Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cakes are like precious little delicious babies...right?

I'm sleep deprived and have had two mimosas today (don't judge me- Sunday was clearly made for day drinking), so I apologize in advance for going off topic. It's going to happen at some point, believe me. We're also experiencing another wonderful Clovis dust storm with 40+ mph winds, so the sky is a lovely shade of brown here today. Oh New Mexico, this truly is the land of enchantment. It is so windy it blew our HUGE GRILL from the back porch into my garden a good two feet from where it should be. Not Feng Shui, wind...I do not agree with your redecorating choices. Since we're locked in and even the dog is experiencing a mad case of cabin fever, I would like to present you with the cake I made yesterday to keep my eyes focused on the computer screen and off our windows. I imagine this is what the apocalypse looks like (the dust storm, not my cake), and I am also questioning why I ever even bother dusting here. Anyway...
Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful?
Yeah, I just likened a cake to Stevie Wonder's song about the birth of his daughter. Since I have no children, I realize my point of reference may be a tiiiiny bit skewed, but this cake really was a labor of love. I didn't clock it exactly, but in the time it took me to decorate this cake, my husband was able to watch Austin Powers in Gold Member from start to finish on Comedy Central. I may be experiencing a tiny bit of carpal tunnel today because I am almost positive my hand wasn't shaped like a claw before yesterday. Anyway, I made this cake for a friend who ended up taking it to a birthday party- that's right, my cake had a proper debut and everything, y'all! I am told no one died or became violently ill afterward, so I'd call it a success. I had some postpartum depression giving my baby cake away and not being able to have a piece of strawberry deliciousness, so this will take some getting used to. But if someone else gets to eat my cake and it makes them happy, then it is all totally worth my time. *Aww*

So let me take you through the steps here...although this cake is incredibly time consuming, the decorating itself is rather simple. Here's what I started with:
Never forget the crumb coat, people!
1. Make cake- can't always decorate on Tupperware or upside-down cake pans.
2. Wait for what feels like forever for cake to cool. Patience is not a virtue I was blessed with.
3. Put a small crumb coat of icing on cake to keep crumbs down and allow any gaps in decorator frosting to be barely noticeable. I enjoy a hobby that affords me a massive amount of room for error.
4. Wait for what feels like forever for crumb coat to stiffen. Contemplate trying to figure out how to make a frosting that hardens instantly after applying that doesn't taste as bad as fondant. Realize you're too simple minded to figure this out, but the whole thought process took long enough that the crumb coat is dry.
5. Figure out the colors to be used, dye frosting, and put in bags fitted with a #12 rounded tip. Realize you somehow managed to dye your elbow blue, too. Question the meaning of life.
6. In whichever color order you choose, pipe a column of larger dots on the side of the cake:
At this point, I had also managed to frost the majority of my left arm.
7. Take an angled spatula, and push it into the middle of the dot, then swipe the spatula towards you. Or away from you if you're a rebel. Either way, pick one direction and stick with it. 
8. Clean your spatula with a paper towel every single time you swipe one of the dots to keep the colors from bleeding. Realize you're awesome because you remembered to buy more paper towels at the grocery store this week. You rock.
9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for what feels like an obscenely long amount of time, question meaning of life again, and realize you have managed to get frosting in your hair even though its pulled back. Consider asking mother if she accidentally dropped you on your head at some point as a child, because a functioning adult should really have better motor skills.
10. You will have a row of buttons that end the this cake has a backside, further humanizing it. 
11. Frost the top of the cake using the same steps as 7 and 8, but this time its the top of the cake, so make that shit look really spiffy.
12. Take pictures to show to people (whether they want to see them or not- they're going to) about how your labor of love turned out. Make sure to do a healthy amount of bragging, but probably draw the line at mentioning out loud that this cake was like your baby. That's what the blog is for, anyway.

I'm told in exchange for this cake, I am getting a large amount of lumpia. So I've decided a barter system is pretty much the best form of payment for me at this point. Food for food! I'd also accept cake for house cleaning at this point if the wind refuses to die down...or cake for wine. Or cake for a really big bottle of wine. And although hugs are great, they're not enough to get you a  free cake (unless you're my mother or Tom Hiddleston).

I've been continuing to practice my shells and various flowers...and I am in love with the drop flower:
I already warned you in step 1 that I practice icing on my cake pans,
so this really should not be surprising at this point.
The cake I make next Saturday will probably look quite similar and less metallic. Things are coming right along, and provided people still want free cakes for the time being, this hobby will only continue to expand. I apologize if you follow me on Pinterest and have to deal with the ridiculously ludicrous amount of pins related to caking that I post and clog up your feed with...just know I too have to put up with all the pins you put on my feed involving real life actual babies, and not tiny little 8-inch round ones topped with frosting. Til next time, my fellow eaters!

P.S., I'm really proud of the fact that I managed to keep this entire post about cake and instead didn't end up talking about the merits of  low sodium bacon over thick cut bacon or something...because it totally could've happened at this point. I think I might need a nap.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kate (Finally) Baked Cakes!

I know, I know...I promised a blog over the weekend, but after hanging out with friends Friday and Saturday night, I needed to recover from my social hangover. I know you may find it surprising, but I am a TOTAL introvert. I spent Sunday shooing D out of the house to go have fun at a cookout so I could recharge (and because I am an awesome wife who realizes my husband should be able to go bro it out every now and again). I watched a ton of Psych and Tangled because I am a giant woman-child, and a well-timed joke and funny cartoon animals complete me. Now I am feeling back to my usual sarcastically awesome self, so let me regale you with tales of my first actual cake decorating experience.
She's...beautiful. *Tear*
First, let me say how unbelievably helpful it was to have spent the past couple of weeks practicing, and setting aside all cares as to whether or not anyone thought I was totally batshit for using my Tupperware as an icing don't know me. You've gotta learn to crawl before you walk; unless you're me and at 27 you're still fairly certain both of your feet are left feet because why else would they continually want to both go in the same direction at the same time, making walking feel more like I'm turning into a human pretzel than a successful endeavor. I digress...the saying practice makes perfect is totally cliched, but for a reason- because its truuuue. I recommend to anyone else learning how to cakeorate (cake decorate) to practice frosting on parchment paper before ever even beginning to THINK about going near a cake. Because the only thing more disappointing than cake that tastes bad is cake that tastes bad AND looks like someone threw up on it.

I made my two 8-inch round lemon cakes and frosted them both differently. I ended up taking the purple rosette cake- 'my masterpiece' as I took to calling her before she was brutally stabbed and totally devoured- to a friend's going away party. He told me my cake tasted like "the semen of the gods," which, based on all other responses, was definitely a totally good thing. Not to toot my own horn (toot toot), but the cake was totes delish because I cake-jacked my box cake mix. I'm going to tell you the following secret, so everyone OUTSIDE of Clovis, go ahead and read on...everyone else who lives here, skip to the next paragraph because I desperately need you to need me to make your cakes for you, and if you find out my secrets...well, you may be tempted to try on your own and I just cannot have that, ya hear?? So, next time anyone outside of Clovis makes a cake, add an extra egg to your box mix, sub milk for the water, and instead of oil, use real butter and double the amount. Then you'll have yourself a cake that tastes like it was made in a professional bakery. And if there was ever any doubt, butter is great and will make you happy. When I say my secret ingredient is "love," I really mean an extra helping of butter.
"We were made with lots of love."
D and I are currently in the process of eating the cake on the left. Before that occurred, he suggested we give it to a friend who was on a cleanse last weekend and missed out on my masterpiece, to which I suggested we could also get divorced...we kept the cake and I am making a new cake for said cleanse friend. I'm going to be practicing "petaling" this week, and plan on making an ombre strawberry petal cake for my dear friend because now that she's done cleansing her insides, I'm going to clog them all right back up with cake. That's what friends are for. Seriously though, D and I cannot continue to eat cake ALL THE TIME (the child version of myself just committed suicide), so anyone who wishes to be a guinea pig and help me get practice, pipe up! If you're local, leave me a comment here on the blog under the comments link (you don't have to have an account) or on Facebook.
I aspire to complete something that at least somewhat resembles this and not mashed potatoes for my petal cake.
I had an absolute blast cakeorating my two cakes this past Friday, and if I didn't have a real job, I totally would've baked again today I'm sure. Way to get in the way of my passion, real job. Just kidding! As much as I loathe the education system in NM (this is a rant for another day), I genuinely enjoy being an instructor. True, when I screw up there, I can't just eat my students and start over like I do with my frosting; I am told that is cannibalism and generally frowned upon in society. Clearly I've been watching too much Game of Thrones again.

For those interested, I used a large star tip for my rosette cake, and two bags of decorator frosting over a thin crumb coat (dye it the same color as your frosting so you don't see any holes). Starting in the middle of the side of your cake, pipe a bit of icing creating a center dot and make a swirl around it until the center is enclosed, and walla- rosette. Do this again about 60 bajillion times and you're done. For the white and blue cake, I spackled on a huge amount of butter cream frosting and combed the sides with a cake comb, and made raises in the top of the cake with my spatula to make an icing platform so I could practice more stars with a smaller star tip than my rosette cake. STAR ALL THE THINGS! As always, I forgot to put my nonpareils (the colored sprinkles, you animal) on until it was too late, so they kind of more or less just bounced off my cake and landed EVERYWHERE. Seriously...I found some in our couch on the other side of the bar. Always put your nonpareils on directly after frosting...noted. Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Consistency is Key.

..when it comes to frosting textures that is. What, did you think I was about to go into a spiel about how consistency is key with your diet and workout plan? I mean, I totally could because I know people. And by "know people," I mean I have a very extensive Jillian Michaels DVD collection. Also, since I am blogging about cake decorating and you may one day be the recipient of one of my cakes, I need you to be less focused on the diet and more focused on the sugary goodness I place in front of your literal cake hole...
Clearly, this is my mantra.
I agree with everything this woman writes, too, @ Hyperbole and a Half.
 I've spent several hours over the course of this week practicing my frosting...yeah, I'm still not even to the point of baking a cake and decorating it yet. Why? Shame? Fear of expanding waistline? Anxiety? All of the above? Anyway, my second and third go round with frosting improved markedly. Because I listened to my course 1 book and realized although he is delightful, the Pillsbury Dough Boy's frosting is not the most appropriate frosting for hardcore decorations (and neither is that hussy Betty Crocker's). So I went with Wilton's...because they own the course book and therefore only recommended their own frosting. Geesh, what a bunch of monopolists. The results WERE SHOCKING! Or as shocking as something cake related can be...
Blue frosting is from the delightful Dough Boy
Purple frosting courtesy of the monopolists at Wilton

 You can see the blue frosting looks a bit...slimy? Not sure if that's the exact term I'm looking for, but it stands for now. The purple frosting is much more controllable out of the bag. It is stiff and waayyyy harder to mix, but the end result is worth it. I won't go into detail how handling the Wilton frosting reminded me of playing with Play Dough because I don't want to ruin frosting for you. It may sound awesome, but if you've ever been force fed accidentally eaten any (oh, you had an older sibling, too?), not so much. Don't worry, I'll get over it by the time I actually make a cake to frost and eat. I am a survivor. It also made piping shells supremely easy in comparison:
Wilton (again, the purple) frosting offered me an extreme amount of control and precision.
Control- one of my favorite words in the English language (yep, that's another red flag if you're keeping count).

The one way Pillsbury wins is that the slimier (again, this is totally not the word I'm looking for) consistency is awesome for writing. I "watered" down Wilton's icing with some piping gel as instructed by my book, and the results made me want to cry:
That icing sad face is the face of true shame, y'all.
I thought because I am a South Paw (read for anyone outside of Texas: lefty) with unusually shaky hands, I was doomed to never be able to properly write in frosting. No one wants a cake whose message appears to have been written by someone on a five day meth bender. I tried again with plain frosting from Pillsbury, and the sobs turned to quiet tears and a realization that the more I practice, the better this will be:
Please tell me you can read that.

I'm feeling really good about myself and the progress I've made in a very brief amount of time. If you know me, you know if I don't pick something up and I'm not immediately awesome at it (looking at you, beer pong, guitar, and manual transmissions), I tend to never want to do it again. I knew I could NOT let that happen here, but learning a few tips and tricks along the way has surely kept my fervor for caking alive. I  am finally ready to bake a couple smaller cakes. I spent last night imaging how I wanted to decorate them and came up with a picture in my head. But true to overachieving (nay, crazy) form, I wanted a "practice cake" to I found something similarly shaped to a cake today and went for it:
Your eyes do not deceive you...that is, in fact, iced Tupperware.
Soooo I frosted a piece of Tupperware. Sane? No. Logical? Probably not. Still somehow brilliant? You betcha. It also really helped me figure out the pressure I'll need to apply on the actual cake to get a shape to turn out properly, and it gave me some practice with my cake turn table (she's shy and asked not to be photographed, so she's hiding under the parchment paper). One cake will be combed and bordered in stars, while the other I am planning on covering in rosettes:
Ya know, the pink thingies.
If you're wondering where the piece of Tupperware I decorated with rosettes is, just know that plan didn't turn out so well because rosettes are super heavy and an empty container just got pushed around like a raver in a mosh pit. I will try like hell to maintain a level head while decorating these two practice cakes tomorrow and avoid having a panic attack at all costs if something goes wrong. Because you know what? When you screw up on a piece of frosting decor, you totally get to scrape it off and eat it. And then try again. But the eating it part, that's where my Jillian DVDs will come in to play later.
I may not be able to paint with all the colors of the wind, but I damn sure can frost with them.
Another update with photos of my ACTUAL practice cake cakes and the tribulations I face with them will be up at some point over the weekend. I'm also going to be sure to buy plenty of wine tomorrow at the store in case this doesn't go over as well as I had intended. Til next time, my fellow eaters!

P.S. Is it normal to have a mild panic attack when you can't find your wine opener? The other night I couldn't find Giuseppe (yes, I have taken to calling my wine opener Giuseppe), and I thought the end was nigh. Or worse, when all I wanted was a nice glass of Pinot Grigio, I was going to have to settle for beer. Maybe Giuseppe needs his own drawer so this doesn't ever happen again.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Would you prefer the bag or the gun?

As an aside before I get down to the icing on the cake (yep, I'm on a roll today, buckle up), any of you who know me know I am a fan of self-deprecating humor and backhanded compliments, so it should come as no shock I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, and the Queen Bitch Regent herself, Cersei know, minus the twincest she has going on with her brother because, well, I really feel like I don't need to spell that one out. And while I won't spoil last night's absolutely amazing episode for you, I will say that if Westeros was a real place, you could not pay me enough to go to a wedding there. However, you could probably pay me enough to proffer my services as a caker (cake baker, all about the made up words). I just would have to have my minions deliver the cake to said wedding. Yes, had I been born to more affluent stock, I totally see myself as the kind of person who would have minions (mhm, totally ignored that red flag). No disrespect to my lovely Midwestern parents, who (at no point that I know of) never tried to marry me off to some total stranger from a far away land. I'm just saying, the minions may have made it worth the deal.

So, back to that icing I was talking about earlier. Oh, and the title of this post. I'm all about shortcuts for the most part, unless I'm trying to fold a fitted sheet. Then there's just no easy way. There's cursing and an inevitable point where I break and decide fitted sheets look best balled up and shoved into the linen closet. This was a lot like my experience with trying to use a frosting gun. Combining two of my favorite things, frosting AND guns, this seemed so absolutely perfect and a great foray tool into my frosting excellence.

That thing in the middle of the counter that looks like an extremely girly, purple caulking gun...well, take a guess. was not. The tips were HUGE (that's what she said), so there was virtually no control over the amount of goop that came out of the damn thing (again, that's what she said). Shells were TOTALLY not happening with this gun. And for anyone who's interested, shells are one of the most common icing decorations you find on cakes. They're usually what makes up the pretty border that goes around the bottom and top of the cake. Kinda something I have to know how to do, or this all goes to hell. However, I will say one thing for the purple people eater (name stays- Go Vikes), it makes some massively awesome stars:

Big star thanks to the purple people eater, tiny stars thanks to actual frosting bag and smaller tip, awesome frosting dye color choices thanks to meeeeee.
But that was about all I can give the gun props for. Otherwise, frosting bags all the way, baby. I was able to use much better precision with the tips from Wilton and their disposable frosting bags...I have a few nicer bags, but I feel like I shouldn't be allowed to use the non-disposable kind until I'm some sort of respectable caker. Poor bags, it is gonna be awhile. So after about an hour of practice, I went from totally sucking to not being the worst thing to happen to cakes since...wait, has anything bad ever happened in the history of cakes? The invention of carrot cake, maybe? Yeah, I'm not THAT bad. As you can see, I made progress on my shells:
Bottom layer: first go round. Looks like 3rd grader ate can of frosting and tried to ice in a straight line while blindingly being fueled by massive sugar high. Top layer: after 3rd grader took a nap and calmed the eff down, she was able to figure out overlapping shells much easier.
And I also wrote a nice little love note for my husband, who promptly came by and ate part of the frosting that made up his name...I know, wtf, right? If you're reading this, D, I'll let it go this time because I realize it is IMPOSSIBLE to resist a good butter cream. I'm not sure I could stay married to a man who didn't like frosting anyway (this is probably another red flag).
Before "The Great Frosting Debacle of 2014."
I'm happy to report my course 1 book arrived today, and quite speedily might I add, so tomorrow and Thursday I plan on going through and attempting a few of the lessons, and I promise I will post my results. Now if you'll excuse me, parts of my fingers are still dyed purple and teal and I'm afraid people will think I killed a peacock or a My Little Pony or something, so I'm off for round 100 with the scrub brush, and then on to watch the season premiere of Mad Men. I know, my taste in television shows is ridiculously awesome...until you find out my mom has me hooked on The Young and The Restless, anyway...I want you all to know I didn't have to tell you that part. I just don't know how to not keep it real. This would be a really great example of "When keeping it real goes wrong." Did my love of Chapelle Show win back any cool points? No. Fine. I'll make it up to you, I promise. Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I have a very active mind...

Much like how a shark has to keep swimming to stay alive, my inner monologue has to churn out a convoluted stretch of dialogue to keep me running. For example, my thoughts on today's morning dog walk:
  • What do I need to get done today? Run through checklist.
  • Is Kim Kardashian's butt actually real? Ponder for a few moments how comfortable it must be for her to sit down.
  • Will my students ever believe me when I tell them a complete sentence does, in fact, require a subject, verb, and must form a complete thought? This thought I ponder often. They're adults.
  • What would my life be like if I had grown to be four inches taller? I also think about this more than would ever be necessary...but tall Kate sure does enjoy her modeling career from what I gather.
Welcome, you've now fallen down the rabbit hole that is my mind. After reading such a disjointed series of thoughts, I can see how you might believe I spend a little too much time smoking the ganja. But I promise you, I am no stoner...but if I was, I'd like to think I would have had the wherewithal to name this blog "Baked Kate Bakes Cakes." Oh, and as I am pretty sure the shark is my spirit animal, this will probably be the first of many comparisons between myself and these undiscriminating eating machines. Om nom nom.

I describe my inner monologue to you because as I set foot into Hobby Lobby and reached the cake decorating and accessories aisle, my head almost exploded. Too. Many. Thoughts. At. Once. Aside from the fact that I had no idea what half of the shit I was looking at was designed to do other than cost me a buttload of money, I was also a little disappointed that the cake decorating aisle was just that...ONE aisle. I suppose out here in BFE I should be happy we even have said HobLob, so I begrudgingly carried on and perused the aisle approximately 10 times (no one can ever say I'm not thorough). I knew I needed cake pans of varying circular sizes, a cake leveler, frosting bags, and various tips. But perhaps the thing I needed MOST OF ALL eluded me...
You know, the FIRST book in the series.
The store only had course book number two and another general book on decorating (if you lived here, you'd know how this makes perfect sense because they probably haven't stocked this aisle since the store opened). So now I've got course book number two, but I'm told trying to skip step one before going on to step two is like trying to skip step one before going on to step two...generally not how you follow a plan of action. On to Amazon I went and found book numero uno. Hopefully it will be here within a week's time so I can actually begin practicing my mad frosting skills. Whether I use the adjective mad here as in "crazy good" or "Oh my God she frosts cake like she's actually a crazy person" remains to be seen. I also bought the general decoration book I plan to mull over, so hopefully I can get some practice in and update you on my progress. I know you're waiting with bated breath, obviously...who wouldn't when a potentially free cake is involved?

I am still jazzed up about this. So much so I actually just used the phrase jazzed up. But actually dropping dough (ha, see what I did there) on my supplies made it more than just an idea I've been throwing around, and now something I've committed to working on which makes me very happy. OCD, OCD, rah rah, OCD! My loot:
Don't ask me where the Maurices bag came from, I'm pleading the fifth...They sell aprons, right?
I'll tell you I certainly didn't leave the HobLob for under 100 bucks (nor have I ever), so to justify this expense, I better step away from the keyboard and get some reading done. The hubster and I are "going to the city" on Saturday (yes, that is a real thing we have to do, and the city is Lubbock) for a belated anniversary celebration because we're some of the few people who genuinely enjoy spending so much time with each other its obnoxious, so I hope to churn out some practice icing on Sunday. Til next time, my fellow eaters.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Back in (Blogging) Action!

Well, well, well...the concept of blogging certainly has been lost on me apparently. It has been three years (almost to the exact day thankyouverymuch) since my last blog on Kat Von Devious. To say a lot has happened since then would be a massive understatement: I moved across the country (again) , became a military spouse, finished my master's program, began work as an adjunct college instructor, adopted a dog and hedgehog, bought a house, found 1,000 things to do to house thanks to unhealthy small Pinterest addiction, got a second job as an online tutor, decided shortly thereafter that was about as good of an idea as trying to teach a dog how to read, and I'm sure I'm missing a few things in there as well.

While all of that has kept me busy, I always had a yearning to keep on writing. My extremely supportive husband has kept trying and trying to get me to write that novel I've always aspired to, but as I am wont to do, I stubbornly dug my heels in and decided I couldn't figure out for the life of me what to write an entire novel about. Even though my Kindle no longer tells me how many pages are in a novel, I am fairly certain a ballpark amount is a lot, and I'm just not sure I'm ready for that level of commitment. And what happens when I finish? Will I go through the terrible withdrawals I always do when I finish reading a book? I'm not sure my fragile little mind can handle that, y'all.

So...what hobby could I partake in that would allow me enjoyment AND afford me an opportunity to write about it, foibles and all, you ask? Even if you didn't ask and couldn't guess from my blog title, I'm going to tell you anyway- cake decorating. I've been toying around with this idea for many years now, especially after planning my own wedding and seeing how ridiculously overpriced wedding cakes are. I decided someday I would like to own my own bakery and specialize in giving brides their very own delicious, overpriced wedding cake of their dreams. Since I realize I can't just pick up a bag of frosting and become the cake decorating version of Donatello (also my favorite Ninja Turtle), I am going to start at the beginning with a trip to Hobby Lobby this Thursday to stock up on books and all the cake decorating related paraphernalia I need...and inadvertently a few things I don't need, but really do want because man those 40 percent off coupons are great and paraphernalia is a really hard word to spell even as an English teacher...I digress.

My plan is to chronicle my successes and failures (Hola, Cake Wrecks) in this blog. So far I know I can craft a mean specialized cherry pie crust:
Gobble, gobble, bitches.

If you hadn't guessed, our branch of military is the Air Force.

I'm also no stranger to making delicious cookie dough balls, bundt cakes for all seasons, and going extremely overboard with baked goods for Halloween:
Merry, tasty Christmas.

We celebrate freedom with cake. And fireworks. But mostly cake.

Because normal people bake four dozen cupcakes for holidays, right?
I realize most of my baking has been done seasonally, and I plan on changing that (read: friends, you're about to get A TON of free practice cakes). Baking has always been something I enjoy doing, as the focus while crafting new or old recipes soothes the OCD deeply embedded in my soul. So, writing and baking are incredibly therapeutic for me. And living in the butthole of America where tumbleweeds regularly take over our town (yeah, THAT was us), therapy should probably be a requirement. 

Stay tuned for updates! I plan to post my progress, probably a few entries about how awesome my dog is, and a few random Pinteresty crafts on this bad boy. Bottom line, let them eat (my beautifully decorated) cake. 
"I was told there'd be cake..."