Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Meet the versatile Royal Icing!

 Today we practiced making royal icing. Now, I've made this before, but it was actually nice to have our pastry chef show us what a runny vs medium vs stiff consistency really looks like and their different applications. So for the piping practice of swiss dots, cornelli lace, snail trails , etc we were working with a medium consistency. Nice and glossy with a soft peak, perfect for these types of decorations. It's also a cake decorator's dream because it's pretty easy to remove if you mess up!
Not to neglect fondant, we also covered a dummy cake and learned some tricks on getting nice edges and a clean trim at the bottom.
 From previous class, some of my flowers made out of molding chocolate. Still working on the right technique, better be ready for when Chef RBI visits!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Time Flies When you're having FUN!!!

Whewww...it's been 3 weeks and we've covered what seems to be at least 6 months worth of training. Let's see, we learned how to bake a genoise, chocolate genoise, white cake, angel sponge cake and chocolate devil cake. We've also worked on some piping techniques for borders, icing a cake with buttercream, meringues and different kinds of buttercreams, cake stacking, basket weave technique, chocolate ganache, chocolate glaze and making flowers out of molding chocolate.....uffffff, I'm exhausted! All of this while preparing for  the SelfServe test needed for food handling, which i might not have passed! Did I mention I work a full time job?
So what are some of my big take - aways?
  1. Genoise cakes are a must know for any baker but I don't see many of them in my future ;-)
  2. Chocolate genoise...we're much better friends than plain genoise
  3. Icing a cake with real buttercream (not crusting buttercream) - practice, practice and more practice. Hot spatula is a must have!
  4. French, Italian or Swiss? The jury is still out...leaning towards swiss although italian is more stable
  5. Chocolate Ganache - I'm in love and have nothing else to say about that
  6. Flowers out of molding chocolate - I'll have to make at least 50 more to get it right!
  7. Cake Rings - A MUST HAVE and one of my favorite things I've learned to use so far
So, lots covered, lots learned, still not an expert but working on it ;-)

Peace, love and cake to all....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pâte à Bombe (French Buttercream)

All I can say is OMG - where have you been my entire life! Now mind you, I don't have a sweet tooth which is a good thing in this business; but this, oh, it's just PURE JOY!
Made by whisking egg yolks with a soft ball sugar mix the end result is a creamy, smooth, not overly sweet buttercream that you just want to eat with a spoon. I have to say, this could very well turn into my favorite buttercream!
So on to crumb-coating, icing and decorating our Génoise cake. Here's what I ended up with, definitely need more practice before practical exam!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

La Génoise Deuxième Partie (Part ll)

So today I went to get my masterpiece out of the refrigerator ( my génoise cake) and to my surprise it didn't look half bad! We then moved on to some torting and filling techniques. Torting cakes can be very intimidating and if you're a perfectionist it can drive you to the bottle! But for the first time I was able to get a nice level cut just by using the right tools and techniques. So lets go back to the beginning, cutting the top layer. This was done really by eyeballing.
Now after leveling the top, we measured our cakes with the goal of having 3 X 1"layers of cake. After measuring we marked our cakes where we would be torting. Then, using a long serrated knife and with elbow to the side of your body we gently scored the cake while rotating it on a cake turn table. Interestingly enough, if you keep your elbow in place it makes the scoring much easier and straighter! Again, we did this for the second mark on the cake.
After scoring the cake, we then proceeded to cut through along the scored lines and came out with some pretty leveled layers! Now keep in mind that this was a small 6" cake, so I'm assuming that it would be a little more difficult for larger cakes, yet it seemed to work beautifully. Before separating our layers, we again scored the cake vertically so that we could align the layers as we were filling the cakes.
Now, with three layers of cake in hand, we went on to use a rum flavored simple syrup on each layer. After applying simple syrup, we used buttercream to create a dam around the edge of the cake of about 1/2". If done correctly you should end up with a 4" cake.
Now, I cut the tip of my pastry bag a little to big so I ended up with a lot of buttercream on my cake...not a problem says my instructor, we can fix it! But before that, we used a light coat of apricot jam for filling and more buttercream on top. So how did we correct for the excess buttercream layer? Simple, when we put our next layer on top we pressed down hard enough to to have excess seep out and just cleaned it off with a spatula. This also helped with leveling the cake! We repeated the process with 2nd layer and topped off with third layer and some simple syrup. We then crumb coated our cake and into the fridge it went to set. Quick tip: Before crumboating the cake we inserted a skewer to help stabilized the cake, pretty useful when dealing with larger cakes. Next on the agenda: covering your cake with buttercream and some pipping. Pictures coming, don't expect anything fancy yet! ;-)

Peace, love and cake my friends!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Art of La Génoise

My first official day at FCI and I'm all dressed up!
So the task at hand was to bake a Génoise cake; simple ingredients, not so simple technique! This delicate batter is a wink away from deflating if not treated with a gentle hand. So I managed to create a wonderful egg and sugar mixture with a beautiful pale yellow that reminded me of Easter eggs and baby blankets. But oh how quickly something so good can go so wrong. My first mistake was trying to fold to much flour in at once, thus having to manipulate more to break up the flour. My second mistake, well really a boo-boo that could have been avoided. When adding the butter/batter combination to my egg/sugar mixture i poured right in the center vs pouring down the edges of my mixing pan. As my batter deflated so did my heart. Nothing to do except pour in my baking pan and put in the oven to avoid any further "deflation".  How did it turn out? Well, better than I anticipated but not as good as it could or should have. The top had a marked slant vs a nice round top. I guess we'll be cutting that piece off! Tomorrow we'll be torting and filling so i'll let you know what I think of the taste.

Peace, love and cake!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's official!

Well the moment has finally arrived! I'm officially a student @ FCI ( I just pinched myself) and I'm on my way to start the steep learning that is The Cake Techniques and Design course, aka, CAKE BOOTCAMP!
Our first assignment will be genoise cake, so i better make sure my eggs are nice and fluffy and folded in just right. Oh, and I hope I don't forget to address my Master Chef with a "Yes Chef" "No Chef".
As is the intent of my blog, I'll be passing on tips and insights I learn to all my fellow cakers so stay tuned.

Peace, love and cake!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little Boys Are From Heaven

As I continue to prepare for the awaited start date of "cake class" I've been busy working on some fun things. This was a baby shower cake and cupcakes I made for a an expecting cousin! Baby safari cake in next!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The dilemma of a Purist of heart (and baking)

Ever since I started baking, I've known what my brand, product and concept is all about. I'm a purist at heart so everything I do starts with the basics, the simple...the pure.
Which brings me to my dilemma - To "shortening or not to shortening", that is the question.
As a purist (i know I've said it 3 times already, get my point?) the idea of using shortening as a base for buttercream (is that not an oxymoron?) makes me cringe, makes me want to jump out of my skin and makes my heart hurt ;-) How could you substitute the beautiful texture and flavor of butter for shortening? It's an atrocity if there ever was one!
But what to do when that is what your customer wants or expects? It's been said that in a blind cake test,  people will often choose a box cake vs a cake made from scratch because that is what their taste buds are used to. The overpowering sweetness of icing has usurped the refined and elegant taste of buttercream! Now, I'm not trying to be a snob, I'm a purist, remember?
I would love to know what everyone else thinks, although, I know where I stand on the issue. As Shakespeare would say: To thy own self be true...

Peace, love and cake!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can someone say CAKELAVA?

Ok, so I know this is a year away and it has nothing to do with FCI, but holy hibiscus I can wait! I just signed up for a  class with Rick Reichart from TLC and the FoodNetwork to do the hibiscus/bamboo and clownfish in coral class!!!!  I hear 2 other TV chefs will also be taking the class which makes me think it's gonna be one hell of a pahhhteeee!
Check out other classes offered at Mother of Cakes: Sugar and Cake Academy, Allentown, PA USA
Pretty impressive roster!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FCI Tour

 Well I just had my exclusive tour at FCI and I'm convinced that this is the program for me! After watching the level 3 cake class make all sorts of marine life animals made out of blown sugar I could only wish to be able to complete this program as well. But alas, baby steps for now.
I did leave with a warm loaf of bread from one of the classes and sheer excitement for what's to come.
While I wait for classes to start in Oct, I'm working on several cakes. I'll be doing a 2 tier 50th B-day cake and a 3 tier Baby shower cake so will be busy creating some cute teddy bears, pictures coming! 

Peace, love and cake!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuition - CHECK (as in checkmark)

Never in a million years did I think that paying for tuition would be this easy! I applied online, I got a call several days later to go over my application and within 15 -20 mins I was approved!!!
Now that I'm over the shock, I'm shaking in my you know what. This is really going to happen.
Although I hate debt almost as much as I hate the dentist,  the end certainly justifies the means (11% interest and all) The dream is within reach...
I better be making lots of yummy cakes to pay this sucker off early.
Next stop - FCI tour, details coming

Peace, love and cake!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Where's the MULA?

Well trying to take care of some minor details concerning school such as how I'm gonna pay for it!
Things that make you go hummmmmmm. Perhaps borrow from my closest friends? Nah, never mix business and friendship. Buy lottery tickets? Sure, but what are the odds? Someone suggested I borrow against my 401K so I'm looking into that, but when all else fails you get a loan aaarrrggghhhhhh.
So it seems SallieMae is the only FCI provider for private student loans. Filled my application and waiting to hear back, cross your fingers everyone!
If not, there's always Dalilahs. I bet I can make some good tips at the bar. Just kidding. No I'm not! No, really, just kidding.
Peace out friends!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Beginning

Okay guys, so after talking to French Culinary Institute staff many times and having emailed Financial Aid  (several times also)  I've just submitted my application to FCI and payed the application fee of $100.00, so here we go!!!!
How and where will I get the $$$ to pay for this course? Still working on it...
How will I get to NYC from Philadelphia 3X a week? Still working on it...
How will I manage work, school and my personal life...yes, you guessed, still working on it!
All I know is that I won't be one of those sad people laying on their death beds wishing they'd gone to FCI...or somewhere else ;-)
Will be touring FCI soon, I'll keep you all posted.

PS - promise this blog will be less about me and more about cake decorating as soon as I get started. Would hate to sound indulgent...best all!