Boxing Day

We were so worn out by our holiday cookie season this year that it took us a month to even look at the pictures!  Here are some highlights from a custom order we created for MyBuys.

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Cheese and “Punch” Party

Most of us (especially us single gals) are well aware that summer is the wedding season.  Let me tell you, I have never been more aware until working on wedding cakes.  We have way more business.  On the flip side, the winter is slow…  Very, very slow.  Last winter, Taylor and I took an extended vacation while Heather worked herself silly (despite the business having less orders).  This year we’ve decided to combat that by whatever means possible; Not just for the business, but also for Heather’s sanity.

Enter, the christmas cookie.  We make a beautiful, mixed-dozen box of cookies that’s perfect for a small holiday gift.  Rachel, our business manager, suggested we make sample cookie boxes for potential corporate clients in the Metro-Detroit area.  It was a bit of a risk (making them was no small committment!), but within a few days we had several calls for some of the largest cookie orders we’ve ever taken.

Then it donned on us that we have to actually make the thousands of cookies and hundreds of cookie boxes.  We like each product from our studio to be a unique work of art, so this is really no small task.

We’ve had to get pretty creative about tricking ourselves into doing all this work.  One creatively fun way we got all the tags made was to throw ourselves a paper cutting party, or a cheese and ‘punch’ party, if you’ll go there with us.

We’ve also begun to acquire a team of loyal volunteers.  Among them is our new intern, Ariana.  She’s a student at U of M interested in pursuing baking.  (She has a writing background, so we’re hoping to finagle her into blogging…)

Kristi, Heather’s long-term friend and fellow art-school grad, has been on-call for Heather since before there was a company.  She’s incredibly meticulous and has a ton of paper cutting experience, so she kind of led the tag-making charge.

I spent a lot of the night eating cheese and taking photos (obviously very important– I am a blogger now, after all..)  Rachel even made one of the cheeses!  It was originally yogurt gone wrong, but what a tasty mistake!!

You might think (like me), who does that?!  1 – Who makes their own yogurt?  2 – Who would think to make the excess into cheese???  Well, the same person who has this menu on their wall…

And THIS AWESOME KITCHEN SETUP…

We couldn’t mention our fabulousvolunteers without giving a shout out to the Sweet Heather Anne Husbands Club.  Well, there’s one husband – Drew.  He’s great.  (He’s done such essential tasks as fix the doorbell… woo hoo!)

Heather’s boyfriend, Antonio, has done countless hours of grunt work and cooked lunch for us probably a hundred times.  He’s the hardest working un-employee ever, and we couldn’t do what we do (as well, at least) without him.

Enjoy our party photos!  Hopefully we’ll get some photos up soon of our cookie production… it’s quite the scene!

Sweet!

As a warning, there are studio nudes in this post. While they are quite different from other types of nudes, this post may not be safe for work.

Besides working my booty off with Heather at the studio, I also work in the evenings slinging drinks at the Old Town Tavern in Ann Arbor. While my mother may worry about me, this non-traditional work schedule affords me the flexibility to do really cool things like take college painting courses on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (I got an A on my first oil painting ever, thank you, thank you) For Painting I this semester have this super cool professor (Maybe I’m sucking up, but the semester’s not over, after all), and he recommended I check out the work of Will Cotton. The stuff is so cool that I have to share it with you all. I chose a few examples that were especially cake related.

I have to say, as a student of traditional piping techniques, and I almost shed a tear when I saw his sculptures. I had a harder time lifting those images from his website, so you need to go there to see them. It will be totally worth it.

The next woman is wearing a croquembouche hat. For those of you not familiar, it’s a (ridiculously fabulous) French wedding pastry tower. Yes, rather than wedding cakes, the French choose to construct giant towers of puff pastry, chocolate, caramel, macarons, spun sugar, almonds, ribbon, or whatever else they choose. In that light, it’s not a huge leap to put the thing on a beautiful woman’s head. I understand, Will Cotton, I understand.

While I’m on the fine art tilt, I’d like to give a shout out to one of our favorite (cake) artists, Kate Sullivan of Cake Power. Last summer, she created this beautiful cake installation to mimic Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic Cakes. We love her.

Food Imitating Art

Besides being a great teacher, I recently found out my professor makes really cool art. Through November 26, you can see his paintings in the U of M Residential College gallery. It’s totally free (date night?). While the intensity of the pieces may not totally translate on the computer screen, because 1) many were constructed from computer-generated images in the first place and 2) they are really big, here are a couple of examples anyway. I took them from his blog.

A Nightmare Before Christmas (Birthday)

Thank you to Erin Werner of Erin Werner Photography: She sent us these lovely pictures, and she is also Gabby (the birthday girls)’s mom!  When Erin contacted us about this order, we were so excited.  As a child Heather dreamed of working as a sculptor for Pixar, because of movies like this one!

Each of these characters was a labor of love.  This cake was small, but Heather and I each spent a whole day sculpting!  Heather excels at making organic shapes… she made Oogie Boogie, Zero, and Jack and Sally’s faces!

There is a finite amount of time that we are able to work on each cake.  We don’t like to work on a surface of the cake more than a day before they go to the client, so all of the decorating takes place in that time.  Some of the details could be made ahead of time, as the pure sugar sculptures have an indefinite shelf life, but we don’t realistically have free time like that.  Plus, it’s nice to have some freedom to change things in the moment of cake creation.

Gabby arrived at the studio looking cute as a button, toting her Jack and Sally dolls, and immediately our hard work was totally worth it.  She didn’t know she was going to be on the cake with Jack and Sally, and all she could do was smile!  Thank you again to her mom, Erin, for the super fun order and for taking these beautiful pictures.

Food For Thought

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

So, in the studio, we listen to a lot of NPR.  Like, a lot a lot.  Like, every day…  And we can only listen for so long before were are talking amongst ourselves.  Again and again, we talk about is Americans’ general relationships to food, and how much attitudes could change for people to be more healthy and systems be more sustainable.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery ProjectIn the brainstorming process, we kept coming back to distorted food costs as a reflection of all the hard work that goes into getting food to the consumer.  As Americans, we certainly expect food to be affordable, but we are also far enough removed from the supply chain that it can be difficult to understand why food should sometimes cost more.   This is not a very rosy subject.  But we DO have a rosy outlook!  We are hopeful!  We know that information is power!Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

What we really wanted to do was to make a cake (or series of cakes) honored one person who touched each ingredient on it’s way to becoming our cake.  We knew we wanted to make the pumpkin cake… The recipe is relatively straightforward, and it highlights beautiful seasonal fruit from Tantre Farm.   We hadn’t quite solved the design problem though, as it needed to be done in a matter of weeks, not months.  Hm.  We simplified our idea, and translated it to what we do best… building one GIANT cake.  Heather chose to make it a contemporary version of the cake on our business card (love it!) and to use one large tier to diagram it’s ingredient history.  We love the final product, and we hope you do too… It’s on display at the Gallery Project through December 11.Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

Not only did we get to make a beautiful cake, but the three of us had an evening off to hang out together!  Most importantly, being around other artists, not just bakers, allows us to continue to be inspired.  We had a lovely evening of conversation, bumping into old friends, and making new ones.  The exhibit spilled out into the street with our friends Phillis and Joel at The Lunch Room. (mmmm slaw!)  Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery ProjectThe three of us took advantage of the beautiful night and ended the night with a cocktail and some pickled tomatoes at our favorite new evening spot, Mani Osteria.  It was a lovely break after a very busy week.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project I have to admit, it felt a little productive, too.  We bumped into some potential holiday cookie clients!  We were able to have a little toast to the future of the business..  All in all, how sweet.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project