Cake decorating

A fruity send off

Today my parents started from here back to India, and once again we feel our house is empty. To give them a nice send off, I made this moist fruit gateau. I had made this for the first time about a year ago and had liked the taste. But now that I have a bit knowledge about cake decorating, I was making cakes with butter cream icing. My parents are not very familiar with cakes. Aayi had made few when we were kids and my pachi makes a lot of them, but still both my pappa and aayi have mainly tasted cakes without icing. So I made 3-4 cakes while they were here and each time I used different icing. My husband has grown a dislike for butter cream and so he was asking for some other icing. So this delicious moist, soft and easy cake came to my mind.

?Since I used whipped cream for icing, this got ready in literally 20mins (apart from baking time). It was moist, sweet. As I said, I have made few cakes while they were here and they took atleast 2 days to finish each cake. But this cake got over within minutes. They simply loved it. My husband has totally approved this topping. This does not require any decorating skills, I just spread the whipped cream with a spatula.

Please click Fruit Gateau(A fruity cake) for the recipe of this cake. I didn’t use any dry fruits this time.

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Ginger cake

I have been thinking to bake and decorate a cake for my parents for a long time now. But since both of them don’t prefer sweets and because of the diabetes, I avoided it for so long. Then I thought of making it with sweetener and later I came to know, sweetener should not be cooked/baked. I asked my colleague Cindy, who gave me the idea of sweetener for baking. Now the next question was, which cake to bake? I didn’t want to bake the same cakes again and again, so I decided on searching for a all new cake. I wanted something that both pappa and aayi would eat with interest. So after around 1hr of considering different options, I decided to make something which had a strong ginger flavor. Pappa simply loves ginger in everything, so I thought he would like it. So ginger cake it was.

I made a very small cake this time, I am really fed up of throwing cakes in trash (we are having cake overdose, thanks to my cake decorating classes). So it came out to be a beautiful tiny cake, which even though didn’t rise much, looked like a perfect one.

Then it was time for decorating it. Since I had chosen pappa’s favorite ingredient in the cake, I decided to do aayi’s favorite decoration. The first thing that came to my mind was basket weave. She simply loves those woven flower baskets. She loves roses, so that was next. I messed up a bit in both basket and the flowers and buds on top. Both pappa and aayi simply loved it, worth all my effort. Only problem was, I could not use sweetener for icing. There should be some other sweetener which is suitable for icing, I will search that next time. I had to use normal confectioner’s sugar for it.

The cake was just out of the world. A best choice for any ginger lover. It had a strong gingery flavor and the grated pieces were a bonus. I will be baking this cake more often now.

The recipe I followed was adapted from All recipes. I made quite a few modifications to it and I am happy that I did those modifications. I would have hated the cinnamon taste in this particular cake (I absolutely hated the cinnamon flavor in last few cakes and so decided never to use it again).

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar or baking sweetner
1 tbl spn fresh grated ginger
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tea spns baking powder
1 tea spn vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs

Method:
Preheat the oven at 350 F for about 10mins.
Sieve together flour and baking powder, keep it aside.
Mix butter and sugar(or sweetener) till they are well mixed. Now add eggs, vanilla extract and mix well till the eggs are mixed. Pour in milk and mix again.
Now add the flour-baking powder mixture, a little at a time, mixing it all the time. When everything is incorporated well, add the grated ginger and mix.
Grease a baking dish, dust it with some flour. Pour the cake batter into it and bake at 350F for about 40mins or till a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
While serving, dust with some confectioner’s sugar or decorated it.

Makes : 6-7 big pieces
Preparation time : 10mins (excluding baking time)

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Cake decorating – Cake for my dad

Wish a very happy father’s day to you all.

I have been writing so much about my mom on this blog. But I think, I have never written anything about my dad. Now what can be a better day than Father’s day?

My dad – ‘pappa’ as we call him is a doctor and a social worker. After he finished his medical studies, he moved back to the village to stay with my grand father since my grand mother was no more and grand father was alone. He had more than his share of troubles for staying in such a small place. He is very actively involved in more than one school management, temple management and many such social work.

When it comes to family life, he is the best dad anybody can ask for. While growing up, he always gave us any smallest thing we asked for. We would ask for a chocolate and he would get the entire big pack of chocolates. He would take us for restaurants and every place we asked. He always tried his best to give us everything possible. He is very good in mathematics and he was too worried because during my initial school days, I was pathetic in studies. Then he started teaching me mathematics and I used to feel, ‘why he does not leave me alone? why he is always behind my studies?’, but when I started getting 100% marks in mathematics, I knew what my dad had done. If I was the favorite student of most of my teachers, the full credit goes to my parents who spent so much time on me.

Today I wanted to make something special for my pappa. I didn’t know what to cook. I had great ideas of making a small model of my native. But it was too difficult to make. So finally I decided to put everything he loves represent on the cake. I don’t say I did a great job, but I tried my best.

I am sure you guys can’t recognize what I was thinking when I was putting these bits and pieces on cake. So here it is –

Vada, idli-chutney-sambar, batata vada, hittu/khotte, kadamb

Masala dosa

Chakli, jackfruit chips

Rice, dali thoy, pickle, papads

I love you pappa…

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Cake decorating FGP – cake 3

In May,I had joined Fondant and Gum Paste class. I didn’t know what a gum paste or fondant is before joining this course. After I finished my course-1 and course-2, I directly joined this course and skipped course-3. This course turned out to be a bit disappointing for me initially because I always love to do things from scratch and this course does not teach how to make these two kind of icings at home. My main concern was how to make these when I return to India in future. I think these ready made stuff might not be available there. But since I wanted to do all courses, I joined anyway.

This is more expensive than other classes. I forgot to take a cake for class-1. Then in class-2, I had hard time rolling fondant because it gets too hard very soon. I missed class-3 because I had to plan for our long weekend trip. When it was time for class-4, I thought I had lost this whole course. I was very busy that day and I thought of missing it again. But last moment, I decided I had to go for this class.

This class was amazing. The final cake turned out to be very good. To start with, Barbara was very happy that I returned to the class. I absolutely love this lady, so I was happy when she showed happiness for seeing me. She said I can attend class-3 with the next group of students. The fondant was in perfect shape this time, since I had all the things like shortening etc to keep it from drying. I had missed the fondant coating on the base because of less time, but I did all other decorations.

I added some extra violet flowers on it and Barbara said those flowers looked very good on it.

Other pleasant surprise was, Barbara gifted me a book ‘Cupcake fun’. It has some amazing pictures and ideas for cupcake decorating. Barbara said it is for being “such a good student”. That made my day :).

When I reached home and showed it to my husband, he simply loved it. He even wanted to take a video of it. He spent a lot of time to make a video of it. I will upload it soon.

Updated:
Here is the video my husband created. When he saw the cake, he was all excited and wanted to take a helicopter view of the cake :). We don’t have a camcorder, so he took this from our old digital camera. His excitement gives me a lot of encouragement to continue on my hobbies. This video is nothing special, but it shows his excitement. So I thought of posting it here.

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Cake decorating 2 – grand finale cake

The course-2 of wilton cake decorating ended yesterday with the last class. In this entire course of 4 weeks, we bake just one cake in the last class. We make a lot of different kinds of flowers, save them all and use in the grand finale in the last class. So it all gets built up until then.

I could not make all the flowers, because I took wrong icing to all the classes. For some classes, I was really tired and just wanted to take rest. So I practiced all flowers on last Sunday. I could not get one flower, but thought that I would leave that flower out for grand finale.

When I went to the class yesterday, I thought I would mess up this cake. I was really tensed about the basket weave. But when I started it, I realized that it was too easy. Though I messed up at few places, the final result came out to be cute. It was better than my expectations. I know some of other students might get it perfect, but I am very happy with my cake :). The pictures don’t make justice to this cake, I tried taking good pictures many times. But finally I let it go.

I wish I had a few friends and family here for whom I could bake these cakes. My husband is getting a heavy dose of cakes due to my classes :), if only I could bake them for someone else, I would be very happy.

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Cake decorating 1 – cake 4

This is not a cake that I made for the class. I have already joined the course-2, for this class we bake less cakes compared to the course-1. We were supposed to practice a lot for all the courses and I was never finding any time. This weekend I made sure to bake one cake from the course-1 book just as a practice.

Though I baked the cake early, I went for my shopping and by the time I came home it was already 10PM. I started decorating the cake after that. I practiced writing, snow peas and leaves on this cake.

Lessons learnt, do not start delicate work like decorating cake when you are very tired :).

Updated:
Now that most of you have guessed it right, here is the full story. I was planning for a birthday cake for my husband from many days. But I got very busy when the time came to actually bake it. I wanted him to cut the cake at 12, so I wanted to finish decorating that night itself. By the time I started, it was already 10PM and by the time I finished, it was too late and he had already slept. Finally he cut the cake next day. He was very happy with the decoration. I am happy that he liked it very much. It has come out totally different than what I had initially planned – I had picked up a design from the instruction book. Still I am very happy with the decoration.

Thanks for all your wishes.

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Cake decorating 1 – cake 3

This Thursday was the last class of course-1, it was basically a practice of making roses. I was very excited as well as sad that day, since the classes for course-1 got over. I enrolled for the course-2 which starts in April first week.

Now coming to the last cake; this week was one of the most pressurized weeks at my office. There were some unexpected problems in the project and I was really stressed, more than that I was suffering from an eye infection. So Wednesday when it was time to bake and ice the cake, I was totally exhausted. In any case, I didn’t want to miss this class, so I came home a bit early from office on Wenesday. I got this great idea of baking some different cake this time. So I followed a dark chocolate cake recipe from one of the cookbooks that I had. The cake turned out to be a total disaster – my first spoiled cake. First of all, it had become dark from outside, it was not baked from inside and it had sunk in the center. It was already late and I had no mood to bake it again. So I thought of using the same cake for my class.

Now the problem was, which color to use for icing so that the black color was not visible. I didn’t want a chocolaty icing because I didn’t want to put roses on chocolate icing. So I thought of using a very dark color for icing. It demanded almost 4 times more icing than what normally would have taken, to cover up the sunken center. I could not make it very smooth because of shortage of time. Finally when I took it to class on Thursday, I was ashamed to show it to anyone.

I somehow managed to make the roses even though my eyes were really bothering me. Everyone said I had done a good job, even though my cake looked very unprofessional. I was thinking not to post it here, but this would remind me of things not-to-do in future. So it is here.

Even after all these, I am really happy with my roses. They looked beautiful. I need a lot more practice to make perfect roses, but these were very good, may be above my expectation.

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Cake decorating 1 – cake 2

Third class of Wilton’s first course was about ‘flowers and figures’. We were asked to bring the clown heads(available in baking section). We practiced rose, though it was not even anywhere near to perfect. We practiced shell borders. I wanted to practice as much as possible since I hardly find any time for this in the entire week. So I have extensively put in whatever came to my mind. This cake might not be attractive, with the not-so-symmetric lines and dots. Everyone had put one or two clowns, and I had put 4 of them on mine. So everyone in the class thought it looked like a playground. After the class, I got this idea of putting some grass(?) on my playground :). Soon after I started decorating with green color, I realized grass is not that easy to make. So finally in my half-sleep, it was a very long and tiring day, I had decorated(!!!) it like in the picture. Because of quite a lot of practice now, I have learnt a few things which will be useful in future.

Few tips from Barbara

– Most of us might assume the cakes should rise while baking and form a dome shape on top. We feel right when the cake has risen well. But that is apparently a completely wrong notion. The perfect cakes don’t get the domes after baking. In case your cake gets it, put a flat plate on top and press slightly so that you get a flat top surface.

– When we try to ice a cake, few crumbs from the cake get into the icing and spoils the icing. To avoid this, prepare a very thin consistency icing, coat a thin layer on the cake. Let it dry for sometime. Then put the actual icing.

– Those who don’t want to use extra butter for greasing the cake pan, cut a parchment paper to exactly fit the bottom of your cake pan. Pour the cake batter in the pan and bake it. When the cake is cooled completely, turn the pan upside down to take out the cake. Slowly remove the parchment paper from bottom. Cake comes out very clean.

PS: This tip is for beginners – Always remember to put the cake upside down after baking, i.e., the top becomes the base and you actually ice the bottom.

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Cake decorating 1 – cake 1

This is my first cake which I decorated in Wilton course 1 – class 2. I am not happy with my decoration, but for the first cake, I think it is okay. I didn’t make the rose which is in the center of the cake. Our instructor was teaching us making a rose and I just could not let her destroy that rose.

I wanted to seriously work on my hobbies in my free time, but I don’t know when I will be free again, so I thought of taking a step towards it right away. So finally a long time dream came true. I joined Wilton’s cake decorating classes. Thanks to Archana who gave me all the inspiration I needed to learn cake decorating. Thanks Arjuna for letting me know about Wilton classes.

We have an amazing instructor for our Wilton classes. She is an old lady, may be 80+ years old, who has taught for around 37years. I will update with more information and a small interview with her tomorrow.

Update: A conversation with my teacher at Wilton classes

I got to know that Michaels has Wilton classes from my colleague, and then I went to the store which is just across the street from my place. I saw a notice at the entrance about cake decorating course-1 which had just started 2 days ago. I had missed it by 2 days. I was so upset. I went to the cashier and asked about the next class. She said classes are not conducted if they didn’t have 3 students and she asked us to come back in the last week of February. I continued going to that store every week, even though she had asked me to come in the last week, just because I didn’t want to miss the March classes. Finally in the last week, she had the schedule and there were 8 students!!!. She asked me to come on Wednesday(classes are on Thursday) and check and see if I still want to take class. I said, I can’t wait till then so just sign me up :). That one week I counted every minute for my class to start.

Thursday I reached the class at 6PM though I knew the class was at 6.30PM. There was this old lady who was arranging all her cake decorating materials. She said her name is Barbara and she is the instructor for the classes. I could not believe it for sometime. I had imagined a young/middle aged women to be the instructor. I was so thrilled that I would be learning it from a person as experienced as her. She is a super active person. She keeps walking around and she is full of energy for her age. Hats off to her. More than the fact that I am learning cake decorating, I am thrilled to learn it from Barbara.

First class was just introduction. Barbara decorated a cake and asked us to watch her. She had decorated a beautiful cake in just a matter of 10mins. All along she gave us so many tips about baking cakes, icing them, the consistency, the flavor etc. She also told us how it is done in bakeries. In those 2 hours I realized, I would remember these tips and guidance given by her throughout my life.

In the second class, I asked her some questions about her background and how she started all this. Following is the conversation.

Me: How did you learn cake decorating?
Barbara : I am a self taught person. I started decorating cakes by looking at the recipes/methods given in Wilton’s newspapers. There were no classes at that time. Those were the days, when we didn’t even have materials required in this city.

Me: How old were you at that time?
Barbara: I don’t remember, but I had three kids. I may be in my late twenties then.

Me: How did you start teaching in Wilton classes?
Barbara: I used to live in Wichita(a small city in Kansas state) at that time. My husband was working in city. I used to take care of farm and my husband had a job in city. My husband asked me to start teaching in these classes, but I said I don’t think I can do it. But finally he persuaded me into it and I joined a Wilton class and for the first time learnt it in a class. He was very supportive of me. There were few other girls who did the classes with me. Many of them are no more now, or some have left teaching. The only other person who has taught for so long, is in California.

Me: So after learning, you started teaching in Kansas? Is this the only Michaels you have taught in?
Barbara: Yes, I started teaching in Kansas. This store has started few years ago may be in the late 80s..may be. I have taught throughout Kansas in many different places. We used to get our materials from Chicago, because we were not having the supplies here. When I mentioned this to the managers here, they started selling them here. Now a days they are available in many stores in Kansas.
I am a member of ICES(International Cake Exploration Societe) and usually attend their events. This year also I am going to attend. I will bring the details next time, if you want, you can attend. They have all the rare collection of materials which are not available easily. I know most of the popular chefs from Food Network since they all attend this event.

Me: When did you start your bakery?
Barbara: I started it in around 1990s when my husband died. I could not continue managing the bakery for long and I had to shut it down. I kept the materials which I thought will be useful for me. Other things we had put on sale.
I have made many wedding cakes. I still make a lot of birthday cakes for my grand children and other children in the neighborhood. I came to this Michaels store when this started, the manager wanted me to come here.

—- . —–

I was very inspired and thrilled after having this conversation with Barbara, it was a pleasure talking to her. When you meet experienced people like her, who are committed to their interests in art, cooking, baking etc, it’s completely filled with awe.
She keeps asking us if our husbands are supportive of what we are doing. When we say yes, she feels very happy. My husband comes to pick me up after the classes and she feels so happy to see him there.

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Fruit Gateau (A fruity cake)

fruit gateau
fruit-gateau

I thought of this recipe while searching for a suitable entry for JFI for Strawberries. I had baked this cake a few days back also, with different kinds of fruit. But this time, I used only Strawberries. The original version does not include any dry fruits, but I used cashews to give the crunchy taste to the cake.

I am a big fan of moist cakes. Since this is soaked with juice, it gets the amazing taste and the fruits make the crunchy. I should say this is the most delicious ‘moist cake’ I have ever baked :). Try it once and you will fall in love with it.

Ingredients:
All purpose flour or Maida 1 and 1/2 cup
Eggs 4
Baking powder 1 and 1/2 tea spn
Sugar 3/4 cup
Oil 3/4 cup
Vanilla essence(or extract) 2 tea spns
Orange juice 3/4 cup
Fresh cream(chilled) 1 cup
Sugar 4 tbl spns
Fresh fruits(Strawberries, grapes, kiwi, oranges etc) 1 cup
Dry fruits (Walnuts, cashew nuts) 2 tbl spns

Method:
Seive flour and baking powder and keep aside.
Beat sugar and eggs till the volume is nearly 4 times. Add 1 tea spn essence/extract and mix. Add oil gradually, beating the mixture all the time.
Add the flour, one table spoon at a time, beating very slowly.
Pour the mixture in an oven proof baking dish.
Bake it in preheated oven at 350F for 35-40min (or till a knife/skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean).
Cut the fruits into very small pieces.
Cool the cake for 5-10mins. Remove it from the baking dish. Cut the cake into two halves and soak both the pieces with orange juice.
Beat the cream with sugar and 1 tea spn of vanilla essence till soft peaks are formed. Chill.

fruit gateau1 fruit gateau2
Keep the bottom piece on a serving plate, spread the cream over it. Spread the fruits over the cream.
Spread the cream on the second piece and invert it carefully on the fruits on the first piece. Press well.
Now, decorate the cake with remaining cream and fruits.
Chill the cake and serve.

Makes 8 slices
Preparation time : 1 Hr

Updated on Aug 20-2007:
Another way of decorating this cake can be seen here.

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