Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flowers & Cake Design Class Complete

I know I keep saying it, but I am loving 20II. I completed another cake class this week - Wilton's Flowers & Cake Design. The last class was pretty fun. We brought in an iced 8 inch cake and any royal icing flowers we made. Then we learned a couple border techniques and were told to decorate. My finished cake turned out pretty good.

I was a little disappointed with my final cake though. I made 25 lilies to arrange on the cake. However, since it was very humid and rainy outside, the flowers did not hold up. When you tried to handle the flowers and move them to the cake, they would crack or fall apart. I managed to get five on there; however one or two were a little cracked in the center.

I finish class three on Thursday - Fondant & Gum Paste. I have made a few dozen daisies in different sizes to put on that cake. It should turn out to be a cute celebration of spring. I will be sure to post some photos.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cake Flowers Class - Week 3

Week 3 in Flowers & Cake Design class was a busy one. I actually had to make this class up at a later date because I skipped it for my birthday. Class three was all royal icing flowers. We learned the daffodil, pansy, violet and lily.





The last class is this week. The goal is to bring in an iced cake that we will decorate with the flowers of our choice. I went with the lily. I made 25 of them in two different colors for class. Hopefully that is enough to fill the cake. 

We will also be practicing the basket weave icing technique.I am looking forward to learning that. Can't wait to post photos of the finished cake!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Year of WINNING Continues...

So as I have referred to several times on this blog, this year is 20II - the year of me. It has been a great year so far filled with amazing friends, gifts, accomplishments and WINNING. Last night, I returned home from cake class to find a huge box at my doorstep. I thought maybe it was birthday care package from my mom, but look what I found inside.

I won a Spanish tapas and Tapena wine party package from one of my favorite food blog, Slashfood. The package included a big ice bucket, Spanish olives, almonds, spice packets, a cookbook, three bottles of Tapena wine, a corkscrew, two pens, some coasters, temporary tattoos and some magnets. I have to say it is pretty awesome. I can't wait to get the girls together and try some of the stuff. Should make for a fun night!

Fondant & Gum Paste Class - Week 3

Fondant and gum paste class was a little lackluster this week. We worked on two more flowers - Daisies and Mums.

We also started preparing for our final class project - a 8 inch double stacked cake. We will be covering this cake in fondant and then covering it in the gum paste flower creations of our choice. So before we left class, we covered our cake board in fondant. I chose a lovely shade of light blue. I actually ended up dying my hands blue while tinting the fondant, but I was able to take some nail polish remover and cure my Smurf problem. I also played around with an imprint mat, which allows you to put designs into the fondant. 

Since I ended up putting a daisy imprint on the cake board, I think I am going to stick with the daisy theme for the cake. Sure the flowers are really simple to make, but I think a cake covered in blue fondant with a nice assortment of daisies could end up looking real nice. Plus, it's just for class and then I will probably give it away. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fondant & Gum Paste Class - Week 2

As I mentioned in a previous post, week one of fondant & gum paste class was pretty boring. We just made bases for flowers. And when I say bases, I mean balls of gum paste in various shapes stuck to pieces of spaghetti. Nothing to write home about. But week two, we took those bases and created beautiful flowers. They look so real.


Calla Lilies and Carnations

The great thing about these flowers are they can last for years. The gum paste dries hard. You just have to worry about dust build-up if you use them for a cake display or something like that.

I am looking forward to my next class. We will be making a couple more flowers and then playing with fondant. More photos and posts to come.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Cake Pops

So I thought I would make something sweet and festive for St. Patrick's Day this year. Thanks to a friend, I was forwarded a blog post about green cake pops. It all starts with Green Velvet cake, yes green. Tastes the same as red velvet, just a different color.

Green Velvet Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz green food coloring

Combine wet ingredients in a mixer and blend.  Combine all your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Next, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet. Once blended, put the mixture in cake or cupcake pans.  I baked two 8 inch cakes at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Cupcakes will probably take 22-25 minutes.

After the cakes have baked and cooled, you grind them up in a food processor. You're looking to create a crumb like mixture. Once you have that done, you gradually add frosting to the crumbs and pulse in the food processor.  You can use canned frosting, I just always make my own.  You're looking for the crumbs to form more of a dough; a mixture that can easily be molded in your hands to make balls.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz block of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 stick of butter (softened)
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Once you have the mixture ready, you form the cake crumbs into small balls. Try to shoot for the size of a ping pong ball. I made mine a little bigger than that and it caused a bit of a problem.

Now you are ready to add your lollipop sticks. It is best to dip the sticks in your melted chocolate first. It acts as a glue and helps hold the stick in place. As for the chocolate, I just used the white chocolate melts you can buy in craft stores and followed the instructions on the back. 

Once you have all the sticks in place and have given them some time to dry, you're ready to coat them in chocolate. This process can be a pain. The chocolate melts tend to melt to a thick consistency, so you can't just dip them in and pull them out. I had to use a spoon and coat each cake ball. Then while they were still wet, I sprinkled them with green sugar and placed them on wax paper to harden. You can also use a strainer to hold your cake pops while they dry (so they don't have a flat bottom). Just check to make sure the lollipop sticks fit in the holes before you stick a finish cake pop in there.

Once they are dry, you just peel them off the wax paper and can package them for gifts, bake sales, etc. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cake Flowers Class - Week 2

Flower & Cake Design class has finally gotten interesting. In week 2, we made flowers with royal icing. It is a stiff, sweet icing that hardens when it dries. We learned the rose, rosebud, primrose and apple blossom. 

The great thing about these flowers are that they last for weeks, years even (according to my instructor). So I can make a bunch in advance and bring them to the last class to decorate my final project (a round 8" cake).

We will be learning daffodils and violets next week. We will also get a refresher on the rose, which people seem to struggle with. I, on the other hand, have the rose down. But my favorite, so far, has been making primroses because the petals are little hearts. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cake Decorating Courses 2 and 3

This week, I started two new cake decorating courses: Flowers & Cake Design and Fondant & Gum Paste. The first week of class is usually pretty boring. You're told what you will be doing in class and learn a couple small things.

For example, in Flowers & Cake Design class we worked with gum paste. It will be the only time we work with gum paste in that class. The rest of the flowers will be made with royal icing. Our gum paste creations were the button flower and pansies. By the way, gum paste is not too tasty and dries hard as a rock. So it really is just for decoration.

The first day of Fondant & Gum Paste class was all about prep. We used gum paste to make bases for the roses, mums and carnations we will be creating next week in class. You actually build the bases on uncooked spaghetti and use that stick and secure the flowers into the case. Who knew? I will post pictures of the flowers once they are finished next week.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cake Decorating Class - Week 4

20II (or the year of me) has been filled with some great accomplishments. The marathon, the Michelob Ultra Challenge and now I can add cake decorating class to the list. This week, I completed my four-week Wilton Cake Decorating Basics course.

We started the last class by practicing our writing skills. It was great to learn some of the tricks of the trade. I know feel much more comfortable writing with frosting. Next, we learned to make roses. This is why I took the class in the first place. Check out my first attempt:

After we made a few roses, it was time to create a cake. We each had to bring in a plain frosted cake that we would decoration at the end of class. We could use any of the techniques we had learned during the month. Here is my finished product:

 I am so happy I took the class. Not only did it get me out of the house once a week, it also taught me to use all the great cake decorating tools I have had for years. I was even inspired to sign up for the next two courses: Flowers & Cake Design and Fondant & Gum Paste. Classes start next week. I can't wait to share all the cool things I will learn. :)

"Race to the Ultra" = Pure Insanity

So as many of you know, I completed my first marathon this year. It was an achievement I never thought I would complete. I think that is why I bought race pictures and a plaque to remember it. I actually just got the custom-made plaque this week.

Once I had the marathon under my belt, I thought it was time to tackle another race challenge I had been curious about. So I decided to sign up for the Gasparilla Distance Classic's Michelob Ultra Challenge. It consists 30.5 miles of running over two days. A 15K and 5K on Saturday. Followed by a Half Marathon and 8K on Sunday. I figured I would never be in better running shape, so why not? I had 3 wonderful friends taking the challenge too. And two of them also ran the Disney marathon. 

Day one went really well, especially considering I didn't train and still had some tight hips and hamstrings from the marathon one month earlier. For the 15K, I kept a slow and steady pace and ran with Julie (one of those crazy challenge/marathon runners I mentioned). The 5K was a little different. My friend, April, was getting married that evening. So the bride, a couple of her bridesmaids, myself and a fellow wedding reader ran the 5K together. We even made shirts. April's touting her pending nuptials. And ours saying "Will Run For Wedding Cake." I probably pushed myself a bit too hard during this race, but considering the heat it was better to finish quickly.

Day two of the challenge proved to be rough. After a day of running and a night of dancing at the wedding, my legs were a bit sore. Again, I ran slow and steady with Julie, but this time we allowed for many walking breaks. Our strategy was to finish and not hurt ourselves, we really didn't care about our times. We actually ended up walking the entire 8K, which proved to be a good thing. I was not nearly as sore as I should have been Sunday night or Monday. Definitely much better than how I felt after the marathon. 

In the end, I am glad I took on the challenge. Sure, it was way to soon to do that much running after a marathon. I guess you are suppose to give your body three months to heal. But hey, you can't get big rewards without taking big risks, right?

Hooray, I finished! Check out my five cool medals!

Julie, I don't think I could have made it through this challenge without you!

Congrats to the four crazy Michelob Ultra Challenge Finishers!

Check out all my cool race booty!

Now it is time to put my running shoes in the closet for a while. My body needs a break from all this running. I do plan on participating in a 5K here and there, but the first one isn't until May. So until then, I am just going to relax and enjoy some time with my friends!

Give a Hoot, Heather Is Having A Baby Shower!

My good friend, Heather, is pregnant. She is expecting a beautiful baby girl in the next few weeks. Over the weekend, a baby shower was held for her. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it. I did, however, send my love to the mom-to-be in the form of cupcakes. 

Anyone who knows Heather, knows how much she loves owls. So I used that, plus the fact that the nursery is decorated in pink and brown, to create these adorable cupcake wrappers. 

As for the cupcakes, I went pink. Strawberry cake with pink cream cheese frosting.

I had no idea what the other decorations would be at the shower, but as you can see my creation fit in beautifully.

I also channeled my inner craft diva to create a gift for Heather and baby Avery. I wanted to do something personal that would last throughout her childhood. So I made her a quilt.

Here is the fabric I used. Notice the owl theme carried over into this project too.

Here are some of the inner squares I put together for the quilt.

And here is the finished product!

From what I have been told, Heather loves the quilt. And it matches the sheets in her bassinet, which makes me very happy! I was worried because the colors were so far off the nursery design.

Guests were also asked to bring a book for baby Avery and to sign the inside. My book selection was prompted by one of my favorite quotes, which I included in my inscription. 

Quote written inside: 
"Promise me you'll always remember...
You are braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."
~Christopher Robin to Winnie-The-Pooh

I hope Heather had a wonderful baby shower full of love, family and good friends. I am excited to meet baby Avery. There is no doubt in my mind Heather will make a wonderful mother. Congratulations Heather and Ryan!