Friday, December 11, 2009

Tie-Dye Giant Cupcake

While this giant cupcake is mentioned in one of my other posts, I feel that its awesomeness deserves a post all to itself. I made this cake for someone who was paying me. They told me the colors and gave me free rein with the design. I was excited to try something new but nervous that they wouldn’t like it, as always. I managed to take quite a few pictures throughout the process, however, I did not get one of the batter before it went into the oven.

Here’s a shot of the inside of the tie-dye cake. Pretty nifty, right!?!

After filling the cake layer and assembling the cake, I got to decorating. I decided to do a bunch of round dot-like decorating. After getting the cake covered, I decided that it needed that “something else” that in general I should almost NEVER add. For this cake, it ended up being drop strings. It looks okay on the bottom, but I liked the top part much better without the drop strings.

Plus, when designing a cake, one should always take into consideration how far the delivery distance is. If the distance is long, DO NOT make the decoration delicate and easily to ruin. This cake had a 30 mile commute, and I was a total wreck the entire time. It made it safely to the person who commissioned it, but then the box got angry and decided to flick the drop strings with the inner flap. This is why I do not bake for people all the time. Too much stress.

I have a few helpful hints about making a tie-dye cake. I just made one batch of cake batter. I divided it evenly (mostly) into two bowls and then added the food coloring. You don't need to be exact when you divide it out. It isn't supposed to be perfect. Next, you spoon the batter into the pan in a haphazard fashion so it looks all mixed up and wild once it is cooked. I’ve found that you have to be a little careful when adding the batter, or rather after you have added all the batter. If there is air in between the color sections, the cake won’t bake right. It will create bubbles or pockets and the cake will fall apart like a shoddy 3D puzzle. I found it best to tap the pan several times to help the cake batter settle and integrate. You can also try running a knife through the batter a few times, which also creates a swirled pattern in the batter. Just don’t use the knife too much or you might end up with “ick” instead of the separate colors.

Attack of the Four Giant Cupcakes

So, last week I had happily planned out my baking schedule and was thinking that it wouldn’t be too terrible even though I had a lot to do…and then, I received a message from someone requesting a Giant Cupcake. That put my total of Giant Cupcakes for this week up to four. And then I was given two tickets to a Christmas symphony concert, too. A busy week turned into a hectic week! I managed to make it through, though.

Cake #1 was for my niece last Sunday. Sadly, I don’t have pictures of it yet because I left the camera over at the in-laws’ house and haven’t had a chance to retrieve it yet. (I finally got the camera back and managed to get the picture of the cake downloaded!) The cake was pretty, white and turquoise with white candy pearls. I should have planned more with this cake or perhaps stuck with the original design I had envisioned. I actually got if iced in record time, but then I spent like 45 minutes adding the little candy pearls because I felt that it needed more. I wasn’t sure what kind of more, but it definitely needed something. I doubt I will ever use those pearls in the same way again unless forced to at gun point. It was very tedious as they kept running away from me.

Cake #2 was for my coworker’s birthday. Her birthday was Monday, but thankfully she decided to take the day off! So, I had an extra day to get the cake done. It was a Triple Fudge Chocolate Cake with a hint of hazelnut coffee and was decorated with chocolate and white chocolate buttercream. A friend of mine had given me this really involved recipe for an awesome chocolate cake…but I’m too lazy to spend that much time making a cake, so I decided to doctor up a cake mix and see how it turned out. I used a strongly brewed hazelnut coffee instead of the plain water that the cake mix directions call for and added in some extra vanilla. The cake was really moist and yummy with just the slightest hint of the hazelnut coffee coming through. It turned out to be my favorite Giant Cupcake that I have decorated so far. It just looked so pretty.

Now, before I continue, I should add that brewing the coffee was an experience in itself. I don’t drink coffee and have no coffee supplies at all. I had meant to snag a coffee filter from someone else but just flat forgot about it. I got the coffee made, but the process probably would have made any coffee aficionado cringe. My first thought was that I would just boil some water and then put the coffee grounds in a paper towel, which I would then submerge in the water to make the coffee.  Well, that didn’t work, or rather was taking much too long to work. I got mad and just dumped the grounds into the hot water. Now I had a new problem. I didn’t want to just dump the grounds of coffee into the cake; I just wasn’t sure how that would turn out. So, I grabbed a little colander that I had stuffed in the back of a cabinet and lined it with yet some more paper towels. Then I poured the coffee through the paper towels to strain it. Hey, it worked and I ended up with some very strong coffee.

Cake #3 was for the coworker’s mother’s birthday on Wednesday. I had grand designs for this one, but it ended up looking nothing like I had planned. It was supposed to have had a tie-dyed cake (forgot to do it and didn’t even realize it until much, much later when it was too late to rebake it). It was supposed to have white chocolate curls all over the top (I curse chocolate curls! Curse them I say!).

As you can tell from the picture, the chocolate curls just didn’t happen. I couldn’t get them to work no matter how I tried to do it. All that careful planning and designing and then at the last minute I had to come up with an entirely new design! Good thing I’m creative. All was not lost, and I’m told the cake was delicious.

Cake #4 was requested for delivery on Friday, but due to the concert on Thursday night, I decided to get it done a day early. Thank goodness I had the foresight to see the complication, otherwise Thursday would have been a very, very long night for me. Doing this cake prompted me to declare that drop strings are no longer allowed on my Giant Cupcakes. I was concerned about how they would hold up during delivery. They did really well until they got attacked by the box when the lid was taken off. The box popped a flap open and cut some of the drop strings off. I could, and may, do a whole rant about trying to find a good box for these cakes, but for not I’ll save you the drama. Suffice it to say that I will NOT be using this type of box again if I can help it. When we went to fix the damage, more strings fell off. Luckily, the woman I made the cake for is very nice and assured me that this would not be a problem. I felt horrible and this incident made me realize how happy I am that I don’t bake for a living. I would be a nervous wreck!

My “Note to Self” for this week is the following: Do not add that one last detail…When you are looking at something and wonder if it could take just ONE more detail to make it perfect…DON”T DO IT! On cake #3 I added a little flower at the top of the cake and regretted it. It didn’t look bad, but it definitely looked better before the flower. On cake #4 I added what ended up looking like a large swirly pile of green and orange alien poo on top, which I promptly removed. No one wants alien poo on their cake. On that note, I’ll wrap up this post.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanksgiving Madness...I Survived!

I managed to make it through my last week of manic baking without my husband divorcing me. He once again informed me that I am way to nice and can’t tell people no. I pointed out that it is hard to say no to people when you are the one offering things instead of people asking for them. He does have a point, as usual. I tend to overdo everything and then I’m in a pickle. I always come through in the end, but I’m not always a happy camper.

Thanksgiving week would be one of those times when I bit off almost more than I could chew and very little of what I made was even requested. I just like bringing yummy food and while my husband now states that the mere thought of cake makes him want to vomit, his family is very happy when I arrive with my latest creation. He seems to be the only person who views my cakery (his term, not mine) in a negative light. I simply remind him that he should be happy that at least with this hobby the items I make leave the house and never come back!

This year we planned to attend Thanksgiving dinners for both of our families on the same day. My mom requested some cranberry orange cupcakes in honor of her mother, who used to LOVE orange flavored stuff. My niece requested a chocolate cake, and I had promised my dad that I would try making some angel food cupcakes. In the past I have almost always showed up empty handed to dinners with my husband’s family, and I always feed bad about it. I decided that this year I was going to bring LOTS of yummy stuff. So, I decided to do a small two-tier chocolate cake for each dinner. As luck would have it, I could get two cakes out of one cake mix which was really nice. I also wanted to make a strawberry cake with cotton candy butter cream icing.

So, I sat down and finished writing out all the information on my nifty little cake planner sheets and mapped out when I would bake or decorate what. I had an excellent, if over busy, schedule and if I kept to it everything would be fine. I did a respectable job of following the schedule and managed to get everything done.

The chocolate cakes were not quite as pretty as I had hoped they would be, but I decided that they were good enough. Besides, I knew that they would taste great and convinced myself that the flaws would make it easier for people to cut into them. Many people seem to suffer from “Pretty Cake Syndrome.” This is when someone won’t cut a cake because they think it is too pretty to eat. Aaaanyway, I used a tripe fudge chocolate cake mix and mixed mint oreo crumbles into the chocolate buttercream icing.



The cranberry orange cupcakes turned out very nice as well, although, I should have added more cranberries since quite a few cupcakes were lacking in the cranberry area. I didn’t take pictures of these cupcakes because I didn’t decorate them up special or anything, just a quick swirl on the top with orange flavored buttercream icing.

I was very excited about the strawberry cake with cotton candy buttercream icing. I had made the icing before and paired it with another type of cake. Those were really good, but I thought that a strawberry cake (the last ones were blue raspberry) would be much better. While I liked this pairing, I think that the strawberry cake overpowered the flavor of the icing. This cake was an experiment in smooth icing with buttercream. And what were the results, you might ask! Well, less than I had hoped for but better than I expected…

Also, you may notice that I tried my hand at drop strings on this cake. My lesson learned with this one is plan the design first, then measure and mark so that everything is even.


And lastly there were the angel food cupcakes. I didn't expect much from these really, and the end product was only slightly better than the expectation. I have no pictures of these because they were the last thing I made, and I was very, very tired when they were done. And they weren't very pretty at all. I did three sizes: mini, regular, and king sized cupcakes. The mini cupcakes were a disaster. Let's just say that when I shook the pan it sounded like I had rocks in the cups instead of cupcakes. The regular size cupcakes shrunk into ovals when I took them out of the pan but tasted okay. The king size cupcakes turned out the best. They kept their shape and were pretty soft, however, none of them held up very well over time. They got too hard and dry. I don't think I'll be making angel food cupcakes again in the near future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Impending Insanity (or Baking Overload)

Notes to Self…

1. Remember to double check the pantry. It is very annoying to not have an ingredient, especially when you have just gotten back from the grocery store.

2. Apparently cats like cake. Don’t leave a cake out to cool on the counter without direct supervision. This may lead to the baking of another cake.

3. Don’t forget the vanilla in the frosting. I was told that the frosting was very good (it was chocolate), but it still bothered me that I forgot it. As an aside on this note, always realize that you left an ingredient out BEFORE you have the cake half iced. At that point there is no going back, especially if you have already had to bake the cake a second time.

4. Don’t expect to be able to get your 18 month old daughter to behave when you are trying to carry two containers of cupcakes, a giant cupcake, and your purse. It just won’t happen.

Here is a picture of the Giant Cupcake that I made for my nephew’s birthday. He requested white cake with chocolate icing. I added Oreo crumbles.

I also made some darn awesome cupcakes. The cake part was a triple chocolate fudge cake mix with a dollop of cheesecake and a mini Oreo in the center and buttercream mixed with pulverized Oreos. It was an experimental recipe and it got rave reviews. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture taken of the cupcakes and I highly doubt that there are any left over from last night’s party.

I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that I had dug a very, very deep dark hole for myself and wouldn’t be able to get back out until January. I was talking to my co-workers about what things I needed to bake and when I had to do it. At that point I almost had a coronary! I had totally overbooked myself, which is usually what I do. I hyperventilated for a few minutes and then got myself back together. I decided to make up planner sheet for each thing I needed to make. One side of the planner had a section for scheduling out when I would do each step for an individual cake (or event, such as Thanksgiving). The other side had space for the design of the cake as well as ingredients and anything else that I might need to write down. It took me about an hour to plan everything out and then I put it all in a binder.

The first cake on the list went okay, but prompted the list of “Notes to Self” at the beginning of this post. This week is going to be very busy and if I don’t keep to my schedule, there is no way that I’ll get everything done. I baked a chocolate cake last night. Actually it will be two small two-tier chocolate cakes. I also have a batch of cranberry-orange cupcakes with orange buttercream, angel food cupcakes with strawberry jam, strawberry cupcakes with cotton candy buttercream, and deviled eggs to make…all before Thanksgiving on Thursday. Not to mention the fact that I work full time and have an 18-month daughter with a really bad cold. Still, if I do everything they way I have it mapped out, I should be okay. The bad thing is that I’m not really known for keeping a schedule.

And it always seems that everything goes perfect when I’m just baking for the fun of it; however, if I’m baking for someone else…everything goes wrong (see Notes to Self for a few examples). One would think that I would learn important lessons every time I bake, but alas, that is not necessarily the case. I seem to be rather hard headed in this matter and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Perhaps it is a side effect from all the Evil Yumminess…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Beginnings of an Addiction...

Welcome to my Blog! I hope that you enjoy it and that I am actually able to keep up with my posts. Since this is a new endeavor for me, you will have to cut me some slack. You will also have to excuse the quality, or lack thereof, of the pictures at first; I didn't spend much time trying to get good pictures of the stuff I had made. I was still unaware at that point in time how much I would become addicted to making cakes!

I have always wanted to learn how to decorate cakes, and in May 2009 when my daughter turned one, I decided it was finally time. I wanted to do a simple four inch layer cake so she could have her own little cake to rip into on her birthday. Well, after searching around I just couldn't find any small pans like I wanted. However, I did find a Giant Cupcake pan two days before her birthday. It was SO cute that I just had to have it..and thus the road to addiction begins.

My first endeavor to decorate a cake was somewhat successful. I had a small selection of icing tips and I just picked one that looked easy to use. I used a plain white box cake mix and regular buttercream icing (Wilton's recipe). I didn't get the proportions correct when putting the batter into the cake pan, so the bottom turned out really short. I convinced myself that it didn't really matter how it looked because I was making it for a one year old little girl! She wasn't going to notice the mistakes.

We ended up having two parties for her so I got another chance to make the Giant Cupcake right away. It went much better this time, although there were still some flaws. There wasn't as much cake showing through the icing which was something that really annoyed me about the first cake. I also got the proportions of the cake itself better, too. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the cake so I had to pull a still off the digital video we took from the party. Like I said before, I wasn't too concerned about taking pictures of everything yet...

So, this is how it all began. My husband thinks I have lost my mind, but I tend to think that I never really had a good grasp on it in the first place. Besides, I'm just a creative person, and he knew that when he married me...