On to the plate

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


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13 Years On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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David’s birthday cake

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

But first of all was David’s birthday cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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