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28 June 2013

Fresh Friday: Vol. 4

It's Friday!  Woo Hoo!  Are you making plans for your 4th of July celebration yet?  It'll be here next week, you know.  Time flies when we're having fun.

And, since it's Friday, I'm joining up with Katherine over at the Real Food Runner for Fresh Friday.  Here's my three things that have made this week fresh and fantastic.

  1. Going topless.  Not that kind of topless!  The Jeep is going topless; it is summer time after all.  The 110°F temperature yesterday left no doubt about the season.
  2. My first meringue pie - of any kind!  This particular incarnation was of the lemon variety.
  3. My first GPS watch.  Yay!  I went with the Garmin Forerunner 10 in green.  The pink and purple color choices just weren't really my cup of tea, so it's a good thing I liked the remaining color option.

Hope you have an amazing weekend!  Don't hesitate to leave a comment and share what made your week great.  Or pop over and visit Katherine's link-up party @ Real Food Runner, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you, too!

Talk to you soon!


26 June 2013

I've Been Everywhere...

Except for at home.  Or so it seems when it comes to the weekends this past month.  I think I've stayed close to my home base only one weekend so far and that was back at the first the month.  I haven't gone farther than the tri-state area, but still...

All my traveling has led to lots of procrastinating.  Or maybe it's just flat out lack of available hours to take care of the things that need to be done, but haven't reached the top of the list?  Hmm...think I may be on to something; after all, "I ran out of time" sounds better than "I procrastinated."

Short list of some of the things I need to get done, but haven't yet:
  • Posting cakes to the blog.  I haven't posted ANY of the June goodies yet!
  • Laundry.  Seriously, this situation has reached def-con 4.  I no longer have a single pair of clean running socks in my house, and I own about 14 pairs of the things.  I either need to do laundry or buy more socks.
  • Lawn care.  It finally rained here.  Which is great, but it also means I now need to mow and weed-eat my lawn (i.e. the weeds because I kinda gave up on the grass around about year 2 of the drought, don't judge)
I do plan to remedy the lawn situation this weekend, assuming I can get the mower to start, and the mountain of laundry will hopefully be chipped away at starting later tonight.  The posting issue, well, I plan to resolve it right now.  What do you say - help me mark an item off my list, eh?

I'll keep the descriptions/details short, since there's plenty to share with just the photos alone.  Don't necessarily want to turn this into a novel, since I do, after all, want you to come back to visit again!

A retirement cake for a avid outdoorsman:

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Mini cupcakes for a wedding shower:

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A birthday cake for a sweet lady celebrating her 99th year:

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A birthday cake for a newly minted quadragenarian:

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Birthday cupcakes for a sweet sixteen:

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A birthday cake for a fabulous five-year-old fan:

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A wedding cake* for two of my dear friends:

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The groom's cakes* for the same wedding:

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Cupcakes for a baby shower:

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And, last, but not least, a 75th birthday cake:

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Boom!  I'm officially caught-up with posting cakes to the blog now.  Yay!  Thanks for sticking it out with me.  I suppose I should go sort laundry now...*sigh*

Talk to you soon!
*Just one more photo and a tidbit about the wedding/groom's cakes from above.  The tidbit - the cakes traveled to OKC, which is why the buttercream on the wedding cake cracked and the fondant on the bottle caps was sweating like a sinner in church.  Turns out the rough roads and change in humidity didn't play well.  If you ever want to discover just how rough a road really is, try driving it with cakes along for the ride.  You'll notice every bump, pothole, and ridge in the road - trust me.  And the photo - 

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I know - you're thinking "it's just the same cake," and it is, but I wanted to draw your attention to the item it's sitting on.  I may have drooled a bit and fallen in love with that mirror.  It was gorgeous.  And, I'll admit, if I could have gotten it loaded in the suburban it might have come home with me.  Not really, but it was a fabulous piece, that really made the cake look even better!

Ok, signing off again.  Bye!

25 June 2013

Just Grate


If your recipe calls for minced garlic, try grating it on a fine grater or microplane zester instead.  Not only is grating the garlic much faster than mincing, but you'll end up with garlic juice and bits of the clove that distributes more evenly.  And, added bonus, no worries about encountering a large chunk of garlic!

Mmm...tasty!


11 June 2013

Ingredient Substitution: Sour Cream


You've run out of sour cream, but need some for a dish you're making.  Try one of these substitutes:

  • Plain yogurt.  Keep in mind that yogurt is a thinner consistency, but it can be subbed easily for sour cream as a topping or in dips.  Opt for greek yogurt if possible.
  • Quark.  This German-style fresh cheese has a creamy texture with a taste similar to sour cream, though again with a slightly thinner consistency.  It makes a great substitute in dips and soups, as well as a topping.
  • 1/3 cup butter + 3/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt.  This blend of butter and buttermilk/yogurt will give you a substitute that has a similar texture and taste to sour cream.  It works well for subbing into baked goods and sauces.  1 cup of the butter/buttermilk or yogurt blend = 1 cup of sour cream.
Mmm...tasty!



07 June 2013

Testing...

It's just a fact of life...we'll all encounter tests along the way.  And, they aren't always like the ones in school where there's one right answer and ONLY one right answer.  Sometimes, I think it'd be simpler if it did work that way, but I also realize that without the other possibilities the journey wouldn't be near as much fun.

So, why am I philosophizing?  Let's just say, in a nut shell, I've really been struggling with my desire to want to "cake" lately.  It's not that I don't still enjoy the creative process, it's all the other "stuff" that comes up.  For example:

"Your cakes are expensive."

"I know I'm late in calling, but I need a cake tomorrow."

"Well, I can go to (insert big box store name here) and get a cake for a third of that price."

"What do you mean you're already booked that day? Can't you squeeze in my order?"

And, the latest and, up to this point, the best:

"You ruined my reception!  How can you not be willing to accommodate my order less than a week from my wedding?!"

Mind you, not everyone that I encounter is like any of the above examples.  In fact, most of the people I work with are amazing and I LOVE working with them.  They understand that the product they get from me has been given personal attention - baked and designed specifically to fit their needs and that it's not something that can be whipped up in mere hours.

But, somewhere along the way, for lack of a better phrase,  "the politics" have started to really wear me down.  Not to mention that there are some days when I really struggle with helping other people celebrate while I put my life on hold.  Caking is often times another full time job, after my regular full time job, for me - sometimes I'm very hard pressed to fit in much of anything that I really WANT to do.  It's becoming more and more of battle to choose the cake over the alternative option (i.e. having a personal life and some down-time).

I don't want to give up creating cakes and other goodies, I just need to figure out a way to balance everything and keep the "negative Nellies" from having such an affect on me.  My solution, whether temporary or permanent I'm not sure yet, is the following:
  1. A lighter cake schedule.  Yes, this will mean saying "no" more often and will probably cost me a few orders and/or customers, but my happiness is ultimately more important.  (Judge if you wish, but first walk a mile, or ten, in my shoes.)
  2. One weekend each month where I have ABSOLUTELY no cakes or other baking scheduled.  See above if you need further explanation. *smile*
  3. Refraining from accepting orders that would require me to scramble to complete them.  This means if someone wants to place an order with less than a week's notice, well, it ain't gonna happen.  I do have a "two weeks notice" policy for custom cakes - if an order comes up with more than a week's notice but less than two, then I'll decide at my discretion.  What this means for clients - Don't be a procrastinator!
  4. Kindly telling the "negative Nellies" that I can't accommodate their requests.  I do what I do.  If you aren't comfortable with it, I'm afraid we wouldn't be a good match for creating a confection together.  There are other options available that will possibly be a better fit, no hard feelings, promise.
So, that's my four step plan for hopefully finding more balance.  Crossing my fingers it works!

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Now, on to a happier test - testing cake recipes!  Key lime cake recipes to be exact.  Why?  I'm creating a wedding cake for a friend next weekend and she wants a key lime tier.  Not a problem, except I haven't been exactly over the moon with the key lime recipe I've been using.  It's a good recipe, just a bit softer than I'd like for a tiered cake that has to travel.  So, I decides this was a perfect excuse to test out some other possible options.

I tried out three - the original, as a control, the bright green option, and one that was more of a cream cake.  The winner?  The cream cake option.  It had a good crumb, was fairly dense, baked up well, and had the best key lime flavor of them all.  Yay!

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Winner, winner = front cake in the photo above.  The green monster (upper right), which I didn't care for at all, placed last.  And my current recipe (upper left), obviously, took the second place spot.  And, yes, I realize the edges on my "control" cake are slightly burnt.  I may or may not have been watching as closely as required while it was baking...

Oh, by the way, if you were offended by the first part of this post, that wasn't my intention.  Hopefully, it won't prevent you from visiting again.

Talk to you soon!



04 June 2013

Pie Wisdom: The Whole Truth



Using whole wheat flour instead of traditional white, all-purpose flour in your pie crust will enhance the flavor of fruit fillings, giving the pie a warmer taste.  And, the whole wheat flour adds a little bit of "healthy" to your pie slice!

Mmm...tasty!

01 June 2013

The "Others"

If you've been following the blog the last couple of days, you're probably beginning to wonder just what all these "other" cakes and confections are that I've been referring to lately.  Well, today, the mystery will be solved.  It's going to be a rather long post today, so buckle up.

Don't think I'm discounting these cakes and such as less than important by referring to them as the "others" because I'm not.  In fact, I had quite a bit of out-of-the-ordingary fun with the creation of some of these.

Like this tie-dyed cake.  And, yes, it's buttercream.  I was afraid the colors would start to muddle and turn a less than appealing grayish brown, but surprisingly they didn't.  The gasp of surprise when the birthday girl saw the cake was, pardon the pun, the icing on the cake.

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This cake was ordered with just a plain blue buttercream base so that the birthday boys could add their own decorations.  From what I gathered, the decos included a Millennium Falcon and stars.  I hope they had fun putting their own spin on it; they were certainly excited when I delivered the cake to their house.  I didn't get to see the finished product, but I'm sure it turned out fabulously!

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Do you know what group's logo is a red fleur de lis with a blue eagle overlaid?  I didn't until I made these cupcakes to celebrate the client's son's newly achieved rank of Eagle Scout.  I decided to use elements of the logo and stick with the red and blue color scheme.  The cupcakes were three different flavors, so each flavor had a different topper and a different patterned liner.

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Speaking of cupcakes, I made 8 dozen mini cuppies for a miniature golf course opening in Colorado.  The grass printed liners were the perfect choice considering the event.

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Decorating cakes for men always seems especially difficult for me, but in this instance it wasn't too bad.  Just a simple white cake with "Happy Birthday, Monte!" in either blue or green.  Exactly what the client ordered and simple enough to pull together.

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On the other hand, decorating a cake for a woman comes easily enough.  Even if the client doesn't have a specific design in mind, I can always go with cheery colors and a floral theme.  The client did have idea for this cake, it just happened to be cheery colors, flowers, and gift tags.  I tried out a new style of piped border on this cake, too.  I thought it gave a nice, different look to the edges, but it uses A LOT of icing...

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I had tons of fun creating this next cake and the matching cupcakes.  They were inspired by everyone's favorite mischievous cat and his famous hat.

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And, last, but not least, these summer themed sugar cookies.  Makes me want to put my bum in the sand and my toes in the water.

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That's it!  I'm officially caught up with posting my creations to the blog...yay!  Now, go enjoy your weekend. It may not be summer officially yet, but you can still start living like it is.  I think I'll go squeeze in my 7-miler before it heats up too much!

Talk to you soon!