Two Little (Chocolate) Mermaids

When one’s sister has been obsessed with The Little Mermaid since, well, forever, naturally, one throws her sister a mermaid baby shower. So I grabbed a chunk of modeling chocolate, shaped it into a tail, covered it with blue fondant, picked up a Tip #5, and settled in for the night, punching away. I realized a girl can measure her love for her sister in individually-punched mermaid tail scales. “Yes, I love my sister roughly 7,000 evenly-spaced holes’ worth.”  Then I painted it with gel food coloring and melted some isomalt and poured it on a silicone mat to harden in approximate “splash” shapes. Once they were hardened, I stuck them in the cake.Set those chocolate tails atop a buttercream cake, and voila! 

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A Floral Explosion!

Well, hello, strangers! I realize it has been ages since I’ve posted anything here. I want to let you all know that I have been working quite a bit behind the scenes and will be doing a website update at some point in the near future. In the meantime, I figured I may as well post photos of a cake I made recently. Enjoy!

For a more in-depth explanation of gum paste flowers, click here. And forgive the cake- it was one of the very first ones I ever made! 🙂

A Willy Wonka Cake Made of Pure Imagination

Last fall, I entered a cake in the America’s Baking and Sweets competition. The theme was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” After wracking my brain trying to think of an interesting design that showcased multiple materials and skills, I settled on what I hoped to be an award-winning sketch:

willy wonka cake sketch I wanted the cake to seem as if this magical, chocolatey world was literally gushing to life, straight from the book’s text. As if the reader were imagining it true.

A metal support screwed into a wooden base, with a wooden circle on top of which the two circular tiers would balance.

In the end, the cake looked pretty close to the sketch. And it turned out to be an award-winning sketch, after all- my fondant Wonka took home the top prize in the Theme Cake division. Yahoo!!

The first thing I needed to do was find the appropriate passage in the book- the part where he describes the rivers of cascading sweetness. (Ok, I’m getting hungry writing this post!) I typed the passage, printed it out, and cut each word out so I could place them on the cake evenly. I used a food-dye marker to hand-write the words, and then drew the illustrations and painted them with food coloring mixed with extract. Ta-da! My favorite part of this cake, the book! ❤

charlie chocolate factory willy wonka book cake Next came Wonka’s face. While looking at a cartoon of him, I hand-drew the face and then cut out the various shades. Then, using fondant I had already mixed those colors, I rolled it out, placed the “puzzle piece” on top, and cut out the fondant piece. One by one, I cut out the pieces and placed them together until it looked like the devious chocolatier.

step by step willy wonka face made of fondantNext it was time for the goose that lays the golden eggs. I made wings and a body out of gum paste and let them dry for several days. Once they were completely hardened, I stuck the wings inside the body and began layering wafer paper feathers. I cut out tiny triangles, and, beginning from the tail section, laid them on, leaving the end of each feather un-glued. Once the feathers were complete, I ran a damp paintbrush over the feathers so they would curl up a little bit.

wafer paper swan goose cake Layering on the green-dyed wafer paper:

willy wonka cake wafer paper grass willy wonka cakeAnd the final product! Wonka in all his glory!

willy wonka cake close up willy wonka cake goose egg mushrooms willy wonka cake What movie can you think of that would make an interesting cake? Let me know in the comments below!

Chicago Cubs Cake Pops!

As I sit here begrudgingly watching the Sharks and Penguins play rather than my beloved Blackhawks, I can take solace in the fact that hey, the Cubs are currently 39-15! That’s pretty good, right?!

Making cake pops is easy. Seriously. Especially this kind where the pop is on the bottom of the stick. Here is a very easy recipe for success:

STEP 1: Mix together some old cake scraps (or a fresh cake, whatever!) with some store-bought frosting. Mix until it holds together. (One box of cake will need approximately a half to two thirds a can of frosting, I think. You don’t want to add too much because then it’s just goopy.)

STEP 2: Form balls and place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

STEP 3: Melt some candy melts, dip a stick in the candy melts, and insert into the cake pop. Place back into the fridge to keep firm.

how to make cake pops STEP 4: Decorate! For the baseballs, I dipped the cake pops in white candy melts and let them harden. (It only takes a few minutes in the fridge.) Then, using a sharp metal tool, I literally drew on the baseball stitching lines. The only annoying thing is keeping the candy melts warm- I took repeated trips to the microwave.

IMG_7625cubs baseball cake popsFor the Cubs logo, I used a little blue fondant to make the circle, and I drew on the red with the candy melts.

cubs baseball cake pops close up Final step: Tie with a cute bow!

blue bow on cake pops Version 2 close up cubs baseball cake pop

Boot Camp Cake for a Hero’s Send-off

Recently, I was asked to do a cake for a young man going off to boot camp. And while I always try to please customers, I especially wanted this one to be perfect. It seemed like my tiny little way to say thank you.

boot camp cake fondant modeling chocolate boots 2

I wanted to make the boots look as real as possible, so I elected to make them out of modeling chocolate rather than actual cake. (Had they been entirely cake, the cake would have gone stale before I had time to finish all the detail work. Making them out of chocolate ensured I could work on them at night after work over the span of a few days.) And seeing how they are life-size boots, I decided to have the center be styrofoam so that they were lighter, since I knew I was planning on putting the boots on top of a cake.

how to make modeling chocolate bootsTo make the camouflage fondant, I colored chunks of fondant various shades of green and brown. I rolled them into small balls and then placed them close together. (It looks like this would be a fast process, but placing them together was a bit like a puzzle. Of course, you wouldn’t want to place to of the same color directly next to each other. Otherwise you don’t get the camo effect.)

Once the balls were placed, I rolled them out with a rolling pin. Voila…. camouflage fondant!

making camouflage fondant for boot camp cake

Lastly, I added the details. An American flag draped near the boots, and “Semper Fi” written on the side. For that I cut the yellow letters with an exacto knife and then laid them on red fondant and then cut around the words. Ta-da!

semper fi fondant cake

So thank you, Christopher, and everyone else. Thank you for your sacrifices in order that the rest of us may live freely. boot camp cake fondant modeling chocolate boots

Carving a Police Car Cake

In honor of National Police Week, I decided to make a police car cake and bring it to our local station. And though it ended up looking like something out of a 1950s gangster movie, I would imagine they ate it anyways. 🙂 So after a bit of research, which involved a short-lived numbskull idea to go to the police station and take photographs of their cars (I can imagine the headlines: “Local teacher arrested for suspicious behavior in police station parking lot”), I decided on a design and set to work.

STEP 1: Begin with a ridiculously thick pound cake batter. There are FOURTEEN EGGS in these two pans. I mean….is that even legal? The comments on the recipe I used here said the cake was delicious, but I guess the yolk’s on me if this cake isn’t egg-xactly everything it’s cracked up to be.

(Sorry. I’ll stop.)
(And yes, the cake was egg-shell-ent.)

pound cake batter

STEP 2: Once the cakes are cooked, layer ’em up and start to carve! Be careful, because you can’t ever put cake back on. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

carving a police car cake STEP 3: Frost!police car cake carving with frosting STEP 4: Add the fondant details…

fondant details of police car cake STEP 5: Deliver to the police station in honor of National Police Week. Thank you for all that you do!

police car cake in parking lot police car cake

Fondant Scales and Chocolate Fish Tails

When I was approached to make a cake for a bass fisherman, I knew immediately that I wanted to make a realistic fish. Follow the photos below to see the process I used:

STEP 1: Make the Fish.
I started by making modeling chocolate and then sculpting it into a fish shape. I then covered it with white fondant, pressed in scales, and painted with food coloring mixed with clear vanilla extract. I used a small tip to press in tiny circles to simulate fish scales:

putting scales in fondant fish cake

Once the scales were all pressed in, I used gum paste for the fins and attached them with gum paste adhesive (water mixed with gum paste will create this “glue”): putting gum paste fins on fondant fish cake

Here are some step-by-step photographs of the entire process. The fish took approximately 4 hours from start to finish. IMG_7156

STEP 2: Create the “water”
Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of this part of the process!! I laid a silicone mat on top of a cake board that was the same size as the one I would be placing the fish on. Then, I used isomalt nibs (purchased on Amazon- isomalt is a sugar substitute) and melted them and then poured it on in rings, to make it look more like water. It hardens really quickly.

Once the isomalt was cool, I peeled the silicone mat off the back and set the “water” onto the blue fondant-covered cake board. Ta-da, looks a little something like water!

close up of fish scales for fondant cake

STEP 3: Add the “extras”
Gum paste grass, fondant sign, modeling chocolate mud… that’s about it!

fish cake isomalt water

close up of fish scales for fondant fish cake 1

bass fish cake fondant What other things would you like to see made of modeling chocolate? Comment below!

 

 

A UFO Cake That’s Out of This World!

inside structure of UFO cakeWhat do aliens serve their tea on?

Flying saucers!

(Sorry. I can’t resist lame jokes.)

I recently had the honor of making this cake for my mother’s quilt guild for their UFO-themed retreat. (To a quilter, a “UFO” is an “UnFinished Object,” and so they all brought their UFOs to the retreat and finished them up.) I really enjoyed working on this cake, and I’m guessing it’s because I had lots of help! 🙂

THE INNER STRUCTURE:
The entire structure of this UFO was engineered by my brother-in-law. He’s a realtor by day (need a new home? Check him out here: http://www.ikahngroup.com/) but he’s a creative engineer by night. (Side note: I wouldn’t recommend going to their house at Halloween. Lights/sounds/structures/props/music/moving creatures/and more will scare just about everyone.) The structure he created allowed for battery-operated lights as well as dry ice for fog. A long metal tube had a few vents cut out at the top. Water was to be poured inside the tube, the dry ice added, and the cake set on top. The dry ice would billow around the base of the spaceship, making it look more realistic. Meanwhile, on the ship, the lights were put through drilled holes and stuck in the styrofoam to resemble a “typical” UFO shape. There also was an access point for the lights battery pack. (I tell you, the guy thinks of everything!)

As I mentioned, I didn’t do a whole lot for this cake. It was dropped off and I just got to do the fun part. 🙂 So, thank you again, Dan, for being the brains and brawn behind the operation! And thanks to my dad, who researched, drove out to buy, and later chopped up the dry ice. And my mom, who patiently helped me take about a zillion photos with different lighting/smoke patterns/backgrounds. As usual, I could not do this by myself!

(There should be a Vine (video) below. Mobile users/ email subscribers, it may not show up. There are flashing lights, so if you’re seeing the short Vine video below and it’s bothering you, simply click on the video, and it will stop.)

COVERING THE BASE:
Here are some in-process photos of the UFO base:UFO cake how to bottom of UFO with lights Want to know something sad? There is a tool that is like a pencil and has a roller on the end. You roll it along your fondant and it’ll punch in a perfectly straight line of little holes. I own this tool, but did not have it with me while I was decorating. So if you’re wondering how long it takes to punch those holes in, one by one, for each metal panel on the top and bottom of the UFO, the answer is: approximately nine thousand hours. And made infinitely worse knowing you already possessed the tool.how to in process UFO cake fondantI sprayed the fondant-covered base with silver Wilton color spray. A bit of a mess (so it was done outside)- but look at the difference between the unsprayed/ sprayed versions!UFO cake with wilton silver sprayCREATING THE DESERT:
This desert easily could have been made out of cake. Since I didn’t need that many servings, I used paper so that I could do it in advance. Also, it was lighter than cake. And less time-consuming. And cheaper. Steps here: crumple up newspaper, randomly tape chunks of it to the board, and cover with fondant. Then, paint fondant a bit at a time with piping gel, and put on cornmeal. (That was what we happened to have in the cupboards. I’m not in love with the color, but it looks alright.)

making the base of ufo cakeMAKING THE ACTUAL CAKE PART:
This part was the easiest! I call it: “The UFO That Looks Like a Hat.”

top of UFO cake fondant  I used a small pop-top light to put on the top of the cake.

UFO cake with lights fondant UFO cake bottom with lights

UFO cake with dry ice fog and ligths UFO cake with lights and alien

Bonus: these little guys were actually purchased in Roswell. I feel like they gave some authenticity to the whole endeavor. aliens sitting on demolished UFO cake

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?

A Flowerpot Cake with Gum Paste Orchids

I always knew I would end up in Urgent Care because of the Blackhawks; I just always figured it would be cardiac-related. So now, older and wiser, might I suggest: Do not attempt to cake decorate while watching a Stanley Cup Final game.

This particular cake was for a pair of dear colleagues who were retiring from my school. A cake, shaped like a flowerpot, fit both their interests and so I set to work. The first step was to create the gum paste flowers, a task that is time consuming, but pays off big in the end. (Just set up your Netflix and the hours will pass by.) You’ll need to first cut the petals out of gum paste, attach a wire to the back, and drape them across wax paper to let them dry. After they’ve dried (a day or two), you can paint them with food coloring mixed with clear extract. Once they’re painted, gather the petals in an artistic fashion and wrap them with floral tape. Viola!

step by step teal purple gum paste orchids Stick them in some styrofoam to dry:

gum paste orchids dryingattaching gum paste flowers to stickAs these were orchids (well, they were supposed to be orchids. They morphed into something else. 🙂 ), the flowers were supposed to be clumped together at the top of a stick. I had an idea to create a little divot in the top of the stick, and then I would rest the wire in that divot, and it would ensure the flowers wouldn’t slide down the stick. (You can see the divot pictured above. It came at a price.)

It was a good idea in theory, just carried out in a really, really dumb fashion. First of all, I don’t own a saw, and was trying to cut into the wood with a big knife. (Stupid Idea #1.) Then, I was holding the wooden dowel rod between my fingers with one hand while sawing away with the other. (Stupid Idea #2.) Thirdly, I was watching a very important game on TV during which the players were playing like complete doofuses. (Stupid Idea #3.) So as I was yelling something at the TV during the second period, a thought quickly flitted through my brain, like the fleeting glint of sunlight on a butterfly’s wings… “This isn’t safe.” And then a millisecond later, the knife slipped.

To their crIMG_5442edit, the staff at the Urgent Care was very kind and almost completely hid their sighs of resigned exasperation at the patient who enters the building at 9:58pm when they close at 10. The women were so eager to get home (probably wanted to catch the third period), that all three of them were working on me at once. I felt like I was a patient in “Grey’s Anatomy,” except I wasn’t even sick.

The most important piece of information here is addressed to my many friends who were at this party, and who oblige me and read this blog: This contraption was made several days before I made the cake, and in a different place and with different tools. So don’t worry, everything is safe and clean as always. 🙂 gum paste orchids internal cake structure

The last step was the actual cake. I tried a new oreo cake recipe that was pretty yummy! It had oreo frosting, with chunks of oreos inside, which made for bumpy fondant. Luckily, the squares of fondant I placed around the pot to create a “tiled” look also hid some of the bumps. Once the fondant was finished, I topped it off with some more frosting and then crumbled, dry oreos. (To look like dirt.)  IMG_6248gum paste flower 1           

 

gum paste flower 2teal and purple orchid gum paste flowers with cake flowerpotInjury aside, I think it came out fairly well. And I learned something very important about myself: I cannot handle the sight of the inside of my own finger.