Dec 27, 2010

Final Cake- Starry Starry Night

Our final project-a winter wedding cake!!! After many months of doing exactly as the chefs said, it was finally our turn to make a cake that was 100% our own!  I wanted to create a cake that was completely different from anything else that I have made before. I wanted to challenge myself with a design that was out of my comfort zone. I came up with the idea about 6 weeks before we even started making it, and I must admit that I am extremely happy that my vision came to fruition pretty much as I intended (hoped and prayed!)

I knew the first day that we learned blown sugar that I was hooked and that my final project would incorporate blown sugar in some way... At the time I just didnt realize that it would mean over 50 blown sugar balls!

Art has always been a big part of my life and so it only seemed natural that my cake was inspired by art- in particular Vincent Van Gogh's famous painting Starry Night. I have always been moved by his artwork, especially his bold use of color and expressive brushwork. So my cake is a small homage to Van Gogh in the form of a blustery wintry storm of sugar. 

The swirls are all hand painted and dotted with drops of colored sugar, silver dragee balls and hand pipped dots. I wanted the blown sugar balls to suggest snow or snowballs (which I hope is obvious!) and I wanted the tiers to appear as if they were floating on air.

The more solid looking balls are pressed sugar, which is wet sugar mixed with colored sprinkles and formed in molds. I really loved how they sparkled like snow and gave a nice variety of texture from the smooth blown sugar balls.

As part of the final, we had to include at least one flower. My flowers were stylized poinsettias. I didnt want them to scream flower, rather I wanted them to appear as if they could be almost like a snowflake or star. They were made in a quilling style, which is an old English paper technique. Basically you take long strips of gum paste and twirl them on a quilling stick, glue the ends and let them dry for a few days and pray they dont break. I really liked the whimsical feel of the quilled flower, I felt like it complimented the expressive Van Gogh-type brushwork really well. A more realistic looking flower just wouldnt have looked right with my cake.

As part of the project, we also had to create a storyboard for our "client", which had to include a sketch of the cake, colors, and overall inspiration for the cake.

There were a few minor changes between my original sketch and the actual cake, but overall I think it was pretty spot on. I am extremely proud of my cake. It was a huge challenge to make in very little time. The sugar balls are time consuming to make and extremely fragile. I am happy to report that I only broke one while attaching them to the cake! All those nights of tossing and turning, visions of shattered sugar balls on my final cake were for naught. Big whew, and an even bigger smile on my face.

Sassy Sweet Sixteen

Our second to the last project- create a unique sweet sixteen cake with your table-mate. My great partner Chelsea and I came up with a punk rock theme. I wanted to do a cute skull and crossed bones motif, and she had the idea for the super adorable bow with the floating ribbons. We were super happy with the result.... one kick ass cutie cake! I would have LOVED this cake for my sixteenth way back when... ahhhh.

We sculpted the tiers to give them a fun, more whimsical shape.

We made some yellow ribbon roses and curls out of fondant and finished the cake board in fun black pom-pom trim from the fabric store.

We thought that most of our classmates would make a pink and or purple cake, so we went with Yellow, Black and White as our main colors and used Pink as an accent color instead.

Sculpted Cake Creation!

It took us one week to make this pretty awesome sculpted cake! This was the first time I've ever done a large scale, 3-D cake like this. We were of course all following the teacher's direction, but nevertheless, I'm pretty darn pleased with how our cake turned out. It was a team project and my table-mate Haley and I worked really well together to build ours.

Its hard to tell from the photo, but the cake stands about 3 feet high. All of the elements were techniques we learned throughout the 4 months- like airbrushing (soccer ball, teddy bear, and wood grain) blown sugar balls, pulled sugar bows. The luggage and boat are 100% cake, as is the smaller red ball! Pretty cool to sculpt a round cake. The teddy bear is sculpted out of Rice Krispy Treats and covered in fondant.

The little boat was hand carved too. The mast and sail are made of very fragile pastillage and then airbrushed blue.

Dec 26, 2010

Cake Basics...

During our time at the French Pastry School we had to make cakes just to learn some basic techniques. The following are nothing terribly special, but reflect the variety of techniques we learned over the course of the program.

The Man Cake. Here was our one and only cake geared more for a man. Sorry guys.. cakes are just naturally frilly and girlie!

We learned 1. embossing and inlay techniques 2. big puffy gum paste bow

Next up... the Mother's Day Cake. Here we made a travel case with gum paste hanky, lipstick, compact and moth orchid. We covered the cake with the quilting technique (hard!) and hand painted all the gold "metal" brackets and hinges.

Moth orchid all out of gum paste sugar.

Next up.... Baby Shower Stringwork Cake from Hell!!

I was super excited to learn how to do stringwork until I actually LEARNED how to do stringwork!! I honestly can say I hope that I NEVER have to do stringwork again!!! Talk about an impossible technique! First of all, notice in the photo below that the royal icing strings are not attached to the cake on the bottom... they stick out about 1" from the cake... Not natural, not natural at all.

Basically stringwork is piping microscopic strings of royal icing evenly from the cake to a royal icing "bridge" suspended by push pins. Once the icing is dry, you remove the pins and pray the strings dont break. Let me just say that for every one string you see in the photo, at least nine others broke before it. Not fun.... not fun at all.

We topped the stringwork with minute piped royal icing florets, which also broke at the slightest touch.

Cake Catch-Up

Wow, months have passed since my last update.... THATs how busy I've been with school!!! So, now that I'm back to reality its time to catch up... so you might be bombarded with several posts from me in the coming days.

Here are a few creations that I made under master cake artist Chef Nicolas Lodge! Chef Nicolas Lodge is a world renowned master cake and sugar artist. You might recognize him from the Food Network. Chef Nicolas made one of Princess Diana's wedding cakes and also made Prince William and Prince Andrew's baby shower cakes. Needless to say, it was a great honor to learn under such a talented and truly caring teacher!

This three tier wedding cake was designed by Nicolas Lodge and we learned various techniques as we made our own version of it.

We learned how to make drapes, puffy bows, a sugar broach and how to evenly scatter sugar pearls. The topper was a beautiful arrangement of gum paste calla lilies with a gardenia and mini orchid sprays.

Next cake... Winter Wonderland was also designed by Chef Nicolas Lodge. Again, loads of other techniques learned such as patchwork cutters, stenciling, molds, various painting techniques, and a bas relief snowman that turned out pretty darn cute if I say so myself.

Little gum paste vignettes...

 And one darn cute Snowman...

Oct 28, 2010

Baking Bliss

Two weeks of baking bliss… cakes, fillings, buttercreams, ganaches! Man o man, those French know how to make a good cake! Here is their philosophy- every slice of cake should have different textures (creamy, crunchy, spongy) and tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty). So each layer focuses on one or more of these elements to make fore a truly delicious eating experience.
Move over Tiramisu, it’s a Coffee Orange Hazelnut Dream

Layers of orange Japonais and Hazelnut biscuit (biscuit is type of cake sponge, not an American style biscuit) Filled with the most fluffy and heavenly coffee mousseline and orange marmalade. For texture, we sprinkled hazelnut crumble and frosted with Arabica coffee buttercream… YUM

Vanilla Lemon Peach and Coconut

Layers of coconut dacquoise, which is a chewy, meringue based cake with a layer of lemon genoise sponge cake. Filled with the most life-altering lemon cream and 3 bean vanilla buttercream. Sprinkled with crunchy pralinettes for crunch. One of my favorites!!!
Strawberry Cake


Layers of almond genoise cake soaked in a strawberry simple syrup. Filled with fresh strawberries and bourbon vanilla buttercream and sprinkled with caramelized crushed almonds. Most popular cake!

Dark Chocolate Pistachio

Layers of chocolate biscuit layered with (from the bottom up) white chocolate pistachio ganache, dark chocolate mousse with crème Anglaise. Sprinkled with chocolate cocoa nougatine and topped with dark chocolate ganache. Beyond delicious cake!!!

Oct 11, 2010

Everything Chocolate Cake!

Move over Willy Wonka! Last week's project-everything chocolate!! (I will wait for you to wipe the drool from your chin)

Red modeling chocolate covering the styrofoam cake (ok, so not everything is chocolate!) White chocolate molded sphere colored with red and yellow coco butter. Dark chocolate funky flowers, along with piped white and dark chocolate leaves and combed curls.

Oct 3, 2010

Sugar Swans and Ribbons

Latest class project.. more sugar sculpting! This time we used hot sugar to pull and blow in a variety of techniques. Here's the end result!

Ok so one of my "swans" looks more like a flamingo...and some of my grass wilted from the heat in the classroom, but aside from that, I'm pretty pleased with the end result. The "swans" and sphere were made by blowing sugar, which is a similar process to glass blowing. Yep, basically blowing and forming molten sugar. (I have the blisters to prove it!)

The roses were made by pulling sugar with my thumb for each petal (again, big blister to prove it). The ribbon was by far one of my favorite things to learn. The technique is super cool and I love the end result- very glossy and elegant. I can't wait to try pulling another ribbon again!

Sep 18, 2010

Sugar Sculpture Success!!!

Well, after only 3 weeks of classes at the French Pastry School in Chicago, I'm pretty pleased to have made, assembled and have stand, a sculpture made entirely of sugar! See fragile end result along side the proud student in her dorky uniform and horrid beanie hat. (I will wait for the laughter to subside)

I cant tell you how fragile these creations are... but I will try. These things were SO fragile that some students' sculptures self distructed on the table without being touched! Ugh, I still hear the horrid sound of shattering sugar! The saddest part was that we worked on making these elements all week, only to burn through piece after piece trying to glue it all together with molten sugar. NOT EASY!

Needless to say, the sculpture never made it out of the classroom. But I was able to salvage the flower to take home with me. Ahhh how fleeting the sugar arts can be!

Aug 15, 2010

New York, New York

This I Love NY inspired cake was made for Lynette and Tricia’s party celebrating 20/10 in 2010… What the heck does that mean, you ask??? Basically it was a party in honor of Tricia’s 20 year and Lynette’s 10 year anniversaries of living in New York City. Cute idea, right?

The New York themed party included anything and everything we all love about New York, including knish, pizza, egg creams and old fashioned seltzer bottles. Guests wore their favorite New York garb, from t-shirts, Yankees and Mets jerseys, to all out costumes- like a walking newsstand and Spike Lee.

Cake colors and design were inspired by the I Love NY logo, so I stuck with red, black and white. I used pops of color for the taxi cabs, subway cars and of course Lady Liberty had to be her characteristic greenish patina.

Aug 2, 2010

Pan Am Pappa-in-Law

Happy 70th Nick! A special birthday cake for a very special man who worked for Pan Am Airlines for almost 30 years- retiring just before they went belly up. So what better way to say Happy 70th Birthday than with his very own Pan Am tote bag cake? Really, what better way I ask you?!

The whole family traveled 1st Class (sweet!) but Stand-by (ugh) and Nick was always the protector of all the passports, so I made one for each member of his family.

Passport paper was made of marblized gum paste to give the effect of the multi colored paper.

Jul 11, 2010

Surprise! You're 40!

Made for a SURPRISE 40th birthday bash! Three tier cake includes all the birthday boy's favorite things- New York City, Boston Red Sox, golf, blackberry, beer and his adorable family (wife expecting baby #3, hence the black "?" on her prego belly. Clever eh?)