Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will work for cake pans

Cake is only as good as the pan you bake it in. After lots of research with my library of cake decorating books, on websites like cake central and just plain asking around I got the general sense that aluminum is the way to go. There are two great pan lines out there, Fat Daddios and Magic Line. When it comes to round cakes the jury is still out as to which one is better, but for square cakes, Magic Line is by far the crowd favorite. They give you sharper edges and a more even bake. Well, how could I settle for less than the ultimate in cake pan products? The Magic Line Pan Set
quickly went onto my wish-list.

Unfortunately the pittance they call my graduate school stipend does not allow for luxury items like baking supplies. Therefore I am starting a series of "Will work for..." posts that deal with my search for alternate funding. Yesterday I auditioned for a tutoring company. Luckily it went well and I may have a student soon! Until then the pan will wait on the wishlist. Until I can buy it... here's to making cookies.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cupcakes: A Great Place to Get Started

Many an aspiring decorator is daunted by the task of making and decorating a giant three tier cake. While many people practice on upside down cake pans or styrofoam, I wanted my finished products to be edible. That's where the cupcake comes in. They're small and you can try out many different styles. It didn't hurt that my husband had given me a copy of Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make for my birthday. This book is great for the beginning decorator since it focuses on designs that don't require that much equipment. I used a yellow cake recipe and buttercream. 

The Panda:

Aren't they just adorable? Made out of cupcake, oreos, frosting and chocolate chips these were a big hit with everyone who saw them. The head is a mini cupcake glued with some buttercream to the larger, crushed oreo covered cupcake below. If you have difficulty slicing the oreo arms, microwave the cookie for a few seconds to make it more pliable.
The Snowman:

Another mini cupcake for the head, with coconut flakes for snow. Fill the corner of a sandwich baggie with chocolate icing, cut off the tip and use gentle pressure to pipe the small dots for the mouth. Always touch the bag to the cupcake as you release your pressure. This finishes off your dot and prevents it from pulling away. The nose is a cut piece of juju fruit. You can use taffy as well. For extra realism use a knife to score some lines in the taffy and then rub it in cinnamon for a real earthy carrot look.

The Owl:

Another great use for oreos. Just twist open and use the frosted half as an owl eye. Once again, if you have trouble getting the oreo to twist nicely, microwave it a little first. Use two chocolate M & M's to make pupils. The ears are my own modification on the owl presented in the book. I used pecans and then chocolate frosted them using a ziplock bag instead of a pastry bag. Use any yellow colored candy you can find for the nose. Mine is a fruit and plenty.

For the true beginner:
This web-like flower always amazes guests who rush to ask how I made it. In reality, it is the simplest of all the cupcakes that I have posted today. Just ice your cupcake in one color. Fill a ziplock with a contrasting color and snip off the tip. Then pipe three (or more) concentric circles on the iced cupcake. They do not have to be perfectly round, the design will cover any minor flaws. Now take a toothpick and gently drag it through the cupcake a few times, alternate between dragging towards the center and away from it. The icing will pull with the toothpick creating the design shown above. VOILA~ you too have created a lovely cupcake.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Quest

When I was a little girl one of my favorite things to do was drool over the 'Martha Stewart Weddings' magazine. The dresses were sparkly and glamorous, the favors adorable and the registry checklists hinted at a life of gleaming appliances and upscale coking. When I was forced, by the tyranny of space constraints, to send an issue to the recycling bin I would first lovingly snip out my favorite articles and pictures. What did I save? The tiaras? The destination honeymoons? Nope. It was the cake. Tiered, sculpted, cupcake, you name it. Something about those beautiful cakes filled me with glee. So it came as a shock to many when six months ago I got married...WITHOUT a wedding cake. 

What you say? How could I not have a cake? Simple. This was a big wedding that was all ready costing an arm and a leg and wedding cake is not really part of my families tradition. So I didn't have one. I am a full believer in brides remaining in budget. Besides, if I couldn't have the cake I wanted I did not want to settle for something less. The caterer was all ready doing a plated dessert and there was no need for a cake. The wedding was everything I dreamed of and I have no regrets. What I do have is a manilla envelope full of cake clippings which now seems superfluous. What's a girl to do? Make her own cake! 

This blog will chronicle my quest to become a professional level baker and cake decorator. I have always considered myself a 'baker' having learned to bake at a very young age at my others side. After looking at so many lovely cakes I cannot hold back the urge to create some of my own. One thing I know: cake making is expensive. There is a lot of equipment that I will need to amass and a lot of practicing that I will need to do. But I'm willing to stick it out, and I hope you are too! To start out I am armed with several books, some decorating supplies I 'borrowed' from my mother and a lot of excitement. Here's to cake.