Friday, August 26, 2011

Hawaii 5-0 (I mean, 0-1)

Do you guys remember Anderson's birthday with the train cakes ? Well, his baby sister, Abby, just turned 1 and her parents threw her the most adorable Hawaiian-themed birthday party. Naturally, this called for some confections from Aunt Amanda's kitchen. Where to begin?
How about with Hula Abby! Hula Abby is a creation her Mom and I came up with when we were strategizing about the party. We were talking about the option of making a cake with a waterfall and having a miniature of Abby as a cake topper. I suggested I could use my handy dandy food printer and make a paper doll (well, cookie doll) of Abby, and voila!
How cute is she? Couldn't you just eat her up?(har har) :)

So, I also made a few other items. The main cake, of course, and a mini 3D pineapple cake for the birthday girl to make a mess out of while people clapped. Here they both are:

And I made the favors for the kids, which were flip flop lollipop cookies. (try saying flip flop lollipop 3 times fast!)

Anyway, let's start with the cookies.  I got a flip flop cookie cutter, made my standard sugar cookie dough (upcoming post with details on my current favorite recipe), and flipped the cookie over to attach the lollipop stick, which you can see I did with an extra little piece of dough.  Once you bake it, the dough just bakes over the stick and you're good.

Make sure you let them cool thoroughly before you pick them up by their sticks...the sticks WILL remove themselves when the cookie is nice and warm!

Mix up the colors of royal icing you'll need.  I'm doing some pink flip flops with green pattern and blue flip flops with green pattern, so just 3 colors for me

Next, outline, as usual

then flood

and to make the Hawaiian print pattern (hibuscus-ish, no?), use the wet on wet technique and make some little circles
and drag a toothpick from the outside to the inside of the circles to make the petals
I did the blue cookies the same way, and after they dried, I added some piping consistency royal icing flip flop straps in orange

and I wanted to make some little flower or embellishment for the pink flip flops, so I experimented with the leftover blue flood icing, trying to make some different shapes on a piece of wax paper.  Most of them were a failure

but I settled on the asterisk-y ones in the middle and sprinkled some sanding sugar on them while they were still wet.  Then let them dry and peeled them off and attached them to the finished flip flop with a dot of royal icing "glue".

While we're still talking cookies, I made a few others, just for a platter for the party.  Same techniques, really.  The Hawaiian print shirt was the same exact technique as the flip flops above and the Aloha signs I made with the food printer.  Made for a quick and pretty display:

Moving on to the tiny 3D pineapple cake.  I gave construction a lot of thought on this little cake.  Thank goodness it wasn't going to be very large because I didn't relish the idea of having to balance something pointy that was also heavy, but this guy turned out to be a breeze.   Here's what I started with: 
Mini bundt pan.  In my mind, I thought 2 of these would be a good height, so I baked 2.
In reality, the poofiness from the baking didn't look super-sturdy, and it wasn't quite tall enough. 

so I gave them a haircut so they'd be more sturdy.  But now they're REALLY not tall enough.  What to do?  I don't have anymore yellow cake batter...but I DO have an extra layer of chocolate cake from the main cake that I'm pretty sure I'm not going to use, so I cannibalized that. 
and crammed it in the middle.  The birthday girl won't mind multiple flavors in her first cake, right? 
and you might notice that I decided to reinforce the bottom a little with some extra frosting, just to make it a little more sturdy.  Then I grabbed my trusty bag of dowels, measured the depth of the cake, and crammed one in there for support (and then trimmed it, of course).  Then I (obviously) just dragged some blobs of frosting up the side to wipe on my coating of frosting.

and smoothed it out!

Ordinarily, here is where I would get super-retentive and let the frosting crust over a little and put more frosting on it to make it look smooth so you couldn't see any of the crumbs, but since this was a pineapple and was going to be roughly textured anyway, I decided to just smooth it from here and give it some spray color.  Those of you who read my blog know that means the Viva paper towel technique, followed by a hit of food coloring from my trusted Kopycake machine. :)

Is it perfect?  No, but that's kind of the point, right?  Next I took a piece of twine and scored the outside to make the pineapple-looking texture (sorry no action photo, I needed both hands), here what it looked like when I was done and had sprayed the scored lines with brown

Then I wanted to create something textural to make the little spikey-things on the side of a pineapple...I have no idea what they're called (clearly).  So I approximated with a star tip, and it came out like this:

(like my actual pineapple in the background? ;) )
and I sprayed the little thingies a bronzey yellow
and at this point I thought "i could go over it again with a light coating of brown so the yellow thingies are less pronounced", but then I thought that it looked okay...and if I hit it with brown and screwed it up, starting over again would suck.  So I decided not to be my own worst enemy, and I set it aside.

And went on to make some spires for the top of the pineapple out of gum paste.  I mixed it up with water and a touch of green food coloring, rolled it out, and cut some random spikey triangley pieces. 

and before the party, I inserted them into the top of the pineapple, and we were all set. 

"Mom, what am I supposed to do with that??"

I took out the gum paste leaves and the dowel rod in the center before feeding it to little Abby.  I'd hate for her to poke herself with a leaf and be traumatized forever and not like cake!  Or pineapple! ;)

How is it Abbs?  You know, if you keep digging, you'll find some chocolate! 

Okay,  I know this is turning into the longest blog post ever, and I apologize, but we're just not done yet.  Next, the waterfall cake.  I'll spare you some of the boring parts.  We'll start here, with some stacked layers of yellow cake, already crumbcoated: 
Then I measured and cut more dowels (fyi, that is a speckled cutting board, NOT a majorly dirty work surface...that's somewhere else!)

and I hid the dowels approximately where I thought I'd stack the top tier of chocolate cakes.  I knew I wanted them off-center since there would be a waterfall running down the front.  So I put them toward the back.  Sorry this photo is so dark, it was getting late and I guess I got sloppy with the flash!

Then I put the top tier on a paper cake circle, and stacked it on top of the dowels.  This means when it's time to serve, you can just insert a knife under the top tier and remove it to slice.  It worked really well.  Don't forget to take the dowels out of the bottom tier!
and finished stacking, and crumb coated
Then I carved a little trough out of the center for the waterfall and gave it kind of a messy coating of frosting, since it was "terrain". :)
sprayed green and blue (the unsprayed area was roughly where I knew my sand would go)

and set to embellishing the cake.  First I finished off some little palm tree cookies I'd made by using the handy food coloring pen to draw some detail onto the drunk.  I used a Foodoodler in this case. 
and used them to decorate the cake, along with some of those Pirouette cookies, you know the ones from the grocery store?  I thought they might look like bamboo fencing and provide some interest to the back of my cake
oh, and what are the rocks, you ask?  They're chocolate rocks I found online at a place called Baker's Nook
and I cheated in one other substantial way.  I knew I'd be doing a lot of projects all at once, and I'm really no good at traditional cake decoration flowers (since I never do them, I never practice!), so I bought some pre-made flowers and leaves...
but they looked really good!

You can see along the right side, I started to go back through the blue spray and pull up some white frosting from underneath.  I thought I'd try to be clever and make it look like the water was rushing over the rocky falls....well, whatever, it's close enough. ;)

And somehow I forgot to take a picture of my final step, which was something new.  I mixed some blue food coloring into piping gel (from Michael's, nothing fancy) and smoothed it over the water, so it looked really shiny.  At the party, I sprinkled my homemade sand.

Recipe for sand: 
food process Chips Ahoy cookies and graham crackers (the ground up choc chips give the sand some dark brown specs I find particularly believable) and then my husband suggested throwing in some sanding sugar so it looks like the fine clear grains in sand.  Brilliant. And yummy.

and here it is, all done and ready to eat.

Don't have to tell big brother Anderson twice!  That boy makes a baker proud! :)

Happy 1st Birthday Abby!!  Can't wait for next year...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Owl Onesie Cupcakes

A few of our friends just threw us the most wonderful owl-themed baby shower!  I offered to make some cupcakes knowing that I could knock them out pretty quickly and it would take a burden off of their shoulders since they were already doing so much!
Here's how the cupcakes turned out:
and it may have been a little more than a few, about double this amount, but I think I overdid it a little. ;)
Anyway, the cupcakes were chocolate cake, white cake, and lemon cake with raspberry filling.  And I was trying to figure out if there was a way to make it appear as though there was a  little blue egg inside of each cupcake, so I decided to experiment. I mixed some blue food coloring into a portion of my white cake mix, and put it into a squeezy bottle.  Here's a tip, cut the top of the squeezy bottle off so the hole is nice and large and it's easy to squeeze the batter out of.

Then using your bottle, submerge the tip into the cupcake batter.  In retrospect, I should have stopped here and baked them, but since I wanted the "eggs" to look like they were floating in the center, I decided I'd put more chocolate batter on top:
but what actually happened when I did this is the chocolate batter was heavier than the blue batter, so it ended up just kind of sinking and ruining the round blue shape.  When I did the same process with the white cupcakes, I didn't cover them and I think they worked better. 
Fresh out of the oven...let's test the color and see:

Eh...doesn't look egg-like (again, because I smushed it with chocolate batter) but it does kinda look like a little bird shape.  And it's also just kind of visually interesting because you're not expecting a little burst of color.  So, I decide I'm okay with this, I adjust the white cupcakes so there's no batter on top, and Bob's your uncle!  To make the lemon cupcakes with raspberry filling, I simply added lemon baking emulsion to the batter.  I like the LorAnn variety, which can be found pretty readily.  If you have a Hobby Lobby near you, they sell them there.  Also, Amazon has them:
I baked them up, and then used the same squeezy bottle technique to get the raspberry filling into the center.  Make sure you do this while the cupcakes are still warm and the centers are still soft.  And don't overfill them, or your cupcake recipients will get a surprise of raspberry goo all over themselves.
Next, time to make the onesie cookies (in truth, my friend RenĂ©e and I made these first since they're far more time-consuming).  I got a teeny tiny onesie cookie cutter that I found online, and we made a ton of little onesie cookie cutouts and put toothpicks in them.  This is the same process I used to make the mini ducky cookies for the last baby shower I attended (see previous post).  When the cookies cooled, I outlined them with white royal icing of a piping consistency, and then flooded them with white flood consistency frosting.  Voila!

After these have had a chance to dry, we applied some little owl pics that I printed out with my handy-dandy food printer (LOVE IT).  To attach them, I used the technique I learned when I did the Red Sox cookies a month or so ago, and mixed up a little meringue powder and water and use as a "glue".  In this case, the pictures were SO small, I glued the back and then brushed the mixture over them too, so try to get them to lay flat.

Say hello to my little friend...(go ahead, use the Italian accent when you read it to yourself, you know you want to...)

And repeat, and repeat, and repeat:

And a few different varieties to distinguish between various flavors, maybe?

So, the cupcakes are frosted, dusted with some blue food coloring courtesy of my Kopycake airbrush machine, and then finally a little blue disco dust!  Did you notice?  So pretty...twinkly, even.
Disco dust is some pretty special stuff, and probably deserves it's own blog post.  You can find it all over the internet (here's one: or if you're lucky enough to have a quality cake supply store near you, they should have some too.

In the end, the dessert table was cute!  And how adorable are those little owl jars full of candy?  They were prizes for shower games!  Luckily there was an extra one for me to take home, I would have been jealous of all of the winners!