Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Behind the Scenes - Spiderman

Let's start with everybody's favorite spider! Spider-man is my favorite by default really. I'm not a fan of spiders in general, but I digress.

This cake was relatively easy as far as cake designs go. The vanilla cake iced in my swiss meringue buttercream, then covered in light blue fondant. Then came the artistry. Using an image I found online as a reference, I created a semi 3-D Spider man mask to top the cake. To give the mask some depth, I used a layering technique with the fondant and imprinted lines for the "webbing". To bring out the details even more, I used some black icing color thinned with vodka to paint the previously imprinted lines. 

Then the whole thing got added to the cake. 

Next I used a wax paper transfer method I learned from the brilliant Jessica Harris in her Craftsy class. If you haven't discovered her or her techniques, you need to do yourself a favor and check her out now!

For the finishing touches, I added a fondant spider and a message for the birthday boy to the spidey themed cake base. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

We got a facelift!

Bold City Confections recently got a sleek new look! Check out our new easy to navigate website to view pictures, get answers to your questions, obtain pricing information, flavor options and much more! With a newly integrated 'contact form', it's even easier to get that quote for your parent's anniversary cake, order you daughter's Frozen birthday cupcakes or set up a consultation to design your dream wedding cake!

Don't worry though, with these changes, you won't miss out on blog stories. In fact, in the coming weeks, you'll soon have access to even more tasty recipes, new tutorials and great behind the scenes sneak peeks!!

To get see this fun and more, visit our new site at www.boldcityconfections.com. To access the blog, simply click on the Blog Page! Easy as that!

We'll see you there!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Recipe - Easy (Mock) Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I am a buttercream snob. The first step is admitting it, right? I don't like the flavorless, greasy, sugary  buttercream icing that is commonly used by bakeries and supermarkets. I do love the mild sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery Swiss meringue buttercream. The problem lies with the time required to make said buttercream.

For those of you who may not be familiar with a traditional Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC), the method usually involves heating egg whites and granulated sugar over a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved, whipping that mixture into a fluffy meringue, then adding loads of butter and your flavoring (eg. vanilla extract).

It's a loooong process, sometimes upwards of 20 minutes for one batch of icing. Sometimes you just don't have that much time to devote, or if you're not quite up to trying a SMBC just yet, give this handy recipe a try!

Easy Mock SMBC:


2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 small jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
5 ounces (just over 1/2 cup) corn syrup
1 cup ( or to taste, up to 3 cups) confectioners sugar
 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract


1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on low for a few seconds to coat the bowl and beater (this keeps your marshmallow from becoming a sticky mess).
2. Add the marshmallow creme, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and beat on high until light and fluffy.

Use immediately or store, tightly sealed, in the fridge for 2 weeks or freezer for 2 months.

Happy Baking!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Can Hear the Bells!

The Wedding cake. It's as symbolic to a wedding as cracker jacks to a baseball game! A wedding just isn't a wedding without cake!

While I have heard of the occasional bride who decides to skip the traditional tiered cake, it's even more uncommon to veto the cake altogether. The sad thing is, that I can understand why they would choose to forgo cake. I have been to more than a few weddings that feature moderately attractive cakes, but are complete failures when it comes to flavor. With dry, tasteless cake, so-sweet-your-teeth-hurt filling and gritty buttercream that has the mouthfeel of sand, it's no wonder these poor women don't want to waste the carbs!

Cake can be a hard sell, especially if you purchase without tasting. I find, quite often, that clients come to me with a typical bakery in mind; the flash-frozen, spongy cakes with the shortening based "buttercream" that leaves that greasy feeling on your tongue, and covered in bland, chewy fondant. I have heard the same things time and time again; "I don't really like cake", "I hate fondant," or worst yet, "I like the grocery store bakery cake, does yours taste like that?" It's all I can do but roll my eyes at their email and think of how these poor souls have never tasted real buttercream. Like Swiss or French meringue; light and fluffy, mildly sweet and velvety smooth on your tongue. They are made with fresh eggs, pure butter, sugar and real vanilla. The sugar is cooked into the buttercream, eliminating the gritty, crunchy texture that is common in typical American buttercream.

So why should you pay for a cake that no one is going to eat? You shouldn't! If you want your guest's to eat the cake, you better make darn sure it's good cake! And how do you know you're getting good cake? Well the first, and most obvious way is by a tasting! (Besides, that's the best part of your wedding cake consultation!) At my tastings, I like my clients to choose a few different cake flavors as well as a few different fillings and buttercreams.

Be advised, however, that good cake comes with a price. Cheap cake means cheap ingredients, therefore you end up with a lower end, less palatable cake. If taste is no concern to you, that's fine, but if you want good taste, be prepared to pay. One of my husband's favorite quotes is, "Show me the value in something and I'll buy anything." Think of how much you would expect to spend of a good dessert at a fancy gourmet restaurant. Now add in the time for a custom design, labor spent baking and decorating the cake (usually days, sometimes even weeks are spent on a single custom order), the cost of quality ingredients, delivery and set up. Our cakes begin at $3.25 a serving, relatively cheap when compared to the $20 a serving charged by some of the top designers in the industry. I know of a company personally who won't take an order for less than $900.

Make sure you take the time to research the different bakers around you. Don't get your heart set on any one baker without tasting their cake. Almost every cake baker is more than willing to offer a tasting and personal consultation, usually complimentary! Make sure you taste their cake with and without fillings, so you know what pairs well. Don't go with any particular baker purely because they are in your budget. Most bakeries can, within reason, create beautiful cakes while working within a budget.

And most importantly, don't leave your guests with a bad taste in their mouths!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Buttercream Trending - It's Baaaack!

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year or so, you are aware of the popular ombre trend that is taking over everything. Of course, one of those things it has taken over is cake. You see it everywhere; on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter, in magazines and on television. One of the things that I have noticed is a recurring use of buttercream icing in these ombre translations.

Fondant rolled out (ha!) around the late 90's and thanks to shows like "Cake Boss" and it hit a peak in popularity.  Unfortunately, the common poor-taste problem that often comes with cheap packaged fondant, brides are starting to backlash against fondant and are starting to request buttercream again. I'm certain that we aren't giving up on fondant altogether though, because there are just some designs that require it's use. Along with those ombre cakes, the web is full of buttercream piped ruffles and rustic, homemade-looking buttercream cakes.

I predict that this summer wedding season will be filled with buttercream iced cakes in refreshing flavors like lemon and melon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's a Bird, It's a Plane! No, It's Super Cupcakes!

I would love to say I have always been a little geeky. Which in some cases is true! I got my first pair of glasses in second grade. I was the only one in my class.. let me tell you how much fun that is!

But aside from that, I wasn't into comics, dungeons and dragons or a really heavy reader. I read sure, but I was a girly girl. I constructed elaborate villas in my room for my Barbies. I loved my American Girl doll (Samantha Parkington specifically, if you know who that is!) and I had a fantastic collection of nail polish! I changed my nail polish almost as frequently as I changed my outfits! Much to my poor father's dismay... he was always saying I was going to asphyxiate myself with acetone fumes.

So, when I was contacted to do cupcakes for JD's super hero themed birthday party, I had to Google around. He loved Superman above all else, but also wanted to include a few other popular characters. We settled on Superman, Batman and Spiderman. We started with some yummy chocolate and vanilla cupcakes (didn't want to get too complicated, this is a 4-year-olds birthday after all!) topped with a fluffy, vanilla, swiss meringue buttercream frosting and handmade fondant toppers to represent his super heroes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Back to Basics, Baking 101

As you may have heard me mention in the past, I am a Wilton Method instructor, in essence, I teach cake decorating, not cake baking. Yes we do touch very briefly on the importance of baking cake correctly in the classes, as it is much easier to create a nicely decorated cake when you have a good foundation. But I still end up with students who come to class with overbeaten, dense, sinking, dry, crumbly cakes. And it just makes learning that much more difficult! Cake decorating should be almost therapeutic, not frustrating.

That brings me to the topic at hand. This is Baking 101. I want to take a moment to make sure everyone understands the importance of proper cake baking before going off to whip up a batch of buttercream.

First, remember that baking and cooking are two very different creatures. Although recipes are commonly used when cooking, there is usually enough freedom to be able to substitute and stray from said recipe without concern of botching the whole meal! Baking is chemistry. All the ingredients in baking play very important roles, and changing too many can very easily ruin an otherwise lovely recipe. A good example of this brings to mind a story of my aunt. I have an aunt who is very health conscious. She tends to follow food tends and health food buzzwords. As expected, she is currently attempting a gluten free lifestyle. But she has dabbled in carb-free living as well as sugar free, which brings me to my anecdote.

My mother is number five in a family of seven girls, which means I have a large family. Once you factor in spouses, cousins, grandparents and the like, you end up with large family gatherings during holidays. While I can't recall exactly which holiday we were celebrating at the time, there was of course a dessert. My sugar-free aunt (at the time) decided to contribute a pie, and in her quest to educate the rest of the family of her healthy ways, she made the pie sugar free as well... Again, the details are fuzzy as to what type of pie it was, all I remember is that it was fruit. I will use apple pie as my example here though. Now sugar has a natural tendency to draw moisture out of fruit, in this case apples, so it is common to slice the apples and let them sit in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to create the juicy filling found in apple pie. Sugar also acts as a tenderizer when used in baking things like pie crust, helping make the crust tender and flaky (along with the added fats). There are some substitutes that can be used in place to help balance out the flavor and texture, but unfortunately, she just decided to make it sans sugar and did not bother replacing the missing ingredients! If you omit this sugar what do you end up with? A dry, dense, hard apple pie that one eats.

This bring me to my next point: substitutions. Done correctly, you can easily sub ingredients if you find that you are short something or want to change the flavor or nutritional value of your baked goods. The trick here is knowing what purpose each ingredient serves, then you can change things accordingly.

Example. Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder.

They are both white powdery substances often found in baking recipes, but do you know what they actually do? They are leavening agents, yes, but both very different formulas which behave in different ways.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate which when combined with an acidic ingredient, say buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar, creates carbon dioxide gas which expands in the heat of the oven to make baked goods rise. The acid also helps balance out the sodium carbonate produced by baking soda, which tends to have a bitter metallic taste. The acid is the important ingredient here, so replacing buttermilk with regular milk will not create the chemical reaction needed, leaving your cakes very sunken. A good replacement for buttermilk (since I very seldom keep it around!) is to add one tablespoon of white vinegar to every cup of regular milk. This substitution gives you the liquid ingredient as well as the acid needed for proper leavening.

Baking powder is an all-in-one type leavener. It is a mixture of baking soda, an acid and cornstarch. Since the acid is already included, there is really to chemical need for additional acidic ingredients. Because baking soda is about four times stronger than baking powder, you can’t just swap one for the other. And every once in a while, you may notice a recipe calling for both baking soda and powder. In this case the baking powder is doing most the actual leavening, while the baking soda is there to neutralize the acid in the recipe as well as contribute to the rise.

This talk of rising brings me to my next point. Sinking or falling cakes. A very common (and very easy to do) mistake is overbeating cake batter. Overbeating can actually cause a whole plethora of problems when it comes to cake. Not only does it make your cake dense, but it can incorporate too much air when mixing, causing the cake to peak and develop cracks on the top. It can also create holes and tunnels throughout the cake. Under beating can disable the cake to rise properly as too little air was incorporated during mixing. It can also lead to a sunken cake center and a coarse grain and cause the cake to stay soggy after baking. There is a very fine line to walk when mixing cake batter. If using a box mix (tisk tisk*) follow the directions to the minute! When making a cake from scratch, make sure that you add the ingredients according to the recipe and mixing just until the batter is combined. For whatever reason, we seem to have a natural tendency to beat cake batter until it is smooth and creamy, but this is not always the case. When in doubt, refer to the recipe!

Ovens are another factor that plays into sinking cakes. Usually, we set our oven to preheat, sometimes not long enough, and just plop in our cake pan without a second thought. Preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes, and make sure that your oven rack is centered to distribute heat more evenly. Don't crowd your oven either, make sure there is at least one inch of room all the way around  your cake pans (top to bottom, front to back and side to side). Not all ovens are created equal! If your oven is not properly calibrated it can run too hot or too cool and easily cause a cake to rise improperly. If your oven runs hot, set it cooler than called for and let your cake bake for longer. If you are using insulated baking strips like Wilton's Bake Even Strips, my rule of thumb is to go 'low and slow.' Turn down the heat about 25 degrees (F) and bake about 15 min longer, or until toothpick comes out clean. It is also very important not to open your oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking. Every time you open the oven door, the temperature can drop as much as 10 degrees and that can be death to a cake!

Here are a few other substitutions that can usually be used successfully when you may find yourself short an ingredient:

1 cup brown sugar (packed): 1 cup granulated white sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of molasses 

1 cup buttermilk: 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup; let stand a few minutes. Or 1 cup plain yogurt.

1 cup self-rising flour: 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup cake flour: 1 cup minus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup all-purpose flour: 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp cake flour
1 cup sour cream: 1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup butter/margarine: 1 cup Crisco shortening + 2 tablespoons water