Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Tools!

I had a fun conversation with a fellow bakery owner today and it inspired me to blog about my favorite tools.  Not to mention that I had NO cakes last week.  We spent the week working on taxes but you really don't want to hear about that do you!?!  Most of you that follow this blog know that I LOVE my metal scraper that enables me to get my buttercream smooth as well as my Cricut cake machine (most of the time).  What you might not know is the little things that help me make pretty cakes every week.

One tool is a sewing gauge that I use when marking tiered cakes.  For instance if you are stacking a 9" and 6" round, once your 9" is cold you can basically center a 6" cardboard circle or cake pan on the top.  Then use your sewing gauge to get your 1.5" on all sides of your board.  Since the tool is so light it's also good for leaning up against the side of the chilled cake to mark something you need.  The little arrow that slides up and down is very handy too!

ACE 1" Food Barrel Extruder
One of the other favorite things is my large Polymer Express Clay Gun.  It's an extruder gun that is easy to load, easy on your hand, holds a lot of fondant and is easy to clean.  Did I mention that it's very cool too?  There are small fondant extruders, which are fine if you are just a hobbyist, but if you are going to make a lot of cakes, spend a few extra dollars and you won't regret it.  The three circle die is cool because if you twist it slightly it looks just like rope.  Trying to make a fondant rope that looks even and smooth is not an easy task without one of these fantastic little tools.  I love this site in general because of all the cool stuff you can't find anywhere else, like some of their great impression mats.

What are some of your favorite tools and why?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beer Glass Grooms Cake

OMG!  I'm so glad it's Friday!!  Last weekend, I did a cake for a groom that loves Dogfish Head Beer.  We discussed carved bottles and beer steins, but the standard beer glass shape fit the couple's budget better.  The couple also wanted this to be fondant free... no problem!

We have several different methods for recreating logos, but anytime the logo is distressed (like this one) it makes it much harder.  For the Cricut, you almost have to edit out the distressing, but then you don't really get a super accurate logo.  For this cake, we decided to go use an edible image.

This cake is pretty tall, it was really 3 tiers, with 3 layer cakes making up each tier.  I wasn't exactly sure if this particular beer "foamed", but I thought it made for a much nicer presentation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Damask Buttercream Wedding Cake

The damask pattern look has been so big in wedding cakes for a while, but until now I haven't actually done one for a client (I did make a display cake).  I have had the stencils now for oh, like... ever!

I finally had a couple interested in a damask cake, but they did not want fondant on their cake.  I have stenciled on buttercream before, so I knew it was possible.  I really thought it would be harder, but it was actually not too bad.  I found the key was keeping the cake nice and cold while decorating it, and working in small sections. 

The borders are just ribbon and the roses are real roses provided by the florist.  This cake was delivered to the Loose Cannon Art Gallery in Chattanooga.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rose and Lace Display Cake

It seems nowadays I don't get to do smaller cakes anymore, even though I do enjoy doing them.

So when I needed to do some new display cakes for the shop, I opted to do some smaller ones.  Smaller cakes still showcase my skills while taking up a lot less space (and that's a good thing!)

This cake is pretty simple, but I loved the way it turned out!  I must be honest here - I did not make those roses.  I only wish I could make roses that looked that good!  I got them on clearance from Cal Java.  The lace is from a new mold I got at Earlene's Cakes, and every time I use it, I am amazed by their detail.  Not to mention how easy they are to use!

Thank you so much for stopping by and I hope you have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Take a Picture Before It's Done

For some of you this little tip may seem too obvious, but I was amazed at how long it took me to realize it.  Do you ever get a cake order and there's one part of the cake that makes it less marketable to other customers?  Not that there's anything wrong with it, and not that I expect people to only order cakes I have done before.  Take the cake above.  On the left was the finished wedding cake - the couple wanted a splash of their colors (hot pink and green) and a sign language topper.  The cake turned out beautifully and I was very proud of it.

As I was working on it however, at some point I had it all decorated except for the extra color and the topper.  So I pulled out the camera and snapped a few pictures of it in that pre-finished state.  If you're still trying to build your portfolio, this is a good way to get 2 pictures for the price of one!

So don't hesitate taking a photo for you before you finish making it for them!

For the record, this whimsical wedding cake went to Chattanooga's Creative Discovery Museum.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Second Blogiversary!!

Holy cannolis, can you believe that's been 2 years since I first started this little blog?  In the past year my number of followers has tripled and I have made some really good friends along the way!

Birthdays and anniversaries are good times for reflection. And since I have had more than a few people ask me how I got to where I am now, I will tell the tale of how Cup a Dee came to be!

Seven years ago I lived the corporate lifestyle.  I worked for a big retail chain as a regional visual director.  I was on the road constantly traveling to 50+ stores.  I made good money, but I was never home to enjoy it, or my house, my kitties, or my husband.

But I had been bitten by the cake bug!  Heck, I had always liked baking, but the more frustrated I became at my job, the more I baked on the weekends to relieve that stress.  It felt good, and people were always happy to see what I brought them on Monday mornings.

One fateful business trip to New York we visited the Magnolia bakeshop.  People were lined out the door to buy cupcakes for $3 a piece!  And you were limited to a dozen!!  Somewhere in the back of my mind, wheels began to slowly turn.  If they can do it, why can't I?

During this time I continued to do free cakes on the weekends, and I bought every Woman's World or other checkout isle magazine that had cakes on it.  Chad and I started taking Wilton classes at Michael's craft store.

And then we booked a trip to Cancun using my frequent flyer miles, and stayed at the Westin resort using my hotel points.  It was the off-season and the resort wasn't busy, and honestly, we were having a fabulous time just resting by the pool.  I'm a big fan of "self help" books and I used to buy them all the time hoping I would find the time to read them.  One of the books I grabbed for this trip?  The Practical Dreamer's Handbook by Paul and Sara Evans.  I sat by the pool all week, sipping pina coladas and reading that book.  And it changed me (the book, not the drinks)!  I suddenly realized that there were others out there that had left the rat race for something simpler, something happier.  That week I gained a laser focus - I would someday be a baker.  I discussed it with Chad and we started a rough plan on how to make this dream happen.

Things at the corporate job got worse and worse, and now, since I knew something better was on the horizon, I was unwilling to put up with it.  I knew my simple happy life making cakes was just around the corner.  One day I came home after a horrible week at work and told Chad that I wanted to quit work and sell cakes.  The only problem: I didn't know how to sell cakes and I still wasn't great at it.  I considered culinary school, but we really didn't have the money for me to quit work AND spend tuition money.  As fate would have it, I found out about a pastry chef opening in Chattanooga.  The job was making cakes and pastries for 2 restaurants, a B&B, and a coffee shop.  It didn't pay much, but it would keep the bills paid.  I took the job and turned in my notice at my big girl job.

My 8 months in that pastry kitchen is what I now affectionately refer to as "pastry bootcamp".  I went in at 4am and I generally got home about 6pm each night.  Most weeks I worked 6 days, and it was a salaried position... so no overtime for me :(  But I was learning how to do things I never imagined, and best of all, I was learning the business aspects too.  I was also seeing mistakes they were making, and all the while taking notes on how I would run my own business someday.

Eight months later I finally felt I was ready so I began working with the local health department on what I needed to do to legally bake from my house.  The answer was building a separate addition on to my house.  We got a home equity loan and over the course of about 5 months made that happen..

I was now open, but where were all the customers?  I leveraged all my friends.  My friend Mark was a real-estate agent and he needed "Thank You" gift baskets for his clients.  So I made gift baskets with banana bread and cookies.  Another friend called to ask me if I could cater a luncheon at her office... sure I can!  If someone was hungry and had money, we could do business!

As I said when I started, that was almost 7 years ago.  I have continued to take classes and watch videos to hone my skills and now I exclusively do cakes from my little pink kitchen.  And I am happier than ever!

As I blow out these 2 tiny blogiversary candles, my wish is that everyone out there who hasn't already will find their dream and live it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Celtic Monogram Wedding at the Grandview

This past weekend I delivered a cake to the Grandview, and it was a real cutie!  This time around, the couple wanted a fancy monogram on the middle tier.

I found a Celtic monogram font on dafont.com and printed it out on the edible image paper in really light beige font.  I then used this as a template to pipe my buttercream over it.  Pipe a layer and let it get cold, then pipe a layer on top of that. Once I have built it all up like I want it, I take a paintbrush and smooth everything out nice and smooth.

Amanda with Divine Designs did the florals on this cake and they really make it pop, don't you think?

Also, to my fellow decorators:  are any of you planning on attending ICES 2011 in North Carolina?  I have been looking at the schedule and trying to decide whether we want to go or not.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our First Icing Smiles Cake

A month or so ago, we received our first call to action from Icing Smiles.  This cake was to be for Corey, who is turning 15 on March 1st.  Corey's dream cake wish was for a Flatbed tractor trailer cake.  Corey's uncle drives for Sunbelt Transport and Corey's entire party was going to be Sunbelt themed.  The problem is that a flatbed trailer just doesn't equal up to a lot of cake.  So we decided that the flatbed truck needed to be hauling some presents for Corey.

But that wasn't our biggest challenge.  Corey had some dietary requirements; namely no chocolate, no caffeine, and no dairy.  No dairy!?!  But I'm known as the "all butter" buttercream lady!  I did some research and found that certain flavors of Duncan Hines cake mix (we used Vanilla for this cake) do not contain dairy.  And I made shortening icing which I haven't made since I was a wee decorator.  I had such a hard time trying to get that Crisco icing to do what I wanted!  It wouldn't firm up and  it wouldn't smooth properly!  And then I found that most of my fondants (even my candy melt modeling chocolate) contained milk products.  Only my Satin Ice fondant was completely milk free.  Luckily, the truck was supposed to be blue and I had a full unopened bucket of blue Satin Ice.

We were so excited when Corey and his family pulled up to get their cake!  Corey, all of his ailments aside, was still a typical 15 year old boy.  He liked his cake, but he seemed even more interested in the templates and the storyboard pages we put together.  So we gladly gave him those as well!

It was a very positive experience and I can't wait to be called upon again.  If any of you bakers reading this aren't already an Icing Smiles partner, please contact them today to join their expanding network.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Chattanooga Competition Cake in Detail

I have talked about the Formal Affair cake competition, and last time I discussed the bridal show and my encounter with Duff Goldman.  But I wanted to take another post to go into some detail about the cake we put on the table and some of the things we learned while doing the cake.  This is another long post and you can see much bigger pictures of each image by clicking on it.

Let's talk flavors first.  I almost never talk about the flavor of the cake or the icings, as most time it doesn't affect the look of the cakes.  But the competition was based on taste too.  I wanted to do something unique, and it very well may have backfired on me.  I chose to make the cake a banana cake with a salted caramel filling and my vanilla house buttercream.  Chad and I both thought it was delicious, in fact we ate it for most of the week.

OK, on to the cake.  With the exception of the very top of the Aquarium tier, everything on this cake was edible.  Only cake, fondant, and modeling chocolate.  We didn't even use any rice crispy treats, but we did use just a few small edible images.

Bottom Tier

Since this cake was suppose to be a Chattanooga Themed Groom's cake, we decided to make the cake about places that our fictional groom likes to visit.  So we decided to make it about the places in Chattanooga that WE like to visit.  The bottom tier was a 16" square cake that represented downtown Chattanooga.  Our initial plan was to make this bottom tier one business, but we wanted our cake to be decorated and pretty on all sides.  So we took on the job of making a separate business on each side of this tier.  And here they are in no particular order:
Clumpies Ice Cream
Clumpies Ice Cream has some of the best Ice cream in Chattanooga.  We cut the logo out of modeling chocolate and made the ice cream scoops by actually scooping out modeling chocolate with a mini scoop.

The Comedy Catch
We have seen SO many great acts at the Comedy Catch that we thought it would just be un-Chattanooga-like to omit it.  Although once I started making it, I realized there weren't a lot of "accessories" I could make to go with it.  I molded the comedy masks out of modeling chocolate, as well as the logo.  The awning was made using fondant with tylose.  I had real intentions of making a microphone stand, but I ran out of time.

The Terminal Brewhouse
The Terminal Brewhouse is just a stone's throw away from the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  We have dropped in many a Saturday afternoon to have lunch after delivering cakes.  They have great beer, even better food and they're one of those rare companies that don't take themselves too seriously.  Their menu is filled with humorous bits that on first glance you might not even notice. The accessories were all made from modeling chocolate, and so was the logo, except for the name (we used an edible image for the "THE" and "BREWHOUSE" lettering.

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts
CJDD is probably the newest business on this cake, but in a very short time they have won our sweet-loving hearts.  They make some of the BEST donuts.  Anytime we go near there, Chaddy wants to stop for a pancakes and bacon donut.  I made all of the donuts and accessories from modeling chocolate, fondant, and icing and piping gel (for the fillings).  I initially hand-painted the Julie Darling heart, but the white-on-red was the only thing that looked bad, so after this picture was taken we printed the whole heart with wording as an edible image.

TIER 2 & 3

Lupi's Pizza and UTC Mocs
I wanted a short tier on my cake and an extra tall one.  Why not put them together?  The pizza tier represents our favorite pizza place in Chattanooga, Lupi's.  Lupis is another place where you can go and have fun.  There are action figures glued to the walls, Christmas lights used to make tree sculptures, and they're always cranking some eclectic tunes.  The pan is cake airbrushed silver and the pizza is fondant that I dry brushed to give that hearth baked look.  One cool technique here was that I froze and grated fondant to make cheese.  I wasn't entirely happy with it, so Chaddy suggested I take the blow torch to it.  Amazingly enough, it melted and browned, just like real cheese!

The next tier I wanted really tall, but I also wanted more of a traditional "cake" shape.  Now I realize that the corset shape is not the most traditional, and still carved, but I liked the look.  We cut the harlequin shapes out of modeling chocolate and we used the Cricut to cut out the UTC Mocs logos.  Chad worked on the graphics files and cut the logos.  It took him 2 nights to put them together, but they were extremely detailed and clean.


Krystal Burger
They're hot, small, and square - it's the delicious Krystal burger.  And since they're headquartered  in Chattanooga, how could we NOT include them?  The box and the logo are modeling chocolate and the burger is cake covered in fondant and again dry brushed with various colored dusts to give that baked look.  Even though we wound up cutting some of the "burger" off for the aquarium to sit on, we made it as a standalone cake so we could get some really good pictures of it.


The Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the most recognizable buildings in Chattanooga.  We pulled multiple pictures off the Internet and even scouted the location and took our own pictures to make sure we had just the right angles.  The walls are painted modeling chocolate, but the logos are edible images.  The roof, oh that roof!  I thought about using isomalt, but I was really worried about the weight and the fragility of it.  The actual roof has a grid pattern to it, so I decided to use gelatin sheets instead.  I made a wire frame and used tylose glue to adhere the panels to the wire frame.  The sheets were very brittle, but a short stay in the cooler softened them enough to make them pliable without getting too gummy.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I will comment back with the answer.  Check back on Friday when I blog about our first Icing Smiles cake!!


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