Monday, October 26, 2015

October Birthdays...Celebrated Via Courier!

"Via courier" sounds so much more romantic and exciting than "by the mail carrier," don't you think? This is just my way of saying I shipped a few things made of flour and sugar across the country this month. My little sister's second-oldest daughter, two friends in Seattle, and my big sister all made October quite the month of celebrations! And how better to celebrate birthdays than with cake?

There was just one problem: I really suck at cakes! That is to say, my cake technique isn't as refined or developed as my pie technique. There are many things about my cake skills that makes me cringe – from mixing to frosting. But cringe or not, I really do want to be a halfway decent cake maker. I'll probably take a class or something at some point but until then I insist on stumbling along on my own.

This time I stumbled into the need to make my own fondant. Why? The reason is pasta. I've been making my own pasta lately and using my hand-crank pasta machine to do so. I bought it twenty-three years ago to make the fondant (I didn't know it was called that back then) for my three-tiered cake for my thirtieth birthday.

So happy not to be twenty-anything!
A Word About Reusing Photos:

I know I've posted this image before but I'm still very proud of this cake!

A Word About Reusing Photos Ends.

At any rate, I've finally started using the pasta machine for it's intended purpose, which got me to thinking about fondant for cakes again. But before that, I needed to find a way to make a way to convert a recipe for a nine-inch diameter cake into a recipe for a six-inc cake. I've done this before, just winging it, and ended up with a royal mess, so I figured I'd find some good advice this time.

I happened upon the CakeOmeter on Cakebaker.co.uk. It was helpful but it didn't quite work for the orange cake recipe; that cake turned out a little short so I only got two layers out of it instead of three. Next time perhaps I'll find another source but this worked well enough for my current needs.


I used this fondant recipe, which was very different from the recipe I used for my birthday cake. Still it was pretty easy and did the trick. It was too fragile to run through the pasta machine, though, so I ended up rolling it by hand. I turned to the Cake Boss on Youtube for hints on that. (Gotta love the New York accent! Also? Gotta bookmark that channel!) 

My results:


Lemon...
...and orange.
Not bad but I really do need to learn to cut even, smooth layers. 

But how to decorate them? I knew I'd be shipping them and whatever I did to make them the look special would have to survive that. My first thought was to use one of my silicone molds and make something out of fondant. Roses! Yes, roses would do nicely!


Orange roses?
But I didn't have the time it would take for them to dry properly. I had to get these cakes in the mail fairly soon. I needed something else. Roses! Yes, roses would do nicely! But roses made from sugar using a technique that I think will come in handy when I get back to candy making. 


Sugar-sweet roses.
I opted not to flavor the roses because I didn't want to add one more level of complexity with this monstrous endeavor. 

The final results:


Headed to Seattle.
Cibolo, TX bound.
Oh, I know there are many more ways I could have solved all the problems this project presented but I'm pretty happy with how these turned out. Heavy. Imperfect. Probably lacking a certain sublime taste. But as first attempts at this kind of project go, I'm happy to have these as a jumping-off point. Hold onto your serving platters boys and girls; it only gets better, and crazier from here!

• • • • •
The last bit of birthday baking I needed to do was for my big sister, Karla. I decided to keep things simple and send her part of my first batch of apple hand pies of the season. 


First of the season.
What wasn't simple was the fact that I decided to mix and match a very different bunch of apple varieties – most of which I'd never seen before. I usually mix three types of apples in my pies; this time I went with five:







I've had a couple of the pies and I must say this batch is among the best I've ever made.

Five apples are better than three?

• • • • •

My curiosity has gotten the best of me regarding how my shipping techniques fare against the vagaries and whims of the U.S. Postal Service pipeline, so I asked my Seattle friends and my sisters MonY and Karla to send me pictures of the baked goods after they opened the boxes. For the most part, everything arrived in pretty good shape, with pretty much the amount of "shipping subsidence" I expected – four days for the cakes (which were only supposed to be in transit for a maximum of three days) and two days for the pies.

Subsidence in Seattle.
A little squished in Cibolo...

...but niece MoRanda doesn't seem to mind! Happy birthday, darlin'!
And...

Just a little saggy in San Antonio.
Karla said she wasn't sharing. Don't blame her one bit!


Self Portrait With Apple Hand Pie!
(I love making my big sister happy!)
So, I only have one niece to bake for next month. Then it's December, with birthdays and holidays galore! I'd better rest up.

Currently Listening to: Gemini - The Fire Inside (Mr. FijiWiji Remix)

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