Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Tyson Pantry

Now that the holiday baking season is upon us, I found myself looking at our pantry yesterday in disbelief. Disbelief that I could find anything; disbelief in knowing my mother wouldn't approve of its state; disbelief that I was out of brown sugar.

I have a basket that holds all of the "little" things like food coloring, gel coloring, and sprinkles. But once I pryed this out of the pantry I stood in another state of disbelief.

I found things like Red Hots used for something that I can't possibly recall.

And candy melts in various colors and chocolate chips.

The sight of this chaos was almost too overwhelming.

There are sprinkles... loads of sprinkles. Halloween; red, white and blue; pastel and Easter sprinkles and sugar.

And what the? Football sprinkles?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cake Pops

If there's one thing I've learned it's the advantage to making a carved / shaped cake is the scraps. Mounds of odd-shaped iced cake makes for either an interesting presentation on the dessert plate or melt-in-your-mouth cake pops.

I've been inspired by other food bloggers and their creative cake creations - whether cake balls, cake pops or whimsical cake treats. But at the end of the day, it's about the taste of the cake pop. While very creative and adorable, there are two things I'm not quite fond of about the pops I've seen. One, virtually all of the cake pop recipes I've seen involve a boxed cake mix. (Personally, I don't mind cake mixes but there's a far different flavor and texture involved when using scratch cake.) But since I used a cake mix as a portion of the cake recipe for the shaped cake, there is a boxed cake mix in the cake pops.

And two, another ingredient I don't prefer is canned frosting. I could spend days upon days citing the countless things wrong with canned frosting (unless you're my husband who believes a spoon and a can of frosting are a culinary match). There's nothing worse than canned icing.

After combining the cake scraps and some additional buttercream, I combined the two together. After rolling the cake balls and refrigerating for about 30 minutes, I melted the candy coating mixed with just a dab of shortening to lightly thin the melted coating. (After making numerous batches of cake pops, the tiny amount of shortening is a must.) Then inserted a candy stick into the cake ball to create the pop. I devised a drying mechanism using a block of styrofoam to allow the pops to dry.

I happen to love cake pops!

Can you tell?

In fact, we all love cake pops.

When it's all said and done, the opinion of my toughest critics (both Daddy and Baby) is what means the most.

Alas, a passing grade!

Fondant Covered Cake

I've never dared to make a cake in the shape of anything beyond a square or circle. Not only am I a big chicken but I just don't think I have the creative talent. I believe I often have great ideas, but translating the idea from my brain to three dimensions is a subject that could likely fill many pages. But instead of thinking I can't do it, I took a chance (a big chance!) this weekend to see if I could tackle a shaped, fondant covered cake.

Before starting the cake, I really needed some new sheet pans. Thankfully there's a restaurant supply store nearby and despite wanting to give them my credit card and act like a rich woman at Tiffany & Co., I restrained myself and left with only two of these commercial half sheet pans. I'd trade shoe shopping for shopping in a restaurant supply store anyday. (Shocking. Yes.)

So pretty!

After making the cake, stacking the layers (with an evil buttercream to fill the layers) I carved the cake into the shape of a crest. Next was an outer crumb coat.

I could have done a better job on smoothing the buttercream crumb coat.

But overnight in the fridge, working a 2-pound ball of blue fondant, rolling and rolling, smoothing and cutting with an Xacto knife later, I stepped back to see this.

I'm pretty close to 100% completely satisfied with the end result. The lines could be more smooth and certainly cleaner but it was a first-time project. And as a mother who considers herself a teacher, I have to teach satisfaction with the quality of work when you give it your all.

And I did take a final task tip from the Cake Boss. After watching the show for several months I've noticed there's one thing they always use to "finish" a fondant covered cake - steam. Since I don't have a commercial steamer or even a hand-held steamer I resorted to the only household appliance I have capabale of producing steam - our iron. And it worked!

And for those who wonder about the shape of cake, it is the logo of my company. I made the cake to commemorate the completion of our annual business plan.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Special Gift

Yesterday while getting dressed, I turned towards our bathroom and stopped cold in my tracks. I stopped to see something I see everyday. And although I see this, I don't always look. But for some reason, today, I looked. And the looking made me longingly sad.

What I stopped to look at was a Christmas gift I received several years ago from my in laws. It was a gift, when I opened, that brought tears to my eyes and a warmth to my heart. Even my dear, late mother-in-law cried as I read the words.

This was one woman who loved her baby boy. Often I look back and realize she was a tough sell as it relates to measuring up to the woman best suited for her son.

She abundantly loved her son.

She was passionate about her convictions.

And she loved me.

It is one of the most touching and personal gifts I have ever received.

I still miss her. Terribly.