Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cake Decorating Class

I've frosted a lot of cakes in my lifetime, but I've decorated very few (aside from a dash of sprinkles).  I recently took a cake decorating class where I learned a lot of good techniques, how to use certain tips and got a little practice.  I'm still no pro, but I definitely feel more comfortable with a piping bag. 

For the class, we needed to bake, fill and crumb coat a layer cake. I decided not to use springform pans, but buttered and dusted these cake pans and they came out just fine. 

I made the vanilla butter cake recipe from my James Peterson "Baking" cookbook, filled my pans and leveled them an offset spatula. The cake was frosted with buttercream (really butter-cream) and filled with lemon curd.

We decorated in class and I didn't take any photos of the process.  I like how my pretty feminine cake turned out, but I actually didn't do a lot of fancy piping work.  This was officially the last of my pink and green white chocolate fondant that I had put in my bag to take to class and decided to use it.  I piped some pretty little leaves as the border on the bottom - I love the leaf tip!  Then, I used a flower and a leaf cutter to make the fondant shapes that I arranged on the top and sides of the cake. 

This would make a very nice little girls' birthday cake!

Instead of eating this whole thing with my little girl, I spread some sunshine with the teachers at her Monstessori and donated it to their teacher lounge for a special treat.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sesame Street Cupcakes

I've expanded upon the cupcake birthday party for my daughter's first birthday and focused on a particular theme.  She isn't really into many Disney or other characters, but definitely knows who Elmo and Cookie Monster are.  So, we had a Sesame Street birthday party complete with Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster (see below) as the sweet treats.

I ordered special cupcake papers for each one. I had the solid colors for all of them, but used the fun Elmo ones for him.

After a huge batch of buttercream and a few bottles of food coloring, I used the star tip to pipe each color on to make it look like "fur." This was the easy part...

I used white chocolate fondant and colored it black for the mouth, used white circles for the eyes, orange for Elmo's nose and yellow for Big Bird's beak.  This was the difficult it was time for the assembly of a few dozen happy monsters.

They were almost fully assembled the evening prior and brought out for the finishing touches (eyes and oscars red tongue) on the day of the birthday about an hour before it started.  Here are all the monsters on display before they were gobbled up.

Big Bird's beak was a little tough to get just right.

Cookie Monster was my favorite.

Oscar's eyebrows were a little hard to get just right, but he's a little messy anyway, right?

Elmo has a huge nose! Those that liked the fondant definitely chose him!

All displayed and ready for the taking.


Can you tell which one the birthday girl picked out?  Yep...that would be Elmo!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fondant Topped Cupcakes

If you have seen previous posts on this blog, these cupcakes might remind you of birthday cake, which is when I had initially made the fondant and attempted wrapping a cake and decorating it with fondant. Since I had extra leftover, I decided to use it to decorate the tops of cupcakes and made them to take to our neighborhood picnic.

I found these adorable bright green cupcake papers with white polka dots from Bake It Pretty that were perfect for this.

Using lots of cornstarch to keep it from sticking, I rolled out the fondant and cut out different sized circles of each color.

White chocolate buttercream was spread on the vanilla cupcakes and topped with circles of white chocolate fondant.

They look like those hard candy discs that some cupcake shops put on their cupcakes, but these fondant circles are SO much better.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Punk Rock Pastry

My culinary school friend and I went to a Cupcake Business Class in Chicago at the Bleeding Heart Bakery this past weekend.  Neither of us are truly interested in opening a cupcake bakery, but we're in culinary school, long to be pastry chefs and have both considered opening up a place of our own down the road.  It was a fun and informal class to hear about the background and experiences of two pastry chefs/bakery owners and it was eye opening to hear about their trials and most of all the time commitment.  The class was offered along with the blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake.  I loved hearing about Michelle Garcia's background and future plans and felt like we were amongst pastry chef celebrity since she's a contracted Food Network chef for the cake challenges. 

Michelle's bakery, Bleeding Heart, is a very unique place unlike any bakery or pastry shop I've ever seen.  It's so very non-traditional and I'm so very traditional. But, while the punk rock pastry theme may not appeal to me, her pastries definitely did.  She had some amazing cupcake flavors, including a poached apple filled cupcake with caramel icing that we tried. 

These were some fun sugar cookies with a plaid design.  This is probably the frilliest thing we saw in there.

We LOVED the huge whisk attachments that they turned into light fixtures.

While I prefer classic white marble tables, these custom cupcake shaped tables were pretty creative.  It was a fun class and I need to go back to the bakery as I wanted to try her best selling scone, the "Take a Hike" scone, but they were all out.   

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Culinary Delights in Columbus

On our recent trip to Columbus with family I no doubt enjoyed the science museum, park and zoo, but a few of my highlights were trips to two great foodie hot spots in the Columbus area - Jeni's Ice Cream and Pistacia Vera.

Jeni's Ice Cream

This place is just so fun - the bright colors of both their ice cream and the design of the shop were vivid and cheery.  The ice cream flavors were unlike any others you find and I wanted to try all of them.  I did sample a few and settled on my favorite. One of their taglines is "Handpicked Ice Creams" Sounds cheesy, but they really do taste amazingly fresh.

They had lots of fun ice cream sandwiches and sundaes too. I was so overtaken with all the fabulous ice cream flavors that I barely looked at these menus!  I loved the colored flag decorations hanging everywhere.  It just reminds you of a fun summer party. 

I tried a scoop of honey pistachio, but my favorite was the goat cheese with roasted red cherries.  It sounds like a strange combination, but it really works and tastes far more refined than any cheesecake ice cream you'd ever taste. I'm coveting a pint (ok two) in my freezer right now. 

Pistacia Vera
My friend from culinary school suggested this pastry shop and it was a fun diversion for some afternoon treats.  It was a little upscale for all the kids, but they had fun picking things out and tasting with us.

They had lots of different pate de fruits, which is basically a grown up and much more fresh Fruit Roll Up in a cube.  The flavors were great and I tasted part of a raspberry one with Audrey before she reminded me it was hers.

They were really known for their French macarons and they were gorgeous!  We tried Nutella and vanilla and the kids had raspberry (of course, since it's pink!). 

They did some very fun things on their cakes and tortes with the macarons like this one with them lining the sides.

I thought this was a very pretty modern design for a cake too and such pretty colors.

These were much larger versions of the palmiers that I made a few months ago. I got one to try later and it was perfect.

They had lots of pretty gift packages of their treats.

This was our collection of goodies after we perused their selection. 

We picked a few tables to sit and enjoy.  I love their marble topped cafe tables!

Audrey sure enjoyed her treats!  She was covered in chocolate and I was too after she gave me a big hug and used me as her napkin!