June 17, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Last week I made a Strawberry Shortcake Cake for my step-daughter, Emily (she wanted it for her bf's birthday.. apparently he LOVES strawberry shortcake ;)  It's a simple cake, which I found the recipe for from the Food Librarian, but OMG, I wanted to eat this one myself so badly!  The recipe link can be found here.  It's just two (or three depending on how you make it) buttermilk cake layers (which smell just like buttermilk biscuits when they're baking.. you know the kind you have with regular SS?!  Yum!).. top the cake layers with macerated strawberries (fancy term for strawberries that have been hulled, sliced, and soaked in granulated sugar with a bit of vanilla).. finished off with some fresh whipped cream.. so simple but so de-lish!

Below are some pics of my version.  I was told the birthday boy loved it!


June 6, 2013

Flowering Cupcakes

This past weekend was my step-daughter, Michaela's, 'BABY BBQ' (basically a jack & jill style baby shower - though we hated to use the word "shower").. Just a casual get together for all to celebrate the arrival of her (and bf's) little princess, sometime next month!  Of course I was in charge of making dessert ;)  ..Michaela decided early on she wanted cupcakes rather than a cake.. flavors, however, came much later and after much deliberation!  She also wanted to incorporate flowers into the look of the cupcakes.  Hmmmmm..... I debated doing fondant flowers vs. frosting flowers for a bit.. then we both sort of agreed on making them out of the frosting on the cupcakes.  For flavors, we eventually settled on three.. 1) Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana, 2) Lemon Blackberry, and 3) Strawberry Cheesecake.. each flavor to be frosted with a different flower type.  

For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana.. I made a Banana cupcake with Peanut Butter filling, then iced it with Chocolate Buttercream in 'Rose' fashion (which is a pretty simple technique using a Wilton tip 2D, starting in the center of the cupcake and working your way outward in a counter-clockwise motion).  I have done this technique previously and it's simple yet elegant looking.

The Strawberry Cheesecakes.. a basic strawberry cupcake topped with cheesecake filling for the icing.  I again replicated a flower I have previously done, the hydrangea.  These look so realistic, I just LOVE them!

Lastly, the Lemon Blackberry.. a basic lemon cupcake topped with Blackberry buttercream (new to me and a perfect summertime frosting).  I decided to try a new flower design for this one, something I had not done previously but have seen a lot.  They sometimes refer to it as a 'fantasy flower'.. it's about 3 layers of piped petals on top of the cupcake (using a petal tip of course).  I LOVED the way this one turned out.. though my blackberry buttercream was a little soft for this design (I had to keep refrigerating it while working).. they still turned out beautiful!

Here are some pics of the completed cupcakes on my cupcake tower at the party (I wish I thought to do individual shots of each but oh well.. you get the idea)  ..Michaela loved them and I received many compliments on them as well :)

Cupcake Signage.. I find this to be very helpful when there are a lot of people at an event.. saves me (or the hosts) from having to describe flavors all day long!    

 My best close-up shot of the different 'flowers'

 The Cupcake Tower!

June 1, 2013

Gender Reveal Cake

Soooo excited that I FINALLY received a 'Gender Reveal' Cake request!!  I have been dying to do one for such a long time!  I was however surprised to discover that many don't really know what this theme is all about.. so let me explain before we go any further :)  ..It is typically a type of baby shower or gathering where the sex (gender) of the baby is revealed.  The cake is dyed pink or blue accordingly and (sometimes) nobody knows the sex until the cake is cut into.. I say 'sometimes' because in some instances the parents may already know and this is how they go about revealing it to their family and friends.  

In my case, only the couple's doctor and myself knew the baby's sex before the gender reveal party - how cool is that?!?!?!?  It was a piece of information I'm glad I didn't have to carry around for very long though.. I have been known to slip when it comes to surprises ;)  Not this time.. maybe it helped that I didn't have the gender in my hands until the week of the party (thank god!)  The other fun aspect of this cake was that the couple left their cake design entirely up to me!  I don't get this very often but do enjoy it.  It can be somewhat nerve-racking if you're not sure of the client's style or taste.  I found myself wondering if they would like the design as much as I did, but I guess that comes with the territory, and overall I like the challenge of a 'surprise' cake. 

I mulled over gender reveal designs for weeks!  Finally I settled on doing a 3-layer ombre style cake, which is simply graduating tints of the same color (pink or blue in this case).  The couple chose a confetti cake with cheesecake filling and buttercream icing.  Along with that, I chose to keep the cake simple with a bit of a rustic lookI decided on 'cake bunting' as my main embellishment and iced the cake with a rustic finish.  I knew I wanted to do fabric pieces for the bunting, which included burlap.  I also wanted to incorporate some type of message on the bunting but that took me a little longer to settle on.  Here is how it turned out!

Here's a first look at the inside of an ombre cake!

My first 3-layer Cake.. which is pretty tall!

Rustic style buttercream..

A couple close-ups of my handmade fabric bunting.. I just adore cake bunting :)

All finished!

..just after the revealing cut!

May 20, 2013

Dad's Birthday Cake

This year Dad's Birthday actually fell on Mother's Day.  I decided to host a Mother's Day Brunch/Birthday celebration for Dad (pics to follow on my Parties page!)  ..Dad requested the same cake I made for his Birthday last year.. Citrus Scented Wine Cake with fresh berries {Previous post and recipe here}.  

I was happy that he chose this particular cake again for two reasons.. 1) it's a fairly simple (and yummy) cake to make, and with everything else I had to do for the party, at least I didn't have to work on a big extravagant cake.. 2) it went perfectly with my brunch menu!  Here is a pic of this year's version :)

Cheetah Cheesecake

Sorry this one's so late.. I tried posting a few weeks ago when I completed the cake but my blogger was having technical issues.  Since then, I've been a little busy so I'm just getting back to my blog.  This one was for our SIL, who was celebrating her son's 21st Birthday and wanted a special cake for the occasion.  As far as flavor, she knew she wanted cheesecake because her son LOVES it!  So we decided on a cheesecake flavored cake (which is a basic white cake with cheesecake flavoring added to it).  I filled the cake with actual cheesecake filling, and iced it with cheesecake flavored buttercream. 

When it came to choosing a theme for the cake, she was a bit stumped.  Initially she just wanted to keep it simple, but later decided on a cheetah print.  Why cheetah you might ask? (I know I did ;) ..because when the birthday boy was a child, he 'ran like a cheetah' and so she thought it would be fun to incorporate that into his cake.  The cheetah spots on the cake are actually chocolate buttercream.  It's pretty time consuming to complete the print in all buttercream.. I know there are fondant versions out there as well that may go quicker.  Also, this was my first attempt at it so I'm sure it went a bit slower.  I basically hand-piped all the spots and then smoothed them down as I do when I smooth my frosted cake (enter the viva paper towel method). 

This being my first cheetah print cake, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.  It seemed to be a hit at the party as well, which always makes my day :)


April 11, 2013

Hoppy Easter!

At Easter time, I always like to make something light and fresh.  This year's treat.. Lemon Cupcakes with a Strawberry puree swirl.  I decided to top them with a Lemon Cream Cheese icing, which is less sweet with a slight tang.  Strawberry and Lemon together is a great flavor combination, and really just screams Springtime!  The cream cheese icing pairs wonderfully with these flavors as well.. I simply added a bit of Lemon extract to my regular cream cheese icing and it just completed this cupcake!

These were incredibly popular at our Easter gathering :)


March 26, 2013

Happy St Patty's Day!

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day last weekend, I decided to make a Chocolate Caramel Irish Cream Cupcake. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (dark chocolate fudge) dyed green of course.  For my liquid in the batter, I used Bailey's Irish Cream Coffee Creamer (which contains no alcohol).  Then I filled the baked cupcakes with a chocolate caramel ganache and topped them with an Irish cream buttercream (my regular BC recipe but again using the Irish Cream Coffee Creamer as my liquid).  To finish them off, a chocolate caramel drizzle.   These were very rich but very yum!
(green) dark chocolate fudge cupcakes

..filled with chocolate caramel ganache

And here you have it.. Chocolate Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes :)

March 14, 2013

Cupcake Trio

Last week my sister placed a cupcake order for the health club she works at.  She wanted to surprise the staff with some Panny Cakes treats .. Yes, I said cupcakes, for a health club.. oh the irony.  Anyway, since she was sort of non-specific about flavors I took it upon myself to try out some new flavor combos.  I have a book with tons of gourmet cupcake recipes in it that I've been dying to try out!  The book is "101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes", by Wendy Paul.  (Here is a link to the book).

I chose a bunch of my faves from the book and then asked my sister for her input.  Finally, we narrowed it down to 3 flavors.  The first would be a French Toast Cupcake topped with Maple Buttercream + crumbled Bacon (how 'healthy' does that sound!)  The next one we chose to do was a Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcake topped with Chocolate Buttercream (at least the Cinnamon is healthy).  And for our third selection, a Lemon Blueberry Cupcake topped with Whipped Cream (I'm thinking this was probably the most healthy of the three). 

 The French Toast Cupcake was actually my favorite.. the cupcake alone was scrumptious!  Then to top it with Maple Buttercream was just amazing.. I didn't actually try the bacon topped ones (I did a few with and without bacon), but I was told they were awesome!

 I actually loved the Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcake as well.. who knew this was such a fabulous flavor combo? ..they really go very well together!

The Lemon Blueberry Cupcake was yummy, but turned out gooey and sort of messy to eat, since the blueberry filling I layered with the lemon batter didn't really 'bake'.  I'm going to work on this one.. perhaps I put too much filling in with the batter?  I definitely want to tweek the recipe because the cupcake itself was delicious.. lemon + blueberry are a tasty pair!


 My Cupcake Trio Plate!


February 27, 2013

Mom's Beloved Orange Birthday Cake

Last weekend was my Mom's 70th Birthday!  She always wants me to make her the same birthday cake.. the cake her Mom made for her every year as a child - Orange Cake!  I love doing it because it's a nice break from the chocolate, vanilla, yellow cakes.  This cake is very yummy, with a light taste and texture.  My Grammy always made it with applesauce filling and 7-minute frosting, so of course I make it the same way for Mom.  This is the only cake I've ever made 7-minute frosting for.  It's sort of a finicky frosting that takes some effort to make (for me anyway), but it always turns out good in the end, and it's worth all the work when my Mom bites into her piece of cake and says "You've done it! ..you've taken me back to my childhood." :) 

The cake recipe itself is actually out of my Cake Doctor book, because my Mom has been unable to locate Grammy's original recipe.  It makes enough for two 9-inch pans but I did a 10" round cake so I tripled below.  
Orange Cake
1 Yellow cake mix
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs (the book calls for 4 but I wanted to follow the amount on cake box)
 **I also add the zest of 1 orange to this batter - for additional orange flavor and texture**
 Regular applesauce, drained well in sieve or strainer
The 7-minute frosting recipe is one that I've used for the past couple years.  It's actually a Paula Deen recipe, but Mom loves it and claims it tastes just like Grammy's did, so I stick with it.  I also tripled this because I wasn't sure if it would make enough, although it actually made a lot more than I ended up needing for my 10" cake (note to self).

7-Minute Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
Place sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water, and egg whites in heat proof bowl and beat for 1 minute.  Place bowl over boiling water (homemade double boiler since I don't have an actual double boiler), being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes.  
**I always have to beat longer than 7 minutes.. it was more like 14!  Even then the frosting was still too soft to frost a cake with, so I placed the frosting in my Kitchen Aid and whipped it with the whisk attachment on high for another 5-10 minutes.. until it finally started to stiffen up.  I'm sure I just need more practice with this frosting, as I don't make it that often (think this was only my second time).  Once you're done beating/whipping, and the frosting is the consistency you want, gently stir/fold in your vanilla extract.  

Here are some pics of my Mom's cake.. I decided to add some orange peel embellishments as well.  I made shamrocks using a mini heart cutter and rolled up pieces of mint!  The base of the cake is decorated with grated orange zest and more sprigs of mint.


February 18, 2013

Caramel Latte Cake

Last week was my hubby's birthday.. for his cake I knew I wanted to do something coffee related, since he's a coffee nut!  I mulled over several ideas and recipes before finally settling on a 'Caramel Latte' Cake!

I started with a golden butter yellow cake batter, to which I added a bit of espresso (espresso powder dissolved in hot water).. the cake was rich and very tasty but I think I would add a bit more espresso next time for a stronger coffee flavor (it was my first time making this so I didn't want to go overboard with the espresso ;)

For the caramel filling, I chose a Paula Deen recipe (below) I came across in my research, which was amazing in this cake!
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and milk. Cook and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.   The filling will seem too liquidy to put in between cake layers, but because it's caramel, it stiffens up and stays in place quite well.

The frosting was a Caramel/Espresso combination that I sort of created:
 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream x2 (more if needed for consistency)
7 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 tsp espresso powder, dissolved in 3 tsp hot water
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and coffee mixture. Beat until it reaches a spreading consistency. At this time it may be necessary to add a tablespoon of heavy cream, or more, if frosting gets too thick.

I had never made a 'caramel' frosting before and discovered it can be tricky to work with.  The frosting hardens pretty quickly after being put together, so if you're not going to be frosting right away (as I didn't), there are a few tips I can offer to make working with caramel frosting a bit easier.  First, I added a bit more heavy cream and re-whipped it with a spoonI also heated it frequently in the microwave, as I was frosting, at 30 second intervals which worked very well.. just heat and give it a stir each timeI actually frosted the cake with a tip (which is how I frost all my cakes but I typically smooth them afterward).. I didn't smooth this one because I liked the 'piped-on' frosting look.  The cake was yummy and the hubby loved it :)

Walking Dead Cake

Two weeks ago I completed a 'Walking Dead' cake for my long-time friend's bf.  Apparently he is a huge fan of the show.  A while back she had mentioned that this was what she wanted to do for his birthday cake.. which meant some research on my part.  While I knew it was a TV show, I had no idea what the heck it was all about.  I used some online pictures I found of 'walking dead' cakes for inspiration.  My friend decided on a chocolate/peanut butter cake, so I made my specialty - dark chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter filling and peanut butter buttercream.

The topper is made of fondant, with some edible painting going on.  The bloodwork is red Wilton icing color painted on with a small brush (which I use only for cakes of course).  My friend came to the house to pick it up and loved it! {Yay!}  ..I asked her to let me know what her bf thought of it, since I wouldn't get to see his reaction.  I was later told he loved it as well.. and that it tasted awesome! {Yay again!}  ..here are some pics of the cake.



February 8, 2013

'baby' cakes

Last weekend I hosted a 'Girls Night/Baby Celebration' for my step-daughter, Michaela, who is expecting.  I had so much fun with this party!  ..(should be getting up some photos soon on my Parties page).  Of course I couldn't have a party without some sort of sweet treat.  I decided minis ('baby' cupcakes) would be most appropriate ;)

I picked my step-daughter's brain for some flavor ideas.. the first flavors she mentioned when I asked her were 'chocolate and vanilla'.. easy enough.. I made dark chocolate fudge minis iced with vanilla buttercream.  She had previously mentioned liking the look of 'ombre' cakes (basically just a graduating tint of the same color), so I frosted the 'baby cakes' in this fashion, using pink because that was one of the main color schemes at the party.. she loves pink and what better color for a girls night!

Mario Brothers Cake/Cupcakes

Next up - Mario!  I hadn't actually done a Mario Brothers cake previously, however, I did assist my step-daughter with one she made for her boyfriend's little guy.  It was fun but some work ..and she did a simple 8" round cake.  The order I got was for a 2-tier cake with 18 cupcakes!  It took me an entire week to make all the fondant cupcake toppers, plus the fondant accents for each cake tier - whew!  Those little guys are so detailed and I'm sort of a perfectionist.. so.. after a week of sculpting them, I never wanted to see a Mario character again!  Anyway, after a very long week, as usual it was all worth it!  I was happy with how they turned out, and my client loved it.. especially the birthday boy.. his whole face lit up when he saw the cake! :)  ..Cake is dark chocolate fudge with peanut butter filling and buttercream icing.  Cupcakes are fudge marble with buttercream icing.


February 7, 2013

Snowmobile Cake

Aghhhh.. I'm so behind on my blog!  ..too busy lately!  So two weeks ago was my big bro's Birthday.  He was just having a small family gathering at my mom's and told me to keep his cake 'simple'.  (Yeah Right!)  I remembered him asking me back in November about doing a 'snowmobile' cake.  I sort of laughed it off at the time.. but when the time came I knew that's what I had to do (even though I'm pretty sure he forgot all about it).  

I decided to make a fondant replica of his snowmobile, so I had his girlfriend send me a picture of it.  I stared at the pic for days.. pretty sure I had bitten off more than I could chew ;)  ..Finally I just started playing with the black fondant.. and two days later I had something I was pretty happy with but it needed detail.  I attempted to re-create the decals on the sled using cut up Wilton Sugar Sheets.  (I wanted everything to be edible!)  I envisioned the snowmobile in a wintery scene.. in the woods.  So I made evergreen trees out of sugar cones and piped on green icing.  Then I dusted them with powdered sugar.  I loved how they turned out - they looked real!  I frosted the cake 'rustic' style (to look like snow).  

When I asked my brother what flavor cake he wanted, he responded with two words - 'chocolate and peanut butter', so I went with dark chocolate fudge cake and peanut butter filling.  The cake is frosted in white buttercream.  It was yummy.. my sister even ate one of the trees! :)

 ..reaction to his surprise snowmobile cake :)

..don't catch the trees on fire!
 ..all aglow.. prettiness!

{bro and his real sled}