Holiday Treats!

Happy 2014 everyone!

For this post, rather than give an in-depth look at everything I baked this holiday season, I thought I’d give you an overview of the cookies and cupcakes I made. This is partly because some of the cookies I made are extremely basic and don’t warrant an entire blog post, and partly because there would be a lot of posts to cover everything. So I figure it’d be simpler to put it all into one holiday treats post, so you can feast your eyes on what I baked (and maybe keep to your resolutions too).

Holiday Cut-Out Cookies

I made these as the end-of-year treat for my colleagues. I actually spent an entire week on them, baking them the previous weekend, and decorating them a little bit every evening.

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I made nearly 120 cookies. I then personalized some of the stockings and the stars, with the first initial of my colleagues, and separated out the cookies.

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Each person got 4 cookies. I placed them into a holiday bag, with a note from myself and Josh.

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Old-Fashioned Butter Press Cookies

I went home for a few days at Christmas, so I had to make some cookies there too! Since I left my KitchenAid mixer and everything at my place, I made simple, hand-mixed, butter cookies. These were Mom’s favorites.

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My dad found a new cookie press tucked away in a corner, and to my delight, it had a tree form! (and a pumpkin, but that’s for a different holiday). I decorated these simply, with red and green sugar.

British Pudding – American-style

Actually, these aren’t mini British Christmas puddings at all. They’re leftover chocolate cake and icing, which I transformed into cake balls. I had a bit of white candy melts left, so I whipped these up and topped with festive sprinkles.

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Apple Pie

Okay, so maybe it’s not that festive, but it was one of my contributions for our annual Christmas dinner at some very dear friends of ours, so I figure it deserves it’s place here.

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My apologies for the bad-quality photo, it was hastily taken before I put it out on the buffet.

New Year’s Eve Cupcakes

My last festive piece of baking, were these pink champagne, New Year’s Eve cupcakes. What else would you need to finish off the year with a flourish?

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These were quite the hit at the party I took them to!

And so here ends my first blog entry for 2014. I can’t wait to see what new baking adventures the year brings me! In the meantime, one of my resolutions is to form healthier eating habits… so I guess whatever I bake, I shall have to bring in to work ^_^

Thanks for reading!

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A Final Taste of Summer

Greetings all!

We had a double birthday celebration this week, which was also the final week of school before the holiday. Since we are all responsible adults and we don’t eat TOO much cake 😉 I made a single tier mango cake. If you recall, I had made a mango cake a couple months ago, when I made the Yellow Car Cake, and it was very successful, so I thought I would make it again (and actually get to eat some this time!)

I have also been dying to use my Calla lily former set, that I bought months and months ago, so I though they would make the perfect toppers for this cake. So three days before the cake was due for, I sat and made several Calla lilies.

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They were quite tricky actually, because the fondant liked to tear, instead of sitting and sticking to itself nicely. I ended up having to make double the number of lilies after 2/3 of the ones in my first batch ended up cracked when I took them off the formers.

I tinged the vanilla cream cheese/buttercream icing yellow, for the colors to match better. Plus, we were all a bit feeling tired from the long two months of school, autumnal weather that was starting up (read: rain and chilly temperatures), so a bright cake was just the thing to cheer us up.

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I had some leftover green icing from the soccer cake, so I used that for the edging along the bottom. My ‘swirls’ are getting better, but I do still need some practice!

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I colored some more fondant green, and made several leaves, to back the lilies. I thought that white flowers on yellow cake might be too pale, and the green was such a complimentary color, that it would look good. I placed the leaves in the center of the cake, in a star shape.

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Then, I proceeded to place the lilies between the spaces of the leaves, in order to get a multi-point star shape. One thing I do need to work on is placing my center piece in the actual center of the cake. I’m close on this one but slightly off to the left.

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Close-up of the lilies:

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And ta-da! A finished mango cake with Calla lilies for decoration.

One thing I have learned from this though, is that fondant and regular icing don’t mix very well. While everything looks great in the above photos, the moisture from the icing leeched into the fondant (slightly) which caused the lilies to collapse a little by the time the cake was brought out to eat. It still looked (and was!) yummy, but the flowers weren’t as perky.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

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 🙂

 

Cakes So Far

It’s going to take me a while to get used to this layout and process of keeping a blog and making decent entries. I was nearly through with my first real entry (with photos and everything!) of the team birthday cakes I made from October to June, when the window froze as I was trying to add a link, and the whole entry was lost. So, I’m trying again.

The first cake I made was a nut-free carrot cake, with cream cheese icing, piped carrots and Wilton’s Candy Melts grass. I looked up a tutorial on YouTube on how to pipe carrots, and used regular Ziploc bags for the first time, as there was so little icing to pipe, I didn’t want to waste a proper piping bag.

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Next up, was our “Deputy Sheriff”‘s birthday, thus called as even though she’s an assistant, she keeps all of us in line. The cake is chocolate, with vanilla buttercream. I puzzled over how to make the shape of the cake for a while, until I realized that if I baked a 13″ x 9″ cake, I could then cut triangles out of the 9” sides, and place them at the top and bottom for the two other points. The rounded ends are made out of fondant balls which I shaped around the points. Although I was careful with the writing, I clearly still need practice :/ I used Google for some reference images and ideas, but no one’s tutorial in particular.

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Next up were our December birthdays, of which we had four, and this is the only birthday lunch I can’t find photos from. It was also a generic end-of-term potluck lunch. The cake I made was a velvet spice cake in a ring mold, which I then sprinkled with icing sugar for it to look like snow, and pressed in some small sugar holly berries and leaves for an extra-festive look. If I ever find the picture (I know I took one!) I will post it, but if not… well I’ll just have to make another, won’t I? 😉

My colleague and friend Jenna’s birthday was the next one up, and, knowing she loves chocolate, I decided to follow a full tutorial for a cake for the first time. Shortly before I had to bake this, one of the cake artists I follow on deviantART, ginas-cakes (http://ginas-cakes.deviantart.com) posted a tutorial on how to make a box of chocolates cake. Despite the problems I had with this cake, including the chocolateer giving me the wrong selection of chocolates, and my homemade fondant refusing to cooperate (I am still looking for alternative recipes), the cake turned out pretty good. And it was tasty, which is really all I can ask for!

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This brings us to my first non-cake birthday. This colleague wasn’t a big cake fan, so I went all out and tried something totally new: a lemon-meringue pie. Notes for next time: make pretty waves in the meringue instead of heaping it on, and continue practicing writing. Other than that, it was quite good for a first try (I had no idea they were so difficult to make!) and I look forward to making it again.

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Next came a double-birthday, so I decided to be reckless again, and make a tiered cake instead of two separate cakes. I found the recipe online (not sure of the exact website now, but it was on AllRecipes, or BBCFood or some such) and inspiration for the design from Beantown Baker (http://www.beantownbaker.com/2010/04/lemon-raspberry-layer-cake.html). This cake went down very very well – a white cake with raspberry jam between the layers, and a lemon buttercream icing. Topped off with fresh raspberries, it was very light and fruity.

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And then came the two most epic cakes I have made so far. Up next was another double-birthday, but this time, it was of the woman I work with, and of a colleague whose obsession with WWII was too good to pass up. With a three-day weekend ahead of me, I embarked on my longest cake-making endeavor yet: a replica Sherman tank (chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting – homemade attempt which ended up too tough to work with properly) and champagne bottle (pink champagne cake pink champagne frosting and fondant accents). The Sherman tank is mostly painted with edible a vodka-corn syrup-edible food coloring mixture. The champagne bottle cake is mostly done with colored fondant, although I hand-painted and wrote the label. The fondant champagne glasses are also hand cut and painted. The two cakes were assembled without any big drama; but the time I spent making them is one of the reasons why I’m not considering this as a career choice just yet.

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And this brings me to my final team birthdays cake of the year – a Black Forest Gateau. I had made one of these before, but I knew it to be my boyfriend’s favorite (he works at the same place I do) so I made it for him and my other colleague whose summer birthdays needed to be celebrated before we broke up for the summer.

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And so this is the end of this first blog. For most of these cakes I have photos of them at different stages of completion. In my future posts, I hope to include these, with a longer description of the stage at which the cake is at. But until then, thank you for scrolling through and checking these out!