October 25, 2012

Spray of Cherry Blossoms

This is by far, my favorite formula for making gumpaste.  The petals of flowers like the Rose can be tooled thinly but because of the egg white in this formula and the gelatin, the petals seem to be stronger than with other formulas. Remember that you do not want to overheat your gelatin.  14 seconds in the microwave should give you a temperature of about 112 degrees F .  I use an infrared digital thermometer which works quickly and accurately. Gumpaste 2 pounds confectioners’ sugar 2 Tablespoons CMC powder 4 teaspoons white shortening 4 teaspoons corn syrup, glucose or Trimoline 1 full Tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin ¼ cup cold water Two egg whites from large eggs Dissolve the gelatin in the ¼ cup cold water. In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, combine the CMC powder with the confectioners’ sugar until well blended. Melt the white shortening in a sauce pan over low heat.  Add the corn syrup, glucose or Trimoline. Microwave the unflavored gelatin for about 14 seconds.  The melted shortening blended with the corn syrup should be a temperature of about 104 degrees F before adding the microwaved and melted gelatin.  Whisk this mixture well and pour into the mixer over the confectioners’ sugar.  Blend with the paddle for about 20 seconds and then add the egg whites.  Allow the mixer to run and incorporate the liquids into the confectioners’ sugar.  The mass will come together and look like a creamy thick royal icing.  Allow the machine to run for a full minute so that the confectioners’ sugar absorbs all the liquid. Turn out onto a clean board that is dusted liberally with confectioners’ sugar so that you can knead the gumpaste for a few minutes.  Double wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before conditioning with white shortening. Condition the gumpaste the next day with small amounts of white shortening, warming the gumpaste in your hands and softening it into a workable paste.  Double bag in ziplock storage bags and keep refrigerated.

This is a 10 year old learning to pipe buttercream roses with Italian meringue buttercream

Italian meringue buttercream is my preferred buttercream for icing cake with.  To color it, I add a small amount of Confectioner’s Sugar to it which allows the buttercream to accept food color gels.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

½ cup pasteurized egg whites

1 ¼ cups sugar divided ½ cup for the meringue and ¾ cups sugar for the hot syrup

¼ cups cold water

1 pound unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Italian meringue buttercream is made by whipping egg whites to a soft peak and then stabilizing them with granulated sugar.  Pouring a hot syrup into the stabilized egg whites and whipping the whole mass to cool before adding the softened unsalted butter.


Put the egg whites into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip and whip to the soft peak stage.   The mechanics of whipping egg whites is the development of air bubbles that are sitting one on top of the other.  As the whites whip the bubbles of air become tinier.  Soft peaks will show you small bubbles of air and when you pick up the whip, the peak will fall to one side.  Stiff peaks are when the whites raised on the whip will not fall at all.

When your egg whites are at the soft peak stage, gradually pour in ½ of a cup of granulated sugar reserving the remaining ¾ cups of granulated sugar for the hot syrup.

In a saucepan, bring the remaining ¾ cups sugar to a boil and allow it to reach a temperature of 240 degrees F.  Carefully pour the hot sugar into the whipped egg whites which will have tripled in volume. The whites will be very hot and must be allowed to continue to whip which will cool them and turn this mixture into a meringue.

When the whites are cooled, add the pound of unsalted butter and finally the teaspoon of vanilla.

To color the buttercream, you must add confectioners’ sugar which will allow gel colors to become vivid.  Never use liquid bottled color.  Always use gel colors with Italian meringue buttercream.

An 8 year old piping flowers with Italian meringue buttercream.

Mastering the techniques does not take long. It can be accomplished rather quickly.

When you first start to pipe buttercream flowers, it will feel awkward because you are using muscles in your hands and arms that you do not ordinarily use.  Part of the process in learning to pipe buttercream flowers is to build those muscles with repeated use and to create muscle memory.  Eye hand coordination is also developed in this process.  Remember to do a bit of piping over  a period of days for the quickest results.  You will actually be processing the piping techniques in your sleep and over time, your piping will improve.

It is always best to crumb coat the outside of the cake that is to be decorated.

Smooth layers of buttercream are best added a layer at a time. The first application of buttercream on a raw cake is called the crumb coat. Masking the cakes requires a couple of smooth coats of buttercream.

When I teach buttercream piping, I always start with the rose as that is a challenging flower for people to learn and master.  After accomplishing the rose, the remaining flowers are rather easy to learn to pipe.

It is helpful to know what kind of tips to use to pipe the various flowers.  It is always nice to have your tools and equipment perform a couple of functions.

Ateco has so kindly placed this beautiful photo of tips on the web and if you don’t know which tips to purchase, go to the Ateco website and study the kinds of tips you can use.

The flowers above are made with a curved tip #61 which will also make a beautiful cupped blossom.  Dots are made with round tips of various sizes from #1, #2, #3 on up to #12 which will make a beautiful pearl dot border.  Become familiar with the tips, their shapes and what they can do for you.  Experiment and practice each day until you feel comfortable holding a piping bag and applying the amount of pressure on the bag necessary to pipe beautiful flowers and leaves.

Vanilla Butter Cake

July 22, 2012

This is a larger amount of batter for those of you who have the good fortune to be able to work with a 20 quart mixer.

1 lb unsalted butter at room temperature

8 ounces vegetable oil

12 whole eggs

6 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 lbs plus 6 2/3 ounces cake flour

2 Tablespoons baking powder

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

4 1/2 cups milk

You will need a 20 quart mixer for this recipe.  If you have smaller mixers, reduce the batch by a half and bake a few cake pans at a time.  You can also bake the cake on sheet pans and cut the rounds with cake rings that look something like this:

Stainless Steel Rings Round 18 ga 12in dia x 3i

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 3 – 12″ cake pans, 3 – 9″ cake pans and 3 – 6″ cake pans with plenty of pan release and rounds of parchment paper.

Cream the butter, vegetable oil and sugar together until light and fluffy and I should tell you that this butter/oil/sugar mixture will be

very light and fluffy.  The oil will create a very nice soft crumb.

Add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and the salt.

Alternate the dry ingredients with the whole milk in three rounds, scraping the bowl well and blending until just smooth.  Do not over mix this batter or you will create tunnels.  Divide the batter between the cake pans so that there is about an inch of batter in each cake pan.  Try to find the perfect amount of batter for each cake pan that you like for the height of your cakes.  If you like tall cakes, you will need more batter in each cake pan if you like shorter cake tiers, use less batter per cake pan.  Jot down the weights of batter that you prefer for the kinds of cakes that you like to make.

Bake at 350 degrees f for approximately 25 minutes.  If the center springs back when touched then the cakes are well baked.  You can also test with a toothpick if you wish.  Whenever your fingers leave marks in the top of a baked cake, leave that cake in the oven for about 5 more minutes to finish baking.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for at least 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.  Invert the cake pans and place the cakes on their parchment rounds on the inverted pans to finish cooling before chilling thoroughly.  Cakes must be well chilled before filling.

Lemon Cake

July 20, 2012

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f.  Prepare 3 – 9 inch round cake pans with pan release and parchment rounds.

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature

4 eggs

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a paddle attachment.   Add the eggs and the yolks a few at a time and scrape down the sides of the bowl along with the paddle.  Add the lemon zest.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt together and alternate the dry ingredients with the buttermilk.

Divide into baking pans that are prepared with plenty of pan release and rounds of parchment.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched in the center.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before brushing with cooled lemon syrup..recipe follows.

Lemon Syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Because this syrup is thinned with a fair amount of lemon juice the ratio of sugar to water is 1:1.  Boil the water and sugar for 5 minutes and remove from the heat.  Cool and add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Brush the warm cakes with this lemon syrup and you will see that the cake will absorb the syrup evenly.

Now what do you envision would be the best possible filling for this lovely cake?  I imagine Lemon Cream with fresh blueberries or Blueberry Preserves under a Lemon Cream.  I can imagine a mascarpone cream filling with fresh strawberries or raspberries..hmm..

Classic White Cake

July 18, 2012

Nothing says wedding more than White Cake.  However, white cakes can be tricky if you are a person challenged by folding whipped egg whites into a cake batter which is the case with many a white cake recipe.  The best way to make white cake is to use the egg whites as if they were ordinary eggs and add them as you would a whole egg..just add the egg whites a little at a time.

Classic wedding cake with lovely blue ribbon border

Prepare 3 – 10″ cake pans with parchment rounds and plenty of pan release.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f.


6 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature

2 ounces vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 ounces egg whites

1 1/2 cups whole milk

3 1/3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

Cream the unsalted butter, vegetable oil and sugar together until they are very light and fluffy.  Add the egg whites a little at a time.  Add the vanilla extract.

Alternate the dry ingredients with the milk in thirds.  Do not over mix or tunneling may occur.  Divide evenly into your cake pans and bake for about 25 and test with a toothpick to make sure the cakes are baked through the center.  Remove from the oven and cool at least 15 to 20 minutes in the cake pans before removing from the cake pans.  Invert the pans and finish cooling the cake layers on top of the bottom of the pans before chilling them thoroughly in the refrigerator.

This cake is excellent filled with fresh Strawberry Mousse (see Fillings in categories), or Chocolate Mousse, or Bavarian Cream with fresh fruit.  I love it with Lemon Cream and fresh blueberries.  Use your imagination and begin to visualize good combinations of flavors and textures.

To make an orange cake, simply add a Tablespoon of grated orange rind and a teaspoon or two of Hero Orange Compound.

Pain d’Epice reminds me of Rosemary Manell who was my neighbor in Belvedere, California where I grew up.  Rosemary was my culinary mentor.  She had been the camera ready gal for Julia Child.  Whenever you saw those wonderful dishes coming out of the oven, they were prepared by Rosemary.  When Julia sat down at the end of the show to dig into the luscious offerings on the table, those offerings were made by Rosemary.  We enjoyed Rosemary very much and she collaborated with us on various toppings for Boboli in the pre-Boboli days.

Rosemary and me at Ratto’s in Oakland, California in 1979.

Rosemary loved making pizza and she loved making pasta.  She was an excellent cook in her own right.  Most of all, Rosemary was a generous culinarian who shared her knowledge with others and loved doing so.

Rosemary stretching pizza dough

When I began making Pain d’Epice, Rosemary told me that in France, Pain d’Epice was sold in tins and the older the Pain d’Epice the higher the price because this “quick” bread improves with age.  It is very important not to over mix the Pain d’Epice batter because honey works on rye if over beaten by toughening it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree and prepare two small loaf pans that would measure 7 1/2″ by 3 1/2 ” by using plenty of pan release.

Whisk to dissolve in a large bowl with 1 cup of hot water:

1 cup honey, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Whisk in:

1/4 cup good quality rum, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground anise seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

With a wooden spoon, stir in:

1 cup rye flour, 1 cup of white flour and stir until just combined.  Add one more cup of rye flour and a half of a cup of white flour and stir until just combined.


1 teaspoon grated orange rind, 2/3 cup chopped almonds and 1/2 cup chopped raisins or currants.  Stir until all in combined but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 50 minutes.  Test with at toothpick to make sure the loaves are baked through.  Cool and wrap in foil or a plastic bag and store for a few days before cutting into the loaves and serving.

Building a good cake studio is not difficult and it is advisable to purchase the right equipment.  Determine how many cakes you would like to make per week and calculate the through-put which will tell you the size of pieces of equipment necessary to accomplish your production goals.


The Deluxe Oven is designed as a gentle convection oven which means it has small fans that gently circulate the air throughout the oven.  The cakes do not list or get blown to one side as with ordinary convection ovens and they generally come out rather flat on top which reduces waste.

The Deluxe gentle convection oven can be stacked.

This oven has 4 decks and can bake an enormous amount of cake per shift.  The maximum number of wedding cakes produced in my studio during the height of the season was 10 between my friend Dan Mikosz of Decadence Custom Cakes and myself.

The refrigeration could hold at least 27 tiers of cake.  I had True refrigeration and a freezer which was very handy for the kind of production that was done in this studio.  We were able to produce as much cake as we did because the cakes were freezer friendly.

When you fill a chiffon cake with a mousse you can easily freeze that tier of cake as long as you don’t ice it until just prior to the event day.  Chiffon cakes are very freezer friendly and our production week started on Tuesdays with the event day being either a Friday or Saturday or Sunday.  I would not freeze cakes longer than a week or so unless you have huge production and a walk-in freezer with racks that I know as covered wagons.  Reach-in refrigeration is perfect for small production.

These are True T-49 large capacity is a refrigerator and one is a freezer. They serve a small studio very well.

Mixers are essential for any sort of well run cake studio.  The 20 quart Globe mixer could easily make over 10 pounds of buttercream at one mixing and the 40 quart could make over 20 pounds of buttercream at a single mixing not to mention enough cake batter to completely fill the oven.

This 20 quart mixer is an essential piece of equipment for any cake studio.

Here is a picture of the beloved 40 quart Hobart.

The 40 quart Hobart is actually a petite floor model and for small cake studios, this mixer is ideal.

So this is an overview of some of the pieces of equipment you will need if you wish to build a small cake studio.  Remember that certain pieces of equipment need to be on dedicated electrical outlets.  If you care for your equipment well it will serve you for years and years.

Works of Heart

May 27, 2012

Stirring a nice batch of dulce de leche

Here I am stirring a nice batch of dulce de leche

Dulce de Leche is not difficult to make.  I learned that if you combine milk and cream with sugar for the reduction, you get a much more spreadable caramel.

Dulce de Leche is a just that..a caramel that is made by reducing cream and milk with sugar.  Other caramels, those invented by Antoine Careme in the 19th century are made by cooking sugar and adding cream or a combination of milk and cream to them.  Try dulce de leche for a delightful change of pace.  I will post the rustic cake recipe that I use in making an untraditional Tres Leches Cake.

What you will need to make Dulce de Leche

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

9 ounces granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk the cream, mil and sugar together in a shallow saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow to cook at a slow simmer for about 1 1/2 hours…it will turn into a lovely brown caramel.  When the bubbles slow and are large, the dulce de leche is done.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Pour into a clean container and allow to cool to room temperature.  Make sure the container has a tight fitting lid.  Refrigerate.  The shelf life for dulce de leche is about two weeks.  It won’t last that long.

This filling is good spread thinly on cake layers as you build your cake.  A filling that is equally good flavored with dulce de leche is the Bavarian Cream or the French Vanilla Cream.  If you are using a French Vanilla Cream as a filling for wedding cake, please remember to stabilize it with gelatin.  (see recipe)

Blown Sugar

May 26, 2012

Blown Sugar Bubbles on a Small Cake

Blown sugar is stunningly beautiful and has many applications in artisan cake making.  I like to blow simple bubbles and attach them to food friendly bamboo skewers and placing the bubble directly onto the the cake as if it were a display of gumpaste flowers.

The bubbles shown in the photo above were made from Isomalt sugar which is the same sugar used in diatetic candies and should not be eaten in great quantities as it has a negative affect on the digestive system.

I cook the isomalt in a heavy bottom sauce pan to a temperature of 340 degrees which gives me a very hard end product.  To color the sugar, I use powdered colors and the many beautiful colors available in the form of luster dusts or petal dusts make it possible for the cake maker to obtain just about any color desired.  Make sure the dust is thoroughly blended with the dry isomalt before adding a tiny amount of water to the isomalt and begin the cooking process.

Isomalt is expensive and it is necessary for students of hot sugar to be able to practice using a less expensive option which is to cook granulated cane sugar and adding a bit of tartaric acid to the pot.

Here is a good formula for all of you interested in practicing the art of hot sugar:

Make a Tartaric Acid Solution by mixing 1/2 cup of hot water with 4 ounces of tartaric acid.  Keep the solution in a bottle that is tightly covered.

Place in a saucepan:

1 kg of granulated sugar

400 grams of cold water

Melt the sugar in the water over medium heat and then bring to a boil.

Add 200 grams of glucose and heat to 160 degrees Celcius..add 10 drops of tartaric acid to the cooked sugar and cook to 165 degrees C… remove from heat and allow the boiling to stop.

You can color the sugar while it is cooking.  To obtain shades of the same color, color the sugar lightly and pour onto silpat, then add a bit more of the same color and pour onto the silpat.  This will give you shades of the same color.

I like using hot sugar as a medium for making decorations for cakes as it hardens quickly and looks wonderful

Dan and Elizabeth

May 26, 2012

My good friend Dan Mikosz of Decadence Custom Cakes, worked in my studio for over 2 years.  In 2010, Elizabeth was born and she often came to the studio with Dan.  From the very beginning, she enjoyed watching the cake making processes.   Elizabeth was the most observant little baby.  She loved watching how everything was done.

Dan is a wonderful cake maker.  His cakes are delicious and beautiful.  We made very similar kinds of cake, vanilla chiffon for instance was a cake recipe that we both loved.  The formula found in my chef’s book, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg is the formula that we loved most.  The base formula is as follows:

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 whole eggs separated

1/2 cup cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste

7 ounces of cake flour

7 ounces of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powser

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare 3 8″ cake pans by spraying the bottom of the pan and lining it with an 8″ round of parchment paper.

Sift together the flour with 2 ounces of the granulated sugar, the baking powder and the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment, place the egg yolks, the cold water, the vegetable oil and the pure vanilla extract or Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste.  Mix on medium speed for about a minute.  Add the flour mixture to the yolks all at once and mix for an additional minute.  Scrape down the bowl and continue to whip for a few seconds until you are sure there are no flour lumps in this mixture.

In the bowl of another heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment, start whipping the egg whites which you will stabilize with the remainder of the granulated sugar which is 5 ounces.  Stabilize the whites after they reach the soft peak stage to assure the greatest volume.  Do not add the sugar too quickly to egg whites that you are stabilizing because the weight of the sugar can cause the whites to collapse.

Take both bowls off their mixers, and fold the whites into the yolk mixture really well.  Make sure there are no lumps of whites that are unincorporated.

The total weight of the batter will be approximately 28 ounces so pour 9 ounces of batter into each of the cake pans and bake for about 20 minutes or until just golden.

Cool in the cake pan and remove..the cakes should be completely chilled before filling.

Here is a picture of Dan with Elizabeth while he is decorating a tiny anniversary cake in the studio in 2010.

Elizabeth is two months old here and she is observing the cake making process. She always loved watching the cakes being made.