Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adventures in Egg-Free Baking

This week I had my first opportunity to make an egg-free cake, for a friend of mine who is allergic to eggs.  She wanted an anniversary cake that she and her husband could eat for dessert on their special day.  She had suggested a boxed vanilla cake mix by Cherrybrook Farms, which is egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free.  I had never tried making an egg-free cake, so I was interested to see how it would look and taste.  Well, I will be perfectly honest and say that I was skeptical of the thing as soon as I poured the mix into my mixer bowl.  It was grainy looking and dark yellow in color, almost like corn meal.  And adding the water and oil didn't help looked like I was making cornbread.  Not to mention that it smelled kind of weird, too.   But I reminded myself that I was trying to keep an open mind!  It baked up just fine, and looked pretty much like a "normal" cake when it came out of the oven.  After letting it cool for awhile, I turned it out of the pan.  I sliced off the dome to make the top even, then broke off a piece so I could do a little taste test.  Um, let's just say that my reaction was less than positive.  I immediately knew that there was no way I was going to give this cake to my friend!  The texture was grainy and dense and oily, and the flavor was tinny and tasted like chemicals.  Yuck.  When I relayed this information to my friend, she said, "Oh, surely it's not that bad!  I don't even remember what real cake tastes like, so it'll probably taste fine to me!"  Well, even if you have nothing to compare it to, this cake still doesn't taste good!  So I decided to go on a hunt for an egg-free cake I could make from scratch.

After a little poking around on the internet, I found a recipe for egg-free chocolate cake that looked promising.  It featured "normal" ingredients like sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda (no weird stuff like guar gum, which was in the cake mix.)  Plus it had received rave reviews on, so I was excited to try it.  I baked it yesterday afternoon, and it looked and smelled awesome.  The whole house smelled chocolately and delicious!  When I sliced off the top for taste test number two, my tastebuds jumped up and exclaimed in delight!  It actually tasted and felt like "real" cake!  If you didn't know it was an egg-free cake, I bet you'd never guess.  I gave each of the kids a little bite to try, too, and even Lauren (my non-cake eater) gobbled it up!  YUM.  Success!!!  This recipe is definitely one that I'm going to use again.

So, without further ado, here are some photos of my marvelous egg-free creation!

Doesn't it look just like a "real" cake??? :)

Here it is with the chocolate mousse filling between the layers, 
and the beginning of the chocolate ganache frosting.

And here is the finished cake!  My friend and her husband met in London, 
so she asked me to try and tie in something from London.  I used the logo for the
London Underground and wrote Happy Anniversary on it instead.  
(I was excited to have another chance to do FBCT!!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Party Invitations

I made these invitations for the daughter of a friend of mine, who is having a book-themed party for her 8th birthday.  She wanted the invitations to look like a book, and I am beyond thrilled at how well they turned out.  The front of the invitation has a picture of the birthday girl's favorite book, "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  The party details (date, time, place, etc.) are written on the pages inside the book.  Finally, the whole thing is held together by a dainty satin ribbon tied around the fold.  I absolutely love them!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cake Acronym Lesson #1: FBCT

I am a member of several online cake-decorating forums, where I gather ideas, collect new recipes, and learn new techniques.  Like experts in any field, the experienced cake decorators on these sites are constantly throwing around mysterious acronyms.  (I grew up as an Army brat, so I know all about acronyms!!)  Anyway, sometimes I can figure them out myself, and other times I actually have to Google them to figure out what the heck these people are talking about.  FBCT was one of the acronyms that had me stumped.  A quick search revealed that it stands for "frozen buttercream transfer."  Perfectly clear now, right?  Well, um, not for me.  Nope, next I had to figure out what a frozen buttercream transfer actually WAS.

And let me say that the knowledge has CHANGED MY LIFE.

Well, at the very least, it has changed the way I decorate cakes.  This technique opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me!  Allow me to tell you first that my drawing skills leave a lot to be desired.  Like, a LOT.  Like, my skills are limited to stick people and crude, childlike sketches.  So, when a friend recently asked me to make a Super Mario cake for her son, I was thinking "how the heck am I going to do this????"

Voila!  FBCT!!!!

Basically you just print out a photo or graphic or drawing of whatever it is that you want to have on your cake.  In my case, Super Mario.  Then you put a layer of waxed paper over the image and pipe different colors of buttercream frosting onto the design.  When it's all finished, you put it in the freezer for a bit to let it firm up.  Then you flip it over, set it on your cake, peel off the waxed paper, and TA DA!!  Absolute magic!!!  Here's proof...check out my super awesome Super Mario!!  (If you're wondering why  he's flying through the galaxy, there is a video game called Mario Galaxy where Mario, well, flies through the galaxy.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook, Here I Come!!

This afternoon I created an official facebook page for my little party business.  :)  It's called "Cards and Cakes by Rachel," since that's primarily what I do nowadays.  There is a link posted on this blog (look on the lower right hand side.)  Click on "Cards and Cakes by Rachel" to be directed to the page.  Then, if you click on the "Like" button, you'll automatically receive all the updates and photos I post to the facebook page!  Yay!  Feel free to pass the link on to your friends and we all know, when it comes to parties, the more the merrier!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Burger, Anyone??

I had a great time making these cupcakes for our church picnic tomorrow - I thought it would be fun to go with the hamburger and hot dog theme, since that's what will be served at the picnic.  The cupcakes are yellow cake with marshmallow frosting and fondant decorations.  Yum!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Licking the Beaters

One of the perks of having a mom who bakes lots of cakes...licking the beaters!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cake Pops

Last week a friend of mine was telling me about "cake pops" and she asked me if I had ever made them. Well, I had never even heard of them, so I had to go check them out on Bakerella (a.k.a. Angie Dudley) has a book coming out this fall called "Cake Pops," featuring a bunch of really cute decorating ideas for these little cake balls on a stick. I had a few cupcakes leftover from a recent party, so I decided to use them in my first attempt at making cake pops. They are super easy to make - basically you just crumble up your cake, stir in a blob of frosting, and then roll the mixture into balls. You put them in the freezer to harden them up, then put a stick in them and dip them in melted candy wafers. Bakerella's website has all kinds of cute ways to decorate them, but I just did a basic "dip and sprinkle." The color in the photo is darker than real life - the candy wafers I used were a lavender purple color.

They turned out really cute, especially for something so easy to do. As for how they tasted, much as I love cake, I have to be honest and say that I didn't love the cake pops. Their consistency was squishy and soft, and they basically tasted like a mouthful of frosting with cake crumbs mixed in it. Blech. I'll stick with traditional cake, thank you very much! Although I have to say that my three daughters did not share my opinion. They gobbled them up and proclaimed them delicious!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Twice the fun!

I enjoyed making these invitations for a friend of mine whose twin boys are celebrating their first birthday! I also made some coordinating thank you cards.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs!!!

Our family went to a neighborhood block party this evening, and I brought along a platter of spaghetti and meatballs. Um, well, the cake version at least! I had so much fun making these. They are yellow cupcakes with vanilla frosting piped on the top to look like spaghetti. The "meatballs" are Ferraro Rocher chocolates, and the "sauce" is strawberry jelly! I also sprinkled some grated white and chocolate candy wafers over the whole thing, to look like Parmesan cheese. Yummy!