Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pastry Chef... Student - It's Official!

Hello everyone! This is Amelia typing. I have left everyone hanging about my career choice for so long. I am happily to announce within next month... in about 30 days, I will become a student pastry chef!

I have to admit I am slightly nervous. It is a completely change of career path that I was pursuing for many, many, many years. Virtually every member of our extended family has been born and bred to become scientists of some kind (except Clarissa, she is unique and maybe a bit of rebel?). It was natural to follow my family's footstep in this area of profession. After seven years educated in human science, logged in hundreds hours of internships, took a biggest exam of my life, and became a licensed physical therapist assistant, it is time to exchange a lab coat, flask, grnometer, for an apron, whisk, spatula, and pan. I did made such an ambititious move to give up my career in science to pursue my true passion.

I have visited three culinary schools in Portland: Western Culinary Institute, Art Institute, and Oregon Culinary Institute. My decision to choose Oregon Culinary Institute is based on their flexible schedule and cost. The school allows me to maintain a full time position at my current job and attend school. It will be challenging, although, on a positive note, at the end I will and hope to find a job in something I have so much passion for.

Oregon Culinary Institute

In meantime, I hope to share weekly blogging of my water-mouthing projects to keep improving my skills with a sweet career in baking and pastry arts. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rustic Peacock Wedding Cake

One of the brides, Lindsay asked us to make her a wedding cake. She informed us her ceremony and reception venue will be outdoor, surrounding with live peacocks. We brainstormed ideas of what her cake will look like and came up with the following: a three-tier, cream cheese frosting with vertical textured stripes, two little peacocks (we found a pair from Michael's) on top tier, and a couple of peacock feathers.

Lindsay's fiance, Marilena, doesn't like buttercream frosting and requested a cream cheese frosting that could withstand the Oregon heat. Originally, we weren't keen with the idea of cream cheese frosting for an outdoor summer wedding. But apparently, we are having a late summer here in Oregon, which reassured us that the cream cheese will not melt under heat. We had to come up with cake flavors that would go along with cream cheese: hazelnut, devil food, and of course, red velvet.

We simply thought of adding natural hazelnut flavor into a white cake recipe, however, the search for hazelnut flavor was a struggle, so we came up with a back-up recipe: hazelnut liquor! Several of the top hazelnut cake recipes recommended Frangelico Hazelnut liqueur. But who wants to spend more than $20 for a bottle when everyone is just going to eat cake, not drink booze? Dekuyper liqueur hazelnut was the most affordable one we could find in our local liquor shop. Should we sizzle this recipe up? Absolutely!

In our trial run of making the hazelnut cake, we added ground fresh baked hazelnut (thumbs up to the Winco bulk section!) and the result... DELICIOUS! Sadly, Linds remembered a couple of her guests had nuts allergy, so we ended up not using this recipe. Hazelnut liquor alone gave a weak taste. We still needed something that would bring out the hazelnut flavor, without using real hazelnuts. While shopping for cake supplies, we spotted Lorann hazelnut oil. Thank you, thank you!!! It highlighted the true nutty flavor of grounded hazelnut, without the nut risk.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to us is that the guests, especially the brides, liked the cake.

The reception was filled with a lot of sugar goodies: Voodoo donuts and Cookies from Portland Cookie Co:

Congratulations Lindsay and Marilena!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fourth of July Sparkle & Cupcakes

Congrats Angela and Matt (i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Bryant)! We wish you the best of luck in your new life together. Thank you for letting us be a part of your special day.

Wilton Towering Tiers Cake Stand

Amelia spotted one of Wilton's latest innovations that she desperately wanted: the towering tiers cake stand!

The MSRP is $99.99. But as a perferred customer of Jo-Ann's, Amelia receives a monthly newsletter (join their mailing list here!), which often includes coupon(s). She took advantage of using her 50% off coupon to purchase the $49.95!

The stand was easy to assemble and lightweight, versus the custom one we made for Dan and Michelle's wedding. With this lightweight material, we hope it can hold a large number of cupcakes and heavy cakes for future orders.

See, cake stands can be affordable!

Friday, June 10, 2011

1st Birthday Cake - Out of the Doghouse!

What did little Sylvie accomplished lately? She turned 1! The proud mom of this girl asked for a custom made birthday cake that incorporates her favorite animal - dogs. We made her a 12-inch vanilla cake with strawberry frosting, covered with green marshmallow fondant to mimic the color of grass. We topped the cake with a dog house (after attempting to make the house out of cake itself, which failed, we opted for rice krispie treats), four variety of dogs (we weren't sure what kind of dogs they are, but they sure were cute!), and some accessories.

Sylvie got a piece of cake for herself to munch in her mouth. Happy 1st birthday girl!

Later in the day, the mom said, "The CAKE is AMAZING!! We love it so much!!" Thanks Amy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dan and Michelle's Wedding Cake

The gorgeous bride, Michelle, asked us to make a vegan wedding cake and cupcakes to celebrate her and Dan's special day. It was our first vegan request. We searched for a few recipes for both chocolate and vanilla cakes and frostings, modified the recipes to taste and ran multiple kitchen tests to finally get the best combination. We were a tad skeptical on how vegan baking would work, but to our pleasant surprise, everything came out perfectly! Of course, the wedding consultation would not be complete without a complimentary cake tasting for the bride and the groom...and a few of our co-workers (we had to taste them, too)! Alas, we settled on the recipes that we will forever keep in our secret baking book.

This was also the largest order we've had to date. Besides hours of baking and hours of decorating, we also spent hours on building a cupcake stand out of scratch! We were able to find different size pre-cut round wood pieces at a local cake decorating shop and bought a long board of MDF from Home Depot, which we cut into pieces.

(This is Amelia cutting with a kiddo saw attached to a stabilization board. She sure knows how to use a power saw!)

When all the cutting and drilling was complete, we painted all pieces white with Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Interior Acrylic Latex environmentally-preferred paint (It's GreenSure designation - low VOC and low odor formula).

We pre-made all the edible decorations that matched their wedding colors (black, white, green, and purple) and themes (calla lilies, orchids, roses, and lucky bamboo) a week in advance and had them completed by the morning of the wedding. Are we procrastinators? No, we both hold full-time job, so please forgive us :-)

On Thursday evening, we baked a 8-inch cake for the topper. The next day, we baked 100 cupcakes and covered the cake with fondant. Then we loaded all the delicious cakes/cupcakes and all he supplies we needed to complete the centerpiece at the venue in a car and drove to Albany, Ore. for a night. On a bright and early Saturday morning, we drove to The Inn at Diamond Woods in Monroe, Ore. for the Bowden's wedding ceremony and reception.

When we arrived there, we anticipated working in a kitchen or least a large countertop space to make the fresh frosting for the cupcakes. The event coordinators directed us to a small corner in the reception area where the cake would actually be set on a display table. There wasn't a lot of working space, so Amelia took a chair from the reception space outside to place her vibrant red Kitchen Aid stand mixer to make all the frosting (a bit of flour, powdered sugar and cocoa all spilled onto the floor to eventually get cleaned), while Clarissa struggled to assemble the cake stand (the holes on boards didn't align properly - blame Amelia's bad drilling skills!)

We glued all the ribbon bows onto the cupcake liners, placed a decoration on each of them and arranged them on the stand. The centerpiece turned out perfectly, despite our race against the clock (3.5 hours! It was completed 20 minutes before the wedding ceremony started). We felt like we were on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, sans the camera and judges.

Amelia is such a sweet-tooth person. Naturally, she isn't a huge fan of specialty desserts, but she was proven wrong in this case! The couple said earlier, nobody would notice the difference, it was indeed true! We were able to trick their guests into thinking these were regular cupcakes, the carb-loaded ones, and for us, that was a great sense of relief and success!

Thank you Dan and Michelle for having us to be a part of your wedding! We were absolutely honored to make an important centerpiece for your special day.