I had no way of knowing when I did this ombré sugar hearts cake for the Wedding Chicks that it would resonate with so many people. It’s got over 89,000 Pinterest pins and even caught the attention of the editors at The Knot. They asked me to replicate it in an orange-into-yellow-into-white ombré. It appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of The Knot Magazine. You can also see it on their website. (The cover shot, below, is by Elizabeth Messina. She’s the one who photographed my interesting-yet-oddly-beautiful-in-the-way-that-only-a-mother-could-love mushroom cake).
Much thanks to my wonderful assistant Callan, who worked so hard on this cake (and the purple one before it).
When we purchased a bench for the front of the shop, both my husband and Scott, my sister Jessica’s husband, suggested that we bolt the bench to the ground. We refused. “Who’s gonna steal the bench?” we argued. That was April.
In June, Kate, our front-of-the-house assistant, noticed the bench missing. It was a Wednesday. Jessica immediately went next-door to the bank to ask if they had the surveillance video from the night before. They did, but the bench wasn’t in it. Rewind the tape a few days to Friday, and there’s the video of the bench-stealing in progress. Okay, so it took us till Wednesday to notice it missing. Whatever. That’s not the point.
An actual photo of the crime in progress, courtesy First Niagra Bank.
We called the Hamden Police Department and they immediately dispatched Officer Manning. We excitedly told him that this would surely be a boon to his career and more than likely lead to a major promotion, as we had the actual video surveillance of the crime in progress. Officer Manning went next door to the bank, watched the video, took a report, refused a cupcake, and left after promising to keep an eye out for the bench.
And that was that. Or so we thought.
Jessica, Mayor Scott Jackson, and me at our grand opening. Behind us, the bench in happier times.
Enter Frank. Technically Frank should not be in this story at all. A year ago when I was leaving California, I wrote a blog post about Frank and how much we’d miss him. Frank can fly a plane, goes prospecting for gold, and can easily fix your alternator with a glue stick and some duct tape. Add the cute British accent and the fact that he follows up almost all of his zany ideas with “mate”, and he can convince you that even the most outrageous scheme is a solid plan. So when Frank offered to buy a truck and drive all of our belongings from California across the country to Connecticut last summer “in under a week, mate. No problem”, we thought nothing of it.
Once he arrived (two new tires, a replaced fuel filter, and a brand new ignition, all done by him, later) and saw what a wreck our new house was, he offered to stay for a week or two to help out. The sun porch that we planned to tear down became “No problem, mate, we’ll just build new walls, put in a new bathroom, move the laundry upstairs.” August quickly turned to December, and we had a new housemate, mate.
It was around this time we noticed that Frank and my mom were spending an awful lot of time together, and before long he had moved in with her. Frank is now here permanently, being all mushy-gushy and in love with my mom. They’re perfect for each other and we couldn’t be happier.
Anyway, Frank bought like a few hundred or a million of these vintage metal things (he told me what they do but I forgot) and wanted to get them polished. So last week he drove to a local metal shop, pulled into the parking lot, and there, right there in the back of the metal shop, was our bench!
Jessica called the police to report the return of the bench, but wasn’t sure of the name of the officer. She spoke with dispatch: “Hi, um, yes, we reported a stolen bench to, um, I believe it was Officer Manning?” The man on the other end of the line responded with an assured (or was it amused?) “Oh, yeah, it was Manning alright,” and said Officer Manning would meet us at the shop.
The next day, after Manning failed to show up, we called the police again. This time we arranged to meet them in the parking lot at the metal shop. Frank and Scott parked in the lot with a full view of the inside of the metal shop, and sat in the car doing some sort of stake out. “Frank!” said Scott “That one has a gun!” And he did. Scott called 911, and within seconds several police officers showed up. They immediately arrested the one with the gun (it turned out to be a BB gun, but he had other outstanding warrants) and all but one officer left with the arrested guy to settle the bench issue. The non-arrested guys at the metal shop said it belonged to the kids next door. The kids next door came down, examined the bench at length (we’re not sure what they were looking for), and said it belonged to one of their brother’s friends and that they didn’t care what happened to it. And with that, the bench was returned to us.
Below, the bench on the day of its return disassembled in Frank’s truck.
Our bench, fully assembled once again, in the back of the shop.
Welcome back bench! We missed you (even though we didn’t notice you were gone for a while) and are so happy you’re back.
I get many emails inquiring about the chevron pattern that’s so hot this year, so when it came time for my next DIY project for Project Wedding, the choice was obvious.
I am certainly not the first cake designer to use the chevron pattern on a cake, ad I have to give a shout out to my predecessors. This peach and navy chevron cake by Vanilla Bake Shop is the first one I remember seeing, years ago, and I love the preppy colors and contrasting heights of the two tiers. I love the clean lines and muted tones of this one by Sweet & Saucy. And finally this one by Carrie Sellman of The Cake Blog, because it is so incredibly neat and accurate.
I don’t know how other cake designers do their chevron, but here’s how I do mine.
You will need (clockwise from left):
fondant in the color(s) of your choice (We used a citrus-inspired palette here.)
food-use only paint brush
Measure cake’s circumference. Determine the size of the chevron by dividing circumference into even segments the size of your choosing, usually around 1″ – 1.5″, to . For example, our cake had a circumference of 26″. We determined that each segment would be 1.3″ for a total of 20.
Create chevron template. Measure segment size on paper and mark with pen. Holding paper horizontally (landscape), fold into accordian so that each fold measures the same size as the segment. (Each of our folds measured 1.3″)
Cut paper at an angle. For a deeper chevron, angle scissors more vertically. For a more shallow chevron, angle scissor more horizontally.
Using the same angle as first cut, cut the other side of the paper. For a wider chevron, move scissor further from first cut. For a narrower chevron, move scissor closer to first cut.
Unfold. Your chevron template is complete.
Create fondant chevron. Roll fondant thinly. Place template on fondant and carefully cut with Xacto knife. (Avoid paper sticking to fondant by rubbing it with cornstarch.) Remove excess fondant.
Score cake. Use template to gently score cake to guide placement of fondant chevron.
Create pattern on cake. Use water to wet cake. Apply fondant chevron to cake. Continue pattern around entire cake.
Lay second color directly above first. (Optionally, use the template to guide placement of another row evenly spaced above first row.) Repeat with additional colors.
Complete the look. Add fresh flowers, or use sugar flowers like the sugar ranunculus seen here.
Having a display window means I’m constantly in need of new cake inspiration, so I often head to the local crafts store to look for ideas. When I came across these mini popsicle sticks, I thought they’d make an adorable ice cream pop cake for a summer-themed window.
I turned to Pinterest (of course) for some cute popsicle ideas and found this image from eatdrinkchic.com. I liked how the popsicles are all different.
I also found this image, (whose source I can’t find. I hate when I do that!), which gave me the idea of using sprinkles on some of the pops. (I love sprinkles.)
Photographer Stephanie Kapra of Photography and More loved her time spent travelling in Southeast Asia so much, it inspired her to create a Thai-themed photo shoot. She partnered with Brooke Allison Photography, and together they assembled a team of fabulous vendors and found the most amazing spot for the shoot: The Garden of Ideas in Ridgefield, CT. The garden, located on private property but open to visitors, is comprised of “eight acres of marsh, woodland, meadow and vegetable plots” where the owners have planted “an arboretum-like collection of plants (trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables, tropicals) amidst a unique array of original garden art.” It is absolutely gorgeous. (Of course the idea I got from the Garden of Ideas is that I really need a landscaper.) The weather was perfect on the day of the shoot (unlike California, we actually have to worry about rain here on the east coast), and the Garden worked beautifully as the setting.
The description below is my interpretation of Stefanie and Brooke’s concept.
The invitation suite created by J. Papers was perfectly textured and flawlessly designed to work with the muted color palette and decor. (I really love this closeup shot of the menus and the Buddhist sentiments in these notecards.)
After climing a rocky path to the ceremony site (above), guests would be offered refreshments.
Rather than a guest book, guests sign Asian-inspired plates that the couple could then display in their home as wall art.
The couple, against a fabulous gold sequin backdrop.
Rather than traditional seating, dinner takes place at low tables where guests are seated on pillows. Erin Ostreicherprovided the florals.
And some detail shots.
Hey, what’s that cake doing in the middle of the woods?
And the bouquet.
Thank you, Brooke and Stef, for all your hard work. It was a pleasure to be involved. I look forward to working together again soon.
I love using invitations for cake design inspiration. Before making the cake, I always create a sketch that I present to the client for his or her approval. While the sketches are time consuming, for me, they’re important for two reasons: First, the sketch ensures that the client knows exactly what to expect, clears up any design miscommunications, and confirms that I understand clearly my client’s vision. Second, the sketches help me as the artist to more fully flesh out the design concept and anticipate any design pitfalls before working on the actual cake.
Below are two recent cake designs based on the invitation. The first was for a Victorian-era enchanted garden-themed wedding:
I created this DIY wedding cake as part of an ongoing project with Project Wedding. Look for more DIYs monthly.
I’m a sprinkle kind of girl, through and through. My ideal ice-cream-to-sprinkle ratio is 1:1. Actually, I’ve been known to forgo the ice cream completely and go straight for the sprinkles. And my movie theater candy? Sno-Caps, of course.
Although I love and appreciate the sprinkle for its confectionary prowess, it does lack a certain esthetic appeal, particularly the brightly colored rainbow variety that is so near and dear to my heart. Since pastel sprinkles are so hard to find, I make my own. And when Project Wedding asked me to create a wedding cake DIY, I knew exactly what I’d do.
1. Here’s what you’ll need (clockwise from left):
food-use only ruler
small sprinkles or nonpareils (available at most crafts stores)
piping gel (available at most crafts stores)
small flexible cup
petal dust in desired shade (we like Crystal Colors brand)
food-use only paintbrush
2. Remove shaker cap from sprinkles to speed pouring.
3. Empty into ziplock bag.
4. Pour a small amount of petal dust into bag. (Remember you can always add more, so start with a little.)
5. Shake the bag until dust is evenly distributed. If color is not dark enough, add more dust and repeat until desired depth of color is achieved.
6. Using tapemeasure, determine the spacing and width of stripes.
7. Dip paintbrush in piping gel.
8. Using ruler as a guide to acheive a straight line, brush a generous amount of piping gel onto cake with short, even strokes.
9. Repeat on the right side of line. You want the gel to be thick enough for the nonpareils to stick but not too gloppy.
10. Empty colored sprinkles into small cup. Try not to touch them so as not to rub off the petal dust.
11. Gently pour sprinkles onto cake. You will have many extra sprinkles. Pour onto a sheet of parchment creased in the middle and pour back into small cup. Repeat process until all lines are finished.
They say you can teach an artist to bake, but you can’t teach a baker to be an artist. I’m not sure which category I fall into, all I know is that we can all use some help with baking sometimes. I got this chart in an email from The Baker’s Kitchen and I thought I’d share it. Happy baking!
Cake Baking Troubleshooting Guide
Crust too dark
- Oven too hot.
- Excessive top heat.
Cake too small
- Scaling weight too low.
- Oven temperature too high.
- Batter temperature too high.
- Batter temperature too low.
- Incorrect amount of water.
Cake burned on top
- Oven temperature too hot.
- Incorrect amount of water.
Crust is shiny and sticky
- Oven temperature too cool.
- Not baked long enough
- Too much sugar in recipe.
Crust too thick
- Excessive baking time.
Cake falls during baking
- Excessive jarring or moving of the cake during baking.
- Oven temperature too low. Excessive mixing of the batter.
Top of cake peaks and cracks
- Oven temperature was too hot. (the outside of the cake baked to form a crust too quickly. As mixture in center of the cake continued to cook and rise, it burst up through the top of the cake.)
- Cake wasn’t baked on the center rack of the oven.
- Excessive liquid.
- Batter too cold.
- Oven too hot.
- Improper mixing procedure.
- Baked too long.
Cake rose unevenly
- Flour was not blended sufficiently into the main mixture.
- Temperature inside the oven was uneven.
- Oven temperature too high.
Cake stuck to the pan
- Improper greasing/flouring of pan.
- Layers were cooled too long before trying to remove them.
Believe it or not, I did this cake just for fun. Just for me. A bride in Philadelphia commissioned me to make some sugar succulents for her wedding cake, and I wanted to photograph them before shipping them to her. I thought I’d change things up a bit, veering away from an all-succulent bouquet, and took my inspiration from the images below.
I love the juxtoposition of the green succulents against the brightly colored poppies in the bouquet below below by JL Designs (Photos: Stephanie Williams).
What can I say? I’m just a sucker for bright colors. By Farouche Shop.
I love this one. I tried to so hard find the source, but all I could determine was that it was seen on Style Me Pretty.
I took some artistic liberties, added some raspberries just for the heck of it, and asked Brooke to take photographs. Here’s what I came up with. Enjoy!
I think I’m going through another design style transition. While I still can’t seem to do a white-on-white cake, I now find myself more attracted to muted color palettes than the bold and bright colors I used to be inspired by.
While these two cakes couldn’t be any more different from each other, they’re both definitely very different from my earlier work. The first is sleek and blingy with different shades of gold and a brooch hand-crafted by my wonderful intern-turned-assistant Callan. (Check back in a week or so for a post all about her.) The second is soft and vintage with an antiqued sugar dahlia. Although I don’t necessarily feel either one represents me as an artist, I definitely like–but not necessarily love–them both.
Brooke Allison took all the photographs. You know those skinny mirrors that make you look thinner than you do in real life? That’s Brooke. Her photographs make my cakes look better than they do in real life, and I love her work.