About Me

My photo
Durham, NC, United States
My name is Veronica and I own Southern Gold Leaf Cakes. I opened my home-based business in 2008. I am a licensed and inspected home bakery specializing in custom cakes. Since all cakes are made to order there are no frozen cakes here, only fresh and only home made. I am a self-taught baker but I have a strong art background with years of baking experience. It is the most rewarding feeling in the world when you can apply your skills to do something you love. To see my cake creations and view our yummy menu visit us at www.southerngoldleafcakes.com!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wish Upon a Wedding

Most of us dream of our wedding day.  We dream about all the wonderful things that will happen and it will perfect and everything we hope for.  Weddings are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives at a very young age with the multitude of television and media coverage they receive, whether it's a lavish, star studded event or a Bridezilla disaster, and changing the way we now think of our wedding day.

Now let us picture the undreamed of, unexpected possiblity that your wedding may never happen.  Your dream day is not going to happen.  The reasons why are numerous but the end result is the same - no dream wedding.

Wish Upon a Wedding is an organization working to change that around the country.  A non-profit group where each and every wedding professional involved donates their time, energy and expertise to make that wish come true. 

I am now an official wish granter with this organization and really proud to be apart of something that spreads so much joy, asking nothing in return.  To learn more about the NC chapter of Wish Upon a Wedding you can go here http://wishuponawedding.org/north-carolina/. 

Our launch party was recently held at http://topogreatroom.com/venue.php and it was an absolute treat. 
Some of the professionals in attendance included:

Catherine Katz, Owner, Cherished Celebrations http://www.cherishedcelebrations.com/about-us/http://www.cherishedcelebrations.com/about-us/

Pasha Davis, Owner, Bridal Flavors (a division of Davis Design) http://www.thedavisdesigns.com/bridalflavors/index.html

Meiki Council, Owner, Ivy League Affairs http://ivyleagueaffairs.com/AM.php?/users/awp.php?ln=57642

200 cake cups in chocolate and vanilla

Meiki Council, Veronica Yoshida, Pasha Davis
Wish Upon a Wedding, September 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doing the right thing

This past weekend was not the brightest in my cake career.  I'd made it through the hottest days of summer, the muggiest afternoons and not once had I lost a cake or had any complaints.  In the last three years this is the first time that this has happened (to my immediate knowledge).

The shorter version is I tried to over compensate for the hot and very humid weather we've all summer.  I've noticed that if we have rain after very hot days we have very muggy days.  This Saturday also had the extra benefit of cold rain.  None of these extra elements are good for cake or frosting.  I had already had to scrap one accessory to the cake because I couln't stop it from melting and falling apart.  "No problem," I think to myself,  "it's not the main piece and we'll take $$ off for the missing piece."  This delivery had several cakes and the smallest one had continually melted on me if out of the cold for more than 20 minutes.  In my panic to keep things together I did the one thing I never do....keep them in the refrigerator as long as I possibly can. 

Cakes have to have time to chill while decorating.  The frosting needs time to set up so that fondant work can be done.  If air bubbles are going to occur they need time to surface.  But I've never left one in the length of time I did this one and I think I set my refrigerator to a colder setting than I'd ever done before.

The delivery itself went fine.  There were very excited people to see the completed cake but by Monday morning it had turned into the thing I always say I never want - looks fabulous on the outside but is not worth eating on the inside.  By Monday morning the client had called to tell me they had not been able to eat any of the cake because it was hard and dry.  (upon hearing this let the nausea set in)  Since she was not my only delivery that day I had to do some quick back tracking to check on the other clients.  Thankfully there were no other issues.

My conclusions were this:  I did not give the cake time to come to temperature before delivery so that it was still way too cold internally to be eaten and thusly also too dry and I left it in the refrigerator too long to over compensate for weather bringing me back to the overall result. 

The right thing to do was to give the lady her money back.  She is a dear friend and a regular client and she says she absolutely will continue to order from me but the damage is done.  I've heard horror stories where bakers won't refund the money or claim no resopnsibility but I couldn't do that.  We both knew this was not the cake I normally produce.  

The good news is everyone was understanding, we figured out what went wrong, her money was returned and we are still good friends and (as she says) a client for life. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Friendly Advice

I've sat on this one at least a week.  At first I decided not to even touch it.  Since then I've discussed it with a number of people so obviously it's on my mind so I'm gonna put it out there in the most delicate way I can, without naming names, so that I can move on.

About a week ago I was reading one of the many blogs I subscribe to and saw a tid bit of free advice from a popular venue about things that the bride should tell or suggest that their wedding cake provider do or not do.  I am not sure who wrote the advice or if they talked to any local wedding cake professionals but the advice that was offered, unfortunately for the bride and for the baker, will cause more problems then it will fix. 

We are all (supposedly) professionals.  The last thing the bride needs, in my opinion, is the added stress of trying to tell me how to do my job and make sure I'm doing it right.  Especially if they really don't know what they're asking for or about.  Any cake professional who is worth their weight already knows how to help guide a couple in the direction that best meets their needs for visual appeal, taste, reception area and so forth.  We are prepared for outdoors, indoors, morning, afternoon or evening receptions.  We check and double check location and time and area so that we can navigate traffic, avoid problems and have time to fix anything that might be needed upon arrival. 

Helpful tips are a good thing.  There is so much involved in planning a wedding that there are so many things we can forget.  The best advice I can offer my clients: the business cards of professionals in the wedding industry that I trust.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mama Marv-tastic

July 17, 2011 The Mad Hightower Tea Party

This year's Hightower Tea Party was held in Kernersville, NC at the Kernersville Wesleyan Church Family Life Center. This annual event, held by hostesses Diance C Hightower and R. Caresse Hightower, is held the third Sunday in July and acts as a fund raiser for various orgnaizations that make a difference in the lives of women and children in our area. This year's event was a fundraiser for Women of Wisdom and the House of Refuge. There is always an auction and raffle with entertainment and refreshments at the close of this elegant soiree.

This year was an even more special event as they honored their own local celebrity, Mrs. Annie Hamlin Johnson, known as Mama Marv-tastic and to unsher int he 2011 National Black Theatre Festival which will be in Winston-Salem from August 1st-6th. The tea party is always an elegant soiree with hats and gloves and the finest fashions.

A speaker on behalf of Next Step Ministries, INC. was on hand to talk about their safe haven as a place of safety and hope for victims of domestic violence. To learn more about their work or to find out how to help you can visit their website at www.nextstepdv.org.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Belated congratulations to Jennifer and Isaac

I'm so happy to finally have pictures of one of my May weddings!  It was such a pleasure from beginning to end to work with Jennifer and Isaac.   Unfortunately, one thing I am known to do is forget my camera when setting up a cake.  I am much more focused on making sure I have the cake and all that goes with it and any repair kits I may need to bring to so that the set up is successful.  Because of this it is not unusual for me to arrive and realize that, once again, the camera is NOT in my back pocket.    It's is a horrible thing to have to wait for pictures but knowing that the images are so much better when taken by a professional it is hard to complain.

I do not know who the photographer is to give proper credit to but the wait is finally over.  You can also visit my web page www.southerngoldleafcakes.com for images of the groom's cake.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Check and double check

It's always good advice.  When dealing with a delivery I always double check the venue, directions, phone numbers and time.  I double check as many items as is within my power.  Unfortunately, when there's a third party who is involved in something as crucial as the venue and the time, it takes away a bit of the that control that, quite frankly, I need in order to feel comfortable about the delivery.

My case in point happened just today and it was no fault of the lady whom ordered the cake, the venue it was being delivered to or myself.  In fact, having spoken to the paying client and the venue still did nothing to fix the issue - wait for it - the venue had no record of delivery today.  It was communication between a third party and everyone else that broke down.  Alas, this sent me to two different places in town, multiple phone calls, self-doubt, much frustration and ultimately back to the original delivery point.

The delivery was a success simply because it made it to the right place in one piece.  But when I can, as often as I can, I do repeat...check and double check and then more forward cautiously.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June 23rd - Simple and Elegant

Not every wedding cake needs to be towering stacks of cake with dozens of flowers and beading.  When a bride calls and say that they have a small budget but still want a cake - no problem.  When she says I don't need a lot of cake but I'd like a pretty cake - no problem.  When she asks if she can still have flowers and the colors she likes - no problem.

Lotus blossoms and Cala lillies
Simple and elegant, flowers of choice, beading and bands.  It also gave me the chance to learn a new flowers and play with brilliant colors.  At the end of the day, a happy bride.

And, yes, it was last minute but that is a perk to being the boss.  I get to make the hard decisions and sometimes they make you feel good!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mike Petilli and MVP Insurance

This blog has nothing to do with cakes but about a great business acquaintance and someone who has helped me tremendously.  When I first came to Mike and MVP insurance it wasn’t for my business, it was for my personal insurance needs.  In one phone call and a few emails Mike was able to analyze our home and auto insurance needs showing us where we were lacking and what we needed.  He was also able to save us money while improving our coverage.  In the span of a few short days (if that long) we were newly covered and seeing a difference in our monthly budget.

 When I  needed immediate extra coverage, I immediately panicked.  Then I called Mike and explained my situation.  He personally handled my need for coverage with the same urgency that I felt.  He was able to get the insurance that met my needs, stayed within my budget and he did it in less than 24 hours.  The paperwork I needed was available to me the same day and I was able to move forward with the needs of my client.  This level of service is almost unheard of in this day and time.

Rrecently I was able to visit Mike and his staff at their office in Apex, NC.  I had spoken with many of them on the telephone from time to time and they were just as welcoming in person as they were on the telephone.  Mike took the time to sit down and talk with me about some of my future projects and even gave me a little counseling on running a small business.    I cannot thank Mike and his team at MVP Insurance enough for what they have done for my personal insurance needs and my business needs.  I have recommended and will continue to recommend MVP Insurance to anyone who is looking to compare their rates on any type  they may need. 

You can find Mike and his team on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/MVP-Insurance-Group/100925366615158?sk=info#!/pages/MVP-Insurance-Group/108676249189973  You can even see some great work they did for me at this link  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KgwIvOsVKA&feature=youtu.be.  I see a YouTube channel in my future.

Anyway, if you have needs large or small for insurance, whether you are looking to compare rates, add coverage or whatever your specific needs may be, give him a call or visit their website
http://www.MVPinsurancegroup.com or call 919-387-2048.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What flavors do you have? (a sort of random thought process)

**I give disclaimer now that this particular blog seems to ramble a bit, seems disjointed and is possibly a list of random thoughts...some days that's just how it is.**

What flavors do you have?   Hmmm...I've worked very hard to put together a starter list of flavors on the website to get interested clients started.  I'm going to read that same list to you when we talk. and know that there are as many cake flavors as there possibilities. 
I've come to understand after a few minutes of conversation that many clients have been in the "it's standard" and "everybody does it this way" category.  They are given to believe that they can only have one cake flavor or they will get a ton of extra charges thrown at them (see my friend Kara's post on this and other cake lies at http://acaketorememberva.blogspot.com/2011/06/cake-lies-that-liars-tell.html ).  Digressing....

So what cake flavors do I have?  A quick browsing of the website will show at least a half a dozen flavors that classic starters.  Chocolate, vanilla, yellow, carrot, red velvet (a staple), strawberry...but just like a box of 96 colors of crayons there are that many and more flavors of cake you can create.  There are combinations that can create a whole new taste.  There just isn't an easy way to answer this question.  I thought by asking, "what are your favorite flavors" I would get a more narrow path to pursue.  Sadly, I was met with, "I don't know." 

My short version for today, I suppose, would be this:  remember that not everyone in the cake business is going to "do it this way."  Rather than ask what cake flavors (frosting, filling, etc.) I have, think about what you like and ask instead ask, "Do you make (insert flavor choice here)?"  Chances are that even if it's not listed it is completely doable and can lead us to other flavors you may not have thought about or a combination you might like to try. 

So remember, ask not what flavors do I have but with your flavor choice in mind, what flavor can I make for you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh, it's a wedding cake...

My husband sent me a video clip a couple of years ago that makes fun of the wedding cake industry.  I've included the clip so you can watch for yourself here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gimiDBAK2wA.  I will warn that at the very end the man does use a very description word for the cake.  It starts with "s" and ends with "t" so use headphones - otherwise it's clean.

I use this opener to illustrate a recent meeting I had with a new client.  The young lady had called for pricing a couple of times and it's pretty clear that a) English is her second language and b) she's inexperienced with sales people.  We finally decided to meet for a tasting and she brought her neighbor with her to help her.  First I found this a very wise decision on her part because she was a wonderful older lady who you could tell looked after this girl like her own.  It was such a great meeting.  Anyway....

As we went through the tasting and decision making she kept asking me, "How much more does that cost?'  My reply was almost always, "It's included; no extra charge."  This kept replaying itself and she was beside herself when she realized that she could get the exact cake she wanted in the price that she could afford.  It was best summed up by the friend when she said, "See, you just have to keep looking until you find the right baker." 

I didn't intrude in their moment and ask her what she meant but this is what I took away from this meeting from my own observations; her emotional responses, sheer delight at finding a cake and relief at the price all told me she'd been getting the "wedding cake" treatment.  Had she really been told that every little thing she asked me about was extra?  Had she really been told that this is the way everybody does it?  This is the feeling that I got.  And I've looked at other bakery websites in the surrounding areas and I can see it right there in black and white.  In some cases it goes back to starting with a smaller per slice price but "slightly smaller charger" for other items in the wedding cake package.  Some items charged for are essential to the success of the cake not fallling over (happy to answer questions through email on this).  Let's just say I am stunned at not only the brass used in charging for some of these things but the excellent wording used to describe these items is obviously intentional. 

Yes, I bake wedding cakes.  Yes, I am part of the weddig industry.  But, no, I don't fit into their "wedding cake" price mold.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

As seen on tv

Oh to be the boss of an Italian bakery and have my large, skilled family around me to handle the paper work, the phone calls, make hundreds of flowers and be there for me to explode at when I'm having a bad day.

Oh how nice it would be to have a dozen interns to hand things off to and a couple of high skilled artists on my team that I know I can count on to make the impossible possible. 

Oh how reality cake television has just about driven me off a cliff with the impossibly high bar it has set with the expectations it presents to the local bride. When  bride-to-be starts laying out her wedding cake plans and wants to "shoot the moon" I'm fine with that.  The only time I ever have issue is when they contact me in such a short time frame that many of the sugar decoratins they want aren't possible in that time frame.  While some decorations can be done a day to hours ahead many take a week and sometimes more. 

What takes mere moments on television takes hours, weeks and days for the rest of us (and secretly for them too.  That's why it's called the "magic" of television.)  It makes me feel like a one armed paper hanger sometimes.  Despite what it seems, baking and decorating really is work.  Transporting and setting up a cake really is work.  It's stressful, tiring, long hours and nerve wracking to say the least.  I absolutely love it but that doesn't make it any less work.   Despite what television shows us in a one hour show, it takes them more than a couple of days as well.  My overall goal is to provide my client with the most delicious and unique cake they can find.  I try to involve my clients in as much of the design process as possible.  I want it to be their cake.

 So if you're shopping for a cake for any occasion please remember to be realistic in your time frame.  Please do not wait until only a few weeks until you need your edible masterpiece to contact your cake provider.  You will either find they are already booked or that the cake you are dreaming of may take more time than you have given your baker/decorator - unless you really want the drama you see on tv.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not from a box

I do not cut corners. I do not break down and buy a cheap box of cake mix. I do not wimp out, buy something and hope someone won't notice. I make every single cake from scratch.

Homemade has come to mean Betty Crocker and the woman on that show that's "semi-homemade".   Several times over the last few weeks I have had to make this distinction.  I understand the confusion.  I really do.  As much as it still boggles my mind, we are in a generation where people don't learn to cook unless they plan to make it a career and homemade means it comes from a prepackaged box.  Don't get me wrong, I've been there a few times in my own life.   Sometimes it's just easier to grab a box off the shelf or a bag out of the freezer to toss in the microwave and be done with it.  You're eating at home and that makes it homemade.

When I first started making cakes I told people I made them myself; homemade.  I didn't realize that was automatically lumping me into the "box mix" category.  I then started to meet other local bakers and found that *gasp* many of them did actually use box mix because it was cheaper.  Sure, they doctored it a little bit and, as they said, "most people can't tell the difference".   Holy Cow!  

In the last few months I've found myself repeatedly having to explain the difference between homemade and made-from-scratch.  When you go through the grocery line with that many eggs, boxes of butter, cans of baking powder and so forth somebody always says, "are you a baker?"  Yes.  I am a baker.  And I'd like to clarify that I bake from scratch down to the last detail.

Knowing what I know now clears up so many things.  For example, I am shocked at the number of people who tell me they like chocolate but not chocolate cake.  I understand the reasoning now as I've begun to bring them back to the delicious world of chocolate cake.  A chocolate cake from a box has very little chocolate flavor at all.  It doesn't have the same moist texture and crumb, it dries out quickly and you must use a very fudgy frosting to enhance the flavor.  To see the expression on someones face when they taste a cake made-from-scratch and it's so much more than they expected is always a treat for me.   When I do a tasting I keep the cake separate from the frosting and fillings so that they can mix and match and have the opportunity to taste each item individually.

This whole "homemade equals a box mix" thing has been bugging me for a few weeks now.  We are so advanced yet so backwards.  I like to know how things are made.  Items don't just appear, they have to come from somewhere.   The same people look shocked when they say, "you MAKE marshmallows?"  Uh, yeah.

Quality comes from caring and using really good, fresh ingredients.  I can tell a cake that's been made and frozen.  I can tell a cake that came from a box.  Sometimes I can even tell you what brand of frosting they used based on consistency.  I do everything myself from start to finish.  I sift and weigh the flour, measure out the baking powder and create mess and chaos using every bowl and measuring spoon I have.  I do it all by myself and I do it all for the people who want really awesome cake.

I'm a scratch baker, not from a box.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week in review...

Okay, so maybe it's more like three weeks in review.  Time management is usually something I'm very good at.  I'm usually a very organized person. .  I mean, who really wants to hear what I have to say about cake and baking and business?  Apparently a few people do so I have to be responsible at least for them and hopefully they will forgive me if I ramble.

Along with the April showers (and tornadoes) came a flurry of activity and events.  We started off the month of April with a wonderful fund raiser for my daughter's preschool.  That led us into the final week before a wedding which is when I'm making sure I've double checked my list for pre-made decorations and equipment. 

The weekend of April 16th brought us a beautiful wedding and terrible weather.  My heart goes out to all the families and businesses that suffered that day and I count myself blessed to have not suffered any ill effects.  However, that also brought me into the one week prep period for my next wedding. 

This was my first month of weddings where they were weekend bookends.  I have had several periods where one wedding a month may be the norm so even though I knew that I could do one each weekend the physical practice had not been applied to the theory.  I survived and did so with flying colors. 

Many people that I've talked to about this that know I run a cake business keep saying "you all" or "you guys".  I have had to correct many people on the concept these last couple of weeks that there is "no they" only me.  This is when they stop and look at me like I've got three heads followed by, "you do all that by yourself?"  The answer is always the same, "yes."  One more reason why it takes me a little longer to get to my blog.

So please forgive me if I'm not current.  I am trying.  I hope everyone had a wonderful April, a blessed and beautiful Easter and I'll see you soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I know, I'm late again!

But hey, it's been really busy and that's good, right?  Well, it just shows I need to set aside that Monday (again) to make it computer and paper work day. 

So, first of all let me take a moment to thank anyone who read about and visited the fund raiser on April 2nd for St. Luke's preschool.  It was a huge success and a great time was had by all.  Bake sales are an awesome way to raise money so keep it in mind!

Secondly, I've been working really hard to get the webpage up.  It's been a much harder process than it should have been thanks to the tremendous tech support department that I was allowed to work with (read this with dripping sarcasim if you dare)!

Thirdly, a huge thank you to Kara Buntin for allowing me a guest post on her blog.  You can read it here:
http://acaketorememberva.blogspot.com/2011/04/guest-post-veronica-yoshida-on-cold.html.  If you've never visited her blog before it is always a good read and I encourage you to visit.

It's back to work for me.  This week and next are really busy times so I may not get back as quickly as I'd like. 

Until next time....

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Luke's School Scholarship Golf Tournament, Spring Carnival and Silent Auction

Date:  Saturday, April 2, 2011
Time: 2pm - 5:30 pm
Where: Umstead Pines at Willowhaven
            253 Country Club Drive
             Durham, NC 27712

Bouncy houses, balloon artists, face painting, snow cones, popcorn, bake sale and a whole lot more!
**hint hint - we're helping with cupcakes in the bake sale**

Silent auction, raffle, hot dog  & hamburger cookout to follow the Golf Tournament
$10 for adults $5 for children (ages 3-10)

Items included in the raffle and silent auction include:
2011 autographed Dke basketball and poster,  PlayNation birthday party, a cake package from Southern Gold Leaf Cakees, gift certificates and more. 

for more information please contact Kim Carpenter at forewcc@aol.com

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Final thoughts and Comparisons on Cold Porcelain

While looking on line for some items I came across some figurines that looked interesting. Actually, it was more the name than the figurines but when I began reading about them I became really intrigued in how they were made. All the items were made from cold porcelain. I felt like I should know what this was after going to art school for four years but I had no idea what this was or how to use it. My internet search originally came up with a lot of repetitive information and I lucked into one recipe that seemed easy enough and I figured I could do this.

Cold porcelain is a non-toxic but non-edible medium that dries hard like porcelain but does not have to be fired like porcelain. It can be molded, modeled, painted, and sculpted just like clay or gum paste. It seems ideal for keepsake items, such as toppers, bouquets or figurines, because it can be sealed and is essentially porcelain. It will melt from water or extreme heat, the sealing helps with the water, but so will sugar so you would instruct to treat it like any other type of keepsake item. The paints need to be either acrylic or oil based, not water based, and it can be tinted in small batches. If left alone it dries “translucent” which is kind of an off white appearance. You should use a sealant that can either be brushed on or dipped into and not sprayed on and you can have satin, matte or gloss finish as well.

I have tried and compared two recipes. The first is white school glue, corn starch, mineral oil and lemon juice. The mineral oil adds moisture and the lemon juice uses citric acid to keep mold from forming. This particular recipe has to be kept air tight and refrigerated. You cook these four ingredients together over low heat, stirring constantly for ten or more minutes until it forms a ball, sticking to itself, and then turn it out onto your work surface. Then you add a bit more corn starch, keeping your hands greased with mineral oil, and you need it until it’s workable. Wrap in plastic and then put in a Ziploc baggie and refrigerate.

The second recipe is white school glue, cornstarch, glycerin and cold cream. I liked this one a bit better because it smells a little better, thanks to Ponds cold cream, and it cooked really fast. The first recipe just tired my arm out so much. This recipe has you cook the glue, glycerin and cold cream for a few minutes on med-low until the cold cream is smooth and then add the corn starch a little at a time mixing really well. By the time you’ve added the last of the cornstarch you’ve got a pretty well formed ball. It took all of about five minutes. This one does not refrigerate but still needs to be wrapped and kept air tight. Both recipes make approximately half-a-pound of cold porcelain.

Truth be told it is easy to work with but it took some getting used to. I decided I really wanted to give it a go mostly because I have so many brides who want some portion of their flowers to be keepsakes or a monogram. When it comes to smaller celebration cakes I’m often as to make some sort of figurine. This seems like the perfect solution.

It is much softer than regular gum paste and requires a very light touch to work with. I’m pretty heavy handed and can use a very thin skewer as a rolling pin and get it as thin as paper with little effort. All the items I’ve attempted with it so far seem to dry very quickly, most over night, and fairly evenly. It is very sturdy.

I’ve painted in acrylics, which dry super fast, and oil which takes a lot longer. If using to create flowers you should definitively tint it first and then work into your shapes so that you don’t have to over handle the finished product too much. Since I don’t know if it will airbrush or not pre-coloring seems like the better option if you need large patches of color. Figurines and other modeled items will probably yield better results from mixing both tinted and untinted pieces and applying paint in detailed spaces.

All in all it’s an item I think I am going to enjoy working with. It’s inexpensive to make. It seems, so far, to go quite a long way. It looks as though it will be a better option for items that are meant to be keep sakes and not just decoration and its non-toxic so it can still be placed on the cake. It’s not a piece of flotsam that you buy in the store that will get tossed. It took me back to my college days working in the ceramics studio learning about clay. I enjoy a medium that makes me use other creative parts of my brain that may have been asleep for a while. I am breaking out my acrylics and oils again, remembering the basics of working in ceramics and getting to create more lasting pieces of art to go along with my edible creations of art.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cold Porcelain - part II

So yesterday I made a batch of cold porcelain.  Last night I decided to play with it a bit and see what results I would get. 
Observation A:  It's very soft and pliable.  I mean, to roll it out takes almost no pressure whatsoever.  It's the purest white I've ever seen. It's possible I didn't cook it long enough but I don't think so.  I'll have to try a second batch to kow for sure.
  Now when I kneaded it together it was much the same as fondant or gumpaste and I had to work in extra cornstarch just like you would work extra powdered sugar in to the other two.  The interesting thing is it doesn't appear to firm up at all.   I found that due to it's extremely soft texture I had to made pretty severe adjustments to how think I rolled something out and the size of the cutter I was using. 

Observation B:  it will roll out to near transparency.  After deciding to roll it out thicker than I would normally roll out any paste for using cutters, I used my second to smallest heart cutter to see how it rolled out from there.  I used a small wooden rolling stick and gently, VERY gently, rolled out the form.  It easily tripled the size of the cut out and was rice paper thin.  It was much more difficult to curl the edges however.  I put that in a former to dry so I could see it today.

second view of calla

Observation C:  doesn't need much moisture to stick together.  It took next to no water/gum glue or any other moist adhesive to get parts to stick together.  The next form I cut was a small calla lilly because they are easy to form and dry.  Again, I rolledthe dough thicker but this tme I only really elongated the "tip" and tried not to thin the petal too much just to see how a thicker petal would dry.  I found that I also needed to dust the former with cornstarch so that it would release. 

Observation D:  shapes very easily.  Now I decided to make a little figurine to see how easy it shaped and how long a more thick, solid piece would take to dry since it claims 24 hours.  I made a number "1" and put a few little frills on it.  It seemed appropriate as my first tests.

This morning, just 12 hours later, I find that the thinner shaped pieces are pretty set, very light and pretty durable.  I dusted the one with petal dust to see how it takes powdered colors.  I plan to paint the number figurine with oils since it is supposed to take those well. 

I decided to look around last night and see how many different recipes there are and what kind of following CP has and it's pretty widely used.  There are a few big names that are well known for it.  I found two more recipes and the few differences are include cold cream (in both) and white liquid tempra paint in the other. I even found one that uses glycerin.  The amounts of each ingredient are pretty similar so I'm debating if trying the other batches is worth it.  

heart petal with red velvet petal dust

The one type of feedback I haven't found is how the consistency should feel, how workable it should be and how long a batch should last before it's too old to use. 

figurine and calla

Hopefully you can see the color difference between the number one and the flower.  The flower is so thin you can see through it while the thicker piece seems a bit tinted.  I read that with white paint you get a "true" porcelain look. 

The flower was so light I couldn't believe it.  I must have dropped it about three times trying to get a picture and it never once cracked.  However it hasn't had it's full 24 set up time so it may be much more fragile after it's truly set.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cold Porcelain

I recently went shopping (on-line window shopping pricing some near future purchases) and ran across an item that made me pause and say, "what's that?"  It was a listing for some figures but that wasn't the interesting fact.  They were listed as cold porcelain.  They were very cute and reminded me a little of the Precious Moments figurines you buy at Hallmark.  The description listed them as not-edible but non-toxic which is whey they could be used as cake toppers or decoration because they were food safe (I guess that's the non-toxic part). 

Immediately I searched for cold porcelain on the internet and found an easy to make recipe and a complete description of this new intriguing item.  It  could  be edible except for one very important ingredient: glue. Yep, white glue, cornstarch, mineral oil and lemon juice.  That's it.  Because it isn't baked and fired it isn't good for crockery and it's not water tight but it can be sealed.  It can be painted with oils or acrylics and once it's made can be used just like modeling clay. 

I made my first batch today.  My thoughts: lots of brides do like keepsake flowers when they are made for their cake or they want a customized topper.  I usually do both of these types of things out of some sort of sugar.  I've used royal icing, gumpaste, modeling chocolate.   The thought of using something that was a bit more stable and could be sealed was nice.  The fact that it's non-toxic if not edible was also good.   It still has to stay dry and away from high heat because either will cause it to melt but otherwise it seems like a fit.

If you try this yourself I will tell you it's a work out.  I would use a saucepan you do not intend to ever cook food in again.  Even though it washes out it's not a risk you want to take.  Eating paste in grade school is one thing but residual cooked glue is it's own trouble.  The recipe says it takes about 10 minutes of constant stirring over low heat.  I found it close to 15 mintues and I ended up switching hands regularly but hopefully my shoulders, biceps and triceps will thank me later.  Once it's cooked it's much like making your fondant or gumpaste.  You turn it onto your work surface and then knead it until it's pliable.  It will be lumpy but will eventually work smooth.  It's then wrapped in plastic wrap and then bagged air tight and placed in the fridge.  The recipe I used made about half-a-pound which is not very much but enough to play around with. 

All in all, a simple recipe that does require a bit of elbow grease but not too difficult at all.  The clean up is pretty easy and the storage is easy too.  I don't know the life span but if you're like me you won't have it around long enough to find out.  So now I'm off to play with my new clay and see if I really like it enough to make more.  I'll try to have pictures soon.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Family business or....

...a business that seems to be in the family blood. 

I have a cousin that lives in Michigan that I have not see in some 30 years.  Thanks to modern technology (FaceBook) we have been able to reconnect and become family again.  So you can imagine my surprise when I see my cousin Beckie turning out these killer cakes.  She doing sculpting and fondant and wedding cakes.  Suddenly we're swapping recipes and techniques back and forth and it's sooo cool.  I mean, this is not something either of us intended to do but here we are.  We are both self taught and both just passionate about cake, frosting and art and all that jazz. 

So how does this happen?  How does she live so far away and have a time gap so broad and yet here we are patting each other on the back every other day over cake achievements?  All I know is it's very cool!  What would be cooler is if she was closer so she could work with me and we could really bust some heads (in a sweet, cake related way!)  

It's a shout out to family!  It must be in the blood.  That Ferguson side must run some darn pretty shades of creative juice because we seem to have it in spades!  One of these days we're gonna get it together and then just look out!  

Here's a couple of the fabulous cakes she's done.  Awesome!!

Love ya Beckie!

Making or breaking a budget

I know it's been touch on by others but I think it is worthy of being repeated.  I know how important a budget it and how hard it can be to stay within that budget and still get everytihng you want/need.  However, just because something costs less and "fits your budget" doesn't mean it's the right fit.  There is also a saying, "you get what you pay for." 
  My husband has teased me with a video of a couple buying a cake that costs next to nothing and then the girl mentions it will be perfect for their wedding.  The lady behind the counter then pulls out an exact replica of the cake they just looked at and says, "Oh, then you want this one.  It's a wedding cake."  It also costs triple but it's the same cake.  The joke is that everything is more expensive if it's for a wedding. 
   It's in my experience that most, not all but most, cakes are priced on a per slice basis and then the additional fees come in the form of either extensive sugar work, delivery, special order items and such.  I have vistied many websites that don't even list a price range and insist that you have to meet them for those details.  I have seen websites where the per slice price is extremely low but they tell you further down the page that additional charges may apply.  I have even priced cakes through these bakers only to find that in the end the cake they quote me is no more expensive than my own even though the initial price per slice is dramatically different. 
  It comes down to knowing all the facts on the baker and how the final cost is tallied.  This is something that many brides do not think to look for because of all the other things they are juggling with their wedding.  It is my opinion that it is the baker's responsibility to make sure they understand where and why each and every additional fee occurs.   You may think you have found a baker who fits your budget when looking at the intial price but find that it costs more in the end and your budget won't cover all that you want. 
  I was recently told by a bride that she wanted to meet as soon as possible to discuss her summer wedding and that she had heard nothing but good things about me and was so excited.   An hour later she re-emailed me and siad that she just noticed my prices were too high and she couldn't afford me but thanks anyway.  It came down to the fact the other bakers she spoke to started their cakes at half the price but what I never heard her mention was any frame of reference.  She had hunted down other bakers based on their "price per slice" and no other referral or frame of reference.   I give you now the same words I gave her (after I thanked her for contacting me and wished her well - and I did mean it):

1.  Ask questions.  Ask for a copy of their preliminary contract to see all the fees they are going to include to your cake price that will result in your final price.  How many additional fees are added to make up for such a small initial fee?  Ask for references for past brides.

2.  Love the cake you taste and be comfortable with the baker you choose.  Don't feel pressured because of price and don't allow yourself to be limited in your visual design or amount of cake you must purchase in order to get such a reduced price.

3.  Be satisfied with your decision.   When you are ready to make your deposit and sign your contract know that you will walk away with no regrets and feel that your cake is in good hands.

These are the things I want for my clients and for people who aren't my clients.  So remember you'll get what you pay for and you can still get good things without breaking your budget.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday, Monday...

Should Monday always have to be busy paper work day?  I don't know how it happens but it always seems to turn out that way.  I almost never touch the computer between Saturday and Sunday because of delivery obligations and general cake busyness.   Maybe that's why Monday is always such a chore. 

Now, I will admit that I do jump on a bit just to read blog postings and tweets and so forth but I try to not delve to deeply or I will get sucked into the whirl wind that is paper work and not get a day off. 

I'm going to conclude that Monday must be the paper work day since no baking, flower making or anything else remotely creative happened today.  *sigh*

My DIY bride!

 I had the extra ordinary pleasure of meeting a great couple this week.  I was a DIY bride and so I understand completely the reasons behind it.  Sometimes it's budget, other times a level of control but ultimately you just want to be involved in every part of the process.

 This wonderful bride-to-be has done what I've seen few do; managed to not over micro-manage and remain a pleasant person to be around.  She's not trying to make her dress or her cake (good for me) but she is looking into her own accessories, table decor and so forth.

At the consultation she was such a blast!  Because of her pleasant personality and her willingness to share many of the ideas for the reception, we were able to create some really great ideas for the decorations on her cake and the fact that she was open to just about any idea was great.

It doesn't happen often but thank goodness when it does.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

April's "Show Stopper" wedding cake

Every so often you get a bride that knows exactly what she wants down to the tiniest detail.  Sometimes a bride is more flexible and will bend like a willow reed.  Then you have a bride like one that I'm currently working with for her April wedding. 
 Now, I'm not going into great detail about the cake here because it's too early and she should see her cake before all the details have been printed for the world to see.  However, she has been one of the easiest brides when it comes to design I have worked with in a long time. 
  She knew the essentials of what she wanted and told me in our first conversation, "I want to go bold."  She sent me an image of the style she wanted.  So I ran with it in the most bold and daring way yet tried to keep it tasteful and elegant.  First hurdle cleared, she loved it! 
  When we talked more during the tasting and shared more ideas with her, again, she's not only loving the ideas but pushing the envelope one step further but ulitmately saying, "You're the professional.  If you think we can do this and still keep it beautiful then let's do it.  I trust you and know you'll make it perfect."   That is some high praise and not just a little bit of pressure.

All of the above being said, this cake will have it all.  In the end, I believe it will be regal and elegant and put a new spin on some more traditional concepts.  I can't wait to get pictures posted! 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Box of Chocolates - update

This has been quite the learning experience but in a really great way.  It tuned out much the way I expected and with the learning curve not being as bad as I expected.   Here are the sheets of chocolate rolled out to dry so that I could construct the box.  Then there were about two dozen red velvet cake balls that were placed in gold cups for the "candy" portion.

Then there was building the box and piping the details.  I also built the lid so that it could be opened.  The sheet cake on the inside was lemon blackberry. After making a "tray" for the "candy" it was placed on top.

The names were piped on in chocolate.  CRU stands for Clinical Research Unit (they are the GCRC).  If you can see the small beading work, that is chocolate as well.  I used a 4mm bead maker to make those tiny little pearls.   I wanted to do so much more in the way of decoration but just simply ran short of time.  More images will be on FB and the website.

box walls of chocolate

red velvet "candy"

candy on a tray

box lid

Front view

Side/aerial view

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Belated birthday blog at PlayNation

This is a belated birthday party story.  The story actually happened in December before Christmas.   Some of you may know that I do cupcakes for a local indoor play company called PlayNation of Morrisville http://www.playnationparties.com/.  So when someone has a birthday party there, and they are awesome by the way, the cupcakes that their children receive come from me (unless for some reason they have an allergy I can't bake for or they just don't want cupcakes!) 

 It's not unusual for the party goers to have specific requests from time to time, like, pink frosting, no sprinkles, yellow cake instead of vanilla, blue wrappers, etc.  I do my best to customize as much as I can.  One order however became very specific and I was asked to call the parent directly, which of course I did, letting her know she could work with me directly for her needs.  This mom of twin boys, both adorable, was attempting a Dr. Seuss party theme she'd seen on line.  Her request was pretty simple, "can you do blue frosting and red paper?"  No problem.  "Can you do yellow cake instead of vanilla and chocolate?"  No problem.  "What else can you do?"  One of my most/least favorite questions.   Long story short, after much discussion, emails with pictures and arrangements, we came up with the an extra 6" round in blue with white polka dots to sit on top of the cupcake stand she created and would be filled with the cupcakes.  The yellow cake was filled with cookies and cream filling and all was frosted in blue buttercream. 

Since their party was so close to Christmas and she's a busy mom of twins, I decided to wait until after the holidays to request pictures.  So, without further ado, the finished product.

What an amazing job she did creating this stand for her boys!  My understanding is the party was a thrilling success and much cake was enjoyed by all.  Sometimes it's fun to just do things a little differently.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More thoughts on modeling chocolate (candy clay)

I've not worked extensively with modeling chocolate but it seems to be no harder to deal with than gumpaste. Yes, it will melt with the heat of your hands so you must work either faster or in a colder space or in short bursts. By the same token, however, the ability to create a more malleable medium just with the heat of your hands has it's advantages.

I currently have two batches of white chocolate "candy clay" chilling in the fridge so that I can begin working on the decorative structure of a cake due this weekend. I already realize I will need to make more. I'm pretty good at eyeballing how much gumpaste I will need since I make my own and know how much will come out of a batch. Now I know how much modeling chocolate I get in a medium batch and it's not as much as I expected - I take that back. It's actually a relatively good amount of candy clay for. It's not a large enough amount for this particular project.

So while it was formulating in my mind to make the candy clay I happen to see on "Fabulous Cakes" where one baker uses modeling chocolate extensively in place of both gumpaste and fondant. That is actually a pretty brilliant concept. She said it just tastes better and it's her area of expertise. I grant you that all fondant does not taste good. Some of it is pretty nasty. I happen to make my own either out of marshmallows (I have to make them first) or a glycerin based fondant but both are really tasty because they are 80% powdered sugar. They can't not be sweet. In all fairness there are one or two really great companies out there that I have purchased fondant from (which is obviously less labor intensive but much more expensive) and they are very praise worthy. So in defense of fondant - not all fondant is gross.

I watched her mix melted chocolate into her buttercream before applying it to her cake, which not only made a beautiful natural design, but when both the chocolate and butter set up will be really firm. I guess one of my questions is: what happens if it's a really hot day? You know, the kind we get in August in North Carolina? I mean, even using modeling chocolate in place of fondant over your buttercream, I mean, let's face it the chocolate is gonna melt. I'm not saying fondant is fool proof. If a cake is in the heat long enough eventually the buttercream will melt and there goes your beautiful smooth exterior. But if the entire cake is covered in modeling chocolate......
I'm not trying to sound as though I bash the idea. I actually think it's rather cool and I'm intrigued to try it myself in the near future. Right now, me and the candy clay are a work in progress; getting to know one another. Given the fact that both my kids have birthdays at the end of February and they both order very detailed, very complicated cake designs it's good I get started now!

Anybody ever try this? What's your favorite use for the candy clay? Any favorite brand of chocolate?


Box of Candy cake

This week I am attempting to work with chocolate in a way that is really new and experimental for me.  While I've used chocolate in cakes, as frosting on cakes, as drizzle over cakes and I've used modeling chocolate for small pieces I've never used it for structure. 
   My challenge is to create a box of candy.  The actual inside will be cake (lemon blackberry to be exact) and the "candy" will be cake as well (but I'm not spoiling that surprise).  The actaul cake box is the chocolate construction that will be my challenge.  While theoretically I know how it should work I've never done it.  I don't expect it to be tremendously hard but I still move forward with caution as the things that seem easy seldom are.  As well as the fact that whenever I've seen someone do this THEY make it look too easy!
  Since the client is my mom I told her this was an experimental first and her response - "Ok.  We just know we love the cake!"  I will attempt to get pictures as I go so that the next time I talk about this cake you can see the progress and maybe the finished results!  Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ooops, I missed the beginning of January

Obviously we're well into the middle of January.  This is my first posting of the new year.  What can I say?  Things have been busy and schedules have been chaotic and over all it's been a slight period of adjustment to which I am, quite honestly, still adjusting.  Let me see if I can sum up what's been going on the last couple of weeks. 
  Traditionally the beginning of the year is slow from wedding cake stand point.  There are still birthday parties, cupcakes and events to bake for but it is still one of the slowest times of the year.  That being said, after going through the incredible rushes at the end of December to a sudden drop off, it was a real head spin to adjust to the use of my time. 
  I have cakes that are scheduled starting in February and moving into the spring so there is detail work to be done.  I am working on dairy-free and vegan recipes and new items to add to my menu.  I am putting together an Etsy store front so watch for that too.  I have lots of ideas for the up coming calendar dates  like Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras and I'm even putting together my ideas for my displays at this year's bridal show in the fall. 

I have been busy.   I am very excited about what this year will hold.  Happy baking everybody!