Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hibiscus and Birds of Paradise Cake

I decorated this cake for a tropically themed "castaway" party celebrating the removal of a kid's full-body cast.
I was pleased that the customer didn't ask me to write anything on the cake. The messages put on cakes seem more appropriate in a greeting card than on a dessert. I like the graphic simplicity of this cake. The flowers growing from the sides onto the top highlight the cake's nice shape rather than focusing only on the cake's flat top.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tiffany Blue

We were taught in school that blue is the least appetizing color because it is not a natural food color (even blueberries are really purple). However, I have found that a lot of people like their pastry to be Tiffany blue, probably because it is a color of glamour and status. I'd like for more of my cakes to take on the qualities of jewelry.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poodles and linzers

A 1950's inspired birthday cake.

Linzer cookies decorated with a little royal icing for Spring. The one in the center is filled with apricot preserve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pat the Bunny

Poppy seed, raspberry, and pear butter Hamentashen baked for my friends the Melnicks for Purim.

I like to make my own stationary when I write letters. I decided this time to incorporate some text in the drawing. I thought that a little graphic design practice might help my cake decorating. "Oma" is the German word for grandma.

A "Pat the Bunny" 1st birthday cake. It's hard to see in the photo that the sides of the cake are blue. The top of the cake is orange fondant and the bunny and flowers are gumpaste.

Another 1st birthday cake. You can see its only 4 inches next to the penny.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fred Anderson's 80th!

Last Sunday was a celebration/tribute concert at the Velvet Lounge in honor of Chicago jazz legend Fred Anderson's 80th birthday. My close friend, Dan Melnick, who works at the Jazz Institute of Chicago threw the party and asked me to make the cake. He said there was talk of a grocery store sheet cake and he wanted to treat Fred to something a little more special.

He gave me the image above to work off of, which is a photo of the much-loved wallpaper from the old location of the Velvet Lounge. The cake was about 14x18 inches, vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream (both with real Tahitian vanilla bean), and decorated with rolled fondant. Dan said the cake was a hit and that it may be featured in Down Beat magazine. Keep your fingers crossed!

Ninja Cake.

Easter Cookies.

We are holding an Easter cookie decorating class at le Flour on April 11th for kids 8-12. Each student will get white cookie canvases in the shapes of eggs, bunnies, flowers, and carrots (like the ones I've decorated above) and we will help them pipe, paint, and sprinkle to their heart's content. I am looking forward to the class because it's the first I'll teach professionally.

Although teaching has never interested me much, I like teaching art because you spend some time explaining and demonstrating, but most of the time is spent watching the students self-explore. The cookies are vanilla bean sugar cookies with royal icing. They don't hold their shape very well when baked, but they make up for that in delicacy and crumbliness.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Looney 'toons

The picture doesn't show much, but the cake is very small, slender, and tall, like a pillar candle. I like this shape for an individual cake so you may be seeing more.

This is Warehouse Mouse, a Muppet-like character from a Disney Channel show called "Imagination Movers." I don't know anything about the show, but he's a very cute puppet! I painted a gumpaste cutout with food coloring to make the mouse.

This is a letter with photos that we got from one of our customers. The characters are also gumpaste and painted food coloring. The cake is based on the invitations for the shower.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I call these "moon cookies." They are marbled vanilla and chocolate sweet dough, dipped in chocolate. On their sides they look like half moons, but this way they look like cloudy landscapes.

St. Patrick's Day sugar cookies.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sheet cakes, and more adventures in cake.

Working fast is important in the food industry because ingredients are very expensive and saving time is the only way to make money. But when I first became a pastry chef I found that quality standards were still very high and I asked my boss whether I should prioritize speed or perfection. His answer was a short, "both!" I was upset because I felt like I needed somewhere to begin, so I chose speed and did the best I could within those parameters. My new chieftain, Nicole, believes in quality first and I think her attitude is reflected in the delicacy and beauty of her pastry.
I revisit this dilemma every time I make a cake because so much time can get lost in decorating. Cake decorating is something that I'm really growing to enjoy and eventually want to perfect. But instead of making careful decisions or straightening every line, I find myself watching the clock and falling back on motifs I use again and again. I think my unchanging writing style is one of the biggest factors in making all the cakes look so similar. Hopefully under Nicole's influence though you will begin to see new attention and techniques in my work. I think ultimately it doesn't matter where you begin, practice will bring both speed and skill, but its nice to see beauty and experimentation along the way. Here are some of my latest "experiments."

The St. Patrick's Day Menu I designed:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More from le Flour

Nicole asked me to make some chocolates for Valentine's Day to put in boxes she had left over from her wedding. I love doing chocolates because tempering can be so challenging and the results are always gratifying. I tempered the chocolate using the seeding method in which you chop up chocolate pieces, put them in a bowl of melted chocolate, and stir like crazy. Because purchased chocolate is already tempered, the pieces pull the melted chocolate into temper and you are left with a bowl of tempered melted chocolate.
To save time we purchased pre-made chocolate shells. I filled them with a simple dark chocolate ganache, a peanut butter ganache, and a brandy caramel ganache and dipped the whole thing in chocolate. Pre-made shells can be too thick but in a pinch they are very usefull.

Cake for one manly dude.

This cake was two layers vanilla, two layers chocolate cake, banana slices, and whipped cream. The roses are gumpaste.

We made mini versions of all our tarts for a barmitzva: Blueberry with streusel, almond cream with peaches and chopped pistachio, chocolate ganache, and lemon cream with candied lemon zest. She ordered lots of miniature treats including brioches, petit fours, and croissants. The little pastries got me thinking about tea service. I've always loved petit fours and the Chinese equivelent, dim-sum. The small size makes them ornaments in themselves, unlike larger foods which need a smaller garnish like a tuile to make them beautiful. I think I might start throwing tea parties.

Gumpaste footballs piped with buttercream to decorate superbowl cupcakes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Marshmallows are basically a meringue made with hot sugar, whipped egg whites, and a lot of gelatin, and then dusted with cornstarch and powdered sugar. Originally they were made with marsh mallow (found in marshes) acting as the gelatin. The plant gave the marshmallows a natural purple tint, hence the French name "guimauve."
Marshmallows in America are a cheap, Jet-Puffed, sci-fi treat, but they can be so much more. The ancient Egyptians served them in their courts and offered them to the gods, and in France they are an abundant children's favorite in candy stores. You can make them in any color, flavor, and shape: butterscotch, rose, peppermint... Today I made vanilla flavored hearts and wrapped them up with homemade hot chocolate mix.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Cake Week at Work

Charlotte shaped muffins from le Flour. Lemon poppy seed, carrot, bran with apricot, and blueberry.

My buttercream palette.

6" cakes for a shared birthday.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

Butterflies and flowers.
This cake reminds me a lot of my doodles. It gives me hope that I could find a style to call my own.

Here is another cake I did this week for a French themed birthday. The balloon is supposed to be reminiscent of the 50's film, "Le Ballon Rouge." After I finished the cakes my coworker delicately reminded me that I shouldn't overlap any of my lines when writing in cursive. Something to work on for next time.
I also have been using the drop technique, where you hold your piping tip about an inch above your work so you can better control where your line falls. I think that technique is better for block print because it creates a bold line. I'm going to work on holding my tip at an angle when I write in cursive so I can create more variation in my line's thickness.

"Happy first birthday, Vivienne" in French.
I realized later that "bonne" was missing an "ne."