Friday, July 29, 2011

I have a confession to make... and a recipe

So yes... I am a cake decorator, but if you asked me what I want for dessert, cake would almost be last on my list (although creme brulee would be below that).  This isn't because I am sick of cake, it's just that I prefer cookies, pies, and pastries over cake... I always have.   I love the cookies that are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside... ones with chocolate, nuts, pretty much anything.  And pie....I think the love for pie started with my grandmother's apple crumb pie.    It's not a complicated recipe, but it's one of those simply delicious recipes.  Lastly, pastries... from doughnuts to cannoli to baklava... ah my mouth is watering just mentioning them.  I love pastries so much that one of my goals is to go to Carlo's bakery and try their lobster tails and other goodies.  Hopefully they will get that big factory up soon and I can order me some soon!

Alright, I feel better now that I got that off my chest... and for those of you with a cookie sweet tooth, try these on for size. Snickerdoodles... the you-don't-have-to-run-to-the-grocery-store-to-buy-anything cookie.  The recipe is from Martha Stewart.  Enjoy!



  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small (1 1/4-ounce) ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 5 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Charlotte, NC... ready or not, here I come

Next week at this time I will be waking up in the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, NC.  Charlotte is this year's host city for the 2011 ICES Convention.  For those of your who do not know, ICES, is the International Cake Exploration Society and has been around for over 30 years.  It's a great way for a cake enthusiast to learn about new trends and techniques, get recipes, and find folks that share the love of cake decorating.

This is my first time attending the convention, and I am so excited to go.  I have heard so many wonderful things that I can't wait to experience them myself.  From the classes to the shopping to the demos... I may think I have gone to my own personal heaven!  My biggest concerns are being overwhelmed and overspending (I LOVE cake decorating tools... and unfortunately... they aren't cheap!)!

Besides having 5 days of CAKE, CAKE, CAKE, I will also be away from both of my boys for the very first time.  I may not know what to do with myself!!!  Of course, me being away means my husband will be at home with the boys for 5 full days... hopefully he will have a better appreciation for me and understand why I am in a bad mood when he gets home from work later than expected.

So the next few days will be getting my orders out the door, prepping a small display cake for the convention, laundry, packing, and getting all those little things done before I leave!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You mean you can't make me a 3-tier cake for tomorrow?

It never fails... week after week I get a call... or two... or three... on Wednesday/Thursday/Friday asking me to make a "small" cake to feed 40-70 people to be picked up in the next 24-72 hrs.  Most of the time I am already booked, but every once and a while I have a small opening so I ask them what they are interested in.  Nine times out of 10 their "simple cake" turns into a 3-tier cake covered in sugar flowers or some 3-D monstrosity, and I politely tell them that is not possible in such a small timeframe.

I am always asking myself why folks wait so long to order a cake... a simple sheet cake from a full service bakery/grocery store... not a problem, but something custom for a medium to large party?  Even one of the large custom shops (employees, commercial ovens, SPACE!!) in my area requires a minimum of a week notice, which I don't think is asking a lot considering invitations were sent out at least 2 weeks in advance.

I think people don't realize things can't be whipped out in a half an hour like they do on TV.  The other half of these calls tell me that "the baker" backed out, can't be contacted, etc.  While I feel bad for these folks, most of the time I really don't have any room in my schedule for another cake.  Even when I do have a little wiggle room, which isn't often, I typically don't feel like disrupting my entire schedule and possibly staying up most of the night to complete a new order.  Things can go wrong and I don't like having that tight of a schedule.

So what's the moral of the story?  Order your cake when you book your venue, send out your invites, etc., or you might not get the cake from your first or second or third choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's for dinner?

This is something my husband and I say to each other at least 8 times a day.  Sometimes we answer it and sometime we don't.  It can be heard to squeeze in making dinner when I work during naps and have a baby who doesn't let me go to the bathroom without whining and following behind me.  Most of the time we enjoy crockpot meals that we can put together the night before and just throw it on in the morning.  Other times, something quick on the stove top works just as well, especially if it doesn't need much babysitting.  This is one of those meals...

Chicken Georgia by Paula Deen


  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese


Melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes. Add chicken and cook 10 minutes on each side, or until tender. Transfer chicken to platter and sprinkle with grated cheese. Top with mushroom mixture. Cook and let stand 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

If you buy the pre-sliced mushrooms, the only thing you need to prep, besides actually remembering to thaw chicken breasts (I SOOO love those chicken breasts that are packaged in 2's), is the shallots!  It is great as is, but if you are a garlic and wine lover, add a splash of white wine and a little bit of minced garlic to the butter mixture.  I love to serve it with asparagus and some rustic mashed potatoes (not that these are done very often, but I would do if I were serving it for a dinner party... otherwise Potato Buds are my best buds!!!).

Monday, July 25, 2011

The cake costs how much??!?!?!? - Epilogue

I just wanted to clarify and discuss a few more items concerning my previous blog post.  This is probably going to be a bit of a bullet point list since this is the way I usually think...

- I thought about that blog post for a while... a really long time and tried to figure out how to attack it.  Yes, I know I didn't discuss the other major side of the coin... the cost of ingredients, pans, cutters, tips, overhead, etc. I chose not to add this in because there are a TON of variables there.  Obviously having a storefront has more overhead than running a business out of your home.  Using only organic ingredients costs more than non-organic.  Getting equipment wholesale costs less than buying it at retail, etc.

- Another thing I wanted to discuss was hourly wage/experience and how they play into the price of a cake, but I didn't want to my blog post to end up being a short story.

- Kids... yes kids... I have 2.  Most of the time I work when the little one naps or the both of them are in bed for the night.  Occasionally I need to hire a sitter to watch the kids so I can get things done.  In my opinion, it is something else that needs to be factored into the cost of the cake.  Most folks, most of the time wouldn't take a job where they would bring home a $300 weekly paycheck and have to pay $150 a week in daycare expenses.

- I hope it didn't sound like I was complaining about how long it takes to make a cake.  I just wanted to make it clear that it takes hours, not minutes to do a cake.  And yes, because I typically have to stop and start things because of the kids and the fact I don't have a commercial kitchen, it takes me longer to complete things.  So for me, it may take me 5 hours to make cake a particular cake, but only 3-4 hours without the interruptions.  This is something I accept, and don't figure that extra time into my costs.

- My To Do list my differ from other cakers.  I know some make their own fondant and others who buy their buttercream and all their fillings.  While purchasing pre-made things are a time saver, they also typically cost more.

- I guess the last thing I wanted to mention was doing things assembly line and speed.  I usually group similar things together to save time, I don't do one cake from start to finish.... just wanted to clarify this.  And no, I don't work at the speed of those on Food Network Challenge all the time.  Just like everyone else I have days where I get things done faster and other days, stuff just seems to go all wrong.

Alright, I think I covered everything else I was thinking about since I posted the previous entry.  I will now lay the cost of cake to rest... at least until I encounter a new situation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The cake costs how much??!?!?!?

Ah yes... something every custom cake decorator/designer/artist hears at least once a month.  It's the one thing we complain about when you get us in a room together.  While we realize sticker shock is part of our business, we do wonder why folks think custom cakes are comparable to those from grocery stores or a "high-volume" bakery.  It's like comparing a filet mignon at Ruth's Chris to a hamburger from McD's or a MDF storage unit to a skilled carpenter's cabinet.  There's just nothing to compare in either of these cases... apples and oranges.  However, both are needed (well the McD's hamburger is debatable) and have their uses.

To me, one of the biggest differences between the two is the amount of time it takes to prepare from start to finish.  From ordering to cleanup.... I, with some help from hubby, am responsible for everything that goes into one order.  I have to answer emails/phone calls, discuss/sketch designs, and host consults.  I (or my husband) buy all the ingredients that go into my goodies.  I hunt for and buy all my pans, cutters, tips, molds, etc that I use to create each cake or cookie.  At this point, I haven't even remotely touched a pan or rolled out some fondant!

Now that everything has been purchased, I need to make buttercream, fillings, and the cake.  Next, I can color fondant and/or buttercream to fit the cake's theme.  After that, I start making those decorations... one of those things that can take 10 minutes or 10 hours.  I also need to prep a cake board, support boards and dowels (if it is a tiered cake), piping bags, and a box.    And finally it's assembly time!!!    Leveling and torting the cake, filling the cake, icing the cake, rolling out fondant (if applicable), smoothing the fondant, decorating the cake and making those decorations that can't be made in advance. Whew!  Glad that's over... oh wait... there is a mess of pans, tips, cutters, bowls... all over my kitchen and sink... time for clean up!!!

And finally, there is the paperwork, making deposits, and all those other business related things that take time too.  Those items that fall under the "other" category on your status report at the end of the week.  Sure these may take a few minutes here and there, but it is still time.

So now that I bored you with my weekly To Do list... I just wanted to point out that a lot more time goes into make a cake than most people think about.  Even making a simple cake with a can of frosting and no decoration will take at least 15 minutes to mix and put in the oven, 15 minutes to ice, and 15 minutes to clean up, and then there is the idle time of having the cake bake and letting the cake cool.

I am going to end with some things that I read on a popular cake forum recently.  One woman said that a supermarket bakery decorator is expected to churn out at least 4 - 8 sheet or small cakes an hour.  These cakes are already baked, sometimes already even iced, so all they need to do is borders, make or place roses/decorations/airbursh/toys onto the cake, and personalize it, if necessary.  The icing can come is pre-made, pre-colored, and some even already in piping bags.  At less than 15 minutes each, they obviously should cost less than something that take 4 or more hours.

And in case anyone is wondering... yes... I do purchase cakes from BJs or Giant on occasion...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let's try this again...

It's been months since I posted anything... it's not that I don't have anything to say... it's just that I am not a writer.  One of the biggest reasons I majored in math in college was that I wasn't going to have to write papers for class!  Obviously there was a lot more to it than that, but believe me, it was something that definitely pushed me to stay in the mathematics program.

On top of the anti-writing bug, I have two boys.  One is 4 years old and the other is 17 months old.  There are times where they play nice with each other or independently around the house.  There are times where both of them are fighting to sit in my lap.  And there are times they are fighting to get on my lap to get to the computer... all of which just makes me want to forget the whole thing.  However, it the last few months, the baby has gotten a little more independent (just a little) so I thought I could give this another shot.... but I am still not promising anything :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...