Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Christmas Cookies in Blue



Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Special Christmas Memory


When my older brother and I were teenagers, we gathered with all our friends one Friday evening before Christmas for a caroling party.


It was bitter cold that night; and we stopped and sang at many homes of friends, relatives, and parents to all in our little group. After each song, we were rewarded with all kinds of sweets from divinty to fudge and steaming mugs of hot chocolate.



We are tired and giddy by the time we got to the end of the night, and the last caroling stop was at our house. As we entered our home, our senses were overcome by the fragrant aroma of homemade bread.






As we all floated towards the kitchen, we were welcomed by my mother, face beaming, standing next to a huge banquet feast including ham, potatoes, vegetables, salad and homemade bread. There were squeals of pleasure and gasps of delight at the sight of such an offering. We all melted into my mother's warm kitchen, eating and laughing, finally just too full to sing another note.





What a special memory for any teenager; and there is no doubt that all these young people never quite forgot this unexpected and pleasant Christmas surprise.


As an adult, however, I realize just how much this memory really means. My mother, at that time, was parenting three high-energy teenagers, as well as overseeing three bookstores during very busy holiday season. Looking back, I know she must have been thoroughly exhausted, yet somehow found the energy after a very long and taxing day at work to prepare homemade fresh bread and a glorious meal to surprise a few hungry teenagers.





Today, each day, I pray that I continue to practice the spirit of love and the magic of Christmas that my Mother tried to instill in me. Because the joy and hope of the Christmas season can be a part of each day of the year if I remember the important lessons my mother taught, and still teaches, through her daily life. And that is:


1. People are more important than things. Furniture and carpet can be replaced, but loved ones can never be replaced.
2. Love invested in others is never wasted.
3. The most valuable gifts cannot be purchased.
4. These three things remain, FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE; and the greatest of these is LOVE.

My Mom and Dad



Jacque Benson
all rights reserved 2008



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Victorian Christmas Cake




Recently, I was asked to participate in a special project for ICES ( International Cake Exploration Societe). The theme for this Day of Sharing was "Christmas Weddings" and I was ask to demonstrate for the group.


I have always loved the victorian styled Christmas with the soft laces and rich gilded accents and wanted to incorporate that theme into the cake's design. While working on the design to demonstrate for an ICES Day of Sharing, another request came to submit a cake and tutorial for the December newsletter. I was truly honored.


So design in hand, and all my cake tools packed, I traveled to Houston so my dear friend, Morgan Jackson, could professionally photograph the cake. Morgan was very accomodating as I literally took over her dining room, sugar and tools spread about as I began creating the cake. This was her first opportunity to see me decorate a cake; and we laughed and chatted as I worked throughout the night.


The next day was my turn to watch Morgan, a true artist, at work. She clicked and clicked away at the little monument erected on her dining room table. Although the photograher liked what she saw through the lens, she wistfully looked out the back door and sighed, "It would have photographed beautifully out in the sunlight."


To her surprise, I picked the cake up and headed out the back door into Morgan's green sanctuary . The sun was low in the sky, creating a warm glow on the cake, and the results were magical. The artist, now in her element, clicked away from every angle; and the results, as you can see, were just beautiful.
Kindred spirits and a collaborative effort always create the best things in life!
Thank you Morgan!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life is huge!


Rejoice about the sun, moon, flowers, and sky.


Rejoice about the food you have to eat.



Rejoice about the body that houses your spirit.


Rejoice about the fact that you can be a positive force in the world around you.


Rejoice about the love that is around you.




If you want to be happy, commit to making your life one of rejoicing.


- Author Unknown

GIVE THANKS!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Tea Anyone?





What a busy and exciting month July has been. I just returned from
Florida where the ICES convention was held this year and I was invited
to demonstrate making sugarpaste teacups.


I talked with so many wonderful people and was excited to meet Kim Morrison, whose cake, featuring sugarpaste teacups, was the Grand Prize Winner in the National Wedding Cake Challenge in 2003! She was my first inspiration to make a teacup. Thank you Kim!



I believe the process for making these cup and saucer sets are fun and simple; and I encouraged every person who saw this demonstration at ICES to go home and make a set for themselves.
I was surprised and honored this morning when, Patrice, one of the creative owners of Serenatea, sent me a picture of her first teacup and saucer! What a beautiful work of art!

http://www.serenatea.com/

If you are interested in learning how to make these cups and saucers, here are the dates of upcoming workshops...



August 16, 2008 -SugarWonders Cake Club-Dallas, Tx http://www.sugarwonders.com/workshops.html



October 22, 2008- Frost-A-Tiers Cake Club-Houston, Tx


http://frostatiers.com/modules/content/index.php?id=16



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Art Imitates Life Imitates Art...Especially when it come to Cake Decorating!


"At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art.Then life will find its very existence from the arts."~Fyodor
With the explosion of talented cake artists on today's scene, no other quote could be more accurate.
The following is the first installment in a series called "Art Imitates Life".
I will be pairing photographic art with cake art to showcase the incredible artistic abilities of different cake decorators around the world.
The photography is this article is courtesy of my dear friend, Morgan Jackson, a talented artist in her own right, who is able to find the extraordinary within her camera lens from the most ordinary things around us.
Her Scarborough Faire collection was captured at a local Renaissance faire, where admittedly, the distinct and dramatic personalities and scenery are far from ordinary.
I truly enjoyed gathering the following cake artist's exceptional creations to compliment the photography; and I hope you enjoy them too.

***********************************

WIZARD MAGIC
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson PhotographySUGARPASTE WIZARD

by Birgitte Mote
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

********************************

THE DRAGON
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson Photography
SCULPTURED DRAGON CAKE
by Debbie Goard
San Francisco, California, USA

***************************************

THE TOMATO BOOTH
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson Photography
http://natiscakes.com

VEGGIE TALES CAKE
by Natalia Leelavetchabutr
Melbourne, Australia
Nati's Cakes

*********************************************

PURPLE WOMAN
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson Photography


CELESTIAL SUN CAKE

by Kim Sanger
New York, USA


**************************************

GARDEN GNOME
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson Photography
http://butterfliesandbubbles.com

ENCHANTED TREE CAKE
by Birgitte Mote
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Butterflies and Bubbles

*****************************************

UNICORN
"Scarborough Faire Collection"
Morgan Jackson Photography



SCULPTURED UNICORN CAKE
by Heidi Glover
Stockbridge, Georgia, USA
Heidi's Cake Creations
http://hometown.aol.com/hccakes/*********************************************
The images contained in this article are copyrighted material.
Any unauthorized reproduction or display is prohibited without prior written permission from the owner.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Great Tools Make Life Easier for the Cake Decorator!




Just recently I had an unusual cake request-- a 14" Golf Ball Cake made of red velvet and filled with cream cheese. I, of course, said that I would be happy to deliver such a cake. But knowing everything that could possibly go wrong with a large round cake, my mind went into overtime thinking of every scenario that could go wrong and how I might avoid disaster!



However, I have do a few essential cake tools on which I rely; and I think every cake decorator should own for his/her peace of mind!

You see, The better the tools the easier the job!


This is especially true with cake decorating.


******************************************
LEVELING

Let's start with the foundation. If the cake isn't level, problems will occur with stability and
with the overall look of the finished cake.
One tool that has made life easier for cake decorating is the Agbay Cake Leveler.


Maureen Agbay is a cake decorator. Watching her work and seeing her Wedding Cake business escalating, her husband, Tony, decided to come up with an easier way to level a cake. He did just that, devising a wonderful and easy system to level and torte a cake at the same time.
Now the Agbay Cake Leveler has taken the struggle out of leveling a cake. To view how the Agbay works, click on this link:

This product is well worth the investment!! I asked for this for my birthday present last year, and glad I did!

***********************************************
STRUGGLING WITH FONDANT?

Another tool to make the cake decorators life easier to manage is the Fondant Lifter from ChocoPan.


The rings link together forming a flat surface to roll out the fondant. When the fondant is rolled to the desired diameter, simply lift the outer ring. The inner rings detach, but the fondant is held intact on the outer ring, which is easily lifted and centered over the cake. Lower the ring down over the cake, and now the fondant is ready to smooth.

This fondant lifter is easy to order from SweetArt.Inc online. I have personally found their service to be friendly, helpful and have quick delivery. Check it out!
*******************************************

DELIVERING A WEDDING CAKE IS SOOOO STRESSFUL!


Well, now there is a product the help alleviate the problems of shifting during delivery. Stress-free Cake Supports are true to their name! It takes the worry from shifting or sliding tiers! Arlene Haase is pictured here with her creation---the "Stress-free Cake Support System".




Instead of pushing in and cutting dowels, just measure the depth of your cake, screw in the plastic legs to the stainless ring measuring to the the exact depth. Then just center over the top of the cake and press in. Not only does this system save time, but the energy of worrying about the stability of your tiered cake!
Click on this link for more information on how to use Stress-Free Cake Supports:

I recommend this support system for any tiered cake delivery! Every cake decorator deserves the ease of Stress-Free Cake supports.

*********************************************

And Oh, the golf Ball Cake?? A complete success!


_____I love my cake tools!_____



Saturday, May 3, 2008

BECOME AN M&M


Here is the link to personalize your own look
on everybody's favorite candy--the M&M!!

Have Fun!

http://www.becomeanmm.com/

Friday, May 2, 2008

GRANDMA'S SHERRY CAKE


My Grandmother made the best sherry cake I have ever eaten.
After she passed away, I found her prize recipe.
Although her recipe was a doctored cake mix, her secret to
this very special cake was the thin custard she drizzled over
the cake while still warm.

I decided to recreate her cake by replacing the doctored cake mix with a recipe using all ingredients from scratch.
Here is the result:


Grandma's Sherry Cake

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup cream sherry
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-2/3 cups cake flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. With mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add sherry and incorporate into cream cheese, then cream in butter and add oil in a stream until emulsified.
Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients gradually until mixed in, then add vanilla.

*Pour into a prepared 9" pan ( greased and floured ) and bake for 30-35 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.
Place on cooling rack, and while warm drizzle sugar syrup over cake. Allow to cool to room temp, then drizzle custard icing over all.

Sugar Syrup

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T cream sherry
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add sherry and vanilla.

Sherry Custard Icing

2/3 cup milk
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cream sherry
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter

Stir milk and flour in heavy saucepan over med heat, stirring constantly until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream; add sherry and stir until well thickened. Cool until just warm.
In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy with a mixer. While beating, slowly pour in warm custard sauce and continue beating until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Pour over cake.

* Can also be baked in 2- 6" pans.



recipe by Jacque Benson 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Day


A Lingering Question

The sun washes over my face; the air is cool and crisp this morning in Washington DC, as I round the corner to find a long line in front of the Holocaust memorial. Taking my place at the end of the procession, I savor the spring sun covering the city with its warm glow. Those standing around me joke and chatter like magpies as the line moves forward; but upon entry, the severe, cold grayness of the museum marks a striking contrast to the cheerful daylight outside. The laughter suddenly stops; and a deafening silence echoes through the cold steel and concrete construction. Overhead is a suspended trestle and guard towers are at every corner, sending a shiver up my spine. With uncanny familiarity, I recognize this life-size replica of a Nazi concentration camp. A death camp. The hallways of this monument reverberate with the stories of millions who needlessly died, crying out with unanswered questions. But I already know these images through another man’s eyes, a Holocaust survivor; and his agonizing story echoes from these very walls.
To me, his image is as clear as the day we met in his tailor shop. The gray headed gentleman works steadily, deep in concentration, perched high on a table with his legs crossed. Bent slightly over his work, the Tailor stitches rhythmically; thimble glistening in the lights overhead. He looks up, smiles and hops down from the table. The gray haired man, though short of stature, speaks with adamant authority and seems almost larger than life. His eyes radiate a fierce, warrior-like determination, but his smile betrays a hidden softness. With a deep Dutch brogue, he introduces himself and I become his student.
This Tailor, by trade, is a teacher at heart, and a story-teller by nature. He is a patient instructor, and meticulously inspects all his students’ work. With eyebrows raised, he peers through his bifocals and sees the slightest error. If lessons are tedious, the teacher’s quick wit lessens the monotony. He is a natural storyteller and weaves a tapestry of words in colorful detail, regaling us with interesting tales of his life.

The Tailor’s accounts are engaging, as he recalls the joys of life in a large Jewish family in Amsterdam. He laughingly recalls the antics of his mischievous young schoolmates apprenticing with him during his years in trade school. His face softens and eyes mist as he gently describes his first love; but then his tone of voice changes, becoming staccato, eyes ablaze, as he chronicles his life’s later events. Recapturing the dark days of the Holocaust, he furiously enumerates the atrocities of the cruel labor camps... the unspeakable conditions... merciless beatings...horrendous work details...freezing winters...gnawing hunger... the unrelenting stench of death. Nonetheless, as the anniversary of the death march in Poland draws near, his ardent demeanor changes from fierceness to abject pain.
Now, instead of speaking of past events, he begins to relive them as the original agony returns to ravage his very soul. That fierce warrior, his protector from past monsters, abandons the Tailor during his afternoon nap, leaving him vulnerable to former demons. While asleep, a shadow of a man shivers from nightmares and unintelligible words spill from his pale lips. Awake, he moves about absently, slowly attending his duties in hollow silence. The sorrows of the world line his furrowed brow; and during this dark anniversary, any words he utters remain as mere whimpers until the distress, like a haunting ghost, fades for a fleeting stretch of time.
There in the weighty silence, an unspoken question, like a falling feather, floats about the shop. “Why does such cruelty exist?” A sewing machine roars through the penetrating silence; and its steady moan incessantly echoes the query, “Why, why, why?” But there are no answers, just an awareness of brutal reality that gradually covers the room like a shroud. It moves over my soul like a dark shadow, forever altering my perceptions of the world.
Once in a lifetime, whether by fate or by choice, paths intersect, and you meet another whose life, whose very existence, is so profound that your notions of life and love, of mankind and even God are shaken to their very foundations. For in one man’s existence lay the contradictions of life, and this man I know. My teacher, my friend, Coenraad Rood.

Jacque Benson 1997 all rights reserved

DANISH SPICE CAKE

This was a recipe published in the "Sugar and Spice" section of Gourmet magazine many years ago.
It has since become one of my all time favs and was the inspiration for the Recipe for a Happy Marriage!

Danish Spice Cake



Preheat oven to 375 degrees , and lightly butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Make Cake:
 In a large bowl, stir together

1-1/2 cups maple syrup
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
In a bowl, whisk together
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Stir flour mixture into syrup mixture and pour into prepared pan.

Bake Cake :
bake cake in middle of 375-oven for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature
to 350-degrees, and bake 45 minutes more, or until risen and brown and
cracked on top. cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the side and remove from pan.
 Cool cake completely on rack..

Make Filling:
In a bowl, with a mixer, cream together

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar

Fill Cake:
 using a long serrated knife , halve cake horizontally into equal pieces.

Spread cream filling on bottom half,
and on the top half spread
1 cup orange marmelade

Reassemble cake and place on plate.

Make Glaze:
In a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering hot water, melt

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon water

As chocolate melts, stir in

3 tablespoons butter
one tablespoon at a time.

 Transfer metal bowl to set over a bowl of ice and
and stir glaze until it reaches pouring consistency.

Glaze Cake:
 Pour glaze over the assembled cake . Spread over top of cake , allowing
excess glaze to drip over the sides.

Chill until ready to use. Bring to room temperature to serve.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Recipe for A Successful Marriage


Successful Marriage



Preheat oven by taking a good hard look at yourself with all your attributes and all your faults. Then prepare yourself by taking a realistic look at your mate. Note what you really love about your partner and be flexible and accepting of the other’s faults. Understand that marriage is not always an easy road, but if careful with each others feelings, it can be a great success.


Make Marriage:



In a large bowl full of space where each individual can grow freely and fully express themselves, stir together

1-1/2 cups God’s Love ( do not substitute )
1-1/2 cups Kindness
1-1/2 cups Patience

In another bowl , whisk together

3 cups Respect
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Understanding
1 teaspoon Generosity
1 teaspoon Forgiveness
1 teaspoon Sense of Humor
1 teaspoon Unselfishness
1 teaspoon Responsiblty
1/4 teaspoon Constructive Criticism
(This last ingredient is a leavening, so administer carefully and in
small amount or the marriage could turn bitter.)
Stir together and pour into prepared heart.

Bake Marriage:


Bake marriage in the middle of a hot oven full of life’s major hurdles for a time, then reduce heat and bake longer in life’s constant little irritations.
The marriage should rise above these problems and form a wonderful union. Note the glorious aroma.

Make Filling;



In a small bowl with a good mixer, blend together

1 cup Leadership
½ cup Gentleness

Fill Marriage:



With a Long knife of TRUST , cut the marriage into two distinct personalties. On the bottom, spread the Strong, but Gentle filling. On the top, spread

1 cup wit and intelligence, spiced with humor
.
Place distinct personalities together, one on top of the other.

Make Marriage Seal:



In a bowl, over simmering passion, melt together

½ cup JOY
1 Tablespoon Playfulness

Melt together, stirring in

3 Tablespoons Laughter

one moment at a time. Place over a bowl of goodtimes and bad times, and stir
until it flows freely.

Seal Marriage:



Pour this mixture over marriage, spreading over the top and allowing
to drip over the sides to others.

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It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer's empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

~Emily Dickinson