Surprise Birthday Gift Cake (And Yes, A Little More Purple...)

I LOVE creating cakes that will be a BIG surprise for the recipient.

Yesterday I made this cake for a client, who lives out-of-state and she wanted to surprise her twin daughters, one of whom I'm friends with and she lives in this area (her sister was in town visiting).  She told me what kind of cake she wanted and that she wanted it to have a fondant bow on it.  The rest she left up to me to decide how to decorate it. 

Since it was a White-Lemon Sunshine Cake, I thought that the purple would be a great contrasting color to the yellow.  And since we know from this post, that purple is the trend for fancy cakes, it just seemed like the right choice to make.  I really wanted this cake to have some elegant and special details for the decorations, so fondant flowers was the perfect way to decorate this surprise gift cake.

I was really happy with the end result! I also realized that I may need to do more cakes with fondant flowers, because they add a touch of elegance and I really enjoy making them--it's so relaxing (let me clarify, relaxing when you've planned ahead, not so much when you have hundreds to make the night before an event), but in this case, it really was relaxing to sit and be creative for a little while. 

It was so exciting to deliver this cake and see the looks of surprise and joy on both of their faces when I explained that this was a gift from their mother.  It was a good GREAT day.

Happy (early) Birthday Jakobi & Korbi!!

Surprise Gift Cake Details:
  • White-Lemon Sunshine Cake w/Lemon Filling & Lemon-Vanilla Buttercream Icing
  • 6-inch square
  • Dark purple fondant bow & ribbon w/three shades of yellow fondant flowers

Monday Must Have: Bob's Red Mill Products & A Quinoa Salad Recipe

A few weeks ago I had the AWESOME opportunity to visit the Bob's Red Mill World Headquarters to take a tour of the mill and then do some SERIOUS shopping at the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store--and believe me when I say, it was like being in a whole grain heaven!

Bob's Red Mill is located in Milwaukie (Portland), Oregon and it just happens to be only 1 hour and 40 minutes drive from where I live.  The first stop was at the Bob's Red Mill World Headquarters where they offer a FREE tour of the manufacturing facility at 10:00 am; Monday through Friday.   The tour lasts about an hour, although ours went a bit longer, since many people that were on the tour asked some really good questions and shared their experiences using Bob's Red Mill products.  I wish I would have thought to bring a camera, but I'll at least explain a little about what we learned from the tour.

Our tour guide told us about the history of how Bob's Red Mill started and explained about the millstones that are used to grind the wheat into flour.  They use these HUGE quartz millstones to grind the wheat, just like they did even as far back as the early Roman days. 

One of my favorite tidbits of information shared, was while we were looking through the window into one of the rooms with the millstone machinery.  The guide explained how the wheat would pour through a shaker at the top and then it would pass into a tray where it would slow the amount of grain moving down into the center of the millstone to be ground.  This part of the process is fairly noisy and the millers compared this "chatter" sound to that of a damsel; a young girl that would chatter on and on noisily.  No matter where the miller would be in the mill, if the grain ran out, it would become quiet and immediately the miller would run to fill the hopper again, because the "damsel was in distress"--meaning if it ran empty, then the millstones would grind against the other and dull the millstone.  Thus, the original meaning of the term "damsel in distress."

One of the most impressive parts of seeing the manufacturing facility was how CLEAN it was.  They are constantly sweeping up flour particles off the flour and you could see how well they took care of the machinery during every step of the process.  Just seeing this first hand, made me want to continue buying Bob's Red Mill products and knowing that everything produced was done in such a well maintained environment.  We even met Bob, who stopped by during the tour and he seemed like a genuinely nice man.

But the very best information we heard, was learning more about how Bob gave the company to his employees on February 15th, 2010, the day of his 81st birthday.  I just love the philosophy of this company and how they are staying true to how it started and keeping it away from the big corporate companies that usually take over and change the quality of how things are done.  Read more about this wonderful gift on the press release from Bob's Red Mill. 

[photo credit from Bob's Red Mill]

After a really interesting and informative tour, we drove to the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store and had lunch in the restaurant. They serve breakfast all day, but we decided to have a sandwich from their lunch menu, which was very tasty. 

And then the shopping began.  Here are a couple of pictures that give you an idea of all the many wonderful grain, flour, wheat and oat products they carried and what we purchased and took home. 

[pictured above: steel cut oats, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat groats, buttermilk powder, short grain brown rice, wild rice, whole grain oat groats, flaxseed, polenta, fine grind cornmeal and coarse grind cornmeal.]

The products that you see in the jars were from the bulk food section of the store, because the bulk section was less expensive then buying everything in the pre-packaged bags--but as you can see, we bought some of those as well.

[pictured above: white pastry flour, coconut flour, corn flour, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds. shredded coconut and flaked coconut. *not pictured; 25 lb. bag of thick rolled oats.]

Although all of this post is most definitely a Monday Must Have (all of Bob's Red Mill products are fantastic), I do want to highlight one grain in particular today; QUINOA.

"Quinoa [pronounced KEEN-wah] is a nutty and delicious grain that can be used in everything from salad to soups and stews--is packed with lysine, one of the essential amino acids not found in wheat.  It also has many B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, and enough calcium in a serving to equal a quart of milk.  This little gem of a grain is arguably the most nutritious of all, with as much as 22 percent protein, making it a spectacular addition to any diet.  Quinoa also supplies a complete protein--it includes all nine essential amino acids".  ~ Bob's Red Mill Baking Book, pg. 28

[a closer look at quinoa]

I love quinoa and one of the reasons I think Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Organic Quinoa is so great is that they have already "rinsed the quinoa thoroughly and air dried it to remove the naturally occurring bitter saponins, so it can be used without rinsing" (Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Quinoa package).  This step saves so much time in preparing quinoa to be used in salads or whatever you want to make.  So today, my Mom and I collaborated and made a Yummy Quinoa Salad, which I'm sharing with you.

Yummy Quinoa Salad
created by Jill & Luana (Jill's Mom)
1 cup quiona (before cooking)
15 oz. can of corn
15 oz. can of black beans
15 oz. can of garbanzo beans
2 small zucchinis
1 medium tomato

1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. Paul Newman's Low-fat Sesame Ginger Dressing
Zest & juice of a lime
zest of a lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 fresh sprig of lemon basil
7 drops of Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1)  Prepare quinoa according to the directions on the Bob's Red Mill package (2 cups of water to 1 cup quiona).  After the quinoa is cooked, set aside and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2)  Drain the corn, black beans and garbanzo beans and rinse well in colander; set aside.  Cut zucchini and tomato into small 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

3) To make the quinoa dressing, combine all ingredients and stir well; set aside.  *You may adjust any of the ingredients to taste, if needed.

4)  Fold corn, black beans, garbanzo beans, tomato and zucchini into the cooked and slightly cooled quinoa.  When thoroughly mixed, stir in half of the dressing.   Once the first half of the dressing is incorporated, stir in the remaining half gently until mixed.

5)  Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, then serve. 

This Yummy Quinoa Salad is perfect as a side dish to any summer menu or even a meal on it's own.  It's my new favorite summer salad!

Happy Summer Monday!

Three Purple Wedding Cakes

This past weekend, I created my third purple-themed wedding cake in a row.  I always find it interesting when brides who don't know each other pick a couple of features that on paper sound the same, but when the wedding cake is created, how different they all can be.  Purple was one of the common threads of each wedding cake and also, each bride wanted sugar pearls in the shape of flowers on each of their cakes, using the main color of purple with their respective other color choices. 

Since this was the most recent wedding cake, I'll start with this one and work back to June with the other purple wedding cakes.

Wedding Cake #3

Silver & Purple Wedding Cake
Saturday, July 17th, 2010
Outdoor Wedding in Nashville/Summit, Oregon

The cake topper was the bride and grooms first name initials.  I love the simplicity of the topper and by having the flowers on the bottom tier, it allowed the topper to have the focus on the top tier.

A few close-up shots of the cake details with the silver and purple sugar pearls and flowers...(I just love how smooth the fondant looks on this cake!)

Silver & Purple Wedding Cake Details:

Top tier [8-inch round]:  Coconut-Macadamia Nut Hawaiian Cake w/Coconut Buttercream Filling
Bottom tier [12-inch round]:  Classic White-Vanilla Cake w/Raspberry Filling

Decorations:  White Fondant Icing w/sugar pearl details, royal icing piping and fresh flowers.

*Serves = 80 guests

Wedding Cake #2

This next wedding cake was also a two-tiered, purple themed cake.  Of the three wedding cakes, this was the only buttercream frosted cake.  Both types of icing (fondant & buttercream) create different looks, even though both have a smooth texture on the cake. 

Romantic Purple Floral Wedding Cake
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Beazell Memorial Forest - Kings Valley, Oregon

The two main colors of this wedding was dark purple and forest green--the accent colors on the cake.  There were several varieties of flowers that were used for the decorations on this cake, and the varying shades of purple, give this wedding cake a more romantic look.

The piping around the base gives a nice ruffled look, which goes so well with the overall romantic theme of this cake.

Romantic Purple Floral Wedding Cake Details:

Both the top tier [6-inch round] and the bottom tier [10-inch round] had the same flavors; Carrot Cake w/White Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling & Vanilla Buttercream Icing.

*Serves = 50 guests

Wedding Cake #1

Here is the first cake that started the purple wedding cake theme for the summer; the Royal Purple Flower Wedding Cake.

Royal Purple Flower Wedding Cake
Saturday, June 19th, 2010
Beazell Memorial Forest - Kings Valley, Oregon

The accent color to the royal purple was lime green and since it was used in small amounts, it didn't compete with the purple, but rather enhanced it as a bright accent color.

The cake was decorated with fresh-cut local flowers in varying hues of royal purple and tied all the decorations together.

Royal Purple Flower Wedding Cake Details:

Top tier [6-inch round]:  Dark Chocolate Cake w/Caramel Buttercream Filling
Middle tier [9-inch round]:  Classic White-Vanilla Cake w/Raspberry Filling
Bottom tier [12-inch round]:  Dark Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cake w/White Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling

*Serves = 100 guests

As you can see, although all three wedding cakes had the color purple in common, all three were very different and were created special for each bride on her wedding day. 

Congratulations to all three couples!

Monday Must Have: Fat Daddio Tart Pans

Happy Monday!  After way too long a bit of time off from posting, I'm back with an AWESOME Monday Must Have--the Fat Daddio Oblong Tart Pan

Lately I have found that this tart pan is the perfect choice for summer fruit tarts and since it is finally showing signs of summer weather here in Oregon, I have plans to use this pan many times over the next couple of months.

You may remember seeing this fabulous pan from this post that showed a beautiful golden brown G√Ęteau Breton (pictured again for your viewing pleasure) from that first time using these AWESOME pans. 

Let me share FIVE reasons why I love this pan and how it made the Monday Must Have list:

1)  Unique tart pan shape--love, love, LOVE this shape.  I think any dessert looks great in this shape and even after the tart is cut into pieces, it still looks pretty.

2)  The Fat Daddio brand--this is a great brand and many of my professional bake ware (cake pans) have stood the test of time.

3)  The pans wash easily and the wear and tear on them is minimal.

4)  Easy dessert removal--even with all the fluted/grooved edges, the tarts or cakes come away from the pan easily, keeping the dessert intact.

5) Reasonable price point--I actually paid a few dollars more from a local shop, but I have since found them on for less. 

One last thought...

If you are thinking about buying one of these pans, I'd highly recommend buying two--because most tart recipes will yield two of these tart pans and then you will have an extra tart on hand, because the first one will be eaten quickly!

 Tart Details:
~ Fresh Raspberry Tart w/Lemon Cream Cheese Filling w/Flaky Pastry Crust.

Mission Mill Wedding Cake

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had a large wedding cake to create and this time it was for a client who was someone I've known since my junior high days.  I was excited to meet with her a few months ago and discuss the details of her wedding cake and to come up with a design. 

One of the advantages of making wedding cakes and delivering them, is I get to see many wedding venues that I wouldn't normally visit or even know about.  This was one of those venues.  The wedding was held at the Mission Mill Museum in Salem, Oregon, which is a historic woolen mill and other buildings on a 5-acre site.  The reception was held in the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill building on the third floor which was called the Spinning Room.  I was relieved to find out that there was an elevator--whew!

The bride's colors were red, white and black and this was incorporated in her cake, as well as the decorations in the reception room.

I really like how formal and elegant this cake was even though the square cake shape gives it a more modern or contemporary twist.

I loved how the sugar pearls looked like little jewels hanging between the piped swag details.

Since black is such a strong, dark color, and it can make an impact with a small amount--so I went with the "less is more" attitude and added black in the form of black sugar pearls, slightly pearlized.

Although this cake was only three tiers, don't let that fool you.  This cake was very large and VERY heavy. 

There are several reasons why I assemble wedding cakes on-site and one of them is that there is no way I could lift a stacked cake and carry it by myself from my vehicle into the venue.  This cake was no different.  The bottom tier alone was so heavy that I had to enlist some help from a young man that was in the wedding party.  Even he was surprised at how heavy it was!

Once the cakes are safely delivered to the table where it will be displayed, then I can stack them and finish the piping details.  At this point, I am able to relax and enjoy the rest of the decorating process.

The bride chose fresh red roses and calla lilies for her wedding cake, as well as the reception table bouquets.

I was really pleased with how this wedding cake turned out and I was even more happy to see the look of excitement on the bride's face when she saw it completed.

Congratulations Stacy & Kevin!
May 29th, 2010

Mission Mill Wedding Cake Details:

  • Top tier = White-Vanilla Cake w/Vanilla Cream Buttercream Filling [8-inch square]
  • Middle tier = Dark Chocolate Cake w/Raspberry Filling [12-inch square]
  • Bottom tier = Dark Chocolate Cake w/Vanilla Cream Buttercream Filling [16-inch square]
  • White Fondant Icing w/Vanilla Buttercream Frosting layer
  • Sugar pearl details and royal icing piping details
  • Fresh Roses & Calla Lily Flowers

Baby Shower Cake

One of the cake orders I had over this past weekend included this sweet baby shower cake for a baby boy who will be named Wyatt.  They requested that the cake be done in soft blues and yellows and have elephants and giraffes on it.

I think making fondant elephants are one of my favorites to make--they are just too darn cute!

But then I finished the giraffes and decided that they too are very cute.  Everything on the cake was edible, even the eyes, which were drawn on with a food marker.

The other details are fondant circles and pale blue and yellow sugar pearls.  I also added some ABC blocks that I thought added another special touch to this fun cake.  This cake will definitely be added to my portfolio on the Jillicious Desserts website.

Baby Shower Cake Details:
Dark Chocolate Cake w/Caramel Buttercream Filling & Vanilla Buttercream Icing [10-inch round cake]

Wedding Season Has Begun!

Wedding season has officially begun for Jillicious Desserts and last Saturday, May 15th I delivered a simple, yet elegant wedding cake and mini cupcakes for the bride's outdoor wedding.  The wedding was held at a venue that I hadn't been to before, called Dancing Deer Mountain.  Although I didn't actually see any deer, let alone a dancing one, it was a very beautiful location and I imagine that from time to time deer are probably seen in this area.

The next wonderful surprise was the wedding cake topper.  I've seen many toppers over the years, but this one just might be my favorite yet!  I didn't know what the wedding cake topper would look like or the size, so I had to finish decorating the cake on site. I brought a tray of dark chocolate curls to finish the decorations on the cake and once the topper was in place, I was able to finish this wonderful, first wedding cake of the 2010 wedding season.

Along the back part of the wedding gown, there was a beautiful quote by Shakespeare and it just added to the wonderful details of this topper.

I just loved all the details on the wedding gown of the cake topper and I just had to take a few more pictures to show the details.  It worked out so well that I had decorated with some pearlized sugar pearls and I added a few more around the base of the topper for some special details.

In addition to the wedding cake, the bride ordered five different flavors of mini cupcakes for her guests.  The colors just added a nice contrast to the gorgeous greenery that surrounded the tables and once everything was set up, it just couldn't have worked together more perfectly.

The bride also added a small, 6-inch Chocolate Decadence Cake without the whipped cream, for a gluten-free and lactose-free option; so she too, could enjoy her wedding cake.

As I set up the wedding cakes and cupcakes, I just took a few minutes to relax and enjoy the process of putting the final touches on the cake and arranging everything just so.  I think that is really my favorite part--seeing it all come together and knowing that I played a small part in making the bride's wedding day so special. 

On my way home from the wedding venue, I stopped by a local hazelnut farm and purchased some hazelnuts and the lady noticed that I was wearing a chef's jacket and asked where I was coming from.  I explained that I had just delivered a wedding cake and she said:

"Oh, how wonderful!  Do you realize that all these people that you've done wedding cakes for have pictures in their scrap books or photo albums of your work?  What an amazing thing to know that your work will be remembered for years to come.  It's like you are a part of their lives for such a special day." 

She was right, and I hadn't really thought of it that way before, but I love the idea of being able add to their experiences that they can have wonderful memories to remember.

Wedding Cake Details:
  • Black & White Chocolate Cake [Dark Chocolate Cake w/Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling & Icing, decorated with Dark Chocolate shavings and curls w/sugar pearl details.]
  • Chocolate Decadence Cake [Raspberry Glaze and decorated with Dark Chocolate curls and fresh raspberries.]
Mini Cupcake Details:
  • Orange Zinger Cupcakes [Vanilla Cupcakes w/Orange Zinger Frosting]
  • Devilishly Moist Chocolate Cupcakes [w/Chocolate Buttercream Icing]
  • Coconut-Lime Cupcakes [Coconut Cupcakes w/White Chocolate & Lime Cream Cheese Icing]
  • Lemon Surprise Cupcakes [Lemon Citrus Cupcakes w/Lemon Curd Filling & Lemon Buttercream Icing]
  • Devilishly Moist Chocolate Cupcakes [w/Vanilla Buttercream Icing]