Erick and Elena… or my pick for wedding cake of the year

With Thanksgiving only moments away, I started thinking about 2013 as a whole, and all the work I’ve been privileged to create.  I get to be a part of so many special moments because of what I’m lucky to do as a cake designer.  I’m often surprised by which cakes resonate with the world at large, but I’ll tell you this year, for me, it was this wedding cake.

Erick and Elena have been clients for a while now… his 40th birthday cake, their engagement cake. Every single cake I make is important to me and with it I hope to build a relationship with every client.  When I’m blessed to have them come back over and over, I feel a special responsibility to surpass their expectations. That creates some sleepless nights, and a few mini panic attacks here and there, but they always subside with the completion of the project.  Sunday nights are good sleeping nights for me.

Eric and Elena really created an over the top gorgeous wedding.  Their reception was held at the Mandarin Oriental, with 300 of their closest friends and family.  They nailed all the details, monogramed napkins, stunning florals, and favors from Sugar Couture featuring I Love NY cookies and matching mugs, in bags printed with their wedding monogram.

 I Love NY Cookies

photo 2

And, because it was also Erick’s parents anniversary, the bride and groom surprised them with an anniversary cake, which was a modernized version of their original wedding cake from so many years ago.  Not kidding, the original had pink package bows… you know the kind you buy at the drugstore?  Yeah, those were the decoration.  So we updated with sugar bows, pink swags and shimmer.

Seven tiers of strawberry champagne cake with strawberry buttercream.   Covered in white fondant, the cake was a canvas for the 550 hand made sugar flowers that covered it.  Garden roses, peonies, heritage roses, and orchids all lightly dusted with a blush pink to match the wedding colors.  And the final detail was the hand piping of the pattern from their invitations.  So many hours of work and love went into this baby.  We assembled it in three pieces for transport and then put it together on site.  How amazing to see the cake table in the middle of the room, and the cake as a centerpiece with New York itself as the background.

IMG_3012

For a bit of the beauty, take a look at their video teaser by Robert and Kathleen Photographers.

 

I’m in love with this cake. Its a beautiful mix of my cake style and traditional wedding cake style. Its  the tallest cake I’ve made to date, and most definitely the most sugar flowers. So now to start thinking about how to top it in 2014.

 

IMG_3018

 

IMG_3019-Edit

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Lego Marvel Super Heroes Cake

If you haven’t heard from me in the last couple of weeks… this is why.  A showstopper cake for today’s launch of the new Lego Marvel Super Heroes game.  Our scene features Sand Central Station, inspired directly from the game.   Four feet long, 32 inches wide and 2 feet tall, the location was the perfect setting for Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Loki, Black Widow, Spiderman and Thor to save us all from Dr. Doom.   Weighing in at approximately 70 pounds this cake would easily feed 180 and took more than 70 hours to create.

 

lego marvel cake

IMG_2126
IMG_2122

Couldn’t have don it without the support and talents of  Lauren Nisenson, and my Chief of Operations, my husband Jay, who always makes me look good.

IMG_2088

IMG_2103

IMG_2102

IMG_2101

IMG_2100

 

 

And a special shout out to the front door staff at the Bryant Park Hotel, who went above and beyond to make sure our super heroes made it up to the 24th floor.

IMG_2117

 

 

How To: Making Edible Sugared Flowers

For the midsummer’s night dream petit four table we were looking for a special delicate touch to decorate the tops of our yummy almond petit fours.  Edible flowers  in hues of purple and yellow, with the crisp shimmer of sugar came to immediately to mind.  After the pretty pictures hit the web, I was asked how we did it…   so here you go.

 

You’ll need:

Sheet tray

Parchment paper

Paint brush for food use only

Edible flowers, we used pansies

Pasteurized egg white

½ cup Sugar

teaspoon

2 small bowls

 

First, head to your trusted local florist and purchase a larger plant grown as naturally as you can find.  I like purchasing the plant because it keeps on giving…   and you can continue to harvest over and over.  Rose Red & Lavender is my local florist of choice.

picture

Before you cut them, give them a good wash with clean water and allow them to dry on the plant, in the sun if possible.

IMG_1913

Harvest the flowers by clipping the stems, leaving about a ½ so that you can easily move them about.

Prepare a work surface with a piece of parchment, a sheet tray lined with parchment, food use paint brush, and a small plate.  Grab a teaspoon while you’re at it.

Place ½ cup of sugar in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as you can.  Place this in a small bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk one egg white with a tablespoon of water until combined and a bit frothy.  I would suggest purchasing already separated whites for this since there will be no cooking and these egg whites have been pasteurized.

To make the candied flowers, dip the paint brush in the egg white, and paint the top or face of the flower gently, coating it well.   Place the flower on the plate, face down, and paint the back with the frothy white….  I love that word frothy.

IMG_1425

Place the wet flower face down into the sugar and spoon sugar to cover the entire flower.   Pull the flower up gently… did I mention you have to be gentle through the whole process?… and place it face down on the parchment lined sheet tray.  Allow this to air dry for about 24 hours and then you can peel them up … again gently… and tuck them away in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

IMG_1915

What do they taste like?   Well, not much of anything, but aren’t they pretty?  If you’re looking for flavor, consider using rose petals, violets or lavender instead.

Good Cake Question!

Custom cakes are for special occasions, not the everyday.  So its natural that certain questions come up, repeatedly for me, but the first time for my clients.  I’m happy to answer any questions, and the blog is the perfect place for these.

Today’s question,   How long does it take to make a specialty cake?

-The process of making a custom cake starts with brainstorming in the very first phone call.  From there, ideas are refined and developed until its time to sketch.  10 minutes to 1 hour

photo

-Depending on the amount of detail and your sketching abilities (or lack thereof in my case) a sketch can take any where from 15 minutes to an hour.  There are often revisions as well, each sketch adding on to that timing.

-Once the design is set, supplies are ordered.  Research is begun to find the right source material.  1 hour minimum.

-Many cakes require that detailed plans and templates be created.  30 minutes to 2 hours.

-The amount of details incorporated into the cake will determine how early you have to start working on it.  For something with say sugar shoes, each piece needs to be made, and then dried overnight, so those would need to be started almost two weeks in advance.  And over that time, will take from 1-4 hours to complete one shoe.  Most things will be made in the beginning of the week the cake is due.  Sugar flowers are made petal by petal and can take anywhere from 1 to 12 hours over several days to create.  A design heavy in sugar flowers will take much longer.  A design that includes modeled sugar figurines will add at least one hour per figure for simple ones, and several hours for more complex, layered ones, again, with days of drying time in between.

photo

-Then there is baking.  Its about 15 minutes to mix cake batter, and about an hour or so to bake a 3″ thick cake.    The cakes then cool for hours, but that is not active time.  There’s 30 minutes for making buttercream, 10 minutes for making sugar syrup, and additional time if the buttercream is flavored, say caramel.  Then the cakes are split, filled and chilled.   Then they are covered in buttercream and made ready for their final covering of fondant.  If its a shaped cake, you’ll also carve it and it will get a few additional layers of buttercream.  For a basic shaped cake, the time required is about an hour.  For carved add at least another 1-2 hours onto that.

-Once the cake is prepared, it gets covered in fondant, 10 minutes per tier, stacked, 15 minutes, and then decorated.    Lots of details lots of time.  A simple cake can be completed in about an hour from here, more complex structure would add as well.  Sculpted cakes can be dressed, painted, details added and take anywhere from 2-6 hours down to the ribbon being glued on the edge of the board.

photo

All told, I can spend anywhere between 6 and 30 hours on a cake.  And after this list,

photo
I’m sure you can see why!

Let me know what cake question you’d like answered in the comments and I’ll be sure to get to it.

 

 

 

 

 

Midsummer Nights Dream Petit Four Dessert Table…

I really do love making cakes, but sometimes its fun to shake things up.  Lately there have been more and more requests for single bite sweets for stunning wedding dessert tables.   Its been so much fun for me to change pace and break out the pastry chef skills to create some delectable mini beauties.  Petit fours are usually though of as thin layers of moist almond cake , sandwiched with a thin layer of apricot preserves and glazed in an elegant slip of poured fondant.   The truth is though that any single bite pastry is considered a petit four and the options are endless.  What’s most important is that each bite packs a lot of satisfying flavor in a small package.

For this wedding the theme was Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the colors were blue, lavender and gold, with a touch of yellow.  We provided the bride with a pretty extensive proposal  and she settled on a selection of six, including traditional cake petit fours, macarons, lemon lavender tarts, chocolate hazelnut tarts and my specialty…pistachio anise poached pear tarts.

The petit fours were adorned with a touch of edible gold leaf or a real edible candied viola.

IMG_2675

 

One of my very favorite new offerings are our hand painted monogram macarons.  How stunning are these?

sugar couture painted macarons

Dessert pastries can be matched to your favorite bites, themes and colors.   The possibilites are endless and delicious!

IMG_2668

 

IMG_2647

 

 

Cakestory…

The great creative challenge for me is to include really disparte elements….  so many varied loves of the person the cake is for… into one cohesive cake design.   This one was tough… how would you combine Queens NY, Manhattan and New Cannan CT?    Oh, yeah, and working out,  shopping and loving your kids, and shoes….  And tell a single story at the same time?   So this is where one of my super powers comes in.  I have a unique ability to bring crazy “one of these things is not like the others” details together.

So for a woman turning 40, who loves the finer things, I fashioned a Louis Vuitton style trunk cake into a memory box for her present and her past.  It was filled with mementos of the things she loves, Azzedine Alia, a dirty martini, and tokens to her 3 children.

I spent 6 1/2 hours painting the little squares onto the base of the trunk, only to cover so many of them with the details!  But if you’re looking for high quality, that’s the way to do it. Wouldn’t want to peek behind something and find a cheat…  The shoes by themselves took more than 4 hours.  There is more than 23 hours of work in this birthday cake and it shows.  This cakestory blends Queens Boulevard and LL Cool J with a Range Rover and Louboutins, and not for a moment do you wonder why something is there.  It all makes sense, and like our lives, its a jumble of our contradictions. What would your Cakestory be?

 

 

lv trunk cake-Edit

 

Wedding Cake 101

Getting married?  Know someone who is?  Well here is all you need to know to get started on your dream custom wedding cake.  I spoke with Colin Cowie Weddings to discuss all the basics and gave some great tips on finding inspiration for your perfect wedding cake.

We covered topics including when to book, inspiration, shapes and styles, trends and flavors.    One of my favorite tips is about contradictions.  So often couples come in and offer conflicting ideas and feel uncomfortable about that.  But that is the perfect place to be to find something new…

BE OPEN TO CONTRADICTIONS

As you talk about the event, details, style and your personal tastes with your cake designer, he or she will probably start to sketch and include many of the ideas that you’re discussing. Penny encourages her couples to tell her whenever she’s hit on something that they do, or don’t, like. Even if they don’t seem to make sense as they’re discussed, considering contradictory details or elements will help you “find the place in between where you can create something beautiful and unique.”

 

Click through to Cake Design 101 for all the tips to feel confident going out into the cake world.

Gorgeous Brooklyn Winery Wedding

I’ve been making wedding cakes for more than 8 years now.  Over that time, I’d never experienced a cancellation, that is until we started getting pummeled with these crazy hurricanes and “Perfect Storms”.  The first time someone postponed a wedding was for Hurricane Irene, and that wasn’t until the very last second.   I had a lot of cake to “donate” after that, and so became very friendly with my neighbors.  Lots of things stopped and were put on hold through hurricane Sandy.  So this February, as we were getting more predictions for the latest Super Storm I worried that Gretchen’s wedding the next day at Brooklyn Winery might be affected.  When I checked in, I think she might have thought I was a little silly… nothing was going to stop her wedding from happening and certainly not a little bit of snow…or rain… or wind…

Brooklyn Winery Wedding

Brooklyn Winery Wedding

It ended up being quite a lot of snow, but it had stopped well before Gretchen’s day started and the wedding went on without even the faintest hint of anything standing in its way.  And if it dared, the warmth and joy in this room were going to melt it all away.

Brooklyn Winery was transformed into a gorgeous, earthy celebration space and Erica from Clean Plate Pictures captured it all beautifully. I love seeing the cake cutting photos…  love that shot of the first cut into cake, the peek if you will.

GENNY+MORI2122

GENNY+MORI2127

And how can you not love this one….


Brooklyn Winery Wedding

Maybe I’m projecting, but that one look says “this is the most rich, decadent, scrumptious bite I’ve ever had.  I’m in heaven.”  Okay, I’m heavily projecting, but its still a pretty fantastic shot.    And these are just some of my favorites.

 Head over to Clean Plate Pictures and see the whole wedding, all the smiles, the dancing, the fun and love…

 

 

 

 

 

A Sneaker Cake, and So Much More

To me it’s a sneaker cake.  I’ve made it before, I’ll likely make it again.  When I repeat cakes its easy to get a little jaded.  Sneaker cakes are very popular and it’s one I’m very comfortable making.

deshawn's sneaker cake

 To Deshwan and his family this was more than just a sneaker cake.   Remember, I make memories, (delicious ones at that)  and  just in case I had forgotten this for a moment, I was quickly reminded.  Deshawn and his family had been planning this party for his younger brother who was newly engaged and moving to California.   So many emotions wrapped up in the event, and a lot of that was transferred into the cake.  They wanted it to be just right, to be something he would love, and his sneaker collection was the inspiration.   Since it was a going away party, I suggested adding some edible photos to the display that made it more personal.   The idea excited Deshawn and he started sending me tons of photos.  I work hard on every cake I make, but I feel a deep sense of privilege and obligation when I’m acutely aware that what I’m making has so much meaning wrapped up into it.

I don’t often get to do my own deliveries.   So I often miss seeing the reaction when a client first set eyes on their cake.  So much goes into their planning… time, thought and money.  So many hopes are invested in what this custom cake creation will actually be.   They think they know what it will be like, but there is always a special magic when the cake comes to life for them.  When I delivered this cake everyone gathered round, taking photos while it was still in the box.  I reached out to shake their hands and was hugged instead.   Mom had tears in her eyes.   My cake, my sneaker cake that I had made before, brought her to tears.   This is why I love making cakes.  I’m honored that I was able to be a part of their joy… of their history, and helped them make a sweet memory.  And so happy I was there to see it.

Custom Canvas Cake for an Artistic Birthday Party

My mom was a crafter and a keeper, and my “art work” was a mainstay of almost every holiday’s decoration.   On Valentine’s Day she would pull out the various paper hearts I had made, for Easter, the eggs, and of course, let’s not forget the paper hand turkeys.   No matter how beaten up and torn those paper decorations would get, glitter missing from all the key spots, she’s still hang them with pride all over the house.

I now know she was not alone.  A little crazy, but not alone… What mom doesn’t adore the work of their little artist?  Enter the idea for a kid’s birthday cake that I just adore…. The birthday cake is decorated like a framed canvas, left blank in the center, waiting for the magic touch of the birthday girl or boy and their friends.   Delivered along with edible paints and a set of brushes, the cake becomes an activity, a great moment during the party when the child gets to be part of the creation of their very own canvas cake.    One good photo later and the short life of the cake is preserved for an eternity.  Frame the photo and now you really have created a special memory that keeps longer than construction paper hearts.

 

Custom Canvas Cake