Cake Gallery Slideshow

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Child

Sometimes I am asked to create a cake designed by a child. The request might be verbal, relayed over the phone by a bemused parent. Or it can be sent in writing, with accompanying sketches. Either way, the request is often very specific in terms of details the child would like on the cake.

More than anything, I aim to please! I take kids' requests even more seriously than adults' because while an adult will generally be pleased with something that's in the ballpark of what they asked for, a child will not hesitate to point out when something looks not quite like they imagined it. Like when Winnie the Pooh's fur isn't quite the shade of Pooh-tan that he is in the books, films, toys, etc. for example. Bless the children--they can't lie.

So a few weeks ago, I received this sketch for an ice skating-themed cake from an about-to-be 7 year old birthday girl:

She was, not surprisingly, very specific in her directions! I love that she even added "Hole body in 3D." (Are these kiddos watching a bit too much Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss?!)

When I saw her at school during the week, the birthday girl reiterated that she really wanted the cake girl to wear a twirly white skirt and skate in an arabesque position ("I want her leg to stick out like this."). No problem.

This is the cake she and her Mom picked up this past weekend for her ice skating party:

My goal was to really capture the simplicity of her stick-figure drawing, but make it a little more than 2-dimensional. Sadly, a 3D cake wasn't in the cards for her this time as her design was mostly flat and rectangular. I toyed with adding some snowflakes, for an outdoor scene, but in the end ran out of space. The cake was chocolate and vanilla, half and half, and the decorations were gumpaste and fondant plus a skating rink of white decorating sugar crystals.

Her Mom reports that the birthday girl enjoyed her two-flavor custom-designed cake, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief that it was a success!

Monday, March 1, 2010

FoodieLicious: Hamantaschen

This is the first year since 2004 that I do not have a child at Jewish pre-school. I miss the dedicated teachers and staff, the other families, the cheerful classrooms, the playground and the religion. Although my family is not Jewish, we so enjoyed recognizing and celebrating the cycle of Jewish holy days and holidays each year. Especially the joyous holidays like Purim.

Purim was always a big deal when my kids were in pre-school because it was another chance to dress up, either in their Halloween costumes or an excuse to find a new outfit. Also, as room parent, I was in charge of coordinating our classroom's Purim gift basket (Misloach Manot, "the sending of portions") of sweets, nuts, fruit and juices to give to others in the building.

This year, however, Purim came and went and I didn't even know it! I was a little sad that we didn't celebrate Purim this year. It was always so much fun to hear the reading of the Megillah with active participation by everyone shaking their groggers, including the babies at school. And the Purim carnival! Fun games and activities related to the story of Queen Esther for the pre-schoolers in costume. Most of all, I missed eating Hamantaschen.
Our 2009 hamantaschen, fresh from the oven!

Very proud of her filling and folding efforts

Hard at work rolling and cutting the dough

Hamantaschen are delicious shortbread-like cookies filled with jam or other fillings and shaped like triangles. They are said to be shaped like Haman's hat; Haman of course is the bad guy in Esther's story. For the past few years, my kids and I have made hamantaschen at home, except for this year. In honor of Purim, which was this past weekend, and memories of our beloved pre-school, here is a recipe for hamantaschen:

Easy Hamantaschen

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 /2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup orange juice
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fruit preserves, any flavor

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until lightly and fluffy. Stir in the oil, vanilla and orange juice. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter to form a stiff dough. If dough is not stiff enough to roll out, stir in more flour. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into circles using a cookie cutter or the rim or a drinking glass. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of preserves into the center of each one. Pinch the edges to form three corners.
3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

My Notes: For fillings, we've used chocolate, strawberry, raspberry and peach so far. All were delicious!