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.