Posted on March 7, 2014
I’m in the mood to feature a cake. I have a bunch that I’ve never put on here. Sometime, I’m going to make a separate cake section on this site. I think at some point, it could merit its own section because that’s what I picture doing in 5 years or so… cakes. Between now and then, I plan to have fun doing a few hit n miss and taking classes and tripling my cake-decorating tools/gadgets/pans supply. I want to take classes so I can prevent mistakes instead of learn from my mistakes. Right now cake-making is pretty much a “wing it” deal, and while that’s worked out pretty well so far, there’s also been a lot of wincing-then-sighs-of-relief involved too. And well, yeah, some wincing-then-starting-over moments, too.
This particular cake was quite an honor. It was the FIRST wedding cake I’ve ever done. The bride-to-be knew I’m not a pro, but she trusted me anyway… uhhhh, in case you wonder, that spells p-r-e-s-s-u-r-e!!!
You know that whole “wing it” thing I was talking about earlier? Well, I had never done wood grain before. Nor had I ever made a cake this big (the biggest pan size I owned up to this point was a 12″ and I had to go get a 16″ pan for this cake). The bottom layer is 16″, middle layer is 12″, top layer is 8″, and each layer is roughly 6″ tall.
I didn’t take very many step-by-step pictures because I was in the cake-decorating zone and well, simply forgot. But in case you’re interested, here is the construction, then I’ll get to the fun part… the wood and flowers.
The bottom layer is a 3″ chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and a 3″ vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, each split with frosting between. When they were frosted, I put the chocolate layer on the cake board and put four 3″ dowels in it so the weight of the rest of the cake wouldn’t be on it, then set the white layer (which was on cardboard) on top. Here is a (very bad) picture of that, quickly taken before all the fondant was on.
Then I put four 3″ dowels thro’ the white cake and one sharpened 6″ dowel down thro’ both cakes and the cardboard layer between them.
The middle basket is all chocolate with chocolate buttercream and is on cardboard. No cardboard between the layers, but the cake does have dowels in it for holding the weight of the top basket.
The top basket is all vanilla with vanilla buttercream and is on cardboard. No cardboard between layers and no dowels.
Now for the fun part!
First is the wood grain. The slats may look like individual pieces, but it’s actually larger sections with multiple slats per sections. I started with white fondant and mixed in some cocoa powder to make it a light tan. In hindsight, I don’t think I would’ve had to do that step though because the “stain” would’ve covered it fine without leaving white spots when wiping it off.
Roll out fondant. Cut it to a rectangle… length doesn’t matter, but try to get the height as close to correct as possible. Take something about 1/8″ wide and indent lines from top to bottom, these are the slats. I said “take something 1/8″ wide” so you know you can make wood grain without a well-I-don’t-have-a-decorating-tool-set excuse. You can use the handle end of a small paintbrush or whatever. Next, beat it up. Give it some character. Make dents, make lines, make knots. And yes, there is powdered sugar all over the place… it keeps the fondant from sticking to the counter.
Then, mix vodka with brown food coloring paste to make “stain” to stain the wood. If you’re concerned about the alcoholic aspect, the alcohol evaporates. Plus, you don’t use much at all, so the teeny bit that would be on one piece of cake wouldn’t affect anyone if it wouldn’t evaporate. (Do NOT use water or you’ll have a mess on your hands because water becomes like glue when it touches fondant.) Get a clean paintbrush and brush the stain on. Wipe it off immediately with a clean cloth. And THAT is when the magic happens. It doesn’t look like much up to that point, in fact it looks like quite a mess. But as soon as you wipe the excess stain away, a beautiful realistic-looking-wood piece of fondant appears!
If the icing on the cake is a crusting kind, run a knife or something over it to un-crust it so the fondant will stick to it. Carefully pick up the fondant and place it around the cake. If you wait several minutes until the alcohol has evaporated, it doesn’t stick to your hands while you’re placing it on the cake and you can also loosely roll it up without it sticking together to transfer it to the cake.
After all the wood was on, I made the bands. This beautiful blue was one of the wedding colors, which is why the bands were this color… if I’m making a basket case for just anyhow, I’d probably make the bands tan. This was simply coloring the fondant, rolling it out, cutting it into strips, wetting the back of the strips with water, and placing them around the cake. After putting each band on the cake, I did the staples. If I’d have waited to do the staples until all the bands on all the cakes were done, it wouldn’t have worked as well because the fondant on the first bands would’ve started drying out and it wouldn’t have been as easy to make an indentation. After making the indentations, I took a tiny paintbrush and painted brown food coloring inside them. Some of them got a little messy and I was sighing about it to Shannon and he said, “No, it’s great. It makes them just look rusty.” Ah, way to make lemonaide out of a lemon.
Next, I covered the visible part of the cake board with white fondant and put a white ribbon around the edge. Then, I crumbled up some leftover chocolate cake for the “dirt” and put it around the rims of the 2 lower baskets and over the top of the top basket. It looked good, but next time, I’d use Oreo crumbs… I think they’d look more like dirt, but I didn’t think of it at the time.
Then, it was time to add COLOR. Fondant daisies. Hot pink was the other wedding color, so that’s what the daisies were. Here are some of the daisies and leaves drying ahead of time. I put them on crumpled tin foil so they wouldn’t dry flat and boring.
In case these look hard, they’re not. I have a flower/leaf cutter and impression set that I used… one of my happy purchases from Michaels with a 40% off coupon. I also added a bit of petal dust for a more realist look.
So, there you have it, a wooden basket daisy cake. It was challenging and a whole lot of FUN!
Filed Under Cakes | 1 Comment
Posted on February 14, 2014
Happy Valentines Day!
I’m actually not sure yet what I’m going to do for our meal tonight. Can you say “last minute”? I like to at least acknowledge Valentines Day each year with a meal, but for tonight I’m kind of thinking regular food with Valentine décor and dishes. I’m really in the mood for Parmesan Chicken and I don’t know how to make that heart-shaped without being too corny and chicken-wasting with a large cookie cutter and chicken breasts.
I’m not even sure why I said the corny part… that ship already sailed. Half of the stuff at Valentines is corny because we use our imaginations and anything goes as long as it involves hearts and red and love and “awwww”. I think you’ll see what I mean if you keep reading this post.
Today I’m posting a meal that I made on a previous Valentines Day. So, if you’re looking for some last minute ideas for tonight, here you go.
The menu was:
-Red velvet cake
I used this recipe because it’s THE *personal opinion alert* best meatloaf ever!! And I baked it in a heart-shaped pan. My mom used to always do that with meatloaf on Valentines Day.
I made regular noodles and cooked a couple pieces of lasagna in with them. After it was cooked, I took a heart cutter and cut hearts out of the lasagna pieces and threw them back in with the noodles. When I dished it up, I pulled some of the hearts up to the top.
Here is the recipe for the noodles in case you’d like it:
1/4 c. butter
1 1/4qt. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. chicken base
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s
8oz. homemade egg noodles
1/3 of a can of cream of chicken soup
Brown the butter. Add the broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cream of chicken soup, stir, put on lid, and turn off the burner, and let set 20 minutes.
Another one from my childhood that Mom did… it’s simply lettuce salad with little heart-shaped cheese tossed in it.
Biscuits with jam
I made regular biscuit and cut them out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and then just for extra color, piped a heart shape of jam on top before baking them (we ate more jam and butter with them at mealtime). The jam kind of got messed up in the baking process, but you could still tell what I was trying for.
Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting
I used this recipe, made only a 1/2 recipe and 1 layer, and made it heart-shaped instead of round. The rose is red and green candy melts. The rose tutorial is here and then I just sorta winged it with the stem and leaves.
For the décor:
We put red ribbon around on the table and the girls used a heart punch to cut out hearts to sprinkle around.
We used goblets, dipped the tops into colored sugar, and tied red ribbon around the stems.
We had a red centerpiece (you can see the base of it on the first picture up there) that looked more or less like an explosion of spikes and hearts. Festive, but we didn’t end up using it because the table was too full.
Lexi sneakily made Valentines for each of us and put it on our plates.
I really wish I’d have seen this Valentine note that I made to myself earlier because now it’s too late because I don’t plan to (or feel like) going anywhere today, but here is an idea I had tucked away for this Valentines Day and just found a bit ago. I’ll put it on here though, because we’re in the Valentine mode.
Remember what I said up there about corny? Well, here’s a huge *corny alert*!
The idea was to put these on each plate:
For my husband: chocolate candy from our local bulk foods store that looks exactly like rocks, along with a note that says ”You ROCK my world”
For Lexi (11): Starbursts and “I’m BURSTing with happiness that you’re my girl”
For Tiffany (7): Gummy bears with “I love you BEARy much”
For Megan: (3): Suckers or smarties or anything sweet with “You’re my little SWEETie”
Wishing all of you a wonderful Valentines Day, and thank God for all the ones you love!
Filed Under For special occassions, Garnishing, Holiday cooking | 3 Comments
Posted on January 24, 2014
This is one of my favorite foods at the moment. I’m not even sure why I like it so good. I mean, it’s basically just rice, beans, and chicken, which doesn’t sound all that exciting. But man, it is so GOOD!!! It must be the cumin. Or cilantro. I don’t know, but I just had it yesterday and I’m craving it again. I wonder how many days in a row I could eat it before I’d get tired of it.
So, please make it.
Don’t let the list of spices, herbs and steps make it look daunting.
I’ll be honest, it is kind of time-consuming to make. But all casseroles and soups are. ……..When I say that sentence in a conversation, it’s like I want to ask myself “Did I yell that? Or why did everyone perk up and half the people are wildly talking over each other disagreeing with me?” Every time I say that, people come up for air defending it because “casseroles are so quick” and “just throw together a soup”. It will forever be a mystery to me why I seem to always be standing alone on the casseroles-and-soups-are-more-time-consuming island. I just realized that I’m off on a bunny trail here, but I’ll follow it a bit more and tell you why I feel the way I do… in case you’re coming up for air too.
There are so many steps to all-in-one dishes… you fry the meat, you cook the noodles, you chop the veggies, you sauté them, you make and thicken sauce. You mix it together, add more things, and then you still have to bake it, stir it, or cook it.
When it’s all separate, you bake/fry/cook it, and then it’s done and ready to put on the table.
Maybe I’m a bit biased because I prefer to cook the “separate” way, partly because that’s how I grew up, partly because Shannon often grills the meat if it’s separate, partly because I’m always stumped about what to put on for side dishes because all the food groups are in the main dish, and partly because you can taste each food better. Ok, let’s bring this bunny trail back over to the main trail again.
I’m just sitting here wondering why I’m putting a plug in for “meat & potatoes” meals when what I’m posting is an all-in-one meal! Ha.
Yesterday when I made Chipotle in a Bowl, it seemed to go extra fast because… 4 of my friends were sitting on bar stools around my island (the one in my kitchen, not the opinion one up there that I stand alone on ) and we were all chatting the morning away with cups of coffee. I wish they’d come sit around my island every time I’m cooking. It takes something already enjoyable… cooking … and makes it even more enjoyable… cooking with friends and coffee!
Chipotle in a Bowl …from the cookbook Simple & Satisfying
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
Marinade chicken in seasonings for at least 4 hours. Fry in oil until done.
2 Tbsp. oil
2 cups rice
1 c. chopped onion ( I go a little easy on this.)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. chicken soup base
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 – 2 Tbsp. cilantro, fresh is best
4 cups water
Fry rice and onion in oil, then add remaining ingredients. Simmer until rice is soft. I’ve never timed this, I’d say it’s about 1/2 hour. I just go by when the water is gone.
2 cups cooked black beans (I use canned. A couple of my friends say dry ones that you soak yourself are better. I want to try that next time.)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 – 2 Tbsp. cilantro
Simmer bean ingredients together for 10 minutes.
2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use Mexican blend.)
Tomatoes or salsa
This recipe is great as is. The only thing I’m going to try changing sometime is using only half the rice. I think it’s a bit of an overkill for how little chicken is in the recipe, even though I really like rice.
We all love this. It’s just bursting with flavor and it’s not too spicy for the kids.
Filed Under Chicken and Turkey, Main dishes | 8 Comments
Posted on January 18, 2014
It’s all the same thing… which do you call it? When I was a kid, we called it puppy chow. So, it will always be puppy chow to me. My kids seem to have heard it called monkey munch somewhere, in addition to me calling it puppy chow, because they call it monkey chow. Sometimes I wonder how foods get their names. This fun make-in-15-minutes-or-less snack has nothing to do with monkeys or puppies. Or buddies.
I’m going to post the regular recipe, but I’m also going to post a variation. It all ends up tasting pretty much the same. I tried it one time when we needed a puppy chow fix and we were out of chocolate chips. And it worked! Improvising when you need a chocolate fix and you’re out of chocolate chips reminds me of no bake cookies. Been there done that. I have a confession to make… I often don’t keep chocolate chips on hand for the sole purpose of not having to exercise as much self control. If it wouldn’t be for chocolate in my life, I fully believe I wouldn’t struggle with weight. Milk chocolate, that is. Why did they ever have to invent milk chocolate anyway? *she said, secretly thankful that they did because of the amazingness it has added to her life*. Dark or semi-sweet is about as tempting to me as, say, apples or something. Liz, I just now thought of you, my dark-chocolate-lovin’ sister-in-law. So anyway, having milk chocolate chips in my cupboard are as tempting as having a stash of candy bars in there. I’ve tried to switch to baking with dark chocolate chips, but my girls happen to not like dark chocolate very well. Hmmm, I wonder why.
9 cups Chex cereal
1 cup chocolate chips (variation: melt 6 T butter and stir in 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1/2 cup sugar)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Put chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir. If it’s not all melted, put it back in the microwave for 30 seconds until it can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.
Dump Chex in and stir until coated.
Pour into large ziplock bag, add powdered sugar, and shake to coat.
Spread on waxed paper to cool.
At this point, the puppy chow is dangerously vulnerable to kids, who magically appear in the kitchen while it’s cooling.
Liz and I were talking about puppy chow over the holidays because I was going to make it when she and a bunch of other family were here (but then didn’t because there were SO many snacks already sitting around) and she said she stores it in the freezer because it gives it extra crunch. Crunch is a good thing. So now I store mine in the freezer too.
If it makes it to the freezer, that is. (Refer to cooling picture above.)
Filed Under Holiday cooking, Snacks | 8 Comments
Posted on January 1, 2014
How can it be 2014 already?! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we brought in the 2000s on the beach in FL. This year was brought in by tucking my girls and their cousins in bed and the cutest conversation in which their grandma (Shannon’s mom) was explaining what new year’s resolutions are and helping them make one. I was glad she vetoed and explained to my 11-yr-old how “Getting Mom and Dad to buy me an iPhone” is not a valid new year’s resolution. And the funniest one was when Chad (5) made one for his toddler sister… “I know what Tianna would say. She’d say to make the whole world into nippys”.
So, I started the year out laughing… here’s to a good one! And wishing you and yours a good year too! May you have plenty of cake.
Filed Under Cakes | 3 Comments