The Rose and The Butterfly

Last weekend, I had the pleasure and good fortune of attending a sugarpaste modelling class at a local cake company here in Luxembourg. Sweet Lily, situated right on Avenue X Septembre, regularly hosts cake decorating classes, both for children and adults.

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This time, Emi, from Cake Atelier, led a sugarpaste modelling class and taught us how to create a beautiful and realistic looking rose, and a butterfly. We learned how to use a variety of tools to obtain the desired effect, how to use floral wire to hold the whole thing together, and how to paint each individual flower with powdered food colouring.

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We also learned how to effectively level, ice, and cover a cake with fondant. Personally, I discovered that Satin Ice fondant is easier to work with and less likely to tear, than Renshaw, which I’ve always used so far (which isn’t to say that Renshaw is of poorer quality; just a different feel to it).

I’m very excited to start applying these methods to my future cakes!

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Drum Roll Please!

This fabulous cake was for a friend and colleague of mine who has taught at my school for about as long as I can remember. He taught 3rd grade when I was in 3rd grade (although I wasn’t in his class), and was a dear friend of my mother’s. This year, he retired, and I was overjoyed that his wife asked me to make a cake for his retirement party.

His main interests (apart from teaching) being playing the drums (he’s a musician as well), art, and swimming, we decided to creatively represent all three of these.

I baked a combination of vanilla and chocolate cakes, and to add a bit of excitement, placed a chocolate layer in the vanilla cake. This was the bottom tier, and largest drum.

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The second, smaller drum, was entirely chocolate, and the ‘skin’ cover of the drum was blue, to represent a swimming pool.

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Making the metal fixings of the drums was tricky, but proved to be quite an important learning step for me. This was the first time I’d done anything like it, and getting to fondant around in one piece was difficult. I had to do it in two pieces for the largest drum, as using one one length kept tearing.

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Once I got it stuck on and let it set for a few minutes, I painted over the grey fondant with metallic silver food paint.

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I had one thin layer of chocolate cake leftover, and rather than throwing it away (I hate wasting, and I was out of space in my freezer to freeze it), I made a thin tambourine to sit on top. This was a total extra, but I thought it’d be nice to emphasize Robert’s passion for art by also including an artists’ palette; instead of just having drumstick paintbrushes.

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This part was a bit last-minute, and not as secure as I would have liked it to be, however the overall effect was striking.

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Everything (except dowel rods) is edible in the cake, including the drumstick paintbrushes which are made of fondant.

Happy Retirement!

A Spring Twist: White Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

Upon our return from Spring break, we celebrated our final two birthdays of the year. Seeing as I’d made several chocolate cakes before, I gave a twist to this one, and made it with white chocolate instead, and iced it with fresh raspberry buttercream.

I searched online, as usual, for recipes that would suit my ideas. I used this recipe for the white chocolate cake. It works quite well, although I would urge you to absolutely follow directions and lay down a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of the pan. The cake is quite sticky to get out, and I lost one layer in the process. This meant I had to bake another batch of the recipe, which resulted in the cake having three layers instead of two (which worked out very positively in the end 🙂 ).

Once baked and cooled, I disregarded their white chocolate frosting, and instead used a delicious, fresh raspberry buttercream recipe instead. When you first add the raspberries to the butter, don’t get discouraged that the mixture looks very sloshy! The icing sugar absorbs it all, and the quantities listed are perfect.

Here is the cake, firming up in the fridge with the buttercream:

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While the cake was setting, I melted a whole bunch of chocolate over a double boiler. I think I melted about 160g. This was to make the beautiful lace collar I planned to place around the cake. For a great tutorial (with pictures!) on how to make one, click here. I love the little pan I used with the pourer bits on each side. I knew I would have to pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag, so that made it much easier and mess-free.

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I cut a piece of wax paper in half, and stuck the two ends together to get a long collar. I laid it out on the counter, and once the chocolate was cool enough in the piping bag so I wouldn’t burn my hands, I piped random swirls on the wax paper.

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In hindsight, I would cut a slightly smaller hole in the piping bag, as some of these lines are really thick, and it took twice as long for them to set than what the tutorial said (1 hour, instead of 1/2 an hour). But I finally was able to carefully press the collar around the cake.

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Obviously, it was a bit taller than I estimated. I put the cake in the fridge, and left it overnight to set completely.

The next morning, I very very carefully peeled away the wax paper, and added fresh raspberries to spice up the top decoration.

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Upon taking the wax paper away, I could see that, ideally, I should have placed the chocolate a little lower, so that it would be aligned with the bottom of the cake. But for a first attempt, I was very satisfied with how it turned out.

I didn’t have time that morning before leaving, so I put the leftover buttercream and my piping tools in the bag, and piped an edge around the bottom to hide the gap. My original chocolate centerpiece also cracked, but luckily, I had made several and had a back-up, for when it was time to serve the cake.

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And the inside looked just as delicious 0.O

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Thank you for reading! ^_^

Jo x

 

Decadent Chocolate Roses

Today’s cake is a rather decadent chocolate layer cake. Months ago, my friend Emily sent me a picture of a cake with large chocolate rose swirls all over it, and I resolved to make it for her birthday. Well, her birthday eventually came around (as birthdays do), and she got her chocolate cake.

The cake itself is a simple cocoa devil’s food cake. which I iced with chocolate buttercream, both between the layers and on the outside. Then I made another batch of buttercream for the large roses.

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To help break up the monotony of constant brown chocolatey-ness, I whipped up a mini batch of vanilla buttercream and colored it pink. I added tiny swirls of pink ‘flowers’ to complement the brown.

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And of course, I got to practice my piping writing. Although I did forget to cross the ‘t’ in birthday! O.O

Sorry this was a bit of a short post this time around – I didn’t take many pictures of this cake, and it was a fairly simple confection.

Thanks for reading,

Jo x

 

Birthday Boardgame Bonanza

Hello everyone!

Apologies for my absence. Things got very very busy and it was hard to find time to sit down and write a proper post. Of course, that means there is a lot to catch up on! So without further ado…

I made three cakes for Zak’s Boardgames Birthday Bonanza. The lesson I learned? How to appropriately size cakes for a given number of people. There was WAY TOO MUCH cake (wait, is that even possible?).

Given his recent foray into Minecraft, the first cake I decided to make him was a cake that looks the way cake does in Minecraft.

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This was a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing. I genuinely looked up a picture of a Minecraft cake in Google so I could place the red sprinkles accurately. This was a relatively simple cake, although cutting and placing the white fondant was tricky. It was fun, although some people at the party were confused about it.

I also made Minecraft cake pops: chocolate of course, and made to look like blocks of dirt or with mine-able materials.

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The second cake I made, was of Zak’s favorite boardgame of all time: Pictionary.

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This one was purely vanilla: cake and buttercream icing. Again, a simple design, covered in fondant. I got to use my brand-new writing tips to pipe the white outlines and words. While you can’t tell in this picture, my writing is still a bit wobbly. To help make the lines straight, I used a piping lace decorating tip from SweetSugarBelle “Piping Lace on Cookies” (A side note: I’m really excited to try piping lace too!).

Also, the reason the colors are a bit off on the board, it’s because it’s hard to cut a rectangular board into five equal areas, and I had very little orange/purple-blue fondant to work with. Covering the cake boards was a rather last-minute idea.

The final cake I made, was based on the Settlers of Catan. I ordered a hexagon-shaped cake pan and had to make four times my regular vanilla cake recipe. I put chocolate buttercream between the layers. I covered the whole thing in fondant, hexagons the exact size of the game pieces. I made my own Robber. I even made dice! I’m pretty darned proud of this cake.

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To help with the placing of the resources, I generated a game on my iPad version, for complete authenticity. Although the cake isn’t big enough to show the full game, the resources are placed randomly, as are the numbers.

So, three cakes, when really, the Catan cake would have fed us all.

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So the birthday boy was very happy, and I was pleased to pull this off, even if I do need to seriously reconsider cake quantities etc.

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Thanks for reading!

Jo

PS. I know this post isn’t as detailed as to the making-of for each cake, but I thought it would simply be too long, and I didn’t like the idea of splitting it into three posts. Suffice to say there was a lot of work involved but I’m pleased with how they all turned out ^_^

 

Pink & Purple Ombre

This will just be a short post, and nowhere near as elaborate as my last one, but I want to share this cake with you anyway. It brought me to tears, despite its’ simplicity.

I made a pink and purple ombre cake for my colleague’s birthday this week, right after my mountain cake. I drew inspiration from Glorious Treats’ Purple Ombre Mini Cakes, and figured it would be an easy and simple cake that would still look pretty.

And it mostly was! I doubled my easy vanilla cake recipe and split it first in half. That was my first mistake: I eyeballed instead of measured. With each half, I then dyed it with the lighter colour first, and then the darker. Overall, my colours were just fine… but the heights of my cakes definitely were not.

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I admit: I cried a bit. I had a mountain of stress, a huge cake I’d finished the day before, and now this simple cake reduced me to tears. But, I still put it together, because honestly, what else was I going to do?

It actually turned out OK.

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Unfortunately, the skinniest layer was supposed to be the second, so the ombre effect was a bit off, but the cake overall looked good.

I covered it with simple vanilla buttercream roses.

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And the cut slice still looked pretty cool ^_^

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But for next time, lesson learned: Don’t double from the start, and measure accurately when separating the batter.

PS. Apologies for the darkness in the photos. I don’t have very good photo lighting in the apartment, and it was dark outside.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

…that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” -Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

This cake was commissioned for a Jane Austen lover, and what better than an open book cake, with one of Jane Austen’s most famous quote along its’ open pages? That is what I dreamed up for this cake.

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Shaping the cake was quite difficult actually. I have yet to find a good chocolate cake recipe that doesn’t fall apart on me the moment I shape it. With a lot of icing and struggles later, I finally was able to cover it with homemade marshmallow fondant.

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I let it rest like this overnight, and then encountered a new problem. Cutting marshmallow fondant in a straight line is EXTREMELY difficult. Because the nature of marshmallow is to be quite elastic, such was the fondant, and cutting it was a nightmare. I finally rolled it out and stuck it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then used a sharp knife dipped in boiling water to help with the cutting process. It (sort of) worked, and I was able to shape the book cover (purple) and bookmark.

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I then cut faint lines into the fondant on the sides of the book, to simulate pages. In order to show these up, I mixed a very light brown food coloring and vodka mixture and painted it on.

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Mixing colors into marshmallow fondant is also very tricky, and I eventually had to resort to painting certain sections over in order to get better vibrancy.

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Finally, I was ready to do my writing. A few years back, I came across a set of edible ink felt-tipped markers. They were an absolute life-saver, as I used these to write the words, rather than paint them on with a brush.

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I confess, I did have to look up the quote to make sure I had it right. I was terrified as I was writing that I would mess up, skip a letter, skip a word or something! But, luckily, I didn’t. I still need to work on writing straight though ^_^

Thanks for reading!

A Gift from Me to You

Hello everyone,

First, I apologize for my absence the last few weeks. After my birthday, things got very hectic at work (Winter Concert and other festivities) and at home (upcoming Hanukkah and Christmas), and I hardly had a minute to myself, let alone the time to sit down, sift through my photos, and write a decent blog post.

So here I am, on Christmas Day, catching up! Merry Christmas!

It is fitting, then, that my post today is a cake in the shape of a gift, and ironically, for my colleague whose actual birthday is today. Happy Birthday Conchi 🙂

I got all my tools out, and I looked up how to make a bow out of fondant. This video was extremely helpful. The first bow I made, I used the exact dimensions the lady used. That one was WAY too big for my small cake, so I adjusted, and made a second one.

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Keeping with the festive season, I made a velvet spice cake, with chocolate buttercream frosting. I did not make my own fondant this time – I used store-bought white instead. I decided the “wrapping paper” would be green, so I set to kneading green food coloring into the fondant.

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This is arguably what took the longest out of the entire cake decorating evening. There was a lot of fondant to dye, and I had to make sure it was even. But I eventually got there, and covered my cake:

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Next, since my bow had “ribbon” that was 5cm wide, I had to make sure the “ribbon” wrapping around the cake was also 5cm wide.

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I used edible glue to stick the “ribbon” into place. Looking back, I could have made the ends slightly narrower, but the overall effect was still what I wanted. I added the bow. Then, I rolled out some more white fondant, and punched out snowflakes with my smallest plunger, and stuck them on with edible glue.

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Close up of snowflakes:

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I’m very very pleased with how the cake turned out ^_^ It wasn’t difficult as far as cakes go, and the whole decorating process probably only took about 1 1/2 hours. It was fun to decorate, and I would definitely do it again!

Thanks for reading!

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Happy Birthday To Me!

It may be late on ‘update day’ but I won’t let you down! It was my birthday earlier this week, and Josh took me to London for the weekend to see a show (of my choice) as part of my present. It was absolutely wonderful, I’m exhausted and my voice is disappearing, but I want to at least share with you the making of my birthday cake.

I did make my own birthday cake, partly because I knew exactly what I wanted, and because you can’t find cakes like these in Luxembourg. I decided to make a red velvet cake, covered in large buttercream swirl roses.

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Basically, a red velvet cake is a buttermilk layer cake with some cocoa powder added into the flour, and red food coloring. It’s not really a chocolate cake as the chocolate taste is quite faint, but it complements the rest of the flavors nicely.

The Joy Of Cooking recommended that the cake be iced with cream cheese frosting, but in my experience, cream cheese frosting does not hold up well when piping designs. So I decided to make a batch of vanilla buttercream instead (I am the birthday girl after all, and it’s my cake 🙂 )

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Then I re-watched this Youtube video, which explains in a clear, visual way how to make buttercream swirl roses. I think I need to invest in some smaller diameter cake pans in order to make a cake similar to that in the video- I would love to have a taller slimmer cake than my usual 9″ diameter round ones.

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So I made my white roses and ran into a disaster: I ran out of icing. And I had no butter left to make another batch. Luckily, I do have a ton of vegetable shortening, and I have a good, quick recipe to make a shortening-based vanilla icing. But, since shortening is very white, and butter is not, I had to add some food coloring to the second batch.

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I went with purple, of course. My favorite 🙂

Luckily, I’d had just enough white icing to make a white center rose before completely running out, so the final effect was very pretty.

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Close-ups of the roses:

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And the final effect, with the red, red cake on the inside ^_^

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Thanks for stopping by!

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!