Great Eats and Sweets in Cali, 2014!

Justin and I got to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary, while our dear friends Kathy and Alex celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary, at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland!

I will be the first to admit that I always go through through major Disney withdrawal whenever I have to leave Disneyland (cut to me sprawled on my hotel bed wearing my Mickey ears as I pathetically play “Part of Your World” on my iPhone on our last night.)

Anyways.  The goods, and some of the highlights from our trip.

We kicked off our trip by catching a baseball game since Justin is a huge sports fan.  The rest of us came along more so to eat, and because Justin paid for our tickets to lure us in going.

We took a picture of the Concession chart as a handy reference through our food choices throughout the game.  Definitely not your typical hotdogs and nachos here.

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We ended up getting some waffle fries and grilled cheese sandwiches, both of which were super.

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Justin of course needed his beer.

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And we settled in for the game.  We also had a mid game churro break at some point.IMG_1604

The following day kicked off our 1st out of 3 days in Disneyland.  California Adventures was our first stop, and of course, the first ride we ran for was the Radiator Springs Racers as soon as the park opened.  It was apparent that everyone else at the park had the same idea, but we were lucky enough to get on without much of a wait.

It’s a great ride, but be prepared to wait if you aren’t prepared to get there early before the crowds hit.IMG_1417

The Cali heat gave us a great excuse to cool off in many ways, like this salted caramel hot fudge sundae we got at the Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop.

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La Brea Bakery Cafe is also another great find.  Alex gave their clam chowder a try and we were impressed by the in-house made sourdough bread bowls that it came in.  We were so impressed that we actually came back on our third day for lunch here.

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And how can you forget all the disney treats?  I love the amount of effort that goes into all the Disneyfied treats, including these huge sugar cookies.  They can be found EVERYWHERE.

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We stumbled upon the Pixar Parade so we took a break to check it out.  It’s so fun to see how detailed these floats are, and it was themed out to all the Pixar movies, including Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc, the Incredibles, and Bugs Life.IMG_1488

I also indulged myself in a giant chocolate chip Mickey cookie.

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We also caught the “World of Color” show that same evening.  If you’ve never seen it, you totally have to.  It’s a half hour water show where they use water and special effects, much of which where the water is used as a canvas and images are projected onto it.  It was so great.

You can actually get fastpasses to this show, which grants you access to a closer viewing area (and this fastpass doesn’t interfere with your other ride fastpasses)

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We spent day 2 in the Magic Kingdom Park.  Justin was stoked to hit up the Star Tours ride which he missed the first time he went to Disneyland, and we also checked out Buzz Lightyear’s shooting game as well.

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Inside the line up for Buzz Lightyear.

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Display of Ironman’s various suits in Tomorrowland.

We also got ourselves a serving of Dole pineapple whip soft serve at the Enchanted Tiki Juice Bar by the Enchanted Tiki Room.  The line ups for this place are LONG so get it earlier in the day if you can.  IMG_1584

We stopped for lunch at Cafe Orleans.  The food there was pretty good, though if I were to go again I’d probably get Justin’s Monte Cristo sandwich.  It was like a sandwich using fried doughnuts as bread.  Hohhh

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Alex’s chicken gumbo.

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Kathy and I shared the seafood crepe and the salmon with vegetable ragout.

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Justin’s monte cristo sandwich

We also made a pit stop for some refreshing mint julep at the Mint Julep Bar, also picking up some fresh hot Mickey shaped beignets.

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To escape from the mid-day heat, we retreated to the “It’s a small world” ride.

Or what I also called “iI’s a long ride, after all…”

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Because we had to catch Fantasmic, we had a quick dinner at The Palace, which is a cafeteria style restaurant offering a bunch of different food options.  I went for the roast beef which came with mashed potatoes and green beans.  It also came with a biscuit but I asked for apple slices instead which they happily obliged.

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Day 3 was split between both California Adventures and the Magic Kingdom to catch up on anything we missed the first two days, and re-doing some favorites (like California Screamin’)

I was dying for my photo op with Russell from “Up,” one of my favorite Pixar films.  In order to do that, we had to join his Wilderness Explorer team.  We were probably the most mature bunch in the audience.  By like…25 years.

I was also the first in line for my photo.  I didn’t push any kids.  Promise.

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So like, he’s a bit bigger in real life.

And check out my huge badass cookie #2, and Kathy’s passion fruit macaron that we got at the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street.

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And we gave our feet a rest by watching “Mickey and the Magical Map”

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We checked out downtown Disney for a bit, and their Lego Store which had some impressive Lego sculptures.

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Santa Monica beach

We spent our last two days hitting the outlets and hitting the beach, as well as hitting up some more great food.

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We had dinner at Musha Restaurant just off of the 3rd St Promenade, where we enjoyed a great izakaya meal.  We order a whole bunch of things, but here’s a sample of some of the dishes.10612649_10152361263421560_4828125804720619241_n

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And on our very last night we had a great dinner at Gen Korean BBQ house, VERY reasonably priced at $20 per person!  The array of unlimited side dishes was great, and the list of different types of meats and items you could order (both raw and cooked) was really impressive!  Epic.

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And on the morning of our flight before heading home, we had our last meal in California at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.  Alex is a huge fried chicken fan so I knew that he had to give this place a try, and he really liked it.  Fried chicken and waffles, what’s not to love?

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10698637_10152361273046560_3057307916584935070_nI’m still trying to work off all this food.

So worth it.

 

Letterpressed sugar cookies

IMG_2007My dear friend Joanna decided to do a late night cookie bar that would come out during the dance party following her formal wedding reception.  You know I’m all about cookies, and I had done one for my own wedding as well!

She asked several of her gal pals to each make 4 dozen of a single type of cookie; I was asked to make 4 dozen sugar cookies.

I’ve never covered cookies in fondant before but thought it would be a nice time to try.  With having to do 4 dozen of a single type, I felt covering cookies in fondant would give me more consistent results, also allowing me to do some designs that I thought would be pretty for a wedding that I can’t achieve with royal icing.

As her wedding colors were teal and gold, I wanted to do a debossed impression on the fondant with some gold accesnt.

I had a letterpress style plate, which I cleaned up, made up of the word “love” in various fonts and sizes.

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Each of the cookies measured 2″ square.

IMG_1824I prepared my fondant.  I used about a 50/50 blend of homemade marshmallow fondant and Wilton Fondant.  I enjoy the taste of the marshmallow fondant but since I don’t make it too often I was concerned it wouldn’t be at the right consistency, so the store bought fondant gave me bit of forgiveness, while the marshmallow fondant contributed to a more “marshmallowy” taste.

I tinted it with the Teal Americolor gel paste.  The perfect shade for her wedding.

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I dusted the surface and my rolling pin with powdered sugar and rolled out the fondant about 1/8″ thick, slicing them into 2″ squares to fit the cookies.  A pizza wheel cutter was the perfect tool!

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I then patted some more powdered sugar onto the square cutout before flipping it upside down onto the letterpress plate.  It takes a bit of practice, but be sure you impress the fondant well enough to get the image, but not too much that you tear the fondant.  It also helps to dust some (or lots of) powdered sugar on the plate as well.

The easiest way for me to remove the fondant square after it was impressed, was to turn the plate upside down and let gravity bring the corners of the fondant off the plate, and GENTLY pull off the impressed fondant square, so that you aren’t stretching it too much.

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With a food safe brush, cover the surface of the cookie with a light amount of corn syrup.

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And gently place your fondant on.  (Oops, you can see in the picture below that I didn’t press the fondant evenly enough on the plate.)

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Again, it just takes practice.  As I kept on going, I got more consistent impressions.  After all the cookies were covered and had a chance to set a bit, I went back to the beginning cookies and with a mixture of edible gold dust and lemon extract, brushed the gold onto select words of the cookie.

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Repeat 47 more times :)

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Everyone’s cookies looked absolutely darling placed on the different platters, and fun was had by all at the wedding.  The bride and groom looked so fantastic, and we had a great celebrating with our two dear friends embarking in their new lives together.

Congrats J and C, we love you!

 

Ombre Bridal Shower Cake

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I had the great privilege of making my good friend Joanna’s bridal shower cake.  The theme of the party was high tea, so I wanted to keep the cake simple and well, just make it pretty.

The colors for her shower were coral and seafoam green.   With the help of her bridesmaids, we decided on a two tiered strawberry cake with lemon buttercream icing.  Because of the spread of food that would be available, they opted for a 6″ round tier on the bottom, and a 4″ round tier for the top.  Cute!  The bottom tier would be ombre coral buttercream, and the top tier would be the seafoam green ombre buttercream, with a few little embellishments to finish it off.

I did a quick sketch as to what I thought the finished cake would look like.

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I learned of a really pretty flower technique off of Jessica Harris’ Craftsy class, Simply Modern Cake Design, which I thought would be fitting for the style of the shower.  I started out with a Wilton sugar sheet.

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Then punched out several 1″ round circles.

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Cut a slit half way through, and then use a little gum glue adhesive to overlap the two ends into a cone shape.

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After making several cone shapes, you just layer them and build outwards.  As your bloom gets bigger, you can switch to a larger circle shape.  I started using a 1.5″ round circle once my flower got bigger.

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The finished flower.

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I flatted a small dome-disk of yellow fondant and gumpaste and adhered it to the middle of the flower with gum glue adhesive.  I then used a pointed fondant tool to texture the middle.

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Before the flower fully set, I also inserted a toothpick up from the bottom up into the yellow middle of the flower so that it would be easier for me to attach to the cake later on.  I made two of these and set them aside to dry.

I baked up two 6″ round cakes and two 4″ round cakes, leveled them, stacked, and did a crumb coat with buttercream, as I always do.

This time, however, I inserted three bubble tea straws in the middle of the bottom tier in a triangular arrangement to act as a support for the top tier.

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I mixed up the lemon buttercream, split them into two bowls, and mixed one bowl up to the coral buttercream, which was applied to the bottom layer.  For the middle layer I added some of the white colored buttercream into the coral buttercream to lighten up the color, and the top layer was covered with just the plain colored buttercream.

I then took a small spatula and lightly dragged it around the cake working from the bottom up to blend the three layers of color together to get that gradient effect.

IMG_1286 And then with a bench scraper I tried my best to smooth it out.

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Repeated with the top teal tier (can you say that 3 times fast?)

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The two cakes once smoothed.  I also used a white frosting sheet that you can get at Michaels and cut out two circles that were the same size as the two tiers to give the tops a smoother finish.

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While I let the cakes set in the fridge, I worked on the pennant topper using two wooden skewers and some scrap booking paper and string I had on hand.

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I packed up and transported the parts of the cake to the social room of the condo where her shower was held, which was decorated so beautifully.  Her bridesmaids did a great job planning and finding such great decor!!

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And check out that spread!  They also served an assortment of hot and cold teas to guests as well.

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I assembled the cake on a cute vintage pedestal that the bridesmaids acquired at a thrift store.

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IMG_1362The shower was a great success and the beautiful bride-to-be had a wonderful time with friends and family.  Congratulations again, Joanna, super excited for you and your big day!!

 

Peppa Pig Cookies

IMG_1105I was (happily) commissioned once again to create some birthday treats for Jaslyn’s birthday.  As some of you may recall, I did her fishy cupcakes last year and her little bro’s jungly themed cake earlier this year.

Her theme this year was Peppa Pig, a little oinker who I knew nothing about until my friend asked me to make these for her daughter’s birthday party.

Thanks to my Kopykake projector, it made decorating a whole lot easier.

I mixed all my royal icing colors ahead of time and stored them in different colors.  I made them all to a thicker consistency so I could just spray it with some water if I ever needed to thin it down.

I started with her face, using a #2 wilton tip.

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Then switched to a smaller, #1 wilton tip to do her right arm, legs, and curly tail.  Keep the rest of that icing for later, you’ll need it to do her left arm.

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After letting the icing dry completely to prevent bleeding, I pipped out her dress back using the #2 tip.

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I then switched back to a #1 tip to do the wand stick, the shoes, her wings, and the base of her crown.  Yeah, this was the Peppa Pig fairy version.

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When that dried, I used a #1 tip to do the star on her wand, as well as her princess crown.

Also take that light pink icing and do her left arm now that her dress has completely dried.

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Once the crown dried, I used a #1 tip to do the blue dots, and used the same color as her dress to do the red dot, as well as her smile.

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Then I went in with my brushes and painted on the facial detail, including the outline of Peppa’s face, her nose, and some of the blush on her cheeks.  I also went in with some white royal icing and partly filled out the wings to make them pop a bit.

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And the finished cookies.

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Happy birthday, Jaslyn!

 

Miniature Dessert Cupcake Toppers

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My dear friend Kathy recently celebrated her 30th birthday for the third time (you can do the math).  A small group of us went out to celebrate with AYCE sushi brunch at Sushi Sugoi, which was a great time.  Since it was a small gathering, I didn’t want to make a huge cake with lots of leftovers, so I decided to make a small batch of cupcakes and prettify them with some cute toppers.

I always wanted to have a go at making miniature foods to dress up cupcakes or other things.  I LOVE food and I’m typically a fan of food when it comes in humongous quantities, however there’s something adorable about seeing tiny, small scale pastries or bowls of ramen made out of fondant (or polymer clay for those that make them as charms or display) that you can balance on your finger.  Can we say “kawaii”?

I decided to keep with the dessert theme and do a few different types of sweet edibles, like a macaron, cake slices, a chocolate swiss roll, and neopolitan ice cream sandwiches (which were really something I came up with on the fly since I had fondant scraps leftover).

I started with the macarons.  I knew I wanted to include macaron fondant toppers since me and my friend had a mad obsession trying to perfect the macaron last Christmas.  I rolled some fondant that I tinted with pink food gel to just a little more than 1/8″ thickness, using my Wilton 9″ rolling pin with the slide on thickness guide rings.

Once rolled I used the mini circle cutter to cut out two discs.

I then used a sharp toothpick (or anything that’s needle point shaped) and poked a bunch of holes at the bottom half of each disc to mimic the macaron feet.

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Then, I rolled out some white fondant to a 1/16″ thickness and used the same circle cutter to cut out what

would be the macaron filling, and then simply assembled them together.

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Mini macaron!  I made several of these, I think 4.

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I then decided to use the rest of my pink fondant to make an ombre layer cake, which kind of reminds me of the pink ombre cake I made for Kathy a few birthdays ago.

I rolled out even balls of fondant, graduating each ball a slightly lighter pink than the one before.

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and then I rolled out the four pink balls each to just over a 1/16″ inch thickness, and stacked them alternating them with the white fondant rolled out slightly thinner to represent the icing layers.

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I then rolled another disc of white fondant for the top of the cake, and then cut out a rectangular shape of fondant that was the diameter and height of the mini cake.  I didn’t care too much about the seam becuase I would be covering the top.

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I then put the remaining bit of pink fondant left into my extruder and piped out a roper border which I coiled and put on top of the cake to be like the icing.

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Once the cake was done and I made sure all the layers were adhering to each other, I had the joy of using my blade to cut into my cake to see all the layers inside.

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Next, I decided to do a chocolate swiss roll.  I rolled a sheet of white fondant and brown tinted fondant each to a 1/16″ thickness and cut them to the same sized rectangle, and stacked them on top of each other.

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And then rolled it up!  I trimmed off the two ends to get rid of the uneven bits.

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Lastly, with my leftover brown, white, and pink fondant, I thought I’d make up some simple neapolitan ice cream sandwiches.  Again rolling out the brown, white, and pink fondant to the same thickness and stacking them on top of each other like I did with the swiss roll, I cut them to small rectangles.  I then used a pointed fondant tool to make the holes on the cookie.

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To dress up the miniature foods I had just made, I figured they would look better on some mini plates, so I rolled some fondant to 1/16″ thickness and used the wide end of a large piping tip to cut out circles.  I used a fondant baller tool to form the inner recessed circle of the plate, and used another fondant tool to pinch the edges all around the plate.

I jazzed up the cake slices a bit by mixing up a stiff royal icing and using the wide end of a flat toothpick, spread the icing on the exterior of the cake slices to make the outside of the cake look like it was covered in buttercream.

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With the swiss roll, I cut off a couple slices of the swiss roll and plated them in various ways of the log.  I used the same stiff royal icing at the top to give the appearance of whipped cream and added a few balls of pink fondant poked with holes to resemble strawberries (or any other kind of pink fruit I guess).

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The macarons were simply placed on a plate, stacked on top of each other.  I took one of the neopolitan ice cream sandwiches and placed it with the 4th macaron, and you can see at that point how out of scale my macarons were relative to the other treats :)  Or we can just say it ‘s a giant macaron cake.

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The rest of the ice cream sandwiches were stacked on top of each other.  With all of these treats and plating, I used stiff royal icing as the “glue” and they held up very well.

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I think these look so adorable together.

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I put these toppers on some taro flavored cupcakes I had made, some of them with taro icing, some of them with chocolate icing.  The one with the 3-2 was her official birthday cupcake, and was so delighted with the mini macarons on them.

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Enjoy, and good luck trying these out!

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Jungle Themed First Birthday Cake

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After making her daughter’s fishy cupcakes for her 3rd birthday, my friend Becca was so kind to give me an encore to make her son’s 1st birthday cake :).  She requested a strawberry cake with blue and green colors incorporated.

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Cake toppers for inspiration.

She sent me a picture of a few jungle animal toppers that she wanted to incorporate.  With that, I thought a great way to get the colors in was to do a blue buttercream all around the cake, with green detailed in the shape of grass!

So I baked up two strawberry cakes, 8″ round.

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Then leveled and cut each cake in half, and started layering them in the same fashion I always do.

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I decided this cake was as good as any to try playing with modeling chocolate.  With a mixture of white chocolate, corn syrup, and food coloring, I rolled out some green modeling chocolate to 1/16″ thickness, on a sheet of was paper greased with shortening.

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Then I used a sharp scalpel and cut out the silhouette of the grass.

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And carefully pulled off the excess chocolate.

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And brushed a layer of sugar syrup on top.

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I then pressed the grass around the cake bottom using a fondant smoother.

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Then I slowly peeled off the parchment paper and used my finger to smooth away any of the shortening residue that was on it.

I have to credit Jessica Harris for her awesome technique on using this wax paper transfer method to transfer modeling chocolate/fondant details onto a cake without worrying about guidelines and placement!  Using this method made it really easy to line up the grass without worrying about ripping or stretching my modeling chocolate.

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I then made some yellow modeling chocolate, rolled it out, and imprinted a chevron pattern into it.
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I then used my scalpel and cut out some letters to spell out the birthday boys’ name, Ace!

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Because I wanted them to firm up before applying them onto the cake, I covered part of my 8″ round tin with wax paper, and placed the letters on there (with some shortening on the back so they would stick to the paper) to let them firm up, while still maintaining the curvature needed to apply them to the cake.

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While those firmed up, I used my scalpel to cut out a number 1, to go on top of the cake.

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And to bring in some of the brown found in the features of the animal toppers, I to used an extruder to make a border around the 1, as well as around the bottom of the cake.  I made a long strip of it and cut it to the appropriate length and applied each strip individually.

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And then the bottom of the cake.

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Once the letters hardened, I applied some sugar syrup to the backs and gently placed them along the side of the cake.

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And the finished cake to bring to Becca (pre cake toppers).

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And a quick picture of the adorable birthday boy, looking a little confused at what was going on :).  However I think they enjoyed the cake all the same.photo

Happy 1st birthday, Ace, this is just one of many great birthdays to come!!

Tres Leche Cake

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A few years ago, I made the smart (but uncommon) decision to order a dessert AFTER an all you can eat meat buffet fest at Bolero in Calgary.  I was so glad that I did, and continued to repeat this pattern of glutenous behavior in subsequent visits there.

Why?  Because of their Tres Leche Cake (translated to be literally “three milk cake”) which is exactly that: a sponge cake soaked in condensed milk, whipping cream and evaporated milk.  

There is nothing wrong in that sentence at all.

Attempting to make a tres leche cake was something I had in the back of my mind for a while now, and I finally decided to give it a try to bring to a farewell party for some dear friends of ours that were moving away.

(I have a tendency to try new recipes when the pressure’s on.  I dunno why I do these things to myself.)

You can find the detailed recipe that I used here.  It’s pretty straight forward enough.

Anyways, separate the egg yolks and whites from each other.

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Whip up the egg yolks and sugar till they are a nice pale yellow.  Then add in the milk, and once combined, stir it into the flour mixture (not shown).

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Whip up the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.

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now GENTLY fold the egg whites into your egg yolk/flour mixture.  You don’t want to deflate the air too much, otherwise it won’t soak up all the milky goodness you’ll be pouring in later.

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And then once incorporated,  spread it into a greased pan.  The recipe said to use a 9×13″ pan.  I however opted for an 8×11″ pan.  I wanted my cake to rise a bit taller.

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And bake it at 350 degrees F for 35-45 mins, or until your toothpick comes out dry.

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While it’s cooling, you can prepare the milks.  Combine the cream, a can of evaporated, and a can of condensed milk into a pitcher.  Stir them well together.

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Once the cake cools, pierce it all over with a fork to make it easier for the milk to soak in.

So… this is my ugly cake, flipped upside down into my 9×11″ pan.  A part of the bottom of the cake got stuck to the pan so I had to place it back on like a toupee.  But no worries, we’ll be covering that up soon pretty quick here.

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Start drizzling the milk mixture all over the cake, paying attention to the sides and corners, you don’t want to leave any dry cake areas.  Try to get every part of the cake nice to absorb the milk.  I even went as far as to lift up the undersides and corners of the cake with a spatula and tilted the pan to let the excess milk run underneath to help with absorption.

You should be left with approximately 1 cup of unused milk in your pitcher when it’s all done.

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Let the cake soak for about 30 minutes until all the milks are soaked in, and then whip up the heavy cream with sugar to make a nice fresh whipped cream to cover the cake with.

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For the purposes of what I was making the cake for, instead of topping the cake with cherries like the recipe suggested, I decided to pipe out some letters with melted chocolate onto parchment paper, let it harden in the fridge, and placed them on the cake.

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I was a bit apprehensive when it was time to serve the cake, worried that my cake might have totally disintegrated and became a soggy, pudding-y mess and wouldn’t hold it shape when I cut into it.  I was so relieved to see that I was wrong!  The cake was very moist, rich, creamy, but still held it’s shape.  I can’t get over how something so simple can taste so decadent.

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This recipe is definitely going to my “must keep pile,” and I think the next time I make it, I’ll try serving it with a drizzle of fruit puree on the side, just like Bolero.

With that being said, the cake was devoured, well wishes were made to our dear friends, and a pathetic attempt of a going away song was sung to the tune of “happy birthday to you.”

But that’s another story for another time.