3D Coca-Cola Cake Troubleshooting!

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This week I don’t have any custom cakes lined up, but I still wanted to work on something.

A few weeks ago, How to Cook That posted a fascinating video of how to make a Coca-Cola bottle cake. I actually collect Coca-Cola stuff so this caught my eye. And I just had to try!

Her version calls for Coke gelatin and Coke cream. I made the cream, but opted to try something else for the chocolate sauce.

Here’s a pic of the heavenly Coke cream:

   
   
I scoured the Internet for a delicious Coca-Cola cake recipe and settled on a Paula Deen recipe posted by the blog With Sprinkles on Top. What does it involve? BUTTER! Of course! I also made the chocolate frosting recipe that it called for. Both recipes came out so delightful and were quick to bake up.

I wasn’t sure if the cake recipe would make enough, however. The video calls for 8 cake rounds. I was only able to get 4 cake rounds. So I baked up a box cake (the horror!) to make up for the rest. But I think 1.5 of the recipe would do it, since I ended up with smaller circles. If I had done 4″ circles, I could have gotten 3 circles from my 8″ cakes.  I know, this is all very confusing.

That brings me to my next point. In Ann’s video she doesn’t say what size cake circle you should use. She only say “smaller than your bottle.” At first, I really thought that 4″ circles wouldn’t be large enough. So I cut my circles to 4.5″. And they were too big! So I went back to my original idea.

For her Coke cream, you cook down 500 ml of soda to 50 ml. I wasn’t sure how to tell when it was cooked enough, so I just poured it into a glass measuring cup until it was cooked down. Did I mention the cream is yummy?!

For putting it all together, I didn’t cut the bottle free hand: I made a guide line with my Sharpie. The top line was for a guide as to where to fill up my white candy to.

Dry the bottles thoroughly! Letting water come into contact with your chocolate is bad news.

Also, don’t think you can cut your bottle and let it dry for a while. My neighbor gave me a bottle from a party to use.  I cut it the night before and my bottle warped. So we had to get a new bottle, but that worked out okay because I baked with the soda.


Now let’s talk about WARPING. And chocolate. I didn’t temper my chocolate because they’re candy melts. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your chocolate cool down a bit! I thought to myself that maybe I should let it cool, but powered through anyway!

And my bottle warped. Ugh.

So get a thermometer and let your chocolate cool down to 90°, I would guess. A temp that won’t start to affect your bottle. There are lots of posts on the Internet about how to temper chocolate, so please do your research.

Also! Don’t rush your chocolate. It really has to set up. I put my bottle in the freezer to set, which was a good idea, but I didn’t let it rest long enough. All was going well and the chocolate started to separate from the bottle on its own, which was perfect. But then the bottom cracked! It wasn’t set enough. Or it had weak points.

The top, however, was completely set and slid right out. It was beautiful.

My adorable son couldn’t WAIT to cut the cake after dinner. He is my mini cake lover!   When we were putting it together, he kept stealing my scraps!

  

It didn’t cut very nicely, but, like I said, I rushed and it had some cracks!

I had a good amount of red fondant already made, so making the cap was easy! The cap of the bottle looked goofy because it was way too big.

The top of the cake is supposed to be solid white, but mine marbalized. This was an accident, but a happy one. The bottle looks like it is about to EXPLODE! To avoid this, just let your white set in the fridge for 15 minutes.

So I hope you enjoyed my trouble shooting post for this wonderful idea by How to Cook That.

Until next time …

Nichole

 

Splash cake!

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A few months ago, I made a beautiful splash cake for my niece, Emma. It was a delight to make this for her. I honestly cannot believe she is TWELVE. I mean, I watched this girl as a baby when I myself was only nineteen! Watching her for a couple of summers was honestly one of my most favorite jobs. We now share a bond of being crafty and loving books. Love you, Emma!

Anyway, when I made this cake, I carefully took pictures along the way.

Then forgot that I did so!

Last week as I was working on a post, I stumbled upon my drafts and discovered that all my pictures for this post were already here! People loved this cake. I got such a huge and positive response. People loved the colors and the contrast. Honestly, this was all Emma’s grand idea and I just brought it to life. Like I said, she loves crafts and even has her own crafty Instagram account.

I believe she found a similar cake on Google Images (there HAVE been many–this isn’t original by any means) and asked me to make her own. In the picture she sent me, there was not-edible bling on her cake and a number on top. I saw a cake with a bow and ribbon on the bottom and decided that’s what I would do and hoped that she would approve! She’s pretty easy going, so I wasn’t TOO worried.

So now I am going to (finally) write out how I made this super fun cake, step-by-step.

FIRST STEP: MAKE THE BIG BOW AND LETTERS

I made my letters and my bow ahead of time. I was sure to make my bow big enough to cover the 6″ top cake.

I didn’t take great pictures of this step, but you can find a perfect video on how to do this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y930Tk9KW-s

  

STEP TWO: BAKING

For this cake, I made a 6″ red velvet cake and an 8″ chocolate cake

RECIPES:

Red Velvet Cake via the New York Times 

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake

DAY ONE EVE:

The day before I made my cake, I made a big batch of ganache and let it sit overnight on the counter. For fondant cakes, you want your ganache to be a peanut butter-like texture.

DAY ONE: GANACHE

When I was ready to put my cakes together, I made some cream cheese buttercream and chocolate buttercream for the fillings. Then I ganached them.  This was my first time using ganache and it was easier than I thought it would be!

 

  



COVERING WITH FONDANT

After letting my cake settle for a little, I was ready to cover with my black fondant. I moistened my ganache, rolled out my fondant, and covered them up.

At his point, I put them back in the fridge.

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SPLATTER TIME

The next step was the most fun of all the steps. I made a big batch of Royal Icing and divided it into four bowls. I used AmeriColor electric pink, blue, purple and green.

For the icing, I used Sweetopia’s amazing recipe.

I let my kids help with the splattering. We used spoons and you sort of have to throw the icing! It made a huge mess!

This icing worked well, didn’t absorb any black coloring and held its shape and color. I would use it again!

  


It’s worth mentioning that I just so happened to be wearing my Run or Dye t-shirt when I did this part! If you know anything about the Run or Dye 5K, you get covered in color. I got more messy making this cake than when I ran that marathon!

STACKING AND FINISHING TOUCHES

I placed them back in the fridge for the icing to get hard.

I put the 8″ cake on a board covered in black fondant, which I discussed in my Hotel Transylvania post. Then, I measured my cake and cut 5 dowel rods. I placed them, carefully added my 6″ cake with some ganache as “glue”, then put a center dowel through both of them.

Adding the bow was super easy with a bit of ganache. I glued in some curly cues that I had made.

To really make it look finished, I cut two 1″ thick bands for the cakes.

  

  

After I cut out the band, I roll it up and let it rest in the freezer for five minutes. This makes it easier to with and roll out. From there, I just moisten my cake and add my bands.

To finish my board, I add a fabric ribbon with hot glue to hide my edges.

Then I added my birthday message (“EMMA IS 12”) with a little water. Fondant letters stick incredibly well to a fondant-covered board. Much easier than when it’s just a foil-wrapped board.

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And the birthday girl LOVED her cake. Here she is after an hour and a half of jumping around at GET AIR in King of Prussia. We didn’t realize it until we got there, but the cake TOTALLY matched the neon colors and fun atmosphere. There were even colorful splashes of paint on the floor. It was totally perfect!

This cake was a lot of work and so many steps, but the end result was well worth it. It wasn’t “hard” per say — it was just a lot of rest time in between steps, which really made it seem like it took a long time.

The ganache and fondant really held in the moisture for the cake, so even though I took it out early, it was still very fresh and delicious. And the ganache was so rich and divine! I have used ganache a few times since then. I am in love with the process! I can honestly say what I love about this business is there is always something fun and new to learn.

Until next time…

Nichole

Raspberry chocolate cake 

This past weekend we had my husband’s cousin and her daughter over for some hang out time with our kids and each other.

Now, Kira loves cake just as much as I do and is also a hobby cake decorator and baker. She has been asking me to make a raspberry chocolate cake for a while now, and every time I think “well, I have never done that before. That sounds hard!” Well, I finally looked into what goes into making a raspberry chocolate cake. I searched Google and Pinterest and my favorite baking books.

THE RECIPE
I settled on this recipe from Martha Stewart: Chocolate-Raspberry Cake and its sister recipe for icing: Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

I have my progress pictures below, but I will sum up my thoughts on the cake here:

  1. The layers of cake come out pretty thin. My husband thought that it must be a mistake or that I did something wrong. But once you put it together, it’s quite tall enough.
  2. The recipe calls for you to get the filling boiling, then cook an additional 7-8 minutes. I wasn’t sure if that meant to keep it on a boil or to lower it. It didn’t say. Since it was splattering all over the place, I lowered it down to 3-4.
  3. I poured my cooked filling into a room-temperature bowl to cool. I didn’t keep it in the pot that I cooked it in.
  4. Remember to let your butter and your cream cheese sit out for a little while so you can get them soft enough to make a smooth icing.
  5. I didn’t save any raspberries to put on top because I thought they would get too soft and squishy while in the fridge for a day or two.
  6. It will seem like there’s too much icing, but just keep layering it on. It’s worth it!

Making the filling wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. It helps that I have watched cake shows where they reduced things before.

THE VERDICT 

I took the cake out of the fridge for a few hours to get room temperature, but it was still quite cold when we had it after our HEALTHY lunch of salad. I loved the cream cheese icing and the fresh raspberry filling. But the cake was kind of bland, though very moist.

BUT, once the cake got room temperature, it was very delicious! I could then taste the chocolate and the flavors of the cream cheese and cake and raspberry blended together incredibly well!

That being said, Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake is still my favorite chocolate cake recipe! But I’m not sure how well it would have went with the filling and the icing. That’s an experiment for another day.

I guess I should also add that the kids (two five-year-olds, a three-year-old and a one-year-old) weren’t sold on the cake, including the five-year-old who is a big raspberry fan. This is definitely an adult cake, especially if you use the liqueur that it calls for. I didn’t because I don’t have raspberry liqueur lying around, but I don’t doubt that it’s amazing. Using the liqueur probably really brings out the raspberry flavor even more.

And here are my pictures!

The beautiful batter:

Dividing it up into three 8″ pans:

 

Cooking the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice:
  

After cooling for a half hour, you add some uncooked raspberries:

Put half on your first cake and then put the middle on, then put the other half on:  

Let it rest like this in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight:  
The frosting was easy to make. You weigh your semi-sweet chocolate or follow the directions on the box:

Sift together your dry ingredients:  

Melt and cool your chocolate:

Weigh out your cream cheese or follow the guides on the foil wrap:

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth:  

Slowly add the dry ingredients, then the sour cream, and then pour in the chocolate:
  

Then, all you have to do is ice your cake!   

Hope you enjoyed this simple baking post. Never be afraid to try new things!

Nichole

Making of the “Wild Things” Cake

  My goal for March was to write TWO blogs. So here I am on March 30, 2016, trying to squeeze in one more quick blog post!

I was asked by my neighbors to make a cake for their grandson’s first birthday. I was super excited when I heard the theme of Where the Wild Things Are! Over the years of following other people’s cake in my little bitty cake obsession, I have seen so many Wild Things Cakes. I had a lot of ideas, but in the end, I was asked to do a re-creation of a cake by Nashville Sweets. I was so happy to oblige!

First off, here is our inspiration:

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Isn’t it gorgeous? I had some other ideas, but they were in love with this design. Right away I came up with a plan on how to execute it myself.

FONDANT DECORATIONS

The first thing I decided to make were the characters and the crown, because they have to dry. I didn’t want to do an exact copy, and I have my own way of doing things with my characters. I wanted them to jump out of the picture. And I wanted to do my trees a little differently.

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I am also working on a Doc McStuffins project.

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After my gumpaste/fondant characters were all dried, I added details with food coloring and black edible dust. I really followed the book as closely as I could. After my crown was dried, I painted it with a mixture of gold dust and vodka.

 

BAKING 

For this cake, we went with 8″ chocolate chip cake and 6″ sour cream cake with chocolate filling.
ASSEMBLY TIME: 2 DAYS

WEDNESDAY

Since I had to do writing on the cake, I knew it had to be covered in fondant. I made a fresh batch of LMF fondant. I have my charts for fondant amounts printed out, so figuring out how much fondant I needed for each cake was easy. I just measure out what I need in ounces on my kitchen scale and go from there. I usually round up because it is better to have too much rather than too little, plus you can save the extra fondant. 

I made some simple ganache and let it sit for 24 hours until it was the right consistency. Thick, not thin. 

For two 3-layer cakes, I needed a lot of ganache. I heated 1,000 ml of heavy cream and added it to 1,000 grams of chocolate chips. 
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After my cakes were room temperature, I filled and covered them. I let them rest in the fridge for a few hours.

Then it was time to cover them in fondant. I use my table rather than the counter because it’s nice and low. I can really use my body weight and gravity to roll my fondant out nicely. I moisten my cake with a little bit of water so that the fondant adheres to my cakes.

I use Jessica Harris’ trick of flipping my cake upside down to get great, sharp edges. I know that sounds scary,  but it really works!

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After that, I was done for the day! I put my cakes back into the fridge.

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THURSDAY

Before I started, I attached my 8″ cake to my decorated cake board. It’s a 12″ gold drum.

The next thing I had to do was cut my dowel rods and stack my cakes. I used five small dowel rods in the bottom and one long dowel rod down the center.

I didn’t like the gap between the cakes, so I made a strip of white and wrapped it around the bottom to give it a clean look.

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BEFORE FIXING

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AFTER FIXING

After it was all fixed, I was ready to start the bottom tier.

I needed to add the words “We’ll eat you up, we love you so.” I closely followed the original picture and tried to make a paper transfer. Unfortunately, it didn’t work! So I had to get my AmeriColor black gourmet writer and free hand it. Luckily, it turned out great!

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After that, I had to  pipe on some grass with some decorator’s buttercream tinted with Wilton Moss Green. Then I was able to stick on the characters and the trees using some white buttercream as glue.

When they were all placed, I added more grass. Then I added the birthday message in the front of the cake (HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARTER).

The stacking to the letters took about 2 hours. I put the cake away until that night. 

Decorating the top of the cake was very easy. I took my cake out of the fridge and was able to sit at the table. I had to make scales/feathers using my square cutter. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to the top. This took about an hour, which was longer than I had anticipated! While the fondant was still soft, I pushed my crown down onto the top. I was done!

FRIDAY 

The next day, I quickly took my cake outside for a picture. I placed it on a huge stump that we have in the backyard. I was sure to put an extra board between the stump and the cake’s actual board. It was an overcast day, but I love how the picture turned out!

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SATURDAY

We had a bit of a misunderstanding about the topper. I thought that my customer was buying it separately. But, luckily, I had the materials for such a topper lying around. It took about 15 minutes, but I made it!

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We also quickly made a cake stand using some stumps that we have lying around! It looked great with their whole Where the Wild Things Are display.

 

My customer loved her cake and didn’t want to cut it! That’s the best feeling ever! But, as you know, we can’t keep cakes forever. They loved the taste of their custom cake. Everybody had their own favorite flavor. I’m so happy that I have another happy customer while doing with I love!
Nichole

Hotel Transylvania Cake

Hello, blog! I haven’t written in my blog for a few months now.

I meant to make a blog about my splatter cake, but time got away from me. This is what I have been up to:

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But what I really want to write about is my Hotel Transylvania cake that I just finished!

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I am so proud of this cake and it took a lot of work, to say the least. It’s not often that someone is willing to pay you to make such a detailed cake. All these characters take a lot of planning, time, and work. I looked at the Hotel Transylvania cakes that were on Google and none of them particularly caught my eye. Some were pretty good, but they just weren’t all the way “there”, if you know what I mean.

I went back and forth with my new client — a friend of my brother’s — about her budget, what she liked and didn’t like about other cakes, and I came up with a sketch. It’s a very basic sketch, that’s for sure, but it really helps to get a visual. And when you have a sketch, it’s easier to look at it, pick it apart, and come up with a plan. Luckily for me, she LOVED it.

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MAKING THE CHARACTERS (a disappointingly basic description):

From there, I was going to wait to start the characters, buuuut … I get a little too excited. We had a huge blizzard come through, so I started my characters. I was just too excited!

I’m not going to go into great detail about how I did this because it really is involved, but you can get an idea. First, I make my character shapes out of gumpaste. This is so my fondant has a nice, solid base.I needed these to be able to stand up against my cake and not be wobbly at all.

Then, I slowly built everything up. It is sort of like “dressing” your fondant. I went thick on the parts that were layered underneath and went thin on things like fabric, so that they would REALLY look like fabric.

My kids were watching a lot of Hotel Transylvania videos on YouTube, and that’s when I discovered baby Dennis from the second movie. Sooooo … Even though he wasn’t included in my price quote … OR in my sketch … I decided that since I was so good on time, I was going to make him anyway.

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He also has a super creepy cake with skulls on it in Hotel Transylvania 2 and a little monster with a candle head. I changed out the “6” eventually, because the little girl whom the cake is for was turning 5, not 6. I made it a “1” like in the movie.

Since Dennis’ head was so heavy with all that hair, I had to let his head dry separately. The body above was eventually tossed because the weight of the head smooshed down his body. I made a fresh body out of gumpaste/fondant mixture to better support the weight of the head. And I kept it separate until the body was completely hard.

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I added my face details with AmeriColor edible markers. I used Wilton white for white highlights in the eyes. Petal dust was used to give their cheeks some color. Black petal dust was used to give everything depths and shadows. Above is everything that I made ahead of time for my cake.

BAKING the CAKE

Baking my cake is actually one of the VERY last things that I do. Gumpaste and fondant decorations can be made well ahead of time — thank God for that — because I get anxious and procrastinating is NOT my thing.

I bake and froze my favorite three-layer buttercake with mini chocolate chips and a 6″ funfetti cake. I baked that in two layers and torted them. This is a nice, soft white cake, so I used my Wilton leveler. I decided that four layers was too tall, so we got to enjoy the extra layer. Yum!

I wrap my cakes in plastic wrap and then in tin foil. To prevent the beautiful layers getting warped in the freezer or taking on the shape of my freezer floor or racks, I freeze them on cake boards.

People sometimes ask me what I like better — baking or decorating. I honestly love BOTH. I take the baking aspect VERY seriously. I love using quality ingredients, too. King Arthur Flour, Domino Sugar, and Nielsen Massey vanilla really bring the taste of my cakes to the next level.

RECIPES: King Arthur Golden Vanilla Cake

Funfetti Layer Cake – Sally’s Baking Addiction

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Are you still here? Good. Let’s put this cake together.

First thing I had to do, the Monday before the cake was due, was cover my board in black fondant. This really brings the whole look and feel of the cake together. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and they are paying good money for this cake, so I did this THREE TIMES. Ugh!

It is an 8″ cake, but I used a 14″ base to give me plenty of room for all my decorations and my birthday message (Happy 5th Birthday Ava).

Whatevs, you know I love it.

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A new trick that I learned from the Royal Bakery Facebook page is to glue an extra board on the bottom of your cake. This way, you’re not struggling to get your fingers under the cake to move it around. Other people use the self-adhesive pads that you put on the bottom of chair legs. Either way — genius!

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I was a little nervous about the background of my cake. I wanted it to look like a sunset with a full moon. I chose some of my favorite AmeriColors and tested it out to see if it would work. This is also when I got the idea to make black grass — after all, when the sun is setting, grass looks dark and black. The idea was it to be silhouetted grass. Of course, this meant to have to plan to have enough black buttercream both for the top of my cake AND for piping grass.

My first day of putting together involved filling and buttercream. I decided on my favorite Decorator’s Buttercream from Toba Garrett’s book “Professional Cake Decorating”. It makes a five pound batch! And for the filling, we went with chocolate buttercream. I made a double batch of my favorite recipe from Savory Sweet Life. Change to the recipe: I use half regular Hershey’s cocoa and half Dutch processed cocoa.

I’ll tell you a secret … Which is unwise, because I have a lot of competition, but whatever, I am just so generous … When I incorporate my sugar into my buttercream, I add everything all at once. That’s right, ALL AT ONCE. This saves on time and effort. AND when you add everything at one time, less air is incorporated in. How do I not make a mess? I cover my mixer with two sheets of cellophane wrap.

So I beat my butter and Crisco for a while, add my vanilla, meringue powder and salt, beat it again, then I add all my heavy whipping cream and sugar, wrap it all up, and set it rip. See below:

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Yum, yum.

From there, I filled my cakes. I make a dam with my white frosting from a number 22 Wilton tip. Then I did a bit of a crumb coat, PLUS I sprayed it with something called Spray and Seal by Wilton, which is basically coconut oil in a can. It really helps eliminate crumbs.

I put my cakes back in the fridge. I made five bowls of icing at this point.

I was sure to reserve some of my chocolate icing so that I could make some black buttercream. This is why I made a DOUBLE batch of chocolate. See where the planning comes in? The rest of the bowls were of my vanilla.

Going to my original source material from the movie, I made my colors.

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This is something I learned how to do from a Crafty class by CorrieCakes. I really recommend this class: http://www.craftsy.com/instructors/corrie_rasmussen.

To make my ombre effect, I filled my piping bags with the three colors that I wanted on my 8″ cake. I didn’t use any tip for this. I covered the top of my cake as I normally would with my spatula. From there, I sort of haphazardly went around, working from the bottom to the top. I had to be careful to save some of the top blue because I needed it for my 6″ cake. After it was all filled in, I smoothed it out with my spatula, being careful to clean it in between each time around. I didn’t want to muddle up my colors too much.

Then I did this again for my 6″ cake:

I let this rest in the fridge overnight.

The first thing I did was attach my 8″ cake to my board using some glue. I don’t have a picture of that because I had my hands full!

When you make tiered cakes, you need dowel rods, especially if they are going to travel. This cake is going to travel 45 minutes, so I had to make sure it was put together well.

I decided on five dowel rods to hold up the 6″ cake. I measure beside my cake and mark with pencil. I use a clamp called a “vice” to hold my rods in place and a coping saw to saw them neatly. My husband used to do this for me, but now I know how to do it all on my own.

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Along with the rods, I also put some buttercream in between the two cakes to “glue” them together. I use my cake lifter to detach my cake from the board it was resting on, so I don’t have to pick it up with my hands and ruin my buttercream.

After that, I measure how tall the entire cake is, make a center dowel rod, sharpen it, and stick it through the entire cake. There was a ready-made hole in the bottom of the cake board supporting my 6″ cake, so I didn’t have to pound it through.

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Yes! The hardest part is over!

 

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The first thing I did was add “stars” by speckling with some white dust. Then I cleaned my board and stuck on my characters using extra buttercream.

The 3D characters and cake and 5 have toothpicks in them to help them stay put on the cake, but I still put some black buttercream underneath as glue. This is also when I glued my character’s heads on the way that I wanted with some hot glue.

After that, I glued on my trees with extra buttercream.

Then, using some extra black buttercream, I made my grass around the cake. I actually put both black and dark purple buttercream in my bag because I wasn’t sure if I had enough black.

Next, I placed my birthday message on the board, spaced it out nicely, and glued it on with some water.

THEN I attached the graves on the cake, and added more grass.

After that, I made the moon out of white fondant with a circle cutter and dusted it with black petal dust to make it look real. I also gave Dennis a black cape. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this, but I had the time, so I threw it on there.

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From there, it was picture time. I was DONE.

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Did I mention that annoying perfectionist thing? I discovered when I was looking at my pictures that I was NOT done, because I had forgotten to add white highlights to the eyes of my three main characters (Johnny, Dracula, and Mavis). So, I took it back out of the fridge and fixed that up. I also dusted and cleaned up my trees, and added more dust to the cheeks that seemed to have come off.

THEN I was done.

In the end, I LOVE this cake. It came out so much better than I had ever imagined. My customer is super happy with it, very excited, and cannot wait to pick it up.

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Because I am SUPER professional, and sort of a pain-in-the-ass, I have it stored in our extra fridge. This is our “cake and beer fridge,” as I like to call it. I LOVE having this extra fridge, because I can rest easy knowing my cake is away from my kids and away from the other smells of our regular fridge. Plus, we just don’t have room in our fridge!

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Well, there you have it! It was months in the making and I am so glad that I had the chance to make it. I sort of lost count of how many hours it took me to make this cake! I think it must have taken me about 12 hours total. Yikes!

If you have any questions, just leave them here for me or on my Facebook page.

Nichole

www.facebook.com/nicholescustomcakes

Quakertown, PA

 

 

Snoopy on his Dog house cookies

Hello, Blog-land! I haven’t written anything in quite a long time. So it goes, I’m not much of a blogger.

I know this site is supposed to be about cakes, but I made some special cookies this year for Christmas and I thought that I would share my experience and everything you need to make sugar cookies.

GET BAKING

First, you need a good recipe. Here are two sugar cookie recipes I love. This year, I used the King Arthur recipe for the first time and it’s awesome! I used the weights in ounces to make my cookies, but I’m sure it’s equally great if you measure by volume.

JOY OF BAKING Sugar Cookies: http://www.joyofbaking.com/SugarCookies.html

KING ARTHUR Holiday Butter Cookieshttp://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/holiday-butter-cookies-recipe

I baked my cookies and put them in the freezer until I had time to decorate them.

ABOUT THE COOKIE CUTTER:

You may be wondering, where did I get that cutter? Well, I didn’t get it in stores because they don’t make them. I wish they did! I got it on Etsy.

SHOPhttps://www.etsy.com/shop/angelcakesetc2?ref=l2-shopheader-name

ABOUT THE ROYAL ICING:

I used a royal icing recipe by Sweetopia. It’s by far the best royal icing recipe I’ve used. That’s not saying a lot, since I’ve only used this and the Wilton recipe for egg-white royal icing.

This recipe calls for meringue powder, which I bought at JoAnn Fabrics with a 60% off coupon. Do that! It is so expensive. I usually buy expensive baking supplies at Michael’s Arts and Crafts or JoAnn’s when they have great coupons.

ILLUSTRATED RECIPEhttp://sweetopia.net/2012/01/royal-icing-recipe-free-illustrated-recipe/

I tested my icing using her great 10-second test and had to add more water to get it the right consistency. My icing was so thick! I added more water 1 teaspoon at a time.

The recipe calls for clear vanilla, but I don’t own that, and never will. I used my regular vanilla. It only made Snoopy slightly off-white. You honestly can’t tell!

See the video about how to test your icing herehttp://sweetopia.net/2012/01/royal-icing-recipe-free-illustrated-recipe/

DECORATING TIME!

Once you have cookies baked and royal icing made, you’re ready for the fun part.

Materials needed for decorating these cookies:

  • Colors I used: AmeriColor Red Red, Wilton Black
  • #5 Wilton tip x 2 for the white and red flooding
  • #3 tip for the black lines
  • Pastry bags
  • Wilton Jumbo Rainbow Nonpareils for the Christmas lights (I purchased at Michael’s with a 50% off coupon)
  • Black AmeriColor edible pen
  • Treat bags
  • Ribbon

First, of course, I baked my cookies. I made them nice and thick. Two of them broke and I had to eat them.

I whipped up my royal icing. Be sure to sift your sugar! If you don’t, a clump can get stuck in your icing tip.

After my icing was done mixing for TEN MINUTES (I know, seems like a while), I had to add a couple teaspoons of water to make sure it was usable. It was way too thick. But after doing the 10-second test a couple of times, it was ready. The 10-second test is taking a butter knife and making a line through your icing. If the line disappears within 10 seconds, then your icing is ready. If it stays, then add more water, whip, and try again.

I placed a couple of cups of icing in two bowls, reserving some white for Snoopy. I dyed them black and red. I was careful not to make it TOO dark because I knew they would deepen.

Using a number 3 tip, I made the outline of the house and of Snoopy, using a picture as a reference. While I was making Snoopy’s outline, I also made his nose.

After I was done the second tray, the first tray was dry enough to start flooding with red royal icing. I used a number 5 tip, which is not too big, but not too small. You start on the outside perimeter, work your way in. Then you scrub your cookie back and forth on the tray and the lines disappear. It is really fun!

I then filled in all the red houses of every cookie.

Then, after I was done the second tray of houses, I went back to the first tray to fill in Snoopy with un-dyed icing. I used a number 5 for this, too. Snoopy is tiny, so this went quickly.

The finished result.

After about a half hour, the red and white icing had dried enough to add arms, another black line of detail, and Snoopy’s collar. I drew all this with the black icing. Then I went back with my white and filled in his arm. His arm hangs off of the top of the doghouse slightly.

Another half hour after that, I added Snoopy’s ears, which cutely hang off the side of the house, just like his arm.

Then, using my AmeriColor edible marker, I added the shadow under the top of the house, the wood paneling lines, his eyes, his feet and his paw lines.

After that, I had to wait until after dinner and bed time to add the Christmas lights. I knew this would be time consuming. To make sure my black icing would not harden, I put my pastry bag in a Ziplock bag.

Then, I poured some of my nonpareils into a bowl and got to work.

Adding the lights was tedious and lasted about an hour. Eek. That was probably my least favorite part.

But look at the results! It was totally worth it. By that time it was 9:30 PM at night, and I was tired, so I let them dry on the counter overnight.

The next day, I bagged my cookies in treat bags (found at Michael’s), closed them with the twist-ties that are included, then added a green or red bow to each one.

And that’s it!

This project was easier than I thought it was going to be, but took just as much time as I had anticipated. BUT I did something that I had been thinking about all year (I saw it on either Facebook or Pinterest last year), and I have a beautiful little treat for our parents and the kids.

Thanks for reading! And Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice …

Gratitude

I have been thinking for a long time about writing a quick post about gratitude.

But my business isn’t huge … it’s quite small. I do what I can and take as many orders as I can.

But as small as my business is, it gives me something. Something to think about. Goals. Plans. Deadlines. Everything that working outside of the home would also give me. I have been laid off, not once, but TWICE. The first time was from a job that I loved that I was at for almost five years. Another was just a six month job, but I loved my co-workers. Contributing to my family with a little money while doing something that I am passionate about is a big deal for me.

What do I do with the money? Well, obviously, some goes back into the business. Some of it I treat for myself, but it’s helped me pay for parties for the kids. It’s helped me treat them to things. It gives me extra money to spend so we can stick to our budget otherwise.

I have so many AWESOME cake tools that I bought MYSELF with my own money, all because my friends and family and their friends and family trusted ME with their cakes. That is amazing to me! It’s a dream come true. I try  not to be materialistic, but the tools that I have allow me to make cakes that I never dreamed I would be able to afford to make.

For this and for everything, I am so grateful.

Grateful for my family who let me make so many of their cakes in the beginning. In the beginning it was mostly about making delicious cakes from scratch. I knew nothing about cake boards or fondant or cutters or First Impression molds.

Like this cake for my niece, which I  made while I was pregnant with my first child:

guitar

Then there was this cake that I made for my nephew’s birthday. I was so proud and happy with the Phillies logo at the time.  And, honestly, I still think I did a pretty good job:

phillies2

Then I started seeing cakes on Pinterest and Facebook and YouTube that made me want to push my boundaries. I finally tried fondant on my cousin’s child’s first birthday cake. It was a challenge because I made homemade marshmallow fondant, but it tasted amazing. It was a Wilton project from their website. I bought some of my first special cutters (and the obsession with cutters began).

I still remember putting it together on my tiny apartment’s counter. I am so grateful I was encouraged to face my fear of fondant and make this cake. I still think it’s a cute cake!

MARLEE

marlee2

So thank you, Kira! We both love to bake and decorate cakes — she made my 30th birthday cake. It was beautiful and delicious. I love that I have someone to talk cake with.

I also made my niece’s first birthday cake that year. I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to face my fear of tiered cakes. I hand-painted those leopard spots. It took me hours, but it was worth it!

olivia

I am so grateful that my family allowed me to bring my own ideas to the table to create cakes like these … My mom’s surprise 60th cake, my brother’s surprise graduation cake, and my niece’s zebra print cake. Thank you, thank you for trusting me.

fallcake gradcake kaylacake

I am also so grateful for former classmates from Upper Darby who let me make cakes for the important events in their lives. Janette hired me to make her wedding cake, my very first one. Wow, was I ever nervous. I gave her a first-timer’s discount because I was so worried I would screw it up. But she let me design a cake and it turned out wonderfully:

Wedding cake 4.12.13 set up

I am grateful for another former classmate and friend who trusted me with a Beatles “When I’m 64” cake. It is still one of my favorite cakes.

Beatles collage

Another former classmate trusted me to make this police cake for her husband. I was honored to make his badge and the Philadelphia Police logo.

police cake 2

I am also super grateful for Lea and Steve, who have ordered more cakes from me than I can count! Birthday cakes, shower cakes, baptism cakes … Lea is always challenging me to be better and better.

Lilly cake 6.22.13 11.9.13 Noelle Cake sports cake Baptism cake Danielle's Cake 5.4.14

I am also grateful for Rachel, who has ordered so many cakes from me AND who left me a glowing review on Facebook. Having repeat customers like Lea and Rachel makes me feel like my work truly has value.

ellie cake IMG_0918

Muppets Cake

Rachel is also a wonderful photographer and I was so honored to make a quick 4″ smash cake for a cute first birthday session:

smashcake2

I am also so grateful for Vault Communications and Sesame Place for giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity to decorate a cake on-site at Sesame Place. And for everybody who went crazy voting and sharing.

sesame collage sesame street cake 2

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without my saying that I am so grateful for my husband, who always believes in me and encourages me.

I am so grateful that I have my wonderful mom, who also has a passion for baking. In the beginning I picked her brain a LOT. I don’t know what I would have done without her!

Not only do I have my mom, but I also have my in-laws, who make me feel like I am the best cake decorator out there — which I know isn’t true, but they make me feel that way! Both my mom and my mother-in-law have showed off my cakes to co-workers and family members. I love knowing that I make them proud.

Who knows how long I will be able to keep up with this gig. With my kids getting older, their schedules will get more and more crazy. But I am so grateful that through so many people believing in me and trusting in my skills that I have been able to build a small following and business. It gives my life a bit more meaning, a bit more challenge.

So even if I don’t do this forever, I am so grateful that I was able to do it while I could. Looking back at that Hannah Montana guitar cake that I had agonized over, I have come such a long way.

I am just so grateful.

Wilton Minnie Mouse Cake 

Just finished up a great weekend, one where I worked all week on a Minnie Mouse cake, using the 1995 Wilton cake pan. We really couldn’t decide on the design, so it was up to me! I figured either of the designs that we had been thinking about would  make a great cake. I ended up deciding on making a full Minnie using a vintage Mickey Mouse pan that my mom recently gave me. She was clearing out all her pans and gave me a bunch of awesome pans. I hope to make a few of them!

The birthday girl loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse version of Mickey, so that’s what I went with. And, I kind of love her, too!

On Monday, which is usually my baking day, I baked up my favorite King Arthur Yellow Butter Cake with some mini chocolate chips inside, too. This took about 40 minutes.  As soon as it came out of the oven, I patted it down with a clean towel to settle the dome down:

After it had cooled for a bit, I used my leveler (background) to slice it in half. I had to be extra gentle because I used King Arthur cake flour, so it was very soft.

The next thing I had to do was make my bow. After the pan had been cleaned, I used it for sizing guidance.

I made two bows. The Minnie Mouse style bow (above) and a more realistic bow. After texting both to my friend, she chose the Minnie-style bow.


  

I did end up making some small realistic bows for her shoes. While I was at it, I made the birthday message.

Something I realized when I made my Sesame Place cakes is that pink icing fades in the sunlight. My Abby Cadabby and Zoe both faded badly, as well as the pink fondant I covered my second cake with. So, I was sure to place these in a cupboard so it wouldn’t fade.


Then, I decided to make her face out of fondant. I held up the picture it came with to the light and made a template with paper. Then I used the correct side to cut her face. Then I used small cutters and some free-hand X-Acto cutting to make her features. When it was all set, I used some petal dust to give her some definition and blush on her cheeks. I was so happy with how this turned out that I couldn’t wait to show my friend how it looked!

I started my cake on Thursday night with filling and crumb coating. I first placed it on the board:

Then I used a #21 tip to line the cake with vanilla icing to make a dam. I filled the cake with almost an entire batch of my favorite half-Hersheys and half-Dutch Processed cocoa buttercream.
  

Next I used the same bag and tip I used for the dam to fill in the white background spaces. I then smoothed it out with my angled spatula.

And then I crumb-coated the rest of the areas.

After spending what felt like forever, I iced the sides with my pink buttercream and got it as smooth as I could manage. The thing I hate about these pans is all the irregular curves. They certainly are a challenge!

The next day, I started to build up Minnie Mouse. I started with the black fondant.  

Then I put on her hands. I later took off her right hand because I would have to layer it on top of her dress.

Then I made the back part of her shoe and layered the black over that so that it would look like it was behind her foot. Then I cut out the top of her dress and wrapped it around her torso.


Then I made her bloomers (the white ruffles on her legs).

It took me several tries to get her dress just right. I ended up taking out that horizontal slab of fondant. Instead, I made an underskirt, kept the vertical fondant ropes for definition, layed her dress down and cut it to size. I tucked in the sides and then laid down her right hand.

Then I cut out her white collar, added a little button, and added her dark pink band. After that, I made the rest of her shoe and added the little bows. Then, it was all about adding the polka dots on the dress and the sides, making a Crisco-creme for the border (#16 tip)  and adding the birthday message. Then she was boxed and back in the fridge for pick up!

  
  
The birthday girl came along for the pick up and she loved it! I also loaned her a Minnie Mouse dress that I sewed for my daughter a few years ago for her party that evening. She tried it on and it fit! We were so happy. 🙂 That was a total surprise, partially because I just forgot to mention it!

Here she is at her party with her cake! You can see in the top right picture how awesome the cake looks with filling in it. I recommend to anyone making a Wilton pan cake to try and torte it and fill it. It makes it taller and it is nice to have filling on the inside, especially if you are going to be using a lot of fondant.

And they devoured the cake, though my friend did manage to put a couple of pieces aside to enjoy later with coffee. Yum! I LOVE having cake for breakfast the days after having a party. Not great for the diet, but soothing for the soul!

11894003_729038540574994_8340300794392379622_o

Now I have about four weeks until my next cake order. I’ll start baking in about three weeks. In the meantime, I will be sewing, relaxing, and playing with my kids.

Can you tell me how to get … how to get to Sesame Place?

Hi, everybody!

I haven’t made a post since my niece’s Monster High Birthday Cake. It sure has been busy! Since then I have made a few cakes. Here are their pictures. As always, you can click on them to get a better look:

BraydenCake

Vintage train theme cake. Custom cut “2”. Hand-painted plaque. Hand piping. Fondant train tracks.


LoriCake

40th Birthday Cake – 8″ and 6″ cakes with fondant accents, fondant “40” painted gold


elmocake2

Wilton Elmo Cake – buttercream with fondant accents

So, yeah, I’ve been busy! My focus this year has been quality over quantity. I approach cakes as a craft as well as something delicious to be devoured and enjoyed. Custom cake decorating is so time consuming, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding. I think all creative jobs are like that!

One random Wednesday (July 8th), I decided to take the kids to the $3 movie theater to check out Inside Out. Three kids. Alone. It was okay, but we left early because the baby was not feeling it. When I got out of the theater, I checked my phone and my cake page had a new message on Facebook from a PR person representing .. Sesame Place! I couldn’t believe it!

I had to think about it initially. I take a lot of time on my cakes and characters, so I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off with the amount of time that I was given. But then I posted to Facebook about it (naturally, ha), and I got all sorts of positive responses. Ones that stand out are “What would Elmo do?” and that we’re never given more than we can handle.

I got the details the next day. All baking would be done off the premises. Fondant decorations could be made at home. Then, at the park, we would have ample amounts of time to finish our cakes. Later this turned into two hours, from 10 am to 12 pm. This sounded like a good amount of time to me because I tend to obsess and sometimes it’s better if I am only given a certain amount of time to do something.

I was also picturing myself and a bunch of other bakeries/cake decorators. But then I read the document again and it said I was just going to be one of FIVE. Eeeep! There’s no where to hide when you’re just one of five.

And then there was the prize if you won … You would have to make ANOTHER cake to present it on Sesame Place’s actual birthday, July 30th. And you get 35 tickets for family, friends and customers.

My first thought was, “Another cake? After rushing so much to make the first one?” I posted that to Facebook, too, and my friends joked that maybe I should just make a lack-luster cake to guarantee that I would lose and not have to make another cake. Ha. Ha.

Even though I was nervous about this project and its parameters, I decided to go for it. You only live once, right? And it would be setting a great example for my children.

I had to jump in and make a plan immediately. The first thing I did was decide on my design (roughly) and get started on some important characters. I consider Sesame’s most important characters to be Big Bird (Jim Henson’s favorite and THE original headliner) and Elmo, because – HE’S ELMO.

From there I decided on Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Abby Cadabby and very last minute I made Zoe because I needed one more character.

I made these three first. I used a large open tip to make Big Bird’s feathers. Time saver right there. I considered doing the feathers one by one for about a second, but “ain’t no body got time for that”.

Next I had to make a nice “35” topper. I have large number cutters, so I used those to save time, rather than hand-cutting my numbers. I outlined the 35 with green to make it stand out a little more.

When I decided to make Abby Cadabby, I just knew she had to “fly”. I’m not sure how I got this idea. It just popped into my mind and I just had to try and do it. It would be my one showy thing that I could fit into this cake. That and the balloons, too. If the skewers would hold them, I would make them. After testing it, I went along and made 12 balloons. Originally it was going to be 6.


  

As far as the cake, I just wanted something sturdy. I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to be eating it, but I made white almond sour cream cake for my sister’s birthday and it worked out well, so that’s what I made for this cake. The recipe I have makes 14 cups of batter, so I made a 10″ cake in one shot. Then I was also able to make the 8″ and the giant cupcake out of one batch. It saved a lot of time.

This project and a couple of other projects nearly filled my fondant rack!  

Oscar the Grouch was fun to make. His can is hollow. I let slate gray fondant dry on a paper towel roll. After it was dry, I painted it silver with luster dust. I aged it with black coloring mixed with vodka.

To get ready for this contest, I packed everything except the kitchen sink. My fondant mat, paper towels, Viva paper towels, gum glue, paint brushes, all three of my revolving cake stands, etc. etc. etc.

The night before, I crumb coated my cakes since other cake decorators were bringing dummy cakes (Styrofoam cakes). I was going to fill and crumb coat it on-site, but I figured if people were bringing dummies, which obviously don’t need to be filled and crumb coated, I would get my cakes up to the same point to make it fair.

I decided on covering my cakes in buttercream because I’m just awful at covering cakes in fondant. Okay, not awful, but not great. The thought of attempting it in front of people stressed me out. I debated about what type of buttercream to make. In summer I usually make buttercream that is 2/3s butter and 1/3 Crisco. But there’s also a variation that’s HALF Crisco, and then one more version that is ALL Crisco. I figured that there would be a chance that someone would be eating it, so I went with my usual 1/3 Crisco. I made an all-Crisco batch of buttercream for my borders.

I was obsessed about the weather all week. One day it was saying it was going to be raining. Another day it said it was going to be 95. Either way, it was going to be hot and humid. I was sick with worry about my cake falling over or it just not coming together or everything going wrong. I wasn’t sure how well my fondant (LMF) was going to hold up. Cake and heat do not get along. I knew that I would be under a tent. I was picturing a catering tent. What we ended up having was basic outdoor tents and umbrellas.

I was also going to take my kids, husband and father-in-law along. How could I not go to Sesame Place and not take my kids? We left very early Tuesday early to get to the contest. We had to get there at 9 AM to get all of our stuff set up. We planned on dropping the baby off with my mother-in-law, picking up my father-in-law and going from there. We got about ten minutes out when I realized that I forgot my cake board! Ugh! So we had to back track and get it. We got there a tad late – 9:15, not too bad.

When I got into the park, my eyes were drawn right to the gigantic birthday cake. In front of it there was only 3 tables. Only three of us decided to participate in the contest. I was shocked and I would have been nervous, but by that time it was a little too late! I also noticed that the other two bakeries had teams of two or three people each. I was thinking that this was going to be the case, but actually seeing it made me feel crazy it was that I showed up by myself. How could I ever compete with big bakeries?

When we got there, we loaded everything up onto a dolly to get it in the park. My kids loved it. Nah, they didn’t ride on it. They wanted to, though!

It took a while to get set up. I put aside the tools that I didn’t need right away and went from there. To brighten up my table I brought a birthday banner that I had saved from my daughter’s second birthday. I was going to hand it along the front, but decided to just place it on the top of the table. A lot of people asked me about it. It’s from a seller on Etsy named Spoiled Mama Studio . I love her designs!

Before the contest started, I was looking nice and fresh.

The contest started after the National Anthem played at 10 AM. The first thing I did was cover my large cakes in buttercream. I knew that they wouldn’t crust over with all the humidity, so I didn’t even bother trying to get them super smooth. With the extreme weather, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Then I covered my giant cupcake. I cover the liner part upside down. Then I covered the top with white fondant. After that, I added the “drips” to the 10″ and 8″ cakes and the “filling”.

After all this was done, I put my pink cake on the cake board, then my blue one on top of that, then my cupcake on top of that. I didn’t place my 10″ cake quite where I wanted to put it, but it was too late and the buttercream was way to melt-y to even attempt to move it over. I really regretting not going with my idea to make “buttercream” using only shortening. Shortening doesn’t melt quite as easily as butter. Sure, that sounds gross, but for all intents and purposes, that would have been a much better choice. But you live and you learn!

I stuck my sharpened center dowel rod into all three of the cakes. I use a poultry hammer to hammer down. It goes through the cake boards very easily. Then I added my big, pretty border with my 100% Crisco cream. By that time, I believe it was about 11:20ish. After that it was just a matter of adding the oversized sprinkles that I had made out of fondant. I also added the slogan “35 Years of Furry Fun”, which I had made a head of time.

Then I added my characters. Cookie Monster needed his cookies added. I had a bag of Cookie Crisp ready to go. People really loved this!  I enjoyed telling everybody how my husband asked me to take what I needed for this project and then we ate the rest between the four of us in five days.

I was really glad that my father-in-law came back at some point to take pictures and video. He ended up helping me a little bit. I joked that he was my assistant of sorts. He helped me move stuff and when the cake was finally ready to turn around, he helped me lift and turn it. And, wow, was it ever heavy. He also helped me when people were asking questions and I was trying to talk and work at the same time.

This is all the boring stuff … What was really fun was all the people who came up to the table, asking question, admiring the decorations.

One guy said to me, “where’s your team?” I told him it was just me and he said, “that is impressive!”

I talked fondant to one lady who seemed to know a little bit about cake decorating. That was fun!

One sweet Sesame Place employee told me that he was rooting for me.

When I was finally finished (with ten minutes to spare), a family came back who had been there when the park first opened and they were happy with how my cake had turned out. They congratulated me on getting it finished. Then they asked me to take a picture with the cake.

I also got to talk to the Intelligencer / The Courier times. That was so fun! She took pictures and asked good questions. I also talked to ABC Action news briefly. It hasn’t been aired yet, and I’m not sure they are going to use the footage. They did a brief 3 minute news story, and I wasn’t even in that very much. That’s really okay with me! Working with cameras on you is kind of intimidating. I kept kidding myself in my head that I felt like a Kardashian with the camera on me. Ha!


I took a picture of a camera man setting up. He says it happens a lot!

I felt so gross when I was finally done! A few good pictures were taken and we let people come through and look at all the cakes for a while. It was a long journey to get to this point (but really, only about ten days!), and it was finally over. Then the real fun would begin soon of voting and waiting to see the outcome.

The other two cakes were amazing! My other competitors were full bakeries with teams of two and three. Bredenbeck’s cake was an impressive structure with four figures on a cake holding up ANOTHER cake. Alice’s Bakery and Confectionary also made a full structure that included a water slide and large, detailed characters.

After putting aside my characters and decorations, I cut my cake for the employees. It was fun to see how excited everybody was for CAKE! Every employee at Sesame Place who I met was SO incredibly friendly and encouraging.


This is how it looked at the end of the day!

After I was changed out of my dirty and sweay clothes, it was time for fun. We ate lunch at Elmo’s Eatery. My kids were so excited about all the fun they had been having all day. I thanked my husband for everything he had done to help me get there. Taking off of work, getting the kids ready, helping the kids through Sesame Place. And he said to me, “No, we’re here all because of you. You earned this.”

We spent a good amount of time swimming and I was so happy and smiling so much my cheeks began to hurt. It wasn’t very crowded, so we actually had quite a relaxing swim. Then we did the carousel and got changed back into our dry clothes and it was time to head home.

Eating lunch with my little girl.


Merry-Go-Round with my son.


I got to take this signage home.

Of course, here is a picture of the finished cake! A little wobbly, to say the least.

The voting took place on Facebook Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It was nail biting. I would get in the lead, then ABC would get in the lead. Back and forth all day. I was so addicted to checking my phone. My friends, my family, my alumni, all started sharing and writing about me. It was so amazing. Everybody was so supportive and flattering. I was truly humbled by the experience. One lady, a friend of a friend, said she would have voted for me even if I hadn’t been a friend. That meant a lot!

Every time I started to win, I wondered if I truly deserved it. Friends assured me that I did because I did the entire cake by myself. I told myself that no matter who won, they would deserve it. They were three great cakes and each one was different than the other in its style. I was just so proud of the fact that I even did the contest with so little time, three kids running around, and so much work to do. I didn’t have as much votes at one point, but had well over 1,000 “likes” (which are different), so I was quite proud of that.

Just in case I DID win, I had to have a plan. Of course, I had all of my decorations from the original contest on hand and ready. So I didn’t have to do that over again. I started baking my cakes all over again. Except this time I made from-scratch cakes. A 10″ chocolate butter cake, an 8″ Hershey’s chocolate cake and the giant cupcake was chocolate, too. If I lost, I would use it for something else. If I won, I would be ready. It would be a win-win situation.

Like I said before, every time I would get a vote, the other team would get a vote. I put down my phone to make our Friday night pizza with my son. The next time I got on Facebook on my phone, my friends were congratulating me on winning. I couldn’t believe it really! I was sincerely in shock. I was very grateful that I had done all that baking!

Since this blog is basically already a book, I’ll try to make the rest short.

I pulled a lot of late nights between Friday and Wednesday. I had to make a double batch of fondant, hand roll more oversized jimmies, make more curly cues, make some new balloons, and put together a new board.

I made a new “35”, custom cut this time from one of my favorite fonts. I also made a Sesame Place logo because my husband said that I “just had to”. The pressure was on to make it perfect. Here are some progress pictures.

Custom cut logo. Used the half moon shape from my clay extruder (Makins Clay Extruder can be found on Amazon) for the yellow border.

I cut white fondant ruin, let it sit for ten minutes, then cut my letters.


I used my clay extruder again for the thin, green outside border.

 I also decided to make a version of their official “35” year logo (the two balloons and the star balloon). To make my balloons shiny, I mix vodka and corn syrup. A tip I learned from Royal Bakery on Facebook.

For Cake 2.0, as I began to call it, I decided that I just had to cover my cake in fondant this time, because my buttercream would not stand up to the heat. I filled and crumb coated my cakes in all-Crisco icing on Monday night. We were in a heatwave, so buttercream made with real butter was just out of the question.

Tuesday night, I covered my cakes in fondant and added the over-sized jimmies that I had prepared. The calls all went on their own cake board.

Covering a big cake isn’t that hard, but I am bad at laying it on just right. This took two attempts.

Chilling in our extra fridge Tuesday night.

This is all I did the night before the big day, Wednesday night. I put the center dowel rod through for added stability. I planned on taking it out, putting the giant cupcake on, then putting it back in. I covered it with Press ‘n Seal overnight and for the ride. At this point, it would not fit back into the refrigerator. I kept it in a well-air-conditioned room so that it would stay nice and not wilt or get pock marks. And my plan worked well!

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Cake 2.0!


On the big day, July 30, I added the characters and the top cupcake on-site when we got there. We arrived on time this time, bright and early at 9 AM! This time, our six-month-old and the kids’ grandmother joined us.

I was so nervous that my cake would stumble over and didn’t want to take any chances of the cupcake falling off. I kept asking my daughter if the cake was okay on the hour-long drive there.Thankfully, it made it to Sesame Place just fine.

It was another hot one, of course, and it was CROWDED. But, despite the heat, I got a lot of joy out of seeing people admire my cake. Many people would stop to look at it. They took pictures of it and with it. I love to see people enjoying my cake, but at the same time, I don’t like a lot of attention, so I just watched from afar. Sometimes my mother-in-law would say, “here’s the lady who made the cake – all herself!” They really did it up for the 35th birthday party and gave out party hats and blow-outs for the kids. It was awesome and so exciting.

The president made a brief speech and announced the cake. It was very brief, but it was so nice. We were right up front and ready for the big moment – the characters coming out to dance! When they finally did, my kids were just so excited. They were right next to the stage, since we were there so early. My daughter was so happy to get to see Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster and Elmo right up close. She had the hugest smile on my face. I think that was my very favorite part of the day.

  
  
  


  
These two cakes really were a challenge to me. I thought many times that I couldn’t do it. But I persevered and pushed through. And I have the best friends and family a person could ask for. I can’t thank everybody enough for being so supportive and being my cheerleader all the way through. And the voting and sharing was truly amazing! My mom friends, my Upper Darby alumni, my family — all my networks really helped me get to the 35th birthday party. Thank you all again for pushing me past my comfort zone.

Nichole

Monster High Draculaura Cake

I can’t believe it, but my “baby” niece has turned five! I have made a cake for each one of her birthdays. Thankfully, my sister lets me design and come up with the concept. My sister’s support has allowed me to grow and learn as a cake decorator over the years. My niece, of course, picks the theme. This year, thanks to Netflix, she has fallen in love with Monster High.

The Game Plan

After looking at some cakes on Pinterest, I got the idea to do a Monster High doll cake. With the popularity of fondant, doll cakes are better-looking than ever. They used to be kind of, well, ugly, but now that we can use fondant to make the dresses look like real fabric, doll cakes are very beautiful and professional-looking.

I started with trying to find a doll that I liked. Target was having a great sale online, plus free shipping, so I grabbed up a doll for about $8. I chose “Frights Camera Action” Draculaura.

There were some really cool doll cakes on Pinterest, but I really wanted to make my own design. I researched “ball gowns” and “Monster High ball gowns” and found a design by Etsy seller Jonna Jonzon. She’s an Etsy seller who makes and sells her own designs to fit MH dolls. They’re simply amazing. It was my inspiration for my cake.    

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JonnaJonzon

Making decorations

The first couple of things I did for the cake was make her birthday message and some tiny black roses. The birthday message is made with FMM Tappits.

All I did to make the roses was make a small snake of black fondant, pinch one side very thin, then roll it up. Then I carefully made some adjustments so the petals fell more naturally. 

Baking the cake

About two weeks before the party, I started baking. I bake, cool, and freeze all of my cakes. I wrap them in plastic wrap and tin foil. Starting early gives me time in case I mess up or a cake doesn’t turn out. You just never know what could happen.  

Olivia is a big chocolate fan, so we decided on Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate cake with dark chocolate buttercream icing.

(Notes on the cake: I use a cup of hot coffee for the cake instead of water. Notes on the buttercream: I use half Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa and half Dutch Processed Cocoa. This is just personal preference; these recipes are wonderful as-is.)

I sprayed my Wilton Wonder Mold pan really well with Pam Baking Spray, including the center rod. I baked it at 350 for about 65 minutes. The pan takes six cups of batter, and my recipe makes exactly six cups. 

I also used an extra 8″ layer of cake that I had in the freezer from baking cupcakes for a different party. I only needed 15 cupcakes for that project, so I used the rest of the batter to make a 8″ layer for this cake. That’s the great thing about planning ahead!

  It unmolded perfectly.

I decided I wanted to torte my cake for extra height and so it wouldn’t be an enormous piece of cake with no icing in the middle. To help me line them up properly, later I made a line with my AmeriColor Gourmet Writer (purchased on Amazon).

When it had cooled off, I used my Wilton leveler to cut my cake in two places. I played around with the side notches to get them the height that I wanted. 

After they were cut, I made holes in the middle for the doll to rest in. I didn’t want to just force her in the middle and crack the cake. This can also be easily done with a knife. 

  

Covering the cake board

The week of the party is the week I cover my cake board. For this board, I used three 12″ boards covered in Fanci Foil wrap. I decided on light pink LMF (Liz Marek Fondant).

  

I rolled it thick and hoped that it would be big enough.

I greased up my cake board.

Put it on my board.

Cut away the excess with a pizza wheel.

After that I got my fondant smoother dusted with cornstarch and made it as smooth as possible. That pushed it out some more, so I did some more trimming with my pizza wheel (not shown).

Assembling the cake 

I decided to start the cake on a Wednesday night so it would give me time to cover it, then decorate it, then put it all together. First, I wrapped the doll’s body in plastic wrap up to her hips. I also wrapped her hair so that it wouldn’t get any icing on it.

I made my favorite dark chocolate buttercream. I stacked the cake on a single 8″ board. I iced between the layers and also put some on the sides of the holes as I went. I used cake scraps to build up the very top tip of the dress. You can also use Rice Krispie Treats for that if you choose. Then I put the doll down through the middle and iced the outside of the cake.

I put the cake on a small board to make it easier to carry around, and put the cake in the fridge over night. The allows the buttercream to harden and allows my frozen cake to thaw gradually. Fondant should never go on a frozen cake because when the cake thaws out it can create condensation and pock marks and ruin your work.

Thursday night, I took her out and got ready to work. I rolled out fondant dyed AmeriColor Electric Pink on my Fat Daddio Mat. This mat is perfect for working with fondant because it doesn’t stick to it. I still use cornstarch to make it even easier to work with. I covered her just about half way up.

The idea with this dress is to build up the layers, just like a real dress. You work from the bottom up.

I decided for her draped fabric that instead of doing actual drapes, I would make logs of fondant and put a flat piece of fondant over it. That way I can have more control over them and I don’t risk them wilting or being uneven. I did this all the way around the dress. 

I don’t make black fondant, by the way. I use Wilton Black Fondant. It looks wonderful and works very well.

Piece by piece, I covered each of the sections with fondant. I eye balled the shape, then cut it to size right on the cake with my XActo knife.

The pictures after this part get a little sporatic, but I’ll try to explain what I did. After the draped part of the dress was all finished, I cut a piece of fondant for her torso. I wet the doll’s torso with water to act like glue for the fondant. I lifted the fondant and I let it fall around her like fabric while I wrapped it around her body as one big piece. Then I cut the back to size with my knife. I made some adjustments to make it more fitted in the bodice and cut it again. Then I cut a small bow.

After her torso was finished, I felt like it was really coming together. I used a ball tool to make some impressions in the pink fabric that would look like real fabric gathers.

Next, I rolled some black fabric very thin and used my new FMM lace cutter that my husband got me for Mother’s Day this year. You emboss your fondant, then you cut it. There’s a good YouTube video about how to use these cutter/embossers, which I watched a few times before using them. Then I wet the fondant on the dress and pleated and attached it as I went and cut off the excess.

Then I added lace to the bottom of the dress using a different embosser.

Are you bored yet?

I added the roses that I had made before, which were perfectly dry now.

After that I got out my clay extruder to make very thin ropes. I used these to cover my seams and raw edges.

This is what my work space looked like when I was done. I worked from about 7:30 – 9:30 that night and cleaned until 10. I put her back into the fridge.

Thoughts on the Fridge – I should note that we have an extra refrigerator which we use primarily for canned soda and beer. I don’t put cakes in my regular refrigerator that holds our food and every day items. I also store my baked cakes in our extra freezer until it’s time to decorate them.

Moving on to Friday …

The only thing that was left for Friday was putting her on the board, adding the letters, and adding some ribbon around the edge.

I put some extra icing on the board for the cake to sit on. This worked as glue.

I gingerly lifted her up and placed her on the icing “glue.”

Then I added the message with some water. I had to adjust it to the left to make sure it would all fit!

Then I cut my ribbon to size and hot-glued it around the edge to give it a finished look.

Here is a detail shot of the lace and the tiny roses. I also dusted the cake with some Wilton silver pearl dust. My link is to Global Sugar Art, but it’s usually available at Michael’s and Joann Fabrics.

I put her back into the refrigerator after she was finished. It’s summer–there are bugs (read: flies) that get into the house no matter what you do. Add heat and humidity and the fact that we do not have central air and that’s why I put my cakes in the fridge. Not to mention the fact that I have kids. 

I also made some extra cupcakes. They were delicious!

Here is my finished cake!

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This is how I transported her! I put her in a box and wrapped it with Press and Seal wrap. What I like about Press and Seal is that you can press the pieces together to keep dust and unwanted critters out. Again, it is summer – flies always manage to sneak in! We transported her on the floor of our van — not all the way in the back because we have had BAD experiences with that. We shoved the box between the middle row seat and behind the driver seat. She didn’t move an inch.

Is it weird that I am using a human pronoun for this cake??

Party Time!


   Olivia LOVED her cake. I set up the cake and told her to close her eyes. I said I had something for her. I guided her to the table and told her she could open her eyes.

She was so excited! She ran right to it to get a better look. I got a HUGE hug and she couldn’t stop looking at it. She was all smiles when it was time to sing and cut her cake. 

The real moment of truth …

Here it is all chopped up! Even though I took it out on Wednesday, it was still delicious and perfectly moist. I used to be afraid to take cake out too early, but this cake holds up so well in the freezer.


And the doll survived just fine. I pulled her straight out before I cut the cake. We washed her, dried her and put on her outfit and shoes and she was ready to be played with. The cake and doll were my niece’s birthday gift, along with some Monster High stickers that my daughter picked out at Michael’s. 
I was so happy to make this cake. After months of planning, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to pull off the picture that I had in my head. But she turned out better than anticipated. I didn’t even want to cut her! My daughter says she would love one, too, so hopefully I’ll get to try another design one day. 

If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading!

Nichole