Sunday, June 27, 2010

Edible pearls

Yesterday I delivered a wedding cake that was decorated with edible pearls. The bride wanted them to look like they were just kind of falling off the cake randomly. The effect was different, but interesting. I kind of liked it. I used a new set of tweezers that I purchased, specifically for working with dragees or edible pearls. They worked really well. The pearls were in 2 different sizes, which added to the interest. I probably should have had the customer sign a dragee release form for the edible pearls also, but since this is the first time I had worked with them, I didn't know for sure how hard they were. The pearls on the tops of the tiers I could attach with only water, but the ones on the side I used a small bit of buttercream icing. A side note...each of the fleur di lis were molded separately from gumpaste and attached to the black (dark chocolate) ribbons on each tier with a touch of water.

Large edible pearls
Smaller edible pearls
Special tweezers with ball tip
Attaching edible pearls to top of cake with water

Donuts...really?! What were you thinking?

I have several pet peeves when it comes to wedding cakes. Here are a few:

  1. Improper background for wedding cake pictures. Yesterday there was a nice big trash can directly in back of the cake that would make for a nice picture, even more than the brick wall and half window. 
  2. Plastic tablecloths/skirts, especially on the cake table. Now don't you think if you're gonna spend almost $500 on a beautiful wedding cake that you could at least rent a nice linen for the table? Or let's make that white plastic cloth look a little better with sticking a few off-white tulle bows on it with masking tape...there that's better...yeah, right!
  3. Cake table crowded with miscellaneous odds and ends, barely leaving room for the cake. Hmmm...let's see...we'll need  about 150 plates, napkins, and forks to serve the cake, as well as several knives, and spatulas, and oh yeah...a couple sets of tongs for the large platter of donuts...I guess for those people who don't like wedding cake. Really, what were they thinking?
  4. No color on the table under the cake. OK, let's see...if we have a white cake, what can we do to make the cake invisible..I know, put the cake on a white tablecloth, oh, and let's add a little white tulle...that should help. 
Now really...I have joked about this, but honestly, when you're setting up the table for your wedding cake, just stand back and look and ask yourself...will this be a nice picture? Let me suggest the following:
  1. Look at the background behind the cake table. Whatever is behind the cake will show up in your pictures, so make sure you have a nice backdrop, or at least a solid wall without thermostats, light switches, etc. 
  2. When planning on a tablecloth for the cake table, get either a nice solid color linen cloth to match the other wedding decor, or a nice white cloth, and then top that with an overlay in the wedding colors. The cake will then stand out more and not be washed out in the pictures. Oh, and use a tablecloth that is floor length, or use a table skirt, and do not use plastic! Again, think about how you want your pictures to look. 
  3. Please don't crowd the cake table with serving items or other least not until the pictures are taken and the bride and groom cut the cake. Most often, the only things you should have on the table, prior to serving, are the cake, nice serving tools for the bridal couple to cut the cake, and possibly the toasting goblets. If the table is large, you might include a simple floral arrangement or candles. Let the photographer take pictures without any obstructions, and please don't put any other food on the wedding cake table. Once the pictures are taken, then you can bring out the serving things.
Again, after the table is set up, stand back and ask yourself, "Will this be a nice picture that I will want in my wedding album for years to come?" If your answer is yes, then you are good to go. 

Example of nice backdrop
Another example of nice backdrop
Example of inappropriate backdrop (thermostat in back)
Table cluttered with serving items

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you Fred and Noel!!

So, remember my June 21 post about the nice fireman that helped me with my cake delivery problem last Saturday? Well, today I thanked them by taking a cake and a thank you card to them. Noel was there, but Fred wasn't coming in until later. It was fun doing something for them, and they appreciated it. If you ever get lost, go to your nearby fire station. They will get you going in the right direction.

Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix

My daughter-in-law asked me for a carrot cake recipe using a spice cake mix. I usually make my carrot cake from scratch, but here is a great recipe to use if you're in a hurry, and would like to make a carrot cake from a mix. I have tried the carrot cake mixes and don't like any of them, but using the spice cake as your base seems to work well.

Simply Carrot Cake

3/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 large eggs
1 box Duncan Hines spice cake mix
1 box vanilla instant pudding
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
1 cut chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Cream oil and sugar, add water, eggs, then dry ingredients. Fold in carrots and nuts. Pour into greased floured and lined pan(s). Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool and top with cream cheese frosting. Simply super good!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For Paula and Amanda...

My daughter, Paula, is used to me making all the birthday cakes for her family. Well, this year they live in Hawaii, and it's a little difficult for me to ship a birthday cake there. We have been corresponding on the phone and through email, as she is attempting to decorate the first birthday cake for one of her girls. My daughter-in-law, Amanda is in Connecticut and we have also been communicating via email about a birthday cake she is making for another granddaughter, who just happens to have her birthday on the same day as the oldest granddaughter in Hawaii, just a year later. So, because Paula just took Lexi to see Toy Story 3, she is attempting to make a cake with Jessie from Toy Story on it. Lucy is into princesses this year, so Amanda is making a princess doll cake for her party on Saturday. I will be excited to see the final results of both cakes. So you won't have to hunt all over my blog for the buttercream recipe, I am reprinting it. This is the size recipe I use most of the time because I usually need more icing. It will ice and decorate a 1/2 sheet cake nicely. 

Buttercream Icing

2 cups Crisco shortening
1 cup softened salted butter (2 cubes)
Butter vanilla
3/4 t. salt
12 cups sifted powdered sugar (measure after sifting)
5/8 - 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

You need a heavy mixer (like a Kitchenaid) to make this recipe. Beat the Crisco and butter together with the salt and butter vanilla with the flat beater on your mixer for about 5-10 minutes until light and fluffy. (Using the flat beater instead of the wire whisk will keep your icing smoother and without air bubbles.) Gradually add about 4 cups of the sifted powdered sugar at a time, making sure it is completely mixed before adding more. As I do this, I usually cover the bowl with a kitchen towel to avoid getting sugar everywhere. I have learned that from experience. After all the sugar is added, gradually add the cream a little at a time, beating slowly until nice and fluffy. Start out with the smaller amount, and add more to make the proper consistency you need. Use less for a nice crusting buttercream or making decorations and more for a "whipped cream" consistency. When making chocolate buttercream, add the desired amount of cocoa along with the sugar and a bit more cream. You may also add a small amount of corn syrup. If I am icing the entire cake in chocolate buttercream, I will sometimes use all salted butter in the recipe instead of Crisco. If you do this, make sure you decrease the amount of salt to 1/4 tsp. 

Happy decorating, Paula and Amanda, and anyone else reading my blog!! ...and happy bithday Lexi and Lucy!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Tale of Two Tents...

Last Saturday I had two cake deliveries...both receptions were held in outdoor event tents. Since I was delivering two cakes that were at the opposite ends of the city, I had to carefully arrange delivery times. Since the first cake was to be delivered to the bride's mother's home, she said I could deliver it any time, so I scheduled the delivery time for around 12 noon. This was the Italian Cream cake that I had experimented with earlier. The entire cake was filled and frosted with cream cheese icing and then covered in coconut. Of course, the cake was kept in the refrigerator until delivery time because of the cream cheese. Big problem...the bride failed to tell me that the cake was to be set up outside, and failed to tell me that the reception was not starting until 5 pm. Needless to say, I was little concerned about the cream cheese icing surviving that long. The cake was chilled and was covered with coconut, and since it was set up in the tent, at least it wasn't in direct sun. Hopefully it survived. The family didn't seem too worried. I could have delivered the cake a couple hours later had I known.

The next cake I delivered was also to be set up outside in a tent, which I knew from the beginning. Because I knew that the cake was to be set up outside, we decided I would deliver it as late as possible prior to the reception, so it would not get too warm, even though this cake was decorated in buttercream and would withstand the heat a little better than the previous cake. I was due to deliver the cake at 5 pm and the reception was to start at 6 pm. So, the venue was the Colorado Country Club. I had never been there before so was unfamiliar with the location. Big problem #2...when we got there, I had no idea where to deliver the cake, so when I saw an area that was set up for a wedding,  we pulled over and asked someone where the Allyson Shaffer wedding was. I think this might have been a photographer (I do not have good luck with photographers). Whoever she was, she told me that she was there for another wedding and told me that I might want to check another country club over by the Broadmoor to see if my wedding was there. So off we went to check at another location, even though I was sure that we had gone to the right place. When we didn't find a wedding there either, I was beginning to panic. By this time, it was approaching 5:30 pm. Heading back the opposite direction, we passed the Broadmoor fire station and I saw a fireman outside, so I told Bruce to pull over so I could ask for some help since we were apparently lost. The two firemen that helped me were lifesavers. They found phone numbers for both country clubs, called both to find out where the Shaffer wedding was being held, and showed us on the map where we needed to go. Of course, it was back at the original location  where we had been. So off we went. By the time we got back to the Colorado Country Club, it was approaching 5:45 pm. Remember, the reception was supposed to start at 6 pm. I still didn't know exactly where I was supposed to deliver the cake...yikes! By this time, I was really panicking. I finally walked around until I found a guy with a list and a walkie talkie that looked like he knew what was going on. His list had 5 weddings on it! No wonder I was confused...there were five weddings going on at the same time at the same country club. He made a quick call on his walkie talkie and found out that we were almost at the right location. It was now 5:53 pm. Bruce parked the van and quickly brought in the cake, and I set it up. Luckily, it was an easy set up and I had the cake done in record time... 12 1/2 minutes to be exact. I just knew the bridal party would be there any moment and I would still be setting up the cake...a decorator's worst nightmare. Luckily I was done and gone before anyone arrived. I found out, after the fact, that the bridal party and guests were late getting there because the photographer (another photographer), took much longer than expected, so didn't start the reception until over an hour later. So...I was saved, the cake was a success, and everyone was happy, even though it took me awhile to calm down. After I got home, I called the fire station and found out that the nice firemen that helped me were Fred and Noel, so I plan on taking them a cake on Thursday, when they have their next shift, to thank them for their kindness. It will be the subject of my next blog post.

A side note: Please remember that your cake pictures will only be as nice as the table and background you have for your cake. Just because the reception is in a tent, doesn't mean you can't still have something in back of the cake table to make a nicer background than the side of the tent or a tent pole. Also, something other than a white tablecloth (like an overlay of some sort) is always nicer in a picture, so that it brings out some of the wedding colors, and the cake does not look washed out. Last of all, one of my pet peeves is having the plates, eating utensils, or napkins on the cake table prior to taking pictures of the cake. Please, just wait until after the bride and groom have cut the cake, and then you can bring out those things.