Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Cookie Layer Cake

Are you thinking of surprising someone with a homemade birthday cake this year?  Try making a layer cake decorated with iced sugar cookies in whatever shapes the recipient may like, but go the extra mile and add their nickname in cookie form as well.  Whenever I hear the term, "cookie cake", I think of either a layer cake or sheet cake with cookies attached to it.  A flat chocolate chip cookie 'pizza' iced and decorated to look like a cake is not a cake in my opinion.  


Having alphabet cookie cutters in one's pantry is a must if you are a cookie crafter, cookie baker and cake decorator.  They allow you to spell out a person's name, a greeting or even their nickname.  They come in various fonts and sizes, so pick and choose whatever you like, and then create personalized cookies or cakes.

This past week I baked a delicious chocolate layer cake and iced it in delicate Swiss meringue buttercream.  To this I attached royal icing cookies in the shapes of hearts and letters along the sides of the cake, and on the top.


Take a look at how easy, yet showstopping a cookie layer cake like this can be.



The royal icing recipe and the sugar cookie recipe are from yours truly.  Do a quick search on the blog for those recipes.  Use heart-shaped cookie cutters (I used my Martha by Mail Hearts Set) in whatever sizes you wish, and cut out as many as you think you're going to need.  Take my advice and cut extra.  For the letters, I turned to the Martha by Mail Alphabet Set in our pantry, and cut out my friend's nickname, not once, but twice.  I wanted the cake to have 'Bubbles' all around the cake, and since I was thinking of baking a large 10" round cake, I wanted to make sure it was completely covered in cookies.

Leave the royal icing white, and quickly outline and flood your cookies.  Using rainbow nonpareils, sprinkle as many as you want on each cookie while the icing is wet.  Set them aside to dry completely. 

Note:  do not freeze iced cookies with these rainbow nonpareils because they will bleed upon thawing.  It's best to store the cookies at room temperature (tightly sealed) for up to two weeks if necessary.


The rich, yet light chocolate cake recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  It's her 'One Bowl Chocolate Cake' recipe which is always outstanding and very easy to make.  For the surprise birthday cake, I baked a double batch of the recipe and divided it between two 10x2" round cake pans.  These baked at 350F for approximately 45 minutes.  

The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is also from Martha.  I like to use the larger quantity version because it's best to have extra and not run out.  Any leftover Swiss meringue buttercream can be frozen for a later date.


Once the cakes have cooled sufficiently, pop them in the refrigerator to chill and begin making your buttercream.  As soon as the buttercream is ready, take the cake layers out, and place one of the layers onto a cake decorating turntable.  Add a good amount of buttercream to the top of the layer, and then gently sandwich the other layer on top of that, making sure that the layers are centered.  Quickly give the entire layer cake a crumb coating.  You can then chill the cake for about 30 minutes.  The buttercream can stay out in a cool spot, covered with plastic wrap.  Once the crumb coating is chilled, frost the entire cake, applying the buttercream either in one smooth coat, or having it textured as you wish.  The top of this cake was embellished with stars using a large Wilton 1E piping tip.  I then added all of my hearts cookies facing in one direction.  The letters were then gently added all around the cake.


You can see the back of the cake.  It too spells out 'Bubbles'.


I simply adored making this cake because it was for a very special person.  Everyone who saw it at work said that it looked too pretty to eat.  But, do you know what I thought?


I thought it was too good not to dig into as soon as I was done photographing it. :-)  By the way, my friend Kelly loved every bit of it.


Happy Birthday Bubbles!  

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Removing Security Tags from Antique China

It isn't unusual or unheard of to encounter antishoplifting tags on items at antique stores, antique malls and consignment shops. Security stickers on antique and vintage pieces can be problematic if the adhesive is particularly strong or if the tag has been on the item for a number of years.

Antishoplifting tags are made by embedding layers of metal coil resonators within nonconductive materials.  These tags will transmit a signal to the security gates if they have not been deactivated.  This is good if you are the antique shop owner, but bad news if you're the buyer.

Depending on the type of piece you've purchased, Goo Gone Original can be life changing.  If you collect fine china, keeping a bottle of this adhesive removal product in your home is a must.  All high end antique stores & vendors will have security tags on their precious objects, so be prepared.

Antique Drabware ca. 1810-1820

Several years ago I came across several pieces of antique Wedgwood drabware from the early 1800s at a high end antique store that I could not walk away from.  Call it fate, call it good luck.  I think it was meant to be.  What I wasn't expecting, though, was to have antishoplfting tags that seemed to be fused to the undersides of my plates and serving dishes.  As annoyed as I was, I knew that I had to treat my treasures gently if I wanted them to remain undamaged.

Antique Wedgwood Drabware Dessert Plates ca.1820

You can see my pathetic attempts at removing these tags by trying to peel them off of the gilded drabware dessert plates.  The paper peeled off, but the remaining materials didn't want to budge.  They were tough.  I asked several of my friends what they would do.  Some suggested Goo Gone, and others suggested peanut butter.

Antique Wedgwood Drabware Plate

I started by removing as much of the label as possible without resorting to anything.  The paper part was easily removed, but the metal coils were impossible.  I tested one plate before making sure that the Goo Gone was going to work without damaging my antiques.  

Working in my kitchen next to the sink, I laid each plate on a clean, soft kitchen towel.  I then soaked a cotton ball in Goo Gone and applied it liberally over the entire tag.  This was then left to soak for about 5 minutes.  I then used a plastic bench scraper to gently remove the tags.  Most of them were able to come off, but a few were rather stubborn, so I reapplied more Goo Gone until the metal coils came off.  Thankfully it worked!

Each piece was then carefully washed in warm water with a mild dish soap to remove any excess product.  After I hand dried each plate and serving dish, I inspected them for any scratching or color damage, but I detected nothing. 

Note: read the directions and warnings on the bottle, and always test this product before using it.

Lakin Pottery Drabware ca. 1810

This unusual drabware serving dish from ca. 1810 is not Wedgwood.  The gilded piece has a handpainted landscape scene in lovely shades of plums and creams.  The scrolled edges are accented in thick bands of gold.  I love it so much.  


Do you see the imprint?  It says "drab porcelain".

Lakin Pottery Drabware ca. 1810

Here is another early nineteenth century gilded drabware serving dish with a landscape scene in the same shades as the previous piece.  Simply beautiful!


The imprint of this serving dish says 'Lakin'.  What this means is that both pieces were produced by none other than the North Staffordshire pottery works of Thomas Lakin, sometime in the early 1800s.  Thomas Lakin Pottery began producing pieces in the late 1700s and continued to do so through the early part of the nineteenth century.  Undamaged pieces such as these are indeed treasures.


A mix of antique Wedgwood, Lakin and Spode drabware.


The stamp of early Wedgwood is unmistakable.



The thrill of the hunt for unique and rare pieces of fine china doesn't have to be thwarted by a simple security sticker or tag.  Having a bottle of goo gone will have your pieces ready for display on a wall, a cabinet, a breakfront in the dining room or an heirloom hutch in the kitchen.  Remember: antiques are meant to be shared, so display and enjoy them!