Monday, June 29, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Days 4 & 5

Day 4 & 5: Finishing Touches and Delivery
Hours: Oh heck, I've totally lost track, 3? 4? more?

The middle layer looked like is was wanting something, so I took Silke's brilliant suggestion and added butterflies.

I cut hearts from fondant, then trimmed off the bottoms. I rolled one of these triangles into the bodies for each of the butterflies.

Then I sponged pink and purple food coloring to the edges, and piped pink and purple dots and the feelers.

Once that was done, the top layer started to look a like it wanted something, so I added two rows of pink beads.

I mushed leftover fondant together and used it to cover the cake circles

And finally - it's done!

Overall I'm very happy with how it looks, and it was great fun to make and learn more about working with fondant - such as the color will really, really fade if it's exposed to sun. Live and learn.

Now it's up to the judges!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Day 3

Day 3: Royal Icing Flowers and Decorations
Hours: 4

Royal Icing is super easy to make and fun to worth with. It's not the best-tasting stuff in the world, but the decorations dry rock-hand and keep forever - and cleaning up is a dream because there's no grease or butter.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites

Mix the egg whites into the sugar at low speed until incorporated, then increase the mixer speed to med-high and beat for 5-7 minutes. Icing will be very stiff, and can be thinned with a little water as needed. Store airtight, and keep bowls covered with a damp cloth or paper towel, the icing hardens very quickly.

Once I had the icing made, I colored it as close as I could to the fondant colors

For the top layer, I made about 16 daffodils to arrange around the pink band in the center. The middle layer was decorated with a row of lilies of the valley. For the bottom layer, I piped a pattern of leaves and flowers, and then used a brush embroidery technique.

I made also made the "Local Flora" letters for the topper pieces. I printed out a photo of the sign at the size I needed and laid a sheet of wax paper over it. I outlined the letters in purple with a #1 tip, then filled it in with thinned-out white royal icing. Once they're dry, they can be attached to the pieces with royal icing "glue."

Other than being a little bummed that the pink fondant really, really faded (not sure why... I need to investigate this.....) I'm v. happy with how things are stacking up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Day 2

Day 2: Cover Cakes with Fondant
Hours: 4

I'm definitely still learning when it comes to fondant. I've read a lot of books and watched a lot of videos about how to cover cakes and it looks so simple, but it's tricky to keep the fondant thick but not too thick, pliable but not too soft and sturdy but not to dry.

I used both oil spray and cornstarch to keep the fondant from sticking while I rolled depending on if it felt too soft or too dry. Both work well.

Luckily, the rules for the Marin County Fair allow you to use foam forms instead of real cake, and also luckily as a Wilton instructor I can order these foam cake forms very cheaply:

I love the color scheme and the foam is so light and easy to work with. I used flower and leaf-shaped cookie cutters to press a pattern into the bottom layer, and cut out three rectangles that will be decorated to look like the Local Flora sign for a cake topper.

It def took a lot of trial and error, and I'm still not 100% sure how to avoid "folds" in the fondant when you are shaping it to the cake, but overall I was pretty pleased with how this step turned out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Day 1

I'm entering a cake into the Marin County Fair for the first time. I've sniffed at past year's entries and said, "I could do something better than that" for years. Yeah, maybe you could, but have you?

The theme of the fair is "Cool, Green, Fun" so I decided to make my cake a tribute to a the cool, green, fun flower store run by my friend Silke, Local Flora.

When people ask me why I don't make cakes as a business, the answer is they are a LOT of work and take a lot of time, which I love when I'm doing it on my time and for fun and creativity - but would make me a basket case if someone were paying me. Folks also ask how long it takes to make an elaborate cake. It's hard to say because it's a multi-day process, but I'm going to try to break it down for this project.

Day 1 - Make and Color Fondant
Total Hours: 2.5

I made 7.5 pounds of the Cake Bible's rolled fondant (click here and scroll down for the recipe)

To color the fondant, first you slice it into chunks:

Then add paste food coloring with toothpicks:

Then feed the chunks into a food processor. The fondant will crumble at first, and the bind back together:

You do have to do some hand-kneading, but it's much easier if you give it a head start in the food processor, especially with a large volume of fondant:

Et Viola! Colored fondant:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cupcake Garden at the Beach

Amy Gosman is a fellow mom at my son's school and a baker extraordinaire. She's from New Zealand and makes a killer Pavlova that somehow makes some of my least favorite things - tropical fruits and meringue - into, as she calls it, "the dessert of the Gods."

One of the myriad commemorations of the end of the school year is the beach trip to Heart's Desire. The day includes an always-teary ceremony to honor the outgoing 5th graders, and cupcakes for more than 200 kids.

Amy was once again in charge of the cupcake portion of the day. Last year she assigned icing colors to each of her delegated bakers to create a giant cupcake rainbow. This year, she got it into her head to make 240 daisies from gum paste and royal icing to top each of the cupcakes.

She also determined that the daises had to have green leaves too (she's a woman after my own heart)

But, Amy's older daughter had a field trip to Stinson Beach on that day - so she dropped of a box of daisies and a locked 'n' loaded pastry bag with her pal Susan with a quick lesson on how to make the leaves.

Susan did an awesome job - but it was a LOT of work, especially while the icing was still stiff and cold.

I had it easy - all I had to do was follow her and plunk a little daisy on top of the cupcake - and make a quick, impromptu message for the kids:

The kids loved the effort we made - and it was fun to send off our graduates with a sweet treat

Max is 5th in line - that's my boy!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

C is for Cookie...

... and G.C. is for GIANT COOKIE!

What do you do when the class party is tomorrow, you don't have a lot of time, and you want to maintain your rep as the mom who sends the cool treats to school? You make a GIANT COOKIE!

Writing and border by Lara, swirls by Max

All you do is bake your favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in a 12" round cake pan. If you don't make wedding cakes you may not have a 12" round, in that case just use your biggest springform pan or two 8" rounds.

Luckily, I had Wilton Candy Melts left over from the CakePops project all ready to go in pastry bags, so it was super easy to re-melt them and decorate the top and sides.

Max told me exactly what to write and where to write it. The kid must have learned something this year because he insisted on correct punctuation as well.

GIANT COOKIE is great for show-offs like me, because it's so much easier to make than dozens of regular cookies, but makes such a big impression when you parade it around the party.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Blasts from the Past

I just this week got to see the layout for the interior for The Frugal Foodie Cookbook and it looks FABULOUS!

But something about the designer's name was ringing a bell deep in my brain... and then I figured it out, it was Frank Weidemann - who I worked with at Double Rainbow on Haight street way, way back in the late 1980s!

Circa 1989

Oh the fun we had back then, serving everyone from druggies and the homeless to bridge and tunnel wannabe hipsters and San Francisco's version of the Von Trapp family.

The crew also included Jason Mecier, who has gone on to fame (and I hope for him fortune) creating celebrity portraits in beans and noodles.

Frank is now an amazingly talented designer working on lots of cool posters, CD covers and more
check out his work here

Circa 2009

Oh yeah, and how is this cake related you ask? At the same party where the c. 1989 photo was taken, I made the birthday cake - one of my early attempts at shaped cakes:

A Pretty in Pink "W" for Wendy the ultra-feminine birthday girl, adorned with the now-illegal silver dragees.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Flower Power!

Debra completed this beautiful finale cake - I just love the happy yellow polka dots. Then I saw her at Michael's a few days later buying some more supplies - I expect to see more beautiful creations from her soon!