Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weddings and Cookies

It seems these days I am all good intentions, but terrible follow through! I have so many photos to write blogs about but yet I always find the idea of sitting down and getting it done so daunting. Well, this Sunday afternoon I am feeling productive, so here I am, red velvet cupcake in tow as support!

I delved into the world of wedding cakes starting in June. The first cake I did was to decorate it only, which was far more challenging than it sounds. The second cake was a cupcake affair to remember, but went far smoother than I had anticipated. The cookies were for an extremely loyal customer, but gosh was I glad to see the back end of them at the end!

Below is the cake that I covered in almond paste/marzipan, fondant, and then ribbon.

In the end the cake turned out fine, but let me outline why sweat, blood, and tears went into this cake. First off, I didn't bother to ask what kind of cake (the mother of the bride made it) it was, and it turned out to be fruit cake, but a fruit with whole nuts. This becomes problematic because if the cake is not completely flat, and I have to tier it, then I usually like to shave down parts, but the whole nuts prevent me from doing this. If I tried to shave the whole nuts they'd probably just pop out and the cake would look like the moon, all covered in craters.

Second of all, the client wanted there to be a layer of almond paste underneath the fondant, which is traditional. What I failed to realize here is that for masking cakes marzipan is used, not almond paste. As soon as any kind of mauling happens to the almond paste the oils start coming out and go everywhere. The sound is like that of a wet sponge making 'squishy' noises. It wasn't very pliable either, so I basically had to patch it on. Also, 2.2lbs was not enough to cover an 8", 6", and 4" tier - it barely covered the 8". Thank god I had a reserve of marzipan hiding in the back of my cupboard.

Then the fondant. That went alright, but I made the mistake of not putting in the dowels immediately. I waited a day so that when I went to put them in, the fondant cracked. I tried caulking it with royal icing but that looked awful. I was panicking but then my mum suggested that I do an extra layer of fondant - problem solved! Stacking them was also a treat. Since they weren't completely flat there were small gaps and it didn't make a perfect 90 degree angle (oh, I should have mentioned, the client wanted it stacked off-centre). I did my best to use the ribbon to close the gaps.

I was very happy to have this (very heavy) cake delivered! I haven't received any e-mail complaints so I'm assuming all went well!

The cupcake wedding went much better!

Red Velvet with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Marble with White Chocolate Ganache

Spice with Maple Buttercream

Red Velvet with Pistachio Buttercream and Fondant bees/flowers

The baking was pretty much completed in a day and seeing all of the cupcakes out on my dining room table made them seem less daunting! The only challenge was finding a good enough white chocolate ganache recipe that would allow me to pipe it on. The small cake was such a joy to work on and the bride and groom were very happy with it!

On to cookies!

Thomas the Tank Engine is one complex little guy. I had to make him in two parts - body and head. Then I had to do the blue portions, let that dry, then onto the red and black parts. The sides of the head had to be covered in black (which was a feat and was sometimes managed and other times not). Then I had to fill the face with grey, let that dry, and then the eyes and nose. He took many many hours and I got a little annoyed at his sweet little face looking at me all innocently!

Things I've learned with the cakes, cookies, and pies:

1) If someone wants you to only decorate their cake, make sure you find out what kind of cake it is first.
2) Almond paste is for baking and nom'ing on only, not covering cakes.
3) If you have old cupcake liners you WILL burn the bottom of your cupcakes, which is gross.
4) Maple is an extremely hard flavour to put into buttercream.
5) Cupcake holders in cake boxes are your best friend.
6) If you don't have matching cupcake pans, check the height - not all are created equal.
7) Although cookies are small and are devoured in mere seconds, the labour that can go into decorating them makes them very expensive, so I should never sell myself short (which I did).
8) If you have a good and easy tart shell recipe, stick with it. You don't need to get fancy and change it up each time, it's time consuming and not so economical sometimes. Buying a thing of cream to only use a teaspoon? Silly!
9) I still don't like make cupcakes. I can't explain it!
10) My new camera makes this camera look like crap.

And here are some other cakes that I did for sale:

Raspberry Mousse Tart with White Chocolate Ganache

Almond Dacquoise with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Raspberries

I hope to post every couple of days now, so you'll soon see a very belated review of a tasting menu/concert that I went to in July, the latest wedding cake I did (for 120 people!), and the results from the food photography course that I did last weekend, which was mind blowing. I also hope to do a review of L'Oven, an Ottawa-based home run bakery that I discovered at a Cherry Pie event. These women are making a phenomenal product and really, when they're making amazing cupcakes, why should I bother competing? I love their stuff more than mine.