On to the plate

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


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DoughEZ Mat

DoughEZMatWhen Dave (Mr Fussy’s good friend from High School) returned from his month-long ski trip to Denver, Colorado, he bought back a number of things I’d ordered from the States. One of those things was the very new to market DoughEZ mat.

Because I had a few cakes to make (still two to write a post for), this weekend was the first I had to focus of cookie things. I’ve made some Chocit roses and flowers, made some royal icing rose transfers, and finally this morning I made some cookie dough, three types in fact, so that I could test drive the DoughEZ mat.

Gingerbread_Chocolate SweetSugarBell_LemonShortbreadI made Sweetapolita’s Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie, my preferred chocolate cookie recipe, Haniela’s Gingerbread cookies (which is an adaption from Sweetopia’s Gingerbread cookie recipe) and SweetSugarBelle’s Basic Sugar Cookie recipe.

I made some changes to Haniela’s recipe. I replaced the honey and molassas for Golden Syrup, and instead for Star Anise I used Allspice. To the chocolate cookies I added Raspberry emulsion (and wished I hadn’t). To the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe (BSCR) I added my usual lemon extract.

Both the Gingerbread and the Chocolate cookie recipes stated to chill the dough first. The BSCR doesn’t need to be chilled. However I always chill the dough, but after having rolled it out. Trying to roll out already chilled dough just hurts my wrists.

So none of the recipes had been chilled, but all of them rested a minimum of 30 minutes. Now it was time to see how the DoughEZ mat behaved with these 3 different recipes. All 3 of them were a softish dough. I could easily press my fingertips into the dough.

Sweetapolita_ChocolateI first cleaned the DoughEZ mat as described and placed the plastic guides under the mat. I used 1/3 of the dough and roughly shaped it into a square/rectangle and got to work. I folded the other half over the top and then rolled away. It was pretty quick work which I was very pleased with.

DoughEZ_ChocolateI carefully peeled back the top layer of the DoughEZ mat and was a bit disappointed that the dough had stuck a little to the surface. The instructions go on to say that you need to place a piece of waxed paper over the surface then flip the whole thing. Now to peel back the other side. Same deal. Bits of dough had stuck to the mat. So again I placed another piece of waxed paper down. It was very easy to just smooth over the surface to get those little peaks of dough back under control.

DoughEZ_GingerbreadNow for me I don’t mind the whole waxed thing because often I roll the dough and then freeze it. I like it to be between sheets of waxed paper. It means when it comes to use it, it’s good to go. I just use a pallet knife to loosen it from the waxed paper, cut my shapes, then I can easily remove the shapes and transfer to the baking tray.

DoughEZ_LemonShortbreadBut one of the big advantages of the DoughEZ mat is meant to be the saving on waxed paper. That you can just peel the mat away, use one piece of waxed paper (primarily to protect the mat) and cut the shapes. Many users of the DoughEZ mat have said they don’t worry about the waxed paper. They cut their shapes out directly on the mat without any damage or difficulty.

My experiment would be a bit one-sided unless I tried my usual method which is to roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper.

WaxedPaper1What I became aware of, which I’ve never noticed, was the noise it makes rolling over waxed paper. It’s actually quite noisey. This is the first time I’ve had any strips to use as a guide. I usually use my Joseph Joseph rolling pin which has guides on the ends to ensure an even thickness of dough. I really like using the strips though. Often the rolling pin will slide rather than roll. It can really get a way on you and you find yourself almost laying over the bench. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it definitely heads in that direction.

WaxedPaper2The waxed paper behaved as it typically does, which is the bottom piece to crease. Which means you have to flip the dough over, pull the waxed paper out from the dough, lay it flat over the dough and roll again to try and ease the crease out from the dough. And now on thinking about it, it becomes a bit of a hassle to d fix it.

SSB_LemonShortbreadEven though the DoughEZ pulled a bit of the dough away on each side, the process itself was so much quicker and slicker that although not perfect using the dough recipes I used, I will definitely continue with the mat. Who knows, other recipes may perform better, but I like the chocolate and BSCR so I’m happy to use my little white scraper over the surface of the mat to gather up those little bits of dough. It’s not much of an inconvenience.

**** Update ****

Brenda from DoughEZ was kind enough to offer the following suggestions:

Play around with your dough and new Dough EZ system.
Slightly knead your dough on the mat before rolling out.  Place your dough within the mat and use mat cover to partially flatten. Now use your rolling pin and begin to roll out dough as directed stopping halfway thru, before you reach the desired thickness. Slowly peel back mat to see if sticking occurred. Please see photos.( I almost have the cover of the mat flush with itself, when you peel back cover.) Recover and continue to roll to desired thickness.
Depending on your recipe residual sticking may occur during the initial roll out. It should cease during re-rolling process. You should be able to re roll your dough, numerous times with out having issues that normally take place when you use excess flour in the process.
To remedy this, take scraps and run them across the mat and it will pick up these little pieces. If your recipe is extremely sticky or extensive sticking of dough to the mat occurs, then add a small dusting of flour to the mat at the beginning of the rolling process or as needed.
Hope this information helps. For more tips and techniques, check out our video demos or tutorials at www.dough-ez.com.
**** And on another note, I wanted to mention the fabulous communication with Brenda. When I first saw the mat I contacted Brenda about whether she shipped to New Zealand and she came back with a price. Then I made contact a few days later asking if there was any chance the mat could be sent to Dave and gave the date he was to leave Denver. Brenda very kindly got the mat sent sooner than the website suggested and then followed up after it had been despatched. That’s great customer service in my book. Then the email the other day asking how I was getting on, which coincided with this post. It’s great to see a business so interested in how their product is being received. ****


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50th Birthday Cake

50_HappyBirthdayHere’s the run down on making Greg’s 50th birthday cake.

Greg’s party was the same day as Jo’s son’s wedding. I had contacted Kathy and asked if she was having a cake for Greg. I was testing the waters to see if she might, and perhaps if she might she might also ask me. I just wanted to be on top of things in the planning department.

When you’re not immersed in making cakes you don’t realise the time that is spent researching design ideas or even the time it takes to convert recipe sizes. Or may it’s just me dithering over ideas, never totally sure of what I’m doing, needing to plan every last detail out and have a few options up my sleeve.

Anyway, the same day I sought Kathy out was the day I learnt when Jo’s son’s wedding was. I now had committed to making two cakes. Although at this stage the wedding cake was just bake and cover. Based on that I got to planning and realised that this was quite do-able. I just hoped I wasn’t going to have to head out of town to any customers the week leading into the events.

50_GeometricKathy and I had a chat and I learnt Greg didn’t like chocolate (secretly dying inside knowing I needed to ganache the cake prior to covering in fondant). But his favourite dessert was Creme Brûlée (which I’ve never had). I suggested the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake with a Swiss Meringue Butter Cream with caramel, to try and give some of that some taste of the melted sugar on the top of a Creme Brûlée. Next we got talking about the type of cake. Kathy said a square cake would be less feminine looking (I didn’t actually roll my eyes, but I realised this cake would take a little more loving in making). Finally we discussed colours and design. Kathy said she really didn’t know, but their house was decorated using greys, black and red (good Canterbury colours there – the red and black). I asked if Kathy liked geometric shapes which she did. I was forming a plan in my head as we spoke, which was better than having no clue from the get-go.

A couple of weeks out I got to making the decorations. I used Chocit for the first time at home. I’ve used it during Kevin’s class which he held in November, but I’d not used it since. I can’t speak highly enough of Chocit and the Atlas Mercato pasta roller that Kevin had recommended if someone was in the market to buy one. Gosh it was just so good to use, and the Chocit behaved beautifully. It rolled smoothly and it cut easily. I was feeling pretty chuffed that I was ahead of the game and had the “colour” sorted and would have a fairly simple job of the final decorating of the cake.

Then that coming Tuesday is when Jo asked if it were at all possible that I could make the Frangipani flowers for the wedding cake. It was just as well Greg’s cake was mostly under control (in my mind).

SourCreamVanillaBeanDryIngredientsI was able to finish work early on the Monday of the week of the party and I’d prepared all the ingredients on the Sunday ready for me to make the cake batter. The recipe was for an 8″ round cake that makes 3 layers and I was making a 6 layer 8″ square. I had to convert the tin size and then I had to divide all the quantities by 3. I was going to make two layers at a time an bake them together. The square Magic Line cake pans were ordered from Global Sugar Art in the States but with the lip all around the tin I wasn’t able to fit two tins side by side in the oven.

50_Bake vs FanI put the first of the 3 batches in the oven, each layer on separate racks. However the one on the bottom rack, closest to the oven door baked like a wedge, that is one side was much higher than the opposite side. The height of the shortest sides was too short for my liking. I plodded on and put the next two cake layers in. The tin that baked the “wedge” was not used with the following 2 layers, but even so the same thing happened to the layer that was on the bottom rack. I watched it off and on and I actually swapped it to the top rack just after it had been in the oven for 20 minutes to try and circumvent the lopsided baking. It seemed fine when I swapped the tins over, but when the cakes were done, the one that started on the bottom rack was again a wedge. At least the two wedges would sit nicely one on top of the other (top to top). But there’s no way I could cope with using two layers that were too short. I decided that I had no option than to bake each layer individually. And I would make another two layers to replace the two lopsided ones. I was in for a long night after all. Just as well I managed to finish work early!

Mr Fussy received a SOS call asking him to stop in at the supermarket to get more sour cream, the only ingredient I didn’t have enough of to bake the extra two layers, but I got everything ready and we were right on time with having the batter ready right as I was pulling the 4th layer out (being the second cake I baked as a single layer). I was stunned at the difference it made to bake the cakes as single cakes as opposed to using fan bake to bake multiple layers. The single layers never crusted on the outside edges, and rose significantly higher.

50_Building a towerThat same evening I also ganached the 8″ tier of the wedding cake and I managed to get Greg’s cake into two halves. I piped ganche around the edge of each layer and then filled the layers with Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream. At this point it was after 10pm and I got cold feet about putting the two halves together. If things went well I would want to fix it and that could mean an even later night. Instead I covered both halves with layers of gladwrap and put the cakes in the fridge.

SaltedCaramelSauceTuesday I trimmed both halves. At this point I was very grateful I didn’t put the two halves together the previous night. I didn’t have a knife long enough to trim the cake if it had been fully assembled. Now both halves were trimmed I added the poly dowels to the bottom half to support the weight of the top half. I added a 1mm cake card to separate the two halves. This was part of my plan. Knowing Greg didn’t like chocolate, the bottom half of the cake wouldn’t have a layer of ganache on it, and therefore Greg could have a piece of cake free of chocolate. I knew the cake would be cut in half horizontally making it again two halves.

50_The towerI took a deep breath and turned the top half over to sit on the bottom half. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was totally fine. Nothing slipped, nothing came away. Since there was no crisis I decided to plod on and I ganached it. Again I had cake cards that weren’t a 100% match for each other. I hate that. Means I have to fluff about so much more trying to get it right, and did I mention it was a square cake. You might think a square cake would be easier but that’s not the case. Square cakes have to be perfect, there’s no hiding a corner that’s slightly off. I didn’t set my expectations too high (haha!) and knew that it would be a softly softly approach to squaring everything up. So Tuesday night was not quite a slap dash. I did try to get things neat and tidy, but I wasn’t aiming for perfection. That would be Wednesday night.

Or Wednesday morning.

I found that if I used my tallest acrylic scraper and held it flush on one side, then add ganache to my other scraper I could then rest the one with ganache against the one flat against the other side and move it up the cake applying a little more ganache where needed and eventually giving a pretty good finish. I had to wait a little bit for the one side of the corner from each 4 sides to set up before I could repeat the process on the other side of the corner. This one was a little more difficult because I was using my left hand to scrape up the side of the cake, which isn’t so easy when it’s not your dominant side. Everything felt odd and it took a lot more concentration. But we got there, and actually it all came together. So the last thing was the top. I had been mulling over how I would ganache the top. I really didn’t feel I could use the upside down method with cake being so tall and heavy. Instead I ganached it up the right way and then put waxed paper over it, then a large acrylic square and applied a little weight and got the spirit level out and tried as best I could to get the top level. Then into the fridge it went. And out the door for a run I was.

50_Bit by bit Ganache

Top left is the first round of ganaching. Top right was applying more ganache to the top to even them up (the top cake board was ever so slightly smaller than the bottom). And the bottom photos show the results of my method for squaring up the corners.

When I got back I took the cake from the fridge and top the acrylic square off along with the waxed paper to see how well the ganaching went. Well not as good as I had hoped. I was in for some patching up. One corner was too low. Sadly I never quite got it right and thought that it would be good enough. It wasn’t. I can clearly see how that one corner isn’t right after applying the fondant. So lesson learned. You really have to get a square cake more right than you might be able to get away with a round cake.

50_Ready to fondantFriday rolled around and while I was completely on track, I knew covering the cake in fondant was going to be tricky work. I had no intention of draping the fondant, I was always going to panel the cake. And for kicks I decided it would be fun to have each side a different shade of grey. Thursday I had coloured the fondant. It actually took quite a bit of work, and even then I wasn’t sure it the change in depth was as noticable as I wanted. It was hot work, working the colour in and I decided it was fine if I alternated a light grey next to a darker grey. So here I was Friday night figuring out how I was going to get what was almost an 8″ square onto the sides of the cake without the fondant shape distorting. And of course I wanted to make sure that it was all the same thickness. As you can see from the photo I measured out my “square”. I used the perfection strips (for rolling cookie dough) to make sure I was rolling an even thickness. And the painters tape was my guide to the square size needed.

50_4 SidesThe first one was for the top of the cake so it was slightly easier but I had to shuffle the rolled out and trimmed fondant onto another cutting mat and then sort of shimmy it off that onto the cake at the very right point. It was now that I could see that corner that wasn’t as perfect as it should have been told the truth. The fondant did stretch a bit as I got it onto the cake so I needed to use a razor to trim the piece again to the right size.

The first piece for the side also didn’t behave as well as I’d have liked. This time the fondant shrunk back a little as I got it to the side. you can see how the piece doesn’t fit as well as it should. I learnt a few things after these two sides, which would have been nice to know right off the bat. Anyway the rest of the sides were mostly fine and fit well with a little bit of trimming. I made not real effort to try and blend the sides. I didn’t want the straight edges to weave which I suspected they would if I tried to rub the edges to blend them a bit more. Next I got the same cutters I used for the Chocit decorations and impressed the fondant making each side different. I had no plan at this point about which decorative pieces would got where, but thankfully on the Saturday morning it worked out and they seemed to fit quite well.

50_ChocitI just had the cake board to cover (which again was a little problematic with the black fondant drying out too quickly and cracking), put the ribbon on and work on the “50” for the top. I’d made cookies using the same geometric shape. I used my Wilton cookie numbers to cut out the cookies. On Saturday I rolled more black fondant (having added some glycerine to help with the drying out), cut out the 5 and the 0, then used the geometric shape to then cut the shape so the number was in the middle and then flipped the fondant piece and placed the cookie over the fondant. I can’t recall what I used to get the fondant to adhere to the cookie. Maybe some piping gel. I had to touch up the fondant piece a bit which I did by using the Color Shapers. Then it was time to let the fondant dry a bit before I piped some melted chocolate onto the back of the cookies and then put cake pop sticks on. This would allow me to put the cookies onto the top of the cake and know they were secure in the cake.

The drive to the party was uneventful, but all the same I asked Mr Fussy to stop part way there so I could check the cake. I was concerned the top half of the cake could possibly budge and try to make a break for it from the lower half of the cake. I know it’s not totally rational, but I’ve never delivered a cake that’s this tall and made in two parts so I needed to give myself some reassurance that all was well. And it was.

CookieTopperOnce we arrived I placed the cookie decorations on the top, took a few quick photos and then the cake was put out the back (away from the sunshine and Greg – who didn’t know Kathy had arranged for a birthday cake) until later in the evening. Cutting the cake was a bit fiddly but we got there. There were numerous treks between the bench I was cutting the cake on, to the sink where I was continually cleaning off the knife. I have a real thing for making sure the knife is clean between cuts. I don’t want to see cake crumbs ending up embedded into the surface of the cake as I make the next cake. It was quite a slow process but in my opinion always worth it.

And there ends my massive tale. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to make Greg’s birthday cake. And I for the most part I enjoyed all the learning experiences I got from making this cake.

50th Birthday Cake

Time for a quick photo and then it was time to get this cake away from the sun. I do like the shadow the cookie decorations created though.


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Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Ok, deep breath. Another long post on the Frangaipani Wedding Cake I made for Jo’s son and daughter-in-law. The wedding was the 21 February.

Initially I was just making a 10 and 8″ American Mud Cake, ganached and covered in fondant with Tiff (Jo’s DIL) wanting to make the flowers.

I set my timeline which started the Sunday before the wedding. I offered Kathy to make a cake for Greg’s birthday knowing that I had time to do both cakes. The wedding cake being picked up the Wednesday before.

The Wednesday before (1.5 weeks out) Jo caught up with me and asked if there was any way I could make the flowers for the cake as well. Tiff had now realised that she was spreading herself too thin and didn’t have the time she expected to be able to make the flowers herself. Our communication continued by email and phone conversations that day. I wasn’t at work, but instead at a course.

Obviously I needed to know what the flowers were. Up until this stage I was only focused on making the cake and hadn’t asked how the cake was going to be decorated. Jo let me know the main flower was Frangipani and there were other flowers that Tiff had begun to make. A few photos were sent and I got busy searching YouTube and Google for any tutorials on making Frangipani.

As Jo has suspected, a Frangipani was a more simple flower to make (compared to a rose). I took a look at a finished cake that Tiff had liked the look of, mainly it was to show how she liked the flowers to be draped down the side of the cake. I started to calculate how many flowers I might need to make.

FrangipaniJo and I had another discussion the next day and I got to see first hand the flowers Tiff had made, and in turn I showed a sample I’d made the night before. I needed to test that the gumpaste I had was still suitable to use (it had been in the fridge for some weeks) and whether I had the right type of cutter to make the petals. My flower was much too thin, I wasn’t used to making a flower with thicker petals and I hadn’t twigged I was making it too thin until I had all the petals together. Anyway we decided I was on the right track and that we’d use all flowers I made. Now it was time to get busy, very busy, because come Sunday I was all about making both cakes and would have no time to spare for flowers. Though I still would have to dust the flowers, tape them and put them into an arrangement.

FillerFlowersI started making flowers Thursday night, made more Friday, now making filler flowers as well, and still reviewing several photos of other cakes with Frangipanis so I could make a stab as to how many I would need to make. I was also timing how much time it took and pretty much figured I could make 8-10 an hour. I really wanted to make 40+ but I made 34 as well as the filler flowers and 6 Calla Lilies, another flower I’d never made before. In then end I thought I had enough, maybe even more than I needed.

SemolinaSunday morning I was spent attaching wires to the Frangipani flowers. I knew I needed some to sit out from the cake, I didn’t want them all to sit flat against the cake. I wanted to create a sense of movement and lightness. But do you think I could find anything that explained how you’d wire a Frangipani? No. So I had to come up with my own method. It worked, but I wouldn’t say it was the right way, or the tidiest way you could do it. But it did the trick and for the most part the “attachment” would be hidden amongst the other flowers.

During the afternoon on Sunday I baked both the 10 and 8″ cakes as well as got all the ingredients together for Greg’s cake. I was thankfully allowed to finish work on Monday at 3:30pm which meant I could bake Greg’s cake Monday (more of that in a separate post).

AttachingWiresSunday evening I ganached the 10″ cake. That wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. One batch of ganache decided it wouldn’t soften evenly and I ended up with what looked to be a grainy lump. Thankfully I had plenty of ganache and I warmed up another batch which was perfect. In the end I heated the first batch enough that it melted completely and it was absolutely perfect for use the following day, which is when I ganached the 8″ cake. I used two 4mm cake boards instead of my usual acrylic rounds. The trouble I had trying to get a nice smooth finish is something I wont discuss, but needless to say I am not a fan of cake boards. They weren’t perfectly round, and they were just slightly different in size which also caused some grief, as well as having to do a lot more the following day to get everything smooth and even.

Tuesday I covered the 10″ cake in fondant. I was a bit worried because it was warm in the house. I had to believe the dam I had used in the layers to hold the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream was sufficient to hold it all together and I should not have any problems with bulges. The horror of what happened with Jasmine and Sam’s cake still haunted me. The covering was mostly straight forward, though there were a significant number of air bubbles. I did have one air pocket giving me grief, then somehow I managed to get a bit of ganache on the fondant. Well that made the it pretty clear what would be the front where I could hide the little speck with a flower or two.

BumpyCakeBoardWednesday was to be a really hot day, so when I woke earlier than I would have liked on Wednesday morning I decided I would get up and cover the 8″ cake. The house was cooler and I knew it would save me some potential difficulty that evening with the house being a lot warmer, and the ganache not as firm as I’d like. While the cakes didn’t cover as well as Jasmine and Sam’s, I was still happy enough, mostly because I knew I had a bit of leeway with flowers being added which I could place in such a way as to hide any small blemish. I guess you can hope that cakes will cover flawlessly but the reality is that it’s a pretty tall order. I guess I got really lucky with J & S’s cake, and given the other grief I had with their cake, I was owed some good luck somewhere.

As the days progressed my plans about what I’d do with each of the cakes changed. Not travelling on Thursday made a big difference, and while I would have managed had I not had the Thursday evening free, it did take a bit of pressure off.

So here I was Wednesday morning and the cakes were all but done. I just had to do the cake board, which proved to be a pain in the butt. It was my fault for not rolling the fondant thin enough which made it a bit of a mission, and not as tidy as I’d have liked. Then somehow I managed to cut my finger, which I hand’t noticed until I had the ribbon around the edge of the cake board. And you guessed it, I had somehow managed to get some blood on the ribbon. So off that came, and on went a plaster before I put new ribbon around the board.

Arrangements2I’d been chipping away at dusting the flowers each evening as I had time, then steaming them. Thursday morning (I woke early again!) I began to tape each individual flower and in the evening I started to make little bunches of 3 flowers. I created 4 arrangements and was mostly happy, except the top one. Friday morning I woke early and re-wired the top. I realised when you looked straight down on the arrangement that all the flowers faced frontwards. So I suspected I’d be re-wiring again.

While each arrangement looked fine, I had to think about how they would work together. I dragged the cakes out (they’d been up in the 3rd bedroom, the coolest room in the house) and started to play with how the flowers would fit together, mindful I didn’t want to mark the cakes. It was a tricky job and in the end I was no further ahead in what I was thinking.

Friday night I started to pull together all the things I’d need to be able to set up the cake at the venue. I wasn’t looking forward to dowelling the bottom tier. It makes me nervous. The cakes always settle a bit and what starts out as a perfectly level cake tends to dip a little in the middle. So the poly dowels have to sit a bit proud so that all up the top tier will sit level.

You can’t stop the days from rolling over and Saturday arrived and I was busy dowelling the cake. I had to do it several times because one or other of the dowels wasn’t at the same height and when I lay the ruler across the cake the ruler wouldn’t come into contact with one of the dowels. Talk about tricky!

Decorations1Jo had said the venue would be available from 10am. I knew the reception was at 4pm and guessed we’d leave home at 10am. Mr Fussy gets the job of driving (extremely carefully) while I sit in the passenger seat fretting about everything that could go wrong.

We left at 11am. And just like J & S’s wedding, we almost got collected by a car. And we hadn’t even left our own cul de sac.

It turned out to be a really lovely warm day. Earlier in the week the forecast was for cloudy weather with temperatures in the low 20’s. While I noticed how lovely and warm it was outside the venue, it never registered as being warm when we were inside.

I set about putting the cake together. I dithered about with the flowers. I had thought I’d start by placing the flowers on the bottom tier and working my way up. But I just couldn’t quite figure out how to get the flowers in the cake so that they sat against the cake at the right angle/place without adding weight and risking them pulling away from the cake, or ripping through the cake.

FrangapaniWeddingCakeI really was having a hard job trying to work it all out. In the end I got the top arrangement and the spray that fell over the side of the top tier sorted. And yet I still couldn’t work out where and how I would place the bottom arrangement. In the end I fiddled with the placement/angle of the wires and went to stick the flowers the side, but there was too much weight in the flowers and they more or less plopped out onto the cake board.

Having a hole int he side of the cake and still not knowing where the arrangement was going was creating a stressful situation for me. I knew I could “plug” the hole with one of the unwired left over Frangipanis, so I wasn’t getting myself too worked up, but I was still at a loss as to how to place the bottom arrangement. In the end I just held my breath and poked the wires into the top of the bottom tier right next to the middle arrangement. Then I just fussed about moving the individual flowers so that they faced different ways and weren’t too bunched up.

Each of the extra individual Frangipanis were used. I really didn’t think I would need them, but they helped to “shape” the direction of the arrangement.

In the end I was happy with how the cake looked with the flowers. I had taken a lot longer than I expected with the setup, and I was there doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing, but after all the time that had been taken to make the flowers I didn’t want to muck it all up by having them falling off/away or ripping through the cake due to their weight.

When I was finally sure that all the extra flowers I had attached (with Royal Icing) were now set on the cake we packed up and left.

Last time I made something for Jo (the Pirate and Princess cookies) she let me know as soon as she got home and looked at them how pleased she was. Not hearing from Jo about the cake made me start to fret that something had gone wrong. I had all sorts of visions that the flowers had fallen off or ripped through the cake. Or maybe the warmth led the ganache to soften and the fondant had slopped down, or ganache was running out from under the fondant. I kept looking at photos I’d taken from the venue and trying to determine just how close the cake was to the window, and just where the sun would have been by 4pm. Was it possible the sun had melted the ganache? It was awful wondering. I knew that Jo would have been very busy and in all likelihood nothing was wrong, but I couldn’t help the thoughts. I guess that if you did this regularly you’d have more of an idea of what risk there was in things turning bad.

I was extremely relieved when on Monday I received a text from Jo who was thrilled with the cake.

Wedding cakes, so much time and emotion are invested. It’s such an important cake, such a significant part of a wedding. I wonder if proper cake decorators ever get comfortable with setting up the cake and walking away and not worrying about how the cake is received. I doubt I’ll ever feel that way about any cake I make for someone other than myself.

Venue setupIf someone had told me I’d have made and decorated two wedding cakes within months of each other I would have scoffed at the idea. But here we are, and they both turned out just fine. I did however find a grey hair the other day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence!


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Preview of a cake duo

There’s not enough time left to give my usual blow by blow account of making these cakes. So for now it’s just a couple of photos with a promise that I’ll do my usual re-cap of what went into making each of these cakes.

The wedding cake was made for Jo’s son’s wedding Saturday afternoon. The 50th cake for Kathy’s fiancee’s birthday.

This is the first time I’ve had two significant cakes to make in the one week, so it was a big thing for me.

More details will follow ….

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

50th Birthday Cake

50th Birthday Cake


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Waitangi Day – 2015

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Haha, I just typed 2014. Boy it’s tough remembering we’re in a new year. Here’s a fun fact (not), I’ve gotten lazy with my writing and seem to always be in a rush. My 5 is verging on an S. I’ve been fully concentrating on making my 5’s more like 5’s. So 2015 is starting to look good :)

Seems odd to say “starting”. Here we are, the first day of February. Well January seemed to have flown by. For New Zealand February represents a month where we have a long weekend. Waitangi Day is on Friday. And as has been my custom the last few years, I’ve made a cake in recognition that Waitangi Day is something special to New Zealanders.

It was while we were holidaying in the Sunshine Coast that I began looking for a design that would give a uniquely Kiwi flavour to the design of the cake. I found this image on Flox.co.nz, it was one of several designs being considered for Fly My Pretties tour.

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

I loved the design but wasn’t sure I could pull it off. There’s a lot of detail in that Tui. But I decided to go for it with some minor changes, like excluding all that finer detail in the wings. I added some tylose to fondant and rolled it out and then used the image which I’d printed and then traced the image outline including some of the larger details. I wanted to give the Tui a bit of movement so I used some foam pieces to place under the wings and body and as I did that a crack appeared down the left side of the body. Boo. There was nothing I could do but to wait and see if the gumpaste hardened enough that it held the wing to the body or if it was going to drop off meaning I had to start again. Although I was going to wait 3 days  before gingerly picking up the Tui and seeing if it was in one or two pieces I couldn’t wait that long. I’m so very impatient. The next day (could I have waited less time? I think not!) I picked it up and turned it over and saw the crack was superficial. It hadn’t come through the back at all. Phew, but still annoying.

The colours weren't quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

The colours weren’t quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

Still I had to get up the courage to start painting the Tui. I looked at it each time I passed the dining room table. I kept telling myself I must make a start. But I told myself there was still plenty of time, and I had other things I wanted to finish before I needed to start worrying about the Tui. I did however make a start and at least get the outline painted, and the tail. But the wings. Well I was starting to have a change of mind as to how I would decorate the cake. Initially I planned to have a two tier cake, simply decorated with only the Tui. That meant I’d have to do something about the wings. Gulp. A new plan started to emerge. I would add some colour to the Tui, basically colouring in the wings. Having the outline and a new plan was all I needed to then procrastinate some more. I used the time to toss around ideas about how I would apply colour. Petal dust of painting with watered down food colour. As is typical, I couldn’t decide so made a start on what I thought would be easiest to get together. Hand painting it was. I wasn’t sold on the look so this morning I used petal dusts and some lustre. You see I had this image in mind for the colours and my hand painting wasn’t really up to scratch with dept of colour.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

Ok, so the Tui was pretty much all I had hoped it would be. I still can’t see past the crack, but maybe I’m the only one. So it was onto the cakes.

I had baked Summer Stone’s Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake (my favourite non-chocolate cake by the way) a few weekends ago and had it in the freezer. I also had a 5″ American Chocolate Mud Cake in my sisters freezer. The mud cake was already ganached and good to go. I ganached the SCVB cake on Saturday. Leah popped over to have a look at how I ganache my cakes. Funnily enough I was almost at a complete blank. It’s been almost 2 months since I last ganached a cake, and there’s been Christmas and holidays and old age that I started out all wrong. But it soon came right and we were able to chat about a few things that have happened over the last 4 years since we worked together.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn't be fixed. I hoped it didn't affect the integrity of the ganache.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn’t be fixed. I hoped it didn’t affect the integrity of the ganache.

When I got up this morning I noticed a hair line crack in the ganache on the 8″ cake. Boo again. I applied a bit more ganache to smooth over it and hoped by the time I got back from the gym it would be all ok and I could get on with covering the cakes in fondant.

I had gone to the gym a bit earlier so I could get home a bit earlier because we were gearing up for a hot day today. I wanted to get the cakes covered before the heat affected the ganache making my life miserable. But it was still too late, even though I was covering the cakes before 10am. As soon as I shifted the 8″ cake the crack came back, but longer than it had been. And while covering the cake wasn’t a problem, I knew the ganache wasn’t as firm as it should be, so there was a look of giving the the beady eye waiting to see if it would bulge. I was really wondering if I’d have the same sort of disaster I did with Jasmine and Sam’s wedding cake.

Going back to my simplistic clean design, well in my rethinking of that I decided that I wanted to repeat the Tui tail around the sides of the 8″ cake. Thankfully I had a larger image of the Tui and I used that as my template to score the pattern around the sides of the cake. I repeated the pattern 4 times, by the 3rd time I used a better tool for pressing into the fondant, and by the forth time it was much easier. I had to go back over the first two patterns to help smooth out the grooves to make it more fluid and less like I’d gouged the fondant (which I was basically).

It was so hot in the house, for the first time ever I had to put the cake into the 3rd bedroom, being on the cooler side of the house, in hopes that it would hold back the bulging, because there were tell talk signs that where the bottom layer was, it was starting to get a nice puffy ring around the cake.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Now onto the 5″ cake. This cake was 4.5″ tall so I knew I had my work cut out for me just with the height of the cake vs. the diametre. And the ganache was softer than the 8″ cake. It was suck it and see. And it wasn’t pretty. The fondant tore away at the top on one section and I pushed it back up, but made a bit of a flap where it overlapped now. I’d already decided I was going to texture the side of the 5″ cake. I’d been watching a Craftsy class by Faye Cahill during the week and she was demonstrating this technique so I wanted to give it a go. Plus I needed both of these cakes to stand on their own as well as being cohesive together. The 8″ is going to my work, the 8″ to Mr Fussy’s work. I do like to make things more challenging in the design stakes.

The fondant was a bit of a dogs breakfast but I was making some progress in tidying it up. Well I thought I was until I turned the cake and saw the biggest baddest bulge I’ve ever seen on such a small cake. It was really bad. I pulled the fondant from the side of the cake (this is why I prefer to use Crisco on the ganache in preparation for fondant) to see if I could push that sucker out. It wasn’t having any of it. I wondered if in fact the ganache was bulging because I was putting more pin pricks into the fondant than an acupuncturist would deem necessary to fix a stubborn ache. But I persevered and I won, sort of. The fondant was really thin, and the ganache has snuck out the bottom making it look somewhat untidy, but I wasn’t too concerned. A bit of ribbon would hopefully cover that up. I then textured the side of the cake. It could have worked better. Some of it impressed better than other patches. I was quite thankful that Mr Fussy tends to cut up cake before anyone at his work gets to see what it was to begin with. That took the pressure off trying to make it better. There’s plenty of room for improvement but working against the heat is something I knew I’d not win. So no point getting all in a fluster for.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

The last little bit was to colour the Tui tail feathers that I’d impressed into the side of the cake. Up close I wasn’t sure if I needed to do anything. I wondered if it was enough to just have the impressions. But when I stood back it wasn’t noticeable. I set about using petal dusts (all edible) to apply colour. I made each of them slightly different. And I tried really hard to add a little colour at a time. Since I’m so patient (not!) I was getting tired of little by little, even though I knew it was the way. It’s hard to do things the way you know is right when you just want to see results immediately. I must have been a very trying child (and adult).

The 8" cake before adding the second tier.

The 8″ cake before adding the second tier.

Having applied the colour I again stood back and realised that it was looking more like seashells than feathers of a bird. Great, I’m going to have to use food colour to outline the feathers to make it look like it’s meant to be something. Instead of black, I used dark brown. I didn’t want such a harsh outline. I started with just the outline and it made a big difference, but it still wasn’t finished enough. I needed to add the details, and when I had, it really made a big difference.

It was finally time to put it all together. I put the ribbon around the top tier which certainly helped to hide the section that had ganache visible. But before I committed to putting the top tier on, I took a few photos. Even though I had tried to wipe the underside of the perspex cake board the 5″ cake was on, I knew it was highly likely that some chocolate would still be there and it would transfer to the bottom tier. I was also a little concerned the Tui wouldn’t hold. But as it turns out everything came together fine. I used two poly dowels to support the top tier and candy melts to attach the Tui to the top tier. Photos taken all I had to do was dismantle it all so that I could separate the cakes for Mr Fussy to take his one to work. I now had to prize the Tui off the top tier. The candy melts had done the job so well it was difficult to remove the Tui. And you don’t get to take something that’s been stuck to the side of the cake off without leaving some carnage. It’s not too bad, but again I’m thankful that no one will likely witness the cake uncut. The Tui wasn’t spared from damage either. Some of the tail has broken off. No tears were shed. I have some photos of what it looked like all complete and I’m pretty happy with the overall look. To anyone else this just represents a slice of cake with coffee at morning tea time. I’m not too precious about the cake.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

So New Zealanders and Kiwis everywhere. Enjoy the long weekend that is ahead if you’re in New Zealand. Happy Waitangi Day (for Friday!).


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Banana Cake

Oooh, it’s been such a great weekend for trying out new things. In this post I’ll talk about the Agbay Junior, and touch on the butter (there’ll be a separate post coming for that).

Banana cake for the work folk.

Banana cake for the work folk.

I was making a banana cake because it was time to use up the bananas I’d taken from work (they were left, unwanted) and popped into the freezer. I’d decided some weeks earlier that when the time came I’d be making Summer’s Banana Cake recipe. You can find the details from this link.

Yesterday I’d made butter. Mum bought me a Mad Millie Butter kit for Christmas. Today I was using the butter I’d made, in the Banana cake.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Summer’s recipe is actually for cupcakes, but she does say you can easily make a cake from it. Summer’s suggestion is that you add an additional banana. And it was 3 bananas that I had from work, so that came together nicely. One of the things that I liked about the recipe was using a blander (food processor or similar) to get the banana fully incorporated. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of banana cake. I love bananas, but I’m not fond of cooked banana, except when it’s drowning in maple syrup and been heated (caramelised) to put on top of pancakes. Despite my lack of desire to eat banana cake I was really looking forward to trying out this recipe and method.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there's droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there’s droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Usually I’ll make 3 layers of cake from Summer’s other cake recipes, but I decided to make just two. I really wasn’t sure how far the frosting would go. I was hedging my beats. Anyway, the cakes took closer to 45-50 minutes to bake. I wasn’t really surprised given the batter was a little looser than other cakes I’ve baked of Summer’s, and of course the amount of batter was greater. The tops cracked, and oddly it was where the cracks were that the cake looks a little more moist (see later photo).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that's my experience).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that’s my experience).

This is the first cake I’ve made since Christmas. And for Christmas I got an Agbay Junior cake leveller. I was pretty darn excited that I’d be getting this baby assembled and using it. I’ve heard so many people say once you’ve used one you’ll never go back to any other method of torting cakes. I’ve seen the promo video’s. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos (for other things) where the baker is using the Agbay to torte a cake. Needless to say I was hooked, it was just a case of someone else buying it for me ;-). It was a good Christmas!

Once I had the Agbay assembled (was straight forward) I put one of the cakes onto the cake card and determined the size of the layer. Except I didn’t quite get it right and I needed to have dropped the height by one notch (which is like 1/16th of an inch I think). The second layer I torted at that height and it worked out perfect. I thought I’d try my luck and see if I could pass the first layer back through the Agbay. I knew I’d only need a thin sliver, I guess the 1/16th of an inch. What is life if not for living dangerously. So with that in mind I passed the Agbay back over the first cake and it worked! And you can see from the photo just how thin it cut. If I didn’t already love the Agbay for the ease and speed at which it could torte, I was now hook line and sinker in love with my new gadget.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

With that in mind, it seemed perfectly acceptable to then use little hearts as decoration for the cake. And so I did. Boy oh boy, making a cake that’s decorated in frosting only is such a breeze. I did put a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. I needed to seal the sides since the cake is now in the fridge until I go to work tomorrow. I’d forgotten how easy baking a cake can be when you’re not preparing a cake for being covered in fondant. I feel like I achieved so much!

The domed tops we ate after dinner. I still had sufficient frosting to slap some more between the two tops. The cake is very definitely banana. And I found the texture to be quite smooth. The other thing that I like about the cake is the absence of all the black specks that you typically get with banana cake. I guess having blended the banana took care of that. So true to my word, I’ve baked a banana cake for my team at work. Quite possibly it’s the last time the current team is together. We’re moving out to MYOB’s new building, and part of the crew from the 3rd floor at work will be going to MYOB’s existing building (500m down the road) and my immediate team will be in the newer building. It’s a bit sad really, but cake will quite possibly make everything seem ok again :)

Simple but colourful decorations.

Simple but colourful decorations.

 

 


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Progel review and Baby Boy cookies

Colour paletteNot only am I giving my opinion on Progel, I also tried the CK brand pre-made Black royal icing mix. I was excited.

I’ve tried a Progel colour (Holly) before and I was unimpressed. I could not squeeze any gel out of the tube. I went red in the face, veins were popping and I was not having a great time. I tried to use a toothpick in the end, which was semi-successful. So needless to say I went into this holding my breath, especially when I’d bought 4 or 5 tubes while we were at BakeBoss in Brisbane.

New startMany other people have raved about Progel so I felt my first experience must have been really unlucky, so here I am, giving it another go and hoping I have a better experience.

SquirtThe news is good. I had no problem at all with getting the gel out of the tube, in actual fact, now I have to warn you that you shouldn’t really squirt it, which is a bit of a pain. But basically you can’t control how much is going to be dispensed when you squeeze the tube, even when you’re trying to be gentle. So squeezing some out onto a dish and then using a toothpick to transfer a smaller dab into the royal icing would be my advice.

Feeling BlueSo all was good with Progel and I’d buy it again. Except that I love Sugarflair. I’m sure there’s a place for both, in actual fact I tend to use the gels for colouring royal icing, and Sugarflair for colouring gumpaste and fondant. But I do love me some Sugarflair. The light blue is Sugarflair Baby Blue, and I can tell you I used a pretty small dab of colour and I still ended up adding a bit more white royal icing to tone it down. Sugarflair has an extensive range of colours and in my opinion a superior depth of colour, and what you see on the test card is the exact colour you’ll end up with.

Blog_200115Not that I’ve done it really, but the more Progel you add the deeper the colour. I guess I did do this with the Navy. To begin with it wasn’t as deep a colour as I wanted, so I added more, and then I got what I wanted, or close to it. I expected the colour to deepen as it sat. By the time I came to flood the cookies a day later I had no complaints over the colour.

CK BlackNext I moved onto the CK brand pre-coloured black royal icing. And yep, it was just as amazing as I’d seen it on the Gateaux Inc video (which I can’t find the link for now). It was as simple as adding in the powder and then the water and mixing the two. And before your eyes you get the most perfect glossy black. I thought it was too good to be true. I’m here to tell you that it was, sort of. That bitter taste you get when adding lots of black (or red) to the royal icing is sadly still present. But there’s no waiting. You just mix and you can go for your life using it immediately.Easy as

The tests weren’t all for nothing. I had planned to decorate cookies for one of the ladies from work who was leaving on Maternity Leave. We arrived back midnight going into Saturday and it was that coming Friday that Nicole was leaving. I was very thankful that I had more cookies than I needed for Christmas and had planned to use all of them.RI Transfers

Monday night I got busy making royal icing transfers. I didn’t really hold a lot of hope the rocking horses would come off the waxed paper in one piece. I was relieved and surprised that they did peel off in one piece.

Baby Boy1I had some vague plans as to how to decorate the cookies, and I began to write down those ideas, and in the end I still missed doing a few things, like making little baby feet, or using my new Stork and Baby stamp. But all in all the cookies are fine, even if my hand writing is a bit scruffy, and certainly not even or straight. I didn’t really have the time to get the Kopykake out, but that’s what it needed, for me at least. Hand writing on cookies is certainly something I need lots of practice on, and having the words in the right font in front of me would certainly be helpful.

Baby Boy2When I took the cookies in so many people commented that they couldn’t eat them. But I tried to polity explain that I didn’t make them to be looked at only, and I hoped they would eat them. Nicole took the two largest plaques home with her, and by the end of the day there was only 3 cookies left. That worked out nicely for us at home :)Baby Boy3

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