Graduation Cookies

I wasn’t sure if I should call this post “Graduation Cookies,” or “Sugar Cookies I’m finally happy with.” My nieces preschool graduation was coming about and I made cookies for my sister and one of the other moms. I ordered Wilton Graduation themed cookie cutters and figured I would make simple diplomas and graduation hats. I tried to find something more “interesting,” but was really falling flat. Figured I would go with the simple design.

One of the things I was proud of (at least at first) was that I followed my schedule. The first day I made and refrigerated the dough, second day I cut and baked, 3rd the first coat, 4th finished the decorating, and 5th bagged to go. This was also the first time in a while that I didn’t have to cut or edit any of the cookies as I was cutting them. It took about 2 hours to cut and bake 65 cookies. I loved having the cookie cutters available. Made things much easier. I also put the tray of cut cookies in the freezer for a few minutes before I put them in the oven to help the cookies keep their shape. The only issue I found with that, is they should bake for another minute since the tray gets so cold. My cookies were all just cooked, I would like them a bit more in the future. ImageI thought the diploma and hats may be a bit boring so I wanted to try something fun. When I was searching I found this website (http://tinyurl.com/k6pz4ub). It had a cute tutorial for making children faces holding a diploma. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Following the instructions I used the shooting star cookie cutter that came in the graduation cutter set to cut into the diploma cookie, and attach both cookies together. I squished them together when they were still dough. Luckily, the cooked into each other.                                    ImageLots of cookies made. I never really notice how many I make until they are all lined up. It filled my cookie bin up! I made some shooting star cookies just to mess around with since I had so much extra dough. Each batch of dough makes 15-22 cookies depending on size. I try to overshoot just to make sure I have more than enough. Plus, I can give away any extra.

ImageI have a problem where I need to constantly look at the picture to remember what colors I was aiming for and what order I want to go in. So this time I traced the cookies cutters in my book and wrote out what I wanted on each. This may seem like a silly step, but it actually really helped me.

ImageI started with yellow icing. I wanted to get the tassels on the hat set before I outlined the hats and color in the shooting stars. Once the stars were filled in I practiced writing “2014” onto them. I thought the wet/wet technique would look better. Below, is my first time actually using a rubber band to close my icing bag. All I can say is, holy bananas! Why am I so difficult? This really makes things much easier. The royal icing doesn’t dry out, I don’t have to worry about it leaking out, and it was much easier to save for the next day in the same bag.

ImageI practiced writing on 2014 multiple ways, but the wet/wet technique just didn’t look right. I decided I would save the black for the next day and write the numbers and sprinkle them in black icing. I hoped it would solve the problems. Practice is key with the writing. The more I wrote out the numbers, the happier I was with them.

My nieces graduation outfit is a shiny, navy blue. I used Wilton royal blue gel color. It came out a very brilliant blue, but not navy. I thought if I added a dash of black it would bring it up to a navy color. Well, my bottle of black is running low so I had to shake it out. Too much black came out and the color ended up a bluish grey. So then I added more blue. Way too much coloring in the small amount of icing I made. It ended up being this cornflowery blueish color. I wasn’t going to make any more icing so I just went with it.

ImageI outline and filled the graduation hats. I really wasn’t happy with how the icing looked on the hats. I had way too much dye in there. The icing didn’t dry flat either. In the future I need to add an extra day to make the royal icing. I think most of the problems I have with it is because I don’t let it sit. Even sitting for a few hours I can see the air bubbles rising out of the icing. If I make and color the icing the day before it should solve most of my air bubble problems. Right? Guess we will see next time!

ImageThis next picture is a little bit out of order (as you can see the hats aren’t filled in), but I wanted to keep my train of thoughts together. I had filled in the diplomas with white royal icing, and then I filled in the three “test” cookies in white as well.

ImageWith everyone set up with the first coat on the cookies I cleaned up and let everything dry 24 hours for the next and final coat.

ImageI started with finishing the shooting stars. Since I was making one tray of graduation cookies I figured I should have one or two of the stars in there with the year on it would be necessary for the graduation theme. Below, you can see my attempts at writing out “2014” on all the cookies. On the ones I liked, I added the black sprinkles. I did try adding some more yellow designs, like dots, or swirls to add to the shooting star thing, but it just didn’t work. They looked better leaving them plain.

ImageI spent a decent amount of time working on the ribbon on the diplomas. At first I did a simple string like design, and then I practiced making the ribbon shape until it looked right on the diploma (yay for making extra!). I ended up with this as the final design. I made the ribbon yellow since the tassel on the cap is also yellow. My own negative for the diplomas was not adding and extra layer of “swirl” to make the paper looked more rolled. I think next time using a #1 tip instead of a #2 would make this easier. I also didn’t go back and add an outline to the bow. It just wasn’t necessary.

ImageWith the diplomas done I moved along to the hats. I ran out of the same blue color that I used to fill in the hats, so I recreated it as best as I could and outlined the hats. The more I outlined the hats, the better they got. Again, practice is the key. After the outline dried slightly, I added the details to the tassel and connected the tassel to the top of the hat (#2 tip). Side note: I realized that when I type this out it seems like this would take so much less time than it does. Oh well!

ImageHere is a closeup of the shooting star with the numbers with sugar. They aren’t perfect, but they get the job done.

ImageNow for the final show! The big finale! The link I put at the start of this article had these cookies below. They step by step pictures really seemed like something I could follow. With how unsteady my hand is and how horrible my artistic talent (see: none). But here are my cookies! With each detail I added to the cookies the happier I was getting. I mean seriously, look how cute! I wish I made more! I only made three because I thought they would be throw away cookies! These are my favorite ones to date! Yay cookies! To make “boy” cookies, I would had added eyebrows instead of eyelashes, but I really wanted to make long hair and eyelashes.

ImageBelow is the tray ordered by one of the moms at my nieces school. I think the girl with the curly hair (made after the daughter of the woman who ordered) and the two 2014’s just added to the tray. I found the container at Christmas Tree Shoppe for $1.99. I love how this tray came out! I mean seriously. Am I ever this happy when I make something?

ImageThe rest I put in individual bags with a note attached. My niece is going to give these out at her graduation ceremony.

ImageSo cookies done! I think I would like to make all of the faces for another graduation gift. I also need to work on the placement. It’s supposed to look like they are holding the diploma up over their mounts (which is why they don’t have them), but if they are too low it may look weird they don’t have mouths. For now, I won’t nip pick because I liked these too much. But just one more picture of the cute cookies before I go!

Image

Advertisements

Wilton Course 2: Complete!

Today was my final lesson in Wilton’s Course 2: Flowers and Cake Design. Now I’ll say this… There is no way in hell this course teaches you anything about cake design. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe it’s different depending on who teaches it or something. But really, we just made some flowers each week. I usually was able to leave after the first hour. I could have stayed the second hour to practice flowers more, but as you’ve seen from pictures and from my complaining, there isn’t much space. Since we don’t have a sink really available it’s a pain to keep switching bags and filling things up. I’m constantly cleaning when I’m home. I also don’t care if I make a huge mess either in my house since I don’t have to pack things up and take them home.

The day after my final class I had to have 24 cupcakes made with ballet shoe fondant toppers. I figured since I had to have a cake ready for class, I might as well get the cupcakes baked and iced before I left that way all I had to do when I got home was make the fondant toppers.

I made the cupcakes, and then made a large batch of buttercream. I added a dash of coco powder to give a light chocolatey flavor, then tried to dye it pink. This left me with the color you’ll see below in the pictures. Almost like a mauve color (after about 12 hours, that nice colored turned brown, so don’t try to replicate it at home with coco powder kids!). The bad thing is after I iced all the cupcakes I didn’t have enough to fill and ice a cake. I had a cake in the freezer ready to go. So I said screw it. I knew the cake I was going to mess around with in class was going to go straight into the garbage so I didn’t even bring one. I had no time to make more frosting so I gave up. Oh well!

For class, we spent some time working on a reverse shell boarder and the basket weave. I think the reverse shell is actually easier than the shell boarder itself.

course2class4pic1For the reverse shell you need to alternate your direction for every shell. You build up with buttercream, then make a half heart drawing for the rest of the shell, then do the opposite for the next, and then keep going. I hope with more practice I can get the hand motions down quickly.

In the picture below if you look at the top and right side of the worksheet, you can see that I was practicing a regular shell boarder. The peaks are a bit high, but I need to practice more. In a pinch, these would be usable I think. Now I had a hard time when we worked with a shell boarders in the first Wilton course. For this class, it clicked in my head because the instructor showed how to do it quickly, and did an entire row. My friend that I take the course with just looked at me, and it clicked for her too. I wish each flower/design was demonstrated this way. But that’s beside the point.

course2class4pic2The other thing that we worked on was the basketweave technique. Below, isn’t perfect. I would have to measure it would better to make sure it was a tight weave. I’m torn about what I think about the weave. On one hand, it’s a clean look for the side of a cake and making a cake look like a basket of flowers is something very pretty to bring somewhere. On the other hand, is it outdated?

course2class4pic3This only took about 30 minutes of the class. The rest was supposed to be decorating the cakes that you brought in. Here is where I think the class should be a bit different. You’re supposed to bring in an iced cake, and a bunch of flowers. So you’ll spend over an hour putting more icing on, and placing your flowers. I guess this would make sense if you were using dummy cakes, and learning how to arrange flowers for the best kind of placement.

Since I didn’t bring a cake with me, I sat around talking about other cakes and such. I’m glad I didn’t bring one since I usually just mess around with it and throw it out. I have to look into when Course 3 is going to happen, which is fondant and gum paste. I was going to try and switch to a different location for it, but the next course for it isn’t until the fall. I have to hope the instructor does another class. Guess I’ll have to wait and see! Until then, I really should practice my flowers. Get them down pat.

Last minute birthday cake!

After the cake pop fiasco, I was happy to be home and able to relax. I was looking forward to getting a good nights sleep. As I sat on my front porch after taking my dog for a walk, I got a text from my sister. A teacher of my niece’s wanted to see if I could make a birthday cake for the next day. I thought she was kidding me at first. No way, right? But yeah… Way… While I sat there for a moment wondering if I could do it, or if I even wanted to do it… I decided I had to. But then I remembered it would probably be easy! I had cakes in the freezer! A 6″ chocolate, an 8″ chocolate, and about 5 pounds of buttercream. I was told the person ordering wanted to try something different (usually orders vanilla with vanilla buttercream). So I figured I could make my normal vanilla cake, but maybe try a custard. If that was the case, I really didn’t have much to make! Easy peasy! Let’s go for it!

ImageI’m not sure why I haven’t learned by now. Disaster traveled with me the rest of the night. God. Will it ever be easy? I started the evening off with making the vanilla cake. I made it like I always do. I put the bake even strips on, oiled the pan, put down the parchment paper, everything normal. But for some reason, they didn’t rise correctly. And then when I tried to pull the parchment paper off, chunks of the cake came with it! I was baffled. No idea why this was happening. I didn’t trust making the cakes with these, so I started over. But again, flashing forward another hour and a half, the very same thing happened. No idea why! Why would it stick to parchment paper? Why? I still can’t figure it out. Just looking at these pictures makes me upset about it all over again.

ImageAfter I had my broken vanilla cakes sitting all sad looking on their wire racks, I set up my chocolate cake. My plan for the birthday cake was a two tier: 8″ and 6″. Since I already had an 8″ chocolate and an 6″, I just cut the 8″ down to a 6″ so I wouldn’t have to make another chocolate cake. Bonus!

ImageI made a chocolate buttercream for the filling in the top layer of the cake. I figured this would be different for them, but I was told that someone at the party hates chocolate and I wanted to keep all the chocolate in one layer.

Below, you can see my attempt at filling the bottom layer with a vanilla custard. I found a recipe that seemed easy to make. It took an extremely long time to cool after I finally got it at the right consistency I needed as a cake filling. It tasted okay, as I expect a custard to taste. I piped a buttercream dam around the edge. A little voice in my head told me I should make a bigger dam (in fact, I should get a bigger round tip, going to make a note of that). Anyway, I filled in the cake and I knew it was already a bad idea. But I figured, hey! Maybe I’m wrong. Let’s stack it and see.

No, no no. Horrible. As you can see in the picture below the buttercream dam started to push outside of the crumb coat. I waited longer to see what would happen, and the custard began to leak out of the cake. I was very upset. I tried plugging the holes, and wiping away the custard, anything that I thought would work. Things were going wrong one after the other and at this point and I was again questioning why I do this to myself. I should admit, I even threw a spatula across the kitchen at one point. I was pretty angry.

14bdaycake4So here is where a slightly positive thing happened. I had to toss the cake with the custard. There was no way I could hope the custard would stay in place so I had to make a new bottom for the cake. Now earlier in the day, I made an extra two vanilla cakes because of that parchment problem. So luckily I was able to level and fill those extra two cakes and fill them with buttercream. I really wanted the custard to work. But if I think about how things ended up, maybe it was a good thing all these bad things happened because I was told that the custard and cake didn’t taste great. I’ll have to work on that at some point. On weeks that I don’t have anything to do, like this week because I had a canceled cake, I should be practice more cakes. Ah well, soon enough I suppose.

Anyway. I used a 1M tip and piped swirls on the cake. I made a ton of purple buttercream and then the two lighter colors. I took purple fondant and cut out two circles and a heart. Shaped it with a toothpick to make a little dress. I decorated it with royal icing and a flower. I set it up to dry until right before I had to deliver the cake. The dress was easy to make actually. I should make more of these for simple decorations.

14bdaycake5Below is a closeup picture of the little dress I made. I wasn’t sure how to use it as the cake topper since I didn’t want the bottom to sink into the buttercream. I ended up making a large ball of fondant and sticking it into the cake, then taking a toothpick and attaching the ball inside the cake, and the ball under the dress (that was helping to shape it). This held the dress just above the buttercream.

14bdaycake6I then took another piece of fondant and wrote out happy birthday on it. I’m not a big fan on my handwriting, but if I had more time, and more fondant I would have practiced this more. Also, this would be good to add to the cake before the buttercream crusts so it doesn’t make any of the flowers crack.

14bdaycake7The cake almost made it there without fault. I didn’t think to “glue” the bottom cake board to the larger board. It ended up sliding into the large box I can it in and smashing a flower. So, something else I’ve learned is to make sure that cake is glued with royal icing, or buttercream, or both! Just make sure it can’t move.

It ended up being a very long night for something I thought I could do in a few hours. Oh well.

Construction Cake Pops vs. Brain Cells

A friend of mine referred me to her boss for a 5th birthday party. I was surprised that I got an e-mail to follow! I was told that the party was at Home Depot and she was looking for cake pops. Ah, cake pops. I’ve never made them before. They seem pretty simple, but since I never made them before there is always that tiny bit (or a big bit) of apprehension. A cake, cupcakes, or even cookies was something I already began looking up, so cake pops threw me for a loop. I was originally asked for the cake pops to be shaped into something associated with the construction theme, like tools. I didn’t think this would be possible.  I saw one of two options: (1) make a regular cake pop and attach mini fondant tool shapes to the top of each one, or (2) make the cake pops into shapes I might actually be able to do. We went with option 2, with the goal of making 10 construction cone cake pops and 10 hard hat cake pops.

So with panic about, I went at it. Cake pops ahoy! I should mention, the cake pops in the little cake pop machines aren’t what people are usually looking for. They want the moist ones. I lucked out that they wanted vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. I offered many options, including red velvet and peanut butter and jam (seriously?). I never made those combinations before. It reminded me I need to test out more cakes in my spare time. At some point someone is going to want something other than vanilla and chocolate! I found this recipe that sounded pretty good. I’m not sure why I didn’t go with my normal chocolate cake recipe, but anyway: http://tinyurl.com/pc6ttrz.

ImageThis cake was a pain in my neck to make. I followed the instructions which included having a dry mixture set up, a boiling water and coco powder one, and a milk and vanilla bowl… I can things everywhere. Running around the kitchen like and insane person. But as you can see below the cakes came out nice and level so I was happy with that.

ImageI knew I wouldn’t need this much cake so I decided to freeze 1/2 of the cakes. So 1 chocolate cake and 1 vanilla cake. I’ve recently learned that some people think freezing cakes is a bad idea, that it isn’t fair to the people you serve it to. I’m a bit confused by this. The freeze is a good friend of mine. I always buy in bulk and freeze almost everything (well, within reason). The cake tastes exactly the same and its easier to level when frozen. But, to each their own.

ImageI know you can shred the cake by hand but I threw mine in my KitchenAid and let that do the job for me. I waited until it was broken down into fine crumbs then slowly added in the chocolate buttercream. I started with two tablespoons and let it mix again. It wasn’t at a play-doh like consistency yet so I added a little bit more. The picture on the lower right shows some of the mixture sticking to the sides of the bowl. I thought this would be an issue, but it wasn’t. So if this happens to you, just ignore it.

ImageThe picture below shows more of the consistency I was looking for. I kept the cake covered while I rolled out the balls. I didn’t want it to dry out.

ImageJust one 8 inch cake makes a ton of cake pops. I used a small scooper but I still didn’t get them all the same size. I guess it really doesn’t matter once th3ey are all bagged and decorated. But looking at this picture you can see how different in size they all were. It is very easy to roll them into a ball. Possibly years of rolling meatballs has helped here.

ImageI used a frozen vanilla cake that I had. Below, you can see how I broke up and mixed the cake. In the bottom right picture you can see that I formed the vanilla ones into little cone shapes. They are easy to form into the shape you need, but If I was going to try something more detailed or with a pointed edge, I think I would need more buttercream. I would have to try that sometime in the future.

ImageWhen I was looking up some guides to making cake pops one of the articles I read suggested that you keep a cup of extra crumbs set aside in case you add too much buttercream to the mixture , you’ll be able to toughen it back up. Because I didn’t need to do this, I add extra cup of vanilla cake and chocolate cake. I figured I wouldn’t let it go to waste and combined them both to make extra cake balls to store. The medium color was the combination cake balls. I had a lot of extra cake pops to freeze. This ended up being great because I needed extra. Sometimes the candy melts wouldn’t dry right, or a pop would get ruined, and then for some I had to re-do because I just didn’t like the way it looked. Bottom line? Making extra is good!

ImageThe hard hats were much easier to make than the traffic cones. For the hats, I first carved a little crescent moon shape out of the yellow candy melts (I used Wilton), and “glued” it to the cake pop with melted candy melts. This took a little bit to get right. They were sticking out a bit on the sides, but eventually I realized when the pop was dipped it would fill in the sides. You need to make sure the piece you cut out is large enough. With a few layers of melts it will look like a little bump on the hat. (Side note: Pretty sure if I added eyes, I could have made this a duck… Moving on.) After the hat dried (and it dried quickly), I put some extra melts into a piping bag and cut the tip off. I piped three lines like a hard hat has on the top. I tried to add some more detail on the sides at first, but it just didn’t look right. I think these turned out pretty good. I should also note, that when making the candy melts I put them in the microwave at 50% power at 30 second intervals. Once it was almost completely melted, I added in a teaspoon of Crisco to make sure it was thin enough. I read some complaints about Wilton being too clumpy on cake pops but if you add Crisco or Paramount Crystals it solves this problem. I couldn’t get the Paramount Crystals in time, but Crisco did the trick.

ImageNow for the pain. I figured these would be easier to make than the hard hats. I was very wrong about that. So I molded the cake into a little cone. I put some candy melt onto the stick before I put it into the cake pop. I didn’t want for it to dry. This worked out pretty well, but if the cake pops warmed up too much, they would get stuck in the candy melts. I had them in the freezer for a few hours, then moved them into the fridge as I set up until they weren’t solid anymore. They sat on the counter as I melted the candy melts. I’m hoping I can remember this process next time. I’ve read about the pop being too cold can lead to cracking as the melts dry.

Anyway, I tend to ramble! You can see in the bottom picture the squares on the counter. I ordered a plastic mold for chocolates for squares. I put them in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes until they hardened. I then took a knife and spun a hole into the bottom of the square until I reached the other side. Once I did I was able to spin the candy stick into the square. I then used some melts to attach the two pieces together.

ImageOkay. So below you can see the squares attached to the cones. I probably should have left them as is, but I thought it looked too disjointed. The picture on the bottom was my first shot at making the cones. I added more orange so they would look like one piece. I seriously struggled with adding the white lines. If I left it thick enough to stay in place when I put it on the pop, it would look so sloppy since it would dry so fast (like it does below). If i thinned it so it would be easy to manipulate, it would take too long to dry. I would have to put it on in sections and it still wouldn’t look right. After showing some people the picture, they all were in agreement that they didn’t look good and I should try again. Thank goodness for all those extra cake pops in my freezer!

ImageTime to try again! I figured maybe if I had the squares on the stick first, then added the cone, it would look better. Seamless even? Below is a better picture of putting the holes in the squares. I set them up on the sticks and then prepared the cone pops again.

ImageSince I had to go back to the store and buy more candy melts, I found these Wilton candy decorating tips. I figured maybe I could use those to pipe the white lines easier without getting clogged. When I used the metal piping tips it dried closed almost instantly. Below, you can see the result of adding the still wet cone directly to the square. It does look a bit better, but I still wasn’t a fan.

ImageI wasn’t successful in getting the white lines the way I wanted them, but I ran out of time. I had to deliver the cake pops to the office of the woman who ordered them. It was an hour drive away and I wanted to try and make it there before heavy traffic started. She only wanted them individually bagged, so I put them in the box below laid out. I picked out the best cones and just went with it.

ImageSo here is where I had a breakdown: I already struggled with the cake pops, and had to run to the store first thing in the morning to rush making new ones. So I get in the car, and drive an hour to the location. The parking lot was a zoo. I had to keep driving around just to find a spot. When I finally did, the spot was so small I struggled getting the box out of the car… and BAM! Somehow… I broke two of them. Smashed flat. I just started at them in shock for a long period of time, completely devastated. I contacted my friend who worked with the customer and told her what happened. I gave her the two broken cake pops, and told the client that I would have to drop off the cake pops on the day of the party. If it was actually the day of the party, I would have had someone bring me the spares at home and meet me half way… I would have been an hour late, but I would have gotten them there. But that’s beside the point. So I had to drive all the way back home (in angry tears). I picked up new supplies and remade the ones that broke.

I was so upset that I such an error happened that I didn’t want to give someone the cake pops laying in a box like I was going to do. I went and picked up some Styrofoam and caution tape. I needed to make a display for the cake pops for presentation, and to possibly hide any of the sloppy errors on the pops themselves.

First I tried hot gluing the caution tape all over the Styrofoam, but the glue began to melt the tape. Instead, I attached two cake boards to the Styrofoam and only the caution tape around the outside with some light tape and cooled glue to hold it together. The glue also melts the Styrofoam so the cake boards came in handy. I printed out some construction signs and added them to the front of the display.

ImageThe end result looked good, but damn. It was a rough few days. I really began to question if it was worth all the time and effort.

Wilton Course 2, Lesson 3: Complete!

Another day, another Wilton lesson day. Today we worked on more royal icing flowers. Again, I made my icing very stiff but between the long drive and warm classroom the icing breaks down a bit. I even mixed powdered sugar while I was there into the icing and the warmth in the room melted it more. Below is my tiny usual set up.

course2class3pic1I took a side view of the rest of the table so I can show how messy things get. There really isn’t much space. This makes me concerned about course 3 (rolling out fondant). I’m wondering how many people they take for that class since there isn’t much room. But anyway!

course2class3pic3If you look closely below, you can see one flower all the way to the left has begun to melt. The middle flower I added more powdered sugar into the mix and did it again. It held up more, but didn’t look as nice. We practiced a few more flowers after. Most of the flowers all look the same (aside from bigger ones, like roses, or lilies). Just depending how many leaves you make, and the color makes all the difference. As I write this, I am again reminded that I really need to practice all of my buttercream and royal icing flowers.

course2class3pic2We also worked on making daffodils. I was too lazy to make yellow icing and kept working with the pink. You can see below my pink attempts at them. They seem easy enough to make and you have to manipulate the petals into pointed tips as it begins to dry.

course2class3pic7The worst flower of the day was trying to make the Lily. I took a picture of the page out of the book to better explain it. You line the forming cup with foil and make the lily in the cup.

course2class3pic4Below, you can see why I kept laughing as I tried to make my own lily. It looked like a little octopus trying to escape! God, it looked ridiculous.

course2class3pic5Below is the flower my friend made. She mixed some purple and pink together and it made a nice color. She also added the stamens (non-edible). I didn’t make it that far. I didn’t want to waste stamens if I wasn’t going to save the flower.

course2class3pic6For the last and final class in Course 2, we need to bring buttercream and an iced cake with us. Along with any flowers we want to decorate our cake with.

18th Birthday Cake

I think I should have a reality show. Just some cameras around the kitchen that film me when I make a cake. I’m sure people would love to watch me have mental break downs, sometimes cry, throw things around the kitchen, and talk about how I’m wasting my time with what I’m doing, yelling how something only is getting me $50 and I spent 12 hours making it… Yeah, I’m a mess. A horrible, horrible mess when I’m doing a cake. I really should consider a small sedative.

Anyway! As you can see below, I was ready for a long night. You can also see that it was day time when I started. God, this was a long day/night. I had my coffee ready.

ImageI started soaking my new bake-even strips from Wilton. I figured they were worth a shot. They are supposed to prevent the sides from cooking before the middle, and therefor make for even baking. They suggested soaking for at least 5 minutes before putting them around the cake pan.

ImageRight after the batter was finished mixing I wrapped the cake pans in the strips. I left them soaking. When I put them in the oven, I heard some sizzling as the edges touched the bottom. I pushed the two pans together to prevent the strips from hitting the oven. When I looked into the oven, I was shocked to see my cakes were baking level. I wish I could express how excited I was to see them baking like this. Perfection really.

ImageThey took a little longer to cook (about 10 more minutes), but look at them. Just look at them! All that baked even perfection. Sigh. Not sure I would ever get something this level and perfect again. I also knew this was bad foreshadowing. Something going so right at the start? Yeah. This means problems ahead… And… Yes. Problems happened.

ImageI decided I wanted to make a 8″ layer, 6″, and top it off with a 4″. I bought 4″ cake pans. I thought they looked pretty cute.

ImageLook how beautiful they all are just sitting there. All level, and waiting to be decorated. I wish i could have left them like this.

ImageIt was time to make my buttercream. I bought a new container of Crisco. Not sure why I’m adding this picture (it’s getting late), but I thought the Crisco looked so pretty all smooth in the container. I’m weird, okay?

ImageI followed this old recipe I had for a crusting buttercream. There was some notation from the author that she always tripled the recipie in her 5qt mixer. She said it was always filled to the top, but the icing always came out smooth. Well. Here it is. This was overflowing. I couldn’t even add the rest of the powdered sugar! I will never do that again. Holy bananas that was insane. How would this seem like a good idea? The mess it made, oh dear.

ImageThe amount of buttercream ended up coming in handy, but more on that in another blog post. Here are all my cakes iced and Viva’ed. Oddly enough, the hardest cake to ice was the 4″ one. But still, it went kinda smoothly. So I was again worried disaster was close by. I should consider making a cake with just a buttercream. I need to work more on the edges to do that, but it may be possible!

ImageSo I started trying to cover the cakes in fondant. It wasn’t going well. I weight out the fondant to make sure I was using enough. Rolling it out was more difficult than it should have been, but once it was on the cake it wouldn’t lay correctly and was getting immediate elephant skin. I must have tried for two hours to get these things covered correctly. I had to keep throwing out fondant and then cover it again in buttercream, waited for it to crust, then covered it again in fondant. Ugh. At some point in the middle of the night I just gave up and left it covered horribly. If you look, you can see the problems. The picture on the left is the dowels in the cake. I even spent a good 20 minutes trying to sharpen a dowel to stab through all the cakes. I gave that up eventually and stabbed it with a metal skewer. Then I put the wooden dowel in. That worked. I’m sure I’ll have to figure something else out in the future.

ImageSince I gave up and decide to roll with that I had, I decided to try and cover the imperfections up with dots, and a boarder. I didn’t think to take a picture of the back of the cake. At one area I have it covered in dots. Boy oh boy was it a mess. I could only hope they would have the cake against a wall, or be distracted by something else to look at. The picture below is the final cake. I had to add a bunch of flowers to the top since the purse was too big to use as a cake topper. It would have worked if I didn’t add the 4″ layer.

ImageHere is the little purse I made that I ended up putting in front of the cake. It was a bit sloppy, but I was in an angry state at this point. I thought the purse looked cute though. The buttons were a nice final touch.

ImageOverall, they seemed happy with the cake. I should note they asked for the cake to be sweeter and more moist than the cupcakes I made for them the other day. I make my cupcakes moist with a muted sweetness. I’ve always hated desserts that were hard to eat because of their level of sweet. But, I did what they asked. I soaked that cake in simple syrup and broke out my ultra sweet icing. They liked this, so I made a note to use the same procedure for future cakes.

 

Communion Cupcake Favors

The same week I had to do the artist cookies and the Xbox cookies I had an order for 90 cupcake favors. Because of the cookies and how long they were taking, I didn’t start the cupcakes until the day before they were due. My sister came over to help. If my mother and my sister weren’t around to help me today I’m not sure this would have gotten done. Or, I would have been up another 12 hours, things would have been super sloppy, and I would have been rushing to get it done before I had to leave for delivery.

That being said, my mother put the boxes together the day before so they were already done when my sister and I started working on everything. I bought sticker paper and printed out the wording the client wanted on the favor. I gave my sister the task of getting the boxes ready to drop the cupcakes in. So while I baked, she cut out the stickers, put them on the box, put the sticker with my information in the bottom of the box, hot glued the ribbon to the bottom of the box (to easier tie the ribbon later), and then cut a fake flower off the stem, and glued it to the top of the box. When it was all put together, it seemed like it would be something that wouldn’t take long. But in fact it took her 10 hours of straight work. Making sure everything was in the right place and cut correctly took a lot of time. While she did this, I did the cupcakes. It’s time likes this I wish I had a double oven.

Here you can see some of the boxes that were already done towards the back of the table.

ImageBelow are 90 cupcakes. Just plain vanilla. They didn’t seem like much laid out like this. After they cooled, I painted all the tops with simple syrup. It’s been a couple of weeks since I made these, but I remember having some trouble. The recipe said they would be done in 12-15 minutes, but most had to go to 16-18 depending. I had to have a pow-wow outside of the oven and watch them. Some with less batter may have dried out, but no idea really.

ImageMy goal was to have a the icing look almost like a hydrangea. They were originally going to be simple lavender colored icing on top, but of course I had to go the extra step. So after mixing and coloring the icing, I had to get them into the same bag so both colors would pipe out at the same time using the 2M tip. You would use this tip to basically make a ton of stars which would then look like a hydrangea. Getting the icing in the same bag was messy. Some of the cupcakes had a good even color between the blue/lavender, and some had more than the other.

ImageBelow are the first cupcakes I made. I made about 20 with these colors.

ImageWhen I made the next batch of icing, I made the blue deeper. I think they came out better this way as you can see below. The picture also shows how different each one looked.

ImageI saw with my sister decorating all the cupcakes while she finished up the boxes. Below, you can see all the boxes completed and laid out, waiting for a cupcake.

ImageHot gluing the ribbon to the bottom of the box made things much easier then I tied the ribbon on the box. Below, you can see the cupcake in the box with the tied ribbon and a closeup of the label sticker I made. I thought it was a little simple looking, but I’m going to have to learn better computer skills for the future.

Image

ImageHere is the final picture of them all boxed up and waiting to be put in my car in the morning. I finished around 2AM, and I was so happy to be done.

ImageOriginally, I bought some molds for crosses to make as a cupcake topper. I tried adding them, but they were very large and just didn’t look right. I think in the future a small fondant cupcake topper would have been better. My sister, mother and I decided they looked better as they were. So here we go! A big order done, and it was a busy, busy week.