Anna Kate Donovan

…the bar is raised…

In the last 6 months or so, we have started watching food shows at our house.  Our favorites include Ace of Cakes, Amazing Wedding Cakes, Food Network Challenge and Good Eats.  Abigail has even watched a little Julia Child. Yum!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired.  The older I get the more I love to cook.  I don’t particularly love cooking dinner – it’s still that witching hour at our house.  Everyone is cranky, tired and hungry and it can quickly become stressful.  I’m sure as the children get older, making dinner will become fun.  For now I mostly enjoy making desserts and snacks….I enjoy eating them too….. 😉

I have always made the girls’ birthday cakes.  Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with “store-bought” birthday cakes.  I know that a lot of people do not have the desire or time to make a cake.  I started making birthday cakes when Abigail turned 1 and never stopped.  These cakes have all started as basic two-layer cakes with butter-cream icing.  Typically, I would bake and ice the cake and Robert (the real artist in the family) would decorate it in the theme of the party.  We’ve had Rainbow Fish, ladybug, princess, duck, Hello Kitty, butterfly….all things girly!

ladybugHello Kittyduck

But now, thanks mostly to Food Network, the bar has been raised.  We’re on to fondant!  Of course I have to make things difficult so I make my own fondant.  It is labor and time intensive but in my opinion it tastes a lot better than the premade stuff.  I have 2 different recipes for fondant.  One is supposed to taste like buttercream.  It does but the taste is not worth the pain in my butt!!  It is too greasy, heavy and difficult to work with.  The second recipe is made mostly of melted marshmallows.  It is delicious!  Even though it is harder to knead, it is much easier to work with (especially after I decided to let my mixer do most of the work!)  However, I am still on the quest for the perfect professional looking recipe.

I started with Hattie’s Tinkerbell cake last year.  It was very simple.  One layer, light green with cut out leaves and Tinkerbell on top.  I used the non-fabulous recipe but it still turned out great!


This year, Abigail wanted more.  For her birthday she designed and I made a two tier circle and star cake with about 6 different colors of fondant.  I used the marshmallow recipe and it turned out really well.

circles and stars

For my parent’s 50th anniversary celebration I wanted to make a cake representative of two of their favorite activities.  So I decided to make a rectangle-block shaped cake with a piano keyboard on top and gumpaste flowers around the bottom.  For some inane reason, I made the buttercream fondant recipe.  I guess I wanted to give it one more chance before removing it from my recipe binder.  I won’t make that mistake again!!  Despite the many cracks and imperfections, my parents loved it.  That’s what’s really important, right?

piano flowers

Of course the cake shows that we watch edit out most of the hard, tedious work and make it look incredibly easy.  This can leave the home baker frustrated and cursing late at night!  Somehow, I still love it.  That feeling of accomplishment and pride when my child looks at her cake and says “Thanks Mom.  That’s exactly what I wanted.”  What more could you ask for?  At the end of the day, it’s all about doing something special for my family while finding a creative outlet for myself.  I’m no Ace of Cakes yet but I’m going to keep at it so stay tuned!!

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