Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leap Day

Usually, my February 29ths are not very good days. When I compare today to previous Leap Days, I’m happy to say this one has been extremely average. It’s cold and rainy and I’m snuggled up in bed crocheting a baby blanket and watching shows on Hulu.

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Wow, this picture is super huge for some reason, but I don’t feel like re-sizing it. Anyway, I learned the ripple stitch just so I could make this blanket and I really like it. It’s super easy and relaxing. I think it looks more complicated than it is, and I love when that happens!

I just started it this morning and it’s working up quickly considering how distracted I’ve been watching shows all day. I like it so far, but I do wish I’d chosen different yarn. I’m using Loops & Threads “Snuggly Wuggly,” which translates to “Michaels Brand Baby Yarn.” It felt soft on the skein at the store, but now that I’m working with it, it just doesn’t feel as nice as I’d like it to. I’m hoping that washing it will make it a bit softer.

I’ll post a picture when it’s finished :]

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Mostly Picture Post

I have lokshen kugel in the oven and about half an hour until it’s done, so I’m going to use this time to post some pictures :D

This stuff is so good. Let’s see if I can finish this post before it’s ready to eat…

I finished the cake decorating course! Most of it’s blurred, but you get the idea.

This is my final cake. We learned how to do the rose right before we started decorating our cakes. Unfortunately, my buttercream wasn’t mixed enough so the roses didn’t come out super smooth, but I actually like the way they look! The cake is lemon with lemon filling and vanilla buttercream.

Monday was my last class for the Decorating Basics course. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I struggled with deciding whether or not I should sign up for the next course. On one hand, I knew the second course would be fun, and I really like the instructor. She’s going to start teaching it next Monday, and if I’m not in that class, I won’t be able to take the course taught by her for at least 3 months. I’d have to either wait, or go to a different store and risk being in a class taught by someone I don’t like. Also, three other ladies from my class were already signing up for the next course, and I think I’d feel more comfortable if I know some people in my next class. But on the other hand, there are quite a few supplies I’d have to buy for the second course, and that outweighed everything else as far as I was concerned.

I was actually leaving the store when I decided to go ahead and sign up. I might as well spend the money on something that makes me as happy as these classes do. Sooo… next course starts next Monday! I’m pretty stoked that I only have to wait a week, and I’ll have the same great instructor.

That’s the only news I have. I made a couple 6″ cakes during the week between my third and fourth class, and I’ve been meaning to post pictures of them, so here they are!

This one was made for a girl I know who really likes Angry Birds. I drew it myself despite the fact that I cannot draw. Cake is chocolate with ganache filling and vanilla whipped cream frosting.

With the rest of the batter from the Angry Birds cake, I made another small one. Chocolate with whipped cream frosting and ganache drizzled on top.

Aaaand the kugel is done! I finished the post right as the timer gave me the one-minute-warning. Yay!

Yum! :D

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Quick Cupcake Post

I just want to post a couple pictures of the cupcakes I decorated in my class today. We didn’t really do much, just practiced leaves and flowers, then decorate the cupcakes.

This is supposed to look like a shaggy mum, but it just looks like a purple mess.

Rather than make my own buttercream icing, I just bought a can of decorator icing from Michaels. It turned out to be a huge mistake, because the decorator icing is very gritty, and the bits of sugar kept getting stuck in the tip I had to use to make the shaggy mums. They turned out pretty badly, but at least I know why! Everyone else decorated all six of their cupcakes this way, but after screwing it up three times, I just experimented with the others before throwing them away (the cake was bad). Lesson learned: make my own frosting! If anyone reading this post is thinking about taking a Wilton course, bring the decorator icing to the first class, but never again!

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, this is what the shaggy mum should look like. Honestly, I think even the professionally piped shaggy mum looks messy. I probably won’t make too many of them in the future, even with better icing.

This is a pom-pom. Fun to make and I think they look pretty cool.

My first pom-pom flower came out a bit better than my shaggy mums. I really like this one and I was sad that I can’t keep it forever. There’s definitely room for improvement, but that shouldn’t be a problem because I hope to make many more.

Next week is our final week, and we get to decorate one last cake. I wish I could do something different, but I think I’m going to stick to one of the cakes from the lesson book. It’ll be better if I can follow exact instructions, and I imagine my instructor has made the cakes in the book a bazillion times, so she can help me out. I don’t think I need any help with transferring stuff, but I know I need a lot of practice when it comes to the flowers. So next week’s cake will likely be disgustingly floral.

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Froggin’ Like a Frogger

I went to Goodwill last night hoping to find something to frog for the yarn. Not only did it have to be something made from yarn I like, but it had to be something I didn’t feel bad about tearing apart. I’ve talked about my problem with frogging thrift store finds before. When I see something that was obviously hand-made, I don’t just see the yarn, I see the time that was put into it. I can’t stop myself from imagining that it was made by someone’s loving grandma, and then I can’t bear to take it apart. Sooo, I didn’t really think I’d find anything.

There were a few baby blankets, a couple of throws (one of which was made with super soft yarn and I’m thinking about going back to buy it – not for frogging but for snuggling with), and some dishcloths. I’d be okay with frogging a dishcloth, but I didn’t really like the yarn. I was about to give up when I found this knitted… thing. I say ‘thing’ because I really don’t know what it was. It was too wide and short to be a scarf, but too small to be even a baby blanket. Maybe it was a lap blanket. Either way, the yarn was really neat. It was nice and soft, too. I looked at the… thing… and really didn’t feel anything. No emotions at all. So I knew I’d be able to frog it. I bought it for $2.99 (the lady at the counter didn’t know what it was either and ended up charging me the price of a scarf) and headed home to get to work.

Before I took it apart. It looked pretty cool, but I had no use for it as it was.

Despite my determination to find something to frog, I’d never actually frogged something before. I figured you just check the edges and find where the knitter/crocheter wove in the end, but I wasn’t sure, so I googled it. I guess it really is that simple because I couldn’t really find any instruction beyond a pretty good blog post about frogging a sweater (which is a bit more difficult because of the seaming). I was a little worried that I’d have trouble doing it without some help, but I found the end, untied the knot, and it started unraveling. Easy.

The result! I love how Sinclair is eyeballing the yarn. He was watching me like that the whole time.

I think it took about an hour to take apart, but it was mindless. I unraveled the whole thing while watching a movie. I ended up with two big balls and a third that is just a bit over half the size of the others. I started a new ball every time I got to a yarn end in the item, so I think the original knitter used two and a half skeins. I don’t know about the yardage or anything, but it’s a pretty decent amount. Usually, I stay away from variegated yarns because they look pretty as the skein but ridiculous as a finished object, but I really like this stuff.

Now I just need to figure out what to use it for…

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My First and Second Cake!

When it comes to decorating cakes, I felt like I was doomed to fail from the start. For one thing, I’m not at all artistic. I don’t want to copy my cakes from pictures in books and youtube videos forever. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able  to get what was in my head onto a cake without it looking like a complete mess. For another thing… up until this past Saturday, I had never baked a cake in my life. Yes, without any knowledge of baking or an artistic bone in my body, I decided to dive head-first into cake decorating.

At the beginning of my first class, the instructor asked how many of us have ever decorated a cake, just for fun. I was the only one who didn’t raise a hand. Later, she mentioned a common baking problem, saying we all knew what it was like to encounter it. The other ladies in the room all smiled nodded their heads knowingly while I only pretended to know what she was talking about. Everyone knew how to use a coupler, how to hold a pastry bag, how to make icing. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was seriously worried that I was never going to figure it out.

So, last weekend, I decided to practice a little. Afterall, the women in my class have apparently had years of practice. I lined my cake pan with parchment paper (incorrectly, of course, though I didn’t know at the time) and mixed up a chocolate cake (from a box). It came out nice and moist, but a little awkward because of the parchment paper. I cut it into two layers and spread chocolate pudding between them, because that’s what the instructor did when she fixed up a cake while we watched during the first class. I mixed up some chocolate buttercream (way too thick) to ice it with, and used piping gel to trace a picture of Stimpy from The Ren & Stimpy Show.

lol!

The piping gel looks ridiculous, and you can barely see it on the chocolate background. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but if I was going to do it again, I’d use clear piping gel and trace over the it with frosting. It’d be a lot cleaner-looking and much more visible that way. But for my first try, I felt pretty good about it, and I learned what not to do for my “official” first cake on Monday.

I spent Monday morning mixing up my frostings, baking a cake, and making a filling. The filling was optional, but I really wanted to try something different. I decided on a vanilla cake (well, it was actually funfetti, but that doesn’t change the flavor) and blood orange filling. It was difficult (for me – I imagine it’s actually quite simple for anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in a kitchen) to make the filling, but it came out nicely. I checked online and found the best way to line a cake pan with parchment paper, and I’m glad I did because it worked perfectly. I got everything done and packed up just in time and headed off to my class.

The first thing we did was practice lines and zigzags on our practice boards. The instructor walked around the room testing the consistency of our frostings (we were told to bring one medium consistency and one thin) and checking our our lines and zigzags. I didn’t have to change my frosting consistencies or readjust the way I was holding the bag, and it made me feel more confident despite my inexperience. We moved on to our cakes, leveling and torting (aka layering) them as necessary. After frosting the cakes, we had to leave them alone for a while so the frosting would set and we could smooth it out. We got to work mixing our colors with dye and the medium frosting, which we were to use to decorate the cake. Unfortunately, we ran low on time, and most of us (including myself) were unable to smooth out the frosting on our cakes before getting started on the decorations. It was kind of a bummer, but definitely not a huge issue.

As for the decorating, the transfer was definitely the coolest part. This is how it works: you put a piece of parchment paper over the drawing and trace it. Now you have a drawing on some parchment paper. Turn the parchment paper over and trace the drawing with clear piping gel. Put the paper, piping-gel-side down, on the cake. Using a small paintbrush, retrace the drawing, applying slight pressure. Life the paper, and you’ll see that the piping gel is on the cake. Then, it’s time to fill the drawing with frosting. It’s like coloring in a coloring book. The transfer process is why I know I’ll be able to come up with my own designs. I can draw and re-draw something until it’s perfect, and then it’s just a matter of tracing it a few times. Awesome. We were told to choose between two drawings that came with the course kit; a cupcake, or a fish. I chose the fish. I ran out of time and was unable to finish in the classroom, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put my cake on the trunk of my car and finished decorating it right there in the parking lot. It was a little dark, but not too bad.

Aside from the fact that I couldn’t smooth out the frosting, I’m very happy with it!

Of course, I forgot my cake carrier at home (I got it at Dollar Tree and it’s amazing). I was starving because I can’t eat before the class (I’m too nervous), so I stopped to get food and anxiously balanced the cake on a box in the back seat of the car while I ate. I got it home in one piece, but it didn’t stay that way for long. I had a piece and it was delicious. That blood orange filling I made? It’s amazing. The whole thing tasted like a creamsicle. Sooo good.

After this week, not only do I feel more confident that I’ll learn just as much as the experienced women in my class, but I feel more confident in my baking ability. After not ruining two cakes (and making that filling from scratch!), I feel like I could do it all along, like my identity as a baker was just lying dormant for 24 years, and now it’s erupted and it’s super stoked to be alive. I’m collecting recipes, coming up with ideas of my own, falling asleep thinking about cakes, and dreaming about cakes.

Even though it’s only been two weeks, and I have many more weeks to go, I feel like the most important thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you just have to jump in, even if you’re afraid you can’t swim. But, you know, you should probably be sure there’s like, a lifeguard around or something, because sometimes you don’t get it right the first time.

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