake, but I couldn't stop wondering what people must have thought of "the baker" if the were served a piece of the gold tier.   The quins were NEON COLORED on the backsides!  They aren't very tasty either.  I'm just saying, the more I thought about it, the more embarrassed I was.  I am not judging anyone that does this technique.  I am not saying I won't do it again if time is a factor.  Next time  I really want to make my own sequins out of fondant or something else.  I just don't want the wedding guests to think that the baker is crazy when they bite into the cake :) 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Naked Cakes

We were asked to make a "naked"cake last year.  I was pretty excited until we actually did it.  So I had a culinary student as an intern for 11 weeks.  The cake was a 6/8/10/12" combination.  The first time it was baked, I think the oven was opened way too much, cakes were jiggled and batter wasn't whipped enough.  So Friday afternoon, I decided to bake it again, only doing it myself this time.  The picture above is the exact same size cakes and number of layers, they were just fluffier on the cake I baked.  I thinkshe learned a big lesson that day!

I had a lot of holes and inconsistencies that I wanted to "fill" on the skim coated cake.  Is that a term?  If not, what do you call these different styles of naked cakes?  Maybe the skim coated cake has her undergarments on?  I wanted the look on the left, but I worked with the cake too much and once you have that skim coat of buttercream on, it is on.  After baking the layers again, I put my buttercream in a piping bag with a #12 tip and piped the ooze onto the side of the layers before I stacked the next tier on top.  It wasn't a real "organic" ooze of buttercream, but I was happier than the first attempt and there would not be another!
 We did brush all the layers with simple syrup to try and keep them moist.  The family said it was yummy!  I wouldn't bake it or put in together until as close to the event as you can comfortably stand it to help it not drying out.
Once at the venue, we had to put on the fresh flowers and it took no less than an hour!  I guess it felt so unfinished to me that I needed to keep adding flowers.  The bride wanted lots of flowers and the florist left me a big bucket of gorgeous blooms so I had to use them, right?  I don't know where I stand on this trend yet, but maybe it will be out of style by the time I decide.

Y'all have a great week!


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