Thursday, May 19, 2016

citizenship cupcakes

Every year, I donate a gift certificate for baked goods to my son's school auction. This year's winner called me up last weekend and asked for mini chocolate cupcakes to celebrate her becoming a US citizen. I was so touched and excited to help her celebrate. I've had a few good friends become citizens in the last number of years, and I've always been taken by how emotional the process is. I hope she had a wonderful celebration with her friends and family, and I hope these shimmery red, white and blue star cupcakes helped make it sweeter.

cakes for a favorite client

Still catching up... Here are a couple of cakes I did for one of my favorite clients. She has three little guys, so there are lots of fun opportunities to celebrate!

First was a turquoise-and-purple, Lego-themed party. I don't know if there are round Lego pieces like this (probably not), but I do love how the candy-dipped Oreos are just the right size to be the Lego studs.

Next up was a surprise birthday/baby gender reveal party with a tropical island theme. I can't get enough of making free-form fondant fish. And the octopuses! So cute. I've done a couple of similar cakes, but I never made a beach blanket and flip flops before. (Luckily my kids love cocktail umbrellas in their smoothies, so we always have them on hand.) It's also super fun to mix the shades of blue and white frosting to make waves. Not only is it a fun and easy way to frost, it gives the cake a swirly sense of motion that I like.

Then the birthday girl had her first communion. I don't know much about the symbols involved, but luckily, I was given very explicit instructions about what the cake should feature. A chalice, host, and dove; mostly white with just a hint of blue accents.

And finally, little brother had a Harry Potter party with his own book of magic spells.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

boy-o birthdays 8 and 9

I'm way, way behind on posting... such that Boy-o is now 9 1/2 and I haven't posted pictures from his 8th birthday or 9th birthday. Ouch.

For his 8th birthday, we had a party at a local golf-n-stuff place. He was super into flag football, so we had a football cake. (He seems to be super into flag football every fall, and then forget about it for approximately nine months.)

If I knew anything about football, I'd say something clever about the blue guy who seems very intent on this play. But I don't even know what position that's supposed to be. Or, for that matter, why there are red and blue guys on both sides.

This past year, he wanted to make a crazy candy cake, and he wanted to decorate it himself. We did blobs of colored frosting swirled all over the cake, and then he and his sister went nuts with every kind of candy they could get their hands on. You can see there is some method to the madness, but it was definitely a sugar fest. (And you should have heard the ruckus of all those 9-year-old boys, hopped up on sugar. Cue the children wrestling on my bed.)

Happy two years of birthdays, Boy-o!

aunt ruth's apple cake

I've talked about my great aunt Ruth before... she's the one who came 3000 miles to visit with all her recipe cards... and any time I want a reliable, old-school, delicious recipe, I know one of hers will fit the bill. We just made plans to go to the east coast this summer, where I'm hoping to visit with Aunt Ruth's daughter and granddaughter, so I guess that has me thinking about family.

This time, I made Aunt Ruth's apple cake. It's the perfect thing to use up a few apples (it takes six), and it makes a delicious dessert or teatime snack or even breakfast, if you're stretching your idea of what "fruit for breakfast" means. You can see all the thinly sliced apples on top, and there are layers of cinnamon-apple-y goodness running through the cake as well. It's moist, it's sturdy, it's sweet but not cloying, and it holds up nicely for a couple of days under a cake dome.

Aunt Ruth's Apple Cake
Makes one 9" round tube pan cake.

Toss together:
6 apples, peeled and sliced thinly (I like to use really crisp apples that hold up well to baking - maybe Honeycrisp or Granny Smith or a combination, but you can use whatever you prefer)
5 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons sugar

In a large bowl, measure the following and the beat together until smooth:
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) flour
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
4 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a tube pan. Pour half of the batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Spread half the apple slices over the batter. Add the remaining batter and top with the remaining apple slices. Bake for 90 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed with a finger. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

chocolate rose cake

I just never tire of these piped rose cakes, do you? They are elegant and pretty and surprisingly fast and easy to assemble. Win-win!

bicycle cake

One of my parents' best friends has become a bit of a bike fiend. So when he celebrated a birthday, we thought it would be fun to do something with that decoratively on the cake. I decided to pipe cute bicycles out of candy melts. I found a simple picture of a bike (too many details would have been extremely fragile when made out of melted chocolate) and used it as a template underneath a piece of parchment. So I piped directly onto the parchment and then let the bikes harden in the fridge for about 10 minutes. I used an offset spatula to very gently lift them off the parchment. Best advice: pipe a couple of extra just in case they break!

I made a simple lemon cake with lemon-vanilla frosting. (His family all love chocolate, but when you're the birthday boy, you get to pick the flavor!) I kept the cake and frosting decoration very straightforward so the bikes would pop, and I stood them all around the border of the cake. Great for a bike enthusiast!

kite cupcakes

Our friends' daughter celebrated her birthday with a kite birthday party down by the beach. How much fun is that? They brought in a kite expert to teach the kids how to make and fly kites!

To match the festive occasion, I made cupcakes with kite cookie toppers. They're chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sugar cookies with royal icing and licorice tails. I picked bright, fun colors for the kites because my favorite kites are always brightly colored against the sky.

Print chocolate cupcake recipe.
Print vanilla frosting recipe.
Print lemon-vanilla sugar cookie recipe.
Print royal icing recipe.

crazy candy cake

I love all versions of this cake: it's just a simple, frosted round cake - any flavor with Kit Kats edging the outside and the top filled in with M&M's. You can do it at Christmas time with red and green M&M's, or at Easter with pastel colors, or really any time. These are fall-colored M&M's, so I suppose it's a fall cake. The curling ribbon is just to make it extra festive and cute. Only caveat is that it takes a small boatload of Kit Kats to wrap around a 9" cake - maybe as many as 6 or 7 full candy bars!

baby shower animal cookies

Baby shower cookie favors for a shower featuring cute jungle animals... monkey, tiger, elephant, and lion. I love how the accents of the different colored royal icing add dimension!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

baby shoes for baby g

Nothing like a baby turning 1 to remind you it's time to post the baby shower cake pictures. (Oops. Though my posting tardiness is well-known throughout the land.)

From everything I hear - and my parents are friends with this boy's grandparents - this is the sweetest, bounciest, happiest baby boy ever. He sure is adorable and well-loved.

Before he was born, his family wanted to celebrate his arrival with a fabulous shower that included a cake designed to mimic part of the invitation. I took the baby shoes featured on the card and built similar, old-fashioned ones out of fondant, and then placed them on top of a Tiffany-blue baby shoe box. Since that wouldn't be enough cake to feed the whole party crew, the shoe box topped a giant chocolate cake filled with chocolate buttermilk frosting and covered in dark chocolate ganache. (That's become this family's signature cake!)

Here's the bottom half of the invitation:

And here are the fondant baby shoes, the shoe box, and the chocolate extravaganza:

Happy birthday to this sweet baby boy!

fondant baby carriages

Old-timey baby buggies are one of my favorite fondant items to make. They are really easy - they just take time to firm up, so you need a bit of lead time. (Here's a little more information on how to make them.) You can make any color combination, and I think they are adorable with stripes, polka dots, or even bows. For this baby shower cake, the parents-to-be didn't know (or didn't want to reveal!) the sex of the baby, so we went with yellow and white to keep the surprise. Sweet fondant flowers and giant buttercream roses finish off the cake.

Welcome, baby!

Monday, March 2, 2015

auction-winner's chocolate cake

I wish I lived in a world where there were always a cake on my counter, under a glass dome, so I could have a slice in the afternoon with a cup of tea. I understand that as a baker, I could probably make that happen pretty easily - but I'm not sure my waistline needs there to be a whole cake sitting in my kitchen on any given day.

Each year, our school auction features a "Treats" category of items homemade by parents at the school. French, Indian, and Persian dinners... trays of baklava, lemon bars, and layered jello... rustic soups, kale chips, and juice cleanses. It's all available to the highest bidder. One lucky duck takes home a certificate for a dessert a month for a whole year! Twelve parent volunteers step up to make one dessert each month for the winner. At the last auction, my friend Susie won, and I was one of the monthly bakers.

When it was my turn to bake for Susie and her family, I wanted her to have something simple, delicious, and homey... the kind of cake that can sit on your counter, under a glass dome. Her boys have nut allergies, so I was careful to stay far away from anything they couldn't eat. One-bowl chocolate cake with swirled chocolate buttermilk frosting and confetti sprinkles - elegant in its simplicity - seemed like just the right treat.

Susie, her husband, and their twin boys loved the cake. The gobbled up part of it and wisely stored the rest in the freezer. (I'd say they are watching their waistlines, too, but Susie is an amazing runner and her husband and the boys do karate, so I think they're all in excellent shape already.)

We'll be offering the dessert of the month item at this year's auction, so I hope everyone at our school is ready to bid high!

Print chocolate cake recipe.
Print chocolate buttermilk frosting recipe.

mommy to bee cookies

I love making baked goods to go along with shower themes. They have such cute invitations these days, with vibrant colors and adorable images, and it provides a lot of good inspiration for cookies and cakes. I made these cookies for a "mommy to bee" shower. (Get it?) The invitations were a white background with a goldenrod-colored beehive and a couple of bees flying about. So I made the cookies to match!

These are lemon-vanilla sugar cookies with royal icing. I presented them in cellophane bags tied with ribbons. With enough bubble wrap, I was even able to ship them a few hundred miles for the baby shower celebration!

Print lemon-vanilla sugar cookie recipe.
Print royal icing recipe.

missy's baby shower cupcakes

Last weekend, I got to meet the cutest, sweetest baby boy. His mama is a good friend of my sister's, and she is a sweetheart. I always have the best time talking to her. In addition to her many skills, she makes the most beautiful quilts. It started as a hobby, and her skills have just gotten better and better. I am always impressed!

Meeting Baby S, I was reminded that I haven't posted pictures of the baby shower cupcakes I made for Missy's shower. I was asked to keep the colors gender neutral (gray, green, and yellow, to go with the shower colors). Though I'll admit gray isn't my favorite color for decorating, the sleeping babies and t-shirts came out cute. I made a mix of chocolate vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and fondant toppers.

Here's a sampling of the whole gang.

The yawning ones are always my favorites. Food safe markers make these easy. Just let the fondant faces sit out to dry for a couple of hours; it makes it easier to draw on them.

In real life, my son insists on wearing only solid or striped shirts. But in fondant, I actually like the stars the best.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

boom box cake

After D's puppy party, it was time for his sweet big sister to celebrate turning 8. They had a dance party, and her mom requested a cake that looks like a boom box. Of course, I immediately pictured the behemoth, black plastic and chrome, double-tape deck/AM-FM radio combo my friends and I used to drag to Seal Beach on the #42 bus. It ate DD batteries like they were going out of style, but we felt so cool listening to music as we lay out, competing for who could get the most tan (back when SPF 2 and Sun-In were still a thing).

I couldn't see making a black fondant cake for a little girl, especially when her mom said the party's theme colors were hot pink and turquoise. And I assumed she'd have no idea what a cassette tape was. So I decided to use the look of an old-school boom box combined with an updated iPod/iPhone dock that would look more common to a kid in 2014.

I thought the white iPod would stand out against the turquoise boom box. I limited the number of (fake) apps and used super-simple symbols to get the idea across. My kids recognized every one, so I knew I was in good shape. The iPod itself is actually cardboard covered with fondant, but everything else is edible. I used a skinny knife to make hash marks across the black speakers to resemble the mesh that covers the speakers. (Love that texture!) I kept the control buttons simple and recognizable as well. They are colored with an edible marker on white fondant.

That's exactly the type of antenna my boom box used to have - it pivoted and telescoped, but lay, clicked in, across the top of the box when not in use. And mine had a handle like this, too, for easy transporting to the beach and beyond.

The cake itself is made from a couple of 9x13 layers of chocolate cake. I cut the cakes in half the long way and stacked three of them up to get the right height. Inside, it was frosted with chocolate buttermilk frosting. It's helpful to stack the cakes and frost them (lightly on the outside) and then let them sit for a couple of hours to make sure they settle completely. Otherwise, you can end up with fondant that buckles if the cake settles afterward.

The cake was a perfect fit for the dance party. Rather than Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, I'm sure they were dancing to 1D and KidzBop, and I'm sure they had a blast!

Print chocolate cake recipe.
Print chocolate buttermilk frosting recipe.