From Cake Lab

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Past Cakes: Getting Smoother

After the first three cakes I was on a roll. I really started to get a feel for using fondant.


This was another request by my sister Avery. She was having a floor party (they were on W4) so she just wanted something saying W4. Making the W and 4 was kinda interesting but not too difficult. I sketched out the shapes I wanted, then took some warm cake shavings and molded them into the sketch. After allowing it to dry a little, I then covered them with fondant.
I didn't really have a clear idea for the design of this cake (which is why the polka dots are kinda out of place). My original idea was to do something Willy Wonka-ish, but the purple I used didn't get as dark as I wanted. When I saw the teal next to the violet (thank god I now have leaf green dye!), I had to change it up a bit. The cake was placed on a cheap metal platter that I didn't want shown so I covered it with fondant. That was the last time I ever did that! Way too time consuming.

This cake was actually pretty simple and turned out nicely. I used cupcakes covered in fondant for the ears. Unfortunately you can't get a real good black color when using dye on white fondant, but I will be buying black fondant in the near future. Really looking forward to using it in a lime green/black/white combo!

This was the cake I made for my families Christmas eve dinner. It's not bad, but definitely not what I was planning on! I wanted to do a set of presents, and spent a good few hours baking and prepping for that design. Unfortunately I didn't cool the cakes before carving and I was just not getting the product I envisioned. Well you live you learn!
The blue snowflakes were made with a blue gel pen and toothpick.

I have three cakes planned for the weekend, all of which I am very excited for. I already have gumpaste sculptures ready for the second cake, and baking starts tonight. Yay cakes!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bear Cake

This cake looks pretty simple, but I got to try out a few new things, and it was a good learning experience. First of all, I made a white cake that turned out really moist from AllRecipes. I listened to the reviews and found the key to making sure the cake is moist is to really ensure the butter and sugar are creamed well and each egg is mixed thuroughly in the cake one at a time. I also made sure to sift the flour and added and extra 1/4 cup of milk. Definitely a winner!
This was also my first time working with chocolate fondant. It's pretty easy to make, just have to add some chocolate chips while melting the marshmallow. However this fondant did give me a bit of trouble. I've never had an issue with air bubbles under my fondant, but I did this time. Fortunately I was able to correct this problem by poking a small hole in the top and push the air out. I also had more of a problem with smoothness than normal (I seriously need to by a smooter next time I'm in Maine!). I'm not sure if it was due to the change in chemistry from the fat in the chocolate, or if I didn't let it sit in the fridge long enough after making it (I think it sat for about 45 minutes, but I guess two hours is really best). I still have some extra chocolate fondant so I will try it once more and see what the problem was.

The teddy bear was my first time working with gumpaste (I used Wilton's mix). There was some cracking in the face region, but otherwise it's really smooth. I'm going to practice making some more gumpaste figures this week and then go into more detail about what I think about it when I talk about it then.
Also wasn't really sure on the design I wanted for the cake. As you can see in the second pic, it went through some changes, but I think I like the final outcome best. It was worth the extra effort to add the dots on the side.
Well it was a busy weekend full of cakes, but now it's time to take a break and do some school work. Have a real interesting paper to write on the enzyme invertase...bleh. Just two and a half weeks of classes left!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Flowers Cake

My sister Avery asked me to make a cake for a tea party she was planning on attending. She found a picture of a cake she liked online and asked me to make something similar, and it pretty much looked like this. I used the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe, the same one I used for the Topsy Turvy cake as it was a hit. The cake was filled with cookies n cream filling. The only thing I will try differently next time is to try using less sugar. There is already plenty of sweetness in the fillings and fondant (something I don't even eat anyway as there is enough sugar as is), so I don't know if all the sugar in the cake itself is really necessary.

Not much to say about this cake, it was a pretty simple design but turned out well. Only thing that would have made it a bit better would to have some more cookie cutters.
There are a few more photos on Flickr.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Topsy Turvy Cake

At the beginning of every month I like to set a few goals for myself - things I feel are important for me to accomplish. One my goals for March was to complete five cakes. Well this is cake number five and I will have another two completed by the end of the month. Things are going really well!

As it was cake number five, I thought it was time I step it up and try my first two tiered cake (BTW, this cake is a perfect example of how the overall design can dramatically change as I work on the cake). My original plan was to do a candy-themed two tiered cake, nothing too fancy. I thought it would be fun to include real candy like jelly beans and gumdrops, but then realized what's the challenge in that? So I thought it was appropriate to add a new challenging element, and I chose to make it a topsy turvy cake. I generally followed this tutorial on YouTube, but didn't chill it in the fridge after applying the fondant as most sites recommend not to. The bottom tier was made with three 9" layers, and the top had three 6" layers. This was my first time doing some significant carving so I really didn't know how well it would turn out. Also the tutorial recommends using a cake with a texture similar to pound cake...and I chose to use one of the most moist recipes I know (but people love it!).
After completing the first tier, it was time to place the top one on the bottom. I inserted candy sticks in the bottom cake to support the top. This worked pretty well, but once I cut into the cake I realized the top layer definitely sank into the bottom one. It really wasn't a big deal, but could be a potential problem if it was a three tier cake. I think the reason I had the sinking problem was because the cake wasn't very dense. In the future, if I'm to stack a moist cake like this again, I will use a piece of cardboard to separate and support the layers.
Once the cake was decorated with the green and blue fondant, I realized putting multicolored candy all over it would look tacky, so I opted to make it a 20th Birthday cake instead. Even though no one is turning 20, it's still another sample for my portfolio. Overall I'm pretty happy with the outcome. There are definitely some problems with smoothness, but considering the potential disaster this cake could have been, I'd say I'm pretty fortunate.

The top tier had a chocolate filling (used dark chocolate baking squares, don't know if the "dark" was that noticeable) and the bottom had peanut butter filling. I tasted this cake with my sister, and it was such a great example of how people can have different preferences. She LOVED the PB filling and actually disliked the chocolate. I was the opposite, thinking the chocolate was one of the best fillings I'd ever had. I'd say the peanut butter one was OK, but I would definitely never order it myself.

This one was pretty time consuming. Don't think I'll be doing another two tier anytime soon unless it's requested. Just baking the six layers takes lots of time. I don't have an industrial oven! I'll be lucky if my mixer survives the semester lol.
Couple more photos on Flickr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Past Cakes: The First Three

I've decided to start posting the cakes I've made before the start of this blog. While I don't exactly like them, I think it's good to show where I've come from, and also talk about some of the lessons I learned doing things the first time around.

This first cake was the cake I made with Tracy. Making marshmallow fondant for the first time was interesting. We definitely added way too much powdered sugar. When we were ready to cover the cake with fondant, we took it out of the fridge and it was practically rock hard! We heated it up a bit in the microwave, but it was definitely not the right texture. The circles were made with shot glasses as the only tools we had were a rolling pin and a knife! Now that I think about it I guess it didn't turn out to bad haha.

This was my second cake, made for my friend Nandita's birthday. Again the fondant here was not the right texture, and you can see that it's not too smooth. I was actually pretty happy with the way the roses turned out considering it was my first time making anything like that. I'm actually looking forward to making a cake in this style again as I know I can a much better job, now that I have the proper food dyes and leaf stamps/cookie cutters.

Well pretty obvious what this cake was for. Honestly I didn't really know what to do with this one. I think it would have been a lot better if I used random sizes for the lines on the side. And yes, the flower is out of place, but I had received a bunch of cake supplies from my sister Avery (an early xmas gift) the day after I made the cake. Just wanted to try something new quickly. Sadly, this cake just screams plain...sorry Mom! At least it was tasty.

I baked a BUNCH of cake this morning, which will be used for my next cake...definitely my biggest yet. It will present me some challenges but I may just be able to pull it off. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Free Cake: Pretty Popular I Guess

Lately, cake has been on my crazy. I keep on wanting to try bigger and better things, but it can be a challenge finding mouths to feed my cakes to. So I decided to offer free cake on Craigslist. Right after posting I went to buy some groceries. When I returned my jaw just about dropped when I saw how many people were interested in some free cake. I really had no clue that so many people would take me up on the offer of free food. Guess you learn something new every day.
Well I'm kinda ecstatic knowing that I won't have any more of my creations go to waste. If only I wasn't still in school I'd be making cakes non-stop. I did receive a few interesting cake ideas I'd like to try out, but I think I will mostly just make the cakes I've been wanting to and let people know when they're ready to be eaten.
Thanks to everyone that has shown interest in my blog and journey. I really appreciate it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter Basket Cake

I had been looking to make a holiday cake and was inspired by an Easter basket cake from Pink Cake Box (a New Jersey company that produces some pretty amazing cakes). My cake is nowhere near as impressive as theirs, but I am pretty happy with my end product considering my current level of experience. The most annoying part of making this cake was definitely the grass. It would have been simple if I had the proper icing tip allowing me to use buttercream, but that's one of the disadvantages to living in Montreal...have to get all my cake supplies when I'm visiting the US. So instead of simply piping on the grass, I had to individually mold and place each strand of grass using fondant. Very tedious!

The cake itself contains three 6" layers of marble cake. I used this recipe, and listened to the mixed reviews to make a few alterations. I basically just changed the order of mixing the ingredients and used vegetable oil instead of butter/margarine. This was only my second time making a marble cake from scratch, and I was pretty nervous as my first attempt was terribly dense and dry (something I later learned is a common problem when making white cake from scratch). Fortunately the cake wasn't very dry. I feel like I could find a better recipe, but this one was still pretty good and I wouldn't be surprised if I use it again.
You can view a few more photos of the cake on Flickr here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Glee Cake

This is my 10th time working with fondant, and the cake was inspired by one of my favorite current shows, "Glee". The design is fairly simple, but the real challenge was trying to keep all the lines sharp. The squares were cut with a pizza cutter and I had printed out a sample of the logo and cut around it. The letters were definitely the most challenging aspect of the cake. My original plan was to have a set of white letters and a set of black letters that would be offset underneath the white to give the appearance of a shadow. Well, after completing the white letters I didn't think I'd be able to replicate them in black (not to mention, when working with dyed black fondant it is much stickier and difficult to work with). Instead I settled with just the white letters. I put it on the cake, but it didn't look quite right, so I used a black edible ink pen and colored over the letters which resulted in a fairly good product. Originally, I had also wanted to include little sculptures that represented the show, but I realized sometimes simplicity is better. Next time I make a Glee cake I will have a little more fun!
The cake itself is chocolate. I used Hershey's Simple Cocoa Layer Cake recipe, one I have used numerous times before. It isn't my favorite chocolate recipe, but it is not too crumbly making it easy to carve. I'd say it was definitely a good choice for carving, but I will try something a little more moist next time.
The filling was a mix of margarine, cream cheese, powdered sugar and chunks of Oreos. The cookies were definitely a good addition and added a little more texture to the cake. The outer frosting was a basic buttercream with some Oreo pie crumbs mixed in. Overall the cake was pretty tasty...and pretty big! Fortunately, I had lots of help eating it...thank god!
Next cake will have an Easter theme. Already about halfway done :)
Check out more photos of this cake on Flickr.

On the Way UP

Hi, my name is Zach and I have decided to enter the world of blogging. I'm an aspiring cake artist and I've decided to start this blog as a way to record my journey to success. It all started back in October '09 when I was watching one of those cake decorating competitions with my friend Tracy. She suggested we try making a cake decorated with fondant for her upcoming birthday. I've always enjoyed making tasty treats so I jumped on the idea. Together we learned how to make fondant from marshmallows and we created a funky little cake. The experience was a reminder of how much satisfaction completing a piece of artwork could bring me, something I hadn't felt since my previous interest in graphic design and customization of action figures. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I really had the "stuff" to make it in the world of graphic design and had grown out of the action figures. But cake decorating allowed me a new way to channel my creativity, and I was excited. I decided to continue making cakes and decorated five more in the next few months. Then my final semester of university began, and it was time to decide what the hell I wanted to do with my life.
Being in the Food Science program, the easiest decision would be to either apply to grad school or look for a job in the related field. Unfortunately, the field of Food Science doesn't really suit me. I do have a strong interest in food...but science??? (Long story why I'm in the program in the first place...) Anyway, after months of debating and going back and forth, I realized that a career decorating cakes would best suite my personality. While some people couldn't imagine spending hours on a single cake, I enjoy every moment, and there's nothing like the sense of accomplishment that is felt upon completing a cake. Now, when I look into the future I don't see a vast expanse of unknown. Instead I am excited at all the possibilities and can't wait to take on the challenge.
Obviously, I have an insane amount to learn, but I have the passion and desire to make it to the top. The start of this blog coincides with my decision to start making as many cakes as possible. Forget birthdays or holidays, I'm going to make as many cakes as possible to learn as many new techniques as possible. I don't have a clear plan about life after graduation, but I will keep you updated. For now, just enjoy looking at my cakes, and I always appreciate constructive criticism.