Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holy Buckets! My Cake in Cake Central Magazine!

Apologies if you follow me on Facebook and have already seen this, I have been on a self-imposed sugar art break so I am bit behind in posting cakes here on the blog.

This summer, I received an email from Cake Central Magazine asking if I would be interested in submitting a cake I designed for possible submission into one of their upcoming issues. I was, of course, shocked and totally thrilled to have received the opportunity. The cake had to be an original design inspired by a picture Cake Central Magazine provided,  and I would need to submit professional quality pictures of my cake to the magazine to even be considered for publication.  The turnaround time on designing, creating, and photographing the cake was very short, just two weeks I think, and submission was not guaranteed. 

Inspiration picture provided by Cake Central Magazine

I can't lie. I squealed a bit when I got the email saying my cake was accepted for submission into Volume 3, Issue 6 of their magazine.

To fit the magazine’s blue and purple theme,  sugar flowers were a given as they are my favorite thing to make.  I wanted most of the color in the cake to come from the flowers, and like the inspiration picture, envisioned flowers in various shades in blue and purple popping against a neutral background,  a creamy white fondant from Fondarific.  I worked my little fingers off to make roses, hydrangea, pulled blossoms, sweet peas, white berries, and various greenery for interest.   I wanted to highlight a couple of very full, dense arrangements that look like they draped naturally off the cake. 

Seeing the bird motif in the necklace, I went with slightly abstract hand modeled lovebirds. The lovebirds were sculpted with a 50/50 fondant and gum paste mixture.  I also echoed the bird motif on the second tier with branches that wrapped around the middle tier.

Finally, I loved the textural, architectural aspect of the picture frames in the inspiration picture, but didn't want to go too literal in the design.  I added moldings to the corners and centers of the bottom tier to add textural interest to the cake.  I painted all the accents, molding, branches, and birds, with a silver hi-liter to unify the accents and again, to allow the flowers to take center stage.

The final step was taking the pictures and getting them submitted by the deadline.  I am super lucky to have a talented friend in Kristen at Low Fat Dressing who was able to take some lovely pictures and detailed shots of the cake.  Once the pictures were sent off, there was nothing to do but wait.  Getting the email on a Monday morning saying the my cake had been feature in their magazine was one of the coolest things I have experienced and certainly one of the most unexpected since I started decorating. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Favorites: Ina's Outrageous Brownies

With approximately 80 billion existing sources for recipes, I rarely bake the same thing twice, and if I do, I know the recipe is winner.  This brownie recipe is awesome!  Not surprising since this is an Ina Garten recipe and I don't know that I have ever had one of her recipes turn out badly for me.  Be warned if you like cakey brownies as this recipe won't be your thing, but if you are like me and like dense bricks of fudgy goodness then you better get on making these ASAP.

A couple of things

1. Yes, there is a lot of butter in this recipe, but I am believer that sweets should be an occasional treat, not an every day thing; therefore, when you do indulge, you shouldn't worry about things like calories or healthifying them.

2. Follow the recipe and definitely refrigerate them as it helps develop that perfect fudgey texture.

3. This recipe makes a ton.  Great for the holiday season if you are having a party or making goodie bag plates for friends and family; otherwise, I would halve this recipe.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey, Turkey!

I hope everyone who celebrated it had a happy Thanksgiving.  We kept it very low key and relaxing here. Since it was just the husband and me, we celebrated, as is becoming our tradition here in Chicago, by running a Turkey Trot in the morning and then going out to a nice restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner.

We had a gift card, a wedding present that we hadn't used yet, and decided to go to Wildfire for dinner.   They did a traditional family style dinner where you could pick two plates for each course.  No complaints here; everything was delicious. We had turkey and stuffing, beef tenderloin, roasted brussel sprouts with hazelnuts, and mashed potatoes.   Not pictured are the delicious pumpkin pie and key lime tart we split for dessert.  I love doing Thanksgiving like this.  No stress, no clean-up, and no leftovers to tempt you into indulging more than necessary.

I spent the rest of the my long weekend doing some much needed cleaning, putting out a few Christmas decorations, and doing some baking.   Since we aren't going to be in town this year for Christmas, I didn't feel like going crazy with the decorations.  Just a wreath, our stockings (including two for the pups), and few other little bits and pieces.  My next big project after repainting our master bedroom is to tackle that fireplace.  I am dreaming of a white fireplace which I think will look great with that hefty, dark wood mantle.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spending a little QT with our house.

This weekend was crazy productive.  Saturday I spent most of the day cleaning, organizing, and purging around the house in preparation for the holidays.  Seriously, is there anything as gratifying as decluttering and getting rid of stuff?   I used to be a bit of pack rat, but as I have gotten older, I have gotten pretty ruthless at getting rid of stuff.

Today, we spent a lot of time taking care of some house maintance and what not since I have finally got back on the home renovation bandwagon.  My husband and I bought our first house 3 years ago.  It is a cute 1950's raised ranch that was in solid condition but in desperate need of updating.  When we first moved in, we did quite a bit of updating right off the bat.  We repainted every room, tore up carpet, tore  down wallpaper.  In the kitchen we purchased a new stove (The original fifties stove was still being used by the previous owner.),  had recessed lighting and a dishwasher installed, added more counter space and built-in shelves, the cabinets were painted white, and a new granite countertop put in.

All those updates were sorely needed and have transformed the kitchen, but they tapped us out budget-wise and motivation-wise.  I have finally got my mojo back and am ready to tackle some of cosmetic issues that I have been bugging me the last couple of years.

Number one on my list, repaint the master bedroom.  We painted it when we first moved in, but I have pretty much hated the color since day one.  It looked great in naturally light, but since our bedroom barely gets any at all, the color looks terrible most of the time.  Forgetting to really look at paint samples at night was a totally rookie mistake.

Any way I am totally, absolutely in love with the idea of  a gray bedroom, so U picked up a million paint swatches at Home Depot today.  Once we narrow it down to our winner,  I will update on the final outcome.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What I Did this Weekend

I successfully completed my second marathon this weekend!  And with a pretty sizable PR.   

I was a bit worried about the race going into it because I did not train as hard as I should have, and I have had some nagging pain in my right knee for the last month. Luckily, the race gods seemed to be with me on Sunday.  The weather was pretty much perfect for running, and I didn't have any problems with my knee at all. 

The first half went pretty quick. After that I just focused on ticking off the miles, one at the time. The roughest point came between miles 21-23. My legs felt like cement blocks and all I wanted to do was stop and walk, but I didn't, knowing that it would have been so hard to start running again after walking that late in the race.  Crossing the finish line, I could hardly believe I finished my second marathon.  Fifteen years ago, I was in high school, overweight and barely able to run a 1/4 mile in gym class, so to get to the point in my life where I have run two marathons is still hard to wrap my head around.

During the race and immediately afterward, I was positive that this would be last marathon for a while, but now, a couple of days later, I am not so sure. There is something crazy addictive about pushing your body to it's physical limits and then pushing yourself harder to see how much you can improve.  While I am happy with my time, I know I have better marathon in me and that drive is hard to ignore.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sesame Street Birthday Cake

I don't get a chance to make kids' birthday cakes very often since I don't have any kids myself and all my nieces and nephews live out of state.  Because of that, I am not in the loop regarding the cool cartoons and shows kids are watching these days.  Luckily, the mother requested Sesame Street for this 2nd birthday cake.  Sesame Street, I can do!  I watched it as a kid and think it is pretty cool that kids are still watching it today! 

Google "Sesame Street Cakes" and you will get about a billion inspiration pictures.  So many in fact, it was kind of overwhelming and made it hard to narrow down my ideas for the cake.  I really wanted to practice figure modeling and decided on a design that featured the birthday girl's favorite characters. 

Since I didn't need a lot of servings, I decided on a single 10 inch cake with all the figures on top looking like they were throwing a party for the the birthday girl, complete with a mini-cake with a number 2 on it.

I don't have a lot of experience modeling figures, so I was very nervous about getting them to look like the actual characters.  Every other time I have modeled figures, I have used a tutorial as guide. This time, however, I just downloaded a bunch of pictures of Elmo, Grover, and Big Bird and tried my best to figure out how to sculpt them on my own.  It took a couple of tries to get Elmo correct, which is definitely frustrating, but I do think you learn more from the trial and error process.


I was actually pretty pleased with how they turned out!  I still need to work on getting better at modeling arms and legs, but their faces looked pretty accurate. Most importantly the birthday girl identified all the characters by name right away which pretty much made my day!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Favorites

My Google Reader is insane since I follow approximately 80 zillion blogs.  I admit I skim most of it, but I also tag stuff that I think is particularly awesome to look at/refer to later.  And to you lucky few that actually read my blog, I am going to start sharing some of this awesomeness with you. 

Today's Friday Fave: SugarZen

Okay sugar art addicts, this is fairly new addition to my blog reading, but it has quickly become one of my favorites.  If you aren't familiar with it, leave my page immediately, go there, and start following it.  Ruth Rickey is an amazing sugar artist with experience in a variety of areas in the field, and her blog is a wealth of information for those of us who are fascinated with all the ends and outs of sugar art.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beach Living

Dear Mr. Bloggity Blog,

I haven't forsaken you, but I have been in Florida on vacation.

Sitting by the beach, reading, and drinking gin and tonics.  

I was also trying to suffer through the Florida heat and humidity in order to complete my marathon training runs. FYI, I was much more successful with the gin and tonic drinking than the running. 

I regret nothing.  



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden Theme 80th Birthday Cake

I created this cake for 80th birthday for a women who likes to garden.  Her daughter saw my NOARDA competition cake, liked the design, and wanted something similar for her mother.  I kept the shapes and color of the cake the same, but changed the details a bit as to make the cake unique.

To enhance the garden theme, I created garden gloves, a shovel, and seed packets out of gum paste.  The seed packets were one of my favorite details.  I made an actual sealed packet out of gum paste with dragees inside the packet so that it sounded like there were seeds inside when you shook it.  I downloaded some images of vintage seed packets from the Internet and printed out an edible image to attach to the packets.

Since it was a garden cake, it, of course, had to have flowers.  I made sure to include yellow roses and pink peonies as they were specific flowers the women had in her garden.  I also made white sweet peas,  white berries, and some blue pulled blossoms.  

I loved they way the blue blossoms popped against the yellow roses.

The topper was a topiary ball made from Styrofoam ball, covered in fondant and then covered with gum paste hydrangea and buds.

For the peonies, it was my first time making them, so I tried a couple of techniques to see which look I preferred.  I was pleased with the outcome as it was first time making them, but when I try them again, I am going play around with them a bit to try for something a little bit more realistic looking.  The peonies started out a very light pink color, but I gave them a final dust with some watermelon petal dust with a tiny bit of plum petal dust. 

I liked this one the best.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sugar Flower Inspiration: Portland's Rose Garden

Man, June kicked to my booty. Hard.  It was crazy busy, and I didn't get around to posting once.  I worked on a couple of big cakes (pictures forthcoming) with lots of sugar flower work, started training again for the Chicago Marathon, and took a week vacation to Oregon. 

Oregon was fabulous! We spent a few days in Portland with friends, visited Crater Lake, and spent a day and night in the Northern Oregon Wine Country.  One of the highlights of the trip was the International Rose Test Garden in Portland.  It was such an insanely beautiful place, and it smelled AMAZING.  I have never seen so many varieties and colors of roses, and the sugar flower artist in me was completely overwhelmed by the inspiration.   I loved the gardens so much that I made my poor husband visit twice so I could take a ton of pictures to later use when making sugar flowers.  

Here are some of my favorites from my visit:



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quick Tips for More Realistic Sugar Flowers

I am in the middle of another sugar flower making marathon, and it has had me thinking about ways to improve my flowers.  For the most part, learning to make sugar flower has been a trial and error process, but here are a couple of things that I have found that have quickly and consistently improved the realism of my flowers without having to invest in a bunch expensive tools and cutters.

Sugar Rose and Leaves
1.  Before you ever start trying to make of flower out of sugar, try to get a hold of living example to study or at the very least look at pictures online. Study the shading, shapes, and bits and pieces of the flower you are trying to make. Observe how the petals lay and how the flower opens up.  Keep a picture next to you for reference while you trying to make it out of sugar.

2. Roll your gum paste thinner.  Look at the petals of real flowers. Notice how delicate and THIN they are. If you don't get your gum paste rolled thin enough, your flowers are never going to look super realistic. And while the thinness of the petal sometimes depends on the flower, usually the thinner you can get your gum paste the better.

3.  Okay I fibbed a little, for this third one you will need to invest some money, but it is well worth it. Learn how to shade and color your flowers with petal dust.  This is the stage when you truly make your flowers come alive.  Study your pictures from number 1 and then play around and see if you can recreate it on the sugar flower.  Don't forget to give your flowers a quick steam after you finish to help blend and set your dust.

Hydrangea before and after dusting with petal dust.
Obviously, there is no substitute for knowledge of flower-making techniques and/or a good set of quality tools, but these are a few of the things that have helped me improve the quality of my flowers.