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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vote for My Gingerbread House!!!!

Well, I finally finished my gingerbread house. YEAH!
And....... I entered it into a local competition. EEK!!!

So now I'm going to loose all my pride and beg you to please go and vote for it! (It never hurts to beg...right?) LOL

I'm a little behind in the voting right now so I'm hoping you'll help me out. If I win, they will donate $1000 to a charity of my choice. I chose "Share a Smile". This is a charity organization started by Dr. Eric Vogel DDS. He's a local dentist who travels to other countries around the world providing free dental care to those in need. He's a great man and it's a great charity! Dr. Vogel is battling cancer right now, so I'm sure he'd be even more grateful for the donation to help his organization and to help these people in need.

Here's how you vote. Go to this facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/ivoryhomes?sk=app_180881568718542

First you'll need to "like" the Ivory Homes facebook page. (You can always "unlike" it again after you've voted.) Then a page will come up with pictures of all the gingerbread houses in the competition and you can cast your vote. My house is #9- Anderson Family. The voting lasts until Wednesday (December 5th). Thank you sooooooo much for your help. I really appreciate it!

I'm always a little leery of contests like this. Too many times they turn out to be more of a popularity contest then a contest based on ability. So we'll see what happens. But I'm still BEGGING and PLEADING for your facebook vote!!!! ;)


I had a lot of fun putting this house together. However, it took sooooooo much longer than I'd ever imagined! It wasn't the decorating that took so long... it was the construction. I'd glue a few pieces together with royal icing, then wait, and wait, and wait for them to dry before I could continue. This house had so many pieces that my daughter's bed was completely covered with cookie sheets and boards filled with gingerbread house pieces! Anyway, here are some pictures.

One of the many boards covered with gingerbread pieces.

Some of the pieces a little farther along.... plus the little Christmas trees I'll put in 2 of the windows.

For the windows I used gelatin sheets. They work really well because they come with the diamond design already there!

Starting to put it all together. The white sections are where windows will be placed. And to the left is the beginnings of a large Christmas tree. It's made with Rice Krispie Treats and covered in white chocolate.
Here's the same Christmas tree covered in fondant. I'm about half way done clipping little sections to make it look like a pine tree.

Getting the roof put together... it was sooooo nerve wracking!!! I was worried it would fall in, but it held together very well.

I colored the gingerbread dough a dark brown color. To make the shingles I rolled out the dough and made impressions with a fork to create some texture. After cutting out the  little squares, I trimmed off the bottom edge with a wavy blade. This added an awesome detail to the shingles. I baked them for 12 minutes and they were done.... did I mention I made approximately 1700 little shingle pieces!!!! Wow, it took the better part of a full day just to make these little squares. But I was very pleased with the end result!

Adding the shingles... see the 2 large bowls filled with shingles. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see were little brown squares.... LOL

Here's the stone siding. On the right you can see what a difference it made after I brushed a little gray petal dust into each of the cracks.

The finished product!!! :D

Here you can see more little details like snow on the rooftop. The base board measured 34 x 28", and the house was about 16" tall.
This is a closeup of the front. In the windows you can see a Christmas tree and a picture of Santa Claus hanging on the wall.
The little lights were chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

On the left you can see the large finished Christmas tree. Cotton candy made great smoke coming from the chimney.

This is the right side of the house with a small tree trying to hang on to the last little bit of Autumn.

View of the back.

Close up of the back where you can see a 2nd Christmas tree in the bay window. The other window has frilly lace curtains. Just outside the door is a stack of wood, an ax, and a bucket of coal waiting to keep the little house warm and cozy for the holidays!
Making this gingerbread house kind of reminded me of pregnancy. Quite often after your first delivery, you vow to never put your body through that again! But over time you forget about the morning sickness, mood swings, discomfort, and pain. You begin to remember the good times... and after a while you decide it wasn't so bad after all. Then you end up having another child.

Will I ever attempt another gingerbread house with this much detail???  Give me a few months to forget about the 2 weeks... all day... everyday... the late nights... and the early mornings I spent working on it. Then come next October or November I'll probably decide it wasn't so bad after all and end up doing it all over again!!!

In the mean time..... GO VOTE!!!! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

.....A Mouth Full of Gingerbread

I hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew!!!

Christmas is the time of year we start thinking about singing carols, baking cookies, making candy, giving gifts, going to parties, decorating our homes, trimming the tree, hanging lights on the outside of the house, attending The Nutcracker Ballet, Jolly Old St. Nick, the birth of Christ.... and gingerbread houses!

A few nights ago I woke up at 3 am tossing and turning. Despite my best effort, I couldn't go back to sleep. (Have I ever mentioned that I have an on again/off again relationship with insomnia? UGH!)  When I realized I'd probably be awake for a while, I got out of bed and sat down at my computer. I began visiting web sites about cakes and looking at lots of cake pictures. I'm always amazed at how creative some decorators can be with their cakes! Anyway, as I was browsing the internet the thought came to me.... "I ought to make a gingerbread house!"

Hmmmm.... interesting idea, especially since I've never actually made a gingerbread house before! I've put together those cute little houses with graham crackers and store bought candies, but I've never actually made a genuine gingerbread house. You know, the kind made from home baked gingerbread? Well, the next morning I just happened to run across a blog that mentioned a gingerbread house contest that was being held in a nearby town. Hmmmm..... coincidence?

To make a long story short, I decided to give it a shot and enter the contest!!! This particular contest is sponsored by a local home builder, so all the gingerbread houses need to be based on one of their house plans. There were about 200 floor plans to choose from....YIKES! Should I try to keep it simple, or should I go for it and give it 100% of my effort? I've never been one to be conservative and start out small... so I chose to go BIG!

I began checking online and found a strong "structural type" gingerbread recipe. Since I have no idea what I'm doing... I thought it might also be a good idea to do a little research and find the best way to construct a gingerbread house!!! One common suggestion was to first make the house out of card stock or cardboard. This way you can see how it will look after you're done, and it will also give you the templates needed for cutting out each gingerbread piece. So for the last couple of days I've been constructing a cardboard structure of my gingerbread house. I have to say that I've gotten a LOT of help from my husband.... he's much better at the mechanics of doing something like this than I am. I'm much more right brained!


I've finished my cardboard house, and I think it turned OK. Now it's time to start the next phase of cutting and baking the gingerbread... then putting all those little pieces together. I have zero confidence with this next step! I'm very nervous about being able to get everything to fit together properly and securely. (Probably because I've never done this before!)

I have a horrible re-occuring nightmare that keeps going round and round in my head:  After delivering my gingerbread house to the venue, I let out a huge sigh of relief as I place it down on the display table. "Whew!" I think, "I really did it!!!" At this point, I'm feeling a little smug and quite pleased with myself. As I turn to leave, I hear a horrible crashing noise!!!  I quickly whip back around just in time to see my gingerbread house crumbling into a thousand pieces as it hits the floor!!!

...serves me right for feeling so smug with myself! Hopefully this whole scenario doesn't actually happen!

Anyway, I can't wait until it's time to start decorating and detailing my house! I just wish I could skip the whole construction process and jump directly to decorating.... then I'd be on cloud NINE! 

So we'll see what the next day or two brings. If all goes well, I'll finish putting together my house without too many glitches and begin the fun part. But if all doesn't go well.... then I don't even want to think about it!!!

Hmmmm.... have I bitten off more than I can chew? I'm not sure yet, but I'll let you know in the next couple of days! Wish me luck!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monogram & Roses

Monogram + Roses = Simply Elegant! 

Some people think I'm crazy... but I LOVE doing large wedding cakes! Don't get me wrong, large cakes can be much more stressful to make, deliver, and set up. Mainly because soooooo many things can go wrong!!! But I find that the larger size gives me much more of a "canvas" to work on and more space to create and decorate.


When you see a 4 plus tier wedding cake set up at a reception, the larger size really stands out and can become a beautiful focal point for the room.


This was a red velvet cake with white chocolate truffle filling. YUM! As the bride and groom cut into this cake, the bright red color really stood out and looked amazing next to the pale colors of the fondant.



The rose topper and monogram plaque were made several days before the wedding. So when the time cake to put them on the cake, they were completely dry and easily set into place.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tutorial: How to Vein Leaves

Guess what gang... I think it's time for another tutorial!!! (YEAH, the crowd goes wild!) LOL 

When I think of fall cakes, I quite often think of Autumn colors like orange, red, yellow, and brown. Eating yummy cake flavors like apple, pumpkin, or spice. I picture sunflowers, pumpkins, gourds, wheat, apples, and of course... fall leaves. 

There are several different ways you can make veins in your fondant or gumpaste leaves. Some ways are easier than others, some are cheaper than others, and some are much more realistic looking than others. If you're making a sophisticated cake, then you may choose something that will give you a realistic effect. If you're designing a whimsical cake, then you might want a more simple looking vein. It just depends on what effect you want to achieve. I'm going to show you how to make veins using the following items:
In many of the pictures below you'll notice that I put the fondant/gumpaste leaf cutout on top of a thin piece of pink foam. The foam acts as a cushion preventing the vein imprint from going too deep. When I make leaves, I usually thin the edges of the petals with a ball tool. In the following examples, however, I didn't bother to do this.

1) Real leaf:  Find a leaf that has very heavy or defined veins. Place the real leaf, vein side down, on top of your cut out. Press down using a cosmetic sponge. The sponge helps to give gentle and even pressure as you push.

2) Toothpick: Use gentle pressure to push down on the toothpick. Be careful not to push the pointed end too deep, it can leave small holes.

3) Veining tool:  Using the narrow end of the veining tool, drag it across the leaf leaving vein lines behind.

4) Plastic vein from a silk leaf:  Take a silk or fabric leaf and pull the plastic veins off. Place the veins on top of the cutout and gently push down with a cosmetic sponge. Since these veins are made of plastic, they're more rigid. So be careful not to push too hard.

5) Corn husk:  Corn husks are one of my favorite ways to add veins to leaves and flowers. You can find corn husks at the grocery store in the Latino food section. Take a small piece of husk and put it on top of the leaf. Push down using the cosmetic sponge. You can reposition the husk several times and push down again if you want more veins.

6) Leaf Veiner:  You can buy dozens of different leaf veiners. As a matter of fact, you can probably find a specific veiner for every leaf or flower petal out there. The sky's the limit! Place your leaf face down on top of the veiner and push down with the sponge.

7) Double sided veiner: These veiners are the most expensive, but also the most realistic type of veiner. Simply match the two halves together and push down with even pressure. Before you place the leaf cutout on the veiner, make sure to dust both sides of the form with cornstarch or powdered sugar. Dusting keeps the fondant from sticking to the form. You can see the excess powder still on the leaf in the picture below. Just use a small brush and gently brush it off. This kind of veiner leaves an imprint on both sides of the leaf. Pretty awesome!

8. Plunger cutter:  Another way to put veins in your leaves is to use a "plunger cutter". After cutting out the leaf, simply push down on the plunger to remove the fondant from the cutter. The plunger leaves the imprint of veins on the leaf. I don't own a plunger cutter, but a lot of people like using them.
 

Give these examples a try, experiment with different ways to vein your leaves. You may even come up with a new method that works better for you! One thing I've learned is that there's no "one way" of doing things. So never be afraid to branch out and try new ideas!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

That Cute Little Pink Mouse

She's one of my favorite Disney characters!




It was so much fun adding the cute eyelet lace at the base of this cake. I was trying to mimic the look of a little girls skirt with frilly lace trim peaking out from underneath. Lace and bows... could a cake get any more girly???