The circus is in town…

This is the funnest, most colorful cake I have ever made! Needless to say, it is also bar none, one of the most challenging cake that I’ve ever worked on…

For those that follow my blogs (thanks a million), last week I gave you a little preview of this cake that I was working on for a family friend.  Her first grandchild would be celebrating his first birthday and I felt so honored that I got to make his birthday cake. Yey! Hopefully this would be a beginning of many more cakes that I would be making for him (no pressure there…;p).

His proud grandma had sent me a picture of a 3-tiered circus cake and asked if this is something that I can do and of course I said yes! Now if the question had been, was this something that I had done before? Then the answer would’ve been no ;p but, I welcome the challenge and was so excited to work on it, that for once, I actually started way early in advance before the actual event.  I told myself this time, since I am making such a “happy” cake, that I should make it completely stress-free as possible, and that is saying a lot coming from an amateur baker such as myself.

To begin with, I knew that the clowns would probably be the hardest part to make and probably the most time consuming so I decided to tackle them first.  I wanted to make the decorations for this cake all edible, just in case little Nathan decided to grab one of the clowns and stuff them in his mouth like most babies would probably do (I was tempted to do this myself, and how old am I???), so instead of using toothpicks, I used dry (uncooked) spaghetti to connect the different parts of the clown.  I watched a YouTube video to pattern my first clown, experimented on a design for the second clown, and by the time I got to clown#3, I felt like a true pro.

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Next up, circus animals! I mean, what’s a circus without a lion and an elephant, right?

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Some of you may wonder, how did I get those hair to look stringy? Here are a few options: garlic press (just make sure it is washed thoroughly because who wants a garlicky taste on their cake? Not me…), cheese grater, or clean (unused) Play-Doh squeezer.

Day Two:

I decided that I will get all the baking parts done today.  That way, I only need to run my oven once.  Yep! I like saving energy, plus it also guarantees that our house would not be too warm while I’m working on frosting the cakes.  Also, here’s a little tip which I found out by accident: if you bake a cake and wrap them up before they are completely cooled, and store them in the fridge, they tend to be more moist than if you let them sit out to cool and frost the same day. Like I said, I learn something new every time I bake.  Sometimes I learn the hard way, but…c’est la vie a wise old lady used to say to me.

Day Three:

I needed a home for my elephant so I thought he’d fit perfectly in a circus tent!

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The base of the tent was made with 2 layers of 6-inch red velvet cake, coated with cream cheese frosting, and covered with red and white fondant.  The roof of the tent is made of Rice Krispies which I thought would be more stable than using cake.

Day Four:

Time to prepare the main cake.  This is a 2-tiered, 2-layer cake with the larger base at 10-inches and the top tier 8-inches.  The bottom tier was banana bread filled with fresh bananas and custard:

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The top layer was chocolate cake with strawberries and cream filling:

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Remember when I said on my very first blog that I would try to include my “fails” in my projects?  Well, it’ll save you a ton of time and hair pulling if you make sure to “dam” the cake with buttercream frosting when using soft fillings like cream and custard. The dam must be sturdy enough and thick enough to hold all your filling in place when you put on the top layer of your cake, otherwise, the fillings would squeeze out from the side of the cake.  Also, make sure that the cake is always stored refrigerated to avoid the frosting from melting.  The fondant can start to breakdown when there is too much moisture in the filling.

Once each tier of the cake has been frosted, store in the refrigerator while preparing your fondant cover. Before placing one layer on top of the other, make sure to use a cake board for the top later and hold them up using sticks or straws ( I personally like to use straws because they are easier to cut to the right length).

Day Five:

Whew!  I see the light at the end of the tunnel :)! It is time to put the final touches on the cake.

I wanted to make this cake really fun and colorful so I used different colored fondants to decorate the cake.  I used different sizes of the round cutters to create different color combinations.

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Aside from these solid circles, I also used some of the circles with holes on them for variety.

For balloons, I inserted gumballs into olive picks:

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I also used some twirly lollipops for additional colors and decorations for the cake.

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Day Six:

Last but definitely not least, mixed chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, buttercream frosting and decorated with either lollipops, popcorn, sprinkles or jelly beans to complete our circus experience!

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Goodness! I actually finished! Just in time for Nathan’s birthday party…

Hope you guys enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed making it.

Til next adventure…

~CW

Helpful links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkzg7bLLk5c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKLqy6Kuakc

http://www.ihartcupcakes.com/2010/06/ryder%E2%80%99s-circus/

SWEET does not mean SUGAR

First of all, I apologize for the delayed post…some of you may think has she gone off of her New Year’s resolution already like about 90% of the population? Well I’m pleased to say: “Quite the contrary! ” I have been baking my ***bleep*** (yeah that plump thing that can cast a shadow over California ;p) off this past few days! In fact, I had been unable to post a blog on-time because I was having so much fun working on a cake for a 1 year old boy, that I lost track of time. That cake would be featured on my next blog since it is still a work in progress but I will show a sneak peek at the end of this blog.

On this blog however, I will feature my ultimate favorite: blueberry banana muffins :).

I know, I know, it’s nothing quite unique but a trip to my local grocery store told me that it’s high time I make my own. Like most working moms, I was guilty of falling for the trap of buying it from the store just because it was very convenient to do so. My mistake was that I never actually tasted it (just approved it based on the kids’ taste test) and when I did…My goodness! I almost fell into a sugar coma just after a few bites. No wonder the kids love them ;p On top of the loads of sugar, there was also a ton of preservatives that have been added to the recipe because they want to make sure that the muffins stay fresh on the shelves for weeks!

But here’s the deal: you can make an absolutely delicious muffin without all that sugar and preservatives…and the “magic” ingredient is probably sitting right there on your kitchen counter top being ignored, waiting to be tossed away, almost begging: “pick me, pick me”…Yup! You guessed it: it’s your over ripe, spotted bananas. Yeah, the one that everyone’s passed up on because it was no longer “pretty”. I found through experimenting with several online recipes that if you use an over-ripened banana, you can remove more than one-third of the recommended sugar. In fact, I have started to remove first a quarter of the sugar in the recipe and judging how ripe my bananas were, I kept reducing the amount of sugar that I use. Now a word of warning: for most recipes, sugar is necessary to help aerate the bread.  In other words, without them, it may change the texture of the loaf or muffin, so make sure to go slowly and test the reduction in a smaller batch until you find one that you are happy with 🙂

Another tip would be to use plump fresh blueberries, so that they give a nice juicy flavor as you bite into your muffins. Here’s the good news, if you’re in the US, blueberries are almost always available year round! They are in season in the US April to September but from October to March, we also receive imports from South America. Which means that you can make these awesome muffins any time of the year. And if you’re a stickler to buying only local goods, then make sure to stock up and freeze them until needed. They can be frozen for up to 6 months!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Mash your over-ripened bananas, I like mine with some lumps left in it.

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Add all the dry ingredients on one bowl:

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Add all the wet ingredients in another bowl:

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Combine wet and dry ingredients, then add the fresh blueberries. Be careful not to over stir. The dough must be lumpy. If you over-stir, the final product will be too dense.

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Top with oatmeal crumb mixture (whole oatmeal, flour, cut butter, and cinammon if desired):

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Bake, cool and devour 🙂  As for the preservatives, who needs them?  This is the only product that is guaranteed to NOT last long.

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I hope that this encourages many of you to try making your own…I have made this not just for our kids but for adults as well who love the fact that it is not too sweet.  If you have tried it, I would love to hear your comments 🙂

….Ok, I couldn’t resist so here’s a little sneak peak of next week’s blog:

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Isn’t he adorable?!?!?!? 🙂

Til next adventure….

~CW

 

Mug Apple Crumble

So it’s Sunday…I’m in the middle of doing laundry when my daughter says, “Mom do we have any snacks?” I offered some fruits or a sandwich and both offers were received with a crinkle of her nose which meant “no”.  So what’s a mom to do?  We find the next best thing, which won’t take up too much of my time and take me away from the ever pressing need to finish my chores. I made a deal with her, I can whip her up something yummy, as long as she helps me make it and clean it up…This should help with some bonding time (this does not happen very often with a 12-yr old whose idea of fun is watching YouTube all day ;p), as well as give her something that she’d like.  So I took out the 5-minute Mug Cakes recipe book my nephew and niece gave me for Christmas and a set of mugs (thanks guys :)).

Below are step-by-step instructions, as found in the book (and some tweaks of our own).  The recipe can be found from the book listed below:

  1. Prepare the following ingredients:20160110_122706_HDR
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples. Add the lemon juice, water, maple syrup and ground cinnamon.20160110_123849
  3. Place the apple mixture in a microwave safe mug and microwave for 3 minutes.  This will cook the apples.  Do not worry if they reduce in size.
  4. In a separate container, prepare the crumb.  Mix the flour with chilled and cut butter, finely chopped oatmeal and sugar.20160110_125922
  5. Add to the cooked apple mixture. And microwave again for another 2.5 minutes.

Ok, let’s pause here for a minute… When we took out our first mug, we realized that this recipe was not supposed to be made in a standard-sized mug.  It should be made in a smaller container.  I should’ve known this… being that there were no eggs or baking powder in the recipe, this dessert is not supposed to rise.  Luckily, we can try it again, this time using a smaller container. Also, we found that the crumble was too dry so we decided to increase the amount of butter to add some moisture to the crumble.

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6. Here’s what it looks like on our second attempt:

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…and here’s our little girl having some fun in the kitchen…no cellphone in hand…Gasp! 🙂

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Here’s our take on this apple crumble recipe:

The apple was very yummy, and the recipe was not too sweet.  The crumble came out more like a combination of cookie/ pie crust in texture…which was just “Perfect!” according to the kids. However, I was hoping it would be softer and fluffier, more like a scone.  Perhaps, stirring them together after cooking the apples and adding the dry ingredients would’ve achieved that but that might be for another project.  As much as I wanted to keep trying until we’ve perfected the recipe, my washer and dryer were repeatedly beeping as if to say, “Fun time is over!”

Til next adventure….

~CW

Related literature:

Knudsen, L. (n.d). Mug Cakes: Soft melting cakes ready in 5 minutes. Hardie Grant Books. Melbourne, London.

 

Happy Birthday…

Today will be the first post of hopefully many posts to follow.  I was thinking of what would be a great New Year’s resolution, and although there are many that would definitely top the list – go to the gym, eat healthy, take better care of myself and my family – I know that one thing I would definitely want to focus on would have to do with my baking projects.  This year, I would seriously give this “hobby” the time that it deserves.  So with that, I would like to say, “Happy Birthday” to the Willyummsbakery blog site, where my goal is to share with you my cake projects, all the fun times…and the not so fun times…and in finding that “Yey!” at the end of the day.  Most importantly, I am creating this blog for myself, so that I can chronicle what I’ve accomplished in hopes of always improving with each new creation.

Cake with candlesSpeaking of birthdays…the cake featured above was one that I made for my sister on her 42nd birthday, celebrated on the eve of the New Year!  Coincidence? I think not!  If I must summarize this experience in 4-words, it’ll be “Thank goodness for KitKat”.  More on that later…

Anyway, this cake was a 3-layer chocolate mousse cake with chocolate brownie at the bottom followed by a layer of smooth chocolate mousse, a thin layer of fresh strawberries, and then another layer of strawberry mousse.  The topping was a rich chocolate ganache, with fresh strawberries and bordered with KitKat, nonetheless.  I looked at several recipes online, combined ideas and tweaked them a little to create my own spin (links below for helpful how-tos).

I’ve learned 2 things from making this cake:

  1. I’ve learned for the first time how to create strawberry “rose” garnishes…Below is an up close shot of one of my test strawberry rose. 20151230_220656 This is definitely way better than the sliced version of strawberry garnishes that I’ve used to decorate my cakes with in the past!
  2. Second lesson learned, and one that I cannot stress enough:  be patient!!!  So here comes the KitKat story:  ” I finished topping the cake with my strawberry mousse and I let it sit in our fridge for 25 mins. just like I did with the chocolate mousse.  I slightly peeled a portion of my wax paper to see if it’s forming properly and I was pleasantly surprise that the mousse held up. So with confidence, I unlatched the spring-form pan and peeled off the  rest of the wax paper (reminder to self: invest in some plastic collars).  Voila! the cake is still holding its shape.  Yey! right?  Well… not quite.  I poured the chocolate ganache, which quite frankly I thought had already cooled to room temperature.  From this point, I started to see my cake sinking and deforming. Oh no! What have I done?!?!?!  Anyway, I am not sure if it was because the ganache was still warm or our house was warm (hmmm…was the heater on?) but from the looks of it, my mousse had started to melt 😦  Luckily, some magical hands appeared (thanks Hubby) and alas with some maneuvering, was able to cover the side of the cake with wax paper, re-inserted it into the spring-form pan and safely returned it to the fridge. At this point, I’ve decided to walk away and give my “broken” cake some time to heal itself. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, I really hate waiting….After another hour, I braved the fridge, took out the cake, and prepared myself to face the damage.  To my surprise, after removing the pan and the wax paper, I found that the cake was just fine with only some minor damage to the sides where the ganache had been smashed.  After a trip to our local store for some KitKat, some cutting and mending, and…Tada! our cake is done :).  Who knew that KitKat would be the answer to my dilemma?”

I am happy to report that the final cake got its “ooohhs” and “ahhhhs” at the party and was happily devoured by all.  It even provided some comedic entertainment as my 8-year old son said: “Mom almost dropped the cake!”

Anyway, til our next adventure….

~CW

Related links:

http://www.sugarhero.com/chocolate-raspberry-mousse-cake/

http://www.marthastewart.com/317890/triple-chocolate-mousse-cake

http://omgchocolatedesserts.com/triple-chocolate-mousse-cake-by-vera/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wopj8GXuTGg