A Tribute to My Auntie

My Auntie (L) and my mom, September 2010

Three weeks ago today, the world lost an amazing woman - my Auntie - after a several year long battle with cancer.  It was absolutely heartbreaking and gut wrenching to see her in so much pain in the last several years, and excruciatingly sad to lose her.  She was much beloved by all us, and touched so many lives as a sister, aunt, friend, teacher ... she is truly missed.

My aunt lived her life in the healthiest way that she knew how, filled with vitamins and meditation, years of being a vegetarian, etc. I remember a conversation I had with her years ago, in which she exclaimed, "I wish I had eaten more cookies!!" Now, she meant this in the most literal sense possible, but it can also be translated as a statement to advise all of us to live life to the fullest.

Caramel Apples

Fall is my favorite season here in New England.  The crisp, cool air, the changing leaves, and knowing that the holidays are just around the corner makes me one happy girl.  Last weekend, the Love Of My Life (LOML) and I went apple picking at a wonderful orchard in Amesbury, MA.  Though it was toward the end of apple picking season and many of the trees were bare, we still managed to harvest a whopping 14 pounds of apples!   Now, what to do with all of that fruit ... apple pie? Apple crisp? Eat them plain? Hmmmm....

Brendan and Ilona's Wedding

My friends Brendan and Ilona recently tied the knot, and I was absolutely honored to make their wedding cake!  There were three different flavors offered: chocolate filled with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries, carrot filled with cream cheese icing, and white cake filled with vanilla bean creme and fresh strawberries.  The cake was enrobed in white fondant, and embellished with cranberry ribbon and coordinating gumpaste flowers.

Congratulations to you both, and wishing you a long life of happiness, love, and health!

Treasure Chest Cake

After a short hiatus to take handle some things in my personal life - I'm back in caking action :)

I made this treasure chest cake for my friend George's daughter's 5th birthday party, and it was SO much fun to make.  It's pretty much the first 3-D, non-standard shaped cake I've made, and definitely challenged me a bit to think outside of the box.

The lid was made out of rice krispie treats; the box portion was yellow cake filled with chocolate buttercream.  I covered the whole thing with dark chocolate fondant, and created the pearl strands, coins, and chest embellishments out of fondant and gumpaste.  And of course - what's a treasure chest without a little beach element - the cake was surrounded by graham cracker crumb "sand".  I'm absolutely thrilled with the result!

Happy 5th birthday Zoe!!

National S'mores Day!

Hi all.  Me again.  I know it's been over a month since I last posted, but life took some unexpected twists and turns (isn't life good at doing things like that?).  However - I'm pretty much back, and looking forward to sharing more sugar with all of you!

Did you know that today is National S'mores Day??  Head on over to the Sugar Turntable to check out the recipes for s'mores pops and peanut butter crunch s'mores bars - no campfire required!  Or, if you have a little bit more time on your hands, check out the recipe for my amazing s'mores cupcakes.

Giveaway: Plate to Pixel Book Winner!

Thanks to all who entered the Plate to Pixel Book giveaway!  I'm happy to announce that the winner is .... Lisa!

Lisa, please contact me at kristen@queenbeecakery.com by end of day tomorrow (7/8) to claim your prize!

Giveaway: Plate to Pixel Book!

After working hard to finish up a cake, it can be tempting to just snap a few quick photos of your work and call it a day.  However - photos DO tell a thousand (or more) words, and it's smart and satisfying to be able to capture your hard work in beautiful, enticing photographs.  The amazing Helene Dujardin of Tartelette recently came out with her first book - Plate to Pixel.  This wonderful book is packed full of advice and tricks of the trade on food styling and photography, which is accessible for even the beginning photographer.  This is truly one of of my favorite new books!

How would you like to win a copy, to help you in your pursuit of gorgeous, enticing photos? 

All you have to do to enter is:
  • Follow my blog (just click that Follow button to the right!)
  • Leave a comment on this post, with a link to a blog that has photographs that you admire.
And that's it!  Deadline to enter is Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 8 pm EST.  One winner will be chosen at random* and announced sometime Thursday.

Good luck!!!

This giveaway is open only to legal residents of the 50 states of the U.S. (and the District of Columbia).

Description from amazon.com: Tips and techniques for making food look good—before it tastes good!

Food photography is on the rise, with the millions of food bloggers around the word as well as foodies who document their meals or small business owners who are interested in cutting costs by styling and photographing their own menu items, and this book should serve as your first course in food photography. Discover how the food stylist exercises unique techniques to make the food look attractive in the finished product. You’ll get a taste of the visual know-how that is required to translate the perceptions of taste, aroma, and appeal into a stunning, lavish finished photograph.
  • Takes you through the art and techniques of appetizing food photography for everyone from foodies to food bloggers to small business owners looking to photograph their food themselves
  • Whets your appetite with delicious advice on food styling, lighting, arrangement, and more
  • Author is a successful food blogger who has become a well-known resource for fellow bloggers who are struggling with capturing appetizing images of their creations
So, have the cheese say, "Cheese!" with this invaluable resource on appetizing food photography.

Audrey & Winson's Wedding

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my friend Audrey's wedding at the gorgeous Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, NY.  Audrey and Winson are pretty much the cutest couple ever - and I couldn't be happier for them!!

The Botanic Garden is amazing - I can't wait to go back and spend the day walking around.  From a garden filled with flowers from Shakespeare's novels to amazing rose gardens, there was far too much to see in the hour or so that we had to walk around.  Just a few shots of some of the beautiful flowers in bloom ...

For their wedding favors, I made red velvet cake pops, dipped in white chocolate and a milk chocolate drizzle.  Packaged in colors to coordinate with their wedding color scheme, the cake pops added an elegant touch to each table setting.

After dinner, our table could barely wait to eat their favors!  Here are our new friends, Kristen and Wai-Sing, clearly enjoying their cake pops:

Audrey and Winson - wishing you a life filled with love, laughter, and endless happiness!!

The beautiful bride and me!

Featured on Sugar Turntable!

These days, there are plenty of good cake related resources out there - but it's rare to find a really *great* one! The Sugar Turntable is filled with fantastic tutorials and creative cake and sugar ideas. Kathryn, the amazing woman behind the blog, owned a wedding cake bakery for several years, and is now sharing her love of baking and expertise online. 

I'm delighted to say that my cake pop tutorial is featured on the Sugar Turntable today - head on over and check it out!

Guest Post: Summer S'mores

Happy summer everyone! Last week, I mentioned that my guest post this month on the Pure Joy Events blog would piggy back and my s'mores cupcakes post. I'm happy to say that the recipes are up - head on over to learn how to make s'mores pops and peanut butter crunch s'mores bars!

A S'mores Extravaganza!

The official start of summer is just about a week away - and nothing says summer to me quite like s'mores!  The gooey, melted chocolate, slightly cripsy and totally melted marshmallows and crunchy graham crackers?   Yes, please.

Today I have a twist on this popular campfire treat - s'mores cupcakes!  Don't be intimidated by the number of steps - each one is pretty easy, and the outcome is certainly worth it.  Wondering what the other treats are in the photo above?  In addition to the s'mores cupcakes, we have peanut butter crunch s'mores bars and s'mores pops - you'll learn how to make both later this month in my guest post on the Pure Joy Events blog!

Stars & Stripes Graduation Cake

This weekend, I had the pleasure of creating a gorgeous Stars & Stripes themed cake for a big graduation party for a brother and sister. Eric and Lauren graduated from college and high school respectively, and had a pretty fabulous party!

The top two tiers were lemon cake with lemon cream filling, the third tier chocolate cake with cappuccino cream filling, and the bottom tier coordinated perfectly with the party theme - red, white and blue velvet with vanilla cream filling (I can't wait to see a picture of a slice of the red, white, and blue cake!).  This is the biggest cake I've made yet - yes, I've made other 4-tier cakes, but this is the first one that's all cake.  I really enjoyed creating this cake - everything went super smoothly, and I couldn't be happier with the final result. 

Congratulations Lauren & Eric!  Best wishes to both of you in the next chapters of your lives!

Laurie & Scott's Wedding

My cousin Scott married Laurie last night in a beautiful ceremony at The Greenhouse, in Plymouth NH.  The party continued afterward at a super cute inn just down the road.

And now for the sweets (and there were a lot of them last night!). Guests brought home chocolate cake pop flavors...

...and ate lots of cupcakes for dessert!   We offered four types of cupcakes - white velvet filled with lemon curd and blueberries, white velvet filled with strawberries & cream (both topped with vanilla buttercream), chocolate filled with a ganache filled raspberry and topped with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate stout cake filled with whiskey ganache and topped with Bailey's buttercream.  The cutting cake was white velvet filled with strawberries and cream, and was embellished with modern purple flowers.  Sorry that these pictures aren't the most fabulous - I'll have some better ones up soon!

Laurie and Scott cutting their cake - I'm going to say that Laurie was giving the cake a "thumbs up" in the second picture!

Immediately after the cake was cut, the crowd descended upon the cupcakes. Everyone LOVED them - this is a huge reason that caking makes me so darn happy!

And me at the end of the night - looking a little tired, but super happy!

Congratulations you two lovebirds!  We were so happy to be there to celebrate this momentous occasion in your lives!

Danielle's Birthday

More bubbles and lace (I'm in love with my new lace molds!) for my friend Danielle's birthday party!  Both tiers were chocolate cake; the top was filled with chocolate ganache and cappuccino cream filling, and the bottom filled with chocolate ganache and raspberry preserves.

The gorgeous birthday girl with our friend Mike - and cake!

Danielle - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  Hoping that the year ahead is the best ever! xo

Featured on The White Library!

Remember the black, white, and red dessert table I created for my friend's housewarming party earlier this year?  I am thrilled and honored to say that it is featured on The White Library!  The White Library is an absolutely gorgeous resource for event design inspiration and inspired living.  Whether you're looking for some dessert table eye candy, home or event design ideas, or crafty projects - the White Library has it all.  Head on over and be inspired!

Ivory and Lavender Bridal Shower Cake

I made this gorgeous ivory and lavender cake for a bridal shower this past weekend.  The top tier was lemon cake filled with lemon curd; the bottom tier was chocolate fudge cake filled with chocolate ganache and raspberry jam.

I think one of the challenges when starting large(r) projects is estimating how much you'll need in terms of ingredients - as well as time.  It doesn't matter what industry you are in - it all comes down to resources and time!  Just to give you an idea of what goes into a cake like this ... 6" and 9" square cakes, 3.5 quarts of buttercream, an entire recipe of chocolate ganache that uses 1lb of chocolate, a pint of lemon curd, just over a cup of raspberry jam, and about 7lbs of fondant, between covering both cakes and the embellishments.  And yes - a lot of time as well.  Whew!

Laura and Jay - wishing you a beautiful wedding day and a lifetime of happiness together!

Kim's Graduation

I am SO proud of my little sister, Kim.  You all first heard about her almost 2 years ago, when she married her amazing husband, Brian.  Well, Kim has been a pretty busy bee over the past few years.  Yesterday, she graduated from her accelerated pharmacy school program as a Doctor of Pharmacy, and is now entering the Airforce as pharmacist and a captain!

Kim being promoted to *Captain*!

As part of her graduation gift, of course I had to make a cake.  I wanted to make something pretty and whimsical (and I also wanted to try out my new lace mold!).  The cake was chocolate fudge filled with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries.  It was a super rainy day in Boston yesterday; I was very happy to have a few minutes to take some pictures outside.  Yes, my parents' backyard really is that green - spring is wonderful!

Kim - CONGRATULATIONS!!!  We are so incredibly proud of you, and we can't wait to see where your next adventure takes you!  I know that the next few years are filled with many unknowns, but I know that you can rise above any challenges that life throws your way.

Cupcake Kit Giveaway Extended!

Update 5/13: And the lucky winner is ... Nisha!  I'll be contacting you shortly so that you can claim your prize :)  Thanks all for reading, participating, and for sharing your favorite recipes - this is the first give away of many!

Due to the problems with Blogger yesterday and today, I've extended the giveaway for another day!  Apparently, they had some problems with a maintenance update that they put out, and "temporarily" removed all comments, etc from yesterday morning onward (check out Blogger's twitter feed).  So, a few comments on the giveaway post were removed :(

Sorry about this all - bad timing!  If your comment was removed, please re-add it :)  And for all of you that haven't entered yet - you now have until tonight at 8PM EST!

French Macarons and Cookies Class

Close-up of a hazelnut-pistachio financier

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending a French macaron and cookies class (with the lovely Victoria from Cakeology!) at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.  The class was taught by Master Pastry Chef Delphin Gomes, who is absolutely amazing at his craft and super entertaining; we had so much fun!

Now, I was expecting to learn *something* in this class - but it completely blew my expectations out of the water.  The class was really, really fanstastic.  Life changing, even.  I learned A TON, not only about macarons, but about baking technique in general.  During the four hour class, we made four flavors of macarons and ganaches - pistachio, raspberry, lemon, and coffee - hazelnut-pistachio financiers, almond tuiles (delightfully flavored with orange zest), and lemon madeleines.

Just a few of the helpful macaron making tidbits that I picked up:
  • Two major factors when making French macarons are a) how you whip your egg whites, and b) how much moisture is in your batter.  Egg whites should never be whipped to stiff peaks; moisture makes your macarons crack.  Humidity should not be a factor (much to the contrary of many sources that I have read).
  • To go along with the whole moisture bit - it's best to flavor your macaron shells with extracts, herbs, spices, etc - in other words, you'll get much better results if you use intensely flavored, dry ingredients than it is to try to flavor your shells with say, fruit puree.  You would need to add a lot of fruit puree to your batter before it will add enough flavor, and in doing so, you'll add far too much liquid to your batter. 
  • Too many pans in your oven at the same time can create an environment with too much moisture - which means cracking macarons.  To mitigate this; prop your oven door open just a little bit.  That will be enough to allow the excess moisture to escape.
  • You can make macarons with really any nuts that you like, but make sure that you always use at least half almond flour.  Almonds are fibrous nuts that will help hold the batter together, and have a neutral flavor, which will keep the shells from being too over-poweringly nutty. 
  • If you want to make your own almond flour, freeze the nuts first, and then run them through your food processor with a bit of powdered sugar.  This will help you get a super fine flour, and will reduce or eliminate sifting!
Unfortunately, I was too busy taking notes and paying attention to take any action shots (I promise there will be some next time!).  Here are a few shots of our finished products:

All of the amazing treats I got to take home!

Pretty and perfect macarons

Deliciously crispy almond tuiles

I absolutely cannot wait to take more classes at the CSCA; Victoria and I are hoping to take every class that Chef Delphin has to offer!  If any of you are in the Boston area, I'd highly recommend the school; their recreational programs are awesome, and range from pastry technique to wine tasting classes to cooking classes for couples.  Boston peeps - go get your learn on!

And - don't forget to enter to win my first give away - an awesome cupcake decorating kit!