Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's

I have been so merrily busy, working, and creating, and visiting. Every minute seems to be promised to something or someone. I wouldn't change it if i could. I would like to throw a shout out to all my friends old and new. this year has been a roller coaster, full of twists and turns. thank you to my old friends, for standing by me and and supporting me. Without my friends Thea, Buns, Lemur, Mander, Alpha Proofing, Laramel, Raptor chick, the Queen, Miss Kitty, SnP, Mander, Bluehaus, Maxler and so many more.... I don't know where I would be. Without the inspiration of new friends, like the Polish Viking, A Canadian Foodie, and others I might not have had the confidence to find my way. I look forward to this next year and all the promises and challenges it holds.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Empire Bakes Back

Alternate title: if this cake had been burnt, this post would be called 
The Reburn of the Sith.

First I would like to comment on all the attention I have been getting on the interwebs for my Forest of Endor gingerbread project. I am completely overwhelmed by all the positive feedback I have gotten. I can't believe how many people have stopped by my humble little slice of the Internet. I really can't express my gratitude for all the support!
 Thank you to all of my old friends, and new.
Now on to the cake. Wouldn't you know it.... Star Wars again. A certain local chef is receiving a death star cake for his birthday tomorrow! The staff from a wonderful nearby steakhouse got together ( led by Mr. SnP, new husband to my dear friend, and chef extraordinaire) and ordered a cake from me. They were awesome, understanding to the time constraints and they gave me creative licence. I know the Chef is a Sith man, so I went with Vader.
when in doubt... Vader is the answer

After making the rice Krispie Death Star, doing all the wiring to make it light up, and the structural supports, this cake seemed as easy as pie. Ha! Easy as pie! the biggest challenge for me was definitely Darth Vader. I started over several times making his head. Getting all the angles right, and the proportions aligned is difficult when you're sculpting. It is especially troublesome when you make such an iconic character, the smallest mistakes look huge. Everyone knows what Darth Vader looks like. I have to remind myself that sugar and chocolate and other tasty things are not the easiest medium. I did the best I could in the time I had. At the very least he is recognisable. That makes my inner nerd squee! 
My mind swirled with tons of cool ideas, but I had to rein myself in. That is one thing I am getting much better at, NOT over decorating. I realise now that i don't always have to use every single one of my ideas. Sometimes it is better to let afew well done decorations shine, rather than crowd a cake with lots of mediocre stuff.  I decided to go simple but striking. Just enough to look cool!. i carved two 6" vanilla cakes with berry Italian butter cream into the shape of the death star. A 10"double chocolate cake was decorated as "space" and of course the edible Darth Vader. I hope the flavors will please the palates of this culinary crowd. I make everything from scratch including my fondant, because i think it really makes a big difference. It is great to make a cake look fabulous, but what is the point if it doesn't taste as good as it looks? 
coming soon, baked goods that are not Lucas based. 
stay tuned for fondant tips and recipes. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

In a Galaxy Far Far Away

Alright, people settle in for a long post. Its been exactly one month in the making. Can you guess from the title and the pic above? That's right!!! STAR WARS!!! Edible star wars !!!!  

So this year for my Festival of Trees project, I decided to do Star Wars. I know it might not be the most festive idea, but the theme was "Under the Tree" so I mean.... come on... it sort of works? Right? Yeah? Forest of Endor? Lots of trees? Whatever, hopefully it will help raise lots of moolah for the University Hospital! and that's what it's all about. That and challenging myself to learn something new every time. So get comfy, and get ready for the play-by-play of how this idea became a reality. Don't worry, there will be LOTS of pictures.
So on Oct 29th, I pick up the fateful MDF board from the lovely organiser. Approximately 2' x 2' and a glorious blank canvas. Not for long. Lemur came over and we set up the main structure for the trees and the Death Star. A lot more planning went into this than i usually have to do.  it was the first time i have done major structural support, but after the tree house fell over on my Simpsons project, I had to make sure there was no chance of that! Also, the Death Star was going to be above the 2' height restriction, which was O.K., as long as it was removable for transport.... CHALLENGE! 8) Once all the dowels were secured, I covered everything in foil... just to make it into that blank canvas again

 First, I covered the tree dowels in royal icing, and the a thick layer of Rice Krispie treats. Then I cover the cereal treats with fondant, which I marked with a wood texture. Then I drilled holes at an angle to put the cinnamon sticks in. The cinnamon was meant to help support the gingerbread platforms and huts that were going to sit on top of this set up.

Meanwhile I baked off a LOT of ginger bread. platforms, walls, bridge pieces, and lots of spares in case of breakage.  
 Once the "trees" were set, I covered the platforms with royal icing and placed them in position above the forest floor. 8) This seems like a fairly straightforward process, right? Well, lets just say there was a bit of a learning curve. In the end all the platform were just fine. The biggest issue I had was the main area, with a BIG platform stretching between two trees. I broke 3 pieces trying to get it to work. Finally, I made it in two pieces and used royal icing to "glue" them together in mid air! I needed a bit of support to make this happen... literally. In the end it all worked out, and I was amazed my design worked.
 I mean.... Um.... of course it worked!

Once all the gingerbread was set in place, I covered it in fondant with a wooden plank design. I painted all the "wooden" elements with a bit of colour to make it more rustic looking, and then let it set up.

In the meantime..... DEATH STAR!
 Humble beginnings for this formidable task. A giant ball of Rice Krispie treats, roughly shaped like the unfinished death star from Return of the Jedi, covered in grey fondant and left to dry out.
One of the coolest parts of this project was Lemur teaching me how to solder the wires together for the custom LED lights we used in the death star. He was absolutely brilliant in his plan to make it light up, and shoot. We (mostly He) wired up a rig of green LED lights, and a battery pack to light 'em up! As well as cutting some fibre optic rods to carry the light. BRILLIANT. I cant say enough great things about my sweet friend, or thank him enough for his help, inspiration, and support. 

My trusty dremel makes another appearance to make the appropriate space for the lights and necessary wiring. Then I (for what seemed like eternity,) patiently worked all the little lights into their new homes and secured them with fondant. About this time i started giggling a lot and getting really excited. I may have been mildly ridiculous.
So at this point, my Death Star is setting up, my village is ready to be assembled. I built all my little huts, then discovered it looked completely off proportionally, so I remade a bunch of them to much improved results. then I covered the houses with fondant and textured it to also look like wood. I used shredded wheat to make thatched roofs on the huts once they were in position.
While this step settles, I start modelling my Ewok brigade. My first attempt to make them with chocolate.... FAIL!

I learned from my mistakes and tried again.... and then these little guys were born!!!

Really? Seriously? Can you resist this much adorableness?
I was giggling my butt off, and back to being just a bit ridiculously excited. then it was time to place them around the village! 8)

It was finally time to start final assembly. after spending all my free time for a month on the pieces, it became a whole.

After making the (slightly crooked) etchings into the death star, giving it a couple coats of "paint," securing the fibre optic rods, and hiding the wires, I did a little dance. Finally it was all together, and it was working!!!!
I was a bit sad, cause it didn't turn out as perfectly as I had envisioned. But after awhile, I accepted the imperfections. I would rather challenge myself and push my limits, learning along the way, than make a safe design that is perfect. So by moving the gingerbread up off the ground, i didn't think it would leave the ground looking so empty. I scrambled to fill some of the space up. I also ran out of time to completely cover the wires and finish the bottom area of the Death Star support. My lines were crooked on the Death Star. 8( Once i accepted these shortcomings, it was easier to just focus on the positives and be proud of what i was able to accomplish!
Far from perfect, but still, pretty dang cool!!!
My lovely friend Lara ( A marvelous chef, baker and amigo, BTW,) came over to cheer me on in my final moments of panic, and she even helped me deliver my project and set it up at the Shaw Conference Centre.
A tradition I have decided to continue is "hidden" giggles for people who take the time to look closer. Hiding under the main hut is Yoda, Chewie, and the crash site of a hang gliding ewok. 

 Lots of little details bring it all together, and the Ewoks chill out in their village.

 When it was all said and done, I was exhausted. and it was worth it all. I love doing this project every year. They need more people to join in the fun. All skill levels are welcome, so why not contact them an see if you can get on board for next year? Call or email Elaine here! It is so rewarding! I am completely willing to help anyone i can, who knows... maybe i will work on two again next year!
C3PO and R2D2 

My favourite Ewok, proud and strong... 8)and did i mention CUTE!!! I mean fierce!
My last addition was my favourite. I cant help but smile when I look at this happy fella, so proud of his Stormtrooper helmet collection, lol. The helmets were a much more difficult thing to make than anticipated, but i think it more or less works. if you don't smile when you see him... well  : - p
and finally the whole kit and caboodle 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Cake pops. 
you know I love 'em.
An ingenious way to use up left over cake. Sure some people might bake a cake just to make these treats, but I almost always have some leftover bits that can be "popped" in no time. And they are perfect for sharing 8)

 Generally I keep all my scraps from sculpted cakes, or leftover layers and butter cream. and all I do is throw them together in my mixer until i get  the consistency I want. Firm but soft. then i roll it up, chill it really good and dip them in chocolate.

yup that's pretty much it. It is that easy. I don't have a recipe. just start out with some cake, I have used chocolate, vanilla bean, carrot, even cheesecake! I add in something to bind the cake together, like leftover butter cream, ganache, or fruit.  (cheesecake needs to have something dry added to the mix instead of butter cream... like white cake, or cookie crumbs)

I scoop the mixture out into small blobs,and then use my hand to roll the balls. I try to work quickly cause the warmth from my hands can really make things messy. once they are rolled i  get them nice and cold which firms them up.

you can be creative, make ball, or cones, or whatever shape you want really. then once they are chilled, you can dip them by hand in white, milk, or dark chocolate. or push a stick into each on and dip them in the chocolate.
pumpkin cheesecake
carrot cake

strawberry vanilla
carrot cake

you can decorate them however you like. there really are no limits.
to be honest I am no expert at these wonderful little bites. the person to check out is Bakerella.
Even if you don't want to make cake pops, you should go check out her blog Bakerella is a personal inspiration for me, as well as one amazing baker. She is  just a marvelous woman! Truly! If you are more of a Cook book lover, that is fine to, she has a book now too. Cake Pops is a great book, and a solid intro to cake pops. If you want to learn to do them right, I'm not expert, go see Bakerella, and give her some love!