Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Icing Smiles: Hailee's Cake!

I was contacted recently, for the 3rd time, by Icing Smiles to donate a cake for Hailee.  Hailee just celebrated her 8th birthday.  I was asked to create a "Dream Cake" for Hailee, whose family has suffered the loss of Hailee's little sister, to cancer.  I was happy to accept my call to action!

After browsing by website and blog with her mom Hailee fell in love with a cake I had done at the beginning of the summer for my own daughter (so the pictures will look a little familiar!).
 We personalized the design a little for Hailee.  Because Hailee is a dog lover, with a beloved pet Yorkie, I sculpted the "Yorkie" dog topper to hold her "Happy Birthday" plaque.

Butterflies have a special meaning for the family, so we added a gumpaste (with royal icing detail) butterfly.

The pattern on the middle tier is created with one of the "Straight Frill Cutters" by FMM, it's from Set 1.

I loved the design when I made it the first time, but I love this version even more.  It's so much more special to me because I was able to create it for Hailee and her family.  I hope my cake helped make Hailee's birthday celebration a little more special :)

Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that works with volunteer bakers to provide cakes for families effected by the critical illness of a child.  My experience with the charity has been incredibly rewarding and I encourage you to check them out and volunteer if you want to help "bake a difference."

You can check out my first Icing Smiles cake here and my second one here!

Happy Caking :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Succulent Cake!

I know I've been MIA for a while, again!  I've been lucky enough to enjoy a very busy summer, both with business and family events.  So, now I get to play a little catch up. 

Today, I'm posting a cake I made back in August.  A friend ordered it from me for her sister's bridal shower.  I've been wanting to make gumpaste succulents for over a year now and she was using succulents as a decoration for the shower, so naturally I designed the cake around them! 
 We decided to go for a simple, clean and modern look.  The succulents became the focus, a grouping of 3, so as not to overwhelm the petite cake.  The bottom layer is an 8" round that is about 6" tall and the top is a 6" round about 4" tall.  I thought the differences in tier height would add some interest without adding design "clutter."

I am SO happy with how my succulents came out... I definitely intend to film a tutorial ASAP!  It fit in so well with the beautiful room that my friend designed for the shower!  I'm so happy that my little cake got to play a part!

Thanks for looking!
*Sorry, the pictures aren't the greatest... I forgot to bring my camera that day (of all days!) and had to suffice with the camera on my phone!

Happy Caking :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Let's Go Patriots!!

So you may or may not have read that I live in New Hampshire...  I have for the past 3 years and before that I lived in Connecticut for nearly all of my life (I had a 2 year stint in Florida right after I graduated high school, but that was so long ago it doesn't really count!).  I am an New England girl through and through. 

I'm not much of a sports fan, but I do follow football with my husband and we are (of course) New England Patriots fans!  I was so excited when I got a call for a Patriots "flying Elvis" cake....?  Okay, I'm not THAT much of a Patriots fan, I had to check with both my husband and brother and they hadn't heard of the "flying Elvis"  but we all agreed, and a quick Google search confirmed, that it must just be the Patriot's logo (I of course checked with my client and it was what she was looking for). 

This thoughtful bride was ordering the cake as a surprise grooms cake for her soon-to-be (and surely is by now) husband!

I wish I had thought/had time to take photos of the process so I could share with you all how I made this cake... it was pretty easy, and I really love how clean and sharp looking it came out.  Exactly what I had in mind and hopefully what my client wanted to (if she hadn't just left the nail salon when I dropped off the cake she may have done cartwheels... so I think/hope she was happy!).

I baked two 2" layers in a 9"x13" sheet pan.  Torted and filled them and let the cake chill in the refrigerator.  I made a template from an enlarged graphic I printed (on 2 separate sheets of paper and pieced together) and used it to cut out the "outline" on a 1/2 sheet cake board... this would become my bottom cake board.

Using the cake board/template I gauged how much of one corner I could cut off and used buttercream to "glue" it on the end of the cake so I would have the length I needed for the "tail".  Chilled again really quick so it wouldn't fall apart while I carved.  Then used buttercream to glue my cake board to what was currently the "top" of the cake (reversed, so it would be the right orientation when flipped).  Carved around the template and then inverted the cake... Voila!  The cake board is now on the bottom!
Then all you have to do is cut out the logo pieces from fondant (I mix a little gumpaste in to help the cut outs hold their shape) and you've got yourself a "Flying Elvis" cake!!

I hope any Patriot's fans who want to make their own cake will understand my rambling description!  If not, hey, you can always call me ;)

Happy Caking :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Pictures of my PUBLISHED cake!

If you missed my last post... I'm published!  In Cake Central Magazine Volume 3, Issue 5!  I'm still in disbelief, lol... I am very proud of the design and Simply K Studios out of Wethersfield, CT took so many great photos I wanted to share some of my favorites!

We got some amazing outdoor shots that didn't make it into the magazine (I can kind of understand it as the pink ruffles, especially on the bottom tier, got a bit washed out from the sunlight...).  But, not surprisingly, all of my favorites were from the outdoor shoot :)

Okay, so there are a bunch of favorites!  Thank you Simply K Studios for taking such amazing photographs of my cake!

Happy Caking :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm Published!!

Okay, I've been freaking out over this for a good 2 months now and couldn't tell anyone!  But, back in May, Cake Central Magazine asked me to design a cake to be featured in an upcoming issue!  I cannot tell you how honored and excited I was to be asked... That in the 2 years or so, since I first picked up my spatula, I have come so far as to be invited to have my cake published in a trade magazine to be admired by my "peers."

Of course I was busy, but OF COURSE I had to make it work!  I was sent an inspirational photo that featured a teal and pink color pallet and had a beautiful, feminine, "vintagey" feel to it.  I held my breath for a month after I submitted the photos, waiting to hear if my cake was good enough to make it in... they even contacted me to confirm the photographer credit (the amazingly talented ladies from Simply K Studios in Connecticut) but I still didn't want to get my hopes up.  But, I made it!  My cake was published, along with so many other beautiful cakes, in the issue that came out at the beginning of July- Volume 3, Issue 5: "The Really Big Wedding Cake Issue!"
Although Cake Central Magazine is now a digital-only format (and I would really love a glossy copy to hold in my hand, hang on my wall, show to strangers on the street...) it is soooo exciting to see my name "in print!" If you'd like to buy a copy, you can do so here!

I have to give a HUGE, GIGANTIC, THANK YOU and shout out to Simply K Studios for so graciously taking these amazing shots... Head over to their website or blog to see their beautiful portfolio.  If you are in the New England area and in search of a photographer I highly suggest you contact them!

*I'll share some of the other gorgeous photo's they took as soon as I can get watermarked copies!

Happy Caking :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Craftsy Rocks! Class Review Part 4: Advanced Fondant Techniques

This is Part 4 of a little series of posts I am doing on the cake decorating classes currently offered on Craftsy.  Currently there are 4 and I have take all of them!  If you missed my last posts, I reviewed the first class I took, Handcrafted Sugar Flowers with Jacqueline Butlter, the second class I took, Topsy Turvy Cake Construction with Richard Ruskell, and the third class I took, Modern Piping with Joshua John Russell.  In this review I will focus on the final class I've taken of the 4 available so far...

Advanced Fondant Techniques with Marina Sousa

Online Cake Decorating Class
Everything I have learned about working with fondant I have taught myself.  Not because I didn't want to take a class but because I felt that I was already beyond what the Wilton classes would offer and the more complex classes are usually to far for me to travel too (especially with a clingy 2 year old at home!).  So when I saw that Marina Sousa (an amazingly talented and hugely known cake artist) had created this "Advanced Fondant" class, I jumped at the chance to take it (at a discount!  Seriously, if you keep an eye out you almost NEVER have to pay full price for a Craftsy course!).

The "Class Materials" for this course include a pdf for "Supplies & Resources." In it, you will find a cake sketch, a supply list for the course, as well as supplies broken down by "section" and a list of online resources so you know where to buy your supplies.  One of the things I found most useful in the Supplies & Resources guide was that Marina calculates how much fondant you need for each part of the class, so you aren't left guessing about what and how much to buy!

In the class Marina demonstrates 5 different cakes, each using a different decorating technique: hand painting, stenciled embossing, applied design, inlaid technique and lace technique.  She also demonstrates how to make different embellishments including bows, multi-loop bows, a couple different flowers, ribbons and pearls.  In the different decorating techniques, you will learn several different methods for covering your cake; enrobing, wrapping, and paneling.  I've never tried wrapping or paneling a cake so these were techniques I was excited to see demonstrated.

I think my favorite of the techniques shown (though all are great) was the embossed stenciling!  I'm so excited to give it a try.  The inlaid technique was also really interesting... these two will give a whole new look to my cakes!  The embossed stenciling uses the paneling technique to cover the cake with fondant.  Marina gives some really useful tips about how to work with the fondant and keep it looking perfect!

Advanced Fondant Techniques rivals Handcrafted Sugar Flowers as my favorite of the 4 classes!  Actually it might be my favorite because the techniques will be more widely used (Handcrafted Sugar Flowers is, of course, a very close second!).  I think this class was well worth the money.  If you are a newbie or relative newbie to the cake decorating world I think you will get a lot from this class.

Marina Sousa is the talented cake artist behind her business Just Cake in Capitola, CA.  She has not only been a repeat competitor on Food Network Challenge (with multiple wins), but she has even been a judge for the series.  Head over to her website to see her amazing portfolio!  Or follow Marina on Pinterest to see what inspires her creative mind :)

There are new classes being offered on Craftsy all the time!  Some of my favorites are:

In addition to their wonderfully produced online classes, Craftsy also offers some great free resources!
There is a recent post on Cake Central about the Craftsy classes... and while a lot of people agree with me that they are fabulous, some people felt disappointed.  I think the classes are great if you are a beginner to intermediate level cake decorator.  I think for the $15-$40 you pay for the class (depending on if you got it on sale or full price) they are an excellent value and tool for expanding your skills.  If you took a class with any one of these instructors in person you would be paying hundreds of dollars, not including any travel fees and lodging if the classes are outside of you immediate area.  I think that it's great that you can interact with the instructors, and from what I've seen they are all very prompt in responding to questions.  Of the four, the Topsy Turvy is the only one I might have be a little disappointed with.  But only because I found the design and final product a little lacking.  That doesn't mean that I didn't learn anything from it...

In my humble opinion these classes are great and I cannot wait to see what else Craftsy has in the works for us cake designers!  I happen to know that one of them will be a sugar flower class with James Rosselle!

Happy Caking :)

DISCLAIMER: The Craftsy class reviewed in this post was purchased by me and all opinions are my own.  Links to Craftsy classes & the Craftsy website are sponsored by the Craftsy affiliate program.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Craftsy Rocks! Class Review Part 3: Modern Piping

Craftsy Logo
This is Part 3 of a little series of posts I am doing on the cake decorating classes currently offered on Craftsy.  Currently there are 4 and I have take all of them!  If you missed my last posts, I reviewed the first class I took, Handcrafted Sugar Flowers with Jacqueline Butlter, and the second class I took, Topsy Turvy Cake Construction with Richard Ruskell.  In this review I will focus on the 3rd craftsy class I took...

Modern Piping with Joshua John Russell

Cakes with intricate piping are beautiful but also labor intensive!  Piping isn't typically something you can just pick up and do.  While I feel somewhat comfortable with a piping bag, swirls and filigree where somewhat of a mystery to me!  I just couldn't figure out how to make them look flowing and even- on the side of a cake!  So, having has great experiences with the first two cake decorating classes that Craftsy was offering, I decided to buy Modern Piping (also at a discount- I see a trend here, lol).

The "course  materials" in this class include recipes for the royal icing needed for the class (both a scratch recipe and a recipe using a mix).  You also get a "Supplies & Resources" list with all of the tools and supplies needed as well as templates for each of the designs.  Joshua John shows you how to make 3 beautiful and modern cakes with different techniques, but they are all cohesive and could be used together on a dessert table.  The course covers stenciling, free hand piping, how to make "cake jewelry" and how to transfer a pattern/design to your cake.

While nothing but practice can really make you good at piping, I think Joshua does an excellent job of teaching you the techniques you need to master piped design.  I don't want to give away the material in the video, but he gives tips on how to steady yourself to keep your lines smooth and fluid.  And he shows how to transfer a pattern onto your cake... I'm beginning to think that most of those complicated designs that make your jaw hit the floor are done with the pattern-transfer method!

I have yet to try out Joshua John's Modern Piping techniques, but I think this class was worth the cost and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning piping.  I admittedly have not taken a Wilton class, but a lot of the Wilton material I see is very basic and dated looking.  I think this class would be better for anyone interested in learning piping techniques for a "fresher" looking cake.  This class gets a thumbs up from me!

Joshua John Russell was a finalist on Last Cake Standing and has appeared on Food Network Challenge 15 times!  He turns out stunning and ornate cakes from his Atlanta based business Joshua John.  He says he most often draws inspiration from fashion, which is quite evident in his amazing work!  Check out his cakes on his website, joshuajohnrussell.com or his blog- The Fashion Caker.

There are new classes being offered on Craftsy all the time!  Some of my favorites are:

In addition to their wonderfully produced online classes, Craftsy also offers some great free resources!
Up next is my review of Advanced Fondant Techniques with Marina Sousa!

Happy Caking :)

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

4th of July Firework Cupcakes!

I know that I've promised to post my next Craftsy review... but I made some adorable cupcakes that I wanted to share!  I wanted to make something fun, with decorations the kids can do, this was my test run...  (I'll be bringing all the different pieces with me when I visit family so the kids can make them!)
What's more "4th of July" than fireworks?!  So I made some fondant curly-cues to look like fireworks shooting out of the top!  And of course, to make them extra special I started with white cake and made them red white and blue!
I also added some patriotic sprinkles to the top, just to make them a little more festive, and add to the "firework" effect.  You would be surprised at how difficult it was to find red, white and blue sprinkles!  I went to 4 different stores (that is dedication!)- 2 grocery stores and 2 craft stores, finally finding them at the 2nd Michael's that I went to!  I ended up with the Wilton Patriotic Mix...
When I bake multicolor, layered cupcakes, I like to use the foil wrappers, then the colors are a surprise!
 AND... I even video taped the process, so I could put together a little "how-to" video on my YouTube channel!

(if you are a subscriber to my channel, you may have noticed multiple upload notifications in your inbox... I apologize, I had "issues" with YouTube because of the Public Domain music I chose to use in my video! Finally, think I got it figured out though!)

Oh... And as a bonus, here is a cute idea!  I've seen "cakes baked in mason jars" before and thought these layered cupcakes would be perfect baked into a petite mason jar!  What better way to transport a yummy dessert to your picnic and fireworks?!
I hope you enjoy your holiday!  My next post will be my next review of the Craftsy cake decorating classes!

Happy Caking:)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Craftsy Rocks! Class Review Part 2: Topsy Turvy Cake Construction

Craftsy Logo
This is Part 2 of a little series of posts I am doing on the cake decorating classes currently offered on Craftsy.  Currently there are 4 and I have take all of them!  If you missed my last post, I reviewed the first class I took, Handcrafted Sugar Flowers with Jacqueline Butlter, as well as gave a little overview of how the Craftsy platform works and how great I think it is!  So, on to the second class I took on Craftsy!

Topsy Turvy Cake Construction with Richard Ruskell

I was so excited to hear about this next Craftsy cake decorating course!  I love the whimsical look of topsy turvy cake designs.  My son's first birthday cake was a topsy turvy...  The little cake I designed for my business logo is a topsy turvy!  I know how to make a topsy turvy cake... BUT in this class you learn how to make an "extreme- looks like it's gonna fall over" cake!  I've been interested in learning about more complicated cake construction so that is why I signed up for this class.

First of all, Richard Ruskell is an excellent instructor!  He is very compelling and explains things in a way that even "cake novices" might feel brave enough to attempt this construction.  In the course materials for this class, Richard provides "Instructions" which include recipes for vanilla buttercream (looks to be an Italian meringue buttercream) and chocolate cake, as well as the equation (yes, some math needed for this one) and sketch necessary to build this leaning cake.  Also provided, is the complete list of supplies needed.

I feel like the course was "complete", in that it goes over the supplies and shows how to build the cake, from board preparation, covering with fondant, constructing and embellishing.  Richard is delightful to listen to and has some beautiful cake examples to show.  And if you follow his method, you should be able to attempt one of your own by the end of the class.  However, I personally did not care for the actual design of his finished example cake. But if you are new to cake design the simple cut-outs applied would be fairly easy to pull off.

All in all, I guess I have mixed feelings about this class... I definitely don't regret spending the money on it (I was able to purchase this class at a discount as well because of an email offer).  And I definitely gained the knowledge and confidence to attempt the "extra topsy, not so much turvy" cake.. as soon as I have an occasion to try!  As a cake designer though, I wish he had attempted a more complex, more appealing design... He has a white cake with flowers and some beautiful mold detailing that I would have rather seen... even minus the flowers.  But that, I think, is a rather minor problem because I also would rather not try to replicate another designers creation exactly.  I think in my opinion this class would appeal best to novice-intermediate cake decorators...  You would gain a lot if you were a newbie, and even if you have some experience you will learn a bit about more complex cake construction.  Perhaps even feel courageous enough to dip your toe into "extreme cake construction" after this class... 

The verdict: If you look at the class for it's intended purpose- to teach you how to build this extreme topsy turvy cake, then I think the course succeeded and for that I give it a thumbs up!

Having won Food Network Challenge more than any other cake designer, and being named to both the 10 Best Pastry Chefs in America list and the 10 Best Cake Artists list, Richard Ruskell is certainly a master at his craft!  Check out his website, richardruskell.com, to find out more about him and his work (and find some yummy recipes!).
There are new classes being offered on Craftsy all the time!  Some of my favorites are:
In addition to their wonderfully produced online classes, Craftsy also offers some great free resources!
In my next post I will share my review of Modern Piping with Joshua John Russell...

Happy Caking :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Craftsy Rocks! Class Review Part 1: Handcrafted Sugar Flowers

Craftsy Logo

Have you heard of Craftsy? Up until a few months ago, I hadn't... but one day I received the Cake Central newsletter and they had an offer for Jacqueline Butler's Handcrafted Sugar Flower class...   Since Jacqueline Butler is a sugar flower master and the special offer price was excellent, I figured I'd try the class to see if I liked it... half expecting it to be a glorified YouTube video.  Well, the rainy Sunday that I purchased the class I sat and watched the whole thing... a detailed, hours long, interactive course!  It was extremely informative, the platform is amazing and I've been hooked on Craftsy ever since!  To my delight every month or so they have been adding to the lessons in their Cake Decorating category, and I have taken all 4 of them!  I am going to make a small series of posts reviewing each of the classes I have taken...  So read on if you would like to see my what I thought of these classes!

Handcrafted Sugar Flowers with Jacqueline Butler

This is "the class that started it all" for me... lol!  One of my favorite things to look at are pictures of beautifully decorated cakes, more specifically cakes decorated with sugar flowers!  I've teaching myself how to make gumpaste flowers, but it can be frustrating trying to figure it out on your own.  If you follow my posts at all you may have seen a few months ago that I posted about this class after I took it!  I even jumped in and made a small bouquet of flowers- check out that blog post to see how my project turned out :)

Since I pretty much gave my opinion of the class (a resounding approval!) in that previous post, I won't go on too long about it, but I do want to summarize my review for anyone interested.

As I mentioned, I initially expected the class to be a glorified YouTube video.  I mean, Jacqueline Butler is an amazing sugar artist and travels world wide to teach.  How could I expect the "full Jacqueline experience" with just the nominal fee I paid for the class?  But this class, and the Craftsy platform in general, is so much more.  Even better than a DVD you might purchase because it is interactive.  You can share your pictures, you can ask questions and see what questions other people have had... Jacqueline is great about taking the time to answer questions and give feedback on your photos.  In this way, it's the best of both worlds!  You get the interaction with your instructor and you get the video that you can take notes on (integrated into the Craftsy website!) and watch over and over again- you an log on from any computer, you "own" it for life.  And Craftsy is not just for cake decorating!  If you are a crafter, sewer, artisan cook... you will probably find something to interest you here!  Okay, so I think I've made it clear that I really like Craftsy!

When you sign up for for your class, you can begin taking the class immediately.  You can download the "course materials." Which, in this lesson, includes a list of supplies, recipes for gumpaste and royal icing, a source list- so you know where to buy your supplies, as well as instructions that you can print to have in front of you.  At the top of this (and all) lesson page you will see tabs for "Homeroom," "Video Lessons," "Talk," "Projects," "Video Notes," and "Reviews."  Homeroom is the "dashboard" for the class, you can see all the lessons, and where you left off, new projects uploaded, questions & answers and this is where you find the course material.  Talk, is a forum where you can discuss the less with your "classmates" and instructor.  Projects is where you can upload pictures of your finished projects and see other people's work.  Video Notes is private to you.  As you are watching your lesson you can take notes and it will be associated with that point in the video so you don't have to figure out where to go back to!  You can also ask questions during the video and see other questions posted by other people.  It's very interactive, and I love it!  Okay, so that is how Craftsy works!
In the Handcrafted Sugar Flowers class, you will learn how to make gumpaste hydrangea, leaves and buds, as well as some dainty filler flowers, filler leaves and buds.  These may be "simple" flowers but are a staple to pretty much any flower arrangement!  Jacqueline does an excellent job teaching these flowers and walks you through step by step- from making your gumpaste to arranging your bouquet.  She is an excellent teacher and doesn't rush through, you'll see her make several of each flower so you can see how it's done if you missed the first time.

Another great thing about this class is Craftsy, and the people who produced the video lessons for this course, did an excellent job with camera angles.  You get clear close ups of what Jacqueline is showing you.  If you are used to YouTube instruction, like I am, you know that sometimes it is hard to see clearly what is being worked on.  Speaking of clear, the video lessons are available in HD!  If that's your thing :)

One of my favorite aspects of the Handcrafted Sugar Flowers course is that it really is complete...  She shows you how to dust the flowers for a realistic look and how to wire your flowers together into a beautiful bouquet!  These two things are often not included in the online instruction you find.  Wiring flowers together is something I struggle with, trying to figure it out on my own... You'd think it would be simple right?  But I have a hard time making "natural" looking arrangements!  I don't want to give away her tips, but I definitely walked away with some transferable knowledge of how to arrange my sugar flowers!

I believe this class is about $60 normally, but Craftsy is often running promotions so you can likely find a good deal (I was able to get it for half price)!  The money is well worth it, in my opinion!  So, if you want to learn more about sugar flowers I think this is a great place to start- especially if you aren't able to travel to take classes in person!  Handcrafted Sugar Flowers gets my stamp of approval!

Jacqueline Butler is the sugar artist behind Petalsweet Blog.  She has amazing work and is a fantastic teacher, traveling world wide to instruct.  Head over to her blog to see some of her masterful creations!

There are new classes being offered on Craftsy all the time!  Some of my favorites are:

In addition to their wonderfully produced online classes, Craftsy also offers some great free resources!

In my next post I will review Topsy-Turvy Cake Construction...

Happy Caking :)

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own!