Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I know, I know...

...I haven't posted for ages. Again. But the truth is, I just haven't really baked anything much recently. Nothing new, anyway.

But fear not, because you will be hearing significantly more from me over the next few weeks. Yes, that's right, Wedding Cake Number Two looms in my immediate future!! And it's a doozy... In the interest of secrecy on behalf of the bride, I won't post any details until after the wedding, but there's not long to wait...

Then, following close upon the heels of the wedding, Hallowe'en is almost upon us - huzzah! I know most Australians (particularly Generation X and older) tend to feel that Hallowe'en is terribly commercial and American, and Not Relevant To Our Lifestyle. However, to them I say COOKIES AND CUPCAKES AND EXCUSES TO DRESS UP!!!! And have parties. Which we are. Or at any rate, our next-door-neighbours and dear friends are, and I'm kind of co-hosting. Which essentially means poking my nose into the decorating, baking spooky treats, and generally having a lovely time. Yay! Some of the things we're planning should look awesome, so I'll be sure to post lots of pics. I'm very excited today as I have bitten the bullet and bought some of those gorgeous spiderweb cupcake wrappers by Paper Orchid which I have been eyeing off for months...

Bring on the bright orange buttercream! (Oh yeah - but not until after the wedding....)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Ahoy there me hearties! Aye, I know, I be a couple o' days late wi' me Talk Like A Pirate Day post, but it's only because I were too busy talkin' - and bakin' - like a buccaneer on the day itself!

We aboard The Pale Horse partied like pirates on t'evenin' o' the 19th - there was grub, wenches, rum and o' course plenty o' buried treasure! In honour o' the occasion, me little deckie an' I rustled up some pirattical treats...

There were little sandy island cupcakes, each with a teeny starfish, and either an X to mark the spot, or a Jolly Roger (made from sugarpaste). The cakes were chocolate, with rum-flavoured buttercream.

And o' course no pirate party would be complete aboard this ship without me decorated cookies!
The scurvy dogs looted an' pillaged 'em all quicker'n a pirate schooner after a well-laden Spanish galleon...and we can't wait until next year! : )

Friday, August 21, 2009

RSPCA Cupcake Day

Last Monday was RSPCA Cupcake Day - an annual fundraiser in which everyone in Australia is encouraged to bake cupcakes and sell them to friends, colleagues, etc, with all proceeds going to help our furry and feathered friends. Naturally since there was cake involved, I had to be too.

Having done dog and cat faces last year, I fancied a farm animal theme this year, and in the end I decided on sheep and ducks. There was, in the end, some contention about whether my sheep looked like sheep or poodles, but I figured either way they were still animals.

I handmade my little duckies out of sugarpaste, and they sat happily on top of a swirl of blue buttercream, one for each cupcake.

For the sheep, I wanted the actual cupcake to be the sheep. So....

How to Build A Sheep (or possibly Poodle):

Make yummy cupcakes......... Pipe buttercream all over them using a star nozzle.....

Add marshmallows for the head and ears.... Pipe extra buttercream on top of the head....

And finally add eyes and nose with black icing - voila! A cute little sheep (or, indeed, poodle). (And his army of clone sheepoodles who do not as yet have faces...)

Anyway, I took my little menagerie to the Muffin's playgroup, and sold almost three dozen of them, raising over $90 for the RSPCA. :o)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My little apprentice

Okay, so a completely self-indulgent-mummy post this week, just to show that this baking thing really is contagious - my little girl and I have been baking cookies!

The Muffin has loved helping Mummy cook for ages, but this is the first time she's had a controlling hand in the decorating side of things... Obviously the cookies were, shall we say, rather abstract in their design (some of the teddybear ones were declared "finished" with nothing more than a tiny belly-button), and the sprinkles went absolutely everywhere, but we had lots of fun.

The Muffin was so proud of herself - she was allowed to use Mummy's piping bag. I thought I'd help her hold it, but: "No Mummy, I want to do it my own." Very cute. But when asked what the best part of making the cookies was, there was no doubt at all in her mind - it was the sprinkles!

Monday, August 3, 2009

To boldly go...

...where yes, okay, lots and lots of cake decorators have gone before. But it's all good fun nevertheless.

Some weeks ago, I said to my husband, "So what would you like for your birthday cake, honey? Keeping in mind I'm going to have just finished a wedding cake, and I am so not going to be in the mood to do anything too full-on?" He said, "How about the Starship Enterprise?" I think he was joking. At any rate, my answer was "ha ha". But it got me thinking... Then my husband (who, by the way, thinks he is not a geek) announced that it had to be the original model, not the 1701-E or anything (because they are just soooo last week...) I started to wonder if it was possible to do sort of a half-hearted attempt without it just looking rubbish.

Then he said "Hey, what about a croquembouche?" I gave him the evil eye, and a choice: he could have a "normal" cake and churros at his party, or he could have a croquembouche. And no churros. He chose Option A. And "normal" for me meant, you guessed it, the USS Enterprise.

Anyway, here's the result - judge for yourselves! I'm sure that if I had devoted weeks of painstaking sculpting to this project, I could have made something a little more true to the original, but that just wasn't going to happen this time I'm afraid. So one evening and one Saturday morning later, this baby was ready to be beamed up. And everyone knew what it was. And my husband got to have his cake, and eat churros too - smiles all round.

(by the way, sorry for the dodgy pics - I forgot to take a photo of the finished cake before the party. You can't really see it at all in the photos, but the bridge section (ie the big round bit) was actually elevated a bit, to a) create a "floating" or "flying" effect, and b) because it's supposed to be higher up than the bottom section of the ship. The board was covered in black sugarpaste, dusted with silver lustre dust to look like distant stars.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tiptoeing through the TULIPS.....

Okay, so once again I haven't posted for ages. Hopeless, I know. And despite the fact that very likely the only person actually reading this is my mother, I am hereby making a... well, let's call it a New Financial Year's Resolution, to post here more regularly. I'm going to aim for once a week. God knows I bake often enough, I just never seem to get around to loading the photos up and writing something. But I have an excuse this time, I swear...

Some time ago, my very good friend announced her engagement to her man, and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. In a fit of insanity following the joyful announcement, I also eagerly volunteered to make the cake. For the wedding. That I was a bridesmaid in. Having never made a wedding cake before. Hmmm....

As it happens, it actually wasn't a total disaster (huzzah!). However it did mean that I was rather insanely busy in the weeks leading up to the Big Day (which was earlier this month). And what was I busy with, you ask? (apart from dress fittings, phone calls about flowers, emails about shoes, the hen's night, the kitchen tea, and baking the actual cake itself, of course)? TULIPS, I answer. Yes, the bride and groom wanted gumpaste tulips on their cake, which is fine, except I've never made wired flowers before, so I was VERY stressed... I immediately turned to that font of all knowledge, Google, for inspiration, and after perusing several different methods suggested by many different cake artists, I sort of took some of all their tips on board and then winged it.

The first decision I made was that I really did not need to do all the little stamens etc inside the tulips, as the bride and groom had stipulated that they wanted the tulips almost closed. So a) it would have been a waste of time as they wouldn't have been visible anyway, and b) these were after all my first ever wired flowers, and I was nervous enough as it is without having to think about stamens, thanks. So I went with the solid-cone-of-gumpaste-in-the-middle method (yes, that is a technical term, people. You may use it if you wish). I then wired the cone, marked it and left it to dry. Then I glued the inner petals straight onto the gumpaste cone using egg white, and left that to dry whilst I made the scary bits - the wired petals. After some swearing etc, I managed to get the hang of poking the wire into the teeny ridge along the centre of each petal, and of veining the petal without having the wire poke through; and after a few failed attempts with aluminium foil, I finally had the idea of laying each petal over an egg to dry. This worked, and gave a nice shape, I think. Then I just needed to tape the outer petals on (which took a LOT longer than I thought it would - is this normally a slow process, or am I just really bad at it??) and my tulips were ready to be dusted, steamed, and left for a final drying. I was pretty happy in the end, I think they're not too bad for a first attempt!

Anyway, here is a photo of the final cake. All four tiers were fruit cake, iced with white sugarpaste (no marzipan).

So, in conclusion, it is in fact possible to be a bridesmaid and make the wedding cake too. It helps if it's fruit cake (no last-minute baking). And it's absolutely necessary to be able to deliver it the day before the wedding. And if one didn't have a two-year-old to look after at the same time, I'd imagine the whole thing would be... well... a piece of cake... ;o)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm ba-ack...!

Yes, I know, it's been a very long time since my last post - almost three months in fact! No good excuses really - I've been very busy of course, what with flying East to visit my husband's family (complete with a very odd and embarrassing cupcake-baking episode, in which I managed to break my mother-in-law's mixer, much to her amusement - thank goodness - and then had to finish making my vanilla cupcakes AND make buttercream from scratch, using only a wooden spoon and muscle-power!! This is not a method I recommend, either for its rather heavy end product or for the fact that I nearly had a cardiac from the unaccustomed exercise...), as well as having just come unscathed through my own family's busiest birthday season of the year (what goes on nine months previous to May every year, anyway??), and having been ill, and the fact that I'm going to be a bridesmaid in July, and the preparations for the wedding are now in full swing... Phew...! Really though, I guess I just haven't posted out of laziness really. Sometimes it's just too damn appealing to park myself on the lounge in front of Grey's Anatomy or House with a cup of tea. But speaking of the idiot box, the current season of Masterchef Australia has got me all excited about cooking again, and naturally specifically baking...

So okay, I have done a bit of baking over the last few months - I have been on a mission to find a mudcake recipe that actually tastes (and feels, and looks) like mudcake, as opposed to just rich chocolate cake. Not an easy task, I can tell you. Some taste really good, but just aren't that really dense texture. Anyway, I finally found one that is, and it's at Planet Cake. To be honest it's not quite my all-time favourite tasting chocolate cake (although it is pretty damn good), but the texture is awesome. Real mud cake, finally. I recommend it, and I also think it's jolly nice of the amazing craftspeople at Planet Cake to put their recipe online. Anyone who decides to buy me their book will be extremely popular...

For my own birthday cake I went a bit different this year - no elaborate decorations, not a piping bag in sight. I made a Japonaise cake, which I found at Taste.com.au - and it was fantastic. For those who are unfamiliar with this little beauty (as indeed I was), it's a French creation, consisting of an ultra-silky, sexy coffee buttercream sandwiched between several very thin layers of almond meringue. Yum. There were no leftovers, people went back for seconds.

If you do give this one a bash, keep in mind that this is very unusual buttercream - it takes quite a bit of time and patience (and a splatter-guard would have been quite good too) to get the butter to take up the coffee - but it is totally worth it.

Oh and the other kind of fun thing I did recently was for my friend's son's birthday - he is mad-keen on Ben10 at the moment, which I had never heard of (The Muffin being a girl, and only two). So he says he fancies a Humungosaur cake. So I say "sure, no worries." Anyway he was thrilled with the end result, his mum was happy, I was happy, so it was all good. (And be kind - I would like to point out that his eyebrow ridges got smushed against the top of the box before this photo was taken, and he had also been sitting in said box in a park for a couple of hours)

Anyway, I'm done, it's midnight, I'm off to bed. This ended up being kind of a long post - making up for lost time, I guess - so sorry about that, and congrats if you got this far....!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In the Night Garden...

My little girl has been madly in love with the television show In The Night Garden (and all the characters therein) for some time now. So when we were deciding on a theme for her second birthday party, the choice was obvious.

I decided that whilst I didn't mind spending a lot of time on the decorations for her cake in advance, I really wanted the cake itself to be pretty quick to sort out on the day. So I decided to ice it just with buttercream, rather than messing about with sugarpaste - plus I figured the buttercream is what people really want to eat anyway. And it turned out pretty well, the only problem being that some of the figures (all handmade a couple of weeks in advance from sugarpaste) had to be shoved down quite hard onto the buttercream so that they would stand up (I nearly had a cardiac - twice - when Iggle Piggle decided to do a backflip off the side of the cake onto the table. Luckily he was unharmed). Next time I do figures this top-heavy, I shall be inserting a wooden skewer or something up their... um... bottoms, so that they are more stable and less stress-inducing.

Anyway, the Muffin loved her cake, a good time was had by all at the Night Garden party, and she was thoroughly spoilt with all the lovely presents she received (thank you everyone who came!)

I can't wait for next year! : )

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Exterminate... exterminate...!

Aaah, yes. The Dalek cake. This was made for a friend's birthday last September - she is, as you may have guessed, a Doctor Who fan of tragic proportions. This cake is the current undisputed titleholder of "my most time-consuming cake ever" - it took fourteen hours to decorate. All the panels, knobs, switches, iris, "ears" and weird bath plunger thing (which I've never been able to see a use for, by the way. I do watch the new Doctor Who, and I must say I've never seen a Dalek try to unclog a toilet), were individually handmade from sugarpaste, then dusted with bronze shimmer dust (where appropriate). The only non-edible parts of this cake were the rod supporting the iris (wooden dowel), the rod supporting the bath plunger thing (slightly thinner wooden dowel), and the laser, which my darling husband manufactured for me in his shed using a soldering iron (and yes, it was cleaned thoroughly before insertion!).

If I did this again, it might not take quite as long, as there was some experimentation involved. But it was definitely a labour of love - I had such fun making this, it was so exciting and different! Anyway, I'm sure there are some bits of it that aren't absolutely perfect, but I was really happy with the end result. And so, I think, was "Astrid".

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hello, and welcome to my brand-spanking-new blog, where I will come to show off all my latest forays into the world of baking (or at least I will when I have time)...

A bit about me: I have been cooking (including but not limited to baking) since the age of two, thanks to my mother, who I hold responsible for my love of the kitchen. She also made me beautiful birthday cakes, although technically they were carved out of icecream, not cake at all... But I am a relative newbie to cake decorating - around two years ago, quite by chance, I picked up and leafed through a copy of Peggy Porschen's amazing "Pretty Party Cakes" book, and it was like a whole new lobe opened up in my brain - I had to buy it, and start trying things out! It was so much fun that I haven't stopped since, and have now done everything from very basic cupcakes for my daughter's playgroup, to my friends' engagement cake. And this year I have two weddings to make the cakes for, which is a bit scary, but very exciting!

Anyway, I don't pretend I'm going to be the most eloquent blogger, nor the best photographer, but I hope you enjoy my pictures, and wish you all good luck with your own culinary efforts!

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