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Slackers R Us

If at some point in this crazy string of days we call “life” I would decide to open a store, there’s a very good possibility I would name it “Slackers R Us”.  Actually, that’s a really good reason for me to NOT open a store…  The thing is, I am the Queen Bee of procrastination and you just cannot properly procrastinate without first mastering the art of slacking.  (Plus, Slackers R Us has a much better ring to it than Procrastinators R Us…)  I’ve done a lot that I could blog about the last couple of weeks, but I have neglected to sit my tooshie down to actually blog about it.  I am here to apologize to all 5 ½ of you that read said blog.  My tooshie is firmly planted here until something shiny comes along to distract me once again. 

PS – I’m cheating on this blog.  It’s 3 blogs in one so that I can catch you up to speed all at once.  Yeah, yeah…Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater.  I can’t help it.  At least I have a theme, right?  Cakes.  It’s been quite the eventful couple of weeks – Confirmation Party, Graduation Party, and a Birthday Party!  Here’s a little synopsis of each of my cake adventures.  And we’re off!

 Round 1: Confirmation Party
My sister was confirmed this year and my mother put me in charge of making her cake, (gulp!) and I needed to make two of them to have enough for all the people coming (double gulp!).  I did a bunch of research on both decorating ideas and working with fondant, and came up with a plan. (Remember the F word post I did way back when?  Yeah, that’s how long ago I made her cake…whoopsie daisies!)  I was going to make a round layer cake (red velvet) and a cross cake (yellow).  And heck yes, they came from a box…

With all of my research I learned that frosting a cake doesn’t have to be as hard as I had been making it.  It really IS possible to frost a cake without having a million little crumbs showing through.  One little thing that will change your life forever:  Freeze.The.Cake.  I’m not joking.  Holy easy cake frosting, batman!  The party was on Saturday so I baked the cakes on Wednesday and froze them until Friday when I decorated them.  I also added a crumb coat layer of frosting before doing the topcoat.  The crumb coat is literally just a thinned down layer of frosting that you allow to harden a bit.  I used a bit of milk to thin it down, frosted the cake, and set it in the fridge to crust up.  Yeah, that sounds disgusting but it’s what the “pros” called it.  After that I was able to frost the cake without any crumbs!  I added some flowers and lettering and Voila! – Cake #1

Cake #2 was being covered with fondant.  In order for the fondant to adhere to the cake, it also needs a layer of frosting.  (Can we say sugar coma!?)  I took the frozen cake and gave it a crumb coat.  It then needed to thaw completely so it wouldn’t make the fondant sweat.  Speaking of fondant… That was rather…frustrating, at first.  I needed to roll out a chunk that would be big enough to cover my cake, but my counter space isn’t very plentiful and I kept ripping the fondant when I would pick it up to place on the cake.  I learned 2 things from this experience:  Number one – ask your husband for help BEFORE you haphazardly pick up a huge chunk of fondant and then have to stand there frantically screaming for his help because you didn’t think it through and now have nowhere to go.   Fact – The fondant will fall apart before he casually walks into the kitchen and looks at you like a nutcase.  Number two – if you use a rolling-pin and sort of roll the fondant on to it, you can use that to unroll the fondant right over the cake thus making your life a million times easier.  You have to be smarter than the fondant, Erica… 

I did eventually get the cake covered in fondant.  Then I was able to make the lovely bow that YouTube taught me how to make.  Really not very difficult, and it is simply gorgeous!  I jazzed up the ribbon tails with my fondant roller and embossing ring.  The way this cake turned out made me über thrilled, but what really matter was that my sister loved it!

Round 2: Graduation Party
Super Duper cheating here.  I didn’t bake this cake OR frost it.  Yep, I just showed up and put my pre-made fondant cut-outs on it and wrote on it.  Easiest.job.ever!  This was my cousin’s graduation party and my godmother requested my assistance so I was off on another adventure!  My cousin is a boy (Hi Brock! :)) so we wanted to stay away from pinks/purples and flowers.  Stars and Dots seemed like a fun and easy solution to me!  I used some of the fondant I had already made and dyed some green and some blue.  I just love the blue/green contrast, don’t you?  We have it EVERYWHERE in our house.  Virtually every room is painted either blue or green.  Our dinner plates?  Blue and green.  Our wedding colors?  Yep… blue and green.  Hmm…temporary tangent here.  This is just screaming for a google search on what these colors mean to us. *Goes to search google*  So, green is my favorite color and blue is my husband’s.  If you know us, after reading this you will notice the distant sound of the hammer striking the nail dead center.  Dan is seriously the most passive individual I have ever met.  He doesn’t understand why I care at all what other people think, but there I am freaking out about it as he shakes his head.  How interesting!  This has absolutely NOTHING to do with this cake, but I get sidetracked easily. Ohhh.emm.gee! Colors were just my something shiny!  I honestly thought I could make it through this post without a massive tangent.  Oh well, at least I warned you…

ANYWAYS…  I made blue and green fondant and I cut out stars and circles with cookie cutters and let them dry on the counter for a few days.  I also rolled some snakes out of green and blue and twisted them together to form his graduation year.  That looked pretty banging!  (Hmm…that’s not really a word people use anymore, is it?)

Round 3: Mom’s 50th Birthday
There was a little banana peel on the road to Mom’s cake.  It goes by the name “chocolate ganache.”  The ganache was super delish and gave the cake a fun shine, but it was not one of my finer moments to combine that with a big, heavy, fondant bow.  The ganache doesn’t have the stick power that regular frosting has, so my gift bow slowly slid its way apart.  It was kind of a lot of work to make that bow, so it was a little disappointing that it didn’t turn out quite as I planned.  Thankfully the cake still tasted delicious!  I made a red velvet cake (thank you, Betty Crocker!), a cream cheese filling, and then topped it all with the ganache.  I’m glad that I decided to go the ganache route, because more frosting would have made the cake far too rich. 

Since I made this cake forever ago I no longer remember what recipe I used for the cream cheese filling, so I’m going to skip that part in my description.  Just imagine me doing an amazing job of it. ;)  The ganache was really easy.  Heat cream, pour over chocolate chips, stir.  After that hard labor you just sit and wait for it to cool down and give it a stir every once in a while.  Seriously, that’s it.  I put the cake on a Tupperware lid for a bit more support and then put the cake on a cooling rack.  Under the cooling rack I had a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  I took the cooled ganache and poured it on the cake, starting in the center and gradually circled further outwards.  The cake looked fairly decent, but not amazing.  I put it in the fridge to cool and then poured another layer.  Layer two was fabulous!

Here’s the part where I should explain to you fine folks how I made a fondant gift bow, instead I’m going to take a rain check.  I’ll try it again sometime and when I actually succeed I promise to fill you in. 

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me…

The F Word…

Fondant.

What!?  Of course I didn’t mean THAT F word.  Though, I really thought that word would escape my mouth about 100 times while making homemade fondant, but it didn’t!  Okay, I probably said it.  Afterall I was making fondant for over an hour…that’s quite the stretch of curse-free time.  But, without lying, I can tell you the F bomb was not delivered due to the pain-in-the-arseness of Rolled Marshmallow Fondant.  Once again, Erica stumbled upon a recipe that was actually easier than anticipated.  After accomplishing the first batch sans troubles I actually made a second batch.  Both batches were made and cleaned up after in an hour and a half! 

Ingredients: (The directions really recommend name brand products) 
1 package (16 ounces) white mini marshmallows
2-5 tablespoons water
2 pounds (about 8 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

 Directions:
1.  Place marshmallows and 2 TBSP water in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again.  Repeat the process until all the marshmallows are melted. (It took my marshmallows 2.5 minutes to melt.)
2.  Put about 3/4 of your powdered sugar on top of the melted mallows.  Fold in the sugar.
3.  Scoop out your shortening and put it in a separate dish.  You’ll be reaching into this dish throughout the course of your fondant kneading. (Your measurement here doesn’t need to be exact.)
4.  Cover your kneading surface and your hands in shortening.  Really, really cover them.  Load those babies up!
5.  Dump the contents of your bowl onto your greased surface.  Knead away and slowly add in the remaining powdered sugar.  
Warning: Don’t dump a bunch of powdered sugar on top and haphazardly press down on it.  You will, in fact, create a powdered sugar volcano in your very own kitchen.  Disastrous results immediately follow.

Powdered Sugar Explosion!

 Honestly, that’s really it.  Re-grease your hands and surface as you knead.  If the fondant is too dry and tearing, add small amounts of water until you reach the correct consistency.  I added about 1.5 more TBSP of water as I kneaded.  Oh, and you’re going to be kneading for like 10 minutes.  So make sure to crank some tunes before you get all greased up.

I did dye half a batch of fondant once it was all kneaded and ready to go.  I just used Wilton’s dyes and added a small amount with a toothpick and kneaded it in well.  I went with purple!

One batch of fondant


The directions say it is best to let your fondant sit overnight.  Double wrap it and store it in the fridge.  It’ll keep that way for a few weeks.  You know you want to try it.  Bust out your Crisco and get cracking! 

Word of Warning:  Making this F word turned out to be a literal pain in another f word…finger.  Between the fondant making and yard work I did last week I seem to have strained my thumb.  Try not to knead the fondant like a crazy person, and maybe you’ll be okay.

 

I linked up at It’s a Keeper!

Icing on the Cake

Confession:  The title of my blog post is incredibly corny.  You see, this post is entirely about icing…and the cake it is on.  Literally. 

Since I (obviously) “mastered” creating leaves and flowers with Royal Icing, I felt the next logical step was actually decorating a cake.  Gotta start sometime, eh?  All I needed was an event to bring the cake to.  There is no freaking way I could have an ENTIRE cake just sitting around my house.  I would blimp out in mere milliseconds…  One of my good friends recently accepted a job offer that meant he would be moving to another state.  Going-away-party cake?  Yes.please. 

There were two things I wanted to try out for this (my very first) attempt at cake decorating:  homemade frosting and fondant.

Homemade Frosting
In case you didn’t know, homemade frosting is utterly delicious.  Whoa…Nelly.  Though, I don’t even want to guess how many calories this frosting has.  For the sake of our sanity I am going to forgo figuring it out.  Making this frosting is actually pretty easy.  Add all ingredients together and mix.  That’s it. 
Ingredients:
1/2 c clear crisco
1/2 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk

Fondant
I don’t know about you, but fondant scared the undies right off me.  The things professionals do with fondant is so amazing!  I needed something simple, just to get my feet wet.  Polka dots.  I purchased some Wilton Fondant to minimize the scariness of fondant.  It seemed smart to start with a fondant that someone else made so I know what it is supposed to be like.  I also have a fondant roller and some fondant cutters.  This was another one of those things that baffled me.  It was so simple!  I opened the package of fondant, put a little powdered sugar down, and rolled out the fondant like playdough.  Seriously, that’s it.  After that I just took the circle fondant cutters and cut them out like cookies.  I would change one thing I did, though.  I had rolled out the fondant to about 1/4 inch thick, but I would actually go much thinner than that.

The Cake
I cheated on the cake and totally used a box mix.  I made two 9 inch round cakes and stacked them with a layer of frosting between them.  Spreading the frosting on the cakes isn’t very easy.  I have to read up on it a little bit, but I definitley managed.  After frosting the cake I used a decorating comb around the outside and then stuck the fondant circles on it.  Then I was able to write on my message and complete the outside with a star tip.  Piece.of.cake.  Oh come on…I had to. ;)

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