Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Big Day

Oh I am so excited about this post!!! I have lots in mind so let's see how much of that makes it to the post!

I had my first serious wedding cake this weekend. By serious, I mean four-tiered, large cakes, fondant-covered, for over 150 people, well-thought-out wedding cake. Ha, did that even help? See, I've done wedding cakes before. My first was not even a year after I had started decorating cakes. It was a short engagement and modest wedding for a couple at our church. Ladies at the church did the food and they asked me to do the cake. It was in January; therefore the snowflakes.
Yeah.... we can just go ahead and move on.... The next one I did was for a relative of a manager of mine at work. It was a beach wedding I believe. The couple weren't picky and pretty much just needed a cake for roughly 100 people.
The shells aren't even real. But if I did real shells, it would've boosted up the price and probably not looked as good because I don't have any molds. I was happy with this. Not perfect but better than the first. This was maybe 8 months after the first.

Then the next May, I did a groom's cake. It was stressful because of what it was: Bear Bryant's Houndstooth Hat. But it was for friends of ours and I had known about it for a good while. I was determined!
All edible except for the feather.

Then there is the wedding I did a month ago. It was a lot but not one large cake. Not to undermine it, but I can handle 350 cupcakes and a small tiered cake (although it is easier to say after the fact). Not the same stress as this cake for several reasons. 
I was asked to do this wedding cake several months ago. The bride wanted square, round, square, round. Not even exaggerating, it took me months to decide what sizes I'd do and how it would work out. Just in case you didn't know, putting square cakes on top of round cakes can be tricky when you're figuring out sizes. I finally figured out a way: make one tier fake!! Perfect!
I made this using cake templates from Jessicakes. I was pretty excited about it. I knew the design, I knew the cake sizes, I knew just about everything I needed to. I practiced covering cakes with fondant over the months. People would receive cakes they didn't know would be covered in fondant :) I even practiced the enormous 14" square.

 I had never baked a 14" so I made notes and everything. I did this for VBS at our church. No one seemed to think it was strange that I covered it with fondant or did quilting on the sides, ha! By the way, the design was our theme and on our shirts. Even though I practiced, when I was doing it for the wedding I was thinking "how did this work before!?".  Especially now, since I look at these pictures, and don't see any breakage or tearing at the edges.... Spoil alert: I had issues with that this week :(


On to baking...
If you notice, there are 2 (real) 8" square cakes and two 10" round cakes that were not mentioned above. That is because they are not for the wedding cake. Those are for other cakes I had this weekend. I was supposed to do two 10" cakes for twins turning two today, but the mom postponed it. Can't say I am complaining. One was for a coworker of mine whose brother was graduating from nursing school I believe.
It was whipped icing. Whipped icing kind of scares me because I don't know what people expect and it's not the best decorating friendly icing. But I used this Wilton whipped icing recipe and it turned out ok for me! It was also delicious!! And I was determined to make it somewhat pretty. I remembered I had bought a Wilton ruler with designs on the side that produce this effect on the side (see above). I thought it was a nice touch. I didn't even take a picture of the other cake because I didn't like it. Needless to say, my focus was on the wedding cake this week.

As I baked the 14", I wanted to make sure it baked up high. I learned the hard way with my mini-tiered cake. I realized that the layers were not all the same size. Ugh. I don't know if anyone else noticed but it was awful to me. I didn't want that issue. Although I followed my notes, I overfilled my first layer I baked. It overflowed into the oven, making a lovely smell for the rest of it's (loooong) baking period. I still needed to bake another layer, but I had to turn off the oven, let it cool and pick out the burned pieces because it smelled so awful!
 Nice, huh?
 Other than the smell, not that big of deal. At least I shouldn't have a height issue. I do need some larger cooling racks though. I should've taken a picture of how I had used my 3 smaller cooling racks to support the whole cake.... yikes!

Time to ice those cakes!
I had half of our refrigerator items sitting on our counters. I did find room for the things that must be refrigerated, such as milk, haha. I'm just amazed that all of these actually fit into our fridge. 

I did have a mini-melt down when I mistook the groom's cake for the 14". I was like, "Oh my gosh!! It's not tall enough!!! It is way shorter than the other layers and it's not level and everything is going to be crooked!" Then realized that that was the groom's cake. Whew!

By the way, my cousin's boyfriend was in the wedding. [Side note: I live 400 miles from my hometown. The bride is from the church that we attend where we live. She met her (now) husband at college. He went to the same high school as me. His mom was my fitness teacher! (Singing "It's a small world after all...") It was a mini reunion for me at the wedding!!] Anyway, my cousin stayed with me Friday night. I am incredibly happy she did!! It was so nice for her to visit and see our house here but also because I swear she kept be sane and calm. We talked while I worked on the cake. It made it so much fun!! (Not that it isn't usually :) I got up before her on Saturday and started working on the cake again. I didn't even last an hour and I was tearing up. I got so frustrated and went to take a shower. Things got better when she got up. She wasn't there the entire time I worked on the cakes but I really did enjoy her company!

Why the frustration?? Because of my fondant. I knew I would have a lot to do this weekend so last weekend, I colored the blue fondant. Turned out I didn't store it good enough. I don't usually color fondant ahead of time and I usually use Wilton. Because of the wedding cake I wanted to use nice fondant so I bought Satin Ice. I wrapped it up in saran wrap, but that wasn't good enough. It was getting so dry!! Ridiculous.
 I hated to do it, but I ended up coloring some new fondant. I just couldn't work with this. Some of the white was dry too. I wonder if that's why I had the tearing at the edges of the cakes. I hate that they were there, but how it had been going, I felt it was as good as it was going to get. If I were a perfectionist I would never complete a cake. I promise I work and try to get things done nicely, but I just have to settle for some things. I don't understand these perfectionist cake decorators. Even the cakes I am happy with, I can point out something bad about it.

It was a fantastic moment when all the cakes were covered. I was so nervous bubbles were going to pop up or something. I had the worst time covering these cakes!! Ridiculous since I have been practicing for months and feel like I have improved working with fondant. I covered the fake layer at least 10 times. The edges kept tearing!! I managed to get it eventually. Ha, I was a little worried because of the trouble I was having.

I did the square cakes first. Then I colored more blue fondant and covered the round layers. I'm not going to lie, look at that 12". Woohoo! I love it. I did use buttercream in attempt to cover up the tearing at the edges of the square 14". Not the best, but better than how it was.

Oh by the way, I made a Gator groom's cake also. The bride and groom are both big Gator fans. Funny since one is from Tennessee and one is from Alabama (where fans are crazy). It was a surprise for the groom.

Fortunately, the bride had a silicone Gator pan. It made this much easier!! The fondant isn't awesome because it got crusty too since I dyed it early. I decorated this before I covered any of the cakes, so at least I figured it out on this cake, not the "bride's" cake.

The next (worst) part: traveling/transporting this cake. The wedding was 45 minutes away from our house. I do not have A/C in the back of my SUV. I put half of the seat down in the back seat and turned the A/C on full force for several minutes before loading the cake. I was waiting for it to get a little bit cooler and my cousin noticed it started sprinkling!!! UGH!! Two weeks ago, I had an awful experience while practicing this cake for my sister's 30th birthday and loading it in the rain. We have no garage and there is no way to get right next to the front door. Rain is not good for cakes, obviously. I covered everything with garbage bags and fortunately it stayed at a sprinkle. I sat in the back with all the cakes. My husband is an amazing driver so no worries there. Also, I just read this post by Sweetapolita about using rubber mesh to help the cakes from sliding around. I will forever more use that. It was awesome! On the drive it did pour, but fortunately it didn't rain at the wedding location!! Thank goodness, since the building was by the bay and up on stilts, so the entrance is up several stairs and no awning. 

I doweled the 14" and 12" with several white round plastic dowels. I didn't do the fake layer or dowel the whole thing since I was stacking on location. I was so so so nervous about stacking but it went well. After working with it, adding some flowers, tidying up.... viola!! The finished product. I. Am. So. Thrilled!!! It looks good!! It looks good! It's not going to fall. There are no obvious, awful flaws (except a bubble came up on the 6" - I'm going to have to practice those!! - and looked rough but it was to the back. If that's it, that was fine with me!). Do you want to see it?? (I like to keep you on your toes;)
 There were several people around helping with the flowers and all. The bride even came up. Before she did, I was asking the bridesmaids how I should put in the "F". Then she came up and we were talking about the flowers and she just sticks the F in there randomly. The bridesmaid and I just started laughing. It worked though! And I LOVE the flowers!! Those were my flowers in my wedding!
My amazing cake by my now mentor in cake decorating :) I talked to her a few times while preparing for this cake.
 Mom, just for you since I know you'll read this: There was a lady in this picture on the left. I "photoshopped" her out. Not as good as you could, but she's gone!! :) I didn't photoshop anything on the cake though, haha!
YAY!!! I love it. I'm so happy with it! I can't believe I did it!! WOOO!

Afterwards, my husband and I went out to eat. I was SO tired! He was teasing me about how I wasn't much for company. Just so you know, I was up from 3:30 am Friday to 1:45 am Saturday morning, then up again at 7:30 am. I was exhausted. Needless to say, I slept about 10 hours last night and I've taken a nap!! I've got another wedding cake in September. I need to start mentally preparing now! ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hawaiian Cake Pops

I was asked to do cake pops for a girl's 13th birthday. Hibiscus flowers are her party decor. How do you incorporate hibiscus flowers into cake pops!? One idea was to make the pops (as a whole) in the shape of a hibiscus. That was tough because they have that stamen that sticks out the middle. And I was nervous it wouldn't be obvious what I had tried to do.

My idea was to just cover the styrofoam with a hibiscus print and place the pops in the shape of 13. Then I was chatting with my husband about it and he suggested doing each individual cake pop in the shape of a flower. Great idea!! He really surprises me sometimes. I know he's not the biggest fan of this cake stuff but he's picked up a lot along the way. Throwing out terms like modeling chocolate in conversation (I'm sure only with me ;) I love it. And he really helps me out!

So I still decide to cover the styrofoam with the hibiscus print (which is a plastic table cover from Party City) and do the flower shaped pops in the colors of the hisbiscuses (ha... plural of hibiscus) from the table cover.

 Here's the cake mixed with icing rolled out
Cutting out the flower shapes
 I place them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper
Once I have them all cut out I place them in the freezer while I heat up the candy melts
Start by dipping the lollipop stick in the candy melts, just a bit
Place the cake on the stick. This is when being cold from the freezer helps. They don't need to be frozen. Just about 15 minutes in the freezer. Also, make sure the cake is nice and mixed up. Some of mine weren't (which you can tell by the picture of them on the wax paper) and they would crack once I dipped them.
Dip. I move mine around some to make sure it's covered.
Then tap, shake, whatever you prefer to get the extra candy off. See how much a better shape it is than the previous picture?
This is the first time I've done cake pops purposefully. Ha, if that makes sense. Usually I make them from cake scraps that I hate to waste. Then I just put them in whatever styrofoam I might have....
 Styrofoam covered in fanci foil. Classy....
Not even fanci foil.

 ...or put them upside down in a mini-cupcake cup or in a bag...
 Step up from the styrofoam
Didn't quite turned out as cute as planned, but whatev

Anyway, the point is that I'm pretty happy with how these turned out! I thought it was a decent display
 I tried to jumble up the colors
Over 50 of those bad boys

And check this out....
Haha, those are the backs of my lovely flower cake pops. Not too nice.... Hey, like I said I usually do these on a whim. I'm still learning :) Can't end on a bad pic:
Thanks for stopping by!!! Stay tuned. Big Enormous week next week. Lots, lots, lots to do... Just an idea of what I mean: 14 cakes to bake. I'm counting each individual layer but that's how I look at it! Anyway, you'll read all about it when we get there. 

Back to laundry, dishes, and ironing! So far I've been fairly productive today :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beach Shower

As you might have read in my last post, I had a busy week last week. Obviously because of the 3-tiered caking I made for my sister's 30th birthday, but I had a couple of other cakes also. One was for a wedding shower at my church (the bride whose cake I'll be doing next weekend).


 Obviously, it was a beach themed shower. (That's where the title came from. Ironically, it rained 2 out of the 3 days I was at the beach too. Booo) I hope it went well with the decor. I wasn't there since I was at the beach! :) The "sand" is crumbled graham crackers. The shells are white and milk chocolate truffles a lady bought for the cake. This is the first time I have done off-centered stacking. I don't know if you can tell but the 8" is off-centered to make room for the fence and sand. I hope it all turned out fine! I haven't heard anything since I dropped it off on the way to Florida.

The other was for a co-worker. Her birthday was Tuesday. We were coming back Monday night (we made it in at midnight) so I had planned on icing it and freezing it, thawing it Monday night, then just decorating it with a cute owl on Tuesday morning! That didn't go as planned. I already baked the cake so I wasn't sure what to do with it. 

Yesterday, my boss planned to meet me at a store I don't make it to often. The coordinator I work with at that store is a fantastic employee and just recently got a terrific customer review. I figured she deserved a cake! But I didn't have a lot of time to decorate it. I had seen a pretty cake by i am baker a while back and decided to do it! A pretty design and simple. 

 The top was fun. The sides, not as easy. And I kinda improvised on filling in "holes". Oh well. Overall, it looks how I planned. Unfortunately it didn't take the 45 minute drive so well. Some slid off the side. But it's ok. She got her cake and was happy! I hope she enjoyed! I tried a new marble cake so we'll see what she thinks :)