Friday, October 28, 2011


My friend's husband turned 50 this week, so she asked me to make a cake for him. Her only request was that it have a golf theme. This is what I came up with.

I had several different ideas in my head, but I couldn't seem to settle on one. I had the idea for the big golf ball, but I was also thinking about making a golf course. I decided to go with the golf ball, but then couldn't decide what to do with the rest of the cake. Should I make a sand trap? a water hazard? a hole? How should I put the name and age on it? Should I put it on the ball? on the side? on the top? Soooo many questions.

I went and bought a ball pan, made my favorite chocolate cake recipe, and got to work. This recipe is so fabulous that I was able to get the quarter sheet and the ball out of it. Todd's favorite flavor is red velvet, but Robin, Todd's wife, thought that it might look too much like Christmas with the green icing. So chocolate it was. Which was really fine with me because this chocolate cake recipe is just so yummy.

I baked, cooled, and crumb coated the cakes while watching game 6 of the World Series. This was the game that went on and on and on. But lucky for me, I had time to get all of this done ... and the Cardinals won!

Doesn't that chocolate cake look yummy? I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but I really like chocolate cake.

The ball cake was really interesting to make. With every step, it got more and more lopsided. I was able to get all of the frosting on it and smooth, but then I had to figure out how to dimple it. I looked at a lot of different things ... a pen cap, the end of my Exacto knife ... before I finally decided on a pearl earring. No really ... a pearl earring. It worked great. It was rounded just right and was the perfect size.

So then I iced the 1/4 sheet cake. I had it so smooth and looking nice that the next step was really scaring me ... putting the golf ball on the cake. In hindsight, I probably should have had a bigger cake circle under the ball. I cut it so that it was the exact size of the flat part a cut on the ball. This made it really hard to place it on the cake. I marked where I wanted the ball to go, put in the supports, and then had to have Craig help me place it on. Armed with a cake lifter and an icing spatula, we carefully lifted the ball and tried to carefully place it on the supports. The only problem was that I couldn't see what I was doing ...  and then I couldn't get my fingers out from under it. When the ball was finally resting comfortably on top of the cake, I had two hands full of white AND green frosting. CRAP!!!

So I got the white icing back out, touched up the ball, smoothed it when it crusted, and re-dimpled it. It didn't look great, but it would do.

By this time I had decided that I would make a putting green on the corner of the cake where I would do the writing. So I loaded up my piping bag with green icing and started piping in the grass. I was a little concerned that I wouldn't have enough ... mixing more color would have been disastrous. But I had enough and I thought it looked pretty good. I was also able to cover up most of my repair job on the golf ball with tall grass. :)

I really, really, really hate writing on cakes. I wish that I was more confident with it, but I'm not. I knew this part was next, and I wasn't excited about it. It didn't help that I had game 7 of the World Series on and was so distracted by it. But I loaded up a new piping bag with white icing and a #3 tip, and got ready to write. I considered putting the "50" on the ball. After all the trouble I had had with that stupid ball so far, I decided to just leave it alone. The writing on the cake isn't great, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Overall, I think the cake turned out nice. Tomorrow morning I get to load it in my car and drive it down the road less than a mile. I will admit that I'm more than a little nervous about it. I really hope that my next blog post isn't about a cake disaster with pictures of yummy chocolate cake smashed all over the back of my car from a giant cake golf ball rolling off a cake.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chili Supper

Every year, the band has a chili supper. It's a major fund raiser for the music boosters, and the kids enjoy the casual atmosphere of the concert they perform. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands perform in the cafeteria while the attendees eat dinner, then we all go outside to the football field to watch the high school band perform their field show. This year's chili supper is tomorrow night.

This year, I decided to provide 2 dozen cupcakes for the dessert table. It's been a pretty busy weekend, so I got started on the cupcakes a little late in the afternoon. After a close inspection of my refrigerator and cupboards, I discovered that I had some extra ganache and chocolate fudge icing that I made last week, and some orange candy melts. So I went to the store and bought a Pilsbury dark chocolate cake mix. Even though it was the kind with pudding in the mix, I was feeling a little guilty about just using a box mix. So ... while I was mixing it up, I noticed that there was still some coffee in the coffee maker. So I added coffee to the mix instead of water. I like the way that coffee enhances the chocolate flavor.

I was able to get 27 cupcakes out of the mix ... which is good considering I only needed 24.

While the cakes were cooling, I got to work melting the orange candy melts and filling my music candy molds. Why orange? Well ... orange is a nice fall color AND the high school's colors are orange and black. Perfect!

The mold I have has notes, flats, sharps, treble clefs, and bass clefs. Can you believe they made the flats backwards?!? Therefore, I never make the flats or the sharps. Sharps without flats would just be stupid after all.

After a lovely dinner made by my lovely husband, I got to work decorating the cupcakes. Still feeling a little guilty about the box mix, I filled each of the cupcakes with the dark chocolate ganache. I had just enough. I have decided that I really like filled cupcakes. Eating a cupcake that is filled with something is just a nice little surprise with every bite.

I then got to work on the chocolate fudge icing. My son likes to eat it straight from the bowl, but I kept telling him that he couldn't have it this past week. I was still a little worried that I wouldn't have enough ... and I really wasn't in the mood to make more icing. I filled my decorating bag and began to swirl. Knowing that I was low on icing, I tried to make it a small basic swirl, but I sometimes get carried away.

I swirled and topped with a candy note over and over and over again. Unfortunately, I ran out of chocolate fudge icing with 2 cupcakes left. Bummer. Since I had my 24 cupcakes already, I just scraped the bowl with a knife and iced the last 2 cupcakes with it. I figured I could feed those to my boys ... they won't complain too much ... right? It turns out that there was a little bit of complaining. Oh well ... they got a cupcake.

They are now all packaged up and ready to go to the chili supper. The question is ... do I take one with my dinner? ... or do I leave them for other people? I'll probably try to get one with my dinner.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Winter has come early to my kitchen. I had the opportunity this week to make a cake for a bridal shower. The theme of the wedding is Winter Wonderland and the colors are red and silver. The bride likes chocolate ... which is also my favorite ... so to the kitchen I went.

I started off by trying a new chocolate cake recipe. This recipe was fabulous! I ended up with so much extra cake ... but that's not really a bad thing. Since there weren't going to be very many people at the shower, we decided to go with an 8 inch square. I have done brushed embroidery with flowers, but thought it would also look cool with snowflakes. Therefore, even though I've only done brushed embroidery on buttercream, I thought it would look nicer on red fondant. I've been reading that many decorators only put fondant over ganache ... they say you get straighter and crisper edges then when covering buttercream. So ... I made the chocolate cake, the dark chocolate ganache, the marshmallow fondant, and some buttercream for the snowflakes and writing. It's a good thing I started early because this small cake took all week.

As I was saying ... I started off by making the cake. After it cooled I leveled it and torted it.

Then I filled it with dark chocolate ganache.

Next, I covered the entire cake with ganache. In the picture above you can see the cake board that the cake is sitting on. In the picture below you can't. Thats how much ganache is on this cake.

After spending the night in the refrigerator, it was time to decorate the cake. I'm more of a buttercream girl, so covering a cake in fondant tends to take a lot longer than it should. It took me THREE tries to cover that cake. I kept tearing the fondant. I was getting ready to color my white buttercream red and cover it in that when I decided to give it one last try. IT WORKED!!!! YAY ME!!!!
And they're right ... I did get crisper edges by covering the cake with ganache first. :)

Next came the fun part ... piping.

I used the brushed embroidery technique for the snowflakes. The technique goes like this ... I piped the outline of the snowflake. Then, with a small flat brush dipped in water, I brushed part of the piped buttercream into the center of the snowflake. I worked my way around each snowflake until I had a pretty brushed look. It's important to remember to only pipe one design at a time. If the icing hardens or crusts, then it won't brush. Some people use royal icing for their brushed embroidery, but as I said ... I'm a buttercream girl. While the icing was still wet, I sprinkled some silver edible glitter in each snowflake to give them a little shimmer. Finally, I piped in the couple's names.

The best part of this cake is the taste. After I leveled it, I took some of the cake top, smeared ganache on it, and ate it. I felt like I needed a cup of coffee after eating one bite. It was A M A Z I N G. AND ... I have another 8 inch square in the freezer. I may have to get it out for Sunday dinner dessert. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hydrangeas Hydrangeas Hydrangeas

A couple of months ago, I was going to attend a cook-out at my mom's house. My brother, his family, and my 2 aunts and uncles were going to be there, so I decided to not show up empty handed (I hate to say it, but if it just would have been dinner with my mother, I wouldn't have brought anything). I had some cupcakes in freezer and some white icing in the refrigerator and I wanted to bring something that looked impressive but was easy to make. I'd seen several pictures of cupcakes and cakes that looked like hydrangeas, so I watched a tutorial on YouTube. Yep ... easy but impressive looking.

Several tips can be used, but the easiest technique that I came across used a 1M tip. I tinted some of the icing blue and some of it a purplish color, put both colors in the bag together, and got to work on my cupcakes. I thought they turned out pretty good. I tried filling them with the icing as well ... but I think the cupcakes were still a little frozen inside because when my family bit into them, there wasn't much filling. Oh well. My uncle gave me a lesson on why the hydrangea had 2 different colors. Apparently, I fertilized my cupcakes a certain way to cause them to bloom with the 2 different colors. I was pretty sure that I had just mixed several different gel colors in the icing ... but I've been known to be wrong before.

A friend of mine wanted some cupcakes for her co-worker's 50th birthday. The co-worker likes pink and purple. So ... I made pink and purple hydrangea cupcakes. I didn't even try to fill them this time. These were white almond cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. I thought they turned out nice.

Today, I once again created hydrangea cupcakes. This time I made purple and gold. A woman I know works at a university whose colors are purple and gold. She's been home for 3 weeks recovering from surgery, and wanted to treat her co-workers with cupcakes. So I mixed some purple icing and some golden yellow icing, put it all in a bag together, but this time I used my new 2D tip. I actually like how the petals turned out with this tip better. I even filled these cupcakes ... and it worked this time. I filled the chocolate cupcakes with yellow icing and the vanilla cupcakes with purple icing.

As we head into Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, maybe I'll be done with hydrangeas for a while ... maybe I should learn how to make a poinsettia.

By the way ... this is what a real hydrangea looks like ... 

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Kid-Friendly Cupcake

I was spending a lot of time making fancy smancy cupcakes for creative types (see Lavender and Rose Water posts), so I really needed to make a kid-friendly cupcake. I'd seen this cupcake other places but thought it looked high maintenance ... but what the heck ... I thought I'd give it a shot.

I started off by taking some mini marshmallows and a freshly washed pair of scissors. I cut each marshmallow diagonally so that it made two little pointed petal looking things.

When it appeared as if I had enough marshmallows cut, I took a cupcake, slapped a generous amount of white buttercream on it, and then got to work putting on the petals before the buttercream dried.

Because the marshmallows were cut open, the inside cut edge was sticky. I dipped the sticky side in some pink sugar ...

...and then stuck the flat end on the cupcake. The buttercream held it on nicely. I continued sticking the pink petals on the cupcake ... going round and round ... until the cupcake was full.

I used a white almond cupcake for my marshmallow flower, but any kind of cupcake will work. 

The kitchen had been full of lavender and rose water cupcakes ... which, in my opinion, turned out gorgeous ... but my 12 year old son said, upon seeing the marshmallow flower cupcake ... 

"That's beautiful Mom!" 

He, of course, got to sample the first one. After taking a bite, his comment was ... 

"This is good! I never get cupcakes like this!" 

I will definitely make these again. They weren't as high maintenance as I had thought they'd be.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rose Water Cupcakes

So the Act II of my artsy fartsy theater cupcakes are rose water cupcakes. To recap ... music director wants cupcakes for the first read-through of a play set in a parfumerie in Budapest. I've decided to call the lavender cupcakes Act I and the rose water cupcakes Act II.

I started off by buying a bottle of rose water.

I then made just a normal vanilla cake ... but instead of adding vanilla, I added the rose water.

I think I must have spilled a little of the rose water because my kitchen smelled like rose perfume for a really long time.

I decided to just make a regular vanilla buttercream for the icing. I didn't want the rose water to be overpowering, and I thought the vanilla buttercream would sweeten up the cupcake a bit.

It only seemed appropriate that I give these little cupcakes a rose swirl and some glitter for a little flash.

I thought they looked like real flowers all boxed up and ready to go.

My first adventure with baking with actual flower products. I really hope the actors and actresses, as well as the director like these. They have a truly unique flavor.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lavender Cupcakes

My husband, the musician, sometimes gets hired to play in musicals at the local university. On occasion, I have made baked goods and sent them with him for the musicians to eat in the pit between numbers.

I was recently contacted by a friend of my husband's who has had the opportunity to sample my baked goods in the pit. He's the musical director of "She Loves Me," a show that takes place in a Parfumerie in Budapest in the 1930's. He asked if I would make cupcakes for the first read-through ... his only request was that I incorporate lavender and/or rose water.

Lavender and/or rose water???????

I've never done anything with either of these two ingredients before ... so of course I said yes!

And the research began...

I found a pretty interesting recipe for lavender cupcakes with honey frosting, so I decided to give it a try.

Since I don't have a food processor, I had to chop the lavender by hand.

I then mixed the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, heavy cream, chopped lavender leaves, butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

I tinted one cup of the batter purple ...

... so that I could marble the cupcakes.

I was only able to get 20 cupcakes from this recipe.

Finally, I made a honey buttercream, put on a ruffled ice cream swirl, and added some purple glitter for a little bling.

The inside looked pretty cool too.

The lavender taste and smell is pretty strong ... but not in a bad way. I felt like I was in a Parfumerie in Budapest. :)

Stay tuned for the the rose water cupcakes ...