Posts tagged ‘fondant’

Fall Leaves and New Love

“Bowl-o-Rama” Bowling Ball – Chocolate cake, chocolate & vanilla buttercreams

Pumpkins, cinnamon, vibrant leaves, and my favorite red rain boots – there is everything to love about fall. Along with the drizzling rain and the brisk, crisp chill sweeping into Seattle comes school, but also fresh starts and new love. A love in the form of Swiss Buttercream.

The photos in today’s post are a few paid orders from the summer. Because time was an issue and setting up photos was not a priority, they are not my most beautiful shots, but I’m still happy to share them with you. And the one thing they all have in common? They are frosted with a silky, light swiss buttercream that I am head over heels for. It makes me swoon. It’s sweet and velvety and also a dream to work with. I’ve never frosted a cake so smooth.

Buttercream has always been elusive for me. I’d tried making a classic buttercream once, but something went wrong between heating the sugar and whisking the eggs and I ended up with a big mess. That seemed to scare me from buttercream ever since, and I just stuck to powdered sugar frostings. Not anymore! I made… wait for it… six batches of buttercream in the past two weeks. Which sounds like a lot, and then I did the math and realized that I baked 13 cakes this summer, including 7 paid orders!

“Bowl-o-Rama” Bowling Ball Cake & “Strike!” Bowling Pin Cake

Baking paid orders is so different than baking for fun. For one thing, it’s a lot more stressful. Failure when I’m baking for fun or experience is merely disappointing, and frequently entertaining. Failure when I’m charging somebody for it makes my insides curdle faster than my first buttercream. I worry about taste, appearance, and getting the order right – after all, it’s a purchase.

It’s hard to say if I truly enjoy paid orders. On the one hand, I am creating cakes I would have never made on my own.  I cut out interesting shapes, learn new techniques for decorating, and even try new frosting recipes. For the same reason that I love being a Daring Baker, I like the challenge each paid order presents and the new ingredients, tools, and skills I acquire. And the feeling when I know the client has gotten exactly what he or she wanted, is amazing. When the client arrived to pick up this bowling cake, she saw the pin first and gasped. It’s genuinely thrilling, and it makes me want to do nothing but make customers happy.

On the flip side, I stress like Robert Irvine on Dinner: Impossible. I always wake up before 8:30 that day, to make sure I have enough time to work and start over if necessary. If the cake is drier than expected or something doesn’t go according to plan, even though I know how to fix it, it’s difficult not to feel anxious. When I don’t like the final result, my hands actually shake as I transfer the cake to a platter and my stomach tightens uncomfortably until the moment I feel certain the client is satisfied. Somehow, when my whole body relaxes and I begin to gather the dishes, it feels like the whole morning was worth it. It’s not about the money, but something so much more important than that.

Vanilla “Dream” themed cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, fondant stars & moons, and blue sanding sugar

Monday was my first day of school. This year I’m taking some fascinating classes and will be participating in a fantastic internship. It’s been a long week, and a busy one. My school doesn’t offer a cooking class and my teachers haven’t hesitated to assign homework even in the first few days. The result? I haven’t had the opportunity to spend as much time in the kitchen as I’d like.

It’s jarring to be suddenly thrown back into the world of lectures, lengthy homework assignments, and commitment. While I would never sacrifice my responsibilities for my hobbies, all of you know I would also never stop blogging no matter how busy I got. While I might need to put paid orders on hold, baking and blogging is my passion.

SAT prep classes, college applications, and warm autumn flavors… I welcome fall with open arms, sharpened pencils, and a satisfied stomach.

Pink Fairy cake for a special 3-year-old girl’s birthday

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September 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm 30 comments

Georgetown Chocolate Cupcakes and 7 Things

One of the nicest things I did this weekend (which included a two hour shop inside a great Seattle baking store, Julie & Julia, and take out hot wings) was go to a friend’s goodbye party. He’s leaving for D.C., where he’ll be going to Georgetown University in the fall. As much as I love to buy gifts, I decided to make him some Georgetown cupcakes. The letters, hearts, and “13” (representing his new class of 2013) are made of fondant.

It was my first time working with fondant! It was easier than I expected and tasted a lot better than I thought it would. It was also a lot of fun and I’m starting to picture the infinite possibilities once I master it.

But before I get to that, I’d like to show off my new award, the Kreativ Blogger award. I actually received it from two different bloggers, Cookin’ Canuck and Rachelle of Mommy? I’m Hungry! Thanks to both of you and sorry for not getting around to it sooner.

I’m supposed to give the award to 7 other bloggers, so here we go:

1. Marta of Just Call Me Marta
2. Erin of Erin Cooks
3. Valerie of The Chocolate Bunny
4. Alana of The Good Girl Gone Blog
5. Jesse of Fig Noir
6. Wendy of My Buttery Fingers
7. Marian of Sweetopia

I’m also supposed to tell 7 interesting things about myself.

1. I don’t subscribe to any blogs. I read about 60 different blogs, but I don’t subscribe to any feeds. I can’t quite say why. Firstly, there’s a lot of blogs and I don’t have a lot of time. But also, it would become an obligation. I like to think that I’m reading your blog because I remembered it and want to see what’s new, not because you’ve updated. So I do end up reading every post at one time or another, but this is why I might not comment right away!

2. I love to volunteer. I’ve done a lot of volunteering since I began high school, and I continue to do it because I like it, not just for the hours. I’ve volunteered long term at a therapeutic center, a children’s museum, and a cancer support organization, where I help teach a pre-teen cooking class once a month.

3. I’m half Asian. My mom is Chinese and my dad is a couple European mixes. I think I’ve gotten the best of both worlds: really good Chinese food, holidays, teachings, and at the same time, American cooking and culture.

4. I think I want to be a journalist. I’m still undecided about my future career, although it won’t be one in baking. I really love to write, photograph, and talk to different people. I also love to travel, and at least move around. I don’t think I could stand being in an office all day. Finally, I’d love to believe that whatever my career is, it’ll be something that can really make a difference for people who need help. So journalism is a career I’m considering.

5. 17 and Baking wasn’t the original name. This blog has actually gone through a ton of changes. The first name was The Rosy Chef, which I changed because it really makes no sense. I’m not a chef, I’m a baker, and I have no idea where the rosy part came from. After that, I was Floured Apron for a while until I realized another blog with that name exists. For a short while, I was All Roads Lead to Cake. But it wasn’t until I decided on 17 and Baking that I was satisfied. As far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect name for me, and I plan on keeping it even after I turn 18 and beyond.

6. I am a huge, huge fan of the TV show Lost. Everyone who knows me knows how utterly obsessed I am. Both of my parents watch it too, and we love talking about theories and mysteries. I’ve got every season on DVD  and recommend the show to everyone! The coming season is the last one, which makes me feel very bittersweet. :(

7. 17 and Baking is actually a year old. Sort of. I started this blog way back in August 08, under a different name. After only a few posts, though, I figured no one would ever read me and I just stopped. I don’t know why, but for some reason in March 09 I decided to start blogging again, and I haven’t stopped since (I’m so glad I didn’t quit for good.) Since I wasn’t serious the first time, I’m going to consider March 19th to be my 1 year anniversary, not August 20th.

I have mixed feelings about fondant. On the one hand, it’s beautiful. It really makes cakes look flawless and professional, and it allows so much creativity and possibility. But on the other hand, it doesn’t taste good. And somehow that defeats the purpose for me. Isn’t the whole point of baking to make something delicious? And fondant is just there for the appearance… I don’t like the idea that it has to be admired, but then peeled off before the cake is enjoyable.

Consider the show Ace of Cakes. I respect their talent and creativity, but have you noticed none of their clients ever talk about taste? They ooh and ahh over how fantastic the cake looks, and then the show abruptly ends.

Well, despite all that, I felt fondant was a skill I should learn. Working with the fondant was a lot like working with play doh. Really sweet, soft, beautifully colored play doh. I used cookie cutters for the letters, numbers, and hearts, and the whole thing was reasonably easy. Next time I’ll probably roll the fondant out thinner. But anyway, I was left with a few small balls of fondant and I decided to play around.

Yup, I played with my food!

As for the cupcakes themselves, they were the quintessential American chocolate cake. Moist, soft, and not overwhelmingly rich. The frosting was very chocolate-y and thick, and complemented the lightness of the cake perfectly! Both were definitely keepers, and so easy they might be my new go-to chocolate cupcakes.

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August 11, 2009 at 10:43 am 41 comments


Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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