Healthy Eating on a Budget

Have you ever had a mini heart attack after seeing your grocery store total?  Or maybe you are in college, a new career, a big family, whatever and don’t have a ton of cash for food.

No worries!  It’s totally possible to eat healthfully while on a budget.  I promise.

No, really.

Cheap eating does NOT have to mean Ramen noodles for every meal.

Here are 10 tips for stretching a buck and still eating healthfully:

1.   Plan ahead!
Make a menu of meals for the week, check the pantry to see what you have on hand, and then make a shopping list for ingredients you need.  This way, you aren’t buying things at random that you really don’t need. Try to plan meals that will use the same ingredients so it’s less to buy.  For example:  Do you need a certain spice or sauce for one recipe?  Find another recipe that uses the same spice/sauce so you kill two birds with one stone. (Awful expression, sorry…)

Taco Soup2.   Do your research, and use your resources.
Before you throw the weekly circulars in the recycling bin, check out what’s on sale at various stores.  Some stores (like Walmart) will price match, too.  So if you find a good deal, bring in the paper for proof and save a little extra cash.
Another resource:  Online recipe sites for inexpensive meals!  Some of my favorites:

3.   Clips coupons…the smart way.
Look for coupons in the Sunday paper, online, or in stores.  Check out Coupons.com, SmartSource, and Coupon Mom.
BUT use them wisely.  If it’s a “buy 3, get 1 free” coupon, and it’s a product you rarely ever use, it’s probably not worth it.  Recently, I saw a buy 3, save $1 offer for milk cartons.  I would end up wasting money, because the milk would go rancid before I used it all.  (Yes, I’m aware you can freeze milk, but that grosses me out)
Another thing:  You CAN find coupons for healthy items.  And really, just because there is a coupon for $1 off 3 packages of Pop-Tarts does NOT mean you have to buy them.  Try buying a plain Cheerios with skim milk for the same amount of money. You’ll have a healthier breakfast. 

4.   Compare products.
If your store has a price per ounce or price per serving listed on the shelf, use it!  Also, surprisingly enough, store brand is NOT always cheaper.  For example: Pasta.  Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta is actually cheaper, per ounce, than the store brand at my Walmart.  Plus the Ronzoni has added nutrients and fiber.  Double win!

5.  Shop in season, and on sale.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Buying fresh produce in season is cheaper.

6.  Save on fruits and veggies.
Join a co-op!!  Look here for my first description of my co-op.  You get fresh fruits and vegetables on the cheap, which is wonderful.   Check out Bountiful Baskets (the one I use) or click here to find others in your area.
Another thing to do:  Buy frozen or canned.  Canned isn’t ideal, but it’s better than no fruits or veggies at all.  For fruit, look for them in fruit juice or no added sugar.
Frozen fruits and veggies are GREAT because they don’t go bad, and they’re a great way to buy produce when it isn’t in season.

7.  Avoid “convenience” foods.
Yes, that precooked frozen chicken breast is convenient and healthy.  But it’s cheaper if you do the work, buy raw chicken and bake it yourself.  Same goes for things like bagged salad and 100-calorie snack packs.  Oh! And same goes for oatmeal.  Getting the hint here??
The more basic the food, the cheaper it will be.  Wash, dry, and cut your own produce, portion your own snacks from a big container, and use plain old quick cooking oats (flavored with cinnamon or something). It takes a bit more time, but you’ll save cash.  Gotta pick your battles on this one 🙂

8.  Buy in bulk.
Do you have a food item you use often?  For instance, cereal, rice, or frozen berries?  Buy in bulk!  If it’s pantry items that will not go rancid, you can stock up and save a bit.  Stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco are great for this tip.  But many grocery stores have some bulk items as well.

Click here for a yummy make-at-home egg roll recipe!

9.  Eat at home.
Yes, that burger at McDonald’s is $1, but that doesn’t include fries or a drink.  Tack those on and your meal will be $3.  Cooking at home is cheaper!  I’ll admit, you may think “oh wow, this is expensive!” when you see your total at the grocery store. But take into consideration that you’re seeing your entire food cost all at once, instead of a few dollars here and there. In the long run, it’s cheaper.

You can also make your own snacks, too.  There are lots of recipes for granola bars, etc that will save money in the long run.  For instance, instead of buying a granola bar for breakfast on  the go, try this recipe:

10.  Don’t be wasteful, and watch portion sizes.
Try your hardest to use what you buy.  Otherwise, your money is going in the trash…literally.  This includes eating leftovers.
Afraid you won’t use all that you make, no matter how hard you try?  Freeze it!  Things like lasagna, soups, grilled meat, etc all freeze and keep well.

Also watch portion sizes, though.  If your portions are too large, you’ll consume more and spend more at the grocery store.  I always advise that people spend money on ingredients for healthy meals, and avoid wasting money on a lot of snacky foods like chips or desserts.  Especially desserts! Store bought snack cakes, ice cream, etc are more expensive than making something yourself for the times that you want a treat.

One last thing:  be realistic.  Sorry if this is harsh, but make healthy eating your budget priority!!  For instance, that new iPad that you use to order pizzas on the Pizza Hut app….the iPad cost a pretty penny.  Perhaps spend that cash on some healthy food and save up little by little for the new tech devices?  (Sorry, I’ll get off of my soapbox now) 🙂

I hope you find this post helpful!!!!
Do you have other tips that have worked for you?  Please comment and share!

Vegan Baking Tips, and Life Updates

There’s been a BIG response to my gluten free baking tips. So how about some tips for vegan baking??

Ok, so there are a couple of reasons for this “tips” post instead of another recipe. Truth is, life has been so busy lately that I’ve been severely slacking on making up recipes. Or even trying new recipes.

Hopefully, this will change soon and I’ll be back with lots of new things for all of you to try. Here’s what’s been happening in my life lately:

  • I turned another year older!! July 13th was my birthday, and even though I greatly dislike getting older, I love birthdays!! Funny thing? I totally didn’t have a birthday cake. My mom, sister, and oldest niece came to visit and bought a small cookie cake for us to share. Plus birthday gelato. I was so busy with cake orders and the TMNT cake you’ve seen that I didn’t have patience time to make another one.

    Birthday gelato! Yummmm

  • Little Bit Sweet, the business, is growing!! I’ve been very blessed to have more orders lately, and I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of organizing a small business. Holy cow it’s difficult! Especially when you have a science, not financial, mind. But I’m loving the learning experience for sure.
  • Work!!! As many of you know, I’m also a pediatric dietitian. And I’ve gotten pretty lazy respectful of my time at night. It’s a lot of work coming up with recipes and writing….and I’ve been slacking. Telling myself that it happens to the best of us. 🙂
  • Concerts, visiting family, seeing old friends. All fun things. Especially the concerts! I saw John Mayer & Phillip Phillips on my birthday, and will see Train, Maroon 5, and Kelly Clarkson in the coming months. Yay!!

    John Mayer mania. Look at all of the people!! And this was just the lawn seating.

Now that you’ve caught a glimpse at what’s been happening on the home front, how about we get into today’s post?

GF Vegan Cupcakes

Vegan baking is something I totally got into by chance. A few of my dear friends are vegan, and wanted to include them in celebrations. So I worked to make recipes vegan-friendly. Then, I got the order for gluten-free & vegan rainbow cupcakes. I HAD to learn at that point.

There have been opportunities to learn from failure….like the time I set the oven aflame.

But I learned a few things along the way. Vegan or have vegan friends? Here are a few tips for you:

  1. Use an egg replacer…a good one.
    One that will not cause the batter to explode and start an oven fire. Meaning, do NOT use baking powder and water to make an “egg” if you already have another leavening agent in the recipe.
    My favorite egg replacer is Ener-G Egg Replacer. You mix the powder with some water and use it just like a regular egg. I’ve also tried making a flax egg (1 Tbsp flax seed + 3 Tbsp water), but it will cause your baked product to have flecks of flax in it….leading people to ask “what’s in this?” If you’re making a muffin or bread of some sort, a flax egg works perfectly because there’s already flecks of stuff in the batter. As a general rule, though, I use Ener-G “eggs.”
    **Note: these replacers don’t work for custards and will also not replace egg whites for meringue…still working on figuring out replacements for those**
  2. You’ll need a milk substitute, of course.
    I tend to always use soy milk. Works like a charm, usually. And for baked goods such as cakes or muffins, I like using light vanilla soymilk for that little bit of vanilla flavor. Coconut milk, almond milk, and others are also said to work as well. I just haven’t tried them.
  3. Recipe call for butter? No problem.
    Use a vegan-friendly “butter.” My friend Rachael directed me toward Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and I haven’t turned back. (Seriously, I’ve learned what I know about vegan baking from her.) The buttery sticks work just like butter or margarine. You can also replace most or all of the butter with a fruit puree like unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana, but it will yield a different texture for the final product.
    Another tip: if the recipe calls for softened butter, substituting oil will also yield a different final texture. Butter (or “butter” in this case) when still cold and incorporated throughout the baked good, makes little air bubbles in the final product as it bakes and melts. So using oil instead of “butter” makes things a bit more dense…because these tiny bubbles won’t form in the batter.
  4. Chocolate chips can be dairy free.
    Look for it on the package. My favorite is the Enjoy Life brand.

    Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Try using vegan buttery sticks & non-dairy chocolate chips in this awesome recipe.

  5. If your recipe calls for buttermilk:
    Place 1 Tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough soymilk to make 1 cup total. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. It will curdle and look disgusting. Fear not. Mixes in just fine and is a perfect replacement for buttermilk.

And there you have it! You’re a vegan baking pro.

Well, not just yet probably….there’s a lot more to it than these 5 simple tips. But at least this will get you started.

Now back to my hectic schedule. Today, I’m baking my dad and grandpa a birthday cake. Fun!

Have a great day!!

Teenage Mutant Mania

Latest cake from Little Bit Sweet?  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

 

TMNT mania hit my kitchen this week, and I’ll be showing you pictures of the cake and cake pops separately.  I don’t want to steal focus from these little guys by showing the big cake 🙂

I love that I used to watch TMNT as a kid, and now it’s cool again.  Making this cake totally brought me back to watching TMNT cartoons and movies.

 

Here’s a few tips on making cake pops:

  • Make sure your cake pops have the right frosting to cake ratio.  You should add enough frosting to where the cake mixture holds its shape when formed into a ball, but not so sticky that it is a mushy mess when rolling them.
  • Refrigerate or freeze the cake balls to let them set after rolling them.  After the cake balls are dipped, do NOT put them into the freezer again.  Condensation will form on them if you freeze the coated cake balls.
  • To make sure the popsicle stick stays put, dip the stick in a little chocolate (or whatever candy coating you’re using) before inserting the stick into a cake ball.  The chocolate will harden and help keep the stick in place.
  • There are set-ups you can buy to hold the cake pops as you decorate them.  Like this one.
  • You can use fondant for the details.  To get the fondant to stick, use a little water (not even a drop) as glue. Wet fondant is super sticky and will stick to the cake pop.

 

Up next:  TMNT cake!

What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?

Gluten Free Baking Basics

GF Vanilla Cupcake

I have quite a few patients (and some baking customers) that follow a gluten free diet….for a variety of medical reasons. Most common of which is celiac disease.

 

And if you avoid gluten, you know it can be really hard to find tasty edible gluten free baked goods. For those that don’t know, gluten free products are often gritty, crumbly, dry, or a bit like cornbread.

 

Yuck.

Nothing against cornbread (I’m from the South and love it), but that’s not the texture I want in a cake.

So I’m here to share a few baking tips I’ve either learned or discovered along the way. If you follow a gluten free diet or know someone that does, hopefully these help!!

 

1.  Use gluten free ingredients

I know you’re thinking “duhh!!!”  but hear me out!  Things like baking powder can have gluten in them!! So…if you use a product that has gluten…your baked goods will have gluten.  See, important!

Always look for products that either say “gluten free”, don’t have gluten-containing ingredients, or look to make sure they aren’t manufactured in a facility that deals with gluten products. This info is all on the package.  Thank you, allergen labeling laws!

2.  Avoid cross contamination

This is THE most important part of gluten free …anything.  Baking, cooking, whatever.  Cross contamination means your gluten free product has been contaminated with something that contains gluten.  For those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, this can make them very sick.  And you don’t want the guilt of being the cause!

It’s best to have a different set of baking stuffs that you label “gluten free” and ONLY use them for gluten free baking. For instance, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, etc etc. Best to keep these in a separate cabinet too so there is absolutely no chance of cross contamination.

Also be sure to wash all pans and utensils really well with soap and water to get rid of any gluten that may be on them before you bake your gluten free stuff. (I know “stuff” is such a professional term)

3.  Find the right flour

You can’t use all purpose flour, obviously, so what should you use??  This is all personal preference.  I prefer to avoid a lot of rice flour, especially white rice flour, because it just seems to make things gritty.  If you like sandy cakes, go for it.  ….I don’t.

The best I’ve used so far has been Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix. Find it on Amazon, specialty food stores, or your local grocery store.  It’s pretty easy to find where I live.

Have a suggestion for a good flour?  Comment and share, please!!

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

GF Chocolate Cupcakes

4.  Xanthan gum

This is your friend!  Make sure you’re using a gluten-free gum.  Xanthan gum helps to keep the batter together and make it act more like a gluten-containing product.  It kinda replaces the gluten in the recipe.  Gluten is the protein structure that helps the batter rise, gives it shape, and give cakes and other stuff the chewy texture everyone knows.

Most gluten free flours will tell you how much you’ll need per cup of flour you’re using and what you’re baking.  For instance, it’s 1/2 tsp per cup of Bob’s Red Mill GF mix if you’re baking cakes.

5.  Don’t give up!

I’ve had a LOT of baking disasters with gluten free products.  If they don’t rise, probably forgot the xanthan gum or baking powder/soda.  They’ve fallen apart before (too dry). They’ve tasted gritty (gross). I could go on and on.

Stick with it and you’ll get it eventually.  And hey, if not, more and more bakeries are offering gluten-free products 🙂

That’s all for now.  There is a ton I could say here but it would get super boring….so I won’t.

Have a wonderful Sunday!!

Insider Training: Part 3

Time for another round of tips and tricks for bakers and foodies alike!

First off:  My prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by the tornadoes and severe storms that have ripped through the last couple of weeks.  Texas and Oklahoma tragedies two weeks in a row…wow.  Tornadoes are my biggest fear, and seeing the destruction from these storms has only strengthened that.  May God bless and be with all of those that have been affected.

 

Now, on to today’s post:  the next installment of “Insider Training”

More tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the years. Also be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Ready? Set….GO!

 

1.   Booze it up to smooth buttercream out.

My favorite tip to get smoothed out buttercream is to make the buttercream thick…like this recipe… and smooth it with an unquilted paper towel (shout-out to Viva brand!). BUT if your buttercream is a little thinner or you are using a canned frosting, which are too thin to smooth with a paper towel (they’ll stick to the towel) use vodka to smooth out your frosting!  Yes, you read correctly.  Place undiluted vodka into a spray bottle and lightly spray part of the cake.  Smooth out frosting in that area.  Repeat all the way around the cake.  But be careful not to spray too much.  You don’t want the frosting wet, just damp.  Otherwise, it will be a sloppy mess. And no worries, the alcohol evaporates, doesn’t change the flavor, and the frosting is left smooth and pretty.

Buttercream Frosting

2.   Get a grip.

When you’re using a piping bag (aka pastry bag, icing bag…whatever), it’s tempting to fill the thing to the top.  But if you fill it completely, twist at the top to close, and then squeeze from the end, you will not have very good control over the bag.  That and you will not have good leverage, so squeezing out the frosting will be more difficult.

Don’t do this!

Instead, fill the bag about 1/2-3/4 full, and twist about 1/3 of the way up.  Just enough to where you have frosting to work with, but still have a good control.  Like this:

This gives you better control. You’ll need to use your dominate hand to control the bag, and the other hand to hold the top of the bag so it won’t flop around.

When you use that little bit of frosting, squish more frosting toward the end of the bag, “burp” the bag (squeeze until the air bubble poofs out) and twist in the middle again like you’ve done before.  Sounds confusing until you actually do it…sorry.

 

3.   Make substitutions.

If you’re like me, you’re always missing a couple of ingredients.  Click here for a list of substitutions.
Also, make substitutions to make your recipe healthier!!!  Usually, you can decrease the sugar by at least a few Tbsp without any difference, use applesauce or other fruit puree in place of some fat in the recipe, etc.  Use nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, 2 egg whites for every full egg (this will NOT work in custards)…both of which work to decrease fat in recipes. What other substitutions have you made before?  Feel free to share!!

 

4.   Do I refrigerate??

A cake without filling and with just plain buttercream can typically last on the counter for a couple of days.  Do not refrigerate any fondant decorations that defy gravity (like bows).  BUT you DO need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting, cakes that need to last longer than about a day or so, and anything with a lot of perishable ingredients…like cream fillings for example.  Use your best judgement and be safe!

 

5.   Don’t let heat kill your extracts.

Extracts are mostly alcohols, so they will evaporate if subjected to high heat.  With them, goes their flavor.  So if you’re adding extracts to heated mixtures (like things that you make on the stove), add extract after you remove the mixture from the heat source.  This is why many recipes say “remove from heat and add extract.”  If in cakes and things like that, the extract won’t evaporate the same way..no worries.

 

6.   Be patient before frosting.

This one’s easy.  Hot cake will cause frosting to melt.  Which makes a mess.  A big, big mess.  Best rule of thumb is to wait at least 3-4 hours for a cake to cool at room temp prior to frosting.  Cupcakes can cool for about an hour or 1 1/2 hours and they’re good to go.  You may also stick a halfway cooled cake in the fridge to cool a little more quickly…though it’s not the best option.

 

Do you have any tips/tricks to share?  Comment and spread the knowledge!!

Insider Training: Part 2

Ready for more tips and tricks to make your baked goods a success?  (See Part 1 here)

Alrighty then, let’s go!

1. Cookies spread too much?

Most often, this is due to your butter being too soft when you cream the butter and sugar together. It can also be caused by using too little leavening (baking powder or baking soda) or leavening that is old/expired. One last cause that’s common is baking cookies on a hot cookie sheet. This usually happens when you bake one round of cookies, remove the cookies to a cooling rack, and put another round of cookies on the same pan to bake. If you are like me and don’t have the patience to wait for the cookie sheet to cool before you put another round of cookies on it, this will happen. The butter starts to melt and the cookie begins to spread before they begin to cook in the oven. Basically, your cookies melt a bit before they bake so they spread more.

2. When is the cake done?

Yes, you can use the “toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean” test, but I’ve also found other ways to check. First, lightly touch the middle of the cake. If it springs back to the touch, it’s probably done. Another way is to look for the edges beginning to pull away from the pan. Nine times out of ten, this is the method I use to see if my cakes are done. Be careful not to over bake if you’re using this method, though. You want to pull the cake out to cool when the cake is just pulling away from the edges, not when it’s shriveled and charred.

3. Using chocolate chips or other heavy ingredients in cakes/cupcakes/muffins:

If you just plop the chocolate chips into the batter and pour into your baking pan, the chocolate chips will sink to the bottom. You won’t get your pretty little chocolate chips throughout the final cake. The chocolate will look more like a crust at the bottom of the pan….not as pretty. To keep the chocolate chips suspended in the final cake, toss them in a little bit of flour before adding them to the batter. Not sure why this works, but it does.

4. Crumb-free frosting

Prep work time! To make sure that you get a crumb-free outer layer of frosting, especially when you’re sculpting cakes, you’ll need to do what’s called a crumb coat. What is this? A crumb coat is a very thin layer of somewhat watered down frosting that seals in crumbs. To do this: Set aside a little bit of buttercream in a small mixing bowl. Add a little water to the bowl until the buttercream is a consistency similar to ranch dressing. (How’s that for a visual? Spreading ranch on a cake. Yuck!) Spread a thin layer on the cake. Yes, it will look bad and it will be transparent. Allow the crumb coat to dry a bit before putting on your final layer of (usual consistency) buttercream. And voila! You won’t have to worry about crumbs in your pretty cake.

5. Fondant that doesn’t suck.

Are you one of the many, many people who says “I don’t like fondant. It tastes awful”? Well, you may have just tried a really awful tasting brand of fondant. Now let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that I like Wilton products for the most part because they’re great for the home baker. However, Wilton’s fondant tastes AWFUL!! So if you’ve only tried their brand, I beg you to try the good stuff before swearing off of fondant forever. I like to use Satin Ice and lately have also been using Duff Goldman’s “Duff” brand of fondant. Why? Because these are the two types I can buy in my area. Marshmallow fondant is also very yummy…I just don’t have the patience to make the stuff every time I make a fondant cake.

6. Getting fondant to stick:

You don’t need any special glue or extreme amounts of frosting every time you attach fondant to a cake. To put the fondant on the cake, you’ll need to put a thin layer of frosting on the cake prior to covering with fondant. To get fondant to stick to fondant, use water. For instance, say you want to make a zebra cake like this one. (or this one) You cut your zebra stripes out of black fondant, dip your finger in a little water, dab a tiny bit of water onto the back of the stripe, then stick the stripe to the cake. When water meets fondant, the fondant gets sticky. Think of it like pre-pasted wallpaper that has to have water as an activator.

C’mon. You know you have a baking question!! Comment and ask. I’ll answer them and write another “Insider Training” post. 🙂

Insider Training: Part 1

While baking my last cake order, I realized something.  There are a LOT of little tips and tricks I’ve picked up through the years that not every baker knows.  Whether little shortcuts or new techniques, each of these tips has made baking a lot easier.  And a LOT less stressful.

Let’s not beat around the bush.  I’ll get right to a few of the main tips I thought about while decorating.  Not all of the tips, just some for now.  Always leave them wanting more, right?? 🙂

1.   Preparing baking pans:

No matter what you’re baking, you don’t want it sticking to the baking pan.  Most recipes will tell you to grease and flour the bottom of a cake pan.  A couple of things here.  If you DO go that route, grease the pan and use flour for white or other flavored cakes; use cocoa powder in place of flour for chocolate cakes so the outside of the cake isn’t dusty white.

I highly recommend using parchment paper to line the pan instead.  Why?  It helps the cake come out easier, it’s faster, and serves as a great way to hold the cake together when you take it out of the pan and transfer to a cooling rack.  To do this, cut parchment paper in the shape of the pan, using just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  If you’d like, you can still grease the sides of the pan but not flour them.  Totally up to you.

2.   Softening butter:

Recipe call for softened butter?  No problem.  Place the unwrapped butter on a plate, pop it in the microwave on medium power, and watch it like a hawk.  To test if it’s soft enough:  press on it.  If your fingerprint is left behind, it’s soft.  If you see melted butter anywhere on the plate or the butter collapses when you touch it, it’s too soft.  Just FYI, butter that’s too soft will cause cookies to spread too much.

3.   Only the best!

Good ingredients make a good final product.  Using quality ingredients will lead to a better overall flavor and texture.  Well, usually.  I don’t mind getting store brand sugar, flour, butter, etc.  But when it comes to extracts and cocoa powder, go for the good stuff!  Especially cocoa powder.  After all, it IS the part of the recipe that makes a chocolate something-or-other, well, chocolate.  You want it to taste good and not be chalky.  Also pay attention to the expiration dates on things!!  Spices that are old will not yield the same amount of flavor.  And flour or baking powder that is old will not provide the right leavening for your baked goods.

Mounds Cake

4.   Make even cupcakes:

Using a standard ice cream scoop will get even, correctly-sized cupcakes or muffins every time.  Your products look more professional when there is size consistency, and this tip will help make that happen.  Using an ice cream scoop also helps make filling a cupcake pan less messy and faster.

5.   Cool down:

Before you take a cake out of its pan to cool completely, be sure you can handle the cake pan without using pot holders. Why?  This ensures that your cake has cooled enough to take it out of the pan. If you try to take it out too soon, the cake will crack.

6.   Level with me:

When making layered cakes, don’t forget to even out each layer.  To do this, cut off the domed top (if there is one) before stacking the cakes.  Best tool for this is a long, serrated knife.  Trust me, someone in the house will usually be more than happy to eat the discarded cake tops. (This was my roommates’ favorite part of me baking in college!)

7.   Sculpting:

Sculpting is an advanced art, so expect it to take a little while to get the hang of it.  But there are a few tips that will help.  Biggest one:  CHILL YOUR CAKE!  Stack the layers and pop the cake in the fridge to chill out for a while (usually a few hours).  This firms up the cake a bit so it will not crack, crumble, or be destroyed while you’re sculpting. Another important tip:  take off a little bit at a time to get your favorite shape.  You can always take more off, but you can’t put it back on.  Slow and steady is the best way to carve.

That’s all the tips for now.  Have something you’ve wondered about?  Ask!  Others are probably wondering too.