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Everything posted by bkeith

  1. I got mine here. I'm told you can also get them via your local craft store, but I haven't had occasion to verify that.
  2. Annie, Annie, Annie. You're too much. Love it!
  3. Wow -- this is exciting. I usually read eG in the morning, but may have to do a midnight drop-in for the next couple days to catch the reports hot off the press. Thanks, Lee!
  4. Kinda depends on how much coloration you're willing to accept vs. how rapidly it'll get affected by humidity. 320-340 is where you want to head. Less color in the lower range, but will dissolve into a puddle quicker.
  5. Yep. Way back in my misspent youth I worked at McDonald's (small town -- not too many job options for 16-year-olds). We used something that sounded exactly like that for pancake batter.
  6. You're right - it is a cooked buttercream. Sort of a cross between standard French (yolks only) and Italian meringue (whites only). I use whole eggs it's based on the Cupcake Cafe buttercream (recipe in this thread). I can't imagine the hand smoothing trick would work on a shortening-powdered sugar icing. heavenlybakes says: Heh. Sometimes it feels like I've been doing this for a million years. Usually Friday nights around 2:00 am. And thanks to everyone for all the nice comments! ICES Convention next week, and I usually come home jazzed from that. I'll try to focus that momentum into getting a couple more demos done during the slow slow slow month of August.
  7. Wendy says: The plates and legs are from Bakery Crafts (www.bakerycrafts.com). Wholesale accounts only. They're a little tough to find in cake shops as far as I can tell. I stocked them in my storefront, but I don't know of many other cake shops that do. I guess I should stock up and put them up for sale on my website. No real tricks for evenly cutting the legs, unfortunately. Since the saw is light, I find I can hold it still and move the leg across the blade. Hold the leg tight against the flat plate on the bottom of the saw, then bring it toward the blade. The little markings on the legs every 1/2" helps. Even when I'm not cutting directly on one of them, I can still use the marking as a guide for keeping the same angle through the cut. I like the tape MUCH better. For one, I'm not really big on putting wooden dowels in my cakes. For one thing, I can taste the woody flavor they impart if they've been in there a while. For another, even though I've not experienced it personally, I've been told of cases where the wooden dowels left in a cake for a few days absorbed moisture from the cake and started to mildew. Plus, since the plates are plastic, I'd have to drill holes in each one if I wanted to drive a dowel down through the whole cake. I didn't point it out earlier, but if you look closely at the top side of one of the plates, you'll see a little plastic knob sticking up. That punctures the board of the cake that goes on top of it, and the combination of that and the tape makes a very sturdy cake. Annie says: I'd love to see that (but then, I'm your number one fan!). I know there are lots of ways to do this. I've seen a handout that Colette did on her tilted cakes, and much as I'm awed by the finished product, she uses a LOT of wooden dowels. Not my favorite technique, but each to his or her own. K8 says: I'd love to claim that as my own original idea, but I can't. I learned that from Earlene Moore a couple years ago. Good luck with that. I got mine years ago, and since then I never see them in stores. A few of my students have come back to me saying that they've asked, but the big home improvement stores just don't carry them any more. I've found them online here , but the first time I did it, it took me a while (search the power tool collection for the term "VersaPak" -- that's the batteries it uses). Of course, you can't buy it online direct from B&D. Maybe if cake folks all over the country keep pestering their local Home Depots, they'll start carrying the darned things again. Racheld says: But, but... Colette IS a real person. Just existing on a higher plane than folks like me. Man, I love it when people get my offbeat references. Freddurf says: Sure. It's all in what you're used to and how you handle it. Wooden dowels, plastic dowels, drinking straws, etc. will all work as supports. But if I were using any of those, I'd want to use something as a side-to-side stabilizer (dowel driven through the middle, etc.) for transport. Or stack the cake on site. And I wouldn't be nearly so cavalier about setting the complete cake in the back of my SUV and hopping on the DC Beltway to deliver it. For some sculpted cakes I use a steel pipe attached to a flange which is bolted to a wooden board for this sort of support. Cover it all with contact paper to keep it away from the cake, drill holes in each cake and board, and slide them down onto the pipe. In that case, I'll use straws for vertical support, and let the steel pipe be my side-to-side stability.
  8. Kinda depends on how wacky and varied you want the slices to be. You can certainly just cut it straight (the smaller tiers, anyway) and get some odd-shaped pieces, some 4" tall and some up to 6" tall. What I suggest, though is that the server make a horizontal cut a little below the top, starting at the low side. Cut up odd-shaped top piece into things that approach a normal serving size. Then you're left with the remains of the tier which are regular cake height, just with slopings sides. Cut that as you would a regular cake tier of its size and let people pick which type of slice they want.
  9. I finally got an interesting project to demo and a working camera all at the same time. People ask me all the time how I do the topsy-turvy Mad Hatterish cakes on my site and how on earth I get them to the customer site without a disaster. I know there are lots of folks out there doing lopsided cakes and using various forms of construction, but this particular method is what I came up with to suit my needs. Some background. First thing to know is that I HATE setting up cakes on site. When I'm working in my own place, if I happen to drop a dollop of icing or drizzle some chocolate on the table, it's no big deal. Just clean up and keep going. But at a reception site you have to work on a table that's already dressed, and the extra pressure of trying to work super clean to avoid mussing the tablecloth pretty much guarantees that I'm going to leave a spot dead center in front of the cake. So my preference by far is to assemble the entire cake at home, drive it to the site, walk it in, set it down, and disappear. I can't always do it -- separations are a problem, and some cakes are just too darned heavy to carry by myself once they're all assembled -- but most of the cakes I do arrive with no assembly required. The fact that I'm a big guy and can carry a 150+ serving cake all assembled sure helps in that regard. This particular cake wasn't for a wedding, but rather a birthday party. The youngster's parents rented out a movie theatre for a private showing of the new "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" movie, and wanted the cake to be reminiscent of the movie. Since this was opening weekend of the film, I obviously wasn't able to see it in advance, so I had to rely on some stills from the movie website. So, wacky cake for 100. Here we go: First, for the topsy-turvy cakes, I like them tall, and I like them to taper such that the base of each tier is smaller than the top of the tier. That helps to add to the appearance of instability. For each tier, then, I bake 3 2" layers in graduating sizes. This is a 3-tier cake, and the sizes I'm using are 6-7-8, 8-9-10, 10-11-12. I.e., the top tier consists of a 6" layer, a 7" layer, and an 8" layer, etc. I think the proportions work well when the largest layer of one tier is the same size as the smallest layer of the tier it sits on. (The 6-7-8 top tier sits on top of the 8-9-10 middle tier which sits on the 10-11-12 base tier). Make sense? Base tier is chocolate, and the middle and top are white. OK, here they all are, tops leveled, wrapped up, and ready for a chill before torting: The 10" and 11" layers of the base tier get torted as normal: Then assembled with a buttercream filling. I'm taking a hint from chefpeon here and building this part of the tier upside down (thanks, Annie!). I used to stack the smallest, then the middle, then the largest layers, which makes for some floppy edges to deal with. This way things stay where you want them until it's time to trim and clean up. I don't place the 10" layer dead-center onto the 11" layer on purpose. The slant that lends helps with the illusion: The 12" layer gets torted at an angle. I don't worry about super precision here since imperfect angles just add to the effect. I just hold the knife at the top edge on one side and aim for the opposite corner: Here's a slightly better shot showing the cut angle: When I fill and reassemble this layer, I rotate one of the pieces so that the thicker sides are together: Everyone goes back in to chill a bit and set up the buttercream. Then remove both pieces, flip the 10-11 part to put the 10" part on the bottom, slap on some more buttercream, and place the angled 12" layer on top: (top secret recipes hanging on the fridge -- no peeking!) I use a sharp knife to clean up the sides a bit and get rid of any corners sticking out, then give the whole thing a crumb coat and stick it back into the fridge: Here are all three tiers assembled, cleaned up, and crumbcoated: OK, big secret number one. The topsy-turvy thing is an optical illusion. Each tier is actually sitting on a flat surface, just like a regular wedding cake. The question is, then, now that we've made all these angled cake tops, how do we come up with a a flat surface to set the next tier on? Start cutting, baby. This is the 10-11-12 tier. On it will sit the 8-9-10 tier, so I need to make an 8" round flat spot. I take a cake cardboard (or pan or, in this case, cheesecake pan insert) and set it on the tier where I want the next tier to sit: I then cut vertically into the cake, all the way around the circle: Next, place the knife in horizontally at the lowest spot of the circle you've just cut, and move it side to side (extracting and reinserting as necessary so you're not trying to cut with the back of the blade). Then remove the chunk of cake you've just freed from its moorings: Spread buttercream over the now naked surfaces and re-chill. (Note to self: next time no matter how late it is and how tired you are, don't just try to slap icing onto a freshly cut chocolate cake unless you really DO want crumbs in the icing ). After it's chilled, I'll use my impeccably clean hands to finish the smoothing (thanks again, Annie): OK, here are all three tiers. Two have been modified to create a shelf for the next tier up. Obviously, the top tier doesn't need this since it's the top. The modified tiers always make me think of a baseball stadium: Now cover with fondant. In this case they're all green because I was going for the look of the inside of the chocolate factory, with the rolling green hills, chocolate river, and candy plants. Typically I'll use 3 different colors, then mix and match those colors for accent pieces: Prep the board. I use 1/2" foam board for pretty much all my bases. Lightweight, strong, and easy to cut with a utility knife to the size and shape I want. Here it is, covered in green foil: I also use foam board instead of cake circles as a base for each tier. For this, I use the 3/16" thickness. Plenty sturdy to hold a tier - even up to 20" or more -- and WAY less likely to flex or collapse than cardboard cake circles. For any cake that's 2 tiers or more (and for some cakes that are only one tier), I like to put feet on the board. Trying to get my fingers under a cake board with a heavy cake on it is no fun. The feet give me room to get under there so I can pick it up. For a wedding cake, it also gives you space to tuck the stems of flowers and greenery for a nice finishing effect: (Want to know where I got those cute little plastic feet that I hot-glued onto the bottom of the board? Keep reading...) This is my favorite assembly method for tiered cakes. It's called the Single Plate System from Bakery Crafts. The legs fit very snugly into the fittings on the bottom of the plate, and the whole assembly pushes down into the supporting tier to make a very stable platform for the next tier to sit on. The legs are 9" long, so they're a good height if you're doing separations. Most of my cakes are stacked, though, so I cut them: When I'm stacking a cake, I like to remove the ring around each of the fittings in the bottom side of the plate. It lets the assembly push down into the supporting cake without displacing any more cake than we have to. That ring look familiar? That's what I use for feet under the base. I always wind up freeing up more of them than I use on any given cake, so I've now got a bucket full of them. Maybe I should start selling them. After removing the rings, place the plate atop the tier it's going to sit on and pretty gently to mark where the legs will go. This will help later to line up the legs and make sure they're going in straight. Also gives you a place to measure the height of the tier: I use a hemming ruler to measure the height and mark my legs for cutting. Just stick it straight in to the cake where one of the leg marks is, slide the little marker thingy down to the top of the cake, and extract. I usually then subtract another 1/8" to make sure the plate will sit snug on top of the cake and not sit up at all. In this case the height of the cake came to exactly 5 inches. I'll let you believe that I planned and executed perfectly to make that happen if you like: The hemming ruler goes through the dishwasher with no ill effects, by the way. Cut the legs to the measurement you need. I use my adorable little battery-powered circular saw -- my dad would be so proud (sniff). If you don't have one, you can use a hacksaw: Make sure to clean off any residual plastic oogies left by the saw, and WASH THE LEGS THOROUGHLY. Don't want to leave little plastic bits in the cake. Ick. As added protection, I make sure the cut end is the one that gets inserted into the plate, just in case. Stick the legs firmly into the plate, and your assembly is ready to go into the cake: Line up the leg bases with the marks in the cake and press gently but firmly to insert the little "table" all the way into the supporting cake. Big secret number two: Carpet tape. I get the "high traffic area" 2-inch wide stuff. A couple strips go down onto the base, and the bottom tier is stuck down. Then a couple strips go on top of each plate before the next tier gets placed on. Do make sure to start peeling the backing from one corner before sticking it down. It's much easier than trying to peel it once it's on the plate: Note that when I inserted the plate assembly, I mucked up the fondant on the inner vertical part of the stadium. That's going to be hidden by the next tier, so it doesn't worry me too much. In order to get the plate as snug as possible into that curve, you almost have to do a little damage. Here are all three tiers stacked and ready for decoration. I like to turn the tiers so that each one looks lopsided, but the overall effect is balanced. I decided it would be easier to get the chocolate waterfalls in place as I was stacking rather than trying to fit them in after the fact. There's another on that you can't see emanating from a pool on the top tier going down the back side to the middle tier: For a border, I usually make a bunch of balls of rolled fondant of varying sizes. These are then placed at the base of each tier such that the largest ball sits at the highest spot of the supporting tier, and they graduate down so that the smallest ball is at the lowest spot. Helps add to the illusion. This time, though I wanted the peppermint stick effect, so I made snakes of rolled fondant in red and white, thinner at the ends and thicker in the middle (like a snake that's just had a meal!), then twisted them together and wrapped around the base of each tier, fattest part at the high side of the supporting tier, thinner parts at the low side. Here's the finished product after decoration and delivery. I made a bunch of odd trees, mushrooms, bushes, pumpkins, vines, and stepping stones from colored modeling chocolate. Same for the spouts that the chocolate is gushing from. I decided that the waterfalls looked too flat, so I went back and painted more chocolate onto the surface to make it look more like it was flowing. The lighting on the photo isn't terrific because it was in a movie theatre where the lights are always somewhat dimmed.
  10. Well, my feet weren't busy at the time.... Business would be a lot easier if it weren't for all the darned customers!
  11. OK, mini-demo on square corners. Hope this helps to clarify my explanation above. This was done rather quickly, so forgive the imperfection. You ought to be able to get the technique, anyway. First, a square "cake" (sorry -- didn't have a real cake around to mess with). Slapped some icing on a square pan, and when I went to clean some icing away, I came up with a perfect square corner without even trying. So I took an intentional swipe at the corner to mess it up a bit so you could see what's what: With your left hand, hold a spatula vertically in front of you so the right edge of the spatula is where you want the corner to be.: With another spatula in your right hand, start adding dabs of icing on the side of the cake running away from you, building up the corner against the "dam" spatula in your left hand: Work the corner all the way up to the top of the cake, then use your right hand spatula to clean it up, scraping against the left hand spatula to make a nice clean line. Make sure to clean any icing off the back of the left hand spatula too, otherwise it may decide to stay behind when you go to take the spatula away: Now gently slide the left hand spatula to the left, slowly bringing it away from the cake side to minimize the lift-off mark: Once the corners are built, I generally go back with my bench scraper and clean up the sides between the corners. Same method works to do the corners on top of the cake too, just hold the left hand spatula horizontally (use a larger, elbow spatula to get a longer, cleaner edge): Hope that helps.
  12. Nope. The one in your left hand is flat against the flat side facing you (vertical - handle up). The one in your right hand is flat against the side running away (horizontal, handle towards you).
  13. I got to here: and thought, "hazelnut dacqoise and something caramelly". Then I read this: I'd go with a couple layers of hazelnut dacquoise and alternating layers of caramel buttercream (or mousse) and passionfruit curd for the fillings.
  14. I learned this technique from a retired bricklayer. It's something that would take me about 5 seconds to show, but I may not be able to describe adequately at all. Here goes: After your base coat has set up, get your icing nice and smooth and bubble free. Spread icing on the sides and top of your cake. Now, we're going to work on this corner of the cake (pardon the ASCII graphics -- not a treat in HTML): __________________| <-- apply icing here hold spatula here ^ Hold a small straight spatula in your left hand (assuming you're right-handed) vertically, just at the spot where you want the corner to be, blade parallel to you. Hold it still - you're using it as a brace or dam. With a spatula in your other hand, apply dabs of icing, adhering to the corner of the cake that's running away from you. With each application, pull your right hand back toward you and scrape the icing onto the stationary vertical spatula. Build up the corner like that all way up the cake side. When you've got a nice-looking corner, remove the stationary spatula by sliding it gently to the left so that you're not pulling away icing but rather doing a slight smoothing motion on the near side. Hope that makes sense. If not, I'll see if I can photograph the process after I'm done with class tonight. I should only need 3 or 4 hands to do it.
  15. I find a heating pad works better than a griddle for keeping chocolate pipeable, especially when summer coating is involved. Just set the heating pad on warm, fold it over, and stash your bag in the fold. Keeps the chocolate nice and melty. Also, were you using a tip in your bag? Chocolate hardens up really fast in metal tips. I use a small parchment bag and just cut an opening, and it works fine.
  16. Oh. My. God. I can't tell if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I can't run out to the grocery store right now.
  17. Here it is. The article Steve's referring to is about halfway down in post #14. Lots of great advice in the thread so far, and I don't really have any extra to add. Except that in the name of hubris, despite all the warnings to the contrary and despite the experiences of those who've been there, I'd probably lean very heavily toward making my own cake. Good thing I'll probably never get married.
  18. Here's the buttercream recipe from the Cupcake Cafe cookbook (Their directions go on and on -- I've "tersified" them to save typing and avoid copyright issues): 4 cups sugar 1 cup water 6 eggs, room temperature 2 ½ pounds unsalted butter, room temperature 1 tsp vanilla extract Combine sugar and water, bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover 5 minutes. Insert candy thermometer and bring syrup to 236F without stirring. Beat eggs a bit, then add sugar syrup a bit at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Cover and let cool to room temperature. Beat butter, add the egg “goop” a bit at a time until it’s all incorporated. Add vanilla. That's pretty much the recipe I use for my basic buttercream. I use the more traditional method of adding the butter to the egg mix instead of adding the egg mix to the butter. I've done it both ways, and haven't found a real advantage to one over the other. The consistency is great, but I'd probably find it awfully soft for piping flowers (but then I don't pipe many flowers). Could be that their method of beating the butter and adding the egg goop makes a firmer icing -- it's been a while since I did it that way, so I really don't remember. There aren't many photos in the book, but the few in the decorating section show them piping all the flowers directly onto the cake. For most, they make a mound of icing, then pipe the flower (roses included) onto the mound right on the cake surface. that's how they get the interesting petal angles. Limber up your wrists! I'd say just make sure to keep the buttercream cool, and beat it right before use for best results. HTH
  19. When I need a deep color in fondant or gum paste, I'll generally make a batch from scratch (but then I make all my own fondant) using airbrush color in place of the water in the recipe. Works great, and no kneading paste color in. Also this stuff takes food color off of skin better than anything else I've tried. Smells great too.
  20. Steve beat me to it, but I'll reinforce. I don't have a problem with the idea of cake kits in general, but the couple that I clicked on are non-trivial projects. I think the verbiage on the site sets up an expectation that anyone can make these cakes, and I think a number of folks who purchase the kits may well be frustrated and disappointed. There's a difference between a savvy baker and a savvy decorator. I started baking at my grandmother's elbow when I was a kid, and through fits and starts got to be a pretty savvy home baker over the succeeding 25 years or so before I stumbled into decorating. But I guaran-freaking-tee you there's no way I'd have been able to cover a 16" cake with fondant on my first try, especially with the pressure of a wedding looming. I rather imagine at least one component of the cake would have wound up as an angry, oily smear on the kitchen wall before I was done. And that's not even taking into account the fussiness of dealing with a 16" cake layer in the first place. In theory I think the kits might be a good thing, and good for Gail Watson if she's discovered a viable line of business. But there's a real art to setting customer expectations, especially in situations where emotions tend to run high (like weddings). I would hope the written instructions are rock-solid and that there's some amount of verbal consultation with the customer before the purchase, just so the customer knows what he/she is getting into.
  21. Heh. I hate it when the first question is "How much lead time do you need for a cake order?" My answer is always "more than you're about to give me." Good info on pricing. Thanks for sharing.
  22. Fabulous, Annie! Thanks much for sharing. I picked up some great tips and loved watching you work. Things I said out loud as I was reading: . "White chocolate! Fabulous!" (in reference to using it to stick the cake to the board) . "I can't believe she did all that detailing on the baby with the umbrella in place!" Especially after your comments about having made only one umbrella! And thanks for keeping the "oopses" in there. I tell all my students that a large part of cake decorating is hiding your mistakes. Good to know the mistakes don't go away when you become a demigod.
  23. Essentially, equal parts shortening and corn syrup, a little flavoring, and enough sugar to make a consistency stiffer than a spreading buttercream but softer than rolled fondant. The recipe I have calls for 1 cup corn syrup, 1 cup Crisco, 2 lbs powdered sugar, plus a little lemon and orange oil and a touch of salt. I went half-and-half Crisco and butter, and the additional water from the butter didn't seem to bother it too much. To roll it, you sandwich it between two sheets of heavy upholstery plastic. Roll it to size, crumbcoat the cake, peel off one sheet of plastic, ivert the plastic with the rolled buttercream adhering over the cake, peel off the plastic, and smooth it down with your hands. I believe my batch may have been just a tad too soft, as I had to fight with it a bit to get the second piece of plastic off, and had to dust it with powdered sugar in order to smooth it without sticking to it. The consistency coming out of the mixer seemed to fit the description in the recipe, but a little more powdered sugar kneaded in wouldn't have hurt. My problems with it: . Even half-and-half, there was too much Crisco. It felt greasy in the mouth . All that corn syrup made it kind of chewy . Harder to work with than fondant. I probably rolled it thinner than most practioners of rolled buttercream do. The recipe said it would cover a 9" cake with a little left over. I covered an 8" cake and had at least half the batch left. The stuff is billed as having the best aspects of both rolled fondant and shortening-based buttercream, but I found it had the negative aspects people associate with both with no real benefits over either. But that's just my humble opinion.
  24. Here's mine. Sorry for the crappy photo: My niece was born on Mother's Day 16 years ago (ugh - where does the time go?), so we do a dual celebration every year. My family understands that they're more than likely going to be guinea pigs for some experiment, and this year was no exception. 3 layers of Wendy's banana cake alternating with 2 disks of hazelnut meringue, lightly sprayed with chocolate to keep it crisp. All sandwiched with a cream cheese buttercream to which I added some passionfruit puree at the last minute. With the extra bits left over after assembly, I made a smaller, non-decorated version of the same to take to a stitch-n-bitch last night, and the "yum" sentiment was unanimous. For the exterior, I'm supposed to be leading an informal workshop on rolled buttercream next week, and I hadn't touched the stuff in years. Figured I'd get a little practice in so that I'm at least 1/2 step ahead of the folks I'm supposedly leading. ;) Covered the cake, did some crimping, embossing, and painting (it's hard to see, but I painted a lot of lustery effects -- very Colette-ish). The stuff works ok, but I won't be switching from fondant any time soon. I'm fairly sure that none of the flowers on the cake is less than 4 years old. ;) I dug through the "extras" box, and those are what I came up with.
  25. I don't have a cat. Do you think it would work on a dog?
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