Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Blogger: Tamara from Events by WE

Every one loves getting guests and the Sugar Mama NYC blog is no exception. It's great to hear point of views, stories and great info from the world beyond my kitchen (and laptop). So when I find someone that I enjoy hearing from, I invite them (read: stalk them until they say yes) to pop in here and share with all of you. If you're interested in guest blogging, feel free to leave your info: name, email, blog link and maybe I'll be able to hang up my binoculars and night vision goggles. I hear the laws on stalking are getting kinda strict...
Now, without further ado. Introducing...

Guest Blogger: Tamara from Events by WE

Hello, my name is Tamara from Events by WE. I am an Event Planner from Cincinnati, though my best friend and business partner, Alycia and I plan events all over the country. I was recently asked by Michelle, to give you my take on the wedding cake trends for 2010 in my area of the world.

First, I would like to tell you that, I'm all about showing off your personal style. I'm talking about showing your guests something new. Maybe, give your guest a runway show. Brides don't leave anything untouched! I had to get that out.

Next, let me tell you that, the themes and colors of this season's ceremonies are turning away from traditional pastels and pure white cakes in the favor of BOLD and BRIGHT hues. The colors that my brides are looking at are orange and turquoise and the many shades of purple leading the pack. Brides here are not afraid too match their bridesmaids dress color with their cake, a detail which can complete the perfect look for an outdoor reception. I can also tell you that, fresh fruits are definitely making an impact on wedding cake designs this year. More brides than ever are asking about fresh fruits. I'm talking about peaches, blackberries, strawberries and OMG, my favorite...mangoes! Brides are really wanting these fresh fruits to embellish their cakes.

And for you Brides that are asking yourself, "Are cupcakes going somewhere soon?" I'm telling you, "No." Cupcakes are getting an invitation too the celebration and they are coming in a class that stands alone. Here is the thing about cupcakes, they are are just to cute to do without. I had a bride ask "If I have a cake, can I still have cupcakes?" My response was, "Absolutely!" My suggestion would be to, have your wedding planner to set up an over the top dessert bar, with all of yours and your future husband's favorite treats from childhood. Cupcakes can add so much fun to a dessert bar. All of your guests will absolutely LOVE it, and you will be the topic of everyone's morning after conversation.

Again Brides, it's all about your personal style. Whether it's bright colors, cranberries or cupcakes make your wedding cake reflect your inner fabulousness, because that's the real reason the guests are coming to your wedding; to celebrate you.


Tamara E. from Events by WE
Events By WE on Facebook!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cake of the Week: 7 eleven Slurpee Cookies!

So as you may have guessed by reading my blog, I march to the beat of a slight different drummer. So this week's cake of week is actually a cookie. Thirty cookies to be exact.

Last week I got a call from two of the best daughters a father could ask for. Their father was turning 60 and he loves owning and operating several 7 eleven stores. So, as the perfect treat for his celebration they ordered a 7 eleven logo cake with a sugar figurine of their dad holding a coffee cup and as favors, 7 eleven slurpee cookies!

The cake turned out amazingly well and the sugar figurine was one of the best I've created but the cookies were the real star of show.

First, I had to make the cookies and wouldn't you know it; there are no 7 eleven slurpee cookie cutters, so I had to make a cardboard template. Once the cookies were hand cut and baked. It was time to make the Slurpees come alive.

The cup and straw are fondant. The "slurpee" is royal icing. The details are hand painted, fondant and royal icing.

The cookies to for-ever to finish, but I loved every minute of making them because I wasn't sure I even could when I said yes to doing them.

Well it's bake to work for me...

Thanks for tuning in!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sugar Mama NYC's Giveaway: Designs by Alicia P.

Every one loves getting free stuff and giving it away is even more fun! Sugar Mama NYC will host giveaways as often as possible featuring the coolest stuff we can find.
It's easy to enter: Just click on one of the links below. Enter your info, the name of the giveaway featured in the title above and your give away entry. Best of luck in Sugar Mama NYC's Giveaway!

Today's Giveaway:
Giveaway Name: Designs by Alicia P.
Giveaway Entry: This is our first giveaway so we'll make it nice and easy. Tell us your favorite flavor cake.
Giveaway Prize:
Gorgeous pair of handmade suede earrings designed by Alicia Pillar of Designs by Alicia P.
Retail Price: $ 40.00

Giveaway ends March 16th 2010!

About Designs by Alicia P.
Alicia Piller is a Chicago based designer/artist currently living in New York City. Her unique business (body of work) consists of paintings, suede & beaded jewelry, and hand-painted clothing; all made by Alicia P. herself. Extensive travel, family, and her knowledge of fine arts and anthropology (B.A. from Rutgers University, in both), have helped to shape her style and designs into a melting pot of cultural influences, which she chooses to share with the world.

Alicia's suede and beaded jewelry are not just single or multi-stranded suede cords with a few beads on it. These pieces are literally works of art, in which she intertwines crystals and semi-precious beads into her lightweight suede creations.

**We love comments, but leaving one below will not enter you in the giveaway. You must submit an entry form by clicking the link below. Be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY NAME & GIVEAWAY ENTRY to qualify**

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cake of the Week: Winter Snowflake Cake

This week's beauty was created for very lucky 16 year old celebrating her sweetest birthday in Queens. The theme of the cake was so appropriate because we just had a major snow storm and it was still piled high wherever you went.

This cake marked the tail end of my busiest weeks to date: 11 orders! This may not sound like much but I have just these two hands and sometimes my office manager jumps in to make royal icing or help paint. It was also one of my biggest, not counting the behemoths I'm sometimes called upon to make for SNL. She was 12" around the bottom tier and about 20" high, not including the 16 and the snowflakes.

This cake could also be the most delicious. The bottom tier was Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Buttercream, the middle was Butter Cake with Vanilla Buttercream and the top was Chocolate with Chocolate Buttercream; all Swiss Meringue, of course.

The construction and design was fairly straight forward. The hardest part was keeping the cake white while covering and stacking. Once the cake was covered and stacked, I finally got bust out my shiny new snowflake cutters that I ordered from Lindy Smith.

After the fondant design was complete, I finished the look by airbrushing a pearlescent shimmer on every snowflake, stripe and snowball. I then followed up with a mixture of pearlescent shimmer and a hint of blue to match the party decor.

After discovering to my delight that my new boxes fit this giant cake perfectly. We packed her into the car and took off. After passing the venue twice, clearing a huge snowbank and navigating some tricky stairs we delivered the cake safe and sound to a very excited and beautiful 16 year old.

Well it's bake to work for me!
Thanks for tuning in. Until next time!

Friday, February 12, 2010

You Can Make It: Sugar Mama's Yummy Butter Cookies

I'm a self taught baker and cake designer. Everything I've learned is from books, TV, videos and trial & error...alot of error; but the things I do well I'm more than happy to share and believe me, if I can make it...

You Can Make It: Sugar Mama's Yummy Butter Cookies

The cookies were ordered by Events by WE in Cincinnati, OH. I love making them so much I thought it'd be a great opportunity to share.

Who doesn't love cookies? I don't know but I don't want to meet them. I don't get them to often but when I do get an order for cookies, I always make a little extra for myself for a little snack. These cookies are great smeared with cream cheese!

I love this recipe because the cookies aren't too sweet, so they compliment royal icing and fondant well. There isn't alot of prep time or ingredients. Try it and let me know what you think!

* This recipe yields about 30 2" cookies
* I like to always make a fresh batch and use it right away but you can store the cookie dough in the fridge for 3-5 days. You can also freeze it for about 6-8 weeks but I wouldn't recommend it. Fresh is alway best.
* This recipe can be doubled but I wouldn't recommend cutting it in half.
And now with out further ado...

Sugar Mama's Yummy Butter Cookies

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 stick salted butter (room temperature)
1 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

mixing bowls, measuring cups & spoons
knife & cutting board
Stand Mixer, Mixing Bowl, Paddle and Dough hook Attachment
Rubber Spatula
Wax Paper
Cookie Baking Sheets
Cookie Cutter
Rolling Pin


Preparing the cookie dough:
Chop butter into chunks and combine with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat on high/med speed until the butter/sugar mixture is light and fluffy.

While the butter and sugar are mixing combine all the flour, baking soda, salt and sift together. To save time I just mix the ingredients quickly with a fork.

Once the butter/ sugar mix has the desired amount of fluff, add the egg and the vanilla. Continue to mix until incorporated. Then add your dry ingredients a half a cup at a time, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

When the paddle attachment is struggling to mix your cookie dough (be careful not to burn out your motor), switch to the dough hook attachment. Allow the hook to knead the dough into a nice ball that catches all the batter/dough stuck to sides of the bowl.

Yay, cookie dough! Now you can stop here, eat the cookie dough with a bowl of ice cream or continue to the next steps.

Baking Cookies:
Move all of your oven racks to the top slots and preheat your oven to 300 degrees... yes really, 300 degrees.

Split your dough ball in half or thirds. Take one portion of dough and place it between two sheets of wax paper on your largest cookie sheet. Use your rolling pin to roll the dough into a flat sheet.

If your cookie sheet is sliding all over the counter top put a square of non slip grip matting, like the kind you use to line your drawers, underneath the sheet and it will stay put.

Use you cookie cutter to cut out the cookies then transfer the wax paper to a new cookie sheet and stick the whole thing in the freezer or fridge. Do the same to the reamining dough and by the time you've finished the last batch, the first batch should be cold.

Take a cookie spatula or offset spatula and remove the cold cookies from sheet and arrange them on new sheets no less than a half inch apart. You should probably have a copious amount of cookie sheets. Toss the remaing dough in a bowl so you can keep rerolling and cutting more cookies until the entire batch is done.

Once you have all of your cookies on sheets you can begin to place them in the oven. Usually you bake butter cookies for 8-10 minutes at about 350 0r 375. I prefer to bake them for 15-20 minutes at 300 because you get a more even golden color and you're less likely to forget them in the oven and burn them, not as if that has ever happened to me, but I've heard stories...

Once they're done cool them on the stove top, cooling rack or do a quick chill in the freezer. Remove them carefully with a cookie or offset spatula.
Three guesses as to where that missing cookie went.

Ta-Da! Sugar Mama's Yummy Butter Cookies. Now you can stop here and eat the cookies with a bowl of ice cream or you can decorate and share them.

Let's play a little if & then:
if dough is too loose, then there wasn't enough flour or too much butter. I could also be too warm in your kitchen. You can knead flour into the batter or wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.
if your cookies are dark brown around the edges and doughy white in the middle, then your cookies are too close to the bottom of the oven or the oven temp is too high.
if you have cooled your cookies for a while and they're still stuck to the pan, then pop them in the freezer for a few minutes. They'll fly right off the sheet.
Unfortunately, these are the only mistakes I've made and know how to fix. If anyone else has tips I will gladly update them.

Well it's "bake" to work for me.
Thanks for tuning in. Until Next Time!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A cake wreck even a Sugar Mama could love...

For the fourth time I was called upon by the awesome prop team at NBC's Saturday Night Live to make a prop cake for this week's show starring... Aston Kutcher!

I got the call on Thursday which seems to be my lucky day for last minute cakes.

But instead of being called on to make one giant cake, I was asked to make 4!! And they needed to be delivered to NBC Studios by Noon on Saturday! And they need to be buttercream free! And they couldn't have a sturdy structural support so a) they could be easily knocked down, b) they wouldn't ruin the costumes & c) they wouldn't create a dangerous slippery surface for the performers. The last time I did giant wedding cakes for the show, I saw Steve Martin slip and almost fall in some frosting and I saw my whole career flash before my eyes. No buttercream. Got it.

"ok. cool." I said, trying to contain my panic and focus on the money. Four giants cakes, Three days, No supports, No buttercream... no problem. I can do this. Oh, and yes, I did have other orders for this weekend.

So after 3 days and two nights of no sleep (not true, I got about 6 hours, which I think is worse than no sleep. I equate it to taking a lick of your favorite ice cream cone and then dropping it on floor. You could pick it up and continue eating it, but the consequences are to scary to consider) and using every ingredient in my kitchen and cleaning out my local grocery store of eggs, we were finally done!! The only problem was it was 1:15 pm. We loading up the cakes in my office managers massive Jeep, along with the cupcakes that became this weeks cake of the week and headed to NBC with the speed of one of Zeus' lightning bolts.

We made it there by two. I was met by my favorite stage hands and no one noticed we were late.
We got the cakes upstairs, unloaded and signed for. I saw Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg. And best of all I get to keep the money!! Good day, until...

I finally got back to Brooklyn, collapsed on my bed (fully clothed) slept for about 90 minutes when my phone rang. It was SNL. They loved the cakes but want them taller. Would it be possible to add another tier?
Hmmm. There was no more flour, not one egg or a scrap of fondant to be found in the joint. Let's not mention the time to bake four tiers of cake, cool them, fondant them & deliver them. Even I couldn't pull that off.
After I hung up the phone with a heavy heart I got an idea. I called back and suggested taking four huge cakes and making 2 gigantic cakes. I tried to suggest this in way that made it sound so easy that someone else could do it, but to no avail. They wanted me and offered to pay me to come back so of course I said yes.

I rallied to rebuild one cake had to wait around to see if it worked so I would know whether they wanted me to build the second one (which they did)
Even though I was exhausted,I must say hanging out at SNL is always pretty cool. You get to see how the show is put together, see the actors and hang out in the prop room and backstage. I even got to pig out at the NBC commissary which was pretty amazing. The props department is pretty cool too. Every body's really funny and laid back... unless you touch one of the props. I got busted playing with a stunt knife. Sorry, guys.

Rule #1: Don't touch the props.

Out of every SNL episode that has featured one of my cakes this one is definitely a fave. All the extra time and effort was worth the fantastic result. Check it out!

Hope you enjoyed it! Fist fight in the Parking Lot is my new favorite song. :o)

We'll it's bake to work for me!
Thanks for tuning in. Until next time...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cake of the Week: Empire State Building Cupcakes

Well technically this week's cake of the week are actually cupcakes, but these were really cool cupcakes so I thought they deserved some recognition.

The client who ordered these cupcakes was having a New York City themed fete and wanted cupcakes depicted an iconic Big Apple structure. Naturally, The Empire State Building was a perfect choice.

A few days in advance I made outlines of the famous landmark in gumpaste. After a few days of drying I sketched the building itself, by hand, on every single piece. It took me forever, but on the bright side, I finally got to see District 9. Good movie, by the way!

After I baked the cupcakes, I frosted them with some yummy vanilla butter cream and airbrushed each cupcake half gray and half blue, the colors of the party. I stuck a building in each one, snapped some photos, boxed them up and went to bed. It was four in the morning!

Well it bake to work for me!

Thanks for tuning in. Until next time...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cake of the Week: Sleeping Baby Bassinet Cake

This week was apparently baby shower week at Sugar Mama NYC! Clearly, the leader of the bunch was this adorable baby shower cake starring Peaches, the sleeping baby. Yes, I named the rice krispy treat and fondant baby. Thank goodness, I wasn't there when they ate her!
The client that ordered this beauty was very adamant about the cake being very cute, making a statement and incorporating all of the baby shower, yellow, blue and brown. Pro-ject!!!

I started by making the cake, with two flavors I know would work together; moist butter cake with a creamy chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream.

I decide to make the bottom tier a pale pastel yellow and the top tier I sculpted into the oval bassinet shape; topped it with a layer of white fondant and covered the sides with soft pastel pink ruffles.So far so good. You can't see the clock in the background but at this time it was 6:27 in the morning. The cakes need to be fresh; the baker doesn't.

Then in was time to make Peaches! Her head and body are made from rice krispy treats and her arms and legs are fondant. I finished her look with a pink hair bow, pink and yellow binky and fondant diaper with pink flower.It's what all the fondant babies in Paris are wearing.

I then set to work make millions and millions of tiny pink accent flowers. Okay, it was like 50, but still. After I attached the hood of the bassinet with royal icing and the brown, pink and yellow polka dots with water, I attached the flowers around the edges of the hood around the base of the cake and any where else I thought could use a spring touch.

Well, it was 9:30 and the cake was finished. I was pleasantly surprised with the way the colors looked. I took tons of photos and place Peaches in a nice sturdy box where she would be safe. Then at about 10:00 a nice gentleman came and took her away. I have yet to find out what became of her, but I hope she was happy... and delicious.

Well, it's bake to work for me.

Thanks for tuning in. Until next time...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sugar Mama explains why cakes cost what they do

Here's a re-enactment of a conversation I've had many times and I'm sure many other cake designers have too.

Me: Sugar Mama NYC. How can I help you?
Client: Hi, I'd like to order a cake in the shape of a (insert a extremely complex and detailed object).
Me: Sure, we can do that. How many people would you like to feed with this cake?
Client: Ummm, about 150. How much is that?
Me: Ok. (clickety clack of the calculator) That will be $ (what I think is very reasonable considering the time, material & labor involved.)
Client: What?! For a cake?! Does it cut and serve itself? That's way out of my budget!
Me: Ok. Maybe we can come up with an alternative design. What's your budget?
Client: About $ (pretty much what you'd pay for a cake for 150 people at your local Costco or BJ's)

This is pretty much where the conversation usually ends. I apologize and explain that I won't be able to accommodate their budget and offer more cost effective alternatives, usually cupcakes or another bakery.

So, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to explain how cakes, especially novelty & 3D cakes are priced and show that there's actually a method to what to some seems like madness.

Cake prices, whether they are regular bakery cakes, novelty (3D) or wedding cakes are basically determined by three factors: The Amount of Servings, Complexity of Design/Construction & The Baker/Designer.

The Amount of Servings is a major factor in the price of a cake because it determines how much cake will actually have to be baked. This translates into ingredients to buy, time spent decorating, what type of internal structure will have to be built and etc. Cakes are deceptively heavy, so carrying and transporting a cake for 100 may take a little more planning than a cake for 50. I should add that some bakeries charge by the pound or by the size (quarter sheet, half sheet, etc.)

Complexity of Design and Construction provide a great variable because this is solely dependent on techniques, materials and time involved to create the desired look; for most designers it's different for every cake. Does the cake require free hand sculpting vs. simple round or square design. Is it covered in fondant or buttercream? Will it require hand painted designs or airbrushed stencils? Sugar flowers or Fresh flowers? For each of these questions the former will set you back a lot more than the latter.

And finally, the biggest variable is the baker/designer themselves. The amount of "dough" a baker charges for a cake is usually based on their experience, talent & the demand for their services. There are some designers that have been baking and designing spectacular cakes for years and a booked for events 6 months to a year in advance. These cakes tend to cost more than bakers who are just starting out. When I first started I sold my first cake for $ 30.00. Now I charge a minimum of $ 200.00. In the coming years as I build up my skills, experience and clientele, who knows?

Both of these cakes were made by me.
One was made in early 2008 and cost $ 75.
One was made in mid 2009 and cost $ 200.
hmmmm? Which is which?

Now, before I get a slew of angry emails from designers, I should clarify that a higher price tag from a more experienced designers is not simply the result of an inflated ego. As the great Stan Lee wrote, "with great power, comes great responsibility." The greatest cake designers are often supported by a great staff; a team of sugar artists, bakers, office staff, lawyers, accountants, publicists, delivery people, web designers & more. All of these people need to be paid. Don't forget retail space leases, insurance, equipment, supplies, surprise repairs & more stuff that you don't even think of until it happens. All of this is factored into the price of their goods. Even awesome cake designers who don't have an entourage (like me) need to price their cakes to be able to do what they love and pay their bills. I once spent 10 hours decorating a wedding cake, after I baked, filled, covered it with fondant & stacked it. Believe it or not, that's not unusual. Imagine how long it took Sylvia Weinstock and her team to make Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas' 10-tiered, six foot tall wedding cake covered with literally thousands of hand made sugar flowers. Was it worth over $10,000? Ummm...yeah!

Hopefully, this has given you some insight into why some cakes are more expensive than others. Whenever you endeavor to purchase a specialty cake it's great to have a clear budget and stick to it; but it's also important to understand what you are getting for your money. Sure, there are a few diamond in the rough bakers who do amazing work for unbelievable prices, but they are few and far between. Cheaper almost never means better and cakes are no exception. Check out this gem from Cake Wrecks:

One depicts what the bride wanted. One shows what she actually got. I'll let you guess which one is which.

There is so much more where that came from. Check out more of these so sad, it's hilarious train wrecks at CakeWrecks : Wedding Cakes
Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss anything and be sure to refer to it when considering choosing your cousin's best friend's sister, who just finished taking a cake decorating class and wants to try a "real" one, to make your daughter's sweet 16 cake.

Well, it's "bake" to work for me!

thanks for tuning in. Until next time...
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