Monday, April 26, 2010

No more procrastination...that was my realization

I posted pictures in my baking photo album on facebook and I hadn't noticed how fast time has gone by. I had picture from January and February that I hadn't posted nor written about. Therefore, before we get to the more recent things I'm going to write about the baking experiences in order. If you knew me, you'd know that I like to have things neat and orderly so this fits.

My grandfather's birthday was January 27th. I believe he turned the big 79 and I always bring some goodies to my grandparents on their birthdays. I wanted it to be more on the healthy side but tasty as well of course.

I made him an angel food cake with real strawberries as the filling and sugar free whipped cream to top it off. I was going to make the angel cake from scratch but time was limited and I was working the day before so I settled for a box mix (I know...blasphemy!!) It was actually quite difficult to level and split the angel cake. It was so light and airy. However, in the end, even though it wasn't as nice underneath, the whipped cream hid any imperfection. I figured red royal icing would go well with the pure white of the whipped cream and it matched the strawberry decoration nicely. Using a paring knife I cut the strawberry and flared it out.

Needless to say it was a hit. Nutritious and delicious!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fly fly ladybug.

My aunt and uncle's church was having a bake sale. Of course they knew the right person to call to make a cake and cupcakes. It was a rough start but I devoted all of Saturday to finishing it all up. You should have seen the mess in the new kitchen. I got the idea from a decorating book my sister Louie got me for Christmas.

Planet Cake by Paris Cutler: A beginner's guide to decorating incredible cakes

There are plenty of really amazing ideas in here. Most of the cakes are beautiful because of the use of fondant (can anyone really ever go wrong using that stuff?) But for the cupcakes/cake I made I used buttercream mostly and just decorated a little with fondant. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the step by step process because my camera was packed in an unknown box and I couldnt find it, but here is the end result.

These little guys were right from the book. Just your regular vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream (dyed black with food coloring). I got the circle cutters in cascading sizes. I cut the red fondant with the biggest circle cutter and then cut out the head by using the same circle cutter. Then using a knife I cut the circle in half and placed it on the cupcake like shown. I then dyed white fondant black and used the smallest cuttero make the dots. I used raw spaghetti as the antennas and put little balls of the black fondant on the ends. Small white balls as the eyes. Once that dried then I put the black pupil using a food coloring marker.

The cake itself is a bit more simple. I wanted it to match the cupcakes. It is the chocolate mud cake from the Planet Cake book. Very tasty! I covered it in red, vanilla buttercream and smoothed it out. Then I cut out varying sized spots in black. Around the bottom edge I used a large circle tip for the border. This was simple but it went very well with the cupcakes.

Isn't it adorable?!?!?! I'm very happy about how it turned out.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

and reality sets in

Remember when I said that I would write in my blog more often with the new year. Surprise surprise...I didn't. Was it because I was busy? Was I just being lazy? Did I just not have anything good enough to put on here? It was a little bit of all of the above. James and I stopped going to the cooking class. Things just got in the way -- work and life. I feel bad. It was kind of my fault we did the 2nd class. Even though the 1st was hard enough to always get to, I insisted we keep going. We both signed up and low and behold by the second class there was a cancellation due to the crazy snow storm we had then the next week James was in upstate New York for work and I was bartending an event. Then the next week the instructor canceled to go to Florida and the following week I was asked to bartend another event. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

Anyway, enough with the excuses. My H.S. track coach always said "Excuses are for people who accomplish nothing". What was his name? Mr. Willams I think? Today I had a damn near nervous breakdown (again) because of baking. I wonder if that happens to anyone else? When I bake I need to have all the ingredients. Sure one or two insignificant ones can be missing but when I'm missing something big (like vanilla extract or the thingys for my electric hand mixer) I throw a hissy fit and act like a 3 year old little girl. I raise my voice, I get annoyed when people try to help, I get even more annoyed when people stop trying to help, and I normally just stomp away and slam a door. Hence what just happened not even a full hour ago. I'm suppose to make a cake and cupcakes for my aunt and uncle's bake sale for their church. I was looking forward to it. I thought I'd have plenty of time and we just moved into our new apartment so I've been dying to try out baking something in the new kitchen. I did not factor in the point that my birthday just passed and some of my friends would talk me into going out. There goes one of my precious days to work on the cake. I also have been filling up my days after work with running/shower/cooking food/unpacking/sleep. There goes another day or two. Then today I was going to start baking the cakes at last. James and I went to the store and got everything we needed. I got home thinking I had my vanilla...nope. I opened up my hand stirrer thingys. James tried to help...impossible.

Baking was suppose to be my way of letting go and relaxing. I guess it only works if I have all my ingredients and tools so it can go as smoothly as possible. Hopefully everything will be out of the boxes soon and once everything gets in order I will be able to breathe again. I never knew I was so OCD about this stuff. Tune in the next few days and I will post the picture of what I do (I still need to find my camera). Hopefully things will go better tomorrow when I try again. Until then....just breathe.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Split, Fill, and Ice

James and I started the Wilton cake decorating class at Micheal's on January 6th. The first class was okay. Here's a quick run down of what happened.
  • We met Linda, our instructor. 
  • There's only one other woman in our class; it's very small but I like it.
  • We went over the things we will be learning and Linda gave us the scoop on what we need and what's not really worth getting.
  • Linda gave us a homework assignment - make buttercream icing, make cake, bring in tools.
The second class was more interactive and we got our hands dirty---which is AWESOME of course!
  • Brought in the cake --I made white cake, James made yellow.
  • Took the cake out of the pan and leveled the cake off by cutting off the top
  • Cut the cake in the middle. Took off the top half and placed it aside for later.
  • Made a thick border around the cake to keep the filling in. Then filled it up with some icing.
  • Smoothed it out and replaced the top half of the cake, making sure it was straight.
  • Took the cake icer tip and iced around the cake and on top.
  • With a spatula and hot water, smoothed the icing and removed any excess.
  • Learned how to make the shell border around the circumference.
  • Linda gave us a small amount of homework for this week - make more icing, bring tips and decorating bags.
Finished products:
James's cake after he cut a perfect piece out for me to taste. Look at how smooth it is and James did it all by himself!! (Even though he was having a little bit of a hard time getting the icing to stick onto the sides of the cake) hahah.

This is my cake with a purple border. When James and I made the frosting, we didn't realize that the Crisco with butter flavoring would give a yellow tint. Next time we will stick to the original and hopefully it will come out whiter. The cake tasted really good. The buttercream was kind of strange. It was very, very sweet with a hint of salty taste to it. I put the recipe for the frosting below.

Linda's Special Wilton Buttercream Icing
2 cups solid white vegetable shortening (Crico --not butter flavored!!)
2 lbs pure cane confectioners' sugar (approximately 8 cups)
1 tsp of salt
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1 tbs clear Vanilla extract flavoring

Mix everything together (add vanilla last). It takes approx. 20 mins with a stand mixer or a little longer with a hand mixer. Start slow at a speed of 2 and then increase the speed to about 4. Mix until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together, occasionally scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure it is all being mixed. Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.

There you go! Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Its a wonderful life

2009 was a year of new discoveries, adventures, and starting fresh. James and I went on our first real vacation (to New Orleans), I finally graduated from college, I discovered my love for baking, and I got a new job that I love.

Right when things were looking a bit bleak in my life I discovered baking. Since then I feel like anytime I go to a store, all I'm doing is looking for an ingredient, tool, or cook book to help me improve. Here is a run down of the cakes I haven't had a chance to post on here because I made them before I started my blog.

The first one was the cake I made for my sister, Louie's, friend Nick. Nick always wears Nike shoes and has a lot of pairs. Louie, being the ambitious little sister that she is, decided that for our first real cake (she was my assistant), we were going to go all out and use fondant and make the shoe out of rice krispie treats. Surprisingly, it turned out wonderful. Not bad for a first timer. Nick really liked it too.

The next one I made for an employee from my aunt's job. She had finished college and had just got a job in her field so they wanted a cake. I think she was becoming a guidance councilor at an elementary school so I wanted to incorporate that into the cake. Plus it had a surprise interior.

Delicious rainbow cake


For my cousin's Laura's 25th birthday (we celebrated her 25th birthday on the 25th day of the month -- 25 on 25) I made some cupcakes with 25 butterflies on them. I set it up on a tower and made plenty of chocolate cupcakes (since she's a chocoholic).

 Then Halloween came along and I made some more cupcakes for my niece's class. I choose mini cupcakes for the since they're 4 year-olds. Plus instead of using any oil, I substituted it with applesauce it make it a little healthier for the kids. My niece, Angelina, was spidergirl for Halloween and she insisted that I make spider cupcakes. She got what she wanted.

After Halloween it was my grandmother's birthday. Ever since I was young my grandma has LOVED owls. I remember being in 4th grade art class and we were painting these thing wood scraps. I found one that was the perfect owl shape and I knew immediately who I'd give it too. I painted it and it looked so awesome. I remember being so proud of it. Then I gave it to her for her birthday or mother's day -- some holiday and she loved it too. I was so proud of myself. So when I found this idea in the Hello, Cupcake book (shown in an earlier post), I could not wait til it was her birthday. We had the whole family together for a surprise birthday party and this was our dessert.

After that, I got my first paying gig. Luz hired me to make cupcakes for her niece's and friend's birthdays. She asked me to make 4 penguin cupcakes and i think it was 16 panda bear ones. These ideas also came from Hello, Cupcake. These were fun to make and I also had the assistance of Louie to make these as well.

Finally, the latest cake I made was for New Years Eve. James and I went to a friend's house for a grown up New Years party. It was a bit low key as there were only 7 people there but we had a good time. We had amazing food (I'm still very impressed with the crab cakes) and played a fun game of Scatagories. James and I had made an angel food cake with strawberries and I must say that it was DELICIOUS! There was three layers of angel cake and between each layer was a thick layer of cool whip and the sweetest freshest strawberries you've ever tasted. Unfortunately the pictures I have of this doesn't really do it justice. Which just means that we will have to make it again so we can take some better pictures.

All in all a good year for baking. I'm looking forward to the next year. James and I are finally getting our own place (and my own kitchen)!! We will be taking a cake decorating class together soon. More experimenting with cakes and just trying to have a wonderful life.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Unfortunately this year was the first time that I didn't spend it with my family. A typical holiday for me is everyone in my family (that's like 20-30 people) gathering in one person's house on Christmas Eve and playing games, eating, talking, and just enjoying eachother's company until midnight when we open presents. It normally takes about 1-2 hours and my immediate family and I go back to the house around 2am and open our presents and then it's sleep time. Then on Christmas morning I spend it with my boyfriend's family. It works out quite perfectly that his family celebrate Christmas day and mine celebrate Christmas eve.

This year did not turn out as planned. First of all, I got sick a few days before Christmas. I took 2 days off from work but didn't have much strength for anything else. Finally started my baking the 22nd. I had the idea to make red velvet cupcake presents for my family and a Christmas cake for James's (the boyfriend's) family. I should have realized I was taking on too much. I mean I had to make about 35 cupcakes in all (with name tags for each person). Well, needless to say you will not be seeing how the cupcake presents turned out because it looked much better in my head. If I ever attempt it again I will post it. However, the Christmas cake came out wonderful. With the assistance of my wonderful boyfriend and without further ado, the perfection that is the Christmas Cake:

Here comes Santa Claus. Here comes Santa Claus.

That awesome boyfriend of mine gave me a fondant ribbon embroider for xmas. That's how I got that pattern on it. He also made the Santa hat and the actual bows for the ribbons. So talented! haha

Santa with his rosy cheeks and the presents were made with fondant. The eyes and cheeks were colored in with food coloring markers (best invention ever!)

Therefore, even though I was sick and had to work Christmas eve and day, Christmas didn't turn out too bad. I was able to train a new assistant and we had a great time decorating the cake together. It's too bad that I wasn't able to spend more time with the families but there's always next year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oh, to be 4 years old again

I just finished my full work week. I must say that I miss being a kid. There were no worries, no concerns -- just happy times and fun games. Work wasn't that bad. It could have been better but you have to do what you have to do in order to pay back thems bills.

As mentioned in the previous post, I started baking because my niece turned 4 this past July. Since she goes to day care, she needed 2 sets of cupcakes. Everyone was working hard and being as I was still unemployed I volunteered to make them. I bought the most amazing book to get some ideas:

 I told the little princess that she could pick out any cupcake she wanted. She decided that the dog cupcakes were the best choice so we had a dog themed party. The first batch were for daycare. I didn't realize how long it would take but I spent all day and most of the night baking/decorating. This is what some of the first PupCakes looked like.
<--Some came out pretty decent.


Others needed some work-->

These were some of the first batch. I made 25 of them but just dalmatians and chocolate labs. Later for the party, I tried other breeds.

However, my all time favorite has to be (drum roll please)

The resemblance is uncanny.

I also made a few mini cupcakes that said "Happy Birthday Angelina"

The Pupcakes were quite easy to make. Just put the marshmallows in place and just make sure you smooth out the frosting on it (that's what I didn't do with the first batch). The tongues were made out of pink now and later candies and red cherry flavored tootsie rolls. Then just decorate accordingly.