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?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another Bottle Cap Groom's Cake


I've blogged about bottlecap cakes on several different occasions.  They are a great option for clients that enjoy their brewskies (or any drink for that matter!)  The great part is that they're relatively easy to make and they're budget friendly.

The funny thing about these bottle cap cakes is that once the groom hears that I offer a chocolate cake with Guinness stout beer they are sold.  There's just something about a cake with beer in it that reaches out and grabs men by their tastebuds!  If you haven't tried the chocolate stout cake yet, you can get the recipe at King Arthur Flour's website.

This cake offered us a mildly different challenge.  Normally we just cut out the pieces we need.  This logo was more of a negative image; it took up all the space and the pieces we cut out were the pieces that got thrown away.  And the graphic is based on a 16-inch round, and our cutter will only cut a 12 x 24 inch graphic.  So we had to make a common cut and cut the logo in two separate pieces.  It really helped to have the graphic printed out full size when pulling out the "unwanted" pieces.

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cigar Humidor Groom's Cake

The entire time I worked on this cake I called it a cigar box cake, but it is in fact, a humidor cake.  A humidor is more than just a fancy cigar box; they have a hygrometer that helps keep the cigars at the perfect humidity for maximum freshness.

I had this cake on the books for a while and the week before it was due I saw an ad for Sharon Zambito and Wayne Steinkopf's humidor class.  I was very interested in how they did did the lid mechanism for the cake.  I have made cakes with "lids" before and each time I have used a different technique with varying complexity. Here I used a simple piece of foamcore as the back lid of the humidor.  It was much easier than making the lid hinge forward or back  I'll definitely be using this in the future.

I did use a little different technique for the cigars though.  I had some chocolate cigar molds and while they were tasty, they didn't look anything like cigars.  I made some tobacco colored fondant very very thin, and rolled each of the chocolate cigars.  Some scans of the groom's favorite cigar bands on edible images completed the look.  When they were done they looked very similar to the cigars I purchased as models.

This was a fun cake to do, but making it sure brought back a lot of memories of my dear father, Ray Sills.  Daddy loved to take a few puffs off his cigar or pipe every night after dinner.  A cigar would last him a month or two.  Like most dads, he was almost impossible to buy presents for, but I always knew I could get him a good cigar and he would be happy.  I can't stand the smell of cigarettes, but any time I smell a cigar or pipe I always smile and think of my Dad; he would have loved this cake!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Raspberry / Blackberry / Succulent Wedding

Sometimes a bride enjoys picking out her wedding cake so much that she does it three times.  Luckily the final choice was one that I really wanted to make.   This cake is very different and "natural".  I was given the picture and asked to make a few minor adjustments like the colors on the succulents, vanilla bean specks in the fondant, and two layer had a royal icing texture that was very subtle with a bit of gray to lightly mimic river birch.  I went very light on the gray because I didn't want it to stand out and take away from the focal point.  To keep things clean and simple, I put a little bean specks in some royal icing and "caulked" the tiers together instead of any kind of a border. 

For the "Hens and Chicks" or succulents, I really didn't have the time to make them since the bride changed the design fairly close to the wedding date and I was too busy to learn and try (or maybe just tired...).  I ordered them all from "A Cake To Remember VA".  Kara was absolutely great to work with on these!  She changed the color to just a pale grey and I used petal dust to make them match the wedding colors.  She was so helpful and VERY quick in getting them to me.  If you ever need pre-made decorations, molds, supplies or great tutorials check out her Etsy store. 

We made 80 raspberries using silicone molds that I also found on Etsy. I bought six kinds of raspberry molds but I think this is the one I used the most,

We started out by using a little tool and making the natural indentation on the top but then there wasn't enough to poke my wire into!  So no hole!  Ron Ben-Israel would not be proud of me :)
The most realistic raspberry mold that I purchased was this one. 

The reason I didn't use it is because it is impossible to get the berry out without distortion unless you use a material that will get hard in the freezer, like Fondarific or modeling chocolate.  I did not have time to do that 80 times!  If you are making five, cool, but not 80!

The "blackberries" that were "purpleberries" to match the wedding colors were much more challenging even though there was only ten!  They are not hard, just require some patience.  Make a grape size piece of gumpaste/fondant mixture, dip your wire in tylose glue and insert.  Let these sit up a few hours.  Now make a TON of tiny, varied sized, balls and let the dry.  When you are ready to make them, make a few fresh balls so they will squish and make a more natural look overall.  paint the "grape" with tylose glue and stick all the balls on it.  I tried rolling it and that will just get you a few and then fill in all the spaces.  Poof!  You have a blackberry!  I enlisted my friends to help me and it took four of us 90 minutes to roll all of the tiny balls.   That's six hours!   I was glad there was only a few!

If anyone knows the original artist for this cake, please list them in the comments.  I would love to give them credit for the beautiful design!  Now go cover a cake with summer berries! 


TIEREDCAKER GIVEAWAY WINNERS!


OK folks, we a A LOT of people register to win the Tiered Caker app giveaway.  I can tell that there's lots of interest in the product.  Special thanks to Calculated Cakes for sponsoring the prizes.  Chaddy put all the comments into the randomizer and picked out 2 names:


I have heard from Thelma already, but we are still waiting to hear back from Judith.  Once we have proper contact info from both we will get the information sent to Calculated cakes for your prize!  Congratulations!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TieredCaker App and Giveaway

Full Disclosure Time: This post includes a giveaway sponsored by Calculated Cakes.  They are providing the prizes, but the opinions are mine alone.  I will not receive any compensation for this post.

I love my gadgets - I'm usually not very far way from my iPad or iPhone; I just like the way programs seem to work!  There's always some little something going on with my desktop computer, but my tablet is rock-solid!

I have found myself using my iPad a lot during consultations.  I can pull up images, look through a bride's Pinterest board, etc.  A few months ago I found out about the TieredCaker app by Calculated Cakes and agreed to help beta test the product.  Now I've been at this cake game a while and I know most of the standard cake tiers and how many they feed.  But this app makes it really easy, and they offer lots of customization options!

Just start out by entering how many servings you need and instantly it will pop up a multitude of configurations.  So if you want a cake to feed 120 the app will return that a 14" and an 11" cake will do the trick perfectly.  And then the client says "But I want something that really makes an impact - can't we make it taller?  Like 4 tiers?"  Well, just scroll on down and the app will tell you that a 13 / 10 / 7 / 6" will do the job.  But you don't keep odd size pans... then the 12 / 10 / 8 / 6 will be the way to go.  You can even tell the app which pans you own, so it won't suggest combinations you can't deliver.  And since you enter your price per serving in the app ($3.75 in my case), you already know you're talking about a base price of $476.25.


Once you have chosen your configuration you are presented with a visual representation of your cake.  This is where things get neat!  Let's say that we want that 2 tier to be a squatty tier.  We'll just drag the size down to a 2 inch tier.  And they want some color on that squatty tier?  Just click it with your finger and you can change the color to light pink.  If you want a double-barrel design, you can extend the tier and make it twice the size.  Note that at the current time changing the tier height in the app will not alter the number of servings.  It is my understanding that this feature is being worked on for a future update.  It's easy enough to account for though.   I can also use a 2-finger swipe to rotate and tilt the cake.  If my design will have lots of things on the top tier it's nice so I can print it out with a good view of the top.

Once I get the cake looking like I want it, I can then print that out and get all artsy on it.  Before this app I used Microsoft Powerpoint's drawing tools to make my standard cake tier sizes and I drew on them.  This is better because I get any custom design on the fly, with the base colors, and it's shaded so that it has a dimensional 3D look to it. Not to mention that tilt / rotate feature.  And it's SO much easier.

And this app will even take the cake you have just created in literally minutes and it also offers you a cutting guide - for that exact cake!  It even allows you to choose between straight and classic cutting guides.  Once the cake has been settled on I just print out that cutting guide and add it to the client's folder.  One less thing I have to worry about!

This app has seriously changed the way I do my consultations.  It saves me from remembering wrong and from fussing about with a lot of paper during the consultation.  And the client gets to get a pretty close representation of their cake on the spot.  It has saved me from stacking pans so the client would know how certain sizes look together.  The product has been developed by fellow baker Jennifer Flesner and her husband Chris.  They are very open to suggestions and have made many great enhancements to the product since I began beta testing way back when!

Now for the best part!  Are you ready to try out the TieredCaker app?  Well the good folks at Calculated Cakes are offering not one but TWO free copies of the TierCaker app to the winners of this giveaway.  Just leave a comment here on the blog and just for fun why not tell me who your favorite cake artist is right now.  Any comments left between now and Sunday June 22nd will be included in a random drawing..  Winners will be announced next Tuesday!  Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

With a Little Help From Your Friends....

Congratulations Chris & Nancy!
For many years Chad and I have had a very special friend.  We treasure the time we get to hang out and chat because he's a fancy lawyer and works a million hours a week.  Luckily he found love in his own office and married his paralegal of fourteen years!  Some say that it was a long time coming!   We really didn't know his bride, Nancy, and had only met her briefly a couple of times.  She's fantastic though!  It's been especially challenging trying to help since they live an hour away.  When he told us they were engaged, I begged him to bring her up early and let me guide her in the planning process.  They did not come until a month before the wedding so that they could have a cake consultation.  At that point there was a plan in place, just incomplete.  That day, she was so overwhelmed with all she had to do that she almost didn't come.  By the end of the night, she had a good plan in place and finally started looking forward to the wedding.  I volunteered to help find some decorations, make the cakes as our gift, help decorate the tents the day before, to help figure how the food was going to be placed and to cut the cakes.  They had no decorations for the tents, so I talked to my favorite florist for some ideas and started ordering goodies.  Luckily Nancy was very easy to please and was so grateful for the help that there wasn't a lot of back and forth.  I'd send her some pictures and she would say, "great! buy them!"

I wish that I could say everything was smooth and easy.  People just don't understand how much is involved in throwing the most expensive "party" of your life.  The world sells this "magical time" kind of thing when it's NOT.  It's stressful and expensive and stressful.  There are power struggles between families, friends and bridesmaids.  There are vendors that forget orders and don't deliver what you had in your head.  The weather does not care that you are getting married, nor do the bugs!
For this wedding we had a special view of the process.  I hope that if you are getting married or know someone that is walking down the aisle soon, this may help in some small way.   Here is SOME of what we learned. 

The first challenge in helping the couple was the wedding was in a town that I don't have vendor friends and don't know who is good or bad.  Anyone can have a good website or fake good reviews, but word of mouth from fellow vendors is truly priceless.  Read online reviews on Facebook and WeddingWire.com.  They can be a great resource.

The second challenge was that they were holding the wedding at their home.  It wasn't necessarily a money saving decision, but partly so everyone could see their new home and so they could make memories there.  Chad and I also got married at our home only a month after we moved in.  I cannot stress this enough, don't do it.  You can't get a minute of peace, the house is a wreck and it's hard to get people to leave when all you want to do it go to bed.  It's a crazy time in your life and you just added the stress of cleaning the house and presenting it to everyone you know.  If you pick a hotel, for example, you can get a room to get ready in and get away from all the family.  Also, most of the extras are already there.  Tables, cloths, food, drinks, and rooms for out of town guests are a "given" instead of an "unknown"

The third challenge was that I didn't know anyone that Nancy was relying on to complete wedding tasks.  I didn't know if these people were dependable, had good taste, or if they had egos that I didn't want to step on.  I admit, I'm an "alpha" and have no problem taking lead on projects.  That is my default way, but when you come into a situation where you don't know anyone and really don't want to peeve anyone off that you just met, it's a little tricky.  Chad and I just did our thing, decorating our little buns off, and if people asked us if they could help, we gave them a task.  It wasn't my place to boss their people but after about eight hours with no break, I really wanted to, but I didn't...mostly.  There were several people that were fantastic and it was great to have them help! 

The fourth challenge was having no wedding planner.  I advised the couple to get a "day of" planner and sent a few names that I found.  I never asked why they didn't hire one, but let me tell you how it would have helped.  The day before, while everyone was gathering for a rehearsal one family member was late and it held everyone else up.  The DJ was running things and needed to leave thirty minutes before he did.  A planner could have been the "bad guy" and said we need to go ahead without her and fill her in on the details later.  The planner would also have a crew that could have helped with all the last minute set up details, like how to place tables.  The day of the wedding, a planner would have organized everyone and kept things on schedule.  Ten minutes before the wedding, the punch concentrate was still frozen and the food wasn't out.  I think a planner keeps things running on time, but not too fast also. 

The fifth challenge was that all the major "helpers" they were counting on were in the wedding party.  They were all dressed up and had places to be and stand.  Getting the dark purple punch out was not what they needed to be doing.  If you are getting married, your friends are there to enjoy the day with you, especially your close friends.  Do not make them work.  Hire people through the caterer or a planner.  Even just to pick up trash and refresh the food.  Who do you think is going to do that?  The day of was extra hard for these reasons.  Guests are busy being guests.

As a baker, I was sad that the couple didn't get 30 seconds to look at their cakes before they cut them.  They didn't get to eat either, but I didn't make the food :)  It's just one of those things that happens on the wedding day that I'm glad I don't normally witness.  I'm glad they have pictures afterwards.  My advice is to not have an outdoor wedding, too many variables and hot weather stinks!  This wedding was fine, but it rained the morning of and things were squishy and muddy.  The wedding cakes we delivered this weekend were at a "fancy" barn.  It was a beautiful OVEN.  My poor cakes and those poor guests.  How is that a fairytale?

After all was done and we were unbelievably tired, we were glad that we could help make their special day better.  I want any bride and groom to be able to enjoy the day while soaking in the love from everyone that wishes them well. 

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