Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Protect your lesson plans!

Often times when we are practicing at home we want to pull out our books and have them out to guide us.  The only problem with that is that cake decoration can get messy and before you know it you may find you have all kinds of grease marks on your pages.

There is a fix for that.  Invest in some page protectors and a notebook.  Cut the book down the spine and place your pages in the plastic page protectors.  Now your pages will stay grease free and can easily be wiped off if you get something on them.

You can also add in some tabs or dividers and include any hand outs you get in class, recipes you collect or ideas you print off from the internet in your binder for safe keeping.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Buy 2 Get 1 Free, plus more!

During the week of 11/6 – 11/12 Michaels will have a special offer in stores – Buy any 2 Wilton classes at the regular price and get 1 free!  This promotion includes both 4-week courses and project classes at their regular price*, and you can mix and match them with friends.  One person can use all 3 classes, or 3 different people can sign up together. If you want to register for a class that is not yet open for registration or is already full, you can return to register at a later date.  The store will have more information on how you do that. 

*The regular price for the 4 week courses is $45. 

Normally our 4 week courses are 40% of 50% off.  From November though January we also have a special $10 off bounce back coupon.  So if you take any 4 week course in November, December, or January you will receive a $10 bounce back coupon to use on another 4 week course the following month.

I do have several project classes scheduled for November and December, with another in the plan for Jan.  If you are interested in any of these classes the Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal would be a great time to sign up.

As of November 1st, Michaels has changed their class minimum to only 2 students.  I now must have only two students signed and paid to teach a class, including project classes!

Please register for the courses/classes at least 48 hours before they are scheduled to start.
November 2011
Monthly Promotion:  50% off or $22.50 on the 4 week courses

Decorating Basics – Mondays - Starts Nov 7th
Flowers & Cake Design – Tuesdays - Starts Nov 8th
Gum Paste & Fondant – Wednesdays - Starts Nov 9th

Project Class:  Fun Fondant Cupcakes!  For Kids ages 8-12!
Saturday, November 12th
Cost:  $15

Saturday, November 12th – Wilton Demo from

Project Class:  Tall Cakes with Turkeys!
Saturday, November 12th
Cost:  $20


December 2011
Monthly Promotion:  50% off or $22.50 on the 4 week courses

Decorating Basics  Tuesday/Saturdays
Lesson 1:  Tuesday, Dec 6th
Lesson 2:  Saturday, Dec 10th
Lesson 3:  Tuesday, Dec 13th
Lesson 4:  Saturday, Dec 17th

Gum Paste & Fondant
Monday/Wednesdays
Lesson 1:  Monday, Dec 5th
Lesson 2:  Wednesday, Dec 7th
Lesson 3:  Monday, Dec 12th
Lesson 4:  Wednesday, Dec 14th

Project Class:  Christmas Cupcakes! 
Thursday, December 8th
Cost:  $15

These are just a sample of a few things we will do.

Project Class:  Wilton Candy Making
Saturday, December 10th
Cost:  $15

These are just a sample of a few things I will show you how to do.


I do not have a date for it yet, but in January I do plan on scheduling a Wilton POPS! class with a Winter theme.  

Check out the Current Class Schedule for the dates of classes all the way through March 2012!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I haven't forgotten...

Where did the month of October go?  Some how this month became very busy for me on a personal level.  I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I just have not had a chance to sit down and do some of the things I want to.  After this weekend I will be carving out some time to start working on the posts I have in mind, and I'll get back to posting.

I will be extending the October Let’s Play Cake Theme through the month of November.  I do hope you share pictures of anything new you have tried with cakes either in October or that you have coming up in November.

Did anyone do any Halloween Treats?  If so, feel free to share them on the Your Sugar Connection facebook page.

Happy Caking Everyone!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Texas Cottage Food Law

Did you know that before September 1, 2011 it was actually illegal to bake a cake in your home and sell it to someone, even someone you knew?

Texas bakers are very fortunate that we are now allowed to sell out baked goods with out having to build/buy a bakery or rent a kitchen.  This will allow hobby bakers that would like to make their family some extra money to do so, legally.

Even if you have heard of the Texas Cottage Food Law, visit http://www.texascottagefoodlaw.com/TheLaw.aspx and read over the law as well as the other great information they have on the website. 

Be sure to check out the FAQ section to give you more detailed information if you don’t quite understand the wording of the law.

Please make yourself familiar with the law, what is required of you, and what you can and can not legally do.  Remember just because we can now bake out of our kitchen doesn’t mean there are not any rules to follow.

You can also ‘like’ the Texas Baker's Bill on facebook. 

I can not and will not answer any legal questions or give legal advice when it comes to this law.  If you have any questions, a great starter place to ask is on the Texas Bakers Bill Facebook page or on the discussion forums on the TexasCottageFoodLaw.com. 

I just wanted to share the information about this new law with everyone.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tip 233

In Decorating Basics Lesson 3 we use the tip 233 to make our shaggy mum.  You may have also noticed I used it when I made my silly monsters.

Have you wondered what else this tip can do?  It makes great grass and fur!

Aren’t these two bears cute?
(This picture was borrowed from Wilton.com)

You can start with a plain grass covered cupcake and you can add many things on top of it, such as flowers, Easter eggs, or even Halloween candies.

(This picture was borrowed from Wilton.com)

Isn’t this sweet idea with the pastel colors?  Now instead of grass we have pretty grass for an Easter Basket look.

(This picture was borrowed from Wilton.com)

You could also use it as a straw or hay effect on a fall themed cake or even a hula grass skirt for a doll cake.

I came across this idea on Wilton, and thought it was also a neat idea for using this tip with a stencil for a different look.

(This picture was borrowed from Wilton.com)

If you liked and want to try any of these ideas, be sure to click on the links above and they will take you to Wilton's website and the directions for them.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Let's Play Cake! - October 2011


As you can see this month's theme is Try Something New!

This theme is pretty self explanatory, basically you get free reign to cross something off that “I want to try this” list that we all have laying around.  It can be a new recipe, a new icing or a new flavor combination.  Maybe you want to try a new border or technique you read about.  Do you have a new ‘tool’ you haven’t gotten to play with yet?  Now is your chance!

My only caution for you is that you should never try too many new things on one cake.  So if you plan to try a new icing or filling, stick with the cake recipe you feel comfortable with.  If you plan to try a decorating technique, start with the icing you use all the time and know how it should behave.

Post pictures on facebook in the album titled, “LPC” – Oct. 2011.  Or Email any pictures to me at TracyCakesTX at gmail dot com.  Please include a description of what you did.

All pictures received by the last day of October will be shared in a blog post the first week of November.

I ask that anything you submit to me or to the photo album be a new creation.  While we all love a chance to show off past work the idea behind this is to push us to sit down and do something new or just for ourselves.

Let's Play Cake! - September 2011 Recap


In September’s Let’s Play cake, I challenged everyone to pick at least two techniques from any of the three Wilton Courses, practice them, and share pictures.

I’m a bit sad that not one person took me up on this challenge, but I do know that life can be busy.  I will be posting a new theme for October, maybe it will be more inspiring for everyone.

I did get in some practice this month myself while I was making displays for the store.  I don’t often make time to just sit down to make flowers, and now that I have a bunch of leftovers I have some ready to go decorations I can put on a cake or cupcakes for a quick project.

First we have the display cake that I made.  It is covered in Wilton’s new pre colored green fondant.  I used royal icing for the ribbon roses, leaves, dots and drop flowers.


Using royal icing again, I also went through almost all of the techniques we cover in the Decorating Basic’s Class, as well as the flowers and basket weave we do in Flowers & Cake Design.



Soon I will have to sit down and make some more pansies, since the ones shown here have already gotten broken at the store. 

Next Post:  October's Let's Play Cake Theme

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Quick Bag Prep Tip

For my demo last weekend I wanted to have my bags prepared and ready to go, but wasn’t quite sure yet which tips I would need for which bag.

I went ahead and filled the bags, remember you don’t want to fill your bags too full, half full or less is best.  I scrapped the icing down inside the bag and put on the bag tie.  The bag tie helps keep the icing from coming out the top of your bag, plus keeps the icing from crusting.
Instead of putting a tip on the bag, this time I took small squares of plastic wrap, held it over the coupler and twisted on the coupler ring.  Now the icing on this end of the bag won’t crust nor will it get squished out everywhere.


Since these needed to go in the bag with everything else I had to carry, I put them all in a large ziplock bag to keep them together.  At home you could still do this, but both ends of the bag are protected, so you really don’t have to.


When you know what tips go on the bag you can use the silicone tip covers.  These are great when using royal icing to keep the icing from drying as bad in the tip when you are switching from bag to bag.  Plus they come in handy when you are doing butter cream work and need to put your icing a side for a few hours.

Is anyone wondering what I used my bold and bright colors to make?  I did these fun ‘monsters’ during the demo.  You can really see my purple and a truer blue color in these pictures.  And look how black my black is.  The lighter green was made mixing leaf green and lemon yellow.



I will be checking my email and the facebook page on Monday morning, hoping that someone will share pictures of what they have been practicing this month so I can include them with the picture of my display cake in a wrap up post for September's Let’s Play Cake.  I will also post the new theme on Monday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let’s Talk About Black Icing

Black icing can be one of the tricky colors to get a pretty dark color with.

Yesterday I talked about how to get bold, deep colors:

1.  Start with a thicker icing than you will need.
2.  Add a good amount of color.  You are looking for a dark gray color at this point.
3.  Let the icing sit for an hour or two.

The next thing that I feel helps is when it come to black is that I always color small amounts of it.  I have yet to cover a whole cake in black and often only use black for accents so I will color ½ of a cup or so.



(Again, I don’t have great pictures here, but I am hoping they will let you see the differences in the shades.)

Here we have the gray color I started with.


I was only able to let the icing sit for 30 minutes.  You would really want to let it set an hour or more, but I was doing this last minute as a prep for my demo.  I know bad example of me, when I am suggesting to plan and color ahead.

In the Bold and Brighter colors posts, I did get my blue, green and purple to shades I was happy with so I didn’t have to do this next step. 

If the color you need is not dark enough after hour plus, then you will add more color to it.  Again it is best if you can let it sit for a while before use.


After two additions of color I got my black pretty close to where I needed it to be so I bagged it and got it ready to use.


Here are a few other tips about black icing...

Start with chocolate icing if possible, especially if you are covering large surfaces with it.  When starting with a brown icing, rather than a white icing, you will need less black coloring.  Also the chocolate can help mask the slightly bitter taste you can get with really deep colors.

I have also noticed that sometimes with darker icing colors you will find they separate a little.  You will get a colored liquid with a curdled white mixture, oddly, this almost always happens after I get it in the bag. 

Starting with the thicker icing will help keep it from separating as bad, since you have less liquid in there before adding in all the extra ‘liquid’ from the color.  But sometimes you still have the issue.  My fix for this is to add about a teaspoon of cornstarch to about a 1/2 cup of icing.  You can always add more if you feel you need to, but this will help thicken the icing back up and will help come back together and not be separated.

Something to remember with all dark colors, they can stain teeth, tongues, and mouths.  This may be fun for kids running around at a party, but not so great for guests at a wedding.

Freeze any leftovers!  Often I only need black for a few little details so I can use left over icing for that.


Alot of these tips can also be used to make red icing.  I didn't really mention red in this post because I do have a red icing experiment planned for the near future.  Keep your eyes out for it.

Next Post:  Friday, September 30 - Bag Prep Tip
I will also share pictures of what I used my bright and bold icings on.
 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bold & Bright Colors!

Often times in class I will have students that come in every week with pastel colors.  Sometimes that is our preference as we all have our favorite colors/shades.  But I’ve also noticed that if there is a student with brighter colors there are usually comments on how they get that color.

There are three keys to making bright and bold colors.

First if you know you know you are going for a bold color, start with a little thicker icing than you need.  If you are going to need medium icing, then start with stiff icing. 

Why is this? 

The second key to bright colors is that you have to add color!  I know I show you in class using toothpicks to get color out of the little jars, and this works with some of the colors like lemon yellow and rose pink,  since those colors get pretty bright pretty fast.  But with colors like blue, purple, green and the dreaded red/black you have to really add in some color.

You’ll have to forgive me on my not so great pictures here, but you can see that instead of a toothpick I used my favorite popsicle sticks.  Can you see how much color I added to the butter cream?


I wish you could see the true colors I actually made.  I used Wilton’s leaf green, violet, royal blue and black.


Now the third key is to plan ahead.  Start your icing early, even the night before you need it.  The colors in the icing will deepen as the icing sits.   This also means that you may need to use less of the color gel.  You may be able to see the slight color variation I got after letting them sit for 30 minutes.


If you are trying to match a color, then you really want to start early, because there is nothing more frustrating than getting the perfect match, putting it in a piping bag, decorating the cake, then coming back a couple hours later and having this darker color that is no longer a perfect match.  

I know you are looking back at those pictures and are probably thinking, well what about your funky gray that is supposed to be black?   Come back tomorrow, and I’ll add some tips and hints for dealing with the dreaded black color. 

Next Posts: 
Thursday, September 29 - Let's Talk About Black Icing
Friday, September 30 - Bag Prep Tip

Friday, September 23, 2011

Roll & Cut Mat Tip and Reminders

Do you have a Roll and Cut Mat or another mat to roll out fondant, cookies, pie crust or what ever else you want to roll out on it?

For years I would get one of those mats out, unroll it, reach to grab something and have the mat roll up again.  How many of us have used tape to hold the mat open?  Or maybe you use your salt and pepper shakers, bowls or what ever else is handy on the cabinet to grab and put on the corners of it.

Did you know there was actually a pretty simple fix to this?  Next time you roll your mat up for storage, roll it with the ‘top’ of the mat on the outside.  On the Wilton Roll and Cut Mat you would roll it with the markings on the outside.  When you go to use it again, it will lay flatter and will not roll inward on itself. 

Some reminders...

We have one week until the end of the month.  Where did September go?  If you practiced anything this month and took pictures don’t forget to send me the picture or post it on the facebook page so I can share it in the September’s Let’s Play Cake post.

If you haven’t practiced anything yet, why not do so this weekend?

October’s monthly promotion on the four week courses is 40% off or $27.

Decorating Basics – Tuesdays
Starts Oct 4th

Flowers & Cake Design – Wednesdays
Starts Oct 12th  Please note:  This date has changed!

Gum Paste & Fondant – Mondays
Starts Oct 10th  Please note:  This date has changed!

Want to learn something new?  I have a POPS class on the schedule as well.  We will make the Rice Krispie Treat Pops as well as some Cake Pops in fun Halloween themes. 

Project Class:  Halloween POPS!
Saturday, October 22nd
Cost:  $20

Don’t forget to check out the Current Class Schedule to see what classes will be offered in November and December.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Knee High Dusting Puff

If you have taken Flowers & Cake Design or Gum Paste & Fondant with me you have received one of these things. 


This is my trusty dusting puff.  A dusting puff is used to spread a fine amount of your dust or in our case powder sugar over your work space to help keep your fondant or gum paste from sticking.

Today, my dear cakers, I will be showing you how quick and easy they are to make.

First we need to get out a few items.


You will need a brand new (cheap) knee high, scissors, cup, measuring cup, and powder sugar.  It will also make clean up quicker if you lay out a piece of wax paper.

Step 1:  Take your knee high and place it around your cup, leaving a little slack in the toe area.


Step 2:  Fill your dusting puff.  For the puffs I hand out in class I usually do about 1/4th to 1/3rd of powder sugar.  You can do as much as ½ cup easily.  You can also fill your puff with all powder sugar, all cornstarch or a combination of the two.  I have found that powder sugar works just fine for everything I do with it. 


Step 3:  Remove the knee high from your glass, and tie a knot in it. 
Now you could stop at this point, leaving yourself a loose knot that you can open later and refill the puff.  I like to use and toss myself.


Step 4:  Cut right above the knot, and put a knot at the end or the remaining knee high.


Step 5:  Repeat Steps 1 through 4 two more times.


Now you have three dusting puffs to use.  You can store them in a plastic bag, or in the small ½ cup plastic containers.

To use, you just tap your dusting puff against the surface until you have enough dust out to suit your needs.


BTW:  If you haven’t taken Flowers & Cake Design or Gum Paste & Fondant, what are you waiting for?  Check out the Current Class Schedule tab to see when those classes are scheduled.

Next Post:  Friday, September 23 - TBA

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cupcakes & The Scoop

Do you have one of those kitchen utensils that you love and use for many things? 

(Sorry, not the best picture, but you get the idea right?)

This is one of my favorite kitchen tools!  It is originally designed for ice cream and holds 3 Tablespoons, slightly under 1/4th of a cup. 
What do I use it for? 

Cupcakes!

Trying to fill cupcake pans can be messy and if you aren’t careful you end up with some cupcake liners that have more or less than others, which creates uneven baking times.  With the ice cream scoop, you put the same amount of batter in the liners.


When they come out of the oven you have pretty cupcakes that are even in height.



I also use it for pancakes, large cookies, and meatballs.

Next Post:  Wednesday, September 21 - TBA The Knee High Dusting Puff

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shaggy Mum on the Flower Nail

In Decorating Basic’s Lesson 3 we do the Shaggy Mum on the cupcake with the swirl of icing.  What happens if you want to do it on something other than a cupcake?

I noticed the other day when glancing at the directions for a cake in the back of the lesson book that they suggest piping the shaggy mum’s on vanilla wafers.  This is a great tip, but this last week I wanted to make some of the flowers, and didn’t have any vanilla wafers on hand.

I ended up used my flower nail, with the rose template, wax paper and royal icing.  You could probably also do these in butter cream if you let the flower dry long enough before trying to move, but royal icing worked perfectly for my needs.

I first piped my three leaves, like we did on the cupcake.  You could leave the leaves off, and pipe those on your cake before adding the flower, but I decided to try it this way.

Next I piped a mound of icing, using tip number 12, in the center, much like we did for the pom pom flower.   This mound of icing gives a base for the petals to build off of.


I then piped the rest of the flower as we did before, remembering to pull my tip up and away in the direction I wanted the petals to go in.


The shaggy mums were left to dry about 24 hours before I removed them from the wax paper to use.  If I was doing them in butter cream I would increase drying time to two or three days.

I used the flowers along with the other things we do in the Decorating Basics class for a display for the store.


This is just one of the things I've ‘practiced’ from the three Wilton Courses last week.  Have you done any practicing lately?  If so, take pictures so you can share them in the September Let’s Play Cake!


Next Post:  Monday, September 19th - Cupcakes & The Scoop

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Messy Bag Tops?

When filling your plastic or featherweight icing bags, you should always fold the top of the bag over.  This will help keep the icing from getting all over the top of the bag, or even the outside of the bag.  Even when folding it down, after you fill your bags a few times the icing works higher and higher up the bag, and even using your hands doesn’t always press down nicely. 

I have a quick and easy tip for that.  I use a clean jumbo Popsicle stick to press the icing down inside the bag.


This is my second favorite use for the jumbo Popsicle sticks, the first is using them to color icing.

Here is a before and after picture to show you the difference.  In the first picture I haven’t scrapped the icing down yet.  In the second picture you can see that I scrapped enough icing down that you can actually see the Wilton logo through the icing and bag.




If you take a moment to do this ahead of time, you will have less icing sticking out the top of the bag to dry out and make a mess later on.

Next Post:  Friday, September 16th - Shaggy Mum on Flower Nail

Monday, September 12, 2011

Organize Your Tips


Does this sight look familiar? 

Maybe it’s just me, but after I clean my tips they tend to get dumped into a bowl or even a zip lock bag until I take the time to put them back in my tool box.

Taking a few minutes to organize your tips will help make it quicker for you to get your bags ready.  Instead of having to handle a bunch of tips to find the one you want, you just get to reach and go. 

The first step is sorting. 

Start by sorting out the types of the tips:  Round tips, Star tips, Petal tips, Leaf Tips, and so on.  Having your tips grouped by the type allows you to look for tips you need in sections, rather than having to look over every tip you have.

If you visit the Wilton website you can see all the tips they offer broken down by types. There is also a page in the Wilton Yearbooks that will give you the same information.

Next sort by the numbers.  Generally in each tip group the smaller the number the smaller the opening of the tip.  I put my tips in order from smallest to largest.  Again this will help when searching for the tip you want. 


I often suggest that instead of trying to get one of each tip Wilton makes, you should see which tips you use more often and have multiples of those tips.  When I am sorting and storing these tips I will stack the multiples together.  This means you have more space for other tips types and sizes in your container.  I will also stack tips together if I only have one or two of a size that I don’t use often, and need a little more space in that tip group for others. 

You want your most used tips to be easily accessible.      

After your tips are sorted you will need to figure out what you want to put them in to help keep them organized.

Wilton makes a tip save case, in two sizes.


( This photo was borrowed from the Wilton.com website.)

They also have the Tool Caddies that have places for your tips.



Or you can get creative and think outside the box by using any kind of container that has compartments.


Below is a close up of my tips, so you can see that I have my rounds, stars and petal tips in rows, smallest to largest.  If you look closely, you can see that I do have two stacks of some types like the 3s, 12s, 16s and 21s.  This is because I have too many to just have one stack.  You may not have that issue, but remember you can usually stack about 5 or so high.



I do actually have more tips that what is shown here, but these are the ones that I use most often use, so I keep them in my Tool Caddy.

If I have learned anything about organizing cake supplies is it that you have to figure out what works for yourself.  While one thing may work great for me, it may not be the best thing to suit another person’s needs.  I have tried each of the above containers, and the one that currently suits my needs is the Wilton Tool Caddy with the tray in it.  In the future I will re-evaluate, to see if it is still working for my needs at that time.

Leave a comment and let me know what type of container you store your tips in.  Does it work well for you?  Did you sort your tips when putting them in it?


Next Post:  Wednesday, September 14th - Messy Bag Tops