Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2 cakes in 3 days

In August, I was commissioned to make a chicken-shaped cake. It was my first commissioned cake and I was pretty excited about it. It turns out that the cake was due the day before my friends' cake. So I had 3 days to make 2 cakes.

That week, there was a heat wave with monsoonal moisture coming through San Diego and I feared that it might jeopardize the cakes. Fondant covered cakes plus heat and humidity usually means disaster. So I cleared a lot of room in the fridge to protect my work. Plus, I did mostly everything at night so that it's cooler.

Chicken Cake

The chicken cake was chocolate with a chocolate mousse filling. I started out by making a few round pans of chocolate cake, cooling it, filling and stacking it, and then finally carving it. I carved out the body and had other plans for the head and tail. (Here you get a little peek of our new lovely kitchen countertop!) I found my old lazy susan and was able to smoothly turn the cake while carving. I saved the leftovers for the chicken's eggs. I crumb coated the top then it went straight to the fridge.

I made some marshmallow rice cereal treats and shaped them as the head and tail. Once it cooled, I covered it in fondant and covered the chicken body in fondant. The head and tail were then attached with a bunch of skewers.

I used a leaf shaped cutter to cut out the feathers and I hand-cut the eye and comb of the chicken. Those were then attached to the "bald chicken" with royal icing. Since it was still warm and humid (yes, at night with the AC on) I noticed that the head and tail were starting to sag. So I reinforced it with more skewers and quickly stuck it in the fridge. Luckily it stayed that way.

I made the eggs using the "cake balls" technique and covering them with fondant.

Here's the end result:
Notice how shiny it is? That's the heat and humidity working!

Bauer 2008 Cake

My friends (husband/wife) had a joint birthday on the day after the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. They made their birthday Olympic themed with unique games such as a cannon ball competition, slow-mo relay, doggie paddle, races and a few more. So I volunteered to make them a cake to reflect their Olympic theme.

The cake was a white cake with a key lime filling frosted with a rich whipped cream. I don't know that the whipped cream was a good idea due to the weather. But I took my chances. I made a few shortcuts with this cake since I was a bit burned out from the chicken cake (pregnancy sure gives you carpal tunnel when you're working on cakes). My Olympic rings didn't turn out so smoothly because I didn't use a piping tip (I just used a cut plastic bag). And my hands were so tired from rolling fondant for 2 days. By the time I was done piping the cake, I noticed that my fondant circles were migrating down the cake. So I had to put in some reinforcement (toothpicks) below each fondant. I quickly drove over to my friends' place and immediately placed it in the fridge. In the end, my friends were pretty happy with the cake.

Here's the top:

The right side - see the cannonball icon?

The left/front - the doggie paddle and slow-mo icons.

The cake tasted great - all the guests loved it. Plus it was quite tall!! I didn't realize how tall it was until I put it in the box. I think I should have used a 12 inch box and base instead of a 10 inch. Next time I'll remember to not do whipped cream cakes in the Summer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My First Sampler Quilt

Last September, I took a quilting class from my friend, Pam (who is, by the way, a very talented quilter and crafter). I put the blocks and sashing (the borders between the blocks) together last year and its been sitting on top of my sewing stuff for very close to a year. I've had the urge to finish the quilt so I could make another one. One thing that was holding me back was the lack of material. We just used fabric from Pam's HUGE stash in her studio. Unfortunately, the fabric I chose for my sashing wasn't enough to make an inner and outer border. Forward to late July, I headed over to Rosie's Calico Cupboard and found a fabric that would work and went to town on finishing the quilt top while using some creative piecing to make up for the lack of fabric for the border.

Since Pam just taught us how to put the top together and I had to go back to her for some guidance on how to finish it in August. I was a bit impatient and made a few mistakes. But after actually "quilting" the quilt (connecting the top, batting and backing layers by stitching) and binding the edges, I just stuck it in the washer and dryer and magically, my mistakes went away! Or at least they hid behind the puffiness of the fabric.

The photo above is my sampler quilt and the quilt behind me is one that Pam used as a reference for her quilting class. It's amazing how two quilts with the same blocks can have different looks just by fabric choice and block placement.

Quilting is fun - but it will get me in trouble since I can probably do this all day and I'd spend a fortune at the fabric store.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mad Hatter Tea Party

On April 26th, I threw my best friend from high school, Phuong, a tea party. It all started out as a Christmas gift. I treated her to a "Lady Anne Tea" at the Aubrey Rose Tea Room for a Christmas gift and she redeemed her gift at the end of January. Phuong works out of town for the majority of the week and I tend to get a once-a-month or once-every-other month visit with her due to both of our busy schedules. Knowing this, I brought up her birthday and offered to throw her a tea party since we both love having tea so much.

March came around when I found out that I was pregnant, so I needed to plan the party in between all the other activity that was soon to happen (renovations, Easter, visitors, travelling) so I wouldn't get burned out.

I planned to have a "Mad Hatter Tea" where people wear hats and there's an mild "Alice in Wonderland" air to the event. The colors were vibrant - hot pink, lime green, and aqua blue. After much searching, we held the party at Briercrest Park in La Mesa - a nice quiet park with gentle rolling terrain.

The invitations reflected the tone of the event. It was a hot pink gate-fold invitation with a white overlay accented with rhinestones, with a green and blue ribbon around it. I made it the perfect size to fit our leftover RSVP envelopes from our wedding.

A strong Santa Ana blew in the day of the party so it was warm and windy - especially for April. We struggled a bit with the curtains and prayed that the tent wouldn't blow over. But everything turned out just fine.

I kept the menu close to a traditional tea with a few modern twists...

(Thanks Sherry for taking photos! I can't believe I forgot my camera!!)

1st Course
Sun-Dried Tomato Palmiers
Feta and Olive mini-quiches

2nd Course
Cucumber Sandwich
Egg-Salad Sandwich
Smoked Salmon Pinwheel
Pear, Proscuitto and Gorgonzola Sandwich

Grapes, Strawberries, Melon

3rd Course/Dessert
Ginger Scone with Cream and preserves
Cherry Petit Fours (birthday cake)
Mini Pecan Tassies

Assorted Hot Teas
Iced Tea
Strawberry Citrus Sparkler

Pink and Blue Lanterns, Green tissue pom hanging
Fuschia Petunias with Teapot centerpiece and playing cards

Pink, Green, and Blue Purse Boxes
filled with decorated sugar cubes, a peach tea bag
and a heart-shaped cookie inscribed with "Eat Me"

I brought my fine Noritake china to the party and was pretty confident that they would stay intact. I got out our 10x10 pop up tent and some old curtains for extra shade. Am I glad I brought that!

The party went well even with being 12 weeks pregnant. I think I handled it in stride. I battled an ant raid in our kitchen while preparing the food and had to deal with a kitchen that didn't have all the small appliances and tools in place. Nor did we have floors in the house!

I'm glad that none of that reflected during the party. The guests really enjoyed the party and that's all that matters.

What?! A new post?!?

Yes, I haven't posted in a while. A lot has happened since the last post. Let's see...

BIG NEWS - I'm pregnant with #2! It's a girl and I'm doing fine. We figured it was a result of our anniversary month - which means she's due around Mya's birthday. (Mya was a result of our honeymoon. Hence the name "Mya" for the Mayan ruins that we visited.) I'm currently 34 weeks along, due on November 4th and can't wait to meet her. Mya's quite excited to have a baby sister. She's even thought of some names while we struggle for just one!

After finding out about the pregnancy, we started our kitchen/whole downstairs remodel. The kitchen/bar/laundry room part of it wasn't bad at all. We had a great contractor who finished the work in two weeks and a few days. Thom's cousin helped put in floors about 2 weeks after that and then helped with the crown and baseboard downstairs. We're currently working on the fireplace and furnishing the house with stuff we found on Craigslist. I'm quite happy that we have a dining table now. I feel civilized eating dinner at a dinner table now instead of sitting in front of the TV.

Thom has been flying out of town since the end of April to help his mother with her double knee surgery recovery. So I've been left to my own devices quite a bit (with Mya in tow for 3 of the 4 visits). Between my mother-in-law's surgeries, we went to Missouri to celebrate Thom's grandfather's 80-1/2 birthday. This last time Thom left, he took Mya with him so I had the house to myself - happy me!

Thom threw me a surprise 30th birthday at Costco this past July. Yes it sounds funny but it was quite a unique event.

Mya started 5-day a week / 3 hours a day preschool late in August. They moved to a nice renovated building on the church campus. It's been quite an event for the whole parish.

One of our cats nearly died from eating thread from a sewing machine that I got on Ebay. It was a huge ordeal - at one point I thought I would have to put her down. But she's perfectly fine now.

During all this time, I've done a few projects here and there - some of which I'll post about. I threw my best friend, Phoung, a 30th birthday party. I finished my sampler quilt and made a quilt for Mya's "big girl" bed. I made a dress that accomodates my growing belly (and that I can wear postpartum). I also made a couple of interesting cakes - one is a chicken. Look out for these posts! I'll start in chronological order.