Monthly Archives: May 2012

If You Mustache, It’s Made of Chocolate!

I’ve finished my Wilton classes, but I don’t want to slow down, so I spent some time in the baking section at Michaels the other day and spent $7 (which is nothing compared to the money spent on cake decorating courses, yay!) on the materials for a new project.

It’s a little difficult to see, but that’s a candy mold that can be used to make moustache lollipops! I’ve seen it in the store a few times but have always been a bit intimidated by the candy melts. I didn’t realize how easy it is to use them.

The candy melts are little wafers that can be melted in the microwave, a double boiler, and even in a slow cooker (when you have larger amounts of wafers). I used the microwave because I don’t have a double boiler or the proper stuff to make one myself and it the candy melted super fast. The microwave instructions say to either set it at 50% power or use the defrost setting for one minute. Stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir again. I used the defrost setting and kept going until there were just a few lumps of unmelted chocolate left, because stirring it up helped to melt them and ensured that the chocolate wasn’t overcooked.

Once the chocolate was melted, I poured enough of it into each mold to fill it about halfway, added lollipop sticks, and filled them completely. At first, it looked super messy and uneven so I picked up the mold and gently tapped it on the table and it evened out (as well as eliminated any air bubbles).

Once the mold is filled, it goes in the refrigerator! The chocolate hardened up very quickly… it took less than half an hour. The easiest way to tell they’re ready without touching them is to look at the tray itself. It frosts up when it’s cold enough. The lollipops just pop out without any trouble. I couldn’t believe how quick and easy the whole thing was.

Since I only bought one mold tray, I had to go through this same process a few more times. The previously-melted chocolate hardened while I waited for the moustaches to harden, but luckily, it doesn’t hurt to re-melt the candy melts. I used one 12 ounce bag of candy melts and got 12 moustaches out of it with no chocolate leftover.

My first experience with candy melts has been a great one. I have plans for a lot of different projects now, and I’m looking forward to trying them out. I also learned that these same candy melts can be used to make candy clay, which is the same as modeling chocolate. I look forward to trying that out, too!

So. What would a post about moustache lollipops be without a picture of someone holding one of them up to his or her face? Unfortunately, there’s no one home but me…

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Course Four: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers

Last night, I finished the fourth and final Wilton cake decorating course. It was bittersweet, because while I’m happy to have learned so much, I’m a little bummed that I no longer have a weekly class to attend! These past few months have just flown by so quickly, it’s incredible.

During the first three courses, I tried to post once a week or so because I always had something new to share. This fourth course was a little different. We made a lot of flowers out of gum paste, but each flower was part of an ongoing project, so none of them were truly finished until last night. This means I had to save all of my flowers for the entire month. I think that would be pretty easy for most people, but with the amount of cats I have (two of my own and my roommate has four!), I have to be super careful about where I store important things. Luckily, I had these flowers in a place where no cats could bother them. Unluckily, Nate accidentally knocked them over and they all broke. Right before we had to leave for the class! I was pretty upset because I worked really hard on them, but you really can’t tell too much now that the class is over and the project is finished. You may see bits broken off randomly in some of the pictures though!

First off, I found this great picture of the contents of the course 4 kit. I wish it was just a little bigger, but it’ll do:

In the first class, I learned how to make a gerbera daisy.

It was very simple… I just used the two cutters from the kit for the petals. The center is just a ball of gum paste that was pressed into the impression mat.

I also learned how to wire a flower and wrap the wire in florist tape. I have to say: florist tape is the worst kind of tape ever in the world forever. If you’ve never used it, allow me to explain why it’s so horrible. First of all, the tape itself can dry out, so it must be stored the same way fondant and gum paste must be stored. That is – it needs to be kept in an airtight container/sandwich bag. That’s not a huge deal, but I found it mildly annoying because I already have enough  random bags of random fondant/gum paste and it’s getting unruly! haha but really, not a huge deal. That’s not it, though! The tape sticks to nothing but itself. I’m not exaggerating. It is literally made with a special adhesive that only sticks to itself. This makes wrapping the tape around a tiny little wire very difficult at first, because there’s nothing on the wire for it to stick to right away. Once the wrapping is actually started, it gets much easier, but it always feels impossible to start. Especially since the tape doesn’t start to stick to itself until it’s pulled. Pulling on it activates the adhesive, so you have to pull a bit to get it to work at first, and then continue pulling as you wrap the rest of the wire. It sounds easy but it’s really awkward because the wire is so small. And finally, while the tape will not stick to you, the adhesive somehow manages to rub off onto your fingers, causing them to be very sticky, but not sticky enough to stick to anything. If that makes sense. One of my classmates even ended up with green fingers from the tape rubbing off on her hands. The good news is that you can get rid of the horrible stickiness with a dusting pouch. Just swipe it across your fingers and rub your hands together like you’re rubbing in lotion! Pretty good tip, courtesy of my fantastic instructor. Okay, that’s the end of my florist tape rant.

Anyway, the first wired flower I made was this blossom:

Later, I learned how to use color dust to add dimension to flowers, as well as how to arrange them properly. That cute little pink blossom becomes something more with a deep rose-colored dust:

I really like the finished product. You could barely see the line in the middle of each before I brushed on some color dust. Now the lines are really accentuated and the flowers look more real than the one in the first picture.

Using that same deep rose color dust (and a bit of lime green), I made a stargazer lily:

Each petal was made separately using white gum paste, colored with dust (and a brown food writer, which looks like a marker, for the dots), and then assembled with florist tape. We made the leaves and petals during the second class, but didn’t put it all together until last night. I really like the way this one turned out, especially since I was running low on time and had to rush through it. I would have colored it a little differently to try to get it closer to a real stargazer lily if I’d had the time to do so, but I’m still happy with it! It reminds me of a poinsettia though, and that makes me want to try to make another one using red gum paste. It wouldn’t look exactly like a real poinsettia, but it’d be close and still pretty.

I also learned how to make sweet peas and ivy leaves:

I didn’t like the first sweet pea I made, so I thought I didn’t like them at all, but after my second and third, I fell in love. They’re fun to make and I think they’re very pretty. The only color dust used was a little bit of goldenrod applied to the center piece. The ivy leaves are colored with a mixture of spruce and lime green dust, as well as a little bit of the deep rose color on the edges. When the instructor said we could put a little pink on the leaves, I thought it sounded funky, but I tried it and realized that it’s not uncommon to find a leaf with a little pink in it. It looks neat.

My final bouquet is made up of briar roses, stephanotis, and ivy leaves:

What I really like about this little bouquet is that one of the two leaves and every flower except for one of the briar roses was broken (from when they all fell earlier in the day), yet I was able to arrange them in such a way that you can hardly tell. I also like that while I made the sweet pea bouquet by following instructions, I made this one myself at the end of class when we were talking about other things. It’s like I proved to myself that I can put these little arrangements together on my own, and that feels good.

So I’m done with the cake decorating classes, but I’m not done learning. My Wilton instructor offered to do a project class (a 3-hour, one day class at Michaels) on tall cakes in June, so I’ll be learning how to properly make a tiered cake. I’m also going to try some of the projects I’ve read about on the Wilton website. They have a lot of project ideas and guides, from gum paste flowers I didn’t learn in class to completely different projects with totally new mediums, like modeling chocolate.

I have a potentially money-making plan, too. I like making cakes but with the exception of a few I’ve already promised to make for some friends-turned-customers, I don’t think I’ll be selling them. It’s very difficult to decorate the cakes in my crappy apartment/kitchen and I don’t think I could get them to come out perfectly enough to sell to strangers. Also, it’s pretty tough getting a big, decorated cake down the stairs and into the car, and I’d go crazy with worry driving somewhere to deliver a cake. But I’ve seen decorations being sold on Etsy and I really think I could do that easily, so I’m going to practice my flowers and try it out.

I’d like to thank my little group of followers, who have been super encouraging and have left me some super nice compliments on my work over the past few months. Thanks, you guys! Your kind words have really helped me feel like I am actually not bad at this haha! I have a lot of ideas and I fully plan to expand my knowledge with cookie decorating, sculpting with modeling chocolate, fondant, and gum paste, and even cake pops and sugar eggs, and I’ll be sure to post a picture or two for every new thing I learn :]

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Reunion

I’m sitting at the cafe in Barnes & Noble, and there are two men sitting behind me. One of them has been here since before I arrived. I’m not sure of his name. We’ll call him Tom. A few minutes ago, a man walked in looking around a bit, and Tom said “Charles?” The man turned to Tom and said “Hey! I thought you looked familiar but I wasn’t sure!” and took the other seat at the table.

Tom and Charles are old high school buddies. They graduated 50 years ago and haven’t seen each other since accidentally bumping into each other during a game of golf in the early 80s. They brought their yearbooks and are looking through the pictures and signatures, pointing out people they remember and reminiscing about the adventures they had together. They talked about a guy, the class clown, who went on to become a librarian at a nearby university and then died way too young. It was decided that one signature was so big that it took up half a yearbook page because the signer had such a ‘big personality.’ Another guy, Robert, died not too long ago. Another one was a bully – he made fun of Tom’s last name. Rudy was a nice kid. Charles can’t remember much of high school except that he was a little ‘twerp,’ but Tom has a better memory. He remembers the time someone bet the strongest kid in class to do 100 push-ups, and the kid did it quickly and easily and that they had to eat all their food at lunch or they’d get in trouble. They both agree that generic yearbook signatures  (“best of luck in your future endeavors!”) are super lame.

Yeah, I’m eavesdropping. But in my defense, I can’t help it because they’re kinda loud. It’s a nice conversation, but there’s some sadness. They don’t know what happened to so many of their classmates, even the guys they once called great friends.

If I go to my 50-year reunion, or I meet up with old friends years and years from now, are they going to recognize me? Am I going to recognize them? Are we going to wonder “whatever happened to Matt?” Or Hannah, or Joe, or Maggie? Will we even remember their names?

It bums me out to think I might not see the people I spent such an important part of my life with ever again. Or maybe I’ll see them in 40 years, which is almost as bad as never seeing them again. My best friends, people who knew me better than anyone else back then, but don’t even talk to me now. I know that people move on, and I have too, but sometimes it hits me: I have no idea what Cindy is up to. Is she even alive? I don’t know. I found out through Facebook that Christine is engaged, and I wanted to send her a message but I couldn’t think of what to say because all I could think was “why didn’t she tell me?” even though I know it’s because we aren’t good enough friends anymore. Kevin stopped talking to me somewhere along the way, and even when I sent him a congratulatory message when he had a baby, he didn’t write back. Just three of many examples of my dead high school friendships.

I know it’s partly my fault, because I ran away to the other side of the country as soon as I turned 18, but I’m not going to take all of the blame. I tried to keep in contact with those people. I still do. I never get a response, or if I do, it’s very short and there’s nothing for me to reply to. Like I said, I don’t think about this constantly. But sometimes it pops into my head and when I realize my old friendships didn’t turn out the way I thought they would back when I was 17 and graduating – it hurts.

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Course Three Final Cake!

I finished my third Wilton cake decorating course (Gum Paste and Fondant) last Thursday. I had a lot of fun with this course because I felt like I’d learned enough in the first and second course that I really knew what I was doing in the third.

For example: we learned how to make gum glue in the second class. So when the instructor started to teach it in the third, I was able to just do my own thing. We also learned (in the second class) how to tint gum paste, and when the instructor started to teach everyone how to do that, I already knew. It was nice to be on top of things – I liked that.

As for my final cake: I really didn’t like the taste of the fondant, and neither did the people I shared the cake with. I feel like it was a little thick, but because we were a bit pressed for time, I wasn’t able to roll it out as thin as it should have been. The texture might have been less intrusive if the fondant had been thinner. But the cake itself was good, very moist!

If you haven’t baked a funfetti cake before, the mix is white with sprinkles in it. When you bake the it, the sprinkles melt and that’s what makes the little colored spots in the finished cake. I wanted more colored spots, so I added a ton of my own sprinkles to the batter and it came out really well. I’ll do it again in the future for sure.

Now, on to the pictures!

I followed a design in the back of the lesson book. I really liked making all of the daisies. The cake itself was just a box mix – funfetti – with vanilla buttercream. I flavored the fondant vanilla as well.

A close-up of the daisy on top of the cake, as well as a few of the smaller flowers.

A close-up of the border, which started out as an eyelet. One of the eyelet holes tore and I kind of liked the way it looked, so I tore every other hole and it came out looking like this.

Look at all those flowers I made! A whole field of daisies in a little box. A whole field of daisies I dropped in the parking lot at Michaels! Noooo! Haha luckily, I was able to salvage enough to decorate the cake.

The class was a great experience (except for the dropping of the daisies!) and I’m really glad I took it. Now, on to the fourth course: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers!

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