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Waitangi Day – 2015

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Waitangi Day Celebration Cake

Haha, I just typed 2014. Boy it’s tough remembering we’re in a new year. Here’s a fun fact (not), I’ve gotten lazy with my writing and seem to always be in a rush. My 5 is verging on an S. I’ve been fully concentrating on making my 5’s more like 5’s. So 2015 is starting to look good 🙂

Seems odd to say “starting”. Here we are, the first day of February. Well January seemed to have flown by. For New Zealand February represents a month where we have a long weekend. Waitangi Day is on Friday. And as has been my custom the last few years, I’ve made a cake in recognition that Waitangi Day is something special to New Zealanders.

It was while we were holidaying in the Sunshine Coast that I began looking for a design that would give a uniquely Kiwi flavour to the design of the cake. I found this image on Flox.co.nz, it was one of several designs being considered for Fly My Pretties tour.

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

Check out the crack. Thankfully not a game changer to my plans

I loved the design but wasn’t sure I could pull it off. There’s a lot of detail in that Tui. But I decided to go for it with some minor changes, like excluding all that finer detail in the wings. I added some tylose to fondant and rolled it out and then used the image which I’d printed and then traced the image outline including some of the larger details. I wanted to give the Tui a bit of movement so I used some foam pieces to place under the wings and body and as I did that a crack appeared down the left side of the body. Boo. There was nothing I could do but to wait and see if the gumpaste hardened enough that it held the wing to the body or if it was going to drop off meaning I had to start again. Although I was going to wait 3 days  before gingerly picking up the Tui and seeing if it was in one or two pieces I couldn’t wait that long. I’m so very impatient. The next day (could I have waited less time? I think not!) I picked it up and turned it over and saw the crack was superficial. It hadn’t come through the back at all. Phew, but still annoying.

The colours weren't quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

The colours weren’t quite what I hoped. I wanted more depth and some shine.

Still I had to get up the courage to start painting the Tui. I looked at it each time I passed the dining room table. I kept telling myself I must make a start. But I told myself there was still plenty of time, and I had other things I wanted to finish before I needed to start worrying about the Tui. I did however make a start and at least get the outline painted, and the tail. But the wings. Well I was starting to have a change of mind as to how I would decorate the cake. Initially I planned to have a two tier cake, simply decorated with only the Tui. That meant I’d have to do something about the wings. Gulp. A new plan started to emerge. I would add some colour to the Tui, basically colouring in the wings. Having the outline and a new plan was all I needed to then procrastinate some more. I used the time to toss around ideas about how I would apply colour. Petal dust of painting with watered down food colour. As is typical, I couldn’t decide so made a start on what I thought would be easiest to get together. Hand painting it was. I wasn’t sold on the look so this morning I used petal dusts and some lustre. You see I had this image in mind for the colours and my hand painting wasn’t really up to scratch with dept of colour.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

With a bit of time and some petal dust and lustre I finally had the look I had in mind.

Ok, so the Tui was pretty much all I had hoped it would be. I still can’t see past the crack, but maybe I’m the only one. So it was onto the cakes.

I had baked Summer Stone’s Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake (my favourite non-chocolate cake by the way) a few weekends ago and had it in the freezer. I also had a 5″ American Chocolate Mud Cake in my sisters freezer. The mud cake was already ganached and good to go. I ganached the SCVB cake on Saturday. Leah popped over to have a look at how I ganache my cakes. Funnily enough I was almost at a complete blank. It’s been almost 2 months since I last ganached a cake, and there’s been Christmas and holidays and old age that I started out all wrong. But it soon came right and we were able to chat about a few things that have happened over the last 4 years since we worked together.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn't be fixed. I hoped it didn't affect the integrity of the ganache.

Miserable little crack that just wouldn’t be fixed. I hoped it didn’t affect the integrity of the ganache.

When I got up this morning I noticed a hair line crack in the ganache on the 8″ cake. Boo again. I applied a bit more ganache to smooth over it and hoped by the time I got back from the gym it would be all ok and I could get on with covering the cakes in fondant.

I had gone to the gym a bit earlier so I could get home a bit earlier because we were gearing up for a hot day today. I wanted to get the cakes covered before the heat affected the ganache making my life miserable. But it was still too late, even though I was covering the cakes before 10am. As soon as I shifted the 8″ cake the crack came back, but longer than it had been. And while covering the cake wasn’t a problem, I knew the ganache wasn’t as firm as it should be, so there was a look of giving the the beady eye waiting to see if it would bulge. I was really wondering if I’d have the same sort of disaster I did with Jasmine and Sam’s wedding cake.

Going back to my simplistic clean design, well in my rethinking of that I decided that I wanted to repeat the Tui tail around the sides of the 8″ cake. Thankfully I had a larger image of the Tui and I used that as my template to score the pattern around the sides of the cake. I repeated the pattern 4 times, by the 3rd time I used a better tool for pressing into the fondant, and by the forth time it was much easier. I had to go back over the first two patterns to help smooth out the grooves to make it more fluid and less like I’d gouged the fondant (which I was basically).

It was so hot in the house, for the first time ever I had to put the cake into the 3rd bedroom, being on the cooler side of the house, in hopes that it would hold back the bulging, because there were tell talk signs that where the bottom layer was, it was starting to get a nice puffy ring around the cake.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Not everything goes to plan. The joys of cake decorating in Summer. Cracks, thinned fondant and ganache that should never be visible following a layer of fondant.

Now onto the 5″ cake. This cake was 4.5″ tall so I knew I had my work cut out for me just with the height of the cake vs. the diametre. And the ganache was softer than the 8″ cake. It was suck it and see. And it wasn’t pretty. The fondant tore away at the top on one section and I pushed it back up, but made a bit of a flap where it overlapped now. I’d already decided I was going to texture the side of the 5″ cake. I’d been watching a Craftsy class by Faye Cahill during the week and she was demonstrating this technique so I wanted to give it a go. Plus I needed both of these cakes to stand on their own as well as being cohesive together. The 8″ is going to my work, the 8″ to Mr Fussy’s work. I do like to make things more challenging in the design stakes.

The fondant was a bit of a dogs breakfast but I was making some progress in tidying it up. Well I thought I was until I turned the cake and saw the biggest baddest bulge I’ve ever seen on such a small cake. It was really bad. I pulled the fondant from the side of the cake (this is why I prefer to use Crisco on the ganache in preparation for fondant) to see if I could push that sucker out. It wasn’t having any of it. I wondered if in fact the ganache was bulging because I was putting more pin pricks into the fondant than an acupuncturist would deem necessary to fix a stubborn ache. But I persevered and I won, sort of. The fondant was really thin, and the ganache has snuck out the bottom making it look somewhat untidy, but I wasn’t too concerned. A bit of ribbon would hopefully cover that up. I then textured the side of the cake. It could have worked better. Some of it impressed better than other patches. I was quite thankful that Mr Fussy tends to cut up cake before anyone at his work gets to see what it was to begin with. That took the pressure off trying to make it better. There’s plenty of room for improvement but working against the heat is something I knew I’d not win. So no point getting all in a fluster for.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

Two out of four views of the hand painted Tui tail feathers.

The last little bit was to colour the Tui tail feathers that I’d impressed into the side of the cake. Up close I wasn’t sure if I needed to do anything. I wondered if it was enough to just have the impressions. But when I stood back it wasn’t noticeable. I set about using petal dusts (all edible) to apply colour. I made each of them slightly different. And I tried really hard to add a little colour at a time. Since I’m so patient (not!) I was getting tired of little by little, even though I knew it was the way. It’s hard to do things the way you know is right when you just want to see results immediately. I must have been a very trying child (and adult).

The 8" cake before adding the second tier.

The 8″ cake before adding the second tier.

Having applied the colour I again stood back and realised that it was looking more like seashells than feathers of a bird. Great, I’m going to have to use food colour to outline the feathers to make it look like it’s meant to be something. Instead of black, I used dark brown. I didn’t want such a harsh outline. I started with just the outline and it made a big difference, but it still wasn’t finished enough. I needed to add the details, and when I had, it really made a big difference.

It was finally time to put it all together. I put the ribbon around the top tier which certainly helped to hide the section that had ganache visible. But before I committed to putting the top tier on, I took a few photos. Even though I had tried to wipe the underside of the perspex cake board the 5″ cake was on, I knew it was highly likely that some chocolate would still be there and it would transfer to the bottom tier. I was also a little concerned the Tui wouldn’t hold. But as it turns out everything came together fine. I used two poly dowels to support the top tier and candy melts to attach the Tui to the top tier. Photos taken all I had to do was dismantle it all so that I could separate the cakes for Mr Fussy to take his one to work. I now had to prize the Tui off the top tier. The candy melts had done the job so well it was difficult to remove the Tui. And you don’t get to take something that’s been stuck to the side of the cake off without leaving some carnage. It’s not too bad, but again I’m thankful that no one will likely witness the cake uncut. The Tui wasn’t spared from damage either. Some of the tail has broken off. No tears were shed. I have some photos of what it looked like all complete and I’m pretty happy with the overall look. To anyone else this just represents a slice of cake with coffee at morning tea time. I’m not too precious about the cake.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

Quite like this guy. Mr Tui looked good there for the few minutes I took to take photos.

So New Zealanders and Kiwis everywhere. Enjoy the long weekend that is ahead if you’re in New Zealand. Happy Waitangi Day (for Friday!).



ANZAC Day 2014

Lots of people have made the most of having Easter Monday being the same week as ANZAC Day (Friday) and have taken the 3 days off to give them a 10 day break. That’s smart thinking. We’ll just wait out the 9 weeks we’ve got left before a 6 week trip over the other side of the world. We’re ok with going back to work for 3 days.


ANZAC Day cake

I try to do something ahead of time for an upcoming holiday or special event, so I made use of the extra time at home to make my cake for ANZAC Day. I baked the cake on Friday and froze it overnight. I wasn’t sure the cake would turn out because I botched the recipe (it was another variation of a box mix) adding a packet of instant pudding that I didn’t need, and doubling the water (the recipe was actually for 2 cake boxes and I only needed one, so I needed to halve everything but kept the water at the original volume). That cake took 65 minutes to bake and I still wasn’t sure, but I had enough of getting up and down to the sound of the oven buzzer every 5 or so minutes.

As it happens, the cake has a lovely flavour and it has the right sort of texture I would expect.

Gumpaste poppies made using Bakels Red fondant with tylose.

Gumpaste poppies made using Bakels Red fondant with tylose.

I started the poppies on Saturday late afternoon. I figured I’d make enough for 3 poppies expecting some breakages but I should still get one good one from it. After dinner on Saturday I ganached the cake. Round cakes are such a breeze to ganache by comparison to square cakes.

Closer look at the handpainting at the front of the cake.

Closer look at the handpainting at the front of the cake.

I got up early on Sunday to cover the cake and cake board. I knew I needed the fondant to dry out 24 hours before hand painting. But I got impatient and decided to airbrush the board and cake just after lunch time. I didn’t have a problem with doing either. The cake board had more airbrushing because the fondant I used was a mix of autumn gold and white which gave this really cool marbled effect. I didn’t think the colour of fondant I used would matter given I was going to airbrush it. But the yellower fondant meant that the green I thought I was going for, ended up a more avocado colour.  I never expected the colour of the cake to blend seemlessly into the cake board so I wasn’t phased. Just calked that one up to experience and know for future that while it wont matter what colour I use, I need to compensate for it when I make up the colour.

This was the first time I’d used the airbrush on fondant. Mr Fussy was assisting. He was holding up a long sheet of paper towel behind the cake to catch any overspray. I took the lightly lightly approach. It’s better to have less colour because you can continue to build, but it turned out pretty well. I also had to hold a round piece of parchment (for lining a cake tin) on the top to lessen the chance of spray ending up on the top of the cake. All in all I think we did just fine. If anything I should have had more of the side with green, I thought I had until I started to hand paint the poppies and realised how much blue I had.

This is the first poppy. I hadn't realised just how many times you'd need to wind the black thread. This was a bit sparse.

This is the first poppy. I hadn’t realised just how many times you’d need to wind the black thread. This was a bit sparse.

Sunday afternoon, after packing up all the airbrush stuff (always so much stuff!) I got around to making the poppies. I dusted them (which is something I really don’t enjoy) and then made them up. Those things are tricky to make. The thread wanted to get caught in the florist tape and I was finding it difficult to get the tape up to the very top of the wire. But it turned out fine and I didn’t have any breakages. I even went so far as to steam the flowers. I went the whole hog aka completing the job. The new steamer I bought from Nicholas Lodge is the business. It’s very fierce. Heaps of steam. Which is a lot better than waving the flower over a pathetic excuse for a steaming jug. Still, it’s probably a good endorsement for a jug, you’re unlikely to get a steam burn.

I was doing well for time and everything so far was working as I had planned. That just left the flowers to hand paint today. I spent a little bit of time looking at images for fields of poppies. That had been what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know how to start things. Do I build up the green field and then add in the flowers. When should I paint the stems? I had no idea, and I feel like the painting process was a big clumsy. I think I should have begun with building more green.

Because I’m not an artist I had a few practice runs with using a pencil and paper to get the “flow” of drawing a poppy. I had a few variations, and I knew that if mine weren’t an exact replica it wouldn’t matter. No one would know what I was basing my poppies off.

I struggled a bit with the shading, and I had to keep reminding myself that as I drew and filled in with colour not to be put off with how things were shaping up. I was far from finished and it would start to come together as I added more detail. And on the whole I was happy with how the flowers were finished. Of course there’s some I don’t think are as well drawn and others that are my favourite.

This is one of my favourite handpainted poppies.

This is one of my favourite handpainted poppies.

Lastly I had to figure out how to place the poppies. I had spent some time thinking about it. Initially I was thinking 3 in a row, same height. But then I decided that might be a bit too ridged. So I added some stronger florist wire to two of the flowers to both strengthen and give more height so that I could stagger their height. Thankfully they still fit into the little straws I had (I think they’re for making cake pops).

I always knew I would set the cake to the back of the cake board, and I had measured the space I had to place the ANZAC sign/plaque. On Thursday I’d found a font that I thought was similar to the NZ Army font and I printed that out. I then used the tissue paper transfer method to get the writing onto the “plaque” I fashioned from a rectangle and heart cutter. And again because I have no patience, I did the transfer last night immediately after having rolled the fondant. A little of it pressed the fondant but not enough to distort the shape. I also used one of my colour shapers to tidy up the ragged bits from the cutters. It worked nicely.

So there we have it. This year’s ANZAC Day cake.

For those of us not enjoying the long long weekend, there’ll be cake at work tomorrow.

And now for an overload of photos, because I wanted to capture ALL of the handpainting, including the “back” of the cake which has the field of poppies, which Mr Fussy was really keen on, but I felt like it would mess up the clean look, even if it wasn’t truly a field look.

The beginning of the field.

The beginning of the field.

The end of the field. There's a lot of work trying to blend greens and add in the out of focus poppies.

The end of the field. There’s a lot of work trying to blend greens and add in the out of focus poppies.

The full view of the back of the cake - the field

The full view of the back of the cake – the field

Handpainting 3

Handpainting 4

handpainting 5

If there was one thing I could change, it would have been a nice piece of ribbon to go around the cake board. Despite having some lovely ribbons, nothing was suitable. The shiny silver irks me a bit. I couldn’t be bothered heading to the shops and have instead enjoyed a lazy afternoon catching up on some TV programmes, you know, spending quality time with Mr Fussy 😉


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.

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Beer bread bites

I don’t know if you know who Chelsea Winter is, probably not if you’re not from New Zealand and don’t have an interest in all the cooking shows. Actually I’ve never watched Master Chef but I had stumbled across Chelsea’s Facebook page. I’ve mentioned her before. I love her down to earth banter with her followers (likers). She comes across as a really good sort.

Dripping with butterAnyway, many people have passed on favourable comments about a Beer Bread. I couldn’t find the recipe, or what I thought was the recipe they were all commenting on (and sharing photos of). Chelsea has lots of recipes on her website, pretty generous really. She also has a cook book out. Something I must get around to buying or borrowing from the library.

IngredientsI found a recipe for Marmite and Cheese Beer Bread Bites. I have to say I was pretty enthusiastic to give this recipe a try. It began with asking Mr Fussy whether I could use one of his bottles of beer. Mr Fussy informed me his beer was too good to be used. That left me with buying my own beer. As Julie pointed out on my Facebook page, cheap is more often found in a 6 pack. What would I do with 5 other beers that would be beneath Mr Fussy to consume?

I went beer shopping. Now what I know about Beer is close to zero. I don’t like it. And you’d be right in wondering why I’d want to bake/cook with it. I expected that like wine, the alcohol would be cooked out and you’d be left with a flavour. I merrily went on my way and put a 4 pack of Moa Pale Ale into my shopping basket. The other 3 would be going into Mr Fussy’s beer fridge, and since it was the “good stuff” he’d be more than happy to accommodate it.

Mixed and readyI’m going to cut to the chase. The recipe was dead simple to make. I added some cooked bacon since Mr Fussy tends to think all meals should include meat, and well, bacon makes everything (savoury) better. But, and it’s quite a big but, I ended up having crumpets for lunch. Why? Well the flavour of beer was so strong. Perhaps using the good stuff was my downfall. Would the flavour have been lessened with “cheap swill” as Mr Fussy put it.

Marmitey goodnessI also found trying to twist a teaspoon with marmite on it, through the centre of the muffin was near impossible. I only added marmite to 4 of them. Mr Fussy doesn’t like Marmite (I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s never tried it), instead favouring Bovril (which I’ll never try). Mr Fussy was very happy with the flavour of the muffins/bread bites and is happily having left overs (frozen) for lunch. He tells me that if you add pesto the flavour of the cheese comes through.

Melted and brownedSo there you go. If you’re keen on a nice beer flavoured savoury bite, then these will be right up your alley. Or there’s always crumpets for a quick fuss-free weekend lunch.

Next week I’ll post the cheesecake recipes I’ve been baking. It’s Randall (my brother) and Kade’s wedding this Saturday and my sisters (Natalie and Bee) and I are making some individual cheesecakes as part of their dessert table. The baking has been more testing recipes and flavours. All will be revealed sometime after the weekend. Celebrations commence on Friday with us heading to Timaru just as soon as the cheesecakes have baked and cooled, and don’t end until after some jet-boat activities Sunday afternoon.

Till then …


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Secret Sauce

I made another Chelsea Winter recipe this weekend. Well her Crispy Roast Potatos tonight, but other than a photo on my phone there’s nothing to show for it but a very satisfying meal.

Eat up

Prepare for more photos than you thought possible for the humble hamburger.

The Secret Sauce is part of the Cheeseburger recipe on Chelsea’s website.

The sauce has, wait for it, Gherkin in it. Now I’m with Mr Fussy on turning my nose up at this, but hand in hand we went to the Mediterranean Food Warehouse and purchased something I never thought we’d be paying for. On the very very odd occasion I’ve had a McDonald’s Cheeseburger, I’ve always pulled the gherkin out. Mr Fussy has never had gherkin, and his interest in having gherkin is less than zero. So it was quite the vision seeing us buying a jar (a rather large jar) of gherkins.

Special SauceWhile we were out we popped into St Martin’s New World and I bought some cheddar cheese from their speciality cheese section. It tasted a bit sharp before it was melted, but more sharp when melted. Is that possible?

I made the special sauce before the hamburgers. I took a very tentative spoonful of the sauce and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. There was a small glimmer of hope Mr Fussy would not only try, but also like. Though he wasn’t at all interested in having a sample before his hamburger was made.

IngredientsSo here we are, the full hamburger. I didn’t use any red onion, but we did have a slice of bacon. The burgers cooked up really nicely and not only that, they didn’t ooze fat and other liquid, something that always has happened with my homemade burgers. I had nothing left on my plate but two crumbs. When I held my plate up to prove it, I was left with one crumb. Oops.

Patties Sizzling burgers Cheddar cheese With special sauce


No Knead Brioche

Brioche1Have you heard of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day?  I’ve made it once. It was fine, but I didn’t quite get all the hoopla. Which is kinda funny now that I re-read that post. I was quite taken by the whole idea and happy with how that bread turned out. I even said the recipe was “a keeper”. For all that I’ve never made another batch of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day.

Moving on. This recipe for Brioche has some similarities. Similar in that it could be kept in the fridge for several days and there was no kneading. Perhaps that’s where the similarities end, but it felt familiar.

First riseWhat I liked about this recipe is how easy it was for Brioche. That the recipe didn’t use as much butter (which may be the make or break of Brioche) and I could make it at night and it would be ready for breakfast 36 hours later. The recipe says it should be baked between 24 and 48 hours.

In time for breakfast, well, it took the 3 hours for rising and with me popping it in a pre-heated oven (to 50 deg, then turned off) for 40 minutes. By then everyone had risen and we ate normal breakfast while this was baking.

Prepare for bakingBut we had it for lunch.

I really get a kick out of watching bread rise, then transform as it bakes. Once the bread was out of the oven I brushed melted butter over it. I was transfixed looking at this beautiful bread from every angle. I loved seeing how those 6 little rolled balls had joined forces and baked as one.

This is only the second time I have baked Brioche, actually only the second time I’ve eaten Brioche. If it hadn’t been for Mum’s curiosity asking if we’d been served it at breakfast when we were traveling, I probably wouldn’t have looked into it, and tried my hand at baking it.

Baked ready for devouringWith that said, I really don’t know what it should be like in texture, but it looked pretty much like the photo. The reason I’m saying this is that this Brioche went a bit gummy when chewing it. It was perfectly baked, it looked like bread should be, but as soon as I began chewing it changed. I’m not saying it didn’t taste good, but the experience wasn’t what I expected. For all that, I don’t know if that is how it’s meant to be, because I’ve only eaten it from my own baking, and the first time I made Brioche Snails, baked differently than a true loaf.

I might have been a bit stingy, though we all had 2 slices each, but I purposefully kept enough aside so I could try it as French Toast.

I used my usual “recipe” as the base, but omitted the orange peel, and used cinnamon sugar. Mr Fussy doesn’t like French Toast, what’s a bet he’s never had it, and I don’t think my MIL does either.

BriocheAs French Toast it was fabulous. I had enough for French Toast this morning as well. Will I be saying this recipe is a keeper too? Why not. I like French Toast, but I wouldn’t eat it as plain sliced bread from the loaf (maybe it needs toasting?). I think I’ll give Dean Brettschneider’s Apricot Brioche Breakfast Plait a go.

If you are familiar with Brioche, I’d love to know what it’s like to chew. Does it go a bit gummy as you chew or is it just mine? Should it be eaten as is, or are you expected to pop it in the toaster? I image toasting it would solve the gummy problem.


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.