Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Home Run Wedding

When a boy proposes to his true love on opening day at Fenway, its no surprise that they would want to incorporate a love for their favorite sport into the day they celebrate their love for each other. The bride was very involved with the design of the cake, which shows the perfect balance of bridal elegance and whimsey.

This cake is done in 12", 9", and 6" rounds covered in white fondant. The bottom tier had tone on tone baseball bat cut outs. Small polka dot baseballs in the wedding colors of burgundy and gold decorate the middle tier. The top tier is completed with baseball stitching. Bringing the theme together is the porcelain keepsake at bat bride and pitching groom topper. To complete the display there is a stadium display of red velvet cupcakes with fondant baseball toppers.

Special thank you to Damon Zirkler Photography for photography.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Day in the Park

Happy Birthday to my own little boy, who really just wanted a party in the park where he can finally ride the 'big boy slide.'  This is a half 8" cake over a 10", covered in fondant with sugar paste for the hardened decorations like the slide and the red jungle gym elements.  

To make sure that Carter could have his cake and eat it too, this is a vegan cake (especially with the range of allergies at school, vegan is becoming a much more inclusive choice). The bottom tier is dark chocolate with All American buttercream and the top layer is cherry vanilla with cherry vanilla buttercream.  It's always fun to see the brief flash of disappointment flash across someone's face when I say that the cake is 'vegan,' only later to hear raves about how good the cake is--and not just good for vegan, but actually really great! 

Hello Birthday

Everyone's favorite Kitty knows how to wish her fans the happiest of birthdays. This is small celebration cake: 8" round finished in cream cheese buttercream--a perfect choice for three luscious layers of red velvet cake. Kitty is a sugar paste plaque and while (technically) edible, would be best removed before cutting and serving the cake. 

A Grown Up Birthday Cake with Just Enough Sparkle

Not too young and not too stuffy, pink, black and white have a youthful sophistication when used in classic harlequin diamonds and fancy scrolls. And to make sure there is just enough pizazz for the party, disco dust dipped oversized pearls and a lush pearl dust finish complete the cake.  The topper and bow are made from sugar paste.  This design here is done with a 6" over an 8", but can be interpreted in a larger cake as well. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Anniversary Cake

To save or not to save? That is a serious wedding cake question. I'm a sucker for tradition, but I also love the idea of a fresh tier baked and decorated on the first anniversary. Which is exactly what this cake is: an anniversary cake for a beautiful couple who were wed last summer in Sedona, AZ. I did the bride's favorite flavor from their wedding cake: red chile chocolate with whipped red chile chocolate ganache filling. 

Their original cake was done in chocolate fondant with baby blue accents, and so this anniversary cake is a rift on that original design. Because the anniversary cake would be handled less (no stacking or traveling 4+ hours!), I kept it in a delectable ganache finish with sugar paste flowers and a fondant ribbon. 

Of course my favorite part of this cake was sharing in an anniversary celebration with the Povios when they made a trip down to Tucson.  There is very little more rewarding than making cakes for my dear friends and being rewarded with their generosity of love and friendship in return.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Signature and Classic Cupcake Sizes

Sugar Song is pleased to offer two sizes of cupcakes on our menu. Pictured above is the Classic cupcake on the left in the paisley paper, and the Signature cupcake on the right in the white paper.

The Classic cupcake is the size of what most of us grew up with and have lovingly purchased at bake sales through the years. It is perfect for a child's birthday party or as a component on a dessert table.  If cupcakes are the singular dessert and classic size is served, plan on an average of 2-3 cakes per person. Their modest size makes it easy to have more than one--especially if a variety of flavors are presented.

Signature cupcakes are larger and taller, baked in an elegant pleated liner or in the dramatic pointed parchment cups.  The larger size of the Signature makes it the perfect starting point for fillings and special toppings and ingredients. Some of the more intricate flavor profiles need this extra space for all the elements to be incorporated. When Signature cupcakes are served, you can order one cake per guest, but don't be surprised if someone wants to take one for the road!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Train A Birthday Cake

Soaring into the party to wish the birthday boy a happy birthday is Toothless (a.k.a the elusive Night Fury from the movie How to Train Your Dragon).  The cake depicts a scene from the movie where the dragons fly and dodge through craggy mountains jutting out of the treacherous ocean (notice the white caps as the waves break upon the shore?). This is a 1/4 sheet cake of  fudge chocolate with lots of blue buttercream--at the birthday boy's request.

The dragon was made from shaped crispy rice treats covered in fondant. Wings were made from sugar paste and attached with wires. To keep it authentic to the movie, half of his tail was done to look like brown leather. The mountains were chunks of cake covered with ganache and fondant.

Toothless in process. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let's Hear it for Small Celebrations That are Oh So Big!

Cakes can celebrate the big things: birthdays, baby showers, weddings – but why not have a small cake for other sweet celebrations throughout the year?  This was the first day of kindergarten for my first baby, giving me just enough time to put together a quick little love note to show him how proud we are of him! 

Baking at home gives me a great opportunity to test new recipes and play around with new ideas.  This cake is an allergy-friendly, eggless banana cake (almost vegan if I switched out the dairy milk for soy or rice milk) with a caramel buttercream and fondant cut outs. The great thing about this cake is the fine texture (thanks to the puréed bananas) and a less sugary taste. 

Between the 8" layers is a swipe of caramel buttercream and fresh banana slices. I sprinkled a bit of brown sugar on the bananas before closing it up.  Small side note: while delicious, the brown sugar created a syrup that has migrated down into (yeah) and out (boo!) of the cut cake after a few hours.

It's not fancy, it's not perfect. But for our little celebration, it was the sweetest cake ever.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Modern Cake Study

Here's a cake challenge: to design a cake for a designer (not to mention a designer who doesn't especially like cake). But rule number one in this caker's house is that no birthday gets left behind, even if it means there is a blueberry pie in the near future as well. (though the birthday boy was gobbling up the scraps from this cake, so perhaps I found his favorite?)

This cake starts out with a buttery pound cake filled with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream~ and how lovely it is to see those tiny brown flecks throughout the creamy richness that comes with a traditional European buttercream.  I then took knives big and small to sculpt the layers to create the offset tiers. The bottom cake is an eight inch and the top is five inches, each with varying heights. Another coat of buttercream and then a thin layer of fondant with applique design complete this modern cake study. 

And to celebrate on a smaller scale, a single cake can be sculpted into a dynamic and elegant centerpiece perfect for a birthday or anniversary. With this cake, the bottom went with the husband to his office, while we will enjoy the top tier at home with family. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Cakes are Like Vampires, Part 1

Some things just don't do well in the sun. Here, Bronwen Weber from Frosted Art Bakery in Dallas, shows what happens to a Wedding Cake left in the Texan Sun.  Southern Arizona has the same concerns with some frostings and fillings not being safe for outside display. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Went to Cake Camp, 2011

Every so often you find a great way to replenish the well of creativity and for me, I drank in the downpour that was California Cake Club's Cake Camp 2011. Now, telling a cake muggle that you are going to 'Cake Camp' gets you some funny looks, so in other words it is a weekend conference of classes and hands-on workshops taught by some of the best cake artists in the world. I feel fortunate that there was such a great opportunity relatively close in Las Vegas, so I took the opportunity to drive (and really have room to bring home goodies from the vendor room). 

I took several classes on such topics as fondant, whimsical wedding cakes (which the lead photo was the project from), the business of cake, couture cupcakes, and techniques such as stenciling and embroidery. Some of the classes resulted in a finished 'dummy' project (real cake isn't allowed at Cake Camp, oddly) or just your working technique pieces.  

Michelle Bommarito is an amazing instructor!  I will be seeking out her classes at the next camp. 

While some classes require you to bring your own supplies, some instructors have everything you need all laid out for you at your table. Plus assistants to fill your bags and clean up! It was heaven! 

The amazing Colette Peters teaching stenciling techniques.

Marina Sousa and James Rosselle teaching Couture Cupcakes

Some of my finished projects: 

'Embroidery' in the foreground, and a practice dummy with draping examples in the rear. 

I truly LOVE this technique of recreating the lace or embroidery patten of a wedding dress onto the cake.  Kathleen Lange was so excited about sharing this technique and it was great to learn from her. 

I can't not mention that the venue hotel, Green Valley Ranch was a great location and that I had a lot of fun meeting some great cake artists from around the country. Even found myself knocking them back with an impressive group of the 'Top Dogs' on the patio after the banquet.  Some of the cool kids even gave out some flair for stopping to say "Hi!"

Reva from Merci Beaucoup (as seen on TV's best cake-porn show: Amazing Wedding Cakes) was so sweet! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Icing Smiles for an Amazing Little Princess

". . . and she was the fairest princess in the land, kept safe away in a castle of diamonds and pearls." Sounds like a lovely fairy tale sure to follow with a strong knight on white horseback and a happily ever after, right? Now, let me tell you that the little girl this cake was made for has indeed spent her first year kept in safety, but it's the safety of the PICU and Diamond Children's hospital. The little princess is getting stronger and healthier everyday, thanks to her medical team of strong knights and fairy godmothers, and most of all of her parents who have more love for her than the kingdom has ever seen. 

I was asked to make a special cake for this family on a referral from Icing Smiles, Inc, a non-profit network of bakers who provide custom celebration cakes and treats to families impacted by critical illness of a child. The family (in this case the hospital's Child Life Specialist took over as the mother had her hands full with the care of her daughter) contacts Icing Smiles and then a call to action is sent out to bakers in the area. Then a theme, colors and flavor are decided upon, and the cake designer takes it from there. Children in the hospital usually have their cakes delivered to make it a bit easier for the family. 

The cake is a 6" atop a 10" made in dark chocolate and filled with whipped chocolate ganache buttercream. The frosting is All-American buttercream in soft pink, with pink and white swirled together for the luscious rosettes.  The castle that wraps all the way around the first layer and banner are made of fondant painted with luster dust and edible pearls. The crown is from gum paste and fondant, also painted with luster dust, and finished with pearls and a sprinkle of disco dust.

I hope this little princess and her family had a wonderful birthday up on the 6th floor, and soon she will leave her castle behind and take off to explore the magical kingdom that awaits her.

**Update: Follow this link to the Icing Smiles FaceBook Album that has photos of the birthday girl and of her proud parents at her birthday party. Best Wishes and prayers for a quick homecoming to this lovely family.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oh Beautiful, in Cupcake Size

A cupcake is the perfect way to pursue your own bit of happiness, and these two patriotic treats hold that truth to be self-evident. Save the plastic picks and the foil streamers for aisle 2--these cupcakes stand proud in the colors of our flag: red, white and blue. 

Unbelievably moist (seriously, don't you just want to take a bite out of that picture?) Vegan Red Velvet with All-American buttercream piped high and finished with sparkling white drageés. I love this red velvet recipe: just a hint of cocoa rouge and a deep brick red hue compliment the moist, decadent crumb. 

It would be un-American not to take advantage of the summer's best crop: juicy fat blueberries and bright red raspberries bursting with sweetness.  This is a vegan golden vanilla cake studded with fresh blueberries and red raspberries, topped off cream cheese buttercream and two fresh berries.  

This is an example of our 'low-top' cupcake frosting: a pretty swirl of in a more modest portion. Most all of Sugar Song's cupcakes have a choice of regular or 'low-top' frosting, depending on how you define cupcake happiness. Likewise, many of your favorite recipes can be made all vegan, or to just accommodate an allergy such as to eggs, dairy, or nuts. That's the treat of working with a custom baker: you get exactly what you want! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Take Me Out to the Wedding

No doubt about it, this groom is a Yankees man through and through. Showing off his love of New York and all things Yankees, this groom's cake took the vintage Yankees logo and popped it up in 3-D style.  The hat and bat are sculpted from crispy rice treats then covered in fondant. The cake itself is a 10" round by nearly 6" high German Chocolate with milk chocolate and buttercream flavored fondant.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vintage Ruffle Flower Wedding Cake

When a friend came to me while planning their wedding reception in a historic hotel in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, I knew there was a wonderful opportunity to incorporate a vintage aesthetic into their celebration. Plus, I've been eager to do a design with a sugar versions of those lovely vintage ribbon flowers. I couldn't be more pleased with the result in this fanciful and elegant cake.

White Almond Sour Cream with red raspberry jam make up the bottom 14" and the 8" tiers, and Red Chile Chocolate Molè with whipped red chile chocolate ganache were int he 10" and 5" layers. The cake was frosted with All-American buttercream that had a light almond flavor. The gumpaste and fondant flowers are dusted and painted in luster and disco dust and are accented on the cake with a deep purple ribbon that matched the bridesmaids' dresses.

All the best to my wonderful bride and groom, Melody and Michael. Thank you for the opportunity to make my new favorite cake!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Red Chile Chocolate Cupcakes

The name says it all, yet doesn't even begin to describe it. Dark Chocolate cake laced with New Mexican red chile and cinnamon, topped with an equally enhanced dark chocolate buttercream. Finished with a pinch of chile powder, just for fair warning.

Tasting Cakes

It's time come clean with a crush I've been harboring for a while now. While some girls swoon over the big, flashy show stoppers, I have a real soft spot for these cute little guys. Whether you call them "centerpiece cakes", "counter cakes", or a "bottle-of-wine-and-a-tearjerker-movie-and-a-fork" kinda cakes: with 4-8 servings, these are just enough cake to celebrate either a night with friends or the sweet side of life for a few days. And they are also the perfect size to bake up and sample flavors.

White Almond Sour Cream with Red Raspberry Jam and Cream Cheese Buttercream

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake with Whipped Red Chile Chocolate Ganache filling and frosting. A blanket of Cream Cheese Buttercream drop flowers cover the ganache finish for a slight peek-a-boo effect.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breakfast in Bed

Once in a while you hit it right on the nose! Ring the bell on the first swing! Loop the golden ring!  This is one of those times when the stars align, flavors merge, and you get to say, this one was all mine! (Like most modes of art--fine or culinary-- it seems that there are no new ideas, just new ways to say the same things. This I have to say wasn't informed, built upon, or borrowed from anyplace in my conscious mind. My subconscious? That's a different and altogether stranger story.) 

This is a fresh banana cupcake with cinnamon-sugar, velvet buttercream, topped with frosted flakes. Big surprise that you wouldn't have guessed from the night before. . . this breakfast is vegan. Though you wouldn't guess that considering this egg and dairy-free morsel is lacking any level of sinful goodness. The cake is moist and golden, bursting with fresh banana flavor and the velvet buttercream is silky and decidedly not too sweet--all the better to showcase the vibrant Vietnamese cinnamon. And crunchy frosted flakes? Well, who says vegan baked goods have to take themselves too seriously?  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Cool Blue Birthday Cake

Happy daisies and swirling scrolls combine to celebrate a double birthday treat. Cakes are a 9" and 5" white almond sour cream with milk chocolate buttercream between the layers. All American buttercream provide the smooth base for a garden's worth of purple and light blue fondant daisies. White on white buttercream scrolls and dots fill in the blanks, giving the design depth and movement. The birthday girls' names are incorporated into the scroll work on the top of the base tier. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coconut Times Two

It started with a coconut birthday cake ~ just a sweet little present for a best friend on her mid-week birthday (on a cute cake plate, too). The perfect size for a small party (or for hoarding away for yourself with out too much gluttonous guilt), this 6" cake is about as tall as it is wide done in three layers. I adapted the recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, Southern Manhattan Coconut Cake, a delicate white cake made with cake flour, egg whites, and thick coconut milk. 

The frosting is a fluffy, coconut buttercream with just a hint of cream cheese. The cream cheese keeps it from being two sweet, which when paired with the natural coconut flavor keeps it from putting the sweet glands on lockdown like some coconut candies sometimes do. The layers were first brushed with a coconut simple syrup then a generous layer of buttercream with extra flake coconut added. Keeping the focus on the cake itself, it is finished with subtle upward strokes that mimic the infill of flaked, sweetened coconut on the crown. An petite triple ruffle borders the bottom. 

Because 6" cakes don't just happen, and the smell of that delectable batter begged for immediate consumption, a dozen cupcakes came out of the mixing bowl.  They received the same treatment as the cake with a brush of coconut simple syrup before being topped with a generous dollop of coconut buttercream and a dip in flaked sweet coconut. They are the kind of delicious that makes me want to break up short sentences with periods: they. are. that. good.  If ever there were a time for scratch and sniff computer screens, this would be one. But for now, a picture will have to do. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Fairy that Almost Got Away

I had the wonderful opportunity to dip my toe in the Tinkerbell pool and make this adorable fairy cake for an even more adorable little girl's 5th birthday party.  Her favorite fairy from the Disney collection is Silvermist the water fairy. Silvermist's favorite hangout is by a babbling brook and she likes water lilies and to teach tadpoles to blow bubbles. Sounds like a fun party girl, indeed! 

This cake is a 6" over 8" dark chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream between the layers. It was finished in a coat of dark chocolate ganache then fondant. Silvermist is hand sculpted from fondant and gumpaste, then handpainted.  Her face is made from a gumpaste mold of an actual Silvermist doll, giving her the unique facial characteristics of the fairy (even though her body is a softer, rounder version of the original). She sits admits water lilies on lily pads and next to a cascading stream. The water is done with vertical strips of thinly rolled and ruffled fondant which was then painted with blue luster dust. The only non-edible part of the cake are the fairy wings, borrowed from the doll used to model for the face. 

(please don't say it...the photo is junk!  In the rush to get to this late morning party, I missed taking a photo with my Nikon D40 and then I forgot the camera at home.  This is an iphone photo that my husband has photoshopped to drop out the backlit background. I usually don't like to show heavily photoshopped cakes on my blog because I don't want to hide my abilities behind on-screen editing, but this was the only way to showcase this cake, which just like a fairy nearly disappeared without a record to show for it)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Angry Birds Cake

Ba Da Bump Bum, Ba Da Bump Bum, Bada Da Da Da Da Da Da Dah Bump. WAAAANK! WAAAANK! Hiiiighhhh YAAAAAH!... Heh Heh Heh Heh. Heh Heh Heh Heh. Heh Heh Heh.

Translation: Exacting revenge on those egg-stealing, disputable pigs requires fuel. The kind of high-octane, pure energy found in a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Red Chile Whipped Ganache.  Almost entirely edible (minus some support for the sling shot and long planks), this 8" cake is sculpted in chocolate and vanilla fondant with pieces that are entirely moveable to make your own Angry Birds tableaus.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Wedding Cupcakes

Once upon a time, in church halls across the country, punchbowls brimmed with champagne punch,
jordan almonds preened in tulle and dessert tables beheld
the newlywed's first sweet taste of married bliss. 

Here's a modern interpretation for the classic cake and punch reception: a lovely tower of cupcakes
as the centerpiece of the dessert table. The bride and groom had requested their friends and family
bring a sweet ending to help celebrate their new beginning at their luncheon reception. With a cupcake
 tower, the couple can still pose for that iconic wedding photo of 'cutting the cake' while keeping with their casual spirit.  

This glimmering sliver stand allows for a single cupcake to rise to the top, 
here with a pair of lemon yellow love birds. 

Cupcakes are princess white sour cream cake filled with red raspberry jam and finished with a 
generous swirl of wedding-white buttercream.  Pale yellow, grass green, soft pink and
 white gumpaste daisies glow from hand painted silver luster dust and small pearls.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Couture Inspired Cakes

The world of design is full of inspiration, borrowing and expanding on ideas that cross the genres of graphic, textile, visual, architectural and natural forms. On wedding dresses, I love the row of tiny little pearl buttons that often grace the back of the bodice and sometimes trail down the skirt. And rouched bodices! Oh how I wish there were more occasions to wear formal dresses. 

Thankfully, I can have my taste of formal design (and eat it too) with couture inspired cake design.  I think that this would be an amazing small wedding cake, or incorporated into a larger tiered design.  The cake itself is wedding worthy: a bridal white cake with raspberry filling  and Italian meringue buttercream (recipe follows)

Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC)

1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter chilled, but not hard
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

How to: 

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer which is about the soft ball stage.
  2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until bowl feels cool to the palms when touched, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle and continue beating and add butter by the tablespoon, waiting for it to be incorporated before adding the next chunk. Watch in horror as the mixture becomes a curdled mess.  Continue beating. The buttercream will come back together and become smooth and fluffy. If the temperature in your house is over 75, I suggest putting some soft ice packs around the bottom of the bowl to keep the buttercream cool. You know the buttercream is ready when it makes a 'slapping' sound in the mixer. 

    Use the buttercream immediately, or allow to firm up a bit in the fridge if it is too limp.  This buttercream freezes beautifully and with a slow defrost and a quick re-whip in the mixer, it is ready to go.