Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chevron Seven Locked

It was LDS's birthday last week. Her partner, who I will call Bonnie, decided to throw a surprise party for her. I had two important tasks: 1 - keep LDS occupied on Saturday morning while Bonnie decorates and cooks and 2 - make the cake.

The first task was easy. LDS and I have been trying to plan a big Guild Wars gaming day for a couple months. We would make plans and cancel them for various reasons. Bonnie and I told her it was going to be Saturday and she was not allowed to back out. Easy.

Since we were talking about the Stargate cake, as seen on this post at CakeWrecks I decided it would be the perfect time to make the Stargate cake.

I decided to make a fondant topper so that I could have the gate part made days in advance and didn't ruin the whole cake if my sculpting skills proved to be inadequate. I just used Wilton's ready-made fondant, because it's easier. Few people actually eat the fondant anyway. I cut a paper template measuring with the bottom of my cake pan, rolled out some white fondant, and cut a circle.

Next I used black gel coloring to get a gray color out of a ball of fondant and rolled and shaped and rolled to get the outer ring. I placed that a little inside the edges of my white base and textured it with a shell tool.

Carving Glyphs

I used black and blue gel coloring to get a bluish gray for the glyph ring. I mapped out and carved 39 mostly equal little squares for the glyphs and used an image from the Wikipedia page for reference to carve the glyphs. I then added another ring of the first gray color and added some texture.

Finished Gate

The chevrons were made with the same bluish gray and then the whole thing was dusted with silver pearl dust to make it look more metallic. Then the whole thing went in a Ziploc bag and waited. I want the cake to be as fresh as possible and not sit forever holding the heavy fondant top.

Dirty Iced Cake

I made the cake on Thursday. It was a simple box chocolate mix, no bells and whistles there. I then layered and iced my cake with a white buttercream. You can see some crumbs in there. I was sure my choice of color would cover them up, so I wasn't worried about that.

Spray Color Fail

I wanted to use a silver/gray spray Duff brand icing color. I got about five seconds of spray, maybe 1/4 of the side of my cake, before the crappy product gave up the ghost. PANIC!! I was counting on this silver color, and it was exactly the silver color I wanted! It was 2130! There was no Micheal's that I could get to (assuming they close at 2200, and it may be earlier) for more spray! Bonnie was picking up the cake Friday morning! It HAD to be done! I hit the Internet to see if anyone had any tips for unclogging this particular brand of spray color, as I tried hot water and pins and everything I could think of and nothing worked. I found a cake decorating forum where a whole bunch of people indicated that the silver color in particular consistently didn't work. Someone even mentioned that the company knew it was a faulty product and would hopefully fix it with the next production run. Pull your bad product off the shelves, morons! I want to like Duff brand, I really do, but creating a cake crisis like this has me telling everyone not to waste their time (and possibly cost their business) with any of it. You hear that, Duff brand? I'm telling people not to buy your crap! You left me in a hellova pinch and I will never give you another opportunity to do it again. I may not be a professional, but someone ordered this cake from me and expected it done. You fail. And yes, I returned that can to the store on Friday.

It Looks Like Snot

I had bought two cans of Wilton's decorator icing to use for this project and another one. I was almost certain I didn't have enough icing to cover my cake, when I was counting on that spray. I had to try, though, because there was no alternative. I added some black gel color and mixed it up. It looked just like snot.

Iced Cake

It turned into almost the exact shade of gray that I used for part of the gate! And there was exactly enough to cover the cake! Wilton's to the rescue!

Painting the Event Horizon

While the icing was resting and stiffening up, I worked on the event horizon on the gate. Using blue gel color and a bit of vodka, I painted blue on the white fondant field inside the Stargate ring and left the very center white.

Painted Event Horizon

If you watch the show or look at pictures, you can see the pool of the wormhole has this gradual color effect going on. I wasn’t sure about painting the blue detail at first, having never worked with piping gel that would be the pool of the wormhole. But, I figured if it didn't work, the piping gel might cover it.

Topper in Place

The next step was to put my topper on top. It fit perfectly, and I had enough icing to cover the edges of the white fondant base.

Gel Event Horizon

It's time for the final details! I mixed a bit of blue with the clear piping gel and slathered that in the middle of the gate, poking with a ball tool for texture. The painted color underneath created just the effect I was going for. I then mixed up some red piping gel and used that to color the lights on the chevrons and used the rest of that as a boarder on the bottom.

The Completed Stargate Cake

Ta-da! My completed Stargate cake! Everyone said it was amazing and delicious. It hope so, I worked hard on that thing! Constructing the Stargate alone took about three hours (mostly from carving all those glyphs). And the cake color problem added a couple hours of headache that I didn't need. LDS ended up cutting it because I couldn't bring myself to do it. All that work, and then they ate it! But at least I know it was appreciated and enjoyed.

And LDS had no clue Bonnie and I had been planning her surprise party for a month. Jack and I even managed to beat her there so we could warn everyone her arrival was imminent. It was a great party!

Happy Birthday, LDS!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I donated blood today.

When was the last time you donated?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Just Noticed

Remember this post where I told you about the outfit I made for the VA Renaissance Faire? I mentioned the shoes that I made that were not pictured. I actually made two pairs of shoes, one in blue polyester and a later pair in black wool. I'm wearing the first pair of shoes in this picture as seen on the post about my house party.

They're a Mary Jane style, fully lined in unbleached muslin with a foam insole. The sole is a soft, rubbery material a lot like a slipper. The pattern and sole material came from Shoeology on Etsy. Walking in them feels a lot like my Vibram FiveFingers- where you feel everything you step on but there is still some cushion going on.

Making my own shoes makes me a cordwainer! I want to make another pair in patchwork leather. I've had a few friends tell me that want to order a pair of my homemade shoes. Nifty!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Not Just Like Clay

About a year ago, I got this crazy idea in my head that I could make beautiful cakes. I enjoy baking immensely, even more so now that I have my own kitchen to explode in. My first attempt was the house cake I made last year for my house warming party. The cake was a mold and the icing was crumby but it was cute. I then made a cake completely covered in inedible fondant and decorated with fondant cut-out leaves. That actually turned out very well as my first attempt at smoothing a cake with fondant. My elaborate baking dreams have mostly been a vague inclination since.

That being said, the cake I made for my 1-year house party turned out really good. The icing wasn't as crumby, and even though I ran out of the color I wanted to use for the roof, I had enough of a complimentary color to finish it off. This house was quite a bit more elaborate than the last one (with shingles instead of flat icing for the roof, and yellow gel in the windows instead of just colored icing). Jack said it was impressive.

While browsing through Cake Wrecks one day, I came across a cake that was made to look like a Stargate! It was awesome! LDS and I have dreams of making that cake some day. We're going to have a Stargate party. I already know what I need: fondant for the gate, piping gel for the event horizon, and something to make it look like metal. Maybe pearl dust will do. I'll have to come back to the Stargate cake later.

A new idea hit me yesterday. I recently learned of a decorating compound called gum paste (yes, I was mostly "how the heck do they do that?!" when it came to cake decorations). One of my Etsy friends (she has the MOST AWESOME blog in the world. Seriously, her recipes are unbelievable) wrote about the birthday cake she made for her mother that was decorated with gum paste butterflies. I need to make these butterflies! But I also needed to learn about gum paste, having only worked with fondant for my cake sculpting before (and lots of people really don't like fondant, even if it's made to taste good).

Most of my research said that shaping gum paste is a lot like shaping clay. I've worked a lot with clay in the past, and I can say that gum paste is nothing like clay! But that's not going to stop me.

So, I won't tell you what this idea is for just yet, but here's a little gum paste sand castle to get you thinking! The dusty "sand" is brown sugar, and I plan to apply more when the thing actually gets on a cake (and it will, you'll see!).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is a Renaissance Faire

I worked four Sundays at the Virginia Renaissance Faire this year. It was a lot of fun, and the lovely lady I worked with wants me to join the cast and be full-time next year. I did really enjoy it, but I'll have to think about it. It is a long way to go, though dad and I can drive together on Sundays.

VARF tends to be more historical than the MD faire, making most of what I have not really workable for this faire. It's also a few decades later than MD, and fashion does tend to change with the monarch. I dove into costume research (ah, heaven!), learning about styles and colors, and made a costume suitable for a peasant working in the militia outdoor kitchen, and that won't kill me in the VA May heat.

I did ask someone to take a picture of me in the full outfit, but I guess it didn't work, because it's not on my camera. So, you'll have to settle for these dressform pics.

The little white thing at the top is my caul or muffin cap. It is related to the snood, but counts as a hat in its own right, where a proper woman would don a hat over her snood when going out. I could or could not wear a hat over the caul, but it otherwise sits about where a snood would sit.

The bottom layer is the shift. A working woman would have two, one to wear while the other is being washed. I had to adjust mine a little. I found an historical pattern, but it made the sleeves too tight and I couldn't roll them up to my elbows, which is where I would want them when working about the fire. I had to rip the seams out and add some ties so I could wear them rolled up or all the way down as weather and what I was doing demanded.

I typically would wear a corset over the shift (if the corset was not built into the outer garment), but I forwent that because of the heat and wore a modern girdle underneath it all.

This style of overdress is called a kirtle. It can be boned or not boned, laced in front or in back, open to the floor or sewn up partially or all the way to the neckline. The kirtle typically had sleeves that you could tie on which were impractical in the heat and not a requirement, so I omitted them altogether. My kirtle laces in the back with fabric loops, which look nicer than grommets (that can rust and tear fabric when they fall out) in my opinion. One could also use hook and eye closures.

I dyed it blue because blue was an easy dye to come by. At first, woad was used, but the spice trade made indigo dye cakes readily available and cheap because they were so easy to transport. Everyone could get their hands on indigo dye, and it made a deeper, more permanent blue than the native woad. My dress faded nicely in the sun.

I made the apron and shoes (not pictured) out of wool, so they would not burn if I got too close to the fire. Also not pictured is my partlet. This little article of clothing covers the neck, chest, and back area that is not covered by the dress or shift. It is worn for warmth and sun protection. I didn't make it right away because it's not a required piece of clothing, but I got a nasty sun burn that first day and instantly learned the value of the partlet!

Maybe I'll throw the ensemble back on when I have some company and try to get a full shot for you!

I’ve been asked to increase my station a bit for next year. That’s really not possible. There were not a whole lot of class divisions in Elizabethan times. You were either nobility or you were a peasant – and peasants far outnumbered nobility. Even land owners and artisans were peasants. They were wealthy peasants, but peasants nonetheless. I think I will use the same kirtle design, but bolder colors and add some trim. Probably red, green, maybe another blue. The wealthy could afford deeper dyes, and afford to re-dye things to keep their richer colors, so that would step up my outfit a bit. I’ll have to think about it!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

House Party

Of course that's not my house! That's my house cake!

I bought the house-shaped pan last year because I knew I would make a cake for my house warming party. It's been a year and the house is warm. I had to throw a house party anyway.

It's the 'I survived a year of mortgage payments' party! Yay! See how the lights are on in the windows? Ah, my cute little house! My first full day in this house was a year ago today.

I had a small, intimate party with lots of food, a walk to the lake, and a small game of croquet.

This is me in my party dress. That crazy cute apron came from Dot's Diner on Etsy. I can't throw a party without a good hostess party dress, can I?

Raise your glass with me to another year!

Friday, June 03, 2011

It Happened Last Year

I signed my life away a year ago today.

My kitchen smells like focaccia. Phantom is sleeping on the cat tree in front of the window. Miss Luna is snoozing on a cool dining chair.

This is the home I made for myself. All on my own.

It is a beautiful day.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I'm Losing It

I was sitting here thinking that I'm hungry and need to eat something. I reached into my bag thinking I will eat my string cheese and save breakfast for a little later. Instead of string cheese, though, my banana presented itself. And I said "Ah, banana!"

I'm glad few people are here this early in the morning to hear me talk to my fruit!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Rake Your Mulch

I have a public service announcement from my Weight Watchers leader!

On Sunday afternoon, she was watching a movie with her husband while the kids were taking a nap. She detected the faint smell of smoke and figured someone lit an outdoor fire pit (it being Memorial Day weekend, that's not unheard of). Some time later, a neighbor was banging frantically on their door. When they opened the door, smoke billowed in and set off the smoke alarms. Almost half of the front porch was ablaze.

The neighbor had already called the fire department who showed up just as everyone got out of the house. They put the fire out and told her the cause: the mulch lining the front porch had spontaneously combusted. The fire department said it's more common than people think and most people don't know it can happen. It tends to happen in the summer, and whole houses have been known to burn down while people are away on vacations.

Mulch is plant material that, we all should know, is combustible. As it decays, it releases heat. When mixed with oxygen, it can cause flame, igniting all the burnable material, producing more heat, consuming more oxygen, spreading more flame. It usually starts inside the pile of mulch, where it's really warm. The fire department recommended raking your mulch at least twice a season to release that heat so it doesn't build up to the point where it will combust. My leader said she's going to do it every time they mow the lawn. Mulch that is new and has been sitting in large piles for a while is of greater risk, as is mulch that is really old and at an advanced stage of decay.

Fortunately, they only lost the front porch which the landlord was going to try to replace anyway.

So, go out and rake your mulch!