Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Megan vs Morgan - A Tale of On Site Repair

So only a couple of weeks ago I was telling you about my cake emergency kit and about all the things I did to make sure everything is perfect before I leave the shop.  You all remember that right?  Well, it would seem I jinxed myself.

I made this sweet 16 cake this past weekend.  It looks great right?  Except somewhere between reading the order and cutting the letters for the cake, some how Morgan's cake became "Megan's" cake.  I don't know where the mix up happened, and that's the point of this post - none of that really matters when you get to the event and something's wrong with the cake.

So I can tell you to read through those orders thoroughly multiple times, but the more important lesson is how I fixed it on site.

As soon as the mother told me the name was wrong, I started thinking of ways to fix things before she even finished her sentence.  I told her very confidently that we would take care of it and make it right.  The venue was an hours drive (round trip) so that was my LAST option.  I had also cut a second set of name letters for the back of the cake.  The cake was against a wall, so I removed the back set of letters.  I had covered the cake with sanding sugar to give it a frosted effect and I had also sprinkled the cake board with it too.  I took a couple of pinches and sprinkled it where the letters had been .  The back now looked great.

OK, so letters I took off are now what I have to work with to fix the front.  I  cut the "e" and fashioned it into an "o".  That worked well.  And then there's that extra "n".  Cut it at just the right place and it becomes an "r".  Alright, now I have the letters I need.  From there I swapped the old "e" with the new "o" and moved the "gan" over just a smidge to fit in that "r".

All that smooshing and moving took a little of my silver luster dust off some of the letters.  They looked a little mottled.  I didn't have any extra silver luster dust in my kit, but I had my small bottle of PGA, a small paint brush, and some (now) extra silver letters that weren't going to be used.  I put some PGA on the brushed and scrubbed the extra silver letters to collect of that precious silver dust.  Then I used this to paint over the letters, which evened things out pretty nicely.

So how did it turn out?

Not too bad, huh?

Now I fully realize that luck and ingenuity was on my side that day.  Things could have turned sour very quickly and these types of situations should certainly be the exception and not the rule.  But it's SO important to know what can go wrong, and what you would do if it did.

As always, I appreciate each of you that stop by to read my little 'ol blog - Have a great week!

... and Happy Birthday MORGAN!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Champagne Khaki Lace Wedding Cake

The holidays are over and the new wedding season has begun.  We've already had one big bridal show in our area and will have another next month.  A lot of brides get engaged during the holidays because smart men want to have all the family around and buy a present/ring that is a sure hit.  Since we are mostly doing taxes and consultations this time of year, I thought we had better find a cake that we had forgot to share. 

This "little" number is a 6/10/14" combo that was covered in a few lace fondant pieces.  It was a very heavy cake because it was carrot cake and cream cheese icing for a filling.  I don't offer cream cheese icing for the outside.  My crazy reasons are as follows:  Cream cheese icing doesn't get as hard in the cooler as 100% all butter icing and with the method I use to smooth cakes, I can't seem to get it as perfectly smooth.  Also, I have seen several of my cakes iced in cream cheese icing develop a "bubble" or "blister" as they are settling.  I've tried several techniques to avoid this, but it still has happened and I refuse to take a chance with someone's wedding cake.  Once a blister develops, you can often just push it back down after you put a pin hole in it, but if there is some intricate piping or stenciling you have less options.   My cream cheese icing is ofter very thick and will tear up fresh, soft cake when putting on the crumb coat.  People love the taste, so I haven't changed it....yet!  There are three new recipes out on my fridge just waiting to be tested!

The "trendy" thing about this cake is the champagne/khaki color.  I have taken art class and I own several color wheels, but yet this one puzzled me.  Many brides are using shades of these colors for their events.  If you know this, great for you, but I had the hardest time getting the right color.  I kept thinking it was just a light brown so I mixed, and mixed, and threw away.  Come to find out that these colors are made with (2 parts)yellow, (1 part)pink, and (1 part)blue.  I mean, come on, really?!?   Thank you Google!  I would have still been mixing!  Another chart I found said to mix ivory and violet (AmeriColor) but I haven't tried that one yet, but I will since it's less steps!

The lace were molds, as was the silver giant brooch on the middle tier.   Most of the molds are "Earlene's" in case you want them.  The middle tier was hard for me because it was supposed to be "messy" or organic.  I really like balance and order, so these are real challenges for me not to "fix".  Using Fondarific was a big help with this because of the unlimited work time and ability to stretch without tearing.  I love that stuff! 

It was nice taking a break with you, but I have got to get back to my taxes.  It's great wearing all the hats a small business owner gets to wear.  I just wish they were "fancy" hats like our friends in England. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

22 Items You Need in Your Cake Emergency Kit

Cake decorators do 95% of their work before they ever leave the bakery.  On a good day, you walk in to the venue and sit the cake down and you're gone in 5 minutes.  But every decorator worth their salt comes prepared for every eventuality.  Every decorator needs a cake emergency kit.  Here are the 22 items I take with me on every delivery.

  1. Two Big Angled Spatulas - .  If you ever have to move a cake off a board or reposition a tier, these will come in very handy.
  2. Floral Wire - I have had to use these on real flowers and poorly made toppers on many occasion.
  3. Electrical Adapter - OK, I have only needed this once or twice, but it's small and I like having it in there.  ;-)
  4. Fondant Roller - Self explanatory really, I keep it in case I need to make onsite repairs.
  5. Grippy Shelf Liner -I keep small squares of this and I use it to level wobbly cake tables, or keep a cake from sliding on a cake stand.
  6. Fondant Smoother - Again, I keep this for onsite repairs if needed.
  7. Fondant Scraps to Match Cake -I keep This comes in handy for repairs or for leveling wobbly toppers.
  8. Buttercream to Match Cake (not pictured) - This too is for patching boo boos!

  1. Business Cards - You should always have business cards.  Lots of networking can happen while making a delivery.
  2. Various Pearls / Dragees - I always keep a nice assortment of these with me at all times, just in case I need them.
  3. SassieSap - Need to re-affix a gumpaste flower to a cake?  SassieSap is just what you need!
  4. Floral Tape - I use this on flowers and on monogram cake toppers with teenie tiny picks.
  5. Needlenose Pliers / Wire Cutters - These come in handy for ALL sorts of things.
  6. Fat Ivan Door Choc - I just got this for Christmas and I don't know how I did without it.  Fat Ivan folds out and hangs on a door's hinge to hold it open while I bring in the cake.  NICE!
  7. Small Knife - Always bring a knife to a cake fight! :-)
  8. Small Angled Spatula - This is the spatula I use for minor repair work.
  9. Tide Pen / Shout Wipes - When you deliver a cake, you usually put it on a table with a really nice tablecloth.  If I should ever get anything on that pristine cloth, I use these to clean up my mess.
  10. Small Bottle PGA / Vodka - If you ever get a smudge on fondant, this will help you clean it off.
  11. Scissors - We all know what scissors do, right?  Just don't run with them!

  1. An Assortment of Dowels, Straws, Skewers, and Toothpicks - I almost always use these items for cake toppers.  Super heavy?  Support them with straws.  Short pick?  Use a skewer and some of that floral tape to make it work!
  2. Paper Towels - If there is an emergency, you'll need something for clean up.
  3. Rubber Gloves - If things go south during a delivery, you'll want to don a pair of rubber gloves, cause we all wear gloves when working with food, right?
Depending on the cake, I may bring more items (like extra flowers / petals), but the above items are always in there.  Keeping things in baggies helps keep things nice and clean too.

What do you think about the list?  Are there any things you think you'll be adding to your kit?  Are there some things you think I left out?

Have a great week!

PS - If you're looking to find the winner of the impression mats, please check out this post!

Impression Mat Winner!

OK, I realized today's real post was going to be quite large, so I decided to make a special post just to announce the winner of the impression mat set!

15 crafty culinary combatants entered their names and only one emerged victorious.  Random.org has determined the winner to be:

And lucky number 7 is... VictoriaGrace!

Congratulations!  I have sent you an e-mail to get your mailing address.  To everyone else, I'm so sorry - I wished there were prizes for everyone!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hotlanta Field Trip & Giveaway

Even though we live in a very small town, we are lucky enough to be about 20 minutes from Chattanooga, TN and only about an hour's drive away from Atlanta, GA.  This past weekend we didn't have any cakes on the books, so I decided that a field trip was in order.  You enjoy reading about my baking adventures, so I thought you might enjoy reading about our cake field trip.

Our first stop of the day was at Cake Art.  You can get the standard Wilton stuff from Michaels or Hobby Lobby around here, and we have one or two small cake shops, but Cake Art is a decorating Mecca!

SO many impression mats to choose from!
A whole aisle of sprinkles!  One of each, please!

YDFM is probably the closest thing to experiencing shopping in another country.  This place is a no-frills warehouse piled from floor to ceiling with some of the freshest, most exotic ingredients that I have ever seen.  Row after row of spices, specialty flours, and various sundries from various countries doesn't even start to scratch the surface.  There's also a huge produce section packed with fruits and veggies, some that appear to have been cultivated from other planets.  And then there's their seafood and meat department!  It's the only place I have ever seen where you can buy fresh octopus!!

Photography was not allowed (?!?) But we managed to snap a quick pic!

If you have ever looked at cakes on the Internet, or watched a Food Network cake competition, then you have probably seen the amazing work of Karen Portaleo from Highland Bakery.  I wasn't sure I was at the right place at first.  I walked in to a very small bakery area with a huge restaurant.  We were hungry, so we decided to grab a table and get some lunch.  Where we were sitting, I could see into the kitchen, and I had convinced myself we were at another Highland Bakery.  But when I asked the waiter, he told me that Karen did indeed work there and that there was a huge baking kitchen behind the bakery counter.  Karen wasn't there, but I did have a great lunch!  Their peanut butter french toast was the bomb!!

If you have a Trader Joes in your town, consider yourself lucky.  Whenever we get a chance to go to one, we always bring a cooler.  Needless to say, we filled the cooler and then some.  Look at all that loot!

I know it looks like a full buggy, but to be honest, the buggies are really small!

We really weren't planning on an Ikea visit, but we were still feeling energetic, so we spent the last of our energy there.  I actually think I made it though there in record time!  Here's a little something I scored that you will be seeing in future cake pics!

Still thinking about painting this guy chrome!

All in all we had a super great day traipsing around the big city. As always, Cake Art was my favorite stop.  I shop online every week for cake supplies, but there's something very cool about seeing the items and holding them in your hand.  Once we got home, I collected our Cake Art haul all together...

There's actually a lot of stuff there!  And since I scored big, I saw no reason why I should leave you guys out!  So... I picked up an extra pack of impression mats to share with one of you guys.  The pack I'm giving away features a chevron pattern, plus some other stuff.  If you're interested in winning, leave a comment on this post and make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win.  You have until midnight (EST) on Sunday January 13th to leave your comment and enter the giveaway.  I will announce the winner on Tuesday January 15th.  Good Luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year to do New Things

I love the new year, but I don't make resolutions.  I usually have so many "goals" that there is no need for resolutions.  For so long most of our goals have been " Cup a Dee" goals and we've reached most of them, even the ones that involved "doing less". Every year I do taxes and that brings a whole other set of goals (saving, finding better sources, keeping records quarterly instead of waiting until the end of the year).  There is so much to be grateful for that I hate to admit that we are a little burnt out.  I'm not excited when the phone rings and I'm bored with my cakes.  Chad has to redo the entire website to reflect our new business route (only wedding/groom's cakes).  But love his big heart, he isn't "excited" about all that work anymore than I'm jumping on those naked cake dummies that need to be beautiful display cakes.  I don't want to stop doing cakes, but I do want to stop doing the same cakes.  The weekly routine of diamond patterns/scrolls/monograms/dots is going to stop.  New and often hard designs puts energy in our "tank" better than money ever can.   It isn't that I don't try to get brides to do something new or different.  I have an inspiration book with other bakers cakes that I show the brides.  I have two full pages of "The Caketress", whom I adore, but not once in twelve months has a bride asked for any parts of her cakes.

So I'm going to do the following and see how it goes (which you will be able to tell because the kinds of cakes that we post).  I am going to go through all my cake inspiration photos, my book and website, and remove anything that I don't want to make again.  I'm going to make new cake displays in the fashion of what can be done, not was has been done.   Some maybe similar to another cake artist, but what is hot in the big city has not found it's way to Chattanooga, TN.  I have also found these great posts/blogs that are helping to pump me up!

Erica OBrien is in a little bit of the same boat, but it may be a little easier when you are as AWESOME as she is!

SugarZen Blog.  Ruth Rickey is such an experienced cake business person and teacher and I love how she speaks to us so frankly and wisely!

I would LOVE to hear your suggestions of what you do to cake-energize or think would help us do the same.  2013 is going to be great!


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