fifty shades of flavor

fifty shades of flavor

move beyond vanilla...

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the naked truth... about naked cakes

Trendy. It's a word that we hate and love with equal fervor, especially when it comes to weddings. We want our celebrations to be unique and express our individuality, yet, we are bursting to emulate the latest fab thing we swooned over on Pinterest. How do you stay current, and still express your style and personality? One of the latest trends in wedding cakes is the "naked cake". What is it, and why has it disrobed? A naked cake in form, resembles a traditional wedding cake. It is a tiered confection, and is often adorned with fresh or edible flowers, and fruit, and a minimum of buttercream and fuss. No fondant, no frills, no piping or draping. Just yummy cake and dreamy buttercream. Usually naked cakes evoke notions of rustic retreats and barnyard banquets, however it is possible to have a naked cake that is sweet, simple and sophisticated, gorgeous and glam, or rock star ready.

There are a couple of things to consider before you strip your wedding cake bare.

- This is a cake that needs to be made and decorated very close to the day and time of your wedding. Since it's missing the protection of a thick layer of buttercream on the outside, it is more prone to drying out.

- Choose a cake that is moist. Any cake that has fruit in it holds up well. Great flavors for a naked cake would be carrot, banana, apple or even chocolate.

- Fresh fruit fillings or custards are not as stable as buttercream. They may leak or settle, spoiling the appearance of your cake, so choose your fillings wisely. A flavored buttercream is your best best. Also, remember that different flavors will impact the color of the buttercream, so opt for flavors that reflect the color scheme of your big day. When in doubt, use a vanilla, almond or lemon buttercream, as those will be neutral in color.

- Any flowers or fruits that are used on your cake should be pesticide-free, and non-toxic, so that you and your guests are not getting a dose of chemicals with their slice. Not all flowers are safe for consumption. Consult with your baker and florists about your options.

- Keep in mind the overall decor of your event, and choose similar accents for your cake so that it all makes sense together.

Here are a few of the naked cakes that we've done this year. Each reflects the personality of the couple, and the ambiance of their wedding celebration.

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photo credit inije photo

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you're not the only one...

so this month, back in August, pastry live, had a 3 day event comprised of seminars, workshops and competitions all for the glory of sugar and chocolate. not sure what bug got in my bonnet, but i decided to throw my hat into the ring for "the art of cake" competition. they had a pretty cool concept - take your favorite artistic inspiration - art, artist, or time period - and translate that into a sculpted cake creation. piece of cake! not. at. all. first of all, we had to submit both the artistic interpretation and cake flavors for the tasting cake waaay ahead of time. not so great for a procrastinator. or maybe that was great, since it forced me to get my butt in gear early. i decided that since the competition was taking place the same weekend as the occasion for the 50th anniversary of jamaica's independence, i would select a jamaican artist.

whenever i visit jamaica, i spend lots of my time at my aunt's house in new kingston. not too far from her home is emancipation park, and central to that park is the bronze statue by artist laura facey - redemption song. at the time it was unveiled, there was quite the uproar about the nekkidness of the man and woman. i mean, di people nuh hav on no clothes! controversy aside, it is a larger than life piece that always speaks to me about the steadfastness, determination, perseverance and pride of the people of jamaica.

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i decided i was going replicate he and she out of modeling chocolate, never mind that i had never used that medium before. you mean it's not a good idea to try something brand new, when going into competition?

fyi, modeling chocolate is basically melted chocolate and corn syrup, which magically turns into a malleable chocolate clay. it's different that fondant. very different! it required a whole new set of tools. introducing the newest member of the not a crumb toolkit (drumroll) - a hair dryer! it totally helps to soften the surface of the modeling chocolate so that it is easier to smooth and sculpt.

anywhoo, back to the fantastic inspiration. i didn't just want to do 24" of people (that was the height requirement), i thought that would be boring and too simple! (if i had known how much work sculpting he and she would be, believe me, i would have totally only done the people!) mad props to laura facey for making he and she 20 feet tall! my likkle 12" people almost killed me! from start to finish, they took about 12 hours to complete.

i wanted some color, and representation of the land of wood and water. i looked no further than the artisans of wassi art. they make the most beautiful pottery. it's handcarved and handpainted, and gorgeously colorful and vibrant.

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what happens when you combine pottery and nekkid people...

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not too shabby right? i want you to know that at turns during the creative process, i was filled with pride, self-loathing, nausea and delirium. and apparently short-term memory loss, because i didn't take a single picture until it was done. sorry!

i mean, this competition was not televised, and didn't have $10,000 prize money, yet i was nerve-wracked! i mean, how do the food network challenge people do this?!

on friday, august 3rd, i headed on over to the summit at perimeter, to set up my cake. there were 8 other competitors, some local, and some not. all of the cakes were awesome, and a testament to all the fantastic things you can make out of cake, sugar, fondant and chocolate. there were piped, carved, and handpainted cakes. all in all, it was a confectionary gallery d'art! once i saw the work of all the sugar savants, my nausea returned with a vengeance! and because the folks at pastry live are so kind, they wouldn't reveal the winners before sunday afternoon. sigh.

i returned on sunday with my mom in tow (the DH stopped by on friday to support and help ease my nerves). spoiler alert - i didn't win. :( my mom was kind enough to point out "you're not the only one who didn't win." thanks... i think? jamaican parents have weird ways of reassuring you. in any case she was right. i still didn't feel better about not being the only loser, but felt pretty good about my first foray into the world of competitive caking.

fast forward five days - i get an email from pastry live. inside were the judges' scores from the competition. i mean, the competition is completely over, but guess who stops by for a little visit? my nausea from the weekend. talk about an unwanted guest! at any rate, i finally got up the courage to look, and guess what! i came in 4th out of 8! and i think that is pretty darn awesome! gold, silver, bronze... tin? DH says 4th should at least be copper. either way, i don't care. I think I did damn well. Well enough to brave gastrointestinal distress and try again next year!

Erasing the black mark against fruit cake

Reputation is everything. Good or bad. You'd go to great lengths to protect your rep, because it's important. I mean, perception of a thing might as well be the truth, right? Except when it's not the truth. Take the fruit cake for example. Fruit cake has a bad rep. It's known to be dry, hard, tasteless, and apparently will last until the second coming. That's what they say... But I know different. The fruit cake I know is sweet, spicy, moist. She also has a bit of an alcohol problem, but who doesn't?! I want to introduce you to her, but please don't judge her before you get to know her. Friend, meet Jamaican fruit cake. Jamaican fruit cake, meet my friend.

Where did she come from? Didn't I just say she's Jamaican? Oh, you mean originally. Well her dad was an English fruit cake, and her mom was a plum pudding. When they moved to Jamaica, she got that lovely dark complexion. That's also where she developed a taste for rum. Not just any rum, but Jamaican overproof rum made by Uncle Wray and his Nephew.

Jamaican fruit cake is sometimes called black cake or rum cake, but at the heart, it's a celebration cake served most often at Christmastime, weddings and christenings. Jamaican fruit cake is expensive to make due to all of the fruits, spirits and spices, and time involved. It contains mostly dark dried fruits such as raisins, currants, prunes, cherries. Those fruits are cooked down into sticky sweet goodness like preserves, with sugar, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, almond, vanilla, and mixed essence. Everyone's auntie, grandma, and mommy has their own special blend, but there's a whole heap of liquor in the cake. Most commonly, it will contain a sweet red wine, like a port or other dessert wine, brandy, dark rum, and Wray and Nephew white rum. Are you drunk yet? Because I'm feeling a little tipsy myself. Once all of that has been combined, the fruits are left to marinate in that boozy heaven for up to a year. Most people put up, or "soak" their fruits right after New Year's for the upcoming Christmas. Everyone has a special vessel for their fruits; it could be an earthen jug, plastic bucket or jar. No matter the container, nothing else goes in it except fruits.

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The process for mixing up a fruit cake is like making a pound cake. You want to cream your butter and sugar together, then add your "browning" or burnt sugar. After that you'll add your flour and fruits, alternating between dry and wet ingredients. While you'll want to use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar, nothing mixes up a good cake like an old fashioned wooden spoon. Bake low and slow for hours. Once set, you'll take her out of the oven, cool just a bit, then liberally douse with more wine and rum (I told you she had a problem), cover with foil and let rest. The longer she rests, the better she tastes, so this is a cake you can make a week before you plan to serve it.

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Jamaican fruit cake can be eaten just like that with no other adornments, but it is frequently presented covered in brittle royal icing, a sweet counterpoint to the savory spices, and bite of the alcohol. For brides with a more modern design sensibility, cakes can be covered in rolled fondant.

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If you're up for the challenge, you can attempt this lovely cake on your own. The Internet abounds with lots of recipes (you didn't think I'd give you mine did you?). Should you feel like it's more fun to eat than to bake, be sure to give not a crumb! a call. I'd be happy to bake up some rummy happiness and ship it right to you!

not a crumb! will be taking orders for Christmas cake, packed in festive keepsake tins, beginning October 1st. Please visit us at www.notacrumb.com to place your order, or join our mailing list to be kept up to date on our seasonal offerings.

Girl cakes are easy...boy cakes are hard!

Wait... That didn't come out right! What I mean is, that it's easier to come up with ideas for cakes for girls than it is for guys. When it comes down to it, you can always throw a flower or two on a round cake, and voila! instant feminine, girly cake. Man cakes should be manly; they should roar, or beat their chests, or involve tools and grunting, maybe. Cake is soft, and light. Icing is fluffy, and delicate and pretty. So you see the problem right? How to turn all the soft, yummy goodness into macho, macho, man cake. At the very least, there should be alcohol! So what to do when choosing a cake for the special man in your life? Look at their hobbies, favorite beverage, favorite team or sport! and let the cakeist do her thing. Here are a few of my favorite cakes for men over the years.

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The epic battle.... Buttercream vs. Fondant

I like cake. I suppose I should, since I bake it. All. The. Time. I like pie and brownies even better... but I digress. I kind of like icing, but I could live without it. I could eat cake all day with no icing, just plain; warm out the oven....mmm... I'm going to my happy place in my mind :) Funny enough though, most of you out there want cake and icing together. That's fine I get it. Makes my job easier. It would be harder to decorate a cake without icing. Yup. Infinitely harder. What's hard for you is that you've got choices to make - buttercream or fondant to make your cake dreams reality, but it seems that not everyone knows exactly what each of those are and what they can do, no matter how many reality cake shows are out there. Welcome to Icing 101!

What is buttercream? Buttercream is a whipped icing that is made with hot sugar syrup, egg whites or whole eggs, and butter. That's it. This is not to be confused with that "buttercreme" stuff they sell in those refrigerated cases, that are made of shortening and confectioners' sugar. If you've never had the real stuff you have been missing out!

It's got a silky texture and can be flavored with everything from vanilla to lemon, and can be used both as a filling, especially when blended with fruits or liqueurs, and as decoration. It can be piped into flowers, textures, and designs. It tends to be the most popular icing choice for wedding and special occasion cakes.

What is fondant? Fondant is a pliable sugar dough. It is made of confectioners' sugar and a sugar syrup. It too can be flavored. It is used only for decoration and not filling. Fondant can be sculpted into flowers, bows, or ribbons, and forms to what shape cake you place it around. Fondant is gaining in popularity because it gives a very clean or realistic finish depending on the cake.

Buttercream vs. Fondant - Buttercream is very sensitive to temperature. It doesn't like warm environments, so buttercream is not a good idea for an outdoor summer wedding reception. - Fondant holds up better to changes in temperature and because it goes on top of a layer of buttercream, helps to keep your cake moist. - People love the way buttercream tastes. It's super yummy. Because fondant is a dough, it's chewy, and folks aren't used to chewing their icing, so a lot of people don't like it. - People love the way fondant looks. When executed well, it is immaculate, with a porcelain finish. You get very true colors with fondant, and it works exceptionally well for 3D and sculpted cakes.

You can get the best of both worlds with a combination of both buttercream and fondant.

No matter what you choose, be sure your cake lady (or man), is skilled at executing in that medium. Buttercream can be made ultra smooth, or fondant could be lumpy and bumpy depending on how experienced your baker is!

Here are some of my most favorite buttercream and fondant decorated cakes!

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keep on keepin' on

this past week i chatted with a couple of friends in the wedding/event industry. we were talking about the fact that our busy season is winding down, and trying to figure out what to do during the slower holiday season. one of my friends was feeling a little bit down in the dumps about having to take on freelance work with another business to keep money flowing in. it's a hard thing to work for someone else when you've committed yourself to being an entrepreneur. i mean, at some point you told "the man" to "take this job and shove it", and now you're having to say, "my bad, i need to come back for a couple of days, weeks... maybe a month or two, pretty please with sugar on top". isn't that a step backwards? i don't think so.

lots of businesses fail, not because the idea is faulty, or the skills are lacking, or because they don't work hard,  but because people run out of capital. let's face it, you need cold, hard cash to buy supplies, ingredients, and to market yourself. you also need cold, hard cash to keep your house in order - rent/mortgage needs to be paid, lights need to stay on, and food needs to stay in the fridge. so it's all about short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

you become a small business owner, to fulfill a dream; not to stop working, but to control the way you work - who you work for, when you work, how you work. whether it's your customers or someone else's, you work for the customer and for reasons of your own choosing. what makes your dream a reality is your hard work.

i was reading  preston bailey's blog, and this post resonated with me. the bottom line? keep on keepin' on, even when you get discouraged, and/or broke ;)

duplicate, create... innovate

So much has happened since my last (published) post (let's not talk about the drafts waiting in the cue), I can’t possibly fit it all in here – I suppose that’s the problem with life; it moves at a frenetic pace. By the time you’re ready to talk about something, something else has transpired. I had all sorts of posts planned in my mind, and then Steve Jobs passed away. That’s when I decided I wanted to talk about him and the impact he’s had on my life. What do Steve Jobs and cake have to do with each other? On the surface, not a whole lot. What does Jobs have to do with me? The first computer I ever touched was an Apple IIe. The first one I owned – a Performa. Three imacs, an ibook, macbook, shuffle, nano, and an ipod touch later, there is not a day that I don’t interact with something that Jobs influenced or made. His inventions help me be more efficient (on the days I’m not procrastinating). They enable me to make my own website and marketing materials; to blog and facebook and twitter my days away. They keep me sane on airplanes when my seat mate wants to talk me to death, and on the rare occasion I get on a treadmill, my ipod keeps me walking towards nowhere. I am a mac (among other things)!

This is important because Job’s legacy is thinking outside of the box; creating something not only new, but intuitive. Sophisticated but basic. Modern but simple. Complex but easy to use, and at the end of the day, standing alone, all those beautiful pieces of technology are art.

Here’s the cake connection. I get asked often, “what’s the hardest cake you’ve ever had to do?” Truthfully, every one is  a challenge because every cake is new, something I haven’t done before. But after really thinking about it, the most difficult cakes are the ones where I’m asked to duplicate something that’s already been done. Think about all of the remakes of popular songs. No one wants to hear someone sing a classic song and butcher it, or not bring something new to the table. You want it to be better than the original – even awesome – er! Think about how many bad renditions of favorites we’ve heard on American Idol (shudder)!

Don’t get it twisted… I LOVE to make cake. Pretty much any kind of cake, except cupcakes (that’s for another post). But I really don’t want to copy someone else’s cake. I don’t even want to copy my own cakes! I want to take cake, and transform it… create a new cake experience that will truly reflect the occasion and the people being celebrated. Forget Mike; I want to be like Jobs. Truly, with every cake, I want to go further, push the envelope, and innovate. I want for people to want to duplicate me. Isn’t that what Jobs did? How many other mp3 players are out there, that we can name? I think there’s that Zune thing (not sure if it’s still around). Ipod has become synonymous with mp3 players. Yup. When people think cake, I want them to think not a crumb!.

So what do youwant to do with your life, career, passion? Duplicate, create or innovate?

what's the big faking deal?

every year event and wedding design reveals new trends. most of those have to do with color, shape, texture, or graphic images. one trend that's been around for the past few seasons is frugality. now being a girl who has champagne taste and a coca-cola pocketbook, i understand that not everyone has oodles of disposable income to throw at their wedding or celebration. it's important in these difficult financial times that we make every cent count twice. so i applaud thrifty-ness and bargain-hunting. brides are all about diy, from their invitations to their bouquets, to favors, forget fake it till you make it, just make it! all of those handmade items bring a certain whimsy and personality to a wedding, and i'm all for it! since brides are being discriminating with their  dollars, event planners are being creative with cost-cutting, thus, the fake cake.

most cake designers have created fake cakes before; tiers of styrofoam covered in fondant or plaster and decorated to look like a fab wedding confection. they've been made for bridal shows and exhibits, or for displays in their shops or studios. i've made quite a few myself. some of the work pictured on my website consists of display cakes that i've decorated for various occasions. up until recently most of us have never been commissioned to make one for a real live event. brides and planners are soliciting display cakes for show & pics, and then sheet cake for the kitchen with the hopes of saving some scratch. here's the thing... that actually won't save you money. in some cases it may actually cost you more! allow me to debunk a couple of myths for you.

  • wedding cake costs more than other cake; bakers automatically charge more when they hear the word wedding. - not true, unless you are comparing the cost of a wedding cake to your local bakery or grocery's grab & go birthday cake. personally, i charge the same for any special event cake - birthday, wedding, anniversary, baby shower, etc.. the price is determined by the level of detail and the amount of work that will go into a specialty design.
  • a fake cake plus sheet cake will cost less. - bakers determine the price based on ingredients, how long it will take to decorate plus the amount of time it will take to bake the cake(s). when making fake cake plus sheet cake, the cake still needs to be baked, plus the cake designer has to decorate twice - first the sheet cake (which needs to look like it came from the pretty display cake), then the display cake. there are also additional materials for the display cake. that styrofoam can get pretty expensive! for a three tier cake, it can cost anywhere from $15-40 just for the dummies (not insulting them, that's just what they're called)
  • no one will know the difference, i can just get cake from costco (nothing against costco, i LOVE costco - where do you think i get all that butter from?!) to keep the  number of servings down. - ummm... nope. most cake decorators have an all-or-nothing clause in their contracts. you must get all cake from them. this is designed to protect them and their reputation. guests don't know that the groom's cake came from one place and the wedding cake came from another. they just know they had cake. and if one is really awful...only one gets all the credit/blame. they won't differentiate. also, sheet cake looks different. it's usually two layers of cake and one of icing/filling, whereas wedding cake is usually three layers of cake and two of filling or icing. you wouldn't want your guests to think there's been a bait and switch!

so how can you save on your wedding cake? when is fake cake appropriate?

  1. be realistic about your budget and share that information with your cake designer. s/he will present you with ideas that are within your price range if you are up front about it.
  2. simpler is usually less expensive. choose a design that will not require hours of detail work. nix the sugar flowers and go with silk or fresh, non-toxic blooms.
  3. choose a smaller cake for display (big surface+fancy details=more details & more time. little surface+fancy details= less details & less time) and other types of desserts like pie or cookies will reduce the amount of servings you'll need.
  4. choose a smaller display cake and kitchen cake provided by the same baker.
  5. supplement the size of your cake by the addition of one or two fake tiers. this may not save you on decorating, but it will save you on the number of serving.

i hope this helps you navigate the world of cake!

which one is real?

Cake vs. Cake

I've gotten a lot of requests lately for really fantastic cakes _ wedding cakes and groom's cakes and it got me thinking about old movies, but one in particular. Kramer vs. Kramer, where a husband and wife face off in court as opposing sides on the same case. It made me think about competition because in weddings where I've done both, the groom's cake has been more intricate than the wedding cake. To me it takes away from the wedding cake being a centerpiece. What do you think? Should the wedding cake take the spotlight, or should it share prominence with the groom's cake?

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design, design, design!

if you watch any of the reality cake shows ( i watch all of them - even the ones i can't stand... more about that in another post), you'll see the bride & groom sitting with the esteemed cake decorator, and then they say something like..."i'm having a luau, spa, winter, outdoor, polka dot wedding, and i want you to make a fantastic cake! oh and we really love our dog, roscoe!". and then buddy, or duff, or someone on cake challenge makes a 4ft tall dog wearing a lei and a parka, skiing down a mountain with polka dot boots, and the bride & groom fall in love the minute they see it (it's perfect! it's better than we could have imagined! it looks just like roscoe if he were skiing in hawaii!) at their wedding reception with cameras rolling, and then said cake decorator gets showered with gratitude. yeah...that's not how it works. brides and grooms come in with a general idea of what they want - something round, or square, traditional or whimsical, (well the grooms come in to taste cake - they're not that interested in the pretty cakes). then i show them enough pictures to confuse them and make them change their mind. this is key to the process, because what i really want to know is how you decorate your house, and what colors you love. whether you'd wear stripes or polka dots or plaid. what country you'd love to travel to. this is where the design comes from, and it can't be accomplished in a 30 second segment. it takes a little time; we have to date a bit so that i can get to know you, and you can get to trust me!

i had a wedding cake this weekend that i absolutely love. i think it is my favorite (for now). it's because it was very different than what i normally do in terms of wedding cake. it was fun because the bride and groom let me do what i wanted! which was what they wanted even though they didn't know it initially. they came in wanting a simple, elegant 3 tier white cake. boring... they however, were not boring people, so why get a boring cake? they were interesting, and quirky, and from the middle east. the reception was at a lebanese restaurant.  plain, white cake? yeah right.

so we looked through some books, and they fell in love with an offset cake (inside i did a little jig, and then a booty shake), but not the design on that cake.

bride: "could you do something that has a byzantine feel/pattern?"

me: "sure!" (running to computer to google "byzantine design")

this is what i found (found some other stuff too, but this was the most exciting, and secretly i was hoping they'd love this too...)

this is the byzantine door interpreted in cake, and their black, white and ivory color scheme.

progression....evolution

last week i attended entrepreneur magazine's growth conference in atlanta ( #growthconference ) and one word kept popping up in my head, no matter the session i was in - CHANGE. all of the presenters talked about how change is inevitable and necessary for growth. although i am a change-o-phobe (i think change is all good when it happens to other people), i could hear the wisdom in what they were saying. the end of the year always brings about a certain amount of reflection - what have i accomplished? why didn't i get more done? why is there so much left to do?!!!! it's difficult to see how much has changed and how much progress you have made; the forest for the trees if you will, or the trees for the forest (to-may-toe, to-mah-toe). as i sat in the build your brand session, i thought about how much not a crumb! has grown. to me progress is about evolution, adapting and growing stronger, smarter, better, more FABULOUS! when i graduated from college, a girlfriend gave each of us in our circle, a crystal paperweight. in bold type it said "the evolution of man". pictured below, there were sets of footprints, leading from primate, to barefoot, to a print of a pair of man's shoes, to a woman's stiletto. i thought it was hilarious - that the most evolved version of man is a woman. i don't believe that to be true (that's for all the men reading this)! the image always stuck with me; this idea of moving forward.

i want to share a little of not a crumb!'s evolution. i started baking as a kid because my mom baked and i was an only child, so i didn't really have any where to be but in the kitchen up under her arm... my mom and my godmother had a little business making wedding cakes and special occasion cakes. they had a whole system, my mom would do the baking during the day after work, and my godmother would decorate in the evening when she got off of work. they did that for most of my school years until my godmother moved to the land of the retired, at which point my mom continued on by herself, with me very occasionally assisting. i went onto college never thinking that baking as a career was in my future, returned home and baked strictly for fun, until people started asking if they could pay me to make cakes. i then convinced my  mom to come out of semi- cake retirement. that's when not a crumb! was born. so for the next 5 years we baked together (not always peacefully - hey we are mother and daughter!), and then i moved to atlanta from ny, and we became a two state operation. it took two years of lobbying, but i convinced my parents to move down to the a this past july, and once again, i've got my mom working with, and supporting me!

fast forward 7 years from my move to the peach state, and not a crumb! has surpassed my initial dreams. we've moved from a hobby to a business! one of my cakes was spotlighted in a national magazine (get married!), and my cake was featured at the unveiled wedding show in november, and i've been making cakes far beyond what i ever thought i could make!

i was cleaning out and going through papers with my mom in preparation for their move and we came across some of our old business cards. check out how we began to build our brand:

this is what we look like now!

change is a good great thing when we allow it to propel us forward, progress and evolve! the end of the year pensiveness was much needed for me. it reminded me that although i didn't meet all my goals for 2010, i've done a whole lot, and didn't allow negative changes to steamroll me. change is always an opportunity for growth. not a crumb! has even more changes coming, and i can't wait to tell you about them (actually i can wait, but it's really, really hard, because it's such exciting news!).

check back to see what's up!

leap and the net shall appear

ahem...can i have your attention please? i just quit my job. handed in emailed my resignation and hit send. there is no turning back, no saying, "my bad. i didn't really mean to quit." so i've taken the BIG leap of faith, and officially have begun to panic. currently in freaking out mode. (breathing into brown paper bag right now. in... out...in...out) whew. breathing better now. so what led to this decision? over the past few months ok, year, i haven't done the greatest job for my cake compadres, or for my boss out there in corporate america. my focus was so divided, and i felt like i was being pulled in several different directions. truthfully, i felt a lot like the dog that lost its head (see the post "the massive fail"). it made me realize that i can't serve two masters, and since i am the master of my fate and the captain of my ship, i'd rather kick the corporate master to the curb!

the end of one year and the beginning of another, tend to make us reflective and contemplative. it felt like now was the time to take that immense leap of faith. of course that felt a lot better before i hit the send button! as i looked for a piece of clip art to illustrate the jump into the unknown, i came across this quote:

"leap and the net shall appear"

and just like that the pressure in my chest eased enough for breath enough to sustain me. this will be very difficult, and i'm sure that the panic and worry will come and go, but right now, at this specific moment in time, i am excited about what comes next. i've opened my hands to receive whatever the new year brings. i'm incredibly energized about having  the space and time to be creative, to get better at my craft.

to my fellow entrepreneurs, my holiday wishes for you, are much success, enthusiasm, prosperity, and perserverance for 2011. leap on!

unmasking unveiled!

now that the last box of cake display stuff has been put away (sort of) and i am emerging from my thanksgiving turkey-induced tryptophan haze, i can tell you all about my experience at the unveiled wedding event in atlanta on november 14, 2010 (www.unveiledweddingevent.com)!

first of all, i must say that i had a great time! the wedding guys put on a FABULOUS event. they take their time to create a vision for the whole event - this year? zen! i suppose i shouldn't put an exclamation point behind zen... let me try again.

zen...ohm (picture me sitting in lotus position. on second thought don't picture that. i'm not as flexible as i used to be)

matthew & bruce, the wedding guys (www.theweddingguys.com) provided not a crumb! with a tremendous opportunity, by inviting me to provide the display cake for their reception rotunda. i got a look book with all of the textures, trends, and inspiration that had spurred them forward. i took from that book two main ideas - bamboo and water. my cake concept = zen garden fountain. i'll share the cake process in another post. i want to share the behind the scenes of getting ready for a bridal show.

there's a few things you must understand:

  1. there's always more than you think. no matter how many lists you make, you will forget something. hopefully not the cake (i didn't, but anything is possible ;)). no matter how far in advance you prepare, you will always be dashing and ripping and running at the last minute. no matter how much you do, there will be more to get done, and don't forget murphy's law - whatever can go wrong will! case in point, me breaking my cell phone the friday before the show. grrrrrr.
  2. there is always chaos before the calm. sometimes there's chaos before the chaos, but one should be optimistic that the chaos is somewhat organized.
  3. you never get the opportunity to record the before, during, and after. hence, my personal paparazzi, jeremiah wallace of j Wallace Photography. thanks jerry for being a photojournalistic phenom!

how things went down

in the weeks leading up to the show, i started making lists (what to bring), drawing diagrams (which cake/table goes where), and stressing out my plastic at home goods, tj maxx, and amazon.com. in the end, i had a living room full of stuff. it took 2 vehicles and 3 helpers to get all of the stuff to the ga world congress center. lucky for us, the wedding guys are really smart; so smart that load in and set up are the day before the show! yay!

it took us about 2 hours to get to a point where we could stop for the night ( i still needed to finish the display cake!). that included chatting with some of the other vendors, and enthusiastically debating the precise placement of the tables.

that's me, my mom, and heidi murphy (nat'l sales director, unveiled) talking about my shopping prowess. that bird figurine was $6 at kohl's!

that would be one of the wedding guys, matthew trettel, and i discussing the laundry list of things left to be done. see me ticking things off on my fingers?  i ran out of fingers and had to use them each several times!

the end result of all of all of the plotting, planning, prepping, and positioning? a great display and wonderful fun, lots of new friends, fantastic opportunities, and lots of scheduled tastings with brides! special thanks to the wedding guys and the unveiled atlanta team! see you next year!

the successful fail

much has been said about failure. we've got lots of cliches designed to make us feel better when we screw up royally. you know - "if at first you don't succeed...", "nothing beats a failure but a try!", "let's learn from our mistakes...". yeah, yeah, yeah. what those cliches don't say is how much it really sucks when things don't work out the way you envisioned them. this past weekend karin, from this wife bakes, and i collaborated on the mother of all groom's cakes. it was, in a word, stupendous, marvelous, fantastic. ok that was three words, but it was definitely all of those things. a 2 ft tall 3-d sculpted bulldog for an omega psi phi, complete with gold construction  boots, spiked collar and chain leash. see!

the before

and this was before all of the little details had been added, like his back two feet, laces for the boots. he was a gorgeous 70+ lbs of of yummy chocolate and vanilla cake, strawberry cheesecake buttercream and rice krispie treats. he also lost his head.

we traveled to the lovely ventana's for the setup and on the way his head started to sag. no worries. we'll just make a couple of adjustments and we'll be good to go! the first fix still looked fab due to our quick thinking. however, we soon realized that the cake was going to be a massive fail. first clue? when his head continued its downward descent. second clue? when his chest exploded all over the table. that is no exaggeration... the only thing keeping that cake upright was my hand on his head and my stomach against the edge of the table. at that point all i could think was that i had managed to ruin a very important part of someone's very important day. i did not cry...yet. we managed to salvage the head, chain, dog bone, and two of the boots, clear off the table and display what was left. the remaining cake was carted off to the kitchen to be served later with dessert. you saw the before. here's the after.

the after

all i wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position and die of embarrassment. then to add insult to injury, i cried all over the groom when he and his lovely bride told us how beautiful the body-less dog was. not my best moment, as i stood blubbering all over him and his fancy tuxedo. how much worse can it get!

god has a way of teaching you and showing you things in what you perceive to be your darkest, saddest, worst, most horribly humiliating moments. a couple of funny things that happened that night, aside from the dessert debacle:

  1. prior to the dog dying, i almost knocked him off the table, which although it would have been a more spectacular ending, would probably have had me searching for the nearest sharp implement to use to take my life.
  2. me blubbering all over the bride and groom. hey, at least i wasn't hysterical.
  3. me and karin standing in the middle of the reception hall with  huge chunks of cake innards in our hands waiting for rescue and divine intervention.
  4. me proclaiming that the dog's ass (pardon my french) was still in perfect condition, and we should just turn it around! not my best idea... it's not like no one would notice the gaping hole in his midsection.
  5. going to retrieve the box of cake remnants karin had hidden in the stairwell so the bride and groom wouldn't see it, and finding a wedding guest eating the cake out of the box on the floor and proclaiming,  and i quote, "this is some damn good cake". who does that! apparently he did, and it was yummy!

i learned a couple of lessons on saturday night. the first is that whenever things are going too smoothly, disaster is lurking around the corner. the second, we all need to have a humbling experience, or two, or three to keep us, well, humble. the third, nothing and no one/dog,  is exempt from the laws of nature, in this case, gravity. third, people are good. period. the bride and groom were so gracious, and kind, and understanding! i mean, i cried all over the groom who comforted me!

you may not know that i run this business in addition to a full-time job. it's been difficult, trying to achieve balance, keeping myself and my relationships healthy, all the while  reaching for my goal of world cake domination. the biggest lesson i learned from this experience is that i cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, and not expect for things to fall apart and catch fire. in failing, i've gained so much - new perspective, renewed energy and determination. so i'm coining a new phrase - "the successful fail". while i don't wish misfortune on anyone, i hope that your failures will be as succesful as mine!

grandma just loves her crosswords!

so yesterday was my dad's 75th birthday. i called to wish him a happy happy and asked him how it felt to be 75 years old. his reply... " it feels great!", and then he goes on to tell me that he was lying in bed and told himself that he'd better get up and go walking so he can stay healthy. i must add that the man gets up every morning at 6 and goes walking for MILES almost every day, hence why he's 75 and fit as a fiddle. thinking about my dad reaching 75 reminded me of this cake i did last fall for betty who was turning 90! betty apparently is quite the spitfire who does daily crosswords and sudoku. the colors for the party were red and yellow (apparently betty's a fan of those colors). the red and yellow theme was carried into the inside of the cake with red velvet cake with lemon cream cheese filling, and vanilla cake with a mixed berry buttercream (see the berries in the bowl? get it? good!)

i hope to be in as good mental and physical shape as betty and my dear old dad... now if i could just put down the brownies... sigh.

stomping at the savoy

every now and then i get an opportunity to run free and wild. last week back in october (see how long ago i started this post. smh. i've got to write more often!) i had the great pleasure of creating a display cake for the pi alpha omega chapter of alpha kappa alpha. they were having their annual fundraising dinner and dance benefiting their ivy and roses scholarship fund. last year the theme was motown...

this year the theme was the harlem renaissance. there's SO much from that era, but i was totally inspired by the glamour, the glitz and the bling ( i swear this year i am going to retire that word!), as well as the art deco architecture and design. i kept thinking about the cotton club and the savoy ballroom, so this is what i came up with[gallery link="file" columns="2"]

woo hoo!

so i don't usually use phrases like woo hoo! but i think that what i'm about to say warrants such exclamation. i am borrowing the phrase from my friend karin over at this wife bakes because it is so apropos. wait for it.... one of my cakes will be appearing in the april edition of get married! magazine. world cake domination here i come (rubbing my hands together in glee!, minus the maniacal laughing)! so in approximately 3 weeks you'll be able to get your hands on a copy at barnes & noble, target, cvs, walgreens, kmart, books a million, kroger, & borders. you thought i was joking about the world domination... nope!

i suppose you want to know what the cake looks like... i'll never tell (singing in that creep voice like the girl from that movie)! i wouldn't want to spoil the surprise... i will say this; think french country meets morocco meets new orleans - turquoise, red, silver and fleur-de-lis. that's the only preview you'll get!

i've BEEN ready for my close-up

so i said i'd keep you posted on when and where my get married! interview would air... there have been lots of changes and big things happening. get married! has switched stations and is now aired on WEtv, every saturday morning at 9:30am, and has a new format and host, founder stacie francombe. so with all the flux and frenzy, my interview (or at least a piece of it) has found a new home on www.getmarried.com being no stranger to the world of hollywood (smile) i knew that my 20 minute interview had the potential to be come 2 seconds after a visit to the editing room. the fates were with me, because after cutting and cutting, there's a fabulous 20 seconds of me in Cakes 101. brides and brides-to-be, please tune in for great advice about how to choose your wedding cake baker, find inspiration, and put plenty of your personality into your wedding cake. enjoy! here's the link! Cakes 101 on www.getmarried.com