Buddy Valastro Son
Buddy Valastro, with his son, talks about his new easy-to-use decorating tools.

“Who’s afraid of fondant?” asked Buddy. Not me! Well, not anymore…

I recently had the opportunity to spend a morning with Buddy Valastro, some of the Carlo’s Bakery staff, and other food bloggers learning to work with fondant. Our tour and decorating workshop took place at the newest Cake Boss facility, 30,000 square feet in Jersey City’s Lackawanna Center on Grove Street. The space includes offices, kitchens, classrooms (for baking, decorating, cooking classes),  a tv studio and more. It’s impressive! So much baking and decorating going on at once…

Buddy and his team have designed a line of Cake Boss-branded baking and decorating supplies that will be available to the public this fall. (Learn more at www.cakebossbaking.com when it launches!) These products are aimed to be easy for the lay baker to use and include things like fondant cutters and tools, cake turntables for decorating, mixing bowls, and cake pans. The idea is that anyone can decorate a great cake with the right tools. Proving this point was where we amateurs came in.

fondant

We were given fondant, tools, instruction, and a “dirty iced” cake on which to experiment.

First, we rolled out the fondant. We had the help of a machine, but this can be done by hand. Covering the cake was probably the trickiest part, it is hard to get it smooth without tearing the sheet of fondant or leaving bubbles. Finally for this first stage, we trimmed off the edges with a cutting tool (a.k.a. a pizza cutter).

fondant_bow

To make a bow we cut strips of rolled-out fondant with the tools provided and arranged on the cake. A little water and a paint brush worked as “glue.” We also cut circles with cookie/fondant cutters to add dots of various sizes. A trick, the Cake Boss-ers told us, is to steam a fondant-covered cake to easily decorate with pieces of fondant. That day, we didn’t need to use anything. It was humid enough that they’d stick right on.

bluedotcake

It was fun to learn to work with fondant. I don’t know that I am getting into the heavy-duty decorating game, but it’s not a bad skill to have up my sleeve! I still prefer the cake and buttercream beneath the pretty layer. That fondant does keep the cake nice and fresh, though!

finished cake
Ready to eat!

Thank you to Carlo’s Bakery and JS Public Relations. Follow @cakebossbaking to learn more.

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I took a special trip to the Florida Panhandle with my fiancé on a wedding-planning mission. We are getting married down there at Carillon Beach in October. What was my favorite part of the vendor meetings? Take a wild guess.

Miramar Beach

KaraBoo Bakery
10859 Emerald Coast Parkway West
www.karaboocakes.com

karaboo bakery

On the recommendation of the ever-helpful Avis of Carillon Weddings, we chose Kara Enache to be our wedding baker. Avis guessed I might be particular about what I wanted for our wedding cake, and when we arrived for our tasting, I knew she’d guided us well.

Kara had prepared some requested flavors for us to try, and we dug right in.

cake samples

Here we have a lemon cake filled with blackberry with vanilla buttercream, a pumpkin cake filled and iced with a cinnamon nutmeg buttercream, vanilla cake filled with caramel with caramel buttercream, and black velvet cake filled with peanut butter cups and covered with peanut butter buttercream.

cake samples inside

They were all pretty amazing. Luckily, we don’t have to decide on just one! By having a traditional tiered cake and cupcakes, we’ve actually managed to work in five unique flavor combinations. We’ve made a few tweaks to the above, trusting Kara’s expertise, and added a fifth. Here is what our guests have to look forward to:

    • Black velvet cake with peanut butter cup filling and peanut buttercream
    • Lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon buttercream
    • Pineapple rum cake with coconut buttercream (a.k.a. Piña Colada)
    • Pumpkin spice cake with caramel sauce and caramel buttercream
    • Vanilla cake with vanilla salted caramel sauce and caramel buttercream

Yum. That’s all there is to say.

Kara was great to work with. Adding the vanilla sea salt to the caramel is brilliant. I was also pleased with her grasp of our design concept and her own great ideas of how to implement it. I’m so excited to see—and taste—Kara’s final creation! What will it look like? That’s top secret until the big day.

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#itsmybirthday #cupcakecards #happyhappybirthday #morebakingin2020 #cupcakes
  • I made these teeny hand pies from leftover Christmas pie crust dough. See picture 2 for the reality of trying to do anything like this with a toddler! 🥧 #toddlerbaker #mamabakes #handpies

Discussion

Baking cupcakes is of course my true passion, but it doesn’t hurt to try new things in the world of baked goods! I’ve had friends and blog readers ask if I ever bake other sweets. Ok, ok, I do! I decided to try something different last weekend and signed up for a French Macaron Class at Mille-Feuille Bakery on LaGuardia Place in NYC.

macaron_rainbow

Macarons are made up of what are basically meringue shells with a variety of fillings. Most of the flavor actually comes from the fillings, which was a surprise to me. The color in the shell is usually just food coloring! Chef Olivier at Mille-Feuille did mention that the chocolate shells could be made by replacing 15-20% of the almond flour with cocoa powder, but we did not do that for this batch.

colorful_almond_flour

The shells contain just egg whites, almond flour, and sugar (both powdered and granular). We whipped the egg whites, then poured in heated sugar syrup. Mixed with the almond flour, powdered sugar, and food coloring, we had our batter.

mixing_macarons

Some of the tips we were given were to use aged eggs, not very fresh eggs, and to separate them ahead of time, letting the whites sit 2-3 days (refrigerated but brought to room temperature before using). Olivier also cautioned us not to buy pre-separated egg whites, that they are often not of high enough quality to ever whip to firmness.

What was different about making macarons versus making cupcakes? The main place that my skills led me wrong was in the piping. Piping icing on a cupcake, I move in circles, holding the bag at an angle and pulling up at the end, creating a nice peak. With macarons, in both piping the dough and the filling, you must keep your piping bag very steady, the tip the same distance away and straight up and down. You want a very smooth, even circle and no peak! A little variation is ok, I found, as the next step takes care of that. After piping the batter, you hit the bottom of the pan firmly (and loudly!) until they do smooth out into nice, uniform dots.

raw macarons baked_macarons

Next, you make the filling. You can make macaron filling from most any flavor you can imagine, but we stuck to chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio. All involve cream, and both the vanilla and pistachio used white chocolate. For the vanilla, we put in vanilla beans; to the pistachio we added pistachio paste. For the chocolate filling, we added chocolate, butter and honey to cream.

fillings

Match the baked shells by size, then pipe on your filling. Et, voilà! You have French Macarons.

Well, not quite yet. The macarons must be refrigerated for 18-24 hours to reach the desired texture and for the flavors of the shell and filling to combine. Olivier recommended they be taken out about 20 minutes before serving.

macaron_construction

It was fun to try baking something different. I hadn’t really known how macarons were made. I thought maybe some sort of mold was used? It was a lot easier than I expected! Yet they feel so…fancy. Tasty, though! They were not too pretty to eat.

Thank you to Vimbly for finding the macaron class for me and providing a discount for my baking adventure! Vimbly.com is a website that helps users discover and book activities like this baking class and many, many more fun recreations around New York City.

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#itsmybirthday #cupcakecards #happyhappybirthday #morebakingin2020 #cupcakes
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Discussion

I have so much to celebrate right now! A little over a week ago was both my birthday and my company‘s 8-year anniversary. I also became engaged on New Year’s Eve. (Yes, Jason wants to make sure I follow through on that lifetime’s supply of cupcakes I promised him in exchange for photographing for my blog.)

So, after lunch the other day, I decided I needed a celebratory cupcake immediately. I stopped at the first available cupcakery.

Flatiron/Chelsea, Manhattan

Crumbs Bake Shop
655 6th Avenue (CLOSED)
www.crumbs.com

There is a Crumbs near my office, and, though I pass it all the time, I never go in. I honestly never find bakeries that tempting, because I’m usually baking myself. However, it’s been awhile and I was craving a sweet bite. Even a chain would do…

The first thing I noticed was how big the cupcakes are. These things are HUGE and 500-600 calories. It’s their thing, these oversized cupcakes are their “Signature” Cupcakes. They do have minis, but I was told they only come in 6- or 12-packs.

Crumbs Starlight Cupcake

I next noticed that Crumbs’ cupcakes are very pretty. They have put together some yummy-looking cupcakes topped with sprinkles, cookies, candy, all sorts of goodies. Several are over-the-top.

I picked a Pink Starlight Cupcake because it was pretty and sparkly and, ok, bridal. The description—vanilla cake and icing with chocolate mousse inside—sounded great.

It is too bad they don’t taste quite as good as they look. It was not bad, I just wasn’t impressed. I could tell it was not made recently, but I didn’t expect fresh out of the oven midafternoon. The cake was dense and doughy—ok but not very flavorful. The chocolate mousse inside did not taste like chocolate to me, but as there wasn’t much of it, it was hard to tell.

The verdict? My Crumbs sample tasted like good grocery store cake. I’m not bashing grocery bakeries. Some make tasty treats, but it is hard to get the freshness of a home-baked or small bakery cake. Crumbs does say that they do not use preservatives, which is great and more than can be said for your average grocery store.

Crumbs has locations all over the country. If you are in NYC, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or Chicago, they provide local delivery. Elsewhere, order online, and they’ll freeze them and overnight them to you.

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  • I made these teeny hand pies from leftover Christmas pie crust dough. See picture 2 for the reality of trying to do anything like this with a toddler! 🥧 #toddlerbaker #mamabakes #handpies

Discussion

East Village, Manhattan

Butter Lane
123 East 7th Street
www.butterlane.com

assorted cupcakes

I was happy to be included with other local bloggers in a tasting preview of Butter Lane’s dessert ideas for 2013. As hard as it is to pick favorites, I’d say mine were the Cherry Pie Pops, the Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes, and the Eggnog Cake. The little “Pop Tarts” were pretty hard to resist, too! Besides the Caramel Popcorn, mini cupcakes we tasted included Chocolate Mint, Blueberry Banana, Strawberry Vanilla, PB&J and Banana, and many more. The non-cupcake offerings were just as delicious.

Cherry Pie Pops
Cherry Pie Pops
Sea Salt Chocolate Cake
Sea Salt Chocolate Cake
Mini Strawberry Pop Tarts
Mini Raspberry Tarts

Thank you to Pam, Sunshine, and everyone at Butter Lane for the treats and also for the opportunity to mingle with other like-minded folks! Us over-sugared blogger bunch…

Click here for more photos from the event!

Butter Lane Bites and other holiday treats are now available. Go by the store for details, or see the order form here.

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The Latest

  • Hey, hey, it’s my birthday! It’s been a year of less cupcakes, but a sweet one nonetheless.

#itsmybirthday #cupcakecards #happyhappybirthday #morebakingin2020 #cupcakes
  • I made these teeny hand pies from leftover Christmas pie crust dough. See picture 2 for the reality of trying to do anything like this with a toddler! 🥧 #toddlerbaker #mamabakes #handpies

Discussion