On to the plate

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


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Faye Cahill inspired cake

My manager has moved onto greener pastures and I wanted to make a cake for her farewell.

I had some ideas, I wanted purple or lavender (Mandy’s favourite colour) and I wanted a bit of pizazz because Mandy is a sophisticated lady who likes sparkly well-made things.

Faye Cahill InspiredThis cake isn’t anything like I started out to make. And with the passage of time (a month has gone by) I can’t even remember quite what my original plan had been. I do know that I wanted to check out how to apply silver leaf (there you go, that was my original plan) and referred to a Craftsy Class I had purchased which Faye Cahill presents, and then I was so taken with her design that I pretty much went with almost all of it.

Fantasy FlowerI had already begun to make the fantasy flower. Fantasy flowers have never worked well for me. Usually I get in a tizzy with it and ball up the flower and either start again, or walk away, or go watch another YouTube video and wonder how they make them so well when I’m struggling. Not that I’ve got crazy skills with realistic flowers, but I find them less of a challenge to get right. There you have it, fantasy is meant to be whimsical and I’m still trying to make it perfect.

I used Chocit for the centre. I was trying to place the little balls into the centre of the flower and they kept sticking to my finger. I had to use a Colour Shaper to ease it off my finger and onto the flower, but I got a little dent. So I just went with it and then poked the little balls all over. That’s the thing with a fantasy flower, no one can tell what it was meant to look like, so anything goes.

Silver leafThe silver leaf was pretty easy to work with. I only had 2 sheets, and my original plan was for gold leaf but when I ordered it, the company called back to say they no longer had it in packs of 5 sheets but I could buy 100. Yeah, nah (Kiwi slag for no). What I hadn’t realised until late in the piece is that silver leaf needs to on the cake for a day before you can place anything over the top. But when I couldn’t sleep I got up at 2am and applied the stencil. The stencil is for a cookie but I was only going to decorate the very front of the cake so the size was perfect. I was a bit hesitant with the stencilling because last time I stencilled a cake it didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted and ended up a little sloppy, mostly I think due to the royal icing being a little on the soft side. The stencilling went fine and I went to bed.

All that was left was to make the fondant cut out pieces, texture them and then use piping gel to get the little nonpareils to adhere. Oh and then to use royal icing to add some other details, which didn’t go quite like I wanted, but I know I obsess a little more than others.

Mandy1The last thing I wanted to do was to add a row of oval silver sugar pearls as a boarder. I placed a few on the cake but they were rolling everywhere. I had two different sizes and was tossing up as to which to add when I realised that it was going to take me forever to place them and the chances they would behave perfectly and stay put was slim to non-existent. I’ve since seen a picture tutorial from Sarah of The Cake Tin did which would have worked perfectly for me. If only her tutorial came before the cake I was making. Still, I know for next time!

Mandy has been gone for a month and I miss her for lots of reason. Everyone who knows Mandy knows you can’t replace someone like her. She’s one of a kind and I’m certain I’m not the only person who feels the void she’s left. If you ever come back Mandy, I’ll make another cake to welcome you!

Cake details:  American Mud Cake by Cake Paper Party. It’s 4 layers with a 7″ cake card separating the bottom two layers to the top two. Ganche using Whitaker’s 50% chocolate. Fondant by Satin Ice. Buttercream filling SMBC with Nielsen Massey Coffee extract.


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13 Years On

Anni2It was our 13th Wedding Anniversary mid March. I feel very lucky. 13 years with the best man in the whole wide world. My love for this man has not diminished with the passing of time, only deepened.  Ok, enough of the mushy stuff. It’s enough to say it was our wedding anniversary.

There was no way I was passing up an opportunity to made a cake for an important occasion. Mr Fussy (when badgered) suggested a Jaffa (flavoured) cake. Now for those in New Zealand, we know what Jaffa is. It’s actually a hard coated candy with chocolate in the middle, and an orange flavoured coating. They’re great, and a bit of a NZ icon, and were great for throwing in the movie theatre. Not that I ever did that. Why waste a perfectly good lolly?

Our cake was half of David’s cake. Though I flavoured the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake with Orange extract, and I also flavoured the ganache with Orange flavouring (Robert’s Confectionary). And the buttercream also had orange extract. I did all I could to make sure the orange wouldn’t be drowned out by the rich chocolate cake and ganache.

TrimmedI’ve run out of patience having to trim the sides of all my cakes to make sure I’ve got sufficient space to ganache. I ordered more acrylic circles with an extra 2mm (all around) increase. But for this cake I had to trim the sides. I admit it looks tidy when it’s trimmed, but what a waste of time, and cake, albeit just a bit of cake is wasted.

For whatever reason, I ended up with a slight bulge in the ganache at the base. I did the usual poke a pin in it and flattened the bulge, but I decided it wasn’t worth my time to cover in fondant and risk more bulges. Plus it was only a 6″ cake, and smaller cakes are more prone to pleats as you ease the fondant over the sides. A 4″ high cake that’s 6″ in diameter takes a bit more attention than say a 4″ high cake that’s 8″.

The cake was only for us so I was completely at ease with having a naked cake for us. Plus naked ganached cakes have their own beauty. And really, other than the bulge which I dealt with, the ganache is pretty tidy. All but the top, can you see? I’ve got a tiny little trench just in from the rim of the cake. Again I felt there would be more work in filling the tiny dip than the dip itself bothered me.

The Cake Lace is made from Claire Bowman’s mix. I made this lace almost 12 months ago. I’ve had it stored as instructed and it was still as pliable as it was when I made it. That stuff is the best. I never ate it when I first made it. I had no desire to do so then or for this cake. Once the cake was cut, the lace itself was removed. Though I did take the left over cake into work and left the lace on that section of the cake. I’m not sure anyone ate it. I did suggest they treat it more as decoration than “food”.

So there we are. The cake had a delicate orange flavour to it. Nothing overpowering or strong, just enough to know it was there. Someone at work thought it tasted like lemon. Go figure.

All the petalsAs for the flower, well it’s hard to believe this was a magnolia cutter. It seems more like some star burst flower than a magnolia. I think I cupped the petals too much. I used the veiner as the guide and made formers from tin foil which I laid over the veiner. Never mind, it still worked out fine, even though it’s not the flower it was meant to be. I have a photo of what the petal looks like with and without petal dust. Yes it makes a difference. At some point I will embrace the whole petal dusting, but I think I’m a ways off from that yet. I also took some of the petals away, I decided with all the petals that I made the flower itself was bigger than the cake! It’s all about proportion, well that’s a consideration anyway.

Petal dustAfter having had some of David’s cake the day before, then a slice of our Anniversary cake, we were all caked out. The cake itself was very rich. I know this seems odd to say, but without the fondant, the cake was harder to eat. The fondant seems to combat some of the richness by the sweetness. I certainly found one slice to be more than enough. And I know my work mates were happy we couldn’t face another slice.Anni1


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David’s birthday cake

David2I’m a few weeks late in getting this post written. I had two cakes that weekend. This is the first. Then last weekend I made a start of Mandy’s farewell cake, all of which I’ll post. It’s just been a bit crazy between end of tax year for work with oodles of software upgrades to complete with a shortening window of time, and then cakes. Oh and Easter cookies.

But first of all was David’s birthday cake.

Layers of White TruffleI really wasn’t sure what to make, other than it was going to be both chocolate and vanilla. Mr Fussy said he wanted a Jaffa cake for our Anniversary cake (he probably didn’t want cake at all, but he knew I was going to make one anyway, so might as well play along). So half of each cake would be used in David’s cake, and the other half our cake. However the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake was left as vanilla for David’s cake.

How do you decorate a cake for a bloke? You can’t really have lovely frilly delicate flowers. But I needed to have something. And as per usual, the idea I had was a fluid one, and that what I initially thought I’d have changed a little over time. That’s the beauty of not having a particular design you have to create, you can go with the flow and be lead by how well (or not well) things are progressing.

White TruffleI’d been itching to try out the Bakels White Chocolate Truffle. I’d been following several posts on various FaceBook pages where it was discussed. I just wanted to know if it would set up sufficient that you could drape fondant over it and it remain stable underneath.

TopDavid’s cake was the perfect experiment for me. I warmed the truffle up and it was quite runny by comparison to usual ganache. But I was surprised how quickly it was firming. That gave me some confidence that it might set up firm. I used my usual upside down method for ganaching the cake. So putting all the weight onto the top (with the cake upside down) didn’t prove to be difficult at all. However the process for ganaching the sides means putting a little ganache on the top to basically secure the lid to use as a guide for getting a smooth surface on the sides. When I “popped” the lid off a bit of the cake under the ganache pulled away. Now I’m not one for waste, so I managed to scrape the cake off the lid and then pop it back where it lifted from. The upside down method worked really well and I was pleased with how it looked when I turned the cake up the right side and peeled the waxed paper off to reveal the perfectly smooth top. I went to bed.

Bubble topNext morning I noticed this bubble on the top. Everywhere else was perfectly fine. I think the bit of cake that had pulled away, which I fixed might have been responsible. It’s the most logical explanation. The ganache hadn’t set solid overnight as I expect of dark chocolate ganache so I was able to sort of apply a little pressure and see that it was able to move a bit. I used a needle and put a little hole in the top to then try and push the air underneath out. It worked well. Sadly I started doing so with just my fingers (like when you’re popping an air bubble in fondant), but the warmth of my fingers was starting to make the chocolate tacky. Belatedly I realised I should have used waxed paper and my fondant scraper to ease the bubble to the pin prick, that worked perfectly.

SucculentsNo harm done, I wasn’t leaving the cake top bare. I’d been making succulents over the week. And this morning I realise I actually had a Craftsy Class where Nicolas Lodge teaches how to make Succulents. But did I look? No. I instead scoured the Internet for instructions because doing things the hard way is sometimes the only way for me ;-)

Chocolate paintingSaturday morning I set about adding some texture to the cake. I used a paint brush (only used for cake decorating) to slap the chocolate on. I had also used my Americolor Flocoat to mix a gel colour into the white chocolate to make a green that would be in keeping with the succulents.

Texture and colourEven when I’m trying to be random and haphazard I find that I have to work at making it look that way. Mr Fussy reckoned I should have attacked this stage blindfolded. For all that I achieved the look I was aiming for so it was now time to dust the succulents. That also was pretty easy. I certainly enjoy the look of gumpaste flowers having colours added, but I really find the whole dusting of petals my least favourite. I can colour royal icing and gumpaste to my hearts content, but dusting petals and leaves or, in this case succulents, is something I pretty much have to psych myself up for.

Petal DustSucculents all dusted and my “twig” made it was time to place them into the cake. Trying to arrange flowers or whatever is a daunting tasks for me. I am never happy with the process and I am never happy trying to wire them into an arrangement. I feels (and looks) awkward. I’m not at all confident with this phase and I really struggle.

David1For all of that, I was happy with the overall look of David’s cake. And of course the flavours were wonderful, although a little on the sweet side with all that white chocolate truffle.

Now to come up with some new ideas between now and the next birthday.David3


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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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