Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ice cream cake

Even though Gage won't eat cake anymore, he has realized that giving decorated cakes to people has some value and has asked me to make cakes for a couple of his friends for birthdays in lieu of taking them a gift.  I made a two tiered animal print cake for a Sweet 16 party (and was running so late with it that I didn't even get a picture of it!!) for his friend a couple of weeks ago.  When he asked if I was willing to make another birthday cake I was happy to have a reason to make one--and even more excited when he asked if it could be an ice cream cake.  Something I hadn't tried before. 

I decided that since I only had a few days to put it together I wouldn't try to make my own ice cream.  The texture can sometimes be an issue, so I went to Dairy Queen and bought several quarts of their soft serve.  While I was there I scoped out their cakes to get an idea of how to layer mine.

A lot of this cake could be prepped ahead, so I started by lining cake pans with saran wrap then filled them with the ice cream and stuck them in the freezer.  I crushed chocolate cookies and coated them in melted chocolate to keep them crunchy in the fudge sauce filling and set that aside. 

Decoration instructions were minimal:  Something Hello Kitty.  I made an image for the top of the cake using the piped chocolate method, but this time found a picture online to use rather than drawing my own.  This is a really simple, fast way to get a decent image on a cake without trying to pipe frosting free hand on top of the cake.  Fast as in like less than ten minutes start to finish, and that's always good for someone like me who will work on details right up until the deadline.

When it was time to really put the cake together all I had left to do was make the whipped frosting.  I found a recipe for stabilized whipped cream online and went with it--I needed something that would hold up better than just whipped topping. This tasted really good and was perfect for the cake:

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting  

(adapted from

  • 4 tsp cold water
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Combine cold water and gelatin in a small dish until the mixture combines, then heat the mixture on the stove until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from the heat and allow it to cool for several minutes.  Add a bit of the cream into the gelatin mixture and stir until incorporated  (I learned the hard way that this will help keep the gelatin from clumping).  In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream and powdered sugar.  Slowly add the gelatin/cream combination to the mixing bowl and continue to whip until stiff. 

The assembly was a little bit frustrating since I had to keep running the cake to the basement freezer to keep in from melting in between steps.  But the finished product was worth the effort, and I made sure I made enough of everything for a cake at our house too...for Fat Sunday, my favorite time of the week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Glass gifts

When I made the PB/chocolate cupcakes for my sisters, I also gave them some jewelry. I sent the Doc a couple of pairs of earrings and made Hally a necklace.  Since she had taken those incredible pictures of my torch work, I decided to make her a glass cabochon and set in sterling. I said that very casually, but every single attempt I had made at the glass cabochon up until that point had failed miserably.  In fact, many of them had ended up on the garage floor after practically leaping off of the mandrel with me hopping around trying to avoid a burned foot.

This one was a success--just layers and layers and layers of glass.  I gave the sterling setting a matte finish because that is a bit easier to maintain...minor scratches and tarnish aren't an issue as much as something with a shiny polish on it.

The other bead I made during that glass session was a replacement for a friend who had a simple necklace I made a long time ago.  She lost the necklace, so I recreated the bead (as best I could remember--I know it is similar, but glass has a way of moving around in ways that make replication impossible for me) on leather cording for her.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peanut butter chocolate cupcakes

I have two sisters graduating this semester.  One is an amazing artist and the other a doctor.  As in PhD.  Pretty incredible, right?  I think so.  I couldn't let these occasions pass by without doing something for them. Since my cupcakes in a jar trial run was a success, I decided to do another batch of them in a flavor I know they both love:  Peanut butter and chocolate.  I made a double batch; half in the jars for the grad girls and the other half as regular cupcakes.

I started with dark chocolate fudge cupcakes and filled them with milk chocolate ganache, then layered chopped mini Reese's cups with peanut butter frosting.

I didn't have a recipe for the PB frosting, so I just adapted a basic buttercream by cutting the butter and replacing it with peanut butter.  I was worried about it being too oily, but it turned out fluffy and light--perfecto.  In fact, it turns out that this frosting is dangerous for me. I could have easily sat on the couch with the entire mixer bowl full and a spoon, inhaling it and happily watching trashy television all day.

Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4+ cups powdered sugar (I started with four cups and kept adding a little more until I got the texture I wanted--this may have been almost five cups)
Whip the butter and peanut butter to a fluffy consistency.  Add vanilla extract and then the powdered sugar a half cup at a time.

Milk Chocolate Ganache Filling
  • 8 oz milk chocolate chips 
  • 4 oz heavy whipping cream
 Heat the cream on the stove.  Put the chocolate chips into a glass bowl and pour the cream over the top.  Cover and let this rest for about five minutes then whisk.

In the jars, I reversed the frosting and the ganache because it helps sort of seal in the cupcake and keep things fresh.  I froze them and sent some of them UPS to Dr. Susan and served the others when Hally was over for lunch. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More rolling mill earrings

I started these projects a very long time ago, but couldn't seem to figure out how I wanted to use the metal. I rolled a sheet of brass with some sort of flexible screen I found in the garage.

Here's where I can get in trouble.  Sometimes I get some sort of weird tactile crush on metal like this.  I run my fingers over it again and again while I'm trying to figure out what I want to make.  I tell myself I'm thinking.  Or letting the metal tell ME what it wants to be.  That's really just BS.  One of my sisters used to rub her blanket while she sucked her thumb when she was little for comfort.  I think this is my version of that...except I'm pushing 40 and I'm supposed to be a responsible adult. 

Anyway. Flash forward three weeks, when I finally decided I would cut discs out of the brass.

Lots of them.  Like 30.  At this stage, they lose their soothing quality because my fingers hit the edge of the disc almost immediately.  I had such grandiose ideas about what to do with them...and most of them involved using every single one in one pair of earrings in some sort of metal cascade.  This failed and I put them aside for another couple of weeks. 

So here is what I ended up with for the first pair--oxidized and hanging with smoky quartz.  

The rest of them are sitting in a big pile on my desk. I keep picking them up and looking at them, but that's about as far as it has gone. I still think about the metal cascade and might be hoping the answer to that construction will come to me in the middle of the night.

I also had some sterling sheet I had rolled with steel wool (in case you don't know this, steel wool is incredibly messy when you pull it apart.  I'm not sure I will ever have every bit actually cleaned up) that I finally turned into a pair of earrings:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Personalized pendants

My nieces' birthdays are fairly close together--one in April and one in May. When I send the girls their gifts, I usually send one package with both presents.  This year, I had big plans: I was going to make them each a sterling pendant with their name stamped into it with a crystal the color of their birthstone.  I had the plan.  I had the materials.  What I lacked, apparently, was the motivation to get both pendants done in time for the first birthday.  So I sent a gift certificate for the April birthday.  But I have siblings, and I understand the code.  I could no longer call these necklaces "birthday gifts", because I had screwed up the timeline.  I couldn't send one girl a gift certificate and the other a personalized handcrafted now these necklaces are "just because" gifts and the May birthday girl also got a gift certificate. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A couple of birthday cakes

I made mini cakes for a couple of people recently to celebrate their birthdays.

The first was for a fashionista friend--the one I made the tiny edible shoe and giant cupcake for last year.  This year I went with a mini clutch purse "cakelet"--a one or two serving size cake--since she wouldn't want to have an entire cake at home.  I froze my chocolate cake, then stacked, frosted and carved it before I covered it with fondant.  I used the spray color on the fondant for the base color and then painted the leopard pattern on.

The other cake wasn't so much a cake as it was cake-shaped.  Sara looooooves rice krispie treats with frosting (I mean, who doesn't??).  So I made her a double layer rice krispie cake covered with cream cheese frosting for her birthday. There wasn't much I could do with it in terms of decoration--the frosting trim I tried to put around it just wouldn't stay put--so I just pressed m&ms on the top and around the bottom of it. It isn't the prettiest thing, but that isn't really what mattered this time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cheeseburger and fries

Ben's school carnival was this weekend, and one of the activities was a cake walk.  We decided to enter the cake decorating contest portion of the cake walk with something he was interested in making and could also be very involved with:  a giant cheeseburger and fries. There were five categories with a prize awarded for the winner of each one, and the cheeseburger cake could fit into almost any of them.

During the week, I baked and froze several mini loaves of poundcake, a giant brownie, and a yellow cake.  We got all of those out on Saturday morning, and Ben made the buttercream frosting and tinted it red to look like ketchup.

He cut all of the poundcake into zig-zag shapes to look like fries and I monitored them under the broiler.

Then he made the "cheese" slices out of Laffy Taffy by running them through the pasta attachment on the mixer then cutting random circles in them with cookie cutters (this was his favorite part).

He rolled out red fruit slices to make tomatoes and we put together the same green chocolate-covered cereal we made for the April Fool's sub sandwiches.  I helped him stack the cake and he added all of the toppings and the frosting.  We dusted the top with sesame seeds, arranged the fries, and added a little dipping container of frosting ketchup.  Done!

His cake won the most creative shape category, which earned him a free bundle of carnival tickets.  He was really proud of his cake, telling anyone who mentioned it about rolling out the Laffy Taffy.  A fun day for both of us!