Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are Cake

I had the pleasure of making a first birthday cake for a very cute little boy named Max.  His parents wanted a cake that depicted a boat scene from the book Where the Wild Things Are.  I pondered how I was going to accomplish this for some time.  I think I came up with a great solution, and I have to say, I am pretty proud of this cake.

I used a lot of different techniques and tools to help me make this cake.  I had the idea to make it like a painting.  I used a sheet on fondant and drew this picture free hand while I looked at the page out of the book.  Then I used a variety of things to actually fill in and color the picture, including edible markers, food coloring, gum paste.  I was so pleased with the results.  I think this is one of my favorite cakes I've ever done!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fairies Cake

I am so behind on blogging that this is my daughter's 2nd birthday cake.  She is turning three in about two weeks!  Oh well, better late than never, right!?!?  My daughter really loves Tinkerbell and all the other fairies that reside in Pixie Hollow!  In fact, up until very recently, she has been saying that she wants a Tinkerbell cake again this year.  She has changed her mind, and hopefully I will have her 3rd birthday cake on here before she turns four!

I generally do not purchase items to place on cakes.  I often prefer to handcraft things instead of plopping some plastic crap on my cakes.  However, I was just so enticed by these adorable fairy figures that were actually usable stamps after coming off of the cake that I just could not resist.  Plus, I was pregnant, so the easier the better!  Of course my daughter was thrilled to get some fun little toys after her cake too, so maybe that plastic crap isn't so bad after all.  I did a lot of cutting and stacking with this cake.  I believe it was about a full double layer sheet of cake when all was said and done.  It was delicious, and my little birthday girl adored her cake.  What more could I ask for?

Cutting and shaping cakes is a lot easier than it seems.  You just need a little practice.  Most importantly, make sure that if you plan to cut and stack or sculpt cake that you are working with a sturdy cake.  There is nothing worse than trying to do this work with a crumbly cake.  You can even buy cakes un-iced at your local bakery or from me to practice!  And, I am sure your family and friends will be thrilled to help you get rid of your practice cakes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mint Chocolate Birthday Cake

Wow, it has been quite a long time since I have made a post.  My last post was back in July before my third daughter was born.  I had three kids 4 and under for about a month until my 4 year old turned 5 in August.  Needless to say, I have been super busy not only with the kids, but with baking too!  I have a ton of things to post, but I decided to start with this sweet little cake.

I made this cake for little girl's first birthday.  Her parents are huge fans of chocolate and mint, so I came up with this delicious combination.  I started with my regular chocolate cake.  I decided to throw some Andes candies chips into the batter.  It made the cake slightly minty and extra moist and chocolatey.  I didn't want to make the cake too minty/toothpastey, so I decided not to cover the whole cake in mint buttercream.  However, I did make a standard buttercream with some mint extract for in between the two layers of cake.  I have a recipe for an icing that I call chocolate satin frosting.  It is almost like a ganache, but not quite, and it is not super sweet.  I thought it would be the perfect pairing for this cake.  (Actually, I think it was my hubby's idea.)  I used simple fondant numbers and letters with polka dots for the decorations.  All in all, I thought this cake looked sweet and was delicious.  Even my husband who is not a huge fan of chocolate and mint enjoyed this cake.

The National Confectioners Association has declared February 19 "Chocolate Mint Day".  So next year on February 19, celebrate with some chocolate mint candies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, or whip up and cake like this for yourself.  Or better yet, save yourself the mess, and order one from me!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Trifle is one of my very favorite desserts.  I love that it is so versatile and so, so delicious!  You can pretty much put whatever you want into a trifle.  Of course there are traditional English trifles, but you can stray from that very easily!

I chose to do a pretty standard trifle.  I started with some pound cake that I cubed and soaked in simple syrup.  I could eat just that alone!!!  So delicious!  I also made my standard pastry cream which is such a great recipe to master since it can be used in such a large variety of desserts.  I really like trifle with raspberries, but it was a little early in the season to find tasty, reasonably priced raspberries, so I went with strawberries and macerated them for a bit in a small amount of sugar.  I did put a little spin on my whipped cream.  Instead of stirring in powdered sugar to sweeten the cream, I used brown sugar.  The molasses in the brown sugar gave a nice flavor to the dessert as a whole.

What is so nice about trifle is that you could use angel food cake instead of pound cake, vanilla pudding instead of pastry cream, or any kind of fruit that you like or that is in season.  I particularly like trifle with stone fruits when they are in season!  If you aren't much of a baker, you could still throw together a trifle pretty easily.  You can buy pre-made angel food cakes at any bakery.  You can make a box of vanilla pudding.  Choose whatever kind of fruit you like and make or buy some whipped cream.  You just layer everything together, and voila, you have a trifle!  It's that simple.  Use whatever you have on hand or whatever is in season.  Just make it your own!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yo Gabba Gabba Cake

I was asked to do a cake with Foofa from Yo Gabba Gabba for a little girl's 3rd birthday.  I was excited to design a cute cake, and my kids were equally excited when they saw the Foofa that I created for the first time.

Instead of a standard half sheet cake, we went with a 12 inch round cake which feeds approximately the same amount of people.  One layer was yellow, the other was chocolate.  It was covered in my French buttercream.  At first I considered making Foofa out of fondant alone, but that is a bit risky.  Sure, she wasn't going to be super huge, but the party was in a park.  We have been having some very hot weather here in Pittsburgh, I wasn't sure she would hold up!  I could have made her entirely out of gumpaste, but who wants to eat a gumpaste character?  So, the night I was going to craft her, I sent my wonderful husband to the store to get some marshmallows and crisp rice cereal.  I formed her out of crisp rice cereal treats and covered her with pink fondant.  I used gumpaste for the flower on her head because it dries much stiffer than fondant.  All in all, I was happy with the cake, and I believe my clients loved it.

Although gumpaste may seem like the same thing as fondant, it is very different.  Gumpaste dries hard, almost like glass.  It will shatter if dropped after it is completely dry.  Fondant will get stiffer, but will not harden completely.  You would never want to cover a cake with gumpaste.  It is really great for delicate flower work, straps for handbags, 3D figures, shoes.  It is perfect for something that you want to maintain a specific shape.  It requires time to dry as well.  I like to let gumpaste decorations dry over night.  If you are interested in learning how to decorate with fondant or gumpaste, don't be afraid.  Pick some up at the store and play with it like you did with playdoh as a child.  It's fun!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Baking with your kids

I feel that kids should get used to being in a kitchen and feel comfortable in the environment.  I know people that went away to college and literally did not know how to boil water!  Sounds crazy to a lot of people, but it’s true.  I get my kids involved in cooking and baking as much as I can.  I want them to be able to thrive in the kitchen some day because as we all know, eating at home is much healthier and cost efficient.  

To me, there is no greater joy than sharing my love of baking with my girls, and they are great helpers!  It is something we love to do together.  However, I have to switch gears when I bake with kids.  I was a professional pastry chef, so I am highly efficient in the kitchen and can multi-task very easily.  It was a little difficult for me to switch to “teaching” mode.  I had a lot of student helpers at my job at a local university, but they were adults.  It is a little different teaching a 3 or 4 year old.  Patience when working in the kitchen with your children is an absolute must!  As parents, we are the first teachers that our children have.  I take this job very seriously and try to remember to teach my kids little things every day.  Imparting my love of and knowledge of baking to my kids is just one of those things.  

Here are some things that I have learned from my experiences in my own kitchen with my kids:

  • Don’t choose a day that you have a gazillion cookies for a bake sale or birthday party to make to teach your children.  As a mom, it’s hard enough to get those kinds of things done on your own sometimes!  
  • I am a perfectionist when it comes to my baking.  I have learned to let that go when my kids are helping me.  It is just food after all!
  • Be patient

  • Give them tasks that they are able to do
  • Have fun
  • Expect a mess on hands, counters, etc.

Some simple steps to baking with kids:
  1. Decide what to make.  Cookies or muffins are always a good choice.  My kids LOVE to scoop both of these things!
  2. Read through the recipe completely.  This is always a good idea!  There is nothing worse than mixing a dough for a cookie and then realizing that it needs to be chilled overnight or that you don’t have one of the ingredients.  It is especially frustrating when you have a very disappointed 4 year old who wants cookies!
  3. Wash hands.  Often.
  4. Assign Tasks.  Divide the tasks if you have more than one child.  Make sure that the child that you have assigned the task to is able to complete it.
  5. Get all the ingredients together, or Mise en Place.  Mise en Place literally means putting in place.  This is a term that I heard constantly in culinary school.  It is especially important when baking with kids.  They can measure everything out.  You ensure you have all the ingredients, and it keeps little hands from roaming when it is time to actually mix the recipe.
  6. Use safe tools for small hands.
  7. Clean up and put things away as you go.  It is an important lesson to teach your children, to clean up after themselves!  If you do this, you can have your kitchen almost back to new by time the cookies are out of the oven!

I hope this has helped some of you get the courage to get your kids involved in the kitchen.  All these tips can be used when cooking with your kids too, they don’t just have to be for baking.  So, get in the kitchen and bake some cookies with your kiddos!