Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Cake Walk Part II

Sunday, July 1st:
And I was hoping that I'd get some ideas for PC's cake after digging through all my pictures... In six days from now I'm going to be serving a cake I haven't even come up with an idea for yet. PC's not being very helpful either - he doesn't know/really care what he wants for his cake this year. Sometimes having an opinionated kid is helpful. I'm sure I'll come up with something, but it's a lot less stressful to have a plan a long time in advance. That way, when you end up procrastinating until the last minute, you know how much work you might be facing.

But back to getting the rest of the cakes posted... I think I left off at the end of 2010....

The Food Coloring Miracle cake. November, 2010

Many people know that red is a very hard color to achieve with food coloring. But this cake... this cake was impossible. It was Butler's first birthday - you know, the birthday you want to be really special. He LOVED apples, so I knew what I wanted to make, and I had a pretty good idea of how I could create it with the pans and bowls that I had on hand. Everything went well until it was time to ice it, and thankfully I started to ice it the night before since the party was planned for noon the next day.

My problem was that I didn't have enough red food coloring, to turn my white icing red enough, to pass for an apple. I know, I should have gone with a green apple, but by the time I realized I was in trouble, it was after Midnight (when the last grocery store around here closes). I had used up every last drop of red food coloring that I had in the house, and the best I could come up with was HOT pink. I was desperate and was going to try anything and I didn't have enough ingredients to make more icing and just start over. You can't give your son a PINK apple for his FIRST birthday!!! You just can't! So, I tried mixing in some brown which toned down the 'hot' part of the pink. Then I added green and eventually some blue, but it was just getting worse and worse. By this time I would have been happy with the hot pink, but that was a thing of the past and the new color was turn-your-stomach vomit pink.

I tried adding strawberry Jello mix to my icing. It didn't do anything except make little gelatin specks part of my icing nightmare. So, I moved on to a cherry Kool-aid packet. That didn't change the color much either. By this time I was in tears it was very very late and I was exhausted (I was in the early stages of my pregnancy with Ricka). So, I iced the cake with the most horrible color I'd ever seen, put it in the fridge and went to bed.

In the morning, I was shocked to find that the icing color had CHANGED over night! I don't know if it was being exposed to the air, being refrigerated for a few hours or the combination of everything I put into that icing the night before, but the cake I was staring at that morning was the truest apple red color that I'd ever imagined. It was a deep, beautiful, perfect red and I was stunned. Even the leftover icing (that I had covered with plastic wrap before putting it in the fridge) had changed, but it wasn't quite as dark once you got past the top layer. It was dark enough to ice the cupcakes and only one of them ended up just slightly resembling the awful color I'd ended with the night before. You can see it if you look carefully at the top picture. I wish I had taken pictures of the process the night before, but I was so frustrated I didn't even think about it, and have no pictures to show the color contrast that took place over night.

The Tulip cake. January 2011.
Dolly asked for a tulip cake, and this was the style she chose when I showed her a bunch of pictures online. Sir had given her a bouquet of tulips on her actual birthday and I used a few of them for her cake a couple days later. This cake was incredibly easy, and apparently it was just what my 6 year old had in mind. It went well with the Tea Party theme we did for her birthday that year too.

The Volkswagen Bus cake. June, 2011.
This was another very easy cake to make. PC had asked for this particular bus weeks in advance and even supplied me a model from his toy car collection. It was just the level of difficulty I was up to with a newborn and all the interruptions that a new little person comes with. This was also the only birthday party that either of my parents have been able to attend (so far), which made it extra special!

Wednesday, July 4:
I've figured out what to do for PC's cake! He's thrilled, and I think it's going to be super easy (which is a really good thing since I have a million and one other things to do besides make a cake before Saturday evening). Now that I know what I'm doing, I'm looking forward to it instead of the dreading/dragging my feet procrastination that I was facing before today!

Anyway, back to the cakes...

The Doll Cake. September, 2011.
It must be the age (3-4 years old), because last year what Emma wanted most of all was a 'Princess Cake'. Finally I was up to giving a full size doll cake a try, and so the hunt for the perfect 'doll' began. At first I wanted to find a doll that Emma could keep as a toy later on, but we're not into 'barbie' doll types of dolls yet. I was delighted to find that they make 'cake dolls' (which is a doll with no legs, just a stick that you insert into the top of your cake) just for this kind of cake and they even had one with brown hair! I wanted the doll to match Emma so this was almost perfect - it had brown eyes though, so we had to fix that with a bit of paint. Again the mixing bowls in my cupboard turned out to be just the right pans I needed and the saved string of beads from the shoe cake came in handy as well.

Brown is one of Emma's favorite colors and when I asked her what color she wanted the dress to be, she asked for blue. We added a blue ribbon to the doll's hair, a ruffle to the skirt front and a few accenting flowers and it was done. Way easier than I had feared it might be and Emma was happy.

The Tractor cake. November, 2011.
Back in September while shopping for Emma's birthday I had seen a tractor and hay wagon that I knew was just what Butler would love to have when his birthday rolled around. We decided that we'd get it and have that be our main gift to him, so a week after Emma's birthday, we went back and got the tractor set and hid it away on the top shelf in the closet. The empty hay wagon gave me just the idea for Butler's cake too. I used the same rectangle cupcake pan that worked for PC's train cake but turned them into hay bales and made a single layer 9x13 cake for the field. The tricky part was stacking the bales realistically on the wagon after they'd been iced and fitting the tractor and (loaded) hay wagon onto the cake board next to the 'pasture' without smudging anything. Once the big stuff was settled, I raided the toy bin for the old one-eared cow and her calf, some fence panels and a watering trough (which we filed with princess blue 'water').

I'm not too sure what Butler thought of his cake, but I was happy with how it turned out. He did fall in love with his tractor once we'd freed it from the cake and cleaned it up again.

The Horse cake. January, 2012.
Dolly wanted a 'horse' cake this year, and she surprised me by picking something really simple. I was afraid she'd want me to actually build a horse out of cake, and I'm not artistic enough to do that yet. Some day when I try experimenting with fondant, I think building stuff that looks real would be fun, but for now I'm just not at that level of cake making.

You really can't get much simpler than stacking a few decreasing square cakes on top of each other, covering it in green and adding a few finishing icing touches. Almost everyone we'd invited was out of town that weekend, but Dolly was happy enough with the cake and a special sit-down dinner on good china that all my worrying was unnecessary. Kids can be both easily disappointed and easily delighted, and it's so nice to have the latter!

And that brings us to the Bathtub cake. June, 2012.
Ricka loves babies - real or not. She adores them, and pats them and carries them and kisses them (she still won't give me a kiss by the way). So, her first birthday cake HAD to have a baby doll involved and a baby in a bath seemed to be just for her. I used some roasting pans to make the oval shaped bath tub, but carving them down just right proved to be nearly a nightmare. I literally almost threw the whole cake away at least three times once I started icing it. I had carved the strong outside layer away and the rest of the cake was just crumbling hand over fist. I was so devastated I couldn't even cry. On top of that, I was no where near ready for the party (planned for lunchtime). There were still presents to wrap, breakfast to serve and the whole house to tidy. Dolly got up early and pitched in to help. She was a real lifesaver too. She wrapped the presents (mostly) while I battled the cake. I tried tooth picks to pin it together, but they just crumbled off with the next pile of crumbs. Finally in a last ditch attempt at saving the cake, I grabbed the roll of masking tape from my kitchen drawer and taped the top edge of the cake together like a regular washtub's metal band. And to my surprise (and relief) it worked. The tape held long enough to ice the cake and once I could get started, the rest of the icing went smoothly and the cake, at least, was ready by the time the first guests arrived.

Ricka didn't even want to eat her cake when the time came. All she wanted was that baby reaching out to her. She did like the marshmallow bubbles though, and I'd say overall the cake was a success - as long as you made sure not to eat the masking tape!

And that concludes my cake gallery currently, which means I can get started on party preparations for this weekend!

But for now... I'm going to bed.