Friday, March 9, 2012

ice ice baby

My friend Dijana and I took a whirlwind trip to Iceland last month - Northern Lights were spotted, snow-covered mountains were photographed, and most importantly - glaciers were walked upon. For an afternoon excursion, we got to strap on some crampons and actually walk on layers of blue ice that were thousands of years old. (click here for some pictures and here to learn some interesting facts about glaciers)

Anyways, fast forward to this month and Dijana's birthday which could only call for a glacier cake.

I had some of our own photos to go on, of course:

We learned a lot about the glacial formation process from our tour guide, but I also did my Google Image (re)Search in order to get the visuals right:

I baked a chocolate cake (w/ a gooey fudge mix-in), roughed it up a bit with a knife while it was cooling, and then re-shaped with icing and cake crumbs to create some peaks and crevasses.

For the blue ice of the actual glacier, I made a watery royal icing (powdered sugar + water + blue food coloring + corn syrup) so that it formed an ooze which I could pour on cake, and it would run down the slope and harden when I put it in the freezer ... like a glacier.

Now for the real icing on the cake, I used white buttercream frosting, sifted powdered sugar for snow, and crushed sugar cubes around the edges for chunks of ice.

Final steps - added one of my sky photos as a background and a mini Dijana 'paper doll' and we have a panorama diorama:

Dijana on a real glacier:

Dijana on a glacier cake:

Happy birthday Dijana!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

cake in a jar

Justin Timberlake once sang about putting something in a box, but did you know that you can bake a cake ... in a jar?

A gift real special, so take off the top
Take a look inside - it's a cake in a jar
(It's in a jar)

Yep, just a regular ol' glass Mason jar (no plastic allowed).

And since it's transparent, this is totally the time to experiment with colored cake batter (see also: rainbow, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc etc etc):

I'm shipping this cake cross country to Diehl in Seattle so I went with a Seattle-esque color palette and I wasn't too careful with spooning in the layers:

 Fill the jar 3/4 of the way with cake batter, set the jar in a pan with 1/2" of water:

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes:

Trim off the excess:

And scoop out another 1-2" of cake at the top so you can spatula in a healthy dose of frosting before sealing. Decorate jar as necessary:

Just add a candle and birthday note, and it's ready to ship!

Happy Birthday Diehl!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

a masterpiece classic

Season 2 of PBS's Downton Abbey may have finale'd here in the States, but the show lives on in cake form... until of course, even that has been devoured.

Downton Abbey (or Highclere Castle in real life) is the name of the estate where the show takes place, set in early 20th century England. The show follows the dramatic lives of an aristocratic family and their team of houseservants through events like the sinking of the Titanic and World War I.

I am a huge fan of the show, as is my roommate Alisa, so let's start construction:

Once I had the idea of doing Downton Abbey, there were several different ways to go about it. I could do something with the cast (but I'm pretty awful at faces), I could do some of the period decor, or I could focus on the architecture details of the house itself.

I ended up choosing to recreate a scene from the opening credits where the house appears against a bright blue sky and green landscape:

Layered a loaf cake on top of a 9x13 cake, used some cake scraps to build out the turrets (cardboard for the main tower so it could extend off the cake), then various layers and textures of frosting to create the background and the house.

The key crumb coat stage that makes all other decorating possible:

And my favorite: hot-knifing the icing so it goes from a preschool finger-painting to a high resolution watercolor:

I think even the Dowager Countess would approve!

Happy Birthday Alisa!

Monday, March 5, 2012

I could be your hero baby

After the recent success of Jay's burger cake and seeing my boss's reaction to that cake, I knew I had no choice but to make him a cake just as delicious and realistic for his birthday.

Enter the REAL Garden of Eden Santa Fe hero sandwich:

Consisting of avocado, red onion, tomato, pepperjack cheese and chipotle mayo:

Now, to spice up your life (people of the world):

John likes this sandwich super spicy so I decided to make the cake spicy as well - a dash of chili pepper in the 'chipotle mayo' frosting:

 And then crystallized jalapeno peppers in the 'pepperjack cheese.' For the frosting, I sliced and candied the jalapenos on the stovetop in a simple syrup of 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. 


After putting them in and out of the hot bath a few times, the peppers shrink/harden and can then get chopped up to mix into the cream cheese frosting:

 Now to assemble the sandwich as a true sandwich artist would:
(what type of bread? would you like that toasted?)
The pepperjack cheese and red onions are my favorites:

A bit brighter than the real thing, but it's sweet, savory, AND spicy:

Roll it up:

and no one's the wiser:

Happy birthday John!