Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wedding Cake Thursday -- Khoi and Yin

October 10, 2010 -- Khoi and Yin's wedding! What a beautiful couple. I heard that 10/10/10 is a lucky day for weddings.

Real flowers and fondant-covered goodness!

This was the easiest set-up I've ever done. All I had to do was stack the tiers and put the ribbon in place. Their florist brought and arranged the flowers for me! I was so happy. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

I always blink when my picture is being taken, so Geoff suggested that I shut my eyes until he counted to 3. I still managed to mess it up, though. I don't even care, I'm going with it!

The memorable cake tasting...

Remember when Geoff broke his ankle last September? He was in surgery while the cake tasting was supposed to take place, so I was afraid I'd have to cancel. Fortunately, Khoi and Yin are our good friends, so they were fine with a venue change -- plus, they really wanted to be there when Geoff woke up.

We had the most surreal cake tasting EVER in Geoff's room while he was under the knife. It was a good distraction for us, and we still ended up waiting another hour or so before he was out of surgery.


I love this shot. It looks like champagne is getting all over the cake, but it's just the angle. The cake was unharmed.

Congrats, Yin and Khoi!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wedding Cake Wednesday -- Ben and Hannah

Ben and Hannah tied the two and a half months ago! I am really behind on posting my wedding cakes. Embarrassing. Anyway, I had the honor of making the cake for my good friends, and I have to say that this particular cake was one of the best experiences of my pastry career. Fortunately, I had Greenie helping me set up that day. He was able to get some great shots.

"O hai!"

(If you follow, that caption will make sense. If not, don't worry about it.)

Here's one of me in "all business" mode. Each flower had to be placed just so. In case you're wondering why there is a different cake topper from the "official" portfolio picture, it's because I swapped out toppers for the reception. I believe the one shown below belongs to Hannah's grandmother, so there was a lot of sentimental value in having it on the cake.

Here's a nice close-up of one of the flowers and some of the leaves. Special shout-out to my incredible friend Meghan for making the leaves! They are beautiful.

I made each flower -- lovingly -- by hand. Why? Because I'm crazy!

Details on the cake:

Bottom tier: Chocolate with KahlĂșa buttercream

Middle and top tiers: Zucchini spice with vanilla buttercream

Outside: People were really curious about how I did the panels. I made them out of modeling chocolate. It involved a pasta machine, some serious problem-solving skills, and a really long evening!

Flowers and leaves: Dark modeling chocolate. The process is very similar to making gumpaste roses and leaves, only you use cocoa powder to keep everything from getting sticky. Also, these flowers are awesome because they don't become super-brittle as they dry. That means you can fiddle with them on-site as you're setting up the cake. Which I did.... SO AWESOME.

This cake was incredibly satisfying to make. It was truly a departure from the standard fare, not to mention challenging on a number of levels. I really had to "bring my A game."

Thanks for letting me make your cake, Ben and Hannah! (P.S. Sorry for all the stuff I did in your photo booth.) Also, I have an extra five pounds of white modeling chocolate sitting around if anyone wants any.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wedding Cake Wednesday -- Emily and Jason

Last Saturday was my cousin Emily's wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it was great to catch up with everyone on my mom's side of the family. I also got to make the cake! The couple had a tropical theme and requested lots of blue, some bubble-sugar coral, and some sea creatures made of white chocolate.

Below is a closer look at the bubble sugar. This stuff is so much fun to make! It is incredibly simple, but at the same time, slightly dangerous -- molten sugar is not something you want touching your skin. Anyway, once you pour it and let it set up, you break it into pieces that look like shards of glass. (FYI, they are just as sharp.)

I made one clear batch of bubble sugar and tinted the other batch green. In the end, I decided to go mostly with the clear, because I think it looked better. If you are interested in making this, here is the recipe I used:

Be careful!!! One time in pastry school, I got a tiny bit of molten sugar on my hand, and I had the scar for years and years. It also hurt like a mutha.

Bottom tier: chocolate cake with chocolate filling
Middle and top tiers: lemon cake with lemon filling

Frosting: white buttercream with lots of airbrush to get the blue colors. Sure, I could have just tinted all of the buttercream blue, but I didn't want to. I think that when you use food coloring in the quantities necessary for color that intense, the buttercream stops tasting like buttercream and starts tasting like blue food coloring.

Normally for a cake like this, I would prefer to use colored fondant. It is much safer, as there are serious "bleeding" issues involved with using food coloring on buttercream. But the bride was very against the idea of fondant, so I was determined to make it work.

Sea creatures: I just used a basic candy mold from the craft store. I used white and dark chocolate swirled together to get a more realistic effect.

Coral accents: bubble sugar

Ribbon: each tier actually got two white ribbons wrapped around it. The first one was used to soak up the blue grease, and the second one was for show.

…I took this picture myself:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wedding Cake Wednesday: A Modern Cake, a Beautiful Couple

I did this cake a couple weeks ago for a friend of a friend. It was so fun to make! I just love the sleek look of it. Because the wedding was a large one, this cake required supplemental sheet cakes in order to feed everyone. I made two huge sheet cakes and a small gluten-free cake to round out the selection.

Details on the cakes:

Bottom tier: Tiramisu (vanilla/almond cake, espresso syrup, mascarpone mousse, chocolate shavings) -- I know it's a stretch to call it tiramisu when there are no ladyfingers or cocoa powder, but it's a delicious adaptation that lends itself well to wedding cakes.

Middle tier: Lemon poppy seed.

Top tier: Tiramisu.

Outside: Buttercream. (I'm so glad I used high-ratio shortening for this -- it was an outdoor wedding, and although the weather was supposed to be fairly cool that day, it turned out to be hot. Butter/regular shortening + hot weather = melting cake.)

Decorations: Beautiful grosgrain ribbon (pink) and flat ribbon (orange). I love this color combination! Major props to the bride for the excellent choice of color and spacing. Cake topper and additional fresh flowers were provided when I got to the venue. So pretty.

Supplemental sheet cake 1: Chocolate raspberry.

Supplemental sheet cake 2: Tiramisu.

Gluten-free cake: Lemon poppy seed.

Interesting tidbit about the sheet cakes:
My oven at home isn't large enough to accommodate the large pans required for the sheet cakes, so, about a week before the wedding, I did a couple of baking sessions at my friend Teri's house.

The first session went well. The spacious oven worked out great and baked true to temperature; I got three cakes done easily in under 4 hours.

The second session also went great. The trip home, however, did not. See, there's a certain art to transporting cakes. For some reason (crack smoking, maybe?), I thought it would be a great idea to place my KitchenAid right next to one of the sheet cakes in my trunk....

Everything was going fine until I hit the first stop sign on the way home. I heard a loud "thud." My heart sank; there was no doubt in my mind what had happened. This is what it looked like when I opened the trunk:

Holly embraces her fail!

Lesson learned: KitchenAids like to tip over! Fortunately, I had the time, ingredients, and energy to turn right around and bake another one that night. It was a long night, but it could have been a lot worse. This is why you plan ahead and bake your layers in advance!

Special thanks to Teri for letting me take over her kitchen for the extended baking sessions. I salvaged the large, unsmashed pieces and gave them to Teri to share with anyone who had a hankering for cake -- BYOF, of course (bring your own frosting). I heard the leftovers from this cake lasted for days and days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Experiment of the Week -- Cactus Cornbread

I've waited 13 years to make these!

The first time I tried them, I was a freshman in college. It was green chile and cheddar cornbread, and it changed my life. I've had a lot of cornbread since then, but nothing could compare. I don't know why, but for some reason it just tastes better when it's in the shape of a cactus.

I held off on buying the cast iron cactus pan for years -- I thought it was just too frivolous. Six months ago, I came really close to buying one when Geoff and I were on our road trip, but I chickened out.

So a few days ago, Geoff got a couple of packages from Amazon. He said that one of them was for me. I opened it, and to my surprise, it was the cactus pan of my dreams. GREATEST SURPRISE EVER! Check it out:

This has got to be the coolest piece of bakeware that I own! It even came pre-seasoned, which made it even more magical.

The cacti in the picture at the top of this post were made with plain cornbread batter. For the ones pictured below, I added green chile powder and cheddar cheese, just like the ones in 1996.

I will be making these often.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lemon-Raspberry Cake

This cake always reminds me of Spring.

I made it while up in Seattle this weekend. We had a lovely Easter brunch at my mom's, followed by a wonderful piano concert at my dad's. I made this cake for the reception. My dad took this picture as we were setting out the slices for everyone:

You can see the layers of lemon curd between the white cake layers. For the frosting, I used freshly whipped cream with some vanilla and sugar, and then I garnished the whole thing with raspberries.

There's really not that much to this cake, but people love it. It's simple and it tastes really good!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The iCake

Geoff turned 30 last November!

To celebrate, I made a cake that paid tribute to his favorite gadget: the iPhone. This phone is awesome. It does everything! Well, maybe everything except for turning itself into dessert for a dozen of your closest friends. (Please tell me there's not an app for that.)

The iCake took 2 days to make. This is not counting the time I spent researching what an iPhone looks like. Oh yeah, it should be noted that I was doing all of this in secrecy, as I wanted it to be a surprise for Geoff.

How would I get a good look at his phone without him getting suspicious? I don't normally take an interest in things that are high-tech (in fact, I usually run the other way).

Ultimately I realized that Geoff and his iPhone were inseparable; I would have to accept this and find another strategy. Lucky for me, our roommate Khoi had just purchased his own iPhone. Once I was able to spend some time with his phone and the manual that came with it, I was in business.

If you have an iPhone, you may notice that the weather, date, and time are slightly different. This is because I wanted it to show what the conditions were like at the start of the epic 30th birthday party occurring that night.

I got a huge kick out of making this, if for no other reason than I got to go old-school, baking a cake in a 9 x 13 pan. Hadn't done that in a long time. I decided to use that particular pan because it has slightly rounded corners (just like an iPhone), which meant less work when it came time to decorate.

Details on the cake:

Inside: Carrot cake. I used the Joy of Cooking recipe. It was kind of disappointing to me, tasting a little too much like baking powder. (Didn't stop me from having 3 pieces....) I have a much better recipe from school.

Frosting: Basic chocolate buttercream. To get it that shade of black, I used 2 canisters of food-grade spray paint over the course of two days. Spray; dry; repeat. Gets a little darker with each application.

Icons: Fondant. These were a labor of love. It was kind of fun at the party, though. Everyone got to pick the icon they wanted for their slice. I was amazed that so many people actually had a preference.

Writing: Royal icing. I really should have thinned it out a little with corn syrup. This particular batch just did not want to be written with (usually my cake penmanship is much nicer).

Border: Foil, attached with frosting "glue."