Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bizarre Bazaar

Every year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, there is an art show/fair/festival held in Lawrence called the Bizarre Bazaar. It was started many years ago by a group of women who made unusual art, and it has grown to the size of about 120 artists. When the registration form comes in May, you don't wait a couple of weeks to mail it back in to save your spot--you fill it out and return it that VERY DAY. The spots fill quickly and there is always a long waiting list to get in.

The show is unique in a lot of ways. The artist booth fee is very low, but each artist also participates in putting on the show by serving on a committee (advertising, decorating, etc, etc) and bringing items for the bake sale that takes place that day. There is definitely mainstream art, but also a great sampling of unusual art, like the woman who sells the decorated chicken feet (I am horrified by and strangely drawn to them at the same time) and another who made portraits out of chewing gum. I have done a few art shows in the past seven or eight years, but this is the only one I have done every year--I love how it feels to be there. There is something really great about the mood of the show. Maybe the participatory requirements bring the artists together, because everyone is really helpful and pleasant.

Anyway, here is a (quick) picture of my table at this year's show, taken in between shoppers:

Not the best photo, but the other one was out of focus and I was in a hurry! I have lots of new stuff that I put together for the show, and hopefully I will get some pictures up over the next couple of days. I got heavily involved in the lampwork to prep for this year since that was the bulk of what I sold last year. First up, a pair of earrings...more to come!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chocolate ganache cake

Since we planned to go to Lincoln for Thanksgiving, I decided it was the right time to try out a recipe for spreadable ganache I found a couple of months ago. I really wanted to use it because of the texture I had seen on cakes made with that ganache, but I have always put frosting or fondant on cakes and didn't quite know what I was doing. I made three versions of the ganache: white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate ganache. The dark chocolate was really very bitter, and I wasn't sure it would appeal to a large audience. The white chocolate was really just...underwhelming, so I settled on the milk chocolate for this cake.

The ganache has to sit for several hours at room temperature, bringing it to a consistency a lot like peanut butter. I made a chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling and put it in the fridge while the ganache was setting up. When I put the ganache on the cake, it was pliable at first, but the temperature of the cake cooled it quickly and it hardened a bit while I spread it. Just because I had it, I put some white chocolate shavings on top of the cake and put it back in the fridge overnight. When we cut into it about six hours later, it still hadn't come completely back to room temperature. Right out of the refrigerator, the ganache provided a weird sort of protective shell around the cake. I have read that it will keep cakes very moist and that some people put it under fondant for this I know why.

I tried--many, many times--to like the ganache. I just don't really think it's that great. It's ok, but I am more of a frosting girl, apparently.

Since there were going to be a lot of people there, I also made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Gage made an apple pie from scratch. I helped him put together the apple filling, but he made the crust and it was perfect--I was really impressed!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Camera cake

I made this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for Hally's birthday. Since photography is her thing, I decided to attempt a sculpted cake. Even though it provides a cleaner look for the cake, nobody in my family really likes to eat the MM fondant (well, maybe for the first bite or two, but after that, no thanks) I skipped it.

The camera's lens and preview frame are made from poured sugar. I didn't have any molds to get these to come out the way I wanted them to, so I lined stainless steel cookie cutters with the Reynolds Release foil. There must be a way to sort of sand down the edges of the pieces once they come out of the molds, but I haven't figured that out yet. Even though the edges are a little bit rough, I wasn't even sure they would come out of the molds properly, so I was content with the results.

The pictures were taken in a hurry and the lighting isn't that great--I was still trying to put the finishing touches on the cake when Hally showed up for dinner!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poured sugar ice

I have been interested in poured sugar work, but only in the form of reading about it until recently. We had a wedding cake order at work with an "ice" theme, and the bride wanted some sort of ice to border the tiers if possible. It doesn't take much for me to try out new techniques, so the excuse to put the sugar ice recipe to the test was a welcome task.

It's really, really easy, and takes almost no time at all to do. There are a ton of recipes out there, but I settled on this one and it worked well:

1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup Splenda (not the packets...the bulk buy bag found in the baking aisle at the grocery store.)
1 cup light corn syrup

I started out by putting all of the ingredients in a pan, stirring until everything was blended and then bringing it to hard crack stage (300 degrees).

(ignore the ".7" past 300 on the thermometer! I read (later, of course) that it helps to pull the mixture off of the heat at about 295 so you don't go past the 300 mark, although some recipes instruct you to take the mixture to 310, so I don't know that it hurts anything.) If you don't have a thermometer, the way to tell when you reach the hard crack stage is to pull a bit of the mixture out and drop it into some water. If it is at that stage, you will hear it crack when it hits the water. If you don't bring the mixture to hard crack, the ice will not be brittle when you are will be soft.

Since I knew this mixture would caramelize and give an amber cast to the color of the sugar, I wanted to see what would happen if I added color to it. I selected orange from my regular Wilton gel coloring, dropped it in after the mixture had cooled a bit, and stirred it.

Then I poured the mixture onto crumpled up Reynolds Wrap Release foil (this has a non-stick side, which is best for getting the poured sugar out when everything is done). Side note: I learned that the thinner the sugar is poured, the better for ice chips, so I will spread the next batch out over more of the foil. Some of this batch ended up thicker than I would have liked.

Once everything was cool, I popped the ice chips out of the foil and it was ready to use. On what, I can't say. Maybe orange wasn't the best color to select?

I have read that clear ice can't be made from sugar because when it reaches the right temperature, it will caramelize. Clear poured sugar can be achieved, supposedly, by using Isomalt instead of a sugar mixture. Because I just HAD to know, I ordered some Isomalt off of the internet to give that a try. It was delivered to the house the evening before we left for our Orlando trip, so I haven't given it a shot yet.

BTW. The wedding cake came out great--the bride was really happy with it. Kelli used a round tip (maybe a 5 or 6?) to pull buttercream frosting over the edges of the cake tiers to give the feeling of icicles, and we used the sugar ice to border each tier. We made some that was not colored and was barely tinged with the amber coloring and also tried blue coloring on a batch and they both worked well. We used the clear-ish batch for the cake and painted it with blue and silver with the airbrush. Here is a picture showing a couple of the tiers:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Relaxation favorites birthday cake

This cake topper went on a birthday cake for a guy who likes to play guitar, play XBox, and drink coffee. It was a challenge to fit all of this onto one cake topper, and I came very close to leaving the television and stand off of the scene. But I checked the order and I said I would put those on there, so I did.

The chair and tv stand are made from rice krispie treats (a total of 12!!!) covered in fondant, the television and guitar are made from a combination of modeling chocolate, piped chocolate, and royal icing, and the figure, the coffee cup, and XBox controller are made from fondant. I put brown fondant inside the cup and topped it off with piping gel to make it look like liquid. All of this sat on top of a white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.

This was my last cake order before the fall jewelry show...I have a couple of cakes I want to make for celebrations, but won't take any new orders for others until after Thanksgiving weekend. It will be good to focus more attention on the jewelry side of things...I have been turning a lot of projects over in my mind and it would be nice to try some of those things out!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thanksgiving turkey

This is a quick little fondant turkey I made for a cake at the store. I left work and forgot to put the little "thing" that hangs from the beak (after referring to it as a "giblet thing", I finally looked it's called a "snood") on it. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it, so I stopped by on my way home the next day and added it. Kelli (the rockstar who makes most of the cakes in the pastry case) had already put him on a cake.

So I didn't do the other decorations (the pumpkins, the leaves), but here he is: