Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Hope you have a wonderful day with your kids and families. Don't get sick eating too much of their candy like I always do!

My sister Barbara, who has never decorated a cake in her life, came over for me to help her make a cake for her office Halloween goody contest. She has been a huge help to me with SugarEd over the last year, and has come with me to several of my demos and vendor shows, so she has been exposed to a lot this last year. (Some of you have met her! I also have another fabulous sister that you will meet later on.) She baked the cake herself and brought it over. I showed her how to do each technique (basically off the cake) and then she did the rest herself. She was quite a quick learner. She colored and rolled out the fondant, applied it (I helped her smooth one side while she did the other in the interest of drying out time.) She airbrushed it, made her own leaves and stem, piped the grass, and made the words. I helped her just a little bit with the face and spider.

We used 2 bundt cakes and spackled the seam with stiffened buttercream. Cream cheese filling was piped down into the center hole and a circle of cardboard sits on the top to support the stem.

Here is Barbara airbrushing her masterpiece. Do you dig the fancy taped up towels?

Piping the grass.


Hers came out better than mine! And she won first place too! I am so proud, congrats Barb!

I also want to share with you the cookies I did yesterday for my bestest client.

All flooded with royal icing and candy eyes.

These were huge! The web was about 6 inches across.

The big bats are royal icing stenciled onto royal.

Pumpkins are royal stenciled on royal, ghosts are royal with fondant face.

Fondant face on airbrushed royal icing.

These were my favorite! They make me giggle.

Have a nice night everyone; have fun and stay safe!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Pizza! Pizza! Daring Bakers Challenge

Happy Fall Everyone! I am just loving the crisp low humidity days were are having. Too bad we only have about 3 of those a year down here in the swamps! LOL. Perfect days to fire up the ovens for some baking for fun.

My beautiful friend Jacque has inspired me to join a monthly baking group called The Daring Bakers. Every month someone hosts the challenge and picks a recipe. Everyone in the club bakes that same recipe some time during the month, and then on the designated "reveal" day, everyone blogs about it, as well as posting in the Daring Bakers forum. I have been hooked on reading baking blogs as of late, and it looked like so much fun, I decided to join. I needed something else anyway to fill all of this free time I have on my hands (wink). OK, OK, I will fess up. One of my real motivations was that if I fill up my schedule with other very important commitments such as this, then I have a really legitimate excuse not to get to the housework and laundry (which BTW I loathe.) To make up for the dirty house and lack of clean clothes, my family gets to taste test lots of great new recipes. And if those perks are not enough, I also get a chance to practice my new mad photography skills. (Because you see, taking great photos of the food is just as important as the food itself in the blogging world.) So I see it as a win/win for everyone involved. ( Sharon <----- big grin)

I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed when I read that my first challenge would be a savory recipe of pizza dough. I am not a cook by any stretch of the imagination. I am into sweets. Period. End of discussion. But, we love pizza in this house, so I embraced the challenge and gave it my all. In the end, I had a ball with the pizza variations and the photo taking. You would have thought the Food Network was in my kitchen with all the light stands and tripods set up in there. Of course I had no clue what I was doing, but it was fun anyway.

This month's challenge was hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums. You can find the dough recipe on her blog. The rules stated that we had to try to toss the pizza dough; which I did and failed miserably; hence no photos of that. But I took a couple of hundred shots of everything else! (Don't get nervous; I am not going to post them all.) But almost all, tee hee.

I made one long rectangular pizza for hubby and I to share. His section was pepperoni, black forest ham, green and black olives with red sauce and mozzarella. My side was Canadian bacon, black olives and pineapple.

I baked it on the back of a cookie sheet at 500 degrees as the recipe stated, but found that temperature to be too high. The top was cooking too fast and drying out, while the center of the dough was not fully cooked. It could have used a few more minutes in the oven.

That being said, it was still really delicious, and a very easy dough to make. You do have to make it the day before so it can ferment, but it took no time at all to do. My pizza was just as yummy reheated in the oven the next day.

My son J formed and topped his own pizza: pepperoni and tons of cheese.

Little chef hands at work.

Ta daaaaaa!

His was cheesy and oozy and gorgeous.

His baked up beautifully and while I did not taste his, he enjoyed it a lot.

Then I also saved 2 portions of dough to make dessert pizzas with. J wanted chocolate chip like they serve at Sicily's Pizza. Do you guys have Sicily's? If not, too bad cuz it's yummy. I made a crumble for the top out of flour, sugar and butter.

This time I baked the dessert pizzas at 350 and let them go a while longer, and the crust and top baked up better that way. It was good, although personally I would have preferred a thin layer of peanut butter under the chocolate chips. J dusted the top with powdered sugar and went to town on it, so I think it was a thumbs up.

Here are two of my artsy foody photographer wanna be pics:

For hubby I made a blueberry crumble pizza:

I use canned blueberry pie filling (gasp!) and made a crumble topping from flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter.

I overcompensated for the undercooked dough in the savory pizza by keeping this one in the oven a tad too long. But it really only affected the very outer crust, so all was fine.

This was really yummy, I think my favorite of all the pizzas.

More artsy shots. How am I doing?

So, all in all I would say my first Daring Baker's Challenge was a success. And really a lot of fun. My friend Heather has joined also, and I am trying to convince my sister to join too. (Come on Barb, you know you want to.) I am looking forward to next month already. If you would like to see what other Bakers did this month, check out the blogroll.

Happy Baking Everyone!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Making a Gumpaste Crown

Raise your hand if you love princess cakes. Yes, yes, I see a lot of hands going up! We love princess cakes! And our customers do too!

When I say Princess, you say Cakes.....

Me: Princess

You: Cakes!

Me: Princess

You: Cakes!

OK, so I get a little excited about cake. And princess cakes have been a very popular design for a few years now. I have made more than I can count. I get asked quite often how I make the gumpaste crowns, so here are some step by step pictures I took many years ago. The pictures are rather craptastic, due to the fact that I had a craptastic camera at the time, and had no idea how to take a good picture back then. But I think you can get the idea of what I am doing in them. (PS. Craptastic = if crap was fantastic, this would be it)


Paper template:

Cut the metal rim off one end of your can (like a shortening can; I use the gumpaste mix can):

Wrap parchment paper (or wax paper) around your can and tape it in place. The end with the metal lid still on goes down on the counter:

Tape parchment or wax paper down well on counter (you do not need the blue mat under it) and grease it well with shortening:

Roll out gumpaste onto the wax paper and lay the paper template over it and trace over it to cut out the crown shape:

Apply shortening to the surface of the cut out crown with a brush:

Cut the wax paper with a knife along the bottom edge of the crown, and proceed to cut out the rest of a rectangle around the crown. Do not cut out the wax paper along the exact shape of the crown, except along the bottom edge:

Take the can and roll it onto the crown, lining up the base of can with the bottom edge of the crown. The greased side of the crown is sticking to the parchment paper wrapped around the can:

After crown is in place, wrapped all the way around the can, stand it up. Wax paper is still in place on top of the crown:

Gently peel off the wax paper from the top side of the crown. The side of the crown that was face down on the counter, touching the wax paper, is now the upside of the crown and exposed to the air:

Let that sit and dry for 1-2 days. Do not rush it or you will surely break it. (Ask me how I know):

When the crown is dry enough to hold its shape, grab the top of the parchment paper extending above the can and gently slide all of it together off the can:

Sit that on a board and then gently peel the parchment paper off of the inside of the crown:

Let that sit and dry for a few more days. When the crown is really firm you may need to wipe the excess shortening off the inside of the crown, and then dust it with a tad of cornstarch:

When fully dry, you can airbrush or paint it silver or gold. (This photo below is a lie. I was not actually airbrushing it at this time because I had to hold the airbrush with my left hand while my right hand took the picture. Impressive, eh?):

Then you can add plastic craft jewels, or even better, make edible ones!:

Pretty easy but you have to plan a few days ahead at least. Make 2, because if you make only one I guarantee you will break it. (Ask me how I know.) I like to use the Wilton gumpaste mix in the can for these because it not very elastic and rubbery, and that cuts easier than other types I have tried.

Here is a template for the crowns shown above. This is only one half of the crown. And you will have to enlarge this template to the right size for your cake:

Here is another template, the first one I ever made, an older design:

So there you have it! Now go get to making crowns!
Lots of crowns! All kinds of crowns!

We love Princess cakes!!

Happy crowning!