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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!

01 October 2013

Can I Freeze...Eggs?


You bet you can!  There are rules to doing so, though.  And, then there are also rules to using frozen eggs in place of fresh eggs.  Ah...so many rules!

Regarding freezing eggs:
  • Use only clean, fresh eggs.
  • Frozen eggs, if stored properly, can be kept for up to 1 year.
  • For whole eggs, beat until they are just blended, then pour into freezer containers that seal tightly, label with the number of eggs and the date and freeze.
  • For egg whites - make sure no yolks are in the whites, then pour the whites into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of whites and the date, and freeze.
    • For easier measuring and thawing, try freezing each white in standard ice cube tray, then when frozen solid, transfer to a freezer container.
  • For yolks, you need to give them special treatment otherwise they will turn very thick and gel-like when frozen.  Once if you've added the necessary "extra" (see below), put the yolks into a freezer container, label with the date, number of yolks, and whether you added salt or sugar.  Freeze.
    • If you plan to use the yolks in "sweet" recipes, beat in 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar per 4 yolks.
    • If you plan to use the yolks in "savory" recipes, beat in 1/8 teaspoon salt per 4 yolks.
Regarding using frozen eggs:
  • Thaw the eggs overnight in the refrigerator or under cold running water.
  • Use whole eggs or egg yolks as soon as they are thawed.  Thawed egg whites will beat to better volume if allowed to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Do not re-freeze thawed eggs.
  • The American Egg Board recommends the following substitutions when using frozen eggs:
    • 2 tablespoons thawed egg white for 1 large fresh white
    • 1 tablespoon thawed egg yolk for 1 large fresh yolk
    • 3 tablespoons thawed whole egg for 1 large fresh egg
Mmm...tasty!