Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blue Christmas

The decorated sugar cookies that you have just viewed are a sampling of the cookies that embellish my dining room Christmas tree. The tree is approximately nine feet tall and I usually bake and decorate about ninety to one hundred cookies each year. Besides the large cookies that you see here, there are also numerous miniature ones. Since I have a rather extensive collection of copper cookie cutters, I vary the selection of cookies each year. As you can probably see, liberal use is made of silver dragees and sanding sugar; they add an extra sparkle to the tree when it is lit. Typical of decorated sugar cookes, mine are first flooded with royal icing then overpiped with a thicker consistency of icing. I also do a bit of brush work (using alcohol) to add some painterly interest.

I am sorry to say that my photos of the full tree are nearly unusable; my digital camera is quite old and indoor pictures, excepting close-ups, taken with a flash are usually of poor quality. Here is one of the best-of-the-worst Blue Tree photos.

The Tree Topper is a copper watering can filled with baby's breath. Apart from the cookies, the ornaments on this tree consist of handpainted blue/white Chinese glass balls, copper chocolate molds, miniature copper kitchen pots, pans and utensils, copper celestial ornaments, miniature copper/blue apples and copper spiral "icicles". The celestial ornaments and spiral "icicles" were made by me from copper flashing left over from my roof replacement and chimney re-flashing. And, of course, there are blue lights...

The Blue Tree was featured in the Dec 2004/Jan 2005 issue of Design NJ Magazine. It was part of a spread which the magazine did of my six Christmas trees.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear...

"...Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
'Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'"
Luke 2:8-14

(Sugarpaste bas relief angel. Background of Nativity scene is painted on sugarpaste; stars are piped royal icing with silver dragees. Inspiration for the blue angel was a Christmas card received from my friends Terry and John. I made this piece so that I might satisfy my desire to have a creche or representation of the Nativity in every room of my house. This one is for the dining room which is blue and white in its color scheme. The Christmas tree for that room is the Cookie Tree: blue lights, copper ornaments and blue and white sugar cookies adorn the tree. I'll be posting pictures of it soon as I finish decorating it. I'm still making the cookies.)


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Christmas Card from Diva Delights... our family, friends and bloggers everywhere.


Maria and Antonia

(Painting on Sugarpaste
Adaptation of Madonna of the Goldfinch, c. 1767/1770
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dr. D's Sugar Shack

For the 60th Birthday of my friend Dennis, I created this very stylized adaptation of his country getaway, complete with "cottage", stone wall and one of Farmer Mel's over-the-hill bulls. A miniature Dennis in cammo is descending the steps ready to take on the wookchucks.

The cake is a four-layer, alternating chocolate and butter cake affair interspersed with chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache. Cocoa powder was mixed into the fondant covering and a dusting of cocoa finished off the cake. The base is fondant-covered foamcore edged in two complementary ribbons.As usual, most of the sugar decorations are first sculpted in styrofoam then covered in sugarpaste (a fondant/gumpaste blend). A bit more smoothing and sculpting and the piece is ready for coloring. Some of the pieces, such as the rocks, have been sprayed with a food-grade lacquer to give them that shiny look. Other pieces have merely been steamed to blend the colors and take away the dusty look of the coloring powders.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

A string of mini St. Nick sugar cookies...

...and a bouquet of Christmas Red, Flamenco Dancin' sugar poppies to my sister, Rita, on her Birthday!


Kallmünz Cake Redux

This is the professional photo that was taken of my entry in the OSSAS National Wedding Cake Competition 2006. I have also included a picture of my inspiration, St. Michael's church steeple in Kallmünz, Germany, at the top of this post. It was printed from a slide taken during my 1990 visit to Kallmünz and was included in a selection of photos in the sugar book that was part of the table decorations for the cake display. If you wish to view additional pictures of the cake and the various sugar accessories, please click on one of the labels at the foot of this post or the October 2006 archive link on the right side of the blog and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

By the way, the fondant border on the cake base was slightly damaged while being moved for the photography session. I have employed a bit of cloning trickery to mask the damage.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Sweet Harvest

This, my latest project, is the bounty of the season executed entirely in sugar. The harvest board includes a cornucopia filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables which are interspersed with grape leaves. A ten inch cake, covered in chocolate fondant, is included in the harvest tableau.

All fruits and vegetables were first sculpted in styrofoam, covered in a gumpaste/fondant blend, then handpainted with food-grade powders. I also sprayed each piece with a food-grade lacquer to give it the slight sheen seen in the real-life model. The cornucopia was made by weaving long strips of sugar paste as one would a reed or willow basket; the grape leaves are gumpaste.

This piece was made for a corporate party and the top of the cake has the appropriate company name and message executed in gold; a sugar rope wreaths the cake bottom. The cake is my signature "Diva" cake. The bottom tier is a rich chocolate cake topped with a layer of bittersweet chocolate buttercream. Another layer of chocolate cake follows. The center filling is a chocolate ganache embedded with fresh raspberries. Next comes a butter cake tier, then a raspberry buttercream followed by another butter cake tier. The raspberry buttercream is made with a puree of fresh raspberries, a bit of sugar and a light dose of raspberry liqueur. It is wonderfully tart and offsets the sweetness and richness of this cake perfectly.

The entire cake is then encased in a "spackle" consisting of left over cake crumbs, ganache and chocolate buttercream. This paste is not only tasty but fills in any spaces in the cake and provides a perfect undercoat for the rolled fondant. And unlike a buttercream undercoat it dries firmly to the touch. I owe this "spackle" technique to Toba Garrett as described in her book "The Well Decorated Cake". Every time I "spackle" one of my cakes, I give thanks to the brilliant and talented Miss Garrett! Fondant requires a near perfect surface to which to adhere or else the final effect will be lumpy and bumpy and less than perfect. The traditional British fondant covered cake is a rather heavy fruit cake covered in marzipan then finished off with a final covering of rolled fondant. This is not a popular option in America. So the "spackle" coat is a perfect substitute for marzipan. I do occasionally use an undercoat of marzipan especially if the cake is a dense almond one.

As mentioned earlier, the cake covering is a chocolate fondant (one of my prizes from the Oklahoma Sugar Show). And it tastes just like a Tootsie Roll!