Monday, November 28, 2011

Cake Design 101

There are a number of different ways I approach cake design.

Sometimes the customer comes in with a photo and asks me to re-create that cake exactly. Of course, I would much rather create a unique design for each of my customers since that’s more creatively satisfying, so I will encourage them to tweak the design to reflect their own style. But, if they really want the design exactly as it is in the photo, I won’t refuse to replicate it as long as it comes from a public source, e.g, a bridal magazine or bridal planning website. I’ve made cakes for magazines and understand that when a photo of my cake is published as a design inspiration the cake may be replicated by another baker, and I’m OK with that.

You might think that it’s liberating when a customer says “Do whatever you want”. But it can be quite difficult if they give me no direction. So I'll have them to look through my photos and point out some cakes that they like and ask what specifically attracts them to each. Through this process I often see a pattern of their likes/dislikes and can start from there to create a design for them.

Ideally, a customer comes in with a sense of what they want, but not an exact photo to work from. I’ll use one of my favorite recent cakes to illustrate how the bride and I worked together to create her cake.

When Shan came in for our initial consultation she brought along her wedding invitation, which featured a cherry blossom motif:hu-invite

There are lots of cherry blossom cakes out there, so the challenge was to come up with a design that was unique for this bride. In looking at my portfolio she zeroed in on two cakes:

cherryblossom1 carson

As a follow up to our meeting she sent me photos of her centerpiece, a cake she saw on the web (from Pink Cake Box) and the type of topper she planned to use.

hu-centerpiece hu-pcbCute Hugging Bride and...

So I pulled together elements from all these sources. The fondant would be ivory, since I love the red/ivory combination. I used both red and pink cherry blossoms, as she’d asked me to do, but kept the number of branches to a minimum to work within her budget. I made the branches in the same style as those on the cherry blossom cake from my portfolio, but had the branch reaching downward, as it was in the photo from Pink Cake Box. I then scattered the loose blossoms similarly to the purple blossoms from my portfolio cake. I added the bits of red glitter to the design because I liked the way they looked in her centerpiece.

Here’s the rough sketch and the final cake:

hufinal hu hu-blossom closeup

The topper featured two solar-powered bobble heads. How cute it that?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

From My Kitchen–Fall Goodies

Though this blog is mainly a place to talk about and showcase cakes produced for Cake Art Studio, I thought it might be fun to occasionally show some of the goodies that come out of my home kitchen.

I’ve been a baker for as long as I can remember, literally. One of my earliest and fondest memories is playing with my easy bake oven--staring into the little window, waiting an eternity for those tiny cakes to be baked by a 100 watt light bulb.

Since my family is a little tired of cake (yes, it’s possible) I almost never make cakes for us. We have birthday pie or tart instead of birthday cake.

A few weeks ago my daughter was home from college for fall break. I always try to make some of her favorite goodies when she’s home. I figure if I always have their favorite foods, they’ll always want to come home (hopefully). Fall break called for some fall favorites.

I made a huge batch of oatmeal-maple cookies, thinking that she could take the left-overs back to school with her…there were no left-overs:

oatmeal-maple cookies

I will now give you my secret recipe: Buy one box of Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats, open the box and look under the lid. That’s where you’ll find the recipe I use, mostly. I do tweak it just a bit, but the recipe on the box is great. The glaze is what makes these cookies so good. It’s made with confectioners sugar and maple syrup. Just stir enough maple syrup (and, yes, it has to be real maple syrup!!) into 1# of sugar until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. I put the glaze on while the cookies are still warm so it dries into a nice shiny crust. Sooo yummy!!

Pie of any type is a favorite in our house and apple pie is a staple for fall:

apple pie A piece of this actually did make it back to school with my daughter. You don’t need a “recipe” to make a good pie crust. I use a 2:1, flour to fat, ratio. So, basically, 1# of flour and 8oz of fat with a little salt, and maybe sugar, and some ice water, is all you need. Of course you can play around with the type of flour and fat. Next time I make pie dough I’ll take pictures and walk through the steps to a great crust. Pie crust is a topic that deserves its own post. And the apples? Well, next week I’m picking up 30# of “Gold Rush” apples I special ordered from North Star Orchards. Gold Rush apples make, by far, the best apple pie ever!

Happy Fall!!!