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I know I’ve left you hanging for a couple of weeks and I’m sorry… but there’s a good reason! Here’s some sneak peaks of the cakes that I’ve been working on over the past several weeks… Enjoy!

A birthday dress for a birthday girl!

 

 

The Fashionista!

 

 

Spotted! A birthday cake!

 

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The world is full if amazing cake sculptors and designers and shows like Ace of Cakes and Food Network Challenge prove that there is little that cannot be made of cake.

For my Grandpa’s memorial services last month I decided that a cake shaped like a baseball cap would be a fitting tribute to the person that never went anywhere without one. Here’s the steps I took to make the hat cake – enjoy!

How to Make a Hat Cake

1. Bake your cake. You’ve got a couple of options with this one. I chose to bake the cake in 3 layers and then carve it into the shape of a hat. However, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of carving you can definitely bake one layer in the base of a metal mixing bowl and use that rounded piece as the top layer.

Baking awayyyy: 3 8" layers will probably take about 45 min.

If you bake all the layers at once (like I did), you’ll have a bit of time on your hands. I used this time to get my buttercream together and clean up my workspace… you’ll be a lot happier if you do the same. ๐Ÿ™‚

3 layers - baked and filled

Once the layers have cooled, fill them with your choice of a filling. I used a Swiss Meringue Buttercream for stability, but you could use a ganache or cream filling if you wanted.

2. Carve your cake. It’s a bit intimidating trying to turn a traditional 3-layer cake into a baseball hat, but trust me, you can do it! A couple tips to get you started:

  1. Have a “model.” Lucky for me my boyfriend has the biggest hat collection on the planet. I swiped one of his to use as a reference point.
  2. Freeze the cake. I know, I know… freezing a cake is a cardinal sin in the world of baking and decorating. But honestly, if this is your first time carving a cake you’ll be GLAD you did! If you choose to freeze your cake, wrap it really good with saran wrap (to prevent it from drying out) and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Freezing the cake just makes it easier to work with, and most people can’t taste the difference.
  3. Don’t crumb-ice before carving. I know this tip sounds really “duhhh,” but I honestly forgot and crumb-iced prior to carving and ended up cutting off ALL of the icing I had used. Save yourself time AND frosting, and don’t crumb-ice before. ๐Ÿ™‚

My hat and my model.

Start with the top of the layers and carve down at an angle in order to give your cake a dome top. You’ll be cutting off most of the top layer, and the edges of the bottom two. Make sure to make your angled cuts very pronounced, because otherwise you won’t see them once you cover the cake in fondant.

For the baseball hat, make sure to make some “V”-shaped cuts in the top to account for rumples in the hat. Also, carve out a small hole in the back of cake to mimic an adjustable hat. This hole should be at the very bottom of the cake, and about 2″ wide by 1 1/2″ deep.

Again, make all the cuts extremelyyy pronounced. Your cake should end up being about 7 3/4 – 8″ wide (depending on how much you carve off of the sides), and about 4 – 4 1/2″ tall.

What your carved cake should look like.

3. Crumb-ice the cake. After your carving work is done, cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream. Crumb-icing, dirty icing, crumb coating… it doesn’t matter what you call it, but just make sure you do it. This coat of buttercream gives the fondant something to stick to, and also gives you the opportunity to smooth out any problems you might have run into during the carving process. Once your cake is crumb-iced, pop it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to firm up.

In the meantime get started loosening up your fondant! You can use pre-tinted fondant, or color your own using gel food colors. You’ll need about a pound, maybe a bit more, to cover and decorate the cake. When tinting the fondant, be mindful of your hands. You can use plastic gloves, or coat your hands with a thin layer of shortening. The shortening won’t keep all of the color off of your hands, but it will help keep them mostly clean. Also, it is possible to ‘overwork’ the fondant and dry it out, so keeping shortening on your hands helps with that too.

4. Cover the cake. You can cover the cake in any medium you like – fondant, buttercream, marzipan, etc. I chose to use fondant for a couple of reasons: 1) it offers a beautifully smooth finish (when you apply it right), and 2) it seals the cake really well and helps to keep it fresh.

Roll out your fondant to about 1/4″ thick. You can make it a little thinner than that, but know that thin fondant is prone to tears, and tears are impossibly hard to fix!

Once you’ve reached the proper thickness roll 1/2 of the fondant back on your rolling pin, lift it up and gently place it over the cake.

Working quickly (but carefully!), lift and smooth out the fondant all around the cake. This, my friends, is a LOT harder than it sounds. Remove all of your rings, and be mindful of your nails as they can snag the fondant and cause unnecessary ruckus. Cut away excess fondant as necessary… the excess fondant will pull down and create wrinkles in the finished product.

Sorry that I don’t have any photos of this step. I was the only person at home & couldn’t cover a cake and photograph at the same time!! Gosh, Caty… ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s the final photos and you can see what I mean about working with fondant. I’ll admit, covering the green hat was MUCH easier than covering the blue hat, and I think it shows.

Top of the Oakland hat.

(Re) Covering the Dodger cake.

5. Decorate the hat! Keep your model on hand for this part, as there are a several details on the hat that you don’t want to overlook.

1. The bill. In order to make the bill of the hat I traced an outline on to cardboard and covered it in fondant. While the fondant was drying, I sort of curved the bill to give it some shape, and added stitching details. Be mindful of the proportions… the Oakland bill looks a bit off, but the Dodger bill looked much better.

The slightly awkward bill.

Better proportions... ignore the shoddy fondant.

2.ย The stitching. Wilton makes a nifty little roller tool that happens to have a piece that, when used, looks exactly like fabric stitches! Use this to create stitching on the bill, and to create the seams along the top of the hat.

See the stitches?

3. The rivets & button. Look at the top of your model hat and note where the rivets are. Then using 2 different pastry tips make one outer ring and one inner ring. I believe I used a #4 for the outer ring, and a #2 for the inner ring. Also, roll a small ball out of fondant & flatten it slightly. Attach it to the center of the hat (on the top) with a light brushing of Vodka or lemon extract. Should look like this:

Rivet-ing... bahahaha!

4. The Adjustable Strap. Remember that hole I made you cut out of the cake wayyyy back in step 2? Now it’s time to put it to work. Roll out a short piece of fondant that’s about 1/2″ wide, and make holes in it the same way you made the rivets. Cut one end of it in a curved shape, and attach it to the cake with… yes, you’ve guessed it… Vodka!

The adjustable strap!

Another view...

5. Logos. Often times colors are a dead giveaway, but the one thing all hats have in common is a logo! For the Oakland hat I simply cut out an oval-shaped piece of fondant and piped the acronym “OAK” on the front. The Dodger hat was a little different… I printed out a picture of the LA logo, cut it out, and placed it over my fondant. Then, using an Xacto Blade, I carefully cut the logo out of fondant and attached it to the front of my hat with a brushing of Vodka.

Note: I’m not that much of a lush. There are only 2 liquids that will allow you to attach 2 pieces of fondant together: Vodka and lemon extract. I happened to be out of lemon extract which is why I was using Vodka.

Beat LA!

6. The Presentation. After you’ve put in all this work creating a fabulous cake you still have to consider one more thing… the presentation. I’m not the hugest fan of foil-covered cake boards, but you can use them if you like. You can also cover a board in fondant which is what I did for both cakes.

Fondant covered cake board.

Fondant covered board with baseball cupcakes to match!

And there you have it! That’s the rundown on how to create a hat cake! I hope you’ve enjoyed the tutorial… feel free to leave questions or comments if you have any.

What I couldn’t tell you in my last post is that I had a surprise party planned for Reese on the night of his birthday. His favorite food is Mexican, so I conspired with his mom & BFF and succeeded in throwing a fabulous fiesta in his behalf. Best part? He had NO FREAKING CLUE!

Surpriseeee!

Along with a diverse menu of Mexican inspired appetizers, I decide to create a margarita-flavored cupcake for dessert. And yes, I used tequila. PLENTYYYY of tequila!

One table full of food! What you don't see here are the bowls of rice and beans, and the 6 (yes, there were 6) different dips & salsas!

A tower of Margarita Cupcakes!!

I’m not the hugest tequila fan, and because of that I rarely drink margaritas. Several hours were spent on the internet looking at not only cupcake recipes, but reading about the history of margaritas and the elements that this classic drink was composed of. I learned quite a few new things, and came to the conclusion that a “original lime” flavor would work best for my needs.

Baking with alcohol can be very tricky as much of the flavor bakes off in the oven. To add more flavor, many bakers will actually brush their baked (and cooled!) cupcakes with the liquor of their choice… I’ve done this before, and honestly, haven’t been a fan. I decided the best way to infuse more margarita flavor into each cupcake would be to fill each of them with a lime filling that had a heavy dose of tequila.ย I was envisioning a lime curd that had the texture and density of that of a lemon meringue pie filling, but tasted fresh and tangy – exactly like a margarita should!

Food Networks’s site lead me to aย recipe for a lime curd tart by celebrity chef Ina Garten. I used Ina’s lime curd recipe as a starting point, and kind of experimented from there. She calls for about 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice (about 4 fresh limes), and I juiced 3 limes and used tequila for the 4th. Oops. ๐Ÿ™‚

For the cake I used a basic vanilla buttermilk cake recipe and added the zest & juice of 3 limes and a couple of tablespoons of tequila. This recipe is similar to what I came up with. Most of the tequila baked out of the cupcakes, but when I paired them with the lime curd I found the fresh, tangy taste I’d been dreaming of!

So cute!

Most of the margarita cupcake recipes that I’d seen all used a rich swiss meringue buttercream to finish the treat. I was hesitant to use this kind of frosting because it is so incredibly buttery and rich – I wasn’t sure how that would pair up with the tequila and lime. It actually ended up tasting pretty good! Again, I used a heavy hand when flavoring the frosting, but I think the richness of the frosting balanced well with the citrus flavors. The buttercream was piped with a large french star tip, and then topped with a slice of fresh lime.

All in all, the party was a huge success! Great friends, lots of food, and a very surprised birthday boy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lu-Siesta. Hah.

**Other recipes from the party that I’d recommend: ย Margarita Chicken Skewers andย Shrimp Cocktail – Veracruz Style.

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Past musings

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