Monday, January 31, 2011

Amazing Trompe L'oeil Chocolates Cake

Cake is good.  Chocolates are good.  Cake cleverly designed in the shape of gourmet chocolates is brilliant, especially when done this well, by the amazing Rosie of Sweetapolita:

Looks like a box of chocolates, right?  NO!  They're mini cakes (each one just the right size for one or two people)!  

I know!  Jaw dropping!  So clever and fun!  I can't imagine a more fabulous cake for a Valentine's day wedding.  Check out more pictures of these amazing confections and learn more about how Rosie made them on her blog.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Repair Work and Catching Up

I feel a little silly for saying this, but it's too bad that we at Tradewind Tiaras don't get many repeat customers.  I certainly wouldn't wish divorce on anyone, but I really love working with our brides!  It's a special treat when we hear from our brides after the wedding.  Most often it's for a request to have a tiara restrung, or a peak at their wedding pictures(which I adore):

But every once in a while, we get a special request.  Like the bride from 2002 whose Vassar comb had been claimed by her two young daughters for dress up play.  As the mom of two young daughters, I know exactly what kind of damage they can do, but we can fix even that!  Or the bridesmaid who had been given custom earrings we designed for a wedding years ago...and had lost one.  We searched out the necessary vintage Swarovski component and made a perfect new duplicate for her.

So even if your wedding is long over, keep in touch.   We love to help out if something happens to that heirloom tiara.  Send us your pictures.  Talk to us about custom work for your first child's baptism.  Or just chat.  We love to hear from you, whatever the reason!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to Line an Envelope

One of my favorite ways to customize an invitation is with a lined envelope.  Sure, you can pay the invitation company extra money to provide you with lined envelopes, but it's a fun and easy DIY project, and you have infinite possibilities for creating exactly the look you want.

Materials for making a DIY Lined Envelope:
  • Envelope of your choosing
  • Pencil
  • Paper for creating template
  • Pretty paper for lining the envelope
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
Instructions for Lining an Envelope

1)  Use a pencil to trace the shape of the envelope on a piece of scrap paper and cut out the shape.  

Trim 1/4 inch off of the left side, and 1/4 inch off of the right side of the template.  Trim 1/2 inch off the bottom of the template.  Leave the pointed top edge of the template exactly as it is.

2)  Use the template to trace and cut the shape on a piece of pretty paper.  Scrapbook paper works well for this, but can get expensive.  High quality wrapping papers are excellent for this job, and come in a huge array of colors and designs.  Art and paper shops often have large sheets of stunning papers available for a more economical price as well.  

3)  Slip the liner in the envelope.  Use a glue stick to glue only the top (pointy) portion of the liner paper to the envelope.  Do not glue lower than the fold!  When gluing, be sure not to cover the adhesive on the envelope itself.  Trimming the 1/2 from the bottom of the template should take care of this, but it's still important to be conscious of placement when gluing the liner in place.  

That's it!  It's an incredibly simple project, but really adds such a visual difference.  I love pretty little details like these that set the tone for the event to come.  

Other Ideas for Lined Envelopes
  • Having a character-themed birthday party?  Look for licensed scrapbook or wrapping paper and use that for the envelope liner.   So much more fun and interesting than a plain birthday invitation!
  • Don't limit yourself to paper.  Imagine using lace, or a calico print fabric for an event with a shabby chic or vintage vibe.  
  • How about this amazing idea using photos printed on paper from Martha Stewart Weddings:

Get creative!  That's the point of DIY projects like this--make your invitation yours.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bargain Find: Elegant Miniature Frames

As I was out shopping, plotting, and planning an event I'm working on, I came across these darling miniature frames.

They have a whimsical, Baroque style to them (at least I think "Baroque" is the word I'm looking for; I reserve the right to correct this post when I get a hold of my art-historian friend who actually knows this stuff).  They're ideal for labels on dessert tables, seating assignments, and wedding favors.  And at only $1 each at Michael's, they're a great bargain.

The fall color palette not right for your event?  A can of spray paint would take care of that in mere minutes.  I can't wait to use mine!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Real Wedding: Leslie and Patrick

I've been a fan of Arizona wedding photographer Spencer Boerup's stylish, imaginative work for a while, and when I saw Leslie and Patrick's Prescott wedding, I knew I wanted to share it with my readers.  Such beautiful, custom touches.  Such a beautiful setting.  Such gorgeous documentation of the wonderful event.  Just fabulous!  Take a look at what I mean:

So many handmade touches at this gorgeous wedding, like these signs, and the path decorations.  They really set the scene and the tone for the entire event.

I love these captured moments of pure joy!


What beautiful details, carrying that bright, fabulous color palette through the entire event.

I love tented weddings!  

I love the way Patrick and Leslie used the colorful tissue poms to decorate the tent.  What a marvelous and inexpensive way to make a big white space customized to fit your theme.  

To see many more (and larger!) pictures of this stunning wedding visit Spencer Boerup's blog.  And while you're there, take a look at the latest post, an amazing ABC photography book he created for his nephew.  It's the most beautiful, thoughtful baby gift I've ever seen, and now I desperately want one for my little girl (And lucky me, he's an Arizona based photographer)!   First comes love, then comes marriage...  you know you're going to want one of these eventually.  ;-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fabulous Product: A Sweet and Customized Return Address Stamp

Sitting down to address all of your wedding invitations is a daunting task.  I put it off until I absolutely couldn't any longer, and ended up with the most clawed, cramped hand by the end of the evening.  I can't get behind how some people print out sticker labels for their wedding invitations--that's just a little too mass-mailer-advertisement for me.  But I can completely get behind these darling return address stamps from Note Trunk Stamps + Paper to ease the burden of writing everything by hand.

So sweet, but somehow elegant at the same time.  I love these designs!  And this is an item that you'll be able to use for years to come (at least as long as you're still living at the same location), unlike most items bought for a wedding.  

Some purists insist on everything on the envelope being hand-written.  But with custom stamps that look this good?  I say stamp away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A cupcake for You: Ice Skating!

And here's the end to my week of cupcake posts, the last design I worked on this week.  It may be in the 70s here today in the Phoenix area, but it's still January, and we like to use winter themes, even though it's warm.

Just another example of how gumpaste decorations, made well in advance, can really dress up the simplest cupcakes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Post

Busy busy busy working today, but I'll be back with a bonus post tomorrow to make up for this lame one!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recipes: A Delicious, Versatile Cake (and Cupcake, of Course)

Continuing on with the cupcake theme this week, I figured it just wasn't fair to taunt you all with picture after picture of cupcakes and not give you my favorite recipe.  I don't believe in keeping recipes secret, and want to share it with as many people as possible.  It's as easy as a box mix, and so much more delicious.

My grandmother was a professional cake decorator of some renown in Iowa decades ago.  Family lore says that the governor once told his daughter, "I don't care who you marry, as long as  you give me enough notice to get a cake from Berta M."

On of my grandmother's many, many wedding cakes.  Do you recognize the royal icing lace points from the gingerbread house at the Sugar Plum Fairy party?  One of the many things she taught me.
This is the incredibly easy, delicious, moist, no-fail chocolate cake recipe she always used, and I grew up loving. It's actually a vegan cake recipe (though be careful serving to vegans, as many icings are not).

Crazy Cake (also known as Wacky Cake and a few other names)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups water

Mix ingredients.  Pour in a pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35ish minutes for a 9x13 pan.   Test with a wooden skewer to see if it's done (mine always takes longer than the recipe says in my oven).

It's that easy.  No special techniques, no creaming ingredients to just the right texture.  Dump it in a bowl.  Mix.  Pour.  Bake.  I think it's actually easier than making a box mix, and the taste is so much better.  It's moist, it's a little more dense than store bought mixes (which I prefer--you can tell it's from scratch!), and it freezes gorgeously if you're even considering making your own wedding cake.  

If cupcakes are on your mind, this recipe makes 30.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (check the time the first time you make them, because ovens vary dramatically!)

Now, I'm going to share my secret with you.  The recipe isn't the secret.  The obvious insight it took me 20 some years to have is.  One day it hit me:  if I don't add the cocoa powder, this recipe doesn't have to be a chocolate cake.  Simply replace the cocoa with flour, and start adding other flavors.

Once I figured that out, the possibilities were endless!  I've made peanut butter, key lime, lemon, coffee, vanilla chai, vanilla, vanilla caramel, strawberry, cherry, coconut lime cakes and more!  

Here are a couple of my favorite variations:

Lemon Crazy Cake:
Follow the recipe above, but omit cocoa, replace with flour.  Add the zest of one lemon (two if they're small.  The lemons off of the tree in my backyard are HUGE).  Add two or three tablespoons of King Arthur Flour's Lemon Powder (depending on how lemony you like your cake to be). 

Make bright and delicious lemon soak with simple syrup and fresh lemon juice.  Brush each layer of the cake liberally with your soak--it can take way more than you think.  My pastry-chef mother puts at least 4oz on each layer of the cakes she makes, more for larger cakes, and just squirts it on with a squeeze bottle.

  If you're making cupcakes, you can inject the syrup in the center of the cupcake using the blunt syringes you can get from the pharmacy for squirting medicine into your baby's mouth.   

This version of the cake is divine, and even my die-hard chocolate-loving husband says this is his favorite.  Paired with vanilla IMBC--heaven!

Vanilla Caramel Crazy Cake:
Follow the recipe, but omit cocoa and replace with flour.  Double the vanilla to 2 teaspoons.  Add a good dose of vanilla caramel flavored powdered coffee creamer (not sugar free!), somewhere around 1/2 a cup.  I never measure that part, sorry.

 Mix and bake as usual.  I've made an apple filling to go with this for caramel apple cake, and it's also exceptional with a dulce de leche filling.  

See?  Easy!  Go crazy!  Lavender lemonade cake?  Sure!  Earl Grey with Cream and Sugar cake?  Sure!  (Ack!  Now I want to throw a tea party with tea flavored cupcakes!  See where this kind of flexibility can lead you?)  You now have, with a little imagination, a fabulous, easy, inexpensive cake recipe in any flavor you can imagine.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Types of Icing for Cupcakes

Think the greasy grocery store fluff they dare call icing is the only option out there for cupcakes?  Think again! Different icings have different textures, tastes, and looks.  Whether you're working with a professional baker or are planning on making cupcakes for your own event, it's worth investigating the different options to discover what you like best--for both flavor and appearance.

American Buttercream:
Incredibly simple--just powdered sugar, butter, flavoring, a dash of salt, and a tiny amount of milk or cream to get just the right texture.  Classic, sweet, fast and easy, and endlessly versatile.  And always better when made with real butter, not shortening.  If you're new to baking and are planning to make cupcakes for an event, or if you're just looking for a nostalgic flavor, American buttercream is a great option.  I used American buttercream on my penguin cupcakes a few days ago.  It's such a simple frosting, but gets such rave reviews from people used to grocery store fare.

Peanut butter cupcake with honey flavored American buttercream.

Rose Cupcakes made with American Buttercream

Jayne hat cupcakes made for a charity fundraising bake sale/Serenity Screening, made with American buttercream.
Cupcakes decorated with American buttercream are often more basic in design, but someone skilled in piping can create gorgeous works of art.  Don't underestimate pastry chefs who prefer to work with buttercreams over fondant.

Italian Meringue Buttercream and Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Commonly referred to by their abbreviations IMBC and SMBC, meringue buttercreams are truly a treat.  They're light, fluffy, and don't taste nearly as sweet as an American buttercream.  They're also much fussier to make, but the end product is well worth the effort.

Key lime cupcakes with Italian meringue buttercream and gumpaste decorations.
Just like with American buttercream, meringue buttercreams can be piped into fabulous decorations all by themselves, or embellished with gumpaste or fondant accents.  I've always preferred savory treats to sweet ones, and have actually never really liked icing...until I tried IMBC.  I could eat my weight in this stuff.  If you're on the hunt for the perfect cupcake for your event, definitely try a cupcake with meringue buttercream.

Look how gorgeous and delectable even something very simple can be:

These tempting treats were made by carriebush on Cake Central.  Chocolate Bailey's flavored cupcakes with coffee IMBC and topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean.  YUM!  I love how amazingly elegant and adult cupcake flavors can be--especially when using a meringue buttercream.

If you're considering IMBC for a DIY cupcake project, here's a little hint:  it freezes gorgeously.  You can make the icing weeks or months ahead of time and freeze it.  (I use gallon ziplock bags, each holds 2lb of icing very nicely, freeze flat, and are stackable.)  Leave the icing bags on the counter a few hours before you need to use the icing.  Once thawed, whip it in your mixer for a few minutes, and it will be just as good as the moment it was made.  When planning a big event, it's good to get as much done ahead of time as possible, and being able to make the IMBC well ahead makes that last-minute party-planning schedule so much easier.

You don't see fondant on cupcakes as often as the various buttercreams, but it's absolutely possible, and creates some absolutely gorgeous, elegant cupcakes.  And yes, it can even be delicious.  Steer away from Wilton brand, and either try one of the tastier brands like Fondx or Satin Ice (available from cake decorating stores and online), or try making your own.  It's not hard at all, is much less expensive, and tastes delicious.  The ingredients are pretty much the same as making homemade marshmallows, just with a different technique and different quantities, but the flavor is similar.

Fondant is usually adhered to the cake or cupcake with a layer of buttercream, so even if a guest doesn't like even homemade fondant, they can peel it off and still enjoy the cupcake.

Cupcakes covered with fondant and accented with gumpaste decorations.
There is so much that can be done with fondant and gumpaste, and the look can be so incredibly clean and elegant.  If you want to be really wowed and inspired, check out the amazing work of Zalita of Cupcake D'lights, an amazing cake artist from South Africa.  Her tea party cupcakes were the inspiration for mine, and were the seed behind the entire Under the Sea Tea Party party I threw for my daughter's 6th birthday.  There are more (amazing!  brilliant!  gorgeous!) pictures on her Flickr feed than her blog, and it's definitely worth checking out.  

Fondant and gumpaste work like Zalita's take cupcakes right out of the cute range and entirely appropriate for even the most elegant affair.  Plus you don't have to worry about cutting the cake for everyone!  If your wedding is a DIY affair, that is a big bonus.  Cutting a tiered wedding cake takes a fair amount of time specific knowledge to do it well--you can't just ask any friend to take care of that duty.

Cupcakes can range from playful and precious to stunningly elegant, and can suit any theme or event.  But you have to choose the right look and taste to match the party.   Go forth, experiment, taste test (the best part!) and figure out what's best for your event!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Cupcake for You: Robots!

And continuing in the cupcake theme, the second design I've been working on this week.  Robots!

I made these little gumpaste robots to go on cupcakes for my friend's son's birthday.  Now I just need to figure out how to ship them to Iowa so they'll arrive in one piece!  The colors were taken from a quilt my friend Eva over at Bijoux Baby Crafts is making from these fabrics (which will be the color scheme for the party):

And are loosely based on some amazing prints she bought from John W. Golden on Etsy, which will be part of the party decor, and used in the birthday boy's bedroom after the party.

Wouldn't that party be fabulous with this cardboard rocket playhouse from, ready to decorate?

(Thanks to Catch My Party for introducing me to these cardboard play houses.  I adore them!  Must get one!)

Add some amazing robot printables from Love the Day, and you've got one gorgeous little boy party!

Yeah, there's no way I can tie this post to weddings.  But it's part of what's been keeping me busy this week, and I wanted to share!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Should You Order Veils and Accessories?

We're heading into the busy season for wedding businesses--all those recent engagements over the holidays, all those upcoming summer weddings!  Planning a wedding can be overwhelming at times, especially if you (like most brides) have never planned a large-scale event before.  So many details to keep track of and consider!

The timeline for wedding planning is pretty flexible, really, but there are some things you should do before you start considering a veil and other accessories.  Before you come to Tradewind Tiaras looking for the perfect accessories, you should first:

  • Have the venue picked out--or at least be sure you know what kind of venue you want.  A beautiful field and a tent?  A gorgeous cathedral and grand ballroom?  The venue can really set the tone for the whole wedding, including what you wear.  This isn't an absolute, obviously, but it's a very good place to start.
  • Have the dress picked out.  You might have always thought that you'd wear a white dress on your wedding day...until you went dress shopping, and discovered that pale ivory really suits your complexion much better.  Don't even think of ordering a veil until your dress is chosen and ordered.  It's a good idea not to buy your other accessories until the dress is chosen, as well.  You might think you'll wear silver jewelry...until you find the perfect dress with gold embroidery.  Or you might end up wanting a custom tiara design based on your dress detailing.  The sparkly stuff is fun, but the dress needs to come first.

One those two elements are in place, it's the perfect time to talk accessories.  Our standard turnaround time is approximately two weeks, but sometimes we need to special order a component, or are overwhelmed by last-minute rush orders.  We always do our best to accommodate rush orders at no additional cost, but it's much, much better to order well ahead of your wedding.   Several months ahead, preferably.  Place your order as soon as possible, and check that item off your list.  Worried about storing your veil?  It's easy--just check out these tips and all will be well.

Happy wedding planning!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Color Trend: Pantone Honeysuckle

A few weeks ago, while everyone was distracted with the holidays, Pantone LLC announced  2011's color of the year, honeysuckle.

I adore this color--largely because I look great wearing it, and am always happy when a color in this family is hot and all over the shelves.  ;-)  But it's also just so bright and cheerful, so warm, so perfect looking forward to spring and summer.  

This color is predicted to be very hot in every arena this year--fashion, home decor, and, of course, weddings.  The Dessy Group (one of my favorite bridesmaid dress designers) already has 139 of their gorgeous designs available in exactly this shade.  

And if you want to incorporate some of this fabulous color into your wedding accessories, or want to purchase jewelry for your bridesmaids to coordinate perfectly with those dresses, Swarovski already makes the perfect color, Indian Pink.

We love working with color here at Tradewind Tiaras, and are happy to custom order any Swarovski color we don't already have in stock.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Sweet Way to Ask a Friend to be a Bridesmaid

So you're engaged, and there are a thousand and one things to coordinate and plan.  One of the first things you should decide is who you'll ask to be in your bridal party.  Sure, you could just call up your best friends, or ask them the next time you're together.  But I just love this idea from Andrea of  Ali's Sweet Treats:

They're based in Miami, but are happy to do business by mail order.  Wouldn't you just love to get these delicious custom cookies as a (literally and figuratively) sweet way to be invited to be a bridesmaid?

As a related side note, I desperately want to throw a spy-themed party and give out the invitations as cookies--"This message will self soon as you eat it."  I just love the idea of cookie invitations!

They also make cookies for wedding and party favors, so be sure to check out their amazing gallery.  Cookies like this castle make me, now firmly in my 30s, want to have a princess party!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Inspiration: My Fair Wedding

I confess.  I've been completely smitten with the astounding event planner David Tutera since his long-gone show The Party Planner with David Tutera.  His vision, his creativity, his style, his ability to gracefully but with strength and determination make a party follow his specific plans...this man has a tremendous gift, and I love every glimpse of it.

Already a huge fan, I was ecstatic when Tradewind Tiaras was chosen to be a featured vendor for the website that went along with David's last show, Get Married with David Tutera.  I even got to go out to the launch party in Manhattan during Bridal Week and meet him!

Don't I look giddy and not a little starstruck?

Get Married is now hosted by Colin Cowie, another incredibly gifted party designer.  And David Tutera has moved on to his current show, My Fair Wedding.

I have to say, I'm just a wee bit obsessed.

David meets with a bride just a few weeks before her wedding, takes her...let's say unusual...plans for the wedding, and completely takes over and remakes the entire event, in truly grand style.   But the best part is that David always honors the bride's original vision and theme, no matter how wacky (Swamp theme?  Day of the Dead theme?  Pirates?) and somehow makes them beautiful and elegant.  That is party planning magic, and is exactly why, nearly ten years after my own wedding, I'm in love with this show.

A new season started last night on WEtv.  (You had no idea that channel existed?  Neither did I, until I heard David was on it.)  Set your DVR, or find episodes On Demand.  If you're planning a wedding, or you just admire a good party and amazing design, you won't be disappointed.  Even my husband will sit down and watch this show with me, it's so entertaining!