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,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Waxing Poetic

I don't often go all 'philosophical' or 'foo foo' on this blog, but tonight I feel as though I must. So, dear reader, bear with me and know that I'll be back to talking about the latest cupcake tomorrow night!

Fear. I have learned that it must be a part of every new business venture. I'm feeling it these days. Although I have been blessed with a tremendous amount of business, a merchant's license, a great accountant, a supportive husband and family, a community embracing my crazy food ideas, and never ending creativity, fear looms below the surface.

I have a hunch that even Edward D. Jones, Mr. Prada, and Paula Deen struggled with this fear when they started their businesses. It's amazing what runs through your mind on a daily basis. You second-guess, question, and 'what if' yourself to death. Just today as I was going through my list of philanthropic activities for the last couple of months, I found myself wondering if I was being TOO philanthropic (as if that's even possible) and not profit-driven enough. I'm not sure I even set out on this adventure to be profit driven. Heck I just wanted a place to express my creativity and find a passion. Unfortunately, the blessing and curse of a capatilist society is that you find yourself wondering about the bottom line. Looking at your receipts versus expenditures and questioning your viability as a business.

WHO AM I??? Those of you who know me well know that I haven't a businessman's bone in my body. I ran screaming away from Mr. Lucas's and Miss Carson's room in high school because those were the places in which scary subjects like Marketing, Accouting, and Business 1 took place. BLECH! Give me the fine arts wing of the school. Plunk me into Miss Maschman's home ec classroom and then walk me to Mr. Berry and Miss Holder's rooms so I can write about what I think. But DO NOT, under any circumstances, put me into a business class.

Guess what...I'm enjoying it.

WHAT??? ENJOYING BUSINESS??? How is that even remotely possible? Well, let me tell you. Hold on for a bit of an 'Uncle Jed sitting on the porch whittlin' a stick' type story.

I was a good teacher. Honestly, I think I might have been a really good teacher. That is, when I was allowed to grow and be challenged and express my creative side. I may not have been the best about remembering to turn in my lunch count on time, and God knows I NEVER had a clue where my school keys were, but when it came to engaging kiddos in a lesson, I was your go-to gal. However, lying underneath that ability to create engaging lessons was a creative beast just waiting to be released. A thermonuclear pressure of epic proportion. Sure, I'd express creativity in my classroom...making up songs, wearing inflatable ducks around my waist to teach about the equator, etc. but it wasn't enough. The passion just couldn't find it's place. I tried going to my fine art side, becoming the resident 'funeral singer' and finding a niche at Karaoke and Rock Band. Still...not enough.

I can't tell you how many jobs I've taken, how many avenues I've persued just because I 'thought' just maybe they'd give me relieve from the creative pressures within. They certainly helped to pay the bills, gave me awesome perspectives on things about life and taught me more and more about me, but they still didn't give me that fueled passion. What was it? What was I searching for? Where would I find it?

And then it happened. The single worst day of my life, to date. My mother-in-law, a terrific, driven woman in her own right, died. Just died. No warning, no "hey guys, I'm not doing so well". No nothing. Just a 'here today, gone tomorrow' experience. It rocked my world. I have no doubt it's continuing to rock my world. Be that as it may, it gave me a little reflection time. And, due to her incredible generosity, some financial breathing room, as well. That's when the idea of 'take a year or so off' was born. Could I ever have imagined that this experience would catapult me into this immense creative phase of my life? NEVER! But, it did, and here I am in the middle of this intensely crazy, wonderful thing called business.

Wow. I love what I'm doing. I can honestly tell you that there is not a single job I've ever held that has made me happier. Is it because I'm my own boss? Sure. Is it because I'm the one picking up my kiddos after school everyday? Sure. Is it because for the first time in my life I'm combining all of my loves and doing it MY way? Absolutely.

However, as with every great endeavour comes a tremendous amount of risk, and this is where the fear comes in. My time to be successful is finite. Money is finite. Unfortunately finances don't understand creativity! I find myself worrying each day about whether or not this 'little business that could' will be enough to sustain me. Will I have enough money to keep the business alive when so many around me are failing? Have I kept my capital high enough and my overhead low enough to take care of things? Have I done enough marketing? How can I market better? AAACK! These are the questions that one would think would completely usurp the creative side of the business, and yet I find them just as exhillarating as creating a new cupcake flavor. Again, I ask the question...who IS this person who is talking about business???

It's me.

I think for the first time in many, many years, when I say "it's ME", I know who 'ME' is. Wow. That's pretty damned fantastic. It makes all of the late nights of baking, all of the researching strange techniques and ordering things that look like barbaric arms used in Medieval warfare worth it!

So, perhaps I'm learning that with every great risk comes the potential for great reward. The smiles that come to the faces of people to whom I deliver are well worth the fear that lives just beneath the surface. I believe I will be successful. I believe I'll be able to continue to sustain myself without a full-time job to support this little cupcake dream.

Thanks, faithful reader, for listening to my little soliloquy (if you haven't taken Shakespeare yet, google that'll learn something). Knowing that you're still reading sustains my creativity.

That's the poetic wax for tonight.

Good eats,