Monday, July 7, 2014

Half Birthday Cakes


I think it was when my daughter was three and a half years old, we decided to start celebrating half birthdays. By that point, she was making sure everyone knew she was two and a half versus three versus three AND A HALF. So, we decided to start a family tradition of marking the occasion.  We make a half cake and sing "Happy Half Birthday to you..." and blow out # and a half candles.  No presents. As much as my daughter begs, we don't give gifts.


First of all, I usually make a whole cake and then just cut it in half.  And for the candles, we just shove one of them farther down into the cake.

So, here are a few of the half birthday cakes I have made over the years for my son and daughter.
The Giant Cupcake has made several appearances over the years on half birthdays. 

I have also made a round or square layer cake and then cut it in half and stacked it up to make a half cake that is twice as tall.  My son likes sprinkles.  Can you tell?


My daughter requested a cheesecake one year.

And the Giant Chocolate Donut is always popular.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Floating Hexagon Mini Quilt



I have a confession to make.  I spend too much time on Pinterest.  One day while exploring, I came across this machine stitched hexagon mini quilt.  I thought it was gorgeous, so I pinned it.  I also took the time shortly thereafter to read the whole post and watch the hexagon making tutorial that she referenced.  And looked at her post about the holiday mini quilt she made.  And I was hooked.

Instead of making the quilt that I originally saw posted, I ended up with something a little more like the second one.

I went through my piles of scraps and found six variations of purple fabric that I've used mostly for things for my daughter (like this quillow).  I decided this would be a mini quilt for my daughter's American Girl style dolls.  Then, I got to work sewing hexagons.  

I wanted to spend as little money as possible on this project, so I printed my own hexagon templates on card stock and cut them out myself.  I got the template here.

I made 24, then ironed them, took out the templates, then made 24 more, and kept going.  I found out later that I needed 99 total hexagons.  I did 18 in each of five different colors and 9 in a sixth color.


















I did have to buy the backing fabric and I let my daughter pick it out.  I wanted white so the hexagons would "pop".  She picked a white with a bit of a faint design on it.  I cut two pieces of the white fabric and one piece of batting at 18" x 25".  I used basting spray (for the first time) to hold the layers together.

I tried a few different designs for the layout of the hexagons.  
Scattered, mostly random
Pattern
We liked this one best so I ran with it.
Light to dark - the winner!


After laying them all out perfectly and making sure I had the correct number of each color, I used fabric glue and glued them all into place.  (Part of laying them out perfectly was drawing a horizontal line with a temporary marker every two inches to line up the top of the hexagons in the odd numbered columns.  The hexagon was about 1 3/4" tall when measured from parallel sides.  I allowed about 1/4" in between.)
All glued down and ready to be quilted

Next up was quilting.  I followed the instructions on the mini quilt tutorial. And I love how it turned out!

Close up of a quilted hexagon
And another one

Then I machine bound the quilt.  After making 99 hexagons by hand, I didn't want to hand stitch the binding.

And that's it!  The mini quilt is done!
Finished!!!









More pictures...

quilt detail

showing machine binding

Quilting pattern on the back (yikes, my white doesn't look very white)

Looking down the quilt

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First Communion Cake

This weekend was my daughter's First Communion. We sketched up a cake idea together and this is how it turned out. 

I baked a Funfetti box cake mix in a 9x13 pan. After it baked and cooled, I put a piece of wax paper on top and drew out my cross shape until I got it right, then cut it. I used the cut-away corners to build a second layer to make it a taller cake. (I put the pieced together layer as the bottom and the solid cross on top with white icing in between.) 

I used white store-bought icing and did a crumb coat. Then I made a batch of white homemade fondant and rolled it out to cover the whole cake.

I tinted a can of store-bought icing light purple and piped tiny flowers around the top edge of the cross to define the edges. I then piped slightly larger flowers around the bottom to hide the fondant edge. 

I cut a small circle out of Candy Clay for the host and used a toothpick to draw a cross. I used the toothpick to lightly draw a chalice outline in the fondant, then I piped the outline with white icing, and filled it in with gold sprinkles. 

Cake is done!  It looked great and tasted great and my daughter loved it. 

Candy Clay





I've been using Candy Clay for quite a while for edible cake decorations.  The recipe on Wilton's site has you use an entire bag of Candy Melts.  (Melt one 12oz package of Candy Melts according to package directions, then stir in 1/4 cup light corn syrup until smooth.)  That makes a ton of candy clay and I never need that much.  So, a while back, I did the math to scale down the recipe.  If you want a smaller amount, use one teaspoon of corn syrup for every ten candy melt discs. (This only applies to Wilton brand Candy Melts.  Other brands may have different sized pieces.)  The instructions Wilton provides are easy to follow - but basically, it is melt the candy melts (I use microwave method), stir in the corn syrup, then spread out on a plate or wax paper and let it cool overnight.  When you are ready to use it, you knead it a little at a time to soften it up and you are ready to go.  If it starts getting too soft, put it in the refrigerator (or other cool location) to firm up a bit.


Examples of things I've made with Candy Clay:


Trees for a "Frozen" Cake
The host for a First Communion cake
Rapunzel and her hair, Pascal, flowers, hairbrush, sun
Red trim, basketball hoop and net


For the tree above, I shaped the prepared candy clay into a cone shape and then stuck a lollipop stick in.  I used kitchen scissors to make small snips all the way around.  When done, I stuck them into the cake evenly around the bottom layer.

My kids and party guests seem to always argue over who gets the Candy Clay pieces.  I think they like it more than the cake itself. Try it out and see if you like it.  Let me know how it turns out for you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Frozen" Cake


"Frozen" is the biggest movie on the planet currently, right?  So, of course, my daughter requests a "Frozen"-themed birthday party and cake.  Here is the finished cake...
The first thing I did was search Pinterest for ideas.  We found this image of a cake and my daughter gave me the go-ahead.  

She chose two different flavors of boxed cake mix (because I have yet to attempt baking a cake from scratch) - blue velvet and pink lemonade.  I baked them according to package directions, leveled them, stacked them, and crumb-coated them in store-bought icing.

Somewhere along the line, I decided this cake would be the perfect opportunity to finally try using fondant, and homemade fondant at that.  I followed the instructions for Homemade Fondant found on Johanna's blog My Crazy Blessed Life.  It was easy to make - just marshmallows, powdered sugar, and water.  I added a bit of blue gel food coloring at the end and kneaded it in to make a marbled effect. However, after I rolled it out nice and thin and got ready to pick it up to gracefully drape over the cake, it was hard-core stuck to the counter.  So I had to knead it some more before rolling again (with way more powdered sugar on the counter this time) and my marbling was gone.  I did the bottom tier by itself first, then did the top, and then stacked them.  I covered the rough edges with a fondant rope.  The ice/snow steps in front were blocks of fondant and a fondant rope railing held in place at the top and bottom with a cut toothpick.


Now for the other decorations...  I made the trees out of candy clay.  I've been using candy clay for quite a while for edible cake decorations.  The recipe on Wilton's site has you use an entire bag of Candy Melts.  That makes a ton of candy clay and I never need that much.  So, a while back, I did the math to scale down the recipe.  If you want a smaller amount, use one teaspoon of corn syrup for every ten candy melt discs. (This only applies to Wilton brand Candy Melts.  Other brands may have different sized pieces.)  The instructions Wilton provides are easy to follow - but basically, it is melt the candy melts (I use microwave method), then stir in the corn syrup, then spread out on a plate or wax paper and let it cool overnight.  When you are ready to use it, you knead it a little at a time to soften it up and you are ready to go.




I shaped the prepared candy clay into a cone shape and then stuck a lollipop stick in.  I used kitchen scissors to make small snips all the way around.  When done, I stuck them into the cake evenly around the bottom layer.






















Next up, I needed some Anna and Elsa and Olaf to actually make this look "Frozen" and to meet the approval of my daughter.  This is where things got surprisingly complicated.

I planned to just go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy small Anna and Elsa toys to put on the cake like in the inspiration photo.  Not so easy.  I went to every store I could think of and couldn't find Elsa.  I found Anna at a few stores, but the cheapest small Elsa I could find was included in a larger playset and cost around $40.  I love my daughter, but I am not spending that much on a cake topper.  Sorry.  I explored every option I could think of and settled on printing my own Shrinky Dinks.  If you are not familiar with Shrinky Dinks, immediately stop reading this and go Google it and then buy some and have hours of fun.  Just come back and finish reading this blog post eventually.

So, anyway, I found these printable "shrink sheets" forever ago and tucked them away.  












It looks like Avery maybe discontinued the product, but this product on Amazon looks like it might work.  I found the images for Anna, Elsa, and Olaf on Google Images.  I used Photoshop to get them all on one sheet of plastic and faded the color quite a bit.  (You will want to experiment with this if the instructions don't give you specifics.  If you leave the image full color, it will be really dark after you bake/shrink it.)  I flipped the image and printed on the back also.  Then I carefully cut out the characters leaving a spike at the bottom of each one under the feet.  I baked them and stabbed them into the cake.
Shrinky Dink Elsa and Anna








And since my daughter wanted an "8" candle, I stuck a toothpick into the bottom of the candle for extra support and cut out a small spot of fondant for the base and placed the candle.
Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and a giant 8 candle

And with a finished cake, I had a very happy birthday girl.



The End.  And we all lived happily ever after.  Right?  Well, mostly.  Just one thing I wanted to point out.  This fondant is rather heavy.  Everything worked out just fine, but you may be able to see the fondant on the bottom cake layer buckling a bit.  Next time, I think I need to make a change or two to prevent this.  

Some options:

-roll the fondant thinner, thereby using less

-use a denser cake (at least for the bottom) to better support the weight

-put some sort of support system in the bottom cake, dowels to hold up a base for the top cake, maybe.

I think I was the only one that noticed it (and then pointed it out to everyone) and the cake didn't collapse or anything, so it all worked out, but just a word of warning...

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fuse Bead Princesses




After a full week of snow days from school, we finally got out the fuse beads today.  All of the princesses are based on photos we found online.  My daughter came up with the pets on her own.  

Pascal - the chameleon from "Tangled"
Clover - the rabbit from "Sofia the First" and a carrot for him.
Pascal, Clover, and a carrot before melting



Rapunzel was done a month or two ago.  She is based on an awesome photo we found online.  That one had various shades of yellow/golden hair.  We weren't that ambitious.  We added her friend Pascal today.


Merida from "Brave" and Cinderella and her mouse friend Gus before melting.


Sleeping Beauty and Sophia the First before melting.

Snow White and Jasmine before melting.