Saturday, March 6, 2010

Finally getting to the cakes

I've got quite a few hobbies... too many, in fact, when I try to do them all at once! Aside from the photography projects, I've also been spending a lot of time lately expanding my cake decorating skills. I've always loved to bake, but the icing decoration is a newer challenge.

It all first started when I took my first cake decorating class back in October. I had been wanting to try this out for a while and had been recommended to take my first class at a local bakery located down the street from me. Every time I asked when their beginners class would be, they either didn't have one schedule yet or it was completely booked up. So out of impatience, I went ahead and signed up for a Wilton method beginners cake decorating course at a local craft store. What fun!! I loved learning how to make things with icing, and by the end of the class, I felt like I had learned enough techniques to be able to accomplish lots of different cakes in the future. Our final cake in the course was a rose cake, and of course the goal was to make lots of buttercream roses to use with other techniques we learned during the course.

My final class cake from the Wilton Beginners course

A few months later, I tried my first "major" cake decorating project. My husband was going to be turning 30, and since I wanted his birthday party to be really fun and special, I made the bold decision to make him a guitar cake. While I was planning out what I was going to do for the cake, I made an even bolder decision and decided to decorate the cake like the Van Halen guitar. At this point, I knew I could pull off the cake if everything went smoothly, but I had also given myself quite the challenge. Red and black are the most difficult icing colors to achieve, and my cake had both of them. And I was making something large and in an unusual shape. Probably not the best cake to try right after learning the techniques.

Print out picture of real Van Halen guitar... pretty complicated!

But luck was on my side, and the cake came together perfectly! Sure, there were a few problems along the way, but it turned out great. FYI, the cake was made with 2 boxes of cake mix, divided between a 13x9 pan and 2x bread loaf pans. After the cakes were baked and cooled, I leveled the cakes to make sure they were all the same height and flat,torted them [cut them in half horizontally], and filled them with a white chocolate cream cheese mousse filling. After the cakes were all but iced, I used a template from a print out of the guitar body to cut the shape of the guitar from the 13x9 pan, and trimmed the 2 bread loaf cakes to match the neck on the body part. Then they were covered with icing. The day of the party, I added all the detail decorations using the print out image of the guitar as a rough guideline. Isn't that a fun cake?! And needless to say, it tasted awesome!

The finished cake!

Right around the time I was planning and making the guitar cake, I also had someone contact me about co-hosting a baby shower for one of my best friends. Naturally, I chose to take care of the cake. After looking through some baby shower cake design ideas on the internet, I decided on a "baby block" theme. Since I had planned on making the cake with 4 baby "blocks", that way I could spell B A B Y on the blocks, it worked out nicely that the name picked out for the baby was Kyle - 4 letters! The next trick was figuring out how to use the cake batter to make the blocks. I wanted them to be as close to "square" as possible, and was estimating for the number of people that 4x4ish blocks would work well. Luckily, that meant my 9x9 baking pans would work perfectly. I again made 2 boxes of cake mix and split them between 2 9x9 cake pans. Each cake was leveled, torted, and filled to a final height of 4 cake layers. The 4-layer 9x9 cake was then cut into 4 even squares and each was individually iced and decorated.

The final cake was decorated to read "BABY" on the front, "2010" on the top, and "KYLE" on the back. This cake was definitely easier than the guitar because there were no wierd shapes or anything, but it still took longer than I had expected. In fact, I think it took almost the same amount of time as the guitar cake! All those letters and perfectly icing each block took quite a bit of work, but I was thrilled with how it turned out and so was the Mom-to-be!

Front and top of cake

Back of cake

Now, as insane as this sounds, I have signed up to take another decorating course. I wouldn't have signed up for this so soon after doing these big projects in the past month, but it was the only chance I had to take this intermediate course at the local bakery. We are learning how to make more detailed flowers out of icing, and I will be sure to post a picture of the final cake when I finish it on Sunday at the second and final class!