Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Something New

Here it is in all it's glory. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It is truly a fussy, overwrought Louis XIV style cake that I think captures the look and feel I was going for. It received the ultimate compliment when a former chef's said it was exactly the style of cake that CarĂªme himself would have created. Look him up, can't really be in better company.

The grade. Well, even though I thought it was pretty close to perfect it received 245 out of 250, not bad for the second wedding cake I've ever made. Here's the rest of the class (click on it for a closer look).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 4

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I've already done the blue so today was something new. I created a pleated ruffle at the bottom of my cake. Sounds easy doesn't it.

Hard to imagine one 2" pleated ruffle circling the bottom layer would take 3 hours to complete. 3 solid hours, and that doesn't count the time I took yesterday creating the card stock pattern mold. 3 hours of roll, place, crimp, dry, crimp some more, dry, place on the cake, glue, arrange, ruffle and sigh.

What did I learn? Charge double for the pleated ruffle.

Friday, September 18, 2009


In the spirit of testing everything out I have diligently been doing some homework that has turned into pieces I think I'll use on my cake. Gumpaste flowers. Made by rolling out gumpaste, cutting, thinning and ruffling the edges, shaping (some in grace's antique fostoria sorbet glasses... we're baptists, we don't have champagne glasses), assembling and pinning into some extra Styrofoam forms.

Next, what color shimmer dust should I accent them with? It's the adult version of glitter and I can't get enough.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 3

I did everything different today. Different uniform, different rolling pin, different surface, different mindset. I was going to succeed today and cover my bottom two forms with fondant hell or high water. I can do this. Music. It's not often I plug in to the ipod but today I did. Loud. Good old fashioned rock. Queen, Bon Jovi and even a little Blink 182.

Please Lord, just let me get this done with some level of success.

I did it. All three forms are now covered in prussian blue fondant with a nice fabric inspired texture. I even got the board covered as a bonus. The cake is stacked and ready to decorate. Down, but not out. I'm back.

Day 2

God is a fair God. You do something well and gloat about it, praise yourself and look out, it always comes back around. You'll pay for it, trust me.

The next step in my cake process was wrapping my three Styrofoam layers with the colored fondant, easy enough. I've wrapped plenty of cakes and on practice day I had no issues whatsoever, this will be a snap... or so I thought.

Top layer... roll out the fondant, check. Add a little corn syrup to the Styrofoam to get it to stick, check. Lay the fondant on the center of the, wait, nononono no no, not there, it's sticking, I can't pull it up! what the F! Ugh, crap, now it's peeling in chunks. Get it off, get if off!!!! It won't come up. ok, I'm done. it's a mess. what do I do?! One 6" Styrofoam cake covered in lumps of fondant. That's what I get for gloating about my perfect color.

Top layer, round 2.... Smooth out the hot mess I created in round 1, check. Roll out the fondant, check. Skip the devil corn syrup that sticks to everything. Lay the fondant on top and smooth over, check. Seal the bottom with a little syrup, check. Phew. I got it done with just a few minor imperfections.

Ok, I'm going to try one more.

Middle layer... roll out fondant, check. Lay fondant on center of form and smooth out, check. Smooth out and trim excess, check. Seal the bottom... wait, crap, what!!! I leaned into the form and gouged the top edge perfectly with my coat buttons. Too deep to smooth, I have to start over. That's it, I'm done for the day. I told you, he's a fair God.

Day 1

On Monday we started working on the final project by coloring our fondant (if necessary) for the bases of our cakes. I did. Of all the parts, pieces and tasks of my cake this was the one I was least worried about. After all, I've been color matching for decades (and getting paid to do it).

If I can get china to print PMS542 blue correctly on thousands of cards (and mind you, it took years to get to that point including two trips to that food-forsaken country) I can color 6 pounds of fondant to match my paint chip.

Done. Perfect. "Right on the nuggies" as an old printer friend used to say. I was pretty proud of myself. God would get me back for the pride, just you wait. But on my checklist of tasks the first item is done and I am on my way.

It has begun!

The reason I came to school, cake decorating. I'm 4 weeks and and starting on the final project, a 3 tier wedding cake of my own design. I really struggled with a, I don't have an ultimate cake design in my head (just like I have no plan, no goals, but that's a whole other topic). I need a style, theme, dress, flower choice, location and then I can create.

So I bought some magazines and came up with three designs:
1. Mid-century modern, a nod to mad men with it's clean, modern lines and a dress that reminds me slightly of Pantsy (my mom). Inspired by layered graphics, a wooden console that reminded me of our old hi-fi (that's a record player for all of you born after 1970) and a pair of stylized owls done in modeling chocolate.

2. Modern Petals, based on this amazing Monique Lhuillier dress I found with a cascade of petals. Simple in design but difficult in execution. As you can see I love the concept of a floral pommander (that flower ball thing) on top. I've been obsessed with them for years.

3. Louis XIV Gone Mad. It's hard to grow up in the house I did and not have hidden somewhere a love for this style. Grace loved it. French provencial, Queen Anne, and all the Louis. I had pulled these pillows and settee out of a magazine years ago and stashed it in my "cool things" folder (doesn't everyone have one of these?) knowing I would use this inspiration someday. I found a dress that matched and the formal, fancy french concept was complete.

I reviewed the concepts with my Chef and I knew what she would choose, not only because of style but of difficulty. I'll let you guess for a bit and feel free to chime in on your favorite.

I started it this week, and it's due next and you know it needs to be perfect in all aspects so I'll try to keep you updated on progress as we go. After all, this is the culmination of my journey, making a cake that can be sold as a professional work. Did I just have a goal? Phew. Maybe I'm not as broken as I thought I was.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spicolli Returns

Fast times at Art Institutes. Yesterday we had spicolli in class and he came just short of ordering pizza to ward off the munchies. Yes, my little friend that I named Jew-Dude (JD for short) gave me the quintessential art school moment.

Each of us had to interview a wedding cake bakery, write a paper and then present that paper orally in class yesterday. It's a simple project, the chef gave us the list of 14 questions to ask and have answered, very straight forward. Everything was going well and we were cruising through until JD, he was last, but certainly not least.

There he stood, in front of the class with bloodshot eyes and speaking at half speed. "Dude, I totally did my project on so-and-so's because my bro Joe works there, dude. It was awesome. I was stoked to see all the stuff they had." He was 100, one-hundred percent stoned. And if I can point that out you know how obvious it was.

There were giggles, smiles and people eventually couldn't look at him for fear of laughing. It almost became sad when the teacher started to point out the missing information, even she gave up so he could finish as soon as possible. As amusing as it was for all of us, we all knew he needed to finish to go snack on something to get through the rest of class.

It was finally done and we all took a break, one classmate said all he could do was hear "buffalo soldier" over and over in his head. I think bob himself heard that request because when we returned from break and turned on the radio what did we hear? Yup, Buffalo Soldier. Dude, that was awesome. Sometimes I love these art school kids, they never cease to amuse and amaze.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Better Than Tony

Let me tell you, there is nothing better for boosting your self esteem and self worth than going back to school as an adult. I mean really, having people tell you that you're the best is just great. And (this is the best part) it's not that hard! Yup, it's easy. I don't know why it's so much easier now that when I was 18 but it is. It's amazing how a little work, organization and well designed homework (it's all about making something look pretty) can make you the star of the class. Those kids have just not figured it out yet.

Now, lets remember exactly what and where I'm going to school for: culinary at a school that is currently trying to get accreditation. We're not talking CIA or French Culinary in New York. This is the place where one students answer to "why did you decide on Art Institutes" during orientation was, and I quote: "because I couldn't get into that other school". Yes. We're honest here at AI. Now I don't know if he was referring to Le Cordon Bleu (which I personally couldn't attend just for the fear I'd have to pronounce the french name correctly) or MCAD (which is the snooty-artsy-fartsy design school that I refused to hire anyone from) but the fact he wasn't smart enough to keep that to himself shows you what I'm up against in class. Hence, why I feel so smart. It's like I'm in school with 3rd graders.

I'm in practice school. It's not master program or heaven forbid some fancy doctorate program that you have to work at (just as Lisa and Alicia). I'm in a school that teaches you how to wash your hands so you don't poison people. I actually figured that out in elementary school. The fact I can do that AND make something look good is so above and beyond they just don't know what to do. I mean, I can do dishes without being asked! What, she thinks too? Do you see the pattern here?

No wonder I'm the star. I love being the big fish (literally) in a tiny, tiny, tiny pond. Again, this is the best self-esteem booster I've ever had. It makes up for all those nerd-ridden years of high school where I wasn't even cool enough to be in a tier. I rode the school bus and played the violin, need I say more? Even in college I wasn't aware enough to snap out of it. True, I had friends and came off as the snooty girl from cake-eater land but I wasn't even smart enough to know I was perceived that way, it was just because I was so painfully shy. Here I am, finally, at the ripe age of... well never mind... finally tier one at my school. If only they had prom.

Now, this may be a bit more expensive that attending a Tony R. weekend event, but let me tell you, it's so much better. Not only do you feel good about yourself and have people tell you're amazing, you don't have to walk over coals or be fearful the giant is going to talk to you. I highly recommend this esteem booster to any and all. You too can feel good about yourself in 12 months or less (is that a book title?) and all the while get to eat yummy food. Hi, my name is stephanie and I'm cool. Never thought I'd say that in my lifetime. Well done AI.

My 5 Year Plan

It's finally here, the class I've been waiting for—cake decorating. This was why I decided to go to school, to learn how to make amazing wedding cakes. This was going to be my new direction in life. I love it. I love my class, the chef is great and I'm working with people that are fun and smart, well most of them (the majority of "re-tarders" are in the other section). I think my classmates like me but I've never been good at gauging my popularity at school (shall we discuss me telling everyone in kindergarten they were stupid because they couldn't read? Yeah, that cemented my popularity). I have seen a withering glance or two my direction during practice but let's just hope this shining "late-bloomer" personality (as Jodi calls it) overshadows my spirit-crushing need to be the best.

I finally feel like I could do this, for real. Not just some dorky girl in a kitchen making a birthday cake for a friend on the weekend but for real (translation: I can charge money). Really? I'm not ready for this, I like playing at school, this is my happy-fun time. I don't want to be a part of the working world getting a paycheck and contributing. Yuk. I like learning and making things and having people tell me I'm great. You just don't get that very often in the real world.

A friend of mine asked what my 5 year plan was (he was technically asking about my 5 year car plan but disguised it as caring about my life) and I was stumped. I don't have one. Never have. Now I'm panicking because I know I need one. What am I going to do? Do I have the guts to go out on my own or should I take the safe route and get a job. And that's assuming I can get a job, who wants to hire some old lady? Ugh. When did pantsy crawl into my head and start talking? Snap out of it Kissner! Cakes, the whole reason this blog exists, to be creative with my favorite thing (food, I mean have you looked at me recently?) and make people happy. There's got to be a place out there that wants to do the same, right? I'll find it. But in the mean time I'm open for suggestions on that 5 year plan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My latest and greatest, NOT for class but one of my best friends. The filling flavor was definitely inspired by one of my desserts (remember that tropical napoleon, I just loved the pineapple and coriander and had to try a filling) and the butter cream had a bit of coconut cream in it. The wood-tone wasn't perfect but the plumerias looked good enough to make stac jealous (that was what she wanted on her wedding cake but nobody could make them). This tiki is sure to bring good luck, no bobby brady juju here!