Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two repeats and one special first

I assume there are still one or two of you out there who still check my blog (Hi Mom!) despite the fact that there hasn't been an update since the NBA was actually a functioning entity. I wish I had a sassily worded excuse for my absence, but I will say that in the past few months I have graduated (wait, you knew that), visited SeaWorld on two different coasts in the same month, got engaged (yeeha!), planned almost my entire wedding (too soon?), started my very first real job as an SLP, got my house broken into, bought TWO very large televisions (see aforementioned break in to explain), joined (and dominated) a fantasy football league (what's up, Darren McFadden. Much love.), cried through Kim Kardashian's televised wedding (did I admit that out loud?), and ran my very first 5k. Somehow, I don't know how, I managed to make 4 cakes. In 6 months. Sorry.

Let's get this thing started. The first cake was for one my very favorite people ever. My dear friend Teressa's daughter, Amaya, had her first birthday this August. I was delighted to be able to be a part of the celebration and I was able to contribute by making a small cake for the birthday girl to mangle and 4 dozen cupcakes for everyone else to enjoy. Amaya happens to be mesmerized by all things Dora the Explorer, so what a perfect choice for the party! We forgot the camera, yet again, so these pictures are taken on a cell phone. Ignore the quality.

I think maybe the colors were too subtle.

Here she is! 15 minutes before a sugar coma?
The next cake that I made you guys are all already familiar with. (Possibly.) Hot on the heels of last years blue ribbon at the state fair, I had to give it another go. The timing, however, was not fantastic. The weekend that the cake was due I had approximately 6,389 others things I had to do. Fine, I'm exaggerating, it was more like 5,389. Whatever. I simply did not have the time to put into it that I wanted and I was NOT happy with the results. I had intended to throw it away and swallow the lofty $1 entry fee that I had already paid, but Kevin would have none of it. He marched right down there with the cake and did not tell me what happened with it until much later. Poor guy, I can't imagine the panic when that thing started to fall over.
To my surprise, I actually won! I was excited, but here's the thing that bugs me: I lost Best In Show to a non-edible cake. For the second year in a row. Is that pure crap to anyone else? How is a non-edible cake even anywhere as difficult as a fully edible cake. Cause you can eat (though I wouldn't recommend it) EVERY part of my cake. I can make a mermaid fantasy land out of a bunch of crap from Michaels that you can't even eat too, but it doesn't mean I'm good at making cakes. (I'm looking at you, Best In Show Winner). Ok, off my soap box. Here's the cake.

I love the kitty!

See the pumpkins?

Remember a millions years ago when I made that zebra cake for that 16 year old girl with way more friends than I have people to invite to my wedding? Well, the office manager at my new job caught a glimpse of it and asked me to recreate it again for her daughter's birthday, only turquoise. I was excited for the chance to try again, I never liked the way the zebra stripes came out. (By the way, the day I made this cake I got up at 5 am and ran a 5k. Uphill. Both ways. Ok fine, uphill one way. But still.) The zebra stripes came out way better this time and (don't take away my Hello Kitty waffle iron for saying this) it's way cuter in turquoise than in pink.

This cake, as well as the Dora cake and the one coming up are buttercream instead of fondant. I'm doing more buttercream these days, cause, well, fondant is gross.

This last cake was for my friend Jenn to take to her friend's baby shower. The theme was "baby jungle" so we just went from there. She helped a lot, mostly by standing next to me and telling me what to do, but she made one killer banana. Oh, and Kevin was at the bar when I attempted to take my own pictures using his fancy schmancy camera. Note the artsy focus! Totally intentional.

I love the little lion!

Here's that banana. I placed it innocently in the monkey's hand. Let's just say that when Jenn did it, it was in a place much less appropriate for a baby shower.

So friends, I hope it was worth the wait. I don't do a lot of baking in the summer, mostly because the temperature in my house does not get below 3rd circle of hell. I've got two more cakes coming up this November and hopefully some holiday baking, but no guarentees. I mean, another Kardashian might get married and I just simply won't have the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It Ain't Reigning, It's Pouring

There's a Cake Storm In Phoenix...

By Guest Blogger Kevin Crowley

A storm came through Phoenix last Friday night. Laura was reigning all over everyone. She was going to be too modest, so I, your not so humble guest blogger, had to step in and take control. Laura entered another cake in the Arizona State Fair this year. For those who are new to this (seriously, where have you been?), you can check last year's post to see her blue ribbon winning sushi boat cake. This year it was a house in the woods. Unfortunately, Laura had a tough time with this one. She was dealing with nine other things last weekend when she had to make this cake. After finishing the cake, she was quite unhappy. She threatened to not enter the cake at all. As the supportive fiance that I am, I told her it was a wonderful cake that would destroy all competitors. She didn't believe me, but we arranged for me to drop the cake at the fair because she was working. The cake made it to the car just fine. As I drove off, the top layer started to slide. As I freaked out for the rest of the two-mile ride, more and more pieces started to fall from the cake. More and more stones off the house fell. Then, with a mighty bump in the road, a window shattered. This was way worse than the D.C. quake of '11. I pieced it all back together the best I could and hoped against hope that no one would notice the mismatched vines...

The day of the fair, Laura was less than enthusiastic. I knew it was a winner despite the quake it had been through. We arrived at the judging area, and...

It was another blue ribbon winner. In fact, it was "this close" to receiving a rosetta for best in show, according the cake lady working the area. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your two-time defending champion, the 2011 blue ribbon winner for the Arizona State Fair, Ms. Laura Conant!

She's pretty great, huh?

P.S. More real photos of this cake and others to follow shortly...

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Hello friends! What a busy few weeks this has been! I am proud to report that no one figured out that I'm a huge fraud and they actually let me graduate. Joke's on you, ASU! In actuality, however, I spent the last 3 years busting my butt in school and I am now officially a master. I'd appreciate if you would refer to me only as "Laura, speech-language pathologist" or the simple and elegant "Master" from now on. The past month or so has been a whirlwind, but I managed to eke out a few cakes for your viewing pleasure.

Before I begin with the first cake, I must share with you just how amazing my friend Jen is. As an early graduation gift she purchased me the truly fantastic Cricut Cake. Now, for those of you who are not Mormon or not scrapbookers, you may not be aware of this incredible machine. The original Cricut is a brilliant device that will cut pretty much anything you tell it out of gorgeous paper with which to festoon your photo albums, rumpus rooms, prison cells or anywhere else that is lacking paisley owls. The brilliant manufacturers over at ProvoCraft decided to take this concept and apply it to cake decorating. That's right sports fans, I currently own a machine that will cut out pretty much anything I want out of sheets of frosting. Again, it's called the Cricut Cake. I'll wait while you google it...I have been coveting this machine pretty much since I started dabbling in cake decorating and cannot even express how excited I am to own it. Thanks, Jen!!

I got the chance to use it this past month on my first big time wedding cake. My darling friend Katie was a bridesmaid in a wedding and passed my name along to the bride since she, just like Lindsay, was smart enough to buy sheet cakes and have an amateur like me make a small one to cut into. She send me a few ideas and the colors of the wedding (navy blue and bright yellow, adorable) and I put something together for her. Before I get to the pictures, I have to tell you that I have never had more problems with a cake than I had with this one. I think it's because I was completely stressed out that I was making a real wedding cake for a person I couldn't pick out of a lineup. The cakes immediately crumbled as I started to cover them, making the fondant all bumpy and gross. That wasn't the real problem, however. I knew I could cover that with flowers. The real problem came in my execution of the designs for the middle tier. Equipped with my new Cricut Cake, I set to work making the gorgeous filigree designs. Now, for those of you who don't know this, I am sad to report that I am the owner of rather large man hands, complete with stubby fingers. While these are excellent for opening pickle jars and palming basketballs, they make work with delicate, intricate pieces of frosting quite difficult. I had to make about 9 of them to have 4 that were passable. I may have cried. Twice. In the end however, I think it was beautiful.

Now, as I may have mentioned, I graduated this past weekend. My endlessly generous Grandmother throw me a party and my endlessly wonderful Mother was in town to make it all come together. I will be including pictures of the whole party, not just the desserts, because I think it's so adorable that I can't bear the thought that my East Coast friends and family couldn't experience it.

I made three kinds of cupcakes: red velvet, chocolate espresso, and strawberry sundae. The sundae cupcakes are strawberry cake, chocolate ganache, vanilla buttercream, and a cherry gumball.

I served Arnold Palmers in mason jars with paper straws. I know. So cute you want to die a little.

Somehow there didn't end up being pictures, but my mom and I made huge, gorgeous pink poms that hung over the dessert table. They took about 7 hours longer than was actually worth it.

After everyone had left and I managed to crawl out of bed yesterday, I set to work making a birthday cake for one of my favorite little girls, Emmy. She's the daughter of our friends Jesse and Jen (yes the same Jen who bought me the greatest invention since the wheel) and she turns three next week (on the same day that Kevin turns 31). She's a huge Minnie Mouse fan and Jen asked me to make her a Minnie cake. How could I say no, right? We decided fondant would be wasted on a group of preschoolers to I covered it in buttercream and saved the fondant for the decorations.

The Minnie head is made of half of a styrofoam ball and I used my Cricut to make the little Mickey silhouettes.

The birthday girl, already covered in frosting, blowing out the candles. Isn't she gorgeous? Women pay good money to get their hair to look like that.

P.S. Yay me!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Um, hey, remember me?

Well, well, well...where have I been? On vacation? I should be so lucky. Taking a 4 month long nap? I wish. Also I think that's called hibernating. The actual excuse is that Kevin got a fancy new camera for Christmas and we wanted to wait until we had a fancy new computer to install it. So that's all. We were being snobby yuppies.

My hiatus from blogging does not mean that I have taking a hiatus from baking. Oh no, my friends, I have a few creations for you to take a peek at. Well only 5. But hey, I'm a grad student (for 3 more weeks!), so give me a break.

Let's jump right in, shall we. My first cake has a long series of complaints that goes along with it, so bear with me. I made this cake for Christmas day to take to Kevin's family friend, Marie's, house. Was it necessary? No. Did I sacrifice sleep for it? Why yes I did.

Let's begin at the beginning. This year I had the privilege of cooking and hosting Christmas Eve dinner for Kevin's family. I was delighted and also stressed beyond belief. I mean, Christmas Eve dinner is not to be taken lightly and I didn't even own napkin rings! After much recipe searching and many conversations that went like this:

Laura: "I could make ham. Should I make a ham?"
Kevin: "I have no idea. Ask my mother."

Laura: "Do you think I should try a duck? Do people like duck? Do I like duck?"
Kevin: "I have no idea. Ask my mother."

I decided on citrus glazed roast chicken, stuffed artichokes, and all other sides brought by family. That's not a cop out. Anyway, the point of all this is that I got up at 6 am on Christmas Eve morning, panicked and cooked and panicked all day and in the middle of it all, baked a cake. Then, late that night, after we managed to get all the drunk parents and aunts into cars (yes, with designated drivers, stop worrying), I started to decorate. I made it to bed around 2.

The next morning, which was Christmas in case you've lost track, I woke up at 7 to see that the gorgeous bow that I have created had never dried and was now a limp pile of fondant on my counter. Now, for those of you not familiar, fondant dries very, often annoyingly, fast. This should not have happened. So after returning from present opening and cinnamon roll eating and before heading off to Marie's, I made another one. And froze it. It was deflating by the time we got to her house. So we took some quick pictures and then I hit it behind a poinsettia.

Here are the few pictures we managed to snap before it headed completely south. I apologize for the quality, we forgot the camera and took the pictures with Kevin's cell phone. I know.

This next cake was my very first wedding cake! Now before you knock the chair over in shock and excitement, it's a very simple cake. My friend Lindsay was married this past December and I was honored that she asked me to make a cake for the celebration. She was incredibly smart (mental note) and decided to buy sheet cakes instead of wasting money on a giant cake that tastes only ok. She asked me to make something small and simple for them to cut. We decided on ivory with sugar pearls and a blue ribbon accent. Originally we had discussed adding fresh flowers to the top, but a few days before the wedding she found the cake topper from her grandmother's wedding and it was perfect. Take a look!

I couldn't be prouder.

Next up? Two baby shower cakes. The first is for the friend of my dear friend, Jenn. She passed my number along and when I spoke with the woman throwing the shower, I had a moment of distress. The nursery and shower are Winnie the Pooh themed. And I told her that I could make a Winnie the Pooh. Why did I think I can make a Winnie the Pooh? The only explanation I have is I experienced some kind of out of body experience.

For weeks I thought about the Pooh. (That's a gross sentence when I said it out loud). Jenn offered to come over the day before the shower and help me tackle this bear. I bought a small Winnie the Pooh cake topper so I could have a three dimensional image to copy and went at it. I have to say, in the end, I'm pretty proud of the result. It's not quite right, I'll give you that. It's more like a knock off of Winnie the Pooh that you might buy in ChinaTown. Winkie the Pooh. Winnie the Booh. You get the idea. I'm just glad not to have the bear haunting my dreams anymore. I can use the rest.

I made this cake for our friends Mike and Stephanie to celebrate their new little man. When I asked if she had any theme preferences she sent me to babybedding.com to take a look at their registry. (By the way, mothers to be, cutest. baby bedding. ever). Here's a picture of what the crib bedding looks like:
So cute you want to die, right? So took the blue owl (the easy one) and tried to replicate it for the cake. I think it's pretty adorable. This was also the first cake that had to travel out of the county and it was a pretty stressful drive to Tucson. Especially when Kevin suddenly veered to the right and the cake fell over. Good thing I was holding it or we might not be together anymore. (Kidding. Love you Kev!)

(Isn't she adorable?!)

Ok, finally we've made it to my final cake. This one is (gasp!) fondant free and I made it for my internship supervisor for her birthday. (Call me a suck up, I dare you.) It's my favorite red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting recipe and I wanted to try this technique that I found online for covering the cake with large frosting roses. I think it's gorgeous. Do I get an A?

Ok friends, that's all she (I) wrote. Sorry for the long delay, but I promise now that we are all set with overly expensive technology, you'll see new posts more often. I have 4 cakes to make in the next month so look for a post after graduation (May 13th!!!).