Monday, March 29, 2010

This One's for You, Mr. Andrew Garcia

Obsessed. Fanatic. How about just plain crazy.
Finished Cookie 3

Yup.. I'm afraid I'm all these things. I'm not proud to admit it... but I have a tendency to obsess over musicians. First it was a Korean group called H.O.T, then it was Nsync, then it was OneRepublic.. and now it's a sexy man named Andrew Garica.

Finished Cookie 4

He's one of the 10 remaining contestants on this season's American Idol. I fell in love with this sweet and adorable guy from the first audition they showed on TV. Actually, there is a deeper reason why I was drawn to him but this isn't the place to say it. Next thing I knew I was searching all of YouTube for anything and everything Andrew Garica. I discovered TONS of videos thanks to a fellow fan that dedicated an account (Team Andrew Garcia) to search out all of his videos and grouped them all in one place for all other Andrew fans to see.

Andrew talked a lot about his family in the clips that they'd show on American Idol. I know all about his parents who were involved in gangs growing up in Compton, his absolutely gorgeous and super sweet girlfriend, and their beautiful son. How can you NOT love a man who's so down to earth, humble, talented and just oozes love for all those around him??

Finished Cookie 2

I know I'm rambling about how great I think he is but these are the reasons why I decided to make these cookies. I wanted to encourage him in his journey through American Idol because he's talented and I want him to succeed. One of the areas I think I'm gifted with is the gift of encouragement and service. So.. that's what I do. I hand-make cards.. I buy flowers for a friend feeling low.. I labor over hours on pastries loved ones can enjoy.

It was a LONG and frustrating process met with failure after failure. But it got done and hopefully it will bring a smile to his face and somehow feel the love and pleasure of God in all of it.

I wanted to make the American Idol logo initially and write on there something about Andrew being the next American Idol but it morphed into "Andrew Garica" in the American Idol font.

Printed out the American Idol logo and traced the American Idol logo on a plastic sheet called acetate.

I traced what I wanted the stencil to be with a sharpie then cut it out with an exacto knife.
Exacto Knife

The American Idol logo has a base outline underneath the white lettering so my plan was to make a stencil of that first, then to make one of the white letters.

I'd just like to say that trying to copy a logo or something similar needs absolute PERFECTION. Otherwise it looks messy and not like the logo at all. Do it free hand? Hell no. Not unless you want it to look like a kindergartner drew all over it.

After I got the initial stencils I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe from Confetti Cakes and cut out the logo shape and Andrew's glasses.


After baking and cooling, I went to flood them with the base royal icing only to find that it looked like these the next day:
Mess Up 3

The butter in the cookie had somehow soaked into the royal icing after drying.

The same thing happened with the glasses.
Mess Up 2

You can't see it too well with the white but believe me... it was NOT a pretty thing to look at. So, naturally, I tried it again. Made more dough, using the same recipe and cut out more logo shapes and more glasses shapes. Then I flooded them with royal icing... let them dry over night.. just to discover...
Mess Up

It did it AGAIN! The sheer frustration and anger of doing it TWICE made me give up. I distributed all the mess ups to people at my small group and church. At this point I was feeling pretty stupid for even trying to make something for someone who will probably not even get it and even if he did get it most definitely wouldn't eat.

But a friend at church, after finally telling people what they were supposed to be, encouraged me to try again.

I pulled a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Dorie Greenspan's Baking cookbook and gave it one more try. This time.. no glasses ones. It was so much work and I didn't want to have all that waste again in case it didn't work. But thankfully, this one worked! Kind of... the butter in the cookies still seemed to soak into the royal icing after drying but it was good enough.

Just getting the writing on there took over 4 hours... for 12 cookies!! There were 4 different stencils I had to make and use. One for the background of "Andrew", one for the background of "Garica", one for the white "A", one for "ndrew", one for the white "G", and one for "arica". Don't ask me why I thought it would be a good idea to do that... I guess I thought it would look cleaner.

Here's the base of "Andrew".

The "Garcia" stencil went after.
Garica Stencil

The blue icing went CAREFULLY over the stencil.
Garcia Stencil 2

Even it out with a small offset spatula.
Garcia Stencil 4

Gently lift off..
Garcia Stencil 5

Wait till those dry.. then start on the white lettering...
A Stencil

Four hours later..

After drying I added an outline then sprinkled it with some crystal sugar to add a bit of a finishing touch. I had thought about writing "Good Luck", "is the next American Idol", "I love you", or something but I didn't want to clutter it. Plus, there wasn't enough space to write much of anything. I was so tired at that point I just want it done!
Finished Cookie

I wrote a long letter... which didn't even have everything I wanted to say... and sent it today FedEx.

There's no guarantee that it'll even get to him. For all I know the staff at American Idol will deem it a terrorist threat and send it off to the police to do some of their fancy forensics on it to see if there's anything lethal or dangerous in it.

And to clarify... NO, I DON'T EXPECT HIM TO EAT IT. Those sugar cookies last forever (almost) in its wrapped state. I once ate a sugar cookie that had been made over 2 months before and it tasted fine... though I wouldn't suggest it. A friend of mine has been keeping a small collection of all the decorated cookies I've made and given to him and they're all still lookin good.

So Andrew.. if you're reading this... keep them as a memento of this Idol experience. If you're brave enough, give it a taste. It's just a sugar cookie. You won't hurt my feelings if you decide not to eat them either. If you do.. just keep in mind... your mouth might turn BLUE.

I've asked him to give me a shout-out on the American Idol Facebook site if he gets my cookies just so that I know he got them. Hopefully, I will be able to do a follow-up post reporting that he indeed got them.. but we'll see about that.

I never did figure out why the sugar cookies did that. I've used that recipe hundreds of times and NEVER had a problem with it before. Maybe it's the crazy hot weather we've been having.. I don't know. If you know... please.. tell me.

I'll end with one of my favorite covers that Andrew has done. =) The guys in the shower are hilarious..

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Cup" Cakes

Hannah forwarded me this from Oh Joy Eats!

Very fun and cute. It's funny.. Kelly has been trying to implement this in the restaurants he's been consulting for a while. Someone was smart enough to get a product out there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Giant Red Velvet Cupcakes

There have been a couple of celebrations this past week and I made my go-to cake: Red Velvet.

I've made it so much at this point I can make it with my eyes closed. Well.. not really but you get what I mean.

This cake is SUPER moist. So moist that whenever I make cupcakes it tends to peel away from the cupcake wrapper if left out at room temp for a day. I haven't figured out a solution to this so I decided to make the cakes in an 8oz ramekin. Two reasons: 1) I didn't have giant cupcake pans and 2) The bigger the cake the less you have to make. I'm always up for less time consuming when applicable. And.. a giant cupcake would be cute.


I sprayed the inside of it with a pan spray that had flour in it. It's AMAZING! It just slips right out.

Ramekin 2


Cake 2

Then I cut holes in the center almost all the way down so I could fill the inside with cream cheese icing.


I don't really use a recipe anymore for cream cheese icing but here's a generally the ratio I use:

Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese Icing

1 Pound Cream Cheese
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (room temp)
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

Cream the cream cheese in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth.
Add the butter and mix well.
Add the powdered sugar in 2 batches scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
Add the vanilla in last.

Here's my secret.. I let it beat on medium to medium-high speed for a full minute or two. This will make the cream cheese light and airy. The longer you let it beat the lighter it gets.

Fill the holes with the cream cheese icing.

Filled Hole

Filled Hole 2

Then cut some of the cake that was pulled out so that you get just a top to cover the hole.

At this point I made the wrapper before I finished icing the tops so that it would be easier to handle.

Since I didn't have large cupcake wrappers I just used parchment paper. I used a 6" cake circle as a stencil and cut out circles from the parchment paper.

Parchment Paper

Then I used the ramekin that the cake was baked in as a guide to create the wrapper.


Paper 2

Then I took the cupcake wrapped it with the parchment paper and to make it stay, I put a rubber band around it.

Then I iced the tops of the cupcakes.

Rubber Band

Last touch was a pretty ribbon.

Cupcake 2

You can't tell it's red velvet! Haha rushed photo taking.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Susina Bakery & Cafe


A couple of weeks ago I went up to LA to go to a photography workshop then met up with some friends to eat. We went to Father's Office for lunch. You can read about my experience here. Afterward we went to Surfas (also goes by the Culinary District), the restaurant supply store to do a little shopping.


I wanted to hit up a dessert place while we were up in that area so I did some research and found 2 places: Sweet Lady Jane and Susina. It was a toss up and Susina won out.


For some reason, I forgot I had been there before. As soon as I walked in I remembered eating some of the desserts a few years ago. I couldn't remember much from my previous experience.. only that the white cake with berries was good. There were four of us, so we got one slice of cake.. for each person.. plus an extra one.

Mini Tarts

This was A LOT of desserts for 4 people but there was so much to try!



Here's what we got:
Red Velvet.
Red Velvet
This was... good. Not dry and good flavor. No complaints here.

The Chocolate Raspberry Cake.
Chocolate Cake
This was good but I personally like more intenseness in the chocolate than what this had. Mousse was rich but the cake could have been more so for me. Hannah liked it a lot though.

Fruit Tart.
Fruit Tart
Nothing super extraordinary about this one. It was good.. but not outstanding.

Mandarin Orange Cheesecake.
This was the worst. It had a weird aftertaste that all four of us didn't particularly like.

The Berry Blossom.
This was what I remembered getting the first time I was there. It was the best one of the 5 by a clear mile. Fluffy white cake with a sweet, but not too sweet, airy cream with berries in the center. The outside was coated in meringue and white chocolate and was absolutely delicious. I want another one... right now.

All in all.. it was OK. Not the best desserts I've ever had but definitely not the worst either. I'd go back... for that Berry Blossom... and maybe to try some other cakes before writing them off as just OK entirely.

Here are some other photos of goodies they had on display.

Candy 3