Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not dead yet Halloween special

This is just a quickie post to let everyone know I'm not dead yet (just in case anyone was wondering from my lack of posting over the last couple of weeks) and, to show off our Halloween costumes for this year. We attended a party hosted by one of my bosses, who is married to one of Andrew's PhD committee members. They pick a theme for their Halloween parties and everyone is encourage to dress up around it. The theme this year was come dressed as if you were from space.

At first I really wanted to do a LeeLoo costume (from The Fifth Element), but I couldn't come up with any ideas of how to do her suspenders. Andrew and I both haphazardly pondered over what we could do during the next few weeks without coming up with anything to commit to. Time passed, then to our great dismay it was October 27th and we didn't have, what about Firefly? That could be fun. At first I thought I might do Saffron, her first costume was rather simple, just a peasant-type dress, an apron and a shawl, but well, to make a long story short that fell through. By this point, Andrew had visited our local costume show (Theatre Garage at 10575-115 St) and procured the necessities to do Mal, and I still had nothing.

While at the mall (sitting in The Bay, actually, where Andrew had located suitable boots for his outfit), I decided to go for Zoe. It was fairly simple, brown pants, green shirt, black boots, a few accessories and bam!
I'm kind of smiling here (I'm not sure Zoe smiles when she shoots people or ever), yet I think it's pretty good picture.
I think this is a great 'Malcolm Reynolds' shot.
Now if only we had a Jayne...
Andrew and I have both agreed that in future years, once we've settled and own a house, we're going to hold annual Halloween parties. I love dressing up (and Andrew does to), and I think adults need more opportunities to play make believe.



btw...Andrew did cut his hair just for this.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wedding cake, phase 3: the final decorations

Around 1:00 pm yesterday afternoon Andrew and I headed over to his grandmother's house where the cake was being kept. Once again, things didn't go exactly as I planned. I learned something yesterday (that would have been helpful to have known earlier): there's a huge difference in the colouring abilities of Wilton gel products. The ones in the small tubes are not effective in colouring fondant--these are also what I tried to use on Wednesday. We attempted to transform the white fondant I'd purchased into vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges for leaves, but were only coming up with pastel pinks, and peaches--no good.
The cake, uncovered. I really wasn't happy with the base fondant colour, but now I know what to use in the future.
When Andrew had gone through the entire tube of orange we agreed we needed something else, so off he went to the Bulk Barn (thankfully only a couple of blocks away). He came back with more tube colourings, and also with the type of Wilton colouring that comes in little jars. I'm not sure what the difference is, I didn't look at the labels, but apparently I should have been using the jar colouring all along. We got the nice dark colours we wanted without using all of the gel.

Once we'd sorted the colour problem out we were on our way. I started cutting out leaves with various sizes of cookie cutters and drew little veins into them with a nut-pick. Then I placed them into an empty egg carton so they would curl like real leaves. Once I'd prepared a small selection of shaped leaves, I took the assortment of orange leaves Andrew had prepared and arranged them on the cake. As I stuck them to the cake, Andrew continued onto the yellow and red fondant, and after I thought I had enough of the other colours we marbled the leftovers together.
Leaves drying so they will rest curled on the cake,
Andrew, cutting out leaves.
The cake, with its first layer of orange leaves.
Two colours of leaves applied.
The cake, more-or-less completed, just a few finishing touches to go.
The second thing that didn't work out like I would have liked was how I arranged the leaves. Initially I thought I would create a spiral of leaves around the entire cake, but as I laid the decorations out I ended up covering half the cake and the other was bare. The cover side looked great, while the other half did not--surprised? Probably not, so then we had to roll out what was left of the coloured fondant and cut out as many new leaves as we could.
All colours of leaves applied.
A close up of the top.
Overall, I'm happy with the way the cake turned out. The bronze under-colour seems to photograph better than it looks in real life, but that's also part of why I decided to cover the entire cake. Ideally, I would like to take another cake decorating course, one for wedding cakes from NAIT so I can learn more advanced fondant techniques--we'll see if I ever get the time. Maybe next summer?



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wedding cake, phase 2: covering

My parent’s internet was working yesterday (hurray for country living), therefore I couldn’t blog about my square baking experience. I thought since I still had three more types of squares to make, I would wait to write about them until I was all done. Today I worked on applying coverings to the cake; both icing and fondant. It took me all day starting around 9:00 am and I worked (more-or-less) straight through until 4:30 pm. I decided based on my previous cake making that one regular recipe of Swiss Meringue would be sufficient to cover all of the cake layers. The nice thing this time was that I had a proper stand mixer that was able to handle all 3 pounds of butter required at one time.
The first step of the icing, warming the egg whites and sugar on a double broiler.
The icing, all whipped up and ready to be spread.
By 10:00 am--possibly earlier, I can’t remember--I was applying the first layer of icing to the smallest layer of cake, which didn’t required support. Andrew was kind enough to spend much of the first part of his morning sawing doweling pieces and sanding off the rough bits so I could insert them into the cake. This was one bit of the construction I wasn’t too sure about, but I’d seen it done in an instructional video I’d watched to make sure the lower levels of the cake could uphold the top ones. I really don’t want the cake to collapse on itself.
Andrew measuring out the distances for the support doweling.
The icing process went along pretty smoothly, by which I mean I was able to speed along in the application, then spread the icing out so it was even and...smooth. It turned out I was just about spot on with the amount of icing required as I have only a small tub of it left, and I can use that to apply the ribbon or other decorations if necessary. The fondant was a bit of a pain...not really the rolling and setting part, but the colouring part.
Me applying the last layer of icing to the base layer of the cake.
What's left of the buttercream icing after four layers of cake.
In my mind I was going to create a nice, beige colour for the base. However, no matter how much brown colouring I added, the fondant didn’t get anywhere near brown, it just became a light pink--definitely not what I was looking for. Then when I rolled the first layer out I realized that I wouldn’t be able to cover the entire cake with the 3L of fondant I’d prepared. So, off came the first layer, and out came the remaining litre of fondant. I ended up with a pale peach colour that seemed passable, then when I decided to add my bronze sparkles to the fondant it became even more passable.
Me, adding the fondant, see how fast I move? My hand is blurry.
The base layer, sitting on the cake plate, covered in fondant.
Now all I’ve got to do is add ribbon, more sparkles and leaves. I’m sure this will take longer than I think, but not nearly as long as the first part of the icing.



Monday, October 11, 2010

Wedding cake, phase 1: baking

Welcome to Andrea's Wide World of Baking! Today I bring you the process of baking enough chocolate cake to serve 100 people.

Err...or something like that. Yes, I'm coming up to the judgment day to see if I can really bake and decorate a wedding cake. I can tell you that the baking part went peachy-keen--really. After a good sleep last night, I woke up this morning around 8:20, had a quick bite of breakfast, and started on the first batch of batter. I made 6 times the recipe I used for the previous chocolate cake, in three rounds of mixing. I used something like 20 eggs, 3 lbs of butter, more than 4 kg of brown sugar, and approximately 1.5 kg of flour. Pan dimensions are 14", 12", 10", and 8" wide.

The main ingredients going into the cake.
Me trying to mix up the last of the first batch of cake batter, and trying not to over flow the bowl.
The batter. Mmm, chocolate.
The first cake pan, ready to go in the oven.
Two of the cake layers baking.
The mess after I'd finished mixing the batter.
The biggest layer (14") just out of the oven.
At this point in the afternoon (as I write it is 2:30 pm) all of the cake layers are out of the oven, and are cooling. They're a little crumbly on the outside, but that's why you lay down a quick 'crumb' layer of icing first, to seal the cake. Unfortunately, one of the cake layers (the second largest one--12") is still stuck in the pan and I'm not quite sure how I should proceed to get it out. I'm sure I'll work something out, I just hope I don't break it as I do.



Tomorrow: baking enough square for 100 people.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ESO Gala: Cirque de la Symphonie

This past Tuesday evening Andrew and I attended the ESO gala fundraiser event featuring Cirque de la Symphonie. We actually saw this show 2 years ago (blogged about here), but we enjoyed it so much that we thought we'd go again. Many of the performers were identical to the previous presentation, although there were a couple of new additions, plus if memory serves, the orchestra played different musical selections compared to last time. I'm not going to write a long, detailed post as: a) I probably wouldn't get it done since we're heading to Ontario shortly; and b) as I stated above, many of the performers were the same and you can check my previous post if you're interested.

Even though this was our second viewing of the show I think my favourite acts stayed pretty much the same. The Lady in White, was magnificent with her flexibility/balancing act, and the Strong Men were as mindboggling as ever. An interesting note: in 2009 the Strong Men performed to Ravel's Bolero; however, this year they used Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor--2 very different pieces. Strangely it worked. They kept their slow, methodical movements and sort of condensed the Toccata and Fugue down to 1/1 time, rather than the 4/4 time it is written in.

Although I say these were my favourites, the other acts were no slouches. The juggler/ring leader was wonderful, communicating a wide range of emotions with his expressive face--and he's also just a great juggler. Then there was the violinist who played while she hung from a trapeze...frequently upside down, no less. She was new, and Andrew and I were both busy during her performance figuring out how her violin was strapped to her, and what kept her bow in place while she was climbing and adjusting her positions (it was magnets). Also in the air was another female acrobat who performed 2 numbers. The first with a male acrobat on silks, then the second was just her on a rope--oh I wish I had that kind of upper body strength, never mind the flexibility! The last performance that really stuck out in my mind was the hulla-hoop artist. I think there was one last time too, but I don't think it was the same one (not having the earlier program anymore I can't check). Rather than spinning her hoop around her waist, she spent most of her routine twirling it around her foot as she did handstands, back arches, etc. Mindboggling, truly.

In the interest of keeping this post 'short,' and finishing it before I turn this blog into 'Andrea's world of baking' (just for a week) I'm not going to reflect upon the orchestra. Although we attended the gala to support the ESO, we choose to go to see the cirque performers. Plus we've got another 6, maybe 7 shows to attend this year, so I'll blather about their performances then.