Lessons Learned from the Naked Cake

naked cake with fresh fruit

I’ve been asked to make another naked cake for two weeks from now! Here’s my first one above, made last summer. Well, technically this was my third one, I made two in preparation for this one and brought them in to work for comments and taste testing. I had made two versions: one completely from scratch and the other used a recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor. The cake mix won! Obviously I added my own touches to the recipe, because that’s just what I do ūüôā

I learned a lot from making these cakes. While they save you some time in decoration they have their own unique issues.

  • You MUST bake each layer so that they are the same color when they come out of the pan. Easier said than done! This means they can’t be on two different shelves in your oven, or they come out lighter or darker and this shows. You can see that my 6″ layer on top is slightly darker than the rest. It’s hard to gauge when baking because you can’t see the sides of your cake.
  • Try not to sugar your fruit on a hot day. This cake was done in July¬†and the fruit was sweating as I was putting it on. I had made them the day before and left them on the counter. I had read NOT to put them in the fridge as this makes them get even more condensation and sweat further. Good advice!
  • I tried a few versions of the sugaring that I found online. In my opinion the best was warm water and unflavored gelatin. Just drag the fruit or leaves through it, and then into superfine sugar. I didn’t have superfine, so I put regular sugar into my food processor and whipped it around on low. Don’t use high, you might end up with cotton candy!
  • Filling: if you’re going to use a preserve for a filling you need to decide whether or not to let it drip out. On Pinterest I see ones where they let it just drip completely. If you don’t want it to come out, make sure to pipe a dam of frosting to hold it in.
  • What to use for fruit? I found the best were smaller fruits. I used grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red currants. I used sage, grape leaves and vines and raspberry leaves from my garden. As an artist, I look for different shapes¬†and¬†different colors that still relate to one another. My favorite part of this was the sage leaves, the cascading currants and¬†the grape vines trailing around.

It’s fun to create this type of cake. At first I was nervous that it wasn’t going to look good, but as soon as I started to put the fruit on, it magically came together and looked great. Have fun creating one – and I’ll post the next one after it’s made!

naked cake by Anna Harding

 

Stained Glass Set for a Bat Mitzvah Gift

stained glass photo frame by anna hardingHere’s a stained glass¬†Bat Mitzvah invitation box with a matching photo frame. I was originally asked by one person to make the box, then a few weeks later another customer asked for a box – for the same girl! So I suggested the photo frame. I don’t make them too often because they’re just as much work as the box (maybe more!) and so little of the actual invitation remains. But in cases like this, I think it works great. I did ask my first customer if she was okay with it before I proceeded as I didn’t want her to feel like her gift was lessened in any way. The second customer okayed it with the girl’s mom so we were good to go.

stained glass keepsake box by anna harding

stained glass invitation box

Victorian Building Loses to Cheap Junk from China

stafford springs victorian
Maple Grove Inn / Parley Converse House

This beautiful Victorian/colonial house in Stafford, CT was demolished Monday morning. When I drove by in the morning it was standing, by the end of my workday it was a pile of rubble. I had known it was going to be¬†torn down¬†since winter and felt so sad over it. Such a gorgeous building, it deserved to be preserved and cherished by the town. I drive by every day on my way to work, musing about how nice it would be to have a fabulous bakery and tea room residing in it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the funds or really enough experience to make that work.

The colonial house had been built in 1816 by Parley Converse, one of the founders of the local wool mills. It received a Victorian renovation in 1870, then became a restaurant in 1930s, lasting up to recent times. The building was over 5,000 sq. ft. There had been efforts to save it, including a Facebook page but they failed.

It was in very good shape and had¬†served¬†upscale French¬†cuisine.¬†From the story I¬†remember hearing, about ten years ago the owner would¬†only¬†sell it to someone who would renovate it.¬†The¬†listing read,¬†“Turn key opportunity with a little elbow grease and paint….All equipment in place and inventoried…includes period moldings, ornate stairway and porches, 5 marble and 1 slate fireplace.” The new owner did fix it up, and rented it out as a restaurant again. My husband and I were so excited to go to the new Italian restaurant. We get there and were terribly disappointed! Whoever did their “decorating” should have been shot! They ripped out the¬†ornate¬†trim in the seating area and gave it all the personality of a Subway sandwich¬†shop. Awful. In the hallway you could see some marble and a nice stairway, and the front parlour was intact, but only being used to store boxes. The food was¬†okay, but not great. So sad. The restaurant didn’t last long but that wasn’t due to the economy. In fact another restaurant within walking distance was thriving – and even added on in recent years. Oddly enough that place has an ugly exterior but nice decor and the food is excellent.

According to what a friend overheard the owner was tired of trying to rent it out to places that couldn’t make a go of it and he felt it was the building’s features that inhibited his ability to find a viable tenant. So he decided to demo it and put up¬†–¬†a dollar store! When I told my boss what was about to happen, she was nonplused: she said, “That’s the town with the race track, right? They’ll be happier with the dollar store.” Grrr….perhaps she’s right. The townspeople didn’t put up enough of a fight to save it: people will move on, forget all about the beauty of their town, let people come in and replace it with ugly concrete and steel boxes…and cheap junk from China.

Save the Maple Grove has this video and several great pics on Facebook:

A Glass Wall Hanging for a Wedding Invitation

wedding invitation wall hanging

Here’s a simple but pretty wall hanging for an invitation. This one was for a wedding. It’s made with textured glass called Everglade. The¬†swirls in the glass make it¬†special. I used decorative brass corners plated in antiqued silver, which I added just a hint of gold powder onto. The frame uses a traditional picture framing “sawtooth” hanger. This way you don’t have an unsightly line showing through the clear glass!

Pressed Flower Invitation Box

stained glass invitation box

It’s been ¬†such a long time since I’ve posted – truth is, I’ve been so busy this year that I couldn’t take on any additional work, so I didn’t want to encourage it. This past Spring and Fall I¬†was¬†helping out with the CT Renaissance Faire for their Robin Hood and King Henry Vlll shows, painting sets. Now that it’s winter I can take on more of my own projects. So here’s a box that I did this earlier this year¬†with pressed flowers. It’s for a Bat Mitzvah but¬†does show two names – two girls had theirs together. I love using textured glass for the sides, this pattern is called “Thistle” and comes in amber, blue or clear. I only press some of the flowers myself as I haven’t had time to get into too many varieties of ones that press well. My mom presses some, and the rest come from a woman in ¬†Washington State, except for the four-leaf clovers which I purchased online. Maybe it’s cheating to use GMO clovers – but they’re so cool!

Wedding Invitation Memory Box with Contemporary Flair

stained glass by anna

A lot of people think of stained glass as being old fashioned or cute. I think that stained glass CAN have a contemporary look to it. Made with clean lines, minimal colors and less “fluff” (which I happen to like at times!), stained glass can have a modern feel. I’ve done these three boxes with clear or ivory glass, crystals and pearls. Elegant but not stuffy!
wedding gift memory box by anna
Wedding glass box

Sochi Dogs Up for Adoption

If you know of anyone at the Olympics, tell them to go find this place and bring back a dog! Hopefully they are able to rescue even more and find them loving homes.

So awful that this has to take place, if only people neutered their pets and were responsible owners in the first place, you wouldn’t have packs of dogs roaming around.

Warning: the video below describes some graphic imagery.