Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy (Foxy) Birthday to...Me!

I celebrated my birthday this weekend and figured, why not make my own cake? For a while now I've been wanting to make a cake of two of my favorite things: autumn and foxes. I knew just how I wanted it to look, but I needed a reason to make it. My birthday was the perfect opportunity.

The cake is chocolate filled with vanilla buttercream and topped with marshmallow fondant. I then made marshmallow fondant in autumn colors to make the leaves. I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the leaves, then etched in the veins of the leaves and texture on the acorns. I then sculpted a little red fox out of fondant so it can sleep among the leaves.

I adore this cake and still haven't figured out what to do with the fox since I don't have the heart to destroy the cute little guy. I'm just glad that I finally got to make the cake that I've been thinking about for quite some time and it came out just as I'd imagined. Now if only the autumn theme would help usher in some cooler weather and end this scorching-hot Texas summer!

Gotham City Just Got a Little Sweeter

The Lego Batman birthday cake is complete! It was a lot of work, but it was a blast to make. The two-tiered strawberry birthday cake is like a story in itself. A little fondant Lego Batman sits atop the Lego cake, overlooking a sugary Gotham City. Batman's foes have written graffiti all around the fondant buildings. Catwoman's paw prints. Riddler's trademark question marks. Joker was here indeed. Never fear! Batman won't let Joker's antics foil a kid's birthday cake, so he stands vigilant while wishing the birthday boy a happy birthday on a nearby billboard. Knowing that Lego Batman stands watch, I'm sure it was a great birthday after all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sock Monkey, That Funky Monkey

I just finished the sock monkey first birthday smash cake, the first of my four upcoming cake projects. I have to admit that I don't really like monkeys and generally find them sort of creepy. I've seen too many movies where monkeys play the villain, take over the world or start epidemics (zombie or otherwise) to find them precious. However, this monkey is a definite exception to the rule. How can you not like a bashful little sock monkey with a birthday hat looking demurely festive? Plus, he tastes like marshmallows! I bet even "Planet of the Apes"-era Charlton Heston would be hard-pressed to call this sweet little guy a dirty ape. Too bad this poor little monkey will soon reach his demise by being smashed by the eager hands of a one-year-old. It's almost like King Kong in reverse. How ironic!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Season of the Cake

August and September have me busy and baking with four different cake requests. They all vary in style, theme and complexity so I'm pretty excited for the challenge. I've posted preliminary sketches of the cakes here and will post photos of the finished products over the next two months.

Sock Monkey Smash Cake
My first cake will be a sock monkey smash cake for a first birthday party this weekend. For those of you who don't know what a smash cake is, it is a small personal birthday cake for a one-year-old to eat as messily as he or she pleases (there is a separate cake for guests). This provides amusing photo opportunities of the birthday kid grabbing fistfuls of cake or eating it face first. I'd never heard of this tradition until I started getting into cake decorating. I must say I kind of like the idea of the cake destruction, but not so much the clean-up afterward. This will be a simple cake filled and iced with buttercream and topped with a fondant sock monkey holding a number one. I think this cake will be a smashing success. Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!

Lego Batman Birthday Cake
I love the concept of this one and I can't wait to get started on it next week. We are still working out the details on the design, but you get the general idea.

This will be a two-tiered strawberry cake covered in marshmallow fondant. The bottom layer will be a fondant skyline of Gotham City with a billboard that says "Happy Birthday". The second tier will either be hand-painted Batman villains, another level of city skyline or perhaps something else. The top of the cake will have Lego-style pegs so that the whole top tier looks like a Lego piece. Also on top will be Lego Batman standing in front of a full moon featuring the Batman symbol. 

I've always loved playing with Legos as a kid (well, okay, as a grown-up too) and I find the Lego video games unbelievably adorable. I had to resist getting too carried away with this design, but I was so inspired by the theme!

Year of the Tiger Groom's Cake

In September, I get to make the groom's cake for my friend's wedding. Earlier this year I did a mini-version of the chocolate cake filled with buttercream and topped with ganache for her to sample and to make sure she liked my design style. The top of the cake is decorated with a thin disc of marshmallow fondant and hand-painted with a Year of the Tiger symbol since that is her soon-to-be-husband's Chinese zodiac sign. That was my first time doing such a cake, so the actual wedding day groom's cake should look even better than this sample one. If I had more experience, I might have offered to do the wedding cake as well. However, I need a LOT more practice before I venture into the realm of flawless and precise wedding cakes.

Black Labrador Birthday Cake

Wrapping up the end of September bring a fun dog-themed birthday cake. Considering how much I love dogs, I was thrilled by the chance to do a cake based on their pet labrador. We are still working out the details of this cake, but it should look something like the sketch. Someday soon I'll make a cake inspired by our adorable greyhound, Lina. I think that will have to be sometime after this busy cake season though.

Snickerdoodles, Macaroons and Other Silly Words

I've had a little cake break recently, which gave me some free time to bake a few non-cake treats. During this time I turned to my personal favorite dessert — cookies. I decided to bake my first-ever batch of snickerdoodles and coconut macaroons and both turned out quite delicious. Maybe a little too delicious. I need to be sure to schedule in some extra treadmill time to undo the cookie snacking. Oh little tasty cookies, you are my dream and my curse...but I love you so!

For the longest time, I didn't even know what a snickerdoodle was and imagined a Snickers candy bar stuffed into cookie dough or something similarly disgusting. In reality, snickerdoodles are fairly simple and not too sweet — basically a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar. However, this recipe was slightly different than a traditional snickerdoodle because it was cakey and had a slight saltiness that blended beautifully with the cookie and balanced out the sweetness. I've always been a fan of the salty/sweet combo (sea salt caramels, chocolate-covered pretzels, etc.), but I'm not sure if others enjoy that sensation in their cookies as much as I do. So if you are a fan of the salty/sweet combo, then I recommend using course salt instead of finer-grained table salt in your cookie recipe. When I want a cookie, I don't normally think of the plain and simple snickerdoodle. However, after tasting this batch, they just might be my first choice.

Coconut Macaroons
I don't often think about coconut, but I always enjoy its unique taste and texture when I happen upon a coconut dessert. I decided to whip up a little batch of coconut macaroons since they seem like such a perfect summer dessert with its tropical vibe. They are surprisingly easy to make, require hardly any ingredients and have kind of a festive feel. You can serve them plain or garnished with chocolate, nuts or both.

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