On to the plate

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


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



The Movember Cake

A week has passed since I finished decorating the cake. Perhaps enough time to have forgotten how awfully the fondant was applied. You guessed it, it took me two attempts. Thankfully using Crisco on the ganache makes pulling the fondant off far less nerve wracking than putting it on. I had almost all of it completely smoothed over the cake when a small tear appeared. I couldn’t see a way to disguise it which lead me to pulling the whole lot off.

I suppose I should explain the cake was 5″ high, 6″ wide. That is pretty close to a Double Barrel cake, so I was somewhat nervous before I even go started. And as it turns out, had good reason to be.

I was happy with the shade of “gold” I had for the fondant, but it was 30degrees and probably not the best of conditions to be working with fondant (I think it dried out too fast) or modelling chocolate. I really do know how to challenge myself 🙂

Alright, here’s a photo, and a good close up so that you can see how painful it was for me.

Best Mo

elephants were here

I had a hard time with the moustaches. Not only was the modelling chocolate far too pliable, I couldn’t get mirror images of the moustaches. I tried using the dresden tool to mark the outline of the moustache and used this as a guide to cut with the craft knife. It worked best, but took me too many attempts where I screwed up my face before I had this wee brain wave.  I’ll know better for next time.

If we go way back, the ganache gave me no end of grief either. I used some I had previously made and had frozen (which I think had been another difficult batch). Adding this now room temperature ganache to the remainder I had from the previous week resulted in a curdled ganache. I fixed it using the same method I have previously written about. But on the Saturday morning when I was setting out to ganache the cake, I had to warm it a little to make it pliable, and that was enough to make it begin to curdle again. For all that, it applied just fine, and I’d say this was my easiest and quickest application, and I had a really nice smooth top using the upside down method. I didn’t take any photos because the sides were a little grainy looking, but I knew it wouldn’t be at all noticeable under the fondant. It was smooth, just not baby bottom smooth.

So the second attempt to cover the cake in fondant wasn’t perfect either. I ended up with a thin section which has started to pleat as I was smoothing the sides down during the application.

I couldn’t really let it go like that. I needed to do something to lessen the wincing I was doing. Mr Fussy was called upon for some ideas but had none. I’m not surprised 🙂 I didn’t want to add another colour, I loved the colour. So as you can see I made two sorts of collars. And I managed to get the fondant rolled through the pasta attachment on the KitchenAid in one piece. Hoorah!

The bottom collar was using a PME broderie anglaise cutter. My first time using it and it pressed nicely. I then rolled the fondant collar up and then unrolled it against the cake, having first brushed a little water to ensure it adhered. The top thinner collar was made using a friller cutter with a scollop and then once I had the top edge on I used one of my gumpaste tools to make the little fan-type impression.

Gumpaste tool impression

It still didn’t disguise all that awful elephant like texture, nor did adding in the modelling chocolate pieces. I just had to close my eyes and accept it was what it was.

Anyway, the cake and cupcakes went to work with Mr Fussy. He delivered them to Grant who was unaware that I was making a cake for him. Grant organises the Movember campaign for their work. He gratefully accepted the goodies and got busy with a bit of marketing and sold the cake slices and most of the cupcakes collecting some money for their Movember team.

MarketingI had filled the layers with Italian Meringue Buttercream I’d made some weeks ago and had frozen. It re-whipped up fine and smoothed nicely between the layers. I was itching to know when the cake was cut, whether it would be nice and dry or whether it would look a bit damp. After all, the cupcakes, which were thicker than each individual layer of cake, were baked perfectly. I was eagerly waiting for the verdict. But alas the cake looked damp. I can only put it down to the buttercream separating/weeping. I’ve been told the cupcakes were “delicious”, but no one that had a slice of cake made a comment to Mr Fussy. Mr Fussy works in a different section to Grant, and the “sale” of cake/cupcakes was made to Grant’s team first. Mr Fussy’s team leader sniffed out the baking and bought a cupcake and passed on his comment.


Where does that leave me? I’m happy with the cake. It really has the most pleasant vanilla flavour. I’ve made it agains this weekend and used Raspberry Emulsion with it. I’ve got the 4 individual 6″ cake layers double wrapped in Gladwrap and in the freezer.

Again I made cupcakes with the other third of the cake batter. I got 15 cupcakes, for some reason the batter this weekend yeilded more than last weekend. Mr Fussy says it’s the air temperature. The only changes this week were the use of the emulsion, Mainland unsalted butter instead of my favoured Lewis Road Creamery butter, and I didn’t quite have 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, probably about 20ml short, which I added cream to make up the balance. But I wouldn’t have thought those very minor changes would have made the difference.

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I’m back to the drawing board with the Ganache. This weekend I’ve made another. I’m using a different method, a method that required me to fish out the candy thermometer. I’ve used Whittaker’s 50% chocolate and Meadowfresh cream. It wasn’t looking good. Well it was looking glorious when I made it and put it into the container. But this morning the ganache was really soft. I doubt it hard hardened at all. I popped it into the fridge for most of the day. I pulled it out as I was preparing dinner. It certainly had gone solid. And I’ve just checked, it’s room temperature now and it would need a little warming to make it spreadable. I was a bit disheartened this morning when I checked it, but perhaps it will be right now that it’s been in the fridge to harden. I’m crossing my fingers!

2013-11-23 09.01.29As for the Raspberry Emulsion, it’s from Lorann, it has a sort of honey/raspberry flavour. When I sniffed the bottle it smelt like it had almond in it. But I can’t detect that at all. While there’s “something” in the flavour of the cupcake, I can’t taste it’s raspberry (Mr Fussy’s favourite berry fruit). Going back to that dreadful batch of ganache, I remelted some of it and used it in the last of my frozen (but now room temperature) Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC). The buttercream re-whipped up nicer than the one used for the Moustache cake. I’m not quite sure why, other than I left it on the bench for several hours rather than having popped it into the fridge to thaw out overnight before then leaving on the bench.

2013-11-23 09.23.26The chocolate added to the IMBC was a little bit warm and as it whipped it had a few grainy bits which played havoc with the 2D Wilton tip. It clogged it up. I had to scrape the buttercream off and re-pipe it with the 1M Wilton tip. But boy it tasted so good, so so good. Loved it. Mr Fussy said the cupcake in all its splendour did have a raspberry taste. Perhaps it needed that chocolate IMBC to bring out the flavour better.

And the remaining dodgy ganache was used tonight to make a chocolate sauce. In the sauce you can’t tell there was anything wrong with it. Waste not, want not.

Next year, if I’m still playing around with cakes and decorating, my Moustache cake will surely be better. I am almost of the belief that the homemade fondant has a little more elasticity and forgiveness since it applied much easier on the Canterbury Show Day cakes.

Grant also had a sausage sizzle during the week. I’m thinking he had quite a good week for fundraising for Movember. I’m glad the cake and cupcakes were able to help in a small way.

Sorry for the mix of photos from various devices/sources.


4 little experiments

I get a bit of a kick from experimenting in the kitchen. Does that make me sad?

I have too little experience to be so “wild” in the kitchen, but I read a lot and I have problems others have had in the past. Why not capitalise on someone else’s hard work and reap the benefits.

I also like to try my hand at things I’m ill-equipped to do, but I laugh in the face of uncertainty and sensibilities and limitations. And sometimes I really disappoint myself and wonder what the heck I think I’m doing and why do I do it to myself. But I keep coming back for more.

Anyway, these little experiments were fairly harmless.

  • New recipe
  • Tinting fondant
  • Turning yellow into white
  • “Drawing” on fondant with food gel colour

Harmless, but important little experiments, especially that new recipe. I was making my Movember Cake this weekend, and if the recipe failed, well there’d be no cake.

The recipe I found while meandering through the Internet “likeing” pages on Facebook of extremely talented bakers and cake decorators. I came across the blog of Three Little Blackbirds. I’d actually been to this blog a very long time ago. I remember because there was the video on ganaching a cake. It was the first video I’d watched on that technique. I ended up re-watching it during the week and picked up a few tips along the way. As in learning anything new, the first time it’s information overload, but it’s amazing what new things you pick up when re-visiting that once new technique.

Right, the recipe.

New Yellow Cake RecipeIt turned out great. The recipe is for 3 single layers of a 9” cake. The Movember cake was going to be 6” (my favoured size). That took care of two of the layers. I’d also thought it would be nice to make some cupcakes which I planned to then paint moustaches onto. I’ve been keen to try my hand at “painting” onto fondant.

The cakes were baked as single layers, as Erin explains, it’s to lessen the time they’re in the oven, which could dry them out. I’ve got to hand it to Erin. These are really tasty, and the texture is terrific too. Mr Fussy and I shared one, he was cleaning windows at the time but I was hand feeding him. He really enjoyed them. When it came time to fill the Movember cake I asked what flavour I should make the buttercream. He strongly suggested I not flavour it at all, the cake had such a wonderful vanilla flavour he didn’t want it disguised.

Ok, recipe gets the big tick.

The cake was taller than I was anticipating, instead of a 4” high cake I ended up with 5”. I needed more fondant than what I’d anticipated last weekend when I coloured it “gold”.

I’d taken some yellow fondant I had left over from my MIL’s birthday cake. I’d already toned it down adding white to the Bakels yellow, which is a vibrant yellow. I’d read that adding 1 part ivory to 3 parts yellow and a bit of chocolate brown food gel would render gold. And it did.

3 shades of yellowWhile sitting at the laptop trying to recall where I’d read that (I couldn’t remember the proportions) I was looking into the dining room at my magnolia. Looking at the centre and suddenly realising the centre was pretty much the gold I was wanting to re-create, I knew that all I needed to do was add the Autumn Gold Sugarflair colour to it. Ta-da!

In the photos you can see the gold fondant I made last weekend and the yellow that I started out with, and the small sausage shape I had tested the Autumn Gold with, again starting with the yellow. The Autumn Gold gave an even better gold colour than I got with the ivory and brown last weekend.

Love SugarflairAnd we get a second tick.

Finally came the hand painting. Now I say hand painting loosely because this is NOTHING like the skill shown by many others when they delicately paint flowers onto cakes. All I had to do was paint a few moustaches onto a small piece of fondant without needing too much artistic ability (thank goodness).

I used the left over fondant I had from last weekend, this was the marshmallow fondant I made (and have a great respect for, wait till the Movember post). It takes a bit more kneading to get it soft and warmed up but it rolls so nicely and it’s supple.

I’ve never covered cupcakes in fondant like this before. I’ve made little fondant toppers but not to cover as a dome.

But before I get to that I wanted to try something I’d read about. How to turn buttercream from yellow to white. I guess the primary reason people add Crisco to buttercream is to tone down the yellow.

I decided to give the yellow to white a whirl. I bought the Sugarflair (I love that brand!) Violet/Grape food gel and carried out my own experiment so that you can see what we started with and how far we got to achieving white.

Buttercream experimentI used the Lewis Road Creamery butter (which I also love). You can see the colour change just with beating it a few minutes. I’ve got that roll of paper towels there as a reference point. Even if the colours change as the light in the room does (I never used my flash) I thought the colour of the paper towel would be easy to remember.

I then added the icing sugar, which again aided in lightening the buttercream. Then I started to add a little gel colour. Even with what you see on the toothpick, I only dabbed it into the icing a few times. The colour did become less yellow, but it never turned white. I wondered what the tipping point was before the icing became the Violet/Grape colour. I added a little more colour after the final photo. It didn’t turn a purple colour, it has taken on an almost caramel/coffee colour. Weird.

Waiting for white buttercreamAnyway, nothing was riding on this experiment. The cupcakes were going to be completely covered with fondant so nothing to lose.

Lastly came the painting.

Moustaches are hard. Trying to get both sides even is very difficult. Each attempt I showed Mr Fussy and he assured me that when he grew a moustache for Movember, his never grew evenly. If I thought I could fix the balance of the moustaches I’d have done it. I feared that trying to make it better I’d make it worse. Sometimes you need to know when to back away.

I used the thinnest brush I have, a 000, and from what I know this is about as thin as they get. But it’s not thin at all when you brush, it flattens out. Perhaps I should be a bit more delicate. Needless to say I wont be rushing out to try my hand at something that’s meant to be fabulous.

Movember cupcakesOk, so that wraps up all the little experiments. Next up will be another agonising accounting of decorating a cake, best not done when it’s 30 degrees Celsius.


White Chocolate Mud Cake – part 1 of my project

Today’s baking is just the beginning of a project I have in mind for Show Day, that’s Canterbury’s provincial anniversary. It still baffles me why it’s called Show Day and not Canterbury Anniversary.

Never mind.

My project will be to decorate a cake, Mr Fussy’s project (during our long weekend) will be to clean the windows and erect the Christmas tree. Then we’ll decorate it. That almost pains me. I’ll divvy up all the decorations so we’ve just exactly the same, I’ll decorate ½ the tree, he’ll do the other ½ and I’ll try to keep my hands in my pockets and not fix interfere with his placement of the decorations.

Back to today though. My plan is to have a two tier cake both with quite separate decorations, but of course both Black and Red. I’m going for an 8” cake and 6” cake.

I wanted to make a White Chocolate Mud Cake. I’ve had a couple of recipes tucked away and just couldn’t decide which recipe to make. So I made them both.

Difference in batter consistency

Today I’ve made the 8” cakes, tomorrow I’ll make the 6” cakes. I need to decide which of the two recipes I’ll repeat. Oh the pressure.

Here’s the link for the White Chocolate Mud Cake I made first, this one I used Cadbury Dream chocolate, as the recipe used too. The second cake I can’t give a link to the recipe because you have to log into the site to get to the recipe (though it’s a free recipe). If you’re really keen then you can register for free at CakeStyle.tv.

Both recipes are from Australian websites. I used Whittaker’s White Chocolate for the second recipe.

Side by side comparison

As much as I worry a little when trying new recipes, I do love a good experiment. And today it was a battle between two Aussie recipes, and two different brands of chocolate.

The CakeStyle recipe has ½ a cup (125gm/ml) of sour cream in it. The proportions are slightly different, there’s 240gm of white chocolate and the same amount of butter for CakeStyle, and it has water instead of milk, but the water and sour cream more or less make the milk component.

The first recipe was for a 9” square tin and I was making an 8” round cake, so I expected to have some batter left over. Using the cake-o-metre application the 8” round cake would need only .80 of the recipe.

I weighed the batter and poured in the amount needed, then I decided to round it up to 1040gm. That gave me an unbaked height of 3cm. The cake took 60 minutes to bake. Well that’s when I set the timer for even though it said 1hr 10 minutes to 1hr 20 minutes.

Cadbury baked and cooled

I knew the oven temperature was right because I keep the oven thermometer in there. But I still expect to test the done-ness before the recipe states.

I used the same weight of batter for the second recipe, but I had a lot more batter left over. I made a 4” round cake as well. I ended up putting it into the oven 4 minutes after the 8” cake went in, and it took the same amount of time to bake. Both cakes took 65 minutes to bake. The recipe says it takes 2 hours. I’m not sure it’s a mistake given I had more batter that I didn’t use.

Since I had a bit of batter left over from both recipes I used it to fill cupcakes. I wasn’t aiming to make them as cupcakes, I expected the cake to be too dense to be a cupcake. What this allowed me to do is bake them both together and for the same amount of time. Just a little extra bonus for my experiment.

Baked cupcakes

Once the Cadbury WCMC had finished baking it was still a bit domed for my linking. I draped the tin with a clean tea towel as was suggested and as the cake cooked it flattened out. But then it continued to do so. So much that now there’s a little dip in the top. Boo.

The Whittaker’s WCMC also domed. Both looked so good half way through baking but then they both took off in the final stages of baking.

Whittakers baked

The Whittaker’s WCMC flattened too, but still has a small dome. Enough that I will have to trim it.

Both cakes were 3cm in height uncooked. The Cadbury one baked to 7cm at the highest point and the Whittaker’s 7.5cm. The Whittaker’s is slightly taller but as I say, needs to be trimmed to remove the dome. It still will be just a few mm higher and wont have a dip.

Ready for the freezer

As to texture and taste. Cripes, I don’t know. I tried and tried to tell a difference, I really expected a difference given the thickness of batters. But I was struggling. I thought the Cadbury WCMC looked a little more compact but it almost seemed lighter when biting into it, well lighter than it looked. But in all honesty, if you mixed them up I wouldn’t know one from the other. They did smell different baking. I preferred the Cadbury.

Both are a little crisp so I expect not only to be trimming the tops, but also the edges before ganaching them.

Mr Fussy also couldn’t say if there was a difference.

What I will say is neither has a real white chocolate taste, and both are less dense than I expected given how dense the Chocolate Mud Cake was for Cameron’s birthday.

Mudcake Cupcakes

So decisions decisions. Which will I remake for the 6” cakes?

I think if I had to make a choice (which I do), I would go for the Cadbury cake (the first one, the one with the link to the recipe), but I’m going to make the CakeStyle one, and what was so important that it tipped me to that recipe given I’ve just said I’d probably go for the Cadbury one. Well it was how it baked. I don’t want a dip. I suspect that even with trimming I’ll still end up with a dip. I need two 2cm layers from each cake and while I have that on the outside I think the middle is just under that. It’s going to annoy me so much that I may yet end up baking another cake. Being a perfectionist (or aiming for it) can be such a drag.

So while I’ve been pondering which recipe I’ll re-make, I spent the afternoon with gum paste making a few more roses. These photos are all taken from my phone, and yes I cheated by having Mr Fussy hold the roses outside against foliage, I imagine that helps with the illusion they’re real 😉 The white rose I made on Thursday evening. The lemon (in amongst the bunch in the vase, centre and left centre (bud)) roses were made this afternoon, and the yellow one was the largest one made today.

Tomorrow, while the 6” cakes are baking I’ll dust the roses I’ve been making. Dusting flowers isn’t something I’m keen on but it does finish them off (so would making leaves and adding a calyx mind you). And I should really do it properly. Not that I have any idea what I’m going to do with these.

Next weekend I’ll ganache and then decorate the cakes. Mr Fussy will take the 6” cake to his work, and I’ll take the 8” cake to mine. And then come Show Weekend, well I don’t know. But I’ll have a 3-day weekend to do something else, whatever that is. I’ll think of something.

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Broken Ganache

Oops. Tonight I was making ganache. I was using Cadbury 70% chocolate, another of my experiments. That wasn’t the oops, the oops was overheating the cream and chocolate to the point I ended up with what I’ve learnt is called “broken ganache”.

Broken ganache

Look at that oily puddle of what I would have deemed useless and a total waste of around $15 in ingredients.

I am making ganache for a cake I’m baking. I’ve no real purpose for the cake, but it does happen to be my blogs 1 year existence on the 10th and following some naff little tradition I thought I could use this anniversary as an excuse to make and decorate another cake. And it gave me another excuse to try new things, like making the ganache with Cadbury chocolate instead of Whittaker’s which I’ve used several times before.

The Whittaker’s chocolate ganache I’ve found to be really thick and not that pliable. I used the Cadbury chocolate recently to make the Devil’s Dream Cake and was quite taken with how silky the chocolate was when it was melted, how smooth it turned out. I’m crossing my fingers the ganache works out better with Cadbury chocolate. Actually I hadn’t even known Cadbury made a 70% chocolate.

Obviously this wasn’t the post I was expecting to write, but after having made this blunder, and knowing I hadn’t actually burnt the chocolate I wondered if there was a way to redeem the ganache. Onto Google I went and found that what I had was referred to Broken Ganache. I found several different methods to fix this, one being warmed up corn syrup mixed with a tablespoon of the broken ganache. But there seemed to be a few more blog posts talking about warmed up milk doing the trick.

Here’s a few shots of my ganache as it went through various stages of repair.

Stages of fixing broken ganache

See that last shot?  It was almost there. In fact I thought it was good to go, but after 30 seconds or so of staring at it, I saw a little bit of oil on the very edges of the bowl, so I added about another teaspoon of warmed milk and came away with this:

Ganache restored

I don’t expect the ganache to be as thick as it cools overnight, which I don’t mind at all. My past experiences have been that the ganache is almost too thick to work with, although that has been with Whittaker’s chocolate.

I have again used a Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla cake box mix to make a Butterscotch cake for my little “need an excuse to decorate a cake, let’s make it a blog anniversary cake”.

I know in my last post where I made the box mix for Cel’s baby cake I said I wasn’t happy with it sort of clumping, but as it happened the box mix was on special with a saving of $2.60 a box (each box with the additional ingredients came to just over $10 and that was without the cost of eggs) so it was worth grabbing a few boxes. What I did different tonight was to put the cake mix through a sieve. Almost all of it passed through, the last bit with some squashing with the back of a spoon, with just a very small amount refusing to cooperate.

I was much happier with the texture of the made up batter, there were no clumps to be seen. I was also really surprised at how far the batter went. I have made a 6″ cake, then I scooped batter to make 6 cupcakes. I still have left over batter so I quickly lined my 4″ cake tin and scraped the rest into it.

The 6″ cake had 500gm of batter and was 4cm deep prior to baking. The 4″ had 170gm of batter and was 2cm deep. The 6″ cake took 34 minutes to bake, the 4″ cake 23 minutes. The cupcakes 18 minutes.

Referring back to the Instant Pudding mix. Tonight at the supermarket I grabbed a strawberry then chocolate pack. They are different weights. I don’t know why. The Butterscotch, Vanilla and Strawberry are all 70gm and that’s what I’ve been using. The Chocolate is 80gm. I’d still use that without any other adjustments. In my calculation of the weight of ingredients for a 15.25oz box of mix, the pudding mix came out to 96gm, but that didn’t work out for Greggs packs so I just used what I had and decided the 26gm (hopefully) wouldn’t make a noticeable difference.

Butterscotch cakes

My idea is to use the 6″ cake and torte it and cover it with ganache before applying fondant and then decorating it. As per usual I’ve not settled on a design. I have a couple of options, both new and both good, but I just haven’t picked one. If the ganache turns out to be too soft then this plan will change, but the good news is the ganache isn’t a waste, it might just be used in different ways.

For the 4″ cake my plan is to make up a frosting and use the left over caramel sauce. I wont do anything other than torte it and spread with the frosting and leave it completely undecorated. I’m toying with putting ganache in the middle AND using the frosting. It sounds good to me right now.  I’ll pipe the caramel frosting onto the cupcakes and call them done. Though I could slice them through the middle and make them really miniature versions of what I plan for the 4″ cake.

I’m open to ideas so I’ll wait and see how the 4″ pans out and then decide what I can do with the 6″ and the cupcakes. So many possibilities.

Lastly, I wish I’d known about broken ganache the other weekend when I had made the Devil’s Dream Cake, I wouldn’t have needed to make up a new batch of ganache after all.

Don’t suppose anyone else knew that you could add warm milk a teaspoon at a time, and continue to stir and repeat until it all come good? I have 500ml of cream and 1kg of chocolate, I’ve used a little over 1/3 cup of warm milk to bring life back to this batch of ganache. This is another positive as to why you shouldn’t fear making ganache. I’ll have to make sure Lyndal knows about this, she’s had this sort of problem in the past.

Last thoughts. I think I’ll change the method I’m using for making the ganache which currently is to heat both the cream and chocolate together in the microwave instead heating the cream to boiling point and then pouring it over the chocolate pieces and letting it sit a while before stirring it.



Cel’s ‘going on maternity leave’ luncheon

The cakeThis is the cake I made for Cel’s luncheon today. I’d been planning it for almost a month and the first thing I made was about 7 babies. From there I decided on the look, I wanted the baby on a soft blanket and to look very angelic, so angel wings appeared. And butterflies went from the clothesline scene above the clouds to join one sleeping baby. It was my way of merging one theme into another. It seemed to work pretty well.

Before I explain more about the decorations, best I start with the cake.

I feel slightly like a fake because I’ve always held the belief  good cakes only come from pre-selected ingredients carefully measured and lovingly brought together into the perfect batter. And now I’m having to reluctantly eat my words, but only after today. Only after those who had a slice of this cake proclaimed enthusiastically how moist and wonderful it was. How it had great flavour without being too sweet. I give you a boxed cake mix. Though there are a few small tweaks that make it not just a box mix.

ImageI got the “recipe” off Rose Bakes, using her Vanilla Cake Recipe. Rose talks about using a Pillsbury box mix and it being 18oz in size (though the size has since been reduced). We don’t have Pillsbury here, or not where I shop. Instead I used Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Vanilla Cake mix. Rose hasn’t yet gotten around to adjusting the other ingredients to down size the recipe, instead she has extra box mix and she just adds more box mix to bring the ingredients up to her original recipe.

So I’ve done the adjustments and I’ll share them here.

  • 1 x Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 70ml Vegetable Oil (I used Canola)
  • 200ml Sour Cream
  • 100ml water
  • 70gm (or 80gm, up to 96gm is fine) packet of Gregg’s Instant Pudding (use whatever flavour you like, I used Vanilla) *you’re mixing it in dry, not made up
  • 3 eggs. Actually I managed to capture some of the egg white and tucked that away in a container to use for “glue” with gumpaste flowers. So just a bit under 3 size 7 eggs. Our size 7 eggs seem to be a bit smaller (by weight) to what I’ve seen as “large” eggs on American websites.

The rest is really easy. You’re adding the whole lot to a mixing bowl. I used a hand mixer since it’s so easy.

What I didn’t like about the box mix is that some of the dry ingredients sort of clumped together. And when I had finished mixing it still appeared to have some lumps. I couldn’t get those out.

I used two box mixes for the cake. The cakes rose much more than I expected. I made 2 8″ cakes. My cake tins are 3″ deep. I used 740gm of batter for the cakes, and had enough left over for 4 (or 5) cupcakes. 740gm of batter gave me 2cm of depth unbaked. That’s the depth of batter I’ve had using different vanilla cake recipes. The first cake I made I had enough left for 5 cupcakes, the second mix only had enough left for 4 cupcakes. Don’t ask me to explain that.

After the cakes were baked I double wrapped them in Gladwrap and then put them in the freezer. One cake baked on Saturday, the other Sunday. The cupcakes were put into the freezer on Monday morning which was when I took the cakes out, and gave me enough space.

Monday I made up a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream using my slightly adapted recipe from Joshua John Russel’s Craftsy class which I posted here. Unlike last time, I used all the butter but about a 1cm square piece. I also used a Sugarflair food gel, Paprika which gave me a really nice blush orange colour.  I trimmed and torted the cakes and this time I also trimmed the outer edges, something I’d watched from Cake Style TV in a free online class Cake Basics. While I’m happy with the result of the cake when it’s cut and you can see where the cake meets fondant, my knife was so sharp that it cut up the silver covering on the cake board. And that bugged me no end. I just couldn’t think of a good way of disguising it. Even though I covered a larger cake board and cut out an 8″ circle to fit the completed cake, it still didn’t fully detract from the shabby cake board. Once the cake is trimmed, even with a covering of buttercream and fondant, the cake was still less than 8″.

So a final word on the cake, despite it baking with large irregular holes (which I’d be thrilled with if I was baking bread), it really did taste pretty good, and it was lovely and moist. But it’s also very yellow. The cake mix seemed pretty white so I presume the Vanilla pudding mix had yellow “stuff” in it. With the hearty praise I received today I guess I’ll likely be making this again, at least until I’ve found a from-scratch recipe that gives the same results (less holes and yellow would really seal the deal).

Lunch spread

Over the past few weeks I’m used various silicone moulds for making the onsies, bibs and other characters. I’ve spent some evenings then using edible markers to colour and give detail and I’ve used my smallest butterfly patchwork cutter for the butterflies and then used edible petal dusts to colour them.

The blanket was a piece of gumpaste mixed with equal parts fondant which I rolled out and used my stitching tool in a fairly careless method (for me who likes order and neatness) to roll out lines and then used another tool (I have no idea the name) to press into the edges to give that scalloped edge and pattern. Lastly I used a ribbon tool under sections to lift it to give it some dimension of being just fluffed and laid on the carpet ready for sleeping baby.

Getting the nappy on the baby was very tricky. I wanted to get a nappy first and then add the ruffles, and that’s what I did. But I couldn’t get the right shape for the nappy so that it laid over the baby’s bottom without having overhanging bits or gathers where there was too much draping. I can’t believe how long it actually took. It was a very frustrating exercise. It’s not at all like arranging a nappy for a real baby. I know it’s been a very long time but I do have a reasonably good memory of preparing a nappy.

I used a metal butterfly cutter for the angle wings. After cutting out the shape I then rolled the shape out to make it larger, then used a cel stick (you can use a ball tool too) to drag from the middle to the outside to try and give a more “feather-like” impression. It also helped the thin out the fondant at the edges.

The posts were made from the same 50/50 mixture which I coloured brown and then shaped into a thin sausage. I knew it would need to be flat on one side to sit up against the cake. I have a Mankins wood grain impression mat which I used, placing the sausage on top and then sort of rolling it over the mat. It worked much easier than it had when I made the Angry Birds cake, but then I needed 3 sides to hold the impression which was almost impossible.

Hmm, what else?  Ahh yes. I got to play with my Mankins Extruder which arrived a week or so ago. I used that to squeeze out the grass. It wasn’t quite how I pictured it working. The grass is a bit too organised. This morning I used my mini scissors to try an separate some of the “blades” to allow it to appear more natural. I coloured some of the fondant (I’ve got a story there too) and added another Sugarflair colour to give it better green colour. Then I added as much Crisco as necessary to achieve the consistency of chewing gum, rolled it into a sausage and fed it down the tube and pushed out the “grass”. Trying to add such tiny pieces around the side of the logs took some patience too.

Clothesline sceneNow, the fondant. This is the first batch of homemade Marshmallow Fondant. I wrote about making it here.  I made it about two weeks ago. I had it double wrapped in Gladwrap in a Tupperware container. I forgot to rub a bit of Crisco over it before wrapping it up. Anyway, I didn’t know how it would behave, would it be like Bakel’s fondant? Kneading it took a bit more time, each time I pressed it, where the pressure was it sort of split/tore. It wasn’t really working the same and I couldn’t have splits in it, you’re looking for a nice smooth flawless finish. I used a bit of Crisco on my hands and that along with some more kneading finally gave me a consistency I could use. However the extra Crisco now made the fondant sticky, not on the top, but underneath right in the middle where I was rolling out from. It stuck so bad that I couldn’t release it by gently pulling it away from the table. And I’d used what I thought was a liberal amount of cornflour. In the end I added some cornflour to the fondant by dabbing my cornstarch puff over the top and then re-kneading it. And we were away. The fondant stretches just like Bakel’s. It smooths as well, it wasn’t sticky to use the fondant smoother over like I’ve had sometimes. All up I’d say it was a successful experiment and I’ll make it again, especially if I want to get a unique colour that would be difficult to achieve mixing colour into a pre-coloured fondant, or blending colours together. I also used the fondant to make toppers for the cupcakes. I used a quilting patchwork cutter to impress into the fondant (and again it stuck but a dab of cornflour sorted it out) and then a fluted biscuit cutter to cut the topper. I used the left over letter characters to spell out baby and a couple with silicone baby feet like I’ve used on Meredith’s nieces cupcakes. Hmm, I don’t seem to have a post with photos, I know I took some.

Cutting the cakeThere was a huge spread of food for Cel’s lunch. No one would cut the cake, eventually Cel started, but I finished off the job. Cel was delighted with the cake, the cookies and the cupcakes. She was taking some of everything home so her husband could take photos. When I’ve brought baking to work it’s just been our floor that’s seen some of the things I have been working on, new techniques and skills I’m practicing, so a good many people were quite surprised that I made the cake, and then to find out I did the cookies as well. People suggested I start my own business. As I explain, you couldn’t make a living with the amount of time you put into these types of projects. One day I might get quicker but for now I just potter about and have a good time trying new things and seeing a cake like this come together.

All the very best with the new addition to your family Cel. I hope Zayden doesn’t tire of Sydney when she arrives, I know he’s so looking forward to her arrival, as I know you and Ed are.  See you again in January!


Double trouble and welcome to the neighbourhood

It’s been a long time coming, making a recipe from Deb’s blog Smitten Kitchen. But I got there. This is the Double Chocolate Layer Cake.

Here’s the first double. Cake and cupcakes

Welcome neighbours

Chocolate or Berry

And while we’re at it, Chocolate or Berry?

The recipe is for 2, 10” cakes. I really wanted to make Mr Fussy some Raspberry filled cupcakes, and I thought it would be nice to bake a cake for the new neighbours that moved in last Friday. However we didn’t have enough Raspberries, but we had heaps of bags of frozen mixed berries. So mixed berries it was.

Anyway, after reading over 200 comments on this one post on Deb’s blog I was settled on making a 6” layered cake and using the rest of the batter to make cupcakes. So cupcakes for us, cake for them.

There were a lot of people commenting on making the cakes in 9” pans and having the batter pouring over the top. Deb (and another blogger who made the recipe) said that there’s very little rise when baking. So here’s my 6” cakes, in a 3” deep pan. The batter uncooked measured 3cm, and here’s the cupcakes before and after.

3cm to this

Rising to the occassion

With all due respect, this recipe does have more than adequate rise to it. So be warned if you’re making this recipe and trying to cram the mixture from a 10” cake into a 9” cake pan.

The original plan was to bake a two layered cake for Darren and Teresa (I think I have the names right), but when the cakes came out I knew it was going to be rediculous making a layered cake with these two. Change of plan. Split each cake and make two layered cakes. There’s the second double.

Once the cakes had cooled I wrapped them in Gladwarp and put them in the freezer while I got cracking with the Berry filling, and then moved onto the Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

The details

Funny thing making the SMBC. Or not. After last week’s 2nd ever time making this and finding the bowl was so hot that it took an extraordinary amount of time to cool the mixer bowl before beginning to add the butter, I used a different bowl to heat the egg whites and sugar thinking this might alleviate some of the heat by then transferring the mixture to the KitchenAid bowl when it was time.

Nope, as soon as I transferred the mixture it immediately heated the KA bowl and I was again grabbing a towel and dousing it in cold water and wrapping it around the KA bowl. In the end it still took a really long time so I did as Carol mentioned on the Facebook page, and I put the bowl into a sink filled with cold water. I did this when the meringue was really thick and glossy and I was ready to swap from the whipping attachment to the usual mixing paddle. And this was about 20 minutes into mixing the meringue.

French tip

I thought it was time for a slightly different view of the cake to keep you from nodding off while I blabber on about the SMBC experience.

Anyway after the bowl was cooled off I began to add the butter which was cool but not cold out of the fridge. First I didn’t have unsalted butter. I didn’t think it would make a huge difference. I just wouldn’t add the salt with the vanilla to the recipe. Hah! It’s amazing just how much salt there is in normal butter because it was really obvious. But not a nasty “oh I’ve ruined it” surprise. I actually liked it. Even though SMBC isn’t as sweet as normal frosting it’s still sweet. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of sugar still in the recipe, it’s just white sugar, not icing sugar.

I had the wet towel draped over the top of the KA because the motor was till hot and my head very close to the bowl looking to see that each chunk of butter had been fully mixed in before adding the next few cubes. While I was watching, and anticipating adding another two batches of butter (85gm left I might add) I noticed the mixture changing. I actually thought it was about to curdle.

Double everything

By the way, these photos are all of the cake I gave the neighbours, but I promise I made two. You’ll see.

The SMBC wasn’t curdling at all, it was just at the right stage for turning glossy and velvety. Which meant there was no need to add anymore butter. Right? Well I stopped anyway.

The SMBC weighed 1353gm, I made the same quantities as last weekend. 10 cups of SMBC. That’s 9 egg whites. That’s a lot of yolks that I’m still trying to decide what to do with. I’m looking to buy Egg Albumen. I’ve found a couple of options on TradeMe. They’re for weightlifters, but it’s just dried egg whites. What do you think? I hate wasting all those egg yolks. And I can use the dried egg whites for Royal Icing too. I’m not fond of the Wilton Meringue Powder. The CK brand was nicer.

I measured the 353gm into a bowl and added a few dessert spoons of the mixed berry filling to it, and a little bit of Electric Pink Americolor gel to it. I probably didn’t need it. I actually didn’t see any change in the colour. So pretty much all the colour is from the berries.

The remaining 1kg of SMBC I added Whittaker’s Ghana chocolate (70%), I can’t remember how much because I had some that I’d melted last weekend and didn’t use, and then a further 6 pieces. It wasn’t as dark as I was going for but I was too lazy to melt and cool some more before mixing it in.

double trouble

Told you I made two Smile

I got a little distracted when I was torting the cake and while trimming the top I didn’t see that some of the side had broken off. That made the top of the cake the bottom layer to ensure the two little bits that broke off weren’t going to collapse from the side and give me all manner of grief when covering it with SMBC.

At least I didn’t have to make a decision about which cake was being given away. If you want to make a good first impression, give away the best. I guess the fact I turned up there still rubbing meringue off my face and with my yellow croc gardening shoes didn’t really help with a good first impression. Perhaps they overlooked that for the cake.

Anyway, what’s left to talk about?  Ahh yes, the photo up above with the cupcakes and the double coloured frosting.

I decided that if it was good enough to use Gladwrap for RI to then make it easier to put into a piping bag, then it was probably good enough for SMBC, but I went one step further and decided to bundle the Chocolate and Berry into the same bag. It mostly worked out well. Except the house was so hot that the frosting was softening to the point it was becoming difficult to pipe with.

And if you’re wondering about how to make a hole in a cupcake for filling, the apple corer works nicely. Except these cupcakes (and cake) are super moist and squishy that you’ll end up clogging up the end of the corer making it a little untidy. But you can always put the cupcakes in the fridge for 30 minutes. I’m sure that would help, in the same way putting the cakes into the freezer before torting helps.

Mum had wondered if the Strawberry huller would work. It does. But it doesn’t make quite as neat a job as the apple corer. I suspect more homes have an apple corer than a strawberry huller anyway. Though I wouldn’t be without my strawberry huller.

Mixing it up

I’m utterly hopeless with the French tip. I can manage this piping but I can’t not pipe a uniformed round. I tried. I scraped the SMBC off and re-piped it. The fact the SMBC was too soft didn’t do me any favours either. I popped that back in the fridge and waited (impatiently) until it had cooled some before having another go at piping.

Chocolate berry layered cake

Lord knows what we’re going to do with another 5 slices of cake and 18 cupcakes. I have to confess that when I make cakes or cupcakes I tend to snack a little as I work. That’s another reason I’m enjoying making cookies. There’s nothing to nibble on. The trimmings from the top of the cakes, the centres I extracted for the berry filling, all gone, as well as sharing one undecorated cupcake with Mr Fussy to “test” the texture to confirm it was just as Deb and most of her 200+ commenters said.

To recap: the recipe I made as written by Deb with the following changes. Instead of 1 1/2 cups of coffee I had 20ml of Bushells Coffee and Chicory Essence and added boiling water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid. I used  85gm of Whittaker’s Ghana chocolate (70% cocoa). I used mixed berries instead of Raspberries for the filling. The batter weighed 2247gm. I put 600gm into each of the x 6” baking tins and got 19 cupcakes. The cakes still took 60 minutes to bake. The cupcakes 21 minutes.

The recipe from Rosie made 1353gm of SMBC. It was sufficient to crumb coat and frost both 6” layered cakes and frost 18 cupcakes. I have quite a bit of the chocolate left and enough of the mixed berry to frost a couple more cupcakes. All left over frosting is in the freezer.

Double delight

I quite like only having the berry filling between the layers. It didn’t ooze out and it’s difficult to detect , but it’s there. It’s quite subtle but served with the left over berry filling it ramps up all those lovely fresh berry flavours.