Saturday, August 11, 2012

Au Revoir, for now.

I'm moving!

The new repository for my photos and witticisms will be on the official blog for Layers NYC, Anthony's and my cake business.

Please check out the new blog HERE and stay tuned as we whip up more confectionery delights and continue to move forward with plans for our future ice cream business. Don't forget now! Conquering the world with our frozen treats in 2013!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

here kitty, kitty

vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam
A cake for a very "girly-girl", as her mom put it. This cake was for Elizabeth who is graduating today. Her mom cuts Chris's hair at Aire Salon here in Jersey City---a wonderful salon run by the enormously talented duo, Aiko and Racheal. 

Aiko and I had a spirited discussion over the origins of Hello Kitty which led to frantic googling of her history. We discovered that Hello Kitty's full name is Kitty White and that she currently resides in the suburbs of  London with her parents and younger sister, Mimmy. She is a baker and an artist and keeps a cat as a pet (that's just twisted, right?) named Charmmy Kitty. She has an on-again-off-again relationship with Dear Daniel, also a cat, but they haven't gotten serious because, given that she measures five apples high but weighs only three apples, she is all looks and no substance. I'd like to thank Hello Kitty Universe for including such salacious details.

Check out the Layers NYC facebook page for a picture of our other cake from this week, a bottle in a box. And Anthony let me airbrush this one! He's an airbrush hog, so this was a treat.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

pounds and pounds of butter

vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream
We don't get a lot of requests for chocolate buttercream so I haven't tasted it in a while. I'd forgotten how DELICIOUS something as simple as chocolate buttercream can be. I highly recommend it. We put in 3/4's of a pound of 55% chocolate in there so it was intensely chocolatey.

This cake was for Julianna's Christening. Her mother had a very special Christening gown made for her and wanted the cake to reflect the details in the gown. Anthony and I have been extremely excited to do this cake because we wanted to whip out some techniques we don't normally get to use.

We Ron-Ben'ed this baby.

This is now a phrase by the way.

Ron Ben-Israel, a prominent NYC cake designer, makes good use of silicon molds to customize his cakes and add details from a bride's dress, or a special piece of jewelry. Here's a link to a blog that details the process. It's amazing.

We used silicone molds to make detailed fondant pieces that matched the details on Julianna's Christening dress. We then painted the pieces by hand with silver luster dust and attached silver dragées to add a little bling.

We also made peonies for the first time. It was a nice break from an endless line of roses and daisies.

And we also made a two-tier buttercream wedding cake to go with a slew of delicious cupcakes made by one of Anthony's close friends and cupcake wizardress, Tara Roed.

I'm still reeling from the amount of butter and sugar we went through this weekend. I had fifteen pounds of butter in my freezer and it is GONE now. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

there's nothing like Australia

I would love to move to Sydney. It's just gorgeous---filled with parks and surrounded by water. The downtown area is all walkable and the outlying areas are connected by easy-to-navigate public transportation and a nifty ferry system.

The food was outstanding. I ate either seafood or Thai food every night (apparently Thai is the hot thing right now in Sydney) and drank at least two flat whites (microfoam poured over a shot of espresso) every day. My brand of choice was Single Origin Roasters and their coffee was some of the best I've ever had.

I visited two terrific bakeries, Bourke Street Bakery and Becasse Bakery. Bourke Street was in Surry Hills, the Sydney neighborhood where our hotel was located. My favorite was the rhubarb tart with almond, though the passion fruit meringue tart was a close second.

Becasse was located in a kick-ass mall in Sydney CBD.  The mall had a myriad of mouth-watering options in their beautifully designed food court, as well as all the high-end shopping a girl could wish for. The bakery was classic French, and Chris and I made our way there every afternoon for a petit goûter. I always had the cream puff because I'm such a sucker for them.

I was surprised how expensive restaurant prices were. I talked to one of our waiters about it and he said that it was because the minimum wage is much higher in Australia (just over $15 an hour). Love the idea, but it blew my vacation budget to hell. Apparently Australia in general is riding an economic high due to increased demand for commodities. One tour guide mentioned that Australia is  the third largest provider of coal to China.

Security was quite tight in the airports as well. There was a strictly enforced quarantine for food items. Not even water bottles from the plane were allowed outside the airport. We flew Qantas, and even sitting in economy, it proved to be ten times better than United or American, which we flew from Newark to Los Angeles. Free movies, exremely friendly staff and tolerable food---amazing!

The weather was too cold for me. They had just finished an extremely wet summer and temperatures were already starting to drop into the 60's while we were there (it's fall there right now). It was extremely windy as well. At Cairns, we endured choppy seas which made it difficult to snorkel and made quite a few people sea sick on the boat rides we took out to the Great Barrier Reef. Luckily I have a strong stomach and a good sense of adventure. Everyone I talked to said that the wind (which was at 30 knots every day) was unusual for this time of year. A freakish phenomenon apparently.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

sea lion ahoy!

chocolate cake with vanilla bean buttercream
This Sea Lion cake and accompanying cupcakes were for Amelia's 8th birthday party at the Prospect Park Zoo. I can't remember what I did when I turned 8, but it certainly couldn't have been as cool as having your party at a zoo.

I carved the sea lion's body out of cake, but his head was Krispies. I did a test run with this fellow because I've never done a Sea Lion before and I wanted to experiment with his body shape and his massive flippers. In all honesty, he doesn't look quite look like an actual sea lion. He's a little cartoonish because that's my style---I grew up copying Garfield comic strips, so I like things with rounded edges and a chubby look. I tried a billion different things for his whiskers, but couldn't get them to look natural and ended up leaving them off altogether. He was still pretty cute, though, and I thought the color palette was lovely.

The Sea Lion with just a buttercream coating, with his fondant skin in place
and lastly, headless, so you can see the Krispies interior.

Amelia's mom, Roxy, is an amazing illustrator, and she drew the sea lion on the actual invitations. I tried to use her lovely drawing and colors as inspiration. You can see more of Roxy's work here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

southern exposure

coconut layer cake and lemon layer cake
This month's Saveur magazine had a stellar article and set of recipes from Ben Mims about Southern layer cakes. The photos were spectacular---I bought the magazine in the first place because of the giant wedge of red velvet cake on the cover. I intend to bake each of the five recipes, so I started this weekend with the two that looked most intriguing to me.

I was concerned that they would be too sweet. There was just so much sugar in the recipes for the frostings, the cakes and the fillings. But I was pleased with the end results. Sweet, but not sugar bomb sweet.

The coconut cake was my favorite. The cake was a basic butter cake, but it was soaked with coconut water. The frosting was thick and candy-like and covered in a shower of freshly grated coconut. The longer it sat in the fridge, the better it tasted.

The lemon cake was the same basic cake but with lemon zest in it. Delicious. The frosting was a different story though. It was lemon curd with an indecent amount of butter in it. Too much for me. It tasted like the cake was frosted in butter rather than a lemon frosting. Yech.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

what you'll be eating in 2013

chocolate almond ice cream cake
So this is your sneak peak into what I'm working on for my business! There are layers of coconut cake, chocolate ice cream and roasted almond ice cream. And those are shimmery, crunchy golden sprinkles on the top.

I am in the middle of writing a business plan right now and will be finished by mid-May. And then the real fun begins. First off, I'll need to find investors. Then I'll need to find an accountant and a lawyer, incorporate my business, buy insurance, find a location, supervise a build-out, finalize suppliers and much, much more. It's mind-boggling, but I am still aiming for May 2013.

So stay tuned and I'll keep you up-to-date on how I'm progressing. Sometime soon, once I finalize a menu, I'll be having a tasting party and I would LOVE for everyone to come!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

bears, bunnies, bottles

red velvet cake and cupcakes
So Anthony and I finally got to do a cupcake tower. You would think that we would get more requests for them because they CRAZY popular right now, but we haven't. The tower was for a baby shower and we completed it with a 6" cake on the top.

We made little sugar paste toppers in the shapes of bottles, bears and bunnies to go on top of the cupcakes. I loved the color palette, too. Deep red (from the red velvet cake) next to baby blue (from the fondant) is a stunning combination.

Can you say CHUBBY TEDDY?

Now a word about NJ restaurants. This is the second delivery we've done to a NJ restaurant that has gotten messed up by the staff. We included the actual stand with this order and carefully explained to the restaurant workers how to display the cake and cupcakes. Then we get pics from the event and the cupcakes are piled on trays with the cake haphazardly in the middle. C'MON MAN! Everything was labeled for the event. So what happened to the stand????

Sunday, January 15, 2012

ice cream education

2012 ice cream short course, penn state university
I spent the past week in total ice cream immersion at the nation's oldest and best-known educational program dealing with the science and technology of ice cream. My brain is still overwhelmed with knowledge and my stomach overfilled with ice cream samples.

The most important thing I learned was that consistent ice cream quality depends on having a balanced recipe. We learned formulas to help us determine if a recipe was balanced or not, and we learned how to adjust recipes to compensate for ingredient add-ins.

Here are some of my favorite pics from the week. For more ice cream fun, visit our facebook page, 2012 Penn State Ice Cream Short Course.

The production area for the school's ice cream creamery.
On the left, ice cream cartons on a conveyor belt, ready to get filled.
On the right, the actual ice cream freezers.

Me with Dr. Bruce Tharp (stabilizer and emulsifier guru) during a sensory evaluation lab.
We are showing everyone how to rock a hairnet.

Churning ice cream in an old-fashioned White Mountain ice cream maker.

My dream soft-serve machine---frozen custard ROCKS!

A continuous ice cream freezer.
That's ice cream with 150% overrun in the bucket on the right.
Overrun is the amount of air you churn into the base.

A calf in the Penn State barns. Moooooo!

I was elected Secretary, or my preferred term "tech guru", of the class.
I instituted the Golden Cow Award for our favorite teacher.
I made this trophy all by myself---I love using gold spray paint, don't you?