On to the plate

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


Christmas Cakes. My Labour Day weekend “thing”

When do you make your Christmas cake?

This was my dining room table yesterday as I prepared to bake two recipes today. Christmas cake isn’t necessarily difficult, it just takes a lot of ingredients, expensive ingredients, especially when you’ve got to buy the booze. And then there’s the time in preparing the cake pan. This time round I had 3 cake pans to prepare.

Ingredients for two

Labour Weekend is usually the time I make my Christmas cake. And if I forget, and it’s happened more than once, I make it Show Weekend (mid November). But I didn’t forget, and instead of baking a Christmas cake for us, I baked two different recipes. One that I could split between a 6” round and 6” square cake tin (equals the 9” size the original recipe uses).

Cameron at work subtly suggested that I should be baking a Christmas Cake for work, though he went on to admit any cake is good cake. He has Christmas cake with cream and ice-cream. I have mine with fondant and a serviette. Each to their own.

But as luck would have it, I was undecided which of two recipes I’d make. So I didn’t have to make a decision at all. I made both. Two very different recipes.

I know some families have a recipe that they make each year. We don’t have a family recipe as such. And for many years now I’ve made a different cake recipe. This is the one I made last year.

I guess I’m waiting to find the perfect (for me/us) recipe, then when I get there I’ll stop looking and keep making the same one year after year. Or not. I do like to tinker.

8%22 Cake Ingredients

So this year I’ve made this recipe by Mich Turner, which is the 8” cake, and then this recipe for the two smaller cakes, on a blog called Mum’s Business. Mich Turner has a YouTube video of her making the cake if you’re mildly interested.

8%22 Cake Mixture

Neither recipe I stuck to. Here’s why. The recipe by Mich Turner didn’t have Candied Peel. Who makes a Christmas cake without that ingredient. Though the recipe doesn’t say it’s a Christmas cake, so it doesn’t matter that I swapped out some of the cherries for the peel. I have a suspicion that both cakes could do with a LOT more spice. Mr Fussy loves his spices (other than Cinnamon) and I don’t think he’ll find either of these recipes quite hit the mark on that front. And the other change I made was to mix up the spirits. The Mum’s Business cake recipe has both Port and Sherry, and we’re rather fond of Port. So I decided to do away with Brandy (oohh) and have a mix of Sherry (100ml) and Port (125ml).

1310_8%22 cake ready to bake-2-2

As for the recipe for Mum’s Business, I made a few changes there too. I don’t like dates so they were out and instead replaced with Raisins. Again, who makes a Christmas cake without Raisins? I was still using the last of the farm fresh eggs I got from Ruth. Some were really small. So rather than 3 large eggs I had 2 size 7 and 2 small farm fresh eggs. And the Walnuts were changed for the more traditional Almonds. Not that Mr Fussy likes those, he doesn’t like nuts. But since the cake will be for our work places it wont faze him at all.

Small cake ingredients

The recipe from Mum’s Business is quite an adventurous recipe for a Christmas cake. It has cocoa and jam, oh, and coffee. Lots of fun trying different recipes.

For both recipes I put a couple of layers of baking paper on the top and took those off when there was about 15 minutes of the original baking time left. I also wrapped the cake tins with layers of newspaper as well as had newspaper on the baking tray and another baking tray at the top of the oven with newspaper on it too. All this to make sure the cakes didn’t dry out.

Both recipes took longer to bake, but I was expecting that. Mich Turners cake took 3hrs 15 minutes and the Mum’s business recipe took 2hrs for the 6” round and 2hrs 30 minutes for the 6” square cake. I had my oven thermometer in the oven and the temperature was correct on both occasions. Perhaps all those layers of newspaper caused the longer cooking time.

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The Mum’s Business recipe reserves the liquid from what the dried fruits were soaking in, and then has this brushed over the cake when it’s out of the oven. Once the last cake was out of the oven I brushed the reserved liquid over all 3 cakes.

1310_Small cakes ready to bake-2-2

And now it must be time to wrap them all up and pop them away ready for a weekly feed of brandy. Spot the difference with the 6″ square cakes on the bottom between the non glazed and the glazed (with the reserved liquid)? Hopefully it wont be too sticky. Unwrapping the cakes each week, and re-wrapping them is going to feel like a chore.

One more thing. See the bottom right of the 6″ square cake. Don’t you think the way the two pieces of Almond have fallen make it look a little bit like the North and South Island? Am I the only one that can spot odd things in images?

Baked and glazed

My plan at this stage is to make my own marzipan and then to cover the cakes at the end of November. Hopefully the fondant wont dry too hard between then and Christmas. Though if I put them into a Tupperware container the fondant will remain soft, it just means I’ll decorate mid December when I can then leave the lid off the cakes. I’m looking forward to decorating them. I know a lot more than I did last year and feel I can make my own decoration rather than buy them. All I have to do is think up some ideas. I might go for something really fun on the work cakes and something more traditional and a little fancier than last year. If my skills allow.



Waffles – Annabel Langbein’s recipe

Annabel Langbein Waffles

Long weekends seem like the perfect excuse for having waffles for breakfast. It’s not a weekend breakfast we regularly have, but if the mood takes me, this is what I fall back to for making breakfast a little more special.

We’ve had waffles and Louise and Simon’s place several times before and it’s because of those waffles I bought a waffle maker.

Now it was my turn to give their recipe a go. Up until now I’ve made the Overnight Waffle Recipe which I got from Smitten Kitchen blog.

While I’ve been really happy with these waffles, I’d been meaning to try the recipe Louise emailed me, and I just couldn’t be bothered making the waffle batter the night before. I was having a lazy night.

Breakfast beginnings

Louise typed out the recipe that she got from “The best of Annabel Langbein Great food for Busy Lives”. Louise knows that I’m really petrified about the copyright laws. So often I wont write a recipe out (especially from American websites) rather link back to the original recipe, unless I tweak the recipe and feel like typing the whole thing out, or I’ll just explain my tweaks.

Anyway, I found a website that had typed out the recipe, though I’ve only just realised Louise had written the waffle batter could be left overnight, or 2 hours. The recipe I followed from this blog only mentioned leaving it a couple of hours, so that’s what I did.

I made the batter using farm fresh eggs. Ruth had given me a dozen on Wednesday and I knew I’d be using some of them this weekend with the Christmas Cakes I was planning to bake.

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Just look at how yellow the batter is. The flash has whitened the yellow but you can still see the colour is a little richer than you get from supermarket eggs.

I used my double whisk to hand whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. I actually set the microwave timer to see how long it took me. I was pretty impressed that at one minute I almost had the stiff peaks. Another minute and I’d almost gone too far!

Although I was having a lazy night Friday, I still made a half batch of Pizza dough and caramel sauce. I’m planning another Caramel Chocolate Tart for dessert on Monday along with my much-anticipated Pork Belly for dinner. During our weekly grocery shop I’d picked up a couple of extra punnets of Strawberries (Mr Fussy has a fresh fruit salad each day of the work week and during summer, when strawberries are in season, he’ll add those as an extra fruit).

Breakfast was Strawberries and caramel sauce plastered all over the waffles. I only made a half recipe of the waffles. 8-10 waffles was going to be too many for us, since it was just Mr Fussy and I for breakfast.

1310_Stiff Egg Whites Folded-2-2

As for the waffles, I loved that the batter was thicker which meant it never spilt over the edge of the waffle maker as they baked, but the waffles weren’t as nice as when we’ve had them with Louise and Simon. They were almost glugy on the inside. They were lovely and crisp on the outside, but a bit doughy on the inside. Maybe I needed a bit more liquid. I must admit I don’t like recipes that don’t give flour as a weight measure. You can end up with too little or too much when you’re measuring in a cup. Perhaps I had too much flour since I did use my usual 140gm = 1 cup measure, and had to then covert the half recipe. I think I might have forgotten to halve the ¼ cup of flour.

1310_Making Waffles-2-2

Nevermind. It was still a very filling breakfast, and still enjoyable, just not as nice as I’d expected based on past experience. Any opportunity to have caramel sauce is a worthwhile meal  🙂

Always better with Caramel sauce


Friands and another “best by”

Here’s my second “best by” post. The best by was only 1 day past.

I bought Zeagold liquid (pasteurised) egg whites from Moorhouse Countdown a few weeks ago. I was thrilled.

I’ve done some testing in the past to see if liquid egg whites are as good (or not) than fresh egg whites. And, well, they made fine meringues. But I’ve not been able to source liquid egg whites in these parts. Alastair (the recipient of my impromptu 40th birthday cake) had bought me some while he was on business in Wellington.

My purpose for the egg whites this round was to, finally, try out a Friand recipe that I’d earmarked (on Pinterest) months and months ago.

All in rows

Really I’d been waiting until Raspberries came into season, but the purchase and impending (and past) best by date won out. I used Sujon frozen Raspberries. In my opinion these are far superior to other brands frozen Raspberries.

I made a confession on the Facebook page yesterday. I don’t like Nutella, nor Peanut Butter. And today’s confession …. I’ve never eaten a Friand.

I rarely go to a café, and when I do I don’t know what I have, but it’s never a Friand, though I spot them and have the usual oogle at what flavours are being served.

I thought Friands were gluten free, but this recipe has a small amount of flour in the mix. I do have another Friand recipe on Pinterest, I’ll make that one too, but I’m not sure if it does or doesn’t have flour.

1310_Before and After-2-2

As for the recipe, you can find it on What Katie Ate (she’s an Irish woman living in Australia).

I had to keep checking the recipe. I couldn’t believe that it was so simple. I’d say you need zero skill, other than being able to read a recipe, measure out ingredients and a steady hand to pour. Okay, so let’s not underestimate the skill that is required, even for a basic recipe, but really, on the grand scheme of things, Friands are a walk in the park. So on that note, I whole heartedly encourage you to try out the recipe.

I made these Saturday and put them away in a Tupperware container. We had one each tonight. Mr Fussy had some left over (now defrosted) raspberries. I forgot I was going to halve the recipe and I tipped too many frozen raspberries out of the bag. But not only did he have extra raspberries, he also had chocolate sauce over the lot.

My MIL and I just had the Friand, which of course allowed me to enjoy the flavour and texture. My MIL has never had a Friand before either. I guess we’ll be having some more at another time. I’ve read Friands freeze well if they’ve been wrapped first, so that’s what I did tonight. There’s 6 more waiting for another chance to become a tasty treat after a meal, or because the freezer is full and I need to clear space for the next big/new/important project. You know how it is.Raspberry Friands

 PS I the rest of the egg white has been packaged up (almost clamouring for space in the freezer) into smaller lots so that I can use it for the gumpaste recipe I’m currently using. Then there’s royal icing which I’m sure to be making soon since it’s almost Christmas and that means cookies!  I also used some of the egg whites in the Halloween cake last weekend. The first time I’ve used all egg white rather than whole eggs. I’m so adventurous 😉

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Caramel Fudge Brownies “best by”

This weekend, well today, Saturday, has been about using ingredients that has a best by date that’s just passed.

Slice of caramel fudge brownie

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for Caramel Fudge Brownies. I’m not even sure why I spotted it. But I posted it to my Facebook page and I wasn’t the only one ooh’ing and ahh’ing over the picture.

I couldn’t make it the coming weekend as I was out at Cake & Sugar Art learning how to make the Magnolia and double blossom sugar flowers. Then last weekend I had the Halloween Cake. But here we are. And using a packet of Jersey Caramels that had a date of 2 October 2013. Ahh, what’s a couple of weeks between friends? It’s just a best by, not an expiry date.

My plan had been to make these last night, yeah I know, what’s one more day. I’ve caught Mr Fussy’s “man flu”. A flu that’s confused about gender. Anyway I just couldn’t bring myself to bake anything. Not even when it contained caramel. Yes, the flu really had a grip on me. Although I had a shocking night (awake from 11:30pm – 2am – don’t worry, I put in an online order to a NZ Cake Decorating store, it wasn’t a complete waste) I woke feeling not too bad, my face didn’t hurt and my headache had subsided. I was very thankful because Mum and I were off to She Chocolat for a Chocoalte Tour. It was an education in the history of Chocolate, with a good number of tastings. I never would have thought I’d enjoy a pretzel dipped in a chocolate fondue. I don’t like pretzels.

Anyhoo, I got home this afternoon after a nice morning followed by lunch with Mum, then a quick (and expensive) stop at Mercato who were holding their annual sale, to get stuck into catching up on my baking agenda.

Brownie batter

The recipe says to put the brownie mixture into a Jelly Roll tin. Do you know what that is? It’s not a common term we use (unless my head is in the clouds) in New Zealand. I had to Google what the dimensions are. And what do you know? There’s a variety of different sizes. Yeah, not very helpful when the recipe doesn’t state the size of the pan. My pan, which I think might have been called a Jelly Roll tin at Stevens, is 24 x 36cm, give or take a few mm.

The ingredients filled the pan to the top which was a problem for adding a layer of gooey caramel and chocolate.

Once the brownie had baked I then cut the brownie into a size that fit into my expandable square tin (with higher sides) and a loaf pan. It also left me with about 7mm of Brownie the entire length of the Jelly Roll tin and enough at the end to slice 6 square of brownie which is now in the freezer waiting for another occasion to make an appearance and be dressed up with vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge sauce and berries.

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Now it was safe to add the caramel.

We don’t get Kraft Caramels here in New Zealand, but we can buy Jersey Caramels. This morning before heading out I melted them down in the microwave. I had full power for 30 seconds and then mixed, not that there was much melting going on. Then a further 20 seconds and they were nicely melted and with a bit of mixing because one organised lump. When I got home they had hardened into the lump. At least it gave me confidence that the caramel would set once it had cooled.

To the tin of condensed milk, with the Jersey Caramels I added the last of the caramel sauce I’d made some weeks ago. The caramel had a distinct Jersey Caramel flavour to it. Mr Fussy said it was like a MacIntosh Toffee lolly, specifically an Egg and Cream flavour.

Because I had packed some of the brownie up for the freezer, and we’d gobbled up the little narrow slither from the edge, I decided to cut back on the chocolate layer ingredients. I made only 2/3rds of the chocolate.

I had worried that the chocolate would be too hard to smooth over the caramel with the caramel layer and brownie having been cold from sitting in the fridge, but it was fine. I was able to pick up the loaf pan and tilt it to move the chocolate into the corners. I used an offset pallet knife for the expandable square tin.

After about 15 or so minutes I tested to see if the chocolate had set. You can actually see my print in the corner. It had set but it wasn’t solid hard.

I cut the loaf pan caramel fudge brownie up into 6 pieces. Really it could have been cut a bit smaller because it was becoming difficult to eat with 3 mouthfuls to go.

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I used Whittaker’s 62% chocolate for the chocolate layer, it wasn’t bitter, but I think it overshadowed the caramel. Still my preference would have been to use a homemade caramel. The brownie base was also not a rich intense chocolate flavour since it only used cocoa powder, but it has a nice soft texture, I guess it is fudgy.

I’ve got a whole expandable tin of this left, and I’m pretty sure I know some family members only too happy to give this recipe the taste test. And I’ll be glad not to have any temptation left in the house. I’ve already spent the day sampling a lot of chocolate in different forms.  I’m pretty much done now, and very satisfied with my lot.

As for Mr Fussy, as I was allocating portions of the caramel fudge brownie, he was scraping the gooey caramel from the baking paper and happily licking his fingers. But he too found the last few mouthfuls were too much. So smaller pieces would be my advice.




Averie’s Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies

Mr Fussy and I got to baking cookies on Saturday. It was fun working together in the kitchen.


While I got all the ingredients together Mr Fussy was reading the recipe to me, then he got to chopping the chocolate.

A few weeks back, as we were travelling home from Akaroa, Mr Fussy said he would make his Vanilla Biscuits, but that didn’t happen.

I can’t remember what happened last weekend (other than I was away for ½ of each day) but the biscuits still weren’t baked.

I’m not even sure why I suggested chocolate chip cookies, but I did, and so the idea of the vanilla biscuits were put aside in favour of the cookies.

Cookie logs

We toyed with splitting the cookie dough and putting chocolate bits in one half and the Caramel bits in the other. In the end we added a family block of dark chocolate caramel and the left over half block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate that I’d used in the ganache for the Halloween cake I had baked (and was still decorating). We did however roll the dough into logs and leave them in the fridge for an hour.

I’ve made a few different varieties of chocolate chip cookies and none of them spun my wheels so I went straight for Averie’s blog because she has so many cookie recipes it’ll leave you breathless.

In the end I picked out the Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookie recipe, and oddly enough, this is the cover photo/webpage for my Pinterest Cookie/Biscuit board.

Ready for baking

I was toying up with make Mel’s cookies, but the 1 egg and 1 egg yolk sort of put me off.

I made Averie’s recipe using all standard flour as Averie has taken to doing herself.

The cookies turned out great. The caramel of course oozed out. Even after taking the tray out of the oven the caramel that had spilt out was still bubbling away on the tray.

Can you believe we waited over 2 hours before we had one? I can tell you I was so tempted to have one moments after these were taken from the tray to the cooling rack. Thank goodness I had something else to occupy my mind else I would have.

I love biting into a cookie long after it’s taken from the oven to find that the chocolate chunks are still soft.

Pre and Post Baking

I suspect these cookies will only be best for 5 or so days, that’s plenty long enough or Mr Fussy to have consumed the majority of them with his work lunches, but if there happens to be any left beyond that, I’ll just whack them in the oven again for a few minutes and they’ll crisp up again and be just as good as they were 2 hours after baking.

If I’m lucky there will be one left for me to have next weekend. This one has my name of it!

Choccy goodness

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Halloween Cake


I have been thankful to find an excuse to make another cake where I can practice using new toys, and modify the ganache recipe.

We don’t celebrate Halloween. In fact we cringe when we see children roaming the streets as we drive home, hoping they wont waste their time knocking at our door.

In that respect, making a cake with a Halloween theme is ludicrous., except it gave me an opportunity to have another “go” at decorating. And besides, when else would I get to use purple fondant?

I started on Thursday night. Some weeks back Natalie and I had been in the supermarket and I spotted Pams brand had a Coconut Instant Pudding flavour. I bought it.

Last week while grocery shopping I saw Duncan Hines Butter Cake was now being stocked. I bought that too. I wanted to see what the difference in brands would be. I’ve tried Betty Crocker. And as it happens, I’ve got Pillsbury Cake Mix coming my way as well. I put in another order at Martha’s Backyard this week. They’ve got free shipping until the end of the year. There’s a number of different goodies I’ve ordered. I’m curious about certain things that other blogs constantly rate so I’m going to “sample”.

Thursday I baked the cake as I did last weekend the Madeira cake I baked for Breast Cancer. Except this was a box mix, which was doctored.

Torte and layer

These are the changes I made:

  • 1 x Duncan Hines Butter Cake mix
  • Extra Self Raising flour to make the combined box and flour 18.25 oz
  • 1 x Coconut Instant Pudding (just the dry mix)
  • Extra Vanilla Instant Pudding mix to bring the total Pudding mix up to 3.4 oz (thank goodness my scales go from one measure to another)
  • 2/3 cup of egg whites (I used the Zeagold liquid egg whites)
  • 1 x 250 gm pottle of Lite Sour Cream
  • 1/3 cup of Coconut cream with water added to bring the total volume to ½ cup liquid

I’ve found the Baking Tin Size Converter Calculator link no longer works. In the end I downloaded the app (it’s a paid app) to my work iPhone because I just can’t be without this tool in my life.

The recipe, originally from Rose Bake’s website is for an 8” round tin. I found a 6” and 5” round cake tin equals an 8” round cake tin.

I poured 60% of the batter into the 6”, 3” high cake tin and the remainder (40%) into the 5”, 3” high cake tin.

What I didn’t expect was the huge difference in time to bake. The 5” took 65 minutes, the 6” took 90 minutes, in my oven.

I was praying they would be cooked all the way through. It’s quite tricky to tell when the cakes are so deep. They rose a little over 6cm.

Friday I torted and filled them with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Mmmm, Italian Meringue Buttercream. This was my first time making buttercream using this method.

Alison, who often leaves me very nice and encouraging comments on posts, had flicked me an email with a link to Bronnie Bakes YouTube with Alison’s personal recommendation.

I decided it was time I gave this a shot. I had a whole lot of egg whites to use (my pouch of ZeaGold egg whites) and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’m so glad I did.

I also used my much loved (I’m quite enthusiastic about) Lewis Road Creamery Unsalted Butter.

I’ve used this butter in the making of Swiss Meringue Buttercream and found I didn’t need all of the butter. But I actually added 500gm of butter (not the 450gm in the recipe). I think that was more because I started to add the butter before the bowl was room temperature. It was close, but just a little on the warmish side of cool.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

At first I found the flavour to be quite different. In fact the sweetness was so different that I never tasted the butter. But after sneaking another taste I could tell it had a buttery flavour, but not a thick heavy flavour like you’ve just chewed a chunk of it.

I have to say that I prefer the Italian Meringue Buttercream. And thankfully it too freezes because I had way too much, even though it only uses 5 egg whites and my SMBC uses 8 egg whites (I would have had too much of that as well). I’ve got the left overs, which there is quite a lot of, in the freezer. It’ll be put to good use when I make my Movember cake.

Friday night I also made the ganache. This time I bought Meadow Fresh cream (even though Home Brand has no note that it uses water, and it says 35% fat), and I used Cadbury Milk Chocolate Buttons, which has 27% cocoa butter.

But alas the ganache was too soft. I started out by adding a half 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate. I couldn’t tell any difference other than it went darker. Then Saturday morning when it was confirmed the ganache was still too soft and hadn’t hardened, I added the other ½ block. After leaving it a while I still wasn’t happy, so I gave in and opened another 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate and added another ½. And now we were in business. It was still quite pliable in application but it was starting to firm up in the bowl. Each time I swiped some ganache off the cake and returned the extra to the side of the bowl, it would almost instantly “set”. Yay.

So here’s my proportions:

  • 750gm Cadbury Milk Chocolate
  • 375gm 60% Whittaker’s Chocolate
  • 375gm Cream

I still followed the same method of brining the cream to the boil having first melted (slowly in the microwave) the chocolate. I actually melted the Whittaker’s chocolate in my milk pan, but next time I’ll melt all the chocolates together.

The cream was added in 4 stages to the chocolate and incorporated using a wooden spoon. Then I got the stick blender out and gave the lot a good mix for a few minutes (I didn’t re-do this stage after adding the Whittaker’s chocolate).

Again I had too much, even though I ganached both the 5” and 6” cakes. The rest is in the freezer, and will, like the IMBC, make an appearance for the Movember cake.

It didn’t take too long to ganache the cakes. I slightly modified the method I used last week. I didn’t ganache the base of the cake card, instead I used the buttercream. I found that ganache on the bottom of the cake make it harder to extract a slice from the cake when it was cut. Funny thing is though, that while the cake was in the fridge for the prescribed 2 hours firming up, and it was at this stage upside down, the cake card started to lift from the cake (the bottom was now at the top). Needless to say that when I flipped the cake back up the right way, so the cake was again sitting on the cake card, it remained in place and hasn’t slipped at all.

Next came the covering of the cakes. Remember last week when I had that really awful bulge? Yeah well that was my fear this week, except that I had two chances to bulge.

Building a web

Working in dark colours means that I had to be extra vigilant about getting cornflour on the fondant. And though I tried really hard, I still managed to get a bit on the fondant. I forgot to wipe my hands after having laid the fondant over the cake! Oops.

The fondant covered nicely and I had no problem at the beginning. And I poked a skewer all the way through the centre of each cake (as I’d read during the week) so that as the cake came to room temperature air had somewhere to escape.

Although the cakes were at room temperature before I covered them. With the ganache behaving I had no qualms about bringing them out of the fridge and letting them get to room temperature prior to covering them.

The only moment that caused me some concern was after I had stacked the 5” on the 6”. I could see a bit of a bulge along the top edge. I used a pin to prick it and eased the air out.

Along came a spider

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to wake in the morning and lay in bed wondering if your cake is still in tact. I have to get up and put myself out of my misery. Even it had blown apart, at least I’d know. In fact before I went to bed last night I took photos, just in case things took a turn for the worst.

Mr Fussy and I often get to talking about how I will decorate a cake. He encouraged me to go with the purple, he liked my idea of adding an orange border at the base of each cake. This gave me a chance to use my new First Impressions Silicone mould which had been shipped to me from America (thanks Fishpond!). I’d had a little practice during the day and found that the “strand” released quite easily for the 5mm size, but not so for the 4mm. Still I hadn’t planned to use the smaller size, the 5mm is about as small as you’d want for a cake boarder. The smaller sizes might be good as accents, or maybe they would work if you were doing a petite cake.

The pearl boarder used a 50/50 mix of gumpaste to fondant. It was really cool to use this. I was able to pick up the strand by just one pearl and it would all hang there, and the strand was still quite moveable after a few minutes, so I didn’t have to rush to get it on the cake immediately. Though I wouldn’t encourage you to sit about and have a cup of tea first.

At first I was going to leave the cakes at this stage for the night, but then I decided I still had plenty of time (I was at this stage before cooking dinner) so I’d do the cobwebs.


For the cobwebs I used my Mankins Clay Extruder. I’ve used this once before on the cake I did for Cel, I had made the grass around the posts using it. The fondant I used was the same as I used last weekend, so it had a little Tylose in it. That didn’t seem to have any adverse effect with the strands. I cut them up and placed them on the cake. This was a very fiddly job, and someone might have better ideas about how to do this without as much grief. I got to use my new paint brush, my Colour Shaper soft taper “brush”. I found them online (and in store) at a local art shop. I used this to help maneuver the strands in place. Though getting them to the cake was a real hit and miss affair. I had started out using my water pen (another art shop purchase) to “paint” the water into the lines I wanted to use. But it turned out to be not enough water to give the right stick for the fondant. Or it just took me too many times (and time) to get the strand to the cake. In the end, having already done 2 cobwebs, I realised it was easier to use the water pen directly onto the fondant strip. I had a better strike rate at getting the strip to stick to the cake, but it still wasn’t easy. So I did a third one, as you do.

All the while doing this I felt that many many months ago I had bought “something” to use for Halloween. It wasn’t until I got to bed (early because I wasn’t feeling well) that it dawned on me what it was. I had bought the Alphabet Halloween silicone mould, way back in January this year.

This morning I re-coloured the reddish orange that I used for the pearl boarders to make it a more pumpkin colour, and made the pumpkins, and the “Halloween” letter set. The pumpkins came away really easily but I put the mould into the freezer for 3 or so minutes when it came to the word Halloween. It came away good for 2/3 of it, but the last bit was somewhat reluctant. I thought I had misshapen the word, but on closer inspection to the mould, it was exactly as it was meant to look.


I used my edible black marker to colour in the eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkins, and after photographing the cake, realised I should have done the same for the pumpkin in the word “Halloween”. Oh well.

I used the same mould to try and make the spider and web, the witches face/hat and the broomstick and the bats. All of which proved to be very tricky, even after a light dusting of cornflour in the mould.

Ahh yes, the spider. I got to make him on Friday evening. He’s all fondant for the body and head, the legs have florist wire in them, and I made them too long, but I actually think he looked more menacing with longer legs.  After rolling the fondant around the wire I used very small scissors to cut into the fondant to give it some sort of “hairy” look.  Dave at work said I needed to add a black stripe down the back. Mr Fussy agreed. I had to Google Black Widow Spider to see how the red was, then I cut out the red fondant and adhered it to the back with a bit of water. Saturday I brushed the body with some water and then used black sanding sugar to give some texture. I also used my stencil brush dabbed into black food gel to give the red a bit of a mottled look, similar to the photo I was using. I didn’t know what to do with the face, I couldn’t get a good look from the photos, but knew I had it wrong. I decided to make fangs, but it really just makes the spider look like it has buck teeth. I’ve got a long way to go with figurines. Not that figurines really spin my wheels, probably because I find them so difficult.

Creepy crawlies

Now this may come as a bit of a surprise to you all, but in the last 2 weeks, I’ve had no chocolate bars after dinner, in fact the only sweet treat I’ve had was a slice of the cake I made for Breast Cancer Awareness, and last night I had a Chocolate Caramel Cookie that Mr Fussy and I made yesterday afternoon (post coming). That’s a bit of a miracle for me, because when I have a chocolate bar, I usually have two! I’ve been very good at turning cake down at work, and even having salads for lunch. I’ve only had bread twice in the last two weeks, both times during the weekend. So I’m having a piece of cake tonight. Coconut cake isn’t my favourite flavour, but I want to try it out. I do find it a bit limiting when I’m trying new things in the kitchen not to sample, but I’m really bad at knowing when to stop! One swipe of the beaters becomes devouring the entire remains. So yes, I had a very small bit of IMBC and relied on Mr Fussy to tell me what the ganache tasted like. He said you can tell it has some dark chocolate in it, but it’s not really bitter.


I’ll have to update the blog post with a photo of the cut cake so you can see how it all panned out.

All and all I’m happy with the outcome. The ganache worked, eventually, the IMBC is a hit, the cake doesn’t have any nasty bulges and the decorations, from afar, look reasonable.

So for those that do celebrate Halloween, I know it’s a bit early, but Happy Halloween to you.

The dark sideUpdate: We’ve just finished dinner (yummy Saffron Risotto with Porcini mushrooms and chicken) and followed that up with a slice of cake.

I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed it. It might have been the nicest slice of cake I’ve had, that I’ve made. I ate it slowly to try and get a feel for flavours and  textures. Usually I inhale my food. I mean you’d think there was a race, and being the competitive (cough) type, I had to win. Anyway, the cake. I first had some cake without any ganache and fondant. It was lovely and soft, and moist, but not a wet sort of moist. The coconut flavour was obvious but not in the slightest bit overpowering. The IMBC was there but not intrusive, it was soft and delectable. The ganache, well that’s got to be the best ganache I’ve ever put on a cake. It truey was smooth, it wasn’t bitter, it wasn’t a powerful mouthful of chocolate, it just melded really nicely with the cake. And the fondant was still soft but not sticky, the fork went through it nicely. If anything the fondant could have been a mm thinner. If I were being picky, which I usually am. Mr Fussy said it was a really nice cake. All together the cake was a very pleasant dessert. The cake wasn’t that sweet so it offset the fondant, and the ganache was just the right amount of chocolate but not the star. I guess what I’m trying to say is this was a very well balanced cake.

Why do box mixed cakes have to be so much nicer in flavour and texture? What do they add that makes it so?

Given I don’t really think much of coconut, I’d have another slice (but I wont) again. Of course if I had the choice of that and caramel, well.  It goes without saying doesn’t it?

Piece of cake


Beauty and the Beast

I had a great reason to bake and decorate a cake. We’ve quietly slipped into October and October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Pink Ribbon Cake

A cake. A pink cake. But not a booby cake as I joked with one of the guys at work.

But the idea was to make something pretty that would recognise the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness month and bring the topic of regular breast checks to the front of everyone’s minds.

For this cake I was going to try a bunch of new things. You know I look for reasons to make cakes so that I can try different techniques, use different tools, and what I most need, practice.

Here’s my list:

  • New recipe
  • New flavour
  • New Ganache recipe
  • New method for ganaching the cake
  • Adding tylose to the fondant
    Use my new cutters by Not Just Cakes by Annie

Umm, I think just about everything about this cake was an experiment. But I felt a reasonably safe experiment.

I bought the recipe (you don’t sell recipes unless they are tried and true), I bought the tutorial for the ganache method and fondant, and the ganache recipe is used by a very well respected, and talented, NZ baker.

So here we go. Lots of photos in bunches of 4. I’ll just add a few comments about what’s going on in the photos.

Preparing to bake

The cake was easy to make. But there’s a bit involved in preparing the tin, but no, we don’t stop there. You need to put newspaper on the tray the tin will be on, add a tray to the top of the oven with more newspaper and then put a bowl of water on the bottom of the oven. Then there’s wrapping the tin with newspaper as well has lining the tin a good 2 inches above the height of the tin. And lastly another 3 circles of baking paper with a cross cut into the centre, which are placed on top of the cake batter.

I bought a new flavour/colour from Donna at CakeStuff. Basically the depth of colour is your indicator as to the strength of flavour. A light pink will be less flavoured. A darker pink cake will have more strawberry flavour.

Phew. All sorted and ready to pop the cake into the oven. My last act was to use the back of a spoon to give the centre a hollow. I bought a couple of other recipes for Madeira cakes from the site and the 6″ square cake had instructions to basically hollow out until you could see the bottom of the tin. I thought I was surely expected to do this on a 6″ round cake, so I went ahead, but only a moderate hollow.

As I tried to move the cake into the oven I found the newspaper around the tin was too tall for the space left in the oven so I had to trim it to fit, however I couldn’t see a darn thing in the oven. I had no visual clues as to how the cake was baking.

The recipe suggested the cake might take up to 2 hours to bake. The usual “every oven is different” caveat was given. At 90 minutes I checked the cake and yikes, it was definitely cooked. But was it over cooked? How could I know until I cut and ate the cake. The recipe did say it was better to over cook than under cook since the cake will take in moisture from the filling. In fact the cake would last 2 weeks! I wanted to test that too, but as you’ll see at the, I cut the cake this morning (Monday), it was baked Friday night.

For the first time ever I used an edible marker to draw a line (with the help of a ruler, I’m not that good!) before I torted the cake. Hello hollowed out bit. It was so weird. The very centre of the middle of the cake had this slight hole. I can only put it down to where I hollowed out the cake batter. The edges of the cake felt a little dry, but I expected I would also be trimming the edges and getting rid of it.

A bit of strawberry jam (I’m a Roses fan) on the top of each layer, and a bit of strawberry frosting on the bottom of the next layer so that it sits on top of the jam, and repeat. The cake was 10.5cm in height after I had finished filling the cake.

torting and filling

The new ganache method I used required two levelling stages. After having filled the cake then putting it into the fridge for 30 minutes I put the cake onto a bed of ganache which is applied to the cake board and at this stage you do your first level (but I levelled after filling as well, so 3 for me). And back the cake goes to the fridge so the ganache can firm up because the cake gets flipped again, and again rested onto a layer of ganache, where you level the cake a second time (a third for me). The light pressing I applied squashed a little bit of frosting out, and I also found that the cake wasn’t quite square on the cake board. I had to trim the sides a little more to make a gap for the ganache. By the time I had finished the extra trimming the edible marker line had been removed.

The ganache was pretty easy to do this way, even though the 30 minutes spells in the fridge seemed to make the process on the whole a long one.

I’d made the ganache on the Friday night. I really enjoy the method, which is nothing unique, but not the method I had started out using when I first began ganaching cakes. I added some Strawberry freeze dried powder to the cream and put it on the oven to boil. The “chocolate” was a mix of Nestles compound buttons and Cadbury baking chips which has 40% cocoa (from memory). Saturday morning the ganache was still a bit too soft. I had to microwave it a smidge but not a lot to get a really lovely consistency for applying to the cake. I was already a bit dubious about how well it would set up once applied to the cake. But it was a dream to apply. I only wish that as I was admiring my near perfect application while bending to put the cake back on the fridge shelf, that I looked to see it was on a collision course with the shelf above. Bugger. It didn’t take much to fix it, I didn’t give it a big knock, but it was enough to make a small indentation.

I headed out for the afternoon to take a class with Lindy of Cake and Sugar Art, so the cake was left much longer than it had to be (2 hours) before moving onto removing the paper and smoothing the top (which was the second ganached layer (top right in the photo set). Even though there were just a few tiny holes left by an air pocket, I really didn’t think the fondant would be sucked into it enough that you’d see it on the fondant surface, but I did as instructed and used a hot pallet knife to smooth the top, but it wasn’t doing anything about smoothing over the tiny holes. So I used a bit of ganache. This time swiping it over the cake, which had been in the fridge since lunchtime Saturday, caused the new ganache to set really quickly. I think the top looked better before I added a smear of new ganache. The photo bottom right is pre ganache smearing.

Another thing I learnt while talking with the ladies in the class at Lindy’s is that some brands in NZ add water to their cream. That of course wont be helping with the ganache setting nicely. And yes, the brand I used was one of those that adds water. You learn something new every day.

levelling and ganachingSo there we had it. I was pretty chuffed. The ganache looked great. I popped the cake back in the fridge so that it didn’t come to room temperature fearing the ganache would soften too much making the fondant application a nightmare as it did with Mum’s cake. The unused ganache which had sat out all Saturday night still hadn’t set, but had a slight crust, if that makes sense.

Also on Saturday I added both tylose and Super White powder to the white fondant. The cake height was 5mm shorter than the top tier of the cake I made for Mum’s birthday. You may recall I had to rip the fondant off twice and eventually wrap the cake with a collar of fondant with a circle top. I’d read comments on Cake Central from people with similar problems covering a higher cake being recommended to add some tylose to the fondant. And the recipe I was using directed me to do the same. In fact the article mentioned some brands of fondant have tylose added as standard. I’ve decided I wont add the white powder again. It made it seem a bit unnatural, almost too bright. And Bakels fondant is pretty white, at least I think it’s fine.

Sunday morning I checked the fondant by giving it a bit of a push and it was pretty hard, it had give, but I was worried I’d made gumpaste, which was my initial concern and why I didn’t add as much tylose as the recipe/method directed.

It didn’t take much work for the fondant to succumb to my kneading and then become pliable as it is sans tylose. I also did as Lindy had suggested, not roll the fondant quite as large as I needed to cover because the fondant would still stretch. So the 35cm I needed was just 30-31ish cm.

The cake covered well. My heart was racing (does that ever go away?) and I was having to work a little quicker than usual, just because I was still nervous things could unravel. There was a little bit of cracking going on, but nothing that looked like it was going to separate. Unfortunately there was a little of elephant skin happening around the sides which I completely missed. I was a bit disappointed but I was intending to cover the cake completely using one of the set of cutters I bought from Not Just Cakes by Annie.

And here folks, here’s where things turned pear shaped. After covering the cake well, and having time to check out finished heights of the cutter sets I noticed the side of the cake was looking a bit odd. And before I’d left to head back out for my second afternoon session at Lindy’s, the cake had a very definite bulge. Boo. By the time I returned at 6:30pm the cake had done some serious bulging. Double Boo. So my idea of spending the week at leisure decorating (remembering I was testing the longevity of the cake life) was going to be a total waste.

fondant and decorations

However I’d already made some pink gumpaste ribbons. And I had some gumpaste (sugar) flowers that I’d made during the week for practice, so I could still try and turn something pretty awful, semi-respectable. One side of the cake looked fine (or did until I used the flash on the camera and saw the ridges), the other, the beast.

Given I had so few choices for prettying up the cake, I couldn’t decide what to do. I had decided just prior to heading out the door for a run that I would throw some “things” on the cake so that I could cut it and portion it out to various family members. My MIL visits my BIL on a Monday so I needed to get the cake “decorated”, photographed, cut and packaged all before leaving the house for work (I have never had a shower so quickly as I did this morning, I promise I had time to clean and wash my hair despite having 15 minutes less time!).

Ribbons and flowers

And for the nasty photos of “what really happened to the cake to make it bulge”. Well I’m still not totally sure. I thought maybe some of the jam had peeked out and somehow softened the ganache and seeped through. But I think that (from a very hasty Google) with covering the cake with fondant while it was fresh out of the fridge caused it. And if that’s the case what I should have done was put a skewer into the centre (right through to the cake board) to give it a place to breathe from.
Cutting and dissecting

And the last words are about the texture and flavour of the cake since we had a slice tonight. It was overcooked. And perhaps it would have drawn moisture from the frosting and jam had there been more time, but I know 90 minutes baking in my oven is still too much (and I checked the over thermometer). Though I don’t know what is enough.

This was my first Madeira cake as well. I know it’s a more robust cake and crumb, but I felt the cake was still too solid. It tasted fine, the jam certainly helped give it a real strawberry flavour. So I can’t really say if the flavacol is worth it or not. The pink has sort of cooked out. You can see it’s pinker in the centre of the cake layers than it is toward the edge.

Let’s take a second to switch to something that, to me, is a bit more elegant, like I’d envisaged the cake would be, this is what I achieved during my two afternoons at Lindy’s class teaching us how to make a Magnolia flower with double blossoms.

Magnolia and blossom set

Mr Fussy makes a terrific hand model 😉

Lastly, but by no means least, make sure those you love are aware this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and encourage them to check out how to do a self examination for lumps.  Here’s a link to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation’s  e-Guide.

Oh boy, what can I do next month for Movember?  Eeek!  Better start looking at designs using moustaches.