Welcome to my baking portfolio. |
This is a sampling of the things I've made in the past. Some are from recipes, but I also create original works from time to time.
|Anniversary Cake (June 2016)|
My folks' wedding anniversary aligned with a family reunion this year, so I made a cake for them. I wanted a decorating scheme that I could complete quickly since I only had a half day available for finishing the cake. I sketched out a few concepts, and finally chose one that to me vaguely resembles both a colored sand mural and a meditation garden.
|The completed cake was 18 x 26 inches.
|The icing was a simple ganache, topped with sprinkles (or Jimmies, or Hundreds-and-thousands depending on where you're from) and colored sugar, finished with a piped ganache border.|
The raspberry filling I made was too soft, so I piped whipped ganache into a structural grid to help support the upper layer of the cake. Then the raspberry was used to fill the interstitial regions.
|Below are different stages of sprinkle and sugar application.
|Ice Palace Cake (December 2015)|
I wanted to make a cake for Christmas at my brother's family's house, and I knew my nieces would go nuts for anything from Frozen. This is Elsa's Ice Palace out of spice cake and cream cheese icing. The decorations are in royal icing that I made ahead of time. Royal icing dries so it's basically hard (but brittle) candy. I had some help from the girls in applying the decorations. We suffered a little breakage, but overall they did a wonderful job.
|Donut Bombe (August 2015)|
I had this recipe from the Washington Post kicking around for a while begging to be tried. I finally had a chance for a dinner at my folks' house. I didn't have a good source of glazed yeast donuts nearby, so I had to go with cake donuts (Popem's to be exact). The glazed might be better, so I'll try that next time. I also decided it needed some jelly, so I made some raspberry jam buttercream to go in amongst the donuts.
The finished bombe was almost too pretty to cut....
The bombe was built upside-down in a bowl lined with plastic wrap. It started with donuts and raspberry buttercream.
Bet you didn't know that Goya beans were an important part of the process! I had a really hard time getting the filled and chilled bombe out of the bowl, until I figured out how to let gravity help.
|Pie Cones (November 2014)|
That's right, it's not a typo! These are PIE cones. I originally envisioned this as something to eat on a stick, but the prebaked pie discs were a little too delicate to stay on a stick. I chose apples as the filling, because I wanted something that could be impaled on the stick, but as a plated dessert, these could use any filling. This concept could definitely use some iteration to get a bit closer to looking like real pine cones, but it was a pretty successful (and tasty) first attempt.
|Arthur's Lion Cake (November 2013)|
My dear little friend Arthur was turning two, so I asked if I could make the cake for his birthday, and got the following list of inspirations: "Puppy doggies, choo choo trains, guitars, dinosaurs and Lions are all popular right now." Knowing Arthur had his own red guitar, I had to include that, and what better to go with a guitar than a hungry lion?
The full cake was enormous. In hindsight I probably should have believed the Wilton serving size recommendations instead of nearly doubling them!
The teeth and claws were made from marshmallows that I cut up and then formed by hand.
The guitar was chocolate and the lion was yellow cake. All of the icing was chocolate buttercream.
Once again, I put SolidWorks to good personal use in determining how much cake and icing to make.
|Hedgehog Cake (May 2013)|
Keeping with a theme of hog-type cakes (see groundhog, below), I finally made the Hedgehog cake that's been tempting me for years now from my British cookbook. You can tell it's British because of the Flake candy bar that's used to form the spikes.
|Groundhog Cake (February 2013)|
For our friends' annual Groundhog Day party, I tried to depict, in cake form, what goes on below the surface. I baked two sheet cakes, cut them into strips, and layered them-- on their sides-- with several different chocolate icings to create the strata. Then I carved out the rooms and filled them with all the things that make a groundhog "house" into a groundhog "home." There was also some speculation about what else might be buried in the layers of earth!
When they're not looking for shadows, groundhogs like to play poker and watch sports.
|Lori's Volcano Cake (March 2012)|
A dinner for out-of-town guests coincided with our friend Lori's birthday, so we all got together to celebrate and I got to make the cake. The only direction I got was "she likes icing." A woman after my own heart! I decided to make a spectacular cookie volcano that could be lit on fire and spew lava.
The construction started with flexible tubes that I pre-filled with "lava" slurries of fruit puree & powdered sugar.
The tubes were coiled into the bottom side of some foam core I carved up, and then fed through a hole so they came up through the center of the top side.
The flexible tubes were then snaked
through a rigid tube.
The small tubes were fed through holes at the top of the large tube to control the direction of the lava. The tube at the base remained exposed in order to pump the lava. Chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies were layered with several colors of icing "magma."
To determine the number of cookies and the volume of icing needed, I had done a little solid modeling before I started baking.
Yep, being an engineer comes in pretty handy sometimes!
The whole thing was covered in meringue and then flaming rum was poured on top!
A big plastic syringe connected to the tube at the base allowed for the lava to be pushed out.
When slices were cut, the magma core was exposed,
like an Earth Science lesson!
|Dan's Old Man Cake (March 2012)|
Every year at his birthday I tease my husband about being old. This year I made a cake befitting an old curmudgeon. It's basically a stack of two lemon poppy seed upside down cakes with some tweaks. The poppy seeds are of course for forgetfulness, and the uspide-down part is lemons soaked in Peychaud bitters for a bitter old sour-puss. The pastry cream and swiss meringue play the part of soft mushy foods, and a layer of crunchy meringue-- for brittle old bones-- was flecked with green from minced rosemary, crying out "Hey, you kids get off my lawn!"
|Cranberry Tart (January 2012)|
The croquembouche's (see below) leftover pastry cream needed using, so I made a cranberry tart. It was a pte sucre (sweet cookie-like dough) crust with a layer of ganache at the bottom, then the pastry cream mixed with cranberries. Since raw cranberries are a bit too tart, I poached these in cranberry juice, sugar and some spices. The tart is topped with swiss meringue and more poached cranberries rolled in granulated sugar.
|Croquembouche (New Year's Eve 2011-2012)|
I always wanted to make a croquembouche, but there's rarely the convergence of a fancy enough occasion and time enough to make one. But it finally happened! New Year's Eve was the perfect event. If you haven't heard of a croquembouche, it's a tower of cream puffs stuck together with carmelized sugar. It all sits on a base of croquant, which is nuts (in this case almonds) in carmelized sugar.
|Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (October 2011)|
My folks were hosting a Halloween party, so I wanted to bring something fit for the occasion. I couldn't find a good pumpkin cookie cutter, so I made my own out of some aluminum flashing. I made the cake part with pumpkin and I filled them with orange-colored cream cheese icing.
|Candied Corn (October 2011)|
Lately I've been thinking a lot about candying things that aren't normally candied. I learned from Peter Greweling's book, Chocolate & Confections, that you can candy just about anything that has enough structure. I tried carrots a while back and they twisted up like knurled trees and tasted about as you'd expect: like really sweet crystallized carrots. Not bad, just not amazing. I figured I had to try candied corn in place of candy corn in honor of Halloween. I candied coins cut from a cob and whole baby corn. For the full-sized corn, I was hoping the cob would soften enough to be edible, but sadly no. The kernels tasted good, like sweet corn gummy candy, but the cob was still too woody. The baby corn just tasted sweet and barely like corn at all. So not a smashing success, but it was still a fun adventure.
|Challah (September 2011)|
I'm getting pretty close to finding my favorite challah recipe. I adapt it slightly each time I make it, but since I rarely make it more than once a year, you can imagine what a slow process this is. So I try to take good notes each time, so that the next time I'll know what to tweak. These challot where made for Rosh Hashanah, so they are crown-shaped to symbolize wealth and prosperity for the new year.
|Samoa Cake (August 2011)|
I love Girl Scout Cookies, and Samoas are my favorite. I wanted to recreate those flavors in a cake. It's a butter cake with swirls of caramel and chocolate ganache as the filling, caramel buttercream, and toasted coconut. The balance of flavors didn't quite match the cookies' (too much chocolate relative to the caramel), but it was still delicious!
|Queen of Sheba Cake (July 2011)|
I always make a cake for my birthday because, well, it's a great excuse to bake. This time, I made one of my favorites: Queen of Sheba. I've made this before a few times, for example, as Shiva, the Queen. Since that picture didn't show the inside, I figured I should add this one.
|Groundhogs (February 2011)|
Some wacky friends of ours hosted a Groundhog Day Party, so I had to make some mascots to bring along. They are chocolate truffles rolled in crushed cookies. They're perched on half of an Oreo and have chocolate chip ears and noses. The eyes are black dragees on dots of Oreo filling.
|Baked Alaskas (November 2010)|
Recipe adapted from chocolate passion by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty.
This year my mom celebrated a big birthday, and the gift from the family is a trip to Alaska. Sticking with that theme, I made individual Baked Alaskas. They had a brownie base, ganache center surrounded by chocolate caramel nut ice cream, all coated in brown sugar meringue which is carmelized with a blow torch.
|Rocket Cake (November 2009)|
My mom's an astronomer, so this year I decided to make her birthday cake (pie) look like the flames from a rocket. The pie is a caramel macadamia nut filling in a sweet cookie crust topped with chocolate ganache and then swiss meringue. I torched the top and decorated the sides with flame cookies. I think the effect worked, although it does look a little like the "Heat Miser!"
|Apple Tart (November 2009)|
I've facetiously decided to call this my "leftover tart". This fall I finally splurged on a 6-class series on pastry at L'Academie de Cuisine. Each week we learn a different type of pastry (or several). Sometimes we take home finished desserts, sometimes unfinished, like dough, and sometimes both. So as not to let anything go to waste, I whipped up this tart with some pte sucre (sweet pie dough), lemon curd, Italian meringue buttercream, and the apple filling that my husband donated because it just wouldn't fit into his already overflowing apple pie. Leftovers never tasted so good!
|Chocolate Toffee Torte (April 2009)|
Recipe from The Art of the Dessert by Ann Amernick.
And now, with one hand tied behind her back.....(drumroll).... Sharon produces delicious desserts!
It's true! This cake isn't in here because it's amazing on its own (although it was quite good). It's in here because I managed to make it entirely one-handed. This cake was made at roughly the 1/4 mark of my grueling 12 weeks with my left hand in a cast. Thank goodness I'm right handed!
As for the cake, it is a beast. It boasts a mere 17 eggs and 6+ sticks of butter; oh, and some other ingredients like home-made walnut toffee. This is the kind of cake you can't tell your doctor about.
|Birthday Cakes (November 2008)|
Grandma Dee recently celebrated her 90th birthday in San Diego. The party happened to fall on our sister-in-law Theresa's birthday, so she got a cake too! Grandma Dee's cake had a top tier of spice cake with apple filling, and a bottom tier of chocolate cake with raspberry and chocolate ganache filling. Theresa's cake was a spice cake with orange filling. Both were frosted with cream cheese icing. Grandma Dee and Grandpa Bill used to grow roses in their backyard, so the cake was decorated with that in mind.
The biggest challenge was getting all this from one coast to the other. I carried the cakes on the plane, put the fillings, frosting, and decorating tools in the checked baggage, and did a lot of assembly upon arrival. I actually emailed TSA to ask about carrying frosting on the plane. The response was that I could, but in the end, we decided it would be safer to check it. This was a good decision, because the grumpy security guy who interrogated us about the cakes at the x-ray machine wanted to make sure there was no frosting being carried on!
|Dad's Birthday Chocolates (June 2008)|
My Dad celebrated a big birthday this year, and had a bit of a soiree to celebrate. I got to bring chocolates. I made good use of transfer sheets for this batch, and especially liked the colorless sheet that created a swirly matte/glossy effect.
Raspberry ganache in dark chocolate.
Coffee truffle filling in dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate over a peanut butter center.
The candies surrounded centerpieces I made with old photos of my dad. Electric votives and m&ms rounded out the decor.
|Dan's Birthday Box (March 2008)|
My husband asked for a box of home-made chocolates for his birthday, so I made a big "D" out of chocolate with many tiny compartments. The whole thing was about 10" square and roughly 2" tall. The chocolates inside included mojito, orange spice, pina colada, chili pepper truffles, and juniper ganache squares. The knobs for the lids are (store-bought) candy coated fruit pieces.
|Chocolates (December 2007)|
The Mojito and Orange Spice chocolates are original creations, but the Coffee Truffles and the Cocoa Nib Caramels are adapted from recipes in the Chocolate Bible by Christian Teubner. The candied orange peels, although not pictured separately are always a big hit. I found the recipe on the web many years ago, but can no longer find the link to give proper credit.
Mojito (lime & rum jelly with mint buttercream)
Orange & Spice (buttercream with orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg)
Cocoa Nib & Honey Caramel
|Peach Cake (July 2007)|
Recipe from The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom.
We picked somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 lbs of peaches this year, so we had our hands full. This cake used up a paltry 4-5 peaches, but was still quite delicious with peaches on top, and mixed into the buttercream.
|Babka (July 2007)|
Recipe from The Art of the Dessert by Ann Amernick (but in her book, this recipe is credited to Joan Nathan).
I tried out this chocolate babka in anticipation of going to Ms. Amernick's book signing. It turns out I couldn't make it to the event, but the Babka came out quite well anyway.
|Really Lucky Charms (July 2007)|
For a good luck dinner on 7/7/07, I made a modification of Kentucky Bourbon Balls, substituting Irish whiskey for bourbon and Lucky Charms cereal for pecans. They were magically delicious!
|Herb Printed Pasta (June 2007)|
Inspired by Simple to Spectacular by Jean Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.
Fresh herbs got sandwiched between two sheets of pasta before getting rolled thin. Later, the pasta was cut into wide strips. Besides looking cool, the fresh herbs each gave their own different flavor to every bite.
|Strawberry Chiffon Pie (June 2007)|
Recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum.
This was one of our uses for the many strawberries we picked this year. I couldn't decide on crusts, so I tried both chocolate and graham cracker!
|Brownie Sundae Cake (May 2007)|
This was my donation to the West family annual clambake. I still haven't quite figured out the appropriate amount of dry ice to use during transport. It was like cutting a brick! Once it warmed up a bit, though, it was tasty. I used the Washington Post's recipe for "Man Catcher Brownies" along with home-made Oreo ice cream, chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, and chocolate buttercream frosting.
|Poached Pears (March 2007)|
My first attempt at poached pears! I tried three kinds: D'Anjou, Red, and Bosc pears. The D'Anjou seemed to work the best, because although they were less firm, they didn't have the same hint of bitterness that the other two varieties did. I also made some snazzy chocolate bowls to show off the pears.
|Chocolates (December 2006)|
I've been making chocolates at winter-time for several years now, but finally remembered to take pictures before they all got eaten! All of these are original creations, but I must credit the Chocolate Bible by Christian Teubner for some reference help.
Cocoa Nib Caramel
Pecan Pumpkin Pie
Thai Tea Ganache
|Challah (September 2006)|
Challah is the braided bread traditionally eaten on the Jewish Sabbath. I've made challah a number of times over the past few years, but finally took a class to learn how to properly weave the six-stranded braid.
|Red Velvet Cake (May 2006)|
For this second attempt at Red Velvet Cake I used a slightly different recipe, but the cake was still nothing special. However, the cream cheese frosting and ganache filling made it much tastier than my previous version.
|Tiny Bunnies (April 2006)|
These bite-sized bunnies were in honor of Easter. They are mostly truffles, but have a sweetened marzipan base and almond ears.
|Dad's Birthday Cake (June 2004)|
This year I was able to make a birthday cake for my Dad. It had raspberries and chocolate ganache in the center.
|Tiered Cake (May 2004)|
The final assignment for my cake decorating class.
|Clown Head Cake (April 2004)|
An exercise with fondant for a cake decorating class.
This was an unfortunate excercise in fondant. (Fondant is like a sugar-based Play-doh, which is commonly used to cover wedding cakes.) Not only was the result scary looking, it tasted pretty bad too. I would not recommend Wilton brand fondant.
|Travelin' S'mores (April 2004)|
S'more-like treats in mini-muffin form.
I wanted to make some s'mores that would travel easily and not require any messy assembly. I used a modified gingerbread dough, then removed the centers, filled them with ganache and topped them with homemade marshmallow. They were a little too gingery for traditional s'mores, but really tasty.
|Garden Cake (April 2004)|
Class exercise from a cake decorating course.
This was an exercise in creating realistic flowers from royal icing. Because royal icing is just sugar and water, it hardens like cement and the resulting decorations can be kept essentially forever. The flowers were made over several weeks prior to assembling the cake. When added to the soft buttercream icing, the flowers reabsorb some moisture, so they're no longer at a tooth-breaking consistency.
|Chocolate Easter Eggs (April 2004)|
Egg shaped truffles decorated for the holiday.
For these eggs I created a simple chocolate truffle, piped it into egg shapes, dipped them in dark chocolate, then added royal icing decorations.
|Terri's Birthday Cake (March 2004)|
Made for a co-worker's birthday.
The inside is red velvet cake (Recipe from Washington Post). I was generally unimpressed with the taste of the red velvet cake, but it sure looks cool.
|Yellow Rose Cake (March 2004)|
Class exercise from a cake decorating course.
For this cake I stuck to fairly traditional colors. The small flowers were made ahead out of royal icing. The rest is buttercream.
|Clown Cake (March 2004)|
Class exercise from a cake decorating course.
Here I was experimenting with gel food coloring, which is much stronger than the traditional watery food color. Mixing colors at night under a weak flourescent light creates an interesting level of brightness in daylight!
|Moor's Heads (July 2003)|
Recipe from The Cholocate Bible by Christian Teubner.
These are delightful little sandwiches made from almond souffle cookies with whipped cream and raspberry jam in the middle.
|Chocolate Tacos (May 2003)|
For a friend's taco/burrito theme dinner, I brought these chocolate taco shells with a variety of fillings. Each taco shell was made of dark chocolate with a unique design in white chocolate. Besides the usual sundae toppings of ice cream, crushed Oreos, hot fudge, and whipped cream, the fillings included: a fresh berry mixture, a spiced apricot and prune compote, a cinnamon apple pear chutney, and a pineapple mango cranberry relish.
|Blackberry Slice (March 2003)|
Recipe adapted from The Cholocate Bible by Christian Teubner.
This cake nicely blends the flavors of rum, blackberries, and chocolate. I made it in the winter and found the blackberries a little too tart for my taste, but that tartness was only expressed in the fresh berries on top. I'll have to try it again when the berries are at their peak.
|Shiva, the Queen (January 2003)|
Recipe from chocolate class at HomeChef.
Queen of Sheba (Reine de Saba) has many incarnations as far as I can tell. This one was made for a pun dinner and so was loosely based on the Hindu god of preservation and destruction. It's extremely dense, but oh-so-good because it has flavors of chocolate, hazelnut, marzipan (almond), and orange. Yum!
|Black Forest Cake (October 2002)|
Recipe from The Chocolate Bible by Christian Teubner.
This is a traditional German cake which uses Morello cherries. They are a little more tart than bing cherries, but very tasty. Despite its initial appearance, the cake is not very dense. It is simply layers of sponge cake alternated with layers of whipped cream and cherries.
|Mint Cups (May 2002)|
These individual desserts featured a whipped mint mousse, a Creme de Menthe soaked spongecake base, and a rich chocolate ganache, all wrapped in a hard chocolate shell.
|Raspberry Plum Crostada (March 2002)|
Recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
This recipe originally called for raspberries and figs, but it was impossible to find fresh figs in any of the local stores. The plums were a decent substitution, but next time I'll remove the skins. The plum skins and raspberries were so tart that they overwhelmed most of the sweetness from the plum meat.
|Chocolate Ruffle Cake (February 2002)|
Recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Once I figured out how to make the ruffles, this cake was pretty easy. I was able to make it over the course of several evenings (cake, filling, ruffles, assembly). The one thing I didn't like about the recipe was that the top layer of cream had no chocolate in it. I think the white filling layer stands out a little too much behind the ruffles, so I'll probably change this the next time I make it.