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Friday, February 25, 2011

England-themed Farewell Cake

This past weekend, one of my good friends had a GAPE-- A Going-Away Party Extravaganza. He's going off to England, so of course I had to make him a cake that focused on England. I didn't want to do the usual double-decker bus, red telephone booth, or Big Ben, so Stonehenge seemed perfect! I started with Duncan Hines Confetti cake in a 9 x 13 pan. Then I iced the top of the cake green and the sides white with Vanilla Almond Buttercream. I used a round tip #5 to pipe the Union Jack on the sides.

Then I set to work on Stonehenge. After researching it, I realized that there are a lot more components involved to the structure than I thought. And there are a lot of interesting theories based upon its construction. If I ever went to England, I would definitely want to check it out. Anyhoo, I used grey Duff-brand fondant, and a lot of toothpicks broken in half.

Grass tip around the edge...

  And a bit of "bushes" around the cake to fill some space...

And this is the cake aaaall done!

He loved it! And I was glad to say that I've actually made a Stonehenge cake!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Last night, my beloved and I went to a very fun and romantic Valentine's Day dinner party. It was hosted by our really good friend, Voltage (yes, it's his real name), and the food was excellent. I was to bring the dessert, so I wanted to make something rich and decadent. So why not chocolate filled with chocolate topped with chocolate?

I started with Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix.

I think this flavor is relatively new, and I used it for the Virginia Tech cake back in November. This mix makes a very moist cake that is super rich and chocolatey. I used little heart-printed cups, even though they'll be hard to see once the chocolate cake is baked in. Hey, it's the principle of the thing!

I baked the cupcakes according the the package and set to work on the ganache and buttercream while they cooled. The recipe for the ganache has just two ingredients:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
I warmed the cream on the stove on low heat, then I poured it over the chips. I let the bowl sit to cool a bit.

I got started on the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Some are afraid to make this buttercream because there are a lot of steps that can go wrong (and if one thing goes wrong, it's all ruined!) I found a recipe on Martha Stewart's website. I made half the recipe, which works great for 12 cuppin' cakes. This is is the full recipe here:
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks ) butter, room temperature, and cut into tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Combine the egg whites, salt, and sugar into the bowl of your mixer and place it over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until the mixture is warm and the sugar is dissolved (you shouldn't be able to feel granules between your fingers). This should take about 8 minutes.
It'll go from this...
...to this.

 2. Move the bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks (but not dry!) form. This is about 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, I was cutting up my butter...

Make sure it's room temperature!!!!
3. Mix the butter in on medium-low speed, adding a couple tablespoons at a time. Make sure the butter mixes well before you add more. Once all the butter is in, add the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment and mix it until smooth.

You can stop there if you want just vanilla buttercream. Seriously, it tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream. So good! I decided to add 2.5 ounces of melted and cooled semi-sweet chocolate.

With that done, it's time to put everything together! I cut holes into the cupcakes...

Then poured in the ganache...

And topped with buttercream!

This is what the ganache looked like immediately after topping it...

If you like that consistency, by all means, leave it. But I wanted it set a little bit more, so I put the guys in the refrigerator for about half an hour. The ganache came out perfect! It was smooth but it had set a little so it didn't run out. The cupcakes were a definite hit, and everyone loved them! :)

Thanks for dinner, Voltage!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tank Birthday Cake

First, I would like to take some time out to wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day! I think it's about celebrating love, not just for your significant other, but also for your friends and family (I surprised my mom with a huge balloon today that made her smile). My beloved and I were able to spend a bit of time together, but, work got in the way, so we'll be celebrating tomorrow. We've also been invited to a dinner party Wednesday evening, and of course, I'm making the dessert. Stay tuned for that post!

This past week, I made my first-ever tank-shaped cake! It was so much fun making it and researching it. I loved the challenge. While I was doing research for it, I found one very helpful article at Cake Central written by Mike_Elder. It definitely helped me translate a Sherman Tank into cake.Once I had the article and a couple of Googled photos, I set to work.

I started with baking a cake in a 9 x 13 pan and two cupcakes (you only need one cupcake, but the other one was for consumption :) ).

After filling the cake, I cut a third off and stacked it on top of the other side. I stuck two dowel rods into the top (just in case!) and shaved down the front and back of the bottom layer for the tracks. I also shaved off the top layer (so it looks like a trapezoid).

Just to make sure it was structurally sound, I chilled it in the fridge after crumb-coating. Meanwhile I worked on the fondant... I started with Duff's green fondant (2 lbs) and added a bit of black and brown...

I came up with the toy soldier-type green, which was what I was going for. I covered the cake, then pinched the top lips of the bottom cake layer. That would create a sort of fender.

I iced one cupcake, covered it in fondant, and placed it on the top of the tank...

Then I started making little details with the leftover fondant...

Little wheels...

 For the gun, I used a little dowel rod covered in fondant (I informed my client of all the dowel rods involved!)

Piping gel makes for a great fondant glue!
I made little details for the top of the tank (I'm sure there are some technical terms involved here-- someone help me out!), including a collar for the end of the gun (to hide the dowel rod).

I cut out some white stars then finished my cake by brushing it with clear vanilla flavor. Not only does it add a nice shine (like that of a steamer) but it also makes the cake smell even more amazing!
Don't forget the brown sugar sand!

Let me know if you have any questions about the making of this cake. Most of the details are made up or very loose interpretations of what I saw on the real tank. It all comes together and looks awesome, trust me!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Cupcakes: Packers and Steelers

So this is the third consecutive year in which I have made Super Bowl cuppin' cakes. I m glad that the logos are somewhat easy this year. As a non-football-follower-person, I probably wouldn't have known who was playing tonight if I didn't have to know in order to make these cupcakes. At any rate, I hope these little confections looks sort of close to what these teams are wearing.

I started with a French Vanilla cake mix made with an almond emulsion. I let the little cakes cool, then I made a single batch of Butter-Vanilla Buttercream. After icing the tops of the cakes white, I put them into the cupcake holder that they were going to end up in. It's much easier this way than going through all that work then accidentally smushing it on its way to the box.

I mixed up some dark green for the Packers logo and drew the "G." I went back over and made a little green oval around.

Then I mixed some goldenrod and made an outline around each green oval...

For the Steelers, I used the same goldenrod and drew the top diamond, then followed suit with the red and blue.

After all colors were used, I mixed all of them together and mixed black into it. I tried my very best to write "Steelers" with a tiny 1 tip, but you can sort of make out what it means to say. Hopefully, these cupcakes will be a hit at the Super Bowl party tonight!

As for which team I'm rooting for... I have no idea! May the best team win!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pink Pineapple Cake

This birthday cake is the start of many confections to come in the next month. My friend, Violet, had her 24th birthday, and she loooves pink girliness... and pineapples, so I figured I could combine that into one delicious birthday cake. I did some digging, and found a way to incorporate a can of crushed pineapple into a yellow cake mix to make a very moist cake. Here's what you need:
  • 1 box yellow cake mix (I'm a huge fan of Duncan Hines brand)
  • 1- 20oz can crushed pineapples (with juice)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
Here's what you do:
1) Preheat oven to 350. Baker's Joy 2 8in round pans.
2) Cream the butter until smooth then blend in the eggs. Add the cake mix and crushed pineapple and mix until smooth (about 2 minutes)

3) Bake for 20-30 mins. Remember to check the centers with a butter knife!

This cake came out moist and amazing! It's so moist, that you might want to chill it for an hour or so (or overnight, if you can) so that you can better handle it. And you will for sure need a crumb coat.

I paired this pineapple cake with my Butter-Vanilla Buttercream and mixed in some rose pink color. I also used some white and red to make swags on the sides (I found my Wilton brand swag kit and decided to try it) and topped it off with some roses.

Yes, this cake looks Valentine-y, but Violet loves pink, so I wanted to focus on the pink and complement it. However, feel free to use purple and/ or lime green.
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