"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Powdered Sugar made from palm sugar

One of my biggest pet peeves as a cake decorator is not being able to make "real" buttercream with palm sugar.  My pastor's wife, Ebbye, told me how to make powdered sugar from granulated palm sugar or thot not, which is the same thing.  All you do is take 1 cup granulated palm sugar and one teaspoon corn starch and run it through the vita mix or food processor.  I have neither so I borrowed my neighbor's Vitamix and it worked great.  You can try a coffee grinder on the finest setting, but I don't know how that would work.  As you are processing the sugar be sure not to go too long or it will turn into a paste.  I made royal icing with it last night and it worked great!  Yeah!
Happy Baking!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Texas Baker's Bill by Lauren Kitchens

Texas Baker's Bill, My Official Statement by Lauren Kitchens on Monday, February 21, 2011 at 7:41pm

It’s never a fun thing to have to set the record straight, to be misquoted or misrepresented.

But this is where I find myself. An article about the Texas Baker’s Bill was recently published in the Houston Press and Dallas Observer, which unjustly claimed that I do not support the bill. That claim was false and careless, and the newspapers have posted corrections. But too little, too late.
However, all dark clouds have a silver lining, and this event has allowed me to be open and honest about a very delicate issue that I have not thought much about in the past.

The Texas Baker’s Bill is a cottage food bill going through the Texas Legislature that would allow home cake decorators in Texas to operate legitimate bakeries in their home. This bill has not passed the House yet, but support for and against is strong. Many Texas cake decorators have asked my position on this bill and it’s time they knew how I felt.

Upon graduating from college, I was faced with the question all young adults must answer. Now what am I supposed to do? I have always loved decorating cakes, and so I began making cakes out of my parent’s home kitchen.

After a few years, with no responsibilities of marriage or children, I took the plunge and got a Small Business Loan in the fall of 2001. I opened my commercial kitchen/wedding cake boutique in Dallas in the Spring of 2002. I was the beneficiary of perfect timing and opportunity.

In today’s climate, it is next to impossible to get a loan for any business. And with the economy still in the grip of recession, it seems foolish to drop $100,000 to set up a commercial kitchen with no guarantee of success. This should not be regarded as laziness on the behalf of those who do not benefit from the luck of my timing.

Home cake decorators find themselves in a trap. How do I make an income and further my skills as a cake decorator legally? It’s frustrating. I’ve been there. But I had the means to legitimize my business without having to pass state legislation. Most home bakers do not. And for this, I am extremely sympathetic.

Honestly, I had not read the bill until five days ago. And I took no public position on the matter. At first hearing, I thought the bill was a demand for home bakers to slip past the rules without going through the difficulties I went through as a start-up bakery, or the difficulties I go through as a bakery owner today. But upon reading the bill and talking to people all over the state, I see now that it fairly gives home bakers a legitimacy that they deserve.

The bill would enforce several restrictive demands on the home baker. It forces the home baker to become licensed and to pay a yearly fee, as well as a get food manager’s license. The bill forces the home baker to provide proper food labeling for any product they sell, which is something that I am not forced to do. They are even required to label their product as “made in a home kitchen that is not routinely inspected by a local health authority.”

The bill restricts home bakers on how they can sell their product and to whom they can sell it to. There is also a large portion of the bill devoted to whistle blowing, stating that they may easily be held accountable to the state health department.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?

For those in the professional world who ask, why should we legitimize home-based food service? My answer to that is simple. Why wouldn’t we support a bill that legitimizes and regulates food products? This bill sets standards that any food professional would hold important. And, I can say for certain that the Baker’s Bill poses no major competition for commercial bakeries. Not only does the bill set drastic limits on who the home baker may sell to, it also sets income limits. A home baker could never take on the load of a large professional kitchen with its employees, payroll, marketing costs, etc. These home-based bakers do not pose a threat to the gross sales of large commercial bakeries.

Where the client chooses to purchase baked goods is essentially up to the client. If the client feels that a home kitchen is unsanitary, they can choose a bakery to purchase product. In turn, if a client feels a commercial kitchen is unsanitary, then they can choose a home-baker to purchase goods from. It’s all about the consumer’s needs, and these consumers are protected in this bill. And there is plenty of business to be had by all.

I am, at heart, a home cake decorator. Home is where I found my passion and nurtured it. Home is where my roots as a bakery owner began. Fancy Cakes by Lauren is a successful small business in Dallas and I am in my 10th year as a proud owner. None of this would have happened if I had not started at home.

We live in a country of choices. We can choose who to vote for, what religion to practice, and we can make life choices that affect our families. The home baker has no choice but to work in the dark. They are screaming for legitimacy and need to be commended for seeking out regulation and guidelines under which they can be held accountable. The bill needs to pass not only for these important standards, but also for these people who dedicate their lives for the betterment of our art. And I am forever respectful of their struggle and efforts to get this legislation passed.

Here is my official stance:

My name is Lauren Kitchens. I am a Texas business owner and a professional in the food service industry. And I support the Texas Baker’s Bill.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seven-Minute Frosting

This is the frosting I made with my pug dog cake that I could not decorate with, but it is some of the best frosting I have ever made, and super easy to make with palm sugar!  You can also use cane sugar, and maybe honey, although I have never tried that!  I found the recipe in an old cookbook.  McCall's Book of Cakes and Pies copyright date:  1965.
I found an updated version, a reprint here:

Seven-minute frosting

2 egg whites (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used palm sugar)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (please do not skip the cream of tartar!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
(I had also added a 1/4 cup carob powder and a tsp peppermint extract)

1.  In top of double boiler, combine egg whites, sugar, corn syrup or cream of tartar, and 1/3 cup water
I do not own a double boiler, so I find a glass bowl that fits snugly in my biggest saucepan to make one.  make sure the boiling water does NOT touch the bowl!
2.  With portable electric mixer or rotary beater, beat about one minute to combine ingredients.
I had let the palm sugar "melt" in the water a little before I added the rest of the ingredients, this makes it easier to beat.  I had also doubled the recipe, and had frosting go everywhere!
3.  Cook over rapidly boiling water (water in bottom should not touch top of double boiler), beating constantly, about 7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form when beater is slowly raised.
It took me almost ten minutes of beating, I think it was because of the carob powder that it took longer.
4.  Remove from boiling water.  Add vanilla; continue beating until frosting is thick enough to spread-about 2 minutes.
     Makes enough to fill and frost an 8-inch or 9-inch two layer cake or frost a 9x13 inch cake.

This frosting would be awesome with a coconut cake!  Enjoy, I know I did!

Happy baking!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sourdough Starter

I have had some friends asking me about culturing your own starter for sour dough.  Making bread is something new for me, and of course I started with the hardest thing-sourdough!  The upside is that each loaf tastes better then the last loaf does!  My last loaf was actually pretty good, but it was too "short" or "flat" to make sandwiches.  I got this recipe from the book "Sourdough Basics" from the School of Homesteading".  http://www.cfeeschool.com/

purified water
stoneground organic whole wheat flour
clean, half gallon glass jar

Step1.  Combine flour and water
In a half-gallon glass jar, combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until you begin to see bubbles form on top.  It may take up to 3 to 5 days.

Step 2.  Feed the mixture when it bubbles, discard all but 1/4 cup of the mixture.  Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  As the yeast continues to thrive, it will become frothy.

Step 3.  Feed the growing yeasts until the starter is very active
Once a day, discard all but 1/4 cup of the starter.  Feed the starter in this way until it can double in 4-6 hours.  The best way to keep track of the progress is to mark the jar with a permanent marker soon as you feed it.  Then you can more accurately tell how much it has raised.

Once it can double in 4-6 hours it is ready to use. 

Have fun, and just keep practicing!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pug Dog Mold Tutorial

Decorate the Cake sent me a silicone mold for a pug dog to try out.  It is the cutest mold, and so easy to use.  My husband is used to it taking me a while to sculpt things, so he looked over and was surprised I was already finished with the dog!
First I printed off a picture of a pug dog to make sure I got the coloring right.  Then I took some black fondant and put it in the areas where his nose and ears are.  I used a fondant stick with a ball at the end to push the fondant into the crevices.  Remember to scrap away the extra fondant from around the dog's features.

I took half my fondant and added a tiny bit of copper to the white.  I added a very small amount of brown to the other half. Then swirl the colors sparingly (you want it to look like the markings from a dog). I took a tiny part and swirled some black with it for the tail.  Put some vanilla onto the black pieces already in the mold to ensure that they stick.  Make sure you have a smooth oblong shape and then press into the mold.  Then you gently pop out your dog.  Very easy and fast!  I love this mold!  I then made some dog bones and a red ball for the cake.  I also took some left over black and rolled into a small ball, then pushed my ball end of my fondant stick into the middle and shaped them into bowls. (I forgot to take pictures of this part) I cut up a Wilton candy melt and put it into one of the bowls for the dog food.  I then colored some frosting blue for the water bowl.  I would have used some blue piping gel if I had some.
I would not suggest trying out new frosting recipes when decorating a cake, because although the new frosting was delicious, I could not decorate with it!  I'll post the recipe in a few days for you!

Although the frosting looked terrible, I feel the accents were very cute!

You can go here http://www.decoratethecake.com/store/Default.asp to buy this cute mold!  Be sure to look around because they have a lot of cute and elegant molds to use!
Happy Baking!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with Tammy Strobel

As ya'll know, I am still playing catch up with several posts I have planned.  I interviewed Tammy Strobel who placed twice in the Oklahoma Cake Show.  She gives some great tips and hints on how to prepare for a cake show!

1. How long have you been decorating cakes?
I’ve been decorating about nine years off and on. I took some time off a few years ago due to health reasons. I don’t have a business. I only make cakes for family and friends.

2. What kind of classes have you taken?
I got into cake decorating when my mom signed me up for the Wilton class and I and was hooked. I did all three Wilton classes. I’ve taken some one day classes locally and thru my cake club. I haven’t gotten to do any big name decorator yet but I hope to do Michelle Bombarito when she’s in Dallas for the Sugar Wonders show next year.

3. What divisions of the competition did you enter?
 I entered the Semi-Professional Division Confections and Couture Jewelry categories. I haven’t gotten brave enough to try the Grand National Wedding Cake Division but some year….

4. How did you place?
 I received a second for Confections and a third in Couture Jewelry.

5. What steps did you take to complete your pieces?
The first thing I did was read the rules to ensure my entry would qualify to be judged. This was important in the jewelry category because you were required to do some piping if you used a mold. I think some competitors lost out because they only molded their entry. Then I sketched out (very badly) my design and make a list of the necessary supplies. Unfortunately, I am a tax accountant and this is the busiest time of the year for me so working ahead was not really an option and I was using real cake. I baked my cupcakes about two weeks in advance then started on the gumpaste flowers. Purple is very bad about fading so I kept them in the dark until I put them on the cupcakes, then kept them covered until competition. The flowers took the most time as they had two layers of petals and were painted and dusted for highlights. The baskets where made using chocolate fondant and a strip cutter then simply laid across the iced cupcake to form a basket. Flowers and leaves where attached last.

6. What is the jewelry made of?
The jewelry is gumpaste from a mold with piped royal icing lace points. The gold was an airbrush color and the greens and reds where painted on using petal dust and Everclear. The jewelry box lid was done using free hand brush embroidery and painted with petal dusts. Small pearls are hand molded and the ones around the mirror were done with a mold.
How long did they take to make? There’s kind of a story that goes along with this entry. I ran out of time and only had a few items made for my original design so I was able to pull together left over items from former competitions to make this entry. The jewelry box lid was a hex side design from another cake I worked on for a competition but didn’t finish. The jewels were made for the same cake. The roses, leaves, and pearls were extras from a wedding cake entry last year. The gumpaste rose was from a training session I was working on for a friend. The lace points were made about a year ago as practice and I had just enough to go around the jewels. So I looked around at what I had and was able to pull together an entry in about five hours. I do not recommend this method!!

7. What are the cats/flower cart made from?
The base of the cart was foam board covered in fondant with dowel legs covered in fondant. I made a template for the sides of the wagon, used round cutters for the wheels, and airbrushed a French blue. The hay bale was made of rice cereal treats covered in royal and rolled in coconut that I dyed 4 colors of yellow/brown/beige and mixed together. The cats were hand modeled from fondant.
How long did it take to make? This entry took about 4 days to make due to the amount of time necessary to make the flowers and let the cart dry.

8. What did you learn from this competition?
Never throw anything away!! I learned to be very creative. Found a new way to work with my impression mat and improved my painting and figure modeling skills.

9. What did you glean from the judges comments?
 I received mostly positive comments from the judges. They do pay close attention to the colors used and how cleanly the design is executed. It is also very important to read and follow the rules.

10. Is this your first competition?
I’ve competed about six times between the OSSAS and the Sugar Wonders Cake Show. I’ve won two best of division ribbons and Best of Show at the 2009 Sugar Wonders Cake Show.

11. Any thoughts or tips?
 I think competition makes me a better decorator. I try new techniques and try to move outside my comfort zone. I think clean and neat always appeals to judges. Show a range of different techniques but make sure you have a certain level of mastery before putting them on a cake. And remember, the board counts. I saw many very well executed cakes at Tulsa that did not place and I know it was because they were on foil covered boards or poorly covered boards. One competitor told me her judging notes actually said that.

Sugar Wonders is also hosting a cake competition on April 30, 2011. We have commitments from Michelle Bombarito, Bronwen Weber, Lauren Kitchens, and Dawn Parrott at this point. All are Food Network Cake Challenge winners! There will be more info on our website in the near future.

Do you offer classes, have a bakery, blog/website or anything you would like to talk about? I don’t have a bakery or do classes. I do demonstrate for ICES and Sugar Wonders and I will being doing a demo for the Dallas Cake Club in a few months.

For more information go here: http://www.sugarwonders.com/home.html
Tammy, thank you again for the time to answer all of my questions!  If you have any questions, be sure to leave your email address so that we can contact you!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Free Apron Pattern

One of the new blogs I follow has a free pattern for a very cute apron.  The top part of the apron is gathered on the top and bottom, producing a very cute effect.
Be sure to go here for the free pattern:   http://artgalleryfabrics.typepad.com/weblog/2011/02/time_to_spice_it_up.html#tpe-action-posted-6a00e553bbe52e88340147e24d2124970b
I printed mine out and cannot wait to make one!
Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My life

I made this doll cake back in November for Sofia's birthday.  Her mom did not want any food dye on the cake, but Sofia wanted lots of colors, so this was the compromise: royal icing flowers that could be picked off.  I used Italian Meringue Buttercream to frost it.
I have been sewing up a storm lately!  I made two children's aprons, I put buttons on them and made them for sisters.  I made another apron that is a favorite design of mine.  You can also see the new curtains I made for my dining room in the back ground.  There is also a matching tablecloth I made.  I still need to make the matching seat cushions, sewing machine cover (I sew in the dining room) and of course a matching apron!
You can't see the buttons very well, but I put them on the shoulder and the top of the pocket.

Don't you just love this orange, green and yellow material?  My husband actually brought this home for me.  It was on clearance at Wal-Mart and I had him go buy me more!  LOL  Isn't it great being married to a man who knows you so well?

I also had a Pampered Chef party.
I was actually able to fit 16 ladies and several girls in my small living room!  We made veggie quiches, and ate cool veggie pizza, fruitcake, sweet potato chips, peanut butter oatmeal cookies, cream puffs, a veggie medley and hot mulled cider.

I faded this picture for my friends who don't want to be on the internet.  I even made my living room curtains (which turned out terrible) and my pillows.  As you can see, it was a pretty tight fit!  When I move, I want a huge living room to be able to give lots of parties!
My husband and the kittens tried to help me.  Tiger decided Chris was not fast enough with his food!   Boots  was happy after everyone left and curled up on the floor to sleep in the sunshine!

I'm so excited!  I actually won something from another blog!  How cool is that?  I won lavender infused bath salts!  I found a new blog that I love her aprons and custom shower caps, when I told my husband I wanted a shower cap, he was like what for?  Easy, because they are cute!  You can find her blog here:
Thanks for listening to me ramble about my life!
Have a great day!
"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him." Psalm 34:8