Friday, October 3, 2008

First Birthday Cake

I made my first birthday cake last weekend for my little brother's 21st birthday. I didn't want to try anything too fancy, since it was the first cake my whole family would be seeing and tasting and I think they all had high expectations after seeing pictures and reading about the last one. I love circles and he loves orange so I combined the two and just did an abstract two layer chocolate cake. I think it turned out pretty well! I tried to roll the fondant for the bottom, I wanted to twist the yellow and orange together, but again it didn't go so well. I'm going to have to continue practicing this technique.

One of my coworkers just made her final cake in her classes. It was really tasty! I think I'm going to have eventually get a little professional training so I don't just keep guessing at how things should be done.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cake Links

After creating my first cake masterpiece yesterday and not quite getting the masterful results I was hoping for, I decided to search the net a little for helpful hints and inspirations. Here are a few links I think you may enjoy as well:

I would love to trade jobs with her for a day....or a week or month :)
Cake Decorating: Fun with Fondant

For all my fellow fans of Pocky out there:
Pocky Cake!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fun with Fondant

I finally got around to trying something I've wanted to do for months: decorate a cake with fondant. Armed only with the experience and training I've received watching Duff on numerous episodes of Ace of Cakes and many cake challenges on the Food Network, I thought I was prepared to venture out on my own. Little did I know it's not as easy as they make it look!

Here's a picture of the final product. As you can tell by the color theme, I had bought most of my supplies back around Easter time. I'm glad I invested in the tools I did and am very excited to go purchase a few more that I learned would've come in pretty handy. This first time around I had to improvise just a titch!

First I made a German Chocolate cake from a box, nothing fancy but definitely tasty. I knew that even if I screwed up the icing and fondant that we should still have an edible cake underneath. I also found out from my realtor that German Chocolate cake is in fact not an old tradition that started in Germany. Doing a little research on my own I found that the recipe was actually created by Samuel German for Baker's chocolate brand. I guess we really do learn something new every day, and I definitely learned a few things during my first trial run!

  • Icing is generally made with confectioner's sugar, not regular sugar
I used a recipe from a friend who makes amazing cakes with super delicious frosting but unfortunately interpreted the sugar ingredient wrong. I should've known that it meant confectioner's sugar because I've made cookie frosting before and know by now that icing is not generally made with regular sugar, but oh well. It's still edible and is definitely a mistake I won't make again.
  • Cakes don't come out of the oven with flat tops
I don't know what I was thinking when I assumed my cake would come out of the oven ready to decorate. I saw cake saws in the store and laughed thinking I wasn't going to need to do any carving. I'm not going to try anything that fancy yet! But this was the only pleasant surprise, as it was actually quite fun cutting the top off and wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. Of course it didn't come out very level, which I later learned is fairly important at this step in the process. Here's a picture with the cake top that we'll get to enjoy eating before having to cut into the beautiful cake :)

  • Make sure you have enough fondant!
So when I bought some of the supplies months ago, I was thinking I would just make cupcakes or a couple small cakes before trying anything too big. So all I bought for fondant was a four pack of pastel colors, advertised on the box for using to make the accents and decorations, hoping this would be enough to also cover whatever small cake I made. Turns out, it took almost all of two colors to cover the 8" by 3" round cake I made and trying to cover a cake with two or more completely different pieces of fondant is not something an inexperienced decorator should try to accomplish, especially on her first try!
  • Fondant and moisture do not go well together
When I get tense or excited or a lot of other things, my hands tend to get a little sweaty. After discovering I barely had enough fondant to cover the cake, let alone do any decorating, needless to say I started getting a bit stressed out. My hands got warm and wet, which made the fondant almost impossible to work with. I put plastic baggies over my hands to improvise this time, but next time I'll have to try getting some type of gloves to keep the fondant smooth and dry.
  • Have a plan of action before starting
I had gotten flower cookie cutters (or are they technically fondant cutters?) to easily make some shapes to put on my cake. I figured I'd be able to come up with a creative design as I was working and be able to lay out the flowers in a pretty and stylish way. Well with the afore mentioned stress and lack of variety now in fondant after using the blue and green just to cover the cake, I ended up throwing on the flowers mainly just to cover up the seams around the side after poorly piecing the green around it. I had also wanted to try and make balls or long strings to make a border along the bottom, but I found out fondant doesn't shape that easily. Especially after it's been sitting out at room temperature for more than a few minutes or is wet and sticky. Any ideas how to accomplish this would be greatly appreciated!

So it didn't come out looking exactly like a Charm City Cakes creation, but I think it could've been a lot worse. Maybe next time! And if not.....third time is a charm, right? :)!

I decided it was finally time to share with the world two passions of mine: programming and cooking. Both have interested me since middle school and now one I get paid to do professionally and the other is an on again off again hobby. One glance at my profile, and you'll see that I am indeed a software developer whose job has recently required me to go travel the learning curves (and growing pains) of learning WPF, the MVC framework and NHibernate. I've also recently started trying my hand at the art of cake decorating (I did my first one today in fact!) and have always loved challenging my friends and family with new foods in the kitchen. The greatest struggle has been finding time for both of these passions, as well as many others that come and go. I'm hoping to have time to share my successes and tribulations on these topics and more on my journey as a programming chef.