I've moved! Please come visit!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New stamp!

Still unpacking and organizing the new kitchen, but wanted to share my latest gadget. My friend Sarah Rowland has a stationery business called Chasing Paper (no site yet, but you can email her at chasingpaperny AT yahoo DOT com). I ordered this cute Sara Bakes Cake stamp from her - made by Fontaine Maury. It's more of a bright green than the photo shows and I think it's just perfect. Sure beats the address labels I printed on the computer!

New Sara Bakes Cakes stamp!

Side note: I've been grabbing my photo html codes directly from Flickr. Does anyone know why they're always off center? I don't think they used to be. The shot looks fine on the preview screen of blogger, but once gets wonky once I post it.

Update: My brother thinks that maybe the medium size photo is too big for blogger, so trying again with the small size.
New Sara Bakes Cakes stamp!

Happy Birthday, Gus!

Gussie turned two last week so I sent him a b-day shout out on Apartment Therapy's ohdeedoh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hastings Farmers Market

Our local and favorite farmers market in Hastings-On-Hudson, NY was featured today on The Today Show. It really makes Saturday mornings (and life in the suburbs) that much better. My friend Sarah Silbert Hinawi is a fantastic local musician and is interviewed in the piece. Check it out:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kitchen Update, pt. 3

The countertops are coming tomorrow, the countertops are coming tomorrow! I thought it was going to take at least a week, but Jay came to template on Monday and will be back tomorrow to put them in.

Ron, one half of The Kitchen Couple, and his crew finished up the cabinet install on Tuesday and I love the way they turned out. Because we're in an old house none of our walls are square and they had to make lots of tweaks to fit things in and you can't tell - they look perfect. Ron spent most of the day constructing a corner cabinet - it's not something Ikea stocked, but he was able to take a basic cabinet and modify it so it fits perfectly. I think we have at least double the cabinet space now!

Note about these photos - my son took them, so they're a little off center, but I like his low to the ground perspective.

Cabinets are in!

Cabinets are in!
Another customized cabinet - fits perfectly and will be great for tea and spices

Cabinets are in!

Cabinets are in!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video Fun

A friend just told me about this site. They don't have a big music selection, but I like the way this turned out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kitchen Update, pt. 2

So I've been taking a ton of photos every day and realized after looking at them in flickr that they're really boring - especially if it's not your kitchen being redone. So here are three, maybe four (ok, five) highlights. Cabinets are being installed today, appliances coming next week and countertop the week after. We're getting close!


Before photo - I'm going to miss that table!


Kitchen Guts


New 8' door


Drywall


Floor is down, but needs a good cleaning


Cabinets going up!

Wordle!

I found out about Wordle from Crummy Cupcake. (I also follow her on twitter.) It makes a word cloud from your blog tags. My favorite part is customizing the colors and fonts. Pretty, right?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update to Tess' Cupcakes

I've had this post saved for a while and finally have the info to finish it!

Tess' mom told me that her daughter recently was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. I told her I don't use nuts in my recipes but the fine print on a lot of chocolate says something along the lines of "made in a facility that processes nuts." I use Valrhona cocoa powder for my chocolate cake but the bulk box I had didn't say anything about it. I bought it from Chocosphere (best price around, and I looked everywhere), so I called and spoke with Jerry Kryszek, owner of the company. He thought it was safe, but to be sure contacted his Valrhona contact in the US. That person wasn't completely positive so was going to contact the main office in France. Since I didn't have a lot of time, and wasn't 100% sure it was nut-free, I used Hershey's cocoa, which was ok to use (at least from an allergy standpoint). I was happy to see that they still turned out pretty good, they were just missing that deep dark chocolate taste that makes Valhrona and other premium brands so special.

I got this email today from Jerry:
Hello Sara,

Good news! I just received the following from Valrhona yesterday:

"As I mentioned to you last week by phone re. your inquiry on the cocoa powder, I received the confirmation from the QC dept. that the Valrhona cocoa powder is free from peanuts and product thereof. I hope that your customer will be satisfied by this information. "

I hope this helps. Let me know if I can assist further in any way!

With very best regards,
Jerry

So there you have it. If you need great chocolate, great prices, and more importantly, great customer service - go to Chocosphere!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kitchen Update, pt. 1

All things baking are on a temporary halt while the kitchen gets renovated. Demo started Oct. 14 and it's been start and stop ever since. The cabinets are scheduled to be installed starting Nov. 6, so am hoping that things pick up pretty quickly!

At this point we've made all of our decisions in terms of appliances, flooring, cabinets, etc:
Appliances:
We went to the big box stores, the little box stores and everywhere in between, but eventually got the best prices and service from a local store in Yonkers - Curto's Appliances. We've been working with Linda and she's been part salesperson, part shrink, helping me/us figure out what we really wanted in this kitchen and how much we really wanted to spend on it!

In the end, have decided on:
Range: DCS 30" gas range - it has 5 burners, big oven and is beautiful:)
Hood: 30" Zephyr Venezia - love its simple shape, and has enough CFMs (715) for the stove
Oven: Bosch 500 30" electric convection - two ovens or one was our first dilemma, second was figuring out how to fit everything in our little kitchen! In in end realized that if I really want to start baking more I need another oven and this one was the hands down winner. (I found out after we decided that Consumer Reports agreed - rated this exact model tops in a recent review).
Fridge: HA - only decision left to make. Want a big side by side, non-counter depth but don't want to spend $2000! Thinking of going with a GE Profile, mainly because some models have a special section in the bottom of the fridge that cools things down super quickly. Perfect for baking, chocolates, and, um, beer and wine:)
Disposal: Have survived all of my adult life without a disposal, but figure if we're doing the kitchen, may as well add it. Bought one from Costco - so if we hate it, it's easy enough to return, and you can't beat Costco's return policy!
Dishwasher: Doug had the brilliant idea of keeping our old dishwasher as a way of keeping down costs. I was originally leery of the idea, but realized it made sense. It's not totally ugly, and still works pretty well (knock wood). Why replace it until we need to?

Cabinets:
Going with Ikea - Adel Birch. We had them before in our apt. in NYC and were really happy with them. I liked the simple lines and they're actually real wood, rather than some plasticky stuff. We worked with Bonnie and Ron at The Kitchen Couple. Read about them first on Apartment Therapy, and it's been a great experience so far. Bonnie handles all the consultations, planning, replanning, etc. and Ron does the installation. Installation begins November 6 and should take 3-4 days. I hope we're ready!

Countertop:
Soapstone. This is our big splurge. Have always liked them but never thought we'd take the plunge. Working with Jay at Garden State Soapstone -- recommended, again, by someone on Apartment Therapy. We took a trip to his stone yard a couple of weeks ago, picked out our slabs and make plans to have Jay come to template on or around November 11.
FYI - found this online about soapstone - good info if you're interested.

Flooring:
Slate. Like soapstone - it's not something that's going to look EXACTLY the same 10 years from now as the day we put it in, but we like that! I mean, what's wrong with a little aging? We're getting it from Stone Source in NYC. I read a lot about it online and lots of the cheaper slate from Home Depot, etc., is garbage and we'd end up buying double what we need just to get enough pieces that will work. Just placed the order for 250 sq. ft. of a style called Kashmere. Can't wait to see the results! Hopefully will look someting like this, but we're going with 12" squares instead of rectangles.

Sink/Faucet(s):
Made a rash decision the other day and bought this from Overstock.com. Most of their sinks don't have any customer reviews. This one had 20+, all positive, so we're taking a gamble. Originally we were going to get a matching soapstone sink but it came in at $1300! We decided we really didn't need the sink to be the showpiece of the room - it probably will be stacked high with dishes anyway!

Did more shopping at Costco.com from the faucets. Because they have free shipping and easy returns I bought two - this one and this one. Once they arrive we'll see which one we like best, if any.

Other great resources:
I've been spending a lot of time on the appliances forum at GardenWeb. People on there really know their stuff - good place to ask a question or just search their huge database.

AJ Madison is an online appliance store. I like the personalized attention I got at Curto's, but this site has all the big brands (and lots of smaller ones) and makes it really easy to compare different models of things.

Will post in progress demo photos as soon as I get my act together.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tess' cupcakes**

Big excitement - our kitchen renovation is happening soon, soon, soon - October 14 to be exact! This is the last job I'm taking until it's done, which should be right around Thanksgiving (fingers crossed, god willing, etc., etc.)

Tess' mother Brett first hired me last year to make Elmo cupcakes for Tess' 2nd birthday. (As an aside, this photo, taken with crappy light with my crappy camera, is far and beyond the most popular of all of our photos on Flickr, with 2200+ views to date. If you are a Flickr user and haven't checked out the stats section, you should - it's pretty cool.)

For her 3rd birthday, Tess wanted princess cupcakes - something similar to the cupcakes I made with leftover colored chocolate pieces from Lindsay's cake, but with crowns instead of doodads. The best thing about working with Brett is that she's not completely set on a design and gives me some freedom to make what I think would work best, so I decided to make teeny crowns out of gumpaste instead.

I tried a couple of different ways to make the crowns, using cutters, etc., but in the end came up with cutting long strips of gumpaste, notching the tops, and cutting those into little pieces. They dried overnight and I topped each crown with a dot of royal icing (normally I'd just use buttercream but I really wanted the dots to dry in place and royal's the best thing for that).

60 cupcakes in all, 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 vanilla bean, with an extra large one for the birthday girl. I just had enough batter to make 30 of each flavor and thought 1/2 a batch of my buttercream would be enough, but of course it wasn't - I was short at least 10 cupcakes. At 11pm the night before I made another 1/4 batch and finished them off. Good thing I usually have pounds and pounds of butter and powdered sugar as backup!

IMG_6282
Big one in the middle for the birthday girl

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Thinking they look a tad more like a jester hat than a princess crown, but that's ok with me!

Making the gumpaste crowns
action shot - how the crowns were made (because I know everyone was wondering:)

Making the gumpaste crowns
crowns ready to be topped with royal icing



**BTW - I actually looked this up - when using an apostrophe to indicate possession after a proper noun, either ' or 's is acceptable, but I think less is more:)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fire Island Cupcakes

This summer we were lucky enough to spend two lazy weeks in Fair Harbor, Fire Island, off the coast of Long Island. The best thing about it is that there's nothing to do, and the worst thing about it is there's nothing to do - except play at the beach, swim in the bay, eat ice cream at least twice a day, and have a lemonade stand!

I knew in advance that our kids wanted to do the stand and I was volunteered to make cupcakes. Our rental house had little or no supplies so I bought everything with me - measured out the dry ingredients in ziplock bags, packed muffin tins, even brought a little baggie of vanilla bean paste (the best stuff ever, as far as I'm concerned).

They turned out great, even with using a basic handheld mixer, instead of my monster KitchenAid. The kids made $40 bucks which included lots of tips, and my friend Keri and I got to have a three course meal of leftover buttercream!

Sara Bakes Cupcakes

Fire Island Lemonade Stand
Cupcakes and lemonade in action

Friday, September 12, 2008

Willie's Cakes

Today, meaning yesterday, I had every intention of posting, but now it's 12:31am and I missed posting something on the 1 year anniversary of this blog. But seeing as I'm still awake and it's still Sept. 11 somewhere, I think it counts.

I've been making cakes for everyone in Willie's family for a while (see Lindsay's cake, Lindsay's dad's cake, there was also a Lindsay's grandma's cake, but I was lazy and didn't take a photo). It was about time that Willie had a birthday and wanted a cake. But she ended up with two! How's that for a birthday treat?

She called me to order a mint chocolate cake - chocolate cake with chocolate mint buttercream. Said to decorate it however I wanted. She usually is the cake pickerupper (?) in the family, but said since it was her birthday, she'd get someone else to do it.

Two days later her husband called and ordered another surprise cake, red velvet, for a dinner they were having with friends the same night (choc. cake was for the family celebration at home).

Decided to do similar colors for both cakes and wanted to play around a little with simple gumpaste flowers. The handwriting on the chocolate cake admittedly isn't my best work (actually looks like it was written by a 99 yr old with the shakes) but I love how all the colors work together.

IMG_2153
red velvet

IMG_2157
chocolate mint

Monday, August 4, 2008

Eliza's ladybug cupcakes

Eliza turned 5 last week and wanted ladybug (lady bug?) cupcakes. The whole time I made them this song was running through my head.


Started with chocolate cupcakes. NOTE TO SELF: Before attempting to make really red buttercream at 9:30pm at night, remember to check if you have enough food coloring so ladybugs are really RED, not pink! It managed to turn out ok, the color definitely intensified overnight, but I still forget how much red food coloring it takes to make buttercream red instead of dark pink!

Hard at work. Made the black by mixing both cocoa and melted chocolate into the buttercream, and then adding black food coloring.
making ladybug cupcakes

Ladybug cupcakes

Almost finished, but I thought something was missing.
Ladybug cupcakes

They needed these - orange antennae (antennas?). Orange because I love orange. Made with melted white chocolate discs (that are absolutely gross, I think, but it doesn't need to be tempered, which makes life so much easier!)
IMG_2145

Finished!
Eliza's Ladybug cupcakes

As the birthday girl, Eliza got a bigger cupcake, the mommy of the group.
Mommy ladybug cupcake and her babies

Monday, July 14, 2008

Keri's mini cupcakes

My lovely wonderful brilliant friend Keri had a rad party last weekend and she asked me to bring some mini cupcakes. I made four different buttercreams: vanilla bean, chocolate, green tea and spice with matching cake flavors. I've had a teeny can of matcha powder for a long time and was happy to have a chance to use it. I think the buttercream color is awesome.

Doug took the pictures.

Keri's mini cupcakes

Keri's mini cupcakes

Your dessert is served

Brimfield!

For the "and then some" part of this blog:
I've been going to Brimfield, Mass at least once a year with Carol, my fantastic mother-in-law, for the last six or seven years. Three times a year Brimfield holds one of the largest open air flea/antiques markets in the country.

We went last Friday and it was a great day. We don't really go with anything particular in mind, but always end up with some interesting treasures at the end of the day. The things at Brimfield run the gamut from $10,000 credenzas to tents filled with stuff you couldn't pay me to take away!

My favorite tents are the ones where I can't afford anything - there are at least two or three places with the most fantastic collections of glassware from the 40s and 50s, stuff I'm obsessed with but have no more room for and to be honest, how many sets of primary colored Pyrex bowls can one girl have or use? I just like to look at everything all together.

There's always a lot of haggling there, but this year the buys seemed better than most. I left with an old glass creamer and sugar set, more vintage dish towels (trying to break my addiction to paper towels), an enamelware mixing bowl, another old apron (when/if I start a bakery, I'll have the best-dressed staff in town), and a cool piece of backyard folk art - a painted flower made out of horseshoes (should have taken a photo, because it's much cooler than it sounds!).

Posting some other photos to get a feel of the place. Get there if you can, and keep your fingers crossed for nice weather!

creamer and sugar bowl
First purchase - $5!

Azurite at Brimfield
Even at 20% off, it's still too expensive

bodies in a trunk
Bodies in a trunk

vintage tricycles
Love these

IMG_2099
My new dishtowels

glassware and bakelite
More glass

Brimfield tents
Brimfield tents

Rehearsal Dinner Cake

I've mentioned before that I work very part-time at Provisions, a fantastic little bakery/cafe in Pelham, NY. (For local Westchester readers, it just won "Best Prepared Foods South" in Westchester Magazine's Best Of 2008 awards). The owner, Nannette Conners, received a request a couple of weeks ago from a soon-to-be bride who wanted a cake that recreated the night she and her now-fiancee got engaged. They were on a futon and both were wearing casual clothes (she was in black and white checked pajama pants - a detail that you'll see later in the photos).

I made the people (I still don't know their names, so I've been calling them Ken and Barbie) out of gumpaste, something I've never done before but thought it would be fun to try. It was fun, but I decided almost at the beginning that they DEFINITELY were going to be cartoony-looking people, rather than trying to replicate them exactly.

In addition to the checked pj pants, she (Barbie) gave us specifics -- he (Ken) was wearing a blue shirt and a backwards baseball cap, she wore a pink t-shirt and had on big silver hoop earrings, AND there was a leopard print pillow on the couch next to her.

My favorite part about Barbie was the hair. I used a garlic press to make it, but gumpaste is incredibly sticky and completely gummed up the press the first couple times I used it. The bangs came together perfectly, and there was actually some resemblance!

The next day I transported Barbie and Ken in a shoe box to the bakery where I worked with Nanette to figure out how to make the cake. Turned out it was easy enough. We stacked two sheet cakes, cut it in half, and cut one of the pieces in half again. It looked a little top heavy, so I took of one layer and we had the dimensions we were looking for. The complete perfectionist side of me wanted to spend the next four hours making the futon look as realistic as possible, but I had to move on!

My first thought with the checked pants was to use black food coloring (liquid food coloring watered down with vodka works best) to paint black dots on the pants but this time the perfectionist side of me won out and I hand painted the checks on the pants. In the future I'd probably just do the dots because that was easily the longest process of the whole projected!

Two minutes before closing time I put Ken and Barbie on the couch of a trial run - they looked pretty good, and I hear the bride was happy. I'm looking forward to doing more of these - anyone need a gumpaste likeness of themselves?

boy in a box
Ken, without a hat or hair

here she is
Barbie, including silver hoop earrings

finishing up the pants
Painting Barbie's pants

IMG_2045
Cutting the cake, a little too top heavy

Finished cake!
The finished cake!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gabe's snake cake

I've had this post sitting in my drafts file for a week and I'm finally getting it together to post. Gabe turned 5 at the end of June and requested a snake cake -- specifically, one that "looked like a giraffe." I had no idea how I was going to make a cake big enough to feed the hoards of kids at his party (40+) with just one snake (and a 13" x 17" board), so decided late the night before to add a bottom layer made out of two 9x9 cakes. Cake was chocolate with vanilla bean buttercream (pretty much the only buttercream I'm making these days - it's that good!). To make the snake I made 4 6" layers and split each one. Then assembeled three cakes with three layers each, all spackled together with buttercream. Cut a hole in the middle of them and then sliced in half sideways and pieced it together. I used the remaining 2 layers to cut out the head and the tail (the remainder of the cake is still in my freezer, where it's slowly being chipped away by Doug and I).

The scales are made out of gumpaste which I cut into diamond shapes a couple of days before. Bad move - they were way too hard to bend on the cake, so I placed them on the night before and by morning had melted enough to smoosh them on. Finally, my overly warm kitchen is good for something! Last thing - see the nose? I didn't even think about snake's having noses until my 5yr old told me. Learning new things every day!
snake cake, making of the
Bottom layer

snake cake, making of the
One of three three-layered 6" cakes

snake cake, making of the
Piecing the snake together

snake cake, making of the
Snake on a cake (this one is really blurry for some reason, not sure why)

snake cake, making of the
Adding the head and the tail

snake cake, making of the
Frosted snake

snake cake, making of the
Pointy scales

Gabe's cake
The finished cake, taken by Doug, in our attic studio