Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Flavor Flaaaaaav!

Halloween is tomorrow. Still stumped on what to dress as? Need some inspiration? Well, I don't exactly have costume ideas, but I do have some cakes that we "dressed up"...feel free to use one for your last minute costume. 

At the ICC, we were assigned to create a "Russian Doll" Cake, also known as know, those hollowed out dolls that open up and fits inside itself, each one smaller than the next. They come in various colors and designs. Hey, maybe you can dress up as a Babushka! 

For our cakes, we had to use the basic shape of a Babushka, but could choose any theme or "costume" to dress them in. Some of my classmates stuck with a traditional Babushka, others chose celebrity figures. Originally, I was going to create a maneki neko because I just love them so much! But it seemed too simple; I opted to go a different direction...something more challenging perhaps controversial, definitely brow raising.
I chose to do our favorite Public Enemy...FLAVOR FLAV! Yeah boyyyyy!!!
This cake exercise was to teach us stacking and carving cakes. I wanted to challenge myself creatively because in reality, who would ever order a Flavor Flav cake? It is however an attention grabber. It was a time to explore possibilities that are not always available to me in the real world of cake design, out of left field, non-traditional...and if it didn't go well it's one is paying me for this, so why not have fun with it? I seized this opportunity as a creative thinker. 
This is the template we used for the basic babushka shape.
The steps that came after stacking, carving, and frosting went to fast that I didn't have a chance to snap any pics of each step. So here's a list of what each component is made of. 

I hope this inspired you for tomorrow's Halloween festivities! If not, I hope it at least inspired you in the possibilities of cake design! 

~Abs of Cakes~

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dedicated to New York City and our childhood

Let the one week countdown begin.

Sadly, my time in the east coast is coming to an end. I've had the opportunity that many people don't get a chance to a "New York" lifestyle. I will forever have an appreciation and love for the people that live here. Although I will never claim to be a New Yorker, a piece of me will always take pride in New York...the people, the FOOD, the subways, taxis, bridges, the fire escapes, brownstones, architecture, tall buildings, the hidden gems, the art, music, fashion, the squirrels, , even the rats and obnoxious bipolar weather, the noises, the parks, the entertainment, the history, their resilience. This City is truly amazing.

One of the last cakes we did at ICC was a "topsy turvy" groom's cake. We could choose any theme to inspire us. A few did sports themes, others did hobbies. I chose a childhood classic....the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or TMNT. As an 80s baby and a 90s kid, I grew up with the world's most fearsome fighting team as did all of my peers. The theme was perfect...It combines nostalgia with touches of NYC.

This became my absolute favorite cake that I created in school. I wish I could've taken it back to California with me.
Preliminary sketch

Since the Ninja Turtles live in the sewers of New York, an NYC manhole cover was a must. I started out with creating the base. I airbrushed some black onto grey fondant to add a depth and griminess.

What's the Ninja Turtles' favorite food? PIZZA of course! This is one thing I will really miss about this city...a nice fat slice of thin New York style pizza. I know the real deal doesn't compare to the one I created out of fondant, but I tried. I went with a classic pepperoni pizza. Petal dust was brushed on for some out-of-the-oven color.
Something that will never get old to me is the New York skyline. It can be viewed up close or from miles away. It is ever changing depending where you view it and when. It is romantic and raw, static and dynamic. It has different personalities from day to night. It's part of NY's identity. It HAD to be part of this cake. 
These photos were taken by me from my classmate's apartment on the 45th Floor of the Silver Towers in Hells Kitchen. Thank you Carolina for opening up your home and sharing with us this spectacular view!
I was very pleased with how this part of the cake turned out. There are numerous ways you can create a skyline onto a cake. At first I thought about making a flat silhouette or outline, but with some suggestions from Chef Toni, I created something with a little more depth. Using parchment paper, I sketched a generic NY skyline to go around the top tier of the cake as a template and stencil. By temporarily adhering it to the cake, I used an airbrush with white coloring to spray the the negative space (or sky) giving it a faded appearance while the buildings remained dark. After removing the parchment skyline, I was then able to add details like the windows to the individual buildings. 

Of course no TMNT cake is complete without the heroes in a halfshell. Their weapons and different color masks and belts are what differentiates each one. You have Donatello and his bo staff sporting purple, Raphael and his sais in red, Leonardo with his katanas in blue, and Michelangelo with his nanchakus wearing orange. 

Donatello and his bo staff
Raphael and his sais
Michelangelo with his nanchakus
Leonardo with his twin katanas
I couldn't forget about the ooze! I mean, isn't that what turns these teenage turtles into mutants? To make the ooze, I combined some green and yellow food coloring with piping gel, then went crazy! Not was strategically piped onto the cake. Be careful! This stuff gets sticky!

With all these components put together, you get my favorite cake! 

If I had more time, I would have added Splinter to the cake, the turtles' rat sensai. I had my share of city rat experiences, so it would've been an ode to my time out here. The part that I will not miss, and will never forget.

I'm just a California girl who has a crush on New York. We had a six month love affair, but that was it, just an affair. I knew it wasn't gonna last long, so I made sure to get all that I could out of my limited time here. I will always rep the West Coast and LA will always be considered home, but I'm forever grateful for what this City has taught me. Thank you, New York for being an endless source of inspiration.

~Abs of Cakes~

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sugar Paste Flowers

So long sweet Summer....Fall is now upon us. The change of the seasons means a change in the temperature and trees and plants and flowers. But with the beauty of Sugar Paste along with a bit of technique, a touch of craftsmanship and a LOT of patience, your cake can be still be blessed by any flower, from any season, any time. Sugar paste flowers (if done right) are not only realistic looking, but they are EDIBLE! 
At the International Culinary Center (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute), the curriculum of the Cake Techniques and Design course was co-created by Master Pastry Chef himself, Ron Ben Israel! You may also know him as the "Sweet Genius" on the Food Network. We were taught and given Ron Ben's sugar paste recipe to create these sweet works of art.  

"Are Sugar Paste Flowers difficult to make?" you ask. 

My answer is...they're not so much difficult as they are TIME CONSUMING. These flowers are not created in a's a process where each step requires time to dry (from hours to days depending on the humidity). You must also use your tools with a delicate hand in order to get the perfect thinness of your petals and leaves.  We are taught to keep our stations neat and tidy, because all the components can get very messy pretty quickly. Here's what my station looked like...

Most sugar paste flowers begin with a bud. We created different buds for various flower types, and allowed them to dry over the weekend on the racks to ensure that they dried properly onto the wire. 

Once the buds are formed and drying, the next step is to create the petals. You'll want to create extras of everything. When sugar paste dries, it becomes very fragile. It can easily crack or shatter if handled improperly. Accidents are inevitable and breakage will occur. Having extra pieces will help you troubleshoot a disastrous moment.

Once your buds and petals have all dried, you can start to assemble your flowers. One of my favorite flowers to make is a peony. Not all of the petals need to be dried in advance for this flower and can be created as you go. The petals need to form onto the shape of the bud. However, you still must allow each layer to dry before adding the next layer of petals. Here's what a peony looks like taking shape... 

The difference between a realistic looking flower and a fake one, is the depth of colors. This is created using petal dusts. You'd be surprised at how many colors you can actually find on a single petal or leaf...this is what makes them so beautiful. The petals can either be individually dusted in advance or after they are assembled all together. It really all depends on the type of flower and the nature of their anatomy.

This is my favorite part....but by the time you know it, you would have spent a whole hour dusting a single spray of flowers. Time flies when you're having fun!

After you've assembled and dusted your sugar paste flowers, you'll be ready to add them to your cake. We created a pressed sugar vase that we decorated with piping details and other sugar molds. 

Our flowers made it to the display window for all of New York City's passerby's to see. 

As you can see, there are a lot of components that go into making these lovely replicas of nature. Besides making the sugar paste, you'll need petal dusts, wires, all the proper tools, and time, before a single flower can adorn your cake. Your patience and attention to detail will be tested, but the reward will be worth it. Flowers are classic and timeless...they come in just about any color and various sizes to match your celebration. I hope you were inspired. Thanks for stopping by.

~Abs of Cakes~

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