I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon lately so I have quite a back log of bento photos to share! This one was another from Valentines week with a heart theme. Ww pita pizzas, berries and pineapples, carrots, and heart shaped gummies from Trader Joe’s (color free, of course).
This weekend I made cakes for my 10 year old nephew and my Brother’s Birthday parties. It’s a little pathetic to admit this, but I’m just now getting the hang of my oven!
Joe’s cake had to be ‘awesome’ because he was so sure I couldn’t make anything besides that. Such pressure! I racked my brain over what a 10 year old would think was cool that I could actually make. I landed on an Angry Bird cake. The only problem was that I still don’t own any natural coloring for icing. Last year I tried to color his cake with blue berry juice and it was a failure! So I cut myself a break and just bought a black tube, yellow tube, and I used some red icing spray paint that I’ve had for years. The cake and the buttercream I made from scratch and color free. I tried to justify the colors because at least the bulk of the cake was natural! I tend to stress about cakes and overestimate my abilities with complicated designs so my goal was ‘awesome but stress free’. Which this was, so I’m happy about it.
To create the red bird I made a template on paper and cut out the negative. After the icing had set-up, I laid the paper on top and sprayed the color on. This is basically aerosolized food coloring which is easier by far than mixing color into a batch of frosting and gave me a nice block of solid color. After this stage I was so relieved! Imagine if my template hadn’t worked and I had just turned the top of the cake blotchy red? The rest was easy, I outlined the shape in the black icing and filled in the beak with the yellow gel. Over all, a design simple enough for even a cake doofus like me!
The kids were sufficiently pleased and hopefully my nephew still thinks I’m a cake super hero!
My Brother’s cake was from the Joy of Cooking, the Lightning Torte with a light lemon flavor. I love this recipe and someday I’ll share it here.
It’s quick and easy and the light flavor barely needs any frosting to make it better. I love to frost it in whip cream. Right before I serve the cake I mix up some cream with a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and sugar. It’s so light and fluffy and just yum.
A few slices of lemon complete the picture of a perfect cake for a spring day and an awesome brother! Korbin thought it looked pretty ok anyway (picture above).
Kind of a mishmash of a cake. Gum paste accents (including mask). SUPER blue icing with cereal borders.
So, if you’ve talked to me recently you have probably heard more than you ever wanted to know about cake. I have a cakesession. This is my latest
catastrophe cake, made for my little Sister’s 26th birthday. Em is a member of the “put pink on my cake and die” association so I played it safe, using only her favorite color, purple. Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing. The color in fondant seems to dull or lighten as it dries and becomes room temperature (or in this case summer in AZ with humidity-and-swamp-cooler temperature). My purple became sort of a charcoal blueish color. I tried impressing stars into the ivory fondant, the result was not quite what I had envisioned. It just made the fondant look lumpy. One of these days I will buy an impression mat… I free hand cut the ‘E’ as I did with Ara’s cake, once again my lack of actual cake tools forces some creativity! Although I didn’t think that turned out to badly. The white balls were supposed to be whimsical and fun but after they were done I kept thinking of pimples on a cake!
The cake is plain vanilla with vanilla butter cream… it was supposed to be chocolate but..
Quick baking bloopers story:
I was filling 3 different sized pans with chocolate cake batter and thinking to myself, “I am getting really fast at this!” Since I was short on time but still wanted the look of double layers I gave each pan a tad more batter than is recommended. And by “a tad” I mean I pretty much topped each one off. After about 15 minutes in the oven the kitchen filled with the unmistakable smells of burning chocolate and black smoke. The cake was bubbling over the sides of the pans and burning on the bottom of the oven. Unsure of how to proceed, I turned off the heat and tried to take one pan out. I burned my hand doing this of course. Finally I decided to catch the still bubbling batter on a piece of foil and to let the smoke out through the window. This is not a situation a master caker would find themselves in! After things cooled down, I cleaned the oven and pans and started over with vanilla. I had a student coming and the house smelled gross. Before she came I went to close the door to my room and shoved my toe under the door so hard I think I broke it (still hurts when I move it). All of my actions on this day were so obviously logical… When A got home I told him about my horrific day and he took us out to one of my favorite places, Olive Garden! When my steaming chicken parmesan arrived I felt the stress of the day melting away. I picked up my condensation covered glass of refreshing iced tea… and dropped it into my plate. What a fitting end to a disastrous day!
And that is how Em’s 3 tiered chocolate cake ended up a one layer vanilla affair!
A quick update on how Ara’s birthday cake went:
1) Covered in fondant, yay it looks decent!
2) Calling it done and going to sleep even though I don’t like the lettering and the lack of a 3rd color bugs me.
3) Thought about it all night, got up early, added pink, and changed the lettering!
4) Ara loved it, and she ate her letters!
I was pretty excited to try my hand at fondant icing, I’ve seen it used on the cake shows and it didn’t look any worse than freaking butter cream. After checking prices at Michael’s I ended up making my own. The actual process of making the icing is, in my opinion far more difficult than actually decorating with it. You start by melting marshmallows in the microwave. Sticky. Gooey. Add some Crisco and a ton of powdered sugar. When it turns from sticky to stiff dough you start to actually believe you are making something other than a giant mess. Or at least, in addition to making a giant mess. It took me about an hour per batch of fondant. I made two batches, and got tired! I had originally planned to make three, but that would have been too much! In hind sight I should have split the white batch and colored it pink. The cake needs more color. The consistency reminds me of playdoh with a tad more elasticity. The cake didn’t need to be huge so each tier is only one layer, which made my life a whole heck of a lot easier. Under the fondant is some tasty home made butter cream in case the people at the party don’t like eating sweet playdoh! Haha. A few tips if you are planning to try this for the first time;
1. Sift your sugar. You will end up with a much smoother texture.
2. Slather Crisco on anything that will come in contact with melted marshmallows, including your hands.
3. Use high quality sugar made with sugar cane.
4. The quality of marshmallow matters as well.
My biggest complaint about the cake is that the lettering is so awful. I just plain ran out of steam on that part and I think it takes away from the overall cake. I will set aside more time for lettering next time. The other think is the lack of a 3rd color. That may bother me less tomorrow after I have all the toppers in place. I will put them in place at the party because of transportation concerns.
It was a lot of fun to make and Ara had a blast playing/eating the icing!