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!


  1. The food just looks too pretty to eat, but I'm sure it's very tasty! You have been a busy man!!

  2. I could say a bajillion things, but I'll just say YOU ROCK MY SOCKS, and that should cover it. :)

    BTW, the baked Alaska looks BOMB!