Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Review: Wedding Cake Art and Design: A Professional Approach


To continue with the wedding theme this week, I am reviewing Wedding Cake Art and Design: A Professional Approach by Toba Garrett. Like the subtitle says, Garrett focuses a lot of the book's content on the professional cake designer: the steps to take when working with a client, how to write up a contract etc.

What I like:
·         Chapter 1: Designing the Cake lays a great foundation of cake knowledge. It covers color, texture, theme, shape, and d├ęcor.
·         Chapters 2-11 showcase different theme ideas like romantic, textured, seasonal, and floral designs.
·         Each chapter opens up with a hypothetical couple - a little background on who they are, what kind of cake theme and taste they're looking for and how the cake designer developed that into 2-3 sketches. Then Garrett shows you how to make each of the cakes.
·         SO MANY RECIPES. TWELVE different kinds of cake! They all sound delicious. There are also recipes for marzipan, gum paste, a ton of buttercreams, royal icing, ganache, pastillage (I don't even know what this is), curd, and jam! oh my gosh I am really hungry all of a sudden.
·         At the end of the recipe chapter it tells you the best pairings of cake, filling, icing, and fondant.
·         Also includes templates you can xerox.

What I don't like:
·         All the cakes use Fondant. Granted, it's not the only thing they use. As I said before there are about a bajillion different icing recipes in the back of the book. And frequently multiple kinds are used in the decorations, but it'd be nice to see a cake without fondant as well.
·         Chapter 12 is all about setting up a cake design business. Whether it's best to work from home or rent office space, what equipment you will need to buy, what you need to do legally to establish a business, how to network. Etc. Not very useful for me.

I think my favorite part of this book is the recipes. I need to see if I can make modified versions of the cakes because obviously I won't need a whole wedding cake (unless somebody wants me to make theirs??) I think I'll try one for a holiday or birthday coming up soon. There was a really cool fall looking one so maybe for Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bridal Shower Desserts Part 1

There are only FOUR days until Sara & Scotty's wedding!!!! SO EXCITING. I thought we'd reminisce about Sara's bridal shower this week. We had a red themed shower so all of the desserts were red. I made red velvet cupcakes, red sugar cookies (look for a post on those Thursday!), my standby iced bridal sugar cookies, and raspberry mousse cups.


I have 3 of Wilton's dessert shells candy molds. Each of the molds makes 3 shells. I also have 2 accent candy molds. The shells were a little bit of a pain to make, if oxygen gets in it'll turn your chocolate a weird chalky color. And some of them broke when I took the mold apart. But that's not a huge deal; you just melt down the broken bits and use them again! Once I got the hang of it, it was much quicker and I didn't break as many.


I looked up a raspberry mousse recipe online. Next time I will strain all the seeds out. I'm not a fan of raspberry seeds and there were A LOT. I filled each shell, refrigerated for about 30 minutes then topped them with the accent candies. This is also a great dessert if you have friends on a gluten free diet! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shamrock Gift Bags

I couldn't find St. Patrick's Day themed gift bags anywhere. Even Target didn't have much in their dollar bins! I ended up buying up their green supply of mini Easter baskets and then a few blue ones as well. 


I bought green sparkly shamrock foam stickers at Michaels and put them on the baskets to make my own gift bags. I also bought large foam shamrocks and used them as a thank you note.



Next year I'll have to look at party stores and online!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Musings #8

Today was supposed to be beautiful and a high of 70. So why is it thunder storming and cold? BOOOOO. Good thing I have my William and Mary scarf to keep warm!

I feel like this has been the slowest Friday ever. The kind where you feel like you have been working for hours. Then you look at the clock and realize it's been 3 minutes. I keep checking my email and twitter hoping for something exciting. Nope. Nothing.

This weekend I'm making St. Patrick's Day goody bags for the Young Life volunteer leaders. Hopefully target will have some cute stuff because I came out empty handed at Wal-Mart. I bet I can kill at least an hour looking for St. Patrick's Day crafts on Pinterest….

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scarves - Because it's February

It's February. It's also 65 degrees outside. Mother Nature what are you doing to me!?! I'm so confused. *sobbing*

As I've said in previous posts, in the first 10 years of my knitting life I really only made scarves. Scarves from one ball of yarn. One Christmas my sister and I decided to knit Harry Potter scarves as presents. Watch out - here comes TWO colors!

 This is from my sister's Harry Potter themed 18th birthday party. 
She was Hermione (of course) and I was... random Gryffindor #1 :(

Also, if you haven't already heard J.K. Rowling has announced she's writing a NEW BOOK. THE WHOLE WORLD REJOICES. It's supposed to be a book for adults (yay!) and not about wizards (boo!). I'm sure it will be amazing - that woman has some serious creative juices flowing around in her brain.


I repeated the Hogwarts-esque scarf pattern for my own alma mater. TRIBE PRIDE! Too bad they're pretty horrible at football and I never went to games to actually wear it. Maybe homecoming this year??

Wednesday Review: 20 to Make - Sugar Animals

This week's Wednesday Review is coming to you *gasp* on Thursday. I meant to go home Tuesday night and pick a book to review but Mardi Gras celebrations got in the way.


Oops! ON TO THE REVIEW!


Search Press's 20 to Make series covers a variety of crafts including glass painted projects, jewelry making, wedding favors, and knitted items.  I own 2 in the series and they both have to do with dessert decorating (shocker!).  Frances McNaughton, the author of Sugar Animals, is a demonstrator for the British Sugarcraft Guild. HOW DO I JOIN!?!?! She's made sugarcraft props for a variety of movies as well including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Chocolat. It's always fun to read British books when they talk about "colouring" their "sugarpaste." I NEED TO MOVE TO THE UK ASAP.

What I Like:
·         Great pictures. Each animal has its own 2 page spread. One side shows the individual parts you will need to make. Each part is numbered with corresponding instructions to make assembly very easy. The other side of the spread shows the animal fully assembled in some sort of cute pose.
·         There is a tutorial section in the beginning highlighting the basic shapes you will need to master to make each animal. It also tells you the tools you will need and how to best join the shapes to create your masterpiece.
·         Some of the designs are ADORABLE! My favorites are the panda, hippo, kangaroo, tiger, koala, lion, monkey, and zebra.

What I don't like:
·         I'm not as big of a fan of the lizard, snake, camel, or seal designs.
·         There's no recipe for sugarpaste included. Not that it isn't easy enough to type into Google and find 30 different recipes, but I always appreciate when I can get all the information from one source.

This book is a great resource if you want to make decorative animals for cakes/cupcakes. You could even make them with clay for figurines or ornaments! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Weddings on the Mind

Two of my best friends - Sara & Scotty - are getting married next week. I cannot WAIT for the wedding! For the reception a bunch of people are pitching in to make desserts. I may have gone a little crazy in the baking section of Michael's last night. Since I have weddings on my mind I thought I'd go back to the first (and only other) wedding I've been in. My friend Meaghan got married in August of 2010. For her bridal shower my sister Chelsea came up to help me decorate sugar cookies.


I bought the Wilton wedding cookie cutter set. I've used them a few times now and decided that the cake and the dress are the easiest to decorate. The bells are the worst - so I don't use them anymore. 

The icing I made for these was just powdered sugar and water mixed together. It doesn't harden like when you use meringue powder, so you can't stack them. For the flowers I added more powdered sugar so it was more of a paste consistency and then I shaped them like play-dough. It's a little tedious decorating them, but if you have somebody to help can be a lot of fun! 




Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras


Tomorrow is Mardi Gras! I usually miss this holiday - but I marked it on the calendar early this year so I actually made plans - happy hour followed by the Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade! Luckily I've been in a yellow phase recently so I'll wear one of my many yellow outfits with some purple and green beads.  


If I wasn't drowning in the calories I consumed from last week's Valentine's treats, then I would definitely be making this 20 minute King Cake for tomorrow. It looks beautiful and who doesn't love cooking little baby figurines into a cake? Hopefully next year Mardi Gras and Valentine's day won't be so close together.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Musings #7

Baking a lot this week was fun and delicious but also caused me to gain approximately 800 lbs. It's hard to cut back on the sugar when you've been ingesting it all week. Luckily I'm also training for a half marathon so hopefully I can burn a lot of those excess calories off in my long run this weekend. The half marathon is on St. Patrick's Day. I need to find a cute running outfit. I wanted a green sequined running skirt but they're around $30. I looked in fabric stores and can't find what I want either. My only hope is that target will sell something similar in the little girls section closer to the race. If I can't find that, maybe I'll resort to dressing like this kid:


Beard and all! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

BABIES!

This has been a full week of baking! Last night we had a surprise baby shower for one of the girls in my bible study. It was a blast and fun to see the mom-to-be so surprised! My sister posted the idea of cupcakes that look like babies on my fb wall a few weeks ago and I thought this would be a perfect time to try them out. They were so easy to make!


I dyed butter cream frosting with Wilton's Creamy Peach. After frosting the cupcakes, I stuck pacifiers on top.


Next I drew on faces with black icing.


This week Michael's has a 50% off one item coupon so I used it to buy a 3-in-1 cake caddy that has a cupcake tray. SCORE! Whenever I look at the picture it makes me think of this commercial:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Review: More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts


Time to punch out today's Wednesday Review while I'm still on my sugar high from yesterday. (I think I ate about 239 cupcakes and other sweets and then topped it off with a giant bowl of ice cream and a cocktail...I'm going for HEALTHY here people.) More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson is the follow up to Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, which I don't own and have never seen. So while I can't compare it to the first book I can say that I really enjoy the sequel.

What I like:
·         The book is divided by the time it should take to make the gift - 2-4 hours, 4-6, 6-8 and longer.
·         When I knit I usually think clothes, but this has other fun things like hot coffee-cup sleeves, ornaments, baskets, bookmarks (not sure I'd ever make a knit bookmark - but good for a beginner)
·         Each pattern tells you the exact yarn that was used in the photographs and has a little intro paragraph that elaborates on the gift.
·         There is a section on wrapping hand knit gifts - great ideas for using yarn to embellish the wrapped present.
·         There is a glossary for techniques and abbreviations as well as a step by step tutorial (with pictures!) for a few of the techniques.  I used this to learn the Kitchener Stitch when I was making socks.

What I don't like:
·         I think the time sections are if you already know how to make the item. The socks I made using the pattern in the 2-4 hours section took me about 3 to make one sock. This is mostly due to the fact that I had to look up a lot of the stitches. Now that I know what I'm doing it'll be interesting to see how long it takes me to make a pair.
·       Like all craft books - it's rare that I like 100% of the ideas in them. This one has a few that I know I'll never make - a plush house, seat covers, and the bookmarks.

I like this book and am excited to time myself when I make something out of it. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Baking Hearts

I had planned on leisurely baking my valentine's treats this weekend but the weekend got away from me. Instead of baking I saw 2 movies (The Grey and The Vow - the latter I enjoyed much more but also cried a lot more), attended a Valentine's dessert concert, a jewelry party, and ate at PF Changs where my fortune was looking pretty good:


Then it looked less good when my brother got the same one. LAME.

Anyways, it was a fun weekend but my procrastination led to me baking like a mad woman last night. I rushed home from work and started on the whoopie pies. The pan came with recipes for both chocolate and vanilla cake. I made the chocolate first… they did not turn out so well.


This was the first time I'd ever made cake from scratch. The recipe says to stir it until it is just mixed, but I don't think I stirred it enough. The batter was difficult to get into the whoopie molds and I ended up with a lot of ugly peaks in my cakes.


Since I only have 1 whoopie pie pan I had to bake it in two batches. I stirred the batter more before the second batch and they turned out much better. I ended up cutting the top half of the cakes so the ugly side was in the middle. The filling was very easy to make, a little sticky to fill - but I just used the back of a spoon to smooth out the sides. Then I decorated with sprinkles!!


Learning from my mistakes, the vanilla cakes turned out much better. I dyed it pink (yay!) and made sure to mix the batter well.

The batter smoothed out much better for these.

mmmm. Woopie Pie filling.



Next I moved on to the Pie Pops. I love the pre-rolled pie crust Pillsbury makes. It's just so easy to use! One circle made 7 hearts. I placed them on the cookie sheet, placed a rod on top and some canned cherry pie filling. Four cherries were a little too much - the juice squeezed out the sides, so I went down to 3 cherries per pop. 


Using the end of one of the rods, I pressed the edges together. I brushed on some egg whites and baked them. At this point it was close to midnight, so I only made 7. I wanted to get more pictures of the step-by-step process, but my phone had died and of course I left the charger at work. I didn't mind too much because I still have my Sony Cyber-shot camera - but when I turned it on this is what I saw:


Looks like it's time for a new camera!!

I'll still have to play around with the pie pops - 4 of the 7 turned out really well. The rod either fell out or broke through the crust on the other 3. But broken or whole, they all tasted pretty good!


Happy Valentine's Day!!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Cards & Envelopes

I don't think I've hand-made valentines since college but I was inspired by my Martha Stewart Living magazine this year. I bought cute valentine card stock from Michaels and printed out templates from Martha Stewart's website to create some fun accordion and garland valentines.



I used an exacto knife and a self healing cutting mat to cut out most of the shapes. (How awesome is a SELF HEALING mat??)


I also had fun with glitter glue and stickers. I AM PERPETUALLY 5 YEARS OLD.


The bad thing about making your own valentines is finding envelopes to send them in. I thought, hey - why don't I try just making my own? I sacrificed an envelope from a stationary set I have, tore it apart and traced it onto cardstock to make my very own envelopes! Then I used stickers and Disney themed tape to secure them before plopping them in the mail.




For the valentines I didn't have to mail I used an old calendar to make fun bright envelopes. 



Thank you to the World Wildlife Fund for some beautiful pictures!! 


Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Musings #6

I used to dread Sunday nights. It meant that Monday morning was just around the corner. But two things have come into my life that have me wishing Sunday night would come sooner - Once Upon a Time and Downton Abbey. I seriously cannot get enough of these two shows!! This week on Once we get to see Emilie Ravin go from crazy Claire (I miss you Lost!!) to Princess Belle.


And can we all just agree how much we still miss Sheriff Graham?  


The new mysterious writer has NOTHING on you.

Then of course there's Downton. The Spanish Flu sweeps through the house this week. If the past few episodes are any indication, we are in for a crazy time! Will Lavinia and Carlisle be drops? (God I hope so!) Will Matthew walk again? What's up with Mr. Bates!?!


Will you two just get together already??

Gah, Sunday night can't come soon enough. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wedding Shoes!

Today's blog post comes from one of my best friends KimWe used to work together and would have knitting/Lost watching parties in our cubicles during lunch. I'm so excited to have her as my first guest blogger!! (Kim is getting married in May and was telling me about these awesome shoes, so I asked her to write about them for me)

The closer to the Big Day I get, the more I realize how every little detail really matters.  I realized I needed wedding shoes ASAP for for my first dress fitting in a few days, so I immediately got to work searching on Google and Pinterest for the perfect pair.  I realized quickly that I needed shoes that sparkled - I particularly liked the look of a sparkly heal.  After some price comparisons, I started to realize this may not be that realistic - at prices ranging from $300 - $1,000 for what I was looking for I was starting to lean towards something much simpler. 

  
I purchased a pair of shoes off Amazon that were white satin to match my dress and had a low heal.  I got them, and loved them, but I couldn't get over their lack of sparkle.  After some research on types of glue and some inspiration from a coworker's custom made shoes, I headed to Michaels for E6000 glue, beading tweezers, and Swarovski crystals in multiple sizes.


 400 stones, 6 hours, and a few terrible headaches later, one shoe is complete, and it is PERFECT!!



 Some tips to make life a little easier:

1) From my research, E6000 glue is definitely the best glue for the job, but the fumes can actually be harmful (hence the headaches).  Make sure you work in a well ventilated room with open windows, and a mask if you have one handy.

2) You need crystals in multiple sizes (I used 3) to get a close fit and add some texture to the shoe.  The smaller crystals work best around the edges to get an even line.

3) Spread the glue using a toothpick or something similar (I used the thin set of tweezers and cleaned them after).  Spread the glue in a THIN layer in small areas.  The glue is very thick and can harden quickly.  If you spread the layer too thick the glue will come around the edges of the crystals and can become a big mess.

4) Be patient!  It can take a lot of time and I definitely made a lot of mistakes I needed to fix, but the finished product was well worth it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday Review: 1,000 Ideas For Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes



For this week's Wednesday Review I'll be discussing 1,000 Ideas For Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes by Sandra Salamony and Gina M. Brown. The book is a compilation of photos sent in from various bakeries and creative minds around the world.

What I like:
·         This book contains some of the most creatively decorated cakes, cupcakes, and cookies I've ever seen.  It's divided into 5 sections - Elegant Entertaining, Baby & Child, Holiday, Just for Fun, and Weddings & Engagements.
·         I really enjoy seeing how people in other countries decorate their cakes and cookies. The book includes photos submitted from Japan, Denmark, Australia, and Mexico. The international flare brings a nice diversity to the book.
·         There are a few recipes for frosting, fondant, and marzipan included at the end of the book.
·         A contributor directory provides email addresses and websites so if you're interested in seeing more or possibly buying treats, you know where to look.

What I don't like:
·         It's just pictures - there are no explanations of how to make any of it. This isn't bad in and of itself as it’s a compilation book, but I thought it'd have some instructions. This is one of the pitfalls of ordering books online, I couldn't flip through it first so I was a little misguided in what the book contained.
·         Some of the photos look like they're straight from Ace of Cakes and I'll never be able to recreate them. That being said, those particular items are still amazing to look at and maybe one day I will have that kind of skill!

This book is like Pinterest printed out and bound for your perusal. It wasn't what I expected but I still really enjoy it and can glean some great ideas from it - I'll just have to figure out how to make them on my own. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Accio Cauldron Cake!

If you've been reading this blog you know I love nerdy things and theme parties and especially the combination of the two. That’s why for the last Harry Potter movie I had a big party before we all went out to the midnight showing (yes, in costume!) I made a few things from the Harry Potter Cookbook - Pumpkin Pasties and Harry's favorite dessert - treacle tart. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal theme park in Orlando has these DELICIOUS cauldron cakes.


Yes, that’s me in Diagon Alley. MAGICAL!

I tried to recreate them for the party. I didn't get the feet on the cauldron - but the top looks cool. I made chocolate cupcakes and put a dollop of icing in the middle. Then using melting chocolate wafers, I traced out handles on wax paper and when they hardened, placed them on top of the cupcake for the full "cauldron effect."



I think it’s a bit like the ice cream truck though; it's just not the same if you don't get a cauldron cake straight from Diagon Alley. Hit the jump for more HP food photos!