Monday, May 6, 2013

Giraffe & Baby Carriage Baby Shower Cake

Baby shower cakes are one of my favorite cake projects to do because they represent such happiness and excitement for families.  This particular cake had a heartwarming and happy story behind it which only sweetened the already yummy vanilla and raspberry interior.  This particular couple had been trying to have a baby for years, and had been putting off having a wedding while they pursued several different ways to give them the opportunity for a family.  Sadly, they had no luck conceiving and decided to go ahead with having their wedding.  I was happy to make the bride's cake for her wedding shower just 8 months ago (A lingerie inspired cake).  The bride had a beautiful wedding; however felt incredibly sick on her big day and continued to not feel well in the weeks after.  Following a visit to her doctor, she was stunned to find out that she was pregnant with a baby boy!  I was so honored to make an adorable cake to celebrate such an unexpected and meaningful event for this couple. 
A special family friend of the mother-to-be threw her a baby carriage themed bridal shower in her Central Park West apartment.  I decorated the cake with fondant details including a blue baby carriage and a mommy giraffe, since they plan to decorate the baby's room with a giraffe theme!
 As is tradition with all cakes for this client, I included the mom's name in the design, spelling it out with fondant baby blocks to top off this cute as a button cake! 
This cake was a great experience for several reasons.  It represents the fact that life has many gifts for you, it is just a matter of when you will be given the present.  It showed me that the people of NYC have kind hearted souls.  They offered to hold my cake while I maneuvered through the subway turnstiles and swiped me into the subway after I realized my metro card had fallen out of my pocket.  It made me realize that even though it may seem silly to deliver a cake through the subway instead of taking a Taxi, it is so much more satisfying when the delivery is complete...and well worth the sore biceps (=  It was also great because now I feel like every cake design could use a sweet long necked giraffe to finish it off, it is just so darn cute!

Wedding on the Charles

Some pics from a recent wedding I baked for!
The wedding favors were sugar cookie rounds that I decorated with a teal lemon royal icing base coat and intricate white royal icing lace details.  The cookies were placed in clear bags and tied with silver ribbon or lace ribbon bows.
The tables were decorated with simple and sweet details.  Table numbers each had interesting facts about the couple.  Pots of burlap wrapped violets and mismatched vases of "fresh from the garden" flowers gave you the sweet comfort of sitting down at gram's perfectly imperfect kitchen table. 
photo courtesy of: kim@tinyphotostudio
The main cake was a white vanilla cake filled with vanilla cream and fresh strawberry puree.  The cake topper was made up of two stuffed mice dressed up as bride and groom, perched atop a small fondant round with teal lace piping wrapped in lace ribbon.  The tiers were iced in a smooth Swiss buttercream and piped with a buttercream lace detail reflective of the vintage style lace adorning the bride's dress.
The next two cakes were decorated in more of a home style manor.  I used vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream to create wide sweeps of frosting all over the cakes (or wide spackling as the Groom called it!).
These two cakes played a strong supporting role as they were made of a rich chocolate cake filled with a delectable mocha cream filling.
The little mice toppers were unbelievably adorable with the the paper fans and embroidery hoops gracing the wall in the background.  The mice gave the couple a reminder of their little kitty, their much loved baby who had to stay at home!
photo courtesy of: kim@tinyphotostudio
One cake was perched atop a tin cake stand, while the other two sat upon white washed custom cake stands.  All the cake were arranged on or around old fashioned wood crates that I found collecting dust in the basement.  Mercury glass votives provided the perfect mood lighting, while small glass and milk glass vases filled with flowers that looked like they were picked right out of the garden added the touch of Grammy nostalgia that was so meaningful to the bride.
photo courtesy of: kim@tinyphotostudio
The mother of the bride's fiance continued his crafty contributions by creating multiple signs to place around the wedding.  He crafted leftover pieces of wood in these simple and gorgeous signs to direct the guests to the ceremony, cocktails, reception, and gift table at the wedding.  He even used some of the old paints from the bride's grandmother's collection, another way for the bride to feel her grandmother's presence since she was unable to attend the event.
photo courtesy of: kim@tinyphotostudio
A simple bunch of old fashioned baby's breath wrapped in burlap bows were the perfect detail to the already gorgeous wooden bridge leading to the ceremony. 
photo courtesy of: kim@tinyphotostudio

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Easter Treats!

When looking for inspiration for your next cake project, remember to look at pictures other than cakes.  Greeting cards and table decoration often have beautiful designs that can tranlate incredibly onto a cake canvas.  Think outside the box and let those creative juices kick in!
I drew my inspiration for this cake from two pictures I found while perusing through pinterest.  This adorable cake from The Cake Blog caught my eye because of its sweet simplicity and the beautiful robin's egg effect of the speckling on the blue buttercream.  The perfect main treat for an Easter celebration!
I then came upon this image: a curious little bunny climbing up the side of plant pot to reach the speckled eggs inside.  As soon as I saw this, I pictured the bronze rabbit as a chocolate bunny climbing up the side of a cake. 
 The result:
To surround the cake with a little 'peep' of brightness, I added a few simple cupcakes decorated to resemble those sweet little marshmallow chicks.  These cupcakes were buttermilk vanilla cake with marshmallow buttercream!
To finish of the Easter treats display I decorated some simple sugar cookies to look like bunny faces.  I only used some royal icing and an edible writing pen to make these cookies come to life, and baked them on candy sticks to make for easy photo props!
I will be posting How-Tos for both the cupcakes and bunny cookies in my next few entries!
Stay Tuned....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cupcakes: from Ordinary to Extraordinary

Everyone can agree that cupcakes are one thing:  Delicious.  Whether you make them in the kitchen from scratch, or from your favorite box mix, cupcakes are sure to put a smile on your family's face and a happy feeling in their belly!  Growing up with my Grammy, I spent many hours frosting cupcakes 'the old fashioned way' with her in the kitchen.  We used a butter knife to swirl the frosting on top of each one.  While I will always have a special place for these 'Granny Swirl' cupcakes in my heart and still enjoy making them from time to time, it has been fun to discover new and exciting ways to frost and decorate these little gentlemen!   
To create a variety of fun and beautiful cupcake looks, I used a few simple things:
1. A large Star Tip to pipe frosting
The large tip gives a touch of elegance and neatness to the cupcake that takes it up a few notches from a cupcake frosted with a knife!
2. Colorful Cupcake Wrappers
The color and style of your wrappers completely changes the look of your cupcake. If you are using colored batter, stick with white wrappers to let the color shine through
3. Fondant
Simple shapes can be cut out with cookie cutters to add TONS of whimsy and style to your cupcake
4. Luster Dust, Edible Glitter, Lemon Extract and a Small Paintbrush
Luster Dust and Glitter can be used wet or dry. When mixed with a clear extract they turn into the perfect paint for fondant. The alcohol in the extract evaporates fast so that the fondant doesn't get overly wet when painted.

To prep my cupcake decorations I cut out some Fondant and used simple shapes (circles, rectangles, stars) to make simple and straightforward decorations that you can make at home! You can buy fondant at any cake supply or craft store (like Michael's). Fondant can be colored with gel food coloring. You knead it like dough and then roll it out and cut it into shapes as if you are making cookies! I also had a butterfly cutter on hand and propped them against a container to let them dry with some dimension. I hand cut out the mustache could use a cookie cutter if you can find one small enough to put on the cupcake.
Here's how I made the Minnie Mouse decoration.  I rolled black fondant out to 1/8 " thickness and cut out circles with a round cookie cutter.
To make the bow: roll your fondant out to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut 2 rectangles, 1 for the main part of the bow, 1 for the center.
Swipe a small amount of lemon extract down the center of the large rectangle and then fold each end towards the middle.  The extract helps it stick without getting too wet because the alcohol evaporates faster than just water. 
Give the bow a pinch in the center to give it a slightly gathered look.  Swipe the extract over the center and wrap the smaller rectangle around the pinched section to create the center of the bow.
Let the bow dry for a few minutes.  Press 2 ears into the cupcakes frosting and press the pink bow in front of the ears....voila!  You have an adorable Minnie Mouse cupcake.  If you don't like working with fondant, you can find some candies or cookies that can represent the ears and bows and make a unique version of Minnie Mouse all your own!
To make these girlishly adorable mini cupcakes, I simply added purple gel coloring to the batter to make it bake up a rich purple hue.  I only added a small amount of purple to the buttercream to soften the look of the cupcake.  If you match the color of the frosting to the cupcake exactly it often is a bit over-powering.  The lilac hue of the frosting complimented the cupcake perfectly and gave it a soft and girly feel.  I mixed small amount of pink petal dust and edible purple glitter with a small amount of lemon extract and painted the dried fondant butterflies with it.  After the paint dried, I simply perched them atop the lilac frosting swirls.
 A very simple and easy way to change a cupcake from boring to special, is by changing the color of the batter.  For a St. Patrick's Day cupcake, stir some green food coloring into the batter before filling the wrappers.  I made these all one shade of green, and then kept the frosting simple with the natural color of the buttercream.  To add interest to the cupcake presentation you could mix up several different shades of green, or make the cupcakes all the colors of the rainbow.  The gold coin decoration is made from gold luster dust painted fondant circles.  You could also use chocolate gold coins instead of the fondant to create a similar effect.
 The color of the wrapper can greatly affect the look of a cupcake.  I wanted to make these cupcakes representative of Beauty and the Beast.  The base of the cupcake and the frosting being reflective of Belle's shining gold and yellow dress.  I chose a wrapper with a scalloped edge to represent the scalloped detailing at the bottom of her ball gown.   The royal icing decoration is a nod to the magical rose from the Beast.  To make the royal icing rose, I slipped a rose drawing under a piece of parchment and piped over the lines with the icing.  After letting the first layer set for a few minutes, I piped another layer of the outline to give it more strength.  I piped 3 layers for the stem in green, and 2 in pink for the rose.  Let dry overnight, and it should be easy to peel off and place on your cupcake the next day!
Switch the color of the wrapper and the frosting and take off the edible glitter dust, and you have a cupcake fit for a Spring themed party.  See how a few simple changes can completely change the look of a cupcake?!
 I hope you have fun baking up some yummy cupcakes and trying some of these techniques to make some amazing decorative cupcakes to wow people at your next family party.  Never be afraid to try your hand at cake decorating...simple touches can take your delicious cupcakes from ordinary to extraordinary, you just have to try! (=

Monday, February 18, 2013

Buttercream Rose Tutorial

After making these cupcakes for a bridal shower, I decided it would be a good piping technique to share with the masses!  Piping buttercream roses can seem intimidating, but it's actually a fairly simple technique that just requires a little practice and patience.  Below is my video tutorial so you can see how the magic happens!  Scroll down further, and there is complete picture tutorial for you to reference while you try it out yourself!
To get started, pipe a base on the pastry nail tso you have something to start forming your rose on.  You can pipe the base with the same tip that you use for the petals.
Using a piping bag, fit with Tip 104 petal tip, pipe the center of the rose.   Make sure to hold the bag with the fatter end of the tip down.  Tilt in slightly so that a small curled cone is created as you spin the nail and squeeze the buttercream out of the bag.  This forms the tight bud in the center of the rose.
Using an arched or rounded motion as you pipe, pipe 3 petals around the center of your flower for the first round.  Hold your tip straight up and down as you pipe the 3 overlapping petals.  The top of the petals should line up with the top of the center of the rose.
Pipe another round of 3 petals.  I like to pipe two rows of 3 petals, and then add other rounds of petals as they fit in naturally.  A general rule to follow is to pipe odd amounts of petals for each round(3,5,7).  You can do this if it works for you, but sometimes counting the petals ends up giving you more of a headache and awkward rose than if you just let yourself pipe around it naturally.  I'm more of a free spirit and like to see it form organically! (=
Once you have the desired fullness of rose, you need to move it to your cupcake!  With a pair of scissors slightly open,carefully slide them under the buttercream rose. Glide the rose off of the pastry nail and onto the cupcake.  The scissors should slide right out from underneath it, but if you have trouble you can use a chopstick to gently hold the rose onto the cupcake as you pull the scissors away.
If you want to cover the entire cupcake with the rose, pipe a few petals around the rose until you acheive the look you want.  For a simple and sophisticated look, keep the basic rose, and maybe add a sprinkle of edible luster dust on top.
Use a star tip to add some details in a complimentary color around the roses for a more shabby chic look.
Add a thin line of a complimentary color food coloring down the inside of a pastry bag (leading to the thin point on the 104 petal tip), before you fill the bag with your butterceram.  The result is a rose with more dimension and interest.  The extra punch of color along the edges of the flower really make it pop!
There are lots of 'rules' to piping buttercream roses.  I think that all flowers are unique, and so are all people.  Once you know the basics of the technique, you can find how to make the style of rose that fits you.  Don't be afraid to scrape off your frosting and start over again, that's part of the process!  I like to pipe my roses directly on my cupcakes now, because I have more control of the size of the rose and sometime the roses on the pastry nail end up being too much frosting for the small cupcake.  The cupcake is harder to spin than the pastry nail as you pipe, so make sure to practice on the pastry nail first to avoid getting frustrated. (=  Also, don't stress about doing it 'right', have fun, practice, and please share your beautiful rose creations with me!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

I grew up in a tight knit family (we also like to knit...the house is filled with yarn).  Ever since I can remember its been my mom, my siblings, my grandparents, and my uncle's family forging through this zig zag of life together.  Growing up in such a close family, I knew that someday things would start to change, grandparents would grow older, siblings would get married, new families would blossom.  Its funny how you always think about it happening, but never realize how soon. Recently, as my grandparents have fought with the stubbornness of the Stickney name to shine in their golden years, changes such as the addition of my mom's fiance Clyde, as well as the upcoming nuptials of my sister Danielle have shed a bright light over the family.  Excited to celebrate this radiant occasion, my sisters and I teamed up to tackle the first bridal shower of the family, and to make it a party to remember!
Led by my youngest sister Giselle, my sisters and I created the perfect party for the bride to be.  This is what Danielle experienced once she kicked off her boots!
Silverware was tuckled into blue linen napkins and wrapped in doilies.  The serving table was piled high with a collection of the wedding china of my Grandma, Mom, and Aunt.  Wine glasses for mimosas and bellinis were hand painted with hydrangea blossoms by a family friend.
Of course, I took a moment to Vanna White the beautiful table. 
My younger sister Giselle exercised her florist skills, turning simple white teapots into centerpieces with blue hydrangeas and sprays of tea roses and other hints of pink.  Each table was also adorned with various candles and childhood pictures in silver frames for the guests to giggle over.
The effect was simple and effective.  The lace fabric draped over the blue linens brought a vintage vibe to the room.  Old, new, borrowed, and blue, the tables truly reflected the style of the bride to be.
A wandering kitty completed the homey elegance of the room.
Wedding pictures of the women of my family were tuckled amongst the family heirlooms on the mantle to remind everyone of the bridal tradtion all women get to experience and share.
I created sugar cookie buttons in all shades of teal and blue as a nod to the thread of sewing talent that has been stitched from my grandma, through my mom, to my sister Danielle.  They were super tasty and looked cute as a button as a decorative touch on the serving table.
I baked up my Grandma's chocolate cake recipe and decorated them with hydrangea piped buttercream frosting.  Coconut cupcakes were decorated with piped roses and white ruffles.  Tutorials for making both will be in my next blog post!
Sugar cubes were decorated with hydrangeas and girly frills so the ladies could add a touch of flair to their coffee.
The sweet treats were nestled amongst fruit salad, muffins, mini quiche, and lots lots more!
 For as long as I can remember, my grandma had her 'What not' shelf in her house, filled with the random 'what nots' she had collected.  It would have everything from buttons, candies, and small antiques, to tiny vases filled with the flowers we picked for her from the yard.  My Grammy could not be at the party, but decorating the what not with our own 'what nots' was a special way to feel and appreciate her continued presence in our lives.  Giselle created little shoes out of patterned paper for the guests to take home as favors.  Bowls of the old fashioned candies my Grammy always had in her candy dish (spice drops, necco wafers, candy hearts, and nonpareils) were available for guests to scoop into little nylon baggies to take home with them.
My sister Gill made sure to include some fun new traditions of toilet paper wedding gowns, bride trivia, and memory games...
 as well as continue an old tradition of creating the wedding bow bouquet!
The bridal shower was a great success! Spending time with family, and seeing my sister's joy in celebrating her upcoming marriage with all her friends, family, and family to be was well worth all the effort. It was so special to see my sister sharing a moment with my grandpa, laughing with my mom, and sharing special moments with her Mother in Law to be.
  Looking back, I can see that her shower rang true to the popular Old English wedding rhyme. It was a beautiful blend of the comfort of old, the excitement of new, borrowed antiques, all sprinkled with blue! 
It was such a special day and I am so happy that I was able to share those moments with my family.  I consider baking, decorating, and eating sweets to be one of the greatest passions of mine; however, I will tell you one family; I love them more than cupcakes! Happy Valentines Day, I hope you share it with those you love.