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,, 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!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Strawberry Cake (Part Deux!)

So, yesterday I posted the recipe for my strawberry cake... having waited several weeks and not had the opportunity to photograph a finish cake/slice of cake I figured I would just post the recipe anyway.  However, just after I posted the recipe, I unexpectedly had some leftover icing/strawberry cake so I was able to slap something together to show everyone what the finished cake would look like!  Sooooo.... I was able to complete the video I had been editing.  I wasn't going to post the video without an example of the "finished product" but serendipitously I was able to finish the video and post it! 

That was a rather long-winded story for a simple explanation!  But, if you would like a visual demonstration of my scratch Strawberry Cake Recipe, take a gander at this:

(You can see my hands moving like I was talking, lol!  I was!  But when I uploaded the footage the blowers from the vent at my commercial kitchen were SO loud!  And my 2 year old was playing too loudly for me to voice over... so music with captions it is!)

Thanks for coming back for round two of this recipe!

Happy Caking :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Strawberry Cake Recipe!

So, I've been holding off posting this recipe because I don't yet have pictures of a completed cake!  I haven't had a lot of time for "leisure" baking... I even filmed the recipe while I was at my rental kitchen making a cake for a client thinking "I'll just insert a picture later".  Well, in my area strawberry season is quickly coming to close and the local farmers market is my favorite place to buy my fresh produce... I thought, in case it is also YOUR favorite place to buy your local, fresh berries I'd better hop-to and get this recipe posted!  You can, of course, make this recipe with frozen or non-local strawberries and it will taste just as good :)

So, presented without visual (for now), here is my strawberry cake recipe... I adapted it from Warren Brown's Yellow Butter Cake recipe, you can find it on YouTube!
Yay!  I unexpectedly had leftovers of this popular strawberry cake, so hooray, I can show you what it looks like :)

Strawberry Cake (Scratch)
*Yields 2- 8” rounds or approximately 24 cupcakes

(given by weight and by volume… weight is my preferred method of measurement)
  • 7 ounces All Purpose Flour (1 ¼ + 2 TBSP sifted)
  • 2 ounces Potato Starch (about  ¼ cup + 2 TBSP- found in the baking aisle or near the natural foods)
  • 1 ½ TSP Baking Powder
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1/8 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Strawberry Puree (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 TBSP Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 TSP Natural Strawberry Extract (optional, but recommended- I use Silver Cloud Estates Brand)
  • 6 ounces Unsalted Butter – softened (1 ½ sticks)
  • 12 ounces Extra-Fine Granulated Sugar (1 ½ cups + 3 TBSP- you can zap regular granulated sugar in the food processor to make extra-fine)
  • 4 large eggs
*this cake bakes up a light brownish pink- if you want a really pink strawberry cake, you can add a couple of drops of red or pink food coloring.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your pans- grease the bottom only, line with parchment paper  and lightly grease the parchment (if making cupcakes line your pans with cupcake liners).
  2. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar on low speed until light in color and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  3. Into a separate bowl sift your flour (if measuring by volume, sift directly into the measuring cup).  Add remaining dry ingredients (potato starch, baking powder, salt and baking soda) and whisk to combine well and set aside.
  4. To your 1 cup of strawberry puree, add your extracts (and optional food color) and stir well to combine, set aside.
  5. With your mixer running on low, add your eggs 1 at a time, wait until each is well incorporated before adding another.  When all eggs are added, scrape the sides of the bowl.  Then mix another few seconds until smooth.
  6. With your mixer on low alternate adding the dry ingredients (1/3 at a time) and strawberry puree (1/2 at a time), beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Do not wait for each addition to fully incorporate before adding the next (this step should take less than 1 minute to complete).
  7. When all ingredients are added scrape your bowl and paddle(s) well.  Then mix on high for another 15-20 seconds to thoroughly mix and add structure to the batter. Do not over mix, or your cake will be tough!
  8. Pour batter into prepared pans to about ½ to ¾ full and spread evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the edges and turn out onto a parchment paper lined cooling rack.  Cool completely before frosting!

This cake is delicious and tastes just like a freshly baked strawberry pie!  Pairs really well with cream cheese icing or strawberry buttercream!

Happy Caking :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pink & Purple Anemones Cake!

 Yesterday we had a party to celebrate my daughter's graduation from 8th grade!  She wanted something summery/springy.... so I went with a vibrant fushia color and a shimmery purple, accented with silver!

The anemones were actually a light blush pink and left over from another project.  To my make things easier on myself (with all the other party planning/prep I had to do) I chose to reuse and re-purpose a couple of these flowers.  So I re-dusted them with deep pink and a little purple.  I painted the edge of the petals and the centers silver to give them kind of a "jeweled" effect..  I actually started with the flowers and then designed the rest of the cake around them!
Our party was on the small side... so this pretty little cake was 8"-6"-4"!!  I wanted to do a tiered cake, even though we didn't have a large crowd to feed...  This little cake feeds about 40 people.  But it's still pretty and has the "impressive" look of a larger tiered cake.  So, as you can see, smaller cakes are still a good option for weddings/events where a tiered cake is desired but you don't have a lot of guests.

I don't know if I would do smaller than a 4" on top... the smaller the cake, the more difficult they get to work on... they just want to slide away!

Thanks for checking out my little cake!

Happy Caking :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Motorcycle Cake!

Back in the winter of this year I was commissioned to make a motorcycle cake... for a wedding!  How fun!  I told the couple that this would be a first and a challenge for me, but I was so excited to give it a shot! 

It was a challenge, to say the least, but I survived!  Of course there are things I would have liked to do differently, but it was a "learn as you go" experience for me... I was happy with the result in the end and the couple loved it!

The "engine" and mechanics of the bike are cake, the seat is rice crispy treats and the wheels are a combination of foam and rice crispy treats!  The handle bars and struts are PVC :)

I tried to take many pictures while I was making it...  So I could put together a tutorial for anyone else who might want to try this cake!  At a certain point though, I had to put the camera away and focus on what I was doing... I'll take a look at the material I do have and see if I can put together some instructions (or a list of "learn from my mistakes", lol) because I know it would have been helpful to me to have something to work off of!

Well, that's all I have time for for now...  

Happy Caking :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

50th Birthday Cruise Ship Cake!

Last weekend we had a 50th birthday party for one of my aunts... of course I was asked to make the cake!  My aunt and her husband are going on a cruise to celebrate her birthday, so he asked me to make a cruise ship themed cake.

The ship is made out of rice cereal treats!  I mentioned in my last post, about my discovery for how to get smooth fondant when you are covering your RKT sculptures... cover it with modeling chocolate first to fill in all the bumps!

I knew right away that I wanted the cruise ship on top... (I wasn't going to have time to make the whole cake a 3D cruise ship).  But I struggled with how to decorate the sides.  I was inspired by this graphic that I found when I was browsing "wave images".  I wanted something a little more decorative than just the "standard" wavy line...

The numbers are gumpaste.  I decorated them to look like life preservers!

That's all I have time for today, folks!  Back to the kitchen for me... working on a BIG project for this weekend!

Happy Caking :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Icing Smiles Once Again! Xbox Cake

Last month I was approached by Icing Smiles to, again, donate a cake to a deserving child!  It was a double pleasure for me because it was for the same family I donated a cake to in February!  In February, I made a Blue's Clues cake for Alex.  This time I was asked to make a "Dream Cake" for CJ, Alex's brother, who has been battling Mitochondrial Disease.

CJ wanted an "Xbox Cake"... so an Xbox cake he got!

 Sixteen!  What an exciting birthday!  And what an honor it was for me to make his birthday cake!  The numbers are gumpaste with toothpicks in the bottom to attach to the cake.  I painted them with paint made from pearl dust, Electric Green Americolor and vodka.

The controller was sculpted with rice cereal treats!  After struggling to find a way to cover rice cereal treats with fondant and make it smooth, I think I've figured it out!  I cover it first with modeling chocolate and smooth that (you can also sculpt some detail) and then fondant over the modeling chocolate!  Genius!

 The console it's self was just a 13x9 cake (chocolate cake with peanut butter SMBC filling!), that I trimmed a little from the end to get the proportions right.  Then I contoured the front and back a little to give it the slight curve that the Xbox has... (We do not own a video game systems... so I spent HOURS staring at photo's of Xboxes to try and figure out if it did indeed have a curve!)

Working with Icing Smiles has been incredibly rewarding, both times now.  It feels good to know that I can offer a cake to a child who really deserves a reason to smile!  If you are interested in volunteering with Icing Smiles, visit their website or find them on Facebook!  You don't have to be a cake artist to volunteer, they often need home bakers, delivery drivers, fundraising or even just monetary donations.  

Happy Caking :)