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Champagne Bottle Cake

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Over the last couple of months, I have had a very hard time being inspired to write. For me, not much has changed. I am baking just as much I was before, I guess I just haven’t gotten excited about anything lately.

I am trying to get back on track though.

In order to make a champagne bottle cake, the key is having a good, cold, dense cake to work with. Fluffy moist cakes do not carve well. Luckily, my vanilla cake recipe does seem to work well (most of the time).

To start this cake, I baked my cake in a sheet pan. Then I printed out the image I was working with exactly the size I wanted the finished cake to be.

Then, working in sections of the bottle, I cut rectangles of cake to size, so I could start carving.

When I was happy with the shape of the bottom layer, I crumb coated the layer, to trap crumbs and to give the next layer something to stick to. I sliced cake sections at an angle, then arranged them on top of my first layer.

It was tricky to get the layers crumb coated, but definitely necessary to start creating the final shape for my cake.

I put the cake back in the refrigerator and let the crumb coat firm up before adding my final coat of icing. I tried hard to get the final coat as smooth as possible for the fondant, but I definitely need more practice. ๐Ÿ™‚

Using the printed image of the bottle, I rolled out my fondant to the correct size while the final coat of icing was firming in the refrigerator.

I gently transferred the fondant onto the cake, and carefully started smoothing with gloved hands coated in powdered sugar.

When I was happy with the fondant’s smoothness, I trimmed off the excess, tucking the bottom edge under slightly.

While the fondant was still soft, I worked on adding detail to the cap of the bottle.

Using royal icing, I carefully piped the detail onto the body of the bottle. I then let it all sit at room temperature so the fondant could start to set and the royal icing could dry.

A few hours later, the royal icing was dry enough to begin painting the body of the bottle.

It took several coats and several colors to achieve a look that was close to the color of the alcohol.

To finish up, I added the wording on the cake board and placed an edible image of the label on the cake.

When the cake was dry, I painted on the last details with gold.

As with any cake, what seems daunting at first is achievable if you just take it one step at a time.

๐Ÿ™‚

— Angie

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Details Matter

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You’ve spent hours deciding what you want to put on your cookie. You flood the background white. Then you get out your airbrush and stencils and go to work. First the stripe layer in metallic gold. Then the words. Great!

They turned out cute. ๐Ÿ™‚ But are they finished? That is what you have to decide. While sometimes less really is more, other times you have to push past the initial outcome to create something truly special.

So maybe adding a border will look nice? It definitely frames out the cookie, making it feel more special than it did when it was plain.

Are you finished this time? You could be.

But maybe one more little detail would really personalize the cookie and elevate it beyond the client’s expectations…

It’s your call.

For me, I never know when to quit. So, I usually try to add just one more little touch, like adding a flower, or dusting an element with shimmer dust, or even painting an area to make it shiny, like glass.

Details matter. They impress clients. Never quit when it’s just good enough. Always be sure to put a little more effort into the details.

You’ll be glad you did.

๐Ÿ™‚

— Angie

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Quick & Easy Cinco de Mayo Cookie Tutorial

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Even though most of us are still under stay-at-home orders, we can still celebrate holidays together. You can have a party with your friends virtually, so why not make some quick Cinco do Mayo cookies to drop on their doorsteps? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Start out by baking your favorite sugar cookie recipe and cutting them out with any fun plaque-shaped cookie cutter you have on hand. If you don’t have a plaque cutter, round cookies work too!

I had tiny candy-coated chocolate pieces on hand, so I used them for the lights in step two. If you don’t have any sprinkles or candies, you can just use colored icing (see alternate method below).

Colored Candy or Sprinkle Method

Step 1: Outline and flood the cookie with white icing.
Step 2: Using tweezers, immediately place candies or sprinkles in place along two curves.

Step 3: Once the flooded cookie is has set for several hours (or overnight), pipe the strings that hold the festive lights.
Step 4: (My least favorite step…read why here) Using fun colors, pipe the word “Fiesta” on the cookies. Once dry, they are ready to share and enjoy!

Alternate Method (no sprinkles or candies)

Step 1: Outline and flood the cookie with royal icing. Let dry several hours to overnight.

Step 2: Once background has set up, pipe black lines where you want your lights to be.
Step 3: Color small amounts of icing in several fun colors. Pipe dots of colors along the strings.
Step 4: Pipe the word “Fiesta” on the cookies. Let them dry, then share and enjoy!

See it really is simple to get a quick celebration cookie to enjoy with your friends!

๐Ÿ™‚

— Angie

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Champagne Bottle Cookie Tutorial

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For the last few weeks I have been focused on making Daisy Scout petals easier to complete from home. I haven’t been baking as much as normal, but I have honestly enjoyed the break and change of focus.

Being home 24/7 has only reinforced one thing, I do not like washing dishes! So by not baking as much, at least I am only washing dishes once a day, instead of 3 times or more. There is just no way I would survive this if I had to cook and clean up after a large family, and to all you out there who do, you are my personal heroes.

If I lived alone, I would eat nothing but microwave meals and use plastic utensils. I would also have every single surface in the house covered in different projects… so maybe it is a good thing I don’t live alone.

Now that I have a 3-D printer, I need to stop being lazy and print a champagne bottle cookie cutter. Since I am lazy, however, I have been using a beer bottle cookie cutter instead.

The difference between a beer bottle and a champagne bottle seems like a lot, but really, the trick is to (carefully) use the curve of the beer bottle to cut more out of the neck. The next picture shows the tiny cut to remove a little of the neck.

Image showing cut made to convert beer bottle cookie into champagne bottle cookie.

The result is a dramatic change from beer to champagne!

champagne bottle on the left, beer bottles on the right

Once the cookies are baked a cooled, decorating can begin. ๐Ÿ™‚

Use flood consistency (15-second icing for each step)
1. Outline and flood the “foil” in a gold tone icing. Shake cookie side to side gently to flatten any icing bumps. (If you want a wine bottle instead of a champagne bottle, end the “foil” area in a line instead of a point.)
2. Outline and flood the label white. My label size changes based on what I have to write on them.
3. Let the cookies sit for a few hours, then outline and flood the rest of the bottle with black icing.
4. Let the icing dry completely usually several hours to overnight. Once the icing is completely dry, use gold dust with confectioner’s glaze or vodka to paint the “foil”.
5. Finally, write your message on the bottle label.

Now you have some stunning (and surprisingly easy!) champagne bottle cookies for your next celebration.

Cheers!

–Angie

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January 2020: Photos

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And I thought life was crazy in August! I had no idea…

The last few months have been a whirlwind of installing new floors, baking a lot (mostly cookies), and attempting to find time to put my house back together.

I am definitely failing at the last one, but I keep working at it when I get a chance… or when I am not procrastinating.

Since I haven’t posted in awhile, and certainly have not made an tutorials lately, I figured I would at least post some pictures of my work. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was so excited to get a 3-D printer for Christmas, and it has already been so helpful in printing customized cookie cutters for my jobs. Below is the “Thank You” cutter and stamp I made to go with the hockey jersey cookies.

Senior night jerseys and thank you cookies.

I printed the bear cutter to go with these woodland critters for a baby shower. Then, I proceeded to hand-paint them all with Sugarprism Edible Paint to match the invites and decorations. My first attempts at color matching are below as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of my favorite customers had her 40th birthday, and while she picked and planned her party, her friend’s surprised her by moving it up a week. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hand-painted the rose gold on all the cookies except the microphones. I used my airbrush for those.

The shiny effect on the bottles is from a combination of vodka and corn syrup, painted on once the black icing had hardened.

Lastly, these baby shower cookies were made by stenciling on “oh baby” and hand-painting the gold and greenery.

Phew! January was a busy month, hopefully this one is a little less busy so I have time to work on my house.

๐Ÿ™‚

— Angie

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To the beginning of 2020…

As I sit here and type by the light of my freakishly bright Christmas tree, scheming how I can talk my husband into leaving it up until March, I want to wish you a happy and healthy new year, filled with time to enjoy the little moments, reflect on where you are, and find who you want to be.

— Angie

P.S. Freakishly bright may be an understatement… I put 2300 lights in my 9.5 foot tree… but maybe that is a story for next Christmas. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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Designer Backpack Cake

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I am terrified of sculpted cakes. Typically, when someone wants something sculpted, I either turn down the job, or find that the customer didn’t realize the cost involved in that kind of cake. Either way, for the most part, I have gotten away with only doing a few with only minor carving work.

So when the opportunity to make a backpack cake came up, I was hesitant, but thought it sounded like an interesting project to take on. I had a lot of fun making it, but I have no desire to make one of those crazy standing up purse cakes.

So please don’t ask. ๐Ÿ™‚

This cake is pretty small, as it only needed to serve about 15 people. So of course, I baked an 11″ x 15″ cake to make sure I had more than enough to work with.

I drew my templates and cut them out of plain white paper, then used them to cut the cake into the sizes I wanted for the backpack and the pocket.

My original pocket was too big, so I cut down the piece a bit. I also cut some of the height off of the pocket.

I decided on an American buttercream for this project. I wanted something a little less sweet than my decorator icing under the fondant.

I crumb coated the bag part first, then added on my pocket and crumb coated that as well.

While the cake was firming in the fridge, I decided to roll out my fondant. I use a fancy double mat (The Mat system from Sweetwise), so I am able to roll out my fondant in advance, while still keeping it covered.

And then this happened…

Yep, I somehow managed to put enough pressure on the metal rod in my rolling pin to actually snap it in half! (arm flex)

I think I have been working on doing it for awhile, but it was still completely crazy to actually break a piece of metal only used for rolling fondant and cookie dough.

Despite what Urban Dictionary may say the definition for the noun (standard, not proper noun, of course) angie is, the actual definition has always been “the act of shearing a key off in a lock”. I guess now it needs to be amended to “the act of shearing a key off in a lock or snapping the metal rod of a rolling pin”.

Trust me on this one, you never want to actually pull an angie, especially the key one. They are really hard to get out of the lock once you do this. Really. Hard.

I should know.

I’ve pulled an angie twice.

Anyway. Moving on…

I managed to get the fondant rolled out with only one handle and set it aside.

Once the crumb coat was firm, I added my final coat of icing and let that chill as well.

Once it was fully chilled, I draped my fondant over the cake and started smoothing.

After that, I added my little loop at the top of the cake.

In order to provide a sticky surface for the wafer paper “fabric” I printed, I used a combination of corn syrup and vodka. I then sprayed my “fabric” with wafer paper conditioner and carefully placed it on my cake.

I decided I wanted the cake to have a shiny, patent leather finish, so I painted the rest of the cake with the vodka/corn syrup mixture as well.

Before I added the top flap of the pocket, I added my stripes and “brand” to the cake. I used a fondant tool to add stitches to the cake edge.

Strips of fondant were added around the sides and “stitched” to give the cake a more backpack type feel.

I added the flap of my pocket with some stitching, and made the zipper detail.

Once the remaining details were painted with vodka and corn syrup, I added a little silver to the “brand” on the bag, and it was finished!

This cake turned out to be much simpler than I originally thought it would be. I might even think about making another one someday. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Maybe.

Don’t worry, I bought a new rolling pin, and it is marble and extremely heavy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hopefully, I can keep it for a few years before I break it too.

(shrug)

— Angie

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Quiet Reflections

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I like quiet.

As an introvert, it is much easier for me to focus, think, and solve problems when I am alone.

Alone in the quiet.

And I mean quiet. No TV, no music, nothing. I will even go so far as to wear earplugs if someone is mowing the lawn while I am trying to get work done.

Think what you will.

Friends and family close to me know that when I donโ€™t have my alone time, I have a hard time functioning the rest of the week. I just need my quiet time to reset and get ready for what is ahead.

Sometimes, of course, that just isnโ€™t possible. The last ten days have been full of fun, laughter, too much television, a completely new set of water lines for the house, and no quiet.

I am very lucky to get my niece and nephews back in town for another few weeks. I love spending time with them, but I usually try to schedule myself some alone time during the week.

When I donโ€™t have any โ€œmeโ€ time, writing is impossible.

So here I sit, 80 minutes into my first quiet time in ten days, as I try to think of a recent project or story to blog about.

Last week I hosted my first โ€œdecorate-your-own-cakeโ€ birthday party, and wow was that an adventure! I had eleven 6โ€ cakes in my refrigerator, just begging to be decorated. The kids had a blast, and I did too.

Here are a few of the results. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Other than the party, I have made only a couple of recent cakes.

I wish I would have taken more step-by-step photos, but when you are working on a wedding cake like this, it is stressful enough just to make the cake.

The tire was a wheel barrow tire with a fondant hubcap added.

And for the cutest project I have made recently, I made a gluten- and dairy-free baby shower cake in a woodland critter theme.

Hoping to bring you something more exciting next time!

If I just get a little quiet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Confessions of a Cake Pop Hater: One Year Later

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Now that we have cleared up a few things about making cake pop dough and rolling cake pops (see here) and my love of a good #40 scoop, it’s time to talk about dipping cake pops.

Over a year ago when I sat down to write my first blog entry, I never thought I would wait 3 months to publish it and then another seven months before I wrote another post.

I envisioned a place where I could vent about the things that bug me in the world of dessert decorating. Turns out when I actively take time to record the steps of a project, I have found that the opposite is often true. I have begun to appreciate more of the work I put into things and the little joys I discover when working on an edible (or craft) project.

For example, my above reference to a #40 scoop. ๐Ÿ™‚ I never realized how often it is my go-to scoop of choice, so now I make sure to poke fun at myself when I reach for that handy tool.

It’s also crazy how many things I work on that I don’t write blogs about. Even when I am not baking for a client, I am never bored.

I am currently obsessed with Lego design and creations. If I ever actually figure out a new building design, I am sure I will write about it. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the analytical process of figuring out how the design and engineering behind Lego buildings work. (When I am not baking, of course.)

It has been a year of adventure and learning new things, but it is time to circle back to the beginning and work on those cake pops once again.

They still are not my favorite thing to make, but maybe I don’t hate them quite so much anymore… maybe. ๐Ÿ™‚

Melting the candy coating and dipping cake pops has always been more of an instinctual process for me than a repeatable step-by-step project.

Sometimes the coating does what it is supposed to right away, and sometimes I have to fuss with it to get to it to the proper temperature and consistency.

Here’s what I know about melting candy coating:

  1. Always melt the candy coating in the microwave at 20% or 30% power for 30 seconds at a time. Slow and steady is the best chance to get it right the first time. (A double boiler works too, but keep an eye on the coating to avoid overheating.)
  2. It is always a good idea to have paramount crystals handy. I prefer to melt mine in a jar and stir it in only if I know I need it. If the coating always has issues, the crystals can be added at the beginning of the melting process. When I add whole crystals to coating that is already melted, I can never get them to melt all the way and find little lumps stuck to my cake pops.
  3. The perfect temperature is barely warm when you touch it.
  4. The coating should easily drizzle from a spatula and settle when shaken. (See my sad attempt at a video below.) I usually compare the consistency to cold chocolate syrup.
  5. The way I make cake pops, I can dip them at room temperature. If they have been in the freezer or fridge, I let them come all the way to room temperature before dipping. If they are at all cool, I find I get more cracks in the coating to occur. (Cake pops made with other methods that are too gooey will not be dippable at room temperature.)
candy coating after a few rounds of low power microwave melting
starting to melt, but not there yet
there are still lumps, so not there yet
Everything is melted, but it was still too thick (and a little too hot), so it had a cool a little and get some added pre-melted paramount crystals.
my melted paramount crystal jar

Here is a (terrible) video of what I consider to be the correct consistency for dipping.

Somewhere in the course of the melting process, I decide the coating is melted enough to put sticks in the cake pops. So, I dip about 1/2″ of a stick into the coating.

As I gently insert the stick into the rolled cake dough, I twist the stick. This reduces the chance of creating a crack in the dough ball. The sticks get pushed in about 3/4″.

After all the sticks are attached, I finish melting the coating. I then transfer the melted coating to a deep container (like an 8oz mason jar or a deep coffee mug).

To dip the pops, I carefully invert the pop over the melted coating.

If the pop resists sliding into the coating, I have to wiggle the pop a little.

I slowly pull the pop back out of the coating, and tap it on the side of the container to remove excess coating. I hold the pop at as steep of an angle as possible, so there is less risk of the cake pop taking a dive off the stick into the coating container. (I have made close to 4000 cake pops at this point, sometimes it just happens anyway.)

The video below shows a successful dipping attempt. (I was also playing with cake pops on top of mini ice cream cones that day.) If I am drying them upright, I put them in a cake pop stand or stick them into an upside down egg carton.

If I am adding sprinkles, I do that before the coating sets. Otherwise, I let the coating harden completely before adding any other decorations.

Cake pops are not easy, and it has taken a lot of time and practice to get results I am happy with most of the time. It takes patience, and that was a hard lesson to learn.

One year later, and I still make cake pops.

Maybe by this time next year they will finally be out of style.

(fingers crossed)

Hoping your cake pop pursuits stay sweet!

–Angie

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Confessions of a Cake Pop Hater

ย 

I hate cake pops.

โ€ฆ

If you are like most sweet lovers out there, you just picked yourself up off the floor and are contemplating whether or not to keep reading.ย  I know.ย  How can I not love cake pops?ย  They are the perfect, bite-sized, melt-in-your-mouth, most wonderful, blah, blah, blah.

Seriously?

To make a cake pop, you take all that is good and pure about one of the most basic, standalone greats and turn it into a pile of mush.ย  The essence of a cake is not just its flavor, but also its structure, that textural experience that comes in every forkful.

So, while I could go on for days about all the tragedy in the world caused by the destruction of wonderful cake, I am actually going to talk to you about making cake pops.

Now you are probably just confused.

She hates cake pops, but she is going to talk about making cake pops.ย  Okay, crazy lady, what will you say next?

One of the common things people tell me when they know I make cake pops, and yes, I make a lot of cake pops, is that they have tried it at home and they never turn out.ย  They end up with a pile of mushy, sweet substance, that wonโ€™t hold a shape, and even after freezing falls right off the stick when they try to dip them in candy coating.

There is a reason. And it involves something most people donโ€™t want to hearโ€ฆ

You donโ€™t actually need to use very much icing.ย  Again, I knowโ€ฆwhat is wrong with this person anyway?

I know you like to have this gooey cake pop that is super sweet, but have you actually ever tried one that maybe wasnโ€™t as sweet?ย  If you donโ€™t know this, the original cake pop maker actually used cream cheese icing for that very reason, as it did not make the cake pops overly sweet.

Be that as it may, if you absolutely do not want to ever consider the idea of making cake pops that are still yummy, but just not as sweet, I suggest now is the time to move on and find something better to do with your day.ย  Itโ€™s okay, I wonโ€™t be offended. ๐Ÿ™‚

Still here?

Well thanks for the vote of confidence! Or just the curiosity to see if maybe there is an easier way to get cake pops to turn out right every time.

When I make cake pops, I start with cupcakes.ย  I buy cheap cupcake liners in bulk.ย  There is an added expense, but it is worth it for portion control and the ability to easily freeze extra cupcakes for later cake pop use.

When I say portion control, I mean I have the ability to decide how many cake pops I want to make, which makes it much easier when someone calls with an order for 32 cake pops and wants four different flavors.

Today, I have an order for 20 cake pops that are red velvet.ย  If I make a full recipe of red velvet cake, I get two 8โ€ round pans worth of cake.ย  When I go to make the cake pops, I can guess that maybe one 8โ€ cake will be enough, but I am likely to end up with too few or too many cake pops.ย  When I use cupcakes, depending on the cake recipe I used, I get one cake pop per one cupcake.ย  Some of my recipes will give me three cake pops per two cupcakes, but the one-to-one formula is much easier to work with.

red velvet cupcakes

I peeled the liner off 20 cupcakes and I put them in my stand mixer bowl.

pile of cupcakes in stand mixer bowl

The next step in the process of making pops is turning on your mixer to stir or 2.ย  This will break the cupcakes down to crumbs.

cupcake crumbs

The next step is crucial.ย  Turn the mixer speed to the spot between the 2 and the 4, and walk away.ย  No joke.ย  Empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, check for new updates on Facebook.ย  This step is the step that requires patience, at least with some cake recipes.ย  If you have a wonderfully magical recipe like my chocolate cake recipe, you donโ€™t have to walk far.

Here’s the chocolate cake:

I started with this.

chocolate cake crumbs

And not even a full minute later, was rewarded with this beautiful dough.

Chocolate Cake Dough

Now the red velvet is not so cooperative.ย  After about 5 minutes, I could see that this was not a magical cake recipe. So I did have to add icing.

icing in bowl

As you can see from the picture, there is maybe (and it is a stretch) two tablespoons of icing in the bowl.ย  After adding the icing, I turned the mixer back on and spent the next several minutes staring at the dough. (I loaded the dishwasher the first time it was mixing, so I had nothing better to do.)

Finally, it got to a point where I was pretty sure it was the best โ€œdoughโ€-looking it would get.

red velvet dough

So I reached in with my gloved hands and grabbed some cake.ย  A simple roll in my palms showed me that, yep, it was done. (Side Note: those of you making cake pops at home can use meticulously clean hands if you so choose, doing this professionally, gloves are required.) ((Side Side Note: gloves are relatively inexpensive and save you 8 trips to the sink to wash your hands while doing this…just a thought.))

I transferred it to another bowl and got out my trusty #40 scoop.ย  I love using a portion scoop when I make cake pops.ย  (So, to make that clear – I love the scoop, not cake pops.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

I get consistently-sized balls of dough and my customers think I am just amazing at getting them all the same sizeโ€ฆbut I guess that secret is out there now. ๐Ÿ™‚

portion scoop

I scoop out my dough and making sure to use pressure, I roll out my cake pops.

Unrolled dough in hand

Rolled Cake Ball in Hand

Seems pretty simple doesnโ€™t it?ย  And look, 20 cake pops later and this is how much dough I had left. Seems like a good way to estimate quantity after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

finished set of cake balls

Using this method, you should not have to put the pops in the freezer in order to dip them.ย  Just make sure to give them time for the candy coating to set up after you put the sticks in them.ย  If you donโ€™t, you may still end up with a cake pop casualty or two.

I hope this helps all you cake pop makers out there who have failed while trying to make pops. And my customers have never once complained they are not sweet enough.

So, yes, I do still hate cake pops, but as a person who likes to make my customers happy, I still make a lot of them.

Stay tuned this week for my one year update: dipping cake pops. ๐Ÿ™‚

I wish you all much baking success!

  • Angie
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