Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

The past few months have been monumental in my life.  I have gone through two major life changes at once and I’ve found myself having to do a lot of adjusting.  First thing’s first–I’m newly married! Yup, my grad student boyfriend proposed and became my fiance and then my husband.  We eloped in Vermont in a lovely fancy-schmancy bed and breakfast in Stowe.  It was a gorgeous, picturesque ceremony and we loved every minute of it!

After we came back from our elopement, we packed up my remaining belongings into my little car and drove to Illinois.  So now I’m adjusting to married life and life in the mid-west.  For a native New Yorker, this is a HUGE change!  I’m fortunate in the sense that I’ve managed to find a nice job in a local bakery so I’m able to work on developing speed as a baker & cake decorator.

I do hope to regularly post again but my recent life changes have kept me from really keeping up with my writing.  I have managed to keep up with my cake decorating skills since I did have an occasion to make another tiered cake.  This time, the cake was for my husband, his family & friends as we celebrated our wedding at big bash thrown by his parents.  This cake was a three tiered chocolate stout cake with amaretto mocha butercream.  It was covered with chocolate fondant and decorated with gumpaste roses, carnations and foliage.  It was a lot of work but it was a HUGE hit! I also made some mini-wedding cake cookies that were treats for the guests to take home.  And now that I’m working in a bakery I get to make special cakes (and cookies) for many people on a daily basis!  I’ve had many new developments in the past few months, but they’ve all been very sweet!

Oh and of course, here’s some shots of my cake & cookies.

chocolate stout cake

After finishing my Wilton classes, I felt a bit unsure of what I should do next.  Should I just experiment on my own?  Take more classes?? If so, where and what? Well, in the past week or so, I’ve found a few answers to this question.

The first thing I did was to go to the Great American Cake show in Westminster, MD.  I’ve never been to a cake show, but it sounded like fun and a good way to see what other things I should learn.  I was right!!  The show was AMAZING!!  So many cakes from all levels were displayed–beginner to professional.  They even had displays for cupcakes, cookies and peeps!! These weren’t so much displays as they were entries in the competitions but I just felt like it was great to see all the different cakes and different techniques used to decorate them.  One of my favorite cakes was done by a teenager from Pennsylvania, Rafael Logrono of Rafael’s Cakes.  Not only was his cake absolutely lovely, demonstrating a variety of techniques and artistic skills, but he’s a really super nice guy!!  After working with teenagers, I’m always floored when I meet a lovely young man with skill and determination.  He’s also a fabulous teacher.  While at the show, I took a class in creating a sculpted purse.   Check out my first ever sculpted purse!!

I’ve never sculpted a cake before and Rafael really guided me through the process. His colleague, Amelia Monis of Sweet Alchemy by Amelia was also a great help since she helped me make sure my construction was  good and she also answered questions along the way.  This class, and all the shopping to do at the  show were the best parts!!

I also decided I needed to learn to make gumpaste flowers.  Yes, I’ve experimented with these before and had some exposure to gumpaste with my Wilton class, but I never really formally learned how to make wired gumpaste flowers. That is, until I took a class with the illustrious Colette Peters! She was a fabulous instructor since she broke down the construction of each flower into simple steps and was open to questions along the way.  Not only did I get to go home with a bunch of lovely flowers that I intend to put on a cake for Mother’s day tomorrow but I went home with detailed instructions on how to make the flowers again!!  I love when teachers give you a hand out of the  most important information–seriously.  I definitely want to take more classes from her since she creates an environment where you can really focus on your work and feel comfortable enough to ask questions.  Check out my flowers!!

Peony

hydrangeas and nameless blossoms

hydrangeas and nameless blossoms

daisies

Roses

cala lilies

Maybe my next steps will be to experiment at home with some of the many cake books I’ve acquired or maybe even trying to view some cake decorating dvds?  who knows?  I just know I’m hooked on this art!!

Now what??  I’ve completed all the Wilton cake decorating courses that are available to me locally.  My life revolved around cake: baking, design, and decorating.  And I LOVED it all!  Yes, there were moments that were frustrating and yes I can see a lot of my mistakes. But, I learned a LOT and I can see a serious improvement.  Remember my first fondant cake? Even though my fondant was saggy and bumpy I knew I was onto something.  Unfortunately, this cake obsession has taken a toll on other things in my life.  For example, I was delinquent from my Daring Baker’s Challenge this month.  Not for lack of trying–I did try to find the suet and the pudding dish, but there was always work to be done on a cake.  I’ve also fallen off the workout wagon, since I’ve been too wrapped up in making all the items for cakes and unable to spare any time for my elliptical trainer.  This weekend I’m even going down to Maryland to check out a cake show.  I’ve never been to one so I’m excited to see what goes on and maybe take a class or two.

So what kind of cake was I so focused on making to end this course?  A shoebox cake!!!  I also made a lid out of another layer of cake, tissue paper from gumpaste and a shoe from gumpaste.  I even made a matching little purse to go with it. The cake itself was a lemon buttermilk pound cake with a french vanilla buttercream. It’s not as detailed as I would have liked, but it’s a good start!

Shoebox cake

Any suggestions on what I should do next??

This week I had 3 cakes to do!  THREE.  This was the most cake I’ve ever had to produce for anything so needless to say I was busy non-stop this week. With each cake, I focused on different techniques to decorate them and to make them customized for the recipient and the event.  I have to say I learned a LOT and am slowly thinking I’ve found something I’m not bad at!  It’s so great to be able to make such delectable creations for friends and family while I’m still learning new techniques.

The first cake was a cake for my Wilton Fondant and Gumpaste course. This is a chocolate stout cake with french vanilla buttercream.  I covered it in white fondant and made pink gumpaste carnations to top it.  I also made a fondant border and piped a bead border and Cornelli lace.  I took the cake to work and everyone loved it!

Fondant and gumpaste course cake

Here’s a shot of the inside of the cake.

The next cake was kind of a wedding cake.  Some friends of mine recently got married, but they only had family there.  I was told the day was lovely and of course completely hectic.  It was so hectic in fact, that the bride informed me that there was a cake there, but she didn’t remember what kind it was or even much about it as she wasn’t in charge of getting it.  So I offered to make the newly wedded couple a yummy cake for them to enjoy at their leisure and share with whomever they liked.  This actually was a good idea since I managed to get the cake to them upon their one month wedding anniversary and there was plenty to go around.

I made them a two tier square cake decorated with gumpaste cherry blossom flowers and gumpaste origami cranes.  Unfortunately, the cake got a little jostled while I was driving it over there and the fondant got a few nicks in it, but my friends didn’t mind at all.  The top layer was a moist yellow cake with mocha amaretto buttercream.  The top layer was a lemon cake with lemon curd and french vanilla buttercream.  My friends loved it and they shared the cake with friends and family over the next couple of days. I was also really happy to give them a wedding gift that they’d enjoy and remember!

Origami and cherry blossom cake

The third cake was for a friend’s birthday party.  It was a milestone birthday for him and so I decided to make him a really fun and yummy cake!  Since one of his favorite hobbies is painting, I decided to paint the entire cake in different colors.  I also knew he loved chocolate so I made the chocolate stout cake with french vanilla buttercream and mini chocolate chips.  I thought a chocolate stout cake was fitting since his birthday was going to be celebrated in a bar.  The cake was a real hit!  He thought it was a delicious work of art!!

Even though it was such a hectic week, it was a lot of fun making all these cakes!  Since my cake decorating classes are soon ending, I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep my skills sharp by making cakes for family and friends for all their different events.

The past few weeks have been very hectic.  I’ve been getting over a cold and my mother has also been quite ill.  Unfortunately, I was unable to complete my daring baker’s challenge because I was just not feeling well at all and I’ve been trying to help my mom since she’s been ill too.  But I did manage to still complete my Wilton Course 3 cakes.  Since I haven’t done too much fondant work, I also made some other cakes using the techniques I learned in the class so that I can improve my skills and really familiarize myself with fondant.  I also tried a few different recipes since I had most of the ingredients around the house.  I have to say that while I do love working with fondant since it just creates such a sophisticated look, I still think that cakes are not really complete without some kind of piping work.  I was glad we got to learn more piped flowers in this class, but of course, I wish we were able to practice more.  I’m really looking forward to the next course which focuses on fondant and gumpaste! Here’s some shots of my most recent cakes from wilton 3.

This is a peanut butter and jelly cake filled with strawberry jelly and iced with cream cheese buttercream. This was the first fondant cake from my wilton 3 class.

This is an almond walnut pound cake filled and iced with french vanilla buttercream. I used the royal icing flowers from a previous wilton class.

This is the finale cake for my wilton 3 class. It's a vanilla bean chiffon cake with a lime curd and a coconut rum buttercream. The cake is covered in fondant and the boarder is done in buttercream shells. The roses and leaves used to top the cake at the end are made from a mixture of fondant and gumtex. The flowers and leaves were attached using royal icing.

Since I had leftover batter from my finale cake, I made these peep cupcakes. I didn't have enough peeps for all 12 so I used royal icing flowers from a previous wilton class.

So lately, I’m obsessed with cake.  Not eating it–making it, decorating it, reading about it, talking about it and any other things I can do that have to do with cake.  I pay way too many visits to the cake decorating supply store.  And I’ve been spending a lot of time trying out different recipes, practicing techniques, and rolling out fondant.  My Wilton courses have really opened my eyes since I’ve finally been exposed to the variety of styles and decorations out there.  But really I owe my real cake educational development to courses I’ve staged and attended at ICE.  I also credit a lot of my recent development to reading different books.  Reading the Ace of Cakes book, as well as books by Colette Peters and Toba Garrett have both inspired and challenged me to try new techniques and mediums.  As inspired as I am, I know it all has to start with good fundamentals, so I’m spending this rainy weekend baking cakes and decorating them for spring and St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ll be giving away these cakes, so I want to be sure they’ll taste good, but most of all  want them to be beautiful and lovely cakes!

My St. Patrick’s Day cake is a homemade funfetti cake.  Basically, I used a white cake recipe I got from school and just added some colorful sprinkles.  I figured the colors would be fun for the holiday.

Funfetti cake for St Patrick's Day

The other two cakes were made from recipes from Toba Garrett’s book, The Well Decorated Cake.  That’s a great book with wonderful techniques and most importantly, delicious recipes.  I made her chocolate fudge recipe which was delicious!!  And I filled it with a banana filling and iced it with mocha buttercream. The bananas made the cake have kind of a caramel taste and kept it really moist.  And it was really simple to make!  This can be considered kind of a spin off a bananas foster. If you’d like to try it, here’s my recipe for the banana filling.

Banana Filling

Yield:  just under 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 bananas, diced (I used bananas that were just ripe enough to eat, but I suspect using underripe bananas would be fine too.)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup good brandy or cognac (I used some Remy Martin I already had around.)
  1. In a heated medium sized pan, melt the butter.
  2. Add the sugar and stir to combine thoroughly.
  3. Add the bananas and cook until very soft, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg and stir to combine.
  5. Add the cognac and tilt your pan to ignite.  IMMEDIATELY REMOVE FROM THE HEAT! This part is very cool, and VERY DANGEROUS, so BE CAREFUL and DO NOT return pan to the heat until the flames have died. Be sure to have a lid or other pan at the ready to cover this pan if the flames get out of hand.  THIS PART IS NOT REQUIRED!!!  Just be sure to incorporate everything very well and cook off the alcohol.
  6. Allow to cool before using to fill your cake.

Chocolate Fudge cake with banana filling

Royal Icing Daisies

Time for a slice!

In case you’re wondering, everything was made from scratch!  I made the cakes, fillings, frosting and even the fondant!  The last cake I made was the peanut butter & jelly cake from the same publication as the chocolate fudge cake.  I didn’t decorate it this weekend though as I’m saving it for my cake decorating class later this week.

Last week I finished my second Wilton Cake decorating course!  I have to say this time I really did learn a lot!  The focus of this course is more piping work along with piping in royal icing and we made flowers in royal icing.  I’ve never made flowers other than the buttercream roses so this was a challenge to try to keep straight how to make all the different petals for the different flowers and remember their different parts.  Since I’m not too into flowers to being with it was just a challenge remembering what they all looked like.  Of course with a lot of practice, I did eventually get some lovely flowers.  And I’m sure with a LOT more practice I’ll have even nicer flowers! I do have to say that I think piping with royal icing is almost easier since you can get nice edges and peaks where you want them.

We learned how to pipe violets, violet leaves, mums, daisies, pansies, apple blossoms, and I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.  We also learned how to make reverse shells, rope borders and how to do a basketweave.  The basketweave was by far the most difficult piping I’ve had to do yet!  However, I do really think it’s a nice look for a cake.  Combining the basketweave with flowers, marzipan fruits or maybe some other Easter/Spring imagery I think the basketweave can make any cake look very sweet and still polished.  My finale cake had a decent basket weave in green.  I chose green because I then added flowers all over the cake and I wanted the green to stand in for any foliage that would be under the flowers.  The cake was an almond paste cake with french vanilla buttercream.

And since the student kit came with 2 pans, I was able to make 2 cakes.  The next cake was also an almond cake with french vanilla buttercream but I decorated it with royal icing flowers and marzipan fruits.  I’m now onto course 3 and the wonderful world of fondant!

Here’s some shots of my cakes! 🙂

My Wilton course 2 finale cake

A sweet spring cake