Friday, August 26, 2016

August Artwork #2

Another sketch for August Artwork. The peaches were made with colored pencils. I found it challenging to get the correct shape - not too round, not to precise - but still recognizable and realistic. The color was the most fun part. I'm learning to use unpredictable colors (at least to me) to obtain more realistic results. The peach skin was made with yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, blues and gray. The leaves were greens, yellows and blues. I've found a good rule of thumb is to use a minimum of 3 different colored pencils to create a "single" color. Now, to keep working on the highlights and then tackle the shadows.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

August Artwork

I took a short blogging break and am back with a daily dose of artwork.
I drew this starling while on an airplane. I was working to create texture in the feathers. I wanted to work on making the feathers appear bristly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Black Forest Cake

I made a Black Forest Cake for Jon's parents' birthdays. Black Forest Cake is a classic with chocolate cake layers, Kirsch (cherry liqueur), whipped cream frosting, fresh cherries, and the ultimate garnish - chocolate shavings. The chocolate shavings not only add a visual element, but add texture and flavor. The cake is a series of contrasts. The cake is rich, chocolatey and sweet. The Kirsch adds a cherry flavor and a bit of a kick, while the whipped cream adds a creamy, airy element. The chocolate shavings cling to the frosting and the cherries add fruity sweetness.
 Jon's parents love chocolate cakes, so I thought the Black Forest would be great for their birthday celebration. 87 years old.
 I baked the three layers ahead of time. The picture looks like red cakes, but it was just the oven light. These are deep chocolate layers. I baked them, let them cool and froze them overnight.
The day that I was ready to serve the cake, I assembled the cake. I added layers of cake, Kirsch simple syrup, chopped cherries, and whipped cream frosting. When I was done, I added a crumb coat of frosting and set it in the fridge to set. I added another layer of whipped cream frosting, sprinkled the sides with chocolate shards, piped a border on top, and added the traditional cherries.
Just before I boxed it up, I sprinkled some chocolate on the top of the cake. It looked lovely. 
Here's the cake with a few slices removed.
And my piece!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Classic Cakes

What makes a cake a classic? There doesn't seem to be any specific definition, yet classics are ones that have stood the test of time and have been for generations. While there are lots of varieties of each cake, there are basics that define each cake. Here are a list of classic cakes as I see it. What do you think? Am I missing any?

Red Velvet Cake
Black Forest Cake
Chocolate Layer Cake
Boston Cream Pie
Angel Food Cake
White Layer Cake
Swiss Roll
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Carrot Cake
Tres Leches Cake
Spice Cake
Pound Cake
Gingerbread Cake
Hummingbird Cake
Poke Cakes
Coconut Cake
Lemon Layer Cake
Rum Bundt Cake
Pumpkin Roll

Monday, August 08, 2016

Another German Chocolate Cake

It's that time of year again. The time when our friend Mark celebrates his birthday and I make him a German Chocolate Cake. I've made ones in the past here, hereand here, but this year wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to stay true to the German's Chocolate Cake: chocolate cake made with German's chocolate, coconut caramel filling, chocolate buttercream. I also wanted to add something to keep it fresh. So, I decided to make a drip cake with German's Chocolate Bark shards on top.
 I drew some preliminary sketches. Since I wasn't sure of the size cake needed, I drew some round ones (serving 8-12), a tiny round one (serving 4-6) and a large rectangular one (serving 18+).
After I found out that there were 18 people expected at the party, I wound up making 13x9 layers of cake, following recipes from previous years.
 I toasted the coconut shavings and the nuts in the oven to make the caramel coconut filling. The house smelled divine while these were toasting. The toasting is not required, but it brings out the flavor in both the pecans and the coconut. Best of all, it dries out the coconut and creates a warm golden color.
 I cooked the caramel on the stovetop, strained the eggs out of it and then combined it with the toasted nuts and coconut. I put it in the fridge overnight to set up for assembling the cake.
 I made a simple syrup and then added rum to it and chilled that in the fridge. Lastly, I made some Chocolate bark. I sprinkled toasted coconut on top of the melted chocolate, along with some caramel drizzle and gold edible pearls and white sprinkles. I let the bark set up, then broke it into shards.
 When it was time to make the cake, I crumb coated it with frosting and set it in the fridge for 40 minutes to set up. The process of frosting the cake takes a while because each stage needs to set up in the fridge. So, each step isn't time consuming, but the chilling time is lengthy.
After the crumb coat set, I added a thicker coat of frosting and tried to make it fairly smooth. I set that back in the fridge to chill while I made the ganache.
 I made a thick ganache and let it cool. I still wanted it to be loose, but not warm. I spooned it on the top of the cake and let it drip over the edge. Because the cake was chilled and the ganache was cool, it quickly set up.

 I studded the top of the cake with bark, facing all the underneath sides to the center of the cake and moving out concentrically. I kept the taller pieces in the center and just built around it.
Lastly, but not pictured, I added a few borders of frosting along the bottom of the cake. I set it in the fridge for 6 hours before the party to set and gain some structure. We had to transport it about 20 minutes away on a hot summer evening.
The cake was a success! Mark loved it. He blew out all the candles and ate the leftovers for breakfast!
Here's Lori, Mark's beautiful wife, myself and Jon in the background.


Sunday, August 07, 2016


There are so many things for which I am grateful.
 We saw this truck and I had to laugh! I loved the pun of "Delivering EggZactly what you need"... and then cracked up at the thought that their products included eggs, chicken, beef, pork, dairy.... and pickles? That was unexpected!
 Ashley and I found a local chocolatier. We picked up a small box of these "jewels" for her grandmother's birthday. This is a gorgeous gift.
 We're heading to Comic con and Ashley has been working studiously on her costume. Here is the mask that she painted.
 The Black Forest Cake was a success! It made a great birthday cake and all guests are pleased.
Tennis has been lovely. I've been playing with my favorite people and it's been so much fun!