September 25, 2012

A word about dry weather and high altitude

I briefly mentioned in my last post that I switched from using gumpaste to using fondant when making the large flower on top of the cake. I did it because of the dry weather. I live in the dry state of Colorado at 5,280ft above sea level. A far cry from the practically sea level, high humidity state of Florida that I grew up in. Baking here is a bit different than Florida. Thanks to a friend, I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that works here, but I have yet to recreate the one I grew up with and have it tun out well. Have you ever seen those directions on the bottom of a cake mix for high altitude? yeah, us Coloradoans actually have to use those.

I have many people ask me if my sugar cookie recipe is a an old family favorite or something. To answer that question, it is not. I've never even tried the recipe I grew up with out here because I know it wouldn't work without figuring out the altitude adjustments that would need to be made. Instead, I found one from a high altitude baking blog. Even with that recipe, I made a slight change based on other's comments and the fact that the blogger bakes at about 9,000 ft altitude-almost twice as high as my mile high city.

Why am I talking about this now? When I made the flower for my last cake, the creator who made the flower originally (and kindly put video tutorials online to show others how to make it too) recommended using gumpaste. In fact, many bakers seems to recommend using gumpaste (instead of fondant) for flowers, figurines and basically anything that needs to dry or hold a certain shape. Gumpaste supposedly dries faster and harder than fondant an thus, is the better option. Even though I've been solely using fondant, I decided to try out gum paste for this flower cause I really wanted it to come out right. Well...try I did. and what I ended up with was gumpaste that dried WAAAAY too quickly! the petals were drying out before I could even finish doing basic ruffling to the edges. I tried adding shortening and it didn't help at all. I finished the flower only to hate it.
So...I switched back to my trusty fondant and it worked beautifully. Not only did it come out great, but the flower still dried completely hard within 36 hrs (others talk about fondant taking full weeks to dry fully).

I'm sure professional bakers and maybe others who grew up here who have figured out how to use gumpaste effectively in this dry weather. However, if you live in a dry climate and are an amateur like me, know that fondant is easier to work with.

September 22, 2012

One Year Later...

About a year ago I entered into the world of making yummy things look pretty. I got the idea in my head that I wanted to make a layered, decorated cake. Looking at it now, its a pretty sad little cake with only the basic of decorating. However, for my first try, I was pretty proud of what I accomplished. Even better than the cake though, is the path that cake set me on. I began to explore the world of the Michael's baking aisle and listened as the icing tips, bags, and gel food colors called out to me.

At this point, I make cakes occasionally, but cookies have become my primary decorating method. The cake learning curve is much steeper than the cookie learning curve. I bring all this up because once again, I recently had another birthday. And once again, I chose to make my own cake. A year later, I've learned a lot, I've grown, yet I still found myself driven slightly crazy in making this cake! I loved how it turned out, but i forget sometimes how many ways a cake can go wrong. That's all I'm going to say about that.

This cake is a modified version of a cake picture I saw several months ago. What excited me most about this cake was the big flower on top. I really wanted to see if I could make. Thankfully, the creator of it had some awesome youtube tutorials that were really easy to follow. Once I switched from gumpaste to fondant, making that flower was practically the easiest part of the cake!