Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adorable Cupcake Cookies

People who have the patience and the talent to decorate sugar cookies amaze me.  I have seen works of art created on just a tiny canvas of cookie.  These adorable cupcake cookies have popped up on the blogosphere several times over the last week and I had to share them. 

So freaking cute, right?  Just imagine how great these would be as favors at a little girl's birthday party!  You can find the tutorial and pictures on how to make these at The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Let's Eat Cake

After posting about the inspiration for my wedding cake, I wanted to follow-up with a more in-depth post about the process of deciding on a cake designer.  Wedding planning can be a drag sometimes, but you know what makes planning a wedding awesome? Cake tastings. You get to go look at pretty pictures, sample yummy cake, and it is one of the few tasks that both you and your groom will be excited about.

During the planning process, I thoroughly researched all my wedding vendors online before narrowing it down to just a couple of vendors to meet with.  To be honest, it was pretty easy to hone in on potential cake vendors that would be good matches for us.  My priorities when looking for our cake vendor were as follows:

1.  Must bake scratch cakes utilizing real ingredients and have real buttercream and fillings in their cakes.  In addition, they must taste delicious. 

This was the number one priority for me.  I scratch bake all my own cakes and use Swiss meringue buttercream and scratch fillings, so why would I settle for something that wouldn't taste as good as what I could make myself.   Unfortunately, you would be surprised how many bakeries make their cakes from box mixes and use confectioner's sugar/shortening buttercream. Sorry, you can call me a cake snob, but that isn't for me.

2. Must have a portfolio that demonstrates clean, sophisticated looking cakes. Their cakes needed to demonstrate the skill level that could handle the details I wanted for my own cake, such as gum paste flowers and lace detailing.

Getting a super clean, well-designed cake is an amazing skill in and of itself.  It means the smooth application of fondant with sharp edges, even tiers, clean work, and balanced details and color.  All these things can be learned, but you can look at a decorator's portfolio and tell whether they have the skills or they don't.

3. Good online presence

I read the reviews of many businesses online and looked at each decorator's website.   People with numerous poor or "meh" reviews, and cake decorators that didn't have a good, updated website didn't get a second look.  Maybe that is picky of me, but in this day and age and working in a major metropolitan area, I don't think there is any excuse to not have a well-put together, updated website for your business.

After setting up a couple of tastings with potential vendors, we decided the best fit was Amy Beck Cake Designs. Amy was friendly and energetic during our tasting and during follow-up, the cakes were delicious, and she listened to my ideas and put together a beautiful sketch of my potential cake. 

Below is a sample of some of the beautiful cakes that Amy Beck Cake Designs has created.

Her website has a much larger portfolio of her beautiful cakes so you should check it out.  And for those who were wondering, our cake will have a layer of chocolate bourbon cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry filling and two layers of mango cake with strawberry filling.  Totally delicious!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Dream Wedding Cake

In less than 60 days, I will be taking the plunge and marrying my honey, but I have been thinking about and imagining my wedding cake way before we ever got engaged.  And once that ring was on my finger, the cake became top priority. In fact, I booked my cake decorator a full 10 months before the big date. 

We/I decided quickly on the color scheme and style of the wedding and started pouring through my huge collection of cake inspiration pictures.  I have always been drawn to black and white designs with pops of color and knew that was the direction I wanted to take with the wedding.  Black and white with pops of red that we would bring in through the florals.  Dramatic and classy with just a touch of vintage.

Here are the cakes I brought to my meetings with the cake designers.

Love, love, love this cake from Pink Cake Box!   It is practically perfect. The colors, the red gum paste roses, the brooches. Sophisticated and dramatic.  I also am a fan of the alternating circle and square layers.

Another from Pink Cake Box, I love the sweet vintage look of this cake and the combination of the black ribbon and the lace.  The colors are more delicate than what I am imagining for the wedding, but the overall design is gorgeous.

This cake is from the King of gum paste flowers, Ron Ben-Israel.  Again with the my love the gum paste roses and lace. I also totally dig the style of the fondant bands around the tiers.

Every Ron Ben-Israel cake is gorgeous, and I could post a million pictures of his wedding cakes that I adore, but I narrowed it down to this beauty to bring along with me to tastings also.  I just adore the drama of the one huge rose cascading down the cake. 

Image: Ana Parzych Custom Cakes via The Knot

Finally, the last cake I brought was from Ana Parzych Custom Cakes. Are you seeing a theme here?  I want my red gum paste roses.  And lots of lace.  Once I decided on my dress, a gorgeous all lace number, that pretty much sealed the deal for having lace details on my cake. 

So which cake am I getting.  The answer to that question is none of the above.  My cake designer, Amy Beck Cake Design, did a fabulous job of combining the details that I loved from these designs into a unique design just for my cake.  You will have to wait until after the wedding to see pictures, but she did a sketch of the design for me.  I am pee-pants excited to see the final product!  I know it is going to be totally gorgeous!

Black and White Anemone Birthday Cake

Noncakers and bakers always seem to feel bad for me when they hear that I sometimes make my own birthday cakes.  I think most cake decorators would agree that it isn't that big a deal.  It is just another excuse to bake and practice your skills.   Every cake I make I try to incorporate some new skills and techniques.

This year for my 3rd 30th birthday I wanted to tackle gum paste anemones and practice piping.  Confetti Cakes created this gorgeous cake a while back and it has been widely replicated all over the cake decorating world.

I wanted to try my hand at it and lucked out by finding a pdf online with instructions for making the cake. Anemones are actually pretty simple little flowers to make out of gum paste, but just a couple of them scattered on a cake has a great impact, especially the black and white version.

So yeah, my version is not nearly as lovely. Once again proving that I need mondo practice at piping.  Also, for someone who rarely pipes, the black royal icing on white fondant was not the smartest choice. That being said, as you become more experienced at cake decorating you become better at hiding your mistakes.  The drop strings and piping are pretty uneven, but from far away, the overall effect isn't too bad.   Sort of like a Monet, as one of my favorite movie heroines would say.  I am still working on getting sharper fondant edges on my cakes, but this was an improvement. I used fondant dummies for the top two layers, and I can usually see a distinct difference between the covered dummies and the actual cake layer, but here, I don't really think you can tell.

Close-up of one of the Gum paste anemones and in my opinion, one of the best cake photos I have taken.  Very happy with my first attempt though I think the petals could still be a little thinner. 

And for those interested here is the link to the instructions I mentioned above

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wedding Distraction

I really do have plans to do something with this blog; however, right now wedding planning has been a big distraction.  So I haven't been doing a lot on the cake decorating front.  I finally got some of my mojo back and decorated a cake for my birthday and have plans to get that up within the next couple of days.