Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My To-Do List

This is my new To-Do List system: Post-It Notes

This makes it easy when you need to prioritize, re-prioritize, and re-do your priorities. It's nice to not have to draw arrows to rearrange lists, which I do often. It's also more rewarding to rip off and THROW AWAY the tasks as they are accomplished. Try it out!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Red Velvet Wedding Cake

About a month ago I was asked to make a wedding cake under very unusual circumstances. This couple was having a very low-key, non-traditional wedding. They weren't going to have a cake or decorations or family, just a grandparent as a witness and not much else. I work with the groom, and he asked me how much it would cost to get an 8" round red velvet cake for that day. I was excited because, as I mentioned in this post, I had been looking for an excuse to learn to make RVC. (You can get the recipe there as well, which uses beets as dye instead of food coloring.) I was also excited because it was my first wedding cake that I was hired to do. The problem was, I was heading home to New Jersey a week before the wedding.

Well, we happen to work in a grocery store bakery and we know that you can freeze a cake and it's still pretty good.  Like I said, they weren't going to have a cake anyway so this was better than nothing. Then came the next kicker - RVC is his bride's favorite cake. She absolutely loves it - with rainbow chip icing??? Yep, not cream cheese or even regular buttercream but rainbow chip. This was quickly becoming the strangest first-wedding-cake experience ever.

Being the person I am, I wanted to give them a gift as well - so instead of a just an 8" I also made a 6" tier for the top. The day I was leaving for NJ, I delivered this cake to the store where we work. Of course I kept the tiers separate and gave instructions on how to stack it. Unfortunately, it was one of those 100 degree days and the buttercream started to melt. I was hoping someone at the store would be able to fix the border before he took it, but I guess that never panned out. He had to attempt to fix it himself. So here is the picture of the first wedding cake I've made, with an obvious boo-boo. I didn't take the picture. In fact, this is a picture of the picture that the groom brought in afterwards.

It is unfortunate that I wasn't there to stack it properly, fix the icing, etc. You can see the spot with no border, but those two "shells" to the right of it were his attempt and I guess he gave up haha. Like I said, anything was better than no cake. I do wish they had gotten a picture from the good side and I feel bad but he knew that I wasn't going to be there to put it together and the top tier was a gift, not something he was paying for. If you ignore that bit, though, I was really happy with the way it turned out.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yellow Cake with Whipped Nutella Icing

We love some Nutella in our house.
My Little Brother invented his own Nutella stuffed croissant rolls.
We LOVE coffee in my house, and coffee liquors.
My family is insane but we are really, really close.
Little Brother just came back from spending a month and a half in Venezuela on a missions trip.
His birthday was during this trip.
I call him Little Brother even though he now towers over me and is in his twenties.

Okay, that last one doesn't really tie in to the story, but the first five do. When Little Brother came back from his trip, we only had a few days together. I knew I wanted to make him a birthday cake and have everyone celebrate. Clearly, I should make him a Nutella cake.

My time at home is so precious because I have almost a billion (yes, I'm not even exaggerating. Except a little. It's hyperbole.) people to see and have to drive all over the tri-state area to see them. So the day he was coming home, making a scratch cake was out. Too many people in the house, too much going on. So I bought a box mix - not something I really like to do. I bought a yellow box mix and jazzed it up with some pudding mix. You know, though, that the pudding makes it too thick. I thinned it with Kahlua. Delish.

I stacked the cakes with a layer of straight Nutella between them. Actually, to be honest, I used store brand. It's just as good for this cake with all the surrounding flavors. I'm not sure how it would be as a normal spread but I'm sure the difference is minimal.

Then I had to make the icing. I found this simple recipe from Yummly.com: 13oz of Nutella, 12oz whipping cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. I whipped the cream for a bit so it was fluffy but not stiff or anything. Then I emptied the container of Nutella into the whipped cream and blended it together. Add the vanilla mix until completely incorporated.

Also, it was really hot when I made this so even though everything was cold, the whipped icing strange to work with. I pretty much poured it on the cake. Surprisingly, it was a good enough consistency that it did not drip off the cake like I thought it would. In fact, it was perfect. How could it not be when I'm behind the mixer? Okay, that's a stretch.

So because it was liquidy, it was hard to put a "design" on the cake. I decided to go for a cute swirled top that all met in the middle like a peppermint and used the technique often seen on ombre cakes to decorate the sides.* Unfortunately, I apparently didn't get pictures of the cake. These I'm sharing are more focused on Little Brother, which I know he would prefer anyway. You can see the cake on the bottom, though. And one of the inside where you can see that our family of 7 almost demolished this cake. It was delicious and you definitely need to do this.

Update: found the picture of the cake I KNEW I had taken....enjoy the other pictures as well :)

*First, I didn't use the technique, per se. Really after it was iced I used my spatula to create a similar texture. Second, does anyone know what that technique is called? I've been looking around and most people online are calling it ombre, but the word ombre refers to the actual shading and not the technique.

I've linked up!

Days of Chalk and ChocolateThe Mandatory Mooch
Crazy Sweet Tuesday

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My New Airbrush!

I have been wanting to buy an airbrush for cake decorating. I've been wanting this for about 16 months. It takes me that long to decide to actually make purchases. Anyway, this is not the one I wanted, but it seemed more "all-inclusive" for the same price so I went with it. It is a duel action, gravity-fed, elephant compressor airbrush. I can't tell you what company actually makes them ( I got mine from ebay from the Eastwood Company) but it's not American - there's no real instructions and the paper it comes with has poor grammar and sentence structure. I'm not judging or complaining, just stating the fact.

You can look on the Cake Page and see that I'm pretty handy with an airbrush. I thought this would be easy peasy airbrush squeezy. Eh, not so much. First, I wasn't 100% sure on how to put the thing together. I had to look it up online since the instructions were incomplete. Then, attaching the small cup (it comes with an open 5cc metal cup and a closed 22cc glass jar) didn't seem very secure. It never fell off, though, so I guess it's pretty tight. I've only used it once, though, so there's still plenty of time I suppose.

Then, as I began my airbrushing, I spilled some of the blue airbrush color out of the small cup. I wasn't really thinking about how this airbrush differs from the one at work, so I wasn't being as careful as I should have. What was going to be a Philadelphia themed cake just stopped as a post 4th of July cake.

It is also difficult to clean. I was trying to get rid of the blue to switch to the red, and it seemed like I couldn't quite get it all out. Even after I put the red in, it took a while for it come through. Also, the location of the hole from which the airbrush pulls the color from the cup is up sort of high. That means I have to put more color in the cup than I would ever need. This is slightly annoying to a penny pincher like myself, but I was able to pour some of the unused color back into the bottle.

 It is going to take some getting used to as it's a little different than my work airbrush, but I really like it. It's releatively quiet because it's so small, it's cuite to look at, and the spray control seems to really do it's job - I can get really thin lines or larger streaks. I think it is going to do it's job nicely. As I use it more, I will let you know if it lives up to expectations.

**Note, this is not a sponsered review. I am just updating you with the latest addition to my cake decorating hobby.**

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Up, Philly?

Updated - people have been asking a lot of questions about what actually happens during the run so I've decided to update the before/during/after photos with some explanations. 
Today I "ran" my fourth 5K of the year! It wasn't really running, though - there were way to many people for that. Almost 23,000 people were signed up, making it the third largest 5K in the country and the largest COLOR RUN they've had so far. I'm excited to see if there other races just keep getting bigger. A special thanks to this post from AndTopherToo, which is where I first learned of the amazingness that is The Color Run! I knew as soon as I read about it that I had to be a part of it. And it was awesome!

Before: You show up in mostly white. The people who organize The Color Run have a wonderful sense of humor about this. Take a look at these FAQs and go to the 10th (and then 11th) questions. The headbands and shirts were part of the race packet and they suggest you wear some eye protection just to be safe. It's okay if you don't though.

During: Because there were so many of us, we were sort of corralled into a general starting area and then they released us to run in groups of 1000. It wasn't timed officially and they specified that it wasn't a race so it was a great time to just hang out with your friends. Why would you want to sprint through this anyway? (And make no mistake, I cannot sprint 1k let alone 5k, I'm just saying...) So while you're running they have specific color stations that were not quite at each kilometer. A 5k is 3.1 miles for those of you who don't know. If this were an English exam, they would ask which sentence didn't fit and it would be that last one. Anyway, they have these color stations. It's not paint they throw at you but colored dust - like a colored cornstarch or maybe Wilton's Color Dust - I don't know. It doesn't have a taste but you do breath it in; it didn't make me sneeze or irritate my throat, it just was. They put it in these huge squeeze bottles which reminded me of the things you'd put grease in if you worked on a fryer. I've seen it on Triple D. So you walk through the color sections which, as you can see, are a hazy mess of color and they spray you with this colored dust and you become wonderfully colorful.

 After: Once you're done, you take awesome colorful photos with your friends. They also have a color throwing party because also in the race packet is your own packet of color dust. You go to the color throwing location and throw your own color on each other and it rains down on you. It's cool too because where you sweat, the colors tend to tye-dye. Cool? Gross? Either way. Then you go home and shower off as much as you can, but I had an orange armpit for 3 days. And it took me a while to know definitely that I had a sock tan line and not a line of color that wouldn't wash off. I also blew purple snot for a day and a half. That's awesome.

I am a Color Runner!

Then you get to live in full and eternal color glory!