Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spongebob Squarepants!

Well, I finally ventured into making a cake and getting paid. I've been so nervous about this for so long. My biggest fear? What if I screw it up? I don't want to be responsible for ruining someone's special day. Common sense tells me to just look at what I've done thus far--wedding cake, multiple party cakes for family, etc. etc.--but I just couldn't get over that fear. Finally, a guy my husband works with asked him if he thought I'd be willing to do a cake for his son's second birthday. The lady who was supposed to do it backed out at the last minute and he was desperate. When my husband called me to ask, I immediately tensed up, held my breath, clenched my teeth, and probably sent myself on the verge of a stroke before I finally squeeked out, "What does he want?"

"Spongebob, I think. But it doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just a simple cake," my husband replied. Nothing elaborate? Does the man not realize that everything I do borders on the edge of obsessive compulsive with the finite detail? I can show someone a picture of anything I've done thus far, and while they are ooing and ahhing, I'm listing all the things that I could have done better. But I suppose that's the nature of most of us type A personalities.

So Mike (my husband's friend from work) emails me a picture of this spongebob cake he wants, with the promise of ordering the plastic characters to go on top. I look it over and immediately know I should be able to do it, no problem, but the ol' terror of screwing it up creeps in and I debate telling him it looks too hard. This guy and his wife came to my wedding, mind you. They saw the wedding cake and know what I'm capable of. As I rationalize out a gazillion ways to tell him I can't do it, that part of me that felt bad about his son not having his coveted Spongebob cake takes over and I agree without a specified price.

You see, that's another stumbling block to ever owning my own cake decorating business. I have no idea what to charge?!!! I hate coming up with prices. Sure, you can devise a reasonable price based on all the work you'll do (it takes me many hours to do a cake, sometimes days), but a trip to Walmart's bakery will show you quite frankly that they could get a spongebob cake, a wedding cake, or just about anything else they want for a lot less money. Who can compete with Wally World? So then you begin to wonder, is it worth it? Maybe I should just stick to making cakes for family for free. Then I don't have to worry about screwing it up (they'll still love me), or getting paid (because family always wants stuff for free). But that would make be a big ass chicken. Alas, I'll probably get into the cake decorating business one baby step at a time, throwing a tantrum the whole way.

All that being said, I don't think my Spongebob cake turned out too shabby.

Oooo...Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?


Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.

If nautical nonsense be something you miss...


Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!


Yes, I've been watching that show far too much. Ha ha

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here is one of the cake pops I made to go with my sister's (Carrie) diva birthday cake. Before I discovered these little yummies, I threw tons of cake away. For all the cake decorators out there, you know how heart-wrenching it is to level your cake and then toss all the cut off away. For large cakes, (like my 3 tiered wedding cake) you're likely to throw away enough cake to amount to a whole 3-tiered cake! Albeit a smaller one. Anyhow, Wilton has introduced the idea of cake pops (probably been around longer than what I know of so forgive me if I've given credit in the wrong place).

Instead of throwing away your cut off, stuff it in a baggie and toss it in the freezer for cake pops. When you're ready to use it, crumble your thawed cake into a large bowl. You'll need enough to amount to one box mix (about a 9 x 13 cake or two 8 inch cakes). You can use less or more, you'll just have to adjust the amount of icing you add accordingly.

Next, spoon about 1 cup of icing into your crumbled cake. You can use some left over buttercream or store-bought. It doesn't matter.

Then, use your hands and mix it all together until it forms a dough. Kinda the consistency of playdough. Yeah, you can be a kid again and claim your cooking. How fun is that?!

After you've mixed it all up, take a cookie sheet and lay a piece of wax paper on it. Begin rolling balls out of your dough. I usually make them about 1-1 1/2 inch diameter. Any larger and they will fall off the sticks when you go to dip them in chocolate.  When you've finished rolling your balls, place them in the fridge for about 10 minutes or so to let them firm up. While they are in there, you can prepare your chocolate dip.

For this next part, you'll need candy coats or almond bark, or heck, I suppose even chocolate chips will work. Just some sort of meltable chocolate. Candy coats work good if you want a colored chocolate on your pops. Melt your chocolate in the microwave (or stovetop, whichever you prefer). Add some vegetable shortening (the solid stuff, not liquid) to it and mix it in until you get a nice, syrupy texture, smooth, not thick. There is no magic amount here, just add a little at a time. Like 1/2 tsp or so. Don't put a big glob in there or it'll taste like shortening (yuck!).

When you're chocolate is melted and a good consistency grab your cake balls out of the fridge. Insert a sucker stick about 1/2 inch or so into melted chocolate, then immediately stick it into a cake ball. Work quickly while the cake balls are cold. This help solidify the chocolate on the stick inside your ball so it will stay in place. Once you've added sticks to all your balls, place them back in the fridge for a few more minutes. At this point, you may want to stick your chocolate back into the microwave for a few minutes to make sure it hasn't started to harden on you. In the meantime, grab a styroform board and get ready to dip!

After about 5-10 minutes, take your cake balls (pops) out of the fridge. Holding the pop by the stick, dip it down into the chocolate and then quickly pull it back out, using a slight twirling action. Holding the now dipped pop at an angle, gently tap the stick against the edge of the chocolate container or against your finger, gently tapping off the excess. I also slowly turn the pop as I do this, helping to get a nice smooth coat over the pop.

If you want sprinkles or dragees or candies (m&m for example) on your pop, add them now. Hold pop over a bowl or container and sprinkle sugar or candy sprinkles, letting the excess fall into the bowl. You can gather this and reuse. Add dragees or larger candies by hand. I use a pair of tweezers. It helps.

After you've decorated your pop, stick it into the styrofoam to dry. Once dried, cover with a celophane bag and tie closed with decorative ribbon or twist tie. There's also pretty pop wraps you can buy.

For presentation, you can purchase cake pop boxes which allow your cake pops to stand up. I think they hold about 12 pops. I used a white box with a celophane window and just laid my pops inside using pretty tissue paper to make it fancy. Kind of like wrapping a shirt or something for a christmas present. I added some glitzy stickers to the box and viola, a fancy diva cake pop box that matched Carrie's diva cake.

Carrie's Diva Birthday Cake (2011)

This was Carrie's (my sister) birthday cake. It was also my first fondant shoe and my first pillow cake! I was really pleased with how it all turned out. Of course, I learned a few little tidbits to improve on my next shoe/pillow cake, but overall, I couldn't complain, and she loved it.

The cake is two pillow halves covered in homemade marshmallow fondant and placed together with buttercream. It's easier if you place the bottom, bottom side up, on top of a coffee can or some sort of raised base. Cover with buttercream, let crust, then cover with your marshmallow fondant. Trip excess, then put a dallop of buttercream in the center of your cake board, place against center of bottom, and then flip the whole thing over. Now your bottom is face up and ready for the other half of your cake.

I read somewhere that said to cover both halves before placing together. Let me suggest only doing the bottom first. Next make your dam of icing and fill with buttercream. Then turn top over onto bottom. Because you have to kind of smash them together to make your seam as small and tight as possible, if you cover your top with fondant first, you will leave fingerprints all in your nice smooth fondant (yep, I did as the instructions said and was very unhappy about that). While you can certainly go back and resmooth, I think it would be easier to just wait and cover the top half with buttercream and fondone after you've placed it on the bottom and completed your pillow shape. If the next trial proves otherwise, I'll be sure to come back and let everyone know.

Here's a side view of the shoe. I found a great tutorial on You Tube for how to make this using a cardboard template. You can make variations, such as adding a back or leaving the toe closed, etc. I wanted something "girlie" and chic so I went with the
pink and black color, and open-toed sandal. The gold cakeboard and gold dragees added a nice touch and really stood out against the pink.

Here's a closeup of the tassels, trim, and curls. The gold balls are dragees. Everything (except the toothpick holding the tassel on the cake and the cake board, of course) is edible. The dragees are a little hard so cruching on those might crack a tooth, but the kids liked them and the cat thought they were fun to chase, particularly when I dropped several trying to place them on the cake. I purchased a clay extractor from Michael's to make the tassels, curls, and cord trim. As long as you don't use it for clay and only use it for food products, it should be fine. It's also cheaper than buying an official "fondant" extractor. I loved how the cord seemed to pull the two sections together and covered the seam. I don't know if you can see it or not, but I also covered the entire cake with luster dust. Sorry, but the "girlie" girl in  me loves the sparkle.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My wedding cake (2009)

This was my very first wedding cake. If that isn't enough stress, it was also my own! I spent 3 days creating this masterpiece, all with about 3 hours or sleep, total. Needless to say, by the first night of my honeymoon, I was pooped. My husband and I fell asleep at 6 pm our first night in Jamaica. Was it worth it? You bet ya. I can look back now and say, "I did that!".