Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rainbow Cake for the Rainbow Baby

When my oldest turned 4 last month, his Thomas cake was a huge hit and he was ready to help me pick the theme for his little brother's first birthday cake. When I asked him what I should make, the answer came immediately. "Mommy, you need to make him a rainbow cake!" It was exciting and intimidating all at the same time. I've been wanting to take on a rainbow cake since I saw this one on the Whisk Kid blog, but I never had the right opportunity, nor was I brave enough.

I knew it was going to be a daunting task to decorate, so I used box mixes. I didn't want to have to hang my head in shame, so I looked up ways to make box mixes taste "homemade". Following instructions I Googled, I added an extra egg, replaced water with milk and oil with melted butter. There were lots of weird lumps and huge air bubbles and an eggy smell.  The layers also came out really uneven due to shrinkage in the pan and that's never happened to me before. It tasted fine, but I'm pretty sure it would have been just as good (if not better) straight out of the box. Don't get it twisted, I did not say better than scratch :) Next time I'll know better and leave well enough alone. This is what I ended up with prior to leveling off the layers. I made a smash cake at the same time.


Overall, this cake was fun, fun, fun. Who doesn't love to play with all those beautiful colors?



I used this video from the Woodland Bakery to decorate. I messed up on the very first line, so I turned the cake around and put a rainbow on the other side. I messed that up too, so each cake was a double rainbow. This is what I got. 


So I can't pipe to save my life, but check out the inside! I was super proud of that. Horizontally, the layers were pretty even and the colors so vibrant. My only issue was the shrinkage I discussed before so you can see extra blue frosting on the right and left sides. Rather than take a knife to it to even it up, I went with the even it with frosting option. Like someone told me, "Less cake or more frosting. This doesn't seem like a hard choice". 


Fun facts - since I used butter in the box mixes and all the frosting, I decided to add up the butter and sugar content. Three batches of buttercream meant 6 sticks of butter and 6 pound (or 3 bags) of powdered sugar. I also made 3 boxes of cake and there were about 4 sticks of butter in them. So 10 sticks of butter and 6 pounds of sugar in the two cakes I made. Because you should always be thinking of calorie content while making cake :)

Happy first birthday to my littlest Rainbow baby!



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thomas the Train Birthday Cake

So far I've been failing miserably at the whole keeping up with New Year's resolution thing. I usually never make resolutions, but I've been getting overwhelmed with other things (like the rest of the population, I suppose) and neglecting this blog. More importantly, I've been neglecting the things that calm and relax me when things get crazy. So I put it out there to the world (well, Facebook) that for the first time in over a decade, I was making a resolution. I was going to make more cake in 2014. Here we are at the end of March and I'm finally getting to make good on that promise to myself. A little slow to start, but hopefully, it's the beginning of more cake making this year. Luckily, my son's 4th birthday today gave me the push I needed :)

Last year, I went big out of guilt. Check out the post here if you like. It was to be his last birthday as an only child so I wanted to make it the best ever. He was excited, but not fully aware that the fuss over him was about his birthday. But this year was different. He's been asking since January, "Mommy, is it my birthday yet?". The anticipation has been killing him and he had a request. He wanted a Thomas cake. We perused Pinterest as usual and found tons of inspiration. No shortage at all of Thomas the Train cake ideas. I took aspects of cakes I liked and mocked up sad sketches of cakes.


We do have paper on hand, so I have no idea why this is on a paper towel. Anyway, I couldn't decide, so I posted the picture to Facebook - where I apparently have all decisions made for me and got zero votes for cake 1. I really liked the second one, but people seemed to gravitate mostly to cake 3, which I liked, but it was also the most involved. Naturally, I took it as some sort of challenge. What I ended up doing is a sort of blend of the two. Always changing my mind :) I made a Thomas face for the top tier, and made the bottom tier of number 3, switching out the tree for a Railroad Crossing sign. I liked the result and more importantly, my kiddo liked it, so it's a win. 



For the cake, I used this recipe from I am baker. It was for two 8 inch cake pans so I doubled it and had enough for 3 eight inch cake pans and 2 six inch cake pans. There might have been enough to divide it into 3 six inch pans but I only had 2 pans. I'll work on that. 
Generally, I completely stress over cakes and crying ensues at some point when things aren't working like I want them to and I think this one was relatively stress free given my expectations. Part of that was deciding on partial instead of full fondant. It could have looked a lot smoother, but I was craving a fluffy buttercream, so I used the recipe found here at add a pinch.
Because I'm super proud of how it turned out, I'm adding a close-up shot of the Thomas face. I cut two gray circles and rolled up three tiny little fondant balls to place between them to make his nose and cheeks realistic and I think it had a nice effect. The black to color his pupils and surround his nose and mouth was just a food safe marker. 



Another (blurry) close-up for good measure!


Overall, it looked great, tasted good and the icing on the cake was that dude was happy. I should admit that he was happy after it was iced in blue only. I'm a lucky mom. I get to do it all over again in one month from today when my second baby turns 1 :)






Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hello, Kitty!

Lately, I've been dying to make a cake. Dying. With moving, new responsibilities at work and a four month old, my cake making opportunities have been on the decline. I used to just make them because I wanted to. Now, I have to have an actual reason so I can convince my husband it's worth the time. And get him to hold the baby for long periods of time. I've apparently made it so that he never wants to be put down :)

A reason to make a cake recently came up. My niece's 3rd birthday. My sister-in-law has been extremely busy with moving stuff herself and training for an Ironman. I figured why not offer to do the cake and get the last one in before we do our own move? I have boys and know little about the likes of young girls, so I was told my niece likes Hello Kitty, pink and purple. Could she have made that ANY easier?!

I was immediately all over Pinterest. I actually have a board dedicated to cakes and wondered if that is excessive, but I saw a few boards dedicated to Hello Kitty Cakes only, so I no longer feel this way. There are so many cute possibilities, I started having fondant dreams, but I pulled myself back to reality. "She's 3, Brandi. Three year olds don't do fondant." I pinned a few pictures for inspiration and I would totally link to them if Pinterest weren't down right now. Shocking, I know.


This is how it turned out and I'm pretty proud of it given my lack of decorating skills. For the cake, I used this recipe from Sweetapolita. I like her style. She's a 3 layer cake kind of gal. That's how I roll too. I think we'd get along great.

The cake tasted SO good. My only issue was the frosting. It was so sweet, I think it overpowered the cake taste. I tend to spread frosting a little thick because I love it so that's totally my fault. But frosting is delicious, so I don't feel too bad about it.


This picture is just to illustrate my complete lack of confidence in my cake decorating skills. I printed off a Hello Kitty face and taped it to parchment paper and cut it out. I put that on top of the iced cake and traced along the parchment paper with a toothpick. Could I have freehanded it? Yeah, but it wouldn't look good at all. I'm sure there was probably some easier way to have done it, but I seem to enjoy doing things the hard way. I also have to admit to a little OCD. I couldn't deal with the bow as is, so I cut it out of the cat face, then cut it in half. I put the nice looking half (the one on the left in case you didn't know) on a folded piece of parchment paper and cut the bow on the fold. I needed that bow to be symmetrical. Even looking at it now, sitting there completely lacking symmetry is bothering me. Moving on...


This is how I incorporated most of the purple. I jumped on the color gradient bandwagon because I think it's cute, but I'm steering clear of the "O" word because if I see it again, I may have a meltdown. That probably means I'm on Pinterest to much, so maybe the fact that it's down tonight is a good thing.


And here are the layers. I thought the top one turned out just a little too grayish looking for me. It really could have benefitted from more purple. That bottom layer was just gorgeous. Sorry for not getting all the stuff out of the background. I keep promising that one day, I'll learn to take better pictures and that just never happens. And if you were curious, those Cliffs Notes in the background are for the Odyssey :)

Happy 3rd Birthday, Miss Alaina!

~Brandi






Sunday, July 28, 2013

So THIS is what Unicorn Poop looks like - Cupcakes for Charlie


It's been a long while! Since my last BGC post, I had a baby and have been working on moving, etc. Jess has had tons going on as well. For starters, her son Charlie is in the hospital again. At the risk of publicly providing too much info, I'll direct you to his Facebook page since anything she says there is OK to be shared. https://www.facebook.com/prayersforcharliecole. If you are the praying type, the more good vibes being sent his way, the better.

I know she's normally the cupcake gal and I do the cakes, but I'm switching it up today. Since little Charlie was born, it's been one baffling medical mystery after another. Many long hospital stays. Surgeries. Life going on around all that. Jess has always been a great friend. Even (maybe I should say especially) considering all she has going on. I sometimes lose my mind and complain about things like losing a house I never had because the sellers backed out, or the fact that I can't seem to handle two kids at the same time and she gives advice. And listens. Never once did she tell me to suck it up because she has real problems and THREE kids. If the roles were reversed, I can't say I wouldn't have wanted to do that.

She's an awesome person and I wish there were something I could do to help, but I keep coming up empty. She recently told me about a Facebook group where people get matched with special needs kiddos and run for them.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/irunformichael/.  Charlie already has a runner so I thought, "Why not bake for Charlie?".

I thought about a perfect cupcake for Jess and Charlie and naturally, unicorns came to mind. I'm pretty sure she once said that unicorns are magical so that was stuck in my head. Plus, there was a recent party at her house involving a unicorn mask...So I was off to Google. Until I Googled "Unicorn Cupcakes" I never thought to wonder what unicorn poop looked like. I ended up in a rabbit hole of weird things like the picture below. These were everywhere. You can get your fill of it here. And I even found a picture of a woman with one tattooed on her...


But on to the cupcakes. I can't remember how this came up in a search for unicorn cupcakes (probably through a Pinterest pin) but this is the recipe I used. And it didn't quite work out how I wanted, but I used this video to see a tutorial on how to frost these things. Even if you aren't going to make them, you should check out this video. I watched it 3 times because the way she said "poop" made me giggle. Watch it. Trust me.


I just wanted to post a picture of these because they're awesome. I was just shopping for pretty cupcake liners and came across these and thought they were perfect for this project. They are Reynolds brand StayBrite. They don't fade during the baking process. I liked them because of that and because the plain Reynolds liners I normally use require that I spray them with Baker's Joy prior to baking. These didn't. No, Reynolds is not paying me to say this, but if they'd like to, they know where to find me.



I tried to do this just like Amanda Cupcake told me too but it ended up looking like this. There's actually pink in there too. Well, I didn't do it JUST like she said, so this happened on a few. I didn't stop filling at the halfway mark like she said. I also *might* have been lazy and instead of moving the oven rack for the little pan with two cupcakes, I may have jammed it in next to the big pan so it was slightly tilted.



They must have been alright, my son ate one before I could get it frosted.




I didn't quite get the swirling the way I wanted. I had 4 different colors and only 2 were prominent. Hey, we can't all be Jess ;) I also wanted to use a Wilton 1A size tip to frost these since it's more poo-like than a star, but I can't find that tip anywhere. Must be a hot item here in KC because I've been looking at multiple stores.

As a final Jess-like touch, I sprinkled them with pearl dust. You can't see it well here, but I tried. I think the application was wrong. I learned after I got it home, it's supposed to be brushed on. Oops. That would have been helpful. I've got that shimmery stuff is ALL over me. Luckily, I'm not going into the office tomorrow or people will think my weekend was much more wild than it really was. Speaking of not going to the office, now I don't know who will eat these things. 

Charlie, I hope you love them and that you get well soon!

~Brandi


Monday, April 8, 2013

It's our Blogiversary...I think

Technically, I'm not sure if the blogiversary comes a year from the date of the blog's creation or it's first post. Since I'm such a slacker, if it's the former, the blogiversary was about 8 months ago. Oops. So we'll just call it a year from the first post, OK?

Even though I didn't make it from scratch, the Peep Cake post is still one of my favs. I would love (like most bloggers on their first anniversary) to talk about how far I've come, but as I review the post, I'm still biting off more than I can chew, still making tons of mistakes, and still taking terrible photos. But it's completely fine, because most importantly though, I'm still having fun.

After a long day today of trying to potty train my toddler, my 38 week pregnant aching body just wanted to go to bed. Instead, I easily talked myself into making a blogiversary cake and I quickly found myself relaxing. Something about cake does it every time.


This one was a little different than what I normally do as it was only 2 nine inch layers instead of the 3 I usually insist on. It almost looks tiny to me. But there were 3 reasons I chose it. 1 - I was perusing Pinterest and came across a cake recipe that claimed to be The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! That sort of claim is hard for me to ignore. 2 - I just happened to have buttermilk on hand. This was happening. 3 - One word. Ganache.


While I was putting the batter into the 9 inch pans, I got the sense that my 9's were going to overflow if I used all the batter. It was the perfect excuse to make a baby 6 incher for myself. It is my blogiversary after all. And since I'm sending the big one to work with my husband, I still get a piece this way. Win! And the best part is that I don't have to make it pretty since it's just for me.



Nothing says happy anniversary like a piece of cake. Can't believe it's been a year! In the past year, Jess has had a baby and now I'm just weeks away, but I hope we still get some time to ourselves once in a while to bake some cakes and put some new posts out here. It saves our sanity! :)

~Brandi



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Curious George Birthday Cake

My baby turned 3 this weekend :( I feel like every other parent who just cannot believe it when their kids grow up. Time really does fly people! On to cake before I start crying again...
When I saw this Curious George Cake on Pinterest, I KNEW I had to make one, but I still wasn't sure. My son loves so many things, it was going to be hard to narrow down a theme. I was on the fence, so I posted all the possibilities to our Facebook page and the commenters seemed to agree that George was the way to go.


The above is how I posted it to Facebook. I ended up making some minor changes. I forgot that I wanted to incorporate some airplanes (another one of my son's favorite things) as well as the number 3 candle. So it ended up looking like this:


I'm notorious for complaining about my work. I'm just not a good decorator. I frequently tell people that I don't do pretty, I do delicious. But this time was a little different. I made tons of mistakes and as usual, I'll go on about most of them, but I was still happy with how this turned out despite the fact that it wasn't necessarily what I was going for. 

So here's how it came together. The recipe is one of my favorites from Sweetapolita. Just the cake. So moist and delicious. I have tried and cannot make swiss meringue buttercream so I stuck with a basic buttercream recipe. Butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. I didn't do much measuring, so I'm no help there, but it might shock you to know that I used a grand total of 10 sticks of butter in all the frosting I made today. Yikes. 


I couldn't find a Curious George font, so I just used something called "Dancing Script" in Google docs and printed off what I wanted. I also printed off a Curious George face from PBS kids. I taped these to my counter and then taped parchment paper on top. My plan was to add Wilton food coloring to candy melts and make it so I could peel them off and stick them on the cake. I dipped my first bit of black dye into the candy melts and it immediately hardened. I stared at it for a bit, then put it back in the microwave. Still hard. I added shortening to it and microwaved again. Still hard. Texted my blogging partner in crime to complain about this. She responded that they have separate dye for candy melts. Of course they do. I need to start filing my questions with her PRIOR to taking on big projects. 

I ended up using the black coloring to make the smile and nose and hoping it worked. Luckily George is brown, so I just had to add chocolate candy melts to the white ones I already had. I also wanted to put the face on the side of the cake like the inspiration photo, but that didn't work out. Not a huge deal though. 
I also wanted to use an aqua color to pipe next to the red border, but it turned out more green than aqua. And that was the last of my buttercream, so I decided that the cake was good just red and yellow :) And since I couldn't put red tint in the candy melts, I ended up having to freehand the text. It actually turned out alright despite not being able to trace.


All in all, not what I was going for, but the boy was very pleased. He walked up to it and said "It's amazing". After that, I couldn't think it was anything but perfect and worth every bit of effort put into it. Happy birthday kiddo!

~ Brandi





Saturday, February 23, 2013

Peanut Butter and Chocolate...Cupcake Style

Recently my partner in blog Brandi posted an amazing looking peanut butter & chocolate cake. I recently dipped my toes into the world of peanut butter and chocolate as well only I did it cupcake style! Recently my husband had a birthday and cupcakes were required. He is a diabetic and rarely eats things like cupcakes so his birthday cupcakes are a big deal. Took him weeks to decide what kind he wanted. In the end he decided on German Chocolate Cupcakes....until I mentioned something about peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate frosting. He got very excited and decided that is what he wanted!

These scream birthday to me!





It did not take me long to settle on a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes. Once again I turned to my girl Martha Stewart. I made her recipe for peanut butter cupcakes with one sneaky addition. I added Reese's peanut butter chips to the batter. They don't melt but they get soft and delicious and add an extra burst of peanut butter to your cupcakes. Now who the heck does not want an extra burst of peanut butter in their cupcakes? If you find someone who says "yeah, that's not for me" walk away because let's be honest you don't need those kinds of people in your life!

My arsenal!




Now you see that bag of jelly beans in the corner? Those are delicious. I first found them in the bulk bin at the grocery store and then later found them in those small bags. They are chocolate covered strawberry jelly beans but they are not the same texture as jelly beans they are softer and really quite delicious. They added that certain something I needed to the cupcakes. Now Martha Stewart has you adding peanut butter frosting to her cupcakes. But it's peanut butter and peanut butter needs chocolate. So I whipped together a chocolate cream cheese frosting and slathered the cupcakes with it. I will post the recipe below!

I was running late and my husband doesn't care if frosting is piped or not





The frosting was pretty tasty but it wasn't my favorite. I prefer frosting made with melted chocolate makes it richer but this frosting was made with cocoa powder which is still good but not my personal preference. Everyone else loved them and that's all that matters! I of course topped them with a nice festive appropriate birthday party sprinkle! I again made them for Valentine's Day and used Valentine's Day sprinkles because that's just how I roll.

My arty picture, every blog needs one





Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter - softened
1 8oz block cream cheese - softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 bag powdered sugar
Cocoa powder
Brown icing coloring (only if wanted)

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla. Add as much cocoa powder as you want. You can be as light or as heavy handed as you choose in regards to chocolate. Then again add as much powdered sugar as you want. Depending on the level of sweetness and thickness you want/need. Then if you are unhappy with the color add some brown icing color to make it a richer brown. I am aware this is not much of a recipe but for me frosting is an experiment. I just start throwing things into the mixing bowl and hope for the best.

Those are Martha Stewart cupcakes in my Martha Stewart cupcake carrier




I'm going to include the Martha Stewart recipe as well. I linked it above but as of right now our links are not showing up a different color so you may miss it!


Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter (I use Jif natural because it was on sale)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make cupcakes as directed in Basic Cupcake How-To, adding peanut butter before adding eggs. Use sour cream and vanilla as wet ingredients. Once cupcakes are cool, frost tops with peanut butter frosting. Place a dollop of jam in center of frosting. Decorated cupcakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
It was delicious and look my teeth marks!