On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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Love is in the air

Some weeks back Sam asked Jasmine to marry him. It was a question asked without doubt of the answer. It was a question lots of family knew was coming. I’ve had a few chuckles at how Natalie must be feeling. It’s a sobering thought when you realise that what she’s going through is what our own parents went through. Now if that doesn’t make you feel old I’m not sure what will.

Cake topper made from modelling chocolate and silver cachous.

Cake topper made from modelling chocolate and silver cachous.

I wasn’t sure if Jasmine and Sam would want a cake, and they certainly didn’t have to feel obliged to ask me, but if they did, I needed to know, and know quickly. Last Friday the email arrived with a picture of a cake they’d seen and liked the look of. And it was Friday I grabbed all the bits from the supermarket.

Before getting to the supermarket we had a bit of a quick discussion and we ironed out a few details and came up with some different ideas given limitations. The cake would be 2 tiers and not a double barrel meaning we didn’t have height to play with to taper in the bottom. I knew I would be practicing a few things to help Jasmine and Sam decide what they did and didn’t want. They just wanted to keep the cake fairly simple.

Friday evening I started out by colouring fondant. Jasmine and Sam had picked out from a colour chart the shade of teal they wanted. I used the ratios in the chart and ended up with something very dark, darker than jade. I spent a lot of time trying to lighten it by adding more and more white fondant. I really dislike colouring during the evening. Natural light is a must for matching colours. Jasmine didn’t want it too blue, or too green. But I had no real reference other than the little block of colour on an online colour chart.

While the colour seemed ok, in the light of day it was quite a greyish blue. I spent time using different impression mats and taking lots of photos to see if we could narrow down the pattern J & S liked.

Fondant on the right, modelling chocolate on the left.

Chocolate on the left, modelling chocolate on the right. Teal ribbon above.

After The Food Show on Saturday I nipped around with the mats and ribbon I’d bought at Spotlight to see if we could agree a few more details. I came home and re-did the fondant to make it more the colour of the ribbon and re-did the two choices Jasmine had narrowed the choices to.

I came home and baked an 8″ square Chocolate Mud Cake (The Planet Cake book) but it didn’t rise as high as the cakes rose when I used the same recipe for the 6″ circles (the recipe makes one 8″ square cake or one 9″ round cake. One 9″ round cake will make two 6″ cakes). No worries. I still had time to bake two cakes on the Sunday. I increased the recipe by a quarter and the cakes baked just as I wanted. The 10″ cake took around 2 hours to bake. I didn’t use a rose nail (to get more heat into the centre) so I was being very cautious with the slow long baking to ensure the cake was properly baked.

The Planet Cake chocolate mudcake.

The Planet Cake chocolate mudcake.

On Sunday I grabbed various green and blue shades of modelling chocolate I had in the fridge and had a crack at making teal. I was having a crack at making a brooch type thing. You see during Sunday morning I spotted my heart necklace. Going along with the theme of being slightly off centre and a little abstract, I thought my own necklace would be a good starting point. Anyway after I made the brooch, and used a fantastic silver paint to mimic the metal edges of the brooch, I decided it was a bit too old looking for such a vibrant young couple. Natalie arrived after lunch with the 10″ tin, at this point I’d moved onto getting a feel for making the hearts. I was using a lighter green colour of modelling chocolate. I wasn’t worried about the colour because I expected to have the framework completely covered in silver cachous. The first crack at the design was a bit chunky and I learnt that the cachous wouldn’t stay put. But it was all a learning experience. It’s not like I do this every other week. I’m glad I trialled everything I wasn’t familiar with. It meant that on Saturday I pretty much knew what I was doing and how I would do it.

Anyway, getting back to the fondant. Sunday morning I took the ribbon and the new Teal outside and it wasn’t a good enough match for my liking. I really wanted it to be brighter than it was. But brightness doesn’t necessarily mean lighter. I was a bit stuck and I was almost paralysed standing there trying to work out how I could brighten it. Finally I got the electric blue and electric green Americolor gels out and I began to add until I was finally happy.

The embossed teal strips and cake use a rose impression mat.

The embossed teal strips and cake use a rose impression mat.

Monday after work I dropped around again and took fondant strip samples of using the newly coloured fondant with the impression mat J & S had decided on, and I took the necklace and the first attempt modelling chocolate hearts to see if the concept was getting close to what they wanted.

Monday evening I went home and practiced covering a square cake dummy. I have to admit to feeling slightly unwell when I realised the cakes would be square. The christmas cake was the last square cake I covered in fondant but it wasn’t ganached. That would be awful on a fruit cake. The one prior to that was Cameron’s 21st cake. I wasn’t very happy with how that turned out, and the more I learn and better I become with different things the worse I feel about his cake. It was a very dense mudcake, the ganache covering was too thick and it was very difficult to ganache.

I used a razor blade to get rid of any little jagged bits of chocolate ganache from the edges.

I used a razor blade to get rid of any little jagged bits of chocolate ganache from the edges.

Talking ganache, I made the ganache on Saturday night. Jasmine has very strong feelings over her chocolate and she doesn’t like dark chocolate. I was making a milk chocolate, which means more chocolate because there’s less cocoa solids. Everything was going along swimmingly. Sunday I took it out of the fridge. It was a bit softer than I had been expecting. I smeared a bit onto baking paper, about as thick as I expected it would be on the cake to see if it would set up and dry out. After many hours it was still tacky and I knew that spell trouble and increase the chances of air bubbles after the cake was covered in fondant. A few questions online and I was back to melting some 60% chocolate and adding it to the ganache. I tried some of that and it was giving the results I needed. Phew.

I know I’m jumping about a bit, but I’m backing up to covering the dummy cake. I covered the dummy with Crisco and then I took my two 750gm packets of Bakels fondant and kneaded it like I’d read in The Planet Cake book. I think previously I was “pummeling” it, as described in the book. I was pretty much kneading it like dough, and overworking fondant can lead to the cracks and elephant skin. So I kneaded it like playdoh. Although I really can’t remember how to knead playdoh. But I wasn’t pummelling it, and that was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I also flattened it more by hand before placing it between the sheets of The Mat to finally roll it out. I was a little bit relieved when I covered the dummy well and without fuss or bother. Phew. The only thing is I was left with what I’m describing as pock marks. I didn’t have an answer for it. I’ve never had it before. I’d also bought Satin Ice fondant on the Saturday and I hoped that it would roll better.

Tuesday morning it was bucketing down so instead of going for a run I decided I’d hand pipe some hearts onto the dummy cake so that J & S could compare and decide which type of heart embellishments they wanted (which was really for my sake, in case I ended up with tears in the fondant and needed to disguise them). I also added some lustre to the cake. I was doing this all backwards. I had the cake covered, the embossed “band” attached and some cut out hearts and now I was trying to paint the base. That wasn’t going to go easily, and it didn’t. The brush strokes left too many streaks. And I was applying this at 6am with my running torch on trying to see what I was doing. In the dull light the silver was looking quite grey. So it was back to Natalie’s Tuesday after work as well. Jasmine wasn’t there so I had to wait to see what she and Sam liked. But more photos were taken and shared. We have a Dropbox album where I added photos to help them get a feel for things.

Word came back that they liked the hearts but would prefer the colour to the same as the band. I totally agreed, and it was my plan that if they liked the heart design I’d re-colour the modelling chocolate to get close to the teal colour. I couldn’t believe how much colour I had to add to the modelling chocolate. I was being as careful as I could to knead it in, but there came a point where the MC was becoming a bit too soft and I didn’t want to risk overworking it and have it crumble when it “rested” and then be completely unusable. I was very pleased the next morning to see it had hardened up perfectly overnight. I still needed to work the colour in a little more but we had a winner.

I wasn’t totally sold on the size of the hearts I’d made on Sunday, or the chunkiness so Wednesday I started over again. This time making the larger heart much larger knowing the MC covering would take up some of the distance that would be between the larger and smaller heart. I also used a heavier gauge of florist tape, and this time white. See, always learning :)

Using my necklace for inspiration.

Using my necklace for inspiration.

Before fluffing about with the MC I covered the cake board and used the same impression mat to emboss the fondant. I was using the left over Bakels fondant. As well as that, I was also ganaching the 10″ cake. It was going quite well. The corners weren’t perfect but I planned to work on them further once the sides had set so that I could use them to help guide the bench scrapers up the sides to achieve true corners.

Thursday morning I was up at 4:45am to head to Wellington. I touched the side of the cake and it had dried perfectly. I was thrilled. I flipped it over and pulled away the waxed paper from the top. The top was almost perfect too, but I knew I would need to do a little tidying up.

When I arrived home Thursday night I tidied up the top of the cake, made sharp corners (it was pretty simple after all) and then got stuck into preparing for the 8″ cake which Mr Fussy had collected from Natalie’s to bring home. The 10″ cake I’d pulled out of the freezer on Tuesday night and left in the fridge all day. So when I came to ganaching it, it was still quite a firm cake. I was very pleased I’d levelled the top Sunday night, but I left the top on, and it made it tricky to pull it away cleanly. The 8″ cake I’d instructed Natalie to leave out of the fridge when she got it from the freezer Thursday morning. It was room temperature when I was working with it. The only thing that was slightly nerve-wracking was lifting the whole thing and turning it upside down onto the waxed paper which had a thick coating of ganache (which is how I get the top to be smooth and level). The cake had some give it it because it wasn’t nice and firm from the fridge. But it wasn’t much of a bother. The 8″ cake covered as simply as the 10″ and I was sitting down by 8:30pm, even after covering the new hearts in silver cachous. That was a bit of a fiddly job. Those little round silver balls didn’t really want to stick to the piping gel that I’d brushed all over the hearts. Mostly because MC is waxy and trying to get anything liquid to adhere was never going to be easy. I knew there wouldn’t be a complete coverage, which is why it was important to get a pretty good match to the teal band/ribbon. At one point I even got the tweezers out to try and individually place cachous in gaps I thought were too big. Next was to wait and see if it would set up and firmly stick. I wasn’t really keen to give it a good shake to test things out.

Friday came and I knew it was D day, or F day, Fondant that is. I was fairly relaxed about it, slightly encouraged by my trial run on Monday. For all that a couple of packets of fondant made it into the shopping cart. See, I even went grocery shopping first. No rushing home in an anxious state slightly panicked by the ordeal ahead of me. I was quite proud of myself. Which is not to say that when I began rolling the first lot of fondant (I started with the 8″) I didn’t get a warm feeling from being either hot and bothered, or just hot from all that rolling.

The edge is a little thin, and you can see the pock marks in the fondant.

The edge is a little thin, and you can see the pock marks in the fondant.

The 8″ cake covered nicely, no problem getting the corners tidy, except that just one corner seemed to be a little bit thin and I could make out the ganache underneath. It was weird that it was the height of the cake. The thing with rolling fondant in The Mat is that it’s quite sticky. It doesn’t stick so much you can’t coax it off the mat, but once all is said and done and you’re ready to smooth out the top, the fondant smoothers just grab and don’t want to move freely. For that I have to end up dusting the fondant with cornflour to easy the stickiness and allow the smoothers to glide nicely. But the pock marks were there. Blah. No amount of smoothing was bringing them together to fill out. Oh well.  Onto the 10″ cake. Eeek. Well the dummy cake and the 8″ cake went without any dramas, how about 3 for 3. And yes, I got 3 for 3. Again no drams. I didn’t have quite as much overhang which I worried might pull at the corners, but we were all good. The other thing that had worried me with the 10″ cake is that I took it out of the fridge on Friday morning and left it on the bench (at 5:30am) and it had condensated, I fully expected that. But I also expected it would dry out during the day and be dry as it was overnight after first ganaching it. But it was slightly sticky. I left my fingerprint in the top as I gave it a light touch. I wasn’t concerned it was a bit sticky, I needed that for the fondant to adhere, but I hoped it didn’t increase the chance of the fondant bulging. Though that’s usually from the difference in temperature and the cake relaxing as it comes to room temperature. The really odd thing is that it was cooler than the 8″ cake. I couldn’t understand it. Why would the cake be cooler when it wasn’t a cold day, and it had been sitting out for more than 12 hours by now. Anyway, all was good. I made sure I poked a hole into the top using a skewer so that if any air needed to escape it had somewhere to go (hopefully).

All covered, and covered. Time to rest.

All covered, and covered. Time to rest.

One of the questions I had for J & S was whether they wanted the hearts if I managed to cover the cakes without any tears or any elephant skin. The answer was yes. With the cakes covered I moved onto making the cutout hearts. I wanted them dry before fixing them to the side of the cake, it just makes it easier to touch them. And I figured if I were going to cover the corners like I had on the dummy cake, well I’d just roll some fresh fondant to be able to wrap them around the corners.  In the end I had over 100 hearts in 3 sizes. I had no idea how many I had, but it filled up the turntable so it was time to call it a night.

Did someone say hearts?

Did someone say hearts?

For whatever reason, I found myself awake during the early hours of the morning. I got up and flipped each heart over to give it a chance to dry out on the bottom as well. And then back to bed.

I didn’t get out of bed until 8am, I thought I was doing well. But it was straight up and at it. I started with rolling the fondant and putting each strip through the pasta attachment to ensure I had an even thickness. The 10″ cake was bigger than the embossing sheet so I had to do a bit of careful matching up in order to make the strip as seamless as I could. I watered down the piping gel to make it smoother (piping gel, or at least mine, is a bit lumpy). I used a wide flat brush to brush it on. Rolling the strip up onto it self without it sticking meant that as I coiled it up I’d have to dust the underside a bit to ensure it unravelled freely and didn’t stick and subsequently stretch the fondant.

Even though the strips are pretty uncomplicated in design, they took a bit of time from start to finish. Then it was time to fix the silver cachous onto the seems where the fondant joined at the edges, and lastly to randomly place the hearts. I picked the spots that had the biggest pock marks. That’s how I managed random.

I had another acrylic 21cm square which I used to work out where the top layer would sit and then using the same acrylic square I traced it onto baking paper which I cut out, then went 1″ in to mark out where I’d put the supports. I placed the paper on the cake and using a pin I pierced through the paper at the points and gave the pin a bit of a wiggle to make the hole a little more obvious, then I pushed the plastic dowels in and cut them to size. Oh, what I should have mentioned earlier is that I fixed the bottom tier to the cake board using royal icing. I’ve never used it before and hoped that some 8 hours later it would have set to ensure the bottom tier wasn’t going anywhere.

All doweled up and ready to go.

All doweled up and ready to go.

One of the things I probably spent more time on than was needed on the Saturday was working out what to do with the hearts that were originally across the corner of the dummy cake. I really didn’t want to make it seem like I was masking a mishap like I had intended them to be for, and I felt the hearts didn’t quite blend as well on the corners as I would have liked. I don’t know if I’m sold on the way I used them on the cake either. It sort of reminds me of a curtain opening to reveal something else, that being the silver cachous (in my mind). Anyway it is what it is.

We took the cakes down to the hall for 4pm. I was a little nervous about the cake in the hatch and hoping that royal icing had stuck firmly and the cake itself wasn’t bouncing about in the back unseen to us. I nursed the 8″ on my lap.

I expected it would take an hour to set up, not because I’m slow, but there were decisions that still needed to be made. Did J & S want the left over cut out hearts scattered over the top of the cake. Should I add the ribbon to the cake board or not. How should I place the the heart toppers. I was keen to get the cake set up. Logan was moving around the bench where the cake was mostly on the bench, getting into the fridge. I was looking on nervously and didn’t want him to end up accidentally knocking it as he was putting drinks etc away. We had to go through the whole round or square table, black or white cloth, add the table runner or not. And then as I was getting it set up everyone was moving around the table getting photos hung. It was an interesting time. Once I decided on the height of the hearts I then had to add a little more florist tape and make sure no florist wire was exposed. Even though the topper was sitting inside of a plastic cake pop “straw” I was still being extra cautious. I think in the end the topper might have looked better sitting on the cake rather than a little above. It was a little higher before but as Natalie mentioned, it looked a bit like a lollypop.

Corner details. The draped hearts and graduated silver cachous.

Corner details. The draped hearts and graduated silver cachous.

Both Jasmine & Sam were really happy with the cake. I let them know that I was worried that the cake had turned out quite different to the cake they had originally seen but they both loved it. Jasmine let me know some of her friends had made positive comments about the cake too.

So the cake was cut, then I took it to the kitchen and cut it up some more. We had expected around 160 people, but knew they would be coming and going through the night. Initially we were going to make a 12 and 8″ cake but then I remembered how much cake we had left from Cameron’s 21st. Saturday morning I contacted Natalie and we agreed a 10″ would be more than adequate, and if we thought it wasn’t going to go the distance, we’d just cut them into 1×1″ squares rather than 1×2″ square.

Sooo much cake.

Sooo much cake.

With all the food that Natalie and Sam’s mum had prepared, there was no way there wouldn’t be enough sweet things, so I cut the majority of the slices into 1×1″ pieces. And you can see, there’s plenty left, more than 1/4 of the bottom tier. The top tier completely untouched!

Congratulations Jasmine and Sam, and thank you for the privilege of making your Engagement Cake <3

Jasmine and Sam's Engagement Cake

Jasmine and Sam’s Engagement Cake


Busy with bikkies (cookies)

Yep, I know. I didn’t post anything last weekend. Boy the end of the Tax Year (in NZ) is, well, taxing. Talk about rushing about like headless chickens. Our Consulting team has been kept VERY busy. I haven’t enjoyed my usual “breaks” gazing at all the lovely photos people are posting on Facebook of their fantastically designed cookies.

The monster, cookie that is.

The monster, cookie that is.

But I did find time to bake and decorating some cookies a couple of weeks back, and then again last week.  A few weeks back it was decorating with royal icing and trying a few different techniques. I really want to improve my piping so that was my focus, plus one GIANT cookie that I made using a Royal Icing transfer.

Last weekend it was more about handpainting designs (well flowers, I don’t want to keep you guessing too long) onto the cookies.

I’ll try and describe a few things as I post different photos.

Starting at the top then. I hand cut this cookie, it’s a giant of a thing. The elephant is a royal icing transfer I made tracing around the elephant cookie cutter (it’s a mini cutter). The next day I added the ear and used an edible marker for the eyelash. The white royal icing didn’t want to behave and I had a crater at each layer. After the 3rd layer it was getting out of hand so I just let it be. This cookie (all of the ones made the same weekend) went to work. I gave it to a workmate who has a little boy (3yrs). He saw it and with an amazed voice said “wow”. I also hear he really enjoyed eating it.

Frankenfrosting is too soft to use for a glazed crack effect.

Frankenfrosting is too soft to use for a glazed crack effect.

I was keen to try Ambers cracked effect. The Frankenfrosting (mix of glaze and royal icing) doesn’t harden as much, it crusts over and it wont get damaged if you place another cookie on it, but it doesn’t set hard like plain royal icing. So when I used my scribe tool to scratch the surface it went too deep and the icing flaked. But I was all in, I carried on and continued to make things worse. I couldn’t brush the petal dust evenly and then the glaze just sort of went on too thickly (I needed to thin it with vodka – so I’ve read today). The other thing I need to learn is to make smaller leaves. Also in this picture is the mini elephant cookie and the 2nd transfer I made, it was my backup in case one of them didn’t peel nicely off the waxed paper.

White rabbits and pink noses.

White rabbits and pink noses.

I was aiming for a Wedgwood blue, I’m not sure if I hit the mark or not, perhaps the mere fact I’m questioning it means I probably didn’t. Anyway I had first piped the outside of the rounded bits intending to then fully flood the cookie and into the rounded bits. I decided I did a reasonably tidy job and I’d leave it that way for something different. And while in the mood for trying to smarten things up I added the little dots. The rabbit was piped on the dried cookie following a silhouette I’d seen on Google search. the other bunny was wet on wet for the ears and eyes. The cheeks/whiskers were added the following day, and some 30 minutes later I added the nose. And there’s a crater under those whiskers. It was one of those days :)

Fiddling about with piping.

Fiddling about with piping.

Some people have stunning work on their cookies. I know it comes from practice, and some may have a more natural talent, but this is me giving it a bash. I struggled to get even petals, and my lines are spaced too wide (this light blue cookie is closer than the first one I tried – you’ll see). I still can’t pipe a scroll fluidly, but I’ll keep trying. The light blue cookie did NOT go to work. Mr Fussy had that one. I explained it would be inappropriate for me to expect anyone at work to accept it :)

Sugarflair Extra Red. It's the business.

Sugarflair Extra Red. It’s the business.

I love the Sugarflair Extra Red. It didn’t take as much gel to get a decent colour (it deepens overnight, as does other brands red) and the great thing, it didn’t make the royal icing bitter. That’s a BIG plus. The red royal icing was an experiment, but when I realised it was good, and tasted good I just had to use it, so I added the apple cutter to the collection when I baked up the cookies.

Wet on wet technique

Wet on wet technique

Paisleys take more imagination than I have, but I’ll work on that. I just knew they needed to be brightly coloured. But they should be more patterned than this with swirls and what-not. Next time. The sweetie was piped in flood consistency, in lines of different colours rather than flood in white then add the lines. This is the first time I’ve covered a cookie like this. It worked well. The following day I added the piping consistency lines to try and give better definition to the wrapper.

Tulip cutter turned owl

Tulip cutter turned owl

Sweet Sugarbelle has a post about using the tulip cutter to make owls. And that’s just what I did. Again I’ve used wet-on-wet for the chest feather type look. I had first piped the wings and let them set before flooding the body. Later the same day I added the eyes which ran together a bit more than I wanted, and the black was added straight away. What you can’t see is that the eyes sunk. The black has cratered the eyes. I almost forgot to add the beaks. In fact I’d taken a photo already and commented to Mr Fussy that something wasn’t right. He took one look and asked if I was going to give them beaks.  Doh!

Brush embroidery is HARD

Brush embroidery is HARD

This is the second go at trying to improve the brush embroidery – you’ll see in the next photo. I wont give up. I just need to find the right brush I think. I use the same as Amber of SweetAmbs. And the outer petals are somewhat ordinary and don’t look like petals at all. And I used a 5 petal cutter which I traced with edible pen to guide me. Some people need more help than others ;-)

Another new cutter

Another new cutter

I’ve not used the crown cutter before. I quite liked the sanding sugar cuff. This is a very simple decoration technique. I was just trying a bunch of different ideas to see how long they took to create.  And the brush embroidery above was my first go. And as you saw in the earlier picture, I tried to make it better. Didn’t pull it off, but I don’t think I made it any worse.



Again this was done with a wet on wet technique. I had a stiffer consistency pink which never settled into the flooded cookie, and that’s what I hoped. The first one was the better (in my opinion), it’s on the right. As I was picking cookies up to pack them for taking to work I dropped a cookie onto it and scuffed up the icing. Never mind.

Bright eyed and bunny tailed

Bright eyed and bunny tailed

More wet on wet. That yellow is as bright as it looks in the photo.This is a very easy cookie to decorate. The white one I added the pink nose after the base had set but the eye was done wet on wet. The pink was the stiffer icing and it hasn’t settled and is slightly raised. Just adds a bit of extra definition.

The monster, cookie that is.

The monster, cookie that is.

As for this one. To begin with I did do a bit of wet on wet to get the grass off to a start but I actually wished I hadn’t. I didn’t like it. I much preferred to use the air brush colours and paint the grass. Unfortunately I cleaned the paint palette before I added the elephant and never got the same colours to paint over his feet. I had hoped it would look like he was in amongst the grass.  I think I should have placed him on first and determined the height better. You live and learn.

Practice practice practice

Practice practice practice

And I’ll need to keep practicing. Even using a PME 1.5 tip the icing seemed a bit fat. The dots are better but trying to make a flower shape wasn’t really working for me. I should have had more tear drop shapes. As I say, more practice. And I will because I really would like to make some of the cookies I’ve seen. I’m in awe.  You should take a look at My Little Bakery’s blog.

And lastly …

Bigger cookie, more room to "play" with

Bigger cookie, more room to “play” with

I used this cookie to try out some “patterns”. Cayley of Sweet Sugarbelle recommends planning the design.  Yep, I’d go along with that. I sort of get something done and look at the empty spaces and wonder how I can fill that up without destroying what I’ve already got. The lines here are far too wide. I’ll work on it :)

Ok, I said I’d add in the handpainted cookies too, and I will, but no running commentary this time. You’ll thank me :)

Alright, I’ve already reneged. I took all the handpainted cookies into work as well. The women got first pick, then a few men got to take one home for their other halves. And the two animated cookies again went to Robbie and one to Cel’s little boy Zayden.

Handpainting is hard

Handpainting is hard

Zayden's cookie. I transferred the picture and used airbrush colours.

Zayden’s cookie. I transferred the picture and used airbrush colours.

My favourite book, even as an adult. Maybe I've just never grown up :)

My favourite book, even as an adult. Maybe I’ve just never grown up :)

I followed a tutorial for this. Hardest of all the handpainted flowers. I can't get the brush to behave for the 4 petals.

I followed a tutorial for this. Hardest of all the handpainted flowers. I can’t get the brush to behave for the 4 petals.


Another year, another cake

Happy Anniversary

A public display of affection

Better late than never, right?

This post is dedicated to the cake I made and decorated for our Wedding Anniversary. It was mid March, a little over a week ago. Not too late, surely.

I made a White Chocolate Citrus Mudcake. I used this recipe, and it was my first time making this cake. I’m not really one to leave a recipe alone. I barely made a change. I added some Mandarin rind and then put mandrin sugar syrup between all the layers when it came time to decorate the cake. I’d also frozen the cake having made it some weeks ahead of time. I was a bit skeptical about how easy/difficult it would be to torte given the drama I had with David’s birthday cake, a  Chocolate mudcake. It turned out to be reasonably straight forward by comparison.

I used a different Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe. This time I whipped the butter before making the meringue. I was curious whether it would help reduce the yellow colour you will get when using so much butter. I even went as far as to add a dab of Sugarflair Violet to the creamed butter. Did it make any difference? Not to me. I stared so hard but I really couldn’t see a difference.  I also added a dab more when it came time to mix the whipped butter into the meringue. Nope, still couldn’t detect any lightening of the frosting.

The SMBC was very nice. It was really light. Since I’ve never made this particular SMBC before I can’t say if the recipe is like that made as instructed, or it became lighter because I whipped the butter prior. I added Cointreau to try and get an orange flavour. I added about 3 tablespoons but couldn’t taste anything. I’m starting to think I’m getting old. Can’t see a change, can’t taste a change. It’s a slippery slope I’m on ;-) Anyway it worried me that adding so much liquid might make the SMBC go sloppy. So I gave up on adding further liquor.

As is normal for white mudcakes I bake, the cake itself looked a little dense and wet after having added the sugar syrup. Maybe I was a bit heavy handed.

Pink and blue to match the front design

Pink and blue to match the front design

I had decided a couple of weeks before our wedding anniversary how I wanted to decorate the cake. I had seen a technique of a Facebook page a I like and I planned to use that technique in a slightly different manner.  This link takes you to the photos I’d seen.

I didn’t know how the technique was achieved so I just ploughed on and did what I expected to be the most logical way to go about this. I didn’t even crumb coat the cake. I only realised that after I’d applied the buttercream. I’d sort of crumb coated the cake from the excess filling from between the layers. And I ordered the colours incorrectly. And if I hadn’t said anything the chances of anyone looking thinking it was wrong would be slim (I hope).

Beneath the cake card is the layer of purple, you can just see it sneaking out.

Beneath the cake card is the layer of purple, you can just see it sneaking out.

After having left the cake overnight in the fridge with the final buttercream layer, the next morning I took the cake out and immediately carved out a cavity for where I would add the different colours. I wanted a sort of blend from blue into purple into pink. It sort of worked.

While I had a really nice smooth finish on the cake prior to carving bits out and then having to smooth the new colours in, with using the scraper to smooth the colours I ended up marking the cake. I’ve become a little less picky. Ok, I pick, I see, it irks me a bit, but it’s just a cake, it’s only for me, it’s mostly an excuse to try new techniques. It’s all practice, and I enjoy the process – most of the time.

I pulled out several pokey type implements I wasn’t sure which would make the best job of carving words.There’s lots wrong here. The sloped Y, not putting the words so they were evenly spaced top and sides. And then the little “extra” message almost hidden, should have started under the main “I love you” wording. This is a little insight into Mr Fussy and my playfulness. We don’t argue. I don’t know if that’s abnormal, but we don’t. What we do, is playfully insist to the other that we love the other “the most”. So for us, saying I love you is not the end of the subject, it’s always followed by “the most”. You may be able to see that, if you squint and cock your head.

The most

Our quirky little “add on”

With the cake pretty much decorated, I decided I had time to make a fantasy flower. I’m not good with fantasy flowers. And I ended up making the layers too thin. It wasn’t a gumpaste rose, it was meant to be whimsical, and it was hard to get it to ruffle being such large pieces of gumpaste. I’ll know for next time! I put the flower into the hot water cupboard to help it to dry quicker, and it worked nicely. The flower was dry enough to dust within 24 hours. Dusting is not something I do well with. I try to hard I think. And I don’t like blending colours and I like things perfect and not too abstract. So my dusting was really hit and miss on this. I had a pinkish purple and a bluish purple and tried to evenly apply it. I had good intentions. We’ll leave it at that.

Fantasy Flower

My very fine fantasy flower. It was too thin and lacked some oomph.

Mum had popped around during the morning while I was dusting the flower and then trying to apply the flower. Overnight I had been thinking about whether the flower would stay put given the angle and position I was aiming for. I had thought about using a toothpick, but completely forgot that when I was trying to get it to stay put. Mum suggested the toothpick and I almost slapped myself for not having remembered that from the previous night.

Mum suggested I stick the toothpick into the fondant to get thehole ready and then stick the toothpick into the back of the flower and then just feed it into the pre-made hole. Worked a charm and that flower was no longer slipping on the buttercream.


You can make out the glob of fondant. I tried hard to get the rainbow sanding sugar to hide the white, but it wasn’t quite enough.

As far as taste, it was quite lovely. Not at all sweet thanks to the citrus. And as per usual, we had far too much cake. We only wanted to have a slice. The rest of the top layers went with Mr Fussy to work and was dolled out. The bottom section was palmed off to Natalie for her crew to eat. By all accounts everyone enjoyed the cake.

Next cake will be made for Easter. This past weekend I spent time making and decorating cookies. I’ll try to do better this week and get that post up on the blog on Sunday.

Slice of cake anyone?

Slice of cake anyone?



St Patrick’s Day Cookies

Gosh, I almost forgot it’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow and I haven’t posted the cookies I made. Not that they’re anything amazing. But following on with the theme of hand painting, I decided to paint most of the cookies that I hadn’t used the wet on wet technique.

I made a batch of the cookie dough minus the cardamom and orange rind, instead opting to use the new Flavacol I bought straight from the New World supermarket while in Hamilton. It was butterscotch.

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Butterscotch cookies

I baked the cookies Saturday afternoon and whipped up royal icing, but I used Color Flow rather than Meringue Powder. And because I make assumption, I treated the quantity of Color Flow the same as I would Meringue Powder (but CF is about twice the strength going by the proportions of the powder to water).

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Wilton Color Flow

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The consistency was thicker than royal icing made with Meringue Powder.

I also was trying Sweet Hope Cookie’s (her name is Anita too) FrankenFrosting recipe. It is equal parts Royal Icing and Glaze. I’ve never made glaze before, well I guess I have, but for bread or loaves, never as a coverage of cookies I was going to decorate.

I used Wilton clear Vanilla and also Butter flavouring. It made a difference to the flavour, I guess it’s an improvement. But it’s still sweet.

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The result of 50/50 RI and Glaze. You have FrankenFrosting.

The glaze is a lot looser, so I guess all up adding that to the double strength royal icing sort of evened things out. Mr Fussy said the icing is the same as normal, so has a crust but still soft.

Saturday night I flooded all the cookies. I used my new PME needle, it’s a bit thicker and it makes the job of gently swirling the icing to get it to move a little further out and to become a smoother edge much easier. Some  cookies I decorated using the wet on wet technique, the rest would be left overnight to dry out completely, ready for painting.

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My new, slightly thicker, PME needle.

I really wasn’t too sure what I was doing, and I was hoping for a more water coloured effect than I got. But I realised I was using normal food gel thinned with vodka and I should have been using my air brush colours (which is a thinner liquid).

It’s all about learning :)

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Using Americolor food gels.

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Things got messy.

I started with a plaque cookie and added the rainbow, but there was too much cookie left. I grabbed the Macbook (before it died) and Google searched pot of gold and used an image as a reference. All images are freehand, as if it needs to be pointed out.

Next came a hat which turned out pretty good, but I was using quite a bit of colour to get the shading, and it was starting to make the royal icing dissolve a little. In the end it looks a bit like felt. Not such a bad thing really.

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I was starting to get the hang of it but was clean out of ideas. I had to keep doing Google searches to find something else new to draw. The last one I did was the scroll work with a shamrock. I would have liked to do something incorporating a Celtic design but I’m a long way from being that good.  But practice will help :)

Happy St Patrick’s Day, for tomorrow.

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Wet on wet shamrocks.


Live long and prosper – David’s birthday cake

I realise I’ve become quite lazy with taking photos. Don’t get me wrong. I’m taking lots of photos, but from my phone. Setting up shots is really time consuming. And when it gets to the point I don’t want to bake because I want to take photos, then something has to change. So you’ll get the same number of photos (overload), but they’re from my phone, unless it’s something I deem to be quite special, then I’ll take the photos on the dSLR.

Ok, that out the way, not only are these photos from my phone, my Macbook had packed up (I’ve had it just 6 months) and has gone off to Apple to be checked out. It’s no longer charging.  So these photos haven’t seen Lightroom either. I don’t have Lightroom on my work laptop.

Phew, now I’ve come clean, let’s get onto David’s cake.

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Live long and prosper

I had made the Planet Cake Mud cake a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer in anticipation of David’s birthday. I made two 6” cakes. The recipe is for a 9” cake.  You get two 6” cakes out of one 9” cake. It’s the first time I’ve made the mud cake recipe and I was pretty pleased with how it baked and cooled in the tin. I’d ordered the Planet Cake cookbook, but you can find another blogger who wrote out the recipe here.

I used a frosting recipe I’d spotted, probably over a year ago. I’m not sure why I decided now would be the time, but it was.

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Thick unappetising white sauce to become a silky frosting in another life.

The recipe makes the frosting starting from a white sauce. I know. Sounds disgusting, right? But it was weird and I like weird so I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave it a crack.

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Add that white sauce to the whipped butter and sugar and you end up with something quite unexpected.

Well the frosting turned out pretty good. It really was light in texture. The only thing is that there were a couple of small globs of the white sauce. While it seemed like it had all whipped up together (and it whipped up nicely like Swiss Meringue Buttercream) as I was frosting the cake, I spotted a couple of small globs.

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Texture of the mud cake.

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Oops, we’ve got problem. The ganache kept it all together.

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Crumb coated of sorts and ready for some frosting.

Getting back to the cake, Mr Fussy took the cake out of the freezer Friday morning (I was in Hamilton) and popped it in the fridge. I torted it Saturday when I was ready to frost it. Boy, that is one sticky cake. I got my knife stuck in the first layer (the bottom) on more than one occasion. So much so that in my desperation to extract the knife a bit of the side of the middle layer broke away. I wasn’t happy with that and it was putting me off the cake big time. Thankfully the middle cut and the cut to level the top layer (3 layers) was much easier. The cake really is as Kathrin said, like a brownie. It also had a much stronger taste of coffee than I expected. There was a lot of coffee (25gm of granules) but usually that disappears during baking and acts only to deepen the flavour of the chocolate. I don’t like coffee (and I don’t drink tea), so for me it was a little too much, especially when I hadn’t been expecting it.

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This is what I was aiming for at first, then Dave’s suggestion saw an addition of “Live long and prosper”. Very fitting for a birthday.

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Up to the second trace, now to trace the pencil (2B) outline onto the fondat by tracing over the same markings.

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Looks weird, and takes a bit of looking backward and forward between fondant and original picture to make sure you’re filling in the right sections.

  Backing up a bit, as I mentioned, I was in Hamilton Friday. When I got home the only thing on my mind was to hand paint the top of David’s cake. On the Monday I had cut a 6” circle of fondant and I’d printed out a black and white image of Spock. Dave at work spotted the image on my screen and suggested that I add “live long and prosper”. Good idea. I had to then decide where I’d place that, and what font/size I wanted, then I had to flip the whole thing over (I use Snagit, a screen capture (and more) application we use at work). The reason you flip it over is that you then trace the image onto baking paper and then the baking paper is placed onto the fondant, and you re-trace the image again, over the image you first put onto the baking paper. And when all is said and done, you’ve drawn the image 3 times. Twice on the baking paper (one each side) and then finally the traced image on the fondant.

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A sort of side-by-side comparison. Pretty close.

 I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. The only thing is that I didn’t get a very even coverage of Spock’s hair. I had some thinned out Sugarflair Liquorice which applied nicely to larger areas, but I ran out before I finished the hair, so I used the food gel without thinning it. That’s what did me in. I shouldn’t have been so lazy and I should have made up a little more thinned down black. You live and learn. And while it wasn’t quite as smooth as I’d have liked, over all I was pleased with how the image came out on the fondant, and I enjoyed the process. I must remember that I can take a bit of artistic license and could make some changes. I was thinking of adding some blue into the top but with the image sitting a lot to the bottom right it seemed like it would be trying too hard.

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Ombre sort of affecting lending itself to a sort of planet look. I used Americolor Sky Blue and Navy together and then took some of that colour and mixed it with the buttercream to get a lighter tone.

Instead I coloured the frosting blue. In some ways it reminds me of a planet, and with the theme being Star Wars, that’s kind of fitting. Not that I’d planned it that way.

I didn’t take a photo of a slice of the cake. I had flavoured the cream used to make a milk chocolate ganache with Lime oil. Mr Fussy wasn’t fond of it, but my MIL and I were quite taken with it. It was quite unusual to have such a flavour be quite bold, but not in the cake itself.

Even though we didn’t have the usual Paling family traditional dinner (yes you can laugh, I think it’s crazy – KFC with Christmas Pudding including custard), David was pretty pleased with having a birthday cake.

I put a round of baking paper between the cake and the fondant top so David got to take the top home with him, along with the rest of the cake.

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One last view of the hand painting. I have this on my new PME tilting turntable. Boy it makes it easier on the neck.

Now the frosting recipe says to have the cake the same day the frosting is made, but David managed to stretch the rest of his cake out to Thursday, his actual birthday. I forgot to ask him what it tasted like, and how he stored the cake. I suspect he wouldn’t know to put it in the fridge.

So that’s one cake for March done and dusted. Today is our wedding anniversary and I have made a cake, and we’ve had a slice, so that’ll be next week. Then Mr Fussy has a birthday at the end of the month, but he’s requested the Lemon cheesecake and no cake. Fair enough, and I like that cheesecake too!

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A lot to catch up on – Lindy’s Gumpaste Recipe

Despite not feeling like I’ve spent a lot of time at home, I’ve got quite a few new recipes to share. I’m not sure how I’m going to get on top of it all.

Thankfully this week coming is my second to last flight to Hamilton. I now move from flying up Tuesday or Wednesday after work and returning on Friday evening, to leaving Monday after work, and arriving home 10pm on a Wednesday. I think these shorter trips will feel longer. But the good news …. I get to be home during some week day evenings.  And that means I get to potter around doing fun things like making flowers.

So today’s catch up is about Lindy’s recipe for gumpaste.

Some who have been around this blog for a while will know that I’ve tried a couple of different recipes.

I’ve also made Lindy’s recipe before too.

So what’s different this time?

This time I made a “commercial” batch of the gumpaste. The biggest difference to me was knowing the amount of water that needed to be added.

Lindy’s recipe produces a rubbery gumpaste. You can press it and it will spring back. I knew what to look for, but when I make a batch using just 100gm of fondant, the amount of water isn’t a measure and I seem to never quite get the right consistency, although it’s always been usable.

For me there were a couple of tests that would prove whether I finally had the recipe right.


Colours well

Rolls well

Can be fed through the KitchenAid on the narrowest setting (8)

Veins easily and holds the impression

Petal dust colours hold

So not much really ;-)

Here’s a bunch of photos to keep you on the edge of your seat while I lead you on my journey.

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Dyocell Gumpaste Recipe – Commercial batch


  • 750gm fondant – I used Bakels, but you can use Satin Ice or other brands
  • 45gm water – heated for 35 seconds on high
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white fat – I used Crisco but Kremelta will also work
  • 29gm Dyocell


  • Grease the inside of your stand mixer liberally with white fat along with the dough hook.
  • Pinch of sections of the 750gm fondant into the bowl
  • Heat the water for 35 seconds on high and tip into the mixer bowl
  • Add the 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable fat – I didn’t melt it, well I did, but such a small amount solidified before I had time to add it to the ingredients
  • Turn the mixer onto low – setting 2 on the KitchenAid and continue to mix until it is soupy. I mixed mine until it was all combined.
  • Use a rubber scraper (cover it with some white fat) to ensure all the ingredients have mixed together. Sometimes my KitchenAid mixer will not grab the bits right in the middle of the bowl.
  • Turn the miser onto 1 and gradually add the Dyocell over about a 5 second period.
  • Turn the mixer up to medium high, about 7 on the KitchenAid and mix for about 30-45 seconds. During this time the mixture will thicken and it will become harder for the mixer to work. Don’t overwork the mixer, you don’t want to burn the motor out. My KitchenAid was easily able to handle this mix without any signs of strain.
  • Use some white fat on a flat surface where you will tip the gumpaste out. Add a little white fat to your hands and pull the gumpaste off the dough hook and then using a rubber scraper or similar, get all the gumpaste out of the mixing bowl and onto the bench.
  • Gently knead the gumpaste until it is smooth. Apply more white fat to your hands and bench as needed.
  • Portion out the gumpaste into 100gm amounts. I rolled each portion like you would a dinner roll to reduce the uneven edges that might have a tendency to dry out.
  • At this stage I coloured one portion just to test how much the colour reduced in intensity overnight. You’re encouraged to colour a shade darker than you want because gumpaste has a tendency to lighten in colour as it sits.
  • Place each portion into a Mono lunchbag (yes, Mono brand, I’m being particular because this is what Lindy specifies) and twist the end and tie it into a hook knot. I’m not sure if that’s the real name, but where you’re tying a knot without feeding the end all the way through.
  • After an hour or so take each portion and re-knead it. You’ll notice some little bits of the Dyocell visible as little bumps in the paste. These sort of dissolve more or less during the second knead and aren’t noticeable when you’re kneading the gumpaste ready to roll and cut.
  • Place the bagged portions of gumpaste into an airtight container and leave to rest overnight in the fridge.
  • The following day take the gumpaste out of the fridge and bring to room temperature before using.
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Roll the gumpaste in a fashion that doesn’t leave jiggered edges exposed. This shows how I roll mine after kneading.

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This is the “knot” I’m trying to describe

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So that covers making it and colouring it. And of course tucking those little 100gm rolls into Mono lunch bags for save keeping in an airtight container. I use a Sistema container. Usually I use a smaller one that will hold two packets, but this one works too, for larger quantities.

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Use bacterial wipes to make sure your hands and under your nails are clean before handling the gumpaste. (Nicholas Lodge batch still bagged, top right corner, for comparison of colour for my own requirements)

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So it’s looking good thus far. Now the dusting. It’s a wonder I went this far. I find the dusting the least enjoyable part of making a sugar flower. But the experiment wouldn’t be complete without adding a bit of colour.

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Phew. I think I can comfortably give this “commercial” batch the thumbs up.

The Ranunculus veiner is one I  bought from Nicolas Lodge’s store, and the petal cutter is from a Ranunculus set I bought from Sugar Art Studio.

The pink is Cosmos, also bought from Nicolas Lodge. The method I’m using here to create a Ranunculs is from Jacqueline Butler of Petal Sweet.

And if you love Lindy’s gumpaste, but don’t want to faff about making it yourself, either in a more convenient 100gm portion or the commercial batch, then you can always buy it online if popping out to the shop is not convenient.  It’s good stuff.


Ham and Potato Bake

Early in February I got around to making yet another dish I’d found and pinned on Pinterest. I was keen to make this to use up some of the left over, frozen, Christmas ham.
The original recipe can be found on Exclusively Food, here.
Although I thought I was being careful not to overcook the potato, it still happened. A few of them had started to break apart when I got up to check. And the amount of potato stated in the recipe wasn’t sufficient. Thankfully I had some left over new potato from the previous night’s dinner. They were being saved for my MIL to have for a lunch during the week (waste not want not) but they were called upon to complete this dish. So while I was at it, I added the left over spring carrots as well.
The recipe says to cut the potato 1cm thick, perhaps mine were a bit too thick and that’s why I ran out. I was quite a bit short though. I think there were 4 potatos from the previous night that I used.
I tested my loose bottom 8″ cake pan and it leaked so I had to use my 8″ Fat Daddio cake tin to make dinner. Even though the base and sides were covered with baking paper the fat from the cheese leaked and that left odd stains on the cake tin that still remain. Boo.
I was somewhat nervous about getting the potato bake out of the tin but I recalled Nigella faced with the same problem and just as cool as a cucumber she tipped her thing out onto a plate and then used a plate on the other side (so the potato bake is like a filling between two plates) and tipped it back up the right way. If Nigella can pull it off, surely I could too. And I did.
I’m glad I’ve still got another package of Christmas ham left because I’m already planning on making this again. It was very tasty.


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