Thursday, September 29, 2011

The very first time!

When I was in high school we had the option to go to vo-tech. I joined the Food Prep program in our vo-tech. I knew then I wanted to be a chef.  Unfortunately, as the story goes, I ended vo-tech after my junior year because of pregnancy and joined the general education program at the high school.  Anyway, Food Prep is where I learned a great many many skills that I still use to this day.  I learned how to debone chicken breasts, (without a knife) as well as how to decorate cakes.

When I moved out of my mother's home at 18 I started my first (of several) home based baking business.  I don't have pictures of many of the cakes I did, but I do have a few.  I've always tried to make my children's' birthday cakes, with a rare exception here and there I succeeded.

Okay, I am going to give a warning, the early cakes were not that good.  But at $8 a cake who's complaining?

This was done for Merissa's Baptism.  Mind you, I was 17 here.  God what awful hand writing!
I wasn't going to confess this, but I suppose I should.  When I made this cake a few weeks after Merissa was born, I misspelled her name on the cake.  That's really why her name is written so poorly.  I
originally spelled it Merrisa.  My brother asked me if that was spelled right.  Oops!  I should also point
out that the icing was the pre-made stuff in the decorating containers.  There's a story behind that one too!
Obviously for a baby shower, unfortunately this may have been for my own,
I can't be certain.  I don't think it was but you never know. 
Well this is pretty self explanatory.  
Someone ordered a Halloween cake.
and a Christmas cake
Someone ordered a cake for their son
Another order

Merissa's 3rd Birthday

Merissa's 4th Birthday

An order for people at work

Gentry's 1st Birthday (my oldest son)

Merissa's 5th Birthday

Tyler's 1st Birthday (my youngest son)

I don't have a picture handy of Avery's 1st birthday cake.  I will find it and post it.  Hopefully you can see the improvement of the cakes as the years go by.  Character cakes were extremely popular in the mid 80's.  The only real way to decorate them (at that time) was to use the star tip method.  

I am in the process of developing film that has sat undeveloped for many years.  If I come across more of my work I will certainly post them.  

To give you an idea to how long ago the cakes were done, Merissa will be 29 in December.  Gentry is 24, Tyler is 17 and Avery is 9.  

I was going to say its embarrassing to post the pictures of stuff I've done so long ago, but I'm not really.  I improved and still love doing it.  Its interesting, thinking about this just now.  I would tell those people that knew when they were younger what they wanted to be when they grew up that I envied them.  I thought I never knew what I wanted to be.  I became a nurse out of fear (thats another story) and while there are certain aspects of it that I enjoy, I don't like being a nurse as a whole.  I never wanted to be a nurse.  I knew that.  I have believed for more than 20 years that God puts you on a path.  If you make decisions that veer you from that path He will eventually put you back on that path.  God put me on the path of chef/baker/cake decorator whatever you want to call it, when I was 13.  I am 46 now.  It has taken me 33 freaking years to get put back on that path.  Either I'm slower than I realize or He's extremely busy!  Seriously, this just proves that He won't forget to guide you, even if you forget.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random Treats

While we're finishing up packing and moving I thought I would share with you some of the various baked goods I've made in the recent past.  Come back tomorrow and I'll show you some really old work!

Some of these pictures were taken with an old phone.  Please excuse the poor quality of the photo.

Sunflower cupcakes!  That's an Oreo in the center and an M&M as a lady bug!

Easter cake!  Vegetables are made with Marzipan, dirt is cookie crumbs.

Spaghetti cupcakes.  The icing is peanut butter icing, with Almond Rocher
candy as meatballs, and sugar free cherry jam as the 'sauce' giving you
a Chocolate Peanut Butter and Jelly cupcake!!!

Butterflies made with chocolate

I was trying the bug design

Some of these pictures were taken with an old phone.  Please excuse the poor quality of the photo.

There are books out there with these creations.  I was trying different kinds just to see how they would do.  Its a lot of fun and very easy to do!!  Try it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gingerbread house

I know its not Christmas time yet, but I was organizing the pictures on my computer when I came across some pictures of food that I did a few years ago.  I wanted Avery to see how a gingerbread house was made.  We set out to do it.  Winco, a discount grocery store in Washington, sells some candy in bulk - that's where we headed!!

I don't have pictures of making the gingerbread dough or how I cut out the pieces.  Essentially you roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4" then place templates on top and cut them out with a knife, then bake.  As opposed to cutting them out after they're baked.

Using Royal Icing as glue between the pieces

You just have to hold them together long enough for it to hold

This looks like a garage, maybe next time I'll do it that way.
I guess this is a colonial style house with a den or something.  

Attaching the roof!

Damn pans are warped!

I used royal icing and candy, peanuts, pretzels and frosted mini-wheats for the
shingles on the roof.  The frosted part makes it look like snow.

Avery enjoyed creating a house of candy!

The chimney

Can you see the 'wood pile'?

I think we were bombarded by M&Ms!

 This was a fun project to do together.  We had this out for a while, then throw it out!  (After we ate the M&Ms!!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Decorated cake

My oldest daughter, Merissa, has a boyfriend named Nick.  They've been together for 5 years or so and bought a house together.  They also love this cartoon called "Invader Zim" (personally I have never watched this show) and one of the characters is named "Gir", as in Grrrrr.  They named one of their dogs Gir (but I call it "bug-eyed rat!)  So for Nick's birthday she asked me to make him a cake, she said she had asked this other person who works with fondant to make it but she felt she would rather have taste over appearance.  Ummm, I suppose there's a compliment in there somewhere.  Anyway, she wanted it to be a Gir cake of some sort.

Would you believe she wanted to come over that day to 'help' me?  Puh-lease!  I asked her, 'if you ordered a cake from a bakery would you go there to 'help' them?'  Anyway, I looked at images online to see something I thought would be good to make.  My youngest son, Tyler, gave me some pointers on what was characteristic Invader Zim images.
This was the image I used as a guide.
I also planned on using fondant and creating a 3D form of Gir.
This is melting the marshmallows for the marshmallow/rice krispie treats. 
Avery sifting the flour for the cake.
I couldn't use regular cake pans because I wanted to cut the cake out in the
shape of the house, so I poured the batter into my cookie sheets.
I have learned I need cookie sheets specifically for cakes.  They really
do warp!  Thank goodness I planned on cutting the edges off anyway!!!  

This picture was when I remembered I needed to take pictures of what I'm doing!!
This was four layers.  I cut each of the sheet cakes in half, then layered them on
top with peanut butter icing in between each layer.  Because you can't color
peanut butter icing properly I also made regular buttercream icing.
I crumb coated the cake before putting the final layer of icing on.
The pipes or whatever it is that's coming out either side of the house
were pieces of cake, then crumb iced and attached to the house with more buttercream.

This is Gir.  Rice Krispie treats covered in fondant.  The eyeballs
(which look like boobs to me) were small balls of the rice krispie treats, as
well as the arms.  I used toothpicks to stick these pieces into the larger piece.
The arms are resting onto of  the color bottles waiting for the icing
to dry.  These were removed at my daughter's house.

Top view before it was finished.

At their home.

 I didn't have cake boards the size that I needed.  So I cut a couple pieces of cardboard and wrapped them in aluminum foil.  If someone was purchasing the cake I would not have done it this way.  But because she wasn't paying me anything, well....I can be cheap on some things.

I also didn't want to ruin the look of the cake by writing Happy Birthday Nick on top of it.  So I chose to write it on the board.  The miniature cupcakes are one of Gir's favorite treates (the character, not the dog).  Merissa also told be that Gir liked Tacos, but by this time I didn't care.  Mini-cupcakes were easier!!

I had fondant that I bought from a private business.  It really was bad.  Crumbled, stiff, difficult to work with.  I had my husband run to JoAnn's and get me some fondant there - SOOOOO much better to work with.  One day I'll make it myself and see how that works.  For right now though, this was good enough.

Needless to say, they loved it.  I believe they were impressed by the cake.  I wonder, do you suppose she got taste AND LOOKS?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary!  

This is our real wedding cake!  Orange cake with cream cheese frosting!

After the ceremony!  

Our 'wedding' was a week later.  

We really did have a 'real' wedding cake!  
We wanted to get married on the exact time of the Autumnal Equinox - 9/22 @ 7:05 p.m.  However, a friend/co-worker of Jeff's was also getting married on the same day, in Pittsburgh.  I lived in Eastern Pennsylvania at the time.  So we decided to get married on the day we wanted, but have a ceremony a week later where his friends and co-workers could come and not force them to decide which one they wanted to go to. 

Happy Anniversary!  I love you!!  I look forward to the next ten years!! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


That's what my mother-in-law said when she saw that I made my own bread.  Bread?  Are you branching out? No.  I like making bread, its just been a while.  On my husband's birthday he wanted pulled pork sandwiches.  I thought wouldn't it be nice if we ate them on homemade rolls?  Plus a loaf of bread for those that don't like pulled pork sandwiches (me).
First I mix the yeast with water and sugar.

Then I add the flour.... make it sticky and pull away from the sides.

I tried my dough hook, but I really don't like it.  In my opinion,
it doesn't do anything for the dough.  Just spins it around and around!

Turn it out on a floured surface

knead it for a while....
and a while more.

You may be asking yourself, 'why is there a picture of a stool here?'
Good question.... The answer is, because I need height to knead the dough,
otherwise my shoulders hurt and I don't get enough leverage on the dough.
Funny thing is, now don't think this is morbid, but when I worked in the ER and
I would have to perform CPR I'd have to yell for a stool to get enough leverage
on the chest to compress deep enough!  Height challenged!!

When you get a smooth ball - after about 15 minutes of kneading

place it in a lightly oiled bowl turning over to cover the ball with oil on both sides.

Wrap with plastic wrap

Cover with a towel and put some place away from drafts.

Rise until doubled! (or so)

Punch down

to release the air

turn out onto a floured surface again and knead some more.

depending on the size of your dough you will want to divide the dough in half.

I lightly rolled out the dough and cut out the circles for the buns.

With the remaining dough I created a small round loaf and a french loaf with the other half
of the dough.  Placed them on a cookie sheet that was sprayed with Pam then lightly
coated with cornmeal.  Covered lightly with plastic wrap, then covered with a towel - placed
away from any drafts.

After about 30-60 minutes, I removed the wrap, sliced the loaves... 

then applied an egg wash to the loaves and the buns.  The next step is my
secret, I sprinkle sea salt on them.  Oh my is that good!!

Bake for the appropriate time.  Heaven in the oven!!  
I've also used the same recipe but instead of all bread flour I used half the amount in whole wheat flour, then exchanged the sugar for molasses - two tablespoons.  Mmmmm  good stuff.  With butter melting on the fresh made bread!  The smells....  Lordy lordy!!  You all don't know what you're missing!!

You can also use a bread machine to do all the dirty work for you, then turn it out onto a floured surface, shape how you want, then let rise again, then bake!