Sunday, April 17, 2011

William's 3rd Birthday Party

My little William is not so little anymore: he's on the way to being potty-trained; he can play independently; he's physically growing; he makes sense when he speaks (usually). This Saturday, we celebrated his birthday (the actual day is in a few days).

He loves this TV program called Team Umizoomi. It's great for teaching math and patterns... and since we have PVR, we can tune in whenever he likes. The bonus is, little Owen loves this show as well.

We asked him what cake he would like; initially, he said "Cars" (the Disney movie) but changed his mind to "Team Umizoomi." So, I went with it: the three characters (Milli, Geo, Bot) inside the Umicar.

This was my first attempt at a carved cake, and I found it pretty fun. The only drawback is the mess! ;)

All elements were made from scratch (*pats back*).

The 9x13 cake (made 2 batches) itself is chocolate, with an orange-flavoured Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) icing. After the carving, it was covered in semi-sweet chocolate ganache, then with marshmallow fondant (MMF). The details on car were also MMF and painted with an icing colour/almond extract mixture. The wheels were made with Rice Krispies treats (RKT), and covered with a MMF/modeling chocolate (MC) mixture.

The characters were made from RKT and then covered in a MMF/MC mix. They do not have details below the waist because they were meant to sit in the car (so, yeah, no legs).

In addition, Milli's pattern was stenciled on with an icing colour/almond extract mixture.

Geo's belt was intentionally not created because it wouldn't have been visible.

Bot was a tricky one. I put pieces of dry Ramen noodles to stick his arms to hands and to his body (I wanted the curve, which you can't get with dry pasta). But that wasn't the hard part. It was his antenna. I had bent the wire to shape but the MMF/MC mix wouldn't adhere to the wire. Finally, I cut and discarded the part connected to his head and used a piece of spaghettini (painted blue) instead. It worked! :) The wire bit has two loops (you can't see it in the above pic) with a bit of yellow royal icing at the end. 

I also made royal transfers of the three characters (in advance!) and it was just a matter of placing them onto flooded cookies and finishing them off with a piped royal icing border. The favours were well-received by the guests. :D

I wanted to add one more sweet to the table... truffle cake balls. It tastes even better than it sounds! This velvety experiment had chocolate cake mixed with IMBC icing and whipping cream, formed into one-inch rounds, then dipped and drizzled with milk chocolate.

Boy, did the weather not cooperate! It poured like no tomorrow and the majority of the guests arrived late due to horrible traffic. :( At least they all made it by the cake-cutting time to sing William a happy birthday. :)

The party went well and there were no major meltdowns (that I'm aware of).

I made the banner, too!  And put crazy circle/star-patterned wrapping paper behind the glass (William and Owen seemed to enjoy them).  The table was full, so I put the cookie favours on top and out of the way. :)

I'd say the whole process took about 3 weeks to complete (from design to final product).  It may have taken a while, but it was worth it in the end to see so many smiling faces.

Happy Birthday, William!  Mama loves you! <3

Monday, April 4, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I am very pleased with my latest trial of red velvet cupcakes.  The colour is as red as it should be, thanks to food colouring liquid (not gel paste - I guess that's only for decorating, not for baking).  The icing is sublime, as well!

RV cupcakes with cream cheese SMBC icing

Saturday, April 2, 2011

M-I-C... K-E-Y... M-O-U-S-E... Cookies

I had a request for Mickey Mouse cookies for a cute little one-year-old's birthday.  The theme was red, blue and Mickey, of course. 

I wanted to try my hand at (thinned) royal icing transfers because:
a) they are true to characters' likenesses; and
b) they can be made in advance since spoilage is not an issue (if they're kept out of light and moisture, that is). 

There were several versions of Mickey (since some batches had one broken head or I wasn't happy with the result).  In the end, one batch had 11/12 survivors and I had to add one more from another batch.  The "1" and "Riley" mimicked Mickey Mouse's font.  All the transfers were placed on still-wet flooded sugar cookies so it would stick.

Left Mickey: mixture of royal icing and drawn features;
Right Mickey: all elements done with royal icing
1 Riley: added red sanding sugar for a little sparkle

What I learned during this process:
- Next time, use parchment paper instead of waxed paper; when the thinned icing was put on wax, there was movement (notice how Left Mickey's eyes are so much smaller than Right Mickey's).
- It is possible that my equipment had traces of grease (even though my mixer bowl has been in the dishwasher; my mixer paddle, has to be handwashed, though) which caused my royal icing not to be as strong as it could be; so, vigorous scrubbing before making royal icing!
- I used parchment piping bags without tips and had issues with breakdown of the paper at the opening; I guess the solution is to buy more tips with finer openings instead of cutting a tiny hole at the tip. :/
- Using edible markers was easy but that dark bit where you stop the ink, how do you get rid of it?!  It doesn't look good to me, and it's more obvious when a big space is filled in with it. :(

Through trial and error, I managed to produced some presentable cookies.  They were well-received and that's all that matters! 
Happy Birthday, Riley! :)