Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Paintball, Anyone??

Whew, how quickly December has passed us by.  All of us got our exercise in rolling mountains of cookie dough, pressing out tart shells, baking pies, and making all sorts of other goodies.  There was lots of singing Christmas carols and other songs in the kitchens while we worked, which we hope made anyone listening laugh at our fantastic singing skills!

This week I thought we would share a fun cake we made a few weeks ago for Caleb.  He was going to have a paintball party, so his mother ordered a cake with the paintball theme.  We baked, filled and iced the cake, then brought out the the complete arsenal!  The bought some Gobstoppers, they were the perfect size for the cake design.  We started to sort them by color, and we had to eat some to balance out the colors!  Once we found all the colors, we grabbed our matching airbrush colors.  We sprayed different paint splotches all over the cake and put the candy "paintballs" in the center of some.  We had fun, and our hands looked like we dipped them in a rainbow of colors.  Once we finished, we decided that writing on the cake would not match the theme, so we added "Caleb" in an airbrush graffiti.  We hope everyone at the party, and especially the birthday boy enjoyed the cake.

We wish everyone a Happy New Year and can't wait to share some more fun creations with you.  I am headed out on vacation, but I will be on the lookout for some fantastic treats and ideas to share with all of you.  Until the next blog, visit either store and try our Chili Chocolate Cupcake - the perfect thing to warm you up in this chilly weather!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Wonderland Wedding

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are full of turkey and all the fixings!  We enjoyed the fantastic smells of November all last week - there were turkeys roasting, pots of mashed potatoes, scrumptious sweet potato casseroles with our special crumb topping with granola and pecans, and lots of gravy!  Just when we thought we made enough pie shells, we couldn't resist putting together some turkey pot pies for snacking - YUM!  Well, we are now ready for winter to come in and we have put up all the holiday decorations.  Our Manassas location even has a fully decorated and colorful tree.

This next cake we made for a Winter Wonderland wedding a few years back.  The bride and groom wanted a hexagon shaped cake to serve over 200 guests.  And the most important feature of the cake was to have cascading snowflakes coming down the cake.  A week before the wedding we started work on the snowflakes.  We had some generic snowflake cookie cutters for the outlines, but then we had to get creative.  We used different tips and small cutters to create slits and patterns on each snowflake.  We made over 100 snowflakes in various sizes to decorate the cake.

On the day of the wedding we custom cut the hexagon shapes for each tier.  We then torted each cake, filled the cakes and iced them with our delicious vanilla buttercream icing.  Once the cake was all put together, we piped the borders and some dots around the cake to look like snowfall.  We then attached the small snowflakes on to the sides.  The cake was ready to be delivered.  Upon arrival at the reception site, we started the final touches of adding the cascading snowflakes down one side.  We started at the top and worked our way down to the bottom tier.  Once the snowflakes were in place, we added some battery-powered tea lights to make the snowflakes flicker and glow.  It looked stunning!

So join us for a little taste of winter.  We are dusting off the recipe files and bringing back the chili chocolate cupcakes, peppermint patty cupcakes and gingerbread cookies.  We love the holiday season, so we don't hold back.  Get ready for some new treats and let us satisfy your sweet tooth!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Where did November go?  It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a few days away.  We are hard at work in the kitchens creating some fantastic desserts and side dishes.  We all look forward to having a great meal that last Thursday of the month, complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and so much more.  So we thought we would share some great entertaining tips with everyone this week in celebration of one of the largest holidays of the year.

Tip #1 - THE TURKEY: If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure to allow sufficient time for it to defrost in your refrigerator, typically 2-3 days.  When you are washing the turkey, don't forget to take out the bag of goodies from inside the cavity (Victoria knows this first-hand)!  And we found we LOVE roasting the bird breast-side down with the legs towards the back of the oven for a really juicy turkey.

Tip#2 - DINNER ROLLS: Pick them up from us Wednesday night frozen.  When you get home, put them on your cookie sheet in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.  Let them sit out on your counter or dinner table (if you ran out of counter space) while you prepare dinner or for at least an hour.  While you carve the turkey, pop them into the oven and you will have fresh, piping hot rolls in 13 minutes, and just in time for dinner.

Tip #3 - SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE: Try something else in place of the marshmallows this year - crumb topping with granola and pecans!  To make this bit of heaven, take your regular crumb topping mixture (butter, brown sugar and flour) and turn it into the phenomenal with some of our made-from-scratch granola.  Try it with our busy bee (honey maple) or harvest mix (orange cranberry nut).

Tip #4 - PIES: Once dinner is out on the table and the oven is turned off, put your pie in there.  The residual heat from the oven will warm your pie to the perfect, just-baked goodness.  You won't need to worry about it or check on it while you enjoy dinner.  All you will need ice a scoop of whipped cream, or take it overboard with some vanilla ice cream!

Tip #5 - LEFTOVERS:  Don't fret about serving the same meal for the next week.  Take your leftovers and give them makeovers all week long!  Try a turkey pot pie using chunks of turkey, gravy, vegetables and make the top crust with a thin layer of mashed potatoes.  Or make mini turkey empanadas for a quick treat with some store bought pie crust.  And how about turkey noodle soup with our turkey-shaped pasta?  Too much crumb topping from the sweet potato casserole??  Use the crumbs topping to make baked apples - core out some apples and stuff them with the crumb mixture and bake it in a pan with some apple juice for about an hour at 350 degrees.  YUM!!!!

So come visit us if you need a little help in the kitchen cooking, and most definitely with dessert.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reaching New Heights!

Welcome back to another story, but we made it longer to make up for the lost week!  We have been busy as bees in the kitchen the last two weeks.  This past Saturday was one of our busiest days of the year (so far).  We participated in the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show on Saturday and Sunday, then we had some large wedding cakes to produce.  We had a lot of late nights punching out little sugar flowers and rolling gum paste.  At times we were also up to our elbows in cookie dough, not to mention our arms got a workout rolling sugar cookies.  Through all of this we also practiced our beautiful piping skills and prepared over a thousand cake pops just as the beginning!  We hope you all enjoyed the samples that we had to offer at the food show.  Now on to our cake of new heights.

Victoria and I come from a large extended family.  So when one is ready to get married, we are always happy to help create their dream cake.  Our cousin Jeff brought his bride, Ella, into our bakery with a specific cake design in mind - THE Royal Wedding Cake.  Which one, you may ask, none other than Prince William and Kate Middleton's cake from this spring, of course!  They liked the grand look with the multiple tiers stacked together to create one large and stunning display.  Since they were having over 480 guests, they wanted to have multiple flavors for everyone to choose from.  The first must have was our fantastic carrot cake with cream cheese filling - our family loves the moist spiced cake with plenty of carrots.  Then they wanted to delight all the chocoholics out there with our devil's food cake with a rich chocolate buttercream filling.  We then lightened it up with some mocha truffle cake and vanilla sponge cake with assorted fillings.  There was something for everyone.

After looking up the design of the royal wedding cake for inspiration, we got to work on how many cakes we would need and how we would put it all together.  But the most important question was how we were going to build the support structure.  So we decided to give the project to a trusted carpenter - my husband Ray!  I gave him plenty of ideas and the boards we would be using, so he spent many hours at various hardware stores finding just the right pieces to lock the support structure in place.  I believe he may have even missed a beloved Hokies football game on a Saturday to work on it!  There was much measuring, drilling, gluing, and redoing on his end.  Once he finished with the structure, he turned it over to the bakery to make it more beautiful.

Our team of decorators started weeks in advance to prepare all the sugar flowers and arrangements to adorn the cake.  For the entire day on Friday (the day before the wedding), we had a team of three bakers working on cracking eggs and baking the 21 tiers, or 42 layers, to make up this cake.  As each cake came out of the oven, we worked on quickly cooling and de-panning them to make space in the kitchen.  The decorators and kitchen assistants made gallons of vanilla buttercream (yes, we do use real butter in it) to cover all the tiers of cake and all the various fillings.  Once the layers were cool, we cut, leveled and filled them, then assembled all the tiers to ice them in the vanilla buttercream.  By the time the last tier was iced, the first tier was cool enough for its ivory fondant cover.  Once all the tables got cleared the fondant mats and rolling pins were brought out, and teams worked in tandem to get all the cakes covered.  At this time, there were some arm-wrestling challenges thrown about from the decorators since they got quite the workout from the hand rolling (no machines here) of the fondant.

Now that the cakes were all covered, they were ready to be stacked and decorated.  On the base of the cake, we use four sets of 12" and 9" cakes stacked together and slightly off-set.  The decoration on this required a very steady hand since the bottom tier was decorated with our triple drop lacing and finished with a small white blossom.  The top cake had a very simple and elegant embossed fondant ribbon with some vines coming down the top and sides of the cake.  Then there were four sets of 10" cakes set in between the four stacked cakes.  For this design, we decided on using a fairly new technique of embroidered flowers and leaves.  This technique requires quick hands and delicate piping skills.  We then tied together all the bottom cakes with four smaller cakes.  Once all the side cakes were done, we started on the middle tower.  The bottom cake was decorated with fondant swags to mimic the drop strings, but more appropriate for such a large cake.  We finished the seams with a white gumpaste rose.  The cake on top of that had an embossed fondant ribbon band to tie in the band from the bottom cakes.  We then custom created a small separator to set the top three cakes apart.  We used a beautiful scrolled design and sprayed it with a pearl shine to let it stand out.  We then brought in design elements from the all bottom cakes, but slightly different, to make the top three cakes really stand out and unique.

Now on to the delivery.  All of the sugar flowers were packaged VERY carefully on Friday evening with plenty of foam and tissue paper.  They took up three large boxes.  There were four cars need to take the delivery - two large SUV's, one minivan (with all the seats down) and one sedan.  One of the SUV's held all the equipment, including the 4' support structure and rolling cart.  The other three held all the tiers of cake.  Upon arrival at China Garden in Rosslyn (the reception site), it took multiple trips in the elevator to get the entire cake upstairs.  Once there, we took over the side tables to start putting the cake together.  We used a champagne pintuck tablecloth for the table, then placed our support on top.  We then worked on getting all the 21 tiers of cake up.  Once everything was set, we went to work on placing all the sugar flowers.  We started with large arrangements of roses and calla lilies, accented with some orchids and more small white blossoms.  We kept moving around the cake, all the sides looked the same, there was no back side to the cake.  Once everything was all set, we place the final arrangement on top and the cake looked absolutely regal!

So here are some fun facts about the cake.  This cake would have served close to 900 guests.  The bottom cakes were close to 5" high each.  We used over 20 dozen eggs, 25 lbs of flour, 30 lbs of sugar and 40 lbs of vanilla buttercream.  From Friday to Saturday, we put in over 60 hours of work on the cake (this does not include the sugar flowers made earlier).  The set up took a team of four almost two hours, not including the delivery time.  And for the retail cost - remember the commercial that promotes "PRICELESS", and for everything else there is a Mastercard!  I am also including a link to a video made by our Uncle Gene about the cake.  Please enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Haunted House Wedding Cake

In honor of Halloween coming up next weekend, here is a cake for everyone to enjoy.  We made this cake for Matt and Sylvia's wedding on October 31, 2010.  They were getting married at Harbour View in Woodbridge, VA and wanted to play up Halloween.  Matt and Sylvia thought about a large pumpkin-shaped cake, but then wanted some spooky elements to it.  After a few sketches, they decided they really wanted a haunted house cake.

The week of the wedding, the designers set off making some figurines for the cake.  There was to be no ordinary topper, a haunted house cake needed two skulls on top.  Once the skulls were formed, the eye holes were cut out to provide a surprise later on.  We also made a top hat for the groom and a veil for the bride.  A black cat was added, as were lots of little spiders, some pumpkins, bats, dying tree and tombstones.

On the morning of the wedding, we cut three square cakes and stacked them together to form the house.  Each tier was covered in the marbled gray fondant.  Once we had the cake covered, we were ready to add all the design elements.  We started off with layers yellow and black fondant to mimic windows.  A black door was added so that we could pipe a rickety black fence around the entire house. We then piped some cobwebs for the spiders to rest on.  For the top tier, we cut out little shingles and overlapped them to give the house little more texture.  Once the cake side was done, we worked on the grave site next door to the house.  We used chocolate crumbs to mimic dirt and worked on some witty tombstones.  Some of them included "Here lies the single life of Matt", "Bachelors could no longer find Sylvia", and "RIP Single Life".  We added the tree with all of its leaves on the ground.  Once we got the cake on-site, we added the skulls on top with little lights behind them so that their eyes glowed!  It was very cool.

Have yourselves a fun and spooky Halloween.  We have plenty of fall sugar cookies to help you celebrate.  And I offer up a special treat for everyone this week - look at our Facebook page to find out what it is!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gone Fishin'!!

Welcome back to another fun and exciting week.  I have missed two weeks, but we have been busy creating all sorts of fun things in the kitchens.  We had a whirlwind of detailed groomscakes, special birthday cakes and very cute baby shower cakes.  So we will have many stories to tell.

Last weekend was the wedding of Jen and Ben, and they got married at the Inn at Kelly's Ford in Remington, Virginia.  It is a very quaint and picturesque venue and makes for great photos.  Jen wanted to surprise her soon-to-be husband with a spectacular groomscake with his all-time favorite hobby - bass fishing.  Her challenge to us was to create a bass boat using the colors of red, white and black   She supplied us with some photos of real bass boats and left the rest to us.  As for the flavor, she definitely wanted our mocha truffle filling, but the cake flavor was to be a surprise.  So we decided to make her the ultimate cake.  We alternated layers of vanilla and chocolate sponge cake and put plenty of our fantastic mocha truffle filling in between.  We then worked on carving the shape of the boat and tapered it down towards the bottom like a real boat.  Once the shape was ready, we covered the entire boat in vanilla buttercream icing.

As the cake was chilling out in the fridge and awaiting its fondant cover, we went to work on some details.  Everyone in the bakery was throwing out suggestions as to what they take with them fishing.  Who knew we had a bunch of fishermen and women in the kitchen?  The red and white life preserver was must, as were life jackets, anchor, oars, ropes, tackle box and two personalized beer cans!  There was a lot of fondant rolling and colors being made.  As those items were setting, we were ready to cover the cake in fondant.  We started with white fondant to cover the entire cake.  Once that layer was on, we marked and scored it to look like individual wood planks used to build a boat.  That was followed by a red painted plank as the top one and a red backside.  The interior of the boat was covered in black fondant to give it some depth and white benches were then added.  Now then fun began.  We added all the elements on to the cake, but needed it to look more realistic.  We rolled tiny little worms spilling out of the tackle box!  Then the entire board was covered in various shades of blue buttercream to mimic water.  We added candy rocks and green marsh, but it still needed something more.  After a few more minutes it finally came to us, we wanted to tie two wedding bells that said "JUST MARRIED" on the back, just like their getaway car for that evening.  As we were about to do that, an even better thought came into mind, we tied two fish to the back instead!  The bride completed the fun with her cake topper of the bride hooking her groom.

Don't forget to stop by either location to have some of our fantastic granola, jams and fun pasta.  We only have a few bags left of the Halloween pasta for your parties, so don't delay.  In the meantime, stop by for a complimentary cup of coffee when you purchase any of our new products.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rapunzel, let your hair down!

Welcome back to another fun adventure-filled week.  We have a lot to share - our new line of jams, jellies and fruit butters are in.  Take a moment to check them out.  We will have some samples at both locations.  We are also introducing a new line of fun pastas - we have everything from tailgating shapes to cake shapes to your favorite collegiate football team shapes.  They are a lot of fun.

Now on to our story of a towering cake with a fairytale princess trapped inside for a very special 3-year old birthday party.  We started off with a vanilla buttercake and mango mousse filling, a great last hint of summer flavor.  We then iced the cake in our delicious vanilla buttercream.  Once that was done, we set off to create Rapunzel's tower.  Inaaya's parents asked us to use rice cereal treats for the tower since they were not serving a lot of guests and there would be two desserts to choose from!  The first thing was to carve out the tower shape and Rapunzel's room.  After a thin layer of vanilla buttercream, the tower was ready for some gray fondant with a stone pattern.  We distressed the fondant slightly with some stone patterns and added some extra stones for texture and color variation.  The room on top was covered in white fondant and finished with dark chocolate "wood" trim and designs.  We then designed Rapunzel gazing out the window, waiting for her prince, with her long blond hair trailing down the side of the tower.  A shingled spike at the top brought the fairytale to life.  Once everything was on the cake, the designed was completed with green grass and pink flowers for Inaaya's special cake.  The cake stood about 26" from the table when we were done.

Join us next week for another fun tale.  In the mean time, please come out to either location to check out our new line of fantastic jams, jellies and fruit butters.  We also have some fun shaped pasta for you to enjoy.