Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…

Easy & Elegant Wedding Cake You Can Make Yourself for Under $50

In this post, I'm sharing a video tutorial to get you started with some basic skills for making an elegant tiered special occasion cake covered with rolled fondant.  The cake can be dressed up with ribbon, fresh flowers, gumpaste flowers, etc.  Here, I've decorated the tiers with an inexpensive and whimsical adornment:  Ombre Paper Butterflies made from paint chips!

I'm pleased to be sharing my first wedding cake tutorial and DIY video as part of the Do-It-Yourself Wedding Ideas party at!

CM Wedding 

For the purpose of this demonstration, I scaled down the cake to 7", 5" and 3" tiers, which will serve 16.  You can increase the size of the cake to suit your event.  The supplies for my cake cost under $35, which includes the punch I used for the butterflies.  A cake for 50 or even 100 can be made for under $50.  Your main cost is in the fondant, which I'll get to later.


A few notes before we start:

1.  Avoid a wedding Cake-tastrophe:  If you're the bride, I do not encourage you to make your own wedding cake unless "cakery" is your passion and you have a lot of experience.  The last thing you need the day before your wedding is the stress that can come with taking on a new creative challenge.

2.  Practice:  If you're a beginner, do a practice cake (just a single tier) before the big day.

3. The Right Kind of Cake:  Avoid box cakes.  They tend to be too soft for tiered construction.  For beginners, I recommend pound cake.  Here's a link to one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes.

4.  The Right Tools:  Use real cake pans.  You can pick them up fairly inexpensively from the craft store or the cake decorating section of Walmart.

5. Plan Ahead:  Calculate the size of the cake you'll need to feed the anticipated number of guests.  You can find a Cake Serving Chart HERE.  Calculate the amount of fondant you will need with a Fondant Coverage Chart.  Make sure you have room in your refrigerator for your cakes.

Okay, let's get started...


Cake:  For a three tiered cake you will need 3 cakes, 1.5" high, for each tier.   On smaller cakes you may only need two cakes.   Bake your cakes the day before.  Cool, then wrap tightly in plastic.  Refrigerate overnight.  Leave refrigerated until ready to use.  Prior to using, cakes can be leveled with a knife or leveling tool to achieve the desired height and evenness.

Frosting:  Use a sturdy frosting.  I like to use a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Soft frostings, light mousses, and whipped cream are not suitable for tiered cakes.

Cake boards:  You'll need a cardboard base for each tier of your cake.  The cake board should be the same circumference as your cake.  These can be purchased in the cake decorating section of craft stores.

Dowels:  You'll be using 1/4" dowels to support the second tier.  Have a tool handy for cutting the dowels.  I used a small craft saw.

Offset Spatulas:  I recommend a small angled model and a medium-sized flat model.  Both can be purchased inexpensively at the craft store.

Lazy Susan:  (Not required, but very helpful) I use the inexpensive ones from Ikea, but you can purchase models specifically made for cakes from the craft store or cake supply store.

Corn Starch:  Easiest to use when put in a clean knee high stocking tied off at the top.  Seriously.  This inexpensive "tool" is perfect for dusting your work surface when working with fondant.

Rolling Pin:  Use whatever type you're most adept with.

Paring Knife or X-ACTO knife:  For trimming fondant

Fondant Smoother:  (optional) These inexpensive tools help to smooth out fondant that has been applied to a cake.

Cake Stand:  (optional) It's good to plan in advance for what type of plate, tray, or stand you'll be using to display your cake. 


Butterfly Paper Punch (I purchased a Martha Stewart model for $12 using a 40% coupon at Michael's)
Paint chips in the same color family
Pearl headed pins (I found mine at Walmart for around $2)

Punch butterflies from the paint chips.
Stick a pin through the head of the paper butterfly and push the metal all the way through.  
Fold wings slightly upward to add dimension.  
Insert pin into cake.

A WORD ABOUT THE PINS:  Do not use small pins, or pins with tiny heads.  The large pearl-head pins used in this post are not only decorative, but are purposefully obvious so that they are not left behind in the cake.  The butterfly and pin are assembled in such a way that the butterfly cannot be removed without also removing the pin, thereby ensuring that no pins are left behind for guests.  Nonetheless, I would recommend counting how many pins you put in and letting the person cutting and serving the cake know how many they should count during removal.  

Be sure to check out more creative DIY Wedding ideas from Crafterminds below!

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