Winter in California!

Here in Northern California we like to think that we have seasons, even if some of them only last a couple of weeks. Do you remember that one spring day last March?  Summer is hot and lasts way too long, and I think we had 3 whole weeks of fall this year!  But what about winter?  We like to fool ourselves into thinking that we have a real winter, at least here in Sacramento where I live. However, we are seriously lacking in that one icon of winter... snow!  Oh, sure, the mountains are not too far away and the foothills get their share of snow, but down here in the valley, it is certainly rare.  Rare enough that if we do get some snow, the kids all joyously race outside to build a "snowman" with the icy slush that can be found on the ground, and the news reporters all gleefully race to find one of those snowmen to document, which will then be front page news the next day.   Now I am quite certain that locations that actually have a real winter, like say North Dakota, snowmen don't make front page news. But here in California they do. I remember one year my cousin's snowman made the front page and we still have that newspaper clipping in a scrapbook somewhere.

But what is winter without these icons? So we try and get creative. 





Apparently, even our cookie snowmen seem to melt around here.  But they are cute, festive, and super easy to make!











My kids think these are the best cookies ever, and my son was super excited to take these guys to his class for a Christmas cookie exchange.


If you want to make them, they are really easy, especially if you do what I did. Use edible markers! I started with the faces, using a large marshmallow, I drew various faces with the edible markers.  I cheated and used a sugar cookie mix, so when the cookies were cool, I rolled (1/8 inch thick) and cut out white fondant using a large flower cutter. Then I drizzled some of the white Wilton Cookie icing on each cookie and placed the fondant cut out on top (the icing helps the fondant stick to the cookie).  Then I drew on the arms and buttons. It doesn't show in these photos, but I used some red and green disco dust on the buttons to make them a little more special, but you could easily skip that part. Then I added just a little bit of a scarf.  you could add hats, bow ties, mittens, or anything else to make your snowmen special!

I tried to make them all a little different, some have crooked noses, some are straight, some twist like a corkscrew, and the arms are not all in the same position. Some are chillin' California style, and some are a little surprised to be melting so fast.  


I hope you are enjoying the winter season where ever you are! 

Penguin Wedding Cake Toppers

I am so thrilled with how well this pair came out!  The bride who asked me to make the grooms cake from the last post also asked if I could make their wedding cake topper.  I don't normally do toppers, unless I am making the cake too, but I made an exception this time.


This cute pair was my first venture into clay, which is very much like working with fondant, so it worked out well.  I prefer to make all my stuff out of edible materials, but sometimes you just want to keep them longer than sugar would allow.


This happy couple deserves to stick around for awhile!

Military Groom's Cake!

This week I was honored to make a cake for a groom who serves in the US Army, 82nd Airborne division.  The Bride wanted a camouflage cake with different elements from his service. 


The Camo cover was done entirely in buttercream and I am really pleased with how it turned out! The flag and other elements were fondant (with some royal piping).

On this side, his CIB Badge and the 82nd Airborne Logo.
This side features the Lost Boys platoon image.
The grooms dog tags were draped over the top of the cake.


It is always an honor to be able to do something for the men and women of our military. I sure hope he enjoys his cake!  Congratulations Courtney and Dylan! 


Berry Wedding Cake


Every time I finish a wedding cake I vow I will not to any more weddings. They are generally really very stressful. I don't want to disappoint anyone. What happens if the cake falls apart in transport? What if everything goes wrong? I can't help it. I know that for many people, including myself, weddings are a big deal! The bride and groom want everything to go right and they want everything to be "perfect."  A wedding cake may only be a small part of the wedding, but really it is an iconic part, even if most people don't remember it after it is all said and done. 

Up until this point I have only done cakes for friends and family, and the occasional friend of a friend. This cake represents a first for me... the first time I have ever made a cake for someone I didn't know.  I met Eryn when her sister saw my cake featured on the Sunday Sweets edition of Cake Wrecks awhile back.  Eryn had been searching for a cake decorator who would incorporate fresh fruit into the design. Sounds simple right? Apparently no one will do it! She asked me if I would be willing to help and make her cake. I really had to think about that. Was I ready for this step? Especially with a wedding cake? In the end I couldn't say no. I am glad I didn't.


Eryn is the sweetest person and I really enjoyed working with her.  The design we came up with was simple but beautiful and I really love how it turned out.  This time everything went as planned.  I was worried that at the end of strawberry season, the strawberries might not look all that pretty, but even that was perfect. God is good.


 For this cake Eryn wanted a simple cake with a topper that incorporated fresh strawberries, blueberries, and one of the flowers from her bouquet.  I immediately honed in on the stargazer lilies because they make a beautiful statement (and they are fun to make!).


If you look closely I was able to work a little string work in on the bottom border.  Eryn wanted it simple, but I couldn't resist adding that little detail at the bottom, just making that small detail a little bit more special without making it look over done.


 All the leaves and flowers were handmade by me, all the strawberries and blueberries were purchased (made by God). A few people have asked me how long something like this takes to make. Well, each flower took about an hour to make and after all the pieces were made and dried, It took me about 5 hours to put all of the flowers and toppers together. So the toppers themselves took about 11 hours all together. IT would be faster to use real flowers, but in the end, I really prefer to make them. I like that "wow" factor when people realize they aren't  real and someone took the time to make them by hand.  That is what makes this an art.

It is cakes like this one that make me want to do more weddings. Thanks to Eryn and Sam for allowing me this opportunity to be a part of your special day!  I do hope you enjoyed the cake. Congratulations and I pray you two enjoy many years of happiness together!

iPhone Cake!

I don't know exactly why, but I have been wanting to make a cake that looks like an iphone/ipod or some sort of pad for awhile now. But I have been busy making all kinds of other things. There hasn't really been a demand for gadget-inspired cakes lately. Until now! My hubby's uncle was in town for his birthday (hi Uncle John!), and we were all getting together to celebrate, so I brought the cake!  The only request was that it be my (ahem) award-winning Caramel Apple Pie Cake, and they left the design to me.  He actually works for Apple, so I finally had my chance.


For simplicity sake, and because the cake was on the smaller side, I decided to leave off the icon labels, but I tried to pick ones that would be fairly recognizable, so the labels wouldn't be missed. Can you identify them all?

Happy Birthday Uncle John! It sure was good to see you again!

Candy Land Creation

This was the cake I made for my daughter's 3rd birthday! When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, she only said, "chocolate." That's my girl! But it left me a little unsure of what kind of design to do for her cake. Then my son changed his cake to Monopoly and the game theme party was born. My daughter loves Candy Land, so then it was easy! I love this cake!


The gingerbread characters were made by making a mold using the actual pieces from the game.


The ice cream cone topper is actually a cupcake made in an ice cream cone and topped with lots of yummy butter cream! This was the birthday girl's piece and she loved it!



So a great big happy birthday to my sweet, wonderful, silly, little girl! Mommy loves you very much! I can't wait to see what new discoveries this year brings.

Monopoly Madness

This last week was a busy week making not one, but two birthday cakes for my two kiddos. They shared a party, but had separate cakes, so all was well in their birthday world. It seems that there are only three requirements for a fun birthday... they get to pick their cake, they get presents, and they have fun with their friends. I think we covered all the bases.

Today, I am going to highlight my son's cake. Really he started designing this year's cake, about 90 minutes or so after last year's cake was eaten, but as with all kids his age (he's now 7), it changed a LOT over the year. First it was Mario Kart, then Angry Birds, then Mario again, and then I think Pokemon was in there briefly, then Angry Birds again. Just before I was going to start really working on the design, he decided to change it... again, this time to his very favorite board game, Monopoly!



I wanted to do something other than just re-create the board on the cake, and I wanted to do it as a two-tier cake. My original plan involved adding in all the property details on the first tier, but my son declared that he wanted me to leave it just the way it was, so I did.  I can't tell you how much I really wanted to finish it, because to me it isn't done. However, that is what he wanted, so that is what I did.


I am happy with how the Monopoly dude came out ("No mom, that is MR. Monopoly, not a dude").Ah, well, I like how he came out, what ever his name is.


Happy Birthday to my incredibly smart, wonderful, loving, sweet boy. Mommy loves you very much! I love seeing how God is working in your life and how you are learning about Jesus and how much He loves you. The last seven years has been quite an adventure and I am looking forward to the next seven!

Ladybug First Birthday

A special little girl is celebrating her first birthday! What better than a cute ladybug cake and a little smash cake to celebrate the special day?


This cake is a very yummy strawberry cake, which might possibly be my new favorite flavor, at least for summer and spring. It is also mostly butter cream, with fondant accents, which is a first I think. I usually end up doing fondant with butter cream accents, but these days I am leaning more and more the other way. 



The ladybug topper was made out of rice treats, covered in almond modeling "chocolate" and finished with fondant. I really like how she came out, sleepy but happy! 


I made this little smash cupcake for the birthday girl. I wanted to make it a bit larger than a standard cupcake, but didn't have any cupcake wrappers that size, so I decided to try dipping the cupcake in melted almond bark. It worked great! So it has an edible"wrapper with butter cream leaves and a butter cream ladybug.

Happy Birthday little Savannah!

Happy (Belated) Father's Day!


This year I decided to make a departure from my usual cake making to make a Father's Day Pie!  Ok, so maybe pies aren't always very manly, but trust me, this one fits the bill! I ran across this recipe (from Sprinkle Bakes) back in March and tucked it away, just waiting for an opportunity to make it... Sweet and Salty Guinness Chocolate Pie with Beer Marshmallow Meringue. Oh yeah. If ever a pie was made for a man, well at least my man, this is it! I mean really, how can you go wrong with a dessert that has beer and chocolate?

The best part is that this recipe makes two pies, one to take with to my hubby's parent's house when we visit to celebrate Father's Day, and one to keep at home to save for another occasion eat by ourselves as quality control. It does take several samples before you truly know if it is good or not, right?


So happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, particularly to my dad (who is the world's best dad), my father-in-law (I am so blessed to be a part of his family), and to my husband (our kids are most definitely lucky to have a dad like him!). I love you all and I am so thankful God (our heavenly Father) has brought us all together.


Country Wedding

This week I had the privilege of making a wedding cake for Mark and Melody's wedding. They had a beautiful outdoor wedding with a really nice, rustic feel. So they wanted a four tiered cake that had a rustic buttercream finish with some sugar flower daisies on it.



I think this is my new favorite wedding cake! I am really happy with how it turned out.


 

The topper was the perfect addition to this cake, simple but perfectly fitting! I love it!

 

Congratulations Mark and Melody! May God richly bless you as you journey down the road of life together!

As an added bonus, Melody wanted to surprise Mark with a Groom's cake. This is officially my first groom's cake, so I was really excited to do this one. She wanted me to replicate his car in cake form.  I will admit, cars are tricky, and this one didn't come out as perfect as I wanted, but I think was able to capture the essence of his well-loved vehicle.

 

 

The tiny-tiny bumper stickers in the back window were challenging, but I am happy with how they turned out (these were piped with royal icing).   The majority of the car is cake, but the wheels, bumpers, and side mirrors are all rice treats. The license plates (blurred here since I used his real plate numbers) and hub caps were hand piped with royal icing, and all the dirt and grey paint chips were added on with royal icing. All the other details are fondant.  Making this Jeep was the biggest challenge I have had in a long time, there are lots of little details in a car and I couldn't include them all, but I had a lot of fun adding all the details that truly made this Mark's Jeep. 

Congratulations again to Mark and Melody! It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of your special day.

Sacramento County Fair 2012

Well I am back again for another try at the Sacramento County Fair. This year I am entering two cakes in the decorated cakes competition, and one in the tasted cakes competition. I was thinking that maybe if there was more than one cake in the competition the judge might be nicer, but then again, I don't think last year's judge is back again this year. Last year I entered this cake (which was recently featured on Cake Wrecks: Sunday Sweets), and even though there were no other entries, I was awarded second place. I really hope that does not happen again.

So here they are:


I learned how to do brush embroidery a few years ago, but I haven't had much of a chance to use it. To tell the truth, this is the first time I have done it using royal icing (I have always done it in buttercream). I read a tip that if you add piping gel to the royal icing it doesn't dry as fast and makes brush embroidery easier. It worked great and I really love how it came out!  

My second cake was mostly fondant work:





Most of the fondant pieces were hand cut since I didn't have a cutter for many of the shapes. All the dots are piped using royal icing.  I love these colors and the little tiny dots everywhere really made the design come to life. 

My last cake is not much to look at, but it is my entry in the tasted cakes competition for multi-layer, from scratch cakes:

This is my very own creation, a Caramel Apple Pie Cake! It is a spice cake brushed with caramel and filled with homemade apple pie filling and then iced in a caramel icing. I think this is one of the best cakes I have ever made. I make lots of desserts and I think I am a pretty good pastry chef (I think my family and friends would agree), so my husband is used to me making pretty good tasting stuff. However when I shoved a sample bite into his mouth, his eyes actually rolled back into his head and he wobbled a bit. Yeah. It was that good. I have high hopes for this cake.


I couldn't resist making a little fondant apple to go on top. I hope the judges appreciate it!


So there they are, my trio of cakes for the fair this year.  Now I just have to wait for the results. Waiting is always the hardest part! Which is your favorite?

Cub Scouts - The End of Another Year!

Last year my son started in Cub Scouts. It has been an amazing adventure for both of us and it is hard to believe that the first year is over and he is graduating to the next level! As we were planning the end of the year event, the Cubmaster for Pack 402 asked me if I would make a cake for the barbeque celebration. I asked him if there was a theme or if he had any ideas, and he said no, but maybe something with the ranks or something we did this year, or whatever... and by the way it needs to feed 200.


Ok, go it, go big.  So I took all of his ideas and threw them onto one cake, and added a few ideas of my own! 

So, starting from the top:
The Cub Scout logo, and our Pack's catch phrase and logo.
All the rank badges were hand-made on gum paste squares.  I used edible markers to draw the logos and pedal dusts for the colors. I piped the Fleur-de-lis and gold borders in royal icing. 
At the bottom I included some of the highlights of the year. I am pretty partial to the rock climbing guy on the right.

I had to include a box of popcorn since our Pack sold an incredible amount of popcorn at the beginning of the year (something like $36,000!).  All the popcorns were made out of marshmallows and chocolate fondant. I think that was my favorite part.


In the end, the bottom two tiers were just shy of 8" tall each, and the whole thing was just over 2 feet tall! Each tier was actually two cakes stacked on top of each other, and if I had separated them more distinctly it would be a 6 tier cake, which would be the biggest I have done yet I think.

Everyone had a great time and I am so very proud of all of the boys that worked so hard this year and received their rank badges! Congratulations to everyone!


I'm on Cake Wrecks!

I never thought I would say that and it would be a good thing, but just yesterday one of my cakes was featured on their Sunday Sweets edition!  If you are not familiar with Cake Wrecks, well, where have you been? You have to check them out, the wrecks are amazing and completely hilarious.  But while many professional cake decorators would cringe to find that their cake has been featured during the week, there is an exclusive part of Cake Wrecks to which many decorators aspire: Sunday Sweets. This edition of Cake Wrecks is put out once a week and features non-wreck, completely amazing, work-of-art kind of cakes.

This past weekend they featured cakes that exhibited Vintage Elegance and the cake I made for the CCCSAS show last year was included!  To be honest, when I first found out I screamed for a bit, and then I think I babbled incoherently for awhile. It was the most amazing feeling! Then I noticed that just four cakes down from mine was a cake by Ron Ben-Israel! and then Art and Appetite!  I can only dream of being as great as those guys, but to be on the same page as them is an incredible honor and I will savor it for a long time to come.


I also feel quite vindicated as this cake received second place in a competition with no other entries, so Pppfffttt! to the judge of that competition!

Tea Time


Our church hosted a Ladies Tea the other day and I supplied the dessert! Originally I wanted to do a cake with a teapot and teacups and such, but it just wasn't going to happen this time, so I decided to go simple and do cupcakes. Normally I stay away from cupcakes because I am not a fan of the monotony of making them. I like variety and the thought of making 6 dozen cupcakes all the same bores me, but the thought of making 6 dozen cupcakes all different scares me!  I have heard it said that in the cake world, you are either a cupcake person or a cake person. I think you can add cookies to that list too. I am a cake person. I like making cakes and doing designs on the grander scale. However, I will admit that I did actually enjoy making these cupcakes.

Since I needed to make 6 dozen, I figured that I could easily make three different flavors since one cake batch usually makes 24 cupcakes. So I decided on three: Chocolate with a caramel icing, Vanilla with a Raspberry filling and Almond Buttercream, and an Orange Creamcicle with an Italian Meringue.

This is the chocolate cupcake with the caramel icing.
This is the vanilla cake with raspberry filling and almond buttercream.
This was my favorite, an orange cake with a creamy orange Italian meringue buttercream.   














Want to try my favorite? Here is the recipe!


Orange Creamcicle Cupcakes



(adapted from a recipe by Cake Central member m_willford)
 
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted vanilla ice cream 
1/2 cup orange soda 

2-3 Tbsp orange zest

Pre heat your oven to 350*F.  Beat the butter until creamy and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream for a good 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Do not cheat, I promise it will matter! Dump in the oranges, and mix for a good while. The longer you mix, the smaller the orange pieces will be.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix your melted ice cream, orange zest, and the orange soda. Add both mixtures alternately into to egg/sugar stuff while mixing. Don't over mix this part.

Scoop into cupcake liners, about 3/4's full.

Just before you put the cupcakes in, reduce the oven temperature to 325*F and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are going to bake another batch, be sure to let the oven warm back up to 350*F before reducing the temp and putting in the next batch, otherwise the cupcakes will overflow. 


Let them cool completely, and if you want you can cover them and let them sit for a few hours.

The Frosting

This frosting is a good old-fashioned Italian Meringue Buttercream. I promise this is one you want to try! And don't panic, it will come together.

1 cup corn syrup
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large eggs)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1 lb butter, room temperature 

1/4 cup vanilla ice cream or orange sherbet
1/4 cup orange sode

Place corn syrup in a pan, heavy bottomed is preferable, but if not then just keep a close eye on it. Turn it onto about medium.

Dump the egg whites into your mixing bowl. Beat on medium until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. This should only take a minute or two.

By this time your corn syrup may or not have bubbles, turn it up higher and let it come to a boil. Once it has come to a good, steady boil with decent sized bubbles, let it boil for about 1 minute. If your pan doesn't have a pouring spout, you might want to transfer the syrup to a glass measuring cup (but I hate making extra dishes, and I can pour well enough from my pans).

With the mixer running, pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream into the meringue (this is what cooks the eggs and makes them okay to eat). Try not to get it on the beaters or you will start making cotton candy! Keep beating until the mixture has cooled, body temperature is fine.

Once it's cooled, add your butter, 1 tbsp at a time. It may lose volume, that's fine. If your butter was too cold, then it will start to curdle. Don't panic! Just keep beating and it will magically turn into frosting, right when you aren't looking! I promise. It may take a few minutes.

Once it has magically turned into frosting, add 1/4 cup of frozen sherbet, a little at a time. Then I added about 1/4 of orange soda and beat that in. I started with 2 Tbsp, and just kept tasting it and adding more until it had a flavor I liked.


One important thing to note. This frosting can be kept in the fridge, but be sure it comes back to room temperature or it will separate. If it does separate, don't panic, just let it warm up and then beat it again until it comes back into a frosting form.


If you have any problems or questions, just let me know.
Happy Baking!

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Sacramento, California, United States
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