On to the plate

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


Double Ginger Cake

I can’t help myself. I love baking and the holiday unit we’re in has a fully equipped kitchen. When I say fully equipped, it doesn’t come with a cake mixer, not even a hand held set of egg beaters, but it has a microwave and an oven and a set of bowls.

I bought a whisk, measuring cups and spoons and yes, the kitchen scales. We also packed a small kitchen knife (we’ve learnt from experience that the knives don’t get sharpened, it is after all, a holiday home.) and I grabbed a number of pantry items like Cinnamon (shh, don’t tell Mr Fussy), Brown Sugar, a ziplock bag with Sultanas and Raisins and the pourable Golden Syrup bottle. Oh, and the package of yeast sachets. You never know.

Root Ginger

We arrived a little after 4pm Saturday, and before dinner I’d made Lemon Curd. At home I was rummaging around the freezer for pork and came across a big ziplock bag of lemon juice and 4 yolks. Perfect, I could make lemon curd. Then as we were unpacking Mr Fussy asked if I’d spotted the lemon trees. Bonus! Which came in handy because the big ziplock bag of lemon juice had a small tear on the seam and a good portion of it had leaked into the chilly bin.

Simple Syrup

There is a point to harping on about the lemon curd. The original recipe I barely adapted (just the proportions), goes on to say it would be good with Ginger pudding.

Before heading out for a run this morning I made pancake batter and whipped some cream. It took an age to whisk which is why there’ll be no pav or anything that requires whipping. I mixed some curd with the whipped cream and was all set for “breakfast”. Having made a double batch of lemon curd I was pretty intent to make a ginger cake. I knew Mr Fussy would be more than happy to accommodate my baking needs.

Stem Ginger

I wanted to pop along to the Library (for books on Peony Roses, Ranunculas and Magnolias) so took a quick peek at some recipe books. I came across a recipe by Nigel Slater for Double Ginger Cake. Even though I took a photo and followed it, I later found the recipe online, so I’ve included a link to that, below.

Another pantry item I brought with us was Self Raising Flour. It was all falling into place for the recipe. The Muscavado (I did bring brown sugar) sugar I bought as I did for the Ginger and Baking Soda. I grabbed a piece of root ginger from the supermarket after failing to find any Stem Ginger. Actually I didn’t know what Stem Ginger was.

Preserved Ginger

Stem ginger is the bit of ginger that’s underground, if my Google search, and memory, can be relied upon. I made do with the root ginger which I’ve described in the “My Notes” section below.

The syrup that was made while the ginger was simmering away really packed a punch. Only a few tablespoons were used in the recipe. Mr Fussy was very pleased with the flavours of the syrup.

The recipe has both Ginger spice, the chopped up “Stem Ginger” and the syrup made during the “preserving” of the ginger.

Cake batter

What I didn’t drag with me is my tripod. Turns out I take very shaky photos and with the light fading I needed even more to be able to keep the camera still. No chance. So now we get to some photos taken with my phone camera.

I also didn’t bring along any baking paper, but like I used to do when I was a much younger girl, I used the wrapping from the block of butter. How old school is that?

The recipe calls for a couple of good tablespoons of sultanas. I tried to encourage Mr Fussy to separate out the raisins from the sultanas but he took one look at the bag I packed and protested saying it wouldn’t matter if there were some raisins. And I agree. On the whole I’d have to say you could flag the fruit altogether. I don’t think it really added anything to the cake.

Double Ginger Cake by Nigel Slater



    1. Line the bottom of  20cm square cake tin.
    2. Heat the oven to 180C. Sift the flour with the ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
    3. In a small saucepan pour in the golden syrup and ginger syrup. Cut up the butter into smallish chunks and place that also into the saucepan. Warm the ingredients over a low heat.

    4. Dice the stem ginger finely, then add it to the pan with the sultanas and muscavado sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking on the bottom.
    4. Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk.
    5. Pour the butter and sugar mixture into the bowl with the flour. With a large metal spoon, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until smooth. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.
    6. Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip it out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up in foil and, if you can, leave it to mature for a day or two before eating.

My Notes:

    For the preserved ginger: Peel an slice root ginger into even chunks. Blanch the ginger pieces 3 times in boiling water letting the ginger it for around 10 seconds at a time. In a small pot measure 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar. Place the blanched ginger pieces into the pot and bring the syrup to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool for an hour before placing into a jar which is stored into the fridge. When the syrup had cooled to warm I then used the syrup and cut up the pieces finely for the cake recipe.

    I had a fairly shallow 20cm cake tin and was worried the batter would raise and spill over the sides so I poured some of the batter into a glass loaf tin. If you use a 22cm square baking tin you’ll likely get all the batter into the tin.

    Double Ginger Cakes

We had half of the loaf pan cake with some Lime and Cream Cheese frosting I dragged from the freezer just moments before leaving home. I’m not sure if that sort of ruined it or not. The frosting was lovely, but there wasn’t as much ginger flavour as I had expected. The cake had such a lovely texture, a quite light cake for a ginger cake. It wasn’t dense or heavy.

I’m looking forward to it in a couple of days. Just perfect for my birthday. Though I fully expect before then we’ll have polished off the remainder of the other half of the loaf pan baked cake. There’s still the lemon curd, and if I can muster the strength, more cream to be whipped. I think we’ve got pudding sorted, with a few serving variations, for the first half of the week.

Sultanas hiding



So much more than cake

I’m beginning to write this before I’ve finished decorating the cake, but the full rose will take an hour to dry properly so that gives me a chance to edit photos and start to write.


Love how the ladybugs knew where the roses were Winking smile

Cameron’s cake was a Chocolate Mud Cake, which got me to thinking about a White Chocolate Mud Cake. I love me a lot some white chocolate.

I found a recipe that had heaps of great reviews and like the Chocolate Mud Cake, the flavours mature and the cake is best eaten 3 days later (today!).

I made the cakes on Thursday evening, a 4” and 6” round cake. I need a break from oversized cakes for a while, and there’s just the 3 of us at home. I’m sure we can manage two smaller cakes. It’s sort of my birthday project, after all, everything about this cake is what I want to do, something I want to try. And if I stuff it up, well it’s OK. It’s only for me. Even if it looked ugly and was ruined, we’d still be able to eat it. Just with our eyes tightly closed.

I made White Chocolate Ganache on Thursday evening, I was a 100gm shy of what I needed so in went the last of my Lindt White Chocolate balls.

I had to say that Whittaker’s Chocolate is just not cutting it for Ganache. It’s great for baking with, but not for Ganache. I wonder where other people buy their chocolate from. I’ve just ordered some Callebaut White chocolate from Australia, and Natalie is hopefully going to have time to drop into Bake Boss and buy me some white chocolate buttons from there. That will give me a chance to try a few different brands.

Two different ganache techniques

I don’t have a perspex cake board for the round 4” cake so I had to cut out a circle from a Wilton cardboard cake board. Needless to say it wasn’t perfectly symmetrical which is why when it came to getting the top perfectly flat I went for the upside down method. The 6” cake I added quite a bit of white chocolate ganace to the top then put the top perspex board on and then levelled it. But it still wasn’t quite right. I needed more ganance in the middle because I had a few pockets where the ganance didn’t quite reach the top.

Smoothing the top

I wanted the ganache a little runnier to make it easier to fill in the small gaps. Basically the fat separated from the chocolate making it really greasy. But we got there in the end. I also had to spend quite a bit of time smoothing the smaller cake. It was a bit untidy given the cardboard circle wasn’t quite as round a it needed to be.

I took the cakes out on Saturday morning so that I could cover them in fondant that afternoon.

Getting sharp edges on the teeny cake

It is significantly easier to cover a tiny cake (and a round one) in fondant. I turned the cake upside down (I know, you can clearly see that) and then used the fondant smoother to gently coax the fondant down to the board to make a nice edge. Well there was one little bit that I didn’t get quite right. On the whole I was happy with the technique and how it turned out.

Then it was time to move onto the 6” cake. We had taken a trip out to Westmoreland to pick up an order I’d placed with Cake and Sugar Art and I picked up some pink Bakels fondant. I really had no idea how I wanted to decorate the cakes. I knew I’d end up using some of the left over grey fondant and pink goes with grey. Anyway, that pink. Wow. It is bright. I had to add 2/3 white fondant to it just to tone it down somewhat. I also bought a quilting patchwork cutter while out at Westmoreland. Then I used the black balls I bought to add to Cameron’s top tier (which I didn’t in the end) to stick around the cake. Despite it being only a 6” cake, I think I’ve got move than 210 little balls.

Pretty in pink

You can see how thick the ganache is on the cake. I think the 4” is about the same. The cake had shrunk a bit during cooling and I only had the 4” cake tin to use as my guide for cutting out the board. I used every last little drop of ganache that I had on these cakes. None was spare.

One of the things I wondered about using on Cameron’s cake was Bubble Tea Straws. I’d heard they were really good and better than wooden dowels. I chickened out though. I was sceptical that the straws would manage to penetrate through the thick gananche. I’m not sure if these cakes have a thinner layer or not, but the bubble tea straws worked fine.

Bubble Tea Straws

It’s funny how the middles have filled with the fondant. I can’t pick it out so it’ll stay there, obviously.

I’m having such fun trying new techniques and design ideas. There was a lot of safety in mucking around with my cake. I wish I could be relaxed like that when it came to making a cake for someone else. I really didn’t fret about anything at all. And so far everything has come together as planned.

I went to bed last night still not knowing how I would decorate the grey cake. I had started to make a gumpaste rose last night but it didn’t quite work. Well it worked but the gumpaste wasn’t elastic enough and I couldn’t get the frill I was trying for with the ball tool.

I made the gumpaste Friday evening and while it all seemed to come together as per the recipe, it just doesn’t have the elasticity. I’m not sure what I did wrong yet. Anyway I decided I would add some commercial gumpaste to what I’d made. I ended up with a 2:1 ratio of Satin Ice gumpaste to my homemade paste.  And it has worked better, but still not as frilly as the Craftsy “The Ultimate Sugar Rose” online video I purchased. No, I’m not gifted, I don’t know enough about roses to be able to make a gumpaste rose without a LOT of guidance.

Different looks

Despite the top cake being only 4” I’ve decided to give it a couple of different looks. I have been eager to get back and try the brush embroidery technique now that I have the correct brush set but I’ve been too busy with holidays and other cakes. I had some stiff consistency royal icing in the freezer so I took a spoonful of it and then used my rose cutter to imprint the shape on the fondant. I’m hopeless at freeform. I also started out with two roses, the one here is called a mid size rose. I haven’t watched the end of the video yet to know if I was meant to do something more with the calyx. I just cut it and shoved it on the rose.

Ok, so now I’ve finished the rose, watched the part in the video about making the calyx, which is a lot more work than I would have thought and I’ve waited and waited for the rose to be dry enough to put on the cake. It wasn’t quite ready but I was too impatient to wait any longer. So here goes, and I might have a few photos to share because I feel like showing off something new that kinda worked out reasonably well for a first effort.

Finished cake

Here’s a photo of the back of the cake where you can see the rear of the roses. I really never took that much notice of the calyx and the ovary. I didn’t even know a rose had an ovary. It’s been quite a learning experience. The calyx on the single bud has an ovary but it wasn’t made per the video lesson. I really had no clue at the time. The calyx on the full rose has a white and green side and the feathering. I don’t have a leaf cutter and veiner yet. They are ordered and somewhere between America and here but I’m not holding my breath at seeing them before we head to Nelson this coming Saturday.

Rear view

Initially I thought I would have nothing on the top when showing the side I piped the brush embroidery, but I think it’s ok with everything going on.

Flowers everywhere

It’ll be fun cutting into the cake for dessert tonight. I wonder how many of those black balls will go skittering across the bench.

And now you get to see all those little imperfections with this close up. It really shows up things that I didn’t see until I looked at the photo.

Brush embroidery

Working with a small brush to drag the royal icing on the side of a cake is somewhat awkward. And I still managed to smoosh one of those dots. I don’t even know how or when that happened. Just goes to show how delicate everything is. It was likely to have been the waxed paper as I dragged the cake to the edge of the board before I placed it on the cake.

All in all I’m pretty pleased how this turned out. Given I really had no idea what I wanted to do with the cake yesterday morning, it all came together. I think I’ll call this cake my birthday cake. Might has well, even if it’s a little over a week early.

My Cake

Oops, in all my excitement I forgot the link to the recipe!

White Chocolate Mud Cake by Exclusively Food. My cake looks a bit fussy by comparison. I love the simplicity of the photo on the blog post. I don’t think my cake is going to look quite as light as theirs. Even when I trimmed the top I could see what appeared to be smears of white chocolate that hadn’t quite melted, which was baffling given the chocolate was melted before combining with the dry ingredients, and then of course baked. I may or may not take a photo Smile



I expected the 4” cake to go 4 ways. My MIL just wanted a small slice and Mr Fussy didn’t want any. I cut the cake in half and then a half into thirds. My cake didn’t cook nicely like the original recipe. The flower nail to make a heat core didn’t really help much, but at least it wasn’t stodgy in the middle.

White chocolate lovers dream

Look at how much ganache there is! Oh my. I was so excited. I love, love, love white chocolate. My MIL seemed to struggle with her slice but I was done and dusted and eyeing up a second slice. I didn’t.

The other slice is wrapped up for my BIL and the other half of the cake cut into quarters.  A slice going with Mr Fussy and the other 3 for dessert tomorrow. The 6” cake is packed up for Mr Fussy to take to his work. I reckon he’ll get the 14 slices he needs from it. A pity I’m not working from the office tomorrow or I’d have taken it with me.

A slice of heaven

There’s no disguising the white chocolate flavour. It’s not in the cake you can taste it but in the generous coverage of the ganache. A bit of a pity the cake shrunk and a shame it hasn’t cooked as well as the original recipe. I don’t seem to be able to get a mud cake to cook consistently through. For all that the toothpick came out clean, the cake sprung back, and it shrunk from the side of the tin. All indicators of being cooked.

I’m looking forward to another (smaller) slice tomorrow. It’s probably a good thing it’s going to Mr Fussy’s work. It would be lethal to have sitting around at home.


Decorating Cameron’s 21st cake

I wont bore you with a long winded story before the first photo. Of course there will be several long winded paragraphs, but first a photo of the fully decorated and assembled cake. This is a photo Mr Fussy took at the Church hall just as I’d finished putting it all together, I think it’s actually my favourite photo. Taken on his camera phone.

Mr Fussy Photo

We collected the 10” cake from Natalie after work on Thursday. I assured her taking it from the freezer at 4pm would be ample time for it to defrost in time for me to begin covering it in fondant sometime around 7:30pm. I was wrong.

The cake was still plenty frozen and while I put a smear of vegetable shortening on the cake it was a bit of a waste. There was no way fondant was going to adhere to the now frozen vegetable shortening.

There was no point having a panic attack. I had plenty of time really. But my preference would have been to have the cake covered Thursday evening.

Instead I re-did the cake board. Wednesday night I put a thin layer of fondant over the entire board and trimmed it. I really didn’t like it at all. I had watched a YouTube video of another way of covering the cake board and decided that was much more to my liking.

Mr Fussy helped me line up the cake onto the board so it sat in the centre, not before I scraped the ganache from the bottom – left over from when I had attached it to the cake board for covering in ganache. I then rolled the fondant and covered the board as I’d been shown. I was pleased the thickness was just perfect for the actual Perspex board the cake was sitting on.

I can tell you a lot of thought went into whether to cover the cake board before or after sitting the cake on it. This would have an impact on the modelling chocolate decorations. If I covered it last, then the fondant used on the board would end up covering 3mm of the modelling chocolate. I didn’t know if this would be a problem or not, might it end up pushing the panels where they sort of sprung out the top, like plank boards popping off the top rung of the fencepost. Or could I just attach the modelling chocolate sides to the cake leaving a 3mm gap at the base to allow for the fondant. I can tell you, this one small detail caused quite a bit of time to consider and I can’t say I really came up with a plan, it just happened that I covered the board on Thursday night and then calculated what that move meant.

I mentioned to Mr Fussy that if I woke anytime from 5am Friday I’d get up and cover the cake. I work at 3:50am. And what kept me awake was realising I didn’t put any melted chocolate onto the presentation board to hold the cake in place. Christchurch is really bumpy and I was having visions of the cake busting through the 3mm thick fondant and slipping off the board, or that it would clean jump up off the board and I’d be left with a few split seconds moving the board around trying to get it perfectly lined up with the now falling cake, to land exactly in the same spot it left. You can see how this would cause my brain to go into overdrive and not allow me to sleep.

Mr Fussy rolled over and murmured something to me and I gave strict instructions he must be very gentle driving due to the lack of chocolate cementing the cake to the board. Of course all earlier such pleas for him to drive sedately while transporting the gananced cakes to and from Natalie’s had fallen on deaf ears. I’m not sure why I expected him to take more notice now.

10 inch covered in panelled black fondant

At 5am I slipped on my running gear in preparation of covering the cakes then getting a run in before the day properly started. I thought an hour would do the trick. But at 6:30am I was just starting to pack things away. One of the sides wasn’t quite tall enough so I was fairly forceful in trying to coax it up the cake a bit to reach the top. That meant that it wasn’t the same thickness all the way which would only give me something else to worry about when attaching the modelling chocolate to the sides.

Following the instructions of the Craftsy Clean & Simple Cake Design course I signed up for, I smeared the vegetable shortening all over the surface of the ganache, in my practice cake I had used water. This only caused me lots of worrying moments during the day where I had dreadful thoughts the panelled sides would droop during the day and I’d end up making a mercy dash to Josie’s to flog her new tub of black fondant to re-do the cake.

I was relieved to arrive home with the 8” cake to find the 10” still standing and showing no signs of failure.

I was also relieved to find the 8” cake a lot smaller than I had thought. It sure made me feel better about covering it in fondant.

On the Wednesday evening I had covered my square cake dummy in vegetable shortening and had another practice go at covering the cake, turning it upside down to work on getting the corners nice and square, and the same for the top edges. It had worked out pretty well, but I knew that I’d need to get more fondant to the top corners so that they really did sit square. I had sharp sides and top but too little fondant for it to reach out to the point I needed.

I’d been working myself up over covering the 8” cake. I knew it wasn’t helpful. On Friday night I was fairly casual about the whole thing. I wasn’t rushing around in a flap. I didn’t even get onto it straight away. First up I put one side of the modelling chocolate onto the 10” cake, just to see how much time it took and how easy/difficult it would be.

First I cut myself a template of exactly the finished size of the panel so I could lay it across my modelling chocolate to know where I would actually place it. I had various lengths of the modelling chocolate so I needed to know that those shorter bits would still be long enough. And I needed to have thicker pieces at the ends because from experience with the practice cake, getting thin stripes to sit strong against the side of the cake isn’t as easy as it would be with thicker pieces.  I hummed and haad and made only one change to the pattern I’d laid out the previous Saturday. Cutting it out with the razor and attaching it to the side of the cake was straightforward and I knew the rest would be quicker since I now had the template and knew exactly where I would be making the cuts for the sides.

First side up

The only whoopsy was the height of the sides. I had made it a little too high so I then had to very carefully run the razor along bit by bit to try and get the side to sit flush with the top of the cake.

With that done and having gobbled a hamburger for dinner which Mr Fussy had nipped off to the local F&C to get, it was now time to start organising to roll the fondant.

I was in two mind whether to use The Mat or just roll the fondant out the old fashioned way. Because the cake was only 8” I decided to do it the old fashioned way. I was very conscious that I needed a little more thickness to make sure that in flipping the cake over I’d be able to have sufficient for the corners to reach the sides to make the necessary points. I also had more fondant than I needed so that I could be sure there was plenty of extra laying on the table that wouldn’t end up dragging the fondant down the cake.

I marked out the size I needed by dragging lines in the mixture of cornflour and icing sugar. Having already put a thin layer of vegetable shortening all over the cake, I kneaded the fondant to get it soft enough to work with. I used the vegetable shortening method again because I’d read that it would be easy to peel the fondant off (without getting gananche in it) if it went wrong, this would allow me another go at getting the fondant right if it all went belly up.

For some reason I can’t explain, I decided to fold the rolled out fondant over the rolling pin (a piece of PVC pipe I had cut for me at the local Bunnings store – and of course have spent time making sure it’s all clean and free of plastic shavings) ready to lay across the cake. Mr Fussy moved the cake closer to me which I had the fondant raised but not actually clear of the table. But it was enough to stretch it.

Pretty much every horror story you’ve heard about fondant, ripping, tearing, elephant skin, happened in a few seconds.

I actually looked to see if I could lift the fondant off cleanly to have a second bash, but there was ganache underneath. So I tried to work fast without panicing but all the time I was muttering how awful it was and how this had gone wrong and that had gone wrong and it was really ugly and there was nothing I could do to make it seem any less horrid.

So you wont be seeing a close up shot of the top tier.

It hadn’t been my intention to decorate the top tier that night, but it looked so bad that I wanted to make it better, not that I thought the side decoration would cover a multitude of sins, but it might detract the eye.

When I had practically pleaded Natalie to NOT have square cakes I said that if it went bad what I’d do is take the side decoration and cut it down the middle and then put one straight side at the base and the other half turned up the other way come from the top. But I’m afraid the cake was so bad that even that wasn’t going to have the desired effect, so I just went with the original plan.

I carried on and added the explosion. This was my 4th attempt at making it as a separate piece. I really didn’t want to have to add a second colour under the fondant and then cut the explosion from the cake. My practice explosion cake was a bit untidy with the secondary colour (red) leaving an impression on everything I touched. Yes I know it’s my that’s a bit unco and others would manage it without so much as a second thought. But knowing my limitations I really wanted the explosion to be separate and added to the cake. I had to add tylose powder to the fondant in order that it held its shape and not crumble and I tried to extract it from the upturned plastic lid that I’d wrapped it inside of.

I used two different sized cookie cutters to make the cuts needed to cut out a trough for which the explosion would be inserted into. I didn’t quite cut deep enough so it was a bit fiddly trying to coax 2mm of fondant apart from the cake.


This is probably the closest shot you’ll have of the top, I really didn’t take one photo of the top tier on its own. You can see that I tried to make a uniformed snake to then wrap around the outside of the explosion piece so that it wouldn’t look so surgical. I also brushed the inside of the explosion with silver lustre dust. It was fairly subtle and you could only see it when the light hit it just in the right spot.

For the 2 and 1 I found a font I liked, took a screen capture of the numbers at the size I wanted (9cm or there abouts) and then printed it out. Then I cut out the paper numbers, then traced that onto thin cardboard and cut that out, then finally used that as a template on the rolled out modelling chocolate. The night I did this the 2 wouldn’t stand on its own. I had inserted cut toothpicks in preparation for being able to stand the numbers up on the cake. I wasn’t convinced it would work, in fact I didn’t think it would work because the two gave no clue that it would hold its weight. But by the next morning it was all good and I was a happy person. I’d also been making those little grey and red stars over a few nights, as well as the bigger stars for the explosion. I already had the 3 sized stars made from fondant which I’d sprayed in lustre dust the previous weekend.

Originally the plan had been to carry over the modelling chocolate stripes onto the top of the 10” cake, but when the cake turned out to be 5.5inches tall (rather than the 4inches I had planned), I knew I didn’t have the length on the strips to achieve that, so plan B was to use the stars. I think they worked pretty well.

I’d achieved more than I had planned by the end of Friday evening which meant I could have a bit of a sleep in (for me) on Saturday. I was confident that I’d get the 10” cake finished by lunchtime. That meant we had time to do the grocery shopping, delayed from Friday night, and time to still get to the venue for 4pm which was the earliest we could get in.

lining up the stripes

One other thing that had been causing my brain to work overtime was how I would cover all 4 sides, and whether it would be possible to line up the stripes. And I found that it was actually really simple. I had to first make another template of sorts of the first side so that I could lay out the stripes in the same angle. And I got there without it doing my head in too much at the time.

Initially we had planned to take the 10” cake at 4pm and then would arrive with the 8” cake around 7pm to then get it assembled.

Mr Fussy was confident that, with the new non-slip mats stuff I’d bought, we’d get both cakes to the venue in one trip.

First I had to insert the dowels so that the top tier would be properly supported. I told Mr Fussy that his little hacksaw in the garden shed would not do, that I needed something food safe. During the week I popped into Bunnings and bought ratchet secateurs. I left them on the kitchen bench handy for when I needed them. But my MIL saw them and when my girlfriend arrived to do some gardening for us on Thursday, my MIL gave them to her. I’ll be honest, I was pretty unimpressed but I totally understand why a pair of secateurs would be destined for gardening use. Mr Fussy bought another pair for me Friday evening on his way home. Problem solved.

Adding support

The ratchet secateurs made a pretty easy job of cutting through the dowels. I’d made a less than 8” square from baking paper to act as the template to help me ensure the dowels were positioned inside the side of the cake.

Mr Fussy was very good driving to the venue. After his convincing me that we could take both cakes at once, and me saying he was being pretty casual about something I’d spent so much time working on, that I didn’t want his assuredness to be the undoing of my work, we made it without any cakes being rocked out of their place. I didn’t even hold onto the top of the big cake which was on my lap like I was expecting. I have to say that cake was very heavy, but I could still see it shooting straight up and off the board.

At the venue I got to work with cutting out a circle from the centre of the small cake so that I could put a small plastic pottle in there. The purpose was to put fondant in the pottle so that the wires of the stars would be in something that wasn’t intended to be eaten. The ganache was so thick. The circle cutter pulled away the ganache and the cake under it cleanly and Caitlin was the happy recipient of that surprise gift.

After making the insertion I covered over the top with a circle of black fondant. We got the top tier placed on the 10” cake and then it was a matter of cutting the wired stars to height – Mr Fussy took on that role – and then placing them in to look random but ordered (I can’t help myself!). I sprinkled over the stars in the “ledge” left between the 8” and 10” cake and then scattered more into the centre of the 8” cake so that it wasn’t quite so crude looking where the wires were poking out of the cake.

All up it looked really good. Logan’s Mum thought the bottom cake was a box, so I guess it looked exactly as we had hoped it would.

Natalie had put on such a huge spread that by the time it came for sweets, hardly any of the cake was eaten. There was an awful lot left over, and somehow we’ve managed to come home with a 1/4 of the 10” cake (Mr Fussy is taking it to work tomorrow).

Depsite the many things that didn’t quite turn out as well as I hoped, a lot of things did. I wont be put off using fondant to cover a cake, in some ways it’s made me more determined to master it (at least improve).

I’m so glad I had the chance to make the cake for Natalie, and Cameron. Everyone was really happy with it and thought it looked great.

Of course my next one will be a LOT smaller. My next one might be for my birthday in a couple of weeks, but then we’ll be holidaying in Nelson and no where near all my bits and bobs for cake decorating. I might be having a belated birthday cake, if at all.


Imperial vs. Metric–it does my head in

This weeks post (there’s only this one) is a tale about an 8” and 10” cake. Last week I made a practice cake. You can read about that here. I used the same Chocolate Mudcake recipe for Cameron’s 21st birthday cakes.

I guess we should back the truck up. Some weeks ago I asked Natalie how many people she was expecting for Cameron’s party. She thought about 80. And I knew she wanted 2 square cakes.

Using my chart from the Craftsy classes I figured we needed a 10” and 12” cake. Then came the practice cake in an 8” tin and we realised that we only needed what is called a coffee serve due to how rich the cake was.

8 inch ganached cake

With that in mind, it was an 8” and 10” cake. All this time, no matter which sized cake, I was thinking there was a 2” difference. And I pictured this being all the way around the cake. But no. I needed to engage my brain because it is only a 1” difference around the cake.

After having decided on the size of cakes last weekend I put my order in at Cakestuff and ordered the 8” and 10” cake boards. I ordered a lot of stuff, as I usually do. And I’ve since put in a second order.

Donna was fabulous and sent me the tracking number as I’d requested so I could keep and eye on when the order would arrived. Sadly the tracking number never worked but the order was at home Wednesday for me. Yay!

I grabbed the cake boards out and used the ruler to see if they were a true square. I wasn’t expecting them to be a metric “equivalent” of inches.

The cake boards were 23 and 25cm. That’s shy of 8” and 10”. It’s not like I could shrink the tins, nor could I stretch the cake boards. The best I could do was use some cardboard to make an inlay to the cake tins to try and make them a little smaller all the way around.

It sort of worked. I made the 8” cakes Friday night and knew from measuring that I would still have to trim the cakes. Bugger. I stood in the middle of the kitchen not wanting to waste cake by trimming, but what could I do with the 10” cakes. Light bulb time. I put the 8” card inside the 10” cake tin against the side and then placed the 10” cardboard (which was now trimmed a little smaller) against the 8” cardboard. Feeling relived and clever I set about on Saturday baking the 10” cakes.

The 8” cakes were again a little undercooked looking in the middle, so as I’d read from someone else, I put a rose nail into the middle of the cake tin to help draw heat there to cook the cake more evenly. It worked. But looked what it produced on the underside.

More craters

This was the second cake. The first had a much deeper crater. I knew I’d have to fill it somehow. I couldn’t make another cake. And I needed on layer to have a perfectly flat bottom, so the final layer I did away with the rose nail and hoped that it would cook nicely.

I used some of the cake trimmings and some ganache as a sort of bog to fill the gaps.

Plugged the hole

That photo is of the first cake layer. You might also notice from the photo where I showed the crater, there’s a crack through the cake. I was having a bit of a mission turning the cooling cakes over onto the glad wrap. It wouldn’t slide nicely off the cooling rack like the first cake did, so I flipped it over quickly, but my hand was underneath it to try and guide it to the table. And yeah, as you’d expect, I ended up with a crack, but it didn’t break the cake, thankfully.

After trimming the cakes (which was really easy given how dense a mudcake is) I set about getting everything sorted. It’s no quick task organising everything.

Preparing the work area

I’m glad I never got rid of my original cake turntable. I sat it on top of some non-slip mats, then put a thin layer of ganache on it. I’d bought some really large cake boards at Spotlight’s 30% sale and then covered it with waxed paper, covering it on the diagonal. It took two pieces of paper, so there’s a join from one corner to the opposite corner. I placed the board on top as centred as I could. I would spin the board around and see how it lined up against the edge of the bench. With the cake board in place then came the cake boards.

Time for a small diversion. After dropping the 8” cake off to Natalie, so she could store it in the freezer, we went to Lincraft trying to look for something that was flat. The original cake boards were slightly bowed. Not much, but enough that I knew it wouldn’t sit flat on the top. My intention was to have a cake board top and bottom, precisely lined up, which would be my guide to getting the sides straight. I’d ganache and then run the scraper along the side guided by the edge of the cake boards.

But with a bowed board I knew I had to come up with another idea. I’d been reading about the Torta method (which I did use for the 8” cake) and the lady spoke about having Perspex cake boards. This saved her having to trim the cakes because all her Perspex boards were already 1/2” more than the tin size.

We found something at Lincraft, presentation board, which I was going to cut to size and I reasonably satisfied it would work, well work better than the bowed board. As we were nearing home I spotted a sign, a sign I’d seen before but it never meant anything to me. A guy cuts Perspex to size, from his home. Mr Fussy quickly indicated and pulled into the side of the road and then we back tracked and got 10” Perspex cut on the spot, with an order put in for 8 1/2” square, 8 1/2” circle and 6 1/2” circle.

Perspex cake boards

Sadly though something got lost in translation. I had explained to the man why I wanted the Perspex and that the cake board was meant to be 10” but was 25cm. My false 10” cake tins were reduced to produce 23.5cm square cakes, but between Mr Fussy and the guy talking 25cm and what that converts to in inches, I ended up with perfectly cut 10” Perspex squares. So ore than 25cm for 23.5cm cakes. I had almost a full 1cm gap all the way around the cake that would need filling with Ganache, when usually you’d have just a 1/4”.

I had to make more ganache. At least I realised that ahead of time and made it Saturday evening ready for use Sunday morning.

Ok, back to the cake. Even though I took out the Ganache that I had pre-made Friday night, there was so much of it that it was still too thick, I couldn’t even make an impression with my finger. It took quite a bit to bring it back to a consistency to use. And it set really fast on the cakes.


Look how ugly those sides are! I had to constantly remind me that there was still a bit of work to do and not to be disheartened by the look of it. It really was doing my head in. I couldn’t stand how awful those sides looked.

Now a reasonable person might have stopped and asked themselves if they really needed a 3rd layer of cake. I was trying to get the same box look as I would get for the 8” and expected to need 3 layers to achieve that given it was a bigger cake. Again going back to the dreaded 10” not being 10” and then making a false side which meant the cakes were higher to begin with, 2 layers would have been almost spot on. But no, I had it in my mind I needed 3 layers, and I had baked 3 layers, and I was on auto pilot.

So I have a behemoth of a cake! It’s over 5” tall!  So I’ve made things really difficult for myself now. What I had begun with for decorating the sides and the small 1” gap all around the top of the cake (the gap from the 8” to the edge of the 10”) was now only just going to be enough to cover the sides of the cake.

I’d started the modelling chocolate decorations Saturday evening, and I spent all evening kneading, rolling, putting through the pasta machine, laying out, cutting, and cutting and more cutting. My back was extremely sore.

Flat smooth top

Going back to that Torta method. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that due to the size and weight of the cake (I knew that Saturday without having seen how massive the cake was). Even though I put a lot of ganache on the top before putting the top Perspex on, and getting the top even, it still wasn’t enough. I knew I had to get the edge spot on so that I could fill in the gaps on top. Didn’t it look awful! But it came right.

As for that 8” top, I liked how smooth it was. I had tipped the cake upside down and used waxed paper with ganache smeared on it before laying the cake upside down on it. But then I thought about the fondant settling into those little ripples left by the crumpled waxed paper so I tided it up, which meant it no longer looked beautifully flawless (other than the wrinkles).

Smoothing over the top

See, they are both about the same dimensions. We wont be short any cake, that’s for sure!

The 8” we carted over in a 10” cake box, but the 10” was carted on the massive cake board I used as the base for which to ganache on. I put a bit of the non-slip mat between the cake and the board thinking that was being overly cautious, but this is Christchurch, and we live on the East side and the East side is still a total mess and there were pot holes and bumps and uneven surfaces and detours and Mr Fussy took off a little too fast at the round about and the cake slide back into me. I’m pretty sure everything I didn’t say was written all over my face.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I no longer have the cakes. But I’ll pick up one on Thursday and cover it in fondant Thursday evening, and the 8” on Friday and cover it and if time allows (depending on how well I get it right) I’ll start decorating the sides of the 10” cake.

Modelling chocolate stripes

This is what I’ll be putting on the sides, the slight diagonal stripes. The two pieces you see at the top of the picture are 2 of 4, and they will be in the middle of each of the 4 sides of the 8” cake.

What you’re seeing is the side of the stripes that will end up against the cake, so don’t panic that you can see cornflour or some not quite smooth surfaces, this will be hidden.

Extra embellishments

With some of the left over black modelling chocolate I cut out some stars, I’ve already got 22 stars of 3 different sizes already on florist wire and sprayed with a silver lustre spray, but we thought it would be nice to add some of the other colours too. I’m hoping to cut out a fairly solid 2 and 1 with the red modelling chocolate later in the week, so I’ll use the scraps to make some red stars. The other teeny tiny stars were made with my new fondant plunger set that arrived this week. Modelling chocolate cuts much more crisp than fondant. These are very tiny stars. But what we’ve decided is that little 1” gap around the top of the 10” cake will have a scattering of grey and red small stars. The 10” cake will be covered in black fondant.

One thing that is worrying me is the drag and likely pulling of the fondant in the corners of the 10” cake. While out running tonight I decided I’ll panel the fondant on the 10” cake. You’re not going to see the sides anyway since they’ll be covered. Do you think that’s cheating or a perfectly reasonable thing to do given the fondant will be hidden anyway?

I can’t wait until Cameron’s party, it means the cake will be complete and delivered, and the aroma of chocolate will finally dissipate from the kitchen. I’m a bit over the smell of chocolate now.