28 May, 2012

"I'm legit, bitch!"

I apologise for my rude title, family members :D I've recently got into Michael Patrick King's HILARIOUS new comedy '2 Broke Girl$' (in which, coincidently, the main characters are trying to build a cupcake business. Huh, go figure.) and Max receives her first cheque for a legitimate cupcake gig and screams this out to her diner patrons. Well this was my first legit gig!

One of my brilliant friends, Tash, recommended me to her mum (the headmistress of one of Plymouth's secondary schools) when she needed someone to make a cake and cupcakes for a staff event at the school. A cupcake shop in town - which will remain anonymous, but if you live in the Muff then there's only one - charge £1.50 for theirs, and my going rate is two-thirds of that. So Tash's mum came to me and asked to create a sandwich cake to raffle off (I think, it was a long time ago now) and the cupcakes were for the staff. She just told me to decorate them colourful and sparkly!

I love the sandwich cake, it was so fun creating all the fillings and it genuinely looks so edible! Hehe! I just baked two 8" square vanilla sponges and halved each of them, then covered them in white icing. I made cheese slices and poked holes through to make it look like cartoon cheese (seriously, can you actually buy cheese with holes in?), cut out round circles for tomatoes (not too much detail on the slices as I knew these would be well hidden underneath the "bread") and then streaked different shades of pink and green icing to make bacon and lettuce, respectively. I painted on bread "crusts" with brown food colouring, and dented the top of the "bread" with my knuckles to make it look loafy.

Icing on the Top:
  • I was later told that the winner of the sandwich was thrilled with her prize, which makes me happy :)
  • The loafy effect of the bread was an accident. I dented the top of the cake when I was painting on the crust by leaning my hand on the cake (not the first time I've done this, oops!) but actually it was like a happy accident, much like discovering penicillin, or my brother! Haha.
  • I had so much fun decorating the cupcakes with a range of sweets - Smarties, Magic Stars, marshmallows, sparkly sprinkles, Malteasers, etc...
  • I bought a new HUUUUUGE icing bag to decorate the cupcakes with - allowing me to ice around 25 cupcakes without stopping to refil my bag with buttercream. £8 well spent!
  • I thought the picnic-blanket effect for the cake board was very effective :) And whaddyaknow, I used my sugarcraft gun to create the long strips of blue icing!
Burnt Bits:
  • I made the cupcakes the night before they were due to go out, and the next morning found that the colouring from a lot of the Smarties had ran into the buttercream due to the moisture :(
  • The "crust" I painted on the cake ran slightly onto the cake board design. I tried my best to clear it up with vodka, but I risked ruining the check blanket effect the harder I tried. Sucky.
Needless to say, my friend's mum was super-pleased with the results, and agreed that if she ever needed me again she would be sure to call. And two weeks later she did! My first cheque from the CITY COUNCIL arrived soon after this order as it was technically a school expense. WAHOOOOO!!!

And so began my short-lived journey to official self-employment.

Happy Baking x

27 May, 2012

Cup for 'Cap

For some absurd reason, Photobucket has decided it does not want to watermark my photo.  I'm not about to go about galavanting trying to work out how to use a new photo editing programme, so I've just uploaded it as it is. If you wanna steal it, go ahead. Make my day.

This was the first time I got to use my silicone giant cupcake mould. And I did not like it. I hate the feel of silicone. For this reason, I will never get fake boobies. Aside from that, it never feels clean - always greasy. And this particular mould had many nooks and crannys that were just ridiculous to grease beforehand, so I used Dr Oetker Cake Release Spray. I do tend to use this from time to time, if I'm in a lazy mood and don't want to line a tin. It works wonders on mini cake pans, too. More on that later, though. Also, lining a tin helps give your sponge some protection from the heat, so it's always good to use greaseproof paper in your tins. But like I say, it really wasn't feasable in this cake. So good old me, I pour in my vanilla sponge mix to about 2cm below the top of the mould. This allowed for the cake to rise as necessary, but still be able to level it off to a standard worthy of cupcake proportions. I covered the moulds (incase you haven't seen them, they come in two halves - the 'case' and the 'swirl.') in tin foil and baked until a skewer came out clean. I think this was about 45 minutes - 1 hour. Bear in mind that these moulds are DEEP so you want to ensure your sponge is THOROGHLY cooked through.

I haven't even told you this cake's history yet. I used to work in a retail concession within a food store (weird, I know. I think we were the only one in the country.) and word was soon spreading among the supermarket staff that I could make cakes. I was approached by the duty manager one day who asked if I'd like to donate a cake that they could raffle off for Mencap, which is that store's chosen charity to raise money for each year. I always liked getting stuck into charity gigs at work, whether it's fancy dress, hula-hooping (yup) or - you guessed it - baking cupcakes. (Buns.) So, of course I obliged. Now I know everyone is super crazy about cupcakes so I chose this design, plus I wanted to use the mould that my friend Jodie had so generously given me after she attempted a diabolical version for her daughter's first birthday. Needless to say, I did her second birthday cake :)

I really didn't like how this cake turned out. Even a co-worker said it wasn't my best work. Wow, that was like a smack to the face, but I knew it was true. I haphazardly covered the 'case' half of the cake in white icing, prettied it up with a bow, then covered the topping half with store-bought (slap to the wrist) chocolate fudge buttercream. I applied it with a flat-bladed knife, as I knew that if I tried to pipe it on exactly as you would a real cupcake in a swirl, it would just look like a massive poo. Sorry to be so blunt!

Icing on the Cake:
  • For design purposes, it is aesthetically pleasing. Smarties works well for 'sprinkles,' and if I went too far with the decorations it would have looked rubbish and OTT.
  • It was for charity. I earned no money on this cake, and was told later that about a half a booklet of raffle tickets were sold from people wanting to win the cake. You know how thick those books come, so I'm pleased.
  • The guy that won it was on a diet, he just wanted to donate some money somehow so bought a ticket. The entire supermarket staff got to devour the cake in the staff canteen later. Win!
Burnt Bits:
  • It wasn't my best work, and I'll put my hands up to that. I can see a little dent underneath the "swirl" and I have no idea how it got there.
  • I was in such a rush that I smeared chocolate buttercream on the 'case' slightly. You can't see it, but I know it's there. I just wiped it off with kitchen roll, but if I took my time I know I could have gone to work on it with a clean piece and some vodka, bringing the white icing back to it's brilliance again.
  • The silicone mould is horrible. I DO NOT recommend it. The edges of the cake felt slightly crispy from where the sponge pretty much "fried" against the cake release spray. I'm not really sure how that ended up tasting but I did smother the thing in buttercream before covering in icing so I'm hoping that it wasn't too bad. I hope :(
  • Again, if I took my time over it, I could have really gone to town on the 'case.' I saw a technique on Ace of Cakes once, where they made an oyster cake. To get the ridges of the shell, they covered the sponge in the first layer of icing, like normal, then used a sugarcraft gun (godsend) to pipe long tubes of icing at intervals across the shell. They then covered it in the second layer of icing, and lo and behold - there were the little ridges across the shell! I could have SO done this on the cupcake wrapper to give that ridge effect. Maybe next time :(
At the end of the day, I know this cake wasn't my best work. I'm not saying it was my worst, either. You've seen my worst. But it was for charity, so it ultimately has a happy ending :)

Happy Baking x

07 May, 2012

Zoom Zoom!

This chocolate fudge cake was a nightmare. You'd have thought the initial shape of the cake and design looks relatively easy, but my god, how I got to the end of this cake I'll never know. Especially because I rolled home from a night out at 3am, awoke at 6am, made this cake and delivered it by 10am. Yeah, that's how I roll... (And this was one of two cakes I delivered at 10am... Booyah!!! Coming next post haha!)

When I made this cake it was the first time I'd ever attempted to use one of those number-shaped cake pans. They're weird, and have no bottoms. God knows why. So the pan I used looked like this:

I asked the ever-trustworthy (?) lady who owns the cake shop I frequent for advice on what the hell to do with it, since I hired it from her for the meagre price of £1.75 for 3 days. She's very reasonable when it comes to her prices, I'll give her that. Sometimes she gives me ribbon or a small cake board for free because she knows what a good customer I am :) Anywho, she recommended covering the TOP of the pan in tin foil, and sellotaping it to the tin. Apparantly it works a charm every time. Well, I couldn't get the damn tape to stick, so I just wrapped the foil up the edges of the tin and put it on another baking tray. Now I say you cover the TOP of the tin in foil. Why - may you ask? Because us cake-makers know that when you turn a cake out, you always ice the BOTTOM of the cake, as that has the smoothest surface. So turn out your cake, level off the top, but of course you still get that crumbly, juuuuust slightly imperfect surface. So flip it, ice it, and BAM!

Right, so on we go. I fill the pan with the cake mixture, and bake away. Of course, so my horror upon opening the oven later on, the mixture has spilled up and over the top, out of the edges - it's everywhere really. The cake wasn't level all the way through, it was just a disaster. So obviously my time and patience are wearing thin, and I decided to level it off as best I could and set about covering it in icing. That always adds a bit of bulk to a cake anyway, so I knew it would be okay once I got the ball rolling. Which it did! That checkerboard ribbon I picked up was fabulous for this cake! I was well impressed with it. Look at that, my janner voice is coming out even as I type. "Well impressed." I'm reminded somewhat of my Auntie Anne, but that's going off track... Ahem :P Get it...?

Icing on the Top:
  •  Bearing in mind my minimal time window (self-inflicted, I know. But this is what I'm talking about when it comes to making the decision to collapse the business. It was either have a social life and save my sanity, or make cakes.) I was really pleased with how the car came out! Yeah, he could have had a little more detail on him. But for a piece of decoration that was going to come off the cake five minutes after everyone "ooh"ed and "ahh"ed at it, it was pointless. Plus, the recipient was two years old. He knew what it was and was squeeling "Lightning Mcqueen!!" at the sight of the cake. Oh, how I aim to please.
  • My skill level whilst still slightly drunk. Not too shabby.
Burnt Bits:
  •  Although you can't see it, the top left corner of the cake was considerably smashed to bits :( The consistency of the chocolate fudge cake I used to make - albeit absolutely gorgeous tasting - was just too crumbly to be used for cake making. I now buy my chocolate cake mix ready made. Not the Betty Crocker rubbish from supermarkets, but from my cake shop that the owner mixes up herself. It saves so much time melting chocolate, adding in foreign ingredients like sour cream etc, and is just so much cheaper. I know I sound like the devil even as I type, but I made hardly any profit when I had the business. A sponge mix that costs £3.75 versus making it from scratch for over a tenner is going to win anyday.) Wow, that was a long bit in brackets. Anywho, so the smashed bit had to make up its shape in chocolate buttercream and was then well-disguised with the icing. I think that was the last time I used that recipe.
  • I should have practiced with the cake pan before making the cake. I would have saved so much hassle and actual cake that it would have turned out a lot deeper, but alas it was not to be.
So, this cake has a few hidden flaws. From the outside persective you wouldn't have thought it, which is hard for me to say because obviously I like my cakes to be good on the inside as well as the outside. Many people mistake that about the high-flying cake makers of the world. They gasp in shock at these masterful creations, but at the end of the day does it all really matter unless the taste good? I love Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss, but once you take away the structure of the cakes, and all the interior light shows and smoke machines, how much of it is actually edible? Suffice it to say, all of my Number 2 Lightning McQueen cake WAS. And it tasted prettty damn good :)

Sorry - I ranted for much of this post. It seems I have a lot to say lately. My texts are like essays, and my diary will need to be replaced soon. I have too much time now.

Happy Baking x

05 May, 2012

Full Steam Ahead!

So in this post I've decided to include two cakes I've made. The reason being for this that I wanted to go right back to the beginning and blog about all the cakes I missed, and talk about what I liked, where I went wrong, etc. But the next cake that was on my list was a super easy cake, and in my personal opinion I couldn't have done it any better - even if I do say so myself! You may think I'm being big-headed, or you might look at it and think it's crap - but I really do try and find flaws with every cake I've made, and this one I couldn't. So I'm pleased with how it came out, and I'm proud of me. I'm allowed to be sometimes :)

This was a chocolate fudge cake that was ordered due to a recommendation from another client - apparantly her mother-in-law couldn't get enough of her cake (it was the purple butterfly cake from a previous post!) and decided to order this one for her friend who was leaving for a cruise. Simple - she wanted a pink heart cake, with her name on it, and a sugarpaste cruise ship. Which I delivered to the best of my ability and I love the simplicity of it! The ship was relatively easy to mould out of icing, and I added the blue and red detail on it using my sugarcraft gun and the pinhole disc. I really do love that thing. I placed it onto a bed of blue sprinkles for the sea, which I think gave it a really sparkly and girly touch. I finished the cake off with PME Clear Finishing Spray, which I recommend completely but you do have to use it sparingly as it can give a horrible yellow finish to pale-coloured cakes (thus ruining some of my future cakes :( ).

This was one of my favourite cakes I've created. It was for my adorable second cousin, Rhys, who is Thomas the Tank craaaaazy. To this day I have no idea how I managed to mould the actual train shape together using chuns of cake, but I think I did a pretty good job considering! Now I will tell you a secret though, I cheated. :O I actually bought a jam and vanilla buttercream roly-poly cake from Asda to get the tubey shape of his body. I know, I'm going to hell. It was in their basics range, too. :O again!

The rest of the vanilla cake I baked in a loaf tin, just like I did when I made my Fireman Sam cake. I then cut him down to size, took a bit from here and there and - voila! One TtTE cake at your disposal! I primarily covered him all in the lovely blue icing, then added in all the extra detail using a selection of tools like my sugarcraft gun (agaaaaiin), my ribbon cutter and just my general awesome hands. Haha. P.s, I've used the number '3' on the side of the cake as it was his 3rd birthday, not because I'm a complete retard and don't know that Thomas is actually engine number 1. Duuuh.

Icing on the Top:
  • Using simple supermarket home-baking decorations like silver dragees and coloured sprinkles to add to the detail really tipped the whole design off.
  • Every single section of the cake was edible, which is a huge thing considering how much detail is on there :)
  • He just looks so happy.
Burnt Bits:
  • The cheating part. Naughty Kirsten.
  • He doesn't have any wheels. I don't know why. I think I realised this just as I was boxing him up, but just thought "eh, never mind, there's no track anywho."
  • There's no track. I could have really gone to town on the overall finish by covering the cake board in icing and making up a track and all sorts. But I didn't, because I just couldn't be bothered.
  • He isn't completely to scale, which is very noticeable. I didn't realise this until I was adding in the silver tubing around the edge of the train, when it starts off quite low on one side, but a lot higher on the other. My bad.

Again, I finished off this cake with the PME Clear Finishing Spray. I like to use it on cakes that have a lot of detail on it, as I make all the detail parts separately and then add them on right at the end. This means that I usually use a separate workspace doused in icing sugar to dry the pieces out, but of course the pieces also get covered in a fine layer of icing sugar - which ain't a good look. The finishing spray disolves the icing sugar, giving the cake the pristine look that I always love at the end of a good cake. But as mentioned, use it sparingly on lighter cakes, and if you do have to use a lot to get rid of any excess icing sugar then maybe think next time how you can eliminate as much of it before transferring it to the cake. I use a blusher brush for big pieces of detail (never used with blush, of course. It has only ever been used for cake purposes, I assure you!!) Also, another good tip is to cover as much of the surrounding surfaces and cake board as possible, preferably with kitchen roll. If the spray gets onto any surfaces like your table tops or turn-tables, it is a BITCH to wash off. It is almost like a permanent edible glue. Not nice. And if it gets onto your cake board, wipe it off immediately with a piece of damp kitchen roll. If you let it dry out and then try and wipe it off, you'll ruin the cake board.

At the end of the day, I created two pretty damn good cakes. Both recipients were extremely pleased (Rhys especially!) and I was very happy with them :) Go me!

Happy Baking x