December 29, 2011

miscellaneous december

I didn't want to interrupt this blog's holiday spirit so I held off on sharing all of the pictures from this month's cake inventory. Now that the season is winding down, here they are!

1) Based off the wedding cake pictured here , I prepared this small marble cake in the same style with white and dark chocolate pleats accented with chocolate roses. Happy birthday, Talia!

2) My friend Brandon is convinced the global economy should be backed by sterling. I believe the global economy should be backed by cake. We've reached a compromise, I think, with this 30th birthday cake. Happy birthday, B!

3) To celebrate the upcoming nuptials of a lucky couple who are tying the knot at a vacation destination, I made this pink beach-themed bridal shower cake. Opalescent shells and pearls were placed along the sandy beach (brown sugar) lining the cake, with piped buttercream coral and finished with a congratulatory greeting on the top. Congratulations, Tina and Alvin! And bon voyage!

4) The fourth iteration of cake sushi: the birthday girl loves dynamite rolls so I crafted a wooden sushi serving box out of chocolate cake and placed some dynamite maki and salmon, tuna and red snapper nigiri. Little extra features included a bamboo border, chopsticks and a personalized fortune cookie. I always love the opportunity to do something I love (sushi!) with the freedom to customize each cake. Happy birthday, Maddy!

5) This wedding cake was filled with alternating layers of red velvet and chocolate cake with cream cheese buttercream. The bride's and bridesmaids' bouquets had beautiful blue orchids and white roses so I accented the cake with edible flowers. Congratulations, Jackie and Barry!

6) This coconut cream birthday cake was fashioned to look like a Tiffany & Co jewellery box. The bow, tag and "22" charm were made from gumpaste. Happy birthday, Michelle!

It has been a busy end to 2011 and I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store for sweet&splendid!


December 24, 2011

happy holidays!

Happy holidays from sweet&splendid!

December 11, 2011

the season of giving

I might be infected with the Christmas spirit. Or I really like an excuse to be in the kitchen.

This year I put together little cookie and treat bags to give as holiday party favours. I couldn't decide (besides gingerbread) what the best holiday flavour was, so I put together a few of them. I definitely wanted to include peppermint and butterscotch, and of course shortbread.

Shortbread stars, gingerbread men, peppermint meringue kisses, chocolate bark and honey florentines were packaged together in little cello baggies. The honey florentines are the easiest cookie I've ever made and they're absolutely delicious. They're somewhere between a candy and a cookie, which makes the packages exactly half candies and half cookies.

And still over 2 weeks until Christmas! Plenty more time for holiday treats.


December 3, 2011

gingerbread everything

Now that we've entered the official countdown to the holidays it's time to start some festive baking projects. This week I took the opportunity to use my favourite holiday flavour in many different recipes: gingerbread.

Even though I used half of the recipe that I usually use, I still ended up with almost 200 of these little gingerbread men. The next thought was to use the extras as cupcake toppers which gave me the excuse to make some gingerbread cupcakes. 

Cupcakes were baked with molasses, ground ginger, allspice and cinnamon - just like the cookies - and covered with a generous swirl of cinnamon buttercream. I think the smiles on the gingerbread men cookies just got bigger.

The last baking endeavour involved my favourite confections: macarons. I simply added the ground spices (ginger, cinnamon and allspice) to the dry ingredients before folding. Once cooled they were filled with a fragrant ginger-orange buttercream. 

As much as I enjoy the Christmas season for all it represents: time spent with family and good friends, gift-giving, a much-needed break from studying/research, I'm pretty certain the best aspect is the food. Let the holiday baking begin!


November 26, 2011

the finer things in the life


I've never been able to justify spending extravagant amounts of money on myself, although I have been able to justify receiving extravagant gifts - with ease. I hope the recipient of this cake feels the same way - at least about the latter part. This cake was prepared for a 40th birthday party for a woman who loves the finer things in life. 

The bottom tier is a 10" square chocolate and vanilla cake covered in teal fondant to look like a Tiffany & Co. box. The ribbon was sculpted out of gumpaste and dusted with heaps of pearl dust to give it a beautiful shimmer. 

The birthday girl's nickname is Diamond Girl and to incorporate that some hand-made sugar gems were as diamond jewelry. Side note: making these gems created a bigger mess than creating the rest of the cake. Boiled sugar is very, very splashy.

The purse was constructed of five layers of red velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream. Each symbol was hand painted with gold luster dust, and all the detailed pieces were made with gumpaste (the tag is engraved with "LOUIS VUITTON PARIS). This was an extensive but amazing project.

Happy birthday, diamond girl!


November 18, 2011


Just a little something splendid.


November 6, 2011

showers, 3 ways

Cupcakes, three ways, for a baby shower. Brown background with bright pink, green, white and blue polka-dots. I incorporated the pink, brown and white and made three distinct batches of cupcakes for the occasion.

1) Red velvet cupcakes topped with cream cheese buttercream and a pink gumpaste "Baby" topper, small sugar blossoms and silver dragees.

2) Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, hot pink blossoms, daisies and silver dragees (again).

3) Vanilla cake with pale pink cream cheese buttercream and a footprint topper, white blossoms and (you guessed it!) silver dragees.

It was a ton of fun getting to exercise my creative side with three dozen cupcakes while sticking to a beautiful colour scheme. 


November 5, 2011


Nothing makes me happier than combining the two things I love most in life: science and cakes. Many years ago, I spent a good part of my undergraduate degree in a wet lab working with cell cultures. I looked every the bit the part of a scientist; lab coat, goggles, and hollow expression resulting from chronic sleep deprivation. 

My microbiologist friend celebrated his birthday and I took the opportunity to step back into the past, channel my inner biologist, and create a petri dish cake for him.

The top of the dish was covered in yellow fondant agar with petal dust and gel coloured colonies. Sprouting from the biggest colony was a mutant bug. But it's ok, he looks pretty benevolent to me.

Because many scientists share the same incubator and work space, it's very important to label your dish with the culture species, the date it was plated, and the cellular density, to keep track of growth. It's also important to label any dangerous cultures with internationally recognized symbols. Safety first!

Happy birthday Alex, I wish you many more years of geek-dom!


October 25, 2011

no tricks, just treats.

Now that I'm too big to get dressed up and try to swindle the neighbours of their candy, it's up to me to create my own treats. 


Plain almond macaron shells were sandwiched with a yummy whipped chocolate ganache (pretty much mousse) filling. Macarons are probably my favourite treat, but when they turn out badly...


Absolutely terrifying. Nothing is scarier to this baker than a dreaded macawrong. This one was baked at the back corner of the baking sheet and probably received a bit too much heat from the oven. I'm still trying to figure out how to diffuse the new oven's hotspots in addition to using the convection setting.

Next up: going all-out pumpkin and trying these with a pumpkin buttercream. Or eating these ones all to myself the way they are. Probably both. 

Happy Halloween everyone :)


October 21, 2011


A plastic yellow duckie bathtime toy was recreated out of cake this week to celebrate a baby shower. If only I could have figured out how to make it squeak...


The body of the duck was carved from lemon buttercream sandwiched between three layers of vanilla pound cake. A ball of rice krispie treats was used to shape the head, and gumpaste was used for the beak.  All the other details were made from gumpaste or fondant.


To dress the cake up a little bit a pink layer of folded fondant was applied to the cake board and finished off with some fondant bubbles. In case the pink bow, flirty eyelashes and "it's a girl!" script hadn't given it away, the mommy-to-be is expecting a little girl.

Congratulations to the new mom (and dad)! 


October 17, 2011


A short while ago I celebrated my anniversary with the better half; he gave me a beautiful bouquet of yellow and pink gerbera daisies (one of my favourites) that I later wanted to emulate as cupcakes. I happened to pick up blackberries and golden raspberries from the store one day and knew they would be perfect. 

I've baked with blackberries before; they're tart and sweet and oh so pretty. The golden raspberries were something new. Until I'd bought them I had no idea they existed. They're a rarer variety of raspberry that's slightly sweeter and milder than their traditional red counterpart. 

 To cut the tartness of the berries, I paired them with a not-too-sweet buttermilk chocolate cupcake base. 

Buttermilk Chocolate Cupcakes
(recipe yields 18 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add buttermilk, followed by water, oil, vanilla and lastly eggs, one at a time. Mix on high for 2 minutes. Pour batter into cupcake liners (about 2 large tablespoons per cupcake) and bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

 The buttercream topping is a standard Swiss meringue buttercream using this recipe. The berries were then (separately) pureed with a little bit of boiling water and added to the buttercream once cooled. 

And then the cupcakes were promptly eaten.


October 14, 2011

blondie's favourite treat

Blondies are the vanilla counterpart to brownies. Both are rich, decadent and totally satisfying, but this recipe combines the best of both worlds with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and fresh homemade caramel sauce. 

Caramel Rocky Blondie Bars
(recipe yields ~25 squares) 
2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallows
1/2 cup caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter in pan over low heat. Pour into bowl and combine with brown sugar, mixing thoroughly. Add eggs and vanilla and continue mixing. Add flour, baking powder and salt to mixture until dough is consistent. Slowly add chocolate chips, marshmallows and caramel sauce, reserving a little bit of each for the top. Transfer dough into greased 10" x 10" pan (I use parchment paper instead of oil/butter) and spread as evenly as possible, dough will be thick. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven (be careful, the blondies might not be fully set) and add remaining chocolate chips, marshmallows and caramel to the top. Return to oven and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Do not overcook as blondies will further set while cooling. Let stand for 20 minutes or until blondies are completely cool before cutting. 

These would be perfect served with ice cream but I can barely handle how rich they are on their own. Try them for yourself!


October 8, 2011

i'm thankful for...

Thanksgiving: historically a holiday to celebrate and give thanks for a good harvest, and for a community to come together and rejoice after a season of hard work. Well, I didn't sow my own grains or mill my own flour but that doesn't mean a lot of hard work hasn't been done this year. This Thanksgiving I'm grateful for family. And friends. And wonderful opportunities. And pumpkin puree. And gumpaste.

Many pansy species bloom in the fall and with such rich colours I thought they would make a lovely topping to some fall-inspired pumpkin spice cupcakes.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes:
recipe yields ~24 

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all spice or ground cloves
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together eggs and both brown and white sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract and continue mixing. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in separate bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Mix on high for additional 2 minutes. Line baking tray with cupcake inserts. Carefully place batter into inserts and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cupcakes comes out clean. 
Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:
recipe yields 2-3 cups

2/3 cup egg whites
1 cup white sugar
2 cups butter (4 sticks)
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat egg whites in a double boiler stirring frequently so that egg whites do not become cooked. Slowly add sugar and mix thoroughly for about 5 minutes or until mixture reaches 55C. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl and whip on high until stiff peaks form. Switch mixer attachment to paddle and slowly incorporate butter. Turn the speed up until mixture becomes uniform. Add vanilla and cream cheese and continue to mix until incorporated and mixture is creamy.

Don't forget to give thanks at your dinner table this Sunday! Happy Thanksgiving!


October 2, 2011

birds and blossoms

One of my closest friends that I've known since gradeschool recently returned to Canada after spending several years teaching English in Japan. Her birthday happened to be close by and I decided to welcome her home and wish her happy birthday with a small cake.

This 6" and 4" vanilla cake included my attempt at elements of Japanese design, mostly in the form of white and pink cherry blossoms and branches.

I wanted to include a big red feature so I cut out sparrows (ish) from deep red fondant and applied them against the soft blue background. They really popped against the delicate flowers and provided a lovely contrast to the ephermeral backdrop.

Happy birthday and welcome home, Allie!


September 24, 2011

entirely chocolate

This one's for the chocolate lovers out there.

This was a biggie. 14", 10" and 6" round tiers were stacked and covered entirely in white and dark modelling chocolate pleats and accented with dark chocolate roses to recreate this wedding cake by San Francisco artist Richard Festen. I've never covered a whole cake with chocolate before but I was surprised that it turned out to be such a wonderful material to work with. As an added bonus, it tastes fantastic.

A close up shot reveals the intricate roses sculpted from chocolate. It was a big project but I'm happy to have had to the chance to work with new materials on such a gorgeous cake design. 

Congratulations to the bride and groom!


September 19, 2011


I love experimenting with different cake covering techniques. Fondant can be applied beautifully by smoothing, pleating, draping - and the list goes on. By far my favourite look though is one that most resembles delicate fabric: ruffling. 

Thin strips are textured with the end of a paintbrush and applied with sugar glue to the outside of the cake. The gradient effect happens subtly; every two-three layers is a different shade of grey. It's a very fun (though time-consuming!) technique to dress up a simple occasion cake.