Monday, September 5, 2016

The Never Ending Fondant Comparison - Carma Massa Ticino

Okay you guys…. Here is yet another fondant for my never ending fondant comparison.

This time it is Carma Massa Ticcino

I have read so many good things about Carma Massa Ticcino that I’m a little hesitant to say that I wasn’t that impressed with the fondant. It was easy to work with and tasted wonderful, but it had a few “issues” that made it less than perfect for me.

The biggest problem I had with the Carma was the way it reacted to any food dye that contained U.S. Certified Red #3 dye. I tried to color some Carma with AmeriColor Mauve #116, and I got a sickly brownish-green color instead of pink.


Next I tried Burgundy on the Carma and got purple instead of red wine.  At first I thought it might be a problem with the AmeriColor gels, but I also tried Wilton’s Burgundy and got the same purple result when mixed with the Carma fondant.


I contacted AmeriColor to find out what was going on and I was told that the very low pH of the Carma Massa was destroying the U.S. Certified Red #3 dye and leaving behind the other colors. The AmeriColor representative told be to add baking soda to the fondant which would raise the pH of the fondant and allow the reds in the dye to come through.

And you know what???    It worked!!

Below is a bit of Carma dyed with just AmeriColor Mauve #116 and another ball of Carma with #116 and a bunch of baking soda. See how the one with the added baking soda actually looks pink. Weird the way chemistry works…



So enough about food dye and onto the rest of the review. In my original 7 fondant comparison I used 8 different criteria to judge and rank the various fondants.   After the first comparison of 7 I also did two other comparisons.  One with Via Roma Bakery fondant and one with Cake Craft fondant.

So here are the criteria for judging:



Cost ---- This Carma is expensive stuff.  At the time of writing I paid $95 (with free shipping) for a 15.4 lb tub.  Well actually it is not that expensive if you break it down to a cost per pound, what makes it so expensive is that you need to buy it 15lbs at a time.  Sadly I couldn't find it sold in smaller quantities.  Another problem with having to buy such a large amount is that the fondant only has a 1 year shelf life.  When my tub arrived it was already 6 months into its shelf life so I have to use 15 lbs in 6 months.  Thankfully I have 3 more large cakes to do by November so I should be able to use it all before it goes bad.

Packaging --- The Carma comes in a nice sturdy tub.  The top of the tub is sealed in a blue film, and the fondant is wrap in a heavy plastic bag.



Taste ----The Carma Massa Ticcino was actually very tasty. The only other fondant I had on hand was the Via Roma, and the Carma tasted much, much better than the Via Roma. So high marks for taste.

Texture ---- When you knead the Carma Massa it feels just slightly moist but not sticky. It is very, very soft and does not need to be microwaved or heated to loosen it up. It is amazingly easy to work with, but it does start to get tacky if you work with it too much.  

Rolling ---- The Carma rolled very easily, and it doesn't have much elasticity so it doesn't snap back on you.  But oh my the bubbles.  I found the Carma produced a lot of large air bubbles when rolling. I don't remember any other fondant doing this to the same degree.  And the bubbles were large – too large to pop. I had to crumple up the fondant and roll it out again. I also had a little bit of trouble pulling the rolled fondant off of The Mat without stretching it, but once I got an edge released it fell off The Mat without any problems.

Coverage ---- In my fondant comparisons I use the same amount of fondant (5 ounces) rolled to the same thickness (1/8") to see how far each brand would spread. At a little less than 10 inches this fondant was in the middle of the pack. At 11+ inches round the Via Roma and Fondarific fondant were the best performers. The worst performers, at 9" round, were Duff & Satin Ice.



Draping/Smoothing --- Because the Carma fondant is so soft it created a lot of folds and drapes, but they were very easy to lift and smooth out. There was also no tearing as gravity pulled the fondant downward, so 1/8” is not too thin for this fondant.



Cutting/Trimming --- The fondant did create some pulls and ragged edges when I trimmed the fondant, but I did cut the fondant when it was freshly rolled.  If I had let it dry a bit before cutting it may not have created as many ragged edges.

Drying Time ---- The Carma fondant has a slow drying time. I was able to re-roll the fondant several times without noticing any stiffness or cracking in the fondant.

Final Look --- Well, honestly, I was not very impressed with the final appearance of the Carma Massa Ticino. Because the Carma fondant is so soft it tended to sink into the nooks and crannies of the test pan thus showing a lot of imperfections.


So all-in-all this Carma Massa Ticcino was a bit of a disappointment.

It was easy to knead, roll, drape, smooth and it tasted great, but it also had a lot of negatives. The biggest issue was the problem with the fondant’s low pH killing off the Red #3 dye. There was also the issue with air bubbles, the way it showed imperfections, and the high cost due to large size of the tub.

So Carma Massa Ticino has not ended my search for the perfect fondant. Sigh.

And sadly even once you find the perfect fondant something always happens to ruin the love affair.  A few months back I thought the Via Roma was going to be my go-to fondant, but the last pail I bought was a little dry and the dreaded elephant skin formed on the finished cakes.  See the comparison below.  The Carma on the right half of the cake is smooth, but the Via Roma on the left has a pitted look.  I was so disappointed in my last purchase of Via Roma.


Another observation about the Carma ---  The Carma is a pure white color out of the pail and it is actually very similar in color to the Via Roma, but look at the picture above.  Both are rolled to 1/8.  Does the Carma on the right look slightly darker than the Via Roma on the left?    The cake underneath is chocolate and the Carma seems to be picking up a tint from the dark color underneath.  This is not a big deal if a multi-tiered cake is iced in all the same icing, but if one tier is chocolate ganache and the other is white chocolate then the two tiers will look slightly different.  If you look closely at my Flattened Carnation Cake you will see that the white Carma fondant on the two tiers are not exactly the same color.  


So my search for the perfect fondant continues...  any other suggestions on brands to try?


Happy Decorating,

Carol


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Flattened Carnation Cake - Stephanie's Wedding Shower

Okay, Flattened Carnation Cake doesn't sound very attractive, but that is what the flowers on this cake are:

I was making a wedding shower cake for my niece's best friend, and since my nice didn't care what the cake looked like, I got to do what I wanted.  I found a cake design by Sweet Bites Cake in New Zealand that I simply adored,  It was very clean, simple, and modern (just like the bride to be).  Here is a link to the original on Pinterest.  I couldn't find the exact match to the cookie cutter used for the flowers, so I used another Pinterest idea for the flat carnations.

The cutter is from PME and is called, surprise, surprise, Carnation Cutter.


In the final flowers I used three different shades of the same dusty rose colored fondant.  I just flattend out the center.


And then used a tooth pick to flatten the edges.

I stacked two of each size cutter for six layers all together.  Then I painted some of the food color gel directly on the enter of the flower and then glued some yellow and green candy sprinkles to the center. Very easy to make.



The cake itself was also a learning experience.  I tried a double barrel cake for the first time. The bottom layer is made from two 9" cakes stacked on top of each other, and then ganached and covered in fondant as one.  Putting the two cakes together was actually easy, but taking them apart to serve was a PITA.  I couldn't get the top barrel cake to separate from the bottom barrel so I had to cut it into thirds to pull it off.  Next time I'm going to put some parchment paper between the top of the lower cake and the cardboard round of the upper cake to keep them from sticking together. 

The very top tier of the cake was chocolate.  Here it is getting its shell of ganache.  I have been using acrylic rounds to get the perfectly straight sides, flat top, and sharp edges.  You put one acrylic round on the bottom and another on the top.  You make sure they are perfectly aligned, then you filled with icing beyond the edge of the rounds and then scrape off the excess.  The process works really well, but you do use A LOT of ganache to fill to the edge of the rounds.


Here is the finished cake going into the Cake Porter for the trip to the party.


And finally the Bride-to-Be and my niece the Bride's Maid.  And of course the CAKE.  What would a party be without CAKE.


Happy Decorating,

Carol


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Pissed-Off Leaf Beetle Cake

OMG - That cake is gross!!!

That is one pissed-off looking bug!

I'm not eating that!


So how should I respond when family members reacted this way to my latest cake?  My sweet, innocent little Iridescent Leaf Beetle cake?

My nephew wanted a bug cake for his girl friend's 29th birthday party.  That may seem like a strange request, but Kristen is big into bugs.  And not cute, cuddly bugs.  She likes her bugs, big, bad, and lethal.  She is going to school to be a vet, but she should be an Entomologist instead.

Here is the cake that got such horrified reactions....


Kind of creepy looking isn't it???

The real-life beetle actually has all those stripes of bright, neon colors, and strangely it is kind of pretty.  They even make earrings out of the iridescent shells.  So where did my cake go wrong??  (Please no cake wreak jokes.)   Maybe I added too many black accents?  Or is it the mouth?  The mouth is a little wide.  This was my first attempt at painting a cake, so it didn't come out exactly like I envisioned.  Sadly, none of my cakes ever come out like I envision. 


But in the end even the squeamish, bug-haters ate the cake. Chocolate on chocolate with chocolate sprinkles - what isn't there to love?


So how did it come together?  The carving of the cake was pretty painless.  I used 4 - 9" round cakes.  I had to piece some of the sections together, so I used lots and lots of chocolate icing to keep everything together.



Fondant went on next....


And then I started painting... and painting... and painting...


The legs of the beetle were my favorite part of the cake.  They came out pretty nice if I do say so myself.   I made them out of gum paste, and they were surprisingly easy to form.  It only took about 2 hours to finish all 8 pieces.  I really felt bad when I threw them away.


So in the end it was a successful cake.  I may not have gotten the reaction I had hoped, but at least everyone loved the taste.




Happy Decorating,

Carol





Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Toy for Cake Decorating - Cricut

I bought a Cricut machine to cut do-dads for my cakes, but before I work on expensive gum paste I have been practicing with inexpensive cardstock. And I have been having so much fun. The Cricut Design Space software is pain to work with, but if you a patient, and watch a bunch of YouTube videos, you can get things done. Here is a tag I made while learning how to use the software.


The lace tag shape and the script font are from the Design Space's “free” collection...



and the outline of the dress is something I traced in Corel Draw and then imported into Design Space. (The shape of the dress was inspired by a tag I saw on the web somewhere.  If I can find the site again I will post a link to her awesome card-crafting blog.)




I can’t wait to start designing things for my cakes and cookies !!!


Happy Crafting,

Carol
 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

4th of July Explosion Cake

I do so love to try out new things, and this 4th of July cake gave me lots of new things to play on/with.  As usual, some of the experiments worked out great and other not so great.


Experiment #1 

The bottom tier of the cake is my semi-failed attempt at freezing a fully fondant decorated cake.  I read somewhere that this was possible, so I wanted to give it a try.  I crumb coated the cake, and then covered it in fondant and added the red stripes.  I let the cake sit for three hours so that the fondant could dry, and then I carefully wrap the cake in plastic wrap.  After three days in the freezer I removed it and keeping the plastic wrap in place I let it defrost.  Once defrosted I removed the plastic wrap and found....

Welllllll.....

The cake itself froze just fine, but the defrosting caused some issue with the fondant (Wilton Preferred).   The fondant didn't crumble and the colors didn't bleed, but the texture of the fondant got very soft and very gummy.  And the plastic wrap I used to cover the cake left little marks all over the fondant.  Maybe I did something wrong.  Maybe I took the plastic wrap off too soon, or maybe I should have frozen the cake a bit before I wrap it in the plastic wrap???  Someone recently told we that I should have place the cake in a cardboard box instead of wrapping it in plastic wrap.

Who knows... anyway, I'm not going to freeze a fondant covered cake again.



Experiment #2

Now the inside of the cake was my attempt at the famous "Flag Inside the Cake" cake.


My "Flag Inside the Cake" didn't come out too, too bad.  The red torted layers were a little bit thinner than the white layer, but overall it looked pretty good.  I also tried adding little snow flake sprinkles to the blue batter hoping it would give the look of stars in the baked blue layer, but most of the snow flakes just sank to the bottom.  You can see a few poking out of the blue section, but I would have to call the snow flake experiment a flop.



But one thing that worked really well was using a 4" cookie cutter to cut out the interior of the blue layer.  Then I used the same cutter to cut out the red and white layers that fit perfectly inside the blue layer.  The instructions from the Land O' Lakes web page say to spread icing around the inner cut edge of the blue cake before you slip the white and red layers inside, but my cakes fit so tightly together that I couldn't fit any icing.



Experiment #3 

The top tier of the cake was made to look like an exploding fire cracker.  Surprisingly this part was really easy to make, and the top tier came out looking pretty good.

You start by cutting out circles of red white and blue fondant.  Also cut out a piece of wax or parchment paper the same size.  I used my trusty 4" cookie cutter.


Then stack the circles with blue at the bottom, the piece of parchment paper next, and then the red followed last by the white.  The parchment paper will keep the red from sticking to the bottom layer of blue.


Next place the stack of fondant round in the center of the cake, and then cover the cake and the fondant stack with blue fondant.  Note: This is a dummy cake and that is why the sides are so straight and the top edge so sharp.


Score the top of the fondant, cutting down to the parchment without cutting through it.


Carefully curl back the blue-red-white layer of fondant to make the explosion look.


When all the wedges are curled out, remove the parchment paper to expose the blue fondant underneath.


Next decorate with fondant stars, confetti, and streamers.


I also filled the depression with red, white, and blue Sixlets.  Those things are so good.


So all-in-all not too bad.  I learned a lot of things with this cake, and my family was impressed with the "Flag inside the Cake".


Happy 4Th of July everyone !!!

Carol

Friday, July 1, 2016

Zebra Bundt Cake that looks more like a Seahorse

My baking adventures always have a way of going off course, but even this one surprised me.

A few weeks ago my inbox was being bombarded with amazing images of Zebra Bundt cakes.  The cakes was formed by laying down alternating, paper thin layers of vanilla and chocolate batter that when baked formed arches that looked amazingly like zebra stripes.  The cakes looked so phenomenal I decided to give it a try -- but sadly the inside of my finished cake looked more like a seahorse than a zebra.  And a buxom seahorse at that!




I was so distraught. <sniff>  I thought I did everything right... <sniff, sniff>  I had thin layer of chocolate and vanilla, but when the cake baked all my thin stripes just disappeared.   I swear I had more than three layers of chocolate.  I though I had about ten or twenty or maybe even thirty.  




Oh well, my cake certainly didn't look like a zebra, but it did taste wonderful.  It was moist and light, with a fine, melt-in-your-mouth crumb.  And chocolate, lots and lots of dripping chocolate.





The recipe I used is a bit of a mystery.  It was pieced together from several different recipes, and according to the folks at work - It was the best marbled Bundt cake EVER!  

So take that you Zebra Bundt Cake pros.  Mine doesn't look as pretty, but it tasted damn good.

(In hindsight I guess I should have written down all the extra stuff I threw into the batter.)

Happy Baking,

Carol

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jason's Graduation Cake

After a few starts and stops my nephew received his BS in Computer Science.  Way to go, Jason....

His cake was pretty simple in comparison to other cakes I've attempted.  The only thing that gave me trouble with the cap on top of the cake.  I just couldn't get it to look right.  I used a muffin to make the cap and it just wasn't the right shape.  I guess I should have used some rice crispy treats.



So congrats, Jason.  You DID IT!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

OEOO Stop #1 - Argentinian Alfajores

I was getting a little tired of baking the same stuff over and over again, so I decided to add a little international flare to my baking repertoire.  I'm calling my series "One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure", and ultimately I would like to bake a famous dessert from each of the countries on Earth.

According to the US Department of State (as of April 16, 2016), there are 205 recognized countries on Earth.  Alphabetically, Afghanistan is the first on the list and Zimbabwe is last; with 203 other places sandwiched in between.  That is a lot of territory to cover, so lets start baking.  I'm not going in an particular order and I just want to bounce around the list as an interesting recipe catches my eye.

First to be baked on my One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure is the:

Argentinian Alfajores 


Now what is an Alfajores?  Well, after baking it I can tell you it is something like a very tender, shortbread or sugar cookie that is slathered with dulce de leche and stacked to make a sandwich.  The cookie part of the alfajores is soft and it little bit crumbly.  It is tender and delicate, and simply melts in your mouth.  The recipe I used also included lime zest so the cookie had a mild, citrus-y tang.   And the dulce de leche filling --- Wow.  Dulce de leche is similar in taste to soft caramel and it is pure heaven.  Finally to complete the melody of flavors, the alfajores are rolled in sweetened coconut. 






And the secret to the tender texture of the cookie, and what makes it different from shortbread or sugar or sandies, is a huge amount of cornstarch in the dough. Yep cornstarch.  Now I've used cornstarch by the tablespoon before, but this recipe uses it by the cupful!  The copious amount of cornstarch actually gives the cookie an odd kind of dry taste.  It is not unpleasant, just different.  And if the cookies are allowed to sit overnight, the cookie will start to draw moisture and flavors from the dulce de leche into the cookie itself.

So the cookie dough starts with sugar and soft butter that is cream till it is almost white in color (5-10 minutes), and then egg yolks, vanilla, and lime zest is added.





Next the mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder is added all at once.  It will take 5-10 minutes for the ingredients to fully combine, so don't get discouraged and think that something is messed up.  In the end the dough will look a little crumbly, but it will stick together when you roll it out. 





Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  I split the dough into thirds and rolled it between two pieces of parchment paper.  If you use the parchment paper you don't need to flour the surface to keep the dough from sticking.  If you look closely at the picture below you will see the little flecks of lime zest.



Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.  Watch them closely and don't allow them to brown.   The cookies don't spread much, so you can place them close together on the cookie sheet.  Once they are cool, filling with the dulce de leche.  You can make your own dulce de leche by simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath for a few hours, but at Wally-World the can of Nestle la Lechera was just 50 cents more than a can of condensed milk so I just took the easy route.

I used a star tip to pipe the filling onto the cookies.  As you can see I was pretty skimpy with the dulce de leche.  Next time I will use LOTS more filling.  The filling really makes the cookie.




And as a final step, the cookie is rolled in coconut. 




I also rolled some in nuts and also dipped some in melted chocolate and then sprinkled with nuts and coconut.  You can make these things as fancy or as plain as you want.

So what do you think of these Argentinian Alfajores??  Pretty sweet, huh?  I think this baking adventure is going to be a lot of fun -- and a little fattening...

Happy Baking,

Carol



Argentinian Alfajores

(adapted from Cooking with Books)

Ingredients


250 grams All-purpose Flour ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
250 grams Cornstarch ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
225 grams Unsalted Butter, softened ( 2 sticks)
150 grams granulated sugar (approximately 2/3 cup)
3 Large Egg Yolks
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
13 oz can Dulce de leche
1/2 cup Coconut, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Cream the softened butter and  sugar until very pale in color (approximately 5 minutes).
  4. Add egg yolks, vanilla and line zest, to the butter/sugar and mix until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix until completely incorporated (5-10 minutes).
  6. Divide the dough into thirds, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick, and then cut out using a circle cookie cutter.
  7. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The cookies don't spread very much so you can put them close together.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Don't let them brown.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before filling.
  10. Pipe the dulce de leche on the top of a cookie, and make sure you pipe close to the edge.  Place a second cookie on top of the piped dulce de leche and gently press the two cookies together.  You want the dulce de leche to squeeze slightly from between the cookies so the coconut can stick.
  11. Roll the cookie in shredded coconut allowing the coconut to stick to the exposed dulce de leche.
  12. Store in an airtight container.