60th Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking date: February 10, 2018

I was asked to make a special 60th birthday cake for my friend Rebecca’s fiance Gary. Rebecca had requested carrot cake, and I had never made one from scratch. So I looked for a recipe that I thought would be good, and came across Grandma Hiers’ carrot cake recipe from Paula Deen. I opted not to add the pecans to the batter, but did use some for decorating.

A few days before I was going to make the cake, I saw my hairdresser. I’ve been going to her for 25 years for my cuts and colors (the older I get, it’s more color than cut!). She takes care of me at her house, and we use the time to catch up on our lives. She’s a fantastic cook, so I told her about the cake I was going to be making.

“Oh, let me tell you the secret to an amazing carrot cake!” she exclaimed. “First, add a small can of crushed pineapple. And then – here’s the real secret – instead of shredded carrots, use canned carrots. Drain them, but they already have extra moisture and will shred apart once you mix them into your batter. The cake will be so moist.”

Since I had already googled “how many carrots does it take to make 3 cups of grated carrots” (yes, there is a website that will tell you), I did not look forward to shredding 9 carrots, and probably a few knuckles in the process. I figured I would give this canned carrots thing a try.  I did not go for the crushed pineapple, since I’m not a huge fan of it. Nor did the recipe call for pineapple or raisins, as I have seen in some carrot cakes.

I made the cake in the 12″ and 16″ pans from the performance square pan set. It was a busy weekend for me, so I used canned cream cheese frosting, rather than the recipe that was part of the offering from Paula Deen.

Gary is a boater. He and Rebecca also love the beach. So I decided to make sea shell candies to decorate the cake. I used a two-tone technique I saw on a YouTube video, using light cocoa and white candy melts. I finished them by brushing on white pearl dust.

I kept the decorating simple. I used crushed pecans to fill in the pressed outline of the 6 and 0 I made using cookie cutters on top of the cake. I also sprinkled crushed pecans on corners of the cake, but not all over, since I didn’t know if there were any allergies among the guests invited to his surprise party.

Here is the cake:

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And a close up of some of the candies:

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Here’s the cake, with all the photos and decorations for the party:

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I am pleased to report that the recipe with the “secret ingredient” (canned carrots) received rave reviews! People commented on how moist the cake was, and many party guests took an extra piece home to enjoy later.

Happy Birthday, Gary! Glad my husband and I could join your family and friends to help you celebrate ringing in a new decade.

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Left to right: Rebecca, Becky (me), Michael, Gary

 

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Get Well Soon Chocolate Cake

Baking date: January 13, 2018

One of the kids my son has played basketball, baseball and football with at various times had to have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. The surgery meant that he would not be able to play varsity basketball or baseball in his junior year, and was hoping to be cleared in time to start back on the field for his senior year with football in the Fall of 2018.

I wanted to make him a get well soon treat. I asked his mom about a favorite flavor of cake, and it was chocolate. I made a one bowl chocolate cake recipe, and topped it with an easy chocolate ganache frosting.  I used red cookie icing to pipe on the get well message. I created a candy melt basketball, football and baseball, to represent the sports Elias plays and added them to the cake.

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I delivered the cake to Elias and not long after, his mom posted this message on Facebook:

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There’s nothing better than knowing I helped put a smile on this talented athlete’s face. Looking forward to seeing you back on the field soon, Elias!

Rocket “Launch” Cake

Baking date: January 7, 2018

At work, we had a big project launch. To celebrate this three year project that merged two separate online applications/databases into one, I decided to make a launch cake.

First, I googled rocket cakes. I found an image of one that seemed simple enough. As far as I could tell, it was a 9 x 13 sheet cake, with one end carved. Those carved off pieces would then become the boosters at the other end.

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The cake I made was a yellow box mix, with vanilla added in to give it some “homemade” flavor. The icing was the canned white Pillsbury variety.

I baked it in a 9 x 13 pan and then sliced a rounded edge off each side of one end. I then placed those cut off  edges against the bottom of the other end.

I frosted the main body of the rocket in white, and I dyed the boosters (no taste) red.  Around the edge of the rocket, I added silver sugar sprinkles. Given how difficult this was to do, I understand why the inspiration cake baker used some sort of candy strip instead:

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I added dark blue (no longer available) candy melt circles for the rocket “windows” and piped the date of the launch (1-9-18) onto the discs.

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Finally, I made mini-star candy melts in orange, and larger stars in yellow. I’m not sure they make this mold any more – there are four of each size star on the mold tray and the  large stars have space for a stick. I piped the acronym of the program being launched (VLSO) on the smaller orange star in red icing, with red icing dots in the point of each larger yellow star. I affixed the orange stars to the yellow stars with some of the white frosting.

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Here’s the whole cake, on a black cake board:

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Congrats to my colleagues for all their hard work!

2017 Ladies Luncheon Cake and Cupcakes

Baking date: December 21 (and, unfortunately, 22), 2017

Each year, the women in my husband’s family gather to celebrate the holidays on one Saturday in December. It is a lovely afternoon of lunch and laughter, followed by desserts. I always offer to bring the host a dessert.

This year I planned on making a tri-colored (red velvet and white cake, halved, with one half dyed moss green) Christmas bundt cake. The recipe is super easy – with the cake coming from two box mixes and the frosting from one can that you separate and color. You also get 6 cupcakes out of the deal since you can’t include all the batter in the bundt pan. In fact, I’ve made this cake in white, light blue and royal blue (winter-themed), black, orange and purple (Halloween), and pastel pink, yellow and purple (Easter).

I had made the cake on Thursday evening. My husband and I were going Christmas shopping Friday morning, and when we returned in the evening I was going to add the frosting and turn the cupcakes into Santa hats.

And then our son Nick called us while we were out and said “so…um…that cake you had on the island? Well, Jake took a bite out of it. A big bite.” He texted us this picture:

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So, on our way home, we stopped and picked up two more boxes of cake mix so I could start all over again. To make it easier on myself, I also picked up some pre-dyed red icing.

Here is how I “saved” the canine-sampled cake … and fed it to my husband and boys. The offending section was cut out and thrown away:

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Here the two cakes are side by side:

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Here’s the party-worthy, non-canine sampled version. On top, I sprinkled holiday pearls.

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And the Santa hat cupcakes turned out just fine. I piped on the red hat portion first, and added ruby red pearlized sugar sprinkles. Once that had set, I piped on the base of the hat and the pom on top in white, and added white sparkling sugar sprinkles on that.

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Even though it was double the effort, the time spent with family was worth it!

All the Ladies

Apple Spice Cake with Sea Salt Caramel Glaze

Baking date: October 14 & 15, 2017

I came across the inspiration for this Apple Spice Cake with Sea Salt Caramel Glaze like many other recipes…on Pinterest. It sounded like the perfect Fall cake.  I wanted to do one as a test, and then the second would be made for my mom’s birthday in my new Crown Bundt pan.

I have no shortage of taste testers in my community, most of them being our kids’ sports families. So, I fired up the regular bundt pan and made the first version of the cake.

Let’s just say the taste testers loved it:

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So, with that ringing endorsement, I made another for my mom for her birthday. Here’s the finished product, from the Crown bundt pan:

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with the caramel glaze on top:

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Happy Birthday, mom!

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Dad, mom and my sons Alex and Nick

Baby Shower Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes and Lemon Velvet Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: July 21, 2017

A friend commissioned me to make 60 cupcakes for her daughter’s baby shower. I had made cupcakes for her bridal shower two years earlier, and a gender “reveal” cake when her daughter became pregnant. The the mom-to-be again requested the fresh strawberry cupcakes with buttercream frosting for her baby shower.

I told them I would make a cake as my gift to the bride. We decided on a lemon velvet cake with raspberry buttercream frosting.

The theme of the shower included elephants and the colors pink and grey. The grandma-to-be purchased pink polka dot cupcake liners, elephant cupcake toppers in pink/grey and pink/grey zigzag, and other shapes, as well as a cake topper. Links included to show samples; I can’t vouch for the vendors since I do not know where grandma-to-be purchased them.

The website for this cake topper wouldn’t load, so here’s a picture:

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For the cupcakes, I pulled out my big gun of a cupcake pan. This was the last of the batter going into the oven:

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The cupcakes were topped with a swirl of buttercream frosting. I then added pink and silver sugar pearls around the cupcake, and then topped them with the cupcake toppers that had been hot glued onto toothpicks.

Here are the cupcakes:

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Then it was on to the cake. I will say that I tasted the batter before I cooked it. It didn’t taste real lemony to me, so I squeezed some fresh lemon juice into the batter, in addition to the lemon zest and the lemon extract.

The raspberry buttercream recipe — holy cow — it makes a ton! This was the cake and the frosting before I got started:

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I tried a buttercream smoothing technique I saw on YouTube. I had placed the cake in the frig, so it took a bit longer and I never did get it completely smooth. In the future, I’d ice the cake and let it “crust” at room temperature, and then do this technique with the Viva paper towel and the fondant smoother.  I should have taken a before and after picture because it did help smooth out the frosting. Here’s the after:

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Around the base of the cake, I piped on bursts, and added a large white sugar pearl in the center of each burst. Finally, I spelled the baby’s name with raspberry buttercream piped on candy melt circles in bright white that I added some black color to in order to get a grey.

Here’s all of the sugar, ready to be delivered to the party:

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Here’s the table full of goodies:
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Congrats Kaitlyn and Kevin – we can’t wait to meet baby Hannah!

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Photo courtesy of Lidia Miller Photography.

My pricing philosophy:

How I price my work

Career Stolen Bases Record Cake

Baking date: July 14 & 15, 2017

This season, one of the seniors on the varsity Walkersville Lions high school baseball team set the record for most career steals. Josh has played on the varsity team all four years of high school. Since I love to make these pay-it-forward types of goodies for people we know in the community, I was ready to fire up the oven and get baking! This would be my gift to him, as I was already commissioned to make the cupcakes for his graduation party.

I decided to go with an baseball infield cake, so I started with the 12″ square pan in red velvet – Josh’s favorite cake flavor. I wasn’t sure how I was going to decorate it, but would worry about that later.

After some thought, I decided to make a baseball infield with the bases. I made one cake in the easy layer square pan, and cut the layer into quarters for the square bases. One of the squares I fashioned into the shape of home plate.

The entire cake was covered in canned white frosting. The bases were placed on top in each corner of the diamond, and I frosted them as well.

I made a large lion paw in royal blue and yellow candy melts. For each number of stolen bases in each year, I made royal blue numbers. I dyed some of the icing golden yellow, and piped the year (“Frosh”, “Soph”, “Jr”, “Sr”) on the base to indicate the number of bases stolen each year. The total number was in the middle, along with the paw and “Career Stolen Bases” piped on in the golden yellow icing.

Around each base, I added brownie/turtle crunch topping. It’s my “go-to” for dirt for all the baseball cakes I make. Unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore (may be discontinued?) and since I didn’t have a lot left, I only placed it around the bases and home plate. Originally, I wanted to make the entire dirt infield, but we pivot when we must!

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On the third base side of the cake I piped on Josh’s twitter handle:

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and on the first base side, I piped on “Lion Pride”:

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Around the entire base, I piped on a burst and placed a large white sugar pearl in the center of each burst. Finally, I added royal blue and yellow sugar sprinkles on top of the bottom border.

Congrats Josh and all the best as you continue your baseball career in Frostburg!

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