Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barber Shop Quartet Cake

Well, I haven't blogged for a while. Make that a long while! Do you ever go through the cake doldrums? Maybe you don't have any cake orders for weeks (or months) or the summer was too hot to bake. I was there - in the cake doldrums - but with the weather cooling off, holidays and bake sales approaching, and birthdays abounding, my cake baking is picking back up!

I made this super cute cake for my father-in-law for his birthday. I got the idea from an old Wilton book and modified it a little. To make the heads, I inverted cupcakes and carved them a little to get the right shape. I covered them with fondant and decorated them with buttercream. The rest of the cake is iced with Bettercreme and details are done with buttercream. I loved how the little men's faces turned out!

The red head is my favorite. He sings bass.

Here's the tenor. I love his little curl that hangs down.
They were all pretty cute and I could almost hear them singing! I haven't named them....yet! So if you are short on ideas or going through the cake doldrums, check out some old books for inspiration. With some creative revisions, you could have a brand new cake idea!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better than Buttercream?!

What could possibly be better than buttercream??? Bettercreme! (Yes, my spelling is correct.) I bought a 15 lb. bucket of the stuff from Sam's Club and it is every bit as good as I remember. It is similar in taste and texture to Cool Whip. I am very excited about my new bucket of heavenly frosting, even though there are a few draw-backs. So, I thought I would blog about the various icings I have worked with for icing a cake, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. (This is the teacher in me coming out!) Not that anyone besides me cares, but here goes:

American Buttercream
This sugary concoction is made with a base of shortening and confectioner's sugar. When people think of "wedding cake frosting" this is usually the type of frosting they are thinking of! The ratio of sugar to fat is usually about 4:1 so this is a VERY sweet frosting! My favorite recipe for this type of frosting (thus far) is a combination of SugarEd and IndyDebi - I use DreamWhip and liquid coffee creamer in the recipe and have found it to be creamy and tasty. I haven't been able to get my hands on hi-ratio shortening yet, but I have read that this improves that taste and texture of the frosting. The advantages of this frosting are that it crusts (which allows you to smooth it), it is very stable in higher temperatures, and it holds its shape well for decorations like roses. It is also very easy and relatively inexpensive to make. Disadvantages are that unless you use hi-ratio shortening, this frosting usually has a "greasy" taste and is extremely sweet (too sweet to many people).

Meringue Buttercreams (Swiss and Italian)
These frostings are composed of egg whites, sugar, and butter. The ratio of sugar to fat is somewhere around 1:3 or 2:3 - but there is always more fat than sugar. (That's a LOT of butter!) Each is made with a meringue base and the butter is added in. I prefer Swiss Meringue Buttercream because it is a little easier for me to make. Advantages are that these frostings taste lighter than other buttercreams, they have a smooth, glossy finish on cakes, and firm up when refrigerated. Disadvantages are that these frostings are not as stable in heat, they do not crust, they do not hold shape as well, and are more difficult and expensive to make.

Other Cooked Buttercreams (French, Mock-whipped, etc.)
These frostings usually contain flour and milk cooked together, cooled and whipped. They may use butter or shortening in the recipes. I have tried French buttercream and a mock-whipped recipe and was not crazy about either one. Advantages would be taste and texture again (like the meringues) and they are cheaper than other buttercreams to make. I personally found the 20 minutes of high speed mixing to create the fluffiness of the frosting to be hard on my mixer. I also thought the French buttercream melted faster than the Swiss Meringue buttercream in high temperatures.

Bettercreme, Pastry Pride, etc.
A non-diary whipped icing similar in taste and texture to Cool Whip. These companies are not about to give up the recipes for these products, so making your own is out of the question! Advantages are definitely the taste and texture. The pre-whipped kind also has the advantage of being ready-made, just scoop and frost! If purchased from a company like Costco or Sam's Club, it is also VERY cheap!!! Disadvantages are that this frosting is difficult to add color to (too much stirring makes it dry and clumpy), it can be tricky to frost a cake smooth with, and it can be difficult to purchase if you do not have a provider in your area!

Fondant is made a variety of ways (I make mine with marshmallows!) and can be purchased ready-made. It is usually pretty sweet - similar to buttercream in sweetness - and has a chewy texture. Advantages are that you can do anything with this stuff that you could do with playdoh! It has a beautifully smooth, matte finish on cakes and can be dried in shapes. It holds up in extremely high temperatures, making it a great choice for weddings. Disadvantages are that some people do not like the taste and texture of fondant on cakes and it can be more expensive to make or buy. It is tricky to work with and can behave differently based on the temperature and humidity of the room.
If you love to decorate cakes, I would recommend trying all of these varieties and decide which one you like best! If you would like to try my recipes, please feel free to email me at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Perhaps someday if I get really good at cake decorating, I will look back at this cake and think that it wasn't that great, but right now I am so proud of this cake! This is my favorite cake that I have done so far!

My inspiration for this cake came from the cover of the May issue of Family Circle magazine. I loved the flowers and the colors together and thought, "Why can't that be on a cake?!" I had checked out Toba Garrett's Professional Cake Decorating book and used it to help with making this cake. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it no matter what level of cake decorating you are at!

The cake is a 9" white chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling. It is frosted with vanilla Swiss Meringue buttercream. I was very proud of how smooth I was able to get the icing! I made the flowers from a 50-50 gumpaste/fondant mix and used my pasta roller to get the paste super thin for the rose petals. The lilacs were really, really time consuming to create! This was my first time making flowers on a wire like that too - then putting them all together with floral tape to actually look like a panicle of flowers - not easy!

I left the cake without a top border because I wanted to show off my smooth icing job with the squared edges! I used Toba's book to help with the writing also. All in all, I am very happy with this cake and I hope my mother loves it as much as I do! To all the mothers out there, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Graduation Time!

This time of year means many graduations and lots of cake! This was my first time doing a graduation cake and I hope I get to do many, many more. This was for a Chadron State College grad and the school's emblem was requested on the cake, as was a very specific color - maroon. With some help from my graphic artist friend, we found that maroon is different from burgundy in that it has more blue in it. I ordered Americolor's "maroon" but found it to be nearly the exact same color as Wilton's "burgundy". I used both to make the cake, but added blue to them to get the color right. The cake is a half sheet cake - half is red velvet cake with cream cheese filling and half is white cake with strawberry filling. It is covered with vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and decorations are done in regular buttercream and fondant. I hope they like it!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mama Mia!

I decided to make a pizza cake for our May branding this year. I used the Wilton christmas tree pan and cut the trunk off after baking. I used American buttercream for the icing on the crust, marinara sauce and melted cheese. I let it crust and used a Viva paper towel to smooth the icing on the crust and cheese. I made the pizza toppings out of fondant. For the green pepper I painted green food coloring mixed with piping gel to give it a shiny side. I grated green candy melts and white chocolate over the top for the oregano (or basil) and parmesan cheese! Very easy to make and the kids love it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

He's In The Army Now!

Well, Army Reserves anyway! My brother joined the Army Reserve several years back and is being shipped out to Iraq. I have sent him and his family cupcakes periodically and he has been instrumental in getting me to start my own business. So what better way to say goodbye and good luck than with some cupcakes! I free-handed all of these so they are not as good as I would've liked, but they are all made with lots of love! Flavors were strawberry cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting and peanut butter cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. All are topped with a marshmallow fondant plaque.

This is supposed to look like the official seal of the Army Reserve. I had some trouble as you can see!

This one was my favorite!

Friday, April 24, 2009


This week I had fun making a golf-themed cake for my husband's step-brother. His mother requested the cake to go with a little salt-and-pepper set that she had found (the little guy with his clubs). The cake is almond poppy seed with raspberry filling. I made my own piping gel for the water. If you want to try making your own piping gel, here is the recipe:

Piping Gel

2 Envelopes (2TBSP) unflavored gelatin
2 TBSP cold water
2 c. light corn syrup

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small saucepan and let set for about 5 minutes. Heat on low until the gelatin has become clear and dissolved. DO NOT BOIL! Add the corn syrup and heat thoroughly. Cool and store, refrigerated for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Light and Dark

Last week I ended up doing two cakes. One was a black cake with "dead roses" for a fortieth birthday and the other was a stacked Easter cake with lilies.

The fortieth cake was half white cake, half chocolate cake with a 6" round topper done half and half to match. The little round topper was filled with cookies 'n' cream buttercream and the rest was filled with vanilla. The black icing was flavored chocolate. I need to work on my shell really did not turn out well on this cake! I checked out Toba Garrett's book from the library to work on my cake skills.

The Easter cake was my first attempt at stacking a cake. Although I had some problems, I was pleased with the cake overall. I made gumpaste lilies for the cake and thought they turned out very nice! The top tier was strawberry cake with cream cheese buttercream and fresh strawberry filling. The bottom tier was white chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling. I got to eat this cake and it was super yummy! Hope you all had a blessed happy Easter!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hooray for Refunds....Boo to Duncan Hines!

Our accountants worked hard this year and got us a big tax refund. So, the day before we were to go up and sign the taxes, I decided I should make them a cake. I browsed Cake Central for ideas and decided a calculator would be easy to do! This cake is a 9x13 that I carved/built up to create the shape. I used a Duncan Hines fudge marble mix and doctored it with sour cream and irish cream flavored coffee creamer. A word of advice...if ever you are doing WASC (stands for white almond sour cream cake, but cakesters use it for any sour cream doctored mix) do NOT use Duncan Hines! I tried this twice with the same results - it falls while baking! I have used other mixes with success, so I am guessing it is the mix that failed me. It was still tasty though, and luckily I was carving some cake away, so it all worked out. I torted the cake and filled it with chocolate ganache, refrigerated, and carved. I did a crumb coat of vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and covered that with marshmallow fondant. The buttons are marshmallow fondant and all the letters and numbers are piped on with royal icing. I tasted the cake scraps and it tasted heavenly...I hope the accountants liked it!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring has Sprung...a Blizzard?!

The joys of living in Nebraska in the spring! Yesterday's blizzard kept us trapped indoors, so I used the opportunity to do some baking. My husband requested chocolate chip cookies. Don't they look yummy?
But I thought they were missing something so I decorated a few!
Much better! Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fabulous Fudgy Frosting

Yesterday I made some waffle cookies, and if you have never had these little delights you are missing out! My family made them for years and peanut butter frosting was our favorite topping. My husband loves chocolate and so I decided to frost them with chocolate instead.

The frosting is made by melting 3 TBSP margarine, then adding 3 TBSP sugar (white or brown), and 3 TBSP of cocoa. Mix this all up and add 3 TBSP of sour cream. Stir and add 1/2 c. to 1 c. of powdered sugar depending on how thick and sweet you want it. Stir or whisk until all the lumps are gone and you are left with creamy chocolately goodness!

The finished frosted cookie. Yummo! This frosting is also very good on brownies and cake!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cake Decorating Saves the Day!

My amazing husband gets a gold star today for his ingenuity and resourcefulness. This handy little device not only cleans the small openings of cake decorating tips, but also makes a great cleaning brush for computers! Just remember this tidbit the next time your toddler jams banana inside the internet port of your laptop.

Friday, March 20, 2009

When Irish Eyes Are Bloodshot...

This cake was made overnight...literally! The person requesting this cake wanted it delivered to a dinner party the next day! So here was my first chance to see if I could bake and decorate a cake (I did tell this person it would be a simple cake - no hand-painted fondant here!) with very short notice. I immediately went home and .... it was such a nice day .... a shame to let that good weather go to waste! So I doinked around instead of starting on the cake right away. I think I started baking around 5 p.m. and didn't get the buttercream made up until after 9. (There was a good show on that night!) I then decided I would go to bed and get the cake done in the morning; however, I ended up getting up at 1 a.m. (courtesy a wake-up call administered by a set of two-year-old lungs) and going to work on it. I don't really remember finishing the cake but I sure was tired! I felt good about how the cake turned out for such short notice, but this is definitely NOT my best work! I hope it was was a yellow cake (dyed green on request) filled with rum buttercream. The sides were frosted green but it is hard to see in the picture. Lesson learned...make up buttercream ahead of time and freeze for short-notice cakes. Oh yeah, and don't procrastinate!

Twice as nice!

Cake decorating with a two-year old?!? Yes, my daughter is now two and presenting new challenges for me in this cake decorating endeavor. She knows what cake is all about and eagerly dug in when I presented her with this Winnie the Pooh cake for her birthday! She loved the filling the best - vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream - yummo! The cake was chocolate and I made the fondant out of marshmallows. If you hate fondant, give the marshmallows a chance! It is better (in my humble opinion) than that ready-made stuff in taste and texture. I painted the fondant with food coloring diluted with vodka. (Don't worry - the vodka evaporates. No drunken toddlers here!) I tried to make a fondant bow for the package, but it looked too big and bulky and I eventually decided on the real wasn't edible, but oh well. Just looking at this cake makes me want to go make another one....Mmm....cake!