Monday, January 19, 2015

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Downton Abbey

I have a fondness for Downton Abbey. Like the rest of some of the millions of viewers that have made it so popular.

I was so looking forward to Season 5 that I decided to make a cake in honor of it. No special occasion. No gathering of any sort. Just wanted to see if it could be done.

My first attempt was a fail. The batter wasn't baking up high enough to surround the tops of the castles.

So I added more batter. Just not quite enough.

After flattening the tops of the cakes the castles were still peeking through and I wanted a bit more white space.

Even this wasn't enough since once the cake tops were flattened the top of the castle lost some of its definition.

The next attempt wasn't a complete success since the castles weren't exactly lined up to mirror each other but I'm getting closer. Perhaps the 3rd time will be a charm?

The letters were cut from modeling chocolate using Marion Frost's Patchwork cutters from Global Sugar Arts. The castles for the exterior were hand cut from a modeling chocolate/fondant mixture.

Now that the cake drama is over I'm looking forward to some real drama at Downton!

Confectionately yours,

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Magic the Gathering Colors

This cake was made for my special friend who was celebrating his 12th birthday recently. He wanted a Magic the Gathering themed cake and since I'd never heard of it I went right to work researching my options. Turns out it's been around for 30 years and has quite a following in some circles. A field trip to the local gaming store was quite an eye-opener!


The birthday boy's heart was set on having a "Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath" card on top but that was WAY beyond my piping skills and available time. Can't even pronounce it let alone pipe it properly.

So I opted for laminated versions of graphics that he could remove and save as mementos. Customizing with his name was an added incentive to use the printed graphics. MUCH cleaner and neater than my decorations would've been and I saved countless hours as well! Just the thought of trying to create an edible version of the dice had me worried due to time constraints. As you can see below, he was quite pleased with the non-edible decor. Whew!

I think this is the biggest smile I've ever seen on this boy! He was very happy with the cake and cupcakes topped with the 5 color dots using Sixlets. And he didn't even know what was waiting inside! heh, heh, heh!


The oval from the card back showing the five colors used in the game was hidden away with only his mom knowing in advance. I wanted to surprise her as well but I couldn't stand it and at the last minute had to share! Plus I wanted to make sure they cut the cake in the proper direction to reveal the design. Yeah. That's it. It was necessary. Not just me unable to keep my big mouth shut.

I cut the cake before frosting (hence the washed out pictures from the required camera flash at 6 am. The colors are a bit off in this photo and are also lighter since the cake was still frosty but they warmed and mellowed some when the cake was cut) and while it was still frozen to double check the hidden design. Yep, you can cut and peek and no one will be the wiser once it's assembled and frosted! Although the oval shifted a bit to one side during baking the party guests didn't seem to mind or notice.

All sides of the cake with the cupcakes ready to party! The cupcakes filled up the space between the cake plate and the round tray quite nicely and added a fun 3D element with the shiny (and tasty!) brightly colored Sixlet candies.

Hope you had a MAGICal birthday Cooper!

NOTE: this cake was not for profit so I didn't worry about copyright issues but if you plan to make this cake to sell you'll need get the proper permission to use the logos.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pinecone Cake

I've been wanting to make this cake for years. Decades if the truth be told. I first saw it many, many years ago in Rose Levy Beranbaum's, The Cake Bible and immediately fell in love. Taking time out to make it was my Christmas gift to myself as well as my husband's office and I'm so happy to have finally given it a go.

It looked daunting, if not impossible all those years ago what with chocolate tempering and the hundreds of petals involved. I've learned a lot since then and my confidence to take on a cake of this caliber has changed. Still, I made it a bit easier by using Candy Melts (no tempering or temper tantrums) along with some other major adjustments. The cake turned out to be a whopping 13 x 10.5 inches without the branch or pine needles so I ended up using a lot more  (about 650) than the original amount of petals called for. Even so, they weren't nearly as hard as I'd imagined and putting them on the cake was actually fun! I'd change the angle of the petals near the top next time but was pleased overall with the rest of the project.
The pine needles are made of thinly piped green Candy Melts and the branch is Tootsie Rolls. I'd love to find an easier way to do this part since the thin needles break quite easily but I'd still use them in some fashion since it helps to finish off the cake.

Hope you take time out to do something fun for yourself this holiday season! Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Polka Dots ICE CREAM Cake with bonus mini tutorial

Summertime. Hot days, cooler evenings. Mostly. And lots of reasons to cool off with a frosty treat!

This Hidden Polka Dots Ice Cream Cake was made for a segment aired today on one of our local tv stations. 

"Fresh Living" by Channel KUTV 2 features special interest stories from around Utah in this program. I was thrilled to be contacted by them a few weeks ago but was both nervous and excited the closer it came to taping. Things on the homefront are hopping so it's been a little more challenging here but who doesn't love a little upheaval now and again to keep things exciting? You can see how it went here.

Our house is a bit of a wreck while the entire exterior and decks are sandblasted and readied for staining and sealing. The part they forgot to mention was that more than a little of the glass and sawdust would be coming right on through the walls to make the inside an untidy mess. One day last week my keyboard was even covered with a layer of stuff that should be floating around outside. Yuk! The one week estimate for that stage of the project has long since passed and there is still about a fourth of the work left before we move on to the fun part, powerwashing. Perhaps it will wash some of the dust away as it inevitibly finds it's way inside these log walls.

I've all but given up on taping a seperate baking demo (for a different occasion) in my kitchen over the past couple of weeks. After a multitude of attempts, I learned the following: Men in hazmat type gear strolling by the windows every so often doesn't pair well with a baking demo. Better suited for a great reality show. So that taping is now waiting for a camera crew and the local kitchen store or for the promised settling of the dust around here. And did I mention the noise? Fun and funner. I know it's gonna be beautiful when it's done. With lots more time, dust and patience.

So meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . I've been baking polka dots and tucking them in delicious creamy ice cream in preparation for the "Fresh Living" segment. Here they are peeking out from their hiding places before I unmolded and frosted them.

You can watch both me and my fever blister show how to make this cake in 5 minutes or less. Yeah. Fever blister in the middle of the night and right on my lower lip. Is the pouty or puffy look "in" these days? Guess the stress of house demolition has finally exposed itself. Great timing, eh? 

How's your summer going? Hope it's a fun one!


Here are the tutorials for both the ice cream cake and a kid friendly quick and easy mini polka dot cake:

Hidden Polka DotIce Cream Cake


§  5 Ziploc quart bags for tinting batter
§  Cake pop pan (18 cavities 1.75” each or similar)
§  Storage tub (8.5” size from Family Dollar set or plastic wrap lined pan, empty ice cream tub, etc
§  9” Tuff board cake round
§  Large spoon or rubber spatula
§  Scissors
§  Long, sharp serrated knife
§  Small offset spatula


§  1 white cake mix
§  3 whole eggs
§  1/3 cup vegetable oil
§  1 1/4 cups milk
§  1 T clear imitation vanilla
§  1 small box instant vanilla or white chocolate or cheesecake pudding
§  Non-stick baking spray with flour
§  AmeriColor soft gel pastes in Orange 113, Egg Yellow 106, Electric Pink 164, Electric Green 162, & Royal Blue 102
§  1 gallon vanilla ice cream (with some leftover) or homemade
§  Optional: “All White Buttercream” (recipe follows), pre made magic shell ice cream topping or homemade
§  Candy Melts in Orange, Yellow, Pink, Vibrant Green & Blue or optional toppings like M&Ms, Chewy Skittles, Chewy Sprees, Trix cereal or similar, sprinkles or gumballs (Be sure to add at serving time or colors will run on coated candies.)



§  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cake ball pan by spraying the outside of the vents and cavities with baking spray.
§  Prepare 1 white cake mix by stirring 1 small box of instant vanilla or white chocolate pudding mix into dry mix. Add eggs or whites, vanilla, vegetable oil and milk to dry mixture and stir with whisk until well combined.               
§  Divide the batter into 5 quart-sized Ziploc bags, about 3/4 c or slightly more per bag. Or you can weigh out the batter at about 7 oz. per color. Tint each bag using about 8 drops orange, 4 drops egg yellow, 3 drops pink, 3-4 drops electric green & 3 drops royal blue gel paste to resemble the Candy Melt colors. Squish the batter around in the sealed bags until colors are evenly distributed.
§  Snip a small corner from each bag and pipe out the tinted batters into the cake ball pan cavities, filling just to rim as shown.
§  The batter makes 8 of each color or 40 total (if using the 18 cavity 1.75” pan) so you’ll need to bake them in batches if you don’t own more than one cake pop pan. Yields for other cake pop pan sizes will vary.
§  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until the cake balls are just done and springy to the touch but not browned. When cooled, trim the tops and edges to remove the ridges using sharp craft scissors.
§  Place the balls in single layer on a small baking sheet and freeze until firm. If storing, place the frozen balls in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and store until needed or continue with assembly if desired.
§  Remove ice cream from freezer to soften when ready for assembly. Ice cream can be quick thawed by placing in microwave in 45-second intervals at 30% power. Be sure the container is microwave safe and leak proof.


§  Line pan with plastic wrap if not using plastic tub or container.
§  Stir the softened ice cream until it is smooth and creamy. Ice cream should be similar to soft serve or frosting so it’s soft enough to spread or even close to being runny so that it will fill all the nooks and crannies.
§  Place about 2 cups of the softened ice cream or enough to cover the bottom of the prepared plastic container or lined pan and set the cake balls on top. Try to make sure that the same colors aren’t next to each other.
§  Pour the softened ice cream evenly around and on top of the cake balls to fill in any gaps.
§  Add another layer of cake balls and follow up with more ice cream. Smooth the top when finished so that no colors are showing through. Place the lid on and place cake in freezer.
§  Freeze the assembled cake for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight.


§  Remove cake from the freezer at least 15 minutes prior to decorating for ease of unmolding.
§  Invert the cake onto a flat plate or Tuff board cake round. Frost or decorate as desired and return to freezer until serving.
§  Recommended: place frozen cake in 40-degree (standard for frig temps) refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving time. Thawing times can very depending on type of ice cream used, other ingredients in your cake and freezer temperature.
§  Alternatively: remove from the freezer about 10 minutes prior to serving and transfer to display plate or cake pedestal if desired.
§  Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water.


All White “Buttercream”

Adapted from Wilton
Makes about 3 cups of frosting

   1 cup solid vegetable shortening
   2 T clear vanilla extract
    4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)

In large bowl, cream shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.
For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.


Hidden Polka Dot
MINI Ice Cream  & Cereal Cakes


§  10 count package of round mini food safe containers ($1 at Dollar Tree)
§  Small spoons & mixing bowls
§  Small offset spatula for unmolding


§  Trix cereal or similar
§  Vanilla ice cream
§  Optional: pre made magic shell ice cream topping or DIY
§  Optional toppings like mini M&Ms, sprinkles or jimmies                                


Making the mini cakes

§  Fill mini containers with cereal in advance or let the kiddos sort the colors and count the polka dots as they fill them for you. Make sure you can still put the lids back on without crushing the cereal.
§  Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to thaw until mostly melted. Or quick thaw ice cream by placing in microwave in 45-second intervals at 30% power. Stir the softened ice cream until it is smooth and creamy. Ice cream should be similar to soft serve or frosting so it’s soft enough to spread or even close to being runny so that it will fill all the nooks and crannies.
§  Working one container at a time, dump each mini container of cereal into a small bowl. Add 3-4 small spoons of melted ice cream and stir to coat.
§  Add 2 small spoons of melted ice cream to the mini container and scoop the coated mixture back inside. Top with more ice cream until container is full.
§  Place lids on containers and freeze for 1-2 hours or preferably overnight.

Decorating & Serving

§  Remove mini cakes from the freezer at least 15 minutes prior to decorating for ease of unmolding. Invert the cakes onto a small flat plate.
§  Top with Magic Shell or DIY coating and decorate as desired with sprinkles, jimmies or mini M&Ms. Decorated cakes should be served immediately to prevent candy colors from running.
Serve with disposable mini party forks and spoons in coordinating colors if desired.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Giraffe Pattern

Here's another design I'm perfecting for you. A surprise inside giraffe pattern hidden in a twice baked cake! 

Giraffe patterns are everywhere on the exteriors of cakes.  But on the inside? Not so much. And never in a round cake that I've been able to find so far.

A little trickier but you'll be able to do it with no problem. Promise.

Hope you can add this to your collection of DIY surprise inside animal prints one day soon! I'm SO excited to show you how!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Chevrons

I started working on this surprise inside twice baked chevron cake ages ago.
After MANY failed attempts, I finally came up with this one. Even though it had possibilities, it still isn't good enough to share. Almost but not quite.

But compared to even earlier experiments like this one, it's gotten much better. Poor little Charlie Brown chevron cake. : (

Please don't laugh at this one. It was meant to be a gluten free version.

In any event, I've tried this design at least a dozen different ways now and while I've learned what DOESN'T work, I've also learned what does. So I'm saving the best and tried and true methods for my book. After all, I only want what's best for you.

I hope that you'll still love chevrons by then but even if that's not the case, the methods I'll share with you can be used to put nearly any design you come up with inside a cake.

Patience is a virtue (but not my strength for sure) so please be virtuous and patient with me as I continue messing up my kitchen over and over so that you won't have to.

Confectionately yours,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Surprise Inside Cake - Hidden Bunnies!

Just finished this fun Easter cake with hidden bunnies inside. I took the extra step of adding white cotton tails to the hidden shapes this time. Worked like a charm!

The bunny shapes were made using 48 cupcakes tinted to match the exterior. Although the colors were a bit more vivid than I'd planned, I'm happy with it overall. Next time I'd go a little easier on the colors to get a softer look. Seems no matter how many times I tint batters and frostings and plan for the colors to deepen, they develop into even brighter versions than I'd hoped for.

This cutter started the whole idea. The little floppy ears have such personality!

First were the fondant bunnies in graduated spring tones.


Then came the white fondant letters placed on a parchment circle the same size as the cake top for planning.


The letters were made from fondant using this mold from N.Y. Cake.
You can get one on sale here for $6.99.

Before I spent any more time or wasted the frosting and decorations, I HAD to take a peek to make sure that the ears weren't a complete flop.

And then I took a second peek to make sure the colors would show. Totally worked! YAY! The bunny shapes on the inside of the cake are done in the same color palette as the exterior bunnies. Each cut reveals another color so each guest should get a unique slice.

And here it is all decorated up. You can always take a slice or two of your cake to peek inside before you decorate it. Just to be sure.

The cake was partially frozen when I cut it and very moist. I simply replaced the slices and went about frosting it. Since I most likely won't be present when this one goes under the knife, peeking was mandatory. Okay. Maybe not mandatory, but necessary. Let's face it, I just couldn't wait!

Here's the lettering. I was so worried that they wouldn't fit properly but the placement seemed to work and reminded me a bit of bunnies hopping down a trail. Especially if they were side tracked with carrots and things.

Hope these little characters made you smile!

UPDATE: Here's a shot taken by the staff at Orson Gygi after the Cake Wrecks-like trip from the airport. The cake was still in fairly good shape but the winters are tough on the roads and the pot holes nearly won out. Hello little pink and purple bunnies!

Happy Easter!