Hi everyone! My name is Heather, and along with being a mother to my awesome son, Julius, and a wife to my best friend, Josh, I also teach English at Ivy Tech Community College. My real passion, however, besides teaching, is baking. I’ve always loved baking! Every Sunday growing up, I would look through my mom’s recipes and find a dessert for dinner. I’d try my hardest to make it look just like the picture, and when it failed, my mom would always encourage me to try again and that “it would still taste great” even if it didn’t match the picture. My mom bought me my first Wilton decorating book about 8 or 9 years ago, and since then, I’ve been decorating cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc….and still trying to make everything look just like the pictureJ
Although my baking started off as something fun to do, it’s starting to turn into a nice side job for some extra money! I’ve named my cake making business, “Heather’s Happy Cakes”, and if you’d like to look me up, you can view all my creations on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeathersHappyCakes
So I’d like to share a few of my creations, a great butter cream icing recipe that’s great on everything, and I’ll add in a few tips along the way.
My first real creation was a cookie bouquet for my friend’s baby shower about 9 years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t find the exact picture from that baby shower, but have made others since, so here’s one I did for another baby shower a few years ago:
The cookie baskets are pretty simple to make. I use a sugar cookie recipe, rolling it out thick so a skewer will insert into it. I usually bake the cookies with the skewers inserted in them. After the cookies have cooled, I use a powdered sugar icing (almost drizzling consistency) to ice them, which becomes somewhat hard when it dries. I like this recipe for the this type of creation over a buttercream or softer icing because it won’t smudge if the cookies touch each other. Then I line the container or basket with some type of foam, and then start arranging, poking the sticks into the foam. For this basket, I also used some green Easter basket grass to cover the foam, and then added the ribbon and bow.
As time went on, I would make cakes for family members and get-togethers. Once my son was born, however, I really started to get creative, and strive to make every birthday special for him. I started off simple for his 1st birthday by making a “1” shaped cake. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cute enough for a 1-year-oldJ As the years went on, I started getting more creative with the cakes: Curious George, a Race Track, Spongebob, etc…but my first real sculpted cake came on his 5th birthday: A pirate ship. And then the next year, for his “Swamp People” gator party, I made a Gator cake, and then this past year, for his 7th birthday, a Super Hero cake. I think my favorites, as far as his birthday cakes, include the gator cake and the Super Hero cake(with decorated sugar cookies and a fondant cape).
I’ve made other sculpted cakes for birthdays, showers, and graduations. Below are a couple of my favorites:
The double cheeseburger cake was for my husband’s surprise 35th birthday. It came with a side of “fries” made from sugar cookies. My husband LOVES double cheeseburgers, so I wanted to give him a cake that looked just like one, complete with ketchup, mustard, and mayo (just the way he likes it). It was pretty easy to do and if you’re wondering, the “sesame seeds” on the top of the bun are just rice krispies.
The Captain Morgan cake was made for a 21st Birthday celebration. I was nervous about this cake as they were flying with it to Vegas, and I wasn’t quite sure how to make it “plane-proof”. I used fondant for this one, and “painted” using food coloring mixed with a little bit of vodka.
One of my other favorites was my sister’s graduation cake: the nurse cake, complete with stethoscope, pen, and name tag. I used store-bought fondant for this one, as it was my first time using fondant, and I quickly realized that I needed to find a fondant recipe…quick! So after this cake, I started making my own marshmallow fondant. It’s pretty simple, yet REALLY messy to make.
I did my first wedding cake last year for my sister-in-law. (Sorry, but the picture was taken a little crooked.) I was sooo nervous about this cake. It was a 3-tier cake, so it was the tallest one I’d ever done. It turned out quite nicely, though, and I’ll be doing my first paid wedding this August, so I’m pretty excited!
I’ve also done some cupcakes and cake balls over the years. Cake balls can be a little tricky, as they sometimes fall apart when you dip them in the hot, melted chocolate. The trick is to freeze them before dipping themJ Here are a few of my favorites:
I just made these “Grill Out” cupcakes for our Annual Memorial Party this year. The “food” is made from Tootsie Rolls, Hot Tamales, and cut up Gummi Bears on toothpicks. You can buy food coloring markers, which I used to make the grill marks on the burgers and dogs.
One of my all time favorite cakes was the Colts themed cake I did for a double 30th birthday party last year. As a huge Colts fan, it was a pleasure to make this cakeJ It was a massive cake and very heavy since it was a half sheet cake with 2 individual jersey cakes on top.
I thought I’d also share a few tricks of the trade, so here goes:
· It’s hard to get that perfectly smooth surface when using butter cream because there always seems to be that pesky line when trying to smooth it out with a knife or even icing tools. So what I’ve picked up is to use a Viva paper towel. And it has to be Viva because they don’t have a pattern of any kind. The trick is to get the icing as smooth as possible, then let it sit in the fridge until it gets a “crust” on the icing. Then, lay the paper towel on the cake and gently (and lightly) use your hand to smooth the icing out. The heat from your hand softens the icing and helps even out any imperfections.
· If stacking a cake (like with the wedding cake or super hero cake that I included above), always using dowels in the cake so the top cake won’t cave into the bottom layer. You can use thicker skewers cut to the height of the cake, or you can buy cake dowels at hobby and craft stores.
· Don’t over-bake!! It’s tricky to find that “perfect” time when the cake is done, but not over-done. And it changed depending on your oven. It can become dry if it’s cooked just 2 minutes too long. What I’ve learned is that if you’re using a darker pan, cook at a lower temperature. (If it says 350 degrees, cook it at 325 degrees). Also, it’s better to set the timer for less time and then add a few minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick, and when it comes out clean, take it out of the oven. There have been times that I thought the cake wasn’t done even when the toothpick was clean. Trust the toothpick!
· If you’re wanting to do a specific design or picture on your cake with icing, it’s not as hard you might think. I’ve learned to use the internet and a printer. Find the picture you want, print it, and then cut it out. Put a layer of icing on your cake and then let it set in the fridge until it’s crusted over. Place your printed out template on the cake and trace it using a toothpick. You can then use your icing to trace the outline and fill in with other icing colors. I’ve used this technique on sooo many cakes, like this one:
Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my cake making with you! I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe it inspired you to bake up something funJ And as promised, here’s the butter cream recipe that I use. It’s so easy to make and work with, and it’s great on just about any cake or cupcake.
Butter Cream Icing
- ½ cup Crisco or other shortening
- ½ cup margarine (or butter. If using real butter, be sure it’s soft)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp. milk
- 4 – 4 ½ cups powdered sugar (I usually start with 4 cups and then if I want a stiffer icing, I add more powdered sugar)
Mix the shortening and butter until creamy. Add the vanilla and almond and mix. Alternate the milk and powdered sugar, adding powdered sugar first, then the milk. If you want the icing to be a more stiff, add more powdered sugar. If you want it a little creamier, you can add a little more milk.
Wow! Thank you so much Heather! Not only did we get some great eye candy, we were given some very useful tips and tricks! So wonderful of you to share! I love that beehive! And the Grilling Out cupcakes... just too creative and interesting! If you're in the greater Indianapolis area you might want to check out Heather's site if you have a special event in mind.