Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

I admit it.  I have a problem (no snickering from the peanut gallery please).  I hate to say no to anyone.  If it something I don't want to do or honestly can not do I will and can say no.  However often times if someone asks me to bake a cake (which you know I love to do) I just can't say no.  Sure enough this morning a friend asked me if I had the ingredients for a cake.  Silly question, of course I have the ingredients for a cake.  The next question was, do you still have that flag cake pan?  Once again, silly question, I have never gotten rid of a cake pan.  This was all just a prelude to the real question of, would you bake a cake for me, for today, for fourth of July?  My friend had to work and thought it might be a nice surprise for others in the same predicament.  So I said, of course I would love to bake a cake.  It was nothing too special just a butter cake aptly decorated as our American flag.  It twas a rush job so I have to admit I took some shortcuts to make sure it got done quickly.  However no one complained about it, and apparently the entire cake disappeared, which is the highest honor I can receive for a cake.
Happy Birthday America!  Happy Independence Day to all Americans!   

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's a Rosey Birthday

  A few posts ago I spoke of a co-worker, Janice.  I had made a cake for her daughter Catie's birthday.  Guess what?  Janice's birthday was right around the corner from Catie's.  So when I got pulled aside by two of the people who report to her saying they wanted to do something extra special for her birthday, and would I please bake her a cake, there was no way in this world I could say no.  However on her actual birthday she was working out of the office so I convinced them to wait until Monday when she would be back in the office.
  In the meantime I wanted to come up with something extra special for Janice.  Something elegant, but casual.  Something I have never done before.  After spending a little time on Pinterest, I found it.  A cake decorated with hombre roses.  Now I was not sure I could do this, because I had never done it before and decorating on the sides of a cake can be, well, tricky to say the least.  So I baked a ten inch two layer butter cake.  After the normal prep, I dirty iced the center, sides, and top and went to work on the roses.  It was actually amazingly easy and the overall effect is gorgeous.
  Knowing that Janice had a day camp that day and would be early I made sure I was actually extra early so I could deliver the cake to my coworkers without Janice seeing it.  However part way through she saw it.  So one employee, let's call her Tamika played it off like the cake was for her daughter.  Janice apparently gazed at it saying what a pretty cake it was and how good it would taste.  After an entire day of this, around three the entire staff came together to sing happy birthday to Janice.  She was stunned and it took awhile for her to realize that the cake was actually for her.  As it turned out one of the children in the day camp also had a birthday and a teen volunteer had turned 17 the day before.  So in the spirit of birthdays and fun, Janice shared her cake with everyone.  I have to admit I cut it in such a manner so that she would have plenty to take home and share with her family.
  After we got done with all the days events, Janice said she was touched by the cake.  She said she could not remember the last time anyone had made her a birthday cake.  The fact that people had wanted to go the extra mile for her, just made her feel so special that day.  That is what this cake was all about.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fishing for a Cake

"What are your plans this weekend?" is often an opening line, not for a date, but a request for a cake.  One of my coworkers, lets call her Denese was going to the beach with her family.  She wanted to surprise them with something sweet while they were there so she decided she wanted a, "Shea cake."  I promise I did not come up with this term but it is one that is used by many of my coworkers, and I am finding it seeping into my vocabulary.
  I digress.  After the opening line Denese asked about a cake for the entire family, since she had to travel she preferred a sheet cake.  Knowing Denese fairly well I knew that she was not a laying on the beach, toes in the sand, kind of person.  So this left me a little befuddled until she told me this was a fishing trip.  Now somewhere in all my stuff I was sure I had a guy in a boat fishing.  However when I went looking it was not there.  Plan B.  I went to the store and found the seaweed, turtles, fish, and star fish that would work.  A little blue gel, brown sugar for the sand, and we had a great fishing/beach scene that the family could devour.
  One of the great things I have learned thanks to a previous cake for Janice in this blog is that sheet cakes fit perfectly into a long flat rubber made tote.  I packaged it up for Denese and sent her to the beach.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Birthday Fit for a Princess

  I love the random call on a day when the world is just full of questions asking for a cake.  It sort of brightens my day and gives me something to look forward to.  That is how this cake started.  A mother in search of a special cake for her daughter.  She was looking at the photos we have posted and after a little talking back and forth decided to go with the castle.  Her daughter likes flowers, butterflies, and peace symbols so I went with the flowers flowing up the sides of the castle wall with this design.  It was a basic butter cake for the inside and just enough to feed about 20 people.  I hope this helped make this little girl's birthday something special.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Picture Perfect Birthday

As you may have noticed, it is not often that I have a photo of the cake recipient to post along with the cake.  Catie is the daughter of one of my wonderful co-workers, Janice.  Actually Janice has two daughters for which I have had the pleasure of creating cakes for.  Now mind you the two are as different as day and night.  I do not point this out to say it is a bad thing, I mention it because it makes this story all the more special.  Catie's sister, Ally, is the planer.  She starts months before her birthday and plans each detail of the cake.  All I have to do is interpret her design through icing and baking to make it come true.  Catie on the other hand is as quiet and unassuming as a person can be.  She does not mention birthdays and is just thrilled if others remember the day.  So when Janice came to me and asked for a birthday cake, I had to throw the typical questions out there, of what does she like, how big should it be, what flavor, because unlike Ally who usually has a big custom design with bright colors, Catie is very different.  As I started firing off the questions like a sub machine gun, Janice just looked at me with her eyes getting bigger and bigger.  I stopped and backed it up and said chocolate or butter?  "Butter" she replied.  "Lots of people?" I asked.  "Just the four of us, Catie likes small celebrations," she replied.  Now for the big one, "What does she love?" I asked.  "her family, her job, oh, oh...." her eyes suddenly got bigger, "N. C. State.  She loves N. C. State."  Well that I knew I could do.
The other thing about this cake was that it was one to be done by the next day.  Normally I would not do that, but for Janice and Catie you bet I would do whatever I could to make her day even more special.  I got home and went to work, baking like a wild women.  The baking was fairly uneventful but when it came to decorating, I have to admit this was the messiest cake I have ever decorated.  I realized as I went to decorate I was out of bags.  For those of you who say run to Wal-Mart or use a Ziploc with the corner cut off, well I thought of that.  At two in the morning I found found that travelling to Wal-Mart by myself is not my favorite thing to do.  By the way I did try the Ziploc but it could not handle the pressure needed to squeeze the icing out and split in several places.  So plan B.  I had some parchment triangles and thought I would use those.  Although they worked it was difficult at best to them folded into the right shape to get a coupler attached and I did end up with icing all over me.  In the end however it all worked out and the N. C. State cake looked just like the block S it was supposed to look like.
I delivered it to the office and imagine my surprise the next night when these photos were shared on facebook for me to see.  There is Catie blowing out the candles when the family went to dinner to celebrate.  Also a shot of Catie and Ally as she cut her birthday cake.  I have to say the photos made my day and made me feel included in the family celebration.  Catie really seemed to enjoy her cake and her special day.  Happy Birthday Catie!
Oh, and one other side note, that I think Catie might like me to mention.  Happy Birthday N. C. State which turned 125 years old this year.        

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Don't Say We're Chicken

  I love special requests.  One of our wonderful 4-H Volunteers and a fellow Master Gardener came to me and asked if I could do a cake for her.  She was having a working get together.  What I mean by that is she invites friends and family out to her farm to help do maintenance, build pens, help repair fencing, and she feeds them for a days worth of work helping her out.  I have to brag on this for a moment.  In September she really started working at marketing her farm, where she sells fresh chicken and eggs.  It is a great start up small business and she has more than quadrupled her sales in the last 8 months, which is really impressive.  That being said, every little bit of help she can get on the farm is essential, hence her working invitation.
  The request for the cake was to make it look like a chicken, similar to the invitation she sent out.  We decided to go with a butter cake and a fudge cake to please everyone who might be coming to help.  So my plan went into action.  I made the nest out of chocolate cake and hollowed out the center to place the chicken.  I admit my chicken is a little fat, that's because I carved it from a rubber duck cake mold that I have.  Now the tricky part was not making the nest look nesty but making the chicken in the design on the paper.  I took a little creative license and made the white icing fluffy to look like feathers then implemented as much of the design as I could.
  When I delivered the cake, the recipient seemed thrilled that I had actually gone further than making a chicken, but tried to copy the paper design.  I understand that the chocolate cake was a big hit and the chicken didn't last much longer than the rest.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Going a Little Nutty...Coconutty That Is.

  Sometimes I like to surprise people.  Surprise them with nice surprises like a cake.  A friend of my mother's mentioned on Facebook that she likes anything involving coconut.  Specifically that day she was in need of a coconut cream cake.  Living 5 hours away it's not like I could make the cake that day and deliver it.  So I did the next best thing.
  A couple of weeks later I was visiting my mother, as part of a multi-cake/ multi-event weekend and thought I might try my hand at making a coconut cream cake.  Having never done this before it was going to be a new and exciting experiment.  Add to that, that I am now used to baking in a gas stove and my mother has an electric oven that does not get much use, and I knew that it would either be a recipe for greatness or disaster.  I started by baking a white coconut cake (two 9 inch layers).  After letting them cool I poked them full of holes then drizzled a mixture of sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk.  I placed the cakes in the fridge overnight (so it could absorb all the milky goodness that I had poured over it and into it) and then had the difficult task of getting them out of the cake pans.  My trick to this is to put the cakes into a warm oven for a few minutes (which will loosen up the edges) and it should fall right out.  Needless to say this is a heavy (weight wise) cake.  I made whipped cream (which a small amount of sugar in it) to ice the cake with (between the layers and on the outside).  Of course it is not truly a coconut cake without coconut which I placed on the top.  My biggest concern was that this 6 inch tall cake would be too sweet.  As it turned out, the recipient said it was not too sweet and she was kind enough to share it with neighbors and friends (I must admit that it was a really big cake).  I was hoping it ended up like my butter run cake that was so moist it dissolves in your mouth.  However I think the cream vs a rum mixture would make it a little heavier.  Overall I think I might try this one out again.