Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why I won’t be doing any more wedding cakes

I have already agreed to do one more wedding cake this August, but after that no more! Wedding cakes are a big deal. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining a bride’s wedding day with a cake disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the success of a wedding depends on the cake, but on her special day a bride may think so. And pictures preserve that memory forever! Honestly, I don’t even remember what my wedding cake looked like. And even if it was bad, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference. OK, maybe I would have, but only if it was really bad.

I believe most cake decorators will tell you, they truly care how their cakes turn out. For the recipient AND for themselves. Successful cake decorators want to make the perfect cake for you and they take pride in showing their work. Cake decorating should be fun! And for me it usually is…except for wedding cakes. I’m sure if this was my full time job and I had more experience doing large scale cakes I might feel differently. But it’s just too stressful right now.

After I finished the daisy wedding cake Doug asked me “Did you enjoy making that cake?” I said yes, but I'm not so sure.  In a way I did. I enjoy the process of making and decorating cakes. I enjoy creating something from nothing and being proud of it. But the perfectionist in me was very frustrated with the heat, the melting buttercream and the cracking fondant. The worrier in me couldn’t sleep all night and the 90 minute drive just about did me in! I was desperately trying to figure out a way to get out of doing the next wedding cake in August! When I finally received feedback (a few days later) that everyone loved the wedding cake, it was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I imagine it’s just like most stressful situations, when you are in the middle of it it’s not so good, but when it’s all done you look back and say that wasn’t so bad. The end result makes up for the painful journey. But I have to wonder if that journey was really worth it.

What solidified my feelings on this was the next cake I did. A children’s birthday cake. It was fun! The entire cake, from start to finish. No worries, no stress! Isn’t that what a hobby is supposed to be like? YES! And that is what I need to remember, this is a hobby, not a job. If a hobby isn’t fun then why do it?

So after the one wedding cake that I have already committed to in August, no more wedding cakes for me. I’m starting my game plan now, so hopefully it can go as smoothly as possible. Who knows I may change my mind in the future but for now I’m sticking to birthdays, graduations, baby showers, holidays, just for fun cakes, etc. Anything but weddings.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Donations for Community Days

Our local Community Days was held last weekend. A friend of mine asked if I would donate a cake for the cake wheel. Sure, why not? A chance to try a design that I have been waiting for an excuse to make.

I decided I was going to try to make a cookie monster cake. I have seen designs where cookie monster is made from a teddy bear mold and he sits on top of a cake with chocolate chip cookies surrounding him. It’s really very cute. But I need a back up plan in case this doesn’t work, so I decide to make some small flowers.

Poor planning on my part because Community Days is the same weekend as a wedding cake is due. Luckily the smaller cake can be done for Friday and the wedding is Sunday. No rest for the weary! And I’m not sure why but I decide to make two cakes….the flower cake AND the cookie monster cake.

I am sorry to say that cookie monster was not looking like cookie monster, so I had to abandon that idea. Although I will try that design again when I have some free time. And now I have an extra cake, what to do?

Here are the two designs I came up with….

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A 4-layer 6" round chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.

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A 2-layer 8" round yellow cake with chocolate and vanilla buttercream.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Daisy Wedding Cake

Wow, all I can say is I’m glad that’s over! Saturday was WAAAAY too hot and humid to be putting together a wedding cake in a non-air conditioned home. Yes, a few things were my fault but this was THE most stressful cake I have done. First of all I should not have agreed to donate a cake for our local Community Days event on the same weekend. And I don’t end up donating one cake but TWO! But that’s a story for another time.

As you saw the daisies were complete a week early, thank goodness. All I had to do was bake the cake, fill the layers, frost with buttercream, cover with fondant and add the flowers. Sounds simple right?

I finished baking the cakes Friday night. The last set of cakes, 2 9-inch rounds calls for 5 ½ cups of batter each. I know one white cake mix recipe makes 4 cups of batter. So I make 3 batches all together for 12 cups and figure if I split them the extra ½ cup in each should be OK. The pans don’t look overfull as I put them into the oven. After about 15-20 minutes I smell it! One of the pans has overflowed and is dripping all over the heating element and bottom of my oven. Great. I’ll admit it has happened before, my fault. I throw a cookie sheet under the cakes and continue to let them cook. Shortly thereafter I check on the cakes and THERE’S A FIRE IN MY OVEN! And I mean flames! The batter that had dripped on the bottom of my oven caught on fire. So I take everything out, use some metal tongs to try to break up the spill and put out the fire. At this point it’s 10:30 Friday night. The cakes go back in and finish cooking around 11pm.

Saturday morning, Doug goes into work and I start leveling, filling and crumb coating my cakes. I level the 9” cakes first and taste the part I remove. Thankfully it does NOT taste burnt at all and I don’t have to rebake. It wasn’t the cake itself that burnt but I wasn’t sure if the fire would have added any off taste to the cakes. By 11am I have finished the 6”, 9” and 12” rounds and a 9”x13” kitchen cake. I decide to put the cakes in the refrigerator and save the fondant and decorating until at least dinner time, when it will (hopefully) be cooler.

About 5pm I decide I should get started again. I set up a huge fan blowing into the kitchen and get started rolling out the fondant. Let’s start with the 12” and work down from there. The fondant cracks on the cake and I cannot repair it to save my life. I remove the fondant to reroll and try again but it is SO hot and humid that the buttercream sticks to the fondant and not the cake. I refrost the cake, put it back into the refrigerator, and run to the store for another box of fondant. I already have two but if things keep going the way they are I better make sure I have enough.

OK, back from the store. This time I start with the 9”….perfect! The 12”… again… Perfect! The 6”…OK a small crack at the top edge of the cake. Try to fix, shortening, glycerine, powdered sugar, ARGH! I remove the fondant to start again and of course all the buttercream comes off. Refrost and try again. This time there is a small section of “elephant skin” but it’s OK. Going back and trying to smooth the fondant with SOFT frosting underneath is not the easiest thing to do (my fault). Now I know, STIFF frosting when the weather is warm.

Not that it was anywhere near this quick, but I stacked the cakes, added a teal border along the bottom of each tier and started adding daisies. I am always amazed at the difference it makes when I start adding the decorations. Some fussing here and there and the daisies are done. And I only broke 7 in the process. I see a daisy cake for someone in the near future because I have so many left. I take some photos and I’m done for the night.

It’s 10pm and I know where my cake is. It’s in the much cooler finished basement where it spends the night before the 90 minute drive in the morning. Normally my cakes go into the refrigerator at night so the frosting can firm up and the cake is more stable for transport, but fondant doesn’t like the moist refrigerator and it will sweat after being removed from the cold refrigerator. So all I could do was hope the basement was cool enough to keep everything in place.

Couldn’t sleep all night. I just knew the small section of elephant skin on the top edge was going to crack under the weight of itself and I would wake up to half of the top tier on the floor. The cake gods must have been smiling down on me because, luckily, that did not happen. There was a small crack on the top edge but it was not progressing and it was situated at the back of the cake, so hopefully it would be OK.

I pack up EVERYTHING I could possible need to repair most cake mishaps during transport, except extra cake. We load the cake in the car and we are off. What would I do without Doug? That is one heavy cake!

I am nauseas the entire trip. What will I do if something happens? How will I fix it? 90 minutes, who’s crazy idea was it to agree to delivery 90 minutes away? I know that the way I put the cake together it is very stable. And if something does happen it would likely be fixable. But this is someone’s wedding! I can’t give them a messed up cake! This stress is killing me.

Finally we make it to the venue and set up the cake. I am happy with the way it looks.

One thing I don’t like about weddings is that I just drop off the cake before the event and never get to see the bride and grooms reaction. A few days later the father of the bride tells me “It was perfect. It looked beautiful and was delicious too!” Couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

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Congratulations Liz and Chris!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Daisies, Daisies, Everywhere!

Spent the day making daisies....
I should have plenty for my wedding cake next weekend, but I always make extra because you just never know what might happen!

Daisy 2

The process is really quite simple.  Roll out the 50:50 gumpaste fondant mixture very thin.  Cut out flowers with a cutter (top left), use a ball tool to thin and curl the petals (top right).  After drying for a few hours in a flower former, I used mostly baking cups here, I added a small yellow fondant center (bottom).   The pattern was impressed with a fine cheese grater.  

Daisy 1

Why use flower formers, you ask?   Have you ever seen a totally flat flower?  This gives the flowers a little more realism.

Stay tuned for the finished wedding cake!