Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Poo Day

As a mom there is only so far I can go with serious baking. Since Clyde has been little he has always enjoyed sitting on the counter baking with me, but now that he is almost 6, baking is on the back burner for him compared to Legos, Star Wars, and Bakugan books.

So for April Fools day, he thought up an idea to make poo shaped cookies, and how could I resist? Any time spent making a creation with and for him is time well spent.

We made the batter, then dipped our hands in water as we shaped these chocolate delights. Ruby pointed to our baking sheets and said "Ewwwww doodie", so we knew they were perfect.

The cookies softened a bit while baking, so after I took them out of the oven I used my fingers to pinch and shape them a bit.

We wrote on bags and tied them up for his friends. Instead of the traditional "To:" and "From:" Clyde decided it should just say "From: the toilet".

When husband came home he was appalled that I would bring something to school that could ignite major mom controversy, so Clyde and I had to cross out the "toilet" word and write "MUD" and "dirt" instead.

Censorship already.

Chocolate Poo Cookies

2 cups organic all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks organic unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 11 ounce bag organic semi sweet chocolate chips

1. In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside
2. In standing mixer, cream butter and sugar together for 3 minutes until creamy.
3. Add vanilla and eggs on low speed to mix.
4. Slowly add dry ingredients (from bowl) until combined.
5. Using wooden spoon or silicone spatula, incorporate chocolate chips.
6. Using a bowl of water to keep hands wet to prevent dough from sticking, roll 2-3 teaspoons of dough into log shape.
7. You can fit 12-16 logs per baking sheet. Place sheet in freezer to chill dough while you heat oven to 350.
8. Bake for 8 minutes until tops are just set, they will be soft but they should look dull, not shiny.
9. While cookies are still hot, use fingers or spoon to shape cookies into more realistic shapes.
10. Let cool on pan for a few minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a wire wrack.
10. If handing out immediately, Clyde had the idea to color circles with yellow marker on toilet paper and place them on top.

Freud would be proud.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chive Blossom Cake

I was asked to design a cake for New York Magazine Weddings, based off of something inspired by a bridal theme, such as flowers, ribbons, flatware, etc. I thought about my own August wedding, that took place seven years ago in the country.

There was something so lazy, sunny, and worn about nature by that time, everything past its full bloom but still lush and buzzing.

The cake I sketched was based off the idea of flowers at a country wedding, and the kind of ideal table setting that one has at long old farmer's tables with antiques and handmade linens.

As for the cake, I keep trying to think of ways to make a cake 100% organic. My decorations are all natural gumpaste, but not officially organic, so the only way to do so is to use buttercream.

My hesitation is with dimension- buttercream is so soft it can only hold a small peak. So I decided to build up flowers on a cake to see whether I could get a more structured feeling.

To give some dimension to the piped leaves and flowers, I tinted a few batches of buttercream in three shades of green, and two shades of purple. I piped the base of the stems and flowers is the darkest color, then using the same piping bag, filled it with the lighter shades. What happens when you do this, is that the edges of the piping tip will pick up some of the darker shade, creating a shadowed flow of frosting.

For the flowers, I built up with the darker purple base with the small star tip. Then after I filled the lighter purple color, it created the perfect shadow to mimic small chive blossoms.
I kept building on the circle shape until it became a semi-circle.

Ahhh summer love.

white wares

Isn't this so lovely? A shot art directed from my friend Carolyn Veith Krienke who owns Jan & Aya, and photographed by Philip Ficks. I love the combination of jewelry, flowers, cake, and ceramics. Jan & Aya is moving to an online retail site next month, and I am excited for retailing ideas she has that involves artists and designers. Certainly the way of the future. xo

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Abitare women artists event

My friend Lizzie Hand is the co-owner of an inspiring design shop called Abitare, located in Brooklyn Heights. She and her partner search the world for small designers and unique objects, and the result is a perfect balance of simple yet stunning, sophisticated, and drop dead gorgeous things for living.

She is hosting a first-ever women artist gathering, and I am so honored to be part of it, along with my friend, the felt-abulous Llubav Durer and ceramicist Frances Palmer. There will be bubbly, cookies, pretty wares, all in the chic and beautiful shop.

It will be Saturday, April 4th, 1-4. Please stop by to say hi and nibble on some treats, buy some lovely presents for yourself, and fingers crossed for a stunning Spring day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

sea cake

I am working on a cake for a wedding magazine, to be published this summer. So while I cant show the finished cake just yet--I did want to share some of the steps in making it happen.

I usually stray from royal icing- a thick frosting that hardens when exposed to air- because it has to be piped, and usually is flat, rather than sculptural. But from time to time its always good to try something new and shake up ideas in a new format.

Look how thick and gorgeous this is, only a few minutes into beating. The cake for summer is beach-inspired, and I am looking for a less sculpted and more carefree look- perfect for royal icing.
I keep the royal icing on the thick side, so that it will hold ridges and details from the tips.

A piece of white seaweed, dried. I used pastry tip #104, commonly used for rose petals. I like how dimensional this feels, even though the back is flat.

My favorite nature inspiration book, 'Art Forms in Nature' by Ernst Haekels. I've used this book for jewelry design, and look at it from time to time to get excited by his beautiful drawings.

While piping away, I used my book and a dried seahorse that I bought at a medicinal shop in China to feel beach-inspiration. Hard to do when it snows the first day of Spring.

For ultimate beach feel, I made seaglass out of gelatin in my jewel shaped plastic mold. (I bought them and used them once before; for a jeweled cake inspired by Marc Jacob shoes.)

So far I am really happy about the result, will post the cake when it comes out in a few months...until then think sunscreen, sand, and sweetness.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cakescrap Pops

While trimming the birthday cake I baked yesterday, I decided to keep the scraps for my own cake pop experiment. I had read about the cake pop phenomenon; people use leftover cake (or bake a cake for the sole purpose of making pops), mix it with some kind of binding ingredient such as softened cream cheese, stick a stick in it, dip it in some kind of chocolate or coat with fondant, and decorate.

I trim my cakes when stacking them into tiers, and thought that instead of the family and myself eating them, I should try something new.

It was hard to tell the little gypsy beggars that no cake scraps would be handed out just yet.

Instead of adding all sorts of ingredients, I figured that the excess frosting would really be the only thing I would want to have in my cakescrap pop. Keeping it pure and simple.

I had about 1 cup of cake scraps once I crumbled them up, and about 1/2 cup of remaining mocha meringue buttercream.

After mixed, I rolled them into even sized balls. I refrigerated them overnight to chill.

Alas, when I woke to finish the final step of dipping them into dark organic chocolate ganache, there were only 5 remaining. Gypsy cake bandits struck again.

I stuck paper lollipop sticks in the centers, chilled them and warmed some organic dark chocolate chips with some butter. It was a little thick, but easy to do since I had the kids helping out. After dipping I chilled them again in the fridge while contemplating who deserved the precious treats.

The result is that these are spectacular, delicious, and a resourceful thing to do with leftover cake (an impossibility in this house) or cake trimmings. I dusted some glitter on them, and ended up handing them out to the helpful friends of the day--my neighbor who helped carry up groceries, and a friend who is pregnant who surely will need an emergency cake/chocolate snack.

Manly Cake

Today I baked a last minute request for a birthday cake. It was a joint birthday of a man and woman, but to be honest I didn't know that there was a woman involved until it was picked up. So my thoughts along the way of making the cake were all about keeping it festive but making a decorated cake chic enough for a man.

I think that cakes for men deserve their own kind of glory, their own kind of sparkle. That's why I thought to make a buttery meringue mocha frosting, and to keep the pale coffee color as the base for the cake. (I have to say, I am really loving the ease and thick texture of meringue buttercream frosting which I have been making lately.) My husband championed the manly combination of dark chocolate cake with mocha, a good sign.

Without time to whip up decorations prior to today, I have to use what I have on hand. Its for these moments that I always try to sculpt extra sugarpaste flowers or gelatin decorations.

Since its a small party, I decide on a 7" cake with a 5" tier on top. Tiers always give me a better foundation for decorations, since they can cascade down the front.

first application of flowers

I decided on metallic flowers, since they are like steel and gold, something not necessarily feminine if you think of it in the reference of buildings, weapons, and plumbing. Here are some pieces drying, although I decided against the silver leaves since the cake felt too small for them. If you notice there is a hue on some of the flowers, this is because they are sculpted out of different colored gumpaste, and although painted silver or gold, you still get hidden bits of color peeping out.

As for inscribing their names, I think a turquoise will complement the beige and metal tones nicely. I have been thinking about those old sterling pieces of jewelry with bright turquoise stones, and how nicely they complement each other. A bit of a cowboy feeling.

I piped the centers of the flowers, but it looked a little too bright, so I toned the turquoise down with some handpainted gold. Without the brushed gold, it looked like plastic beads; a look that I took note mentally to use for another project in the future.

I added beading to the bottom of each tier, as well as the edge of the top tier. I was so in love with the brightness of the turquoise, I gently had to talk myself into putting the piping bag down and to stop.

A more antique, jewelry feeling with this cake. When I heard that the other recipient is a woman, I felt pleased that it had some feeling of masculinity, but it still felt right for both.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Party time

I thought about what a girl cake should taste like, something sweet like strawberries and cream.

the birthday girl in polka dots

Baking the cake was fun; I used a white cake from my cookbook and frosted it with a luscious, creamy strawberry meringue buttercream frosting from Martha Stewart. And, as I am obsessed with my mandoline, I used it to shave thin slices of strawberry to lie in between the layers of cake.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
, adapted from Martha Stewart

4 organic egg whites
1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/2 sticks of organic unsalted butter (12 ounces), cut into 1" pieces at room temperature.
1 tablespoon vanilla
rose pink food coloring
9 oz organic/natural strawberry preserves, placed in food processor and pureed until smooth.
6 large organic strawberries

1. In metal bowl of standing mixer, add egg whites and sugar, whisk to combine
2. Place bowl on top of pot filled with hot water, use this like a double boiler. (Hot water should not go inside the bowl, just simmering underneath it coming up a few inches on the bowl)
3. Whisk constantly, and place a candy thermometer inside to monitor temperature.
4. Keep whisking until mixture reads close to 160 degrees. (About 10-15 minutes). Remove from hot water.
5. Place bowl in standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat for 8-10 minutes until thick, bright white, and shiny.
6. Remove the whisk and replace with a paddle attachment. Beat mixture on medium and add pieces of butter one at a time until incorporated, vanilla, and food coloring.
7. Add strawberry jam puree until mixed, then frosting is ready to use.
8. Use mandoline to shave thin slices of strawberry, and use to layer on top of frosting. Then frost underside of other layer (so that the strawberries don't make the cake soggy)

The decorations were easy to place on the cake, once frosted and chilled. Clyde helped place some of them too, which made him laugh. I piped little dots for the top of her dress, then handpainted them with gold luster dust.

When she saw the cake, Ruby didn't know who to look at first. Yoda? Elmo? Kitty? She took a lick and danced.

After a few pieces...

Love you so much Ruby!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ruby's Cake

With the upcoming party for Ruby's birthday this weekend, I got started today on the decorations for her cake. I have been thinking about her cake for months, (yes I am crazy), going back and forth between a few different ideas. Elmo cake? Kitty cake? Yoda cake? These are the top three things that excite her more than anything.

Last year, her birthday party was an elegant tea party, filled with puffed pastries, pink cupcakes and this cake:

So for Ruby's 2nd birthday cake, I toyed with a few ideas, but then it all came together when I found a vintage cake doll mold. Its the kind that you stick a half doll in the top, and the skirt is made out of cake. I am going to make small sugarpaste decorations and then place them in a pattern, a la Louis Vuitton if you can see the resemblance in the sketch...

The first round of decorations, coating the "2" in lavender edible glitter, painting the circles red for Elmo, and dusting the Yoda heads with emerald green luster dust and shimmery brown luster dust to get his crusty old skin right.

I piped white eyes, then tinted the frosting orange for the nose. As for the eyes and mouth, they are hand painted with charcoal luster dust mixed with vodka. For making the "paint" you have to use alcohol, not water.

I used the same black "paint" for the eyes, nose, and whiskers on Hello Kitty. I brushed her fuchsia bow with some shimmery cotton candy luster dust.

Crusty creepy Yoda faces. Ha! Big brother Clyde is Ruby's hero, hence all things Star Wars and Lego have become her favorites too.

The cake will be assembled tomorrow morning since we have lots to do before the party. As for the cake, the frosting will be pink, perhaps a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting to mix things up a bit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Clear Flowers, fashion or cake?

Here is the cake inspired by the Marni resin flowers.
I think I would redo it with a pale gray backdrop instead of yellow. It seems to fight the colors of the flowers a bit too much.
However, as for my first use of the gelatin flowers, it is interesting to see how they work.
I had to prop the petals while drying with clean piping tips since they are rounded. I wonder if I should create the flowers separately; applying them to the cake once they are complete, rather than petals.

I've seen some decorators use wire in their gelatin petals to keep shape, it reminds me of the Blumarine ads
I think this is one of those examples where the fashion and the food are interchangeable. Her pin could be something edible, placed on top of a cake.
Still exploring with the gelatin...I feel like I am close to something!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fashion Smashion

Today I had a shoot for an upcoming fashion-related publication, and I finished the cakes inspired by fashion.

For the Chanel couture cake, I first prepared my cake dummies. When shooting for editorial, it is rare for a baker to actually make a cake, since it is handled so much and never eaten. It makes it easier to focus completely on the decorating, and the cakes are light and easy to transport since they are made out of Styrofoam. Cake supply companies sell cakes in round shapes, squares, hexagons, and even custom cut cakes to order.

The first thing I do is decide the size of the tiers. Then I place some of my sugarpaste flowers on the Styrofoam to visualize how I am going to place them.

I use bamboo kabob sticks as supporting rods through the center of the tiers, since one side is sharp and will easily pierce the Styrofoam.

I frost the cake with real frosting, then when it dries I place the sugar flowers on top, using frosting as "glue" for the flowers. Once applied, I piped white stamen in different sizes in the centers.

I think the elements all came together nicely- the chaos of different flowers clustered together.
I am thinking about incorporating this cake idea for an upcoming wedding in the country!