Tips-y Tuesday Tip #6

Happy Tuesday everybody! Spring has arrived (according to the calendar) so I am inspired to talk about colour, since I am happy to put the dreary winter days behind me!

The colour I am talking about is of course, the kind you use for food. There are many kinds and they can be found in grocery stores, craft stores and even your local Wal-Mart. However, they are not all made equally, and some are better for certain purposes than others. I personally am a fan of the Wilton Icing Color pots. They are affordable, and a little can go a long way since they are very concentrated. They also come in a wide variety of colours. I use them for colouring frosting, royal icing,  and fondant since they are a gel consistency and don’t add any liquid to the frosting or fondant which can be a problem if you’ve ever used liquid food colouring for such purposes. With the liquid formulas, you basically end up with runny frosting or a sticky fondant mess, and nobody likes that!

Food colour markers (also by Wilton) are also a quick way to add some colour to dried royal icing and fondant, since you can basically “draw” with them. Sometimes if I need a small amount of fondant in a pale shade, I will just scribble on it with the marker and then knead the fondant to blend the colour. It literally takes seconds to do and doesn’t alter the texture of the fondant.

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Hope I’ve inspired you to add some colour to your day!

Until next Tuesday…

M xoxo

Reusing cake supplies…..because nobody likes a hoarder!

If you have a hobby or business of any type, you know that you can acquire a lot of supplies in a very short time. Which is fun, isn’t it? Ordering stuff and opening packages is great, until you find that you need another house just to store your cake decorating supplies. Yikes.

So, instead of shopping like nobody’s business and having your supplies in a disorganized mess all over your home (that “Hoarders” show will find you eventually), it is better to try to reuse things whenever possible. No, I don’t mean the old reduce-reuse-recycle thing, I mean to reuse the supplies you already have for as many purposes as possible. Which will save you time, money, and space. And possibly a divorce, when your husband says “It’s the cookie cutters, or me!” Not that it’s likely to happen, no man I know ever complained about too many cookies!

Anyway, this is just an example to get you thinking. I went through my cookie cutters, and turned them this way and that, to see what other shapes (besides the intended one) they could be used for. An apple turned sideways became a Ninja Turtle, an upside-down cauldron became a Bad Piggy and Scaredy Squirrel, a spider web became a sun, an Easter basket turned upside down could be a snowman or scarecrow, a Frankenstein cutter looks suspiciously like a slice of bread, etc. I’m sure there are cutters for all of these shapes out there, but really why bother if you already have something you can use? Like a plastic container or a drinking glass for circles. This also goes for fondant cutters. You can use them for cookies or use cookie cutters for fondant.  Oh and you know those old metal cookie cutters that came in weird shapes like mushrooms or crooked stars and diamonds? You can fix them with a little gentle tweaking. Grab a pair of pliers and bend away to fix them or make your own shape. You’d be surprised at how many things you can fashion out of simple items laying around your kitchen. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Your wallet and significant other will thank you, and your home won’t be bursting at the seams.

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Have a sugarrific day!

M xoxo

Five years goes fast when you’re having fun!

We had our annual family Christmas photos today, and I got to thinking how there are so many things I’ve been doing since my little Peanut was born, and how some of these traditions have been started just for her. Like the photos for example. I don’t like getting my picture taken, but when she’s in  the picture too, it is so much easier (and cuter). 

One of the things I’ve now been doing for over five years is cake decorating. I’ve always loved baking with my mom and Baba, but the real cake decorating for me came when my little baby was about to turn one. Now, as every parent knows, turning one is a BIG deal. That 1st birthday is a milestone for so many reasons. Not just for the little squirt, but for the parents too. It means you’ve made it through the sleepless nights, the million feedings and diaper changes, the crying, the colic, the teething and the never-ending “advice” coming from family, friends, and even your  neighbour who doesn’t have any children but feels that being the owner of a guinea pig qualifies her to give you parenting advice. You’ve made it through a WHOLE YEAR of keeping a tiny human intact and happy and yourself (somewhat) sane and normal, while integrating this small new person into your life.  Now if that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is. And what better way of celebrating than with cake! 

Growing up in Europe, we never had store-bought cake for birthdays. Or ever, really. I never even knew what boxed cake mix was until we moved to Canada. In my family, if you wanted cake, my mom and Baba were more than happy to oblige with a homemade treat. We had cake for birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s, first day of school, just because, etc. We basically had cake all the time. And not the same cake either. There were plenty of cookbooks around with elaborate recipes, and we were always trying something new. Which was awesome. I have a feeling that my love of cake began with my 1st birthday cake, when not a regular cake would do, but a cake with a handmade gumpaste basket filled with elaborate gumpaste flowers on top. Now, as a one-year-old, I had not a clue what was happening, but my parents kept that basket, and it was something I would often admire growing up. Plus I have pictures of my tiny self basically attacking this cake. For my first day of school, my mom made me a cake. Shaped like my school. It had chocolate wafer cookies for doors. Not even joking.

So, when little Peanut turned one, I knew I had to make her an amazing cake that she could look back on too. She was still tiny, and quite clueless as babies can be, so it’s not like she had a lot of input in the cake. I was left to come up with my own ideas. Thankfully, she had a Piglet stuffy which she liked to hug a lot and so I decided on a Piglet cake, since I knew it was a character she would recognize. There weren’t any Piglet cake pans, so I set out to carve the shape myself. Why, you ask? Well, it couldn’t be a boring old flat cake; no sir, it was going to be in 3D. Go big, or go home; no half-assed attempts here. Using the Piglet toy as inspiration, I began to gather my supplies. A quick read through a Wilton Yearbook my aunt gave me was enough to never look back, and I rushed out to Michael’s and stocked up on fondant, cutters, and food colouring and got to work. My mom helped me with the cake itself, as it was a recipe she made many times. This basically consisted of baking thin layers of cake, stacking them, and then carving them to look like Piglet. Yeah I know, a bit over the top for my first attempt, but nonetheless, I pushed on. It took me 3 days, a lot of messes to clean up and some frustrating moments (like when Piglet’s damned floppy ears were too floppy and kept falling off the cake), but I did it. After the powdered sugar dust had settled, and the cat had eaten some fondant off the floor, I had my masterpiece in all it’s Piglet glory. I remember finishing it and Peanut’s daddy bringing her into the kitchen to see, and when she spotted it, I got the biggest smile ever and she held out her tiny hand to touch it.  She knew what it was! And that was better than anything, and the reason I keep making cakes. It’s all in the reaction, people. That’s where the warm fuzzies hide.

Four years later, with more and more input each year, my little one and I are making birthday cakes to remember. She comes up with the idea, and I do the rest. It is usually a favourite cartoon character, or her favourite toys, but it is always creative and she has this awesome way of explaining exactly what she wants. Her theme doesn’t change throughout the year, but she does tend to add more to it. Which I love, because there’s nothing like a cake challenge, and nothing better than satisfying my most discriminating “customer”. Our family and friends look forward to seeing what we come up with too, and the reactions are always the best part. Her birthday is in September, and we have already started planning her next fabulous cake. And you can bet that I am just as excited as she is.

Piglet Cake

Have a sugarrific day!

M xoxo

Yes, you CAN make fondant at home!!

People often ask if fondant can be made at home. Guess what? Yes it can! Yay! You will find that home made marshmallow fondant tastes better than the store bought kind, which is great. However, this is not for the faint of heart. It requires some patience and persistence to make, as well as sufficient clean up time. I have tried this a total of once, and then gave up. It was far too messy and time consuming. Remember the Rice Krispies commercial where the Mum has flour all over her face after making Rice Krispy squares? You might actually look like that. Your cat might too. Only it will be powdered sugar instead of flour.

Why don’t I make my own fondant, you ask? No, it’s not due to sheer laziness. I have found a ready made fondant brand which gives me consistent results and the taste is pretty nice so why mess with a good thing, right? Right! And by nice tasting I mean certain family members will eat it like candy right out of the container. So yeah.

If you wish to venture into the abyss of no return (err, making fondant at home, I mean) here is a recipe for homemade marshmallow fondant. Good luck 🙂

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 lbs fondant

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz miniature marshmallows (4 cups, or half of a 16-ounce bag)
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar, and a bit extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • food colouring, or flavouring (optional)

Make it:

to avoid a sticky mess, dust your counter or a large cutting board with powdered sugar. Also, coat your bowl with cooking spray or shortening before melting the marshmallows. You’ll be glad you did.

-place the marshmallows and the water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, until the marshmallows are puffy and starting to expand. Be careful not to burn them. Microwaves are sometimes overzealous that way.

 stir the marshmallows  until they are melted and smooth. If they don’t all melt right away, return your bowl to the microwave in 30 second increments until all of the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is smooth and lump-free. You can add colours or flavours to your fondant at this point if you wish.

-add the powdered sugar to your marshmallow mixture. Stir, and stir and stir some more. Basically until you can’t stir anymore. Or until your arm falls off.

scrape the mixture onto your counter or cutting board. It will be VERY sticky and quite lumpy. At this point you will be thinking WTF and about ready to chuck the whole thing in the garbage. Keep going, though, you can do it! Dust some powdered sugar onto your hands and begin kneading the mixture.

-keep kneading the fondant until it is smooth, adding more powdered sugar along the way to get rid of the stickiness. Add only a bit at a time though, as you don’t want your fondant to turn out dry from too much sugar.

-once your fondant is smooth and not sticky, you are done! You can now use it right away, or wrap it well in plastic wrap for later use.

Whoo hoo! Give yourself a pat on the back, if you’re still standing 🙂

Have a sugarrific day,

M xoxo