Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monster Truck Birthday Cake

We were asked to make a cake for a vendor's grandson and we were given free reign on the design.  I love that, but sometimes it stresses me out!

Anything I want!?! Oh. I have to consider how
Much the I have left in the week? Well that happens with lots things doesn't it!

The final cake only had one tier that was all fondant and that was the tire.  The tan tiers are all buttercream and the "dirt" is graham cracker crumbs.  We striped the bag for the flames and used a leaf tip.  We cheated and used a chocolate mold for the truck and card stock for the flags.  We used part of our cake scraps (the hump we cut off to level the layer) to make a hill for the truck.  I like the way it came out and am glad it didn't get too busy like a lot of cakes.  I think Landon loved it too!

I hope that 2015 brings us all much success and plenty of cakes to decorate!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Millennium Falcon Birthday Cake

If you follow our blog, you will know that each year we get to make a fantastic cake for a sweet little birthday boy named Kaben.  His Mom gives us lots of freedom in terms of design and budget, so the cakes are fun for us to make.  This is the first year that we haven't done a tiered cake, but we spent more hours than ever before.

The biggest challenge making sculpted cakes can be figuring out the structure under the cake that will hold everything up.  It is scary and feels like you are more of a handyman that a baker.  Having a cake with pipes and plywood also cut down the amount of servings in the cake.  Our commercial refrigerator has a 22" wide door opening, so that limits our cake size and cake board.  Most sculpted cakes are built on the board with the armature screwed in and everything secured down.  When a customer needs a lot of servings and wants sculpted cake, you have to know your bakery's limitations.  You may need to add sheet cakes or smaller matching cakes to fill the order.  For this cake, I did need a lot of servings, about 100, and started the cake as large as I could while using my 22" cake board.  To get as many servings possible and avoid making an internal structure, I used a sturdy mud cake and sculpted the cake out of one BIG hunk of cake.  There were no supports, boards, wires or anything non-edible in the cake.  All the rectangles of cakes shown are 11x 14" layers.

This pic shows the cake structure underneath... Barely visible, right?

We've made a little movie to show how the progression of the cake sculpting.  Since the "real" Millennium Falcon is fairly flat and pizza like, we decided to sculpt it at an angle to get more cake servings.  We made the ships "stand" a little smaller and covered it in black Fondarific.  The idea is that it kind of disappears and isn't very noticeable.

A video posted by Jenniffer White (@cupadee) on

I did get distracted and forgot to keep taking pictures once the decorating got started.  I will give you a few words of advice if you decide to tackle a cake like this:

  1. Use a firm cake.  Soft boxed mix type texture will not hold up to the process, even if you keep it cold.
  2. Find templates, blow them up to the correct size, cover in packing tape to laminate, and use them the very best you can.  Cut smaller than the template because when you add buttercream and then modeling chocolate it will "grow" into the template.
  3. Use only modeling chocolate.  These are all panels that are fit together so you can cut sharply and maintain sharp corners.  You also have unlimited working time to go back and add lines and such.
  4. Use icing tips, #0, #00, #1 and #2 to add lots of very little details like "rivet" marks.
  5. Since the add on pieces are so very small and thin, your hands will melt them really fast.  You can put an ice pack under your cookie sheet with the pieces on them.  We applied these tiny pieces by picking them up and positioning them with a pin.  That way you don't melt or distort them.
  6. Print out a piece of edible image paper 1/2 black and 1/2 red.  We used this to add all the little colors.  It looks MUCH sharper than painting the small details.  Those details are not all accurate.  At that point, I was "winging it" just to make it look good.
  7. Dry brushing will get into the scored lines and bring out the details.  It also makes it look more authentic and less showroom new.

Lastly, if you want to make this cake, schedule 40 hours of decorating time.  That's not including baking, making templates, and research.  I've seen a similar cake done in all buttercream and it was nice, but I like sharper look and cleaner details.  If you want a simpler version (I don't mean that ugly), that might be the avenue to take.  If you get it done in 20 hours, send me a picture so I can give you a shout out!

Thanks to all of you that stop in and read my little old blog from time to time.  I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a joyous 2015!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Collection Groom's Cake

Can you believe we've done five book themed wedding or groom's cakes?  Who knew it was such a big thing?  The sweet little couple that wanted this cake knew exactly what they wanted, titles and colors.  All I had to do was make the cake.  The groom wanted raised letters, so no edible images. We cut these out of modeling chocolate.  We used all modeling chocolate in fact. Not only does it taste better, it cuts so nice and clean with no stretching.  Great for sharp edges!  We have a line cutter that we use to mark the "pages".  You kind of go back and forth and all over with it, but it scratches up the surface to look like lots of pages. Way easier than a knife!  You can find it online here.   It was a pretty large and HEAVY cake! I hope the couple loved it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Camera Lens Groom's Cake

We have mentioned in previous posts about finding designs that will meet the needs of you client's vision and budget. This groom wanted a Nikon camera cake but that's a little involved. This camera lens cake was a cool compromise. It's still a cool cake but was six 9" round cakes and required only a tiny bit of carving. To be accurate I should have carved in at the bottom to about an 8" round but I didn't want to lose any structural integrity. This was a soft cake and it doesn't hold up well to a bunch of carving.

We used Fondarific in black for the sides. We rolled out the band and cut the right height. We then embossed a pattern to mimic the real thing and chilled it for a few minutes so the design didn't stretch out when applying it to the sides. Next we just added some bands with other textures on the top and bottom. This also helped give an illusion of a carved cake. Next we added a circle on top to be the "lens". We added some bands around the top lip and side of the lens. That piece was cut to go above the lens and give the appearance of a inset lens. I hope that makes sense, I know it sounds a little crazy. Just make sure all your bands line up the same in the back.

Chad printed the graphics out on edible image paper. My mistake on this cake was a common one. Anytime you apply an edible image, it needs to go onto a white or very light background or the color bleeds through the image. If you can't add a small piece of white fondant behind the graphic, then use a fresh page of edible image as a white background. I didn't and the black color came through. I know better! Bad cake decorator!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Calvin & Hobbes First Birthday

We love Calvin and Hobbes, but we can't recreate those sweet characters in 3-D unless we had lots of time and the customer had lots of money to spend.  We have learned over the years to do our level best not to say "no" to a design.  You have to offer options that fit your skill set and their budget.  I don't feel it's right to agree to make a cake that a baker doesn't know IF they can do it.  Almost every cake is unique in my situation, but most aren't made with unfamiliar techniques.  When you are asking a baker to create something you have not seen in their portfolio, offer to pay for a small cake in the same technique before you sign the contract for the larger cake. Please trust me, it will be money well spent, a lot like cake insurance.


Part of the awesomeness of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon is their font, so we made a stencil for the verbiage.  We printed the characters out with edible images and cut them out. For some reason, I wanted the bubble/non flat image so I tried something new. It was not without challenges, mainly trying not to tear or stretch the images. We used the cut images to cut a piece of modeling chocolate out and thinned down the edges.  Then we dry fitted the image again and trimmed again, repeating the process.

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my
lucky rocket ship underpants don't help.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Little World Traveler Birthday Cake

We make very few birthday cakes and those that we do make as never money makers so I am doing them as a favor, gift or for someone very special.  One of our sweetest brides ever adopted a little girl and asked us to make her a special cake.  It had to be driven two hours to Atlanta, GA by the Grandmother so it had to be sturdy. 

One of my requirements for birthday cakes these days is that I get lots of artistic freedom.  They gave me very little instructions other than maps with muted colors and the color palette you see.  I gave them a few ideas and off we went!   Of course we did fondant so it could travel well and we printed the maps with edible images.  Finding a "pretty and girly" map is not easy!  I was teaching my intern some of the basics like making pearl borders, fondant bows, and "fantasy" flowers.  We spent a long time but she learned a lot about taking a basic flower and using the ball tool, textures, and how to dry them so they all fit together later.  We also made the handle, latches and luggage tag by hand.  The "smash" cake was just a little 1/2 globe with the edible images cut out by continent so we could make it pretty, but not accurate :)  There is really nothing technically hard about decorating this cake, but that doesn't mean it's quick either.  I think we had two full days of artwork in this one cake, which is why I say they are not money makers they are really labors of love!  I was really paid by the sweet and wonderful reaction that I got from the family!  I'm so fortunate to be able to make cakes for wonderful people and have an impact on their lives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Purple Orchid Wedding

I hate purple, well at least purple wedding cakes. It's so hard to match, with some purples having lots of blue and some shades having lots of red.  Not to mention the super dark colors like these orchids.  It takes a lot of food coloring!  Also, you have to have a good photographer or all the purple throughout the wedding decor will photograph as black.  Well  that isn't so bad, right? Well after you kill yourself to get the right shade of purple, any UV or natural light fades the colors!  This fading happens fast! We recommend keeping all your purple covered with something light cannot penetrate like foil.  The one thing I have found that helps in painting your items with petal dust.  You can start with dark purple and just paint over it.  We heard about adding some baking soda to the fondant would keep it from fading, but in our experiments it didn't make a difference.  Stupid purple!

There where some interesting colors on this cake, but as usual when we get it to the venue with all the other decorations, cloths and flowers, it was perfect! It is hard to tell, but the top and third tier has sanding sugar all over it.  It's pretty and adds a little texture and crunch to the cake.  The monogram was done with Fondarific.  We used a stencil to trace the letter with a wooden tool and then really "carved" it in and then painted it with petal dust.  The stencil was done with buttercream and on buttercream.

So today's project?  Making dark purple flowers for this weekend's wedding! Argh!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Best Deals on Buying Cake Supplies

Photo borrowed from Yelp, because I forgot to take one!
Buying supplies for a small business is a part time job in itself, especially if you are watching your pennies. I have spent hours comparing prices, shipping charges and finding new vendors. For today's blog post I'm going to tell you where I have found the best deals for me. Keep in mind that I live in Georgia so my shipping charges my vary widely from yours.

FondX, Elite, candy melts, meringue powder, some cake boards and boxes. They have a lot of other tools and such that are equally priced as their competitors. I love "the Mat" and don't think I could cover cakes without it! They also carry Satin Ice but I don't like it so I don't buy it anywhere.

This is for wholesale and you must have a business license but the prices are worth the trouble. There is a $150 minimum but that's pretty easy to spend. I get my cake boards and all sorts of CK products here. My hint, do not get their brand of fondant. It is horrible!

They have so great and unique molds and a nice variety of decorating tools. I also love they special way of wrapping all their packages in a
personal way.

http://www.discountsugarflowers.com. (Wholesale Sugar Flowers)
Cheap and Nice gum paste and royal icing flowers. They have a big selection but sometimes you will need to order ahead a bit. Don't wait to buy peonies you need in June when you need them the next week. They will be out of stock.

Sam's Club and Costco
We buy butter, sugar, eggs, and all the other food staples. We also get aprons and paper towels here. The fresh fruit is so much cheaper than local grocery stores and even wholesale produce companies! Sam's has let me down many times by being out of a staple that I needed. I like having the Costco as a backup.

Local Restaurant Supply Shop
They don't have to see your business license unless you want to be tax exempt. I only buy large quantities of boxes from these guys. They are more expensive until you factor in shipping from the other guys. It's a killer on boxes!

Specialty gum paste flowers. These are way more expensive than Wholesale Sugar Flowers, but sometimes that is what you need.

http://www.cakedeco.com  (Pfeil & Holing)
Very lard containers of sanding sugar, jimmies and quinn's. Quinn's are the little circles sprinkles that people are putting a ton on a cake and painting them to look like sequins.

These people have the prettiest gum paste flowers pictured to drool over! They only sell the cutter to make them, but they are great tools! I love all their other cutters for Art Deco, repeating patterns and well everything! Their stuff is great and I don't care how much it costs!

Cake styrofoam dummies and separator pieces. They are already cheap, but if you buy $200, you can get a 40% discount, but then you have to buy more!

Best and biggest extruded guns and various dies. Love mine!

Full disclosure, I used to buy a lot from these guys. I have been finding better prices, shipping and products on the first two sites listed above.

Silicone molds with a huge selection! There are sites above that carry these molds, but they don't have the full selection or good sales with nice discounts.

Favorite stencils ever! Just like the molds above, you can get them elsewhere but not with as big of a selection.

Fondarific on Fondarific.com vs. Amazon.com
I use Fondarific for making lots of decorations like bead borders because the chill up hard very quickly so they don't distort when unfolding. A WHOLESALE account with shipping factored in is almost the same price as what I can buy the same thing on Amazon for a few dollars more. I have a Prime membership so I get free two day shipping and that is factored in here. It's kind of a pain buying from Fondarific Wholesale so I'm going to stick with Amazon for this.

I know this was a long post, but we buy from a lot of places. If you have a favorite place to buy supplies, please let us know so we can learn from your experiences too!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ruffles and Lace Wedding

My area of the country follows trends, but about two years behind New York.  Currently we have a lot of brides wanting two main colors, but both neutrals.  Shades of ivory with white and shades of grey with cream both seem to be very trendy. Khaki, tan, ivory and champagne are the hardest colors to make in my opinion.  I've had art class, but I see.med to have forgotten that lesson.  if you just use the ivory color, it's too yellow.  Adding a little brown coloring in you icing makes a weird color, but it's not tan.  If you are short on time, know this:  GOLDEN YELLOW + PURPLE = TAN.  You can add some pink for more champagne of green for more of a khaki, but starting out with a nice tan instead of  a weird yellow is key.  I could give you many great articles on coloring, but here is one great one with links to other great ones.  Don't get mad at me if I send you down a wormhole of learning!

This is talking about royal icing, but we all know it's just the same to make fondant.  If you are coloring real butter-buttercream, take in to account that it is already pale yellow.  What I like to do is make a "color concentrate".  In this instance, I made a cup of a really dark khaki.  Then you can make a formula that is more controllable like "1 TBL color concentrate mixed with 1 LB buttercream".  This is handy because we often guess how much colored icing we need for a cake.  If we make too much, we are stuck with a color we may not need again for a long time (mix it into black!) or we run short and can't match the original shade.  You can also freeze leftover concentrate for later uses or just throw it away and you have only wasted a little.

I have been talking about color because there is not much exciting to say about this cake.  Sorry "my bride" if you are reading this but in the cake world this was not new or exciting.  It's classy and pretty just not AWESOME.  I made this cake before, so that was my "inspiration" but we changed the base color and broach color.  The advice for a fellow baker is to let your lace pieces chill before you un-mold them and maybe again before you apply them to the cake.  If you are pressing a soft piece of fondant firmly, you will loose some of the detail due to squishing.  I love Fondarific or these pieces because they get firm very quickly in the cooler.  Also, don't overfill the mold or the lace will be thick and that's just not attractive :)  Now go make some tan icing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day of the Dead Wedding Cake

I made this wedding cake back in March... MARCH!  You have no idea how hard it was to sit on these pictures so that I could save them for this Halloween post!  NO IDEA!!

This couple was a baker's dream couple.  Super nice, easy to work with, and enjoyed thinking WAY outside the box.  This whole wedding was Day of the Dead themed, which is a celebration and remembrance for loved ones that have passed on.  It is a huge celebration in Mexico and other countries.

I had such a fun time making this cake.  And I think the best part of it all was during the delivery, someone walked into the reception site and yelled "Holy Sh*t, is that the cake?!"  When the wedding cake in question is purple and lime green with dancing sombrero-ed skeletons and a huge skull tier I think that's the best reaction you can hope for!

What are you doing for Halloween?  We are going out with some friends and we are all dressing up like characters from the Wizard of Oz.  Doesn't that sound like a hoot?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wedding Cake with a Twist...that I don't like!

Can I vent here?  Really vent because you are reading my blog, so it's OK right?  I have to say this cake just drove me crazy!  I don't like the twist.  I didn't want to do the quarter twist.  What is the point of the twist?  Where is the front?  How do I place it at the venue?  What direction should I install the monogram topper? OK, now that's out of my sys... no!  WHY?  If the cake was too "normal, we could have done a more daring, offbeat cake without making it look like I was drunk and riding the tilt-a-whirl when I was stacking it!
Are you new to cake making or client pleasing?  PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES and make what they want.  Then start a blog and complain a little to keep your sanity...well a little sanity.  I have a good eye and good taste.  I was paid well for a long time to use those talents in the retail world.  Not all people have those things and I've come to accept that.  I don't think this cake is tacky or ugly, it just goes against my nature of symmetry. But I have been and will be asked to make tacky cakes.  I have done some turned some down.  I'm an artist, but also a business person.  Momma has to pay the bills! If you can make a product and still lay your business card down right next to it because you made that product the best it could be done, then do it.  If you would be so ashamed for people to know you made "that" and would never make it again, then don't make it in the first place.  Learn skills today that will let you steer a customer to a better option that will suit you both.  That may include you making another design cheaper to encourage the customer to pick the thing you want to make  (or overpricing the item you don't want to do, but my honesty gets in the way).  Sometimes you need to give options because of you don't want to tarnish "your brand" or you simply don't have the skills to make a certain design or the customers budget does not agree with their first choice.  You need the ability to adapt and "roll with the punches" whether that means making a cake you don't like or coming up with a better plan.  I hope all your projects this week are ones that you love!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Girlie Sock Monkey Cake

To be honest, the week has gotten away from me and I need to squeak out a little blog really quick.  We have a customer that we have been able to make most of her kids birthday cakes.  She trusts us by giving us a theme, colors and budget and lets us go for it.  We had a tiny budget so we employed the use of time savers like a stencil and some easy little buttons.  Well, the stencil was supposed to be easy but it was a pain.  All the little lines wanted to get stuck in the stencil.  The cake has to be very cold so the little lines hardened quickly.  We had to work fast!  The sock monkey was inspired by a figure made by "Sugar High".   If I did it all over again, the pinks would match better.  The light pink diamond stencil on top of gray buttercream just got washed out.

My tip for new decorators is use tylose powder when making animals and figures.  If you put a few pinches the day before you make a figure it will absorb the extra liquid and let the fondant hold it's shape.  You can also make a 50-50 mix of gumpaste and fondant to hold it's shape.  Tylose is also used when making fondant bows to get them to dry hard.  Tylose does not work in modeling chocolate or Fondarific.  Happy Caking!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gold Dots and Instagram

Cup a Dee Cakes Making a gold dot & line cake #flipagram made with @flipagram

We make cakes for a living, but our part time job is social media.  It really does take up a lot of time for a small business owner and we certainly are not making the most of all the internet has to offer.  We have a very visual business, so we just joined Instagram!  More of our customers want to see pictures and not read lines of texts so we are trying to work on expanding our efforts toward that.

We made a very simple cake last week.  It was a 3 layer 6" and a 6 layer 9" combination in buttercream. We scored organic lines (another word for not perfect) and painted gold dots on the buttercream for the top tier.  We added some live baby's breath at the venue.  The fun part is that we took about 100 photos in process and used an app called flip a gram to make a little 15 second video for Instagram.  That s the longest video you can make for Instagram, lesson learned!  Please take a look and follow us! We need an audience if we are going to take that many pictures of a project!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chevron Cake

We were asked to make a cake for a "Chapel talk" for GPS seniors.  The young lady that speaks at the service provides tea and snacks for all the attendees.  My clients had a very specific design that was very similar to a Charm City Cakes design.  We added a little something here and there, but I certainly give them credit for the design.

The bottom tier was six thick layers high.  The very dark teal was hard to make and probably the most challenging part of the project.  When making a super dark color, start with dark pre-colored fondant, never white.  Make sure to add some black.  If you can purchase some powdered color, it would help.  The amount of gel color you have to add makes your fondant very sticky and loose.  You will need to work powdered sugar in with the color to keep the fondant the right consistency.  For the chevron design, we made a stencil and traced the design with a scribe (a pin with a handle).  We used Nu-silver and painted on the design.  We did the same with the pink layer, but just painted the stripes with super pearl luster.

For the total silver baby tier, we painted it instead of airbrushed. To remove the brush strokes, just go over with a soft brush in a circular motion using a little more dust. For the silver dots we trimmed off the tip of a stiff paint brush so it was a dot stamp more or less.  We had to do more than stamp it, but it got the job done.  The peonies were purchased at Wholesale Sugar Flowers.  Last but not least, the pretty backdrop is from Ink and Elm.  I love their backdrops!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cookie Groom's Cake

Weddings are huge productions where many tiny (or not-so-tiny) pieces all fit together seamlessly to make one huge elegant event.  Weddings are all about collaboration and coordination.

Recently, I met with a couple and the groom was a bonafide cookie connoisseur - he loved them and wanted them to be a big part of his groom's cake.

But how do you do that and still keep things classy?  Enter Mama Wilson from Mama Wilson's Cookies.  She made these delicious, deep dish cookies to act as tier separators between each cake tier.

Initially I was just a little nervous about this collaboration.  I know my cake and my icing.  I know how it reacts when it's carved, it's like my baby.  I made it and I know it's strengths and it's weaknesses..  But I'm so glad I agreed to do it and I was very pleased with the outcome.  I did use a small cake board beneath each cookie just in case it needed some extra support.  And this cake fit in just fine at the venue, Mason's Farm a River's Edge.

I think the "worst" thing about this whole collaboration was that I didn't get to eat any of that delicious cookie, so I'll just have to imagine how that cookie tasted with the chocolate butercream and dark chocolate ganache! I hope they had plenty of milk on hand!! ;-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Workout Weights Groom's Cake

This workout inspired groom's cake was finally a chance to do a little something different!  The actual working out does not interest me in the least, but a cake about it? Heck yeah!

There are a few things that I still can't do well and spheres is one of them.  I try and try, but they come out "wonky" in shape and the fondant coverings are terrible.  What I have learned is that making the bottom half of the rounds out of pre-made half spheres is the way to go.   Cake does not like being upside down so gravity is not your friend.  Dallas Foam  has all kinds of sizes and I always keep a few on hand for sphere "emergencies". 

I've really noticed this year that black fondant can fade really fast.  In a day it can go from dark black to dark gray.  My first advice is to work extra black color into it before you get going.  Someone mentioned adding baking soda or baking powder and that would help, but I can't find the actual instructions, so please let me know if you have a clue what that tip is all about!  The weights are all covered with modeling chocolate.  I did not have any problem with it fading.   The medicine ball is fondant and I had to paint it with petal dust just to get it back to black. 

The other "new" technique that I am trying to use is painting with cocoa butter.  I've had super bad luck using edible markers on modeling chocolate.  It totally runs when it gets condensation on it.  For the weights, I marked the letter with cutters and then painted in the lines with white cocoa butter.  You have to keep it warm as you are working, but that is the only "tricky" thing. 

I used the jump rope as a "border" to hide the yucky bottoms of the top tiers.  Also on the three weights, I wanted a "lip" but when stacking them, I had to cut away the areas that would have been squished from the tier above it.  All my technical cake talk is so complicated :)  Hope you enjoy looking and learned something from my experience.  If you have any tips on spheres or fading fondant, please share with us all in the comment section. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gray Tux Groom's Cake

When I have a consultation with a couple, I never know how involved the groom will be.  I have had grooms come in with their own sketches and I have had groom's that put their head on the table to take a nap.  No matter how involved they get, sometimes they just can't come up with a good idea for the groom's cake.

This tuxedo themed groom's cake is a great option for that groom that is having trouble coming up with a great idea for his cake.

This 2-tiered cake was buttercream with minimal fondant accents and made to coordinate with the wedding party's colors.

Isn't that little bow tie the cutest?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Grill Master Cake w/ Coal Mini Tutorial

Happy Labor Day!  We hope everyone had some down time to relax and grill some yummy foods.  Segue into a grill cake! See what I did there? So subtle....

A sweet bride gave us some artistic freedom and the basics that she wanted:  gray, grill master on front, and meats on the grill.  The easy part is the simple gray buttercream round with two fondant ribbons on top and bottom.  If you don't have to use fondant, people will love just buttercream. Remember that with a cake like this, you don't have to put any effort is smoothing the top since you're just covering it up.  We added a gray THICK (1/2" ish) piece all around the top.  It's what the grate is sitting on.  This way, like the cigar box we did a few weeks ago, we didn't have to carve into the cake to get the inset look.  We needed a place for our coals and 1/2" was plenty.

We used these new flat Jet-Puffed Chocolate Brownie Marshmallows for the coals.  We airbrushed the marshmallows black.  It didn't take much color.  If you don't have an airbrush, buy a Preval Sprayer or buy a Wilton can of black spray.  We then mixed about one cup of powdered sugar with about a tablespoon of cocoa powder and teaspoon of black powdered food coloring.  Once mixed, these will give you  good looking "charcoal and ashes"!  We all want that!

We arranged the coals all flat and added heavy ash in the middle fading out to just a little on the outside.  We then added a little yellow, orange and red disco dust/edible glitter.  I wasn't crazy about the glitter, but time was ticking and there was no time for experimentation.  We did not have time/money in the budget for an edible grate, so we used Wooden dowels, hot glued all the pieces and painted them with silver spray paint.  A small saw would be best to get pretty, not squished ends. We used wire cutters and it made them ugly.  Next time we will know better.

Lastly we made no-bake oatmeal/ peanut butter / chocolate cookies for the hamburgers.  We used the most popular recipe on Food Network.com for ours.  We pressed in a skewer and airbrushed the black lines since we already had it out.  The could be painted on with a brush just as easily.  The hot dogs are modeling chocolate with the same technique for the lines.  We used a toothpick to make the details on the sides.   I hope this project seems easy enough for anyone to give it a try.  I promise it's not hard and is lots of fun!

If you want to see a few in-process of the marshmallow coals, hit Read More.

Happy Grilling!

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?

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! 


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!


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