Friday, February 27, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 5

Day 5!

Friday is here, which means my work week is almost over. Almost. At the bakery, we've been preparing all week for a big gala downtown, and tomorrow is the big day. My boyfriend is taking a state licensing exam tomorrow that he has been preparing for for months. Needless to say we are all going to be happy when Sunday comes.

For now though, let's just talk about this cake. I've done ruffles, in fondant and buttercream, I've done them vertically and horizontally, and I've done them in ombre tones, and pretty pastels. I wanted to try them in a way that I'd never done before. Something a little more refined and clean. Soft and romantic, but clean and modern all at the same time, these ruffles are just a bit different than the typical ruffled wedding cake. Paired with soft pinks and grays, and stylized Juliet roses, this cake can make a statement without being over the top.

Tomorrow we do the opposite. Stay tuned.

**This cake designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie**

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 4

Well, I made it three days before I gave up on daily cake posts. I give props to all those bloggers out there who have time to post daily, or even once a week! I can barely throw a post up once every few months, but like I said, I am trying to make up for lost time!

Up next, another petite wedding cake, this time in mint green with frilly white ruffles. I kind of thought the cupcake trend was on the down-spiral, but it seems that I was wrong. As I am getting more involved at the bakery with wedding consultations, I am finding that cupcake-mania is still alive and kicking. The reason is this: cost effectiveness. Brides are seeing that a three dollar cupcake per guest is cheaper than a wedding cake at five dollars (minimum) per guest, and opting to save some money. However, they are still wanting that photo-op of cutting their cake, the beautifully displayed creation, perfectly matching their decor and theme. Enter: the petite wedding cake.

A miniature version of the show-stopper, perfectly sized to cut and share with the wedding party, or save for the first anniversary. This particular one is a little more on the modern-but-romantic side, with a mint green background, and a delicate white gardenia.

Two more cakes to come, so stay tuned!

**This cake designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie**

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 3

I'm gonna make this short since it has been a VERY long day and there is a glass of wine calling my name. So let's talk about this cake, which I have so lovingly named 'big blue'. This isn't a cake for the traditionalist, or the romantic. This cake is for someone who likes a little quirk, a little mod, maybe even a little hint of southwest flair. All of those things go together right? 

Right. This cake allowed me to practice one of my new favorite mediums. I have long been a user of petal dusts and luster dusts, but up until recently have only been using them by themselves, or mixed with alcohol. I may have been a little late to the game, but mixing dusts with a small amount of cooking oil, produces a much different, silky smooth finish. It also allows for a much more fluid brush stroke, which is how I created the pattern on the bottom two tiers. 

The feathers were also a first for me, and they almost became the death of me. Gum paste flowers have nothing on feathers when it comes to fragility, but the statement they make on this cake makes all the breakage and heartbreak worth it. 

**This cake was designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 2

Day 2! Today we have a three-tiered beauty with gold leaf and watercolor panels.

I am an avid follower of fellow cake designers whether it be through blogs, Pinterest, twitter, or Facebook, or creeping in the windows of cake studios here in Chicago. Most of my time online is spent looking at wedding cakes, checking out whats new and trending in the industry, and gathering inspiration for designs of my own. 

I have always been a huge advocate of creative integrity, and of giving credit where credit is due. I try never to copy another cake artist's design, because that isn't fair to me, to said cake artist, or to the client who is expecting a custom, one of a kind cake. That does not mean that I don't get ideas from other cakes, but I always try to put a twist on them and make them my own. This cake includes some techniques and styles that were made popular by JessieCakes and AK Cake Design, but with my own spin. 

The dahlia is a flower I have been working on recently and there are so many types of dahlias that the variations and possibilities are endless. So you can probably expect to see many more from me in the future. 

*This cake was designed and created by Bria Helgerson, for Sugar Fixe Patisserie. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 1

I am about to make up for some lost time here. Get ready for a cake-a-palooza. 6 days, 6 cakes. Things are about to get real crazy at the bakery, so I figured I better post these pictures now, or they will sit on my hard drive for all eternity. Seven months after starting a new job at a bakery, I find myself once again in a management position. I realized I really missed bossing people around, but more importantly I missed being able to share and implement new ideas to help improve and grow the business. So here we go, let the madness begin once again.

It is almost March and we are quickly approaching wedding season. A few recurring trends you will see throughout the next few days are: metallics applied in new ways, intricate gum paste flower sprays, unexpected pops of color, and the merging of romantic and modern aesthetics.

First up a small but striking cake. The bottom tier is brushed with a metallic copper petal dust and is adorned with gum paste poppies, leaves, and berries in peach and copper hues. The top tier is left blank to showcase the detailed arrangement.

Stay tuned, more to come tomorrow.

*This cake was designed and created by Bria Helgerson, for Sugar Fixe Patisserie.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Paint it Black - Pink and Black Peony Cake

Black Friday? Screw that. Last week while trying to enjoy some holiday cooking/baking and simultaneously watching an entire days worth of Friends re-runs on TV, I found my self yelling at the obnoxious commercials. "It doesn't count as a black Friday sale if it isn't on black Friday!!!" There may have been a few more expletives in there, but I will censor it for family viewing. Why, oh why are stores now opening on Thanksgiving? They can't just wait another few hours to open at 4 am on black Friday? Really stores? I realize this is a completely irrational feeling for a few reasons, one being neither I, nor any of my family members work in the retail industry and are therefore not affected by having to work on Thanksgiving, and two, I am not being forced to go shopping on said holiday. But dammit, is nothing sacred anymore? I would much rather pour myself another glass of wine and let the crazies get their 2-for-1 60-inch plasma TVs thank you very much. I am going to be the best old curmudgeon some day. Okay rant over.

Maybe I was just a little extra crabby this year. I always get a little sad around Thanksgiving since I haven't been able to get home for it the past few years. Even though I am welcomed with open arms to my partner's family's table, and I love them as my second home, I still miss carving the turkey with my dad, running the turkey day 5k with my sister, and popping wine before noon with my mom.

Luckily, this year I was able to go home in October for a big celebration. My mom turned 60. Yes folks, she is officially old. I guess that makes me really old too. More importantly, we threw here a big shindig to celebrate, with tons of house smoked pork, all the trimmings, home-brews, bubbly, and of course, cake. I wouldn't be a good pastry chef daughter if I didn't bring a cake now would I? A few years back my very talented mother started painting, specifically painting greeting cards. She would send me them periodically, or gifted them to family and friends. I have saved every one of these cards, because they are beautiful, which she thinks is silly. I think she's crazy. And old.

For her birthday, I decided to turn my favorite of her cards into her cake. It had an even more special meaning when I re-read the card. It had been sent to me from my grandpa, right after I had been laid off from my design job. He told me I would find something new and not to worry because everything will work out in the end. Now, here I am, 5 years later, turning this card into a cake, and loving what I do.

On a serious note, my mom is one amazing, strong, intelligent, driven, passionate, nurturing lady. She has always supported her daughters in everything we do, pushing us where we needed to be pushed, and letting us carve our own path when a little nudge wasn't needed. Even though I am in my thirties, I can still say I want to be like my mom when I grow up. I love you Mom. Here have some more cake!

Chocolate Devils Food Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Buttercream
*this will make a 2 layer 9 inch cake (the cake pictured is a 4-layer 9-inch bottom tier, and a 2-layer 7-inch top tier)

3 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/8 cups dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup hot coffee

Butter and flour the sides of two 9" cake pans, and line bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and vegetable oil until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until thoroughly incorporated after each addition. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined. Add the hot coffee and amaretto and whisk until incorporated.

Fill each cake pan 2/3 the way full and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and center springs back when pressed gently with your finger, about 35-40 minutes.

Let cakes cool completely before assembling.

1 1/2 lb. heavy cream
1 1/2 lb. dark or bitter sweet chocolate, chopped

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat heavy cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer, then pour over chocolate. Let sit for a minute or two, then gently whisk until smooth. Let ganache cool until it is a spreadable consistency. You can make this ahead of time and chill until ready to use. Just put the chilled ganache in a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until it becomes soft and spreadable.

Salted Caramel Sauce
this makes about 3-4 cups of caramel sauce, which is much more than you will need for a small cake, but I find that if i am going through the trouble to make caramel I might as well make a big batch and freeze the leftovers.

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 oz butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

 Combine the butter, cream, vanilla, and salt in another saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and cream is hot, keep warm until caramel is ready. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook until sugar turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the cream mixture one ladle-ful at a time. Mixture will bubble up and sputter, using a bigger pan for the sugar will help protect your hands from splatter. Let cool to room temperature before adding to buttercream.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

4 oz egg whites
8 oz granulated sugar
2 oz water
12 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup room temperature caramel sauce

Place your egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. 

Heat the sugar and water in a small sauce pan over high heat. Using a candy thermometer, bring the sugar to a boil and continue cooking until it reaches 230 degrees F. When it hits that temperature, turn your stand mixer to medium to begin mixing the egg whites until they are foamy. When the temperature hits 240 F, remove from heat and slowly pour into the egg whites on a medium low speed. As soon as all of the sugar is in, turn the mixer to medium high and mix until the meringue is cool to touch. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and whip until thick, which may take a few minutes. Add the caramel sauce and whip until combined.


Pipe a barrier of buttercream around the edge of the bottom layer of leveled cake. Drizzle the cake inside the barrier with extra caramel sauce. Then spread a thin layer of ganache, again staying inside the border. On top of that, spread a layer of buttercream, sealing in the ganache and caramel with the border. Place the second layer of cake on top. Smooth any buttercream that has bugled out the sides and chill completely before frosting as you like. I finished this cake with a regular layer of buttercream, chilled then covered in fondant. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Plum Almond Tartlets

My 35 degree bike ride to work this morning has finally convinced me that it is in fact fall. Pumpkins and apples are everywhere, my freezer is being stocked with chili and german goulash, and I finally had to turn the heat on. I supposed that it was time to share these late summer tarts with you before the weather turned to

full on winter. That would just be cruel to tout these stone fruit beauties when snow is falling, no? These are such a staple in my dessert arsenal, some puff pastry, either homemade (recipe below) or store bought, almond frangipane, some ripe fruit and a sprinkle of sugar are all you need to make a decadent, yet light and crispy tartlet.

For a fall spin, change out the fruit to apples or pears, or even persimmon if you can find it.

Plum Frangipane Tartlets

Blitz Puff Pastry
adapted from Saus - Advanced Bread and Pastry

16 oz ap flour
16 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
8 oz cold water
1/4 oz salt

Dissolve the salt into the water. In a food processor, pulse the butter and the flour together until combined, leaving the butter chunks fairly large. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse just until moistened. Flatten dough into a rectangular disc, wrap in plastic and let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a large rectangle the long side should be horizontal to you. Take the left edge and fold it so it reaches the center. Take the right edge and fold it into the center. Now take the left side and fold the entire thing in half, meeting the right edge, like a book. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. You will repeat this two more times, letting it rest for 30 minutes between each fold. After the last fold, let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight or freeze for future use.

adapted from Martha Stewart

7 TBL unsalted butter
1/3 cup almond paste
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup AP flour

In a food processor, cream together the butter, sugar, and almond paste until very smooth. Add the eggs, one a a time, blend until smooth. Add the flour and pulse just until combined. Chill until ready to use.


1 Book puff pastry
2-3 Ripe but firm plums, sliced thinly
turbinado sugar
almond slices (optional)
1 egg yolk + 1 TBL water

Preheat oven to 400 F. Take one book of puff pastry and roll it out on a floured surface to 1/8-1/4 thickness. Cut as many 4 inch rounds as you can fit. With half of the rounds, cut out the center with the next smallest round cutter, this will be the border for your tart. Swipe a bit of water around the edge of one of the whole circles and place the cut circle on top, lining up the edges. With a fork, dock the bottom surface of the tart shell, but do not dock the cut circle edge. This will allow just the edge to puff up around the filling, keeping the bottom of the tart flat to hold the filling in. Arrange tart shells on a sil-pat or parchment lined baking sheet. Chill completely. When ready to bake, place 1-2 tablespoons of frangipane in the inner circle, do not overfill. Arrange a few slices of plum on top of the frangipane. Whisk together the yolk and water and brush the edges of the puff pastry. Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar around the edges and on top of the plums. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown and the frangipane has set. Let cool completely. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar prior to serving.


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