On to the plate

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


Faye Cahill inspired cake

My manager has moved onto greener pastures and I wanted to make a cake for her farewell.

I had some ideas, I wanted purple or lavender (Mandy’s favourite colour) and I wanted a bit of pizazz because Mandy is a sophisticated lady who likes sparkly well-made things.

Faye Cahill InspiredThis cake isn’t anything like I started out to make. And with the passage of time (a month has gone by) I can’t even remember quite what my original plan had been. I do know that I wanted to check out how to apply silver leaf (there you go, that was my original plan) and referred to a Craftsy Class I had purchased which Faye Cahill presents, and then I was so taken with her design that I pretty much went with almost all of it.

Fantasy FlowerI had already begun to make the fantasy flower. Fantasy flowers have never worked well for me. Usually I get in a tizzy with it and ball up the flower and either start again, or walk away, or go watch another YouTube video and wonder how they make them so well when I’m struggling. Not that I’ve got crazy skills with realistic flowers, but I find them less of a challenge to get right. There you have it, fantasy is meant to be whimsical and I’m still trying to make it perfect.

I used Chocit for the centre. I was trying to place the little balls into the centre of the flower and they kept sticking to my finger. I had to use a Colour Shaper to ease it off my finger and onto the flower, but I got a little dent. So I just went with it and then poked the little balls all over. That’s the thing with a fantasy flower, no one can tell what it was meant to look like, so anything goes.

Silver leafThe silver leaf was pretty easy to work with. I only had 2 sheets, and my original plan was for gold leaf but when I ordered it, the company called back to say they no longer had it in packs of 5 sheets but I could buy 100. Yeah, nah (Kiwi slag for no). What I hadn’t realised until late in the piece is that silver leaf needs to on the cake for a day before you can place anything over the top. But when I couldn’t sleep I got up at 2am and applied the stencil. The stencil is for a cookie but I was only going to decorate the very front of the cake so the size was perfect. I was a bit hesitant with the stencilling because last time I stencilled a cake it didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted and ended up a little sloppy, mostly I think due to the royal icing being a little on the soft side. The stencilling went fine and I went to bed.

All that was left was to make the fondant cut out pieces, texture them and then use piping gel to get the little nonpareils to adhere. Oh and then to use royal icing to add some other details, which didn’t go quite like I wanted, but I know I obsess a little more than others.

Mandy1The last thing I wanted to do was to add a row of oval silver sugar pearls as a boarder. I placed a few on the cake but they were rolling everywhere. I had two different sizes and was tossing up as to which to add when I realised that it was going to take me forever to place them and the chances they would behave perfectly and stay put was slim to non-existent. I’ve since seen a picture tutorial from Sarah of The Cake Tin did which would have worked perfectly for me. If only her tutorial came before the cake I was making. Still, I know for next time!

Mandy has been gone for a month and I miss her for lots of reason. Everyone who knows Mandy knows you can’t replace someone like her. She’s one of a kind and I’m certain I’m not the only person who feels the void she’s left. If you ever come back Mandy, I’ll make another cake to welcome you!

Cake details:  American Mud Cake by Cake Paper Party. It’s 4 layers with a 7″ cake card separating the bottom two layers to the top two. Ganche using Whitaker’s 50% chocolate. Fondant by Satin Ice. Buttercream filling SMBC with Nielsen Massey Coffee extract.



Preview of a cake duo

There’s not enough time left to give my usual blow by blow account of making these cakes. So for now it’s just a couple of photos with a promise that I’ll do my usual re-cap of what went into making each of these cakes.

The wedding cake was made for Jo’s son’s wedding Saturday afternoon. The 50th cake for Kathy’s fiancee’s birthday.

This is the first time I’ve had two significant cakes to make in the one week, so it was a big thing for me.

More details will follow ….

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

50th Birthday Cake

50th Birthday Cake

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Love is in the air

Some weeks back Sam asked Jasmine to marry him. It was a question asked without doubt of the answer. It was a question lots of family knew was coming. I’ve had a few chuckles at how Natalie must be feeling. It’s a sobering thought when you realise that what she’s going through is what our own parents went through. Now if that doesn’t make you feel old I’m not sure what will.

Cake topper made from modelling chocolate and silver cachous.

Cake topper made from modelling chocolate and silver cachous.

I wasn’t sure if Jasmine and Sam would want a cake, and they certainly didn’t have to feel obliged to ask me, but if they did, I needed to know, and know quickly. Last Friday the email arrived with a picture of a cake they’d seen and liked the look of. And it was Friday I grabbed all the bits from the supermarket.

Before getting to the supermarket we had a bit of a quick discussion and we ironed out a few details and came up with some different ideas given limitations. The cake would be 2 tiers and not a double barrel meaning we didn’t have height to play with to taper in the bottom. I knew I would be practicing a few things to help Jasmine and Sam decide what they did and didn’t want. They just wanted to keep the cake fairly simple.

Friday evening I started out by colouring fondant. Jasmine and Sam had picked out from a colour chart the shade of teal they wanted. I used the ratios in the chart and ended up with something very dark, darker than jade. I spent a lot of time trying to lighten it by adding more and more white fondant. I really dislike colouring during the evening. Natural light is a must for matching colours. Jasmine didn’t want it too blue, or too green. But I had no real reference other than the little block of colour on an online colour chart.

While the colour seemed ok, in the light of day it was quite a greyish blue. I spent time using different impression mats and taking lots of photos to see if we could narrow down the pattern J & S liked.

Fondant on the right, modelling chocolate on the left.

Chocolate on the left, modelling chocolate on the right. Teal ribbon above.

After The Food Show on Saturday I nipped around with the mats and ribbon I’d bought at Spotlight to see if we could agree a few more details. I came home and re-did the fondant to make it more the colour of the ribbon and re-did the two choices Jasmine had narrowed the choices to.

I came home and baked an 8″ square Chocolate Mud Cake (The Planet Cake book) but it didn’t rise as high as the cakes rose when I used the same recipe for the 6″ circles (the recipe makes one 8″ square cake or one 9″ round cake. One 9″ round cake will make two 6″ cakes). No worries. I still had time to bake two cakes on the Sunday. I increased the recipe by a quarter and the cakes baked just as I wanted. The 10″ cake took around 2 hours to bake. I didn’t use a rose nail (to get more heat into the centre) so I was being very cautious with the slow long baking to ensure the cake was properly baked.

The Planet Cake chocolate mudcake.

The Planet Cake chocolate mudcake.

On Sunday I grabbed various green and blue shades of modelling chocolate I had in the fridge and had a crack at making teal. I was having a crack at making a brooch type thing. You see during Sunday morning I spotted my heart necklace. Going along with the theme of being slightly off centre and a little abstract, I thought my own necklace would be a good starting point. Anyway after I made the brooch, and used a fantastic silver paint to mimic the metal edges of the brooch, I decided it was a bit too old looking for such a vibrant young couple. Natalie arrived after lunch with the 10″ tin, at this point I’d moved onto getting a feel for making the hearts. I was using a lighter green colour of modelling chocolate. I wasn’t worried about the colour because I expected to have the framework completely covered in silver cachous. The first crack at the design was a bit chunky and I learnt that the cachous wouldn’t stay put. But it was all a learning experience. It’s not like I do this every other week. I’m glad I trialled everything I wasn’t familiar with. It meant that on Saturday I pretty much knew what I was doing and how I would do it.

Anyway, getting back to the fondant. Sunday morning I took the ribbon and the new Teal outside and it wasn’t a good enough match for my liking. I really wanted it to be brighter than it was. But brightness doesn’t necessarily mean lighter. I was a bit stuck and I was almost paralysed standing there trying to work out how I could brighten it. Finally I got the electric blue and electric green Americolor gels out and I began to add until I was finally happy.

The embossed teal strips and cake use a rose impression mat.

The embossed teal strips and cake use a rose impression mat.

Monday after work I dropped around again and took fondant strip samples of using the newly coloured fondant with the impression mat J & S had decided on, and I took the necklace and the first attempt modelling chocolate hearts to see if the concept was getting close to what they wanted.

Monday evening I went home and practiced covering a square cake dummy. I have to admit to feeling slightly unwell when I realised the cakes would be square. The christmas cake was the last square cake I covered in fondant but it wasn’t ganached. That would be awful on a fruit cake. The one prior to that was Cameron’s 21st cake. I wasn’t very happy with how that turned out, and the more I learn and better I become with different things the worse I feel about his cake. It was a very dense mudcake, the ganache covering was too thick and it was very difficult to ganache.

I used a razor blade to get rid of any little jagged bits of chocolate ganache from the edges.

I used a razor blade to get rid of any little jagged bits of chocolate ganache from the edges.

Talking ganache, I made the ganache on Saturday night. Jasmine has very strong feelings over her chocolate and she doesn’t like dark chocolate. I was making a milk chocolate, which means more chocolate because there’s less cocoa solids. Everything was going along swimmingly. Sunday I took it out of the fridge. It was a bit softer than I had been expecting. I smeared a bit onto baking paper, about as thick as I expected it would be on the cake to see if it would set up and dry out. After many hours it was still tacky and I knew that spell trouble and increase the chances of air bubbles after the cake was covered in fondant. A few questions online and I was back to melting some 60% chocolate and adding it to the ganache. I tried some of that and it was giving the results I needed. Phew.

I know I’m jumping about a bit, but I’m backing up to covering the dummy cake. I covered the dummy with Crisco and then I took my two 750gm packets of Bakels fondant and kneaded it like I’d read in The Planet Cake book. I think previously I was “pummeling” it, as described in the book. I was pretty much kneading it like dough, and overworking fondant can lead to the cracks and elephant skin. So I kneaded it like playdoh. Although I really can’t remember how to knead playdoh. But I wasn’t pummelling it, and that was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I also flattened it more by hand before placing it between the sheets of The Mat to finally roll it out. I was a little bit relieved when I covered the dummy well and without fuss or bother. Phew. The only thing is I was left with what I’m describing as pock marks. I didn’t have an answer for it. I’ve never had it before. I’d also bought Satin Ice fondant on the Saturday and I hoped that it would roll better.

Tuesday morning it was bucketing down so instead of going for a run I decided I’d hand pipe some hearts onto the dummy cake so that J & S could compare and decide which type of heart embellishments they wanted (which was really for my sake, in case I ended up with tears in the fondant and needed to disguise them). I also added some lustre to the cake. I was doing this all backwards. I had the cake covered, the embossed “band” attached and some cut out hearts and now I was trying to paint the base. That wasn’t going to go easily, and it didn’t. The brush strokes left too many streaks. And I was applying this at 6am with my running torch on trying to see what I was doing. In the dull light the silver was looking quite grey. So it was back to Natalie’s Tuesday after work as well. Jasmine wasn’t there so I had to wait to see what she and Sam liked. But more photos were taken and shared. We have a Dropbox album where I added photos to help them get a feel for things.

Word came back that they liked the hearts but would prefer the colour to the same as the band. I totally agreed, and it was my plan that if they liked the heart design I’d re-colour the modelling chocolate to get close to the teal colour. I couldn’t believe how much colour I had to add to the modelling chocolate. I was being as careful as I could to knead it in, but there came a point where the MC was becoming a bit too soft and I didn’t want to risk overworking it and have it crumble when it “rested” and then be completely unusable. I was very pleased the next morning to see it had hardened up perfectly overnight. I still needed to work the colour in a little more but we had a winner.

I wasn’t totally sold on the size of the hearts I’d made on Sunday, or the chunkiness so Wednesday I started over again. This time making the larger heart much larger knowing the MC covering would take up some of the distance that would be between the larger and smaller heart. I also used a heavier gauge of florist tape, and this time white. See, always learning 🙂

Using my necklace for inspiration.

Using my necklace for inspiration.

Before fluffing about with the MC I covered the cake board and used the same impression mat to emboss the fondant. I was using the left over Bakels fondant. As well as that, I was also ganaching the 10″ cake. It was going quite well. The corners weren’t perfect but I planned to work on them further once the sides had set so that I could use them to help guide the bench scrapers up the sides to achieve true corners.

Thursday morning I was up at 4:45am to head to Wellington. I touched the side of the cake and it had dried perfectly. I was thrilled. I flipped it over and pulled away the waxed paper from the top. The top was almost perfect too, but I knew I would need to do a little tidying up.

When I arrived home Thursday night I tidied up the top of the cake, made sharp corners (it was pretty simple after all) and then got stuck into preparing for the 8″ cake which Mr Fussy had collected from Natalie’s to bring home. The 10″ cake I’d pulled out of the freezer on Tuesday night and left in the fridge all day. So when I came to ganaching it, it was still quite a firm cake. I was very pleased I’d levelled the top Sunday night, but I left the top on, and it made it tricky to pull it away cleanly. The 8″ cake I’d instructed Natalie to leave out of the fridge when she got it from the freezer Thursday morning. It was room temperature when I was working with it. The only thing that was slightly nerve-wracking was lifting the whole thing and turning it upside down onto the waxed paper which had a thick coating of ganache (which is how I get the top to be smooth and level). The cake had some give it it because it wasn’t nice and firm from the fridge. But it wasn’t much of a bother. The 8″ cake covered as simply as the 10″ and I was sitting down by 8:30pm, even after covering the new hearts in silver cachous. That was a bit of a fiddly job. Those little round silver balls didn’t really want to stick to the piping gel that I’d brushed all over the hearts. Mostly because MC is waxy and trying to get anything liquid to adhere was never going to be easy. I knew there wouldn’t be a complete coverage, which is why it was important to get a pretty good match to the teal band/ribbon. At one point I even got the tweezers out to try and individually place cachous in gaps I thought were too big. Next was to wait and see if it would set up and firmly stick. I wasn’t really keen to give it a good shake to test things out.

Friday came and I knew it was D day, or F day, Fondant that is. I was fairly relaxed about it, slightly encouraged by my trial run on Monday. For all that a couple of packets of fondant made it into the shopping cart. See, I even went grocery shopping first. No rushing home in an anxious state slightly panicked by the ordeal ahead of me. I was quite proud of myself. Which is not to say that when I began rolling the first lot of fondant (I started with the 8″) I didn’t get a warm feeling from being either hot and bothered, or just hot from all that rolling.

The edge is a little thin, and you can see the pock marks in the fondant.

The edge is a little thin, and you can see the pock marks in the fondant.

The 8″ cake covered nicely, no problem getting the corners tidy, except that just one corner seemed to be a little bit thin and I could make out the ganache underneath. It was weird that it was the height of the cake. The thing with rolling fondant in The Mat is that it’s quite sticky. It doesn’t stick so much you can’t coax it off the mat, but once all is said and done and you’re ready to smooth out the top, the fondant smoothers just grab and don’t want to move freely. For that I have to end up dusting the fondant with cornflour to easy the stickiness and allow the smoothers to glide nicely. But the pock marks were there. Blah. No amount of smoothing was bringing them together to fill out. Oh well.  Onto the 10″ cake. Eeek. Well the dummy cake and the 8″ cake went without any dramas, how about 3 for 3. And yes, I got 3 for 3. Again no drams. I didn’t have quite as much overhang which I worried might pull at the corners, but we were all good. The other thing that had worried me with the 10″ cake is that I took it out of the fridge on Friday morning and left it on the bench (at 5:30am) and it had condensated, I fully expected that. But I also expected it would dry out during the day and be dry as it was overnight after first ganaching it. But it was slightly sticky. I left my fingerprint in the top as I gave it a light touch. I wasn’t concerned it was a bit sticky, I needed that for the fondant to adhere, but I hoped it didn’t increase the chance of the fondant bulging. Though that’s usually from the difference in temperature and the cake relaxing as it comes to room temperature. The really odd thing is that it was cooler than the 8″ cake. I couldn’t understand it. Why would the cake be cooler when it wasn’t a cold day, and it had been sitting out for more than 12 hours by now. Anyway, all was good. I made sure I poked a hole into the top using a skewer so that if any air needed to escape it had somewhere to go (hopefully).

All covered, and covered. Time to rest.

All covered, and covered. Time to rest.

One of the questions I had for J & S was whether they wanted the hearts if I managed to cover the cakes without any tears or any elephant skin. The answer was yes. With the cakes covered I moved onto making the cutout hearts. I wanted them dry before fixing them to the side of the cake, it just makes it easier to touch them. And I figured if I were going to cover the corners like I had on the dummy cake, well I’d just roll some fresh fondant to be able to wrap them around the corners.  In the end I had over 100 hearts in 3 sizes. I had no idea how many I had, but it filled up the turntable so it was time to call it a night.

Did someone say hearts?

Did someone say hearts?

For whatever reason, I found myself awake during the early hours of the morning. I got up and flipped each heart over to give it a chance to dry out on the bottom as well. And then back to bed.

I didn’t get out of bed until 8am, I thought I was doing well. But it was straight up and at it. I started with rolling the fondant and putting each strip through the pasta attachment to ensure I had an even thickness. The 10″ cake was bigger than the embossing sheet so I had to do a bit of careful matching up in order to make the strip as seamless as I could. I watered down the piping gel to make it smoother (piping gel, or at least mine, is a bit lumpy). I used a wide flat brush to brush it on. Rolling the strip up onto it self without it sticking meant that as I coiled it up I’d have to dust the underside a bit to ensure it unravelled freely and didn’t stick and subsequently stretch the fondant.

Even though the strips are pretty uncomplicated in design, they took a bit of time from start to finish. Then it was time to fix the silver cachous onto the seems where the fondant joined at the edges, and lastly to randomly place the hearts. I picked the spots that had the biggest pock marks. That’s how I managed random.

I had another acrylic 21cm square which I used to work out where the top layer would sit and then using the same acrylic square I traced it onto baking paper which I cut out, then went 1″ in to mark out where I’d put the supports. I placed the paper on the cake and using a pin I pierced through the paper at the points and gave the pin a bit of a wiggle to make the hole a little more obvious, then I pushed the plastic dowels in and cut them to size. Oh, what I should have mentioned earlier is that I fixed the bottom tier to the cake board using royal icing. I’ve never used it before and hoped that some 8 hours later it would have set to ensure the bottom tier wasn’t going anywhere.

All doweled up and ready to go.

All doweled up and ready to go.

One of the things I probably spent more time on than was needed on the Saturday was working out what to do with the hearts that were originally across the corner of the dummy cake. I really didn’t want to make it seem like I was masking a mishap like I had intended them to be for, and I felt the hearts didn’t quite blend as well on the corners as I would have liked. I don’t know if I’m sold on the way I used them on the cake either. It sort of reminds me of a curtain opening to reveal something else, that being the silver cachous (in my mind). Anyway it is what it is.

We took the cakes down to the hall for 4pm. I was a little nervous about the cake in the hatch and hoping that royal icing had stuck firmly and the cake itself wasn’t bouncing about in the back unseen to us. I nursed the 8″ on my lap.

I expected it would take an hour to set up, not because I’m slow, but there were decisions that still needed to be made. Did J & S want the left over cut out hearts scattered over the top of the cake. Should I add the ribbon to the cake board or not. How should I place the the heart toppers. I was keen to get the cake set up. Logan was moving around the bench where the cake was mostly on the bench, getting into the fridge. I was looking on nervously and didn’t want him to end up accidentally knocking it as he was putting drinks etc away. We had to go through the whole round or square table, black or white cloth, add the table runner or not. And then as I was getting it set up everyone was moving around the table getting photos hung. It was an interesting time. Once I decided on the height of the hearts I then had to add a little more florist tape and make sure no florist wire was exposed. Even though the topper was sitting inside of a plastic cake pop “straw” I was still being extra cautious. I think in the end the topper might have looked better sitting on the cake rather than a little above. It was a little higher before but as Natalie mentioned, it looked a bit like a lollypop.

Corner details. The draped hearts and graduated silver cachous.

Corner details. The draped hearts and graduated silver cachous.

Both Jasmine & Sam were really happy with the cake. I let them know that I was worried that the cake had turned out quite different to the cake they had originally seen but they both loved it. Jasmine let me know some of her friends had made positive comments about the cake too.

So the cake was cut, then I took it to the kitchen and cut it up some more. We had expected around 160 people, but knew they would be coming and going through the night. Initially we were going to make a 12 and 8″ cake but then I remembered how much cake we had left from Cameron’s 21st. Saturday morning I contacted Natalie and we agreed a 10″ would be more than adequate, and if we thought it wasn’t going to go the distance, we’d just cut them into 1×1″ squares rather than 1×2″ square.

Sooo much cake.

Sooo much cake.

With all the food that Natalie and Sam’s mum had prepared, there was no way there wouldn’t be enough sweet things, so I cut the majority of the slices into 1×1″ pieces. And you can see, there’s plenty left, more than 1/4 of the bottom tier. The top tier completely untouched!

Congratulations Jasmine and Sam, and thank you for the privilege of making your Engagement Cake ❤

Jasmine and Sam's Engagement Cake

Jasmine and Sam’s Engagement Cake


Waitangi Day Celebration Cake – 2014

This coming Thursday is Waitangi Day in New Zealand. I know I have visitors from near and far, so for those of you not from this side of the world, it’s the sort of like the Forth of July in America in that it’s the day we celebrate as a Nation, though the Treaty of Waitangi is a hot topic and is very controversial. It holds more meaning to some than others. I just like to think of us all as being Kiwis and being united in how awesome we are for such a small country.

Waitangi Day NZInitially I had planned to paint onto the cake. I had planned to paint Koru around the cake but the fondant hand-painting class I had enrolled for was cancelled (I’m attending the 2nd class end of February).

Time to come up with another idea. Rattling around the back of my head had been paua. I hoped all that modelling chocolate I’d made a few weeks ago would magically come together into a paua look.

I had few clues as to how I would achieve the look so began with taking bits of different blues, greens and pink/purple and twisting the colours around each other as if I were going to marble fondant. It more or less is the same sort of look but I wanted mine less mingled together than marbling is.

Once I had the look I rolled the MC out and then got my NZ themed cutters out to make the shapes. I wanted to make paua shells too but didn’t how to do it, until I realised the egg cutters would do the job, I just needed some way of forming them into a shell shape.

Paua closeupI realised the look was almost there but paua also has black through it. MC is waxy so painting was out of the question, it would just bead. While in Hamilton I got to searching and after a bit of reading worked out edible markers would be my best bet.

Friday I arrived home and got ready torting and layering the cakes. I was using four 6” cakes I’d had in the freezer, along with strawberry buttercream (made with Fresh As Strawberry freeze dried powder). I expected to use both the 6” cakes and the 4” cake I had. In my mind the size of the North and South Island would be too big for the height of the 6” cakes, but with the amount of buttercream I had I was all good. I had wanted the island to sit just above the top of the cake. And the size of the islands was smaller than I remembered.

I was holding my breath about getting the black lines on the MC. Now when I say holding my breath I’m talking figuratively. I’ve come back from my trip to Hamilton with a cold and it was ramping up. I was feeling pretty miserable, but determined to get the paua drawn.

Everything was coming together well, the cake was the perfect height, I’d gotten it all ready for ganaching on Saturday, and I had achieved the markings on the MC.

Saturday I got everything prepared to ganache the cake, and I’m happy to report that it took more time to line cake boards with waxed paper and get the other equipment out than it did to actually ganache the cake. For whatever reason it was a breeze. Although I was still a little suspicious the ganache wouldn’t set as firm as I wanted. I left the cake in the fridge a bit over 2 hours before getting it while I prepared the cake board.

Other bits and bobs

I made some Peony leaves for a fantasy flower that broke, and also some broaches from modelling chocolate, with a flourish of different lustre dusts.

I had recalled buying ribbon at the Paper Tree thinking I would use it for the Moustache Cake. It was a good match for the type of gradient colours of the paua, well I think it works. I used double sided tape to fix the ribbon to the board.

The paua was coming along nicely with the addition of lustre dust. I dry dusted the MC, and at the last minute realised that I had a pink shimmer dust that would help draw out the pink/purple tones in the paua. The shells came to life really well, but the flat decorations are hard to see the shimmer unless you move around the cake.

While I was fluffing about rolling out the fondant for the cake board I noticed the condensation on the ganache. I’ve never seen that before. I wonder whether the new fridge is set a bit cooler than the inside fridge.

By the time I had finished the cake board, kneaded and rolled the fondant for the cake, an hour had passed. I used cooled boiled water to brush the cake to allow the fondant to stick. The brush strokes were leaving marks so I knew the ganache was a bit on the soft side.

Paua Shells

Finally a cake where I achieved sharp edges

The cake was 5.5” tall on a 6” wide cake. It was so close to being a double barrel cake. A cake size I find really hard to cover without the fondant cracking on the top edge, or pulling down or the sides not having adequate coverage. I had one shot at this so I chose to clear the coffee table so I had better control over the cake allowing me to be more above it. Mr Fussy was helping to guide the fondant (I used The Mat) so that it sat just to the bottom of the cake. And away I went. Strangely everything was working out nicely. I was getting the fondant nicely smoothed on the sides and not pleats or tucks and I had adequate coverage everwhere. There were no tears along the top edge. I began to breathe again (my cold is worse so that was a difficult moment ;-))

I’m not sure why I waited to add the decorations, I guess having had mixed results with fondant covered cakes I know there’s a chance of a bulge. I waited over and hour and it all looked good. On went the decorations. I used candy melts piped to the back of the decorations to add around the cake, and fondant for the shells on top, which I brushed with the Antique Gold and Pink Shimmer lustre dusts to help it look so obviously plonked on.

After packing away some of the equipement I decided I’d make use of the natural light and begin to take photos. Mr Fussy was helping me out by holding up different items of my work clothing to add as the background. It was surprising how many of my dresses had the mottled colours of paua. After all the fluffing about we both agreed that only one dress was suitable, and it added a bit of a moody look that we both thought gave the idea of New Zealand being “the Land of the Long White Cloud”.

KiwiHaving taken photos of all 3 sides it was back to the front when I spied the beginnings of a bulge, right where the Kiwi was sitting. I was disappointed, but not beaten. I removed the Kiwi and started to prick the fondant with the sterile sugical needle, that wasn’t cutting it. I got a normal pin, that wasn’t having any effect, so I went all out and put that sucker in and moved it around to widen the hole. And I waited. And waited.

I made dinner, not that I felt like it. I was miserable. My head was hot and hurting, my nose wouldn’t ease up running, my eyes were watering, and I was in the kitchen following a new recipe for dinner. Needless to say it took a bit longer to pull dinner together than normal. Mostly because I’d be sneezing and my nose would run and I was constantly grabbing at tissues.

When I thought the bulging had stabilised I used the fondant smoothers to push the bulge out flat and stuck the Kiwi back on. Then while watching TV I kept eyeing the cake and I was sure it was beginning to bulge again.

Paua FernI was very thankful I’d taken the photos during the day and not left it until today. And because I was feeling miserable, I almost didn’t care what happened to the cake. I was too embarrased to give it to Mr Fussy for work, I didn’t want anyone to see the unsightly bulge.

I’ve had 3 hours sleep and at 3am I got up to get more Sudafed and Panadol and took the opportunity to look at the cake. It had worsened, but that didn’t stop me grabbing my acetate to try and push the air out into a new hole I’d poked into the fondant. The poor Kiwi was being pushed out and was at a really odd angle, tipping toward the cake board. At 5am when I was still awake and beside myself I got up again and had a drink. The cake hadn’t magically fixed itself and the tear in the fondant seemed to have worsened.

Still awake at 6am and no sleep in sight I got to reading some articles on Lightroom, and I learnt how to use the spot removal tool. Having given up on sleep I got up at 8:30am and set about touching up my photos to remove the little tell-tale sign at the front of the cake that might have given a clue the bulge was coming. Oh and I learnt about adding a watermark. Not that I think my photos are fabulous and sought after, but hey, I like this cake, I really liked this cake. I got a sharp edge, it covered well and the decorations came up better than I dared hope, so I don’t want anyone taking my photo and passing it off without credit where credit is due. Go me 😉

So there we have it, my Waitangi Day cake for 2014, quite a different cake to last year, and that cake has been pinned quite a few times on Pinterest. Who would have guessed.

Land of the long white cloud

Using my dress as a backdrop, getting that cloudy look.

Later in the week I’ll post the Kiwi cookies I made a few weeks back, they were fun, and cute.


I finally got the Modelling Chocolate right

Lite or Light?

The difference is clearOne of the many few things that has baffled me last year is modelling chocolate.

At the beginning I tried Glucose Syrup. It was too thick. The modelling chocolate just crumbled and I wasn’t able to knead it well. But I still managed to make use of some of it.

I made this practice cake, my first foray into using modelling chocolate.Wrapping-paper-design.jpg

Somehow I managed to get the consistency (proportion of Glucose Syrup) right, at least enough to decorate Cameron’s 21st cake.

Mr-Fussy-Photo.jpgBut I knew it wasn’t right. I knew it wasn’t this wonderful thing that others claimed it to be. I knew that Jessica Harris and Loren Kitchens loved it and I had their recipes (JH uses compound chocolate, LK uses real chocolate – the proportion of corn syrup differs) and followed them to a “T” having found Martha’s Backyard in Auckland stocked Karo Corn Syrup, the very same brand that both ladies used in their recipes.

But, and it’s BIG but, I mucked up. I got so caught up on the Craftsy classes saying light corn syrup, the clear stuff, that I thought it was lite corn syrup. Clearly I was seeing and hearing what I thought was right because the recipes had light corn syrup. I thought the reason they were stressing light was because it was the lite version, the one with less sugar. The stress was on light being clear, rather than the dark corn syrup (which I clearly hadn’t twigged to).

Last time I used modelling chocolate it was for the accents to the Movember cake.

Best MoI used real chocolate thinking it might make the difference. No, in fact it was quite impossible to use. So soft. I could barely cut out the moustache shape and getting it from the mat to the cake was causing me to break out into a sweat. Of course it was also a really hot day that day.

At some point late last year I put in another order for Martha’s Backyard (while shipping was free) and I came across the light corn syrup. Finally the penny dropped. Light, NOT lite.

With Christmas being so close I was busy making Christmas type goodies and had no time to try out the new light corn syrup. Until this weekend.

I’ve just returned from a trip to Hamilton and wracking my brain about what baking I’d like to try out. The only thing that popped into my head was to try out the new light corn syrup.

Friday night I arrived early evening and that’s the first thing I did. I grabbed a bag of Wilton Candy Melts and refreshed my mind the proportions of corn syrup needed for each gram of compound chocolate. I was using Jessica Harris’ recipe. I picked out two colours, Sugarflair Grape and Americolor Mauve. I really don’t know why I keep using Mauve because I don’t like the colour.

I wasn’t 100% sure this was going to work so a colour I disliked wouldn’t matter if I ended up tossing the lot out.

But guess what!? It worked! At least after the hour following mixing it was a consistency that I could knead without too much grunt work, it didn’t crumble and even after quite a long period of kneading (I realised the first knead still hadn’t distributed the colour evenly) the modelling chocolate still held its own.

2014-01-10 21.52.01I went to bed feeling pretty pleased that this modelling chocolate would work.

In the morning the MC had firmed up and was hard. Very promising. Next I tried real chocolate. I had a little 50% Whittaker’s chocolate which I used with some black food gel colour, hoping it would turn blacker. I had Cadbury white Melts as well. I coloured a bit of it with white food gel (don’t do this! It doesn’t get absorbed, just becomes a bit of a slimey mess) and finally I went with Sky Blue. Knowing the chocolate was quite a creamy almost yellowish tint I wanted to combat that. I got out my trust colour wheel (which I don’t understand) and went with the complementary colour, hoping it would neutralise the creamy/yellow tinge. I added a bit of orange. The sky blue (which I might have added a bit too much of) ended up a lovely peacock blue. Not at all what I was aiming for.

2014-01-11 10.32.17While out in the garage fitting the new fridge/freezer in place (happy girl am I!) I grabbed all the little plastic containers with white compound chocolate Natalie brought back with her during their holiday in July. I checked the best by date …. 4 January 2014. Yikes!

Now I was on a mission. I wanted to use ALL of it. All 4 containers of 500gm of compound chocolate.

Tints and tonesRight (Sunday when I drafted this) now I’m typing and my arms, which are mostly flat against my side, are aching. My shoulders are so sore from kneading colour into the MC.

I began using the compound chocolate from BakeBoss (in Australia) by mixing the “electric” food gels. I remembered something Rosie from Sweetapolita said (when colouring buttercream which is also yellowish). She uses the electric colours to help neutralise the yellow. I began with electric green. I used a little bit of by comparison to my sky blue. It was a bit too light for my liking, not really looking that vibrant. But once I’d left it for a good hour I began kneading portions of it and adding extra electric green, then adding other green colours to give me some variations.

Next came the electric pink batch. It was quite bright (having learnt from the green) so I left one portion as is (but kneaded it to a uniform colour) and then added a number of different pinks to the remaining portions. And the same with the electric blue. Lots and lots of variations of blue. The last small portion I added some royal purple to. The light was fading so I wasn’t really sure what colour it ended up, but I’d say it was the closest to a sky blue. Weird.

20140111_193358This morning, after reading a post on Sweet Sugarbelle’s website about colouring royal icing red, I decided to use the last 200gm of compound chocolate with the Tulip Red I had. I got a lovely orange colour 🙂 To this I took a portion and again added more of the base colour, tulip red. Then to the rest I used different shades of orange and yellow.

20140112_083602Still not happy with my original MC, I took the Mauve and broke it into portions and made some different shades of brown and then added some to the Grape, some of the yucky white MC and I came up with all sorts of combinations. While I loved the original grape colour, I had too much of that colour. I took some of the original tulip red, some white and then added Royal Purple to a portion as well. And all up I have 34 colours.  And I’ve almost used my entire bottle of Light Corn Syrup, so I’ve put in a order for another couple of bottles, and blow me down, the free shipping until the end of 2013 is still on! I suspect someone has forgotten to update the website, but hey, I’m not complaining 😀

20140112_113540Now that everything has been mixed and remixed what I noticed is the original mauve and grape mixed with the white aren’t setting the same as the other colours. All of them are now in the fridge so hopefully they’ll all end up the same when it comes time to use them. Use them? Now I have to get my thinking cap on. Just what will I use them all in/on/for?

Using modelling chocolate in a brooch mouldIf you want to see some more photos (showing all the different gel colours I used to get all the different shades), I have them in an album on the Facebook page.

And now that I’m feeling pretty chuffed about making modelling chocolate I’ve just purchased a tutorial from ChokoLate and her recipe and it’s so very very different! It has icing sugar, water (!) and Glucose. I’ll give it a crack because she makes such stunning figurines (she lives in Belgium, she’s immersed in chocolate ;-)) and the finish of her modelling chocolate is like nothing I’ve seen before. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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.

2013-11-23 16.30.46

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.


Show Day!

Darth Maul

Canterbury inspired coloursSome weeks back I had planned to use some cutters I ordered from Not Just Cakes by Annie. The cake I had covered had a big fat unsightly fondant blowout which put paid to my plans.

I’ve also been wanting to use modelling chocolate again. I’ve recently purchased Jessica’s new Craftsy class Simply Modern Cake Design.

Often I’m looking for excuses to practice cake decorating and what do you know, it’s Show Day this coming Friday. That’s Canterbury Anniversary for you non-Cantabrians. I made a his and hers cake for taking to work. You might recall last weekend I baked the White Chocolate Mud Cakes.

Initially I was going to stack the cakes, just for the purpose of taking photos. But I did away with that idea. I decided there was no need to poke holes into the larger cake just to satisfy my desire to have a two tiered cake to photograph.

As is usual, not everything went according to plan. And even though I’ve gone through spells of being happy with the outcome, then not liking it (I see Darth Maul and a Harlequin), to waking up this morning and having some sense of accomplishment, to deciding it’s still not what I had in mind.

This blog post is therefore a mix of happy moments, frustrating moments and a thankful learning experience. I realise that those mistakes I made have given me the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson(s), and for that I’m thankful, and it makes it all worth it.

A couple of weeks ago I made homemade marshmallow fondant. It’s a recipe that was included in the class materials for the first Clean and Simple Cake Design. And for your viewing pleasure, it’s also on YouTube.

Now apart from liking a good experiment and comparison to my first batch of homemade fondant (by Rose Bakes), I wanted the fondant for these cakes to be grey. I’ve “made” grey before by adding a touch of Bakels black fondant to white, but the grey always had a purple tinge. I didn’t want that. I spoke with Lindy from Cake & Sugarart asking what type of food gel she uses and she told me about the Liquorice Sugarflair food gel. I’ve got so that I’m loving the Sugarflair colours.

I was looking forward to having a lovely dove grey showing behind the cutters I was using.

After last weekend I was nervous the 8” cake would be tall enough. I made another 8” two layer cake. I was in two minds to cut one of them down to 6” and add another layer to the 6” cake. I was intending to put a cake card into the cakes, basically so the 8” would feed everyone from my floor (over 30 people). Using just the one layer for each cake would give me 5 layers each cake. That was problematic when I was going to put a cake card half way. I’d end up with a double layer and 3 layer cakes. I like everything to be nice, neat, and EVEN. The 6” ended up remaining as 4 layers and the 8” 6 layers.  That’s two, three-layer cakes.

IMBCWhat I did was torte and fill the first 3 layers (ending in Italian Meringue Buttercream), then put bubble straws in before putting the cake card on top. The layer on the top side of the card is resting directly on the card, just as if it were the cake board.

I then had the worry of covering it in fondant. When I covered Mum’s cake for her birthday I had no end of trouble with the fondant tearing, and that cake wasn’t as tall as this one.

In Jessica’s latest Craftsy class she has a lesson on covering a double-barrel cake with fondant. Now the 8” was only 6” tall, so it was only 1.5 times (in the USA the normal cake height is 4” high, a double-barrel is therefore twice the height). Jessica had said that if the diameter was greater than the height of the cake, the draping method would work best, the alternative is the panel method (which is what I did with Mum’s cakes).

I did everything the same as Jessica showed. I used shortening over the cake for the fondant to stick to.

I did find the fondant was a bit sticky. It stuck to the table as I was rolling it out. It took quite a bit of cornflour and plenty of turning the fondant as I was rolling it to keep things tick along nicely.

1311_8 and 6 inch cakes-2-2But guess what? No, it didn’t tear. I just didn’t line it up right and one side was way too short. Thankfully I saw that about .8312 seconds after having just placed the fondant over the top of the cake. I was able to peel the fondant off really easily, just pull it away from the cake and I was back in business. There was a tiny bit of ganache on the fondant but it just sort of disappeared as I rolled it out again.

Second time was pretty perfect. I still had one little tiny bit where the fondant didn’t reach the bottom but fondant stretches and by the time I got to that (having smoothing the top and adhering the very top/sides to prevent any tearing), the fondant had already stretched and covered the cake completely.

I was pretty happy with how the cake covered. Even though I was going to end up covering pretty much every inch with the decorations, I still worked to get the top crisp without tipping the cake upside down to achieve it. I did enough that it encouraged me that I could do it better/properly if I spent a bit more time.

Modelling ChocolateBefore I got to covering the cakes in fondant I’d spent the morning rolling out the modelling chocolate and making the panels for the 6” cake. My first idea was to try and make the ITM Canterbury Rugby teams jersey. It’s stripes graduating in thickness from red going to black. But I’d have had to cut some stripes 1/2 cm which was just asking for trouble. And trouble I did not need. So I stuck with graduating thicknesses (1cm, 1.5cm and 2cm), and laid the pattern diagonally meaning I didn’t have to cut such long strips (going around the cake) which would likely have been very fragile.

I forgot that working with modelling chocolate is back breaking work. Honestly I could barely stand up straight by the time I was finished. And my head hurt too. I had to calculate how tall I thought the cake would be covered (which I did get right) and how much bigger the circumference would be. Which I didn’t get right. I was about 1.5cm too short which I had to laugh at as I put the last panel on the cake. Then I had to come up with some way to “disguise” my faux par. I decided that I’d add a black panel and then use my new First Impressions pearl silicone mould for red “beads”. I was going for a bit of a zipper/button type look. I decided it could almost pass for being the back of a dress. Use your imagination 😉

1311_Front and back-2-2The 6” cake was much easier to cover. The reason I covered the 8” first is that I wasn’t certain I had enough grey fondant to do both of them. As it turns out I had more than enough.

I wished I was certain I had enough fondant. It would have been easier to complete one cake before moving onto the next.

One down, one to go.

I mixed modelling chocolate (the same as I used for the 6” cake) and fondant together for the decorations of the 8” cake. The mix was so soft and I thought I was doomed.  Well not doomed. I had plenty of fondant. It was another moment of frustration and disappointment. I decided that I might as well use that soft stuff to lay out my pattern.

HarlequinI had already drawn the pattern out using the cutters last weekend and now I had two more layers. I had been giving it some thought during the week and decided that I’d really like the one cut out pattern to sit above the height of the cake. I had hoped I could cut out that bit that peeked above the cake, so that it would be a bit of a loop look, but I didn’t have anything to cut a semi-circle so that idea went out the window. But while I was fluffing about with the pattern layout and assuring myself I had the right number of pattern repeats for the diameter of the cake, the fondant/modelling chocolate was firming up. Yippee. Back in business.

And here’s yet another very important lesson. When you’re using a pattern, it wouldn’t hurt to put your ruler up against it to make sure you’re keeping things nice and straight. The gap, the bit where my nice grey fondant was to show through, was obviously not even all the way around. I built one pattern up to the very top and it looked good, then I started to continue with the layers from the bottom now going all the way around, and when I got to the back I realised I was out of space. Crap.

I managed to ease some of the pattern off and try and squish up as much as I could. But that nice grey that I wanted to see peeking through, well that’s no more one section of the cake.

We live and learn and I’ve learnt a lot from making and decorating these cakes.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I wasn’t even sure that I would be decorating cakes. I took the cake I baked on Monday from the freezer Thursday morning and put it in the fridge. I was out of town Thursday and Mr Fussy was collecting the other cakes from my sister who had made room so I could freeze them.  However my sister had forgotten to take the cakes out when I was expecting (I’m just grateful she helps me out the way she does) and the cakes were frozen still when I arrived home from Nelson. I knew I couldn’t torte and fill them as I had planned. Then I felt the one I had left in the fridge all day. It was also really solid to the touch. I got on with making a batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream. I added ½ a jar of Salted Caramel sauce to it (my usual recipe). It was glorious stuff.

Friday morning I checked the 6” cakes and they were still solid. I took one out of the fridge and left it on the bench while I went for my run. When I got in I torted it. My word it was so solid and difficult to cut. It was dense, hard, cold and unforgiving. But I finally got there. Then I used the spray bottle I’d filled with a simple sugar syrup and then sprayed all cut surfaces and wrapped it back up while I showered. When we left for work 30 minutes later it had just enough give that I hadn’t completely ruled out cake decorating, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

Thankfully when I got home from work it had returned to the same density as it was when I wrapped them for freezing. Phew. But be warned, if you do make these cakes, don’t be surprised when they’re so rock solid that you’re wondering if even the birds would eat it, if you had to throw them away. And they are difficult to cut from the fridge.

Usually people prefer to torte their cakes from the fridge when they’re firm, which does make it easier to cut straight, but these were so difficult I would recommend leaving them out of the fridge for a good 30 minutes before waving a sharp knife at them.

Ok, have I left anything out?  Bound to, even though this is already a novel.

Of course I always have doubts when I decorate. My one nagging question is have I used too much sugar syrup on the layers that the cakes might be a bit soggy? I hope not.