On to the plate

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


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Vintage styled cupcakes for Kade’s bridal shower

Mum  arranged a bridal shower for Kade to take place while they were in Christchurch (and Timaru) for Christmas. We managed to squeeze it in between them arriving back from Timaru, and leaving later in the afternoon for Auckland.

Vintage Cupcakes2Mum let me know the theme would be Vintage and everyone was going to bring something along for the afternoon tea.

I jumped on Vintage cupcakes. I’ve long looked at the beautiful creations by Hilary Rose Cupcakes. I’ve never had a reason to make them before so I was very enthusiastic.

I started making the flowers Christmas Day night after having coloured Ivory fondant. I hate colouring at night because I really can’t tell what colour I have until daylight.

Cupcake view 1I really hadn’t any fixed plans as to how I would decorate the cupcakes, I just knew I needed lots of different types of flowers.

I got to use my new Hydrangea cutter (from Global Sugar Art in America) and soon realised the smaller cutter was the better size. I started making roses but wasn’t happy with them. Some looked like Piglets ears! Certainly not petals. After watching this YouTube I quickly saw how I should be going about it and Boxing Day I made up some better roses. I had gone with two toned pink but they didn’t really look like they were different.  I used the same Wilton Rose Petal fondant, which I added some Americolor Warm Brown to, and then added a bit of Wilton Burgundy colour. The blue was Wilton Teal, but it does look a bit blue in some lights.

Cupcake view 3Once I had all the flowers I thought I needed, and let them dry overnight, I dusted each of them with at least one colour. Some I used 2 or 3 colours. Every single one has a dusting of Antique Gold lustre dust. Another purchase from Global Sugar Art. I love it, it’s just so lovely to apply and it looks amazing. Well that’s my opinion.

I also made up matching royal icing since I decided to make some cookies as well (a separate post on that). In the end I used very little of the royal icing on the cupcakes, just the accent details and the yellow for the flower centres.

Embossed fondantI also used some new texture mats, I can’t remember where I bought them from, but I’d had my eye on them for over a year. I had tried them a few weeks ago with the LMF fondant and the fondant stuck something wicked to them. I was using Bakel’s fondant and I had very little trouble peeling back the mat from the rolled fondant. There were a couple where I applied a little more pressure (my pressure wasn’t always even on rolling) and a few were harder to start the peeling.

Finding the right sized cutter for the fondant tops was proving a little tricky too. I’ve got an Ateco metal set and a generic plastic set. They are a ½ size different or so it seems. I started with Ateco and realised I needed slightly better. I swapped to the plastic set which worked better.

Gold edged rosebudsSadly the cupcakes, which domed properly while cooking, sunk with a few minutes left of baking (as did the Lemon Meringue Cake – a post on that coming too!). The cupcakes were pretty much even with the top of the liners so I had to use quite a bit of buttercream (left over Italian Meringue Buttercream I had frozen) to make the domes which the fondant sat (draped) over.

That left me with having to decide how to use the flowers and what piping I wanted to add. The piping came first. I wanted to keep the cupcakes with the embossed fondant patterns fairly simple and piped accents on the cupcakes that were plain. I’d previously piped the flower centres and added the pearls, so all flowers were dry. Which isn’t to say they weren’t fragile. I’d managed to break a few petals as I carefully lifted them from the foam pad to the cupcake.

Cupcake view 2While I’d drawn a few designs, and I did use those, I was still trying to work out ways to make every cupcake unique. They are all different. Some I like better than others, my preference is for the plain fondant. I think it’s because I like the piped accents, and they just look a bit cleaner to me.

As for Kade’s bridal shower, there was lot of beautiful elegant food, both sweet and savoury and although it was a fairly low key affair with many people being away for holidays, or in different cities, we had a lovely catch-up, and even a few games.

All the cupcakesNot long now until the BIG day. As I sit her munching on a few sweets I don’t need, I’m left with that nagging voice telling me there’s still a dress I need to squeeze into. And it is a little snug from when I bought it, but (apart from right now) good eating and no treats with a few more runs or bike rides a week and hopefully the dress will sit a bit better :-/ It’s ok, I’m too vain to wear a dress that doesn’t look good so I’ll be right (famous last words?).

This is the beautiful Bridal Shower invitation Mum made for everyone. I have no idea where Mum found the time to make them given what little time there was between agreeing on a date, and the actual date! As always, Mum’s cards are amazing and perfectly executed. All the cards Mum makes are pinned here.Bridal Shower Invite


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Christmas Cake – it’s a wrap

It’s been a slow process, but finally the Christmas cake is decorated.

Merry Christmas messageI’ve been plodding along doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that for a few nights.

The Poinsettia sugar flower I had planned to make has gone no further. I grated the top of my index finger on Monday evening and it was deep enough that even lightly brushing over the wound sent all sorts of weird uncomfortable feelings through my body. Applying any pressure to a ball tool was out of the question.

It was time to come up with Plan B, or was it Plan C?

Wednesday night while waiting for Mr Fussy to escape from work I meandered through the Papertree and spotted a Martha Stewart silicon mould I’d been trying to get hold of for months. If I could make it work then this was my backup plan. Thankfully it worked, though I had to put the mould into the freezer to get the pieces out easily. I used the Bakels Almond fondant for the letters. I wanted them to stand out on the white cake. I also sprayed them this morning with PME Pearl lustre. They’re now nice and sparkly. Several weekends ago piped some Poinsettia in royal icing. In the back of my mind I knew I could use these, somehow. Initially it was going to be at the corners on the cake board to try and take the focus off the joins. I placed them on top of the cake at each corner and asked Mr Fussy for his opinion. He was so-so about it. Then after fixing the letters to the top I placed the Poinsettia as you see here and immediately he gave it the thumbs up. It’s slightly less formal I guess, and a little more interesting then being plonked at each corner.

So here’s the top of the cake.

Merry ChristmasI was talking to Josie on Wednesday about an idea I had of doing a nativity scene in silhouette.  I had a look online for images and found two that I liked. I liked them for different reasons and I ended up merging the two together. Although I really wasn’t sure how it would work at the time. The first cut out worked fine, but I knew my fondant was a little too thick. Using the craft knife was dragging the fondant a little too much. I was happy enough but knew if I had time I’d give it another crack rolling the fondant slightly thinner, and learning a few things from the first attempt. The second went better and I managed to get two pieces of the silhouette I’d accidentally discarded on my first. I also rolled another piece of fondant to practice using food gel colours (thinned with Vodka) to see if I could get the other part of the image I liked. In the end I liked my practice enough to make it the final part of overall look. I just had to let it dry since it was again a little thicker and it had already begun to stick to the cutting board.

Preparing Nativity SceneSo here’s the front of the cake. I don’t go to church but was brought up in a Christian family. I’m not really sure why I wanted the nativity scene. I wanted this years cake to represent all things that make me feel like it’s Christmas.

NativityMoving to the next side, the forest.

Colouring inI had made the fondant trees on Friday evening and I put the sparkly sort of glitter on them last night. I also had a few with the white nonpareils but I didn’t like that. Mr Fussy wanted me to put another deer on the cake. The deer that were so awful to work with for the cake he took to work last Monday. I cringed inside but knew I would give it my best shot since Mr Fussy doesn’t ask for much and he is such a kid at Christmas time. I wanted him to have a say. The deer was a very slow extraction from the cutter but it worked pretty well, thankfully. All I needed to do was add the red nose, which I fully expect to fall off during the drive to Natalie’s. I had to add some “spacers” behind some of the trees that were sitting at the front over the trees at the back. I also used a Alphabet mould this morning and made some other fondant trees, two of which I’ve used here. The two that don’t have any of the icy glittery stuff. Just nice to see a bit more interest in the forest. I used piping gel to adhere these, and piping gel, although it’s clear, is noticble when you misplace something and move it. It’s like a little bit of snail trail left behind. I ended up with a smear in front of the trees so I decided to smear a little more then add more icy glitter which I think makes the cake board become part of the scene. I like it anyway.

Setting out the forestAll the time I was planning the cake I wanted it blend in some way. Even though I was going for very different scenes I didn’t want it to be completely disjointed. And yes each side on its own tells a story, but I’ve tried to do something that helps blend one side into the others. In this case I added one of the Christmas ornaments, one that had a snowflake on it.  The way “Rudolph’s” stance is, it kinda looks like he’s just kneed a bouncy ball.

So here’s the forest side.

RudolphMoving right along. The Ornaments. I love Christmas ornaments.

Hanging ornamentsFriday night I cut out some purple and red circles and used my new Moroccan cutter as well. Then I was joining both the red and purple together and got a nice mottled look. I decided to cut circles of this too. The nativity scene is also purple. I’m trying to keep the colour pallet fairly simple and not use too many colours. What do you call the bits you hang the ornaments from? These were fiddly to make. I started with rolling a long sausage and then ended up just cutting little bits and making a small ball which I then indented all the way around using various tools. I waited for them to try and then cut them in half so that the flat side would sit nicely against the cake. The only drama with the ornaments is that the piping gel wasn’t enough to hold them fast to the cake and the balls were slipping away from the hanging bit. I swapped to royal icing which helped, but I still had to keep directing the balls back up the cake. Saturday night I used my second parchment cone (I’ve been watching a few Julia Ussher videos and she swears by parchment cones) with a bit of royal icing I’d had in the freezer. I then piped lots and lots and lots and lots of dots in various organised and disorganised patters, in different sizes and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I loved the ornaments so much that I almost used every single one of them by allowing them to spill out onto the cake board.  I tossed up adding string so it was clear they were hanging. I really didn’t have the height in the cake to pull it off, so rather than try and make it work I decided it was one of those times less is more. And here’s the ornaments.

OrnamentsAnd that brings us around to the final side. Mr Fussy really wanted Santa on the cake. I made Santa to sit with his legs hanging over the side, but there wasn’t enough depth to allow for that, plus he tends to tetter on the edge and it wouldn’t take much for him to topple off. He already had a spill this week and again the candy cane broke. I was not making a 3rd hand.

Spacing out the presentsWhile I had all the fondant out Friday night I cut out some stars. Then I rolled the fondant a little thicker than I wanted the end piece to be, placed the stars on top and then pressed them in lightly and rolled some more. I cut the shapes in a non-traditional way (for some) and then set about trying to figure out how to make bows for them. That was a bit fiddly. This morning I used silver liquid (edible) paint for some bows and Sugarflair (edible) antique gold lustre powder with vodka to make a liquid. The gold was really tacky and I accidentally got one stuck to my finger and it just would not drop off. Not until it was upside down losing all that paint. It took about 3 layers to get a good coverage. The cross in the star in the nativity scene is also the same gold. The presents are my favourite, even though I loved finishing the ornaments, and I love the simplicity of the nativity scene. I just love the way the presents have come together. I love the shapes and colours. Or maybe it’s just that I love getting presents 😀 Initially I was going to have some other presents on the cake board but Mr Fussy and I decided that the side looked good just as it was.

So finally here’s the last side.

PresentsThis afternoon I’ve made my last lot of Christmas Mince Pies and made my first and last batch of shortbread. I’m calling it a wrap for Christmas baking. I’m done.

Of course there’s more truffles to finish (my Christmas Puddings) and then food to prepare for Christmas day. I’m working tomorrow but have Tuesday off and have a full day of things to keep me busy in the kitchen.

Whatever your plans are, have a safe and happy holiday break.

Merry Christmas from Mr Fussy and I.


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Austrian Shortbread, not quite traditional Christmas shortbread

I was all set to make my Scottish Shortbread this morning until I read an email from Alison and found myself on Deb’s blog (Smitten Kitchen) and wound my way to the Austrian Shortbread.

Stacked shortbreadAll prior plans were put on hold and I was now gathering the ingredients for the Austrian Shortbread.

Deb’s photos made the shortbread dough looked really yellow but mine wasn’t quite so yellow, which I was thankful for.

I dumped all the dough out and then had to gather it together which it kept sort of crumbling a bit and took a little bit of kneading to get it to stick enough so I could plonk it on the scales to weigh and then divide equally. It was just over 700gm each piece. I made a fairly thick disk and then when I put the disk onto the gladwrap I squashed it flatter ready for freezing. The freezing time was anywhere from 2 hours to leave it in the freezer for days, or even months.

Shortbread doughWhen I got home this afternoon I got the Cusinart out ready to grate the frozen disks. Naturally I had to cut the disks so that the pieces would fit down the shoot of the food processor. It was properly frozen and I was quite concerned it was too solid for the food processor, given I was having a little difficulty getting a knife through it. Once I had the disk in half it was much easier to cut the rest up.

I began with the sandwich slice tin but quickly realised there was too much dough from the 1 disk for the size of the tin (8 x 12”) so I quickly grabbed the jelly roll tin (9 x 14”) and lined it with another piece of baking paper to cover the rest of the tin and tipped the rest of the grated dough out and evened it out.

Preparing the shortbreadWith the raspberry jam (we have Roses) I thinned it a little with a ½ lemon which was almost 2 tablespoons (I measured). It was still reasonably thick, it was taking a few seconds before it would fall from the spoon.  I used a piping bag and a number 10 Wilton nozzle. Next came the other half of the dough. At this point I was crossing my fingers that it didn’t spill over the sides. Despite having a slightly bigger pan I had plenty of dough and I reckon you could even go a bit larger.

The recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes or until the middle is no longer wobbly, and the colour should be light brown. At 30 minutes I was starting to worry since the colour was already light brown. At 38 minutes I took the pan out. It was done. On went the icing sugar, it gives it a bit of a crisp top when you bit into it. The photo makes me think of falling snow. Not that it’s snowed here at all this year, and not that we get snow in summer 😉

Snow fallingI’ve got so much of this recipe I should have only made a half. I said to Mr Fussy that I’d get some to Natalie. They moved back to their home after being away 7 months while their house was being repaired, following the earthquakes. I suspect Natalie’s not even had time to think about baking. I’m pretty sure the girls (16 and 19 are hardly girls!) have all finished studies, but Cameron just returned home today so I’m sure a bit of baking would be welcome.

Crisp texture a little crumblyThe small changes I made to this recipe are:

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of Lemon extract
  • Add juice of 1/2 lemon (scant 2 tablespoons) to the raspberry jam
  • Flour by weight is 650 gm

Later this evening as Mr Fussy was getting his lunch organised for work, he popped his head around the corner and said in a bit of a concerned voice “you’re not giving it all away are you”. He said he really quite liked it. But he loves raspberries so I’m not surprised he likes it.

Austrian ShortbreadThis is not like a shortbread that I’d call shortbread, it’s a little bit crumbly and light in texture, and despite the extra kick of lemon, I couldn’t detect it. Mr Fussy said it did look like what he saw when he travelled through Austria. So that’s something.


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Five star fruitcake

Have you heard of Alton Brown? He’s a bit of a legend in the kitchen, and if the review rating for his Free Range Fruitcake is anything to go by, then the legendary status is well earned.

Mini fruit loafAny recipe with 5 stars from 200+ reviews shouts a recipe worth trying. The recipe says the flavours mature over a 2 week period. I don’t have 2 weeks to wait so I can tell you right now that if the flavours get even better, then this cake will knock your socks off. If you can resist the temptation not to sneak a slice that is.

This fruitcake is not like the type of fruitcakes that we’re more used to. I guess I’m used to a fruitcake that probably originated from our English forefathers. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the Americans must have some really filthy fruitcake recipes for this recipe to turn fruit cake haters into fruit cake lovers. As I say, this is a very tasty cake, but I don’t think our English originated fruitcake is nasty, I wouldn’t be making it year after year, even if I keep trying different recipes.

I almost didn’t make the cake. I needed currents, a dried fruit I thought I had left over from making the Christmas cakes in October, but I was wrong.  I’d already bought prunes to replace the dried cherries and I assumed the recipe called for sultanas, but it didn’t! So I swapped out the currents for sultanas and I was good to go. And then I read about macerating the fruit overnight. I would usually do this, but I didn’t have time. I wanted to make the recipe today. Thankfully there were instructions to instead microwave the dried fruit and rum. I would never have thought to do that. What a great “cheat” of time. And it worked beautifully.

Microwaving fruit
I gave the fruit a stir after 2 minutes. The fumes from the hot fruit almost caused my eyes to water. I don’t drink so I’m not used to alcohol as a drink but I certainly didn’t expect it to have such an overpowering smell that it would cause me to have to turn away from the bowl until I got my vision back. The smell was divine.

Then onto putting the butter, spices and apple juice with the fruit and boiling it. The smell just intensified. Did I say divine already?

The recipe says to leave the fruit for 15 minutes before mixing in the dry ingredients then the eggs. Instead I left it for probably closer to hours and even then the bottom of the bowl was still holding a little heat.

Cake batter coming togetherThe mixture is meant to be for a loaf tin but I had read others say they made mini loaves and muffins with the recipe. Since we’ve got Christmas cake I had planned to make muffins from the batter which would give Mr Fussy cake all week long (though he tells me he has plenty to keep him going and more treats are not necessary – after I’d started the recipe that is).

I used my cupcake scoop (like an ice cream scoop) and used 1 and 1/3 scoops for the paper (yes, they were paper, not greased at all, much to my disappointment) liners and still had enough batter left over for 5 mini loaves, which also used the same amount of batter. I have since measured out the scoop and 1/3 and it’s just a bit over 50ml, just a bit under ¼ cup.

1312_Before and after baking-2-2Not only did I not have 2 weeks to wait, I had to sample one of the loaves tonight. I can’t post about a recipe and not say “I’m sure it will be nice”. I also wanted to be able to describe or show the texture of the cake. It’s a very soft cake, and it’s definitely more a cake-cake, not like a traditional fruit cake which is dense and has very little batter by comparison to the fruit. Though there’s plenty of fruit in this recipe. Mr Fussy gives it the big thumbs up also, though he would only have one mouthful since we’d already had a slice of Austrian Shortbread (recipe/post to come) and he didn’t feel like he needed anything more. I do wish I could politely turn away sweet fruit. I’m afraid it’s restraint I don’t have. The other reason that I felt it was necessary to sample tonight is that tomorrow I’m going to try and say NO to anything during the week. Ok, I do have a slice of the Christmas cake I’m taking to work to partake in, but that’s it. I hope 😉

Plump fruitAnyway, I can give it on good authority that these mini fruitcake loaves are worth making if you’re after a more light/soft cake-y type fruitcake.

These are the changes I made:

  • Swapped currents for sultanas
  • Swapped dried cherries for prunes
  • None of my fruit was sun-ripened, or golden
  • I used Coruba Rum
  • 1/8th teaspoon of Allspice
  • 1/8th teaspoon of ground cloves
  • Charlie’s apple juice (I don’t think we have unfiltered here, at least not in the supermarket)
  • 223gm flour (I like to weigh rather than use cup measurements)
  • Salted butter and omitted the salt as a separate ingredient

Now all I have to do is wrestle with those awful non-greased baking papers. Things could get messy.

Mini fruit loaf 2Ohh, I’ve got an update already. I was putting the cakes away and saw one of the papers had a small tear in it (I probably picked at it when deciding if I was doomed) so I decided to continue to tear. And the paper came off without grabbing at the cake. I had to keep tearing strips from top down but it still came off without the agony I was expecting. Hoorah!

Minus the paperOh, and I finished Santa. I did give him new legs, which I’m also not happy with. Now he has shiny boots, a  new hand (he fell off and the candy cane broke I tried to scrape the bit left behind inside his hand and his hand fell off!) and new (better) candy cane and a metallic buckle and I added some sparkle “snowflake” dust to his beard and some other white bits to his santa suit. Now what to do with him??

Santa approves


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Christmas cakes for work

I’ve waited long enough feeding these cakes, to this weekend decorating them.

Santas legsEarlier I’d made the marzipan, the fondant I’d made some weeks before and I’d tinted one third Americolor sky blue.

This morning I decided to use the spare legs I had from Santa Mark II and shove them in a fondant chimney meaning I would be decorating a cake to look like it was a roof.

No problem. I decided I’d add some snow and use the snowflakes I’d made Thursday night when I was trying out the new cutters I got from Sugar Art Studio. The cutters aren’t too bad in price but the shipping was horrendous. They arrived priority FedEx and landed in Auckland on Tuesday, having left Florida Friday (their time). Then they hung around in Christchurch for 48 hours before being delivered. Pretty poor given how far they’d come in such a short time. I digress.

Given this was going to represent the roof of a house, I wanted the main colour of the “house” to be a colour that I’d like. I wanted to make it real. As if Santa with his legs poking out the chimney is real.

I went with the new Gooseberry Sugarflair gel and gave the Liz Marek fondant (which is more an ivory colour) a bit of a spruce up. It was difficult to tell that it was being coloured but when I put something white against it the colour came out nicely. I imagine a weatherboard house in this colour. Okay, enough of my imagination getting in the way of a cake.

All sidesI panelled the cake with the marzipan as I mentioned in my earlier post. It wasn’t quite perfectly done and I worried that the fondant would show up the bit where it was a little thin at the top of one corner, creating a very small ridge. But we all know how fondant will show up the smallest of flaws.

For whatever reason, and I’m not complaining, the fondant didn’t suck into the small gap. Hoorah.

I used The Mat today for all my fondant rolling. I was curious with the fondant being so sticky whether it would play nicely with The Mat. I actually haven’t used The Mat for a very long time. But with the fondant being sticky I didn’t want to fight with it trying to keep it from sticking to the table, and then getting it placed on the cake squarely.

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the fondant rolled out, and getting it on the cake went without hitch. But the fondant was still quite sticky and I had to keep dusting potato starch to the fondant smoothers.

Snow for the roofFor the snow I used Bakels fondant. I wanted a really white white. This time I rolled it onto a non-stick chopping mat with one part of The Mat over the top. Once I had it rolled to the thickness I wanted and it was big enough to cover the top and hang over the edge I took The Mat away and first marked out where the corners of the cake would be. I used my craft knife to cut the dripping snow shape I wanted making sure that at each corner it was shaped as a drip. Once the shape had been made I pulled away the excess fondant and then laid The Mat back over top so that I could then use this to give me better ability to line up the fondant over the cake where I wanted it. Before all this I lightly brushed the top and just over the edges of the cake with the brandy sugar syrup. Once the fondant was in place I used my fingers to smooth over the cut edge so that it didn’t look so sharp. Then I used the water brush to apply water to the back of the stars and got to sticking them onto the sides. I rolled a small sausage of white fondant and again used the water brush to apply water before placing the roll of fondant on top of the chimney and then used my fingers to pull the fondant down a little to give it a look of snow melting.

And there we have it. The cake was finished.

Point of viewI always think of something at the end. Before I begun I covered the board (Perspex board) with fondant. I wouldn’t do this again, not in this order. It meant I had to be very carefully smoothing the sides of the cake at all layers so that I didn’t dent the fondant on the board. And cutting the excess fondant from the cake was a very delicate manoeuvre, I tried to be light handed so as no to cut into the fondant on the board, but all that got me was jaggered looking edges because I hadn’t cut deep enough. So lesson learnt. If I’m going to cover the board, don’t put the cake on it until it’s fully decorated, or decorate the cake on the board and then cover it (which will mean you’ve got a seam somewhere).

Now that cake was actually the second one.

Non traditional treeI decorated Mr Fussy’s work cake first. Again I had planned what I wanted to do many weeks ago. I had the fondant coloured as I wanted. I was going to have given the drippy snow to the round cake. But then I changed my mind this morning due to using the spare Santa legs on the square cake.

Earlier in the week I’d seen a cake with a “modern” looking Christmas tree on it, in pastel colours. I liked the idea of the shape of the tree a lot. The only snag was the colours used would have to work with the sky blue fondant. I made small balls of coloured fondant using Lemon Yellow (Americolour), Pastel Pink (Americolour), Grape (Sugarflair) and Tangerine (Sugarflair). I drew the cone shape onto waxed paper first and rolled out the fondant into strips and neatened up the sides with the craft knife and laid them out one above the other.

At this point I used one of the impression mats over the top. I’d already tried using a rolling pin to leave the impression but the fondant was so sticky that it wouldn’t pull away. Instead I used my fingers to lightly rub over the mat hoping it would leave even impressions over all pieces. I carefully pulled the impression mat away. I placed the waxed paper over the top and used my ruler to leave an impression of the shape, removed the waxed paper and used the craft knife and ruler to cut the lines. Lastly I took each piece and laid it over the cake to get a general look and feel. Then one by one I moved the piece away and used the water pen on the fondant where the piece would lay (I had tried using water on the back of the fondant piece but it was too delicate and made it harder to nudge the piece into position).

Then I went from non-traditional colours to using a bit of chocolate Bakes fondant (the first time I’ve used that today, I used it also for the chimney) for the trunk of the tree. At least it has a slightly less traditional application. I rolled the fondant into a sausage and then used the fondant smoother to help evenly roll it out still further until I thought it was thin enough to use as the trunk (it’s still a bit thicker than I would have liked).

Prancing deerThe deer is another purchase from Sugar Art Studio I practiced using this on Thursday as well. During my trial the deer came away c fairly cleanly which surprised me given how thin some parts were, like antlers and legs. It was still fiddly since there’s a strip of metal over the back to help brace the thin metal. This means I can’t easily get to all of the shape to help ease it out. I had no end of trouble today with the fondant. I let it set up a bit before I tried but it still wouldn’t cooperate. I almost gave up in frustration. I broke several with the necks being so vulnerable with the deer head flopping about as I tried to shift them around. And trying to get them onto the cake was a no-go. I went back to the wax paper transfer method (Jessica Harris’ method of applying modelling chocolate decorations) which worked, more or less. At least I got them to the side of the cake without them slipping right off, or the flimsy necks of the deer tearing due to the awkwardness of trying to apply a deer with nothing more than my fingers to a 90 degree curved surface.

Even so I had to put my rolling pin under the cake turntable so that it put the cake at an angle. I needed all the help I could get to take this from near impossible to slightly possible. The angle definitely did help. Once I had the deer on the waxed paper I used the water pen to brush water to the side of the deer that would be against the cake. I still needed my Colour Shaper to help nudge the antlers and legs into the right position. You can imagine my dismay when I realised I had room to put a 5th deer onto the cake. I looked at the two deer I had left, the worst of my efforts and then took the best of the bad bunch and put it in the gap. The gap being right at the front! Murphy’s Law.

I’m not sure I like the cake. The tree is non-traditional, and while I’ve never decorated a Christmas Cake in anything but plain fondant with a few plastic holly leaves and berries, I feel like the deer is traditional. Not that we have snow at Christmas time, or for that matter Santas stuck in chimneys.  I think the tree on a white background would have been better, and instead of the tree, some stars would have done the trick, but I wanted both cakes to have different themes. Earlier in the morning I watched a YouTube from Montreal Confectionary where Marlyn did something really nice with fondant stars (for use on a cookie) that I was keen to try on a cake. I should have gone with that.

All said and done I’m only a hobby baker and these cakes aren’t for anything more than a nice treat for our work teams. I’ve got plenty to learn yet. I just wish I’d hurry up with it 🙂 (the queen of impatience).


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Marzipan

Marzipan. I’ve never had it on a cake, not one I remember. I’ve never used it for anything (it can be used to make decorations as well as cover a cake).

This year, given I was making a Christmas cake for Mr Fussy and I to take to our respective work places, I had room to “play”.  I made marzipan this morning. It was dead easy to make, albeit a little crumbly to begin with. The thing with marzipan, as I read, was not to over-knead it or you’d end up with an oily mess from the almonds.

IngredientsTypically I’ve used Bakels Almond fondant as the base before covering the Christmas cake with white Bakels fondant. The taste of the Almond has a hint of almond flavour. The marzipan, given it’s made with almond meal has a near impossible taste, well certainly not of almond. And it’s a bit gritty, despite being made with equal amounts of icing sugar and castor sugar.

I’m not sold on the use of marzipan. Perhaps it’s the recipe I chose. There seems to be a few variations given they’re all much of a muchness when it comes to ingredients.

And not only are there variations, there’s conflicting information on the net about whether you need to let the marzipan dry out before covering it. Since we all know my lack of patience, I settled on the advice of one article that made no mention of any delay in covering a cake.

Forming marzipanI used the marzipan in two different ways. I put it in the fridge as instructed. But the round Christmas cake I rolled and then laid the marzipan over the cake, and the square cake I panelled. I did this mostly due to the experience of the round cake, and because I didn’t think it would mould nicely over square corners.

One thing I was unclear on was what I put onto the marzipan to get the fondant to adhere to it.

If I’d be using the Bakels Almond fondant I’d have wet my hands (and shaken the excess off) and then just rubbed over the fondant before laying the white fondant on top. But could I, or should I do the same with marzipan.

The article I found said to use a syrup which suited me fine. I had made a sugar syrup this morning replacing the water with Brandy. Yep, since I’d gone to the trouble of “feeding” the Christmas cakes I decided why stop there.  I might as well keep up the alcohol. I’m not sure how much alcohol is left given you boil the syrup, but it has quite a pleasant brandy flavour, which is saying something from someone that doesn’t much care for brandy.

preparing and covering a cakeBefore putting the fondant on I had to either level the cake, or make a little ring of fondant to help the base (the top of the cake becoming the bottom) to sure up the cake if you like. Then I had to fill in the bigger holes in the cake left by the fruit as it baked.  For both these tasks (and I really hate filling in the gaps left by the fruit) I used the fondant I’d made using the Liz Marek recipe. While the fondant was a bit sticky it meant I didn’t have to try and shape it as I usually do to fit the gaps. Rather I was a bit haphazard and then decided to keep that fondant smoother at hand and use it to push the fondant into the gaps and smooth out across the surface. Genius. Though I’m probably late to the party and this little trick has been used by all and sundry for many many years. Oh well. Better late than never, as the saying goes.

And now we’re ready to decorate.


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Lemon Yoghurt Cake with a festive look

Whimsical ornamentsI set out to bake a Lemon Yoghurt Cake. It had been suggested on the NZ Cake Decorators Facebook page when one person had asked for a lemon/citrus recipe suitable for covering in fondant.

So what did I do? I covered it in buttercream 🙂 Italian Meringue Buttercream. Which I added some almost but not quite useable white chocolate ganache.

I just wanted to see if the texture and density would indeed be suitable for covering in fondant. Yep. Looked good to me. That’s all I needed to know.

Texture and crumbThe cake was a breeze to torte and it tasted so nice. I was slicing off little bits from the top and had to stop myself. I’d not long had breakfast.

I had no idea what to do with the cake (how many times have I said that?).

Freeze dried Raspberry and white chocolate IMBCLast night I’d seen Lila Lola’s blog post on decorating Christmas cookies using pastel colours. I wondered if I could do something a bit whimsical like that. Something a little less traditional than what I’ve done in the past.

Maybe I should explain what I had in mind (the idea formed while out and about braving the shops). I thought I’d also try and replicate the slanted/wonky lines of Lila Lola’s cookies as well. But as a Christmas bauble. I found some “gold” sanding sugar and decided I’d use that on fondant which I brushed piping gel onto.

More ornamentsI’m not very good at getting outlines so I used a round cookie cutter to make the circles I’d be piping within (and the tree). I cut out circles of fondant and used my little cutting wheel to make the wonky cuts and then brushed each piece with the piping gel and shook the sanding sugar over. It would have been easier and less messy if I’d brushed the gel over a circle that I’d left in tact and then cut the wonky lines. You live and learn.

Next I placed sections of the circle inside the circles marked on the cake. I alternated piping using the pink (star tip) and green (leaf tip) until I’d filled in the remaining sections of each circle.

I also cut out smaller circles and then used my piping tip to cut an inner circle. The outer “ring” I cut in half to make the loops. I didn’t cut enough, so I put the inner circle to use after cutting a small bit to help it sit neatly on top of the bauble. Lastly I used a new gold liquid edible paint on the loops and smaller circles. It didn’t turn out how I was expecting. It wasn’t a bright gold, and it sort of washed off as I brushed it over the fondant. A couple of layers after allowing the previous to dry will give a better result.

Side viewAs for the cake. I used this recipe (the recommended/suggested recipe) from Lifestyle Food in Australia. It’s a recipe by Donna Hay.

The link will take you to the recipe which includes a short video of Donna making the cake. It’s so very quick and simple. You can’t lose with this recipe.

Given Donna bakes it in a Bundt type tin I’m not quite sure what size traditional tin you would use. However I know how much batter (by weight) for a 6” cake tin and this recipe gave me 3 x 6” cakes which when torted are 3cm deep. The batter is roughly 1300gm. The recipe obviously has yoghurt in it. I chose to buy the Puhoi Greek style yoghurt. It doesn’t really have that bitter yoghurt taste which is probably why I can stomach it. And being a Greek style it’s a little bit thicker.

Oh Christmas TreeSo far I’ve not decided what to do with cake. My guess, it will go with Mr Fussy to work and be butchered cut for his team. Though I’d quite like a piece. I was so tempted to cut into it because I loved the flavour. The tops I cut as I torted have been saved and frozen. I could make cake pops (umm, when have I made cake pops?) or add them to truffles or something. I had to save myself from eating it all, but I didn’t want to throw it out either.

Given I had no clue what this cake would end up as, it turned out ok, and I really enjoyed using buttercream for a change.Buttercream decorations