Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Boo-lated Birthday, Happy Halloween & Happy Fall Y'all

Three more cakes in autumn and Halloween themes.

First is Brook's Boo-lated Birthday Cake. We were going to Brook & Sam's annual Halloween party so I offered to bring a cake, of course. Brook had just had a birthday, but didn't get to celebrate it so Sam asked me to make a birthday cake. Lemon is Brook's favorite so I baked a lemon pound cake with lemon filling and lemon buttercream frosting. I went with a Halloween design and I can't say I was happy with the final outcome. I was, however, happy with the custom cake stand that I made. But they enjoyed the cake with family the next day and said it was really good.

Halloween Cake

I also made this dirt cake, which I adorned with gummy worms and insects. I modified the filling recipe and added a bottom layer made of devil's food cake. It was actually delicious. The filling ended up being more of a chocolatey-cream cheese mousse! There was extra filling left over and we enjoyed it for several nights!

Halloween Dirt Cake

And finally, this is a dessert cake that I'm bringing to work for food day on Friday, which is also Halloween. It's an 8-inch devil's food cake with six layers of cake and chocolate bavarian cream filling. I frosted it with Ghirardelli chocolate frosting and then pourced Ghirardelli chocolate ganache over the entire cake. The decorations are buttercream and cream cheese frostings. Yummy!

Happy Fall Y'all

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn-Inspired Birthday Cake

This is another cake that I made for a coworker's birthday. Gum paste is a new medium for me, so I wanted to try something new.

I used a cookie cutter for the small oak leaf. The other leaves were hand cut from a template. I found the clip art from Microsoft Office Online. (I love free stuff!) To make the leaves dry in a natural looking state, I crumpled up several foil sheets and layed them on a cookie sheet to create a very uneven surface. I cut out the leaves, used a ball tool to thin the edges on a foam sheet, then used a veining tool to create the veins. Then I creased them down the center and kind of folded the leaves along the veins then layed them in various positions on the foil hills and valleys. When they were dry enough to handle, I used a dry paintbrush to add gold and bronze lustre dusts to them. The leaves actually started out as vibrant shades of red, red-orange, and yellow. The lustre dusts softened the colors.

The cake is a 9", triple layer carrot cake, baked from scratch; filled and iced with an old fashioned, homemade cream cheese frosting - lots of buttah! Paula Deen would be proud. Based on techniques I've seen in Serious_Cakes' videos on YouTube, I used a #104 tip to stripe the sides and then I used a #18 star tip to create a seashell and C-scroll border around the bottom. I used the reverse shell technique (kind of) to form the border around the top of the cake.

I wasn't at work Monday because I was attending the local ICES Day of Sharing, which means I wasn't there when the cake was cut. But there was a little bit left Tuesday morning, so we enjoyed it for breakfast! Yummy in my tummy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Purple Roses & Pink Fondant Cake

Purple Roses Cake

This is my second attempt at covering a cake in fondant. My first attempt at making gumpaste roses. This is definitely going to take some practice!

Thanks to my Wilton instructor, Geneva Breaux, for being such a patient and knowledgeable teacher.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

2009 Black Pot Cook-off - First Place Pork!

The Black Pot Cook-off fundraiser was held at Angelle Park in Cecilia on October 4. Our friends, Brook and Sam, asked if we'd participate and Sean agreed. He is not a competition cooker, but thought it would be fun and besides, it was for a good cause.

They hauled both our Cajun Grill and our Dixie Backwoods Smoker to the park on Friday night. We got there around 8:30 Saturday morning and lit the fires. Sam said she would register the team, but she needed a name. Sean quickly answered, "Team Grosse Affair"! We started cooking at 9:00. It was a beautiful day, not too warm with a nice breeze, perfect for barbecuing and hanging out with friends.

Sean had marinated ten racks of pork spare ribs, which is what he was entering in the competition. He had also marinated some beef short ribs, which he had never cooked before and wanted to try. While he was putting the pork ribs in the smoker and the beef ribs on the grill, I started on the side dishes. First I gave him some thick cut bacon to crisp on the grill. Then I mixed up a large batch of my baked beans. I put them in a disposable pan and placed them on the grill to slow cook. Sean season the rice dressing mix and I cooked it down for a couple of hours or so, then I mixed it in with a big batch of rice.

I had baked four dozen cupcakes, which I iced with buttercream in green and yellow, Cecilia's school colors. I donated them to be sold at the concession stand.

When they started to announce the winners I wanted to walk over to the main pavilion, but Sean wanted to hang back because he really didn't think they would call our team. Brook headed over there and before we knew what was happening he was calling across the field for Sean to join him. Team Grosse Affair had placed first in the pork category! So I grabbed my camera and we all headed over there.

The first place winners in each category were awarded an oblong black pot and lid, a small round black pot and lid, and various seasonings and mixes. After several pics were taken by family and friends, we headed back to the campsite. We were joined by several people who were there as spectators and others who had also participated in the cook off. Everyone wanted to get some of those award winning ribs. And, they had to check out his smoker, too. At the end of the night, when all was said and done, there wasn't a rib to be found!

Everyone should be as lucky as I am to have a husband who cooks award winning food for them. It has gotten to the point that dining out for me is second to eating in.

Everything Sean cooks, especially his ribeyes and pork ribs, always takes first place with me!

Baby's First Birthday - My First Fondant Covered Cake!

My friend and co-worker, Belit, asked me to bake a cake for her daughter Bella's first birthday. She gave me creative license and I knew I wanted to make something special. As luck would have it I had a Wilton class the night before I had to bring her cake to her. In that class, we learned to cover a cake in fondant.

So, I decided on a design, which was actually inspired by a cake I found on Flickr. It was a cake made for a wedding shower by Pink Cake Box, of which Anne Heap is the founder. She is a graduate of the Pastry Arts Program at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and completed an apprenticeship with Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York City (OMG!). She is a spectacular cake artist. You can click here to see the cake that inspired me.

I covered my cake in class with fondant colored a very pale shade of pink. But, instead of adding all the other stuff that was included in the class curriculum, I waited until I got home to decorate it.

I colored gumpaste in a shade slightly darker than the fondant on the cake, then I made an even darker color, adding a little orange to it so that it was sort of a shrimp color. I used a daisy cutter to make gerbera daisies and then rolled bright green stems and tendrils. I used a darker shade of green to make the centers of teh flowers. Then I used a small round cutter to cut circles from white fondant. I rolled two circles together to form a pearl and did this until I had surrounded the entire cake. I then brushed the pearls with pearl white shimmer dust for a finishing touch.

Since fondant isn't "mushy" I decided Bella needed a "smash cake" that she could dig into. So I cut a small circle out of cardboard and covered it in silver paper. Then I used a biscuit cutter to cut the center out of an extra cake. I frosted it in pink buttercream and covered the entire cake in pink sugar crystals. I finished it with a gerbera daisy on top.

Belit was ecstatic when she saw the cake and I was thrilled that I could deliver two cakes to her that I was quite proud of.

This was Bella's little smash cake.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake

This cake was baked for the son of my friend, Tally, to celebrate his 14th birthday. It's a six-layer, devil's food cake with bavarian cream filling. I covered it with Ghirardelli chocolate frosting then poured chocolate ganache on top.


Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake

Bright Birthday Cake

I baked this cake for the daughter of my friend and co-worker, Toni. She wanted a cake to match the party invitations.

It's an 11" x 15" single layer "cinnamon toast" cake. I used a recipe from Cupcakes by the Cake Doctor by Anne Byrne. Delicious! I coated the cake in buttercream frosting and decorated it with fondant appliques.

Bright Flowers Birthday Cake

Stormy Weather

I took these pictures on my birthday, September 8th. The sun was setting as storm clouds were building. I thought the scene was quite beautiful and a great ending to a great day.

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was September 8th so of course I baked myself a birthday cake. I wanted to try something new and I definitely wanted buttercream frosting. I recently discovered Cupcake Cafe a wonderful, all-buttercream cake shop that does amazing cakes. I turned to them for inspiration and found a lovely wedding cake covered in lilacs (see tiered cake below).

I thought I would do my interpretation of that cake in a single tier, so I made a four-layer, french vanilla cake with red raspberry filling. I mixed a (too dark) shade of ivory buttercream and two shades of purple, some brown for stems and green for leaves. I wasn't sure how to actually make the flowers, so I experimented with a few tips and ended up with something completely different!

I don't think they are actually lilacs. Some people thought they were wisteria and others thought they were hydrangeas. (My kids thought they were grapes). But everyone thought the cake was beautiful and tasted great. In fact, it was pretty much devoured in one sitting.

All in all, I enjoyed my birthday celebration with family and friends. And I got the birthday cake I wanted because I baked it myself!

A New Business Venture

My son, Nick, has decided that he wants to run a plant nursery. My paternal grandfather, Nick's great-grandfather had one, my dad's brother, Joe, now has one, and my dad has a degree in horticulture. So, my dad decided it was a good idea and the project was born.

My grandfather, who will be 94 years old this November has been supervising while Nick, my dad, my grandfather, my dad's brother, Mark, my dad's friend, Bill, and others are working to build the structure.

I'm going to try to document the progress in photos, provided I can find the time. They plan to have it open for Spring of 2009.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Comes to Town

8-31-08, 8:27 pm. Staring Into the Cone of Uncertainty

After much preparation and anticipation, hurricane Gustav headed straight for us. Of course I made the usual preparations: cleaned house and ensured all the laundry was clean in case we were without electricity for days, bought food that needed little or no preparation, charged all the batteries for the flashlights and portable TV, put all of our family photos and important documents in Ziploc bags and plastic totes for easy transportation, packed overnight bags, fueled up the cars, and made sure we had enough junk food to keep us happy. Oh, and Sporty - The Dog that Adopted Us, followed me into the house at one point, made herself comfortable on the couch and it was obvious that she was here to ride the storm out.

Sunday night when I had completed preparations, Sean asked if I had happened to pick up ingredients for chocolate chip cookies while I was out shopping. I told him that it just so happened that I had. He asked if I could bake some cookies because that would really make it a less stressful situation. So...I baked eight dozen cookies Sunday night and cleaned the kitchen all over again!

Monday morning we awoke to clear skies but it didn't take long for the first bands to appear. Then came the strong breezes, then came the wind and the rain. We lost power around 11:30 a.m. Sean and I watched the events unfold through the storm door in the family room. The worst of the storm hit from around 3:00 - 3:30 pm and we had the girls "camp out" in our walk in closet with lots of pillows, blankets, a flashlight and their Nintendo DS games.

The winds were incredible. At one point they made a deep, rumbling noise that we could feel in our bones. It was like a caravan of 18-wheeles was passing through. It was awesome and scary at the same time. The rain seemed to take the form of sheets in the wind, billowing horizontally. The water rose quickly but as soon as the eye passed over us and the rains stopped, the water drained just as quickly. Luckily the southern wall of the eye had collapsed so we didn't get the second round of strong storms that you would usually expect.

We were lucky - didn't lose a single shingle off our roof. Some of our neighbors weren't as luckily, but still faired well. Quite a few large trees fell, but for the most part missed homes and structures - sometimes by inches.

We are very thankful that we didn't get a stronger storm and that we made it through safe and sound.

To see the description for a slideshow image, click on it.

This video shows the winds picking up as Gustav approaches.

This video was shot from the back door. It shows the rain blowing horizontally.