Sunday, February 11, 2018

hungry caterpillar birthday cake with handmade fondant topper

I've had the privilege of making cakes for Doan ever since her son's first birthday (see this circus carnival cake, and this elephant cake for his second birthday), and last summer for his third birthday the theme was The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar! We decided on a vanilla cake filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and a handmade fondant caterpillar topper.

A few weeks before the party, I got started on the topper, as it would need time to dry completely. I started with white fondant, which I tinted several shades of green, and then rolled into little balls (about the diameter of a quarter).

Then I shaped each ball into a square, flattened them a bit, and connected them to form the caterpillar's body.

Then I formed a red ball for his head, yellow and green eyes, and little purple antennae. And a little black dot for the nose, done with an edible food marker. The final step was to insert two toothpicks into the bottom of the topper, so that it would stay in place when it was time to place it on the cake!

When it came time to make the cake itself, I baked up two 10-inch vanilla cakes (used my favorite vanilla cake recipe in my book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book, and did 1.5 times the ingredients), let them cool, and then sliced them in half horizontally to give me four layers.

After filling each layer with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries, I covered the top and sides of the cake with a crumb coat of cream cheese buttercream (recipe also in my book!).

Then I let the cake chill in the fridge for half an hour before covering the cake in a final coat of frosting, smoothing it out with a long metal spatula (and a long offset spatula for the top of the cake!)

I also added a beaded border along the bottom of the cake, using a disposable pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip, as well as Doan's son's name in brown frosting (and a "3" since he was turning three!)

The final step - adding the handmade fondant topper!

The toothpicks in the topper helped to keep it nice and stable on top of the cake, but I also added a few dollops of frosting under the topper to help keep it in place.

I also made a few apples and pears out of fondant (with holes in the middle, just like in the book!), to decorate the sides with.

Happy Birthday Roland!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

red and white lovebird cookies

Just last week, a friend of a friend asked me to make cookies for her sister's wedding shower dinner. She wanted favors for the guests to take home with him, and after seeing the lovebird cookies that I made for my brother's wedding a couple of years ago, and she requested them in red and white.

For the cookies, I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe (you can find the recipe in my book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!), rolled it out to about 1/8 inch thick and cut out shapes with a heart-shaped cookie cutter (the largest one from this nested set of heart cookie cutters). Then I baked them at 350F for 10-12 minutes until they were golden around the edges.

Once all of the cookies were baked and cooled, I whipped up a batch of royal icing (recipe also in my book!), and used stiff icing to outline half of the heart, before filling it in with runny icing.

Next I tinted about a third of the icing super red (that's the actual name of the color!), and used stiff red icing to outline the other half of the cookie, before filling it in with red runny icing.

After letting the icing dry for several hours (I usually let them dry overnight), I was ready to add the lovebird details! I started by piping a brown branch for the lovebirds to sit on (done with medium running icing), and once that was dry I piped golden yellow beaks and little bird feet on the branch.

Then I used black stiff icing to pipe the little eyes, using the smallest piping tip I had.

I also added little wing details. And then they were done!

Aren't they cute?

Do you like them better in red and white, or the original blue and white?

Congratulations to the bride and groom!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

chickie chinese diakon pastries (lo bo si bing) for chinese new year

Last year for Chinese New Year, we went to my mom's house, where we celebrated with a chinese feast, including my mom's homemade potstickers! (For those of you who have never had a potsticker, it's a dumpling filled with meat and veggies, that is both steamed and pan fried on the stove). For my contribution to the feast, I decided to make one of my favorite chinese pastries, lo bo si bing, which features a flakey pastry crust filled with seasoned daikon (asian turnip or radish). I've been making these for a few years now, but with a crust recipe that I made up, which is much simpler than the traditional complicated chinese pastry dough (which features an inner and outer dough!).

The daikon filling is very simple, it's just peeled shredded diakon (I like to shred it in the food processor with the grater attachment), which is sauteed with minced garlic, salt, white pepper, soy sauce, and chopped green onions. Then be sure to let it cool before filling your pastry.

For the pastry dough recipe, you're going to flip when I tell you what it is. It's basically my all-butter pie crust recipe, except you use vegetable oil instead of butter. Yes, I know it sounds weird. But it works! When my mother-in-law first told me about a similar crust that her friend made for a japanese ube (purple sweet potato) filled pastry, I didn't believe that the crust would come together. But I tried it, mainly because my best friend's daughter is allergic to dairy, and I thought one day I could make her an apple pie that she could actually eat! I didn't have a recipe, so I just tried out my own recipe. And I couldn't believe that it worked!

You basically add vegetable oil to your flour, sugar, and salt, and then the magic is to add ice cold water, which somehow causes the vegetable oil to seize up and turn the mixture into a crust-like consistency! Amazing, right? But the caveat is that you can't roll it out like regular pie crust. You have to kind of pat it into place with your hands. And sometimes it falls apart, but no worries because it's super easy to patch up.

So anyway, back to the diakon pastries :) After making my vegetable oil crust, I used a small ice cream scoop to portion out the dough. With each portion, I rolled it into my hand until it turned into a smooth ball, then flattened it out, and then filled it with my daikon filling before pinching it together and then setting it on my sheet pan with the seam side down.

I brushed the tops with a bit of egg wash, and then sprinkled on some black sesame seeds before baking them at 350F until they turned golden brown.

Aren't they pretty? And so delicious too, you wouldn't think the combination of sauteed diakon and pastry flakey would taste so good!

Since we were celebrating the year of the Rooster, I thought I'd make some of them in the shape of a chickie! So I decorated some of them with black sesame seed eyes, yellow heart beaks, and red heart combs.

I thought they turned out pretty cute!

Here are a few photos of our celebration with the kids, my mom, her sisters, and my cousin and her kids. (And of Miss Melodie helping us wrap homemade potstickers! She did a great job!)

Stay tuned to see what I make this year! Happy Chinese New Year!