On to the plate

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


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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!).


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Banana Cake

Oooh, it’s been such a great weekend for trying out new things. In this post I’ll talk about the Agbay Junior, and touch on the butter (there’ll be a separate post coming for that).

Banana cake for the work folk.

Banana cake for the work folk.

I was making a banana cake because it was time to use up the bananas I’d taken from work (they were left, unwanted) and popped into the freezer. I’d decided some weeks earlier that when the time came I’d be making Summer’s Banana Cake recipe. You can find the details from this link.

Yesterday I’d made butter. Mum bought me a Mad Millie Butter kit for Christmas. Today I was using the butter I’d made, in the Banana cake.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Summer’s recipe is actually for cupcakes, but she does say you can easily make a cake from it. Summer’s suggestion is that you add an additional banana. And it was 3 bananas that I had from work, so that came together nicely. One of the things that I liked about the recipe was using a blander (food processor or similar) to get the banana fully incorporated. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of banana cake. I love bananas, but I’m not fond of cooked banana, except when it’s drowning in maple syrup and been heated (caramelised) to put on top of pancakes. Despite my lack of desire to eat banana cake I was really looking forward to trying out this recipe and method.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there's droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there’s droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Usually I’ll make 3 layers of cake from Summer’s other cake recipes, but I decided to make just two. I really wasn’t sure how far the frosting would go. I was hedging my beats. Anyway, the cakes took closer to 45-50 minutes to bake. I wasn’t really surprised given the batter was a little looser than other cakes I’ve baked of Summer’s, and of course the amount of batter was greater. The tops cracked, and oddly it was where the cracks were that the cake looks a little more moist (see later photo).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that's my experience).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that’s my experience).

This is the first cake I’ve made since Christmas. And for Christmas I got an Agbay Junior cake leveller. I was pretty darn excited that I’d be getting this baby assembled and using it. I’ve heard so many people say once you’ve used one you’ll never go back to any other method of torting cakes. I’ve seen the promo video’s. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos (for other things) where the baker is using the Agbay to torte a cake. Needless to say I was hooked, it was just a case of someone else buying it for me ;-). It was a good Christmas!

Once I had the Agbay assembled (was straight forward) I put one of the cakes onto the cake card and determined the size of the layer. Except I didn’t quite get it right and I needed to have dropped the height by one notch (which is like 1/16th of an inch I think). The second layer I torted at that height and it worked out perfect. I thought I’d try my luck and see if I could pass the first layer back through the Agbay. I knew I’d only need a thin sliver, I guess the 1/16th of an inch. What is life if not for living dangerously. So with that in mind I passed the Agbay back over the first cake and it worked! And you can see from the photo just how thin it cut. If I didn’t already love the Agbay for the ease and speed at which it could torte, I was now hook line and sinker in love with my new gadget.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

With that in mind, it seemed perfectly acceptable to then use little hearts as decoration for the cake. And so I did. Boy oh boy, making a cake that’s decorated in frosting only is such a breeze. I did put a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. I needed to seal the sides since the cake is now in the fridge until I go to work tomorrow. I’d forgotten how easy baking a cake can be when you’re not preparing a cake for being covered in fondant. I feel like I achieved so much!

The domed tops we ate after dinner. I still had sufficient frosting to slap some more between the two tops. The cake is very definitely banana. And I found the texture to be quite smooth. The other thing that I like about the cake is the absence of all the black specks that you typically get with banana cake. I guess having blended the banana took care of that. So true to my word, I’ve baked a banana cake for my team at work. Quite possibly it’s the last time the current team is together. We’re moving out to MYOB’s new building, and part of the crew from the 3rd floor at work will be going to MYOB’s existing building (500m down the road) and my immediate team will be in the newer building. It’s a bit sad really, but cake will quite possibly make everything seem ok again 🙂

Simple but colourful decorations.

Simple but colourful decorations.

 

 


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Progel review and Baby Boy cookies

Colour paletteNot only am I giving my opinion on Progel, I also tried the CK brand pre-made Black royal icing mix. I was excited.

I’ve tried a Progel colour (Holly) before and I was unimpressed. I could not squeeze any gel out of the tube. I went red in the face, veins were popping and I was not having a great time. I tried to use a toothpick in the end, which was semi-successful. So needless to say I went into this holding my breath, especially when I’d bought 4 or 5 tubes while we were at BakeBoss in Brisbane.

New startMany other people have raved about Progel so I felt my first experience must have been really unlucky, so here I am, giving it another go and hoping I have a better experience.

SquirtThe news is good. I had no problem at all with getting the gel out of the tube, in actual fact, now I have to warn you that you shouldn’t really squirt it, which is a bit of a pain. But basically you can’t control how much is going to be dispensed when you squeeze the tube, even when you’re trying to be gentle. So squeezing some out onto a dish and then using a toothpick to transfer a smaller dab into the royal icing would be my advice.

Feeling BlueSo all was good with Progel and I’d buy it again. Except that I love Sugarflair. I’m sure there’s a place for both, in actual fact I tend to use the gels for colouring royal icing, and Sugarflair for colouring gumpaste and fondant. But I do love me some Sugarflair. The light blue is Sugarflair Baby Blue, and I can tell you I used a pretty small dab of colour and I still ended up adding a bit more white royal icing to tone it down. Sugarflair has an extensive range of colours and in my opinion a superior depth of colour, and what you see on the test card is the exact colour you’ll end up with.

Blog_200115Not that I’ve done it really, but the more Progel you add the deeper the colour. I guess I did do this with the Navy. To begin with it wasn’t as deep a colour as I wanted, so I added more, and then I got what I wanted, or close to it. I expected the colour to deepen as it sat. By the time I came to flood the cookies a day later I had no complaints over the colour.

CK BlackNext I moved onto the CK brand pre-coloured black royal icing. And yep, it was just as amazing as I’d seen it on the Gateaux Inc video (which I can’t find the link for now). It was as simple as adding in the powder and then the water and mixing the two. And before your eyes you get the most perfect glossy black. I thought it was too good to be true. I’m here to tell you that it was, sort of. That bitter taste you get when adding lots of black (or red) to the royal icing is sadly still present. But there’s no waiting. You just mix and you can go for your life using it immediately.Easy as

The tests weren’t all for nothing. I had planned to decorate cookies for one of the ladies from work who was leaving on Maternity Leave. We arrived back midnight going into Saturday and it was that coming Friday that Nicole was leaving. I was very thankful that I had more cookies than I needed for Christmas and had planned to use all of them.RI Transfers

Monday night I got busy making royal icing transfers. I didn’t really hold a lot of hope the rocking horses would come off the waxed paper in one piece. I was relieved and surprised that they did peel off in one piece.

Baby Boy1I had some vague plans as to how to decorate the cookies, and I began to write down those ideas, and in the end I still missed doing a few things, like making little baby feet, or using my new Stork and Baby stamp. But all in all the cookies are fine, even if my hand writing is a bit scruffy, and certainly not even or straight. I didn’t really have the time to get the Kopykake out, but that’s what it needed, for me at least. Hand writing on cookies is certainly something I need lots of practice on, and having the words in the right font in front of me would certainly be helpful.

Baby Boy2When I took the cookies in so many people commented that they couldn’t eat them. But I tried to polity explain that I didn’t make them to be looked at only, and I hoped they would eat them. Nicole took the two largest plaques home with her, and by the end of the day there was only 3 cookies left. That worked out nicely for us at home 🙂Baby Boy3


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I love blueberries!

Oooh la la

Oooh la la

It’s no secret that I love blueberries. Sadly they’re expensive to buy and I moan about the price. The first time I saw them for sale this spring they were $15.99 for a 125gm punnet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But who spends that much? I suspected the blueberries would slowly rot on the shelves while others shunned them for the price.

While we’ve been holidaying on the Sunshine Coast I bought blueberries. The first fresh berries for this summer. They were going for A$5 at the time. I hadn’t even noticed that one of the growers was in fact a New Zealand grower, and it happened to be the punnet I’d scrutinised (for freshness/damage) and bought. So at the time NZ blueberries that had made their way to Australia were on the market for less than you pay for them in NZ.

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

When we got back Mr Fussy pointed out that you could buy two punnets for $4.  The limit was 6 punnets. I wasted no time, 6 made it to the trolley (the same price remains this week at Countdown, but I’ve been told they’re $1.85 a punnet at Pak ‘n Save).

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

Not wanting to waste precious fruit I searched out a new recipe that would be worthy. There’s nothing wrong with the previous Lemon Blueberry Tart I made, in fact I really wanted to make it again I enjoyed it so much, but I went for something new, hoping it would live up to enjoyment I remembered eating the other tart.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we're destined for the oven.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we’re destined for the oven.

I made this recipe. And of course I made some small changes, as I do.

I used my favourite Pastry. According to my handwriting, this pastry has been tucked away in the freezer since April 2014. I can confirm it baked up just as good as it always does, it was light and crips.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

The changes I made:

  • Added the zest of a lemon to the prepared blueberry filling
  • Used 150gm Mascarpone cheese
  • Added to the cheese filling the juice of one half lemon
An escapee blueberry. I'll have it!

An escapee blueberry. I’ll have it!

All in all the tart was pleasant. Just enough Lemon to know it was there, but not as punchy as I like. I was mindful that adding too much juice may cause the mascarpone filling to become too thin and therefore may not bake up the same. But it did fall short of what I remembered of the Lemon Blueberry Tart. So this week when we buy more blueberries, I might just whip up that recipe.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.


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A tasty little loaf recipe

Happy New Year!

BakedWe’ve been away on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland Australia) since Boxing Day. I can tell you there were a few days where it rained so hard we remained indoors, and to have been able to bake would have been lovely. While we had a full kitchen, there was nothing at all to bake with, plus no pantry staples. Even the usual buttermilk pancakes didn’t happen because it was too much of an ordeal to try and get flour, baking powder and baking soda.

It’s taken a day to unpack (well there’s still a few more things I need to find space for) so I don’t feel like I’ve been too shabby in getting myself back into the kitchen.

One of the ladies at work is going on Maternity leave this coming Friday (I presume she’s still at work, there’s a good chance she could deliver early) so I’ve been mixing colours into Royal Icing preparing myself to decorate some cookies. Thankfully I have quite a few undecorated cookies in the freezer from Christmas. So there’ll be no baby shapes, but I’ll decorate in a baby theme – at least that’s the plan.

Today I started out with a quick bread (there’s a Blueberry Tart to make too).  In New Zealand we’d just cut to the chase and call this a savoury loaf. Or we’d take the same ingredients and divide it amongst muffin tins and have, well, muffins.

The recipe I used was this one by The Kitchn.

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients

I went for the Herb Sundried Tomato and Cheese loaf. The recipe didn’t say whether the Oregano and Thyme were fresh or dried. I used dried. I was worried that if the herbs were measured as fresh then the flavours would be too strong since dried herbs are more flavourful.

It looks really stodgy but it baked up beautifully.

It looks really stodgy but it baked up beautifully.

I also didn’t use buttermilk. My MIL had bought sweetened natural yoghurt for me so I’d have it available for breakfast Saturday morning (and at 1am when we arrived home I was mixing up my wet muesli ready for breakfast). It’s not the brand I prefer so in order not to waste it (and seem like a spoilt brat) I used that in the loaf. I did not add any sugar at all to the recipe.

Blog_110115-2All in all it turned out well, had good flavour, but I think I’d prefer it as a muffin. I don’t know, muffins just seem easier to handle. Or I should just wait a little longer so the slices aren’t so delicate to handle.

Always better with a proper spread of butter.

Always better with a proper spread of butter.

The crumb is nice and light despite the batter looking like it’s rather solid.

Ok, next up is the Blueberry tart recipe (once I’ve made and sampled of course) and a little write up on using Rainbow Dust Progels.


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Merry Christmas – 2014

And another year draws to a close. And almost without time to do anything for Christmas. Usually I’m baking Christmas Mince Pies from Show Weekend. My first batch was last Sunday. It’s been such a rush these past few months.

As a bit of a consolation prize I managed to make the Alton Brown Rich Fruit cake (same as I made last year), this time as a cake and I had enough batter left over for 4 (or was it 5?) mini loaves as well.

Mr Fussy's cake. All four corners have his name on them.

Mr Fussy’s cake. All four corners have his name on them.

Given the cake was baked only last week and as an after thought, there was no plan for any decorating. In fact the store bought decorations I’d relied on in past years I’d just thrown out. Now I was stuck. I didn’t really want to leave the cake covered in fondant, but to do something a bit different for Mr Fussy. This after all is his cake. And he gets to have all 4 corners. Corner pieces are much sought after in our family. Natalie managed to get the sides of the fruit cake baked for Jasmine and Sam’s wedding, and when I asked what happened to the corners she said she’d eaten them already! This was just 2 days after the wedding and they were gone. Saves that awkward moment when you begrudgingly share. But we understand, we’ve all been there.

But this is Mr Fussy’s cake. It wont be served on Christmas day, it’ll just be his little secret cake.

The rest of the weekend I spent baking and decorating cookies for Christmas. Much like the cake I really didn’t have any fixed ideas as to how I was going to decorate these. And some haven’t been finished, only that I’m not sure if I want to put anything more on the trees.

I rather like the trees just as they are. But they're not as Christmassy as they could be. To add some baubles or not?

I rather like the trees just as they are. But they’re not as Christmassy as they could be. To add some baubles or not?

Work has been frantic and the last two weeks we’ve been lucky to escape from work before 6pm, some nights it’s 7pm. So we arrive home exhausted and with little thought for anything but trying to summon up the strength to cook something that includes vegetables for dinner.

I got rebellious and made a squiggly snowflake. Anything goes!

I got rebellious and made a squiggly snowflake. Anything goes!

Anyway, these cookies were a good way for me to unwind and spend some time doing something I enjoy. Plus I got to make the reindeer cookie that I’ve been wanting to make ever since I saw it last year. But I didn’t have the right cutter, so a year later here were are, even if it’s just the one. Sadly the icing cracked while it was drying. Still was fun to make.

The big debate was whether to add the snow or not. So far the "or not" wins.

The big debate was whether to add the snow or not. So far the “or not” wins.

And here are some other cookies, not all of them, but a good selection of the others I made. Now to find containers to store them all in until Thursday.

A mix of stencilling, stamps and piping.

A mix of stencilling, stamps and piping.

Well, it seems it wont always go right.

Well, it seems it wont always go right.

Seems a bit weird to have a snowman at Christmas in New Zealand.

Seems a bit weird to have a snowman at Christmas in New Zealand.

I have no idea what the plan is for these. I bought ribbon and all, but what to pipe on them.  Merry Xmas? Mark, Anita I'm digging the "free spirit" piping though. I must be tired.

I have no idea what the plan is for these. I bought ribbon and all, but what to pipe on them. Merry Xmas? Mark (Mr Fussy), Anita I’m digging the “free spirit” piping though. I must be tired.

Hope that whatever you do during this holiday time you have a fun relaxing time spent with those near and dear to you. Stay safe.


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The cake that almost didn’t make it

Hi!

I’ve been really busy, I know it’s not much of an excuse, but I’ve had two weekends back to back with learning sugar flowers with Robert Haynes and then Airbrushing and modelling chocolate (Chockit) with Kevin Martin from Chocolate Earth. As well as preparing for my nieces wedding. And it’s the wedding cake that almost didn’t make it! Yikes!!

Everything had been ticking along really nicely. The two (intense!) days of sugar flowers with Robert was a huge help with making the flower spray for the wedding cake, and the airbrush classes set me up nicely for understanding how to properly use my airbrush and therefore airbrush the bottom tier of the wedding cake.

My new beauty. Arrived on the Friday just in time to bake Jasmine and Sam's wedding cake. What a fine way to start.

My new beauty. Arrived on the Friday just in time to bake Jasmine and Sam’s wedding cake. What a fine way to start.

I cakes I’d baked, torted, filled and ganached and had in the freezer. I was set. I was feeling pretty good. Everything was under control. The flowers were all made and just had to be assembled (my biggest weakness – no wonder I leave that to the last) and I was feeling pretty confident about the airbrushing.

Sugar flowers in the making.

Dusted and with calyx. These are starting to look ready.

Dusted and with calyx. These are starting to look ready.

Top set are dusted, but they all started the same colour. Amazing the difference petal dust makes, even if I dislike this stage.

Top set are dusted, but they all started the same colour. Amazing the difference petal dust makes, even if I dislike this stage.

Well that's the freesias put together.

Well that’s the freesias put together.

Thankfully I got a chance to view the bridesmaid’s dresses because both the colour and the application I thought was needed was way off. Tuesday night I popped around to have a look, having felt uneasy about how the airbrushing would look on a wedding cake to find that the colour was quite different. Good thing I took some Dulux paint colour charts with me to get a better match for the deepest of colour. And I was relieved to see that the colours were much softer. The dresses were floaty and the ombre effect really subtle moving through the depths. Phew. But lucky I’d seen the dress or we’d have ended up with something that was more like a disco ball!

Doing it the hard way. I only needed 2 colours, light and dark. Great advice by Kevin Martin.

Doing it the hard way. I only needed 2 colours, light and dark. Great advice by Kevin Martin.

Practice post viewing bridesmaid dresses.

Practice post viewing bridesmaid dresses.

That harsh silverish practice was what I thought we were going for. I was so relieved to see those dresses.

Wednesday morning I took the cakes from the freezer. I would normally take them out the night before the evening I was covering them, but I wanted to give a few more hours for the ganache to really crust, just a bit of extra insurance. Thursday morning (24 hours later) I was surprised to see the 10″ cake still looking a bit tacky. I put it down to the cake being the biggest and therefore taking the longest to defrost and dry out. Come Thursday night it was still a little sticky. Since I needed the fondant to adhere to the ganache I wasn’t worried, I was about to make it stickier yet. What I did notice however was a really hollow sound when I tapped my finger against the side of each of the 3 cakes. I hadn’t heard that in the past and didn’t know what to make of it.

I thought we were good to go. The cakes had to sitting since Wednesday morning. It was show time.

I thought we were good to go. The cakes had to sitting since Wednesday morning. It was show time.

Mr Fussy was off getting the groceries to allow me a head start on getting the 3 cakes covered. It had been my plan to at least cover the 10″ and 8″ cakes. I had the Friday off and was going to airbrush the 10″ during the morning. I really thought I was going to end up with a good chunk of the day free leaving me time to make Christmas Mince Pies for Mr Fussy.

But then this happened within seconds of covering the 10″ cake ….

I'm in trouble! This has never happened before. I was not equipped to know what to do. Turns out there is nothing you can do. Ok then!

I’m in trouble! This has never happened before. I was not equipped to know what to do. Turns out there is nothing you can do. Ok then!

I was actually so preoccupied in getting the top edge sharpened that I’d not noticed what was happening around the sides of the cake. I knew it was warm in the house (given it had been a less than summers day) and when I couldn’t smooth this out at all I presumed it was to do with the ganache not being firm enough. I took a photo and asked a question on a cake decorators Facebook page and waited for some promising news. The news that came was not promising.

Eeek!

Eeek!

I ended up peeling the fondant off the cake. I used a razor blade to cut the fondant into wedges. With the Crisco on the ganache it was pretty easy to peel the fondant off. It was soon clear the cause of the problem was in fact the buttercream. It had bascially melted through the ganache. I managed to get the ganache of relatively easily and then I trimmed the cake some more. I was thinking the problem had been the ganache was too thinly applied in places. Now I’ve got what is almost 1cm between cake and cakeboard. That’s a lot of ganache. Thankfully I had ganache left over and was able to re-ganache the cake. The bottom left picture is of the 8″ cake. I was pretty sure the problem was only with the 10″ cake. I knew the 8″ hadn’t any potentially thinner parts ganached around the side of the cake. My plan was to have the 10″ ganached and then cover the 8″ in fondant. Then go to bed. But no sooner had I covered the 8″ cake the ripples around the sides came out. What had been a perfectly smooth ganache covered cake was now something that looked very different with the fondant having been pulled off. Boo. That meant the 6″ would be no better. Looked like I’d be going with the suggestion provided on Facebook, to deconstruct the cakes, remove the buttercream, add a dam of ganache then fill with buttercream and ganache the cake.

Having gotten to bed at 11:30pm (but not asleep, mind spinning wildly) I was up and re-baking the 10″ cake at 3:30am. Tired yes. But unhappy with where things were left on Thursday I knew I had to restart. By the time Mr Fussy got up (not that he had a restful sleep with me working in the kitchen) and I’d been for a run the supermarket was open again and I was off to get more chocolate and cream to make more batches of ganache. I was going to have to fast track getting the ganache ready i.e. put it in the fridge rather than leaving overnight to set up since I had to have the cakes ready and ganached Friday so I could cover on Saturday morning. Thank goodness the wedding was Sunday!

I had an appointment Friday morning and as soon as that was out the way I was off to Spotlight to buy more fondant, again just to be sure I had enough (I have 3 tubs left!), not wanting any unexpected trips to any store robbing me of some precious time.

New ganache made, and the new 10″ cake now ready for ganache, having first piped a dam of ganache to trap the buttercream in, this had been the recommendation from the Facebook page. While I dislike dams, I couldn’t take any chances with this and to play it safe I piped the dam.

Not taking any chances with the new cakes, this time a ganache dam to hold in that chocolate buttercream.

Not taking any chances with the new cakes, this time a ganache dam to hold in that chocolate buttercream.

I wasn’t sure I had to wait for the cake to settle, but again I was playing it safe and my plan had been to leave it for around 3 hours and by 3pm start ganaching the cake.

So while the cake was sitting and settling I began to dismantle the 8″ and 6″ cake to strip it off buttercream and pipe dams and then add the buttercream. Thankfully I had enough buttercream left over and in the freezer for this. Again I pulled the buttercream out of the freezer in the wee hours so it was at room temperature and good to go when I needed it.

Although I took the time to dismantle the cakes, dam them and apply new buttercream, the sides were ugly. They were rough, they looked hideous and even though I knew they would be hidden by ganache I was quite miserable about the state of things. After some rough calculations I knew I had time to bake new cakes, fast track the cooling, torte, fill and ganache but I had to get myself going NOW!  I even had time for an hour’s sleep.

Mr Fussy arrived home and tested the waters so to speak to see what the state of play was. He’s been such a great support, even though he wasn’t able to do much to help me bake etc, he came instantly if I called for help. There were lots of trips to and from the fridge.

I managed to get to bed before 11pm Friday and at that point all I could do was hope the ganache would set up firm overnight. I’d been testing the 10″ cake which I’d ganached around 3:30pm Friday and all things were heading in the right direction. I was hopeful that the trend continued. I’d had a conversation with Natalie before I headed to bed. I let her know that things were looking positive and that if the worse happened we’d have ganached cakes to eat, and I’d just cover dummy cakes. How desperate was that!

Many times during the early hours I would get out of bed and check the state of the ganache. At around 3am I knew things were good, so much so that I started to fill in the small holes left in the top of the cakes. I wanted to get this done now so that by the time I got up in the morning everything was prepared and I could just get on with covering the cakes without delay.

Team no sleep. Saturday morning and it's Groundhog day.

Team no sleep. Saturday morning and it’s Groundhog day.

I went back to bed knowing there was nothing more I could do and hoped that would be enough for my brain to quieten and allow me some sleep. I got 3 hours sleep, again. Two nights in a row, 3 hours sleep. Amazing what you can do when you’ve got your back against the wall.

All this time I knew this was no one’s fault. I wasn’t blaming anyone, I was disappointed, extremely disappointed, but I knew that I had a good cake, a good buttercream, a good ganache and for whatever reason this time the buttercream was my enemy. It wasn’t like I was underprepared, or ill equipped. It was just rotten luck. But fortunate I had the Friday off work or I might have ended up in the fetal position crying my eyes out. I couldn’t fathom a wedding without a wedding cake. I was very focused on what had to be doing, how it was going to work, the timing. And I pulled it off.

It was early Saturday that I started on the cakes. I had the 10″ covered by the time Mr Fussy had to pop out to pick up my sister and her family from the plane and my hope was that when he returned I’d be onto the 8″ cake. I even had time to eat breakfast.

When he returned I was just about to lay the fondant over the 6″ cake.  Thankfully the cakes were covering without any dramas and I was able to knock them out by 10:30am. At this time I headed for bed for an hour’s sleep while Mr Fussy ran off to do some errands for me, including picking up my dress from the dressmaker. Knowing there was nothing that could be done further with the cakes at that time I hoped I would be fast asleep within minutes. But it wasn’t to be.

I got up at midday and airbrushed the bottom tier.

A real live cake, airbrushed.

A real live cake, airbrushed.

I fussed about a little bit and then headed off to Jasmine’s Bridal shower. I knew that when I went home I had the cake board to cover, the flowers to reassemble and the monogram to attach to the top tier.

About that monogram. Oh boy. That monogram caused many batches of royal icing, some that just wouldn’t harden firm enough. What you might be able to make out from the photo above is the upside down cake tin. I had printed the monogram out, attached it to the underside of acetate, then put waxed paper (with a light covering of Crisco) over the acetate and then piped the monogram. It took many days of practice to figure out the right sized tip to use, and the order in which to start the piping. The “B” was done first, but even that had a start point and end based on the thickest parts to the thinnest, and always making sure the bottom curl of the b was well integrated in the royal icing of parts that joined/crossed over so that it was firmly in place. Then it was the S, I actually enjoyed piping the S, don’t ask why, but I’m glad there was one bit I enjoyed. The J came last. Then I had to carefully pick the whole thing up and wrap it around the side of the 6″ cake tin so that it would dry in a curve. As I say, it tooks days to do this. There were trial and error with colours, lustre/sparkle and finally I ended up with light grey coloured royal icing (made from egg white, not any sort of albumen or meringue powder) and then while the monogram was still in place painted with Global Sugar Art Nu Silver (edible). These pieces popped off nicely, usually they had fallen onto the bench and just shattered. No matter how much I tried to line things up so that I caught them, it seemed doomed.

Royal Icing monogram. So many times I piped, so many times I busted these fragile pieces.

Royal Icing monogram. So many times I piped, so many times I busted these fragile pieces.

I literally held my breath as I applied these pieces to the 6″ cake. I was almost terrified that they would shatter as I tried to get them to the cake, and then make sure they were lined up. Or that they wouldn’t remain stuck to the cake and fall off, shattering. I used soft brushes to hold them against the cake so that I wasn’t putting pressure on any one part. As each of the pieces were applied my confidence grew. And when I was done, and moved the cake back to the table I was very pleased with how it looked. My biggest worry was that the monogram would blend into the cake and not really be seen. Jasmine and Sam had opted for the silver when I had shared my concerns and I have to say that it looked pretty good when it was finished. I still worried about getting the cake out to the venue without the pieces dropping off, or the cake itself being knocked somehow and damaging the monogram. I still had another monogram piped so I finished colouring those so that I had a spare in case things turned out for the worst. I can tell you I could not pipe another set if I tried. I was so tired, my concentration not where I’d have liked it, and my ability to hold my hands steady had long gone.

And I can breathe. Nothing broke, and it all stayed put.

And I can breathe. Nothing broke, and it all stayed put.

Right, the bit I had been dreading (ok the 2nd bit) I’d pulled off nicely. The cake board was covered, that just left reassembling the flowers. Gah. This really is a big weakness of mine. I had already broken one petal of the largest rose as I was dusting it and here I was going to pull all the florist tape off and then start putting the flowers even closer together and then re-tape. Can’t see how anything could go wrong, right?!

Talk about fussing about. I just couldn’t get the pieces sitting nicely together to look natural and cohesive. And I broke another bit of petal. I really have to do better not overthinking the whole process. Anyway in the end I managed to get it looking much better, a lot tighter than my original assembly and I managed to use some of the filler flowers.

The arrangement before being inserted into the cake and then fussed with.

The arrangement before being inserted into the cake and then fussed with.

Feeling reasonably happy with where things were at I managed to get to bed by around 10:30pm. Mostly I slept through to the alarm which was set quite early. I wanted to be at the venue by 9am and it would take roughly an hour to get there. I wanted everything packed in the car by around 7:30am so that any last minute panic would be allowed for.

I got up and started to dowel the 10″ and 8″ layers. Got the royal icing ready, gathered together all the spatulas, ribbon, pins, stuff for fiddling with the flowers if I still needed to tweak them once in the cake, clothes, non-slip mats, boxes, containers. All manner of equipment that I wanted with me for assembling the cake at the venue.

How many is enough? I added a few more for good measure. And we're good to go.

How many is enough? I added a few more for good measure. And we’re good to go.

By the time I got the cakes into their respective containers/boxes and the car packed it was after 8am. Mr Fussy was given strict instructions to take it easy, we could go fast on the way home. We’d only had our new car less than 2 weeks and this was the most fragile of drives we’d be taking.

The most precious cargo our brand spanking new car has had the pleasure of carting around.

The most precious cargo our brand spanking new car has had the pleasure of carting around.

As we were turning into Trent’s Road the car ahead of us started to pull into the left. Mr Fussy started to pull out to pass when the car then started to turn to the right, it was doing a U turn in front of us, never having indicated once. Mr Fussy had to swerve sharply to the right to make sure we didn’t get collected before swerving back to the left onto our side of the road. Cripes, my heart was racing.

We made it to the venue which was only a few 100 metres further up the road and I popped inside to see if Amanda was in yet. She wasn’t there (we had somehow arrived just before 9am) but the guy at the bar pulled out the table (a chessboard table) and put it on the brick floor. I wasn’t thrilled to see the table with it’s Queen Anne style legs on top of a very uneven surface. I let him know that I only wanted to set up once and not move the cake so I’d wait for Amanda.

When Amanda arrived she moved the table but said she’d be moving it again to sit on top of the landing of the stairs. Only 3 legs were touching the wooden floor. I wasn’t thrilled about this but she assured me the table got used for all weddings and all the cakes were put on the landing for display. I know I was probably being over cautious, and being my first wedding cake, first three tiered cake, and having had quite the ride to get there I was looking for rock solid. When I realised this was as good as it was going to get Mr Fussy and I proceeded to collect the cakes and whatnot so that I could assemble the cakes.

When I went to get the 6″ cake I shrieked. I realised that it had slid off the non-slip mat it had been on and was resting against the side of the cake carrier. I thought it was all over for the monogram and was thankful that I had packed the spares. But I was hugely relieved when I took the cover off and realised it was all intact and not only that, there was no damage to the car from having being banged into the side of the cake carrier.

Ok, so all those dramas aside, this is the cake.

Front on view of the wedding cake.

Front on view of the wedding cake.

And we're done!

And we’re done!

Wedding cake. I was pleased how this came together, all things considered.

Wedding cake. I was pleased how this came together, all things considered.

I reckon if I’d not shared a photo of the rippled fondant, no one would have been any the wiser about the lead up to this cake.

I’m ever so grateful that Jasmine and Sam didn’t chose anything overly complicated for decorations that required last minute work on the cake, I’d have been in so much trouble. And it was extremely fortunate the wedding was on a Sunday and that I’d taken the Friday beforehand off work.

Here’s a few photos of the wedding party, Jasmine and Sam, and a photo of the sleep deprived Mr Fussy and I.

Everything turned out just fine in the end 🙂

The bridal party relaxing at the wedding reception

The bridal party relaxing at the wedding reception

The radiant newly weds.

The radiant newly weds.

Jasmine & Sam cutting the cake

Jasmine & Sam cutting the cake

First dance.

First dance.

Team No Sleep.

Team No Sleep.