Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snowman Cupcakes

















Tis the season to make snowman cupcakes!  Cupcake gift boxes are a perfect and fun gift for anyone on your Christmas list.  Get your cupcake pans ready, because here is the step by step how to guide:

How to make Snowman Cupcakes

1.  Make Fondant - At least 1 night before make your Marshmallow Fondant (See recipe below).  The marshmallow fondant recipe yields fondant for approximately 2 dozen cupcakes.

2. Bake Cupcakes - I prefer cupcakes to be soft and fluffy in texture.  To increase these characteristics I replace oil with unsalted softened butter, decrease water by about 1/8 cup and add 1/4 cup of sour cream or buttermilk .  I also like to use Betty Crocker cake mix as it results in a less dense batter than Pillsbury (of course I prefer Pillsbury for cake batter).

3. Make Buttercream - this is the best buttercream recipe, I highly recomend it: http://everybakingmoment.com/recipes/janis-buttercream.  When cupcakes have cooled, give each cupcake a light coat of buttercream.

4. Gather the Following Materials - Dust brush, paint brush, gum drop candy, 4mm black sugar pearls, pink shimmer dust, water, orange fondant (color a small amount orange), Sour Patch candy sticks (or Twizzlers), large round cookie cutter, sharp point stick (like a knitting needle), fondant roller, and edible ink black pen.  A lot of these items can be found at Every Baking Moment in Dixon or at your neighborhood Michael's Arts and Crafts store.


5. Make the Face  - Roll out your fondant with your fondant roller, and using a large round cookie cutter the same size as the cupcake cut out your face.  Poke eyes with the knitting needle and push the black pearls (somewhat) into the hole.  Shape the nose with your orange fondant into a small cone and paint the base of the cone with water to enable sticking to face.  Paint cheeks with pink dust and brush, and draw smile with black edible ink pen.





6. Make Earmuffs - Use the back of your paintbrush to poke sides of the face at an angle and insert candy sticks (see picture above).  Cut gum drops in half, and with matching colors and like sides, paint flat side with water and place just under headband.

7. Add Edible Image (optional) - To add an edible image to fondant take your photo or print out to be scanned at Every Baking Moment in Dixon)  cut it out of the sugar sheet, gently peel it off and place it on an area that you have smeared with shortening.

Happy Holiday Baking!!
Christie


******************************************************************************



Five Step Marshmallow Fondant

1 10 oz bag of mini marshmallows
1 tbsp of water
1 bag of powdered sugar
  Color (optional)


1.  Prepare a large glass or metal bowl with half a bag of powdered sugar and put it in a cleared sink (this works very well for me with the kneading process - my bowl has a sticky bottom to keep the bowl from slipping - If you don't have this put a sticky/plastic fabric between bowl and sink).  

2.  Put marshmallows and water in a glass bowl.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds, remove, stir with a spatula, heat again for 15 seconds, stir.  Repeat in 15 second increments until marshmallow have dissolved.  Do not overheat as it can ruin the marshmallow consistency.

3.  Add your color to melted marshmallows and stir.  You can also add whitening white (a great Wilton product) to get it a very even white.  When thoroughly mixed, pour your gewy mixture right into the center of the bowl with the powdered sugar in the sink.  

4.  With your spatula GENTLY and SLOWLY fold the sugar into the marshmallows.  As the marshmallow thickens start kneading.  Add powdered sugar when necessary.  After 10-15 minutes you should have a nice ball of Marshmallow fondant.  

5.  Coat your fondant with shortening and wrap your ball tightly in plastic wrap and put in a plastic bag.  REFRIGERATE your fondant overnight.  If you do not refrigerate your fondant it will not hold it's shape when you try making things like bows and it will not be the right texture.  Bring out your fondant a few hours before you start decorating so that it is nice and soft and pliable when you are ready to use it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Corporate Cakes


As a cake decorator incorporating an edible image corporate logo can make the decoration simple and resulting in a clean looking product. Having dabbled into different facets of the cake decorating industry there are a number of pros and cons to consider in the various markets of cake:

Wedding Cakes

Pros 
  1. Glamorous - Love the idea of making the beautiful wedding centerpiece for a magical wedding
  2. Simplicity - Typically wedding cakes are elegant and simple in terms of design and styling.
  3. Financial Return - At about $4 a slice this can make for a decent return on your delivered product

Cons
  1. The Stress - It seems the hefty price tag might be more related to the stress induced by preparing someones dream wedding cake.  Where if anything happened to it between the time you start baking, decorating, and delivering... it could mean your business!
  2. The Expectation - Brides have big dreams... and with that come BIG expectations with their cake.  You might find yourself trying to make cake decorating miracles happen!
  3. Your Weekends are taken - Weddings typically occur on the weekends.  If this is your side job prepare to have your Friday's and Saturday's booked!

Birthday Cakes

Pros

  1. Fun - Birthdays are fun and everyone is happy to share a fun party together while eating your marvelously decorated cake!
  2. Common Themes - With common themes you have a good idea what would be a nice cake design for the birthday boy or girl.

Cons

  1. Sizing - Birthday cake portions are typically larger than (say) wedding cake portions.  Expect to make larger cakes than expected for a birthday party.
  2. Financial Return - Birthday cakes budgets are a lot smaller than wedding budgets (yes there is a LESSER willingness to pay), however, design can be more intricate and more involved (mostly due to color changes).  This is also the market where your decorated marval competes with that yummy sticky chocolate cake from Costco for less than $20.

Corporate Cakes

Pros

  1. Consistent - If you succeed in getting a corporate cake account you can expect consistent business as long as you keep your client happy.  A win win!
  2. Standardized - Your products can be standardized to your client saving you time and money when it comes to planning the decorating.
  3. Financial Return - A company who is using your product for their customers or staff members are willing to pay a good price for your good product.  They are also giving you financial stability as you are their only go to person for your product.
  4. Dates & Times - Corporations tend to be fairly flexible when it comes to dates and times.  Unless it is a special event, most thank you or customer cakes have flexibility in the delivered dates and times.

Cons

  1. Repetitiveness - Creativity might be suppressed as you repetitively produce your clients product.  
  2. Booked - A pro or a con?!  With consistent standardized cake orders you may not be able to take on that fun birthday party cake without upsetting your routine schedule.
Thanks for reading and Happy Decorating!
Christie

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Taste Talk

Cake Tasting



Cake tasting is one of a brides anticipated fun activities.  I had fun with this weeks tasting by making mini cakes or as my little one liked to call them 'Baby Cakes'!  This particular bride was looking for a very moist cake.  So with a little research, trial, and error, here is a list of five ways to get your cakes more moist:

5 Ways To Increase Cake Moisture

1.  Wrap and Freeze - My sister Robyn taught me this one.  After you take your cake out of the oven wrap it in plastic wrap while it is still in the pan and cover with foil.  Place in the freezer until it is cool.  The trapped heat goes straight into the cake making it more moist.

2. Use Butter - Nicole from Cakes Done Wright told me about this technique.  Instead of using oil in a cake recipe use butter.  Cake holds on to moisture when fat and sugar are present.

3. Add Pudding - These days, if you use a box mix, and if there isn't already, add one box of pudding (mix).      You can try adding chocolate for chocolate cake or white chocolate in white cake.  You can play with flavors such as white chocolate in white cake or french vanilla in Devils Food.

4. Do not Overbake - Bake your cake just until it springs back at the center.  Overbaking dries out your cake big time.  Refer to the Wilton cake chart for estimated baking temperatures and times.  I like to bake most cakes at 340 or 345 degrees.  It takes a little longer, but your cake will turn out less dry and rise more evenly.

5. Use Milk not Water - Since it is fat content that helps cake retain its moisture, use milk in place of water in your recipe.


Taste Style

I ran into my first issue with client cake satisfaction.  The client wanted 'anything' when it came to their cake.  So I took this as an opportunity to make a somewhat artsy cake.  Two days before cake day, however, the client asked for a color change... making it a little bit uncertain in the actual direction of cake design.  So I came up with the cake on your right.  I thought it was simple and beautiful.  However, my client said they were disappointed that it was 'very plain looking'.  I was crushed, mostly because I thought it was beautiful and cute, and they disagreed.  I finally accepted the fact that not all people have the same taste when it comes to celebration cakes.  Some of us appreciate simplicity while others will prefer something withe more intensity.  Well, in terms of serving clients properly, I came up with 3 design rules for a cake client:

Design Rules for Cake Clients


1. Do Not Accept 'Whatever'  - If the client has no idea what design they are interested in ask them what kind of cake style/design they have liked in the past.  Showing them pictures of cakes can also give you a clue of their taste.

2. One Week Limit - Give your client at the least one week prior to cake date to change their mind on design or color.  Extend the limit if you must.  You want to give yourself enough time to shop for the necessary materials at the cake shop.

3. Maintain your Integrity -  If you see that your client is just really not happy with their cake accept that YOU, the cake decorator has not done your job as you should have.  Do not accept any payment from the client and follow these rules to do a better service for your clients in the future!

Happy Decorating!
Christie

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin People



Marshmallow fondant is amazing stuff.  It is easy, affordable, and fun.  You can make anything with it.  However, it can be tricky to make if you don't follow just the right steps for consistency.  I am still figuring it out, however, here is the 5 step recipe I have fine tuned so far:


Five Step Marshmallow Fondant

1 10 oz bag of mini marshmallows
2 tbsp of water
1 bag of powdered sugar
  Color (optional)


1.  Prepare a large glass or metal bowl with half a bag of powdered sugar and put it in a cleared sink (this works very well for me with the kneading process - my bowl has a sticky bottom to keep the bowl from slipping - If you don't have this put a sticky/plastic fabric between bowl and sink).  

2.  Put marshmallows and water in a glass bowl.  Microwave about 20 seconds on high, stir with a spatula, heat again 15 seconds, stir.  Repeat until marshmallow have dissolved.  Do not overheat as it can ruin the marshmallow consistency.

3.  Add your color to melted marshmallows and stir.  When thoroughly mixed pour your gewy mixture right into the center of the bowl with the powdered sugar in the sink.  

4.  With your spatula GENTLY and SLOWLY fold the sugar into the marshmallows.  As the marshmallow thickens start kneading.  Add powdered sugar when necessary.  After 10-15 minutes you should have a nice ball of Marshmallow fondant.  

5.  Coat your fondant with shortening and wrap your ball tightly in plastic wrap and in a plastic bag.  REFRIGERATE your fondant overnight.  If you do not refrigerate your fondant it will not hold it's shape when you try making things like bows and it will not be the right texture.  Bring out your fondant a few hours before you start decorating so that it is nice and soft and pliable when you want to use it.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Oh Gosh it's Ganache!

The gift box design is a real nice way to dress up a one tier cake.  The Tiffany & Co gift box here is one of the most beautiful cake boxes I have ever seen!!  It was made by Nati's Cakes.  The most noticeable part of this cake gift box is its super sharp square edges which is what gives it a very realistic look.  I just LOOOVE this look!:)

So how do they do it?  The trick is use ganache! Ganache is a chocolate 'icing' with a peanut butter texture that firms when cooled and softens when slightly warm.  Ganache is smoothed on over a cake it dries hard and very smooth (but make sure to use a bench scrapper!:)).  I like to use the following recipe from Paris Cutler's book Plant Cake - a great resource and an amazingly successful Australian cake business.  Here is her recipe!


Dark Chocolate Ganache

2 lb 10 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I like to use Ghirardelli bittersweet chips with 60% cocoa - the high cocoa is important here I don't recall why again but it is!:))

2 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp of whipping cream (her recipe says not to use heavy cream but I can only find heavy so that's what I use and it works just fine:))

1.  Put chocolate and cream in a microwave-proof bowl and heat for a few minutes on high.  Remove and stir.  Repeat heating until cream is fully incorporated and ganache is smooth.
2.  Let sit at room temperature overnight OR to speed up the process refrigerate uncovered for about one hour to firm.

Apply the ganache with a spatula and smooth sides and top of the cake with a bench scrapper.  If the ganache is too firm to apply heat just a bit in the microwave.  If your ganache has firmed on your cake and you want to re-smooth it heat water in a pot and use it to dip the bench scrapper to heat it (and make sure to dry it with a towel!).  Then re-smooth away!

Once your cake is covered with ganache firm by setting it overnight or firm it in the fridge for about an hour.

Next apply a thin film of shortening at the bottom edges or water to adhere the fondant to the ganache surface.  Once ready, roll out your fondant to 1/8" thickness and cover your cake. 

Happy Cake Making!
Christie

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Carving Craze


With Halloween upon us, you might be carving more than just a pumpkin!  This weekend I am planning to decorate my second fish cake for a girlfriends boys birthday party.  After baking a long rectangular cake the carving starts.  When it comes to cake carving the most important requirements include: cake density and a good cake knife.

Cake Density
I am a cake 'mix' girl and to get the right density for carving (and tier-ing) I like to add one cup of cake flour and one cup of granulated sugar to the mix along with the denoted ingredients.

Mix Ingredients
1 CakeMix
1 cup Cake Flour
+ 1 cup Granulated Sugar
The Right Density

A note about cake mixes:  as a decorator I like to focus my attention and energy on the cake decorations and not the cake itself.  Cake mixes got a bad rap back in the day when they didn't taste very good.  These days, however, they are delicious, inexpensive, quick, easy, and a life saver for cake decorators!  I do prefer to use Pillsbury over Betty Crocker though mostly because with the dough boy there is already pudding in the mix and it gives it a more moist texture.

Cake Knife
Choosing the right knife is critical to your success.  Do not use serrated steak knives since these will tear too much off your cake.  Do not use a butter knife as these have no teeth!  Stick with the professional bread/cake knife (see Cake Tools).  When I carved my first fish cake I found it was nice to have the long knife for the sides, however, the small knife worked best for the face detail area.  When carving always use gently motions with your free hand on your cake to guide the carving and preserve cake integrity.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Engineered Cake

This was probably my biggest project to date (literally!)  This monster had a 14" square bottom, 10" middle, and 6" top.  I made this cake for the UC Davis College of Engineering 50th Anniversary Awards Gala.  And get this... I donated it!  Yes, I am trying to promote myself to build clientele and that's just what we have to do sometimes.  It was for a good cause, it was auctioned off and proceeds went to scholarships for Engineering students.

As for the decorating... this was my first time using fondant on a three tier cake and it turned out fairly well.  I am getting more and more convinced that marshmallow fondant is the way to go.  Satin Ice fondant is GREAT, don't get me wrong, but since it is manufactured in the East coast, when you tack on shipping it is just too expensive at the cake shops here on the West coast.  The Wilton fondant is not too popular with flavor, and the real homemade fondant is time consuming and tricky to make.  All this leave us... Marshmallow fondant!  Marshmallow Fondant (or MMF for short) is very inexpensive and tastes great!  However, it can be a bit tricky to mix and use correctly... however, once you get it down it works great.

THE BELOW RECIPE IS AN OLD RECIPE I USED IN THE PAST...
OUR CURRENT RECIPE IS HERE:
http://caketalkblogger.blogspot.com/2014/04/cake-coutures-marshmallow-fondant.html


Here is my MMF recipe:

1 bag of mini marshmallows (either size bag)
1 tsp of water
1 bag of powdered sugar
  Desired Color (optional)

Prepare a large bowl with half a bag of powdered sugar and put it in a cleared sink (this works very well for me with the kneading process).  Put all marshmallows in a glass bowl with the water.  Microwave approximately 60 seconds at 60 or 70% power (this is microwave dependent).  At first make sure to keep an eye on the MM.  You do not want to overheat it as it may cause difficulty in rolling.  With the marshmallows mostly soft stir them to dissolve.  At this point add your color.  When thoroughly mixed put your gewy MM mixture right into the bowl with the powdered sugar and start kneading.  Add powdered sugar when necessary.  After 10-15 minutes you should have a nice ball of MMF.  Wrap your ball tightly in plastic wrap and in a plastic bag.  But WAIT!  Do not forget this step... REFRIGERATE your MMF overnight.  If you do not refrigerate your fondant it will not hold it's shape when you try making things like bows.  Bring out your MMF a few hours before you start decorating so that it is nice and soft and pliable when you want to use it.