Tag Archives: cake decorating

first professional cake and cake balls

I made my first cake for a real event – meaning, not a friend’s party, but a professional one. I’m an event planner for our college and we’re always buying cakes, but my boss said if I’d like to practice decorating, I can make them. I made this one over the weekend.

Cake decorating is not for the faint of heart. Because of a few mishaps, this took a long time. And I held my breath through the entire spelling of “Congratulations.” Then I became lightheaded.

I used a frosting recipe found here. It was a perfect recipe and a major reason for the success of the cake. It was easy to work with and didn’t melt.

The cake was another story. I really am an amateur at boxed cake mixes. They have a mind of their own and defy all laws of baking. The yellow cake had pudding in it, which I completely recommend against. It undercooked, but only in a particular spot. I didn’t notice until I cut off the top of the layer. I put it back in the over for at least 20 minutes, where I risked drying out the rest of the cake. Once baked and cooled, the yellow cake created this weird film (similar to stuff found in pudding) and it stuck to everything, including wax paper. Boxed cake mixes are 1. disgusting and 2. always have holes in the cake (what is with that?).

Maybe I’m just annoyed because I broke a layer. The boyfriend heard me pouting over the broken cake and quickly came over to take a slice, thanking the cake gods for this fortuitous event.

I used the broken layer to make cake balls.

Recipe via Bakerella. I’ve made these tons of times and the experience has paid off. This is probably the prettiest batch. I would really like to find a substitute for the can of frosting you add to these. Any suggestions?

cake ball

It was a marble cake, which looks more chocolate once crumbled and mixed.

Oh, and the cake was a hit. The boxed cake recipe and frosting made a delicious combination. I’m pretty sure no one noticed it was “homemade.”

wilton method class 1- decorating basics

Here’s a post full of cakes! I had my second Wilton Method class last week where I made this beauty:

Cake1

Well, maybe beauty  isn’t quite the word, but it has character. I was really unhappy with the dying gels. They were a little darker than I wanted.

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I also couldn’t quite get the motions on the cupcake right, so instead of looking fluffy, it looks like clouds.

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The decorating class ran into my friend’s birthday. So I quickly ran home and wrote “Happy Birthday” on the cake. It turns out, I am an awful judge of distance and symmetry. Luckily, I was able to redeem myself this weekend and make her another cake.

cake4With a little more time I was able to get the writing a little cleaner. This was also a cake that I made from scratch, including the icing. It didn’t have Wilton’s disgusting stuff, but instead was a cream cheese frosting.

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I did see why Wilton uses the lard/confectioners sugar combo icing, because my cream cheese and butter started melting. I also used regular food dye instead of their gels. I was much happier with the color of this one.

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Yeah, that’s my made-from-scratch carrot cake. It’s kind of a big deal.

practical christmas gift ideas – life skills

Lately, I’ve been subscribing to minimalist living blogs and philosophies, which is really hard to do when you’re a crafter, baker, cat-toy hoarder, and all-around enthusiast for cute, useless things. I’m also trying to push this philosophy on others this Christmas season. I’m really making an effort to provide useful gifts that won’t sit around on shelves collecting dust. While I already have my Christmas presents picked out, here are some “life skills” presents you may want to consider giving to the cherished ones in your life.

1. Cooking Classes – I am shocked, shocked, at the amount of people in my life who don’t know how to cook, don’t own a cookbook, don’t have any food in their fridge [ahem, boyfriend], only shop in the frozen food aisle, or just eat out for three meals a day. It’s costly, unhealthy, and stubborn. How is cooking that hard? It isn’t. Anyone can cook. I really think it’s a result of laziness and stubbornness. Sure, gourmet cooking isn’t for everyone, but simple, fast meals are important and there’s no excuse for not being able to prepare a quick something for an unexpected house guest or friend.

That’s why I suggest giving a cooking class as a practical gift. Try to avoid things along the gourmet or highly experienced line, unless you know they will use those skills. Many cooking class venues have “simple and quick” cooking themes.

Classes can be expensive, but you could also get your cherished one a “beginning cooking kit.” This could have a cook book, or just some of your favorite, simple recipes, along with a pot or pan, and some cooking staples. Some people don’t have things like baking soda, butter, cooking spray, or even chopping knives. It’s a great way to be creative. I would also offer them cooking dates, where you’re able to spend some quality time together.

2. Carpentry Classes – I know this sounds really intense, but it shouldn’t be. I’m signed up to take a carpentry class in the spring. Think about all of the things you can fix, refurbish, or create if you had some simple wood and nail skills.

3. Knitting or Crocheting Supplies – And then encourage them to sign up for a knitting/crocheting circle. These are great for making friends, gaining skill, and swapping gossip. Winter is the best time to bust out those needles and hooks and work toward warm, cozy handmades. You’re giving them the skill to create gifts to give other people.

4. Cheese Making Classes – If you have a foodie in your life, this class could be perfect. Creating your own cheese is a cheap and satisfying way to impress your friends, save money on gourmet cheeses, and add some homemade flavor to your favorite dishes.

4. Beer or Wine Making Supplies – There’s no doubt that home brewing is costly and difficult. But once mastered, it’s quite rewarding to have your own personal collection of beer or wine. The start up cost for home brewing is pricey, but after that, you can make cheap batches of tasty alcohol. Give them the gift of experimenting with flavors, naming their creations, and creating their own labels. Also, this is another one that’s great to re-gift. I’ve heard beer brewing is more successful in taste than homemade wine making, just keep that in mind.

5. Upholstery Classes – Have you ever seen an ugly couch at a thrift store, but it was the most comfortable thing you’ve ever placed your tush on? I know you thought to yourself, “If only it wasn’t so ugly…” Well, make sure your loved ones will never say those words again. Give them the gift of refurbishing chairs, couches, ottomans, or whatever else they want to take a gander at.

6. Cake Decorating Class – If some of the classes above seem a little difficult, cake decorating is something for any age and skill level. You don’t even have to know how to bake a cake or make frosting (hello, box mix). Cake decorating is a pretty, easy way to impress your friends. There’s always an occasion to bake a cake!

7. Sewing Classes – I see tons of blogs that have cute, very simple sewing projects. They often involve re-vamping a thrift store find. But when I read the comments sections, most of the comments go like this, “It’s so cute, too bad I don’t know how to sew.” What’s stopping you (or in this case, your friends)? Taking up a hem, fixing a button, or taking in a shirt are quick fixes that can save you money. The basic sewing class usually covers all of these. And for the more advanced seamstress try giving them a pattern making class.

8. Kombucha Brewing Kit – I haven’t seen these, but starting your own kombucha is pretty easy. So if you have a health-conscious friend that downs 7 bottles of $4.50 G.T.’s Kombucha a week, maybe tell them it’s time to switch to a cheaper option. Make life easier for them and buy them a jar, some cheesecloth, and start growing the mother, or SCOBY, before Christmas. Yeah, so it’s a smelly gift, but a delicious one. A simple Google search of how to grow Kombucha will help answer all of your questions about supplies and how-to’s. Once a mother has matured, it’s pretty easy to harvest a great quantity of Kombucha, because you can usually get more mothers from the initial one. Your friend will have to start giving Kombucha away, and guess who will be first in line.

If you’re afraid you’ll never be able to find these classes or supplies, all it takes is a google search. Many community colleges or technical colleges offer carpentry, sewing, upholstery, and many other life skills (plumbing!) for a cheap price. Your friends and loved ones will be happy to have less clutter and more useful skills they can share or profit from.

image source: cooking class, homebrewing, kombucha

wilton method decorating basics – class 1

I stopped by Publix today to pick up a birthday cake for my boss and I was appalled at the sights I saw. Really, it was cakewrecks [fantastic blog!] worthy. I would be too embarrassed to take a picture, but the selection was terrible and all of the frosting was squished on the plastic. I’m not sure how professionals let that happen. Also, the color choices were sickening.

Really this was all my fault, because I completely forgot to pick up a cake yesterday, when I would have had more time. I remembered this morning in the shower. I did happen to find a beautiful cake, but I just had to pay more than I would have liked for it.

This whole instance had me thinking about how I’d like to start decorating cakes. I bought a great kit at a garage sale for a steal of $5 a while back, and it’s just been taking up room in my kitchen. I hate having things in my house that are of no use. So I called the only place I could think of that had cake decorating classes – Michael’s. This next part was really luck, because there were classes starting today [day after payday!]. Impulse buy? Yes, but the idea has been stewing in my mind for a while. Also, classes were 50% off, so I paid $23.

Michael’s uses the Wilton Cake Decorating Course. While I would really like to apprentice with a professional baker, I guess I can’t do that until I have some basics down. It’s a lot more challenging than it looks.

cookie4Today we did stars – both the decorating technique and the shape. I don’t know what made me think I could decorate this, because I can’t even draw a star.

cookie1

Since my camera was stolen, I took these pictures using a low-quality digital camera I borrowed from my dad this Thanksgiving.

cookie2

They make you practice on a laminated sheet before you move up to the cakes. Today we didn’t even get that far, it was cookies only.

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Since I was late signing up, I didn’t even get a chance to buy supplies, but a nice woman sitting next to me had an extra set [happenstance] and let me have it.

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This was supposed to be a snowflake. It would have worked out, if I could have centered the frosting a little more.

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The Wilton cake decorating course is very structured, which means there isn’t much room for experimentation, which I think is always worthwhile. Also, in the decorating book, it shows the type of cakes we’ll be able to make, some of them are pretty ugly, but some aren’t that bad. The course only uses one type of frosting and it’s not spectacular. It’s one of those lard and powdered sugar frostings, which works well with decoration, but isn’t strong on the taste side. It also uses artificial butter flavor for the buttercream, not real butter (this should be appalling for any baker). I’m not so concerned about the frosting choice, but I’d like to learn how to decorate with other types. I’m optimistic the skills can transfer from one frosting to another. I hope I’m not wrong.  One final note, we don’t really learn how to bake a decent cake, which I thought would go without saying. Our instructor suggested box mixes, which are great, if we don’t plan on eating them.

I don’t mean to sound so critical of the course. I’m really excited to give this a go. If I am any good, I’ll eventually be able to work with fondant and make all sorts of fun shapes.