Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bake a Difference.

photograph from Amy Atlas' Candy Shop Dessert Table
I'm so excited to be part of a very special upcoming event.
Icing Smiles and The Pinwheel Project have partnered up to create a Spring celebration for families at the Ronald McDonald House NYC on Thursday, April 28th.
Amy Atlas, is creating one of her amazing dessert tables, guaranteed to provide guests with a small escape from the sights and smells of the medical world (and create some Icing Smiles). We'll be doing a big fun cake that we hope will be as appealing to the moms, in honor of mother's day, as for the kids. And there will be cookies by Patti Paige, who makes
my favorite cookies in the world.
The Pinwheel Project will be providing children with fun activities and goody bags, giving the parents an opportunity to relax and enjoy their evening away from the hospital.
To learn more about Icing Smiles and how you can help, please visit their site, Icing

How-to Make Puppy Cupcakes

*This is a fun decorating project, and pretty kid-friendly, so you can make these with you kids ❤
*Click here to watch us do a how-to demonstration on The Martha Stewart Show.
Start with chilled standard cupcakes baked in white paper liners:

Frost the cupcakes and chill for at approximately 10 minutes.

Roll out darker color of chocolate fondant

Cut out 3" circles with circle cutter. Chill cutouts in refrigerator for about 5 minutes. Roll out lighter shade of fondant and using circle cutter, cut out 1 3/4" circles.
Place 3" circle on top of icing on cupcake and using fondant smoother or hands smooth over top.Place 2" circle near the bottom edge of the cupcake for the muzzle. Attach by slightly wetting the back of the fondant.
Place a handful of dark brown candy melts in a bowl. Microwave 10 second intervals stirring until the chocolate is soft enough (about total of 20-30 seconds). Fill icing bag or ziplock bag with melted chocolate and press out excess air from bag and seal. Snip a tiny hole in corner of bag.

Place the ears template under a sheet of wax paper and trace the shapes with the piping bag, fill in outlines and chill.

Pipe eyes and attach the candy nose and piped ears with melts. Draw mouth with food color marker. Download and print the dog-ear template for a handy decorating guide.

Here's what you'll need:
24 chilled standard cupcakes baked in white paper liners
1 recipe buttercream icing
white chocolate fondant tinted in shades of off-white, tan and brown with gel food color
(cornstarch for coating fondant work surface)
dark brown candy melts
black jelly beans and sugar babies candies
black food color marker
rolling pin
fondant smoother (optional)
1 3/4" circle cutter
3" circle cutter
ziplock bag
template for ears
flexible cutting board cut into a 4 X 3" triangle
wax paper

Git along little doggies!

Herding little puppy cake pops out the door. The final head count...204

Cake POPS!

Bite-sized balls made of crumbled cake mixed with icing and covered in candy coating. They decorated to make cake pops, cupcake pops, and cake bites.

❤ You can find great video tutorials from both Bakerella and Cakeb0t on the basics of how to make your owns cake pops.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LEGO Cakes (Part 2)

As I write this, there are dozens of tiny LEGO minifigures hiding in every conceivable corner of every room of our house. I'm pretty sure they're waiting for me to walk by so they can launch a surprise attack and throw themselves under my feet--(if you've ever stepped on one of these guys, you know what I'm talking about.)
But... you gotta love something that can make a kid so happy!

So, when I got a call to make this minifigure for a soon-to-be 8 year-old named Asher, I couldn't resist!

...and LEGO cake pops! ❤ You can find great video tutorials from both Bakerella and Cakeb0t on the basics of how to make your owns cake pops.

To get this shape, we took cake crumbs and buttercream mixture, pressed it into a pan and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Then, using a small circle cutter cut out a kind of marshmallow shape--- (marshmallow lego pops, an other good idea!).
Then we coated attached lolly pop sticks and it in our melted yellow candy melts. *You can add a few drops of yellow candy color to the candy melts to make the yellow more intense. The little top and bottom knobs are small circles cut out of modeling chocolate, but you can use any candy that has that basic shape for the same effect.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lego Cake (Confessions of a Cake Competition Loser...and a Happy Ending)

The very first time I'd ever heard of a cake competition was 6 years ago when a producer at the Food Network called and asked if I wanted to participate in a "Cake Challenge".
We were already in the process of doing a show for them called Recipe For Success, which was a really great experience with an amazing crew, and I thought, cool, why not?
It was the first season and maybe the second episode shot, so no one really knew what it would look like yet. I was in great company, the other competitors were, Elisa Strauss, Buddy Velestro, and Christpher Garren, all of whom went on to win Cake Challenges...except moi.

At every competition I've been asked the same interview question, over and over. "Are you a competitive person?"
I know full well what I'm supposed to answer: Yes. Unequivocally. Absolutely. "I am here to kick some butt".

But, because I've been focused on the cake and the task ahead, the question always catches me a little bit off-guard. I look blankly at the camera, and try to think of what to say.
Three competitions later,
for better or worse, I can unequivocally say that I am not a competitive person. I am not someone who wants to beat you in a race.
Although, I very much like to run my own race. I like to see if I can do something better than I've ever done before, something I didn't think I could do.

Two years ago when a producer (someone who'd worked on other competitions and seen me crash and burn first-hand) from TLC's Ultimate Cake Off (again in its first season) called, I laughed out loud and said, you're kidding, right?
I'd never successfully completed a three foot cake in a timed competition setting, now this would be a FIVE foot cake that had to have three different mechanical elements.
And I said OK, why not.

Now, of course, I lost again. But this time it was different. Rather than being the dead bottom of the pack, we came in second... OK, second of three. But for all of my not getting it right in a timed and stressful race, in the end, I loved our cake. It was the messiest fondant I can possibly imagine, but it was still the most beautiful, magical, creative cake there that day. And I could say with all honesty, I thought it was a winner : )

Planning the cake. Sketches, scale models, run-throughs, it takes a village to make a ginormous multi-motor spinning, musical cake. Here's Dan Pasky working in NY on the beginning mock-ups of the cake.

Lego brick gummies with lights inside!

My son's Lego ships for inspiration.

Meeting with a Mechanical Engineer.

The little people.

Tons of advance work on Patti's (head assistant and support!) cookies. I did the sketches, and then she crafted hand-made cookie cutters...

The plan: build a strong support structure. Cut sheets of cake into puzzle pieces to fit into structure.

Beth's gorgeous Hydroplane ride car prototype.

Patti Paige, Kate Sullivan, Beth Ayala and Chrisy Platt.
The team: countless of hours of back-breaking, unpaid, under-acknowledged work both behind the scenes and during the show.

P.S. We went to Legoland anyway!

(Lego cake by Kate Sullivan.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

(Ginormous) Hamburger cake and dreams of Claes Oldenburg

This week's "Sunday Sweets: Cake or Fake?" post on Cake Wrecks is super fun!
Its filled with great cake sculptures by the likes of
Mike's Amazing Cakes... as well as some tricky April Fools day double-takes.
I don't know what it is about making a larger-than-life blow-up cake version of some object that makes me sooo happy, but it does.
Maybe its just that any giant version of anything warms my heart, like those roadside diners shaped like hot-dogs. I also think of these super-sized cakes as the
"Claes Oldenburg cake treatment", because I'm such a huge fan of the artist.)
In fact, I've always wanted to make a cake version of his sculpture, Spoonbridge and Cherry (below : )

...and hey, there seems to be at least a little cross-over here, given the artist's interpretation of this piece called, Floor Cake, from 1962: