Sunday, June 28, 2009

Owen and The Gipper

My brother-in-law, Owen, has a 4th of July birthday. But not only is his birthday patriotic, so is he. He is a 100% pure blooded, flag waving patriot, Republican and Reagan lover. Serious Reagan fan. No really, I mean he worships the guy. His major in college was political science, so you can always count on an intense discussion about politics if you so wish to engage in one. Almost every year I make him a patriotic cake. Always something red white and blue to celebrate the day.

Owen and his wife, Cathy, are two of our very best friends in the entire world. We are in-laws (twice removed), but our kids think they are cousins. We have been "family" for over 20 years, and celebrate every major holiday and life event together. Our families are very close, and I cannot imagine my life without them in it.

Well, Owen turned 50 this year, and Cathy planned a huge surprise party for him. (Why I had to keep the cake secret because he might read here from time to time.) So when Cathy asked me to make the cake, I said of course! At first I thought I might just do a huge flat cake in a more simple design. But that didn't last too long. The idea came to me late one night while I was sleeping, I think. I don't remember exactly when it came to me, but as soon as it did, I knew I was in trouble. I knew it would be a challenge. Going places I had not gone in cake before. But just like all the other crazy ideas I get, I knew I had to try. I could not talk myself out of it. It became an obsession. It consumed my every waking thought for the better part of 2 weeks.

My idea was to incorporate a picture of Owen and Reagan side by side that I photo shopped into the cake. But not just a boring ole picture on the cake. No, not on my cake. It has to move! It has to pop up and down! It has to pop up and down on the lid of an Uncle Sam hat! Yes, that's it! Perfect! Awesome!

Now how in the heck was I going to do that? I didn't have one iota of an idea how to go about doing that. But I know someone who does! There was only one person to call in for back-up on this one.... my brother Michael. Michael is a genius (literally), an engineer, and he is a guru at all things mechanical, electrical and technological. He started taking things apart and rebuilding them when he was a little kid. He had a "lab" under our house growing up with all kinds of gadgets and goodies down there. ( He set boobie traps so my sisters and I could not get into it and mess it up, LOL.)

But Mike has always been my hero. When my other siblings were torturing me and making my life a living hell, he was always sweet and nice to me. If I had a broken toy or mechanical doll, I would go crying to him, and I knew he could always make it work again. And he always did. He always made it work. He is a friggin' genius. And my hero. And the nicest, sweetest guy on earth. So of course, he was happy to help me with my ambitious project.

So I tell Mike what I am trying to accomplish, and while he thought about what we needed to get to make this work, I got started on the cylinder of the hat so it would have ample time to dry:

Mike and I decided that we needed about an 8 inch diameter cylinder to make sure a motor would fit on the inside (to create the popping lid). So I took 2 eight inch cake dummies and stacked them together. Then I gave them a crumb coat of white chocolate and smoothed that out with my bench scraper as best as I could. After that dried, I literally sanded it with my sanding block to get the surface as smooth as possible. The dummy surfaces were rather irregular, and I needed the seem between them to be smoothed out too. It did not have to be perfect, just reasonably smooth. Much to my delight, this process worked quite well.

Then I covered the dummy with parchment paper, and wrapped it with gumpaste to form the hat cylinder. I used the exact same process I use when I make my gumpaste crowns. I let that sit for 2 or 3 days to firm up before I slid the gumpaste off the dummy. After I slid it off, I let it dry about a week before I touched it again.

When I was ready to start working with it, I spackled the seem (and some wrinkles) with more white chocolate.

At this point, everything is still nerve wracking. We were making this up as we went along, neither one of us being really sure if any of this was going to work. Poor Mike got a lot of nervous emails from me stressing over this and that. Worried if it would all work out or not. Because I wanted it to work so badly! No, I needed it to work! I was invested, obsessed, possessed...

The base of the cylinder was a 12 inch cake drum that I covered in red fondant. I knew it was going to need to be strong, in order to support all the weight of the finished hat (gumpaste, motor, supports, fondant, lid). I covered it on one side, let that dry firm a few days, and then flipped it over and covered the other side and sides with one smooth piece.

The top of the hat was one single cake cardboard covered on one side with red fondant. I needed to keep the lid as light as possible, because we did not know how much weight the motor would be able to handle.

The cylinder was glued to the hat brim with some chocolate on the inside.

You can also see in these photos that the gumpaste cylinder did wrinkle some over the 1.5 weeks it was drying. I assume it was from the sheer height and weight of it. Gravity just taking its toll. It was purely cosmetic, and did not affect its stability. I felt confident I would be able to cover all that when I decorated it. (Well, I hoped, anyway...)

We needed a very sturdy way to hinge the lid to the cylinder, so Mike put a strip of fomecore down the back of the hat. We glued it on with chocolate, and cut a hole in the bottom so the electrical wire for the motor could come out the back, later to be attached to the power supply. The hinge was attached to the fomecore with epoxy glue. (Really strong stuff!)

So what were we going to use to motorize this thing? I of course did not have a flipping clue. I had explained to Mike what I wanted to do, and he found two hobby motors on Amazon that he thought might work. He wasn't sure though, as there was not enough info in the product description for him to really know. We would not know until they came in: their size, if they were strong enough, would the gears have the proper height rotation, and their speed. Would they be too weak? Too fast? Too slow? I ordered them right away, and it was an absolutely excruciating week waiting for them to come in. Not knowing the fate of my idea! It was torture! I really wanted this cake to work, not just for myself and meeting the challenge, but I really wanted it to be special for Owen.

So the motors finally come in, and I open the boxes to find about 800 little plastic pieces in a bag. Ack! Obviously it was a model kit, and needed to be assembled. I rushed over to Mike's to deliver them so he could get started on assembly, and we made a date for him to cover over the next day to see how this was all going to work (or not.) Needless to say, I did not sleep that night. (again.)

So Mike came over the next day (and the next 2 days after that) to get this hat working. We glued fomecore to the hat brim to prop the motor up to the right height. Everything was glued down with melted chocolate and masking tape to get it as secure as possible. The wire ran from the motor, out the back of the hat, to the power source.

Mike attached an eye hook to the underside of the lid. Then I was able to glue on the photo. A thick copper wire went from the motor gear to the lid. As the motor ran, the gear would turn, making the wire go up and down. (We hoped!) The electrical thing on the left is his power supply unit he brought over to give it juice. Did it work? Did we fail? You will have to wait to find out....


In the midst of all of this I had even another idea. (Yes, a dangerous thing.) Wouldn't it be cool if I could incorporate some audio into the cake of Reagan wishing Owen a happy birthday? Oh yeah, that would be awesome! Surely there has to be a way to do that! Some hidden speakers or something. But the bigger problem was getting audio of Reagan's voice saying happy birthday. No way would I find that anywhere. Maybe I knew someone who could do an impersonation and record that. I really didn't have much hope that this would come to fruition, but it was a cool idea anyway.

So one evening, on a whim, I decided to do an internet search. Just to see what was out there. So I googled "Reagan audio saying happy birthday"....... and to my utter amazement, within 5 minutes I found it! An audio file from 1968 of Ronald Reagan wishing a newspaper mogul a happy 90th birthday. I jumped out my chair and howled with excitement! This was just what I needed! I could not believe I found it! It was surely a sign from God. This cake had to be made. I had to press on. I had to make it work!

I immediately emailed the link to my other hero, Todd, my video guy. I gave him a script of the words I wanted cut out from the clip. He edited it down to an appropriate message, and sent it back to me as an mp3 file. I then loaded it to a small stick mp3 player that had detached speakers on wires. Well, the speakers were not loud enough, so off Mike and I went on a mission to find amplified speakers that would fit into the mp3 adaptor. Two stops later we found just what we needed at Office Depot. Speakers with amplified volume control that could play nice and loud. YAY! One problem solved!

I did not want the mp3 player just hanging out on the cake board, so I built a little box to cover it out of fondant with tylose added. I made a hole in the cake board, and threaded the speaker wires under the cake board so they could not be seen. I made a small hole in the box right over the "play" button of the mp3 player. I put a large silver dragee into that hole, so when you pressed it, the "play" button was activated, and the audio played. It was too stinkin' cool! I listened to it over and over, and got a huge chuckle each time. (Lordy, I have no life.)


So then it was time to decorate the cake. The bottom layer was a 16 inch double layer round covered in white fondant. I put a very thin red overlay on the top. I did not worry about the cut being neat and clean, because I knew the blue swags would cover the seem.

The 50 was made from fondant with tylose added, and dried super firm. I made another disc of fondant with a hole cut out the center to let the light shine through from the rotating stand. The 50 was super-glued onto the white disc. The rotating, light up cake topper is made by Wilton, and battery operated. It was perfect for this use!

To support the hat, I used a stress free ring support with long legs. The legs went down into the blue tier (which was a single layer 13 inch round, filled), and extended above the cake to the desired height. Wilton plastic columns slipped right over the stress free legs to give the perfect presidential look to the cake!

Here is the cake set up at the party. Did everything work? Was it a success? Did Owen like it?

Watch this to find out:

(Now the cat is out of the bag. You are going to see how really messy I am.)

You can also view the video here.


So as you can see, much to my amazement and sheer jubilation, it all worked out and Owen loved it! He just went on and on about how incredible it was, and how much he loved it. It was also a huge hit with all the guests at the party. They could not believe it was a real cake. Everyone that knows Owen got a huge laugh out of it, because it was such a funny and appropriate theme for him.

I am tickled pink that my idea came to life, even though it was very nerve wracking! I could not have done it without my incredible brother Mike. The motor and all the electrical stuff was done by him. I felt bad that he got sucked into my black hole of craziness, but he said he enjoyed the project. And I believe him; he lives for this kind stuff!

The cake was fun, the party was fun, working with Mike was fun. I have such a great life. I am truly blessed.




PS. Tomorrow I will post about the saga of trying to get this entry up. I am too traumatized right now. It is now 2:43 AM. I was not going to bed until I go this thing done! :)


Much to my relief, I can report that all went great with my secret cake!


Thank you all for the well wishes. I am working on the blog post, and it should be up in a few days. I have to edit the photos and a little video clip for you guys to see. Hang tight and I will be back with all the details!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Southern Magnolias

Hello Sugar Friends!

Ah, summertime in the deep south. Warm sun, cool breezes, the magnolias are in bloom....

Wait. Who am I kidding? It's hot as friggin' Hades down here. There sure ain't no cool breezes, and there ain't no magnolias right now either. I don't even know when they bloom. It just sounded like a good opening. :)

Anyway, I did this little wedding cake a few weeks ago. Ivory buttercream with white buttercream stenciling and gumpaste magnolias.


I used this Designer Stencil for the cake sides. Notice that I taped a piece of card stock to the bottom of the stencil to boost it up to the exact height I needed it to be. That way I did not have to try to hold it in place freehand while stenciling, and run the risk of the stencil moving while I worked.

Showing 2 sides. Perty huh?

This photo was taken with a flash at the venue, so it it is not so flattering, but I wanted you to see the full effect of the stencils. The 8mm bead maker was used for the pearl borders.


I had not made magnolias before, so I bought Nic Lodge's video on it. His videos are very good, step by step instruction on flowers, and a great value. I did not follow his instructions exactly, as I wanted my flower to be a bit more frilly than his was.

I taped three 18 gauge wires together with floral tape for the stem. I made a large cone of gumpaste and cut V's into it with a tiny scissors. I folded back the tips a bit with my finger.

These are wired petals so I rolled out my paste onto the Cel Board.

Turn the paste over so the center vein is up, and cut out the petal.

Thread a 24 gauge wire into the vein.

Thin the edges with a ball tool.

Dry them over large soup spoons for shape.

After they are all dry, dust everything for color, assemble and steam.

Who cares if the magnolias are in bloom when you can make your own?


So now I am going to disappear until next week. I am in the final days of working on my secret special cake for this weekend. I am so excited about it! I am hoping that it all works out as I have planned. God willing I will be back next week to share with you all the juicy details!

Happy caking everyone!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

My family and I wish you a very Happy Father's Day. Let's celebrate the wonderful men we are blessed to have/had in our lives. I hope you all have a wonderful day full of peace, love and joy.

I miss you, Daddy.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Reader's Cakes ... Take two!

Hey Guys!

It's time for more eye candy
submitted by our wonderful blog readers!


Sharon, I wanted to drop you a line to say that I really enjoyed your topsy turvy DVD. You are so meticulous! I also wanted to thank you for your tutorial on your blog that shows how to do a tilted cake. I tried it with a few modifications and what's funny is that my middle tier ended up looking practically level, much like your top tier. There is something funny going on!Attached is a picture of the cake if you'd like to see it.Take care and keep the great blog posts coming!-Tish


Wanted to show you my latest wedding cake that I "backed" into. Notice how straight the sides are....even on the octagon cake...and level tops...thanks to the buttercream DVD. Leaps and bounds better than they would have been. Thanks, Sherry


Skunar submitted her adorable sea cake!


I just wanted to show you my first attempt at a box cake using the techniques you show in your video. I just wanted to show you what I learned. Normita


I did this one for my personal trainer Saturday. They got married in Florida a few weeks ago, and had a reception at her mom's house here. I tried to make the bears look like the clothes they were wearing. Low sugar cake (I used the Pillsbury Splenda yellow, and the Splenda Chocolate), sugar-free cinnamon cream cheese filling, sugar-free chocolate mouse filling (the recipe on your blog).

I watched the stacking dvd the night before to refresh my memory. Thanks, Sharon.



Hey Sharon, I wanted to send a few of my cake pictures using the Boxes & Bows & Flawless Fondant DVD!

Thanks for sharing this knowledge with the rest of us!!! You are awesome!!! And I could not have gotten this type of quality work achieved without much more years of research and experience, but because of your DVDs I feel like a pro and at only 4 years of cakin experience. Thanks again, you have a relocated yankee friend here in NC!
-- Sincerely, Maria C


Let me just say that I buy all of your DVD's...they have helped out sooo much!

I just recently did a Tiffany box style wedding cake and I was so excited about the cake and your boxes and bows dvd...I couldn't wait to make this cake. If you hadn't made this dvd, this cake would have not been as successful as it was. I got so many compliments from all over. I have never had a reaction to a cake like this. So I thank you for time that you put into these dvd's...I can't wait for the topsy turvy one!

I attached a picture of the cake


Hi Sharon,
I just went to your site and saw that you have a few cakes people have sent you to show what they had created using your DVD's. I thought I would share mine with you as well. Keep up the great work. I have already purchased the buttercream and fondant dvd's. Next will be the topsy turvy! Thanks a bunch, Tammy


Thanks! Here's another cool one I just delivered (smooth roads the whole way, no bulges..Yay!) And I am really excited, I am testing out your boxes and bows video on a cake for a fundraiser! I'll send you the pictures!



Hi Sharon,

Here's my fish cake from the class in Pearland.


Here's the cake I did today. Your next video should be about how to make cakes and still find time to take care of the family, stay in touch with friends, work another job to pay the bills, take care of the dog...oh, and take care of myself! Time for rest and then it all starts again tomorrow morning...

Best to you!



I'm sending this in for the blog pics even though it isn't from any of the DVDs. I actually used your instruction from the Cherry Cake in your Lagniappe (please don't make me find the proper spelling for that) to make the vase. I used ganache for the first time under fondant and loved it. I then used some fondant to smooth the cake and that worked awesome too!!! I was going to use the foam at the bottom but just used the Wilton soccer ball pan instead since I wanted to maximize my cake real estate for the teacher's I made it for. Those are the sugar flowers I fell in love with making. Even if it doesn't make the blog I just wanted to share this beautiful cake I made that is a direct result, AGAIN, of your generosity! Everyone at my son's school thought it was real! Hilarious!

Take care!
Jennifer R.


Per your request, here are some pics with cakes I created using the Boxes and Bows DVD (I set up my laptop on the kitchen counter and worked in virtual "real time" with your instruction). They came out beautiful for an Easter birthday (hence the color choices) for twin boys.
The yellow cake is from my cake class but here is where you come in. I had already purchased and viewed Flawless Fondant a few times. In class our instructor advised us that you didn't need to worry about smoothing your BC because it wasn't going to be seen and we would be smoothing with our hands afterwards. Well, having purchased and viewed Flawless Fondant - I knew better! I smoothed my BC and used fondant smoothers to smooth the cake after applying my MMF. Needless to say, my cake turned out much better than the instructors and other students who followed her instructions. You could definitely see the bumps and deformities in the cakes that weren't a product of having viewed Flawless Fondant.
Put me on the preorder list for the surprise new DVD that's forthcoming!!!!
Thanks and take care!


Hey Girlie!
Here is the cake! I really can't wait until I can order the whole series!
Talk to you soon!


The ball cake was of course an attempt to recreate your ball cake for a 2 yr old who liked any kind of balls. As you can see you have really made an impression on me. I love your videos and personality. I can't wait to see what video is next.



SO~ on with the "thank you so very much your methods have made a huge improvement in my cakes. I can't possibly thank you enough. That wedding cake was, for me, a DRAMATIC improvement, in technique, smoothness, stability, edges, tier-height, everything. I just wanted to say thanks for making the DVD's and sharing your wealth of knowledge. Stephanie


Gold Wedding Cake:I used two of your DVDs for this! The Art of Buttercream, and Successful Stacking. I loved the lagniappe sections that helped me with the ribbon boarder and quilting with the impression mat. People actually thought my cake was fondant! The bride and groom loved it, and I couldn't have done it without your DVDs (or maybe 20 years experience :D ).-Rocket


WOW! You guys are seriously kicking cake butt! Makes a mamma proud! (sniff sniff). Keep up the awesome work!


Right now I am working on.... no, consumed with..... no, utterly obsessed with............ a cake I am planning for. It's top secret, so I can't say too much, but I can tell you it involves the use of electricity in 3 forms. Please save me from myself. Why do I get myself into these things?

(No, it is not a TV cake challenge. It is a real cake order.) :)

Hey, let me know how you guys like Topsy Turvy. Please don't be afraid to post on your favorite cake board about it if you like it. I won't mind! ( I am so shameless, please forgive me.)

Happy caking everyone!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mail orders for Topsy Turvy

Hi guys!

If you placed your pre-order for Topsy Turvy via snail mail and sent me a check, please drop me an email at

Thank you!


Give-a-way winners!


Our little communion girl (that would be me, tee hee) picked our two winners from a random drawing, and they are:


Congratulations to you both. I have sent you an email re: claiming your prize. Thank you all for playing!



The last of the DVD pre-orders are going out today and tomorrow. Some of you have received them already and it seems like you guys are liking it so far. I welcome any and all comments and feedback. And I am not too proud to humbly ask you guys to spread the word if you are happy with it. Word of mouth is my best marketing tool.

As always, thank you all for your business!


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Holy Cake!

First Holy Communion season has just ended down here in the deep south. Maybe where you live too. So I had the opportunity to do a few religious cakes over the last few weeks I thought I would share with you. I like doing religious cakes. They make me feel good. All religousy and stuff.

I remember my own first communion very well. It was such a big milestone in our young lives. I think we were in the first grade. I was so excited to finally be able to receive the Host. The pretty white dress and veil was such a treat to have in our modest lifestyle. I remember we practiced as a class in the church several times for the ceremony. Where to sit, how to file up to the front, when to approach the kneeler, when to kneel, when to stand. On the very last practice day they even served us unconsecrated hosts, so we could practice accepting it on our tongues (there was no hand communion back then), and to get a feel for its taste and consistency. That day I was SO excited. I mean SUPER excited that we were getting a real host. Of course, as per the curse of those whose last names start with a Z (yes, my maiden name started with a Z too), I was the last one. Last pew, last seat, last in line. I was so very worried that they would run out of hosts before I got up there. As the line moved forward I was just praying... please don't run out... please don't run out. Of course they ran out. Story of my life. Another emotional scar I have had to overcome. To this day I practically run out of my pew, knocking people over, to get in line at communion time cuz I am afraid they are going to run out.

But I digress. Let me share with you some of the cakes I made this year:

This one was for a male, and the mom wanted it to be classic, elegant, simple, but no way feminine. No flowers, no colors. This one I iced in white buttercream. I used the diamond impression mat on the sides and put small candy pearls at the intersections.

I used a stencil to apply the pattern to the ivory stripes. I first rolled out the ivory fondant, stenciled the pattern on with buttercream, then cut the strips with my ribbon cutter. I then gently lifted them, applied water to the back with a brush, and attached them to the cake carefully with the aid of the end of a dowel rod so as not to smear the stencil. A 6 mm bead maker was used for the pearl border. (I show how to use these in Boxes and Bows.)

The same stencil was used with luster dust on the drape and knot. The cross was cut out from fondant with gumpaste, and allowed to dry firm. Later, 4mm pearls were attached to the edge, and the whole thing was airbrushed with super pearl dust after I applied the monogram initial.


This cake was made for sweet little Elizabeth, a close family friend. Lizzy designed her entire cake from start to finish. This was the first custom cake she had ever had, and she was super excited. I did exactly as she instructed me to.

The cake was iced in white buttercream. 8 mm pearls were used for the borders. Satin ribbon was applied around the tiers, and the monogram was printed on an edible icing sheet and backed with fondant.

The cross was cut from fondant, piped with royal, and airbrushed with super pearl. All the flowers were made from gumpaste using this set.

My hubby delivered the cake, and said she was absolutely thrilled and overjoyed with her cake. She and her cousins and sisters were oogling over it, and they even ate the flowers!

Look at this sweet note she wrote me the next week. Just melts my heart:


Here is another one for a young man. He also specified "very simple and nothing girly". Those boys are very concerned that their cakes be masculine! LOL

Also iced in white buttercream. The lighting makes the cake look as if it is two tone, but it was not. The shaped plaque was molded white chocolate. The chalice and Host were made with a chocolate mold from fondant with tylose, dried and then painted.

I used this Patchwork impression tool on the stripes; then piped crosses in royal and painted them gold too.

The cookies were flooded with royal icing and sprayed with pearl spray. The letters were made ahead with this cutter, dried, painted, and then applied.

Beau came with his mom to pick up his cake and his face lit up. Yesssssss! Score Sharon!


This one was for Beau's first cousin Eva. Hers was actually a kindergarten graduation cake but she wanted a cross too. "A big pink cross with pink icing inside and out, lots of flowers, and sparkly." All my kids that I have been doing cakes for since they were babes are now getting very specific with their cake requests! Gone are the days of me having free reign!

I saw this design on a google search and loved it. I do not know who the original artist was to give credit. If you know, please let me know.

Mine did not do the original justice, but Eva was happy. Here are some progress photos:

I baked a single layer sheet cake and cut large pieces to fit under my cross template, made from card stock.

I cut out the cross shape, then torted and filled the cake with lots of pink icing per Eva's request!

Crumbcoat applied.

Then I put the template back on top and gave it another coat of icing on the sides to refine the shape.

(Note : I do not know if card stock is considered food safe; so do some research before you use it. Wax or parchment paper would be good alternatives to use.)

Final icing base coat done.

I then wrapped a strip of pink fondant around the sides of the cake using the same technique as on my Oz cake.

I used the template to cut the top piece and applied it.

I used my fondant crimpers to seal the seams.

I also used impression stamps to make scrolls on the top piece before I laid it on top of the cake.

I made another template for the white inner cross and cut that from fondant. I used scrap booking stamps to impress her name. (Again: PLEASE make sure all stamps you use are food safe before using them. Not all plastic is safe for food.)

I made a frill border using this cutter set. The pink bead border was piped buttercream. The gumpaste orchids were purchased and I dusted them for color. Plunger flowers were made with this. And some sparkle dust to finish it off. Voila!

Eva seemed very please when she picked it up. Yessssssssss! Another score!!

And here are Eva's cookies to go with the cake. The grad hats were made with these tappit cutters. The cookies were flooded with royal and dry dusted with super pearl.


So what do you think of my religious cakes this year? Leave me a comment and you will be entered into a drawing to win the script alphabet Tappit cutters used on Beau's cookies and the cross topper above!

WOOOHOOOO. Another give-a-way! I love give-aways!


My wonderful Wendy came over and helped me package Topsy orders and the first batch went to the post office today. I will keep working on that all week until they are all out. Please drop me a note and let me know what you guys think of it. I am really proud of this one and excited to get it to you!

Me tired now. Must go rest.

Happy Caking!