Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for the ‘Personal’ 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

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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.

Unfortunately, I’ve recently come down with what I thought was a cold.  I’ve been congested, coughing, sneezing and wheezing for a while and thanks to my great doctor, I’m finally getting better.  What’s even worse is that my mom was sick too with this same bug, only it hit her much harder with aches and pains.  The only thing I wanted to do was just stay in bed and sleep!  I knew though that we both had to drink plenty of liquids and get as much rest as possible.  I decided to make some chicken soup, since it’s the best home remedy ever.  After two days of eating this soup, I wanted a variation so I decided to try my hand at making matzoh ball soup.  Maybe I was inspired by the Passover holiday?  Maybe I wanted some more substance to my soup?  I don’t know what sparked this in me, but it was a great idea! The matzoh balls were easier to make than I thought and filled me with warmth and comfort since they were cooked in a delicious chicken broth.  This recipe is super simple and easy to make.  If you don’t like the matzoh balls, try adding some thin noodles to the soup, because, you know, chicken noodle soup is great too! This soup is just what you’ll crave when you’re feeling sick and it’s easy enough to make when you just want to stay in bed most of the day.

Kitchen Experiment: Matzoh Ball Soup

Yield:  approximately 4 quarts

  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 15-20 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 8-10 stems of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 stems of fresh dill
  • 1 chicken, preferably organic
  • 1 box matzo meal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery.  You should have about twice as much diced onion as you do of diced carrots and celery combined.  If not, then add more of whatever you need to achieve this ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and celery.
  2. Prepare your sachet.  In a piece of cheesecloth (if you don’t have any you can always use gauze that doesn’t have any elastic) place the peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and dill. Tie your sachet so that all your herbs are secure.
  3. Prepare your chicken.  Remove the gizzards and cut off any excess fat along the tail.  Rinse the chicken until the water runs clear, taking care to remove any internal organs that remain.
  4. In a large 6 quart pot over low, add your onion, carrots and celery and add the chicken.  (If you like the gizzards and neck, do add them!  I did and they gave a wonderful richness to the soup.)
  5. Add enough water to the pot to cover the vegetables and the chicken and add your sachet.
  6. Now walk away! Do not stir, turn or disturb this pot! Also, be sure you never have a rolling boil.  If you do see vigorous boiling about to occur, reduce your heat. Come back in about 40 min (or an hour) and you will see some foam rising to the top.  Gently skim this from the top without disturbing the rest of the contents.
  7. Repeat the skimming process every 30 minutes or so for the next hour.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the matzo balls.  In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, salt and matzo meal. Add broth (I used broth from the pot) and mix until uniform.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  9. At this point your soup has been gently simmering away for about 2 hours.  Remove your chicken, taking care to retrieve any parts that might be falling off.  Shred all the meat of your chicken and return it to the pot.
  10. Add the cabbage and cook until tender.  (If you’re using noodles, add them at this point and cook until tender.) If you’re preparing the matzo balls, remove them from the refrigerator and form them into balls.  Be aware that they will swell when cooking!
  11. Into a smaller pot, ladle enough broth so that it will cover the matzo balls. Cover the pot and bring the broth to a boil.
  12. Add the matzo balls and cook for about 30 minutes.
  13. To serve, ladle soup and 2 matzo balls into a large bowl.  Top with some freshly chopped dill.

Matzo ball soup

This soup is delicious and satisfying! For those or you more familiar with matzo ball soup, this recipe for the matzo balls are basically the recipe on the back of the box only I cooked them in broth instead of water.  Of course, I have no idea if these are considered hard or soft and I wasn’t even aware of this debate until recently.  I just know my soup was good and easy enough to make when I felt super sick!

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.

Usually for Valentine’s Day I like to make a red velvet cake or red velvet cupcakes.  This year I decided to try something different.  While I was figuring out what to get my honey I thought he’d also like something sweet.  Since we’re both making an effort to be a bit healthier this year I thought cakes or cookies wouldn’t be the best idea so I decided to try something different–chocolate raspberry truffles and chocolate blackberry truffles.  Since he loves both berries I figured he’d enjoy this treat and the chocolate makes it appropriately decadent for Valentine’s Day.

I started by searching for a good recipe for the truffles.  Luckily, I found one here, but I did make a few changes. Of course the most major change was that I included blackberries as well as raspberries.  Also, instead of coating them in cocoa powder, I opted instead to give each berry an additional coating of just melted chocolate and then I streaked them with white chocolate.  I used a mixture of Valhrona 71% dark and Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate.  I also had some white chocolate that I used to streak the truffles when I was done.  The results were delicious and decadent!

Another fun treat for Valentine’s Day were Erotic Cookies!  I attended a workshop hosted by Pastry Chef Danielle Moore all about decorating erotic cookies.  Many of the cookies were very adult in nature which made them all the more fun!!  And once they were decorated they really came to life!  I really enjoyed this workshop since it was my first time decorating cookies with fondant.  And of course, yummy cookies are always a great treat!