Happy Friday Rainbows!

Hi everyone!

At the school I work at, we like to celebrate birthdays. So much that we have a volunteer teacher in charge of organizing something called Birthday Break once a month, to celebrate that months’ staff birthdays. It takes place during the morning break time, and about seven to ten staff members are asked to bring in a savoury or sweet treat to share (obviously, these are not the same staff members whose birthdays we are celebrating – that would just be mean).

A few weeks back, I came across a photo of a great rainbow cake, and I’ve been dying to try it out. I opted to not put the candy filling in, because it would have been too messy to cut otherwise. So when I saw I was on September’s list of preparers for Birthday Break, I decided that the cheeriest cake to make would be this one.

I started by making a batch of my favourite vanilla cake (The Hurry Up Cake) and a half-batch of classic vanilla buttercream frosting.

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I then cut each one in half, and stacked them. When I tried to stand them on the flat end of the semi-circle, I ran into a problem – the two outer layers were falling off! The icing was too soft to keep them together, so I stuck the whole cake in the freezer for about five minutes, to solidify the icing.

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I was then able to set it on it’s side and cover it in the remaining icing. Satisfied with the crumb-coat and shape, I decided I had time for one attempt at making my own marshmallow fondant again. I had found a different recipe online that seemed promising and not too complicated. My dad was bringing me store-bought fondant the next day anyway, just in case this ended up not working.

So I made the fondant, and coloured it pale blue for the sky:

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This fondant was really easy to work with, elastic but didn’t tear, and comfortable. I think I will be using this recipe in the future (I just need to get lots of mini-marshmallows!) I prefer marshmallow fondant to store-bought mostly for the taste. Store-bought has a kind of “fake” sugary taste, whereas marshmallow fondant has more flavour.

After covering the cake, I sat and made six smaller balls of coloured fondant: pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The pink was meant to be red, but after adding alarming levels of red gel colouring and the fondant only getting a brighter pink, I decided to leave it at that. Besides, real rainbows in the sky don’t have a vibrant red, they’re more pinkish.

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I rolled the fondant into long snakes, and applied them using my recently-bought edible glue. It works really well, much better than water would. After getting all parts of the rainbow on, I made some clouds out of white fondant both to hide the messy edges of the cake and the rainbow, as well as to tie it all together.

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Then my wildly overactive mind suggested I make rainbow cupcakes as well, because there are a lot of people on the staff, and maybe the cake won’t be enough for everyone. I used the same recipe for the cupcakes, but my original idea has been to use that ‘rainbow’ stripy candy instead of making the rainbow out of fondant. This would have been great had I actually been able to find that candy. So the cupcakes ended up being miniature versions of the cake.

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It was a lot of fun making these, and I was really pleased with how the cake and the cupcakes turned out.

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The only slight problem with the cake was that it was dryer and more crumbly than usual. I think this was because of it’s five minute stint in the freezer, so I will need to look into preserving moistness if I know a cake will need to be flash-frozen to solidify the icing. Other than that, it was very good, and there was no cake left at the end of the Birthday Break. I had also decided to keep the cupcakes in reserve for anyone who didn’t get a slice of the cake. When I brought the cake into the staff room, there was just no room for both, and it would have looked like I’d tried too hard. But hey, more cupcakes for us!

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Thank you for reading 🙂

 

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Yellow Car Cake

Hey everyone!

This week’s baking adventure was one that almost didn’t happen, thanks to my forgetful memory. About two weeks ago, Sandra asked me if I could bake a cake for Armando, her sister’s boyfriend. Then, work and life got in the way, and next thing I knew, Zak was over for Halo 4 with Josh, and we were having pizza; he calls Sandra, and she’s reminding me about the cake… that’s for Friday (3 days later). I get the details (no chocolate, he likes mango, shape of a car, preferably yellow), it’s all good, and then I realize, I’m out on Thursday night for a school event- when the heck am I going to get this cake done?! I found a mango cake recipe, found a semi-tutorial to follow (because I’ve never sculpted a car before), and decide to leave right after school the next day to pop to Thionville for some ready-made fondant, mangoes, and other baking necessities.

Schedule-wise, I had to bake the cake on Wednesday because I would have zero time on Thursday to do anything major. So, I baked a mango cake:

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On an aside, this cake is one of my new favourites. It’s butter-less and made with fresh mango. It’s moist, delicious, and holds its shape well for carving. The website also supplied a recipe for a vanilla icing, which used a combination of cream cheese and butter, which is also a total winner. The result is creamier and simply delicious.

Anyway, after baking one 9″x13″ cake, I realized I was definitely going to need another half-recipe of it to get the height on the cake. So I woke up at 5am on Thursday to bake the cake before getting ready for work. My plan was to carve and crumb-coat the cake Thursday night after the social, but when we finally got home at 10:30pm, I was just too exhausted. Given that we were also out for a birthday party on Friday night, and I had to run an errand before 7pm (when the shops closed), I realized I had approximately 2 hours between the end of work and the time by which I had to finish the cake and handover to Sandra.

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By the time I crumb-coated it, it was starting to take the shape of a car.

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OK. I admit it, I used a Lightning McQueen car cake tutorial as my model. The fact is, all the other car cake images I found were overly complicated. Due to my time constraints, I needed something simple that was also big enough to feed around 15 people. Obviously, I didn’t decorate it in the same way.

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I even made little rearview mirrors, and windshield wipers. I carved, iced, and decorated this bad boy with about 1 hour and 40 minutes- a record that I don’t think I’ll ever top, because I did take some shortcuts. I lightly traced with a yellow food-safe marker the outlines of the doors, personalized mini license plates, and when I sent it off home with Sandra, I kept thinking there was something missing. Several hours later, when I was heading out to town, it finally hit me – I forgot headlights!!

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Of course, there was also the part where there wasn’t quite enough yellow fondant to make a layer thick enough, hence the bumps, and that it overall just looked like a comic car and not a real car. The most important part, was that everyone enjoyed it 🙂

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Thanks for reading!

American Apple Pie (minus the cinnamon)

Hello everyone!

Yesterday’s cooking experience was an apple pie. As always, this was for a birthday, my grandfather’s 84th to be exact. Being French, cakes with lots of icing just aren’t his cup of tea, so I asked my dad what he though Pépé would like. Dad suggested an American-style apple pie, but without the cinnamon, as neither he nor Pépé like it.

So I looked in The Joy of Cooking for an apple pie recipe and was given three different options. Reading through them, and considering the fact that I would need to transport the pie either by train or car to my Dad’s house in late morning, I went with the option that would allow me to re-heat the pie with no loss to taste or texture.

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My first job was to core, peel, and slice 8 apples. By the end, I had about 1kg of sliced apples, ready to sizzle in the pan. Looking back, I could have chopped one or two more and had a fuller pie, but it was also fine just the way it was.

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Cooking the apples (and sweetening them) before baking the pie was the key difference between this recipe and the two others, in terms of reheating it later. Apple pie is best served warm with vanilla ice cream, so this was perfect. I actually baked this the day before, and it was just as delicious reheated the next day as if it had come out fresh of the oven the first time.

After cooking the apples, they needed to cool to room temperature. This is when I realized I could have cut a couple more for a fuller filling.

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So while the apples cooled down, I prepared the crust. I lined the baking pan with one crust, and looked up how to do lattice-work for the top. I found a helpful, step-by-step photo tutorial online.

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After baking for 45 minutes, this apple pie came out looking and smelling delicious! It was a good thing I left it cooling on the counter and went to run some errands, because I’m not sure it would have made it to the birthday lunch otherwise ^_^

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And as always, reheated and served with a scoop of ice cream:

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A final side note: before buying the apples for this pie, I searched the internet for what the best kind of apple was. I found this website, which actually followed a sort of scientific procedure for the best apples. Golden apples scored an 8/10, so those are the ones I went with, and they were indeed delicious! Although, since the pie crust is sweet, I might reduce the amount of sugar in the cooking process, to bring out the tartness of the apples more. Either way, it was delicious and I’m excited to bake this pie again, but with cinnamon this time!

Thanks for reading ^_^

Checkmate Chocolate and Vanilla

I am back in business!! Well, sort of. What I mean to say is that the school year has started up again, and that means team birthdays, which means birthday cakes!

As I was browsing the internet recently, I came across this cool picture of a cake. And I thought to myself, “When can I next make this?” because it looks awesome. So when I was chatting with my colleagues about birthdays, we realized that our new colleague’s birthday was just last week, and she’s new to the school, so what better way to welcome her than with a belated birthday celebration!

So I started by making two cakes: a vanilla and a chocolate, and two batches of buttercream icing. Vanilla and chocolate of course 🙂

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Then came the fun, and rather complicated, part. You see, The two cakes were of different consistencies. I didn’t think of that before baking them. My vanilla cake was perfect, aka, not crumbly. I couldn’t say as much for the chocolate one. The smart thing would have been to make the vanilla cake recipe twice, but put some chocolate in it, instead of making two different recipes. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I didn’t have it at the time. So my yummy devil’s food chocolate cake was definitely not a good cake for this.

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Anyway, I persevered because, on one hand, I had no choice. The cake was for the next day, I had to go to work, and it was getting late. On the other hand, I don’t like fail, so it was a point of pride. I couldn’t accept tossing it all in the trash and buying a cake instead. So I put it all together, and got a pretty cool-looking cake.

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Finally, I got to the fun part. I covered the whole cake in chocolate buttercream icing. I love using buttercream because it has a real rich flavor, and I will always use butter over shortening when I can. For my overall decorating, I decided to pipe vanilla buttercream stars along to bottom to hide the edge of the cake, and to make buttercream roses to put on the top. Since Birgitta is new and I don’t know her tastes, I preferred to play it safe with flavors and decorations.

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Buttercream roses are fairly easy to shape. The important part is to keep the icing from getting too warm, because then, the roses no longer hold their shape. For the last two or three roses, I did actually stick my icing bag in the freezer for three minutes, just to firm things up. I learned how to make these from a video tutorial. Best tutorial I’ve found on these so far! Anyway, despite all of that, my first rose was a bit of a flop:

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But in the end, I did have a completed cake, that I was inordinately proud of (not the least because I managed to place nine buttercream roses on the cake without screwing things up).

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And the obligatory closeup of the rose centerpiece:

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Now, before all the cool decorating stuff, remember that I made a vanilla and a chocolate cake, and literally “cut and pasted” them together. So the final effect once I cut into the cake was this!

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Needless to say, my colleagues were very impressed… as was I! As always, I am thankful things seemed to work out. Although given the unevenness of the checkers in the cake, it is clear that I need to invest in some proper measuring tools, rather than guestimating with bowls and such.

Thanks for reading!