Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chinese New Year

This past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday but we celebrated Chinese New Year!  The Year of the Tiger started on February 14th.  Here are some of the menu items we enjoyed...

Perfect Potstickers - A recipe from Alton Brown.  These are a tasty little purse filled with pork, scallions, red pepper and seasonings.  They can be intimidating but are really very easy to make and cook.  Once you make the filling, set out about 10 won ton wrappers and spoon the filling on the center of each one.  Then you can quickly work through the line brushing the edges of one wrapper, folding and sealing.   Cooking is even easier... heat a skillet (nonstick works best), add a small bit of oil, allow to brown for a few minutes, then add a small amount of chicken broth or water and cover for a few minutes.  They are best when served immediately and dipped in soy sauce.  They look a little funny but are very good.  BTW - I made these the day before, reheated with the same cooking technique and they turned out fine.

Hot Crab Rangoon Dip with Won Ton Chips  - A recipe from Sandra Lee. How can you go wrong with 16oz of cream cheese?  Easy to prepare ahead.  I caught this one just in time, forgot to set a timer and almost left it under the broiler too long!  I think the highlight of this dip is the won ton chips.  They were so easy to make, I just cut the stack of wrappers in half and fried them in bunches for about 10 seconds.  I don't have a fryer so I use my electric fondue pot for frying.  It does an excellent job of keeping the oil at the correct temperature.

Thai Marinated Cucumber Salad - a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  I was quite worried about this dish!  When I made the dressing the night before the heated rice vinegar smelled SO strong!  The next day it still smelled strong but it didn't taste nearly as strong as it smelled.  This was actually a nice refreshing dish.  Would be good for summertime.  I couldn't find a red jalapeno or chile anywhere so I used some red pepper for color and added two dried/crushed Thai chilies to the dressing.  Not sure what makes this Thai marinated? 

A few store bought items to round out my part of the menu - Fried rice and Vegetable egg rolls.

My guests brought steamed rolls filled with chicken, vegetable lo mien, Buddha's Delight, and sake. 

And for dessert, Tapioca with Coconut Cream, Ginger Almond sugar cookies (both recipes from my Williams-Sonoma Asian cookbook) and green tea cookies (from a guest).  Wow, tapioca takes a long time to cook!  But with brown sugar syrup and coconut cream added it was worth it.  And doesn't it look pretty?  This was a hit, light and refreshing, another great recipe for summertime.  Sorry I can't post the recipes here due to copyrights.

A takeaway gift for each of my guests was a small coin purse made from asian style fabric in which I hid some fun fortunes. 

Good food, good friends, good times! 
Happy Year of the Tiger!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Magic Cake w/Rabbit

20100213 Magic

When I received hugs from the smiling 8 year old twins this cake was for it was the best "reward" I could have received. I enjoy the focus and concentration of working on a cake and seeing the finished product, but the smiles when the recipient sees the cake for the first time really makes the time and effort of creating the cake worth it.

I must give credit where credit is due. I searched for ideas and combined a few designs to create this cake.

So how did I create this cake? First I had to think about what needed to be made ahead of time so it would be able to dry. I cut four rectangles and several stars out of rolled gumpaste. Once dried I used edible markers to draw the aces on the cards (although once the gumpaste dries it is certainly not edible). The stars were dusted with silver glitter. Next I formed the ball for the rabbit’s head from rice cereal treats and allowed it to “dry” for one day. I covered the ball with royal icing to smooth out the rough surface. The royal icing dries into a hard sugar coating, before it was completely dry I dusted my hands with powdered sugar and smoothed the royal icing. Now that I had the size of the head I was able to cut out paper templates for the rabbit ears. The ears were then cut out of rolled gumpaste. I folded over the base of the ears and curled the tops; these were then allowed to dry. Next I “glued” the stars to thin metal wire using royal icing. All of this was done a few days before the cake was due so they could dry and harden.

Time to assemble the cake. The main part of the hat is made of three 9-inch round marble cakes, filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream. The cake was then covered with black fondant. The topper of the cake was pretty much made separately and could simply be removed from the cake before serving. The rim of the hat was two 12-inch cake boards covered with black fondant to form the base for the topper. I covered the rabbit head with white fondant and made the face features and paws with pink, white and black fondant. The ears were “glued” to the rabbit head with royal icing and secured with toothpicks. The completed rabbit was then “glued” to the black base. The wires were wrapped around a dowel rod to curl them and the ends were poked through the black cardboard base. Under the base the wires were bent and covered with tape to secure. Three colored handkerchiefs were cut from rolled fondant and placed around the head. The topper was placed on top of the cake; a few more stars, some chocolate coins and the cards were placed around the base, and the cake was complete!

I love the way this cake turned out and I hope the twins enjoyed their birthday cake!

Happy Birthday Borna & Kia!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A LEGO block cake!

Honestly, it was very difficult to get inspired for this LEGO block cake. I searched every cake site I knew to find ideas for this cake and there were very few LEGO block cakes anywhere. I found some “construction” style LEGO block cakes with little LEGO men working on “covering” a LEGO block cake with fondant. While this was cute I didn’t really think it was right for the occasion. The only other cake designs I found were stacks of LEGO blocks. So that’s what I decided to try. It wasn’t until I received some candy blocks and played around with them that I decided on a design.

I decided the sizes of the blocks would be 2”x 4”, 3”x 6”, 4” x 4”, and 4”x 8”. I made a few templates of the block sizes and decided what size sheet cakes to make so I could maximize the amount of blocks cut from each one. Each block was made of 2 layers of chocolate cake with raspberry filling, frosted with vanilla buttercream and covered with fondant. I attempted to cut small circles of cake and cover with fondant for the “buttons” but that didn’t work out very good, so I ended up just cutting 1” circles of fondant. It took about 3-4 hours to cut, fill, frost, and cover the 6 blocks.

Now when I was ready to stack the blocks I made a very rookie mistake, maybe because it was almost midnight by that point. The buttercream under the fondant was at room temperature (that means very soft and I added a little more than normal because the birthday girl loves frosting), when I stacked the blocks they just “squashed” the bottom cakes and were totally unstable. OK, time to take a break. The cakes went into the fridge to firm up and I sat down to watch an episode of CSI: NY.

After about 30 minutes, it came to me! Dowel rods! Duh. Luckily I had some in my big box of cake stuff. I cut them to the thickness of the cake, and because each cake was on its own cardboard base I could use the dowels to support the weight of the upper blocks. I’ll never make that mistake again! I must have been very tired, because honestly it didn’t even cross my mind :) The cake is now stacked and stored in the fridge. The small red block is hanging over the front of the cake, because of course once you add buttercream and fondant it is wider than its original measurements. Another duh. Next time I’ll have to remember to take this into account. Time for bed. I’ll add the finishing touches in the morning.

The next morning I pull out the cake. The red block that’s hanging over is bothering me. I ask Doug his opinion and of course he says I should fix it. He’s right. So I remove the red block, pull off the fondant, cut it shorter, frost the end and cover with new fondant. There now it fits perfectly! I add the Happy Birthday and some candy blocks around the base of the cake. Done!

Happy Birthday Colleen!

Did you know? – There is no plural for LEGO, LEGO should be used as an adjective not a noun.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Busy Month Ahead!

February is going to be busy!  Here's what's coming up...

Week 1
A Lego cake - This one has been giving me the most grief.  Ultimately the customer wanted a VW beetle.  I can't seem to find anyone who has done anything remotely close to an entire lego structure replicated in cake.  Although I think this would be an awesome cake, we decided to go with a stack of different sized Legos.  These will be covered in different colored fondant.

Super Bowl - Although we aren't having a big super bowl party we are having a couple friends over, so I must put together a spread for the game.

Week 2
Magic cake.  Main design is a black top hat with a bunny head poking out the top, and some accessories, like hankerchiefs, cards, stars, etc.  This one will be time consuming but I'm looking forward to the finished cake!  That reminds me...I need to get that bucket of black fondant on order.

Plus I bought some cool candy molds that I want to try for Valentine's Day!  They are for store bought cookies (think those chocolate cookies with the white filling) covered with chocolate, and heart designs on top.

Week 3
Planning a Girl's Night In for mid-February.  Theme will be Chinese New Year.  I have the decorations and gifts but I still need to decide on a menu!

Wedding consultation for my June wedding cake order.  The bride and grooom are from out of town so we are meeting to decide on a design.  I have to put together a portfolio and some ideas for them.  I'll also make a small cake for them to taste.

Week 4
Another Mater cake!  Trying desperately to remember how I made the last one. 

Whew!  But as usual I've already started my lists.  Grocery lists.  Shopping lists.  Menus.  What do I need to do ahead of time?  What can I do early?

Stay tuned for all the results!