Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Girls' Night Out Cookies

I finally made some cookies!  But then I didn't take any pictures until they were all bagged up!  I rock! 

Anyhoo, cookies for a girls' night out in red, pink, black, white and gold.  I made:

(I'm not a martini drinker, so I don't know if the colors are realistic or not.)  I got the inspiration from a cookie out on the web, but now I can't remember who made the original.  :-(

Diamond rings
(The cookies were for a jewelry party, or I probably wouldn not have included the rings in this set.)  You can't tell, but the diamonds are sparkly.  Disco dust again.

Party dresses
This dress is my new favorite cutter. I don't know why I like this one so much.  It's just my favorite right now. 

And lipstick, nail polish and hand mirrors

Don't you just love the way the light bounces off the plastic?!  You can't see that the lipsticks have some black-on-black details.

I painted all of the gold accents with Americolor Gold Airbrush Sheen.  Wonderful stuff, even if you're like me and are afraid of airbrushes. 

Well, that's it for this one. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Petit Fours, or Why Do I Get Myself Into These Situations?

Have you ever heard yourself say something, and as your mouth is rambling on, your brain is saying, "Shut up, you fool!  What is wrong with you?!"?  Well, recently my church had a tea party for the ladies, and they asked if I could bring something.  Sure, no problem.  I'll go think about it and get back with you.  So I had pretty much decided to bring muffins, because I really just wanted to make something easy, and the next week, I heard myself asking the lady in charge, "Is anyone bringing petit fours?"  Her face lit up.  And my brain was shrieking at me to shut up. 

Petit fours are evil.  I had never successfully made petit fours.  When I was 12 or 13, I made some for my best friend, who was coming to my house for a sleep over.  While they weren't wretched, they definitely left something to be desired.  (Alex, if you're out there, I'm sorry I served you soggy petit fours in the 8th grade.  And I'm sorry I flaked out and lost your address.  E-mail me and we'll catch up.  And I'll try to make up for the petit fours.) 

I tried again a few years ago and it was an unmitigated disaster.  Seriously.  It was months before I recovered.  So I don't know why I volunteered to make petit fours for the ladies at church.  Most of whom are really good cooks.

While I know that you are supposed to make petit fours with genoise, I decided that, given my history, I wasn't going to waste the effort or the ingredients.  So I used a doctored cake mix.  It's easy, and I don't feel as bad if I have to throw it out.  Then I searched the internets for a poured fondant recipe, and I found one here: petit fours icing

I baked the cake in a half sheet pan, then leveled it at 1" high.  I used some small fondant cutters to cut the cake into shapes.  I used a circle, a heart, a flower, a wonky flower and an oval.  While the oval was pretty, it was structurally unsound.  Just so you know.  Then, because the cutters were taking too long, I cut about 1/2 of the cake into little squares (well, they were four-sided shapes at least) with a sharp-ish knife.

Aren't they cute?  The cutters were less deep than the cake, so to avoid mangling the cake, I used skewers to push the cutters down all the way.  Hey, it worked.

Once the cakes were all cut, I started making the fondant.  I boiled some sugar, water and cream of tartar in a sauce pan to soft ball stage.

And let the sugar syrup cool to 110 degrees (F).  Next, I slowly added the powdered sugar and burned up the motor in my hand mixer.  Again.  There was smoke and the smell of burning electronics and everything!  I swear, I have burned out at least six hand mixers at this point. 

By then the mixture was so thick I was afraid to put it in my KitchenAid, lest I burn that up, too. So I had to use elbow grease.  And lots of it.  I added the flavorings and coloring last of all, and here's what I had:

That's some thick frosting.  Another couple cups of powdered sugar and you could roll that stuff out.  Anyhow, you have to thin down the icing with hot water to pouring consistency.  And, eventually, it looked like this:

Ain't it purty? 

Like all icings, consistency is the key.  Too thick and it makes a mess.  Too thin, and it just runs off the cake without covering it.  This was about perfect.  I imagine I could have added a second coat, since the sides of the cakes weren't completely smooth because of the way I cut them, but I ran out of time and icing.  No biggie, though.

They came out ok.  (Pay no attention to the empty spot in the top left corner.  Quality control.)  And then, since they were for a tea party, and because tea parties are fancy, I piped a little rosebud and a leaf on each one.

I used almond flavoring in the cake and the icing, since people seem to like that kind of thing.  Personally, I'm not crazy about almond flavor.  And I bought candy melts at the store, just in case there was an incident, and I ended up having to make cake balls instead.  But, I'm happy to say that I did not have to resort to my back-up plan! 

And just because I had leftover cake, I made cake balls anyway.  And I took them to work.  Because I really don't like cake balls, either.  And then I forgot to take a picture until they were almost gone.  Go me!

So that was my big adventure for the weekend. 


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ninja Birthday Cake

True to my word, I have not baked anything this week.  So, what better way to pass the time than to post old birthday cakes? 

Here is the cake I made for the boy last year.  He told me what he wanted and we designed it together.  He was really happy with it.  And I only got one picture.  With my phone.  Seems to be a trend with me. 

The ninjas on the second tier were cut out using the infamous Ninjabread Men cutters.  The pagodas were hand-cut with an X-Acto knife.  The throwing stars are modified snowflakes on toothpicks, made of fondant with tylose powder added, dried and stuck into the cake.

I thought that the stars would taste bad, but I must have been mistaken.  They ate them all.

That's it for this cake.


Monday, March 5, 2012

DIY Birthday Cake for Kids

The big day finally arrived.  The Boy's birthday party.  We had it at his martial arts facility.  It was great.  All we had to do was show up with the birthday boy and cake.  They did all the rest.  And if I hadn't felt like making cake, they would have supplied that as well. 

Backstory:  (When you have kids, you'll find many things you do require an explanation.)  A month or so ago, I asked the boy what he wanted his cake to look like.  Usually, he is very specific.  This year, he said "Ninjas".  Well, last year it was ninjas, so I was all out of ideas.  But I thought about it for a while and eventually decided to do a black cake with black-clad ninja figures crawling up it.  Brilliant, huh?  And I would have been soooooo popular with all the other parents after their kids ate the black cake. 

He changed his mind.

He wanted a spy cake.  I said, "OK.  What does a spy cake look like?"  He said, "Like a cake with spies on it."  I replied, "But what are the spies doing?"  He said, "You know, spying on people."

After a few more go-rounds like the above, I remembered a project that I have been seeing on cookiedecorator.com.  Do-it-yourself cookie parties.  Basically, the baker makes a bunch of white-iced cookies and provides edible ink markers.  The kids then decorate their own cookies.

So I made this:

Aside from the fact that naked white fondant is rather unforgiving in photographs (and in person), I think it turned out ok.  Those are Americolor Gourmet Writers.  Love them. 

The morning of the party, the boy's best friend came over and they decorated the cake.  They had a pretty good time.  (That's mine on the left...sitting on the table like a barbarian.)

Here are some close-ups:

This is my favorite part. His sister was feeling left out, so they finally agreed to let her have a little space to draw in.  She was NOT allowed to draw anything pretty or princess-y, nor to use the pink or purple markers. 

See, they even labeled it for her.  It's the "liitel sister spot".  She drew 2 spies and a bomb.  She does her best to follow the rules.

And the other sides:

I have been told that the top picure is a helicopter being struck by lightening.

"Nick and Gavin colored the cake".  They wanted to be sure eveyone knew.

"Evil doesn't stand a chance"

"They made it darker so the spies can escape".  Not entirely sure who "They" are.  I'm sure the whole cake has a story to go with it.  I should have him write it down before he forgets.

So they had a great time.  I expected the cake to be poked full of holes and half-pushed over by the time they were done, but they did a good job keeping it together.

The cake itself is vanilla, chocolate, strawberry -- from top to bottom.  My boy loves strawberry cake, so he wanted the biggest one to be strawberry.  Vanilla buttercream filling and marshmallow fondant on top.  My one-and-only cake board was still at my grandma's house, so I had to put the cake on the bottom of a cake carrier.  Again, classy.  We ended up leaving the cake on the turntable at the party so that everyone could see all of the sides.  And we took the markers and had his friends sign the cake before we cut it.  It was a fun day!

I don't have any more baking projects planned for the next couple of weeks.  I'm sure something will come up; it always does.  But if nothing does, I'll post about older projects, just to pass the time. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cookie Cutter Storage

These are my cookie cutters.  They are in ziploc bags in a plastic bin in my basement.  I need to find a better storage solution.

*Linked to LilaLoa http://lilaloa.blogspot.com/