Monday, April 18, 2011

If Only a Cupcake Could Cure Cancer

This is a very different post tonight. About 15 minutes ago I learned that my dear friend, Jenny, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart is so heavy and I'm too tired to bake, so I'm doing the only other thing I know how to do when I have a heavy heart- write.

I want to tell you about how I met my amazing friend. I was a Resident Assistant in Hudson Hall at Northwest Missouri State University. The most adorable, lanky, blonde young lady with a dimple-filled smile moved into the room next to mine. As she began decorating her room, I noticed that we had lots of things in common. She was Catholic, she had lots of arts and craft supplies, she wore a really cool Egyptian cartouche necklace, and she loved the movie 'The Jerk'. I instantly knew that this young woman was going to be a fast friend of mine. She finished her side of the room and then began to decorate the outside of her door. She hung the most AMAZING picture this only child had ever seen. It was a very contented looking woman surrounded by a sea of blonde children- EIGHT of them. This was a picture that had been in the Omaha World Herald on Mother's Day. I had never known anyone who was a member of a family with EIGHT children. I was instantly in awe and we forged a fast friendship as she told me all about her siblings. I still, on nights when I can't sleep, try to recite all of the names of the Reynolds siblings!

The year wore on and Jenny and I noticed that we also had a love for music and she introduced me to what has become one of my very favorite groups, the Indigo Girls. We sang many duets to the song, "Language or the Kiss" as well as just about every other song on the Swamp Ophelia album. I cannot even count the number of laughs, tears, and songfests in the hallway that were had that year. It was magical. Jenny continued on and went on to be an RA in my husband, Matt's, residence hall and her decoration of her floor was flawless! While Jenny was at northwest, Steven, Angie, and Anna were born! Jenny was now the oldest of ELEVEN!!! My awe continued!!

Jenny's was the only wedding I've actually missed. I mean COMPLETELY missed. Matt and I headed to Omaha on a Saturday morning, spent the day with my mom, gave her our baby, and were headed to the wedding. I couldn't remember the time, so I gave Jenny's mom a call and asked what time the wedding started. I'll never forget the heartbreak in her voice as she said, "Oh, Jill. Bless your heart. The wedding was last night!" AAAACCKKK! I was devastated and teary and what did Jenny and Tim do? They took time out of their busy family wedding weekend and came to the hotel to see US! That's just he kind of person Jenny is. Always putting herself above others.

She is now an amazing wife to Tim, and a model of mothering to Kate, Josh, and Andrew. She is still her incredible self, singing in her church choir, working to live her life to glorify her god, and being an amazing oldest child for her now very, very large immediate family. She is truly one of the very best people I know, and someone who I wish I were more like every day.

My heart is breaking, not because I don't have every faith in the world that Jenny will persevere, survive, and emerge an even better image of herself. My heart is breaking because this beautiful soul is going to feel pain and suffering. The thought of my dear friend going through this kind of pain is almost more than I can bear. I know Jenny, though, and I know she will be a warrior like no other. I am not one to believe that God makes choices to 'do' bad things to people or to 'make' bad things happen. I believe in a kind and gentle God and believe that my faith is that God will sit with me in the times in which I cannot bear to go on. I believe that prayers for wisdom for doctors, strength for Jenny's family, and a never-ending prayer chain of faith and love can raise the strength and spirit of Jenny's body. I know that God doesn't cure disease, but he does provide the grace and wisdom of doctors. That's what I will be praying for, unceasingly, from now until Jenny is completely cured. I would ask that you, if you are inclined to believe in a higher being of any kind, pray for Jenny, Tim, their children, and ALL of those Reynolds siblings that they may be strengthened and find love and laughter in this fearful time.

Tonight I will dry my tears, and know that Jenny has undoubtedly already found the silver lining in this ominous cloud. All I know is that if cupcakes could cure Cancer, I'd bake, and bake, and bake.

Thanks for your prayers,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Look out Paula Deen!

I finally got a link to my television debut! Of course, we're all incredibly critical of ourselves, and I certainly look like a cross between the Barefoot Contessa and Paula Deen and a lot less like Giada or Rachael Ray, but hopefully the presence of the double chin won't frighten you away!

The episode is actually very, very well done for a college production. I'm really impressed with the video editing that the kids did! I hope you enjoy it!

Good eats,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monkey Business

Some cakes just make you smile.

I had the opportunity to be a part of another first birthday this week. The mom asked me to make a monkey cake based on the fact that her little boy was always referred to as their 'monkey'. I was thrilled to do this for little Ryker.

This whole cake has more of a story to it than just being a monkey cake. Early last week I was approached by our university television station and asked if I would be willing to be a part of their show, Diner in the Rough. This is a show that is a little like Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives'. I was a bit hesitant at first, given that I'm not so much a 'location' as I am, well, my kitchen! I wasn't sure if my venue would be what the show was after, but decided to give them a chance to try.

I had my first attempt at being a food network star on Friday afternoon. The producer asked that I have some sort of a project to work on during the shoot, so I chose Ryker's monkey cake. The college students that came to film were absolutely adorable, and took their work very seriously. I allowed the host, Aaron, to be my assistant on the cake. I was thrilled with his willingness to try new things and he did a really great job. I did some finishing items after the crew had left, but overall Aaron helped me with 90% of the cake!

I have new-found respect for the ladies and gents who work on television. Of course, my tiny little show was nothing compared to what those individuals do every day. However, I found it both distracting and a bit disconcerting to talk about what I was doing as I did it. I'm so used to being 100% alone during my work day, that it was hard for me to articulate my process. After a few minutes, I got really comfortable with the host and was able to settle into a pretty good groove. I believe the show will air sometime soon on the university television network. As soon as they get it posted on You Tube, I'll review it and see if I've got my 'Rachael Ray meets Paula Deen' groove on enough to share with all of you!

Here's the final monkey product!

We also had another HUGE moment in our family this week. We celebrated my husband Matt's 40th birthday. It was a terrific surprise for him, and great fun to plan for me! He even got his very own cakes. Finally, something from the business that he was allowed to eat!

I made the black and white fondant cake. He requested something with a chocolate mousse filling, so that's what he received. Avery also made him a special cake. I think she's ready to take over the business!

This week I'm involved in a local cupcake competition! Wish me luck!

Good eats,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life's better with Mascarpone!

What do you get when you combine fresh strawberries with Mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar???????

My dear friend, (and new mommy), Meghan recently celebrated her birthday. I was asked to create a strawberry shortcake cupcake for Meg. These cupcakes smelled like pure Heaven. They were a vanilla crumbed cupcake filled with strawberry glace and chopped fresh strawberries. The topping was a Mascarpone and powdered sugar frosting with strawberry puree and fresh chopped strawberries. I topped the whole thing with a huge, fresh strawberry. DANG IT! I shouldn't have given up sweets for Lent. I hope this special cupcake for a special lady tasted as great as it looked!

This cupcake is not yet named. If you suggest a name and I choose it you will win a free dozen cupcakes, so suggest away!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mascarpone cheese. If you haven't tried it, think of a creamy combination of Ricotta and cream cheese. If you've ever had my very favorite dessert, Tiramisu, you've had Mascarpone. In Tiramisu, the Mascarpone may be infused with a bit of Espresso, but it's still Heavenly. You can fill cream puffs, cannolis, or even strawberry shortcake with Mascarpone. It seems to live up to its Italian heritage; decadent and delightful! Of course, I've never found anything Italian that I didn't like....well except for possibly the pig's feet I was once encouraged to eat by an Italian cook....that would NOT be made better with Mascarpone!

Good eats,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Backlogged Blog

Holy Moly! I have GOT to get better about blogging and baking at the same time! I looked back and realized I haven't updated since February 21! I'm going to lose followers if I don't get on it!!

I have SOOO many exciting cake escapades to share with you. It seems as though my community, Maryville, was truly in need of a place in which customers could receive custom cakes. I always knew that custom cakes were fun and novel, but I had no idea how in-demand they really are!

I got to experience the younger crowd's affinity for cake and cupcake design during my recent experience with two job shadow students. Our Association of University Women in town runs an exceptionally great job shadow program for 8th grade girls. The girls fill out an interest inventory form and then are matched with women who are in those professions. I was so lucky to have been matched with Madison and Chloe. I would hire either of these girls today! Not only were they excellent cake and cupcake designers, they did the dishes!!! The girls filled a cupcake order, took another order, and then each used their newly acquired skills to design a custom cake from sketching to completion! It was a fabulous day and I hope to participate again next year! Here are a few pictures from the day!

I've had a ball creating so many interesting cakes for so many interesting occasions. I've created everything from an Eagle Scout court of honor cake to Rapunzel's tower! Rather than chatting on incessantly about each cake, I'll just show you the pictures and tell you a bit about each one! Enjoy!

My dear friend, Denise, is our first lady at our university. She needed just a nice chocolate cake for some older ladies who were dining at the president's residence. This was just a yummy triple chocolate cake filled with ganache and frosted with deep chocolate icing. Mmmmmm!

Does it look real? IT'S NOT! This was my first adventure with fake cake! My sister-in-law to be, Julie, owns an AMAZING design firm, Bertie and Jules, in Kansas City. She and her design partner are in the midst of designing a room in the KC Symphony showcase home. Their theme is all Marie Antoinette, so OF COURSE they needed cake. I designed two fake cakes and six fake cupcakes for their room. I was very pleased with my first fake cake adventure.

My friend Cara was my client for this Eagle Scout adventure. I had so much fun researching the eagle scout emblem. The emblem is fondant with a grey chocolate eagle. I created an edible metallic frosting to use on the eagle so it would look like the real metal emblem.

Our sweet friends, Jeni and Paul, were married just recently. Both big fans of 'The Office' this Dunder Miflin groom's cake was just what every wedding needs!

What little girl DOESN'T need a pink and purple Dora cake?

The cutest three year old in Maryville needed a Toy Story cake! She's also a HUGE Bieber fan, so perhaps I already know what she needs for her fourth birthday!

After a slight meltdown with a new type of fondant, this cake finally got to the finish line. A wonderful librarian in our area celebrated her 60th birthday at school with this cake requested by her faculty. I was sure to make all of the titles match experiences from her life. Some of the call numbers are important dates from her life and the author's names are her two daughters and her husband. I was really thrilled to make this cake for Carla and I hope it made her 60th birthday just a little more special.

I knew spring was in the air when I got to make this springy First Communion cake for precious Natalie!

What cowboy birthday party would be complete without boot cookies and a big boot cake?

This cake was SO much fun to do. I sculpted the John Deere tractor out of Rice Krispie treats and added the fondant accents. The cake was vanilla and chocolate marble topped with vanilla buttercream.

Finally, the biggest project I've had in awhile! Kennedy LOVES the movie Tangled and all things Rapunzel. So, her awesome mom commissioned me to re-create Rapunzel's tower in cake form. I had an absolute ball creating this cake!

It's six layers of vanilla cake topped with a Rice Krispie and ice cream cone roof. I covered the cake in fondant I had molded to mimic cobblestones and hand cut and crafted each shingle for the roof. I crafted the shingles to look like shake shingles. I sculpted Rapunzel out of fondant and added fondant and icing flowers. Kennedy was very, very excited when her tower was delivered. Apparently, Rapunzel met an awful fate when Kennedy ate her! Oh well, at least she got out of the tower!

I can't wait to share my next set of creations with you, and I vow to blog once a week from now on!

Good eats,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Baby, Baby,'s been BUSY!

Wowza! Where did the last 14 days go? Oh, wait, I know...they went to Valentine's day, Justin Bieber, and Buzz and Woody. Sounds strange, I know, but in my world it's all in a day's work!

I had a super duper successful Valentine's day. I wasn't quite prepared for how many people would be excited about giving baked goods rather than the traditional chocolates and flowers. I had an absolute ball creating these adorable cookie bouquets for several of the recipients.

I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the day was traveling all around town (and even a few towns outside of Maryville) to deliver the goodies. I've said a million times that I love this business because of the fact that I get to see the faces of the recipients. There was nothing better than playing Cupid on Valentine's Day. I can't wait for next year, although I think I'd better start baking heart-shaped items tonight!!

My mom has told me a million times that I'm 'brave' to do this business. I have countered that arguement a million times and said that it's not 'bravery' it's one part creativity and two parts stupid! In my personal life I have no ability to take a risk. I could be the head of risk management for the millitary and the poster child for safe living. Heck, I won't even drink milk after its expiration date. However, in my business life I seem to be very comfortable with risk. Someone says, "Hey, can you make the White House out of cake?" My response, "Sure! I think we can do that!" WHAT??? Seriously???? I have no freaking clue how to make a White House, or an airplane, or a hippopotamus, or a motorcycle out of cake but yet I find myself saying, "SURE". So, is it stupidity or is it some kind of sadistic need to research and create? I think it's the latter. Now, I've never been asked to make the White House, or an airplane, or a hippopotamus, or a motorcycle, but I think that if I were I'd give it a shot. Yes, of course it's terrifying to think that I could completely screw something up, and yet the thought of learning a new technique or purchasing a new tool is simply exhillarating. And so, the next few cakes are explained with that simple word...exhillarating. I had no idea how to do any of them, and yet they came. The first was, by far, the easiest and no less exhillarating. The last, well, it was just plain fun. I wonder if real artists have that same feeling when they are asked to create? I was once told by my good friend, (and artist), Dana that artists can actually go into a creative depression if they have not had a chance to create for a long period of time. I think I understand that. I think I spent many, many months doing the wrong kind of creating. Who knew that the 'right' kind lived just below the frosted surface of a cake. Hmm. Interesting.

Here are the crazy creations of this week! Enjoy!

Sweet, sweet Brynlee turned three this week. If you want to see a cute kid, you should see Brynlee! I was very excited when her mom called and said that she was very into Toy Story. I had a ball making this sweet, yet simple Toy Story cake and including some of Bryn's favorite friends from the movie! The top tier of the cake is made to look like Woody's shirt and the bottom tier was made to match the wallpaper in Andy's bedroom. There's just nothing about Toy Story that doesn't make me smile. So combining cute-as-a-bug Brynlee with Toy Story was just about too much cuteness to handle!

You've seen sweet Eliana in previous posts. She's my friends Tim and Jenni's adorable daughter. She truly is one of the most precious and loveable babies I've ever known. I've adopted her as my local 'niece' and was so incredibly thrilled to get to be a part of her birthday brunch.

Eliana has a very sweet jungle-themed bedroom. Somehow giraffes have played a very big part in her bedroom and she has collected several 'giraffey' things. Jenni asked for a giraffe-themed cake for the birthday party. I had said to Jenni, "I'll probably just make a giraffe sheet cake rather than trying to get a giraffe to stand up." She was totally cool with that. Well...of course I couldn't just do that, I had to make a three-dimensional giraffe. It's ELIANA! She's such a special part of our lives that it was just not enough to give her a sheet cake!

Sooo...the giraffe was created. I sculpted the giraffe's body out of cake and the head out of rice crispie treats. The whole thing was covered in fondant. I wanted to be sure Tim and Jenni had enough cake to feed the guests, so I also created a very basic little extra cake to match the giraffe. I had so much fun creating both cakes, as well as the little smash cakes.

And finally, here's what happens when you mix these tools...

with a crazy idea and one very funny 13 year-old with a serious case of Bieber Fever!!

You get a cake with Justin Bieber on top!

The cake had a very simple vanilla cake bottom layer and a chocolate second layer. The backdrop was fondant with piping gel and coarse sugar accents. Justin and his 'wife' were both sculpted out of fondant. I let them sit for about five days prior to the party so that they were really good and hard. I also attached skewers to the backs of everything that had to stand up so that there was enough support to keep it all vertical! The little spotlights and the stage were also crafted out of fondant and allowed to dry hard. The crowd was cut from fondant and attached to the buttercream with water. I was really thrilled with how all of the colors and elements came together. This was certainly one of those crazy cakes that just had to be completely conceptualized. Oddly enough if you google 'Justin Bieber cake' you only come up with cakes with edible images on them. I was really, really excited to be able to create a great finished product that was an enormous suprise to the birthday girl! Again, that's truly the very best part of this job!

I'm off to a well-earned rest!

Good eats,

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick Update

It's been a hectic few days in the bakery. It sounds so funny to call it a bakery, let's be's my kitchen! It IS still the hub of the business, so I'll make the kitchen feel good about itself and call it 'The Bakery'.

I so enjoyed writing the last post (if you haven't read it, simply go to the 'waxing poetic' post) that I feel as though my project update is just a bit superficial!

I'm gearing up for a tremendously busy 'pre-Valentine' week. In addition to fulfilling my regular orders, I've also agreed to help out our Newman Catholic Center on campus by baking the goods for their Valentine fundraiser. They're a great group of kids and are raising money for their spring break Habitat for Humanity trip. I'm thrilled to be able to help them out. I figure late night baking gives me an opportunity to watch all kinds of movies and DVRd shows! Let's just hope no one accidentally gets a True Blood cake or an Everybody Loves Raymond cookie bouquet!

Here are just a few of the projects from last week! Enjoy!
I love being part of first birthday parties! Corben turned 1 this week and had a baseball-themed birthday party. The large cake is a vanilla sheet cake covered with royal blue buttercream. The three-dimensional baseball and bat are both carved out of triple chocolate cake filled with chocolate buttercream. The texture on the bat and ball are created using the star tip which is what Corben's mom had requested. The smaller cake is Corben's very own baseball 'smash' cake to do with as he pleased!

A dear friend and one of the classiest ladies I know ordered up a brand new flavor for her son's birthday. He is a fan of coconut cream pie so the Zach Attack coconut cream cupcake was born! This is a vanilla cake filled with coconut cream, topped with vanilla buttercream and zested with sweetened coconut shavings.

Undoubtedly one of the sweetest Kindergarteners in Maryville turned six this week and wanted all things Star Wars! I gleefully delivered a Star Wars cookie bouquet to him at lunch time and a load of Zen Zebra cupcakes (not pictured) and a Star Wars cake to his home later that evening! The cake was a layer of vanilla cake filled with chocolate buttercream and topped with another layer of triple chocolate cake. The entire cake was frosted in buttercream with hand cut and painted fondant accents.

Last but not least, Da Sheeb. Where to begin with this extremely special cupcake. Sometimes, as a teacher, you have the opportunity to meet those kids with whom you just 'click'. I am lucky to have lots of those kiddos, but I have two from the graduating class of 2009 that are especially dear to me. They are my two 20 year old 'sons', Zach and Joe. These two young men mean as much to me as my own son and I think the world of both of them, which also includes giving them a swift kick in the fanny every now and then, and telling them exactly how I feel regarding most topics! When I started the business, both Joe and Zach were insistent that they have cupcakes named after them. My policy was, "you name it and tell me how to make it and I'll do it!" Zach, the significantly squeakier wheel of the two proclaimed his cupcake and named it Da Sheeb (his nickname is Sheeb). So, Da Sheeb has been born and is making its way to Sheeb's fraternity house as we speak! I must say, for a future veterinarian, he has excellent culinary taste! He chose a chocolate cupcake with cookie dough on the inside. I modified his request just a bit and made a chocolate butter cupcake filled with fresh chocolate chip cookie dough and baked to the peak of gooiness! It's topped with chocolate buttercream and a fresh-from-the-oven miniature chocolate chip cookie! Sheebie....good choice!

Good Eats,