My Cake Decorating Gallery

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jackson's Baptism Cake

So, this cake was a learning experience as usual! Cindy asked if I wanted to make the baptism cake for little Jack a while ago and I gladly accepted, as I really enjoy looking up different ideas and trying new things in the realm of cakes!

I went to and looked through a bunch of different cakes.. from 3-D crosses to 3-D bibles to little babies or stained glass.. this and that. I came across one that my advisor (Mom) and I liked the best, which is what I used for the idea of this one. The cake I found was white with pink fondant bow and I knew I'd rather find a cute real ribbon and coordinate my cake to that. ... and use some boy colors!

I originally thought blues and greens but when I went to Michaels, I found a Martha Stewart ribbon and nothing else that had cute little brown and blue stripes... so green got cancelled out, which was fine. White was my third accent color. Blue and brown is one of my favorite combos... see also pink and brown. I have seen young Jackson sporting blue and brown on many occasions so I know his mom will at least like this color scheme as well!

This was my first time making a square cake... I think it was about time. I wanted it to have perfect corners and my goal was to make this buttercream look smooth like fondant. Well you'll see that didn't really happen but it was a learning experience. I decided to go with my new buttercream - Mousseline - which was .. different .. to deal with in the realm of decorating.

First things first, I thought - why not chocolate cake? We sorta have a chocolate theme anyway! I bought a wilton 10in square pan and used my newly acquired Cake Box Mix ratio to pan chart that I just got in my first decorators class on Wednesday. The chart said 1.5 boxes per 10in square.. this is more than I would've used so no wonder my cakes don't exceed the rim of the pan and I end up with shorter layers!

I learned in class it was also easier to level a cake right from inside the pan - but this only works if the cake dome is above the level of the walls, which mine usually aren't. I will say that it was sorta a pain to measure cups of batter in my 1st box of cake mix (I made each box separately like a good girl), so that I knew how many cups to add from the 2nd box (half). I ended up with around 5.5 cups per box. I only had one 10in pan (cheapskate) so I had to bake one layer at a time... which was fine, The Husband was gone and I had nothing better to do.

I noticed the first pan was much fuller than my normal cakes and I thought "whew I just made it from that spilling over into my oven!" .. you'd think I would've thought of putting a pan underneath for the 2nd layer but I didn't... sure enough that one was slightly fuller and I did have some overflow spillage. Luckily it popped right off from the bottom of my oven!

After the two layers were baked, I wrapped them up to continue the cake on Saturday. I kept the 2nd one in the pan and the 1st one was already mounted on the cake board which was already wrapped in foil, so that was good to go. I put down little squares of wax paper under each side of the bottom layer for when it came time to frost and I could easily pull them away afterwards. The trick here is to barely put any wax paper under the cake, otherwise you might be dragging the cake when you try to remove them! Trust me, this happened to me last time...

On Saturday I made my first batch of Mousseline. I used the pasteurized Break-Free eggwhites that you can find at the store to avoid any worry of whether or not these things get cooked with the sugar syrup mixture. It ended up working just as well and I flavored the mousseline with vanilla and amaretto (I ran out of almond).

I took a small amount of icing and mixed in some crushed oreo bits (used my mini chopper!) and this was the filling. I piped a white border around the edge of the cake to keep the cookie filling from squeezing out and messing with my outer frosting.

Finally it was time to have some fun with color, and I needed to match the rest of the icing to the blue line in the ribbon. I used a mixture of paste and gel food coloring - blues, a little yellow and a little green. When I was pretty happy with it, I put down a crumb coat.

Here is where I really felt the pain of using Mousseline and not having my predictable decorators icing. As a re-cap, I chose Mousseline because it has a totally different flavor - it's buttery and light and airy. Nothing like the super sweet decorators icing, which uses some crisco with the butter. With mousseline, it's a meringue style buttercream so it's all natural and in a totally different class from the other styles of frosting. We should have a frosting taste off to see which buttercream is the best!

I think that is Giada chopping some food in the background!

BUT... while mousseline has an outstanding light and pure flavor, it doesn't crust over. If you're not a cake person, this means it doesn't get a dried-out little crusty layer after sitting at room temp for 15-30 minutes. Crusting over is super useful -- if you happen to nudge it or want to smooth things out - no problem, it helps. You can scrape off mistakes and when you make a crumb coat, you can frost on top of it, being sure not to pull up any more crumbs if the crumb coat is crusted. Welllllllll.... with mousseline... this never happens. Think of the consistency of whipped cream... it's always tacky and when you touch it, it makes a peak as you pull away. This, my friends, is very hard to make look smooth.

Also, because mousseline has all this air whipped into it, it gets little bubbles as it sits and you work with it. They pop and make a bumpy appearance. Unless you refrigerate it, it will not stiffen up so a crumbcoat can just be scraped away like nothing. Still, I think mousseline is a good choice if the flavor is what you want AND you know how to work with it. Next time, I'd refrigerate it after crumb coating, and then apply the 2nd layer. Like with other buttercreams, the hot-water method works for using your spatula and making the sides smooth. Dip your spatula in hot water, wipe, and slowly smooth out airbubbles and imperfections. This also works with chilled mousseline, or room temperature.

So, let's just say I fussed around with making the sides look smooth before I ... figured it out/gave up. Looking at my camera pictures, it actually was pretty smooth (until I botched it later) so I am happy to know it's possible. I really liked my latest addition to my smoothing tools - a brand new straight edge scraper from the hardware store. This worked well and was longer than the height of the cake. The corners were difficult to get to look "perfect"... but they weren't too bad.

I had read about using real ribbon on cake... there are two things to worry about. First, the butter or shortening may soak into the ribbon and give it grease stains... fine if it's the whole ribbon but if it only happens to be blotchy? This will look bad! I read that to stay away from this, you can iron on wax paper to the back of the ribbon.. or you can douse it in crisco or vegetable oil to "beat it to the punch." Another thing to worry about is seeping of the ribbon dyes into the frosting. I tried a sample of my ribbon on the frosting and it didn't seem like it'd bleed, and that was true - it turned out just fine on the cake. (This was Martha Stewart grosgrain craft ribbon from Michaels, fyi)

I had already decided to skip the idea of cutting a strip of parchment paper the exact width / length of the ribbon to protect the cake and the ribbon.. there's no way that the parchment would be perfect, it'd be hard to bend the ribbon and I knew I'd somehow get the blotchy butter marks on the ribbon anyway. Once doused in veggie oil, the ribbon can have anything taped to it, so the parchment idea was a bust! So, I just stuck with the veggie oil idea (wipe clean of excess oil!!) and while it darkened the colors slightly, it worked great.

I chilled the cake and worked on the bow, which I used separate pieces of ribbon. I used pins to keep the bow together and also to attach the ribbon to the cake (the bow hid the big pearl pin heads). The ribbon went on pretty easy, so then it was on to decorating!

I first tried to take some of the leftover blue icing and change it to brown for the frilly cross, but that was a disaster.. it would've been a chemical cocktail to get it that dark. I opted for ganache, and melted some chocolate chips and heavy cream and then let that cool to a good piping consistency. I forgot to save some white for the initials and dots so I had a can of store-bought icing (haha I seem to use this on every cake!) and here is where my penmanship really gave me some problems...

I ended up messing up the intials so that I scraped them off twice! The cake was no longer its perfect smooth consistency but oh well.. I went over it the best I could with a spatula and finally got some initials on there that I didn't mind. Then with the chocolate - by the time I was ready it was too hard... back in the microwave. Then it was too soft! Well, I was too impatient and ended up using it very drippy wet.

I should've thought out this cross thing a little more. When I doodled it at work a few days ago, I thought "easy, piece of cake"... but things are harder when you have your big hand in the way and you aren't following any sort of plan. I tried moving fast because of the chocolate and.. well, it showed. I was just trying to make things symmetrical and I failed. I ended up really hating with what I had and decided to let the cake chill and attempt to scrape the chocolate off and try again.. or at least parts of it.

I was really impatient and that stupid chocolate wouldn't harden, now that I needed it to! I had dinner.. watched the rest of the Michigan game (which actually had a good ending!), and finally dug into the cake again. The chocolate wasn't brittle and easy to pick off like I had planned but I went forward anyway... I ended up scraping away pieces here and there and leaving the rest due to the chocolate still being soft. I tried to fill in some of the frosting areas which were not smooth anymore, but it was hard with the chocolate design partially still there!

So, basically.. I just did the best I could and even used a pin for some of the fine, fine details. I improved the parts that I truly hated and now they are just "imperfections, but OK" which I could handle. I finished off the cake with a few more curls here and there, and also some white polkadots. Tada, it was done! I had planned on using some shimmery dust on the cross but I don't think that will look good with the dark chocolate color... the brown matches the ribbon so I decided to not mess with it,... it was acceptable.. call it done!

Well, after chilling overnight, I noticed that the blue frosting was seeping into the white stripes of the ribbon - but only in certain places! After a 5 second panic, I thought I'd just put on a second layer of ribbon so that the inside one wouldn't show. Luckily I had enough... so this is a good lesson if you're using a light colored ribbon on top of a darker colored frosting. I oiled the second piece of ribbon as well and tried to get it on the cake as tight as possible... If you are using a white frosting, I'd stick with just one layer of ribbon and call it good!

I brought it over for the baptism on Sunday. Upon removing the ribbon there were no problems and the frosting was very soft at room temperature which gives it that light and airy feeling. It's a buttery frosting but people seemed to like it, so it was a success!

Some of us were able to get pieces of cake to get home, so I do have a note on that. When cold, this mousseline is not my favorite - it is sorta buttery and gets very solid. I popped the extra cake in the microwave for a few seconds and besides making the cake moist and warm, I think the flavor of the frosting improves so I highly recommend serving this frosting at room temperature at the coldest. The oreos in the center for a filling were super tasty, I would add a thicker filling next time, or maybe split the two layers into four! Yum! Thanks for looking!

Recipe Information

Chocolate cake: Duncan Hines butter recipe chocolate. Each 10in square pan takes 1.5 boxes
Frosting: Mousseline Buttercream from Rose / The Cake Bible flavored with vanilla and Amaretto, with a Cookies and Cream (oreos) filling

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup and Strawberry Balsamic Salad

I got into "soup mode" a little early - mid September - but I think that's OK. I got it in my head that a red soup would be pretty, especially for my scrappy partner Megan who was coming over that night for some scrapbooking. I leafed through a few soup recipe books (haha, I have 2 that are just soups!), and saw a few red pepper soup recipes but nothing seemed quite right. One was sorta mexican-flavored-ish and while that wasn't what I was going for, that is how I ended up and it turned out really good. I didn't write it down but I think the recipe below is pretty close!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

1 box of Swanson chicken broth (I think it is 3.5-4 cups)
1 jar of roasted red peppers, rinsed so that all charred skin is removed, chopped
1 bag of frozen mirepoix (or cut up 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 2 stalks celery)
4-5 large cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream or heavy cream, cilantro , wedge of lime to serve

Heat the broth and add the mirepoix and garlic-cook to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and make sure veggies are cooked through. Add the red peppers and lime juice. Use your submersion blender to blend the mixture into a smooth consistency. Add the seasonings and add cream if you like. Serve with a dollup of sour cream and cilantro on top. Or use heavy cream and make a decorative swirl... turned out to be harder than it looked!
Strawberry Balsamic Salad
We enjoyed the soup and then had the salad with grilled chicken. The salad consisted of lettuce, strawberries, red onions, splenda-cinnamon pecans, shaved parmesan, and Ken's Steakhouse Balsamic Dressing... it turned out to be a tasty combination. I'll skip the measurements - just add as much as you want of your favorite toppings. Here is a photo....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mum's Birthday Cake: Layers of Lemon Curd Buttercream and Raspberry Swirl Buttercream with Ganache and Raspberries

It was finally my mom's birthday and since I've only had the idea to decorate cakes for about 9 months, this was the first of her birthdays that I had planned to bring the cake and do something special. I wanted to add a little more interest in the idea by telling her I was buying it from a specialty bakery and then I was going to see if I could trick the CakeMaster herself into thinking it was professionally done. She had mentioned she was in the mood for chocolate and raspberries so I decided it was time for another ganache covered cake with raspberries on top.

This was also an excuse to hit up the cake supply store, Sarah's, and buy some more gadgets. I finally got a spinning cake stand, a cake leveler/torter, and some of those rippled combs for adding ridges to the edges of cakes. I also got my disguise supplies - cake box, cake board, and pretty cake board cover - these would all be props to help me "pull off my stunt" of tricking Mom into thinking it was a purchased cake.

I was searching online for a different kind of buttercream and came across Mousseline Buttercream, from The Cake Bible, which turns out is pretty much the same recipe for Classic Italian Buttercream. I decided I'd try that recipe since I read that it held up well and didn't need to be refrigerated.

I baked a regular yellow cake into two 8 in rounds and used my new cake leveler to cut them into perfect 4 layers. The plan was to have three filling layers - Raspberry swirl, Lemon Curd, Raspberry swirl. I baked a batch of the Mousseline which included heating sugar to "firm ball" stage and then pouring it over whipped egg whites and then blending in butter. It is a delicious light and airy buttercream, not the ones that leave your teeth "furry" with sugar overload and certainly not the grocery store greasy "buttercreams" that are made of pure Crisco. This is a really good frosting recipe and I will definitely make it again.

For the lemon curd frosting, I bought store-bought lemon curd and kept adding it in until I felt the flavor was strong enough to stand out against all the other flavors, so maybe half a jar for 1 layer's worth of icing. For the raspberry swirl icing, I took my usual Hero Raspberry preserves and even went the extra step to strain over a sieve to de-seed, and lightly swirled it in the rest of the icing. I also created an amaretto sugar syrup to brush over each layer prior to frosting. I thought amaretto would be a good match for both raspberry and lemon, and next time I'll use even more because it was delish!

After spreading the filling - raspberry-lemon-raspberry, I realized I had too much lemon but used all of the remaining frosting to give myself a "crumb coat" around the whole cake. It was all going to be covered in chocolate anyway so it didn't matter too much that it was pink and lemon pastel colors. ;) I also had tried to even out the sides with a knife before frosting... this is harder than it sounds even with a rotating stand. Next came the ganache, using my typical - 8oz heavy cream + 12oz bag of Ghiradelhi semi-sweet chocolate chips recipe. Besides letting the cream boil over which was my fault, this is a simple recipe and makes delish chocolate ganache.

After letting it cool a little bit to thicken slightly, I poured it over the cake trying to keep the top very smooth. I barely had enough ganache to cover the cake for some reason (probably because I lost some of my cream on the stovetop), but eventually just had enough to cover it. This made it difficult to smooth out the edges because - that's much easier if you have a ton of frosting. I was trying to use my spinning cake stand but spots of buttercream would show through if I pushed too hard with my "rippling comb", and the cake sides weren't perfect because I didn't have a ton of buttercream to smooth out the sides underneath, first. However, eventually I got sick of trying to "comb" the edges to perfection and thought "Hopefully the raspberries will attract your attention away from the imperfect sides."

I was a little disappointed that my sides weren't perfect (in my head, everything always was planned to go perfectly!) and I was hoping that my "scam" to trick my mom would still work out. Because fruits will start leaking juice when they touch sugar, I knew I would place the raspberries early the next morning prior to bringing to cake over to Mom's.

I was originally thinking to just use a small circle of upside-down raspberries on the center of the cake, but I eventually decided the whole top wasn't perfect so I might as well cover it with solid raspberries, almost to the edge. I thought it made it look a little lavish and I hoped it would help look "professional" to my mom. I had run out of buttercream so I did a quick and slightly sloppy border around the bottom of the cake in white store-bought frosting, but it didn't show up very well in these pictures due to the gold foil wrapped cake board. I used a sifter and sifted a little powdered sugar on top, and we were done!

Into the box, the cake was starting to look like it could pass from a store... maybe? To top off my "hoax," I wrote "Bliss / August 30th" on the corner of the top of the box, to simulate a bakery's handwriting.. to keep track of all their cakes in the fridge... tee hee. I put one single piece of tape to hold the cakeboard onto the bottom of the box without sliding from side to side, and then one piece of tape to keep the top down for "safe shipping" and "no peeking," as some bakeries do.

Voila, it was done! To my delight, Mom went along with my trickster ways and said "oooOOooh that must have cost a pretty penny!" and I let the "fancy bakery cake" taunt her all day until that evening when we finally decided to eat it. She was very intrigued about what the flavors might be, and I said "well, they said it was lemon curd buttercream - a Mousseline buttercream - and raspberry swirls, with chocolate ganache... Hopefully it's good!" and again I was strengthening my case for it having been a "purchased cake." Later, as I put some candles in the top and brought it over to her, she asked "So when are you going to tell me which bakery you went to?" and I said "Bliss Bakery!" and she finally realized I had made the cake and I was happy to see my trick worked. So we all had a piece and it was really very tasty, if I don't say so myself.

So that's my little story about the tricky birthday cake. :) See recipe below for what I found online as Mousseline Buttercream. I took about about 20% of the recipe and made lemon flavored and then the rest got raspberry preserves swirled in.

Mousseline Buttercream
As found on this website

This is the buttercream that stands tall above the rest. From the Cake Bible. It is lightly sweet and airy and leaves you wanting more. There is none of that greasiness from solid shortening or the overt sweetness from powdered sugar. It is easily flavored to make a delicious filling. You need a candy thermometer or lots of experience with the firm ball stage of candy making to make this buttercream. I use a thermometer.

unsalted butter, softened but cool (about 65*)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
5 large egg whites
1 or 2 tsp vinegar

1. Place the vinegar on a paper towel and thoroughly wipe out your large mixing bowl. This will remove any oily residue that might be in the bowl. Egg whites will not whip properly if there is a speck of grease in the bowl or on the beaters. This also negates the need for cream of tartar. Set your bowl aside.

2. In another mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, set aside in a cool place.

3. In a small heavy saucepan, heat together 3/4 cup sugar and and 1/4 cup water, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low.

4. Start beating the egg whites, when they reach soft peaks, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat to stiff peaks. If using a stand mixer, leave it running on the slowest speed to keep the egg whites from deflating.

5. Increase the heat under the syrup and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 248-250* (the firm ball stage) Immediately remove the syrup from the heat. If using a handheld mixer, beat the syrup into the whites in a steady stream with the mixer running. Don't pour the syrup on the beaters or they will throw all the syrup on the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour 1/4 of the mixture over the whites with the mixer off. immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. Lower speed to medium and beat until completely cool.

6. Beat in the butter 1 Tbs at a time. At first the mixture will seem thin and will look curdled, but keep adding butter and mixing well, you may need to increase the speed a bit. At the end, add your favorite flavorings, your favorite liqueur is a nice addition, I like Grand Marnier. Even "plain old vanilla" is nice.

Buttercream becomes spongy on standing, mix again before using. If your buttercream has been chilled, you must allow it to come to room temperature before mixing or it will curdle.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potato Carving

I was watching the Food Network and there was a fruit/veggie carving challenge going on. It gave me an idea - I wondered if I still remembered how to do that one technique that I learned in my 2 hour "Melon carving" class. I dug in my utensil drawer - good - still had the knife. I didn't have any melons.... but... I had a potato. That seemed perfectly normal to me... these people on TV were carving all sorts of things to make magical towering sculptures.

Anyway, I think I remembered the steps pretty ok. The first step is to pick the center of your "flower" and then draw four "petals" around it using the tip of your knife. Then, slightly below the petals, you'll want to carve another 4 petals, and this will be the outline for what is left of your "petal" when you carve away underneath and above. From this picture you can see the triangle shape that has been cut out of the potato. You basically are just making that shape all the way around, staggering and increasing in size as you move downwards.

Hope this little description helps! I think we should carve more potatoes, this would be pretty roasted... and tasty. The Food Network masters were coloring their little carvings with natural things and that gave me the idea to see if I could make this ugly little potato a little more interesting. I got out some red food coloring and... it was a little dark but I made a mental note that this could work.... in the future... the next time I'm carving potatoes..... The Husband came home while I was in the middle of all this.. just another normal day after work when The Wife has gotten into the potatoes!