Wednesday, July 31, 2013

White Ruffle Wedding Cake

My approach when it comes to designing a wedding cake is that less is more (this is definitely not my philosophy when it comes to eating it...). My signature style is clean and elegant. I love designs that remain traditional but have a modern, fresh feel. This is one of the major advantages of using fondant in a wedding cake, because it makes the whole surface impeccably smooth and you can cut decorations to have a perfect straight edge. Fondant is a sugar dough that can be rolled out and used to cover cakes like you see on Food Network Challenge. It is an amazing decorating tool, but not so fancy on the taste buds. I generally advise brides to use fondant sparingly, but in some cases the cleaner finish just fits the wedding better. As a compromise I still put a thick, yummy layer of buttercream on the cake for the guests to enjoy after peeling back the chewy fondant. And that way, you may eat your cake but I can make it look like this too:

The inside of this cake is actually a styrofoam dummy cake that I made a few years ago and finally found the courage to demolish and re-do. Now it  is covered in a new coat of fondant with fondant bands around the base of the tiers to cover the seams. 

The ruffles are made from gumpaste, which is very similar to fondant but holds a shape better and dries much harder. You wouldn't use gumpaste to cover a cake, but it is perfect to make detailed objects like flowers, bows and figures. 

Gumpaste dries almost like porcelain and can be rolled out extremely thin to make for delicate ruffles.

I love how classy this cake looks all white, but I had a hard time deciding whether or not to leave it that way while in the process. There may be a ruffle cake part two at some point in the near future...what do you think?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Faves

Another weekend this way comes, here are some of my favorite current favorite finds and inspirations to get yours kicked off creatively!

Current trend I'm obsessed with: Fresh Herbs

In case you couldn't tell by the new flavors I've been experimenting with, I'm kinda obsessed with fresh herbs lately. From roasting, grilling, to putting them in tea and water - I'm crazy for the flavor and fragrance of fresh herbs. The rest of the foodie world is with me. All of my favorite magazines had a 'summer herb issue' with tips and tricks on how to cook, save and grow your own fresh herbs. From savory to sweet, it's definitely a train I want to be on!

Favorite texture: crunchy baked meringues

They are so simple to make (1:2; Egg whites: Sugar) and flavor however your heart desires (even with fresh herbs! Strawberry basil meringues...mmmm) plus you can pipe them into whatever shape you want. I love the rustic look of these meringues, that look like they have a little added crunchiness on the outsides. They crunch when you bite but melt in your mouth almost instantly. Crumbling these guys over ice cream, pudding, or the top of a cupcake adds an awesome crunchy, sticky texture.

Favorite Wedding Favor: Dog treats

Who doesn't love their furry friends? Spoiler alert, I'm planning on breaking into the wedding favor market coming soon and beginning with dog treats.

Favorite non-traditional wedding cake: Cheeeeeeese

I know its a funny thing for a wedding cake decorator to love, but I'm a big fan of non-traditional wedding cakes. This one got me this week and is perfect for cheese lovers, but I also love rice krispy cakes, cheesecake wedding cakes, the doughnut stack or even ice cream. I can also home make any of the latter to create your perfect wedding cake custom and from scratch for you (cheese...excluded, but I'll still attend :-).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Cupcakes with Basil

This flavor has been on my radar since Spring when my parents visited me at school and we stumbled upon an oil and vinegar store in Rhinebeck, NY. Wherever there are free samples of something, you can be certain that I will not be far behind...I could smell this shop and it's endless samples of bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar from a MILE away. After trying probably close to twenty different oils and vinegars, I finally settled on a rather large bottle of dark chocolate balsamic vinegar (shocking, I know), and so began the idea for this cupcake.

Balsamic makes me think strawberry, automatically. The sweetness of the strawberries pairs beautifully with the tangy-ness of vinegar. And as you know, lately I've been obsessed with squeezing fresh herbs into everything possible - dessert included. Basil is one of my favorites because it has earthiness and sweetness. So naturally, balsamic + strawberry + basil = a match made in heaven for a cupcake. I started by sauteing the strawberries in the vinegar with freshly picked basil and a little bit of sugar.

I reduced the mixture until it was almost a puree consistency so I could add it to the cupcake batter without adding a ton of excess moisture. 

Once cooled, I topped the moist and spongy strawberry cake with Italian Meringue (no butter so I could get the toasty finish) and torched it for a gorgeously browned color. 

Each cupcake has a strawberry half and a fresh basil leaf to garnish for a little extra punch of flavor.

I love the way the colors of this one compliment each other and look so appetizing. On top of the mega-flavor built in, this cupcake looks just so darn yummy as a centerpiece to any summer picnic, cookout, or bridal shower. An experiment gone right for sure! For more sweet combos of fresh herbs and fruit, scroll down and check out my blackberry mojito cake.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Faves

Sometimes I wonder where people went for inspiration before Pinterest. No but seriously- I was a cake decorator long before Pinterest was born, but now that I have it it's hard to imagine my work life without my precious database of beauty and crafts. I've found Pinterest to be an invaluable tool when it comes to both brainstorming and communicating with a client. I frequently find myself on idea overload when designing a cake, and it can be hard to explain what I'm thinking. Pinterest helps to communicate ideas visually instead of verbally so that I can . Brides can post pictures to the same board that I created for them and leave comments on what they like or don't like. It's the perfect way for me to access and share ideas for cakes, and now I'm going to share my favorite finds and what I'm currently digging here each Friday:

Favorite cake:

Wedding Cake

This spring-y tiered cake from Confetti Cakes that combines the smooth, flat surface of fondant and the 3-D pop of gumpaste hydrangeas. I love how they're coming out of the sides of the cake instead of the more traditional way of sitting on the ledges in between the tiers.

Favorite new technique:

The idea of painting pretty flowers on fondant from Amelie's House. Opposite of the 3-D gumpaste, this type of flowering makes the cake look like it's covered in wallpaper. Although the flowers still have depth, the surface of the cake remains smooth and is more transportable.

Favorite cake stand: 
Sarah's cake stands

This natural beauty cake stand from Sarah's Cake Stands. If money were no object, I'd have 50 of these bad boys. All of her cake stands are the perfect pedestals to showcase desserts and layer cakes. 

Favorite DIY idea:

This is an AWESOME IDEA for a dessert display from Simply Sweet Weddings. It's cost effective, it's chic, it's functional. I may have spent last weekend scouring antique stores for a step ladder...

Favorite Quote:

A party without cake is just a meeting. - Julia Child has her priorities straight.

 And lastly, this quote from the lovely Julia Child. I think we could have done some serious damage together over a piece of cake. It just doesn't get any better!

Hope your weekend is off to a creative start! Follow me on Pinterest for more inspiration and to see what cakes I'm bakin' up lately.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blackberry Mojito Cupcakes

I'm on summer break from pastry school for most of July and I knew it would give me a chance to get back in my own kitchen and do some recipe developing. One of the most frustrating things for me being at school is that I am so inspired all the time to make all kinds of new cake flavors but rarely have the time or resources to experiment. I'm still in the beginning stages of the CIA's pastry program, and the beginning is all about perfecting the classical techniques not being inventive. I know a time will come when we're allowed to be creative, but it's hard not to hit the ground running! I have a list a mile long of ideas and I'm so excited to finally be able to share a few.

The idea for this cake flavor actually came from my final assignment for my Art and Design class. We had to design and actually create a themed dessert menu that featured four original desserts. My theme was 'cupcakes and cocktails' and I paired four of my favorite cocktails with four desserts that captured the flavors.

My mom and I started growing an herb garden a few years ago and in the summertime we cut down mint like maniacs for sweet tea and mojitos. When we were assigned this project I instantly gravitated towards one of my favorite summertime treats.

The fresh and juicy blackberries I picked up at the farmer's market added the perfect tartness and color to this cupcake. They dyed the batter the perfect color without any help from artificial dyes.

The cake is light, moist and tangy from the blackberries. As they came out of the oven I brushed the tops with rum to add a little punch and be more like the drink that inspired them. 

Garnished with mint Italian buttercream, a blackberry and a freshly plucked mint leaf. These babies are here to brighten any summer party.

If this cupcake flavor tickles your fancy, click on over to my menu page for more summer flavor ideas or pin any of these pictures to your Pinterest board (just press that super cute little button that pops up when you scroll over a photo) so you can revisit again and again.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Basic and Classical Cakes

I finally started my first cakes class in Pastry school! A moment I've been looking forward to since, well, ever. So far in school, I've had a six week long hiatus from the bakeshop and I have been itching to get my hands back on some cake (if you're interested at all in the CIA Pastry Program, remember you can follow along with me by following the school's blog that I also write school specific posts for here). I'm still only in my second semester here in school so we're still learning basics - no fancy wedding cakes yet. But even without all the gumpaste glitz and glamour, I found my Basic and Classical Cakes class to be interesting in a different way. Instead of learning over the top flavor combinations and crazy sugar design (although we did do a little of that...) we focused on what makes a cake, cake and why. One of my favorite parts of this was the role that cake has had throughout history, and the different cultures and celebrations that its been the center of. My inner dork was very happy.

Take the New Orleans' King Cake for example. Most people are familiar with the tradition of eating this cake around Mardi Gras and know that it looks something like this: 

photo cred:
The King's Cake is actually a tradition handed down from the French town of Pithiviers, where they would frequently serve an almond tart with a prize baked inside like a small chain necklace. Whoever was sliced the piece of cake containing the prize won the honor of being 'King' or 'Queen' for the day. It was two disks of puff pastry, decorated and stuffed with an almond filling called frangipane and it looked something more like this:

Or another dessert that was popular in America around the 1950's, but was originally created for a Russian princess, The Charlotte Russe. The classical version is vanilla sponge cake filled with Bavarian cream and chocolate shavings and encircled with ladyfingers (who have a story of their own) and tied up like a present with a red ribbon. Usually today, we spice Charlottes up quite a bit, if they are even served at all. In class I made a modern version that is circled with Jaconde (decorated) sponge cake instead of ladyfingers, and glazed with strawberry and passionfruit puree instead of chocolate shavings:

We made four different kinds of sponge cake, four different kinds of buttercream, and five different types of tarts. It wasn't quite as high production as my last bakeshop class, but we really focused on perfecting the techniques instead of churning things out. After the Pithivier and the Charlotte we got a lot more familiar:

Chocolate, caramel, and macadamia nut tart.

Traditional carrot cake with walnuts and cream cheese frosting.

Sliced and ready for service!

Traditional Black Forrest cake: chocolate sponge soaked in brandied cherry syrup, layered with cherry filling and fresh whipped cream. Garnished with chocolate curls.

Mocha cake: chocolate sponge filled with espresso buttercream and garnished with chocolate candies.

Hazelnut torte: hazelnut sponge filled with hazelnut buttercream and garnished with hazelnut Florentine.

It was a fantastic three week filled with cake, and I got to practice a lot of cake decorating techniques that I'll   use forever. I'm currently on a three week break from school which means I get to put all of my attention into this site, finally. Lots of updates, improvements, and cake R&D to come!