Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fondant Ribbon Cake...Learning new techniques

Even though this looks like a very simple cake, it gave me the opportunity to learn several new techniques, while at the same time tweaking my fondant recipe and techniques. I'll share some of what I learned. I learned allot by reading Janelle Smith's blogs and studying some of the tutorials that she had listed. First of all, I learned that it is easier to put fondant on a chilled cake. Janelle suggests filling and icing the cake and chilling it for a couple of hours. Then take it out of the refrigerator and spritz it with a little water, cover it with the fondant and chill it again. Take it out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving it. It will glisten a little from the condensation, but it is OK. This is especially good when you have a filling that needs to be kept cool. This particular cake was fudge marble with chocolate mousse filling. I also purchased a fondant smoother, which I liked using better than only my hand to smooth.

Making the fondant ribbon and bow was definitely an experiment. For the color I used used a shrimp color luster dust mixed with a little vodka (yes, I know you're thinking I went to a liquor store). Actually, I had the bride get me one of those little mini bottles of vodka because I told her that I would feel uncomfortable purchasing it myself. She was OK with that. Carol, at the local cake store where I get some of my supplies, showed me how you can intensify the color of the luster dusts by adding a clear alcohol, such as vodka. You use alcohol because it dries quickly. Anyway, after combining the luster dust with the vodka, I sprayed the fondant ribbon and bows with my airbrush. It gave it the pretty shiny finish I wanted. I had to add lots more sugar and a little meringue powder to the fondant dough to make the bows stiff enough. I think next time I make the bows I would maybe use gum paste instead of fondant, but the ribbon was OK. To make the blush color of the fondant that I covered the cake with, I added several drops of flesh airbrush color to the melted marshmallow mixture before adding the powdered sugar.

The bride furnished the round silver pieces that we used in the center of the bows. I still haven't gotten used to the idea of a finished wedding cake not having anything on top, but it was the look the bride wanted.

Here is the new fondant recipe I used from Janelle's blog. Just make sure you add enough sugar, make it the night before so it can firm up, and that you use plenty of cornstarch when rolling it out.

Marshmallow Fondant

1 bag mini marshmallows (16 oz.)
2 TBS water
2 tsp. corn syrup
5 to 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup shortening

Combine marshmallows and water in a glass bowl. Microwave for about 40 seconds at a time stirring in between until it becomes a soupy mixture. Stir in corn syrup. Mix in about a cup of powdered sugar. Pour mixture on work surface covered with about 3 cups powdered sugar and knead like bread dough. Coat hands with shortening frequently. Gradually add more powdered sugar as needed until the fondant is smooth and doesn't spread much when you let it sit for a few seconds. Careful not to add too much sugar or the fondant will be crumbly and hard. It's better to make it too soft. Wrap well with plastic wrap and let the fondant firm up overnight before using. If the fondant is stiff the next day, microwave it a few seconds to warm it up and make it more pliable.

Chocolate Fondant

1 bag mini marshmallows (16 oz.)
2 TBS water
2 tsp. corn syrup
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup shortening
a little less than 1/4 cup cocoa powder

After melting your marshmallows and water, stir in corn syrup and cocoa powder. To achieve a rich brown color, use Dutch Process cocoa. Hershey's makes some called Special Dark. Using regular cocoa will make a soft brown color. Knead mixture into powdered sugar. You'll need less sugar since the cocoa powder absorbs moisture so careful how much you add. Better to make it too soft since you can add more sugar the next day if needed. Wrap well with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.
*Do not add melted chocolate to the fondant. It will seize up and become a crumbled mess.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tiffani's Birthday Cakes

My friend and hairdresser, Tiffani celebrated her 30th birthday yesterday. The cake she requested was actually a cheesecake with chocolate dipped strawberries. The strawberry glaze was made with Danish Dessert.

Her husband threw a surprise birthday party for her later that night, so I did another cake. This time it was actually a cake, but still had cream cheese and strawberries for the filling because I knew that's what she liked. So yesterday she got a double dose of my baking skills. I have done cakes for her entire family, with the exception of her daughter, Rebekkah, and now they are moving to Utah. . . so sad. I told Rebekkah she would have to come back to Colorado in October, so I can make her a cake.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chocolate ganache

This morning I whipped up a cake at the last minute for Bruce to take to work for his birthday. When I say last minute, that was about what happened. First of all, last night I had planned to bake the cake after it cooled down in the house and I could open up the windows. So, at 10:15, I got the cake mix out and realized that I didn't have enough eggs. So I went to the store at 10:30 pm to buy eggs, came home and baked the cake. I got up this morning a little after 5 am, so I could put the cake together and have it ready by no later than 6:30. I decided to make it a Boston creme flavor, since I knew Bruce would like that, so I torted the layers, and put bavarian creme filling between two of the layers and put a rich chocolate buttercream between the other. Then I covered the entire cake with a chocolate ganache. I had lots of strawberries that I had purchased a couple of days ago and plenty of chocolate, so decided to dip strawberries to add to the top of the cake. As you can see, it wasn't perfect (lettering, for example), but Bruce said it tasted great! I guess it wasn't bad for about an hour or less of work.

Last minute birthday cake covered in ganache and decorated with dipped strawberries

Chocolate ganache is a combination of whipping cream and melted chocolate that is poured over the cake and sets up as it cools into a rich chocolate coating. I usually do a crumb coating of chocolate buttercream on the cake first. You put the cake on a rack over a drip pan, and pour the ganache over the cake and then let it set up. Any ganache that's left over you can let set up to a stiffer consistency and then use it to decorate the cake. I experimented this morning to see if I could use some leftover ganache from the last cake I did. So I melted it in the microwave. When I did that, the cream and chocolate separated, so I could not use it to pour on the cake. However, what I did do was pour it into my KitchenAid and beat it until the cream and chocolate combined again and then whipped it with the flat beater attachment until it resembled the consistency of a chocolate buttercream. It became a little lighter in color than the original ganache, but you could use it for decorating, borders, or for making chocolate truffle candies. It was good to know that at least it didn't go to waste.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe:

(2) 12 oz. packages chocolate candy melts (I like Guittard, but you can use any good quality chocolate candy melts or good chocolate cut in small pieces.)
About 3/4 cup cream

Heat the cream in a medium saucepan until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and stir until smooth. Add more cream, but only a little at a time, if necessary. Pour over cake and let set. Add decorations if desired.

Chocolate Lover's cake covered in ganache

Whipped ganache

Chocolate buttercream

Monday, July 13, 2009

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

In my case, it's "teaching an old cake decorator new techniques." Lately, I have been researching new decorating techniques and recipes on the internet. It's never too late to learn something new, right? Anyway, since we've moved to Colorado, I have never been quite happy with my buttercream icing recipe. It just doesn't go together as well as it did back in Arizona. It could be the altitude, the humidity, or lack of humidity, or whatever. All I know is that it's not ever as smooth as I wanted it. So, I have been researching ideas to "tweak" my recipe, and I think I finally came up with a recipe I like. First of all, I found an article somewhere that talked about the fact that because Crisco now uses a "no trans fat" recipe, you have to add more fat back into your icing recipe. So I now use a small amount of butter in with my Crisco, and add cream instead of water. I beat it a bit differently, too, and walla...nice smooth buttercream again. I also find that depending on what I'm icing, and whether I need it to crust or not, will depend on how much butter or cream I use. For example, I did another cake for an Air Force Academy promotion today and I needed the icing to crust so I could press the pattern into the top, so I used less milk and butter than I did for a cake I did over the weekend that I just needed a basic outline and the rest was done freehand. I also want a stiffer consistency if I'm making flowers. Go ahead and experiment with this recipe until you get it the consistency you want. So here is the basic recipe:

1-1 1/2 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 - 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
(Total shortening and butter should equal 2 cups)
1/2 tsp. salt (leave out or use less if you use salted butter)
1-2 tsp. butter vanilla emulsion
8 cups sifted powdered sugar
4 - 6 oz. cream

You must use a heavy duty stand mixer (like a Kitchenaid) to make this recipe. Using the flat beater attachment (this will add less air bubbles and make a smoother icing), combine the butter and Crisco and beat 5-10 minutes at medium speed until very smooth and fluffy. Add flavoring and salt and beat again. Scrape bowl several times while beating the shortening mixture to make sure it is all incorporated. Next, add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time until it is all mixed in. You may not need to sift it as long as you don't have a bunch of lumps in it. It seems to turn out smoother for me when I sift it. (Tip: just use a large metal sieve to sift-it works better than a sifter.) At this point, it will be very stiff. Then add the cream, a little at a time and continue to beat with the flat beater at medium until smooth and fluffy, scraping the bowl often. Start with only 1/2 cup of cream, and add just a little more at a time until it is the consistency you want. I use 4 oz. (1/2 cup) for a good crusting buttercream, and 5 1/2 or 6 oz. for a very soft (almost like whipped cream) consistency.

Cake using stiffer consistency buttercream

Cake using softer consistency buttercream