Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Autumnal Family Tree birthday cake

Usually, the design aspect of my cakes requires much more thought and planning than the actual cake itself. But this autumn inspired birthday cake was the opposite, mainly because there were three parameters which I had to follow. Any milk product used must be cooked; it must be eggless; it needed to travel a distance without refrigeration.

There were very few alternatives without the almighty egg and the exclusion of whipping cream ruled out any mousse, which would not travel well anyways. Luckily, this cake was for a family of chocoholics, which allowed me to combine an eggless chocolate cake (made with soft tofu) with a whipped dark chocolate ganache (cream is scalded first).

I was given one word as thematic inspiration, family, and this immediately led me to think about a family tree and then, autumn leaves. The scroll work and tree were crafted from milk chocolate modelling paste and the leaves were rolled fondant. Everything was brushed with gold dust. After finishing the cake, I had a brief panic attack when I realized I had used MILK chocolate modelling paste (for colour contrast against the dark chocolate ganache glaze) but concluded that milk chocolate contains milk powder and milk must be heated in order to pasteurize and evaporate into milk powder. Phew!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy days

Every October, our Thanksgiving dinner is hybridized with two birthday celebrations, my dad's and mine. Then last year, my niece Hayley had the foresight to enter the world on my birthday, making Thanksgiving a quadruple occasion, condensing one holiday and three birthdays into one single event. Turkey was rarely, if ever, on the menu; instead, good old fashioned Chinese food is typical fare.

Me as Ox, Dad as Monkey, Hayley as Rat
This year, I threw together some leftovers into a birthday cake and decided that the best way to differentiate between the three celebrants was not by name, but rather by Chinese Zodiac animal. Luckily, Hayley, my dad, and I are different animals; Hayley is the Rat, my dad is the Monkey, and I am the Ox. Yes, I took a little creative license with the Ox and made it resemble a Holstein dairy cow but isn't it much cuter than a plain old ox? Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthdays!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

True or false?

Depending on how traditional you are, the great debate on whether to have a real wedding cake versus a fake (a.k.a. display) wedding cake can sometimes be intense. These styrofoam-filled look-alikes are often misunderstood, treated as second class citizens of the cake world, labeled tacky or ostentatious. Personally, I love display cakes, having one for our wedding years ago before I was even in the pastry world. Perhaps I am biased now because of the advantages a display cake offers to me as a pastry professional.

Daniela & Marino Wedding cake - adorned

A display cake is so easy to work with because it is lightweight and easy to transport, and without the need for refrigeration, it allows flexibility with timing when decorating. This is a huge bonus for me, my small kitchen, and work schedule. None of the guests would know the cake is fake anyways because a small section of real cake is hidden and incorporated into the back of the cake into which the bride and groom can cut and eat during their cutting ceremony.

Daniela & Marino Wedding cake - flowers

The actual cake served to the guests can be made in slab form and does not need to be cakey and dense like a real tiered wedding cake must be for structural integrity. Flavours and textures can be diverse and customized. A slab cake can be pre-cut into neat and tidy pieces which are easily served in a timely fashion. For those brides and grooms who like the look of rolled fondant but can not imagine eating it, having a display cake with a real slab is the best of both worlds.

Luckily, Daniela and Marino are in favour of display cakes too and trusted me with the creation of their beautiful four-tiered square wedding cake this past weekend. Royal icing piping details gave the cake a simple elegance and the lovely double olive ribbon effect with sheer over satin was unintentional but highly successful. It was truly a joy to create. Congratulations Daniela and Marino!