We have just announced our new Tier I: Introduction to Cake Design course dates. To register, or for more information, please go the CLASSES page on our website: http://ericaobrien.com/classes.html. Classes are limited to four students.Read More
Archives for July 2010
Elizabeth Anne Designs teamed up with The Sweetest Occasion for the Inspired Creations Contest. Basically, vendors were asked to submit photo shoots featuring their most creative, unique, and out-of-the-box concepts all for under $500. I love a challenge, and I’m proud to say we made it to the Top 10.
Here’s the full description of what we came up with. Like what you see? Please leave your comment on the Elizabeth Anne Designs blog. We would really appreciate it.
Caribbean/Latin art with an updated, bohemian flair. The mix-and-match style is a nod to the DIY trend with lots of layers and mixed media.
The Color Palette:
The [Imaginary] Couple:
They met while on vacation in Costa Rica and share a love of painting and museums. Their appreciation for art has taken them to Europe, Asia, and South America. They got engaged while on vacation in the Caribbean, where they discovered the work of Paul Gauguin, a post-Impressionist artist from the late 1800s, and decided to incorporate his work, as well as their other artistic interests, into their wedding.
To incorporate the couple’s love of painting, we created a unique paint-inspired guestbook using paint chips from a local hardware store. We then embellished the first paint chip using a scrapbook punch and scrapbook paper.
Our couple wanted their desserts to be a work of art—literally. I made icing in a Caribbean color palette and miniature cakes to match. Guests were invited to “paint” on their cakes using the colored icing with paint brushes. Directions, printed on scrapbook paper, read “You are the artist. (1) Choose your cake. (2) Choose your icing. (3) Create your design.” I also created a three-tier fondant-covered wedding cake with Caribbean-inspired gumpaste flowers.
Megan Gray of Honey and Poppies took her inspiration from Gauguin’s tropic paintings and old floral still lives. She wanted the flowers to be lush, exotic, and sensual, but with an element of refined sophistication. (Imagine a wealthy artist’s Caribbean villa filled with bohemian artist-types.)
The flowers include peonies, dahlias, roses, sweet peas, ranunculus, and snowball viburnum. To bring a more exotic feel to them, she layered in tons of texture with vines of passion flower, clematis, and pepper berries, and finally added in wispy curled ferns and peacock feathers.
Another mixed media inspired piece, we created the table number collage out of scrapbook paper and paint chips and negative space for the actual number, an interesting take on the traditional.
We created a collage reminiscent of the couple’s favorite artist and had colored prints made, backed them with card stock, and affixed them onto the front cover of the invitation. Invitations were printed with an ink jet printer on scrapbook paper.
I created miniature collages for each guest’s place card that would also serve as their favor. The mini canvas and easel sets were purchased at a local arts and crafts store and painted with acrylic paints. Guests’ names were printed on scrapbook paper, cut into the desired shape, and decoupaged on the canvas along with paper and paint chip cut outs.
Cake, desserts, concept design: Erica OBrien(http://www.ericaobrien.com/)
Flowers, concept design: Megan Gray (http://honeyandpoppies.com/)
Coordination and planning: Candice Maloney (http://www.de-lovelyevents.com/)
Photography: Jessica Claire (http://www.jessicaclaire.net/)
Rentals: Signature Party Rentals (http://www.signatureparty.com/)
Venue: The Villa del Sol (http://www.thevilladelsol.com/)
Andrea is married to my husband’s friend Rob. I liked her immediately the first time we met, and more and more every time I see her. She is a class act through and through. Her wedding, which she designed herself completely, was featured in The Knot magazine. The first time she invited us to dinner, she put out her best china and tablecloth (which I promptly dropped tomato sauce on). I thought she was just trying to impress us, but no, that’s Andrea. Just the other night they had us over for a barbecue. Paper plates and napkins? Nope. Not Andrea. Try cloth napkins and napkin rings. (I didn’t stain anything this time, but the baby did manage to grab hold of the salt shaker and pour a good amount of salt everywhere.)
Andrea’s house is immaculate–and not only when she’s having guests over–and she is always impeccably embellished with a coveted accessory like a giant flower or a trendy strand of beads. If you think you could dislike her, in the way that you dislike Martha Stewart for being everything you could never be, you’d be completely wrong. Truth is, she’s clean, perfectly accessorized, and cool, funny, and totally down-to-earth, so it’s impossible to not like her. I guess that’s why she had over 60 guests at her baby shower.
You know those themed parties you see on blogs with all the details and you think, “Come on! That’s not real! No one could ever have a party like that!” That was Andrea’s shower. And if you knew her, you wouldn’t expect anything else. Congratulations, Andrea! I can’t wait to meet baby Amelia.
The color palette:Read More
Sylvia Weinstock, the Queen of cakes, once said “I don’t do fondant.” Well I guess she’s changed her tune, because I see a lot of her work around and it’s all fondant.
Let’s face it: When it comes to achieving a perfectly smooth finish on a cake, nothing beats fondant. Nothing.
Some people object to the taste of fondant. In his book Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman states that fondant is meant to be peeled off, not eaten. I disagree. If it’s not meant to be eaten, why put it on a cake? My objection is to the gumminess of the fondant with the crumb of the cake. It’s the two textures that I dislike, not necessarily the taste.
Fondant is the only component of my cakes that I don’t make from scratch. I’ve been using the same brand for years, but I wanted to find out if there was another that would work better for me. So, I conducted a decidedly non-scientific study of five brands of fondant. Here’s what I rated them on:
Consistency. It is important that your fondant look, taste, feel, and work the same every single time so you know what to expect. (Which is exactly why I purchase my fondant. Homemade fondant is completely unpredictable.) Every batch should yield the same results. If some batches are overly stretchy while others are completely dry, it makes for a very frustrated baker (and sometimes a very sad looking cake).
Texture. I want my fondant to be smooth and pliable, but not too smooth or pliable. It has to have a good amount of elasticity, but shouldn’t shrink back when it’s rolled out. It has to stand up to kneading and can’t be too buttery soft in my hands, but it has to be easy to work color into.
Working Time. Quality fondant gives you a significant amount of time to work with it before it becomes too dry. Cheaper fondant dries out too quickly.
Taste. I mean, come on, people are eating this stuff.
Here are the results in order of best to worst. I must emphasize that this is strictly subjective and based on the criteria that I feel are most important. I recommend conducting your own test to determine which fondant works best for you.
#1: Satin Ice Fondant. There are several reasons Satin Ice is the fondant of choice for many bakers. It’s consistent and easy to handle with a mild taste and superior working time.
#2: Bakel’s Pettinice. A close second to Satin Ice, Pettinice is reasonably consistent (although I once got a batch of their gumpaste that never dried) with a pleasant taste. It can be difficult to find in large quantities (Pfeil & Holing sell a 15-pound bucket) and was somewhat softer than I prefer.
#3: MASSA. A relative newcomer on the scene, Massa is distributed exclusively by Albert Uster Imports and was developed in conjunction with Nicholas Lodge. I would describe Massa as a bit gritty but with good flavor. Perhaps it was because their sales rep gave me a sample in a plastic bag (rather than an air tight container), but I found it a bit dry and therefore hard to smooth.
#4: Fondx. I know Fondx is Bronwen Weber’s fondant of choice, but I thought it had a chemical-like taste and was just way too stretchy. (Of course, she might like that quality in a fondant.) Have you ever made your own pizza dough, and no matter how you roll, pull, beat, or stretch it, it just keeps going back to its original shape? That was my experience with Fondx. It was just too elastic for me.
#5: Wilton. Although Wilton’s Ready-to-Use Fondant is easy to find and very consistent, it dries out way too quickly. I actually really like the bubble gum-like flavor and sugary crunch of the Wilton fondant. However, while it can be significantly cheaper than some of the professional brands, it becomes excessively dry and crumbly, rendering it unusable, so any savings is quickly lost.
Not tested: Fondarific (which claims to have an “unlimited worktime”) and Choco-Pan (made with white chocolate). According to their website, “Choco-Pan® covers at a rate nearly double that of traditional rolled fondants at a competitive price.” Sounds like a must-try to me.
Many people ask me whether or not fondant can be refrigerated. A while ago (and more recently than I care to admit) after a particularly harrowing delivery, extremely high temperatures, and my first unhappy bride, I contacted my friend Melody of Sweet and Saucy Shop to tell her about the ordeal. She mentioned that she refrigerates her fondant cakes. I had always learned that you can’t refrigerate fondant, but Melody said it was fine, and she was right.
Today, I refrigerate all my cakes after they’re covered in fondant. To avoid condensation, I set my refrigerator to the lowest possible temperature to minimize the difference between the refrigerator temperature and the air temperature. Ron Ben Israel, my culinary hero (and boyfriend, unbeknownst to him), actually had a custom humidity-controlled refrigeration system built in his studio (which is why he’s my boyfriend). That said, condensation will form on the cakes when they’re taken out of the fridge, particularly on warm days, but I find that it evaporates rather quickly. It is imperative that you not touch the cake while it’s still wet or your fingers will stick and you will see fingerprints, even after it dries. (Note: I don’t refrigerate my sugar flowers. Because the petals are often very thin, any amount of water or condensation would weigh them down and cause them to wilt.)
I would love to hear your thoughts on the different fondant brands. Please feel free to share.Read More
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