On to the plate

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


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Mini Easter cupcakes

Last year I baked several things that I took into work. This year I’ve taken nothing. We seem to keep piling people onto our floor (for good reason). Last count, we have 33 people on our floor. That’s a lot of people to bake for.

Mr Fussy has taken about 3 lots of baking in for his team. A sensible 14 people.

I’d told my manager a couple of weeks ago I planned to make something for work for Easter. And this is what I came up with.

Mini round up

I’d been working on the fondant Easter bunnies over a few weeks (not actually spending long on them each time). One week using the mould, the next week the pink lustre dust ears and feet (which were buried) and then on Saturday I used edible pens to colour the carrots and bows. I realised the lustre dust I had was the wrong shades of green and orange. Yes, I know the grass also looks wrong. Mr Fussy said it’s like Astroturf, one of the guys today said it was perfect for Hockey. For fun, Saturday night I decided to use the really cheap fondant cutters that arrived while I was in Nelson, and make the little flowers which I then added non perils and cachous. I seem to have a problem with knowing when to stop. But really it’s just a chance to try something new.

My Wilton tip that makes the grass was misbehaving. I realised after a while of making messy nests and trying to use a pin to unclog it, that a rinse out sorted the problem for around 5-6 mini cupcakes before needing to be rinsed again.

Here’s some close up of the mini cupcakes.

Mr Bunny

Bird's nest

Bunny with carrot

fondant carrot

The speckled eggs were purchased from the supermarket about a month ago. They’re candy covered chocolate eggs. Actually I’ve not seen them in recent weeks. They’re not one of the well-known brands of chocolate, I can’t recall whose brand they are.

I had in mind which recipe I’d use for the cupcakes. I’d found my way to Laura’s Sweet Spot via a post Averie had on her site. Laura had done a bit of testing for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe. I opted for Laura’s number one choice. It’s a recipe I’d come across myself in the past and it’s adapted from Ina Garten’s Coconut cupcake recipe. I halved the recipe and got 40 minis and 6 full sized cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcake via Laura’s Sweet Spot

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs (or 6 large eggs), room temperature
  • 1 Tb pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  • In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  • In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter and sugar.
  • Scrape the bowl down and add in the vanilla extract along with an egg. Beat on medium until the egg is fully incorporated. Continue to scrape the bowl down between adding in each egg, one at a time.
  • Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dry ingredients are almost mixed in.
  • Add 1/2 of the butter milk and mix on low until the liquid is mixed in.
  • Repeat with another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and then the remaining buttermilk, ending with the last 1/3 of dry ingredients. Mix until the flour mixture is just incorporated.
  • The batter will be quite thick.
  • Line the muffin tin with cupcake liners and spoon the batter to fill around 2/3 of the cupcake liner.
  • Bake for between 16-18 minutes (around 11-13 minutes for mini cupcakes) until the tops spring back or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn the tin half way through for even baking.
  • Leave the cupcakes in the tin for around 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  • Once the cupcakes are completely cold, frost as desired.

The full sized cupcakes are for Mr Fussy’s lunch. I used cupcake liners I purchased from Etsy and are greaselined. There’s two things I noticed, the cupcake liner actually starts to peel off the cupcake and the colours remain true. The minis were baked in Wilton mini liners that were yellow, green and pink. Only the yellow looks anything like the original colour, but that’s because the batter is the same colour.

Easter cupcake collection

So that’s it for Easter baking. We’re heading away to Queenstown for Easter, mostly because it’s Mr Fussy’s birthday on Good Friday, and Queenstown is his favourite NZ place to chill out. Talking of which, baking is something I enjoy, and I don’t relax very well sitting doing nothing. My idea of “chilling out” is at the opposite spectrum to Mr Fussy’s. One of us is going to love the idle time and casual pace. The other will be jittery and looking for something to fill in the time.

I’m a little anxious about not having a weekend of baking. Mr Fussy is excited to whip me away from the kitchen. Most of all I will love having time with him, just the two of us. And after another week of work in Nelson, having the chance to do nothing but catch up on life with Mr Fussy will be a blessing.

Enjoy the long weekend. I’ll be back in the kitchen soon enough. In the meantime I get to enjoy food someone else has cooked and not have to think about cleaning up the kitchen.

P.S the work crew were very appreciative of the cupcakes (and RI sugar cookies) and loved the decorations.  And they said they tasted great. Just as important to me as the presentation.


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Royal Icing decorated sugar cookies

I’ll start by saying I’m so pleased how my cookies turned out. They aren’t perfect (nor am I) but they turned out better than I hoped.

I’ve read numerous posts on making Royal Icing (RI) and how to add water to get a flooding consistency. The recipes themselves are quite different if you can believe that for a recipe that contains so few ingredients.

I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos on decorating sugar cookies and how to outline and then flood them.

One of the videos I came across was a user called SweetAmbs.

My word that lady is super talented. I was mesmerised watching her flood cookies. Anyway on Saturday morning when I couldn’t sleep in I found she had a Facebook page, and from there I found her website and took no time to place an online order for a package that contained the recipe for the RI, cut out cookies, a video on how to make the RI, cookie decorating and some other videos.

I encourage you to buy the bundle, it only cost NZ$10 (well a little less than that with the exchange rate – as at yesterday) and the videos are worth watching, especially if you’re a visual person. I would never have believed the RI consistency was right had I not seen for myself.

At Christmas time I made some cut out cookies and made RI using the Edmonds Cook book the way my Mum has made it in the past. But these days people are intolerant to so many things, and raw egg can cause problems, so I made RI using Meringue Powder, another first for me.

I got all the things I thought I would need out. Being prepared and organised is a real time saver, but for all that, decorating cookies isn’t a 5 minute job. I was at it for at least 2 hours, and it was making me a little dizzy all that concentrating. But it was fun and I’m glad I did it, and happy with the results.

Getting the Royal treatment

Now for that consistency that, had I not seen it, I would have thought was no where close to what RI should be like. This is what is called stiff RI. It’s how it should be for piping outlines. From here you add water, a little at a time, to achieve the flooding consistency.

Stiff Royal Icing

I picked up a tip from watching other YouTube videos, and because you can go from a little too stiff to too watery when making a flooding consistency, I used a spray bottle to add a little water at a time. But I actually had to add quite a lot of water, but still I stuck with the spray bottle. I started out squirting about 6 times, mixing the water in and squirting more water. I had to continue to do that about another 3 times before I was starting to get close to the flooding consistency. Basically you’re looking for the icing to fall into itself (like settle back into the icing so it’s all completely absorbed and flat), which should take around 10-16 seconds. And the number of seconds changes from one accomplished decorator to the next. I stuck with 14 seconds and this is what it looked like at the beginning of the counting. You seriously wouldn’t think it would sort of melt into the rest of it in 14 seconds but it did.

Flooding consistency

Adding colour was fun. I used Americolor gels. These darken over the course of a day so bear that in mind. I had to add quite a bit of yellow to get the right shade, and today it’s a lot brighter.

I used the wet on wet technique which is basically to outline and flood the cookie and give it a shake to settle it all in, using a toothpick or the like to reshape the edges if need be. Then while the RI is still wet add the other colours. I used Wilton tips 1, 2 and 3 for the icing. You can see the difference between the 2 and 3, the 3’s are a heavier dot.

Wet on wet eggs

The one in the middle is just a mish mash of me trying for non wet on wet. I waited several hours before trying to pipe zig zags but my tips were too fat to make a good job of it.

I also marbled some of the cookies. That is nothing more than piping over the still wet icing, in lines, shaking the cookie to help the icing sit flat and then using a toothpick to drag through the lines. You don’t need to drag through touching the cookie, just enough of the tip of a toothpick to penetrate the icing is all that’s needed. Believe me you can tell the difference to those that I was practically scraping the cookie underneath to those I was less heavy handed with.

At the end of the day, when I thought I was done, I decided to pipe little dots all around the edge of some cookies. I was rubbish to begin with but it slowly started to come together. I’m sure you can tell from the above shot which was my first cookie to embellish with dots.

Here’s the cookies that Mr Fussy is really keen on, though he wasn’t in favour of the speckled look which was nothing more than chocolate brown gel with water and an artist paint brush dipped in and then flicked by hitting the side of my index finger with the handle of the brush. It’s a little messy but it’s simple enough to achieve. I’ve read of people using cocoa and vanilla essence to achieve the same effect.

Speckled eggs

I didn’t use a different consistency for the outline to the flooding RI. And I’m glad. I’ve seen some cookies where the outline is clearly defined to the flooded icing. I like that mine don’t have edges to them. It was easy to manipulate the icing after flooding the cookie when the outline wasn’t quite perfect. The toothpick helped to push the icing into the correct (or more correct) outline.

Coloured bunnies

I used the wet on wet to make the eyes for the bunnies. At this stage I was using a size 1 Wilton tip and had a slightly bigger dot of white which I then added a dot of brown. I didn’t even need to squeeze the icing out. Gravity did the job and it was enough icing to get an “eye ball”. I then piped cotton tails onto the smaller bunnies. These reminded me of Animal Biscuits. Well the coloured icing on a small biscuit. Piping the whiskers wasn’t easy. I tried to make a small dot and then drag the tip away but it wasn’t all that successful. It’s fine but it would have been nice to have more whiskers. I was piping this onto the cookies that had sat for at least an hour. I think Ateco make a smaller tip than a Wilton 1. I’ll have to have a fossick around online.

Sanding sugar bunnies

I used Sanding Sugar too. I grabbed a small sandwich tin, or anything that has shallow sides, and the put the just iced bunny in the tin and shook the sanding sugar over the top. I tapped the cookie a little to release the extra sugar and then tipped the tin so that the corner of the tin was above the sanding sugar container, then poured the left over sugar back in. Waste not want not.

The yellow egg in the middle didn’t quite turn out how I wanted. It’s got disco dust on it. It was only supposed to be on the outline. I guess I did that one wrong. I thought the dust would only adhere to the wet outline but it stayed put to every surface it came into contact with. To get every last bit of disco dust back into the container you can use a clean paint brush (one only used for food) to bush the dust out of the tin.

Decorated bunny heads

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the bunny heads. I was out of inspiration (borrowed from other people I might add). So I decided to marble some of them. The pink one with dots is my favourite, it’s pretty and delicate and a bit girly. Ok a lot girly. And while I’m not really a pink frilly girly girl, I like this cookie.

With the bunny ears I added the pink onto the wet RI and then used a toothpick to swirl it around a bit before tapping the cookie to help settle all the icing.

Eggs in a basket

The RI recipe I made was way too much for what I needed. But I didn’t know. I thought I would use more given I had around the same number of cookies as the recipe said it would cover. And I didn’t skimp on the icing, it’s quite thick. So I was thrilled to read online that I could freeze it. The icing that is flooding consistency is likely to separate a bit due to the water. But you can massage the icing and the water will mix in okay. But I’ll be putting mine back into a bowl and giving it a good stir before using it to pipe.

Coloured Royal Icing

Got to love Glad Snap Lock bags Smile

I was going to share the RI recipe but since it’s a saleable item on SweetAmbs.com I don’t feel I can. Actually the cookie recipe is only US$1.99 and includes the RI recipe with it. You don’t have to buy the bundle which included some videos not available on YouTube.

I can say that it includes:

1 kg Icing Sugar

10 Tbs meringue powder (I have CK from CakeStuff)

3/4 cup of water

Pinch of Salt

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Ingredients aren’t copyrighted in America (man their Internet protection laws are way beyond NZ and it’s really quite scary stuff).

And yeah, I realise that I have pretty much shared the recipe. But I have removed the “loose” instructions that I had written after reading the terms and conditions on SweetAmbs website.

In all honesty, you’ll probably find that most of the recipes for RI follow the same method to make it up. I certainly didn’t do anything that wasn’t typical or even differed from the Edmonds book, bar the use of real egg white.

I’ve seen lots of recipes that use clear vanilla essence so as not to add colour, and I’ve seen recipes that use almond essence instead. So just whatever you fancy really.

I added some Bright White Americolor to my white flood consistency icing. I can’t say I noticed a change in colour though, and it seems white enough to me. The hardest colour for me was getting the duck egg blue. It really is quite light and you can’t tell it’s blue until you place the cookie next to something white. See the hatched chicks above that are Mr Fussy’s favourites.

Happy Easter (for this coming weekend)!

Eggs hatching

 

 


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Easter Sugar Cookies

Wow, this is the only weekend I have to bake for Easter. Next weekend we’re away for Easter, well more we’re away for Mr Fussy’s birthday. This year it’s Good Friday. Nothing nicer than being able to have a Friday off work, especially for Mr Fussy. His busiest day of the week is a Friday.

Last night I arrived home from my Nelson trip and plonked myself down, inhaled dinner and then set about making sugar cookies. Somehow I knew the decorating of them would be time consuming. So to get ahead of the game I made the cookies last night. It was a long night. I was tired. And the lighting in the kitchen at 9pm is less than ideal for photos. So go easy on me Smile

Baked cookies

I’d been reading a number of recipes for sugar cookies. I can’t believe how many varieties there are. Any recipe that uses an egg white, or an egg yolk is put the the bottom of my list of “will try one day” pile. I mean really?! Splitting an egg in a recipe is nuts. Well I guess my dedication to baking, flavour and texture has limits.

I’ve been following Bake at 350 on Twitter for some time. Bridget has a amazing blog full of fantastic cookies decorated with the type of skill that I know not to waste my time striving for.

What I liked about this recipe is that you didn’t have to put the dough into the fridge for hours before using it. And given my late arrival home time was something I was short of.

Over the past month of so I’ve been collecting a number of different shape and sized Easter cookie cutters. They’ve been on the bench the past few weeks so I’m really looking forward to seeing a big more bench space next week.

I’ll share Bridget’s recipe first and then follow up with my own tests and adaptions to the way I prepared the dough for baking.

Cookie cutters

When making cookies you want to get a cookie that’s not crunchy, that doesn’t spread during baking and tastes great. There’s tips for solving the spreading but the texture and taste will always be something that’s personal to each person.

I need to button it and just get to the recipe. Sorry, I’m tired, and when I’m tired I start to ramble and make less sense than usual Winking smile

Bridget’s Cut Out Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1 c sugar (I use sugar that I’ve stored vanilla beans in)
    225 gm butter, cold & cut into chunks
    1 egg
    3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Instructions

  • In a bowl mix the flour and baking powder together and leave aside.
  • In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter and sugar.
  • Add the egg and both extracts and mix until combined.
  • Scrape the mixer bowl down and add 1/4 of the four mixture.
  • With the mixer on low  slowly add in the remaining flour until almost all combine.
  • The dough will appear a bit crumbly, but will be in clumps.
  • On a floured surface tip the dough onto the bench and gently bring it all together using your hands to form a ball.
  • Roll the dough out to about 4mm and use your desired cookie cutters to make the shapes.
  • Place the cookies onto a baking tray covered with baking paper or a Silpat. Put the tray into the fridge and leave it there while your oven heats up.
  • Heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  • When the cookies have been in the fridge for 10 or so minutes, place them in the oven and bake for 8 –10 minutes, turning the tray half way through for even baking.
  • You don’t want the cookies browning so you’ll need to keep a close watch on cookies that have small parts, like the ears of the bunnies.
  • Leave the cookies on the baking tray for 5 or so minutes before transferring to a cooling tray.
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container, or you can freeze them until you’re read to decorate.

My Notes:

  • Mr Fussy had taken the butter out of the fridge for me in the morning (at my request), so my butter was soft. It probably creamed a little more than was needed. Great to have a recipe that doesn’t require the butter to be room temperature though.
  • Apparently the unbleached flour makes a difference to the spreadability of the dough. I used normal standard flour which worked fine with a few tweaks. I’ll keep an eye out for unbleached flour though for next time.
  • The first cookies I cut were difficult to handle. As I put the slice under a cookie to manoeuvre it to the tray the dough would change shape which was mildly annoying and they were difficult to coax off the slice to the tray.
  • My recommendation is to cut the cookie shapes out and then put the tray into the oven for the dough to firm up. Then you can transfer the cookies to the baking tray for baking. This worked well and the shapes held and were easy to slide off and onto the baking tray.
  • I put the dough between sheets of waxed paper. This way I’m not adding any extra flour to the dough which can change it’s texture. This also has added benefit when you re-roll the scraps. It’s just as pliable as the first batch of cut out cookies.
  • I used my new roller that has the guides on the sides. My cookies were evenly rolled.
  • The first of my cookies did spread a little. There’s photos below showing the difference between the first batch and those I baked after. The others had a little more time in the fridge and I left the shapes pressed out and only removed the shapes from the dough when I was ready to put the cookies in the oven.
  • Next time I might replace 1 teaspoon of sugar for brown sugar. I’ve ready somewhere else that this seems to make the difference in a softer chewier cookie. I found these cookies were a little on the crunch side but I fully expect that once the Royal Icing is on they will soften a little.

Crumbly Cookie Dough

It comes together

I wished I had pulled the dough together on the bench. It was a little sticky and kept pulling the waxed paper up each time I went to roll the dough to knead it.

My first batch of baked cookies spread a little, nothing hideous but enough that the edges of the cookie wasn’t as crisp as the others, and the spreading also meant they didn’t retain their height. Still nothing to complain about, but it’s enough to point out the difference and recommend that you cut the shapes, put the dough into the fridge and then extract the cookies from the dough when you’re ready to bake.

Spreading and baking

The last photo shows a difference in the colour which is neither here nor there for me. But the darker coloured cookie is one that had been in the fridge longer and left in place until I was ready to bake.

All up these cookies probably spent between 5-15 minutes chilling out in the fridge. Bridget recommends putting them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. I simply don’t have the space. Thankfully my baking trays do fit inside my fridge, just.

And now these are ready for decorating, which I did today, and explains the extra tiredness I feel.

Ready for decorating

I’ll post the photos of the cookies all decorated tomorrow, along with the Royal Icing recipe I used, which like the cut out cookie recipe varies from one accomplished cookie decorator to the next. But I’ll be sharing the one I made, naturally.

Colour me in


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An oldie but a goodie–Afghan Biscuits

Afghan Biscuit

Mr Fussy and I rarely have a disagreement. We don’t argue. We don’t even really have lively debates. I don’t know if that makes us boring, weird or a match made in heaven. I’m going for the latter. But we don’t agree whether Afghan biscuits should have walnuts or not.

Is it a discussion topic in your household? We don’t really discuss. We know we have differing opinions. And I know mine is the only one that counts Winking smile  In the kitchen.

Ingredients

Making Afghan biscuits isn’t about making use of ingredients already in the pantry. Mr Fussy has Honey Puffs for breakfast. Unless it’s pancakes. But for most of his life he’s eaten nothing more than Honey Puffs for breakfast. A creature of habit? I had to add Cornflakes to the shopping list. I’d meant to do it for several weeks and kept forgetting. But here we are, a bowl full of cornflakes not destined for breakfast but for baking.

Ready for the oven

There’s no raising agent in the biscuits so while the Edmonds Cook Book calls for spoonfuls, I did flatten them, because I used a generous dessert spoon. I made 11 biscuits. You’d normally make them much smaller, the walnut on top (see, you need it as a guide!) would be a little smaller than the size of the biscuit.

Afghan Biscuits from the Edmonds Cookery Book

Ingredients

200gm butter, room temperature

75gm sugar

25gm cocoa – I used Dutch processed

175gm flour

50gm Cornflakes

Instructions

Heat the oven to 180degrees Celsius

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Scape down the bowl if necessary.

Sift the flour and cocoa then add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.

With the mixer on low combine the flour and cocoa into the creamed mixture.

Add the Cornflakes and very slowly mix until the Cornflakes are combined.

Put spoonfuls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper (you decide the size of the biscuit, they wont spread).

Flatten the dough using your fingers if you wish.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the tray half way through to ensure even baking.

Leave the biscuits on the baking tray until they are cooled.

Transfer to a cooling rack.

Ice with chocolate icing and a walnut if you’re daring.

When Mr Fussy is asked about chocolate icing, and given the choice of cocoa or chocolate he always goes for chocolate.

I used both milk chocolate drops and 50% Chocolate by Whittaker’s. A bit of room temperature butter and some icing sugar and a little hot water to achieve a spreadable but reasonably stiff consistency.

Walnuts or no walnuts

As expected, Mr Fussy screwed his nose up at the biscuits with a walnut on. He’s got 6 and I have 5 with a walnut. Though I wont be eating them all. I’m off again to Nelson Tuesday morning for the rest of the week. Travelling away means I miss out on some home comforts, like the convenience of grabbing a muffin out of the freezer or a cookie from the Tupperware container.

Walnuts for me

It doesn’t get better than this though. Walnuts for the win!


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Rainbow cookies–how I made them

You might have seen the rainbow cut out cookies I made as part of the rainbow theme for St Patrick’s Day. This is how I made them.

Rainbow clovers

Vanilla cut out cookies

I had some Vanilla cookie dough from when I made heart shaped cookies for Valentine’s Day. I took it from the freezer on the Friday morning and kept it in the fridge until I needed it Friday evening.

I weighed the dough and then split it into 6 equal portions. To each portion I added some colour gel.  I use Americolour:

  • Super Red
  • Orange
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Mint Green
  • Royal Blue
  • Regal Purple

I kept adding a little gel at a time until I reached the right depth of colour. I was able to just keep folding the dough over and over in my hand until the colour had equally distributed.

coloured cookie dough

To each colour I used my new rolling pin which has guides on each end to ensure the rolled dough is equal depth. I love that rolling pin.

Given each dough ball was the same weight I knew I just need to roll it out to the same shape.

I layered the rounds on top of each other then put it back in the fridge to harden up.

Discs of cookie dough

It wasn’t until the morning that I took it back out of the fridge and left it around 10 minutes before then slicing down the stack. I sliced about 4mm thick. Placed the slices onto the silpat and then baked them 1 minute less than the recipe calls for.

Sliced cookie dough

Once the cookies were removed from the oven I took my Shamrock cookie cutter and then cut out the shapes. The reason I did this after they had baked is to avoid cutting and the cookies spreading, not leaving quite the same crisp shape. And the cookies did spread, more so than when I made the heart cookies. I put it down to all that kneading in of the colour having changed the dough a little.

baked and shaped

After the cookies had cooled completely I transferred them to a sheet of waxed paper. I left the cookies on the baking tray to allow them to catch up on that 1 minute of baking they didn’t get.

Rainbow cookies

Of course I should have trimmed the ends of these ones.

I put the cookies together using the Baileys Irish Cream frosting I used for the Shamrock cookies, which happen to be the same as I used for the mini Baileys Irish Cream cupcakes.

Happy St Patrick’s Day! (of course one of the guys at work pointed out they could equally be Gay Pride cookies. But it’s St Patrick’s Day, so these are rainbow cookies in search of a pot of gold.)


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Red Velvet Cake for our Wedding Anniversary

11 years

Eleven years. Not a huge number, not a major milestone either, but the first wedding anniversary that I’ve made a cake for us.

I know that Red Velvet Cake is usually reserved for Valentine’s Day. A day of love. Our wedding anniversary is a celebration of our love so it definitely qualifies for some Red Velvet Cake action.

The recipe is one I read about on Rosie’s blog, Sweetapolita. Rosie makes amazing cakes, decorates them in ways I can only dream of doing and comes up with some very original designs. All of them fabulous. I let Mr Fussy know tonight that the cake has Mayonnaise as one of the ingredients. He laughed. At this time we’d not eaten a slice, but he’d had a little of the trimmings to level the layers. I don’t think he minds, or is repulsed, just finds it an odd thing to have in a cake.

I’ve got 17 more photos to cram into this post. Ready?

Heart covered cake

Last night I arrived home from having worked the day in Nelson. I knew the cakes would need to be baked in 3 batches, all because there’s baking soda which is activated with vinegar. That means the rising of the cake has already begun as soon as those two ingredients pair up. The cake takes around 18-26* minutes to bake. Far too long to leave the last layer waiting for baking time. If only I had three 6” cake tins. I’m going to buy more but too late for this escapade.

Red Velvet Emulsion

Up until this cake, I’d only eaten one serving of Red Velvet Cake. Mum and my eldest sister met up for a late night catch up where I ordered a slice at Coffee Culture. I’ve got to say I was less than impressed. This cake has rave reviews. Perhaps hearing so many people gushing about the cake ruined the experience. It just didn’t seem to stack up to all that praise. Rosie used a Red Velvet Emulsion from Lorann. I’d searched Amazon for it to see what it was. It wasn’t worth me buying it from overseas, at least not on Amazon. Then I saw it on an Etsy store. I still hesitated. Then I found it by accident when I was looking at Cake Stuff’s website and I immediately put in an order (along with a bunch of other stuff). The emulsion adds most of the colour. Adding a teaspoon of Super Red Americolor is a bonus, but not essential. Thankfully there’s no horrible food gel taste. I’m not sure I could tell you what the emulsion adds since I’ve not made the same recipe without it. But it tastes much MUCH better than I had hoped for.

Seeing red

I’m not at all enjoying the lack of natural light in the kitchen early in the morning. Autumn is creeping up on me and I’m just not ready to embrace it. But the photos are getting harder to take, and the lights are now on in the kitchen in the morning. But for all that, I’m pretty sure the colour red is unmistakable.

It took ages to finish baking all the cakes. Pretty much I was making 3 individual cake batters. My idea of making hot cross buns in time for lunch evaporated after I finally got the first cake baked.

Cake texture

Of course if I’d not overlooked missing the vinegar/baking soda ingredients in the last cake I’d have saved a little time. Thankfully the cake hadn’t gone into the oven yet. But it was in the cupcake liners and the cake tin. I had to scrape it all out and back into the bowl so I could mix in those two very important ingredients. Above is a pretty good set of photos to show the colour and texture of the cake. And it was my first sampling of the cake. And I was impressed with how moist the cake was, the springy, but light texture, and that taste.

Crumb Coat

As the next cake had finished baking and was sitting in the tin for 5 or so minutes the previous cake was wrapped in Gladwrap and placed in the fridge. When all 3 cakes had been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes I then took them out and trimmed the tops to flatten the layers. I’m getting better at this. Though I’d rather the cakes didn’t dome and I didn’t have to trim them at all. I spread the batter around in the tin so the middle has less, quite a lot less, but they still bake up domed. I’ve ordered some Wilton baking strips. I hope they work, though they’re for an 8” or 9” tin.

Frosting

First thing in the morning I actually made a white chocolate ganache which I’d had in the fridge for several hours. But I stuffed it up and turned away (less than two minutes after starting mixing on low, and for less than a minute away from the bowl) from the mixer as it was whipping, and ended up with a curdled mess. I tried to revive it. I spent hours (probably) trying to get it to come to room temperature and then try a few tricks that I’d read about online. Even adding gelatine. But I had to admit defeat. In the end I used the same recipe for the chocolate frosting replacing the dark chocolate for white chocolate, and only made 1/2 the batch. I love the pink against the deep red of the cake.

Heart decorations

I’d made the fondant hearts during the week. That was quite fun, and really didn’t take very long. I love my fondant roller with the guides to make sure the fondant is the same thickness all the way. I’d measured the cookie cutter I used, and I even laid the hearts around the cake tin to see how high I would need the cake layers to get all 3 colours around the cake. I think I managed to work it out just right. Though I really didn’t know until the first layer baked and I could measure the height. You see the recipe is for a 3 layer 8” cake. I had to guess how much batter I’d need in the tin. And I was a little off on the first one. But it all worked out.

Pretty sprinkles

I had some white and pink pearls sitting up in the spare room (where my increasing stock of cake decorating things are hiding out). Mr Fussy took the two containers and was shaking them about like maracas. It’s good to see he’s not growing up too fast. Actually I’ve been very impressed with his willingness to contribute to solutions as I bake and decorate things I’ve never tried before.

Red velvet cupcakes

I had enough batter to make cupcakes. There’s more than enough for Mr Fussy for the week. I especially love the white chocolate frosting, which is difficult to taste when eating a slice of cake. But I reckon those pretty pink red velvet cupcakes will be perfect if you’re a white chocolate lover. Which I am. I thought I decorated the dark chocolate cupcakes a little more “manly”. I tried to do lots of things with the same tip. Maybe it’s only the colour of the frosting that makes these a little more masculine.

White chocolate frosting

As I was bringing the cupcakes over to the table to photograph, one of the French Tip decorated ones (the right hand photo) slid off the cooling rack and toppled over, icing side down. Of course. Thankfully it didn’t dirty the tablecloth if you can believe it, but the frosting was all smooshed on one side. I scraped the rest off and frosted it with the chocolate. I’d run out of white chocolate and I couldn’t be bothered setting up another icing bag just for one cupcake. Never fear, the frosting wasn’t wasted. It’s fair to say I was pretty full before we went out for dinner tonight. And I certainly had no room for dessert. But by the time we got home and sat for an hour I was happy to share a slice of the Red Velvet Cake with Mr Fussy.

Chocolate frosted red velvet cupcake

Look at that red. I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about how much food colour must be in there because all but 1 teaspoon of it came from the Emulsion. It’s a little of what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you.

I reckon it’s time to share Rosie’s recipe.

Red Velvet Cake by Rosie of Sweetapolita

Ingredients

For the Cake – 3 layer 8”

  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) *red velvet flavour
  • 1 teaspoon super red soft gel paste, optional
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (55 g) cake flour (1.5 tbs of cornflour topped with standard flour to measure 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk, warm
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (8 g) baking soda

For the white chocolate frosting

  • 225gm butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 125gm quality white chocolate, chopped, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup cream (35-37% fat)
  • A drop of red or pink gel food colouring if you wish

For the dark chocolate frosting

  • 454gm butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 250gm quality dark or extra dark chocolate, chopped, melted and slightly cooled

Instructions

For the cakes

  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius
  • Weigh your mixing bowl.
  • Prepare the cake tins: spray with baking spray on the bottom and sides. Place a round piece of baking paper to the bottom and lightly spray the bottom.
  • In a bowl sift the flours together. Add the salt and mix then sift the cocoa. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  • Mix together the butter and sugars, Red Velvet Emulsion and red gel (if using) in a stand or hand mixer on medium until it has increased in volume and the red is slightly duller (indicating it’s creamed properly).
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing gently until fully incorporated.
  • Add half the dry ingredients and mix on low until incorporated.
  • Add all the buttermilk and mix on low until incorporated.
  • Add remaining flour mixture and mix on low until just incorporated.
  • By hand gently mix in the mayonnaise.
  • Add the vinegar to the baking soda and stir together – it will fizz up.
  • Whisk the vinegar/baking soda mix into the cake batter.
  • Weigh the mixing bowl subtract the weight of the empty mixing bowl, and divide this figure by 3. This is the amount of batter you want for each of the 3 cake tins.
  • Spread the batter into the cake tins, you may want to make a small hollow in the centre in your cakes usually dome.
  • Place the tin into the oven and bake between 18-26 minutes, using a toothpick to check. The toothpick should come out clean. The cake will have pulled away from the sides and the cake with be springy and bounce bake when lightly touched.
  • Leave the cakes in the tin for 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
  • Once the cakes have cooled, but not cold, wrap them in Gladwrap and place flat in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • When the cakes have been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes remove the wrapping and trim the tops to flatten the layers – if necessary.

For the white chocolate frosting

  • Place the chocolate into a heavy bottom pot on low heat. Stir the chocolate gently preventing it from catching on the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • When the chocolate has melted take the pot off the heat and allow the chocolate to cool slightly.
  • Place the butter and sifted icing sugar into a stand mixer and slowly mix until fully combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  • Add the vanilla bean paste and mix on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the cooled white chocolate and beat in medium speed for several minutes.
  • Add a drop of food colouring if you wish.
  • Slowly add half of the cream while mixing on low speed. Continue to add the cream until you reach the desired consistency.

For the dark chocolate frosting

  • Place the chocolate into a heavy bottom pot on low heat. Stir the chocolate gently preventing it from catching on the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • When the chocolate has melted take the pot off the heat and allow the chocolate to cool slightly.
  • Place the butter and sifted icing sugar into a stand mixer and slowly mix until fully combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  • Add the vanilla essence and mix on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the cooled chocolate and beat in medium speed for several minutes until it is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cakes

  • Place the first layer onto a serving plate cut side facing up.
  • Spread with white chocolate frosting.
  • Gently place the second layer on the white chocolate frosting, cut side down.
  • Lightly press the second layer to release any air bubbles in the white chocolate frosting.
  • Repeat adding another layer of frosting and the final cake layer.
  • Frost the top of the cake and crumb coat the cake.
  • Leave the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Frost the top of the cake with chocolate frosting and gently smooth more frosting around the outside of the cake as thick as you desire.
  • Smooth the frosting if you wish, or use a pallet knife to add some texture.
  • Decorate the cake as you like.Red Velvet Cake

I’m not done with the photos yet!

I actually found the decorating of the cake to be fairly simple. I’ve gotten the knack of how to prepare the decorating board and doiley to protect it from the frosting. It still takes a little time to put the final layer of frosting on, especially when I’m trying to get that perfectly smooth finish. Which I laughed at. I was placing fondant hearts all around the side and I was fussing with getting it as smooth as possible. I actually found the pastry scraper I have to work really well. It was the first time I used it and I’ll use it again. I might even buy one of those texture scrapers so that I can have a bit of fun and not have to look so critically at the smoothness.

Slicing red velvet cake

I have 14 fondant hearts (of each the 3 colours) around the cake. That means the slice is actually quite small. I hoped I could ease a slice out without messing the whole lot up. It wasn’t too bad, but the cake slice was too wide, of course. It meant I had to slide it out rather than up and out. It worked fine, with a little bit of jiggling, but there was no way that thin slice was going to stand up on the plate.

Slice of Anniversary cake

Despite one of my layers not being quite as deep as the other two, I can’t tell which it is. I think the cake looks really great. If I didn’t there wouldn’t be so many photos Winking smile

Slice of red velvet cake

We shared a slice of cake with as much fun as we share our lives together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well that took care of two slices with my MIL having one for dessert. Just 12 more slices to go. Just as well I have a couple of food covers, the type you’d typically see in a cafe. Unfortunately I don’t have a shelve in the fridge deep enough. I will put the cake back in the fridge tomorrow during the day and bring it out again about 30 minutes before serving.

Storing layered cakes

Happy Anniversary Mr Fussy!


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Stout cupcakes for St Patty’s Day

Here’s the last of this weekend’s baking for St Patrick’s Day. I know it’s a week early. Baking early gives others (if there are any) a chance to get items they might need in order to make this for the 17th. And next weekend is our Wedding Anniversary and I have something else in mind, plus I need to make a start on Easter baking. We’ll be away Easter weekend. It’s Mr Fussy’s birthday. March is definitely madness.

Happy St Patricks Day

I hunted high and low last night looking for the container of shamrock sprinkles. In the end I put them in the new place I’ve got for all my decorating bits and pieces. Though I’d been convinced I had them in the kitchen, on the bench.

I didn’t really expect to make any of my own decoration. I have some Wilton shamrocks that are still tucked away in the spare room. I’m pretty happy with the thing I’ve made on my own and almost feel like I wasted money buying the pre-made decorations.  Never mind. I didn’t know what I was capable of.

Rainbow cupcakes

I made use of all the extra icing from yesterday’s Rainbow Cake. It seemed to work fine. Though it wasn’t easy to get the icing bag to the bottom of the new icing bag. Ok I know that’ hard to imagine. Here’s a photo of what I ended up with, which is pretty much what I was aiming for. I had to do it in two round. Pipe a colour in and drag it up the bag, repeat until I had all colours in. The pull the sleeve of the icing bag up and start again.

Rainbow colours

I still had a lot of blue and lilac left. I put the icing, bag and all, into a Glad Ziplock bag and into the freezer they went. I’ll find a use for that during Easter, I’m sure.

Rainbow frosting

As much as it was fun to combine the colours to make rainbow frosting, this post is about making Stout cupcakes.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I don’t (hardly ever) drink. I’d seen a recipe for Stout cupcakes but I didn’t really understand what Stout was. I asked Mr Fussy if he could buy me some since there’s a liquor shop closer to his work than mine. Lord knows what I would have been looking for if it were left up to me.

I used to work with a guy that called Guinness “Vitamin G”. That’s really all I thought was important when it came to Irish drinking.

Right, I’ve decided that I’m going to share some photos I took when we had a brief visit to Dublin in May last year.

SAM_1155

We were on a Hop on Hop off Bus, which is pretty much the only way we got to see most things. We really had very little time, which was pretty much the way we felt the whole 4 weeks we were flying around Europe and the UK.

And speaking of Saint Patrick.

SAM_1126

We made sure we visited a number of churches and cathedrals. We had a good look around Christ Church Cathedral. Living in Christchurch, New Zealand, we’re a bit short of churches thanks to the earthquakes.

But what trip to Ireland would be complete without Molly Malone and a Leprechaun?

SAM_1260

So now you’ve had a brief look at our brief look of Ireland, let’s get back to (again) the Stout cupcakes.

Dark Stout Chocolate cupcake

As soon as I opened the bottle of Stout I could smell that hoppy, yeasty beer smell. Since I don’t drink beer, nor do I visit pubs, the smell is quite distinct to me. I have no idea if it really smells and tastes so different to the type of beer Mr Fussy sometimes partakes in.

As for the taste, well the batter certainly had a beer like taste to it, but by the time the cupcakes were baked, that obvious flavour had disappeared. Mr Fussy reckons he could taste it, but I thought it was more the unsweetened cocoa. It was a little bitter but to me I’d have said it was the cocoa had I not known there was stout as an ingredient.

Mr Leprechaun

This was the best Leprechaun I made, or at least that’s my opinion. I used an edible marker to make the face.

I digress. When I looked back at the recipe on Friday night I scanned the list of ingredients and got them out onto the bench ready for a quick start Saturday morning. That’s when it registered just how much sugar there is. Yikes! And all I can think is that my friend Zarnia might be re-thinking whether she wants to make this recipe. But since she’s just completed another Ironman last Saturday, she might be a bit more relaxed about how much sugar passes her lips.

And to the recipe.

Stout Cupcakes by Smitten Kitchen

 Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
    3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    2 large eggs
    2/3 cup sour cream

For the frosting

  • 113 gm of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of Kremelta (shortening)
  • 4 cups of icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Bean paste

Instructions

For the cupcakes

  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  • Prepare a muffin tin with liners.
  • Melt the butter and stout into a small pan over medium heat.
  • When the butter is all melted add the cocoa and whisk until it’s fully incorporated. Allow to cool.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  • Add to the dry ingredients the eggs and sour cream and mix this in. The mixture will be very stiff.
  • Add the stout/chocolate mixture and mix until it’s just combined.
  • Use a cookie scoop to fill the cupcake liners, or around 3 tablespoons of batter.
  • Bake the cupcakes for around 18-20 minutes, using a toothpick to test doneness.
  • Leave the cupcakes in the tin for around 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to completely cool before frosting.

For the frosting

  • In a stand mixer beat the butter and Kremelta (shortening) for around 5 minutes. The longer you beat the whiter the mixture will be.
  • Reduce the speed and slowly add the sifted icing sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
  • Add the Baileys Irish Cream and vanilla bean paste and continue to mix until light and fluffy.
  • Decorate as desired.
  • The rest of the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website goes on to make these very fancy, but I didn’t have time to make a ganche and fill the cupcakes. Apparently a Car Bomb is an alcoholic drink. And from what I can gather, the post on the blog became very controversial.

My Notes:

  • If I made these again (maybe in a year’s time?) I’d mix all the wet ingredients together before adding them to the dry ingredients. I was using another blog’s recipe, which came from Smitten Kitchen but where the sour cream was swapped out for Buttermilk. And the method of mixing is as I’ve described here. Trying to get the eggs and sour cream into the dry ingredients took a lot of work, then to loosen the mixture with the stout/chocolate mixture took quite a lot of mixing, and I was concerned I might end up over mixing.
  • I forgot I had photos of the making of these cupcakes. So here’s a barrage of photos, and you’ll see for yourself how stiff the mixture was pre-adding the stout/chocolate mixture.
  • If you don’t want to use Kremelta (shortening) then replace this with butter. So the butter will be 1 cup, or 226 gm.
  • The vanilla bean paste can be substituted with vanilla essence, use about 1 teaspoon.

Ingredients

Mixture consistency

Cupcakes ready to bake

Texture of the Stout cupcake

I’ll have just one more post during the week related to St Patrick’ Day, just showing how I achieved rainbow vanilla cut out cookies.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Donna of Cake Stuff for making sure all the goodies I ordered arrived in time for the weekend. There was one item holding the order from being dispatched, but Donna sent the rest and then the one item overnight so that it all arrived on time, at no extra cost to me. It’s not often you find such good service these days. And not only that, Donna seemed genuinely interested in what I was planning on making this weekend, even asking for my blog address. Once again, thanks Donna.

Enjoy your Irish baking!