Holiday Cupcake Donation Project

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating while living in Sydney, Australia.

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Originally posted December 2008

Last year’s Charity Cupcake drive at Planet Cake was a fantastic day, and although it turned out to be a bit more intense than I was expecting when I woke up that morning, I’d do it all over again at the drop of a hat. It was a great feeling to walk away at the end of the day, knowing that I’d been part of the 2,000 cupcakes donated by Planet Cake to Oz Harvest! Plus, we were famous, making it into the Sun-Herald…

Cupcakes for charity newspaper clipping

…those are my fabulous morning-session girls!

Because I was an intern at the time and volunteered to help, I arrived at Planet Cake about an hour early to help prepare the tables, set out equipment, color the icing, and just generally get ready for everything to come. I wasn’t exactly sure what else I was going to be doing that day, but two days earlier, I learned I would be in charge of getting 7-8 volunteers through their allotted cupcakes for each of the morning and afternoon sessions.

A close-up photo of some of the fun designs we made that day:

Holiday cupcake designs

After a general introduction by Paris, Handi started in with his instructional spiel to the table at my right, while Anna-Maria started in with instructions for her volunteers to my left. Since I’d never done any teaching before, I thought we were going to have a group instruction session before beginning…but unfortunately we were still getting ready when volunteers started arriving, so we all kind of missed that step and just jumped right into the day. Suddenly, I was in charge of getting my seven gals through 333 cupcakes in the next four hours! Working, working…

Cupcake production

We followed the leads of Handi and Anna-Maria, setting up an assembly-line of sorts…several girls ganaching the cupcakes, the next few covering them with icing, and the last ones putting on the final decorating touches. It was a great system, and so rewarding to start seeing those boxes start to pile up for Oz Harvest!

Snowman cupcakes

Look at Handi peeking into the picture behind me…always a great smile!!

The afternoon session went much smoother than the morning because I knew what to expect and how to proceed with the volunteers from ganached cupcakes to final decorated product. I had very fun groups of people to work with in both the morning and afternoon sessions…and was so grateful for their patience and enthusiasm as we worked through all 667 cupcakes!

The entire morning session group:

Cupcakes for charity2

The whole afternoon session group with cupcakes:

Cupcakes for charity

That’s a lot of cupcakes!

So what did I learn from the cupcake drive? That teaching decorating to others and managing volunteers is a whole new ballgame! It really made me appreciate both Handi and Anna-Maria’s teaching talents when I had the opportunity to sit in on their courses. By no means did I become an expert, but I learned a lot about working with people new to cake decorating and had a lot of fun in the process. And experienced just a peek into what it takes to put together such a massive volunteer effort.

The Planet Cake team hands the cupcakes over to Oz Harvest:

Paris and Oz Harvest

To any of you donating your cake-baking services over the holidays: More power to you! Have fun and tell me about it below!

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Baking Set Giveaway!

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GIVEAWAY!!! One lucky winner will get a 55-piece Ateco Stainless-Steel Decorating Set PLUS free enrollment in the new online Craftsy class The Perfect Cupcake! In this online class, you’ll learn how to combine creative cupcake flavors, fillings and frostings with gorgeous decorating for out-of-this-world treats! Enter now through August 27th!

Note: Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Enter to Win the Perfect Cupcake Set & Class

Good luck!

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Macarons You’ll Drool Over (Promise!)

Making macarons - Talk Sweet to M

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Finished Macarons - Talk Sweet to Me

A week or so ago I reviewed SprinkleBakes by Heather Baird. It is a lovely book and I finally had a chance to make one of the recipes this week. Even though they have grown exponentially in popularity in recent years, for one reason or another I’ve never had the chance to make macarons. Until now!

Macaron recipe - Talk Sweet to Me

I am told that making macaron batter is a very delicate process and must be done carefully in the right level of humidity and etc. Those warnings always make me want to go ahead and schedule in an anxiety attack, but I decided to just jump in and see what happened. Luckily there was no need to worry…I’m no rocket scientist and they turned out great!

The batter was a really smooth egg mixture with a lovely sheen to it.

Macaron batter on beater - Talk Sweet to Me

I made rounds of the batter on the parchment-covered cookie sheet using my cake decorating tips. Here they are heading into the oven:

Batter on cookie sheets - Talk Sweet to Me

And once they came out of the oven:

Macaron shells with foot - Talk Sweet to Me

I was lucky and the macarons formed the “foot” which is the crinkly part at the bottom. It’s really fun when something turns out just like the pictures you’ve drooled over for years!

The finished product:

Macarons on Talk Sweet to Me

Heather’s recipe in SprinkleBakes was super easy to follow and DELICIOUS!!! I filled them with my regular ol’ buttercream recipe tinted in springtime colors. After a taste test, my husband declared them a new top ten favorite. That’s a win, folks!

Check out Heather Baird’s SprinkleBakes for the recipe or look on her website for a few options here or here. You can also see if it’s available in your local library if you want to take a sneak peek, or just jump right in and find it on Amazon!

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Book Review: SprinkleBakes!

Book Review  - Talk Sweet to Me

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Today we’re taking a look at SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist by Heather Baird. What an adorable book! Filled with recipes and great ideas to “pretty things up,” SprinkleBakes is a perfect addition to any baker’s library. I had a lot of fun looking thorough to gather new techniques and tips to add to my baking repertoire.

Sprinklebakes book review - Talk Sweet to Me

First of all, I loved the artist theme. Heather Baird is an amazing artist in many different ways. In this book, “Blank Canvases” gives you the recipes to start with as you go through each project. In the “Line” section you learn to decorate with brushes, sponges, and stamps. The “Color” section discusses color theory, tinted cake and icings, and other vivid desserts. “Mixed Media” brings together many techniques in one project. From the titles of the chapters to the dessert drawings on the front cover, dessert is truly an art form with SprinkleBakes!

The book goes through everything from supplies and equipment to tips and tricks for each of the included projects. A lot of those techniques are universal, meaning they could definitely be applied to other projects you’ve got in your head and want to make happen in sugar.

I personally found the individual techniques and the resources section of the book more helpful and useful than the individual projects since the projects did not necessarily fit my style. Even so, I have happily put this book on my shelf and bring it out on rainy days to try something new. I’m hoping to make the macarons soon…this obsessed baker has (crazily enough!) never attempted them before!

Cookbooks - Talk Sweet to Me

My other favorites to drool over and/or dream of making were the Diagonal Chocolate Mousse Cups, Postcard Cookies (a neat stamping with wafer paper technique!), Salted Caramel Cupcakes with salted caramel candy halos, Vanilla Bean Baby Doughnuts, and the Glittering Cookie Tree. I can definitely see the cookie tree happening at a certain little girl’s first birthday party this September!

If you’re looking for a great book to add to your shelf, check out SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist by Heather Baird soon!

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Chocolate Mint Wedding Cupcakes

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

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Originally posted August 31, 2008

I traveled to California this fall and got to make the cupcakes for my friend Louisa’s wedding. I knew I was going to forget something at home and sure enough I did. Poor Louisa had to drive me all over to get the essential supplies (including the very necessary caffeine jolt I get from diet mountain dew). At least I remembered the recipe! Yummm, batter:

Cake batter - Talk Sweet to Me

This was by far the most fun I’ve had making a wedding cake (or in this case, cupcakes) since I left Planet Cake. Friends were everywhere so we had a lot of laughs, made a colossal mess, and everyone jumped in to help without hesitation…it was so much fun!

Robin and Jocelyn sorted the mini m&ms into colors so we could use them as a simple decoration to finish off the top of the cupcakes.

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Lou got the cupcake liners ready…

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…and the fabulous Amanda took cupcakes out of the pan and set them on wire racks to cool.

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And we were finished baking, except for the “secret” top tier. Louisa wanted to keep things simple, so told me she didn’t want a cutting cake. However, a cupcake stand does not seem complete without having that cake on top for cutting during the wedding reception! Plus, it’s tradition. Jocelyn provided the perfect distraction taking Lou and Eddie away to practice the ceremony, and the rest of us discreetly mixed up another batch of cake and stuck it in the oven. Louisa wanted easy, I wanted perfect…we ended up with the best of both worlds. Ha ha!

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There was a bit of extra cake leftover, which was perfect for taste-testing. These cupcakes were what the cupcake trials were for…luckily, Eddie liked the cake!

Edding testing cake

Time to put together the cupcake stand, covering it with icing and a yellow ribbon surround to match the wedding colors. There was an audience!

Covering boards for cupcake stand

Ribbons to cupcake stand

After the cupcakes cooled we mixed up the mint-buttercream frosting. I’ve never baked or decorated with wine in the other hand before, but it was just another thing that added to the fun this time around! If you’ve never tried it before either, put it on your to-do list. (And don’t worry, it won’t be a regular thing. I like my piping in straight, even lines, thank you very much. Although now that I think about it, a Madhatter cake might be easier this way. Hmmm…)

Baking with wine

The next morning I placed some bright, colorful fresh flowers on the cutting cake. I’d never used fresh flowers before, but tried to take the principles Handi taught me with sugar flowers and apply them to the real thing.

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We were going for a fun, spontaneous, loose, garden-type feel (smooth, but not smooth…loose, but not loose…I still hear Handi at times like these!). The look is a bit different from most of the other cakes I’ve been producing, but it was perfect for Lou and Eddie’s wedding.

Time to transport everything (the part that always has me on-edge)! The ceremony and reception were held at Thibodo Park, which was absolutely gorgeous.

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The cake set-up:

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Cake and cupcake display - Talk Sweet to Me

Lou and Eddie’s friends Steve and Nicole are professional photographers (check out their website here), and took all of the photos for the wedding. They were kind enough to share some of them:

Lou wedding photo8-cake

Lou wedding photo5-cake

Time to eat some cake!

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This is my favorite photograph that Steve and Nicole took. The bride and groom both look so happy, and Louisa is completely adorable…what great smiles!

Lou wedding photo2

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Red and Aqua Wedding Cake – My First Cake Delivery!

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

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Originally posted August 9, 2008

I met with a very fun couple back in July and was hired to make the cake for their early August wedding at Kansas City’s Uptown Theater.

They wanted a cake in these colors to match their invitations and the venue…

Invitation pattern

…and similar in style to the cake in this picture that they gave to me to match their fun and laid-back personalities:

Inspiration cake

Here is the design they chose:

Design drawing

They wanted a 3-tier white chocolate mud cake and two kitchen cakes in vanilla white and yellow butter flavors. It was a lot of baking, but of course, any amount of cake seems trivial now compared to the cake trials.

Baked cake

So the boards were prepared, the cakes were ganached, and the center pole was constructed.

Ganached tiers2

I hadn’t covered a square cake for a while, but got a whole bunch of practice at once this week.

Ganached tiers

Covered square tiers

After stacking the cake it was time to move on to the mixing of the colors. I spent at least a half hour (probably closer to 45 minutes), and made a colossal mess trying to come up with the correct shade of red to match the invitations.

coloring fondant

My hands ended up being nearly the same color…

red hands

Oh yeah…that’s what those gloves were for! Next it was time to carve the “K” for the cake topper. I cut it out of styro, secured it to the skewer, and covered it in the red icing.

Styro cake topper

Red K initial cake topper

The “K” cake topper was finished off with silver cachous around the outside to match the “i do” lettering on the middle tier.

I decorated the tiers from the top down so as not to mess up anything I’d already created by leaning my elbows on it or something similarly klutzy. The stripes:

Cake in progress4 - Talk Sweet to Me

The front rectangle piece for the ‘i do’ had to go on next, and was surrounded by red and aqua bubbles:

Cake in progress2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Starting the checkerboard pattern:

Cake in progress - Talk Sweet to Me

For efficiency’s sake, a piece of cardboard was cut to the correct width and used to cut all of the red and aqua squares. It made life a lot easier than measuring every time I needed to make a cut.

Cutting squares equipmentJust a few silver cachous added on for the ‘i do’ and here is the finished cake!

Decorated cake - Talk Sweet to Me

It was a bit late (or early, if you prefer) when I finished this one.

Finish time

The last thing I had to stress about was the delivery, but that went as smooth as silk because I had such great help (you know who you are)!!!

Red and Aqua Wedding Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Am I proud of my first successful wedding cake delivery? Ummm…yes, I suppose I am.

Lisa at delivery

The best part of the delivery was running into the bride and her bridesmaids as they were coming in to set up for the reception. They were literally jumping up and down and shrieking with delight as the cake came out of the box. I think they were happy with it…

Bride and bridesmaids exclaim - Talk Sweet to Me…which makes me very happy too.

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Purple Striped Birthday Cake

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

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Originally posted August 1, 2008

My very good friend Stacy had a birthday a couple weeks ago and needed a cake to celebrate – after all, what is a birthday without a cake? A yellow cake with dark chocolate ganache and the color purple were my only design constrictions, which left things pretty much wide open. I decided on a simple but fun striped cake with a big purple bow.

Cake design drawing

First I ganached the cake…

Ganached cake

…and covered it with white icing.

Covered cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was on to the stripes. When doing the stripes on the Madhatter cake, Anna-Maria taught us to start with an “X” of colored stripes and fan the stripes out to the sides from there.

Putting stripes on cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Finally finished!

Stripes complete - Talk Sweet to Me

Moving on to the bow…

finishing purple bow - Talk Sweet to Me

…and then I just added a black rope around the base and a message on the board to complete the cake:

Purple Striped Birthday Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

When we got to the restaurant where Stacy’s birthday celebration was being held, I added on a candle…which was probably not really necessary since we forgot to light it. Whoops!

Cake at bar with candle

This cake brought a lot of attention to our table. People kept stopping on their way by and asking if it was a real cake (as opposed to a fake one that we were cutting into and eating?), asking if the bow was really a ribbon (no – shock!) and actually getting up from their tables to come see what all the fuss was about and talk about cake for a minute or two.

Stacy and me

 

Friends at birthday party - Talk Sweet to Me

We decided that it would be a good advertising scheme to make a cake and take it to a new place every weekend…then just hand out cards like crazy when people came over to check it out. Even if it ended up not working, at least we’d have some fun along the way!

Eventually it was time to cut the cake…

Stacy cutting the cake - Talk Sweet to Me

…and enjoy eating it!

Cake was delicious - Talk Sweet to Me

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