Sunday, November 1, 2009

She's Forty & Fabulous!

My friend Julie had a big birthday last week. That's right....she officially crossed over into the Land of Forty. Of course I could only wave to her as she arrived on the Land of Forty because I am too busy sliding down into the Valley of Fifty. Anyway, her parents Pete and Joan, had a small dinner at their home to celebrate and I made the cake. It was a small double tier, chocolate of course, with peanut butter and chocolate ganache filling. I made a little grape vine trailing up and across and attached a few fondant "poppies".

It was a really moist and chocolate-y fact, the inside of my car still smells of it. Excuse me while I go for a drive.

(Before we go any further, the answer is no......the baby was not anywhere near the candles. It just looks that way because of the angle.)

Anyway, what Julie didn't know at this time was that her husband Andy had also planned a surprise party for her the following Friday night at a local restaurant. Of course I knew it would be a complete surprise because she had stated time and time again that she didn't want a party for her fortieth birthday. Perfect. I told Andy that I'd make her another cake. I had a couple of things in mind, but after several rough sketches, I finally settled on something demure and understated.

You know..............sort of like Julie.

My inspiration for this cake?? I don't know. I mean it's not like the colors and patterns are around me everyday.

Sometimes I really have to sit and think about what is most artistically and visually stimulating for me.

You just never know where your colors or ideas will come from.

It's frustrating sometimes.

When you just can't find any inspiration even in your very own home.

There are times when I'm totally stumped.

But just when I'm ready to give up....something sneaks up and kicks me.

So first, I had to decide on the flavor and filling of the cake. What else would it be??? Of course it had to be chocolate. Deep, dark chocolate, AND the filling had to be great too.

So I made six 9 x 13 chocolate cakes, leveled each one, then stacked them up.

Next, I chopped up a bag of Ghirardelli Chocolate Mints and mixed them into the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.

Candy carnage. The scene of the crime.

Then I started the layering process. Lots of thick, rich buttercream in between the layers. Make sure those layers are even!!!!

I used a cakeboard under every two layers of cake for stability.

Couldn't you just run and jump on this???

Once the cakes were all filled and stacked, I put the whole thing into the freezer for a couple of hours.

Then I carved it out.

Then added dowels throughout the form for added stability.

(Note the walls in the background of these photos. I am living in kitchen renovation hell.)

Then I crumb-coated the whole thing with vanilla buttercream and put it in the refrigerator to let the frosting firm and set up. It kind of looks like a saddle here, doesn't it?? Hmmmm......a saddle?? I'll have to remember this if I'm ever asked to make a cake for Seabiscuit.

Then I took this beautiful red fondant and went to work detailing the purse. Although you can use any shade of food coloring to tint white fondant, I always buy pre-made fondant in red and black because of the inconsistencies. It's almost impossible to "make" the perfect shade of red. As a colorist, I know the technique, but I'm just not willing to go through the trouble. It's easier to just plain order it. Trust me on this.

I messed up the white fondant at the bottom of the bag, but luckily I had plans to cover it with a couple of zebra stripes anyway. Whew. This mistake would have NEVER gotten by on Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss.....or would it?

Note to self: Remember to take off rings before working with fondant.

Now for the fun stuff. The handles.

These handles nearly gave me a heart attack ten times over. Initially, I had planned to make just a shoulder strap. I made it out of gumpaste a couple of days before and set it aside to dry. I really needed it to completely dry out nice and strong so it would stand up on top of the bag. I waited until the morning of the party to place the strap on the cake. The minute I set the shoulder strap on top of the bag, it broke into about 5 pieces. Dang it!

"NOBODY PANIC!! I HAVE THIS UNDER CONTROL!", I frantically yelled to Emily, who somehow managed to remain totally calm throughout the entire ordeal.

After a few minutes of complete hysteria I instantly reached for the Rice Krispie Treats and started molding. I covered them with red fondant, made a few fondant "D" rings and left them on the counter to dry.

Then I mixed gold food lusterdust with vodka and "painted" all of the "D" rings and the nameplate. The dried vodka makes it all nice and shiny!


...or without handles it might make a dandy Mongolian knapsack!

I painted the golddust on the fondant while it was drying on the purse.

I used toothpicks and a mixture of royal icing to attach the handles and "D" Rings to the purse. Then I lightly steamed several areas of the purse to give the fondant a nice patent leather look.

"No wait Julie! That's not the cake! That's really my purse!!"

After all of that it just looks like the side of a mailbox.

With a delicious chocolate filling, of course.

The party's over and Julie was left holding the bag. But I don't think she minded holding this bag. She may be forty, but she'll always be fabulous to me!

Happy Birthday Jules!


Lisa said...

Wow! Wow! Wow!

You are amazing at any age and Julie...your fabulous @ 40!

Happy Birthday!!!

TWO chocolate cakes.?.You aRe a good friend.

Anonymous said...

I can't thank enough for the fabulous cakes. The amount of work of you put into these cakes....WOW! YOU ARE AMAZING! By the way, my hair looked fabulous too...THANK YOU:)

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE AMAZING!!!! Incredible talent! Unbelievable!!

Love your list of inspirations! So funny. Marg.

Aunt Grace said...

I keep going back to this one. It is really exceptional. the gold name plate o the front of the purse was perfect. How did you ever get this talent??? We are SIMPLE PEOPLE! My Mother said"you will pass wit a push." Who is really your mentor??? Please tell me so I can sleep. Is a Nee that has been re-incarnated??

One of many cuzzins! said...

Lordy, those are two beauties. Unbelievable stuff. That purse could have been put behind glass at Lord & Taylors!

You stacked up the frosted layers, then carved it to your desired, what happened to all that frosted cake that was carved away??

Next time send me the shavings!

SimplySweeter said...


Chocolate cake shavings today.....equal delicious cakeballs tomorrow!!

EDNurseasauras said...

Ah, Anne you are an artiste! BRILLIANT! Almost to pretty to eat. You have mad skilz.

Aunt Grace again second time said...

I really keep looking at that purse, and wonder if I were there would I pick it up and walk out the door?? I have shown it to so many people they are getting sick of me. The original one for the first party isn't bad either...isn't bad???a bloody workof art.

Sharon in Seattle said...

Can you post your recipe for the chocolate butter cream frosting? It looks delicious!

SimplySweeter said...

Sharon, I'm happy to share this with you. I took several of my favorites and re-worked them together. This is what I got and IS as delicious as it looks.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Makes enough to frost a 2-layer 8" round.

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder ( get the darkest possible)

1/3 cup boiling water

5 sticks of unsalted softened butter.

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

2 pounds (2-12 ounce bags)of high quality semisweet chocolate that has been melted and cooled.

Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter, confectioners sugar until it is fluffy. Stop the mixer and add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Beat in the cocoa mixture last. Color will be deep and dark....oh and YUMMY!!

Have fun!!

SimplySweeter said...

Oops, Sharon I forgot to mention that I usually adjust the cocoa powder and confectioners sugar to control how stiff I need the frosting to be. If the frosting is too soft, I add an equal combination of both until I have the consistency that I need.

Natalie... said...

Wow looks amazing!!!

Anonymous said...

Dazzling,Delicious,Enjoyable,Elegant,Fantastic...the ABC's of what comes to mind when I check out your blog which isn't often enough...It's Always Inspiring!

Keep Going Girl!