Thursday, February 28, 2008

To fill or not to fill...

Raspberry Fudge cake
Chocolate mint mousse cake Chocolate Lover's cake
Slicing the layers and adding a filling can turn any cake into an elegant dessert instead of "just a cake." Even the so called self-proclaimed non-cake lover may change his mind with the first bite. Several different flavors and ingredients can be used to fill cakes. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Fudge or fudge nut
  • Cream cheese
  • Mousse--strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, chocolate mint, peanut butter to name a few
  • Fruit fillings--strawberry (best when using fresh strawberries in season), raspberry, lemon, cherry
  • Bavarian creme
  • Whipped cream--vanilla or chocolate
My specialty cakes always have some kind of yummy filling between the layers. For example my raspberry fudge cake has a layer of fudge filling between layers of raspberry filling in a moist chocolate cake, iced in a delicious buttercream and covered with hand-shaved chocolate curls...yumm! Another is the banana split layers of yellow cake with layers of whipped cream with pineapple, fresh strawberries, and bananas, iced with whipped cream and sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Makes you hungry, doesn't it? Next time, try adding a filling to your cake and wait for the compliments!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

My method of cake decorating...

When I learned how to decorate cakes 30 years ago, I leaned from a man at the little nearby cake shop in Glendale, who was a great decorator. He taught the Kellar method of cake decorating vs. the Wilton method. I do not think that this method still exists. One of the main differences between the two methods is the way of making icing roses. The Wilton method teaches making roses on a flower nail. I make roses on a wooden dowel, and remove them with a pair of pointed scissors. It is ten times faster and easier than using the flower nail. I'm sure there are other things that I do differently too. Wilton has always had a monopoly on the cake decorating business---doesn't mean they're always the best.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Some of my favorite kitchen tools...

A few of my favorite tools that I would have a difficult time doing without:
  • KitchenAid Mixer: I love my KitchenAids. I actually have 3--two of the K45 (tilt-head) models and one of the larger K5S (bowl lift) models. At one time I had four, but one died from over-use. I still have the bowl that I use when I need an extra one. Some of my friends swear by their Bosch mixers, but for what I do, for all of my mixing and cooking/baking needs, I wouldn't use anything except a KitchenAid. I prefer my tilt-head models because I think they are easier to use, but I use my bowl lift model when I need a little more power and a larger bowl.
  • Pampered Chef silicone scrapers: I have several--classic scrapers, skinny scrapers, and mix 'n scraper. They are heavy-duty. The heads won't crack, stain, or melt, and handles will not separate from the heads (which makes them easier to clean and more sanitary). They are much more flexible than the old traditional rubber scrapers, and you can use them for mixing or stirring things on the stove.
  • Pampered Chef Handy Scraper: I use this to divide my bread doughs, as well as clean off my counter tops.
  • Pampered Chef Bamboo Spoons: They come in a set of three different sizes. These are very sturdy and you can use them to mix or cook on stove top. They are easy to clean-just pop in the dishwasher.
  • Heavy aluminum bun pans and pan liners: I have six of the half size. You can usually purchase them at Sam's or Costco in the 2-pack. I use these for making my rolls, cinnamon rolls, cookies, desserts, candies, appetizers, etc., etc. I always use silicone treated parchment pan liners when using my pans. Using the pan liners makes the clean up allot easier and helps your products to bake more evenly. My pans are as shiny today as when I purchased them about 20 years ago...because I use the pan liners. You can also re-use the liners if whatever you baked is not too messy...just wipe them off.
  • Stainless steel cookie scoops: I have 2 sizes--one small and one a bit larger. These are a must for quick cookie baking and uniform size.
  • Cake saw: I use this for slicing off the rounded tops from my cakes to make them level, and for splitting the layers when I add fillings. It is serrated and much longer than a regular knife, making it easy to use on larger cake layers.
  • Silicone pasty brush: I have 3 of these. They are much better than the old bristle brushes, because they are more flexible and much easier to clean, making them more sanitary. You can just toss them in the dishwasher.
  • Heavy-duty aluminum cake pans: I have many of various shapes, sizes, and quantities. I only use the heavy-duty pans. Your cakes will bake more evenly, and turn out moister. You can make your own pan coating by combining equal amounts of oil and flour. Stir until smooth and stir before each use. Store in cupboard and spread on cake pans with a foam craft brush.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Which icing do you prefer?

When considering icing for your wedding cake, you normally have three options:
  • Buttercream
  • Whipped Cream
  • Fondant

Cream cheese frosting is not really an option here, as it will not hold its shape well enough to decorate with.

Buttercream icing is my preferred choice. It holds up well in most temperatures, is easy to work with, especially when creating details, it tastes great, and is easy to cut and serve. It also tints well, with paste color, or airbrush.

Whipped cream icings can be made with a stabilized whipped cream or a non-dairy whipped topping. It is easy to spread on the cake, and makes for a smooth finish. Some customers like it better because it is not as sweet as the buttercream and has a lighter texture. It is difficult to do detail work with whipped cream icing; it should mainly be used for borders. It also needs to stay cool, so it should not be left for long periods without refrigeration. It too is easy to cut and serve, but does not always tint well.

Fondant is quickly becoming the icing of choice for wedding cakes. It gives that smooth porcelain finish that looks great in pictures and holds up well in most temperatures, but it does have several negatives. It is more difficult to work with; therefore it usually costs more. It can also be difficult to cut and serve. The traditional fondant tastes pretty nasty. I have found a fondant recipe, made with marshmallows, that is much easier to work with, tastes much better, and is a little easier to cut. The fondant is rolled out (like pie dough) and carefully placed over the cake which has been frosted with a generous layer of buttercream. So, if your guests still don't like the taste of this fondant, they can always peel it off and still have the delicious buttercream underneath. Fondant covered cakes should not be refrigerated if you want to keep their "perfect" finish.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wedding cakes vs. party cakes...

I have always enjoyed designing and decorating wedding cakes more than party cakes. There are several reasons why.
  1. When I have finished a wedding cake, I feel as I have created a masterpiece. I love being part of the whole wedding scene, and being able to design a cake that is perfect for the bride.
  2. There is usually less clean-up with wedding cakes because you don't have all of the different colors to worry about.
  3. There is hardly any profit in decorating party cakes. On the other hand, with wedding cakes, you can charge by the serving instead of by the cake. Customers are willing to pay more for wedding cakes because there is much more work involved.

When you are first starting to build a cake business, you almost have to decorate party cakes also, in order to build your business. When customers see and taste your work with party cakes, then they will know that you can also design wedding cakes. Taking pictures and keeping a good album of the cakes you have created is important so that your customers can see the work you have done.

High altitudes and baking do not always "mix" well!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

I never thought it would be as difficult as it sometimes is to change my ways of baking because of high altitudes. We lived in Glendale, AZ for about 25 years and baking was pretty just followed the directions in the recipe. Then we moved to Colorado, and I had to change the way I baked my cakes and brownies. My husband didn't seem to mind, because the more I experimented, the more he got to eat my mistakes. We both in my baking techniques, and my husband in his waistline. After over 2 years of experimenting with my brownie recipe, I finally got the adjustments right, so that the middle of the brownies didn't sink to the bottom of the pan. I make several different varieties of brownies. My husband's favorite is raspberry cream cheese swirl with cream cheese frosting. Here is the recipe for just the basic brownies:


Yield: Makes 9x13 pan

1 ½ cups butter, melted
2 ¾ cups sugar
1 T. vanilla
6 eggs
1 ¾ cups flour, unsifted
1 cup cocoa
½ t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
1 T. water
1 cup chocolate chips

Prepare as directed for regular brownies, except change to above amounts for ingredients. Also, do not grease sides of pan. Bottom only! Bake at 350° for approximately 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and center is firm to the touch. Run knife around outside of brownies before removing from pan.

I recently traveled to San Diego to make a wedding cake for a friend as a wedding gift. I forgot how nice it was to bake at sea level. Oh well, it still isn't enough to make me want to leave Colorado!