Sunday, December 11, 2016

Carving a Polar Bear Cake

From left to right top row: Vivian, Camille and me. Middle: Bob, Ally, Nancy. Bottom: Lady, Maria and Camille
I can bearly contain myself over how impressed I was with the wonderful group of students who joined us for an advanced pastry course at ICE Institute of Culinary Education: How to Carve a Polar Bear cake. Each sweet polar bear ended up having its own very fleshed out individual and delightful personality!
I feel I should start by introducing my bear, Ben.  I debated over a number of possible bear names, Beary White, Nanuk, Winona, Antonio Fargus and Little Bear. Little Bear was a close second because ironically he is NOT very little, not to mention the fact that I have very fond memories of reading the Little Bear books to my son--- who is also no longer very little. Meet Ben. His head is full of sweet dreams: vanilla and chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream and ganache, wrapped in a blanket of vanilla chocolate fondant.

Each carved cake project starts with finding photographs of my subject narrowing down shapes and ideas.  Once that just-right image is found, I scale it to the size I'd like my cake to be using a Tracer Projector and enlarger. Next we check and mark measurements on the scaled sketch (see below).
I thought we might want to change up the look of some of the bears, by adding a hat, or tiara, hence the ghosted hat floated on the right side of sketch.

The two "tiers" of cake are assembled, filled with a chocolate buttercream, and refrigerated to set up. The bottom tier is carved and doweled. Next, the smaller tier, on its separator board, is set on top and carving continues.  Using a templates traced from the sketch the shapes are refined, both by cutting away cake, and by adding a cake pop mixture I call cake clay, (cake broken up into crumbs combined with just enough buttercream to make a moist but firm clay-like mixture). After refrigerating, refrigerating after pretty much every step---cold cake makes sculpting so much easier! the cake is coated in chocolate ganache, which will make for a nice solid foundation.

Students covering their cakes in a mixture of fondants:  We were very lucky to have Fondarific Fondant sponsor the courseFor this class we mixed 2 parts Antique White Buttercream Fondarific with one part Carma Massa Ticcino fondant and it was amazing! User-friendly and wonderful for creating texture. We rolled this combo out and set up in the freezer for about 10 minutes creating a very easy-to-work-with, forgiving and sculptable consistency for carved cakes
The eyes have it! 
Polar bear eyes are surprisingly small relative to the size of their heads. In this case it very conveniently worked out to be exactly the size of 1/2" ball tool. The gum paste balls need to be rolled out at least a day in advance so that they harden up enough to handle and withstand being pushed into their sockets. 
Sachiko Windbiel from Mimicafe Union has a must-see Vimeo tutorial on How to Make a Standing Fondant Figure which along with many other things, teaches exactly how eyes like these are made. 

Texture: I like using a variety of tools to create texture. For this cake we used burnisher and bone folder tools, veining tools, tooth picks and x-acto knives to create a series of different sized strokes. Everyone's favorite tool was a little homemade raking tool which was made out of four toothpicks taped together at the base with artist tape:

Colors: Once the coat was texturized, we used white petal dust mixed to a syrupy consistency with lemon extract. Use a broad flat paint brush on its side trying not to get food color into your grooves of texture, but on the very top layer of fondant.  Grey powered food color was then gingerly applied to the dry surface of fondant with a smaller dry paintbrush.

Recipe: One of my very favorite cakes is Margaret Braun's butter Cake.
Its a delicious vanilla cake with a caramelized sugar crunch baked into the top of each layer. It has a great firm structure for carving cakes.

3D: It's very useful to have a three dimensional reference to work from.  When sculpting animals I often rely on toys, and I particularly like Schleich figurines.

Inspiration: I like to find lots of photos to use for reference.  Can you tell which of these became the final guides for the cake?

Templates: Below are the footprint templates for shapes of the two separator boards.  The bottom tier is assembled on the larger template and is for the base of the bear (note the bump-out for the placement of the paw under the chin). Template 2 is for the top tier, with the second paw template inside of it.  The lower part of template 2 has a small bump out for the bear's muzzle.  The muzzle is added and sculpted out of cake-clay on top of the board, and the chin is sculpted out of approximately a plum sized ball of of modeling chocolate attached underneath the foam-core board. Cake Paper Party has great tips on making modeling chocolate and a reliable helpful chart of ratios of for different chocolates and candy melts to corn syrup. 
They should be printed out at 100% on 8.5 X 11" paper:

template 1: base under bear

template 2: separator board for under the top tier

Ben's Base board: Cut a 14" square of 1/2" foam-core board. Then cut random triangles from the edges.  Some of the cut triangles are then glued to the board.  I combined two different shaded of blue fondant to create a marbleized effect, rolled it out, chilled it and cut it into an 11" circle, and attached to board.  Then cover the rest of the board in white fondant and paint it with luster dust.

The End.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Little Chapel That Stood Cake ⛪️: St. Paul's 250th Anniversary

*From New York Daily News article 10/31/16.  left to right:  Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, music director Julian Wachner, and Rev. William Lupfer take in church cake. Photograph by Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News
Happy 250th Birthday! 
Thank you so much to everyone at St. Paul's Trinity Chapel for inviting us to be part of your 250th anniversary celebration!! 
St. Paul’s Chapel, constructed in 1766, is the oldest church building in Manhattan. Located less than 100 yards from the World Trade Center site, the church became known as “The Little Chapel That Stood” after it survived the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Left to Right: Kate Sullivan (me), Michelle Effron, Cynthia Hsu and Sara Porter inside St. Paul's Chapel (Maria Tillous and Anthony Leberto not in photograph) 
❤️  a gigantic shout-out to the great caker team of volunteers and assistants: 

Sarah Porter is a very talented artist, a joy to work with and did much of the heavy lifting from sculpting to building and assembling from top to bottom. 
Michelle Effron of Eat Great Cakes volunteered tons of time doing all of the baking and decorating dozens of detailed pieces on this labor of love  countless other above-and-beyond acts of kindness throughout the process... like lugging her own mixer to the studio when ours broke down!
Cynthia Hsu took time away from her other gorgeous cake projects and swept in like the Calvary in the final days of production to work her very special magic ✨             Malena Tillous of MT Cake Design and Anthony Leberto, Private Chef Caterer, Food Stlylist for volunteering, painstakingly creating details and for cutting the cake!! It takes a village to build a chapel cake :-)

Click here for New York Daily News video of the event (including the finishing of the cake)

Ebay treasure: Vintage Mini-Mansion model Kit

Above: Could not have asked for a better blue print to work from than this vintage Paper model of the Chapel from Mini-Mansion model Kit .  
Finding and then building the model was a great way to wrap my head around how to build the cake. By scaling up the flat pieces I had the perfect set of templates for the components of cake. I LOVE making  architectural cakes, but they are such a puzzle, and having some sort of three dimensional reference makes it so much more manageable!

*Film still from Daily news video shot by Andrew Savulich.  He was a master! It was too funny, we had no idea he was taking a video as we were talking, we thought he was shooting photos.

Here's the church, here's the steeple... photographs by Michelle Effron
ain't nothing like the real thing...St. Paul's Chapel from Broadway entrance

(I totally have a halo in this picture! 😁) right: Anthony + Michelle work their way cutting through the top tier to the cake.
Stop by and visit us on Instagram @ cakepowernyc 💓

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Many Faces of Bee Bee; Dog Cake

This was a very special cake for me because it is a follow-up for my very first client from 23 years ago. 
That first cake was a bib-shaped baby shower cake that I learned how to make from Colette Peter's book, Colette's cakes.  
Fastforward to today and this cake is the college graduation cake for that same "baby" all grown up and amazing, graduating from Barnard.

Left: A Dog in Paris.  Right: The many sides of Bee Bee.

The concept behind the cake was to combine two passions: 
A beloved Havanese dog named Bee Bee, with wardrobe and costume styling and design.


Cactus Bee Bee, and Little Red Riding Bee-Bee
Alexander Mc-Queen Bee-Bee
Barnard Graduate Bee-Bee
The real life Bee Bee, perhaps one of the cutest dogs ever.

Once the idea for the cake was down on paper, the challenge was to figure out how to execute six different hand sculpted figures in a relatively short period of time.  
For that, I need to give a huge shout-out to Sachiko Windbiel from Mimicafe Union!! I met Sachiko at a great Karen Portaleo class recently and was immediately smitten by both her charm and her outstanding work. 
My sculpting medium of choice is usually modeling chocolate . But when it comes to making really small figures, modeling chocolate can become somewhat less lovable.  
Tiny fingers and toes are always coming undone. I needed to try something else, so I got Sachiko's tutorial video, How to Make a Standing Fondant Figure. 
For me, (very much a creature of habit) there was a bit of a learning curve moving from modeling with chocolate to coaxing shapes out of fondant, but I have to say once I got the hang of it, I was all in.  AND no fingers or toes were lost in the process : )

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Have Dragon, Will Travel! The Story of the Dancing Dragon Cake

 Cake for a lovely Chinese New Year celebration at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant in New York
The story of this Dragon cake, I'll call him Elmer Elevator in honor of one of my favorite children's books, kind of begins, at The Institute of Culinary Education at its new super gorgeous location near One World Trade Center in NYC. I brought Elmer's unfinished head along to show a physical example of a work-in-progress to talk about how the final decorating details are done as part of my talk for their Professional Demonstrations and Lectures series

OK, really, a good rule of thumb is to not add on any extra road-trips for a floated cake I'm grateful that while we tempted fate 3 times, this piece proved to be very hearty and forgiving!

The head of the cake is sculpted out of Rice Krispie Treats and modeling chocolate. Elmer's eyelashes and a beard made from cut rice paper sprayed with gold food colorThe long body was red velvet cake filled with a chocolate ganache and  buttercream filling. Both the head and body were covered in fondant, embossed with patterns and then painted with powdered food color mixed with lemon extract.

Maria and the Dragon:  The base was built using wooden dowels inset into foam-core boards and secured with hot glue.  The head is on a separate stand that could then be inserted into the full base.  By the time we were ready to build a base for the body, the timing had become a troublesome issue for me and I started talking about speeding up the process by simplifying the base structure as much as possible and have most of the body sit flat on the board. Malena Tillous, a very talented cake designer who was assisting with the cake, wouldn't hear of it. We talked about some of the options for building it and how much time I thought it would take and how I wasn't event sure the idea would work...but before I could talk anyone out of it, she got to work and had it done in half the time I'd imagined and it was surprisingly sturdy...Triumph!

I love kids...there was a very enthusiastic reception for the cake...I actually saw a fair amount of plate licking going on (and while this caused some parental dismay, it warmed my heart!)

There, can you see the giant dancing dragon, right in the window?! The Store was filled with them.
Before starting most projects I spend some time researching images on line.  I filled a folder with photos from all different sources for reference for Chinese New Year parades and Dragons.  After struggling with getting the shape of the head right for a long while, I finally hightailed it to Pearl River in Soho. (I've loved Pearl River Mart since I was in high school, and very sadly, I made it there just before they closed their doors forever just after Chinese New Year in February.)  I was so glad to get there one last time and was able to get two small figurines. Having them as 3D references made all the difference.  

Bring us the head of that Dragon!
The final Chapter: I got a text from a friend letting me know that the principal of our school had brought a bit of Elmer back from the celebration and placed it in a really lovely showcase in the lobby of the school. Awww! (It made me cry a little) While I usually do like to see everything get eaten, I could not have been more surprised and delighted than to see it treated with such care and love.

Photographs on location at the Institute of Culinary Education by Casey Feehan