Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shots in the Dark

As stated in the previous post, construction is under way at The Frosted Bowl. You'll find a few shots of the progress below. (You could also find them on FB if I could figure out what I'm doing over there.)

First the before shots. These were taken back in early November when I first signed the lease. The shots are somewhat dark, because there was no electricity in the space. Due to some other events going on, we were unable to begin construction immediately after signing.

The door in the above shot leads to the kitchen area.
To make this space work for us, we're adding a wall in front of it to create a dry storage room.
The blue carpet and gray slat walls are going away.

The door in the shot above leads to a small hallway which leads to the restroom.
The 'dressing room' in the corner is going away.

A before shot of the kitchen. Obviously it needs work. The kitchen and wood shelving is leaving.

The door in the shot above leads into the small hallway.

Another before shot of the kitchen. This view shows the non-working ventahood.
The hood will be staying due to the complexity and cost of it's removal.

Now some progress shots:
The beginning of the dry storage room build out.

The wall after it's first mudding and tape.
Notice the hand sink which will be behind the front counter.

A shot of a half textured wall in the lobby area & another shot taken without the lights on.
We paid the bill, but with a front wall of windows, lights aren't always needed.

The lobby as it looked this morning (messy).

The flooring arrived this afternoon!

Finally, a shot from this evening - after hours of sanding walls.

If things go as planned, tomorrow will involve very little sanding and much painting. How's that for short and sweet?

Happy Grubbing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big News

Four score and seven years ago (or so it feels), I rambled here about various things that have now been forgotten. Since then both the leaves and the temperatures have dropped, and some may have wondered if I had dropped from the face of the earth. This is not the case. Things have been more than a little crazy, and we have quite an amount of catching up to do. Though there are topics and tirades aplenty, I'll keep this short and sweet.

For starters the school and it's internship program is finished. The last project to be handed in at the college was a large workbook that I was to complete during the 16 weeks of interning. In addition to tracking weekly hours, I was to write down two recipes, print and add four photos and journal two full pages of thoughts from each week of the program. Of course I waited until the night before it was due to really do much work on it. In the end I printed out and added the pictures, wrote in half of the total recipes and submitted zero pages of journal. For someone who rambles so freely here, I wasn't inclined to write there. I dropped off the book weeks ago and haven't heard from the school, so I've no idea how much my grade suffered or if I will even pass to complete the overall pastry arts program. Since the official graduation isn't until February and considering the school's stellar track record of great communication, it may be awhile before I know something. But I'm keeping this short and sweet. Moving on...

Having completed the required hours and then some of interning, I had to say goodbye to the fine folks at the cake shop. They were awesome to work with, and I miss them, their quick wit and the opportunity to learn from them. As much as I would have enjoyed staying there and partying with them, it just wasn't an option, because I needed to move on to the next phase of life.

It's this next phase of life that brought me back to blogging - because this next phase of life is somewhat newsworthy. It's kinda big. Okay, it's really big, and I'm more than a little excited about it. I've been wanting to share, but ducks needed to be put in a row, and though they're still not perfectly aligned, I'm prepared to spill the beans. Exactly sixteen months after receiving the life changing news that my wonderful office job would be no more, I'm ready to share some news of my own: I'm opening a custom cake shop & bakery!

As to be expected, there is so much going on right now! Well, not right this minute since it's 2:45 in the morning, but you get the idea. The lease has been signed, but that was the easiest part. We're in the middle of a remodel and working with the city and health department to make sure everything will be acceptable when the inspectors come back. On top of that there are so many other details to be figured out. Everything. From menu items, prices and packaging to paint colors, equipment and flooring, there is much to do. Thankfully I've been blessed with a great group of gifted friends who believe in helping others. One is a graphics rock star (notice the new colors?) and another practically has a Home Depot in his garage.

The shop is/will be located in Sand Springs at 1 W. 41st Street, Suite B. For those familiar with the area, we're between what was once Lee's Hamburgers and the Coney Island around the corner. The name of the shop is The Frosted Bowl (Have I ever talked about frosted bowls on here?), and the website is www.thefrostedbowl.com. The plan is to be open Tuesday - Saturday beginning at some point in January. During the Tuesday - Friday hours, we will offer cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, cupcakes, etc. Saturday will be for the pick up of pre-ordered items only. If things go as planned we'll also be accepting orders for holiday trays before Christmas.

There are 'before' pictures of the shop and pictures of the progress to be shared, but those can wait until next time. For tonight I really just wanted to let the cat out of the bag and let you know that I'm taking the plunge and diving in.

Happy Grubbing!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shoes, Songs & a Soapbox

The sun has gone down, but I'm still up... and feeling chatty. Maybe it was the extended nap, the large Coke refilled multiple times afterward or the catchy tunes filling the air (maybe it was Memphis), but I'm having trouble staying seated long enough to ramble.

As far as school goes, there isn't alot to share. I'm still on the externship and splitting my time between the school's cafe and the cake shop. The requirement is to work 360 hours (for free) by early November. As of today I've hit 218.75 hours, so I should finish with time to spare, and I'm ready. Knowing that I'm working for free makes it difficult to get out of bed and drive across town some days. Okay, most days. The original plan was to 'graduate' in November, but the school has once again made a change. (Hold please. Climbing on soapbox.)

Apparently the decision was made to hold our graduation ceremony in February... even though we actually finish everything in November. And I learned of this change from another student who was told by a chef last week. It was confirmed today. Of course they have some reason and will say whatever it takes to shut you up when you complain, but it doesn't make sense. No, I wasn't the one complaining at school. I save that for you (saving all my love for you) and try to be all smiles for the most part there.

The main chef explained to the complaining student today that the 'completion' date is still November, but the 'graduation' date is set for February when there will be approximately 150 students from other programs ready to graduate. The school holds graduations once a quarter. This actually makes sense, and we had a very similar practice back in the corporate training world. The issue is that none of this was communicated up front in January, and it technically wasn't even communicated now - News is just trickling through the students (I heard it through the grapevine).

Honestly I shouldn't be complaining at all. I decided long ago for personal reasons that I wasn't attending the ceremony, so this new change won't affect me. It's just the fact that the school has yet again shown a significant lack of organization and the students, or at least the ones looking forward to it, are the ones who suffer. The enrollment folks need to know and explain the verbiage and have set dates up front. They also need to stop telling people that there is a course on cake decorating when there really isn't. The place really is a joke in many ways. Sadly the joke (excuse me, have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?) is on me and others who paid thousands of dollars to attend, deal with chaos and learn little of what we wanted to learn.

Maybe that's harsh, and maybe I contradict my words from previous posts, but tonight that's what I think. I have made some great friends and met some great people, but does that equal the huge amount of money involved? I could have a new car right now for what I'm paying for school. Or commercial ovens and a Hobart mixer. Or a whole bunch of new shoes (hey, I put some new shoes on...), which brings me to the next subject (Hold please. Climbing down).

At the cake shop last week, one of the assignments I had was to make three pairs of Tom's brand shoes and an iPhone for a teenage girl's birthday cake. Up to that point I had never heard of Tom or his line of shoes. After some research I learned that he is quite benevolent and donates a pair of shoes to a needy child overseas each time you buy a pair of his shoes locally. You basically get two for one. Sort of. In-progress pics of the cake are below.

The ear buds looked like boxing gloves to me.

The mom specifically requested a paint splattered pair.

The spots in the picture above were crumbs showing through the frosting. They were removed in the end.

This pair was especially time consuming.

The shoes for the cake made all sorts of songs about shoes pop into my head - so much so that I almost uploaded nothing but footwear related stuff tonight, but opted for additional ranting topics in the end. I'll omit some tunes from the list, but the following are either classics or too entertaining to leave out (in my opinion).

I wonder if it's possible to give fondant the look of suede. Hhmm...

This video made me laugh out loud [insert heard shake].

And finally... some classic Ray Stevens with his silver buckle slippers, though the video is obviously not his. I've not seen the movie but this one cracked me up too.

The last few weeks for personal cakes has been somewhat slow, and that's okay considering there was an amazing holiday weekend in the mix.

One recent cake was a first birthday cake for a one year old named Hunter. The mom found a picture that she liked online, and I attempted to copy it. The theme was Madagascar, and I was going to cheat and go with store bought animals but I wasn't able to find them. In the end the animals were hand crafted from fondant on sucker sticks. Unfortunately they didn't look exactly as planned. I'm hoping that carving/molding skills improve with time, that it gets easier (or sweeter) as the days go by.

In the end I thought the animals looked mean, and I could totally see them scaring the birthday boy. It ended up being fine though. I had purchased an impression mat to give the cakes a wood grain look, but it didn't work well. The next attempt will be better.

A dimly lit picture of the first of the animals. My go-to critic pointed out that he doesn't have fangs. Thankfully it was a simple fix involving a single sharp knife. I didn't take close ups of the other critters, but you're not missing much.

Another cake from the last two weeks was a birthday cake for a friend. The daughter of the birthday lady came over and helped decorate the cake, so it was fun.

The last cake that I worked on was a last minute wedding cake for a lady who attended the pastry program for a bit. She had originally planned to make her own cake but realized at the last minute that she wouldn't have the time. She called on Sunday and needed the cake on Saturday. Since it was the holiday weekend, there were no other orders and I'm the guy who can't say no, I took on her cake. Ooh. Is that another song opportunity? I think so.

The cake wasn't large and the bride was very easy to work with. All I had to do was make the cake with some basic piping decorations and ribbon, and she added feathers and silk flowers afterward.

First tier in progress.

A photo of the finished cake bootlegged from Facebook.

Faithful followers may recall my excitement at the progress of our local IHOP under construction. I'm happy to report that it is officially open, and I've been a few times! The food is good, and the service will improve with time. Each time I'm there, I can't help but smile, because I'm sitting in IHOP and only four minutes from home. That's even closer than Bueno! Is it sad to get so excited over such a mediocre chain restaurant? Naw. It's the little things, folks.

Finally, the weather has changed and we're heading into fall. This means the Tulsa State Fair and the Oklahoma Sugar Art show is just around the corner. I think I've finally decided to enter a cake or two. My stuff won't be in the main showpiece section where the all-stars are (hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on), but they will be in one of the lower divisions. Since this is such a huge competition and incredibly talented folks come from all over the country to participate, I'm not sure what I'm looking for or hoping to gain from entering. I know I'm looking for some feedback and suggestions from the expert judges, and some sort of confirmation (either way) regarding the future would be nice. I'm also looking for a sugar momma - but that's another post.

This song takes me back to Customer Service Appreciation Week of 1999. I was a newly hired associate who thought he had just joined the coolest company ever when the VPs donned gold shirts and sun glasses and busted a move to this tune at THE rally of the year. Good times.

Happy grubbing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sherbet, Sorbet & So Much to Say

For those who think I may have died, let me assure you I'm alive and well (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, stayin' alive, stayin' alive). It's just that life is hectic, and I've had orders running out my ears (not literally) and my oven (literally, but more on that later) so blogging has been shoved to the back burner. Let's have a quick run down of what's up.

First the school talk. The last class that I mentioned was Centerpieces & Chocolates. After that there was only one class left in the program. The class, entitled Bakery Operations, focused on all sorts of funky desserts and alleged visually appealing ways to serve them and was by far the worst class of the entire Pastry Arts program. It was way too much work.

Each team of two students had to present two desserts daily. The recipes were provided but it seemed that each dessert required about four or five recipes to be made. You want ice cream? Well, make the ice cream, but make an edible bowl to put it in. And a sauce. And how about a cookie to provide some crunch? Just for mouth feel. I don't exaggerate. It was insane. Then at the end of the day we made multiple matching plates of each dessert to present and share with the class. With multiple teams making multiple desserts, you can imagine what the bakeshop looked like at the end of the day. It was a mess, and we had to stay until it was clean again (till it shines like the top of the Chrysler building). It was like two weeks in a sweatshop, and visions of a red headed orphan kept running through my head.

Classmates were encouraged to critique the plating methods of other students. "I think that would have looked better in a goblet, or maybe you could have put it in the center of a round plate with a sprig of mint to the left side about halfway down." This wasn't particularly my favorite part of the class. Most days I was glad to just get the stuff finished and plated by the deadline. There were days that my partner and I didn't finish on time, and we weren't alone. It was during this presentation and critiquing time that we also had to take a bite of everything - regardless of desire or the lack thereof.

On top of all this, a very unrealistic homework project was assigned. Each student had to come up with three separate menus. Two menus required seven items each. The third required ten items. One menu was fine dining, one was buffet style and one was for a cafe. Menus had to contain one low fat/low sugar item and a gluten free item. One menu had to include an item served warm and an item served in a glass. We had to provide prices for each item, recipes for each item and their sauces/embellishments, drawings of the finished plates for each item and ingredient/food cost breakdowns of at least three items from each menu. Nobody finished the entire project, and I'm told that no students from the previous class finished either. The project seriously needs to be downsized for future classes.

The class did have a few good things. We got to use fire on some of the desserts, and playing with fire is always fun (They call me the fireman, that's my name...). The baked Alaska and the ice creams, sherbets and sorbets were my favorite items. We made a great pineapple sherbet (complete with fresh pineapple and alcohol) that was my overall top pick. Pictures of plated desserts are also shown below.

My team's slightly melted pineapple sherbet in dark chocolate bowl.

My team's baked Alaska with wild berry sorbet.

Someone's dessert that I can't remember and a bunch of dishes that had to be washed.

This was my team's, but I can't remember the correct name.
It was basically fresh fruit floating in a white wine jello.

Bananas Foster with vanilla ice cream.

My special occasion cake made for a timed exercise. The '50' was an afterthought added at the last minute. I apparently wasn't listening when the instructions were given and missed the fact that it was needed.

The class has been over for quite some time, and I don't know my grade for it other than knowing I passed. I've also still not received the grade for the chocolates and centerpieces course, but I'm not going to ask for it again. I really stopped caring when they gave me a C in the cakes course.

With the classroom sessions having ended, we're on our externships. I spend three days a week working at the school in their 'cafe' at breakfast and two days a week working at a local cake shop. The cake shop is in my opinion the best in town. They do great work, and I'm excited to be working there. The owner is incredibly talented, and she's all about helping people. She has ordered new pans and other supplies for me at cost to help with my personal baking, which brings us to just that - the personal baking and the cakes that have been consuming my time over the summer.

This princess cake was made in June, and it was meant to have an edible tiara. When it came time to put the handmade tiara on the cake, it broke into pieces, and I had to do a mad dash across Tulsa to find a non-edible replacement. Speeding across town is nothing new, and it doesn't bother me. It's the speeding with cake(s) in the car that causes stress.

This cake was delivered on the same day in June, so it was along for the ride during the tiara run.

This cake was made in June for a golf themed party for our pastor. I was okay with it overall except for the golf ball attempt. As is typical with me, time was running out, and the ball didn't have time to dry properly, so it lost it's shape.

The first of two hunter themed cakes from recent months, this cake included plastic deer, trees and hunter. While I am not a fan of plastic pieces on cakes, there was really no way that I could have made the items look good - and certainly not in a timely manner.

Another shot (pun intended).

The second of the hunter themed cakes. I liked the coloring of this one better, but the mountain's shape seemed a bit odd, and it also used the plastic pieces.

Another view.

Of all the cakes I've done recently, this may be my favorite. It was by far the most fun. Yes, it took hours and hours to shape and paint all of the plants and fish, but there is something very relaxing about sitting and playing with an airbrush while groovy tunes play in the background (Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon). My issue with this cake is that I forgot to add air bubbles coming from the mouths of the fish, and I wasn't thrilled with the fish placement. Once they were on though, there was no moving them without leaving marks on the cake.

Just some of the items made for the fish cake shown above.

The edible fish made of fondant and colored with the airbrush and edible markers.

Miniature bundt cakes and cake balls. Part of a large order for a local church convention.

More cake balls and cookies for the same order.

One of my first assignments at the cake shop - edible bra and panties. I've actually made a total of three sets of these in about the same number of weeks. The second and third sets were better and didn't look like 'granny panties'.

This edible guitar was created a few weeks ago to serve as the groom's cake at the wedding of some friends. It was chocolate cake from top to bottom with a few strategically placed supports. It was a first attempt at a guitar, so while there were parts that I wasn't thrilled with, it was okay overall. The next guitar will be better. The strings on this one gave me problems and there could have been more details. But... the lights were dimmed at the reception, and everyone really seemed to like it. There were people snapping pictures of and complimenting it, and I have to admit that part was pretty cool. :) I'm just thankful that it didn't fall over.

The story behind this cake is that the birthday girl has spent a great deal of time on a bathroom remodel. From what I'm told the project had turned into quite an ordeal.

The cool part was that when I delivered the cake to the party venue, one of those in attendance stated that the birthday girl had just taken her first bath in the new tub the day before, so the timing was perfect. The cake design was copied from a cake found online and sent to me. The tub was carved of white cake, and the accessories were made of fondant. The suds were edible pearls or dragees. The girl in the tub was plastic, and I had help with wrapping her head in the towel.

This cake was delivered the same day as the bathtub cake. In the future I'd like to make the 'vines' thinner so that they look less like earthworms.

This slightly different cake was delivered the very next day. Personally I think I prefer the round version.

This cake was delivered the next day to surprise a friend. I was trying to copy a design and an icing recipe from the cake shop. Time didn't allow me to try a trick picked up from the cake shop. The trick involves boiling water and using multiple spatulas to smooth the icing. Looking at the picture now, the cake actually looks a little lopsided, and I didn't notice it at the time. The top of this cake was a root beer float cupcake recipe that the birthday girl had found online. The recipe called for root beer soda and root beer schnapps. Since the cake was for church friends, I ended up cutting back on the schnapps, but I think it affected the flavor. Next time I'll include all that the recipe called for. No, I'm not becoming a lush - even if I did sample a very small amount of straight whiskey the other day at school.

This was the beginning of a piano cake for piano playing friend who turned 30 this week. The cake started out okay but ended embarrassingly. I think the overall shape didn't work for me. The piano's lid wasn't as smooth as I wanted. Then I tried to paint it with water for a high gloss finish. It worked until the water dried and left streaks.

This is a blurry shot of both the best and worst parts of the piano cake. These were edible pictures of the birthday girl as a child, as an adult and with her family. I liked the idea of it and added them as a surprise, but they were actually sized a little too small and made the piano look large and empty.

This zombie cake was created last week at the request of a culinary student from school. She wanted it for her 11 year old son's birthday party. The cake was made of a white cake base, a sculpted head of white cake and a tombstone of Rice Krispie Treats. The arms were made of white cake and the hands were fondant. The blood was corn syrup and red food coloring. The eyes, ears and teeth were fondant. This design was a scaled down version of a cake from the Cake Boss.

The last cake was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed birthday cake. The picture has a bad shadow that hides the turtles green head, but you get the idea. This cake was edible except for the manhole cover, which was made by covering a 1/2 inch thick cardboard cake round. The base cake was a 12 inch white cake with the top slightly hollowed out. The turtle's head was carved of Rice Krispie Treats. The arm was made of fondant.

An aerial view of the top and back of the cake.

Okay. For those who are still with me and awake, I need to visit one last topic - and it's a topic that I've been dreading and wrestling with for a very long time. As most of you know I learned a little over a year ago that my corporate job was going away. I left the office in late January with a pretty little 'separation package' that kept my normal paychecks coming at normal intervals for X number of weeks. Ironically one year and one day after being given the terminal news, the last of the corporate paychecks found it's way into my bank account. Now I'm at a crossroads with massive decisions to make.

Do I look for another professional job in the corporate world or do I pursue a career in the world of cakes? Both options have their positives and negatives, but one has many more risks and unknowns. Sadly it is this more dangerous option that seems to be the most enjoyable and rewarding. For the moment I'm wrestling, weighing and researching possibilities while working on finishing the school's training program, unsure of what the future holds.

One thing I do know for certain (and it pains me to say this) is that the days of free or almost free cakes are over. Since January I've been making cakes and barely covering the costs of said cakes. If I were being completely honest, I'd admit that I lost money on many of them. That's okay. I wasn't making the cakes for the money, and I don't say this to complain now. I did it for the practice and to help folks out, but the time has come to start helping myself out.

No, I'm not broke. I don't type this from a foreclosed home with no electricity or a body starved for nourishment. I'm doing okay, but I need to take steps now to avoid sounding like Ray Charles later.

In recent weeks multiple people have asked for a price list or a website to check for cakes. No such website exists (yet), so this will have to work for now. The following numbers weren't just made up. Much thought has been given to what is fair - to clients and to me. While I don't offer big box/chain grocery store prices, I believe there is a difference in the cakes we produce.

3" Deep Round Cakes
6" serving 6-9 = $18
8" serving 12 - 16 = $28
10" serving 18 - 24 = $40
12" serving 28 - 34 = $55
14" serving 40 - 46 = $72

3" Deep Square Cakes
6" serving 7-9 = $18
8" serving 16-20 = $34
10" serving 26-30 = $50
12" serving 40-44 = $72

Sheet Cakes
8x12 serving 24-26 = $30
12x16 serving 38-42 = $60
16x24 serving 80-100 = $90

The above pricing is for a fully decorated party cake. Prices may be altered in either direction based on design. The above pricing does not include wedding cakes.

Wedding cake pricing starts at $2.75 per slice and includes some other details such as a consultation and taste test. A potential client recently backed out of an order, because they wanted a wedding cake to feed 150 guests for $150. In the end I wished them luck and suggested they try Walmart, though I doubt if they're even that cheap.

For those who may desire something other than cake, iced sugar cookies and cupcakes are available for $18 per dozen. Basic cookies such as chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and peanut butter are $9 per dozen.

If you have any questions on any of the above, feel free to yell. If you think I'm crazy and want to vent, you can do that too. If not I'll look for you at IHOP in Sand Springs. Word on the street is that it opens in one week (insert Hallelujah Chorus here)!

Happy grubbing!