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31 December 2013

Out With The Old

And in with the new!

I know what you're thinking..."it's Tuesday, where is my "Tasty Tip""?  Well, it is Tuesday, but it's also New Year's Eve; in a few hours we'll be ushering in 2014, so I thought I'd do something a little different for this Tuesday.  Don't worry, Tasty Tips will be back next week.

For this week though, how about a little questionnaire for you, yourself, to fill out.  Give some consideration to what you want in the new year, what you'd like to achieve, things you'd like to try, etc.  Don't let the list below limit you, it's really just a starting point.

Feel free to print out the pic, fill in the blanks, and post it somewhere as a reminder.  Who knows, you might find you complete every item on the list this year.

Photo from:  Bits of Truth

Hope 2014 is your best year yet!

Happy New Year!  Salud!


And the Winner is...

The winner of the birthday/Christmas goodies offered up on this post is...


Comment #1 (as chosen by Random.org's "True Random Number Generator)!  The comment was left by "Next Door Denise" who said her favorite movie was White Christmas.  Congratulations!

To claim your prize, Denise, send me an email at sugaredconfectionsblog@gmail.com with your contact information and I'll get your winnings on their way to you.

Thanks for playing!

28 December 2013

Happy Dance

Why?  Because I survived Christmas!  And all the Christmas cookie orders!  Yay!

How was your holiday?  Did you get to see the important people in your life?  Did you get a good gift or two?

Mine was fabulous and check and check to other two questions.

27 December 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Or truffles, if you want to take the time to enrobe them in chocolate.  But, really, a simple drizzle of chocolate across the top suits fine.  Plus, it's quicker, so you can eat the goodies faster.  And, let's be honest, cookie dough and chocolate?  Who wants to wait longer than necessary before digging in?

These are super simple to make (just remember to set the butter out so it can soften!) and the dough is eggless, so you can safely eat it without worrying about getting sick from raw eggs.  Though full disclosure - I grew up eating raw cookie dough and I'm still here, so...


19 December 2013

It's Not All Sugar Cookies and Sprinkles

Not today, anyway.  And, yes, I'm referring to the ubiquitous Christmas cookies.  In fact, here's round 2 of said cookies.

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Don't grumble at me.  I said it wasn't ALL sugar cookies and sprinkles today, at no point did I say there wouldn't be any.

17 December 2013

Perfect Party Portions


Planning a party?  Unsure how many appetizers or how many ounces of spirits to purchase?  Here's some basic guidelines:
  • Appetizers - approximately 10 pieces per person (so if you're serving two appetizers, figure 5 pieces of each app per guest)
  • Beer - 3 bottles (or the equivalent) per person
  • Spirits for cocktails - 1 bottle per 5 people; don't forget to purchase the other ingredients/mixers to create your cocktail, this guidelines is simply for the alcohol portion
  • Wine - 1 bottle per 2 people
  • Ice - 3 pounds per person
Mmm...tasty!



Psst...have you entered to win the Blog's birthday/Christmas gifts yet?  If not, head over here and do so today.

12 December 2013

O Christmas Tree

Update 12/30/2013:  Giveaway has ended!  Winner is comment #1 left by Denise!  Congratulations!  Post with official results and instructions on how to claim your prize over here.

O Christmas Tree!

While Christmas sugar cookies are pretty much taking over my kitchen right now, I do still have a few other things on the schedule.  This week it was two Christmas tree cakes.

Rather than decorating them both exactly the same (they were for a holiday auction event), I opted to go two different routes.

10 December 2013

Nutmeg Switch


It's baking season!  And, plenty of the recipes around this time of year use lots of spice (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg,etc.).  Since ground spices lose flavor after about six months and chances are you won't use a whole jar that quickly, consider buying whole spices next time.  For example, in the case of nutmeg, it will stay potent for up to 2 years and you can easily grate just the amount you need each time.  Just use a fine grater and add the fresh nutmeg sparingly - it will taste stronger than the pre-grated, jarred kind.

Mmm...tasty!

05 December 2013

November in a Nutshell

Well, the last two weeks of November anyway.  It's the holidays, plus I'm still enjoying football season, so the blog receives posts somewhat sporadically.  It's all about priorities, right?

Speaking of priorities...whose going to be at the Bedlam game this weekend, freezing your tail off along with the rest of us, and cheering the Cowboys on to a win??  Oh yes, I'll be there.  Though you might not recognize me because I plan to be bundled in layer upon layer of clothing.  I'm not out to make a fashion statement, no sir; I plan to be as warm as possible.

03 December 2013

Scent of the Holidays


Holiday aroma made easy. Boil a pot of water with orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, whole star anise, and whole cloves.  Just don't let the pot boil dry!

Mmm...tasty!

28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Count your blessings, not just today, but everyday.  Rise and be thankful!




26 November 2013

Clean Cookbooks


Your favorite printed recipes invariably end up with grease spots, dustings of flour, smears of chocolate, splatter and spill stains no matter how hard you try to keep them clean.

If the recipe you are working from is in a cookbook, try slipping the entire book, open to the page you need, inside an extra large clear zipper storage bag.  If the book won't fit in a storage bag, drape it with a piece or two of clear plastic wrap, tucking the edges of the wrap under the book.  A cookbook stand will also help to keep the book up off the counter and less susceptible to spills and splatters.

If you're working with a single page recipe, slip it inside a clear plastic page or report cover.  If you have a space on the wall or cabinet near your work/prep station, consider affixing a clip to hold single page recipes.

Of course, if your recipe is a printable from a digital source (i.e. the Internet, your digital recipe book), you won't need to worry so much about keep the page clean...you can just print another!

Mmm...tasty!


22 November 2013

Happy Fall Y'all!

Even though the thermometer around here today looks more like "winter shiver."  Not that I'm complaining, though I would be happier if there were more snow to go along with single digit wind chill.  C'est la vie.  The older generation says this winter will be a doozy - I've got my fingers crossed that they are right.

But, since it's "technically" still fall (it doesn't officially become winter until December 21), how about some fall-ish themed cakes?  Oh, and there's even a wedding cake at the end of the post, it's not a fall theme though.

Hey...no scrolling ahead!  The wedding cake will still be there after you've enjoyed the rest of the post.  I should give you long, wordy explanations of everything, just to slow you down a bit, but I won't because I've got an OSU football game to get to, so you get a reprieve.


19 November 2013

Stale Stuffing


Making your own from scratch stuffing for the holidays this year?  If so, keep in mind that stale bread works best, so buy a fresh loaf several days ahead of time, cut it into cubes and then leave it in a paper bag for the next several days.

Mmm...tasty!

15 November 2013

Blast from the Past

I've been visited by animated characters again - three times in the last two weeks.  And...bonus...I actually was familiar with some of the characters and recognized them from the good old days!  (You may be aware of my lack of understanding for the "makeovers" some old, now new again characters have received.  If not, here or here are some examples.)


12 November 2013

Freezing Whole Cranberries


It's cranberry season!  Did you know whole cranberries can be frozen for up to 1 year?  Just pick through the whole berries, discarding any bruised or soft ones, then place the remaining berries in a resealable freezer bag and freeze.  Don't forget to date the bag so you know when they were frozen!

Mmm...tasty!



05 November 2013

Ooo...Shiny


Trying to achieve a "wet," "gloss," or "shiny" appearance to fondant or modeling chocolate?  While there are many methods, I like to use a mixture of white/light corn syrup and grain alcohol (i.e. Everclear) or vodka.  The alcohol will evaporate, leaving behind a high gloss appearance that isn't sticky.  A 1:1 ratio works well in most applications - just make sure the two ingredients are well mixed, then apply to the fondant or modeling chocolate with a clean pastry brush.

Mmm...tasty.

31 October 2013

I Like You For Your Brains

Occasionally, a cake order comes along that really reaffirms to me why I started doing this in the first place.  This was one of those cakes.  To say I had far, far too much fun making this cake is probably an understatement...

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Yes...it's a brain!  With a real knife sticking out of it.  And...aside from said knife, it's 100% edible - blood, brain matter, and goo-like spinal fluid globs - all ready to make an appearance on your plate.  I think the silver platter really ups the elegance factor, don't you?

Wait!  Where are you going?

30 October 2013

Eek!

Halloween is tomorrow!  Yay!  It's probably my second favorite holiday; Christmas comes first.

Have you gathered up your costume?  Bought candy for the trick-or-treaters?  Or maybe you are making treats rather than buying them in the store?

Or maybe you had the great idea that you'd make treats, but just haven't gotten around to it...if so, might I suggest one of the following options?  They all come together fairly quickly (translation - last minute) though they will probably require a trip to the store, so don't dilly dally too long.

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Chocolate covered Oreos with fondant cut-outs.  Because Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, so some say, so let's give them to the kiddos.

29 October 2013

Pumpkin Playtime


Have you carved your jack-o-lantern yet?  If not, consider some of the non-traditional tools below to add extra pizazz to your sculpture:
  • A power drill - try out a rotary bit to make perfect circles, or get adventurous and experiment with other types of bits.
  • A Dremel - with its assortment of attachments, you can drill, cut, carve, etch, and engrave to your heart's content.
  • Linoleum cutter - carve details into the surface of your pumpkin without cutting all the way through, and experiment with a range of depths; this will result in areas that "glow" once the pumpkin is lit.
  • Cookie cutters - using metal cookie cutters and a rubber mallet, you can pound the cutter into the pumpkin, resulting in cut-out shapes quickly and easily.  (You may want to opt for cutters you won't mind getting bent or misshapen, just in case.)
If you really want to think outside the traditional pumpkin mold, pick up a white, green, or other alternatively colored pumpkin.  Just keep in mind that they may be slightly more difficult to carve.  Or, to really step outside the box, consider transforming a watermelon - it will definitely make your neighbors look twice!

Mmm...tasty!

24 October 2013

They Got Me






Yep...it's official.  I've been sucked into the the Twitter-verse.  I've been resisting, but like so many things with social media and technology, there comes a point when resistance is futile.  And, though I've given in, I'll be honest that I don't fully understand it's draw; maybe I just haven't figured out how best to utilize it.  But, right now, it sort of, maybe a little bit, sets my OCD on edge - the constant updates, all in a jumble of tweets and retweets and favorites and promotions with no sense of organization - GAH!  it's enough to set me twitching.

22 October 2013

Apple Mix


Don't be afraid to mix a few varieties of apples in recipes.  Try tart (Granny Smith, Cortland) with sweet (Pink Lady, Macoun), and don't forget to take texture into account too - Empire and McIntosh soften when they are cooked; Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp retain their shape.  Just avoid Red Delicious, especially in baked recipes, they get too mushy.

You can find all sorts of "Apple Variety Charts" online that will give some guidelines on best uses, flavors, and textures.  Though with the wide variety of apples available, you'll probably be hard pressed to find a chart that includes EVERY single one.  This chart from Tuttle Orchards is easy to read and includes many of the most common varieties, plus it's in a nice one page format that's ready to be printed.

Mmm...tasty!

18 October 2013

Backpack Explorer and Boy Bands

The cakes this past week seemed to mostly fall in the "huh...?" and "hopefully this will go better than the first time" categories.

As for the "huh...?" cakes - I was visited twice by the intrepid backpack carrying explorer.  And, was thwarted in my original design intentions, twice, because I couldn't find a decent set of figurines to use as toppers, anywhere.  Good thing there's always plans B - Z...*sigh.*

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What I can't understand, is why, if she's so popular with the kiddos, can you not find a toy that remotely resembles the actual character in stores?  True, it could just be the stores in my area - they offer such wonderful shopping options and such a wide variety.  (Yes, you do detect a hint of sarcasm there.)

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On the bright side, I am brushing up on my drawings skills.  Oh, and I have to ask...what's with the car-driving purple squirrel?

Another "huh...?" head-scratch inducing category is boy bands/singers/famous faces.  I'm always at such a loss as to what to do design-wise for these.  Thank goodness for the Internet in these cases, I can usually find some good inspiration.

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In this case, it was Sweet Sugarbelle's cookie design that inspired me; she even had a printable template for the boys' faces.  Bonus!  If you have an hour or three to spend drooling over some amazing cookie designs and learning some great tips, I highly recommend you pay a visit to her site.

Ah, chevron.  You're definitely having your moment in the design world, and while I love the look of you, I'll be glad when some of your popularity has faded.  Why?  Because I have yet to figure out a foolproof method for applying this pattern to a cake.

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Though this attempt did turn out better than the first, so I'm improving.  The method I currently use is very time consuming, so I figure there has to be a better/quicker/easier way that the professionals use - I just haven't stumbled upon it yet.  Maybe one of these days...

Of course, things always balance out, right?  So, despite all the other cakes that gave me headaches, there was this one that was simplicity in itself.

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Plus, after this weekend, I have a cake free one coming up.  Though, I'll probably spend part of it making treats for Halloween...I may need a baking intervention.

Talk to you soon!

15 October 2013

Double Duty: Ice Cream Scoop


Are you planning to carve a pumpkin for Halloween or Thanksgiving this year?  If so, when it comes time to clean out the pumpkin "guts" and seeds, consider using an ice cream scoop rather than one of the plastic scrapers you usually find in a pumpkin carving kit.  The ice cream scoop is not only more rigid with a longer handle, but it also has a nice edge to it that quickly scrapes down the sides of the pumpkin.  And, the bowl on the scoop is also useful when it comes time to remove all the loose bits and pieces your scraping has left behind.

Happy carving!

Mmm...tasty!


10 October 2013

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

But, I'll give you one today.  Because I'm thoughtful like that.  I just hope you like yellow and red roses.

Oh, and that you don't mind that they are on a chocolate cake.

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This is one of those cakes that I debated taking on; not because it wasn't something I wanted to create, but more because it was a last minute-ish request and I already had a few things on the schedule (OSU football!).  But, I'm glad I decided to go ahead with it, it's been awhile since I made fondant flowers and the design was fun to put together. But, by far the best part - I got the sweetest thank you from the client, and that made it all the more worthwhile!

Though, if roses and chocolate aren't really your thing (Seriously?  I can understand not liking roses, but chocolate?  Come on, you're breaking my heart!), maybe you'd prefer just a simple, pale pink cake instead?

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If you're not into pink, well, I'm afraid you'll have to stick with the roses, since that's all I have to share today.  Are you making plans for Halloween celebrations yet?  I need to decide what treats to put together for my nieces and nephews this year...maybe severed finger cookies or homemade candy corn or Halloween candy bark...

Decisions, decisions.

Talk to you soon!

08 October 2013

I'm Melting! Melting!


I'm not the one melting, the chocolate in the microwave is though. *wink* (Side note, yes, I do love me some classic Wizard of Oz.)  Anyway, on to today's tasty tip!

When melting chocolate be sure to follow these guidelines:
  • Try to make sure the chocolate is in uniform sized pieces, whether you chop it or break it up.  This will help insure that it melts at the same rate, preventing scorching.  And, never try to melt large blocks or bars of chocolate that have not been chopped or broken into smaller pieces...it will not end well.
  • Do not let it come into contact with water.  The chocolate will seize and become unworkable.  And no one wants to waste good chocolate, right?
  • Melt the chocolate slowly over low heat (or if using the microwave, in short 15 to 30 second intervals).  Always stir the chocolate to determine if it is melted - chocolate retains it's shape when melted, so you can't always rely on appearances alone.
  • If possible use a rubber spatula to stir the chocolate, preferably one with a plastic or metal handle.  Wooden handled spatulas or wooden spoons may appear dry, but could still be retaining moisture from their last trip through the dishwasher - and, remember, chocolate doesn't like water.
  • Once most of the chocolate is melted, you can remove it from the heat, even if there are still a few lumps or larger pieces.  The ambient heat from the fully melted chocolate will finish melting any of the remaining pieces; you'll just need to give it a good stir when you remove it from the heat, let it rest for a few minutes, then stir it again.  Doing this will help minimize the chances of the chocolate becoming grainy, scorching, or burning.
Mmm...tasty!



04 October 2013

Cake Bosses in the Making

I supervised a group of budding cake decorators at a birthday party last week.  I know, you're sitting there asking yourself what in the world I'm talking about, so let me explain.

The birthday girl wanted to have a cake decorating party as part of her celebration.  Her mom asked me if I would be able to help make that happen.  I figured "why not?"  It's something different, out of the ordinary and it might be pretty fun.

Basically, I provided the guests each a plain white iced buttercream cake (i.e. their blank canvas), several colors of buttercream, some fondant, and the decorating tools and knowledge; they provided the creativity.  I was impressed, definitely a group of possible future decorators.  I told them they could come sous chef for me, as long as they helped with the clean-up.  There weren't a lot of takers.

Here's their creations.

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Pretty good, huh?  Like I said, I was very impressed with their creativity.

Here's a couple of my creations from last week, too.

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Sprinkles!  Who doesn't love sprinkles on their birthday cake?  I assume the recipient did, I didn't ask his preference since it was a surprise...

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A birthday cake for the bosses - that's a good employee right there.  This one was German chocolate, so the decoration was kept pretty simple, but hopefully it earned some good brownie points.

Talk to you soon!


03 October 2013

Drama, Drama, Drama

The life of a caker isn't all rainbows and buttercream.  Oh no. Truth be told it's (for me anyway) quite a few long days and even longer nights with minimal sleep, lots of stress, and the occasional "why am I doing this again?"  But then again, I sometimes ask myself that same question on my long runs, usually around mile "halfway"...hmm.

Anyway, on to the drama.  I had three FANTASTIC scenarios happen with the cakes below, but I'm not going to tell you which ones they were.  Hee hee.  You can just take a guess and use your imagination.

#1:  One of the cakes below fell over onto its side while I was moving it to the display board.  The decoration on it was mostly completed.  I may have cried and cussed.  No it did not hit the floor, though, let's be honest, the table was disaster enough.  I started over.

#2:  One of the cakes below resulted in me nearly slicing the tip of my pointer finger off.  With a super-heated knife.  (Yes, I had passed the knife blade through fire so that it would cut the necessary object.  Had to do what I had to do.)  There was no edible food product anywhere near me at the time of gash.  I only dripped blood through half the house on the way to the bathroom for band-aids.  It's incredibly difficult to ice/decorate/do much anything that requires precision with a bum pointer finger wrapped in several band-aids and a gloved hand.

#3:  One of the cakes below had a blowout (i.e. the buttercream had air trapped beneath it and the air bubble rose to the surface) on the way to its final destination.  An emergency roadside patch was put in place.

And, here's the cakes!

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Sprinkles and German chocolate.

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'Tis the season, and houses everywhere are divided.

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Last season the pattern was damask (it's till popular by the way), this season, it's chevron.

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The Explorer.

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Mrs. Mouse and her bows.

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Pearls and quilting and Gluten-Free, too!

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The Quack Pack.

So, any guesses as to which cakes suffered and/or caused the maladies?  Don't worry, in the instance when something goes wrong with a cake, I always correct it.

Talk to you soon!