Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter rush....

 This Easter was definitely the most rushed and "unholiday-like" that I have experienced!  All work and no play as the saying goes.  Unfortunately it was so busy that almost the only quality time I had with my daughters was just prior to Easter when I thought to include them in the Easter cupcake process.  With no tutorials and armed only with our imaginations the three of us sat down to create some Easter chicks and bunnies for cupcake toppers.
 We worked hard, laughed a lot and made an unholy mess of my "studio" and came up with some cute little figures.  I then baked and iced some cupcakes and again gave my daughters free rein to decorate the cuppies as they wished.  This is what they came up with.  I thought they were adorable and this box was proudly presented to my brother and niece when they stopped by for the night on their way back to England.
 Easter weekend continued at a frenetic pace with three birthday cakes to complete.  Below is my first ever attempt at a Barbie cake.  I wasn't happy with the draping of the over skirt, realizing after the cake was done and delivered that I could have first made the over skirt and then added the draping separately. Aah well, we live and learn!
 I also got to make another Minnie Mouse cake, which was interesting to compare to my first attempt a year ago.  Looking at it critically I feel that although this one has a far better finish and looks more professional, the proportions aren't as perfect as on the first one.  The ears are too close together, the bow is too narrow, etc etc etc.  I also experimented with my extruding gun to make the "piping" that trimmed the face and formed the letters.  I bought the extruding gun when I was at the Lorraine McKay course in Maastricht earlier this year, but except to make hair I haven't had the time to play with it to see what else it can do.  I really liked how easy it was to make "piping" and saw the beginning of a long and meaningful friendship with this handy little gadget.
 Easter Sunday was spent creating yet another birthday cake, this time for a colleague of mine.  This cake was challenging on so very many levels that I found it hard to know where to begin.  The cake had to be gluten free.  The flavour was to be a complete surprise, as was the theme.  The cake had to include marzipan and be as "fondant free" as possible.  I decided to recruit the help of my colleague's husband and instantly regretted it.  He wanted the cake to have a "Strandkorb" which is a German beach chair for two that can be folded away into a huge basket.  The beach had to be reminiscent of the beaches on the island of Sylt in the North Sea.

Originally I thought to cover the cake in marzipan to represent the sand, but the only marzipan I could find was very dark, and since the sands of Sylt are almost white I rejected that idea.  However, the problem remained on how to incorporate marzipan into the cake.  Hmmmm.....Finally it came to me:  A chocolate cake made with rice and corn flour, filled with marzipan and raspberry coulis.  So after much experimentation  on how to soften the marzipan and much consultation with experts on the internet, I concocted a marzipan spread out of brandy, heavy cream and marzipan.

Now came the next problem; what else other than marzipan can one use to cover a cake that is not too sweet?  White chocolate ganache!  Whipped up to lighten the texture and to enable me to make it look like sand.  The sand dunes were made of white chocolate modelling paste which I placed on the cake prior to icing it with the ganache.  I used MM fondant dyed blue to make the waves and to cover the board.  I made shells out of modelling chocolate and used them to decorate the base of the cake.

The Strandkorb was hugely challenging as I had to work out the construction in a way that it would be properly supported.  In the end I had to create a sand dune out of modelling chocolate to support the back rest.  Even so, it was leaning far more horizontally than I had originally intended it to be!
So that was my Easter.  Busy, busy, busy, but oh so much fun!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weddings and romance

No sooner had I written my last entry when things got busy again. By last Sunday I was so tired that I actually was not looking forward to decorating any more cakes.  An alarming state of affairs!  Nevertheless I took a deep breath, grabbed a large mug of very strong tea and got to work on my last cake for the week.  Fortunately it was a relatively easy cake and one that I have done before.  You can take a look at my latest football themed cake in my  photo gallery.

In my last entry I also talked about making a wedding cake for practice, but not two days went by when lo and behold I got my first order for a bona fide, real wedding cake.  Sooo, it was scrap the practice and jump in the deep end.  Fortunately it was for only 35 people which made the task just a little less daunting.  I was given very little instruction as to how the cake was supposed to look, except what involved the topper.  There is a very inside joke involving "soup chicks", thus I was asked to make a bridal hen and rooster in a bowl of soup, with the bride's cat somehow involved.  This is what I came up with.
Below is a picture of the whole cake complete with topper.  The side design mimics the pattern on the bride's dress and is painted freehand directly on the cake.  My original idea was to pipe the design on with black royal icing, but my piping skills are so rusty, that after a couple of practice runs on a dummy cake I gave up.  Painting black on white was also quite frankly terrifying!  I admit to being so nervous about doing this that I sat in front of the pristine white cake with my paintbrush in hand for ages before I mustered the courage to begin.  In the end it came out better than I expected, but boy, was it stressful!

A little while before this wedding cake a friend of mine had a birthday, so I decided to surprise her with a mini heart shaped cake as a gift.  Vintage style cakes are also very much an in thing these days and now I had a perfect opportunity to try one.  I love the combination of light blue/duck egg with pink and so this colour combination came instantly to mind.  I also had some new jacobean style cutters that were just begging to be tried out.  The combination of tiny roses, pearls and gold was heavily influenced by cupcakes I had seen on Flickr by Cotton and Crumbs.

Easter will be busy with seasonal cupcakes/cakes for family and friends.  The week after Easter promises to be exciting as it has become official that I will be spending 3 days with the renowned Alan Dunn famed for his sugar flowers extraordinaire receiving personal instruction on the fine art of making lifelike flowers!!!  I am thrilled about this opportunity and can hardly wait!  I promise you I will blog ALL about it by the end of April.