Saturday, June 30, 2012

Making a ruffle cake

When my friend asked me to make his wedding cake, he wasn't completely sure what he wanted it to look like.  He did know he wanted texture so I suggested a ruffle cake; I'd seen them on Pinterest and knew that in theory they should be relatively easy to make. I planned to do a test run on a small scale at some point before it was time to put his cake together.  That didn't happen...the days evaporated and suddenly it was just time to make it happen. 

Fortunately it really was a simple process.  It took some time to apply the ruffles to all three layers but it was a nice surprise to try a new technique and not have that dark moment when I wonder if it isn't going to come together.

The list of materials is short:
  • Fondant 
  • Gumpaste
  • Edible tylose glue, a tylose powder/water mix (water can be substituted)
  • Flower pad/sponge
  • Wooden dowel (a toothpick or wooden skewer can be substituted)
  • Scalloped cookie cutter
If I hadn't had the tylose powder, I know water would have worked for my "glue"--it may have slowed me down a bit because the tylose/water mixture gets tacky quickly and provides a quick hold.

First I covered all three cake layers with fondant, then made a 50/50 mix of gumpaste and fondant for the ruffles so that they would hold their shape and not just droop off the cake.  I put that mixture into a ziploc bag to keep it from setting up too quickly. 

Then I rolled out smallish pieces of the fondant/gumpaste mixture and cut along the top of it with a scalloped cookie cutter (this was an old cookie cutter that never really held it's shape for me so I just cut it open to use the whole length of it).  I moved the fondant strip to the flower pad and used the wooden dowel to thin and flare the strip for the ruffles by rolling it back and forth along just the edges. 

I applied each strip with the tylose glue, sticking the bottom half of the strip to the cake and pulling the top part up and back a little bit.  This has to be done top to bottom on the cake rather than the other way around.  The great part about this technique is that there really isn't a wrong way to do it; I just kept layering the strips until I got to the bottom of the cake.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Whimsical wedding dessert table

Last weekend I had the privilege of putting together a wedding dessert table for my friend Scott.  He and his partner of seven years celebrated with friends and family over several days, so the reception was just one part of the event.

We talked and emailed a few times over the past several months about the elements he wanted to include and ended up with a variety of cupcakes, a cake with three tiers, chocolate shot glasses filled with frosting, cake pops, and homemade marshmallows. (He *loves* marshmallows, so we also decided to make the bottom two tiers of the cake out of rice krispie treats.) 


As a couple of friends helping out, we didn't have any sort of uniform to wear during the set up...but we did wear our best formal apron/t-shirt.

 Congratulations, Scott and Josh!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chocolate images

When I want to add an image to the top of a cake I like to make reverse chocolate transfers because they are  pretty easy and generally turn out pretty well.  They are perfect for the top of a sheet cake; they're low maintenance in terms of delivery and can be whatever size you need.

Here's how to make them:

Start with the image, adjusting the size and orientation to fit the cake. If there is writing as a part of the image, reverse it before printing it out.  I've also just drawn out what I wanted to use for the image, like the cards for the top of this cake and the number 30 for the top of this one.

Place the image on something fairly sturdy that will support the chocolate piece so you can move it when you're done. A clipboard or a folder work well. Tape a piece of waxed paper over the image (parchment paper also works but is harder to see through).

Prep the chocolate one color at a time.  It will cool faster than you can get to the next color, so it just wastes time to get all the chocolate ready before starting. This is not the time to use your fancy, expensive chocolate because it doesn't melt as well as the candy melts or the chocolate bark.

I use plastic tips when I pipe chocolate because the temperature matters and I often have to put the piping bag into the microwave for a few seconds to reheat it.  I just fold the whole piping bag over and put it into a jar or a glass so it won't drip all over the place and heat it for a few seconds at a time.

It helps to have a test area on a plate or paper towel to make sure the chocolate is coming out at a manageable rate before you start working on the image.  If it's too slow, heat a bit more.  If it's too fast (read: unmanageable), let it cool a little.

Use the chocolate to trace the outline of the image and let it set up for several minutes.  The first pass should be all of the detail work.  It's a little bit hard to adjust to, but you have to work backwards because whatever goes down on the waxed paper first is what will be on the top of the image when it's flipped over. 

Fill in the background color(s) over the outline (this is just like flooding with royal icing). Take your time; air bubbles are always an issue with this technique and are exacerbated if the flooding is done too quickly.  When it's all filled in, you can use a toothpick to smooth things out.  I don't do too much of this because the warmer chocolate can pull through the already cooled outline colors and drag them.  I don't care if the back is pretty bumpy and it generally isn't worth the risk.

Refrigerate the entire chocolate piece for about 20 minutes. (Don't skip this step. Without it, the chocolate will be more fragile and won't stand up well to any handling to place on the cake.)

Then just turn it over to place on your cake when ready.  It will be a little bit uneven, so I just add some frosting under it where necessary.

These can be made several days ahead of time and stored in a cool, dry place - I usually layer them between parchment paper in a tupperware container and leave it in the fridge.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homemade marshmallows

A while ago I was on Amazon looking for something cake related, and in my little "recommended for you" section saw a book called Marshmallow Madness.  I've only tried making anything marshmallowish once before, and I didn't think they were that great.  But I've heard and read so much about homemade marshmallows being incredible that I decided to give the book a try.

The book is great (and ridiculously cheap, I might add).  There are tips and information about tools and a ton of recipes in a variety of flavors and shapes.  A lot of the success seems to depend on technique...the recipe is pretty close to the first one I tried, but the information about the how part of things was important.   I wanted to start simple so I went with the classic vanilla flavor.   

I left about half of the marshmallows plain and toasted some coconut and macadamia nuts to add to the rest.  I dipped those in chocolate and rolled them in the toppings.  I threw in a few with sprinkles just to see how those looked too. I'm making these for an event in a few weeks so this was all about testing options.

The only trouble I had with the toppings was the weight; the fresh marshmallows are soft and fluffy to the point that I had to set some of the dipped ones on their sides to set up. 

I'm not a fan of plain marshmallows...I like lots of things that have marshmallows in them, like rice krispie treats or smores, but not straight out of the bag.  So I tried one and I thought they were ok - the flavor and texture are better than what I can pick up at the grocery store, but I'm not the best judge since I don't really care for them.  The boys both thought they were great, and even better the next day after they had set up a little bit more.

A week later, they were still surprisingly soft.  So we made a few smores with the leftovers...those are much more my speed.  

Vanilla Marshmallows (from Marshmallow Madness)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • mixture of 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • a candy thermometer
Whisk together the gelatin and cold water and let it soften for several minutes.  Prepare a 9 x 13 pan by spraying it with vegetable oil.

Sitr together the sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, water and salt in a pan over high heat.  Boil and stir occasionally until the temperature reaches 240 degrees.  While that is heating, pour the other half of the corn syrup into a mixing bowl.  Heat the gelatin/water mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds, then pour it into the mixing bowl with the corn syrup. Use the whisk attachment and leave the mixer on a low speed for several minutes.

Slowly add the heated mixture to the mixing bowl and increase the speed to medium.  Beat at that speed for five minutes.  Increase the speed to high for two minutes, then add the vanilla.  Pour it into the prepared pan and dust the top with the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. Set it aside and do not cover it with plastic wrap, etc...that will trap moisture and increase stickiness.  Let the marshmallows set up overnight.

Invert the marshmallows onto a cutting surface and use a pizza wheel sprayed with a little bit of vegetable oil to cut them to size.