Sunday, December 27, 2009

Simply Two Cakes

Wow. Christmas is already over, and the New Year is just a few days away! I keep wondering how the entire year has almost passed? I guess it doesn't really matter...the New Year is coming whether I am ready or not!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday! Our Christmas Day was spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on local Mount Laguna. We had gorgeous weather, and there was just enough snow to make things extra pretty, but not too cold:

Mistletoe in the trees:

I have also been furiously working (well...maybe not furiously) on some sugarpaste flowers and several new cakes, and very happily scheming about some exciting new plans and ideas for next year. More news and updates about those plans coming soon!

The two cakes I worked on recently were both small...single tiers covered with fondant, and just decorated simply with flowers, buds, leaves and ribbon. Both very different in color palette, but definitely my style just the same.

More large white peonies with lots (!) of petals:

And the final cake:

And then more hydrangea and gardenias...most of these below still need an additional round of large petals to complete them:

I didn't get any photos of the hydrangea in progress, but it was a nice change to make some in purple in addition to my usual green. The combination of Fuchsia and Larkspur colored dusts worked well on the petals to create a nice bright pop of color against the other flowers and chocolate fondant:

And...I know...the same ribbon I used before. I'm sorry if it's boring. I just really like it and think it finishes a cake with chocolate fondant beautifully! New ribbon is on the list of things-to-do.

My many thanks for your support and your time spent looking here! I greatly appreciate it! Wishing you a safe and very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Firsts and Fan Pages

Happy December 1st, and Holiday Greetings! I thought I would make a quick post to start the month off on a fun and pretty note! First, this gorgeous tree is blooming in my front yard, which is absolutely getting me into the holiday spirit:

And also I am happy to let you know that our Facebook Fan Page is finally up! Thank you so much for looking and for your support! The Facebook icon in the left column will take you directly to the Petalsweet Cakes page. Enjoy!

This month will be busy with some new cake designs, definitely more flowers, and probably some Christmas cookies as well! As usual, I will be happily taking photos along the way, and will share them here as soon as I finish each project. I am also very excited to be developing some new ventures for next year...I will post more details soon!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So Thankful

It's Thanksgiving Eve...and I have so much to be thankful for!

Just for fun, I am thankful that I get to spend my time doing this some days:

And make these on other days:

And these too:

But I am also very thankful to have had these beautiful ladies in my life for so many years before having to say good-bye:

And I am thankful for so many amazing friends, and wonderful and talented colleagues, who support and believe in me, and who are such great sources of inspiration in both business and life!

And I am thankful for my loving family, who have supported my dreams for as long as I can remember. I am proudly who I am because of them.

And I am thankful for my wonderful fiancee who is a kind, loving and generous man, has a love for life that is infectious, and whose encouragement is endless.

**My best wishes to you for a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!**

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Peony for Fall

Just when I thought I had completed the last peony for awhile, this little cake needed one too. Dusted in shades of peach and pink, and paired with some green hydrangea, I needed it to somehow work for a fall-themed cake. I added some chocolate fondant, tailored grosgrain ribbon, and a creamy colored cake pedestal...and ended up with a design that I feel looks warm and appropriate for this time of year:

The most difficult element of the cake design was the ribbon! I had originally planned on a simple brown grosgrain, but it made the cake look like a stacked blob of chocolate with no definition. Delicate green, coral and peach ribbons all competed with the flowers and looked too busy. I think the ribbon I finally chose was just the right balance of color and texture to make the cake look finished, but pretty too.

Ridiculous, I know...but honestly, when I'm working on a cake, these are the things I think about!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Grace of a Single Flower

It's not much of a secret that I really like the look of colorful bouquets of sugarpaste flowers. It's definitely becoming part of my design style. I love to mix various shapes, sizes and colors, hopefully ending up with luxuriant, full-looking, abundant bouquets that are teeming with flowers, buds and leaves.

Here are several of my favorites:

So, it was a little more challenging for me to make this cake knowing that it would be decorated with a single flower. Happily, the flower was a peony, and it needed to be large and comprised of many petals. Full and ruffled, yet soft and simple at the same time, it was the perfect way to top a cake designed with clean lines and delicate details.

The peony began with a styrofoam center:

Adding petals to cover the center:

Many petals later...the completed peony flower:

And the leaves:

Offset on the top tier:

And the final cake on a coordinating ceramic stand:

As this cake came together, I found myself easily convinced about a single sugarpaste flower as a wonderful choice for decoration. It has its own charm, and the elegant, clean lines are definitely a style I want to keep creating!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Week at Custom Cakes in Savannah!

In early October, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Minette Rushing, of Custom Cakes in Savannah, Georgia. When I was at Custom Cakes last March for the class with Ron Ben-Israel, I was overwhelmed by Minette's gracious hospitality and her genuine encouragement and support of me building my cake design business. Since that class, Minette has become a wonderful business mentor, and a very dear friend.

Minette graciously offered to host me during one of their busiest weeks of the wedding season, to allow me to gain a better understanding of how a custom cake business is run...including daily operations, production schedules, staffing, consultations and working with customers, supplies, deliveries, marketing and networking! It was an amazing opportunity, and an absolutely invaluable week of learning for me.

I was also happily included in the preparation of some of the decorations for a few of the wedding cakes that week. I "helped" by working on sugarpaste flowers, leaves, petals and bow loops as best I could...although I really I spent most of my time asking questions and standing around in awe of the talent in the shop!

Ashlee's amazing groom's cakes:

Some of Kerry's beautiful cake details:

My workspace:

Rose petal cake topper:

Phalaenopsis orchids drying:

At the end of the week, Minette and I drove out to the beautiful Ford Plantation to deliver one of the wedding cakes. The parts of the huge property (1800 acres!) we drove through were stunning, and it was a wonderful treat to be there!

The Ford Plantation Main House:

The view from the back of the Main House...look at the weather rolling in! :

The gorgeous trees filled with moss:

The wedding cake we delivered:

The week passed by too quickly, and once all of the cakes were delivered, it was time for me to head back home! My many, many thanks to all of Minette's staff for allowing me to take part in their busy week and for (I'm sure) disrupting their streamlined production schedule.

And my heartfelt gratitude to Minette (and Jim!) for taking such wonderful care of me, and for sharing so much time and information with me.

Minette, I can't thank you enough for the fabulous week and the positive impact it had on me while I was there, and the tremendous impact it will have on my business!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Harvest Intern

Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to travel to the Napa Valley, and serve as the harvest intern for El Molino Winery. El Molino is a small and wonderful family-operated winery in St. Helena that produces fabulous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. My lovely friend (and owner and winemaker) Lily Oliver Berlin, and her husband Jon Berlin (also a winemaker),welcomed me to their gorgeous home and farm, and proceeded to create a two week (working) vacation for me that I will never forget!

I arrived on a very warm day in mid-September, just after the first crop of Pinot grapes were harvested, but in time to participate in the picking of the Chardonnay grapes. Early mornings were spent working with the crews in the vineyards, and then transporting the huge bins of grapes to the winery to be weighed, pressed into juice, and barreled for fermentation.

Breakfast Napa style:

Bins of Chardonnay grapes:

The Chardonnay press:

The tasting area:

Once the Chardonnay grape juice was siphoned into the barrels for fermentation, and the appropriate yeasts added, I was assigned the responsibility of monitoring the sugar levels in each barrel. Using a hydrometer, I took samples daily from each of the barrels so we could determine when the sugars had been converted to alcohol. While a bit daunting at first, I really liked the precision and analytical skill this job required.

And....I have to admit, I really loved my temporary "office":

In addition to the exciting and interesting (for me!) work required at El Molino, Lily took me to numerous wineries in the valley, and introduced me to so many wonderful and talented people in the industry. I also had the enviable opportunity to make some wonderful purchases for my own wine cellar under Lily's professional tutelage. One of the places we visited was the main house for the boutique winery Spotswood. The house and grounds were beautiful:

A VERY special treat for me was the opportunity to follow Whitney Fisher, winemaker at Fisher Vineyards, for the day. My wonderful day included walking with Whitney through all of their beautiful vineyards to taste grapes (to determine picking dates), touring their facility, preparing labels for giant processing tanks, helping to unpack 50 new wine barrels, and enjoying a delicious lunch under a stunning canopy of trees. Whitney was a wonderful and gracious host, and it was an amazing day of learning for me. Thank you, Whitney!

Main building at Fisher Vineyards:

Some of the vineyards at Fisher on the rolling hills of Spring Mountain:

Our lunch spot:

I would be remiss if I did not include photos of some adorable winery dogs, so here they are...

And my dear favorites...the boys at El Molino...Moses, Inky and Spot:

Really...just look at that face:

For those of you hoping to see sweets and sugarpaste flowers, I didn't want to leave out our trip to Yountville to visit a dear friend. Lily made a great suggestion in Le Bouchon Bakery, and it did not disappoint. Adorable location, beautiful bakery and a delicious little side trip for us:

So...imagine beautiful warm days, gorgeous Napa Valley scenery, frequent and abundant wine tasting (I am an absolute lightweight!), delicious home-cooked meals, farm chores (well, they were fun for me!), daily visits to wonderful wineries, wandering around the charming little town of St. Helena, Sunday morning coffee and pastries in Calistoga, lounging, swimming and socializing at the pool, and working at El Molino...and you will have a good idea about just how blessed I feel to have had this opportunity.

My heartfelt thanks to Lily and her family for the amazing adventure and experience (it was just what I needed!), and for their warm, gracious and generous hospitality. I'm already thinking about next year's harvest...cheers!