Thursday, April 28, 2011

CakeFu Masters Series: Rebecca Sutterby

I have been very busy this week with a cake (and trying to get my house back in order after a long weekend away).  I'm busy documenting some things I am working on, so I can share with you how I did it...

But I wanted to take a quick minute to post about the next CakeFu Masters series training!  If you haven't seen my previous post, this training series is a FREE web series running about every 2 weeks with various guest teachers.  The last one was with Sharon Zambito and she shared her method for icing and smoothing buttercream on a cake (if you missed it, you can watch the replay and get her recipes for a limited time here).

The next guest is going to be Rebecca Sutterby and she'll be teaching cake sketching and design.  You can sign up for the next webinar on the CakeFu Website.

A little about Rebecca (from CakeFu):
Rebecca Sutterby is the master of cake perfection. She has managed to do some amazing things in her cake decorating career.
With a Commercial Graphics major and one basic cake decorating class, Rebecca has proven that her natural talent knows no bounds.
She has received 3rd, 2nd, and 1st runner up and the Grand Prize at the Grand National Wedding Cake competition. She has appeared on Ultimate Cake Off and Food Network Challenge, not to mention winning Bride Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful Cakes" in 2008 and 2010.

Check out her beautiful creations on her site Sugar Creations!

I've only seen the webinar featuring Sharon Zambito, but I am very excited about this series.  It may be pretty basic information for some, but I find it fascinating to learn from "the masters."  So go ahead and check this free training out!  They want to spread the word about this series, so feel free to share the info with others!!

Happy Caking :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Raspberry Fruit Filling Recipe

When it comes to fruit fillings, you have several options.  You can use canned "pie" filling, but to fill a cake that tends to be a little too runny- so use it sparingly, and would not recommend it for a stacked cake.  Or you could use a sleeve filling, like the ones you can get made by Henry & Henry.  But those tend to be very sweet (and often a bit artificial tasting).  I have used them in the past, but I added quite a bit of chopped fresh fruit to get a flavor I was happy with...

So I have started to make my own fruit fillings, this way I control the sweetness and quality!  Here is my recipe for a great raspberry filling, though you can use just about any fruit in place of the raspberries!

*I should mention, that fruit fillings in general are a bit "slippery" so be sure you don't add a very thick filling layer (this is a great place to torte your cake, it makes it pretty and you get more filling because of the layers) and also use a nice thick icing damn to avoid your cake "bulging".

  • 2 1/2 Cups Raspberries (fresh if available, but frozen work just fine!)
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsp Corn Starch

  1. Add 2 Cups of raspberries to a pot, add 1/4 Cup of water and all of the sugar and lemon juice, Stir to combine...
  2. Cook the mixture on med-low to low until the berries all burst and the mixture looks mostly liquid, about 5-10 minutes
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and push through a sieve to remove the seeds, I like to really work to get as much pulp through as I can
  4. Add the mixture back to your pot and return to med-low heat.  Simmer another 5 minutes or so to reduce slightly then add reserved berries...
  5. Add the corn starch to the remaining 1/4 Cup of water and whisk with a fork to make a slurry, stir the slurry into your simmering berry mixture and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes.  The mixture will go from runny and opaque to translucent and thick, almost like a melted jam.  When the mixture is thick and all of the berries have burst, remove your mixture from the heat.  (At this point, if you would like a seedless filling, you can push the mixture through a sieve again... I like to leave the few remaining seeds so it has the "look" of a raspberry filling.)
  6. Allow your filling to come to room temperature, and then you can put in a container and refrigerate until ready to use
  7. Makes about 2 Cups of filling

It sounds like a lot of steps, but this filling is really quick and easy to make.  You can add more or less sugar if you prefer a more tart or more sweet filling... It's really delicious and you can feel proud that you made a fruit filling from scratch!  Enjoy!

Happy Caking :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hippity, Hoppity Easter's On It's Way!

I'm gearing up to go away for the holiday weekend... I'll be away from the internet, no cell service, almost like a vacation!  But before I left I wanted to leave you with a fun Easter project!
Cake balls, truffles and pops are the new "it" dessert!  They started out as a way for bakers to use their cake scraps (check out Bakerella to see all the fun things she's done with them!), and now you can buy them at your local Starbucks!  I've made cake pops a few times before (a great last-minute "mom, I need to bring something for a party tomorrow at school" idea!)...  So after I made some amazingly delicious cupcakes (OMG! Cupcakes) to test a recipe, I decided to make some Easter Egg Cake Truffles with the leftovers (even my little family cannot eat an entire batch of cupcakse!).

The great thing about cake truffles, is you don't have to bake a cake to make them (you can, but don't have to...).  Just save your cake scraps in the freezer!  Have left over cupcakes?  Scrape the frosting off and freeze the cake, pull it out and thaw when you're ready to use them!

So here's what you do if you want to make these delicious treats for your family!
Add your cake scraps to a bowl (I used leftover cupcakes- scrape off the frosting first!)
Mash up your cake crumbs!  My cupcakes were filled and very moist, I did not need to add extra frosting...  However, if your cake crumbs don't stick together, add about 1/4 C frosting at a time, you want them to just stick together, not be a mushy mess....
Roll your "dough" into egg shapes, mine are a little big, I made them actual egg size... this is probably 4 truffles in one!  Next time I would go with about 1" or 1-1/2" balls...
Lay your cake-crumb-eggs out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and pop them in the freezer for about 30min to an hour (you want them nice and chilled so they don't fall apart when you coat them with the candy melts)
Melt 1 package of white candy melts (I used Wilton brand) in a double boiler... you can add a tbsp at a time of vegetable shortening until you get a good consistency for coating
Using a fork (or two) roll the frozen or semi-frozen truffles in the candy melts to coat.  Lift the cake truffle with a fork and gently tap with another fork to remove the excess candy coating...
After your candy coating has set up it's time to decorate!  I am using Wilton Candy Colors, thinned with a bit of vodka... next time I will try my regular gel colors... (I found the oil-based candy colors sticky and messy!)
Your designs are only limited by your creativity!
I bought that edible grass at the toy story!
Pretty Flowers
Cute Polk-A-Dots
And..... Mmmmm......!
Happy Caking:)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CakeFu Masters Series Free Training!

I just wanted to spread the word about some free training I just learned about!  CakeFu is an in-production website, but they have already launched their free training series.  You can sign up here:

I missed the first web training (with Sharon Zambito), but I am very excited to log in for the next one! They have invited many well-known sugar artists to lead the trainings, so check them out! 

They want to spread the word about their web series, so I am sharing with you and feel free to pass this information on to others!

Happy Caking :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

OMG! Cupcakes

OK, when I wanted to test out Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe, I tried it out in the form of cupcakes!  And not just any cupcakes, super awesome "OMG! Cupcakes".  Why are they called OMG! Cupcakes, you ask?  Because the first words out of my husbands mouth after his first bite was "Oh my God."  And he isn't typically a fan of sweets!

So if want to experience this awesomeness for yourself, here's how you do it!  For reference, I used Swiss Meringue Buttercream for frosting and Dulce de Leche for filling and drizzle, Mmmmmm!

 Happy Caking :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake Recipe

In all my years of baking, I have never tried Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake... Gasp!  Shocking, I know...  Well, I have heard many a rave review about the recipe, so when I got a hankering for baking, I decided to give this recipe a try!

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1-3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C Hershey's Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C boiling water (I recommend using coffee!)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare pans (pan grease)
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (I recommend sifting first then add to bowl and whisk to combine)
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla
  4. Beat on med. speed for 2 minutes and then stir in boiling water (or coffee) *Batter will be thin
  5. Bake 30-35 min. or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans to cool on wire rack (cool completely)
  7. Makes two 9" rounds or approximately 30 cupcakes
This chocolate recipe is excellent!  It will be a new staple in my home, and may become my new standard chocolate cake!  I highly recommend you try it (if you haven't already!).

I have posted the recipe as Hershey has written it (with my recommendation of adding coffee!), so there is no confusion, and anyone can re-create it.  However, to see what I did with this recipe, check out my next blog post: OMG! Cupcakes!!

Happy Caking :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dulce De Leche Recipe

I was inspired, by a conversation on Cake Central yesterday, to share my recipe for Dulce De Leche.  You guys are in for treat!  This stuff is delicious!  It is really simple to make (honestly it doesn't GET simpler!).  My "Turtle Cake" recipe is a closely guarded secret, that I'm not sure if I will share... but I will tell you, Dulce De Leche is a key component.  (Turtle= chocolate, caramel, nuts... you'd be surprised how I often I get asked what that is... I thought is was a given, turtle, as in turtle candy?)

Anyway, as you may have guessed from my description above... Ducle de Leche is a caramel made from cooked milk as apposed to cooked sugar with or without cream added.  The sugars in the milk cook to create this yummy, yummy Dulce de Leche.  It translates to "milk candy" and you will see why... Just a warning, it will be hard to keep you fingers out of the bowl, so it is best to use it right away!

  • 1 Can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Poke 2 or 3 holes in the top of the can to vent steam and remove the label
  2. Place can in a deep pot and fill to about 1/4" from the top of the can with water
  3. Turn on your stove :) and bring the water to a simmer or low boil
  4. Simmer for about 3 hours, adding more water as necessary to keep the water at about 1/4" from the top of the can (water may splash up on top of the can, that's OK just ladle it off if you can, or worry about it at the end and dump it off when you remove the can)
  5. After 3 hours, use tongs to remove the can from the water and set it on a towel to cool.
  6. Once the can is cool enough to handle, open the can with a can opener and dump the contents into a bowl (you will see different thicknesses of the milk, much thicker and darker on the bottom, the top may look nearly uncooked- that's OK)
  7. Add vanilla, stir to combine and you should have a nice smooth caramel!  Enjoy!!
  8. For a thinner sauce simmer the can for about 2 1/2 hours, for a thicker more spreadable caramel, simmer the can for 3 1/2 hours.

See!  It really is simple, you just need to sit and wait!  I usually start it in the morning, when I put the coffee on :) and let it go while I go about my day!

Happy Caking :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe

I really cannot have my own blog and NOT mention Swiss Meringue Buttercream ("SMBC" in cake circles)...  It really is the most amazing frosting that ever was invented (I imagine that Italian Meringue Buttercream is similar, they just have different cooking methods).  This frosting is known as my "magic" frosting by certain family members... and really who can blame them?  The texture is light, fluffy, silky and just the right amount of sweetness!  Much less sweet than the shortening/powdered sugar based American Buttercram most are used to.  Really, it is the PERFECT frosting... even non-frosting lovers LOVE my Swiss Meringue Buttercream!

So, here it is, my recipe, super simple to make, it just takes a bit of patience, just be forewarned once you try SMBC you may never be able to eat American Buttercream again!

  • 8oz (by liquid measure) Egg Whites (I recommend using REAL eggs, not carton egg whites)
  • 2 Cups Sugar (granulated, NOT powdered sugar)
  • 6 Sticks Unsalted Butter (room temperature and YES, unsalted makes a difference)
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1-1.5 TBSP Pure Vanilla Extract (Or flavoring of your choice)

  • Whisk
  • Double Boiler (aka, pot with water that you will place your mixer bowl on)
  • Stand Mixer (you can use your hand beaters, however your arm may fall off as a result)

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer add your Egg Whites and a pinch of salt.  Whisk the eggs whites lightly to break them up, until they are lightly bubbly.
  2. Add your Sugar and whisk to combine.
  3. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (use a pot that will give you a good seal) and whisk for 5-7 minutes.  What you are doing is cooking the eggs to kill off any bacteria!  You will know that your mixture is done when a small dribble of it on your finger no longer feels grainy.  Egg Whites cook at about 140 degrees, and sugar melts around 186 degress... so if the mixture is no longer grainy, your egg whites are cooked, the sugar is melted and it is safe for consumptions (Science!).
  4. Once the mixture is "cooked", put the bowl on your mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip your egg whites on high.  You are creating the meringue.  You want to whip the mixture until the bowl is no longer hot to the touch and the egg whites are at about room temperature.  I usually crack a window next to my counter and angle the mixer towards it.  It will take about 10 minutes to come down to the right temperature (but could be longer).
  5. After the meringue has reach "stiff peaks" and is room temperature (VERY important otherwise the butter will just melt and you will have a soupy mess!) stop the mixer and remove the whisk attachment (scrape off as much of that luscious meringue as possible)...
  6. Add your butter to the bowl.  If your butter is on the stiffer side of room temperature I would cut it into pieces first, otherwise you can add the soft sticks all at once.
  7. With your paddle attachment, mix the butter into the meringue on LOW speed, this process will take about 7-10 minutes.  You may see your mixture go through "stages" from curdled to soupy, but be patient!  It will come together, at the end you will have a lovely, smooth and silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream!
  8. When your SMBC has come together it is time to add your flavorings.  For Vanilla, add about 1-1.5 TBSP of Pure Vanilla Extract and mix on low until it is incorporated.
  9. That's it!  This recipe should yield you enough to frost and fill a 10" double layer, round cake or about 2 1/2 dozen standard cupcakes.

A Few Tips/Hints
  • While this frosting is delicious, it may not be suitable for every occasion... Because it is made of meringue and butter, SMBC has a relatively low melting point.  If your cake/cupcakes will be sitting in an environment warmer than 80-85 degrees, I would recommend NOT using this buttercream.  Butter melts to it's liquid state at around 90 degrees... so 85 might even be pushing it!
  • It is VERY important that you let your meringue cool sufficiently before adding the butter.  However, if you are impatient (like me) and brave, you can let your meringue be slightly warmer than room temp, if you add cold, or still very firm butter.  Take this advice at your own risk, it's a fine line between slightly warmer and so warm it will melt the butter...
  • If your buttercream is still too soupy, even after waiting patiently for it to come together, you may have added the butter when the meringue was till too warm.  Pop the bowl in the fridge for a bit, and once it is cooled try re-whipping it, it should come together (this frosting is light and fluffy and will never get as thick as American Buttercream).
  • Do not ever use salted butter in place of unsalted in this recipe... the added salt bring out the butter flavor far too much and your frosting will taste like whipped butter, no matter how much flavoring you add.
  • I'm always on the lookout for a bargain... but with a recipe like this quality is key!  I recommend using the freshest eggs, finest butter and best sugar you can get your hands on.  A recipe with so few ingredients should be done well! (I once tried using an organic "cultured" butter and I DO NOT recommend it, far too buttery)
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream is so versatile, you can have just about any flavor!  Have fun experimenting, try adding some melted (and cooled) chocolate, or Dulce de Leche (home made or a can of store-bought), any number of extracts available, jams or preserves, sauces, or a bit of Lorann Oil!  The possibilities are really only limited by your own creativity!
  • I would recommend chewing gum while you make this, or at least the moment it is done... to avoid eating it with a spoon!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my friends & family do!

Happy Caking :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gumpaste Baby Tutorial

I've used my First Impressions Baby Mold twice now and I think these babies come out so well!  They are incredibly life-like, the detail is so amazing, and they are so adorable I want to carry one around in my pocket!

Anyway, cute attack aside... I've had so many people ask how I made them, "cake people" know that it is the First Impressions mold and want to know how to use it, and how it was shaded... Cake muggles just think I am amazingly talented at sculpting, and while tempted to keep my secret, I can't take credit for the intricate detail First Impressions put into this mold.  So here it is, for all to see, my secret to making these adorable little gumpaste babies (at the bottom of this post you can find a list of supplies that I used).

This tutorial was a long one, so it is broken up into two parts:

PART 1: Making the Gumpaste Baby w/ the First Impressions Mold

PART 2: Coloring the Gumpaste Baby made in Part 1

Supplies Used & Where to Buy
  • First Impressions Mold - Baby 1 you can buy it from Global Sugar Art or First Impressions (It is very popular and many online retailers or local cake supply stores carry it).
  • Small Rolling Pin you can buy it from your craft store (Michaels, A.C. Moore or Hobby Lobby) or online from any number of cake suppliers, like Global Sugar Art.
  • Petal Dusts you can buy from Global Sugar Art, or again any number of online cake suppliers or local cake supply stores.  I used "Sunflower," "Flesh Tone," "Cosmos (Rose Pink)" and "Cocoa" that I bought from Jester's Discount Cake Supply.
  • Gumpaste you can make your own, buy the Wilton ready made at your local craft store or cake supply shop, or buy online.  I used Satin Ice Gumpaste that I bought from Global Sugar Art.
  • Gel Colors to color your gumpaste.  I used a combination of Wilton Ivory and Wilton Peach to achieve my flesh color.  You can buy them at most craft stores, your local cake supply shop or online.
  • I also used a sharp knife to trim my excess gumpaste, corn starch and shortening (like Crisco).
  • You will also need a fine paintbrush and a few toothpicks for coloring your gumpaste baby.

Happy Caking :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cake Decorating Corner Topsy Turvy Contest!

My Cakes We Bake contest entry
I am entering an online cake contest!  Over at Cake Decorating Corner they are holding a Topsy Turvy cake contest.  It just so happens that I have a topsy turvy cake in my portfolio.  And, it happens to be a very special cake to me that I am very proud of!  It is my Animal Friends 1st Birthday cake and it was for my son’s birthday last year!  It was the first time I had attempted a topsy turvy cake and I love, love, love it!

The only other cake contest I have entered was the Connecticut Cake Competition 2011, and I ended up winning 1st Place in my category and the Trophy for my division!  After that I am somewhat hooked on cake competitions, although, they don’t happen with much frequency in my area.  So I was really excited to get an email from Cakes We Bake about this contest!

CCC Winning Cake!
Why am I entering?  Well, I’m actually not entering with the expectation of winning!  There are so many great cake decorators out there that would really be an unrealistic expectation anyway.  But, I find it fun to see my work up against all the others.  For myself, I like to see how I compare and it helps me push myself to be better.  Also, like any artist, I just like my work to be “seen”.  Cake is such an impermanent medium that usually the only people who have the chance to see my work are the party goers, for about 10 minutes before they dig in and eat it (OK, maybe longer than 10 minutes… and really I like people to enjoy eating my cakes, please don’t feel bad if you get one of my cakes and are ready to chow down, that’s is it’s purpose!).

For this online contest I am not making a new cake, but generally part of the fun of cake competition is coming up with a design that you think can compete with whatever else may be presented!  So, whether you are an experienced cake decorator, or a novice, check out the contest.  If you don’t have a topsy turvy cake in your portfolio, maybe now is the time to make one!  Have fun!  You can enter here!

(If you do enter, post a comment and let me know the title of your cake, I love to check out other people’s work!)

Happy Caking :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Getting Started Part 4: Baking Tips

I was originally going to add my baking tips to my Getting Started Part 3 post about cake pans, but my list got fairly lengthy!  Here are just a few tips I’ve gathered since I’ve started baking:
  • If you are making a CAKE don’t bake at 350 as most recipes will tell you to.  Bake at 325, the result is a cake that rises much more evenly, which means less work for you later to level it.
  • If you are making CUPCAKES, preheat your oven to 425, when you put your cupcakes in turn it down to 350.  The quick burst of high heat in the beginning helps you get a nice dome, but you don’t want to bake it at 425 or the outside will cook faster than the inside.
  • After you pull your cake out of the oven, before you remove it from the pan, give it a gentle press with your hands (lay a clean towel on the cake first!).  This will help level the cake before taking it out of the pan so your cake doesn’t crack.  Just be sure to use gentle pressure, and be careful of escaping steam!
  • Let your cakes cool for at least 10 minutes, but not more than 15 before removing them from the pan.  You want the cake to cool enough that you can handle it and so the structure is more stable, but you don’t want the pan grease to cool off too much and cause your cake to stick.
  • If your cake is raised above the lip of your pan, even after “smooshing,” take a serrated knife and using the pan as a guide, trim off the excess.  Removing the dome will help to keep your cake from cracking when you turn it over.
  • I use parchment paper on top of my cooling rack to keep the cake to keep it from sticking to my wire rack.  If you have a moist recipe, or if condensation forms as it’s cooling, the cake can get a little gummy on the bottom.  The cake peels easily from the parchment once it is cool.
  • You CAN freeze cake!  It freezes very well, in fact many people think it results in a moister cake.  Also, a partially frozen cake is easier to carve and/or level.
  • “Think Outside the Pan!”  Wilton has covered the market on shaped pans.  You can get characters and odd shapes, domes, balls and jumbo cupcakes.  Before you run out and spend the extra money… take a look at what you already have that you can bake in!  Need a dome or ball?  Use your glass (such as Pyrex) or metal mixing bowls (as long as they are “oven safe”).
  • When baking a large cake not only do you need to increase the time, but you have to help it to bake evenly.  You can purchase a “heating core” or if you have them, use an upside down flower nail!  Just grease it/them like you did your pan, and push it down until you can feel it firmly against the bottom of the pan.  It WILL come right out when you turn your cake out of the pan!  (For any pan sized 12” or larger, you should use a heating core or flower nail.  For really large pans, like 16” you may need 2 or 3 flower nails).
  • Sift your dry ingredients!  You would be amazed at what has lumps in it.  Even if you use a boxed mix, sift it.  The result is a much finer crumb, give it a try, you’ll see the difference.
  • Don’t over mix your batter.  I’ll say it again, don’t over mix your batter!  You may think that if you mix your batter a little longer you’ll whip air into it and get a lighter cake.  But what you are actually doing is activating the gluten in the flour and you’ll end up with a gummier, denser cake.  You should mix it 1-2 min TOPS.  Really, you just need to combine the ingredients.
I hope you find these tips helpful!  I will add to it if/when I think of more!

Happy Caking :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Started Part 3: Cake Pans

So I think of all the supplies listed on my Getting Started Part 1 post, Cake Pans, require the most in-depth description.  A great cake starts with the right pans!

What you probably have for cake pans is the “standard” ones you can find in any set of baking pans.  They’re about 1” high and usually 9” in diameter.  These are perfectly okay to use, BUT if you want a beautiful, tall, straight sided cake I recommend you purchase some cake decorator pans.  Take a look at the pans you have (assuming they are the ones I mentioned above), they probably have a slight, or not so slight, slope to the sides.  To get a straight side you’ll need to do some trimming later, and we really want to make this as easy as possible.  SO, I say ditch those pans (or at least use them for something else) and invest is a set of proper pans!

The standard cake industry serving size is 1” wide x 2” deep x 4” tall.  To get that nice 4” tall piece of cake, you will want to bake up two 2” layers of cake.  Guess what?  Cake decorator pans come in 2” heights!  They also come in 3”, but I recommend starting with the 2” height.  So now, we are on the look out for straight sided, 2” high cake pans….

What else to look for

Well, a good weighted cake pan also makes a difference.  They bake up more evenly and don’t brown as much on the outsides.  Other than that, you just need to decide what shapes and sizes you want!  Starting out, I would recommend investing in a set of ROUND pans that are 6” – 8” – 10” in diameter (these are the sizes I use most often) and then you can add to your set as the need arises.

Where to buy and what brands

Most craft stores will have a cake decorating aisle (or two).  You will typically have only they Wilton cake pans available to you at these stores.  The Wilton pans are really fine starting out with.  They are a bit “soft” (watch out for 1 year olds wielding wooden spoons- I speak from experience) and the light metal enables more browning.  But they are widely available and if you buy them piece mail using the 40% OFF coupons that stores like Michaels*, A.C. Moore or Hobby Lobby offer they become very affordable. (*Michaels is switching their stock to the Celebration line, their own product.  It is comparable to the Wilton pans, if not a bit better)

However, if you are looking to invest in a better quality set of pans, more akin to what the “pros” use, you are looking at two popular brands:  Magic Line or Fat Daddio’s.  These are a bit pricier.  You will need to buy them at a specialty cake decorating supply store, or an online retailer (and thus pay shipping).  But the quality IS superior.  I don’t have experience with Fat Daddio’s pans, but I do have a couple of Magic Line pans.  They bake up much more evenly and the outside stays nice and light, you don’t have a dark outer “crust” which could be unsightly when cutting into your cake.  I’ve also found that they are a tiny bit wider in diameter (even though they are marked the same size) than the Wilton pans, so use 2 of the same brand to make things easier on yourself.  You can either buy a set or buy the individual sizes you need.  Both brands are available at Global Sugar Art, a popular online retailer.  But a Google search will turn up countless other online stores.

Now, the last few questions you may have about cake pans are the serving yields of the different sizes, amount of batter required for each pan and baking times.  If you check out Wilton's website the have a really nice chart that explains all of this!  Even if you are using the Magic Line or Fat Daddio pans it should give you a good idea of what you are looking at.  This is also the serving chart that most people in the industry go by.

Happy Caking :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting Started Part 2: Pan Grease

I wanted to make a quick post about "pan grease."  I listed it my Getting Started Part 1 post, so this is a follow up so everyone knows what the heck I'm talking about!

When preparing your pans to bake, the “traditional” method is to grease with shortening or butter and then dust with flour to prevent sticking.  Some people add a layer of parchment paper on the bottom.  More conventional approaches are baking sprays such as Pam or Bakers Joy (with or with out flour in the spray).  Those methods work fairly well, but I have discovered the easiest way of all!  Pan Grease!  You can buy “Pan Release” or other pre-made pan greases, but it is so easy to make your own.

  • Shortening
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Flour

  1. Mix equal parts of the ingredients. 
  2. Store in airtight container until ready to use. 

That’s it!!  I apply it with a pastry brush, but you could use a paper towel, parchment paper, your hands… It stores virtually forever, so I make a bunch and always have it on hand.  Your cakes will turn right out of your pans nice and cleanly!

Happy Caking :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting Started Part 1: Basic Supplies

This is the first in a series of posts aimed at cake “newbies.”  So I’m sorry, if you are a seasoned cake decorator this may be a bit "old news" for your taste.  But for those of you who are interested in getting started with cake decorating or maybe you just have one special cake to make (trust me, when you’re done you’ll want to do it again!), I hope you find this series helpful.


To get started you will need a few basic supplies:
  • Cake Pans (*click here for more information!)
  • Offset Spatula
  • Cooling Rack
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Measuring Utensils (dry measure, liquid measure, and measuring spoons)
  • Sifter
  • Sharp Serrated Knife (at least 10” or 12”)
  • Stand Mixer (Or Hand Beaters)
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Pan Grease (*find out what I'm talking about here)
  • Cake Boards
  • Dowels (or other supports for a tiered cake)
  • Piping Bags or Ziplock Bags (I recommend freezer bags, they’re thicker)
  • Decorating Tips (optional)
  • Turntable
  • Viva Papertowels
  • Fondant (pre-made or Marshmallow Fondant)
  • Fondant Smoother
  • A Great Recipe!!
These are some of the basic supplies.  With these you can make a beautiful cake!  You’ll find, if you really get into cake decorating, that you’ll become addicted to collecting cake supplies!  You can find decorating tools in just about any store, including the hardware store or dollar store.  And there are so many more “specialized” items like silicon molds and cutters to suit just about any purpose or design you can think up!

Where to buy

Most of these supplies you probably already have on hand.  If not most of them can be located at your kitchen supply store or “big discount retailer.”  Some of the more specialized tools (cake pans, cake boards, fondant smoother, decorator tips) can be found in your local craft store.  “Caking” tools can get expensive quickly!  So take advantage of any coupons you can get your hands on.  Stores like Michaels, A.C. Moore & Hobby Lobby are very generous with their 40% OFF coupons, so if you have the time, just pick things up slowly.

Another route, to get better quality and more professional supplies, is to check out a specialty cake supply store in your area, or try an online retailer.  Some of my favorite online shops are Global Sugar Art, Cake Supplies 4 U, Jesters Discount Cake Supply and Sweetwise.  There are countless others, but these, I think, are the most popular.  You’ll just have to search for the best deal on what you are looking for, but generally the prices are on the same price point.

Happy Caking :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Cakes 4/5/11

I have been trying to figure out how to post some of my cakes for everyone to see, without just making a new post for each one and rambling about them.  Describing how I made it might get boring without pictures or video to show.

It was suggested to me, that I make a slide show (duh!), so here it is!  A slide show of some of my favorite cakes!  If you have any comments or questions about how I did anything leave a comment, or send me an email!

Happy Caking :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Marshmallow Fondant Recipe

After having mentioned Marshmallow Fondant in my last post, it occurred to me that I should post my recipe!  If you are new to the cake decorating arena, you may only be familiar with Wilton fondant (or none at all).  While it may be usable for making figures and covering cakes, it does NOT have a pleasant taste, to me it tastes awfully chemically.  For years now, even before I started "serious" cake decorating, I have been making Marshmallow Fondant instead.  It's super easy, fairly cheap to make and has a marshmallow taste that most people like.  So, here is my recipe:

  • 1 16oz. bag miniature marshmallows (get the mini, they melt more evenly; also, it may be hard to find the 16 oz. bag, you can get the 10 oz. bag- just use less powdered sugar!)
  • 1 2lb bag powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • about 1/4 Cup shortening (for greasing hand & surfaces)
  • gel food colors (optional)

  1. In a large, microwave safe bowl, melt marshmallows in increments of 30 seconds (to avoid burning them!).  It will probably take about 1min-1.5min to get them completely melted (stir in between).  While the marshmallows are melting, prepare a wooden spoon or silicon spatula with a generous greasing of shortening! 
  2. When the marshmallows are completely melted, stir them with your prepared spatula to smooth out any lumps.  If you need a large amount of colored fondant, this is where I add my gel color food coloring (for dark colors I use a combination of powdered food color & gel because too much gel food color will change the consistency of the fondant).  
  3. Then add about 1/2 of the powdered sugar and stir to incorporate, it's going to be VERY sticky!!  
  4. Add more powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time until you get a thick dough starting to form (if you are using the 10oz bag of marshmallows, you will probably only use about 2/3 to 3/4 of a 2lb bag of powdered sugar).  
  5. When it gets difficult to stir with the spoon, there is nothing to do but get your hands in there and get messy!  Grease your hands and table liberally with shortening and turn the mixture onto your work surface.  Knead until smooth, kneading in more powdered sugar as necessary until you have a smooth ball.  It should not be too sticky and should be nice and stretchy.  
  6. That's it!  Now wrap it up until you are ready to use it.  If you worked very quickly, it is probably still warm and very soft, you CAN use it as is, but might find it easier to work with if you let your Marshmallow Fondant "rest" for a bit (wrapped tightly) to cool to room temperature.


*If you think you added too much powdered sugar and it is too dry knead in some shortening and it should solve the problem.
*If you are not using your fondant right away, just knead it a bit when you're ready, to get it soft and stretchy.
*When you roll out your fondant, there are two schools of thought, some people use shortening (to keep the fondant from drying out), some people use powdered sugar or cornstarch.  I prefer to use powdered sugar, it does dry out the fondant if you don't work quickly... but I find that the shortening makes it a bit gooey.

There you have it!  Very simple to make, just a bit messy!  I hope you've found this recipe, and my tips, useful.  Good luck, and enjoy!!

Happy Caking :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"The Mat" Awesome, or Not?

So, I thought I'd do a little product review on "The Mat."  If you follow the forum topics over at Cake Central, then you probably have seen topic after topic about the raves and/or complaints about The Mat.  Here is my opinion and experience with the product.

The Mat is a tool available from Sweetwise.  For the relatively low price of $18 (a great bargain by "cake decorating tools" standards), you get 2 sheets of 30"x30" highly polished, food safe vinyl.  Patent pending by Sweetwise, The Mat is a tool designed to help you roll out and apply fondant to a cake.  The large size can potentially help you handle a fairly large piece of fondant, that may otherwise be difficult to pick up and lay on a cake without ripping or otherwise damaging the fondant.  If you want to check out their video on how to use The Mat check it out on their youtube channel.

I initially bought The Mat at the end of the summer after hearing about it over at Cake Central and watching the demo video on YouTube.  What really sold me was the claim that you could roll out fondant "dust free" meaning NO powdered sugar or cornstarch mess to clean up afterward!  I HATED cleaning up, the sugar would make my table sticky and it would take forever to get it clean.  By the end of it all the table, floor and I would all be covered with sugar.  And I hate mess!  So, I thought, THIS is the product for me, I MUST have it!

Shortly after I place my order (shipping was very quick!) I received my Mat!  Yay!  I was so excited and I had 2 cakes to do, so I could try it out right away...  My first impression was disappointment :(  Up until very recently I was an exclusive Marshmallow Fondant user.  It was cheap, fairly tasty and I could make as much as I needed.  When I tried out my Mat, I ended up with lots of pock marks on the surface of the fondant and it stuck horribly!  I was so sad that it wasn't working for me.  I looked up reviews and it seemed fairly evenly split, there were people who loved The Mat immediately, and people (like me) who were having trouble with sticking and pock marks...

Not one to give up, I did some experimenting with it a few weeks later.  They claim that it was a dust free solution to rolling fondant, but what if I peeled back The Mat and added just a bit of powdered sugar?  It worked!  But I had to do this to both sides... and when I was rolling and The Mat was "sticking" to itself, I peeled it back, like the video instructed, and it ended up trapping air and I was STILL getting pock marks!  Then I discovered that I didn't necessarily have to lift the vinyl all the way, just to the edge of my fondant.  I posted my tips for other people having the same trouble I was (and I was tickled when I saw Sweetwise post a video with my tips!!).  But it was still so troublesome to work with...  I tried different variations of my fondant recipe (convinced it was the Marshmallow Fondant) but to no avail, it was more trouble than it was worth.  And so, The Mat sat in storage for months...

Then, I saw some more discussion about The Mat... and I got to thinking that I wanted to MAKE it work, I hate wasted money!  This happened around the time of a big sale on fondant that a popular online cake decorating supplier was having.  I had always thought that "commercial, pre-made fondant is gross," my only previous experience having been with Wilton brand fondant.  I did some research and discovered that no-one likes the taste of the Wilton fondant... So, I thought, I'll try one of the "good" brands... after more research I settled on Satin Ice as my brand- it actually tastes good! (you can order sample kits of Satin Ice and Fondarific here)

As soon as I had a cake to do, I pulled out my Satin Ice and my Mat... from the first push of the rolling pin I fell in love!  It rolled so smoothly!  I thought, surely though, it won't come off of The Mat like in the video... but it DID!  It peeled right off like a dream, I finally figured out what everyone was raving about!  When I was done, I just rolled up The Mat and put it away... NO MESS to clean up!  I am now in love with my Mat, it is one of my favorite cake decorating tools.  It makes life so much easier!  If you have The Mat (or plan on purchasing it) and are having trouble using it with your Marshmallow Fondant I would highly recommend to try out some Satin Ice, or other pre-made fondant (I also found I prefer the convenience of just pulling fondant out of a bucket).  I have found that the combination of these two products have made a world of difference in cake decorating and have made my job so much faster and easier!

So, in short, The Mat is a WIN, at least in my book!!

Happy Caking :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gumpaste Lilac Video Tutorial!

A few months ago I was wanting to make a lilac out of gumpaste, I couldn't find any cutter, instructions or tutorials, so I had to make it up as I went.  I think the final result came out very nice, and pretty realistic!

Here is my first tutorial, enjoy!