Friday, July 31, 2015

"Time" for a Party (and Cake, of course)!

So this post was supposed to be a continuation of the last post -- essentially, a "Babycakes Part 2."  But, in the interim, my mom retired (so lucky!!) and I was so excited about her retirement party, that I just had to share all the fun details with you.  I had the privilege of planning the whole shindig, which, given the fact that I live in Ohio, and she lives in Michigan, had its challenges.  But who am I kidding, this whole Internet thing kind of makes the whole distance thing no big deal. Not sure what anyone did before the Internet, quite frankly.  (This, despite the fact, that the majority of my childhood passed prior to the utilization of the world wide web.)

Anyways, I always thought that it would be fun to have an outdoor tea party.  It just seems so dainty and girly, and Downton Abbey-ish.  And my mom, being the penultimate entertainer, seemed like the perfect guest of honor for such a party.  Catering was provided through Mrs. Maddox Cakes, in Farmington Hills, for anyone who happens to be from the metro-Detroit area.  And they were fantastic! Of course, I had never worked with them before, and I am in constant fear of running out of food, so I also pre-made a batch of my bacon-cheddar scones, as well as about a hundred coconut-orange mini-muffins and a bunch of cinnamon honey scones, all which were made a week to a month in advance and frozen.  (Because that is a definite part of my love affair with baking -- the fact that almost anything can be made ahead of time and frozen with no repercussions, whatsoever.)

Imagine how foolish I felt when they showed up with enough food to feed twice as many people for three times as long as necessary.  Not to mention that everything was delicious -- bright tea sandwiches, adorable not-so-petite petits fours, hearty quiches -- I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it. (And don't even get me started on how they traveled all the way from Farmington Hills to Ann Arbor to cater the party, with not so much as a gas surcharge tacked on to the final bill.)  Well, in any case, now my parents' freezer is stocked at least.

So, anyone who's looking to cater a tea party in Michigan -- there's my plug for Mrs. Maddox Cakes. (Funny story -- my mom worked for all these years as a tax auditor, and frequently when she would visit a food service business, they would have accounting down for services from Mrs. Maddox Cakes -- and she would always wonder who they were, and if they were any good.  Well, know we all know. . . )

The best thing about having an outdoor party, is that the majority of the decorations are already there -- lush green grass, colorful blooming flowers, leafy swaying trees -- it's beautiful to begin with.

So with a banner and some pretty tissue paper poms, we were good to go.  Imagine my delight at the fact that the poms were only a few dollars per pack of four . . . and then my dismay when I opened the package, and found that assembly wasn't included. But luckily, with my (free) staff of my brother, my mom (I know. . . I know. . . it was her party, but she wanted to help!) my husband, and my dad, we were able to make it work. Aren't they beautiful?  I think these may be my favorite casual decoration ever.

A slightly more difficult (OK, let's be serious -- a very much more difficult decoration) was inspired by a recent blog entry from One King's Lane.  If anyone is unaware of One King's Lane, it's one of those discount membership websites, like Gilt or Zulily, but it focuses solely on home goods.

In one of its posts, it described an arrangement utilizing a teapot, chicken wire, and flowers, so that the flowers emerged from the teapot in a way reminiscent of steam rising from the spout.

The chicken wire had to be formed into a cone shape and the end had to be forced into the spout. To get the wire into the spout, a good portion of the layers at the point had to be cut away. The hardest part, honestly, was getting enough of the chicken wire into the spout, without breaking the porcelain, so that the wire was stable enough to bear the weight of all of the flowers.

Once the wire was adequately crammed into the tea kettle, additional wire was wrapped around the spout to reinforce the strength of the wire cone and to keep it upright.

The stems of the flowers were threaded through the holes of the chicken wire, with the sheer amount of flowers pushing up upon each other, essentially keeping everything in place.

Finally, using a hot glue gun, smaller flowers were pasted onto the lower part of the wire, including the wound wire reinforcement, to hide all of the metal pieces.

 And, of course, what kind of party would it be without a festive signature beverage?  My husband, lucky for me, used to be a bartender, so he came up with the perfect combination of tequila and lemonade with some fresh blueberries and basil, and my two favorite alcoholic beverages, Moscato, and St. Germain to make an absolutely divine drink.  Add 100 mason jars (because mason jars make everything look so cute,) and the party punch was set to to (and go it did -- judging from the dishes at the end of the night, I wasn't the only one who loved it.)

Gotta keep those drinks cold, of course, especially on a sweltering 86 degree Michigan summer afternoon.  (Did I mention that tea time falls at the hottest time of the day??)  So cue the ice.  This was the easiest part of preparations.  A pack of edible flowers from the grocery store and 10 ice cube trays, and voila, a cute but not at all time-consuming accent.

Okay, okay, so I know this is a baking and cake decorating blog, and so far there hasn't been any of each, really.  But, you didn't think I would throw a party without a cake, did you?
So, here it is:
Mom's Retirement Cake

The cake was a two tier, doctored cake mix base.  

The larger tier was composed of a pineapple cake, whose recipe you can find here.  It was filled with a cheesecake mousse and frosted with a vanilla buttercream.
The smaller tier was a strawberry cake, filled with a white chocolate mousse and frosted with a vanilla buttercream.  The vanilla buttercream recipe can also be found in the same link as the pineapple cake.  So that just leaves the strawberry cake and both mousses.

So here you go:

Strawberry Cake, adapted from My Cake School

1 box white cake mix
1 small box of strawberry Jello
3/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pureed strawberries 

Mix all the ingredients together at low speed until just combined, and then at medium speed for three minutes.  Pour 5 cups of batter into an 8 in diameter, 3 in tall pan which has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. (This should leave enough batter for approximately 3 cupcakes in a jumbo muffin pan.)

Bake for 55 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Here is an easy way to split layers, if you want to fill a cake that you just baked.  Measure up from the bottom of the cake to your desired height (I did 1.25 in.)  Put a toothpick in at a 90 degree angle to the cake.  Keep doing that around the entire cake.  Then rest dental floss (unflavored, obviously) on the toothpicks, so that the open ends of the floss are in front of you.  Cross the ends over each other, and pull until the floss splits the cake into two layers.  


I used Rich's Bettercreme instead of whipping cream, only because the Bettercreme is stable at temperatures up to 80 degrees for five days.  Meaning the cake would not have to be refrigerated.  Which is always a huge deal for me.  For all of you who are wondering, this product is available at GFS stores around the country.

2 1/2 cups of Bettercreme 
1 small package of Jello instant pudding (any flavor your heart desires)
Whip until soft peaks.  If you over whip, this loses its pretty, creamy consistency, so be careful.

After filling, and frosting the cakes, the time comes, of course, to decorate.  

I used Fondarific fondant this time, which tasted amazing, but, unfortunately, was so soft, that I thought the whole project would have to go into the trash. The fondant kept tearing every time I tried to move it.  It seems like the easiest way to fix this issue would be to place the fondant on a cake board, so it doesn't stretch while moving it to the cake, but I didn't have a cake board on me at my parents' house, so I just had to hope and pray for the best.  Eventually I got it on there, but not without a lot of sweat and tears (thankfully, no blood.) 

 A few plastic straws were placed in the center of the cake from preventing the lower tier from caving in from the weight of the upper tier.  Then the whole aggravating process was repeated to cover the top tier.

Well, live and learn, right?
(Ignore the play buttons. My brother had the foresight to record images, while I was preoccupied with attempting to keep my sanity during the whole ordeal, but the video format he used doesn't seem to be compatible with this blog.)

To finish everything off, I used a shell border of royal icing (made with CK powdered royal icing and water, diluted to piping consistency,) and used gumpaste cutouts for lettering, glued down to the cake with a little water (since, as mentioned in an earlier post, I have some major issues with my handwriting.)  I had made a few gumpaste flowers in advance, as well as a gumpaste clock, with the numbers also from gumpaste cutouts, delineating all the things my mom wants to do with her newly acquired time written in edible ink next to the numbers. (She is very ambitious, I must say. My clock would probably say "sleep" next to half of the numbers.) After those decorations were tacked to the cake with royal icing, a  few strategically placed sugar pearls were placed at the junction of the clock hands and in the center of a couple of edible flowers. Everything was brushed liberally with pearl dust, and the cake was finally done.  

And that's it folks! Thanks for reading until the end, I know this was a long one!


  1. Mona and George:
    Fantastic job. Everyone had a great time and thanks for all the time and effort in planning and arranging the party