A Very Merry Grinchy Cake

grinch cake modeling chocolate“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel!”

What better way to celebrate the warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling than to make a cake of the Grinch?

I know, I know, it’s not exactly a manger scene or jolly ol’ St. Nick, but the Grinch sure is a well-known and beloved part of many a Christmas celebration. So here is my attempt at this nasty- wasty skunk, the green bad banana with a greasy black peel:

  1. Make his Face
    Starting with a styrofoam circle, layer the green modeling chocolate around the circle. Bit by bit, add on the chocolate until it looks like him! If you can get ahold of a plastic stick with a pointed end, that will help you create the “fur” on his face. You can buy a set of cake decorating tools at any crafting store or online retailer.

how to make a grinch cake modeling chocolate

2. Make the Chimney Cake
I made these in advance and froze them. They’re easier to work with when they’re frozen. Stack, cover with frosting, cover with fondant, layer on red fondant rectangles to look like bricks, and then paint the red and the space between so it looks more realistic. I used gel food coloring mixed with clear vanilla extract (you could also use a clear alcohol).

how to make a brick chimney cake fondant 3. That’s it! Just take a cute photo by your tree and serve him up! 🙂

grinch cake chimney christmas lights

grinch cake modeling chocolate close up

What other Christmas characters would you like to see made into a cake?

Icing Smiles: One way you can make a difference!

Icing Smiles logo
Check out Icing Smiles here: http://www.icingsmiles.org/

I live a fairly regular life. I have a regular job, live in a regular home, and occasionally, despite my preference for the late Romantic period, listen to regular music. Things like traffic and slow internet annoy me terribly, and the last time I got upset enough to cry was almost exactly a year ago, when the dog ate my Easter cake. (It’s been a year and the story still hasn’t reached “Oh, this’ll be funny someday!” status.)

But, as happens every once in a while, something hit me with such gravity that it really threw me back in my place. Last November, as I was meandering about the “America’s Baking and Sweets Show,” I happened upon a nonprofit organization called “Icing Smiles,” which matches bakers with children that are in the midst of serious illness, and provides the child with a “Dream Cake” for his or her birthday. I sat in the car when the show was over and watched a captivating video from their founder that explained perfectly the mission of this organization.

To be quite honest, part of me thought: how silly! A child is fighting for his life here, and the best I have to offer is a cake with Thomas the Tank Engine? This cake-decorating hobby feels frivolous at times, but never more than when I pictured myself walking into a hospital room and presenting a family in the midst of crisis with silly cake. I would rather melt into the wall than “show off” a cake to a family that has, literally, life and death on their mind. 

But then I saw the online photos of previous recipients, with absolute wonder on their faces. These kids, hooked up to wires and IVs or recovering from operations or waiting for transplants, endure a pain and worry that I cannot even comprehend. With Icing Smiles, I would have a chance, if only for an instant, to provide a fleeting moment of distraction. I realized that yes, it is frivolous, but isn’t a birthday frivolous, anyways? An entire day dedicated solely to mark the date the world first saw You as You? It was exactly this sort of triviality that these children deserved. A day where they think not of doctors and needles and pain and fear, but of cake. And frosting and sprinkles and chocolate and smiling!

Here are some of the ways you can help “Bake a Difference” for a sick child (or their sibling- and how cool is that?!):

* Be a “Sugar Angel” (baker): When a need is identified in your area, you get an email asking your availability. If you are free, a representative will send you the family’s requests. (Note: many states, including mine, do not require Sugar Angels to be licensed bakers. You are covered under Icing Smiles’ insurance, and your cake supplies are tax deductible.)

* Help with Delivery: Bring the cake from the baker to the child.

* Cookie Club: For those unfamiliar with (or not interested in) making large cakes, you might like to join the Cookie Club. These volunteers bake cookies to send to the medical families on a “regular day.” Just because. Other volunteers bake cookies and treats for families staying at Ronald McDonald houses.

* Donate: Icing Smiles is a volunteer-run organization, but they obviously have unavoidable operating costs. They rely on donations/partnerships from individuals and corporations alike.

* Fundraise: Host a bake sale! Have a restaurant fundraiser! Help your local school run a fundraiser! (How neat- kids helping kids. 🙂 )

* Get the Word Out: Follow Icing Smiles via social media! If you work in the medical field, tell your PR department! Ask your local bakeries if they’ve heard of Icing Smiles and if they’d like to participate!

Have questions? Leave a comment below! Or check out their website here: http://www.icingsmiles.org/

My first cake as a “Sugar Angel!”

(Literally) My Family Tree

fondant and real grandparents

When the time came to create a cake for my grandparents’ birthdays, I struggled to come up with an idea. What does one make for the perfect couple? The man who is so fiercely dedicated to protecting the marginalized of our society, giving a voice to those who have none? Who has shown his children and grandchildren the very definition of love with the way that he adores his wife? The woman who leads the conga line across the stage at the restaurant when our family’s “song” comes on, who demonstrates her pride in her family with unabashed delight? Who- literally- will seek out the people on the fringes, so that they experience, even if for a moment, the feeling of belonging and inclusion? The couple who cares for each other before they care for themselves, and who have demonstrated how to live out a faith-filled life that is brimming with love?

With these thoughts swirling through my head, I rejected idea after idea. Nothing seemed good enough for them. And suddenly, my sister said, “The family tree!” Now, everyone knows that I am spending much of my free time conducting family research, but I hadn’t thought of actually bringing that to life in edible form. After a discussion at dinner on Sunday, it was decided: I would attempt to recreate a family tree. Grandparents at the bottom, with the families sprouting off on the branches. What better to way to honor them than by bringing their “legacy” to life, in fondant form?

Though our history has been traced back until the 1700s in rural Ireland, out of necessity due to both time constraints and cake design requirements, I narrowed down the branches to include only my immediate family. This Irish blood is what accounts for the ghostly skin and the dark hair… And the fact that one in three people in the family are named Mary. (Ok, I’m just kidding about that.) But in all seriousness, due to Irish traditions, names tended to stay within the family. For example, in one strand of our tree: There is a Robert who has a sister Mary and a sister Margaret. Robert marries a Margaret (who has a sister Mary). Robert’s mother’s name is Mary, whose mother’s name is Margaret, who’s grandmother’s name is Mary. Add in an aunt Margaret, a great-aunt Margaret, two great-aunt Mary’s, a great-grandma Margaret, and a great-great-grandma Mary, and then remember: this is just ONE strand. On the other side- completely unrelated- the Margarets begin anew.

photo 1With the exception of one cousin, who has a name that says it all, really- Margaret Mary- the naming tradition has fallen by the wayside with the past few generations. (While it is nice to keep family traditions, it HAS been nice to get to know the other 19 letters in the alphabet!)

Ok, back to the cake! Counting up the relatives, we discovered we needed 25 heads. I asked/begged my mother and aunt to help in this endeavor, promising them that “fondant is really fun!” Luckily, these two women are great sports and we really did have fun making heads, noses, eyes and mouths. (And this aunt isn’t even a part of that particular tree! Do you see what I mean? I have the best relatives all around!)

Next, we created a base for the tree. This tree was going to be very heavy, so we decided to use rice krispie treats instead of cake! Cover the base in fondant, and trim off excess fondant:

photo 3 photo 4 photo 11

Next, create the tree. I used a large plastic cylinder, stuffed it with modeling chocolate, and then stuck in some metal decorative pieces I found at a craft store. I then duct-taped these sticks together because I was afraid the addition of the heads would cause them to shift around a lot.

photo 22 photo 33 photo 44

Once the branches were secure, I added the heads (in family groups). The heads had hardened with a small bit of wire inside, and I wrapped the other end around the “branch” and secured it with floral tape. Then the entire branch was covered with modeling chocolate.

DSCN0049    DSCN0051

The entire project ended up taking a ridiculous amount of time – my lovely mother was roped into work with me literally all day. She was a hard worker that completed all the hard or boring jobs like making leaves (yawn), softening the modeling chocolate (ouch!), and everything else that I could bark out at her.

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Not only is she a hard worker, but she’s got a sense of humor!

Normally, I spend a lot of time thinking about the cake recipient while I’m decorating, but boy, in this case- wow! It was like a trip down memory lane!

photo 55Later that evening, we had a birthday party and presented them with the cake. As always, it was a very enjoyable evening and I was reminded about how blessed I am to have this life, these perfect relatives. And as I was thinking about what to put in this blog post, an unfortunate quote came to mind: “Every family has a weird relative. If yours doesn’t… it’s you.”

:/