From Cake Lab

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Broadway Themed Celebration Cake

As I've been going through my past blogs I noticed I never posted about this one!  Probably because I was so busy at the time as this was a Christmas present for my sister.  I have a hard time at Christmas.  It's really kind of a pain shopping for people just for the sake of shopping, hoping you will stumble across something that's personal and won't break the bank.  My sister Avery helped me with my designs and tastings when we lived together in Montreal, and it had been ages since we had been together to celbrate a birthday of hers.  I figured why not give her a gift that's totally personal and from the heart.
She's a huge Broadway fanatic so the choice was pretty easy.  She's literally seen Wicked at least five times, possibly up to ten for Rock of Ages.  All the decor on the cake is edible, minus the posts used for the signage.  My favorite part is the city scape on the bottom tier.  I love the way it turned out...unfortuantely it's kinda easy to look past it since it's covered by a lot of decor. 
Avery didn't really appreciate it as much as I had hoped but a year and a half later and I don't regret my decision :)
I look forward to making another Broadway themed cake in the future.  There's just so much potential!!
Cake Lab San Diego

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hello Kitty Cake

Damn.
41 blog posts in 2010.
36 blog posts in 2011.
2 blog posts in 2012...
And this is my first entry for 2013.
I guess it's safe to say I haven't given my business all the attention it requires.  The importance of blogging is pretty huge as search engines love them.  Just do an image search for a Abby Cadabby, Marvel Comics, or Tangled Tower Cake, and a Cake Lab photo will appear near the top.  Blogging is obviously a great way to build an audience.  I guess it was easier to put more effort into my Cake biz back in Maine.  It was all I really had there.  Now that I'm in San Diego I have a lot more distractions...but I need to sometimes step back and remember what I want out of life.  So anyway, this is me taking one step forward.
 
This was a pretty simple cake, not a whole lot to it, just a Hello Kitty face.  All edible and really nothing too challenging.  I made numerous Hello Kitty cakes during my time at Twiggs and Sweet Cheeks but this is the first time making the face out of cake.  Always more fun when the project involves sculpting cake...except that means I have to face the tempting scraps.  Still been munching on them five days later...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cake Lab 2.0 - ZacO Cakes in San Diego!

It's about time!
After working at Twiggs Bakery for two months, followed by six months at Sweet Cheeks Baking Company, I'm finally ready to branch off and bring Cake Lab to the West Coast.  
Is it a little bit scary?  Sure.  But it's been my dream to create my own cakes in a city like this ever since I discovered my passion.  Working for someone else will just never satisfy my creative juices.  
Yes, there will surely be crazy amounts of stress at times...but no risk = no reward!  Lots of people thought it was daring of me to move cross country to a city I had never been to and had no contacts.  Deep down I knew it was the right decision for me, and boy have I been lucky.  The strangers I moved in with from Craigslist couldn't have been better first roommates.  And I landed not one, but two full time cake jobs without ever taking a decorating class or attending culinary school (thank you to my friends and customers in Maine!!)I've also made a small but nice group of friends here and I can easily say I'm having some of the most fun of my life.  Being in a city with beautiful weather year round doesn't hurt either :)
I know it will take some time to pick up, but I know Cake Lab San Diego is going to bring awesome things to my life!  I could not be more excited.
I also have a new website that I'm still working on, but it's passable for now : www.cakelabsd.com 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Been a While...

Today I decided to revisit my blog. Shocked to see I'm nearing 100,000 page views! Crazy to receive so much exposure for something that started out as a hobby. I took a look at some of my early posts after getting a little nostalgic. I realized I started this blog as a way to record my journey into the cake world, not just a place to show of my cakes. So it's time I update this blog on the past half year.
I arrived in San Diego like planned February 1st. On the 3rd I had an interview for a position at Sweet Cheeks Baking Company. I waited another week for interview #2, then another week to start a two week internship to test things out. Unfortunately...I didn't get the job. I was getting desperate. I applied to every cake company in San Diego and started looking for ANY type of work. I just needed some income. As luck would have it, a full time cake position opened up at Twiggs bakery about a week after I started looking for a new job. It felt serendipitous! When I went in for my trial day and was hired I was told part of the reason I was hired was due to the glowing recommendation from Elaine, one of the owners of Sweet Cheeks, who said she would have loved to hire me but didn't have a position available.
Working at Twiggs was my first time having an official job in a commercial kitchen. People say it's hard to adjust when you come from working in a home kitchen, but I feel like I adjusted pretty quickly. The hardest part was just becoming orientated with all the supplies and getting used to sharing a small space with others. I also had to work on my more basic skills like icing a cake smoothly in buttercream and piping on details.
About six weeks after working at Twiggs I was contacted by Sweet Cheeks again. They had a position available for me. Obviously I was in quite the dilemma. I just started working at Twiggs but there were many advantages to working at SC. First of all, it's just two minutes away from my apartment. The kitchen is large and spacious, and I click better with the other bakers/decorators. Not to mention the fact that they don't work weekends and they have a slightly higher standard of quality. I thought the decision was a no brainier, how could I say no? So I started working both jobs while I waited finish up my last two weeks at Twiggs. It sure was nice to get that first weekend off!! Definitely one I won't forget.
So now I'm working at Sweet Cheeks. Getting paid to make cakes. Is it everything I dreamed of? Well I guess not, but this was never my end goal. Now my main focus is on figuring out how I'm going to make my dream a reality. I've come a long way in the three years since I started decorating cakes as a hobby, but I'm still just beginning. Watch out!

I haven't made a whole ton of cakes at work that I'm truly proud of, but here is one of my favorite Sweet Cheeks cakes. Not what I would've done if it was a Cake Lab cake but it's still fun.

Angry Birds Cake

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whimsical Stack of Chrsitmas Presents Cake

Two years ago my cake hobby was still really new. That Christmas I decided to make a real elaborate cake scene consisting of five presents (one for each member of my family). It was a pretty huge disaster. I tried carving for the first time and everything fell apart (NEVER carve a warm cake), so I ended up starting over and making a simple snowflake cake.
Two years later and I have come a long way...which I should hope so, otherwise this path would seem pretty pointless. Not only are these presents bigger, but they are stacked and one is shaped. I'm also now a big fan of paneling the fondant for squared cakes. The angles are so much sharper than when you drape fondant.



All the details on the cake are edible, although I did decide to include real ornaments basically just to save time. it would have been cool to make them out of cake balls, but after a while I run out of steam. In terms of the overall look of the cake, I'm not really that satisfied. I had a really hard time coming up with a design for the top tier. Originally it was white and sprayed silver, but I wasn't really liking that so I airbrushed it red and applied white snowflakes. It was nice, but a little too traditional so I tore off the fondant and started over. I think I probably would have been better off keeping in the pink/green theme. Either way the cake was a hit with my co-workers. A fun, colorful cake for some fun people!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat Cake

Last February I made a Cat in the Hat cake for fun that was based off another shop's design. The resulting cake felt bland and uninspired. This week I was pretty excited to have the chance to right my wrong. The client sent me some photos of two cake designs to choose from. After learning from my mistake I told them I would rather not try to mimic their preselected designs, so they said as long as it was topsy turvy and Cat in the Hat themed I had free reign.
After baking the cake (which required LOTTTS of strawberries), the first thing I sculpted was the fish. Originally I had found a small glass candle holder that the fish was supposed to "fall" out of, and I brushed it with blue piping gel for water. It looked cool but I put it aside till the end.
All details on the cake are edible. Rice cereal treats for the hat and box and icing images for the characters. In terms of difficultly, nothing gave me TOO much trouble. The worst part was the structure of the cake. This is definitely the most extreme topsy turvy carving I've done. In fact if you looked at the side/back it would look almost like it really would tip over...which I guess is the point, but I liked the angles I picked for the front of the cake better.



When I reached the end of placing the details on the cake, I almost forgot about the first thing I made! In my original sketch the fish was supposed to be on the top of the cake, but there was no room for him with the hat and the candles. I placed him on the bottom right but that interfered with the flow of the cake. The only option I could think of was to cut him up and stick him on the cake. I added some fondant wave accents and I'm actually really happy with the way he ended up.
So far I have yet to have a caketastrophe, but this one definitely made me nervous. The only reason I had this order in the first place was because the original baker's cake collapsed in the fridge and I was a last minute backup. Every time I left the cake I held my breath upon returning, hoping it would still be in one piece. Extra thick cake board, generous amounts of royal icing, and sturdy dowels helped keep the cake in one piece.
In the end I think it might just be my favorite cake so far. Actually kinda sad to see it go haha. I guess I have a love/hate relationship with my cakes. My least favorite part is always the beginning...baking, carving, icing, covering in fondant. I really don't start to relax until the cake is on the board and details are being added, but by that point I am pretty tired from the 5-6 hours I already put into the cake. I'm hoping one day I will have someone to help me with the grunt work!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blue Nissan VERSA Car Cake


It's been a while since I've made a cake purely for fun, but I had a little more free time than normal this week, and had a craving to get lost in a cake.
At first I was thinking of making a new shoe cake, as the Converse Sneaker Cake was my first ever sculpted cake. Back then it helped me decide to do my own thing, instead of relying on someone else to teach me the trade. I remember spending hours adding details to that mound of cake and being fascinated as the cake slowly began to look like a real shoe. Pure excitement.
But this time I decided to make a cake more symbolic of my next step. I'm heading to San Diego in about six weeks with nothing but my new car and cake supplies. I figured, why not make my car?! It would also allow me to try out a few different decorating methods from my first two cars (Maserati and Batmobile).
On the first two cakes I covered the entire thing in black fondant and then an additional layer, and cut out the windows. This time I decided to cover it in white, airbrush it, then cut out and replace the windows with black fondant. In the future...I will definitely go back to my original method. I also took advantage of my new edible printer to save some time on the details. Unfortunately with all the printed details...the cake started to look like crap. I decided that the front lights and detailing had to be done in fondant, but used the edible images for the tires, license plates, and rear lights.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to get the LED lights in this cake because it was significantly smaller than the maserati cake. Fortunately they JUST fit. Everything else is edible. Grass is buttercream, "pavement" is crushed rice cereal mixed with granulated and brown sugar.



My biggest beef with this cake is the shape of the front. It is so off! Unfortunately the sketch I created at the beginning (check out pics on my Facebook page) was not accurate, and sadly, I did not realize until I was really far along. Oh well, next time I will be more careful with my sketch.
I added the laminated paper map in the background because I thought it would be fun to highlight my upcoming route. I am very excited for the next step, and nervous of course. I will surely miss making cakes in my kitchen, but I've come a long way from making cakes out of my tiny apartment in Montreal. I know whatever is coming next is going to be that much better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marvel Comics Birthday Cake


This cake is another example of how important it is to invest in sweet decorating tools. First off the airbrush, something I've been using for over a year now. It allowed me to cover both tiers in white fondant, saving either time (kneading color into it SUX) or money (you can't get that deep red unless it's store bought). It allowed me to give the blue a little bit of texture for the sky, the only downside is that color flies everywhere!
My newest tool is my printer that produces edible images. I wasn't 100% sure how these guys would turn out but they crisp and vibrant. I cut the images out of the paper and attached them to gum paste with some piping gel. Then I glued candy sticks to them with some melted chocolate. Easy enough to use but you definitely have to handle those images before they dry out and become prone to damage.
Characters such as these would easily take 2-3 hours at least to sculpt out of edible materials. Sure it would be fun, but that equates to 10-15 hours on JUST figures, forget about the baking, icing, carving, and all the other decorating details that take hours. Obviously it is not really feasible or cost effective, so the edible printer is a great alternative and I am very happy for the purchase. So many ideas on how to use it next!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peacock Themed Birthday Cake

Time for my mom's birthday cake! She's the lucky one in the family who always happens to be around me for her special day, and that means she get a special cake every year.
This year I decided to go with a peacock theme because we live on peacock hill rd, we used to have pet peacocks in Thailand, and whenever we were in a zoo my mom was guaranteed to imitate the peacock mating calls. Plus it would make for a beautifully colorful cake.
Normally I'm all for keeping the cake as edible as possible, but after my initial design I decided I wanted to include a real peacock feather in the cake (well real silk...real bird would be icky). I actually was not able to find a single peacock feather for sale, just some type of floral arrangement that had a couple feathers in it. I decided to buy it and cut off the feather I needed.
As the cake was being made, I wondered how it would look if I just stuck the whole arrangement in the top. I tried it and it actually looked pretty nice, but a little too big for this cake. I decided to cut off the feathers and place them in different locations...worked out perfectly!



My mom's 49th birthday cake was my third real decorated cake. Not exactly something to rave about...but it's awesome looking back to see the progress I made between '09-'10, and then '10-'11. I know I've come a long ways and I have no plans to remain stagnant. I can't wait to see the types of cakes I'll be creating three, five or even ten years down the line.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

LEGO Soldier Cake


I've made a few vertically daring cakes in the past year, but when I heard about a standing LEGO character I was definitely worried. All of my tall cakes have been pretty equal in terms of width and depth, but the LEGO man is much wider than he is deep. I really wasn't sure if this was something I would be able to pull off.
To increase the cakes survival during delivery, I decided to make the cake deeper than I would if I were to make it to scale. Generally I like to keep the cakes as close to scale as possible, but I feel if I did on this one it would have resulted in a unstable cake. I don't think the increased depth distracts from the look of the cake.
I also kept the head removable so it could be transported in a box separately. Arms were maded of rice cereal treats with fondant and gumpaste accents. Have to say these type of cakes sure do stress me out, but it's pretty cool to pull it off, and no collapsed cake so far! *fingers crossed*