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Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

Archive of ‘Special occasions’ category

Pastel Easter sugar cookies, a new job and a pesky cold

In the past four months, I’ve been settling into my new role at Edelman as the community manager for their client, Kraft Canada. That means I get to further indulge my love affair with food, recipes and social media. Check out the Kraft what’s cooking Facebook page and you’ll see what I mean. Fun, exciting times!

But no matter what I bake, make and write, please know that all of my thoughts and opinions shared here at prettybakesblog.com are my own and not my employer’s or their clients’. Get it? Got it? Good.

Let’s chat Easter cookies, shall we?

Easter egg cookies

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Baking project

I wanted to make simple, pretty, customized cookies for my family this Easter and I really should’ve referred to my royal icing consistency problems post before starting this cookie-decorating project. But I was feeling rushed and sick, so, nope! I skipped the research and went straight to mixing, baking and decorating. Bad idea.

I didn’t take my own advice. I should’ve tested the royal icing’s consistency. Results?

My flooding consistency was too thick and my piping consistency was too thin. So I ended up with lumpy surfaces and only one or two smooth surfaces. Boo! Hiss. Some day I’ll learn. Regardless, something tells me I need lots more practice with royal icing.

Cutting corners = execution #fail

Instead of using a piping tip and bag, I used a zip-top bag with a tiny snip cut out of the corner. That worked well for outlining and it would’ve worked well for flooding if my icing had been thinner. But I found that the thin plastic didn’t shield the warmth from my hands enough so the icing melted too much. And that made things extra difficult for a piping-challenged girl like me to pipe borders and letters.

Easter egg cookie for Suzy

Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

A hurried, sick baker = doom

I must confess I was feeling rushed and quite sickly throughout this baking project. I’ve come down with a nasty cold so my heart wasn’t fully into it as my bed and the couch called out to me. I fought fatigue, sore throat and a runny nose, with enough hand-washing to leave my hands red, rough and raw. Way to kill my baking buzz, yucky germs! Pthttt 😛

Did I also mention I was babysitting two adorable nieces and had a meeting with an accountant?

Me: Where did I put those tax receipts?

Bed: Wouldn’t you feel better if you just lay down for a while?

Couch: No, pick me! I’ve got the better TV-viewing angles.

Cookies: Decorate me! Decorate me!

Germs: Paaartay! *shimmy, shimmy, shimmy*

In hindsight, I think bit off more than I could chew this long weekend. But on the plus side, the cookies are sooooo delicious. They’re crumbly, buttery sweet goodness. So I’ll happily chew on that.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Want the recipe? I decided to try some kraftcanada.com recipes and am delighted to report easy and tasty results.

I made:

Easy-Mix Cookies – Basic Batter recipe, with a variation: I added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and mixed it in with the butter right from the start.

Royal Icing – I’d definitely try this recipe again. The icing was fluffy and light. Next time, I’ll test the consistency and I’ll be sure to sift the icing sugar.

Next week: I’ll be baking and decorating a 2-tiered fondant cake for my niece Lauren’s 10th birthday. Now if only this cold would bugger off. The party’s over, germs, so get lost.

Whether you’re keeping close to — or keeping away from — your couch this weekend, I hope you have a fabulous time. Have a wonderful Easter!

Hand-painted leopard print on a fondant cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

My eldest niece recently turned 14 and I wanted to give her a cake that was super cool, like her. I was thrilled to discover the joy of hand-painting a cake and now I think I’m hooked. I never developed much skill with a paintbrush since the days of kindergarten so I was surprised to find how easily I achieved a pretty design. Yay! And for this particular cake, painting was faster decorating technique than making fondant decorations. Double yay!

I really couldn’t have done this without this YouTube video How To Hand-Paint Leopard Print On a Cake. Subscribe to Laura’s channel and give her video a thumbs up if you, too, find it helpful and inspirational.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here’s how to paint leopard print on fondant:

  • In separate shallow bowls, dilute black and brown food colouring with vodka. Nope, you won’t have a bunch of drunk kids at the party — the alcohol evaporates by the time the food colouring dries.
  • With a brush, paint a small brown oval onto your cake.
  • Use another brush to outline the brown spots with some black food colouring. I used the brush with the widest bristles in my Wilton brush set. You can paint all around the brown spot with an O shape. You can paint ¾ of the way around the brown spot to make a C shape. And you can paint two disconnected arches to form brackets/parentheses around the spot.
  • For an imperfectly perfect leopard print, mix up your spot sizes (small, medium, large) and use short, tapping/dabbing motions for fuzzy, ragged edges. Fill in sparse areas with black spots.

Can’t quite picture what I mean? Here’s a gif to show you the way.

painted-leopard-spot-gif

 

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I wrapped my gift box cake with a fondant ribbon and bow, added a fondant gift tag after writing my niece’s name on it with a black food-colouring pen and ta da! We’re done.

What do you think of my leopard-print cake?

Pretty Bakes Blog nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award

2013 Canadian Weblog Awards nomineeAw, you guuuys! Golly, gee and shucks. I’m blushing. Some kindly soul out there nominated Pretty Bakes Blog for a Canadian Weblog Award. Woohoo!

The awards are jury-selected honours so I don’t even need to pester you by asking you to click to vote or anything. How cool is that? Seriously cool.

Thank you, mystery nominator. You’re the best!

Unicorn birthday cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Here it is! Topped simply with a unicorn figurine and a fondant rainbow anchored by fondant clouds, my niece Aliya’s birthday cake was easy peasy and very simple in design. My sister Suzy made the pretty fondant clouds at top by rolling little balls of fondant, placing them together and then wrapping them in a thin piece of fondant. Then she cut slits in the top and I pushed the fondant rainbow into the cloud base.

To make the rainbow, I rolled thin tubes of coloured fondant and placed them together, then I wrapped them around a tea cup on the counter. To avoid slouching and make it hold its shape, I left the rainbow on the counter to dry overnight.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I covered a three-layer rainbow bit cake with fondant dyed in a cloud blue colour. I was pleased with the smooth fondant finish I achieved with this cake. There were no cracks or unsightly lumps or bumps. My strategy for a smooth fondant finish worked well. My brother-in-law Jav and I kneaded the fondant well to get rid of dryness that’d show cracks. Then I rolled the fondant thick enough to smooth any bumps but thin enough so the weight of the excess fondant wont crack the finish. I didn’t measure its thickness but I’d estimate it was about 1/4″ thick.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Using a 12″ round tip, I piped clouds by squeezing out big balls of icing, moving the tip a bit and then placing another ball of icing next to the previous to sort of squish into it and cover any peaks. I found this technique worked best when I positioned the piping bag at a 45-degree angle to the cake surface.

I piped a large pearl border at the base of the cake and then piped clouds over it in random clusters.

Photo by Jennifer Melo

Photo by Jennifer Melo

I used clear vanilla extract to avoid further yellowing the frosting but still, the fluffy buttercream icing wasn’t white enough for my liking. You can really see the difference in colour when you compare the fondant clouds at top to the piped clouds all around.

If anyone had advice for achieving a pure white icing, I’d love to hear it.

 

Masquerade birthday cake

Black diamonds add drama to this masquerade cake

Black diamonds add drama to this masquerade cake

While plans are underway to make my niece Aliya’s unicorn birthday cake, I thought I’d show you what I made for last year’s creation.

It was a masquerade-themed party so I was excited about the opportunity to get creative. I volunteered to make the cake and when I asked my sister Suzy about the colour scheme for the party, she said there’d be all sorts of colours so I was free to choose a colour palette at whim.

Masquerade parties are fun!

I got some inspiration from masquerade masks and opted for jewel tones. I bought some peacock and pheasant feathers at Walmart and the cheapest plastic mask I could use as a form at the dollar store.

I was super excited to go a little nuts with design but I wasn’t too happy with the fondant I used for this cake. It was a new brand (sorry, I can’t remember which one) and it wasn’t as stretchy as other fondants I’ve used. And see the cracks in the purple fondant? I probably should’ve kneaded it more before rolling it out because it looks too dry.

Making a fondant mask

I used a cat-eye mask template I found online to make the fondant mask. I cut the fondant to the shape of the template and to give it the dimension of a real mask, I lay it on the mask I bought at the dollar store, lined with plastic wrap to keep the fondant clean. Like so:

masquerade-cake-mask

I wanted the fondant to dry a bit so the mask would hold its shape but I’d later learn that was a bad idea and I should’ve wrapped it tightly with plastic wrap.

Because when fondant dries, it’s fragile and prone to cracks.

When I got to Suzy’s house, I was happy to see that she went all out with the decorations (so fun!) and my cake looked like it fit right in with party decor. See?

masquerade-cake1

I stacked the cakes and went to work on adding the finishing touches: the teal mask and the feathers. But when I picked up the fondant mask and tried to attach it to the cake, it cracked right in half along the nose bridge.

Luckily, I brought some extra fondant and put it to use by adding an extra piece of it to cover the crack and extend up, sticking the mask to the cake.

What do you think? Would you have known that middle nose piece wasn’t part of the original design if I hadn’t spilled the beans?


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