Posts filed under: ‘Specialty/ Weddings‘

In the Presence of Greatness

So in my last post I mentioned Sylvia Weinstock. In New York City she is the end all be all of cakes, especially when it comes to Weddings. Most attribute her to creating the concept of the modern wedding cake and this past weekend I got to see one of her creations in person. :sigh:

This stunning creation stood between 5.5-7 feet tall– not including the table. The bottom tier featured the names of the bride in groom in a pattern like design. White roses and other flowers hang from the tiers, and certain tiers were jeweled.  I had to force myself to pick my jaw up off the floor.

At 81 Sylvia Weinstock has been in business for over 30 years, and has made cakes for just about anyone you can think of, especially Hollywood A listers.  And she doesn’t use fondant. REPEAT: She doesn’t use fondant– in fact she hates fondant, and all her cakes are covered with perfect delicious buttercream.  If only I were that skilled!!!!

Add a comment June 7, 2011

Christmas Cake, Black Cake, Fruit Cake, Voodoo Cake Call it what you will!

I love how in just about any borough of New York City all you have to do is walk 3 blocks in any direction and you’ll find yourself in a completely different neighborhood.  For instance in my neighborhood you’ll find mostly hispanic, namely Dominican folks.  A few blocks north you’ll find a predominantly Irish neighborhood.  The differences in population from block to block may not be as stark in all parts of the city like Little Italy and China town, but all the same I absolutely love the fact that these small cramped islands we all share make us tolerate each other even accept each other and help us to build our little niches in each community.

Thus this cake recipe became very interesting to me as I’d gotten this same recipe from some very diverse students.  Some of my students come from the Caribbean.  And I’ve been fortunate to taste many versions of a cake they hold dearest in their Heritage.  Black Cake. Black cake is a rich, dense Fruit cake that take lots of preparation: soaking fruit in wine for weeks even months, and repeatedly dousing your baked confection with rum.  Traditionally Black cake is then covered with royal icing, and finally a layer of almond paste, or marzipan rolled out over the top.  This cake is a feat to make, and master and it is delicious, and that’s not just the rum talking.

To see other pics of this Black Cake click on "Specialty" in the Gallery.


Then I realized how cool it was that this gem of the islands was also held in great esteem on a very different island…England.  Of course this seems like no revelation considering how the West Hemisphere was discovered, explored, and conquered by an array Europeans. So no, Christmas Cake, (as the Brits call), being a shared tradition, wasn’t that big of a surprise after all.  But I still relish in the fact that food brings people together.  It’s the reason I write this blog really.  And when it comes down to cake, well you couldn’t think of a better food that is iconic of celebration.  So with one year coming to an end and another beginning I’d like to dedicate this recipe to anyone who aims to live, rather Celebrate life, and all the great things that make us unique and all the wonderful and tasty things we share.

I made this cake for the first time, as a grooms cake for friends of mine who were getting married, See the drum cake under “Weddings” in the gallery.  Murielle a native of Haiti wanted a grooms cake that would be special for her soon to be husband Paul.  I carved the cake into a drum, and modeled after one of Paul’s hand drums.  I think myself a good baker but was nonetheless intimidated at the thought that it would be eaten by a crowd of wedding guests who would be well versed in black cake.

Murielle later gave me the report that she and Paul not only loved the design and the delicious cake, but that it was devoured by their guests who loved it and refered to it as Voodoo Cake.  This recipe originally came to me by a former student Deborah Levine.  Its been somewhat modified.

Black Cake

2 cups butter

2 cup white sugar

9 eggs

1/4  Barbancourt Rum (Adding rum is optional and the original recipe called for white rum.  I HIGHLY recommend getting your hands on WONDERFUL Haitian rum called “Barbancourt” Pronounced: Bar bahn Coo in french. )

1 tb lime juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tb almond extract

1 grated zest of lime

2 pounds chopped dried mixed fruit

2 cups red wine + apprx 1 bottle red wine for soaking

1 cup dark molasses

2 1/2 c all purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground all spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

pinch of salt

At least 3 weeks ahead of time soak dried fruit in wine.  Typically dark and golden raisins, prunes, cherries and currants are used.  I highly recommend that whatever dried fruit you choose– you choose fruits that don’t contain sulfites as a preservative.  It’s slightly more pricey, but I the preservatives added to dried fruit has a distinct flavor (YUCK) and in my opinion is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY!!!  The point of drying fruit is to preserve it!  In the health food aisle of most stores you will find organic dried fruits in many varieties.  I used Mangos, Pineapples, Papayas, cherries, cranberries, raisins, prunes, figs, blueberries– well just about anything I could find.  I think the sweet tropical fruits like papayas and pineapples add to the flavor of the cake.  Chop or just rip the pieces of fruit with your fingers and cover with red wine of your choice.  I think Layer Cake is a great wine, especially for cake making– I’m a fan of the Primitivo, or the Pinot Noir.  Seal in a large tupperwear container and let soak at room temp for 3 weeks or more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and Flour 2 9″ round baking pans.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and add rum, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla and almond extracts. Blend fruit in a food processor. Stir in soaked fruit, wine, and molasses.

Sift dry ingredients: flour, baking powder salt and spices. Fold batter and pour into pans.

This batter was sooo fluffy and light, mousse like.

Bake for 80-90 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan and place on cooling rack to cool complete.

Brush on additional wine or Barbancourt rum after baking.  I’m not a liquor drinking but if you are anything like me you might enjoy a small glass of Barbancourt on ice.  Its got a hint of vanilla about it and is an excellent i to a rum cake.  Continuously brush rum a few tablespoons at a time.  Soaking cakes with rum in colonial times allowed cakes to be preserved throughout long journeys– especially overseas.  I’ve had some students assure me that a black cake can last years…though I haven’t tried it myself.  Paul and Murielle tell me they brush rum what they have left of their voodoo cake and plan to have it on their first anniversary.

Traditionally black cake is covered with royal icing. Add a tsp of glycerin to a recipe of royal icing to keep it from hardening.  Roll out marzipan just as you would with Fondant– dusting work surface with powdered sugar, and cover cake.  This is all a bit too sweet for me so I just go with buttercream.

I made a black cake this week for a holiday party in the costume shop at work, hence the buttons, notions, and other sewing accoutrements.  It was a big hit!

4 comments December 10, 2010

Here comes the Bride

This past weekend I was in my friends wedding.  In fact I was the M.O.H.  Maid of Honor.  Sarah and I have been friends for along time  and I had joked for years about how I’d tell the story of how we met at her wedding, so its surreal that the day has actual come and past.

sarah's wedding 4

This dubious job of being MOH comes with many responsibilities including planning the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and holding the train of the gigantic dress up while the lady of the hour has to pee.  I’ll breifly paraphrase the toast i gave at the reception…aka the story of how we met. Ahem.

The first mutual memory Sarah and I have of each other is one fateful day during snack time in kindergarten.  Sarah wasn’t feeling good and puked purple grape juice all over my desk.  We’ve been friends ever since…

I’ll save all the tear jerky lines about how much I love both her and her new husband Sean and how the first impressions people make on us aren’t always important, and what makes someone special is that you can’t picture your life without them…sigh

There are more important things at weddings beside bathroom breaks and embarrassing stories…THE CAKE.

Sarah went with a popular trend in terms of wedding cakes.  A giant cup cake tower. With a miniature cake for the cutting ceremony.DSCN0574

Cupcake towers are great.  Your guests are far more inclined to partake, in a cupcake or two.  Sarah had a variety of flavors, from carrot cake to chocolate, with different custards and filling.  And her cake designer was even able to oblige in some non-dairy options, as the groom is lactose intolerant.  One more plug for vegan baking.  Its not just for strict vegetarian folks.  Sarah actually had some trouble finding someone who could pull off non-dairy.  To all those soon-to-be-Brides out there:  Do not be discouraged its pretty easy to make great cake non-dairy. And your groom will never know the difference as you are shoving it into his face…In this case the bride got a surprise handful to the mouth as seen in the scathing look below.DSCN0578I’ve come across a few horror stories from some other brides that the cake of their wedding day dreams wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Someone once told me during a class that she was promised beautiful gumpaste Hydreangias only to find out a day before her wedding that the decorator didn’t actually know how to make them!!!

Gumpaste is a lot like fondant.  It is edible but dries quicker and more solid than fondant.  Colored gumpaste tends to fade some what quickly so you should be aware and dye it a shade or two darker when using it.  Its most ideal for very thin petals and delicate flower designs.  In the case of Sarah’s cake she had Gerber daisies atop many of her cupcakes which match the decore as well as the bridal bouquets.  I wasn’t super impressed with the decorator’s flowers…but I suppose I’d built it up in my head– just what these daisies would look like.

Making flowers out of gumpaste is pretty simple.  If you totally suck at piping flowers you might find that making roses, daisies etc are quite easy when it come to gumpaste– its done mostly with cookie cutters. Hey as I say in class some of us are sculptors not painters.  Sugarcraft. com as well as offer a variety of cutters.  Here’s my take on Gerber Daisies using the Wilton daisy cutters.


Below is one of the Wilton Daisy cutters available at Michael’s or just about any craft store with a cake decorating aisle.  For each daisy you’ll need to roll out gumpaste to 1/16 of an inch (really thin–not total see-thru but close to translucent).  And cut 2 large daisies and 2 medium daisies.


Once you’ve cut the daisy blossoms use a balling/veining tool to thin the petals more. Place a blossom on thin shaping foam and run the balling tool from the edge of the petal to the center on the daisy.  The petals will curl in as you do this. Do this to all four blossoms cut.


Now chop ’em up.  Run a pastry wheel, a small pizza cuter, along each petal making 3 small cuts in each petal.  The cuts don’t have to be clean, just impressions.


Now glue all your blossoms together.  How you ask?  With gum glue–1/4 c warm water with 1/2 tsp of gumpaste dissolved in it. If you find you have hardened pieces of gumpaste along the edge of what you’re working with–this is ideal to dissolve for gum glue.  Typically one should let it stand for an hour.  Make some in advance and store it in the fridge for future projects.  Drop a little gum glue between each blossom with a paint brush and your set.  Let these flowers dry on flower formers–this is another Wilton Product.  Cutting paper cups in half and letting the blossoms dry in the concave shape produces the same effect if you don’t have Wilton flower formers on hand.


I used piping gel mixed with a little chocolate syrup to pipe a donut shape in the center.  I sprinkled with pink and yellow colored sugar and then filled in the center with chocolate syrup.  If you what a realistic comparison to real Gerber Daisies just scroll up my page–they are the header on the back drop of this here blog.


Find these instructions a little confusing or feeling like too much of a novice to do this on your own? Take a Wilton Fondant and Gum Paste Course (CHECK OUT THE NOVEMBER SCHEDULE PAGE) you’ll learn traditional Daisies, as well as Calalilies, and Carnations!

1 comment October 20, 2009

Back in Black or I’ve Been Living Under a Rock Part Three

I suppose starting a blogging and posting every other day and then just slacking off and ignoring it for weeks is kind lame huh??  

Yeah I think so too.  In a nutshell without getting too personal are the reasons:

My real job is crazy busy and my boyfriend and I might have broken up.  Its hard to conjure up art without a muse…I mean taste-tester and the bills gotta get paid.  I also  purchased one of those Jet Blue Unlimited All-You-Can-Jet-Passes, (hey some girls cut their hair short in a break-up, I on the other hand go find a beach and some long lost friends) so I’ve been setting off to Florida, California, and Texas lately, and have ignored this page all together.

Back to reality.

I did this cake like a month ago, in response to that cake contest I found out about all too late.  My most impressive work? No. But totally me…YES! Lets put it out there.  I’m a Taurus, a stubborn, opinionated, loyal, horned …sweetheart.  And when I saw the different designs you could pick from to participate in this contest, a soft part of my heart went for this design. Had I found out sooner about this contest I would have totally chosen something far more complex, and actually entered but as they say, “it just wasn’t meant to bee…”


So in addition to some photos, why not a recipe?  Below is a recipe for Marshmellow Fondant.  Now I’ve got a few things to say about Fondant:

First off, Fondant pronounced Fahn. Dahnt, or as many of us say “Fawndint” is in fact a French word.  Its not another term for fondue, its not called “fondantine”, or any other hybrid of something that sounds fancy.

I’ve been watching The Cake Boss a bit lately.  Buddy pronounces Fondant correctly.  So if you want to pronounce it right say it like him…Fahn Dahnt…with or without that New York/ Jersey accent … I suppose that would be me cawlling the kettle black, now wouldn’t it?


“Fondant” actually stems from the word “Fondre” which in French means “to fold.”  Actual real bakery-made Fondant is made by boiling sugar to just under a temperature that would render it hard candy.  The oozing hot lava liquid is poured out onto a marble or metal slab and allowed to cool slightly.  Then begins the process of scooping the gel substance and folding it on to itself.  As the mixture cools as its folded it becomes white and eventually resembles the white sugar paste we all know and …have become quite frustrated with from time to time.

I don’t recommend any novice try making fondant at home as you could seriously burn yourself.  BUT you can try this easy recipe to attain a good stand in.

Marshmellow Fondant for some people has a more desirable taste.  Is easy to make, not to mention way cheaper than store bought fondant.  In the end, its not as strong as authentic fondant, but you might scarcely be able to differentiate.  Worse case scenario mix this with the real stuff and your cake will turn out as good as ever. Heres how it goes:

1 bag (16oz) mini marshmallows

4 TBSP of water.

2lbs. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 c shortening

Melt marshellows with water in a double boiler till fluffy and liquidy.  Stir regularly until you can not longer see lumps– but be careful not to let cook too long.  If mixture has a translucent quality you’ve over cooked. PICT0577

Pour in to a bowl and let cool slightly.  Add 1 cup confectioners sugar (4 cups total by the end) and begin to stir. After 1-1/2c cups have been added, coat your dominant hand in shortening and begin needing mixture by hand adding more sugar continuously.

PICT0578After lots of sugar you will (I promise) get a dough substance.  And you’ll have Pop-Eye forearms to prove it.


Once you’ve achieved the dough consistency, you can refridgerate and save for a couple of weeks.  If you are preparing for a big project make your fondant in advance coat with a layer of crisco and then wrap air tight in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Remember both bakery fondant and Marshmallow Fondant dry out in the air, so make sure you keep what you are not using covered at all times.

PICT0587When rolling out fondant make sure your surface is well coated with shortening.  Roll out as evenly as possible, starting from the center working outward evenly.  Roll out no thinner than an eighth of an inch.  If you roll your fondant too thin it will tear once on the cake and be wrinkly.

PICT0588Smoothing Fondant onto a cake takes practice.  Make sure you’ve rolled enough to fully cover all sides.  (By the way you still have to frost the cake with icing before you put fondant on it!) Starting at 12 o’clock pull the edge of the fondant up at you smooth the fondant against the cake.  Then go to 6 o’clock and do the same.  Go to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock until the fondant is smooth and adhered to the cake and all the wrinkles have been pushed to the edges. Cut off the excess and you’re done!

3 comments October 14, 2009

Haiwaiin Wedding Cake


I’ve been looking for a reason to post this reciepe, other then its just good summer cake.  And what better reason to post this cake than my friend Scott got married this past week!!!!!!!!   Their recent nuptials at City Hall will be followed by a big ceremony to come within the year.  In honor of my good friend Scott and his lovely bride Melanie, here is a personal favorite, Haiwaiin Wedding Cake.

This is one of the first cakes I ever learned how to make.  Its SUPER EASY.  And is perfect for a summer bbq.  And the assembly is quick so you’ll be out of the 350 degree kitchen in no time.   The no-nonsense version is as follows or you can scroll further and find a slightly more detailed recipe.


Make a yellow cake batter from any of your favorite store bought box brands. The cake should be baked in a long sheet pan(9×13) and allowed to cool.  Once cool, slather it with instant vanilla pudding, cool whip (ahhh the wonders of coolwhip), sprinkle with shredded coconut, 1 can of drained pineapple, and drained Marchino cherries, and chopped walnuts.  Cover with foil and your off to the BBQ where you can slice wide pieces grill-side.

Actually need to make it for a wedding?? PICT0548

Yellow Cake

I got this recipe from none other than Martha Stewart’s Wedding Cakes. I thought this was the most appropriate source.  This reciepe accomodated two 9″ round pans, it was a little over filled.  3 1/2 cups of batter would be enough to properly fill a 9″ pan.  Filling pans to 3/4 full the trick.   This reciepe yields almost 11 cups, so cake your face off!!

3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp, plus more for greasing pans

4 c flour, plus more for pans

1 tb baking powder

3 c sugar

6 eggs at room temp, separated

1 1/2 c milk (I used 2%)

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter pans.  Place Parchment paper in pans, butter and flour paper in pans and set aside.

Sift flour and powder (Martha Says 3 times!!!! I think thats excessive– once should be fine). Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy (with a paddle attachment if you have a KitchenAid mixer–which is a necessary investment if you are making wedding cakes). Add egg yolks one at a time.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture then milk, alternating.  Start and end with flour.

In a clean (grease free) bowl mix egg whites with salt.  (chill the bowl and whisk attachment for 15 minutes first)  Once egg whites are stiff, but not dry, mix 1/4 of the egg whites into batter.  Once incorporated fold the remaining whites in.

Pour batter into pans and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean.  (it only took me 35-40)

Cool in pans for 20 minutes before romving.  Place on wracks to continue cooling.  Martha suggests refridgerating for a day before using.  In the fridge the cakes are good for 2 days.

Cherry Filling:

2 cups fresh or frozen cherries

3tb- 4tb sugar

1 1/2 tb cornstarch or arrowroot

2tb- 3tb water (ifyou are using fresh– frozen cherries should be thawed, and moist enough)

In a sauce pan combine cherries and sugar and simmer with low heat.  Mix cornstarch and water (or you could use fruit juice like pineapple) and combine in pan.  Simmer, mixing continually till thickened.


Coconut Butter Cream:

3/4 c shortening

3/4 heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract

1-2 tsp coconut extract

Combine till creamy creamy creamy.

4+ cups of confectioners sugar.  (please check my royal icing post for some successful mixing directions)

Icing will be a stiff consistency which is ideal for icing.

Icing pulling your cake apart??  Make sure to add a GENEROUS amount of icing to successfully cover you cake without crumbage.  PICT0540Think of it this way:  Plopping, yeah I used that as a verb, big dollops of icing all over the top of your cake is a great way to start.  With a spatula play connect the dots with the icing.  After the cake is covered you can do some cleaning up with your spatula to straighten out the side and remove all that excess frosting.


Garnish:  Cover this cake like a pina coloda at a fancy resort.  Add large piece of fresh pineapple and cherries, as well as large chunks of dried coconut.

This cake smells great, tastes great, is as refreshing as young love.  Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Kipp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DSCN0351


2 comments August 8, 2009

I’ve Been Living Under a Rock!!!!! PART TWO

Dear Leslie Evans,

You are AWESOME!  This cake is AWESOME!!! Can we hang out?


Add a comment August 3, 2009

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The Cake Eccentric

Sugar, Frosting, and Fondant: an artistic exploration of Cake and other Sweets