Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Celebrating Special Events

Nothing says "Important Event" better than a great tasting, beautifully decorated cake. There are so many options out there, from special flavors that the event honoree loves to a design that incorporates a motif from an invitation, a hobby or a special message. As a cake designer, I LOVE to get creative and come up with a cake that really speaks to the recipient. Some examples of this are a 40th birthday cake done for am avid golfer, a bright birthday cake for a a teenage girl's 16th birthday, which incorporated toe shoes to represent her love for dancing and a 16 year old boy's high school colors and school mascot. I've also done simpler designs such as a cake for a children's birthday cake that used a picture from an invitation and carved cakes, one of which was for a 4 year old who wanted a "green fish" as his birthday cake! The cowboy hat for a 40 something woman was also a big hit as it captured the theme of the "cowpoke" surprise party.

Cakes like this are so much fun to do but do require quite a bit of lead time. Expect most bakeries to have a minimum notice for such cakes, depending on the type of cake and the bakery's current bookings. I require a 2 week lead time or even more for elaborate cakes. Simpler cakes can sometimes be done the same week but expect to pay a rush fee if the bakery already has a heavy schedule on the books. Most custom bakeries also require a minimum order (as I said in a previous post, Duff from Charm City Cakes has a $1,000 minimum) so that will mean that no matter how small and "simple" the cake is, you will be paying at least the dollar amount of the minimum established by the designer.

The bottom line is, have fun with the theme of your event, try to use
something personal about the honoree to use in the design of the cake and give your baker enough time to come up with a fabulously executed design for your event.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fresh flowers on cakes...yes, no, or maybe???

I absolutely love flowers! My very favorite flowers are hydrangeas, roses, tulips and daffodils. In fact, my own wedding bouquet featured a mass of hand dyed hydrangeas by none other than Jerry Littleton of GML Designs ( and my wedding cake had hydrangeas all around it. It was absolutely beautiful (no, I didn't do my own wedding cake! :) )!

As a baker and cake designer, I meet with brides every day who want flowers on their cakes either as a topper or as decorations on the side of the cake or around the base of the cake. I say, "Great, the more the better!" But here's the thing, there are many flowers that should not touch a cake (or anything edible) in any way as they are very toxic and could cause the bride and groom or their guests to get very sick. And regardless of whether or not a flower is toxic, flower stems should NEVER be pushed into a cake. That actually happened at a wedding I attended as a guest. The cake was beautiful and so were the flowers but the catering manager decided to "decorate" the cake herself with some extra flowers that were scattered around the cake table. She took individual stems and pushed them into the cake. I thought the bride was going to flip (and rightly so)! So if you absolutely must have real flowers on your cake, please make sure that they are not poisonous, and make sure that there is a barrier between the cake and any flowers that decorate the cake. The barrier can be just about anything, including extra icing that the decorator uses to "stick" individual flowers to the cake (the extra icing holds the flowers on rather than poking the stems in the cake). Flowers should be removed prior to serving the cake. Please also make sure that the flowers have not been treated by any pesticides. Don't rely on your florist to know which flowers are poisonous---educate yourself! I've included a list pf poisonous flowers at the end of this blog entry to get you started.

There is another beautiful, and more "permanent" option for your cake---gumpaste flowers. Gumpaste is a dough like substance that is made primarily of sugar and several other ingredients, that make the dough harden after it has been made into the shape of the flower of
your choice. Here are a couple of pictures of finished gumpaste flowers:

"Sugar" flowers are handmade, petal by petal, and are technically edible, although no one would ever want to eat one (yuck!). They are also hand colored and extremely safe for your wedding cake. Not only are they beautiful but they make a great keepsake of your wedding day because they don't wilt and die like real flowers. Because of the labor involved in making gumpaste flowers, expect to pay for this beautiful work of art. The trade off for the cost of the flowers is that you'll forever have a beautiful keepsake from your wedding.

As for which flowers to use, here's are lists of flowes that range from safe, to highly toxic: .

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cake Truffles

It has been such a busy winter! Between the holidays and the weather, there's been a lot of work keeping the family going. If you're like me, you run, run, run and then crash at the end of several weeks of running. Lots of fun but exhausting!

I did do something this winter that not only felt good to "help out" with, but also I added a new product to my lineup. At the beginning of December, the Massey Cancer Center ( ) sponsored a fundraiser as part of the Bizarre Bazaar ( ), a Richmond institution. I donated 200 cake truffles to their gala for the contributors. Lately I've been reading a lot about cake truffles (also called "cake balls") but had never made them. They were a big success and got me thinking about offering these to my brides as favors for their weddings.

These cake truffles were pretty fun to make but very messy. They start out with my tasty scratch-made cake (chocolate is shown here) with some additional ingredients added to make them the right consistency.
Then I roll them into balls and put them into the freezer to harden up for the next step.
Once I've gotten them all formed, I begin to melt the chocolate. I use high end gourmet chocolate and used white, milk and dark chocolate for this project. This part of the project is extremely messy.

Fortunately, I have lots of room to spread out and make sure that the mess doesn't take over too much. Each of the cake balls must be dipped into the hot chocolate and then placed on a cookie sheet to set. Easier said than done and messier than you think!

But I got them all done and the Massey Cancer Center ended up with a donation of 200 cake truffles for their party.

Of course, I saved some to sample and to give to my stepson, who especially appreciated them!

These would make great favors for weddings, showers, or really any kind of party or get together. Dressed up in cellophane or small boxes in your wedding colors, they make a beautiful and tasty favor. Cake Truffles can also be customized to a particular theme.