March 6, 2011

Topsy Turvy Cake--Step By Step

In January I made my first Topsy Turvy Cake. A TTC is an optical illusion where each tier looks like it is precariously balanced on the next one and could, at any second, topple over. However, with the right construction that will not happen! You can make a TTC with any size/shape tiers you would like, but for beginners, round cakes are the easiest. No matter what shape you choose, the steps are all the same.

Take care when choosing your cake type and flavor. A sturdy cake is better suited for this design because anything light and airy will buckle under the weight of the upper tiers (and this cake can get heavy!). Try to use a dense cake, such as a pound cake, for the bottom tier. Nearly any cake can be turned into a pound cake with the addition of cream cheese. You can find instructions with a quick Google search. In addition, fillings should also be chosen carefully because there is an added risk of slippage. Filling that may slip (fresh fruit, jam, jelly, etc) may be used inbetween the bottom two layers of each tier, as long as you pipe a very stiff dam inbetween. Stick with buttercream, fudge, or another type of thick frosting inbetween carved layers.

Let's get started!

You will need:

1 Cake--3- 2" high layers per tier
2 Frosting--buttercream works well, but you can use whatever you would like (as long as it is not from a can). Make more than you think you will need!
3 Cake boards--cut to fit the size of your tiers
4 Sturdy cake base (I used a piece of plywood covered in tissue paper and food-safe plastic.
5 Decorating bags
6 Icing tips
7 Cake leveler
8 Turntable
9 Spatulas
10 Long serrated knife

Bake and cool your cake layers, then level each one to approximately the same height. Fill and stack the three layers, remember to only use a slippery filling between the bottom two layers with an appropriate dam. Once all your tiers are filled and stacked, it is time to carve! It is easier to do this if the cake is slightly frozen, so you may choose to slip the cake into the freezer for about an hour before you begin carving. Once your cake is frozen (or if you decide not to freeze) you are ready to begin! You will want to use a long serrated knife. Begin by cutting on a diagonal from one side to the opposite side. This should make a slope all the way across your cake. Be careful when carving, only cut a little at a time so you don't end up taking too much off. Take the piece you cut off and adhere it to the higher side of the cake with icing. This will make the slope more dramatic.

You will want to keep "carving and gluing" until the slope of the tier is smooth. Once you have done this to each tier it is time to crumb coat! Spread a very thin layer of icing on your tiers; this helps lock in all those pesky crumbs! Let each tier settle for about 20 to 25 minutes to give the icing time to "crust".

Once your tiers have crusted, it is time to start carving again! You are going to be making a well in the middle of each tier that will be the size of the tier going on top of it (You will not make a well in the top tier; it will stay slanted). The well will be flush with the top of the cake and will cut into the higher side like a cave. Again, you will want to use a long serrated knife. Begin by marking the size of the tier (you can even make the well slightly bigger) that will go on top. Next, beginning on the higher side cut straight down into the cake, parallel with the high side. Don't cut too far down. Cut all the way around the perimeter of the outline until you get to the flat side of the cake. Lay your knife parallel to this side and cut inward with a gentle sawing motion until you loosen the outline you have made. (I know this sounds confusing, but once you begin, you will understand what to do). Remove the cake you have cut out and continue to carve and shape until you have a well that looks like it is cutting into the higher slope of the cake. Do this to all tiers EXCEPT your top tier.
Once you are done with all tiers, you can crumb coat again, making sure you cover the inside of the well. Once the crumb coat has crusted, you can begin final icing your cake. If you are going to cover the cake in fondant, only apply a thin layer of icing, making sure it is smooth. Then you can cover it in fondant. If you are using icing, apply a generous layer of icing all over the cake, except inside the wells (you don't want to change the size of the wells. Also use this time to insert your dowels. Cut dowels (wooden or plastic) so that they stick just slightly out of the icing. Place these in your well just inside the perimeter and in the center. These will support the upper layers. Do this for all tiers except the top.

Once the tiers are iced and doweled you can decorate your cake. Do not stack until you have reached the party venue, otherwise you will have a big cakey mess in your car. If you are delivering the cake to another venue make sure you bring a "rescue kit" with you--icing in decorating bags for finishing the decorating and stacking (or should you need to fix a boo-boo), small spatulas, any last-minute decorations (bows, monograms, etc), and anything else that might help you finish the cake. Once you are ready to start stacking, start with your bottom tier facing the direction that you would like it to end up in (this cake will be so heavy at the end that you won't want to move it!) Stack each tier so that the slanted sides are facing each other. It should look like each tier is sliding off the other. Once you have stacked each tier, add your borders along the base perimeter of each tier to blend them together. Add any final decorations, and voila! You have completed your first TTC! Not so scary, right?? As you get more comfortable it will be easier and easier and not such a long process. Good luck!

March 2, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Saturday was a depressing, dreary day that made me want to lay in bed and never get up. Despite the mountain of homework I had and the midterms I needed to study for, I managed to do almost nothing all day. I also spent most of the day being unproductive on the internet--checking facebook countless numbers of times, snooping around on the forums, and checking and rechecking my email only to find nothing. Somehow during the course of this I managed to stumble upon pictures of a rainbow cake (here) that looked like a kaleidoscope and immediately brightened my gloomy day. After thinking about this cake all weekend, I was dying to try it, but knowing I was on a diet I really didn't want it sitting in the house. On Monday curiosity got the best of me and, against my better judgment, I tried my hand at this recipe.

**On the website, the author used diet soda to make a "diet cake" that was weight watchers approved, however, I was going to divide this cake up and give it away so I chose to stay with a traditional cake recipe. I also used buttercream icing instead of jello/cool whip.**


Favorite white cake recipe (doubled)
8 egg whites
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cup water
2 boxes white cake mix
(This recipe is double the normal amount because you will want the colors to be easily seen. If you use a single recipe of cake the cake will be very flat and won't look as cool)

Mix according to directions, then divide the cake batter into 6 equal portions. Color each portion a different color of the rainbow using gel icing colors (these are more vibrant and won't make your batter runny like the liquid colors). Prepare your cake pans (I used two 9" pans) by greasing and flouring. Starting with the first three colors (red, orange, yellow) measure out 2/3 of each color into the center of the first pan. Then, using the other three colors (purple, blue, green) measure out 2/3 of the batter into the center of the second pan. The idea is to make a rainbow in each pan, so you will need to think about this as you are layering the colors. Then take the first pan and the other three colors (in this case you would take the pan with the red, orange, yellow and add in the rest of the blue, green, and purple. Do this with the opposite pan and opposite colors. When finished, you should have two pans with a rainbow in each. One pan will have the rainbow right side up (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) and the other pan with a reverse rainbow ( Bake these according to directions. When they are finished and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, they should look like this.
(Please excuse the picture quality...these were taken with my cell phone)

Once they are cooled you can level them and fill, stack, and ice the cake. You can ice it in whatever color or design you want, I chose white simply because it didn't take a long time and it was pretty exciting to see a boring, white cake and then a rainbow when you cut into it!

This is what the inside of the finished product should look like:

January 24, 2011

Topsy Turvy

Back in October I made a cake for a really good family friend's 5oth "surprise" birthday party. It was pretty last minute and her husband just said to make something she would like. Free reign? Really? Now I'm the type of person who HAS to have directions and specific details in any other area. I cannot receive an assignment, in any area of life, with very few instructions and just "go for it." I need details, details, details!! In cake-ing though, it's a whole different story. At the party I set up the cake (you can see a picture here) and everyone loved it!

Fast forward to January where I get an email and phone call from another family friend (also at the party) asking if I would make her mother's 50th birthday cake. We discussed details and she explained that she wanted a topsy turvy (all tiers are lopsided and leaning), 30-serving, black/white/pink cake with a fondant loopy bow on top. No problem! Having never made a topsy turvy cake, or loopy bow, in my life I had some work ahead of me. I started my research in my favorite place, the Wilton discussion forums. (Seriously, if you are interested in cake decorating at all, you HAVE to visit this site. It is unbelievably helpful and the people are so nice!)

When all was said and done, it turned out better than I expected and I got many, many compliments on it. It looked great, tasted wonderful, and the birthday girl was very surprised! It was incredibly informative, and a great learning experience. Yes, there were some bumps along the way, but I kept on going and "made it work!"

(PS: I wanted to do a step-by-step, but had a camera that decided to give up on me. When I figure out how to get pictures off my phone I will post them.)

January 19, 2011

Doing a Little Sampling

A few months ago I was asked by one of my father's coworkers to create some sample cupcakes for his wife. She had seen my portfolio on Facebook and wanted to see for herself if my treats tasted as good as they looked. I knew that I didn't just want to go the traditional "vanilla, chocolate, red velvet" route, although those were the flavors I made the most. I decided it was time to step outside of my comfort zone and experiment.

Originally I had planned on making these samples right away so that neither of us would forget about them, however, I was right in the middle of a killer semester at school, dealing with papers every week and so much homework I am surprised I even got any sleep. Sadly, and this has never happened before, there was no time for cupcakes.

Fast Forward to January--I know, I know, it was long overdue. School was finally over; the hustle and bustle of a very busy (and crazy) Holiday season was past; and I finally found myself with time on my hands (a very rare occurrence.) So I set out to create a list of magnificent cupcakes that would be equally delicious and beautiful. I spent a week planning the flavors of the cakes and frosting's, as well as the designs that each would sport. I finally nailed down a list of flavors that would be unforgettable and classic.

I decided to go with orange cream, raspberry swirl, cookies 'n' cream, peanut butter, spice, apple pie, mocha, banana, vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet. I spent an entire afternoon chopping, measuring, mixing, scooping, and baking and created 3 each of 11 different flavors. After cooling, I held an informal tasting party in the kitchen--as in I sliced up the cupcakes and solicited opinions from my parents. Sadly, Mocha did not make the cut. The rest, I am proud to say, were successful! I was a "mad scientist" in the kitchen and did not even have to fail first to become one.

I put my best efforts into decorating each with a complimenting frosting and design and created 11 one-of-a-kind treats to send off.

Orange cream with Orange frosting; banana with vanilla buttercream; red velvet with vanilla bc; chocolate with chocolate fudge frosting; vanilla with vanilla bc; peanut butter with chocolate bc; apple pie with vanilla bc; apple pie with Caramel bc; spice with vanilla bc; raspberry swirl with raspberry bc; and cookies 'n' cream with vanilla bc.

I am proud to say that they were very warmly received and got rave reviews.

January 2, 2011

A New Year

Being that it is a new year I have resolved to not let this blog fall by the wayside anymore. It has been more than six months since I first (and last.....) posted and I am determined to not let that happen again, so, that being said, I am posting for the first time this year to put my new resolution out there! This blog will not be neglected this year!

I have a lot of aspirations for the upcoming year which include (hopefully) getting more orders for cakes and seeing my business really start to grow. I am also going to be more open to new cake flavors and ideas and try not to let the fear of failure hold me back. I would also like to post more pictures and tutorials and experiences, but first I need a new camera as mine has decided to quit on me after only 6 months of use. (I didn't even use it that much!)

What I would like to accomplish does not just include cakeing though. I would also like this blog to be a place for me to develop my writing skills (because being in college full-time doesn't do that already...?)

My first adventure will occur tomorrow. I am going to make several sample cupcakes to send to a potential client(s) in the hopes of showcasing my flavors and designs. Crossing my fingers right now!

Anyway, here's to a wonderful 2011 full of love, growth, and cake!! Cheers!!!