A Wedding Cake Update & Casualty

Since my last (and only) post on my brother's wedding cake, I've learned what they really want for their cake. A 2-3 layer chocolate cake, with white (!) buttercream frosting and colorful fondant flowers going down the side. Kind of a big change from original black and white idea, but funner for me. First, I colored some fondant: And last night, I started making the beginnings of 2 flowers:Tiny, blue forget-me-nots and red roses. This morning I put the finishing dot of royal icing onto the forget-me-nots and I was able to make one full rose and one rosebud:I thought I'd get a lot further along with the roses, but this isn't the same method I used for my sister's cake and it takes a lot longer. I'm hoping it'll speed up once I know what I'm doing. Sadly, I lost a little flower:

But one isn't all that bad.


Homemade Playdough

Growing up, my mom would often make this playdough for us. I loved playing with it, especially when it was freshly made, it's so soft and warm.
homemade playdough

1 cup flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp. oil
food coloring

Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan:and cook over medium-low heat, until the dough forms into a ball. Here's a halfway picture:and here it is fully cooked:
Let it cool for a couple minutes, then knead until the lumps are gone:
There you have it. Good for hours of fun. Store it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. It should last at least a month. Have fun.


It's Official. . .

. . . this is my all-time, most favorite dessert. EVER. Chocolate-Berry Meringue:

The chocolate meringue tastes like a brownie, but is less heavy. And with the whipped cream and berries, it's such a delicious, summery {not to mention gorgeous} dessert.

chocolate berry meringue

for the meringue:

Start by placing 6 egg whites in a large bowl. Let them sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 10-inch diameter circle, leaving a 1-2 inch margin outside the circle {I just trace a spring-form pan on the paper}:Take 3 oz of bittersweet chocolate:and using a grater, finely shave it down:

Go back to the egg whites and with an electric mixer, beat eggs on medium-high until soft peaks form:

Add a cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. The meringue will be very thick and glossy:

Gently fold in chocolate shavings, 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar:

Now spread the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet:

Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 300°F. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool completely on baking sheet on rack:

{This picture was taken right after it was pulled out of the oven.}

{This was taken several hours later. Cracks happen. It's OK.}

for the toppings:

You could, I suppose, use a tub of Cool Whip, but I would strongly suggest spending 3 extra minutes making the real stuff. I used 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, a few tablespoons of sugar and a dash of vanilla. I'm not sure how much sugar or vanilla I used, just add it to taste. Mix those all together {with an electric mixer} until the cream thickens and stiff peaks form:

Clean about 6 cups of berries; raspberries, blackberries, strawberries {sliced} and, if you like them, blueberries:

Remove the meringue from the parchment paper, carefully, and place on a platter {or, if you don't have one, put it back on the baking sheet}. Spread the whipping cream on and top with the berries. Finish it off by adding bittersweet chocolate shavings or curls and voilĂ !



Another Quilt

I finished my second quilt the other day. This one came together much faster than my first one. I only had to pick stitches out once and I caught the mistake before I had gone too far, so I didn't feel the need to hide my mishap.

I've also mostly finished my third quilt. I used the same fabrics as the second but the placement of the four-square blocks is slightly different.

I thought this picture was funny. See that lonely blue block? I cannot figure out where it came from. I've held onto it expecting to find where it belongs, but I think that somehow I just cut one extra blue square. Weird. You'll also notice in the upper right hand corner, my sewing machine manual. I'm not quite to the point where I don't need to refer to it when I have to refill a bobbin or change the tension, etc. I do have to say, I'm much more comfortable using my machine. It's nice to not want to cry when I need to re-thread it and not worry about how fast it will go when I press on the pedal.


Wedding Cakes Are On My Mind

Three years ago, I (with lots of help from my mom and older sister) made this wedding cake for another sister. It turned out really well, despite our having no clue. We made all of the obvious mistakes: cooking and decorating the cake the day before the wedding, having the butter cream frosting and fondant soften too much in the heat of the kitchen, etc. About the only thing that went without a hitch were the sugar roses. I spent a solid week making dozens of them with fondant and they turned out beautiful.
I was also pregnant at the time and very emotional. When the fondant was tearing and the frosting was melting, I was freaking out. Around this time, (9 or 10 pm the night before the big day) while I was contemplating throwing the cake to the floor and crying, my older sister came up with the idea of putting the ribbon around each layer to hide the not-so-smooth areas. It worked and we liked the color it added.
I'm pretty sure I told myself that I'd never do something like that again. Three years does a lot to soften memories. My older brother is getting married in the middle of August and my mom and I offered to make their cake. They don't really have any preferences other than having it be black and white, and having room for the topper that they are molding out of clay. I'll be keeping you posted on what happens. . . .


A Little Birthday

Yesterday was my daughter's 1st birthday. I decided to make her a small bumble-bee cake and had a brilliant idea on how to make wings for it. I made them using this rock candy recipe:

Almond Rock Candy:

2 cups of sugar; 1 cup water; 3/4 cup light corn syrup; 1-1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover; cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer reaches 310°F (hard-crack stage). Remove from heat; stir in almond extract.

At this point I spooned some onto a greased cookie sheet and tried to spread it into a wing shape. It was pretty difficult at first, all of my 'wings' were spreading too much and touching each other, but once the candy started to cool and thicken, it didn't spread as much and the wing shape stayed. I put the rest of the candy into greased lollipop molds:

Most of them I made into lollipops:

Others I just made into candies, I had to pinch the clips closed since I didn't use a stick (if that makes sense):

I made two batches of the candy. The first, for the wings, I didn't use any food coloring. For the second, I used Root Beer flavoring (not extract but hard candy flavoring) and added food coloring.

Back to the birthday cake: I used a cake mix because I'm rarely able to make a cake from scratch work. I frosted it with yellow butter cream frosting and dark fudge frosting and placed the wings in:

Pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself. Instead of making a large cake for the guests, I made mini cupcakes. Some were chocolate:

I frosted them with a butter cream frosting and added chocolate curls to make them pretty. Here's a link to Pioneer Woman's tutelage on how to make chocolate curls, it's really quite easy. The other mini cupcakes were white cake: I topped them with freshly whipped whipping cream and raspberries.