Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the move...

Its taken a little bit to get here, but as of now, Sugar Couture blog will be hosted within my website.

Please take a moment and shift your subscriptions to

I'm so excited to have everything in one place! See you there

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Past lives and Cake Convergance...

I've had past lives. Not necessarily the kind where I was Cleopatra, (though if its possible, I'm pretty sure in the last one I was a man), but the kind a lot of people, the most interesting ones at least, seem to have lately. My first love was film and after dreaming about being a great film director, I went to film school, and right after, found myself working on some pretty good stuff. Turns out that I was a pretty decent producer and had the opportunity to make some good work, have some great experiences, and meet some great people. When working on a film, you pretty much become a family... the hours are long and you really don't have time for anything else in your life, so you become very close to those you work with. When the film is done, everyone goes their own ways and starts their next extended family. You try to keep up with them, you really do.

But then in your next life...(or on facebook) you can sometimes cross creative paths again. And this is how I reconnected my cake life with the fabulous Yale Gurney. A million years ago, Yale was a production assistant on a documentary about modeling that I produced, working on his own film career. Now, in his second life, he's a brilliantly talented photographer. Its fun to discover your talents can stretch further than you ever knew. (who knew I could carve cake???) One of the more valuable lessons I've learned is that if you trust yourself to do your best, you'll always be surprised by what you're capable of.

Yale's photographs are rich and soulful. He's equally adept with still life, portraits, has a keen eye for documentary, and capturing a moment. Lucky for me, he was able to lend his talents to one of my recent favorite cakes. For her 40th birthday at Lucky Strikes in Manhattan, Lauren wanted a cake that was all about her... and Lauren is all about shoes. And travel. And glamourousness. And shoes. So her birthday cake was as fabulous as she is, and photographed on scene by the talented Yale Gurney. I'm thrilled to be able to share his photos with you. Everything you see is edible, make up, jewels, blackberry, shoe heel, passport... everything is sugar paste, and even the oreo packet, which contained real oreos!

Check out his web site and behind the photo blog for glimpses into the back stories.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Custom Wedding Favors...

Guests plan. They travel. They buy dresses and suits, and often very generous wedding gifts. Favors acknowledge their kindness and send them away with a sweet thought. The tradition goes back to the times when weddings were believed to be good luck and sending your guest home with a trinket, often a porcelain box filled with a sugar treat, would pass that good luck to them.

Today's wedding favors can be almost anything, but so often these well meant tokens end up in a drawer, until, lets face it, you get up the courage to toss them out. The best way to avoid the guilt and the clutter is an edible favor. Whether they gobble them up on the car ride home, or savor them the next day, edible wedding favors conjure up wonderful memories of the day, and satisfy a sweet tooth.

While most of my hours are spent in cake creations, for me favors can be a welcome creative diversion. I love the challenge of coming up with just the right idea for each couple.

Stacey and David are avid scrabble players, and they wanted something special that their guests would enjoy, but would make them grin with recognition at their long term passion. So with this inspiration, Sugar Couture created scrabble board cookie favors, 6" across, with "DAVID AND STACEY LOVE U" spelled out on the board. Wrapped in beautiful bow tied boxes, their guests treasured the thoughtful gift as they made their way through the huge cookie!

For an elegant wedding at the Plaza, a long time client and wedding planner ordered mini chocolate boxes, with two blossom chocolates in each box. The white chocolate treats were sprinkled with pink peppercorn centers, and filled with a luscious candied ginger ganache. Each box had a bow in a matching ribbon color and a label with the couple's name and date.

One of my favorite favor options we make are our edible escort cards... delicious sugar cookies with an edible image to correspond to the event decor. Each guests' name is printed on the cookie, along with their table number. Functional and surprising.

Of course monogrammed cookies, luscious salted caramels and chocolate truffles are always good traditional options. Mini cakes are a decadent and truly special treat. Packages of cookies made from a cherished family recipe is a smart and sentimental gift to send home with your friends and family. The options are limitless and are inspired by the wedding design and couples personal tastes.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Wedding Cake...and Context

One of the many reasons I love making wedding cakes, is that in some little way, I get to be part of the moment, the memory, of so many terrific couples. Some I hear from, some I don't, and sometimes, its years later, when the first child's birthday comes around when I hear how much they loved their wedding cake. Sometimes they tell me people still talk about it. So lovely to hear. Unlike so many other things in life, I don't take it personally when I don't hear from a bride on Monday morning... I didn't call my cake maker after my wedding, (would have been hard from Belize) but my cake was everything I wanted and more.

So when Matt and Natalie sent me these gorgeous photos the other day, I had to catch my breath when I opened the email. This is a cake I delivered myself, and when I left it there, all lonesome in the middle of a huge room, against the back drop of massive windows, looking out to the city skyline, I definitely felt the room engulfing what now seemed to be this puny little cake. I felt a little sad that it wouldn't be able to stand up to the show. But I was doing what I often council my couples not to... I was looking at it out of context! Its a whole different cake I see sitting before the beautiful couple, with the cheeky little guy sticking his finger into it, lit gloriously by the setting sun over Manhattan.... Suddenly this cake seems so much more than what it was when it left my hands. Matt and Natalie added that glow in the room that positively lit up that cake. Thanks to them for sharing this moment with me and teaching me, once again, the important lesson of context.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nonpareil Magazine

When I first stumbled onto Nonpareil Magazine, I knew I just wanted to be a part of it. Flipping through, I was smitten with the beautiful work and lovely photos, which you may know are two of my very favorite things!

Ever wanted to know how my lovely seating card cookies were made? DIY for that, along with edible cookie menu cards and corresponding table cake numbers can be found in the latest issue.

Thanks so very much to the lovely and ultra talented Lauren Hawkins of Lauren Hawkins Design who contributed her amazing talent to this project. She designed these cookie backgrounds, menu templates and gorgeous table runner. Lauren is a graphic genius and brilliant collaborator, who gets it right every single time.

So check out Nonpareil to read about my cookies, and drink up all the other brilliant inspiration in its pages!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Financiers... and a Give Away!

Last week was a tease. A brief moment of the promise of fall, and as I do every year, I started to get ahead of myself. While I didn't go so far as to pull the sweaters from hibernation, I did start to dream of dutch ovens and pressure cookers and all the hearty soup, stew and stocks that would soon be coming.

And of course, the beautiful week is followed up by the seventh or ninth or seventy ninth heatwave of the year, and so my dreams were set aside for a few more weeks. But since my oven is perpetually on, I thought I'd share a perfect in between season sweet, and hold a contest for the perfect baking molds for them, courtesy of the lovely people at!

Financiers are just the most lovely of cakes. They are loaded with rich brown butter, and lightened by the addition of powdered sugar. Hearty, soft and delicate they also can pack in a lot of flavor, pretty much anything you choose. Inspired by a flavor combination I fell in love with on a trip to Belieze, these treats are bursting with coconut and bathed in a delicious banana chocolate ganache. These cakes are endlessly versatile. They can be baked in one large round or in adorable individual molds. The best part yet... extra batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, making freshly baked dessert available to you at a moments notice.

And to make these beautiful babies just as adorable as they can be, I'm giving away two silicone baking mold sheets from To enter, leave a comment under this post about your own autumn inspired culinary fantasies by 5pm Friday, September 3, 2010 and I'll pick a winner, and announce them on Tuesday, September 7th.


For the Financiers:
(Inspired by a recipe by Sherry Yard)

8 oz or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup coconut flour (Bob's Red Mill is one brand)
3/4 cup cake flour
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp natural coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high, and cook it until the milk solids start to brown. Watch it carefully to prevent it from burning. Like caramel, its really easy to go from brown deliciousness, to burnt as you blink. Its also best to use a lighter colored pot for this, so you can see the transformation. Set the butter aside to cool for at least a half hour. If the butter is too hot it will ruin the cakes, so definitely let it sit but don't refrigerate it either. It needs to stay liquid.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pans you're using by spraying with pan spray, or butter and flour them. Silicone pans shouldn't need more than a quick spray.

To amp up the flavor of the coconut flour, add it to a pan on the stove and toast it over high heat, stirring constantly to keep it toasting evenly and avoid burning it. It just takes a few moments to turn a warm toasted color. Let this cool. Sift the cooled coconut flour, cake flour and sugar and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix with the paddle attachment to combine. Combine the egg whites and extracts. Add this all at once to the flour mix and set to medium speed, mixing for 3 minutes.

Add the cooled butter all at once, scrapping down all those delicious brown bits, and mix for another 3 minutes. To make it easy to put into the individual sized pans, I transfer the mix to a pastry bag (plastic bag with the end cut off works just fine too) and fill the sections about 3/4 of the way up. Bake at 350 until just barely golden and set to to the touch... or the top bounces back when you touch the center of the cakes. I know you want times, and I'm sorry that I can't provide them... every oven is different, pan size, type etc can all add or subtract from timing, so the best indicator to start to watch them is your nose. When you start to smell that delicious coconut flavor, its time to keep a close eye. You'll be a better baker for it. Trust me.

When done, move them to a cooling rack, and unmold as soon as you can safely touch them.

The sauce:

4 oz heavy cream
4 oz best quality chocolate
1 large banana
1/8 tsp salt

Turn oven to 375. Poke banana a few times with the tip of a knife. Place it in the center of the oven and roast it until black...about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If your bananas are very ripe, you can skip this step.

Heat cream in a small sauce pan till boiling. Pour boiling cream over chocolate and let this sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk this until the cream and chocolate combines fully, into a shiny chocolate mixture. Put the banana and salt into the bowl of the food processor... process until smooth, then add the chocolate and process until fully combined and smooth.

Pour the chocolate cream on the plates, and place the cake on top. If you'd like to make the garnish, take another banana, slice it and dip the slices into granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to brule the sugar. If you don't have a torch handy, you can do this in a broiler, watching it carefully to prevent burning. Let them cool before touching them, then place on the tops of your cakes.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Setting a Scene...

I come from a long line of very crafty women. From the moment I could make a fist, someone was putting a pompom in it. I was never fortunate enough to have met my maternal grandmother, but I hear tales of her ability to recreate a dress after simply seeing it in a store.
There were pot holders weaved from nylon bands, that no sane person should ever try to lift a heavy, hot pot with, unless they want to fuse the nylon to their hands. Hook rugs, needle point, beads, and sewing in the early years. Lots of pipe cleaners, but for the life of me can't remember a single use for them.

When I moved to New York, I was sure that my city lifestyle (and SUPER small apartment) was no place for craftiness. Thought it was uncool. But always the creative type, I headed to film school. I thought I would make films. I did make films, but while I was, I was also dabbling in photography, furniture building, mosaics, candles, late night baking, pretty much anything creative I could think of. There was a need to MAKE something, no matter what it was. My husband Jay defines the periods by how they affected him... glass in his feet in the mosaic days, gaining 10 pounds when I started making pies. (ok not really, he never gains weight ever, no matter how much sugar and left over cake I feed him. Hate him.)

I had no idea at the time that I was in training... turns out that all of those skills have at some point been useful in my cake journey. I know how to build things, create things, Make things. (thanks Mom) But what I think sometimes makes my work different from the other brilliant, talented cake people, is that I see things in scenes. And another perk of this choice of career is that I get to photograph my creations. No doubt my skills have grown since that very first creation, both in cake and in photography, but I still look forward to that moment after the cake is done when I get to set the background and the lights and capture the moment. My goal is not just to make a cool cake, but to set a scene and to convey a feeling in it, just like a shot in a film should, to tell their story in images. And just like people, some cakes photograph wonderfully, look gorgeous, and others... well, lets just say they have a great personality.

In cake, and photography, its all in the details... And as in film, rather than tell you my interpretation, I'd rather hear yours.

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