Friday, November 2, 2012

Ghosts, bats and otherwise scary cake baking

At a church service auction I donated an IOU for a homemade cake decorated in buttercream frosting, utilizing my skills as a certified level 2 cake decorator. My sister, Christie, and I once took two Wilton cake decorating classes together. Christie went on to make fondant wedding cakes for each of her siblings, along with baby shower cakes, birthday cakes, and anniversary cakes -- some out of love and some for pay. You can see what I mean on her site,

I on the other hand.... well, the classes were fun and I do like to dabble now and then! For the auction, I thought I was signing up to make a kid's birthday cake. Instead, an adult bought my item for her huge birthday party. Yikes! I mean, "No problem. I'll just make a quick phone call to my little sis'." The process took more than a week. First, Christie helped me find "manageable" cakes online and then suggested how to make the one the girl chose.

Making the decorations is somewhere between the art of a sculpter and a kid's urge to play with play doh. After making homemade fondant recipes for both white and black fondant, I rolled, molded and cut, making bats, a ghost, ribbon and cats. Satisfying!

I used real butter in the buttercream frosting for the orange background, which made it decadent. I also, with Christie's help, found a caramel filling recipe that made the best caramel filling I have ever had and another recipe for the moistest chocolate cake I've ever made. These cakes were heavy, moist and melt-in-your mouth. Mmmmm.

This turned out to be a four layer cake, with two 8" and two 6" layers. I only had oval-shaped 6"X8" pans and so had to trim the extra cake off the edges and then cover up everything in beautiful frosting and decor.

I didn't think the final product looked too shabby, and even better those who attended the birthday party told me my cake tasted amazing. It should have, of course, with all the ingredients I used. The woman whose birthday party it was told me that if I ever wanted to make a business of it her guests seemed very impressed. Uh, no, I'll leave that kind of thing to Christie. But, it was a good bonding experience with my favorite (yes, only) sister ever!

 OK, OK, to share some more credit around. My daughter Jackie helped pour in some of the ingredients and my friend, Megan, helped me find a way to get the bats to stay on the wire (aluminum foil ball with toothpick through it, covered in fondant) and suggested the eyes and fangs on the bats.

Then my husband, Renn, drove 30 minutes to Canton to deliver the cake for the birthday/Halloween party, while I precariously balanced the cake on my lap and shuddered at every bump, and two babies slept in the backseat. Now that I'm ready to retire from cake making, my daughter, Jackie, has been inspired by our project and is already planning the purple cake with pink flowers she thinks I should make her for her birthday. We'll see what she thinks in a few more months.

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My wedding cake

My wedding cake
My sister, Christie, made my wedding cake -- all five layers of it. It was fondant, covered in fresh red roses and green ribbon. For a more modern look she chose to make a square cake.

Trip up the canyon

Trip up the canyon
OK, here's the truth, what Renn and I really look like when we wake up. After our first backpacking trip as a couple, Renn's hair looked like grass growing on his head and mine lay flat and matted as we walked out of the mountains.

Karen and Renn in Mexico

Karen and Renn in Mexico
This is us on our last day at the Hummingbird Inn in Maneadero, Mexico. It was a fun week of service with Engineers Without Borders. Renn and other USU engineering students helped put in drain fields at an orphanage, The Gabriel House, for children with severe disabilities. I helped dig some holes and wrote an article for the newspaper about the experience.