Friday, April 30, 2010

Painted Trees and Bushes

I explained in my last post how to make the animal cutouts used in decorating this woodland shower cake.  The little animals needed some trees, grass and bushes to look at home on the side of the cake.  I decided to paint them on to add some texture to the design.

I started by tinting my frosting a soft green shade using leaf green and brown(both wilton gel colors).  I love the shade of green this makes.  It is very subdued and earthy.

Begin with a smoothly frosted surface on your cake.  Pay no attention to the wayward crumb in the frosting.  After decorating it will be cleverly hidden. 

Use a craft paintbrush to apply the green buttercream to the side of the cake.  I use an inexpensive craft brush that is dedicated to cake decorating.  Definately don't use any brush that has been used with any non-edible crafting item.  I only have one picture of me painting the trees.  Once again I found myself challenged with taking a picture with my left hand while my right hand was working.  So I do appologize for the state of this photo.  Does anyone have a great idea on how I can accomplish this spectacular feat with success?

I will try to explain it well to make up for the lack of photo expertise.  I'm not sure painting is the best term to use here.  The frosting was the same consistency as produced when you follow this recipe.  It was more of an artistic smearing going on than painting.  Anyway....smear the green frosting on in the shape of the tree that you want.  Be careful not to put too much pressure on the frosted surface.  You don't want to mar the surface and get the white frosting mixed into the green.  Use the same method to "smear" some grass or bushes. 

Next, pipe some brown trunks and branches with a #3 tip and Viola!...Happy little trees and grass.  It really was super easy.  Since there is no set way a tree or grass should look, it's hard to go wrong.  Carefully apply the animal cutouts and the bottom tier is done!  I hope you'll try this painting/smearing technique.

Happy Caking!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Animal Cutouts

When I started to plan my design for this baby shower cake I knew that I wanted to make something very personal and unique.  I knew the parents were using a woodland theme for their new baby's nursery.  So I looked up their bedding set from their registry for inspiration.  The set was so darling I knew I had found my design.

I took the pictures of the animals and resized them on my computer making the largest animal about 4 inches

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smooth Buttercream Frosting

Getting the frosting smoothly on your cake is the key to a professional looking cake design.  The method I use to achieve smooth frosting is called the Viva method.  I don't know who originally came up with this method.  If I ever find out I'll give them a big hug.  Whoever you are, if you're out there give me a shout and I'll give you credit here for this fabulous idea.  This method requires a crusting type of buttercream.  You can find the recipe I use here.

I like to apply my frosting with a small offset spatula.  You can use whatever utensil you are comfortable with.

Apply a good thick layer of frosting to your cake.  I do the top first and then the sides.  Keep the frosting ahead of your spatula.  This keeps cake crumbs out of your layer of frosting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Leveling Cake Layers

When I first began leveling my cake layers I was amazed at the change it brought to the finished look of my cakes.  It also makes them more sturdy.

 I have read in many books to use a knife to level a cake.  I tried it...and tried it...and finally decided that I can't cut a straight line to save my life.  Then I went out and bought a cake leveler.  It was very inexpensive and saved me so much agony.

This particular cake leveler uses a wire to cut the cake.  There are notches in the side of the leveler to adjust the height of your cut.  I use the knife to get the wire started so the wire doesn't tear the cake when you begin.

Place the cake on a level surface.  I set mine on a piece of foil on my counter.  I don't recommend taking pictures with foil in the shot like I did.  It's a bit shiny.  Work the leveler back and forth as you go across the cake.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cake Boards

Making cake boards is not my favorite part of decorating.  I find it rather boring.  It is, however, very important so bear with me on this topic.  Cake boards are what you build your cakes on and use between tiers on a stacked cake.  You could certainly use a platter or plate for the base, which I have done many times.  This post will show you how to make them out of cardboard.  I have made cardboard cake boards common practice in my kitchen for a few reasons.  First, when you take them to an event you don't have to worry about getting them back.   Second, and I'm not sure this is a seperate reason, you can send the extra cake home with the guest of honor.  If your cake is very large, you will want to use something more sturdy than the cardboard.  I have used the cardboard successfully for as much as three tiered cakes.  They might work for even larger cakes, but I haven't attempted it.  I will discuss what I use for larger cakes in a later post.

Lets get started.
First you need some corrugated cardboard.  In this case I start with some pre-cut 12" rounds.  These can be purchased in several different sizes of rounds as well as rectangles and squares.  For the bottom cake board

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chocolate Cake Recipe

This chocolate cake recipe has to be one of my family's favorites.  This cake is a variation on the vanilla cake that I posted earlier.  It is very easy to mix up.  It is also dense enough to hold up to stacking and carving.  I originally found it here.

Here goes...

It looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are items usually found in a baker's kitchen.  My kids always like when I make this cake because it uses chocolate milk.   That means that they get to drink what I don't use in the cake.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Woodland Shower Cake

Well folks, here it is! 

I appologize for the delay.  We had a very busy weekend here.  Also, our TV satellite broke so my boys have been watching basketball on the computer, making it impossible for me to work since we only have one computer.  But enough of my woes.  Lets talk about cake!
Great news!  On April 29, 2010 this cake made it to 4th place on the most saved list at Cake Central!

During the next several posts I will cover all you need to know to make this cake.  I will also be covering some basics that will be useful in making almost any cake.  Below is a list of  the coming posts.  Not necessarily in this order.

-Tuxedo Cake/Chocolate Cake
-Leveling Cake Layers
-Cake Boards and Structural Support
-Smooth Frosting
-Fondant Animals and Flowers
-Painted Buttercream Trees
-Fondant Ribbon

It should be fun!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Sneak Preview

I delivered a cake the rain.  It has now been raining here for over 24 hours solid.  Despite the gloomy weather, I delivered a happy, little shower cake.  I think I even managed to keep it dry. 

During the next several posts I'll be sharing this latest cake adventure with you.  First I have to edit some photos and get to writin'.  In the mean time, I wanted to give you a little sneak preview.

This cake was so much fun to make.  I can't wait to share it with you all.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Favorite Frosting/Icing

Some call it frosting, and others call it icing.  I waffle back and forth.  Either way it is the stuff we coat the outside of our cakes with to make them super delectable. 

There are many different types of frosting. For decorating, the most common are swiss meringue buttercream, italian meringue buttercream, and american buttercream. Every decorator has their favorite. I like a frosting that is not too sweet, not too buttery, and will crust. For those reasons I chose an american buttercream to work with. Not being a recipe guru myself, I tried out recipes I found in cook books and on line until I found this one. It has the qualities I like in both flavor and workability. As usual, I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Favorite Vanilla Cake

If you ask my husband and children they would probably tell you that there is only one kind of cake...chocolate. You can't make everything chocolate though, can you?  Even though they are die hard chocolate fans, I have found a vanilla cake that they actually like. If you are a vanilla cake fan this just might be the "bomb" so to speak. For the record, I am not a recipe guru. I rarely develop my own unique recipes. Instead I scour the cook books and on line resources to find a good one. And this is a very good one.  Best of all, it's also very simple to make. I have used this cake for baby showers, birthday cakes, carved 3-D cakes, and one wedding cake. I have received rave reviews with this recipe and I hope you will too.

I've gathered the ingredients.  Let's get started.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cake Pans

Let me share my thoughts on cake pans. Do you need to own 500 of them? The short answer is no. That being said, I do have my fair share squirled away in my cabinets. Many of them I rarely use and probably should have saved that money for something else. The pans I use the most are my round pans and my favorite sheet pan.

The round pans I have in several sizes ranging from 5" to 14". The graduated sets are exactly what you need to make tiered cakes. You can get similar sets in square, petal, hexagon, etc. I have only used the largest pan once when I made a 4 tiered wedding cake. Most often I use the 5" and 8" or the 6" and 9". These two combinations make a great size for birthday or baby shower cakes. Someday I want to get a set of square pans. What shape you choose really depends on what you think looks great. I started with round because that is the most common.

My favorite sheet pan is an 11" X 15" aluminum pan. I also have the standard 9" X 13" pan that lives in most kitchens. I use these, of course, for making sheet cakes. When I first started decorating I made these more often. Now I use the sheet pans for making my 3-D cakes. I'll post more on making those in the future.

I have learned that not all pans are created equal. If you plan to make traditional cakes with beautiful, straight, smooth sides then get a pan that has straight sides. It is not a must, but it will just save you time. I have a nesting set of two 9" pans that I use from time to time and they work. However, because they nest, their sides are not straight. It is much easier to make the frosting straight on the sides if the cake starts out that way.

If you happen to have nesting pans or any pans with angled sides, don't throw them away. I still use mine, it just takes a little bit longer to get the sides looking pretty.   My favorite brand I've used so far is Magic Line.  The pans are very sturdy and have nice straight sides.  They run a little higher than some of the other brands, but these babies should last forever.  You can check out some of the pans that Magic Line offers in the link below.

Check out the new poetry corner for another contribution by A. Poet. 


Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Baking

Happy Easter everyone! 

I hope that all of you are surrounded by your loved ones this Easter and having a wonderful, relaxing time.
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite things about baking during the easter season.  It's these.
That's right, Easter eggs.  I just love their bright, happy colors.  You might wonder what this has to do with baking and I'll tell you.  My boys and I color raw eggs every year.  Sure we lose a few each year.  This year we lost three eggs before we were all done, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  My family just won't eat a boiled egg.  Actually, my husband won't touch an egg at all unless it is neatly disguised in a cookie or something baked.  If I boiled all two dozen or so eggs that we color, I would eventually throw them all away.  I just can't stand the waste.  If we leave them raw, I can then use them in the things that I bake in the following days.  I love to open up the fridge to get eggs and see the happy, little easter eggs.

Now I do admit, sometimes I hate to crack the lovely little things.  I usually try to save my favorite ones for last.  But at least this way I get to enjoy them twice... once when we make them and again when I bake them.

Now it is your turn.  What family traditions do you cherish at Easter?

Happy Easter!


P.S.  After Easter I will be posting about my favorite cake pans and vanilla cake recipe!