Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tiara Cupcakes - Ava's Birthday Party

My friend Jenny planned a fun princess party for her daughter Ava's birthday.  From the day we received the invitation, my daughter was SO EXCITED about "Ava's birday pardy".  After what seemed like an eternity (in the life of a 2 1/2 year old), Ava's party finally arrived.

Of course, during that time, Jenny and I had exchanged AT LEAST 20 emails about cupcakes.  Not just any cupcakes, but White Chocolate Tiara Cupcakes.  You may remember that I tried these earlier this year for Kennedy's 1st birthday.  When I made them for Kennedy, many of the tiaras crumbled and not every cupcake had one.  This time around, I made them more sturdy and I made extra to account for the ones that would tragically shatter on their way to their crowning moment atop a fluffy bed of frosting.

It's a good thing I made 20 extra tiaras because I had JUST ENOUGH to place a tiara on each cupcake.

Jenny was so surprised to find that I actually designed the tiaras to have Ava's name in each one:

The entire spread looked great.

Here's a closeup of Ava's giant cupcake & Ava blowing out the candles.

These were pink velvet cupcakes with buttercream.  

Miss Jenny knows how to make my daughter happy - a crown & a princess wand.  My son also tried to scare the neighbors with his knight mask.  

I think all the kids were happy to celebrate with Ava.

Happy Birthday Ava!  You looked so pretty and I hope you enjoyed your party.  Your friends Cole & Kate sure did!

The Chair Cake - Learning Lessons the Hard Way

I love my mother-in-law, Mary Jo.  I'm not just saying that in case she reads this... I really do.  She's been very supportive of my cake venture, and I truly appreciate that.  I'm SOOOOO appreciative of EVERYONE who's been supportive.  

I've been planning her birthday cake for quite a while because her birthday was a month ago, and we were supposed to visit her that weekend.  Long story short, our dog ended up needing surgery and we had to postpone our trip until now.  Don't worry ... he's fine.  Our bank account hurts worse than he does.  Ahhhh, the joys of having kids & pets.  

Here's where the lessons learned started.  Because we had to cancel at the last minute, I had already baked her cake.  So, I freezed it.  I don't freeze my cakes ... I don't have any experience freezing cakes ... I don't have any experience working with frozen cakes.  I figured it was the perfect cake to see how frozen cakes taste/decorate.  

Mary Jo is a very talented seamstress.  She owns a sewing company called Divine Threads in the Myrtle Beach area.  My husband and I thought it was only fitting to make a chair cake for her because reupholstering furniture is one of her many talents.  Here is my inspiration picture from :

I knew it wouldn't end up even close, but it was a start.

I can see that this "lesson learned" post is getting long, so here's my LESSON LEARNED #1 - TAKE PICTURES ALONG THE WAY.  Yes, it's annoying for me to do my work with a stop & go mentality, but how much better would this post be with pictures?  I could show you my complete and utter failure from start to finish.  

So, the decorating actually went along very smoothly.  The kids didn't cooperate fully, so I ended up being more pressed for time than I thought I would be.  I went to bed being relatively happy with the cake.  There were some details that I just couldn't get done.

I woke up to this ... 
Husband - "Hey Brianna, wake up.  Ummm ... you need to fix mom's cake because it fell over during the night"
Me - (Jumping out of bed) "What the BEEP?  What the BEEP happened?  You've got to be kidding me (running down the stairs) BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP (seeing the cake)."

It was 6:30 am, and we needed to leave by 7:00, so there was no fixing this cake.  This is where LESSON LEARNED #1 would come in handy because I'd love to show you how I learned the rest of the lessons.

LESSON LEARNED #2 - CAKES BUCKLE UNDER WEIGHT ... DEAL WITH IT!  I thought I was being clever when I was putting it together.  I used a 10" round on bottom, and then cut an 8" round  to use as the back and then some extra pieces for the arms.  I held up the back with a few dowel rods.  The bottom cake just wasn't strong enough to hold up the upright part of the cake.

LESSON LEARNED #3 - PREVIOUSLY FROZEN CAKES ARE WET.  Those dowel rods that I was sure would support the upright part of the cake, didn't have a firm place to anchor into.  Putting them into a "wet" cake was like trying to stop an avalanche with a tree.  It never had a chance.

I really think it was a perfect storm of many things - wet cake, heavy cake (again, thanks to it being frozen), using a hard base (instead of cardboard circles - my dowels weren't anchored to anything), and inserting my dowels too close to the edge of the cake.  

So, LESSON LEARNED #4 - USE YOUR BRAIN.  I know I wasn't an engineering major in college (maybe if I HAD been, I wouldn't be unemployed at the moment, but that's another blog post), but I know now to think about weight of material, placement of material, and reinforcement of joints.  I'm sure there's some physics formula for this, but I don't know what it is.  So, I'll make my own formula - wet cake + heavy cake + misplaced dowels x forgetting to use my brain = cake that falls apart (again, back to LESSON LEARNED #1 - wouldn't a picture of the fallen cake be GREAT here?)  Cake that falls apart / crushed expectations = UNHAPPY CUSTOMER.  I don't like the thought of an unhappy customer, so I'm very glad I learned on family.

That leads me to LESSON LEARNED #5 - LEARN YOUR LESSONS ON FAMILY & CLOSE FRIENDS.  While learning lessons the hard way HURTS, it would hurt a whole lot more if you ruined an event cake for a customer.  I learned that I will never try out new techniques on customers.

So, we got to Mary Jo's and she loved the cake ... even though it was in two pieces.  My husband held up the fallen piece so we could show her, and get some pictures (FINALLY!)

It was just the back of the chair that came off ... you can see the buckle along the back of the cushion.

LESSON LEARNED #6 - FAMILY WILL ALWAYS TELL YOU THAT THEY LOVE IT!  It's nice to know that sometimes people just appreciate the thought and time you put into something special for them.  

How did it taste?  YUMMY!

Wedding Shower Cake

Remember when I said that Caryn ordered 2 cakes in March?  The second one was just as much fun as the St. Patty's Day Cake.  This cake was a bridal shower cake for Emily, a woman in her office.  Now, I'm pretty used to making kids' cakes and airplane cakes these days, so I was more than ready to show my girliness (is that a word?) on this cake.  

The bottom tier was Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake with a White Chocolate Frosting and the top tier was Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.  Both tiers were covered in white fondant and had a black satin ribbon around the base.  A large pink gumpaste flower was offset on the front.  Here's a closer look at that.

The top of the cake said Showers of Happiness Emily

I loved how this cake looked overall, and Caryn said the staff LOVED the cake.  That's all I can ask for.