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Our intrepid blogger Cassidee is feeling under the weather these days. Join me, won’t you? In wishing her a speedy return to health…and a speedy return to her blogging duties here at Vista Cakes!
Get well soon, my darling girl! We miss you.
Bonjour friends. I wanted to let you know we will be adding a new video to our website soon. Please take a minute and watch it. Thanks for visiting!
Have a great week!
Ladies and Gentlemen! Elvis has left the building!
Have you ever had a Whoopie Pie?
A Whoopie Pie is a treat from my childhood. Back then they only came in one flavor.
Chocolate cookies…almost like cake in texture…and a slightly grainy marshmallow
cream center. Good, but kind of boring.
Flash forward to today. The Whoopie Pie has enjoyed something of a renaissance.
While the remembered chocolate is still around, dozens of flavors join it in happy
proliferation on the web. A clients request led to hours of blissful experimentation
with Red Velvet, Banana, Lemon, Chocolate Chip, Vanilla and yes, the still delicious
Our client is an adventurous soul, and after some consultation decided to order
lemon Whoopie pies with Raspberry filling and the well-named Fat Elvis. What’s a
Fat Elvis, you ask? It’s a banana Whoopie filled with a decadent peanut butter filling
and then the edges are rolled in crispy, caramelized bacon. Yes. You read that right.
I can see you’re scared. Don’t be scared. Breath. Better? Good. Because a Fat Elvis
is nothing to be scared of. It’s out-of-this-world delicious! You don’t have to take
my word for it, though. I’m including the recipe so you can try it yourself. Don’t be
Let’s start with the Whoopie itself.
Banana Whoopie Pies:
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoons butter, soft
• 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I use Crisco)
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (I freeze bananas when they start to get too ripe
to eat out of hand. When you thaw them they turn black. Don’t let that throw
you! It’s normal. Discard the black liquid that leaks out when they thaw…it’s
kind of bitter and will dye your batter an unfortunate hue!)
• 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional…I opted out)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I ran three pans at a time through my oven. You
may opt to just do one at a time. If so, position the rack dead center in your oven.
Cover your sheet pans with parchment paper and drag out your 1 tablespoon scoop.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Okay. Let’s be real. NO ONE SIFTS! Not even
me. Put the dry ingredients (minus the sugar…you know that’s a ‘wet’ ingredient,
right??) and whisk them together to lighten and combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl) beat together the butter,
shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes or so.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in half of the flour mixture, scraping down the sides a couple of times.
Add the second half of the flour and beat to combine for 1 minute.
Add the mashed bananas and the pecans if you’ve ‘opted’ for them. Beat on medium
speed about 2 minutes to completely combine and lighten.
Drop by one tablespoon measures on the parchment lined cookie sheets, spacing
them about 2 inches apart.
Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies just begin to
Remove from the oven and let them stand on the sheet for 5 minutes or so
before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Now we’re ready to move on to the filling.
Peanut Butter Filling:
• 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter. This is the main flavor ingredient, folks. Buy a
• 3/4 cup butter, soft
• 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar, powdered sugar, 10x…all the same
• Pinch of salt
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl and your trusty hand mixer)
beat the butter and peanut butter together on low speed until very smooth and
creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and beat to incorporate. Raise the
speed to medium and beat until the filling becomes fluffy and light, about 4 minutes.
Candied bacon for the edges:
Cut 3/4 pound of good quality bacon in half crossways. Lightly coat each side of the
bacon with brown sugar.
On one of your rimmed baking sheets…you have several, right?…lay out the bacon,
leaving a little space between each slice.
Bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Drain well.
(Save that bacon fat! Fry potatoes, make a roue for mac and cheese, saute veg or
chicken…endless goodness for free with bacon!) When it’s cool enough to handle,
crumble into fine crumbles and lay out on a plate.
Take one Whoopie and pipe approximately 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center.
Cover with another cookie, squeezing gently to bring the filling to the edge. Roll the
cookie in the crumbled bacon. Avoid licking your fingers. Repeat with all the other
Whoopie pies and filling.
Makes about 24 Whoopie pies.
Not all of our brides think conventionally, and that’s a good thing! This weekend, Sarah and I made two hundred and fifty cupcakes for a charming “second-time-around” bride who wasn’t interested in a traditional wedding cake. We stacked them high and proud, topped with a six inch tier just to hold her cake toppers! Check them out…the groom is an avid golfer, she an avid shopper. I think you see the inspiration here.
Flavors? I’m so glad you asked! The top tier was marble (laced with a warming dollop of Crème de Cacao). The cupcake flavors were Cookies and Cream filled with, yes, cookies and cream frosting, Vanilla Bean filled with (say it with me) vanilla bean frosting, Lemon filled with lemon curd, Dark Chocolate Fudge (with rum and crème de cacao…yum) filled with fudge filling and frosted with dark fudge frosting, German Chocolate (yes, we added crème de cacao. It would have been rude to leave this one out) filled and frosted with Coconut Pecan filling and finally Pineapple (rum, of course) filled with coconut pastry cream (more rum) and frosted with coconut cream frosting (and more rum, but you knew that.)
The finished tower of cakes looked and smelled wonderful. The bride kindly gave us a call later that evening to report how much the guests had enjoyed them. A classy touch from a classy lady!
What flavors would you want for your cupcake tower?
Here it is! The long awaited second part of the “make your own Calla Lily” tutorial!
You were awaiting this, right? Of course you were!
So. We have all of our ingredients and supplies ready at hand. We’ve cleared a space to work were a little (or a lot) of mess won’t make us twitch. We’re ready! We’re going to break the project into ten steps. You can do one a day…or one a week! Don’t be intimidated! It’s sugar! Not rocket science!
Let’s have some fun!
Step One: We make the stamen or center of our Calla Lily.
Pinch off a small amount of gumpaste. I do mean a small amount. Maybe the size of the tip of your thumb. Knead this little glob of paste until there are no bits of grittiness and it’s smooth and slightly sticky.
Now that the gumpaste is very smooth, roll it into a ball. Once it’s formed, place it on the table and roll it under your palm…light and slow. The idea is to put more pressure on the heel side of your palm, pressing the paste into an elongated cone. (Check Picture 1 for an idea of how it should look.)
Step Two: Take a piece of wire I’m using precut lengths but you can use what ever you like. We talked about why you’d want some wire nippers (your husband will call them Needle Nose Pliers but mine have flowers on the handles…totally not necessary for function but cool none-the-less…so I call them what I please!) you’ll use them here to bend a very small hook on one end of your wire. (See Picture 2) This little hook keeps the completed stamen from slipping off its wire stem later on and causing you unnecessary angst.
Step Three: Squeeze the base of your newly created stemmed stamen and smooth the end down over the wire a little making it nice and secure. (See Picture 3) Remember when I showed you the hi-tech drying rack? (Okay, go look back at the first part of this tutorial. I’ll wait.) Now you put it to use. Bend a nice big hook in the free end of the wire and hang your stamen upside down to dry. It won’t take but a couple of hours at most but we can start working with it again in about 20 minutes.
Step Four: Now that your stamen is dry (or at least firm) we can move on to coloring it. Calla Lilies were white…and only white…with yellow stamens for most of my life but hybridizers have cultivated a dizzying array of colors in recent years. Dark lavender with deep orange stamens, cherry pink with the palest green stamens, deep, deep burgundy with almost chocolate colored stamens. All beautiful, and all very doable in your own kitchen with the tools we’ve already assembled. Feel free to deviate from here on out to please your own sense of color but for demonstration purposes we’ll be making the traditional white petaled lily with the deep yellow center.
Take one of the clean paintbrushes and dip it into your choice of color. I’m using powdered color. It’s my favorite and allows me to create a wonderful array of custom colors but feel free to use gel, paste or liquid colors. Just remember to allow drying time (upside down on your handy rack!) before continuing! (See Pictures 4 and 5) (Note: If you choose to use powdered color you’ll need to steam set at each step along the way. It’s not complicated. Again, I’ve gone totally hi-tech for equipment. I put about an inch of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once it’s steaming nicely I hold the colored piece over the steam until it gets damp. (See Picture 6) You’ll see the color change. Hang it upside down to dry and you’re ready to move on to the next step.)
Step Five: Now it’s time to add a little “pollen” to the tip of your stamen. Use another paintbrush to dab a very small amount of glue…stop sniggering! We already talked about why it was okay to use glue!…over just the tip of the stamen. As soon as you’ve got the glue on, sprinkle it with some crystallized sugar (Picture 7) and, yes, hang it back up to dry! Believe it or not? We’re more than half way done! You’re doing great.
Tired? Need to take a break? This is a good place to do it. Your stamen (or stamens if, like me, you just decide to make a dozen or more at a time!) can happily “hang out” until you’re ready to continue! (Bakers humor. I know. I’d apologize but that would imply that I’d stop, and we all know that won’t happen.)
Step Six: Now that the stamen is complete, we’re ready to begin the “wrap up” of our construction. (See! I told you I couldn’t stop!) We’re going to make the petal for our Calla Lily. It looks complicated.
The cutter does all the work for us. (Don’t have an actual Calla Lily cutter? I have a suggestion for that but it’s more work and you’ll need to move quickly as gumpaste dries very quickly. Cut a circle of paste with a biscuit cutter. Use a small, sharp knife to trim the top to match the photo below. Then? Just continue on with us!)
(Note: Here’s where the project gets messy…we’re going to get powdered sugar spread around no matter how careful we are. It’s one of those “accept it and move on” moments in cake decorating. Notice my tasteful shirt? I call it my “wearable apron” because I got tired of getting sugar, cake batter, frosting or what ever all over my good clothes! Do your self a favor! Go steal one of your husbands’ old tee shirts and designate it your wearable apron! You’ll be much happier in the end!)
Pull off another small piece of gumpaste. Knead it as before. Remember! Gumpaste dries very quickly and becomes harder to work with! Small amounts at a time mean easier handling through out the project. (Picture 8)
Once the paste is smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, sprinkle your work surface (here you see my wonderfully beat up kitchen table!) with powdered sugar. (Picture 9) (Aren’t you glad you picked up that sugar caster now??) Place the paste on the sugar and use your small rolling pin or dowel to roll it as thin as possible. You should be able to see the shadow of your fingers behind it! (See Picture 10) Don’t be disappointed if your first efforts result in a petal that’s a little thicker than this. It will still be a beautiful flower and will impress your friends who don’t know you wanted it to be thinner!
Step Seven: Use your cutter (or the work-around above) to cut out your petal (See Picture 11). Lift it up…it’s pretty durable but try not to stretch it out of shape…and place it on your foam mat for shaping. Take your shaping tool, or another small dowel, and roll it gently back and forth over the edges of the petal to create a ruffled effect. (We’re up to Picture 12…are you keeping up?) Now, here’s a place you can cut back if you choose. You can instead just run your sugarcoated finger over the edge of the petal to smooth out the “cut” look and call it good. Me? I like the ruffle. Sue me. If you choose to do so, this is where you put the petal on a veining surface (Picture 13) and gently roll the center to create the texture a real blossom would have. Don’t worry! It’ll be lovely without this step if budget or will power put the kibosh on a veiner!
Your flower is now ready to be assembled!
Using your gluey brush, run a small amount of glue just over the bottom of the petal (See Picture 14). Don’t use too much glue! If you end up with some sticky stuff splooching out…of course that’s the technical term…duh!…just rub your fingers in powdered sugar and use it to “absorb” the excess glue. Don’t panic!
Step Eight: Place your completed and dried stamen over the petal you’ve just formed. The wire stem should be just at the bottom of the petal (You can see that pretty clearly in Picture 15) Working quickly, wrap one side of the petal over the stamen, pressing gently around the base to stick the glued section down securely. (Picture 16) Half way there! Now wrap the other side over the first (Picture 17), again pressing gently around the base to make sure it’s securely adhered. Take a moment to gently curl back the petal just a little bit. (Picture 18) It’s a small thing but adds so much to the realistic feel of your finished piece! And speaking of adding a touch of realism…Calla Lilies have a little curl at the tip of the petal. If you’ve used a commercial cutter you’ve got one preformed for you but if you’ve used the work-around described above you may have to “give it a pinch!” Then it’s time to hang it back up and let it dry. (Picture 19 and 20)
Now take a moment and admire your handiwork! You’ve just completed a Calla Lily! (Tat-Da! Picture 21. Suitable for framing!) If you want, you can stop there. You can use it on a cake just as it is. (You can store it in a dry, dark place…I use acid free boxes for flower storage…for months.) But if you want to go hog wild? “Gild the lily”? (Hahaha)
Let’s put on some color!
Take a minute to do a little site prep. It saves aggravation later. We’re done with the powdered sugar. Let’s wash it up and put it away. Make sure the brushes are clean and dry…especially that gluey one!…and that there are paper towels handy. Ready?
Let’s finish this in style!
Step Nine: Place your dried lily on a paper towel. Get your color out and put it in a separate container to make sure spill issues are minimized. Here again, I’m using powdered color. I just use the cap as my container and set the jar of color well away from my work area before continuing. (Picture 22) Once upon a time? I spilled an entire container of powdered color on my floor. I found patches of color for months afterwards! Live and learn!
Whichever type of color you chose, start at the back of your petal. (Picture 23) Dab a small amount of color all around the base and in a thin line up the back of the lily. Most lilies, no matter their petal color, have this ‘stripe’ of green, but feel free to live your own life! I won’t report you to the Lily Police.
If you’re using gel, paste or liquid color you need to let your blossom dry here for a few minutes. You don’t want to smear the color as you continue to work. When it’s no longer shiny wet you can begin again.
Turn the blossom over and swirl a small amount of color inside the petal, around the base of the stamen. Use a coordinating color for your petal. Because we’re rocking it old school here we’re sticking with green. (Picture 24) I like to dab a tinytinytiny amount of color along the furled edges, too. (Picture 25) I’m a wild woman.
(Note: If you’re using powdered color like me? You’ll need to steam your finished piece now. (Picture 26))
It’s time to hang your flower again so all that color (or steam) can dry. Some color takes longer than others. Give it the time it needs so you don’t ruin your work here at the end! (Picture 27)
Step Ten: Admire your finished flower! (Picture 28) Ten steps…over as many days as you want…and you’ve got a professional looking bloom for your next decorating project! I’m so proud of you!
There are literally hundreds of flowers out there and all of them are within your grasp!
Let me know if you’d like to try another one!
Now? I’m going to finish cleaning up all that sugar!