Monday, February 22, 2010

Cake Class #3

For last week's cake decorating class, I made a yellow cake with chocolate icing. It had a strawberry filling like the previous cakes, and that gave it a pretty look when sliced. I used a simple swag border with a round writing tip, and then added a shell border to the base and a dot or ball border to the top. A few more flourishes and it was done! This was a pretty cake that tasted great. The lessons this week were basic. We just practiced with our borders and learned how to make perfect polka-dots. Again, Dave and I enjoyed several slices and then we sent it to the office to save our waistlines from the dangers of cake-decorating class. I could eat a slice every day if I left these cakes in my fridge.

I love this picture of our apartment in February. For the past 3 Valentine's, I've hung a homemade paper heart banner. Creativity has always been my stress-reliever. I made this 3 years ago and have carted it through many moves already. My example for kids-art class is a stained-glass paper project that hangs below the banner. We colored a transparent paper with markers and then embellished it with brads and other cut-outs.
The vase of flowers here was a special gift-- a silk-flower re-creation of my wedding bouquet, thanks to my dear friend Brynn and her talented mom. All the colors in this room are just so happy and warm-- a perfect contrast to the dingy snow that lingers in the cold shade outside.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Color of Fog

Sometimes inspiration hits you at the strangest moments. Last week I was shivering my butt off, waiting for my heater to kick on in the Mazda, when I realized how beautiful the morning fog looked on an otherwise miserably cold and messy day. After a meeting and some errands, I came home and mixed up this color palette for my latest fog painting (coming soon). It's a challenge to get the right pale shade of color for the sky and even more of a challenge to get the subtle color variations of the trees. My favorite part of this picture is the way the sunshine glows from behind the foggy mist. Even on such a cold yucky day, it's warmth and happy-yellow are obvious.
As an artist, my job is to capture this feeling on canvas and paint it in a way so that others can feel it too. I exaggerate the color while staying in a soft foggy palette. Yesterday I finished a grant proposal called "The Vivid Fog." I am so proud!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strawberry Valentine Cake... SO SMOOTH

How to get a perfectly smooth frosted cake

Even though cake class was cancelled due to snow, I decided to complete my cake layers and practice piping buttercream frosting. After all, I had the ingredients in my fridge, and it was too cold to do anything but warm up the oven. I added a firm buttercream dam in white icing on my first cake layer, and then placed strawberry glaze and fresh strawberries in a layer between the two cakes. Pretty!

Next, I sandwiched the strawberries and added a crumb-coat, of buttercream on the whole cake. This seals in all the cake crumbs and makes it easier to get a smooth finish on the final cake. A brief stint in the fridge later, and I was ready to decorate!

The hardest part of cake-decorating so far is getting a smooth base coat of icing. To do this, you add a relatively thick layer (1/4 inch) of icing all over, briefly refrigerate, and then use a hot spatula to smooth out the imperfections. Keep your spatula hot in a pot of boiling water and dry it off each time you touch it to the icing. In class, we also learned that you can use a Viva paper towel to smooth crusting buttercreams. Once the frosting forms a bit of a crust, gently lay the paper towel over it and lightly rub the icing bumps out with your fingers. This technique yielded a pretty smooth cake-- a perfect canvas!

I practiced piping with some new icing tips and managed a rough basket weave heart along with lots of borders and a little writing. My icing got too warm near the end, but I kept going because this cake was just for practice. Again, I sent it to work with Dave for the engineers to devour.

The yellow butter cake recipe and the Swiss-buttercream frosting recipes were both taken from Smitten Kitchen. The recipes are here: and here: I used both recipes for my own wedding cake last August and it got rave reviews. The layers held up well and so did the icing. The icing is also not too sweet, but has a nice buttery taste to it. The glaze and strawberries were my own addition to this cake. You can find strawberry glaze in the grocery store or make your own by heating sugar, water and juice. Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Walk and Purple Soup

Sometimes you just have to concede to failure. Not every dish can be delicious, and sometimes you have to admit when something isn't even good -- at all. I had one of those frustrating moments where nothing came together on Sunday night. After a beautiful walk in our 6-inches of snow, I felt a growing need for some warm soup. After raiding my fridge and freezer, I thought I could whip out a sausage-veggie soup concoction that would be perfect for a cold evening.

I was wrong. Apparently purple potatoes, red wine, balsamic vinegar and sausage don't really go together very well-- at all. Yuck! I couldn't even eat my bowl of soup at dinner, much less serve the leftovers. You win some, you lose some...So here are some pretty snow pictures instead of a soup recipe. These holly trees were growing on the golf course site off of Horsepen Creek Rd and the boats were lodged deep in the snow near the lake. In just a few months, they'll see sunshine and tans instead of this cold layered icy concoction. For now it's just so peaceful and pristine.