Sunday, February 27, 2011

Roller Skate Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday everyone!  This week’s cake is my second “skate” cake.  The first was of a pair of ice skates (stay tuned to see it in a future post).  This time around, the request was for a white roller skate with HOT pink wheels!

Like most of my cakes, this one was chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream….a simple but delicious combination! 

I don't use special pans, so all these cakes are carved by hand into their shapes.  Since I have to start with a larger cake and cut it down, there are usually lots of scraps of cake leftover.  I like to use the extra bits of cake that get cut off to make another cake decorating secret: something we call “spackle”… don’t think of spackle you put on your walls though. J 

Cake spackle is a mixture of cake crumbs and icing … so think of those yummy cake truffles that are popping up everywhere now.  This cake and icing mixture goes over the buttercream before the cake gets covered with fondant.  Since its firmer than buttercream, and therefore holds its shape better, you can get a perfectly smooth look to your fondant without any bumps or blemishes.  Here is the cake with its spackle coat.  Every cake goes through an “ugly duckling” period before it turns into a beautiful work of art, so be patient…

After I covered the cake with fondant, I carved in all the details…

Every single stitch was pressed by hand…and there were a lot of stitches!

I painted on some additional details, then added the wheels, stopper, and laces:

As with all my cakes, everything is edible: the wheels are colored fondant, the laces are fondant, even the board is covered with marbled modeling chocolate to look like the wood floor of a roller skating rink!

Also, don’t forget to vote in my poll to decide what recipe to feature next.  Then check back next week to see step-by-step directions!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dinosaur Birthday Cake

What a beautiful Sunday!  In today’s post, I thought I’d share a simple sheet cake I made for a client’s 3-year-old son.  Like every boy at some point, this little guy was all about dinosaurs, and he specifically wanted a Triceratops cake.   I designed the following cake for him….and he apparently loved it so much, that he peeled off the dinosaur and ate the whole thing!  That's what you get when you make your own fondant!

The sky/clouds and grass were hand-painted, the dinosaur is cut out of fondant, and the rocks are made with modeling chocolate (see prior post for more details on modeling chocolate).  I like to carry the design from the cake onto the cake board.  It makes it part of the art, not just the things that holds it.

The letters are piped in royal icing to like look clouds in the sky.  Royal icing is one of a cake decorator’s favorite tools of the trade.  Made just of sugar, meringue powder, and water, it dries quickly and firmly, so it can be used to pipe letters and design that won’t run and to hold sugar art together.  A friend of mine says that if it weren’t for rain, we could build tanks out of it since it dries so hard!

Please share my blog with your friends….and stay tuned for more cakes and recipes!  Let me know if there if there is a specific recipe you’d like to see or if you have any baking or cake decorating questions.  I’d love to hear from you!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sweethearts and Sand Dollars

Happy Sunday!  Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, today’s cake just seemed like the perfect one to share.  “What?” you might say, “It looks like a beach cake.”  Well, yes, it is, but it’s the story behind the cake that makes it so romantic.

One of my friends contacted about 3 months before he and his lovely wife’s 15th anniversary.  He was planning a surprise party for their anniversary and wanted a special cake for the occasion.

Apparently, on their honeymoon many years before, they had had several sand dollars airbrushed with the date on which they got married.  So he asked me if I could replicate one of the sand dollars in a cake for the surprise anniversary party.

I though this sounded like the perfect way to mark 15 years of marriage, and I was very touched by how much thought he put into the whole idea.

So, I made the following cake, using the same flavor as their wedding cake.  Notice the detail…I even etched the “star” shape on top of the sand dollar on the cake as well.  I used a air brush machine specifically designed for cake decorating to imitate the original airbrushing on the shells.

Here they are side by side.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Sunday!  This week, I’m taking a break from cakes to share one of my favorite recipes.  Since I talk about food all the time, I thought I’d share some recipes so you can enjoy these treats too!  Thus, on the first Sunday of each month, I’ll be sharing my favorite recipe for many popular desserts and breads (and anything else yummy I make!)

These cookies are soft on the inside and just slightly crisp around the edges, with the most amazing buttery flavor.  They almost taste like toffee.  So, now that you’re all salivating……introducing my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of Cooks Illustrated.  The recipe can found at the end of this week’s post.

One of the secret’s of this recipe is the use of browned butter instead of the standard softened butter found in most chocolate chip cookies.  Begin by melting the butter in a stainless steel skillet.  If you use a non-stick pan, it will be difficult to tell when the butter is browned.

Continue heating until the butter comes to a simmer.  Stir constantly!

The butter is ready when it turns a reddish-brown color.  Mine always takes longer to brown than the recipe says. 

After the butter is browned, the recipe calls for another interesting step of stirring, then resting, then stirring, then resting, then stirring.  This process allows the sugars dissolve, adding to the crisp exterior of the the finished cookie.  It will look smooth and satiny when you're done.

Add the flour and chocolate chips (and nuts if you'd like).  I'm a purist when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, so no nuts here. 

I know you're not supposed to eat raw cookie dough, but how can you help but taste this....maybe two or three times!

I like to use a cookie scoop to measure my cookies so they are all the same size and bake evenly.

Into the oven they go!  Bake until set around the edge, but still slightly soft in the center.


And now for the recipe:

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Happy Baking!