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!

You’re Never Too Old For An Animal Party

This epic cake was for a young lady who turned 18. Her party’s theme was ‘animals’ and she herself was going as a unicorn, which I applaud because you should never ever lose your silly side just because you grow up.

So I searched for animal cakes, and found one that served as my basic inspiration. Given more prep time, I would have ordered more specific fondant and created better decorations and figurines, but given the resources that I had, I think it turned out OK.

I decided on a three tiered cake. If you are a baker and ever find yourself having to bake a cake for a large number of people (50 in this case) and no idea how much cake you actually need, I highly recommend signing up to this website: www.bakingit.com. It’s free, so long as you’re using it on a computer, and it will basically design your cake for you, once you put in your specifications (shape, number of portions, etc).

The largest tier was a marbled vanilla-chocolate cake, with fresh strawberry icing. This icing is DIVINE.

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I covered it in white fondant, and decorated with strips of black to emulate a zebra’s hide.

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The middle tier was a chocolate mudcake, or as my father calls it, brownie cake. Given its’ richness, I decided to simply cover it with dark chocolate ganache, as a tree trunk.

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I punched out lots of leaves both in dark green and bright green fondant, and lined the top of the middle tier. I used three different sizes, first the big ones, then I used middle sized to fill in the gaps.

Once I placed the final tier on top, I used the tiny sized leaves to hide the edge. The final tier was all vanilla, and decorated to look like a giraffe’s skin.

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And lastly, I did make a small elephant and panther head, because after all, it wouldn’t be much of an animal cake if only two animals were represented. I found this handy tutorial to teach me how to make an elephant; the panther came straight from my imagination ^_^

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I had a blast making this cake, even if it did stress me out, I had bad luck finding the right gluten-free flour, and I was up at all hours of the night putting it together. But the look on Lucie’s face when I delivered the cake was definitely worth it.

Happy Birthday!

First Communion: Soccer Pitch

Today, I’ve decided I’m going to catch up on the last three major cakes I’ve done: two First Communion cakes and an 18th Birthday cake.

This communion cake was for my colleague’s son, who loves (as many 8 year olds do) football. He initially told his mother he wanted a Cristiano Ronaldo cake, and although I’m a fairly good cake baker/decorator, I don’t think I’m quite at that level yet! So, we settled for a football pitch, to which she would add a couple of football figurines.

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So, I baked a Devil’s Food chocolate cake (the irony of the name and the occasion it was for did not escape me), and used grass green vanilla buttercream between the layers. I then covered the whole thing in a flat layer of buttercream before using my grass tip to pipe grass onto the field. I added the white field markings, and finished with a congratulatory message – in Spanish, no less!

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This was a fairly simple cake to make, overall, although it was time consuming to pipe all the grass. It also helped that I had previously made a similar cake back in the fall (Soccer cake for 20), so I knew exactly what I needed to make this one.

Congratulations Sean!

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 ^_^

 

Chocolate Bouquet

This cake is for chocolate lovers. It was my third epic cake in two weeks, and I don’t think I will ever get myself into that situation again unless I am a full-time baker. Jenna requested a chocolate cake, and I had to top the one I made for her last year, which was modeled to look like a box of chocolates (tutorial by Gina on deviantART).

After a Google search, I came across this image, and thought it good inspiration for my own cake. Unfortunately, my cake pan was wider than this, and I couldn’t find chocolate fingers to make the “basket” so I simply used chocolate fondant.

First, I looked up how to make chocolate roses. I made three batches of chocolate “plastic” (I don’t like that term), one in white, milk, and dark. This recipe was easy to follow and worked very well, but make sure you use cooking chocolate, not eating chocolate. I couldn’t find cooking chocolate for the milk and used Cote D’Or, which ended up crumbling easily when I made the roses. Then, I followed this step by step tutorial on how to form the roses.

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It was very similar to forming fondant roses, but the chocolate hardens with exposure to the air, rather than softens after more manipulation, the way fondant does. It was easier to form the waves in the petals and curl them back because they were simultaneously hardening. With fondant, I find it is hard to get the thinness needed because it tears, and just falls off.

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I made three different size roses, and started placing them on the chocolate buttercream covered cake. It was a mostly random arrangement, with a lot of tiny roses to intersperse the larger ones.

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As I got closer to the edge, I realized I needed to place something to help tie the bouquet together. So I rolled out a long snake of dark and white chocolate plastic and twisted them together to make a border. Then I continued filling in the space as much as possible.

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Jenna was super pleased with the cake, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out. In the future though, I know I need to prep A LOT more tiny roses than I did initially. Covering an 8″ cake takes a lot of roses and a lot of patience.

Thanks for reading ^_^

Summer & Winter Sports

Hello everyone!

This cake was a very very fun challenge! Months ago, I agreed to bake a cake for a colleague’s 50th birthday. It finally rolled around, and I coordinated with his wife as to flavour and decoration. Chocolate was the obvious choice, and two of his passions are cycling and skiing, so we came up with the idea of a mountain or hill cake, split on one side with a snowscape and a summer scene on the other.

I actually really planned out this cake:

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The chocolate cake I used was a chocolate mudcake recipe from a new book I got, Planet Cakes. I’ve heard of mudcakes being used before as good carving cakes, and since I’ve had so much trouble with my Devil’s food cake, I thought I’d try this one out. It was fairly easy to make. I made a double batch, and baked it in three different tins: one wide and shallow (about 10″ I think), two in my regular 8″ tins, and one in half of my Sports Ball cake pan (for the top of the mountain).

My tree idea completely failed and I had to replace them with others (more on that later).

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I also made a dark chocolate ganache to help keep the whole cake together. Chopping it was a challenge; luckily, Cooking Hints from Chris helped me out!

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The first time I made ganache in the summer, it didn’t set properly. This one did so I was super excited!

Then I started putting the cake together. Mudcake is DEFINITELY easier to carve and stick together using ganache. Ganache solidifies quickly as well, which was great.

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I made a winding path going around the hill. Then came the fun part: Making lots of vanilla buttercream icing and tinting it different colours for the real decorating to begin! I started with the summer side of the hill, and put in the dirt path. Piping the grass was strangely relaxing.

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View of the cake half-way covered:

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Then I made a second batch of vanilla buttercream but made it with 4/5ths vegetable shortening and 1/5th butter. This is because I wanted the snow side to be really white, and not have the yellow tinge that traditional buttercream tends to have.

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I crumb-coated the entire snow side first, and added extra white on the path. I wasn’t sure what I would use to make the snow texture different from the path, and thought about using sugar, white sugar sprinkles, and (what would have been ideal) desiccated coconut. But I didn’t have the last one, so I googled some images, and decided that a small star opening on my piping bag would do just fine.

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Piping those stars drove me crazy and my hand started hurting. But the effect was looking really cool, so I persevered 🙂

And quite suddenly, I was finished! The pine trees are made of fondant in a soft cone shape, and covered with dark green icing piped with my grass tip. This website helped give me a clue on how to do that.

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The next day, when I brought the cake in, my colleague finalized the figurines, which were of a skiier and cyclist, with her husband’s face superimposed.

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Overall, I am extremely pleased with how this cake turned out. It was really tough to plan and put together, and my respect for professional cake makes has increased a bit more. I spent six hours putting together this cake, but it was worth every moment.

Until the next time… -Jo

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!

Soccer party for 20, coming up!

Today I’m excited to share with you all my first cake commission. At the Birthday Break last week, when I brought out my Rainbow Cake, a colleague asked Josh who made the cake. He pointed her in my direction, and she asked if I would be open to baking a cake for an event: her son’s birthday party. Josh was going to run the soccer themed party with fun games, so I figured, why not? Sunday birthday party meant I would have all day Saturday to work on the cake without time worries. Well, life got in the way a bit with that plan, and I unfortunately had to turn down going to watch the rugby (Luxembourg-Israel, practically down the street from me) but let’s move on. Cake.

Luckily, the cake boards I ordered from England (The Craft Company) arrived on Friday so I didn’t have to worry about lending out a foil-covered chopping board. (The amount of packing space in the box was absolutely ridiculous).

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I searched for soccer-themed birthday cakes online, and found a great one through Google Images. It linked me back to this website. I shared the photo with my colleague, who thought it looked great and worried it was too much trouble. Since I’d not gotten to use my piping grass tip since I bought it back in March, I was super excited to try and represent this cake.

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So I prepped my cakes (double batch of Devil’s Food Cake) and used chocolate buttercream icing to put the layers together and crumb-coat the whole thing. I used Wilton’s Sports Ball cake pan to make the ball.

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Then, I had to cut pentagons and hexagons to cover the soccer semi-ball. Wanting to do this right, I actually looked up a Youtube video. I had all kinds of mathematical operations to do to get this right, including using a protractor. Never thought I’d use one of THOSE in baking!

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Then, I got to the fun part – tessellation! Late Saturday night, after a lovely dinner with Josh’s parents for his dad’s birthday, I came home, cut careful shapes from fondant, and tessellated the soccer ball.

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This morning, I whipped up a double batch of classic white icing (using shortening instead of butter) and tinged it with A LOT of green food coloring to get a nice field color. I set myself up with The Little Mermaid 3: Ariel’s Beginning to keep me company while I iced, and got to work.

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I started by icing the sides of the field with a knife. That part was going to stay smooth. Because the cake and chocolate icing were room temperature, I had to be careful not to scrape any of the chocolate into the green. Once the sides were done, I put my grass tip on the piping bag, and started piping “grass” on to the top of the cake, around the ball.

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When I made the green icing, I unfortunately forgot to save a bit of it in white (before adding the food coloring) that I was going to use to mark out the basic lines on the field. I then remembered I had a bag of white Candy Melts, and looked up online to see whether it was possible to pipe them. Luckily for me, they are, although I will avoid it as much as possible because it includes putting them in the plastic piping bag and microwaving it until they are soft enough to knead to the right consistency and pipe. But for the purposes of this cake, it all worked out, and I piped the white field lines directly onto the icing.

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I finished this with a couple of hours to spare before the cake was to be picked up, and lots of spare melted Candy Melts so I piped a message onto wax paper and stuck it in the fridge, just in case. The cake looked fine without it, but this was a birthday cake after all. So after the letters hardened, I carefully peeled them off, and gently pressed them into the icing on the side of the cake.

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Overall, I was very happy with the cake. There are a few things I would change if I were to do it again (like adding a small cake board under the half-ball for extra support) and perhaps making a buttercream frosting for the white grass, for better consistency and taste. The parents were impressed with it, and Josh told me it was a success and delicious.

Thanks for reading! ^_^

Guitar Cake

Hi everyone,

Today’s cake is one I made near the middle of June, for my Dad’s birthday. I’ve wanted to make this cake for a while now, because he loves guitars, plays them (quite well), and I love listening to him play. I grew up with his strumming, and recently, he’s gotten himself in a small band with some friends. They don’t write music, but they play favorite songs, and occasionally perform at the school I work at, for teacher functions. So the perfect cake for him was a guitar cake.

My biggest challenge was keeping the secret from him. Since we live in the same house, and I can’t exactly bake and decorate a cake in my room, it was quite tricky. Luckily, he was rehearsing with friends the afternoon before his birthday, and so quite tired when he got home, so he went to bed early. Since I had been on a baking frenzy the whole week with things, it wasn’t odd for him to see me bake yet another cake.

The guitar I chose as my model is this one:

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So, I started with a 13″x9″ chocolate cake, which I cut into a basic guitar belly shape. I decided I would make the neck out of cardboard and paint it accordingly, as I didn’t have the time or the resources to make it out of anything else and support it properly.

I used store-bought rolled fondant, and colored it a basic orange. I covered the cake and tucked in the ends, then got out my newly purchased palette, and proceeded to paint in the reddish gradient. A simple vodka-edible food coloring powder mixture was fine. For the shiny edging, I added a drop of light corn syrup to the mixture – I find it makes the paint sticky and shiny. The only downside is that it stays that way, it doesn’t completely dry.

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Once all of this was underway and in various states of drying, I pulled out my cardboard and acrylic paints, and painted the handle. Because I didn’t trust my fine painting skills, I actually used white writing icing to make the scales and writing on the neck of the guitar.

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Then his big day finally came. Something needs to be said about that: Dad doesn’t like to celebrate his birthday. Never has and never will. So I kept things simple – I just invited my grandpa over for dinner, and made sure my brother was in attendance. We just had a simple quiche and salad, nothing fancy, and certainly nothing to arouse his suspicions (although they were kind of, because, well it was his birthday after all). So I guess you could say he was only half-surprised when I trotted out with his cake:

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The only, very cringe-worthy, eye-catching ‘disaster’ is the guitar strings. Between making dinner and finishing the guitar in secret, I panicked a bit with the strings (in fact, I had forgotten about them until I put the two guitar pieces together). So I went down in the sewing box, found some wire thread and pins, and voilà. So the guitar is quite an untuned one, but it served it’s purpose, and Dad loved it. The guitar neck is pinned to the cake with some pins, and supported by a block of styrofoam near the top.

And just for a comparison, here is the model and the cake side by side:

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Thank you for reading; and until next time!