Monday, April 8, 2013

Foray into Fondant

It's. Just. So. Perfect. On Pinterest. Barf.

I have been wooed by the concept of creating a cake covered in beautiful fondant for a very long time now. As you may have deduced from my history of self-deprecating posts, my innate ability to cook is non-existent. I also lack the patience to really do things correctly at times in the kitchen. This blows me away, since I am also the same person who reads the 4 steps on the back of the Duncan Hines box three times to make sure I am doing things right. I'm a conundrum... Anyway...

I used every shortcut possible. I was armed with several boxes of white cake, pre-made creamy vanilla frosting, Pre-rolled fondant, everything pre-done to help me make this process work. No matter what. We were celebrating Hay's birthday after Easter brunch, so I didn't have room for failure, as we were hosting as well. I screwed up from the get-go. Here's how not to do it.

Hay wanted a Batman themed, Ombré Cake, inspired by our friend at Siriously Delicious. We were going to do a 3 layer Yellow cake, but when baked, the yellows weren't "ombré" enough for my liking, and then the lightest layer fell apart. This was my fault, I was too impatient and didn't let cake #3 cool enough before removing it from the pan...or that was my first theory. Now I needed a 3rd layer.

We (Hay & I) decided to add a blue layer to Batman-it-up. Once baked, yet again, the blue layer turned out to be too fragile for me to level and started to crumble as I was slicing it. In a fit of desperation, I had idiotically tried to layer three unleveled cakes...resulting in a lot of cake splitting and other atrocities. Becoming slightly discouraged, I frantically tried to glue it together by doing a crumb coat and refrigerating it. My plan was to frost the bejesus out of it until I could make it flat. Right.

It was a mess, a mess that NO amount of frosting could have fixed. Hoping for a miracle, I left it to chill in the fridge on the bottom shelf. THEN... I heard this from the kitchen.

"HAYDEN!!!!!! NO!!"

Daddy caught Hayden red-handed, standing behind the refrigerator door with a giant chunk of cake in his left hand. If the cake was perfect, I clearly would have cared more. *Sigh* I lopped off the evidence and cut some slices for the kids. Four cakes down, and no Batman cake.

Here was my Robert Frost moment. Which road should I take? Do I throw in the towel and head to the 24-hour Supermarket? My options were limited as it was now evening and Easter was creeping up. All reputable (and non-reputable) cakeries were closed. I reflected on how many difficult trips- with kids-in-tow- to Michaels and Target I had taken to collect all of the necessities. Then, add the mere fact that I have been dying to execute this task, and I think we know which road I traveled. All the while realizing that the word "execution" may more resemble a slaughter than an effort. Two more white cakes entered the oven.

In the meantime, I sent a quick note to a Real Chef friend (thank you Gigi), who quickly alerted me, after I frantically messaged her via Facebook for the umpteenth time about this topic, that I shouldn't use boxed cake. Whaaaaat? And that I shouldn't make 3 layers of it. Whaaaaaaat?

It was too late for the box cake, but not for one less layer. I decided to stick with 2 layers and let the two pans cool for an extended period of time. I carefully removed the cakes, trimmed off the top and with barely any crumbling, layered them and added my crumb coat to the cake. This WAS going to work. It's quite possible that the one missing ingredient was...cue Guns and Roses...a little "patience."

I put the cake aside and bravely unwrapped the fondant. I had used this once before to decorate these, so I was vaguely familiar with its consistency.

Cutting out features is much different than covering a cake. Let me tell you...this was actually the easiest part. I know it took us a while to get here, but I just really needed to put you through some of my pain. Thanks for listening.

I checked a quick tutorial. Martha Stewart has a good one, of course. Note that when rolling it out, you will need to add some powdered sugar or shortening to the surface. I chose sugar. It serves the same purpose as flouring the dough does. Other internet instructions say that you don't need either if you are rolling out on a Silpat mat. I didn't find this to be true, mine still stuck to my mat so the sugar helped a ton.

You want to make sure you roll it out enough to cover the cake and then some. Also, keep in mind it will stretch even more as you lift it. So measure the diameter as well as add the height of BOTH SIDES. So a 10" cake that's 2" high, should have over 14" diameter of coverage. Roll it out to the desired thickness. I'd love to give you a measurement, but I have no clue. Once I got it large enough, the hardest part of the task was getting the fondant up onto my giant rolling pin to flop it onto the cake. See the video on how to do this.

As you can see...not that bad! Cut off the major overflow quickly to alleviate the extra weight on your cake. I Googled a lot of different instructions on how to do this, but it was pretty straightforward. The Fondant Smoother worked well, and you really need to work pretty quickly since this stuff dries out. I've now used the word "quickly" a few times. Get it? Move fast!

Now, this was not wedding beautiful. It was not perfect. I'm sure there were some dents, air bubbles and fingerprints, but I thought it looked pretty darn good, especially after all I had been through during the day.

Okay. I'm pretty tired of this blog post so I will make this last part quick. I wasn't sure how to attach the fondant to the fondant...I used vanilla extract because I thought I had read that somewhere...but DUH, I just read that you paint it with...wait for it...WATER. Anyhow, I had to make the Batman emblem. There are many tips online about using stencils, tracing, etc. Google them, read more than one post, and THEN choose the one you think you can do best. Trust me...I search for the easiest way to do everything.

Two more tips for you...

Do: color the fondant with food color gels. I like these. Wear gloves or you'll stain your hands me.

Don't: use fondant paint, or do, I don't care, I just wasn't good at it. I painted my bat black and thought I couldn't let it dry because I was afraid of the fondant drying out. You can imagine trying to move a wet black bat onto a white cake. Lots of fingerprints and smudging, resulting in the addition of many giant colored star sprinkles to cover it up. Black fondant would have been way cleaner. Next time.

I threw some more stars on the sides of the cake, grabbed some action figures, and called it a day. A very long day. Originally, I wanted to make something like this. I had sifted through so many ridiculously amazing cakes online that the one I had set my sites on seemed easy enough (it said Easy in the title for crying out loud), but by the time I actually got to the decorating part, my enthusiasm and patience was toast. My end result became whatever I could just get done. And do you know what? My 4 year old loved it and so did our guests. I of course saw all of the flaws and said that it sucked and that I would never do it again.

But now that a week has passed, the memory is akin to that of the pain of childbirth...maybe it wasn't that bad...I'll probably go for it again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Birthday Part Deux - The Classroom

School birthdays are the best. This is primarily true in our home because my poor, late-August-birthday husband still complains about how he never got to celebrate his birthday at school. This was of course, back in the day when schools began after Labor Day weekend. I comfort him by explaining that if he were a child today, he would not have had the pleasure of the "spanking machine," a dead tradition.

Side note: Do you remember the Spanking Machine? It was a line of kids with their legs straddled that you would crawl through and get whacked on the bottom... When did this fine tradition end? Call CPS.

Hayden's school birthday began with this beautifully illuminated sign that he was very excited about. Next, he turned his focus to "when is it going to be snack-time" so he could get his much-requested Cake Pop.

It's been 2 years since I made cake pops. I think after Ry's Ninja party, I was ready to retire the cake pop pan. Yes, another shortcut. I use box cake and a made-for-tv cake pop pan. It works great. You definitely need to add an extra egg, a box of instant pudding and use half of the liquid that the recipe requires in order to dense them up. At any rate, Hayden requested them, and it WAS his turn.

My candy melts were not cooperating, I think I needed to add shortening (see yesterday's post about me not taking the time to do things right). The plus side was that I ended up only coating the pops halfway which I am sure the preschool teachers appreciated. The kids only went half-crazy.

The Cake Pop is a great idea for school. It's a few bites as opposed to a sugar bomb cupcake with a mountain of frosting. The only setback is, as they get older you will run out of space to put the candles. Hay Hay's skilled teacher successfully stuck the little pop with 4 candles, which then resembled some kind of illegal 4th-of-July looking firework. The flaming pop-torch was a hit. Hay loved it! So did the others, because as I was walking out, they swarmed me in the play yard like an army of "walkers" from the Walking Dead. I HAD to make sure I referenced this AMC masterpiece somehow. I. Love. That. Show!

Two down, one party to go, and I owe you my Fodantacide post.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

One hundred and ten!

April 1st! It's no joke. My baby is four. Even more insane, my grandmother on my Mother's side is 106! Not to outshine my little man, but 106 is pretty impressive. We were amazed by 100, astonished by 102, and by 103 we were pretty used to idea of this tough matriarch being what would be considered "well-into-her-hundreds." Now at 106, I am thinking we'd better get some DNA samples and bottle this stuff. Therefore, this post is titled, 110, to give credit to both the 4 and the 106.

Here she is!

Ok, I'm 3 days late in writing this, but we hosted Easterover on Sunday (doesn't have quite the ring of "Chrismukkah" does it) and Hayden's birthday in simulcast. Plus, I made an egg bake (I know, easy for you), 6 cakes- of which we ate 2 yes, there's a story there, and 35 cake pops. Why? A little person asked me to. I am also feeling really guilty that I haven't written a sappy synopsis about how amazing my four year old is, nor re-capped his entire year in a romantic, my-kid-is-perfect, look-at-my-awesome-life-on-Facebook kind of way. The truth is, my life is a bit of a shit-show right now, and the kids have a starring role...but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Meanwhile, I would love to write more, but I am prepping for Haydenpalooza! I have so much to post, including my foray into fondant, or what I am lovingly referring to as Fondanticide, as well as a recap of Hayden's Super Duper Hero Party...coming this Saturday. To tie you over, here is picture of baked good request #2, the Classroom Party Cake Pops. 

To be continued...