On to the plate

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


Breast Cancer Awareness – 2014

In order to make up for the silence of the last couple of weekends I’ve got not one cake, not two, but three cakes. Am I off the hook?

And since you’ve had to wait for so long, I wont waste any more time, here they are.

Pink ribbon stencil. A trial of a new mud cake recipe

Pink ribbon stencil. A trial of a new mud cake recipe

Hope and butterflies. A cake for a special lady.

Hope and butterflies. A cake for a special lady.

A splash of colour using rose spirit and petal dusts

A splash of colour using rose spirit and petal dusts

I made a 6″ American Mud Cake, thanks to Summer’s recipe which you’ll find on her blog, Cake Paper Party. I also made a 8″ American Mud Cake (cakes 1 & 3 pictured). The middle cake is another of Summer’s recipe, one I’ve baked before, her Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake.

I actually made a 6″ and 5″ cake from the one recipe, the 5″ cake is already filled and ganached and sitting in the freezer waiting for an occasion to be used. And it turns out the new mud cake recipe is a hit. It’s a little less heavy/dense and a little more cake-like for a mud cake, but it works beautifully still with ganache and fondant.

Both 6″ cakes had been filled and ganached and put in the freezer (cakes 1 & 2) and the 8″ had been frozen too, but was frozen as separate layers. The two 6″ cakes were taken from the freezer Thursday morning and I covered the 2nd cake in fondant that night. Cake no. 1 was covered the following morning (I couldn’t sleep). All were easy to cover in many ways. I’d given up on my The Mat and instead rolled the fondant directly on the bench. It rolled so quickly it was great. And I even rolled the fondant around the rolling pin. Previously I’d been concerned that I might leave impressions on the fondant from where it was rolling on itself. So while it rolled nicely, and wrapped around the rolling pin without any nasty marks, I did end up with a little bit of elephant skin going on.

My acetate smoothers had finally arrived from the UK. I didn’t think I’d end up using them as the ones I’d fashioned from a chopping board had done a good job on a previous cake, but the smoothers from the UK really did a lovely job of smoothing out most of the elephant skin. The acetate is thinner than the chopping board I hacked up which probably makes the difference. Anyway I managed nice sharp edges on all 3 cakes without having to work too hard for it. I’m so pleased that it’s all working out now, including having finally managed to get the ganache on just (about) perfectly. I had been having problems keeping the bottom of my scraper straight up and down, it was firmly on the board but it trailed at the bottom and it was causing me to have the bottom (which is the top – I ganache upside down) to taper in. So this last cake (no. 3) I used the acrylic rounds on both the bottom and the top and instead of spending 20 minutes trying to keep things even, I reckon I took about 5 minutes to ganache the cake. It was so easy, so simple, so quick. And it looked a lot better, like it was seemless. Other cakes have been fine, but a bit patchy in application where this looked like I started at one point and managed to get around the complete cake in one sweep.

The Friday night I covered the 3rd cake, it was looking really good. And of course it would, it was the only cake that would be completely covered in more fondant and didn’t have to look perfect underneath (Murphy’s Law). I also had two 10.5″ squares of acrylic which I had lightly covered in Crisco and then covered in white fondant. I covered these with a large zip loc bag. The bags were also 10.5″ so I couldn’t slip the acrylic inside and had to settle with placing the bags over the top to prevent the fondant from drying too much. As it turned out the edges had dried out a bit too much so I didn’t use those bits. But considering the fondant had been out for over 12 hours it worked nicely. I just cut the fondant into strips and then used a little palate knife to slip between the acrylic and fondant to manoeuvre the strip and then place against the cake. First I also applied a thin layer of Crisco onto the side of the cake so the fondant strips would adhere nicely. The design idea came from a post on The Cake Blog, a beautiful cake by AK Cake Design. Although I loved the process, the colours are brighter than I hoped they would be. Next time I’ll know better.

As for the Breast Cancer heart cake, that idea came from a cake Erin O’Brien had made. And then the 1st cake, my practice cake, I used the same colours as used in cake 3, but just what was left, and then “watered down” more with more rose spirit. It didn’t quite work as nicely as I wanted, it was a bit patchy, but again I’ve learnt a few things for next time. The plaque was made Friday night too. I rolled some fondant and the placed my Pink Ribbon stencil (for cookies) over the fondant, adhered a little by Crisco (without it the stencil slipped about and moved) and then I rolled it a bit more which let the fondant push a little through the stencil. While the stencil was still on the fondant I used a brush which had a light coating of petal dust and dusted over the pink ribbons. I removed the stencil and used the plaque cutter to cut out a section of what I’d stencilled. Lastly I placed the plaque onto a piece of waxed paper and then put that against a dummy cake so that it would dry with the right curve to fit nicely on the cake later.

Making the butterflies and the “hope” word was probably the hardest. Using tappits and patchwork cutters require quite a bit of patience, even using some new techniques I’d learnt (placing gladwrap over the letters, rolling gumpaste over). Needless to say there were a few busted butterflies and several of the same letters in case I wasn’t able to get the letters to come away cleanly from the rolled gumpaste.

All in all I was pleased with how the cakes came out. The last thing to do was to finish up the weekend by making a few cookies.

Dots Multi coloured roses Single rose



Beauty and the Beast

I had a great reason to bake and decorate a cake. We’ve quietly slipped into October and October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Pink Ribbon Cake

A cake. A pink cake. But not a booby cake as I joked with one of the guys at work.

But the idea was to make something pretty that would recognise the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness month and bring the topic of regular breast checks to the front of everyone’s minds.

For this cake I was going to try a bunch of new things. You know I look for reasons to make cakes so that I can try different techniques, use different tools, and what I most need, practice.

Here’s my list:

  • New recipe
  • New flavour
  • New Ganache recipe
  • New method for ganaching the cake
  • Adding tylose to the fondant
    Use my new cutters by Not Just Cakes by Annie

Umm, I think just about everything about this cake was an experiment. But I felt a reasonably safe experiment.

I bought the recipe (you don’t sell recipes unless they are tried and true), I bought the tutorial for the ganache method and fondant, and the ganache recipe is used by a very well respected, and talented, NZ baker.

So here we go. Lots of photos in bunches of 4. I’ll just add a few comments about what’s going on in the photos.

Preparing to bake

The cake was easy to make. But there’s a bit involved in preparing the tin, but no, we don’t stop there. You need to put newspaper on the tray the tin will be on, add a tray to the top of the oven with more newspaper and then put a bowl of water on the bottom of the oven. Then there’s wrapping the tin with newspaper as well has lining the tin a good 2 inches above the height of the tin. And lastly another 3 circles of baking paper with a cross cut into the centre, which are placed on top of the cake batter.

I bought a new flavour/colour from Donna at CakeStuff. Basically the depth of colour is your indicator as to the strength of flavour. A light pink will be less flavoured. A darker pink cake will have more strawberry flavour.

Phew. All sorted and ready to pop the cake into the oven. My last act was to use the back of a spoon to give the centre a hollow. I bought a couple of other recipes for Madeira cakes from the site and the 6″ square cake had instructions to basically hollow out until you could see the bottom of the tin. I thought I was surely expected to do this on a 6″ round cake, so I went ahead, but only a moderate hollow.

As I tried to move the cake into the oven I found the newspaper around the tin was too tall for the space left in the oven so I had to trim it to fit, however I couldn’t see a darn thing in the oven. I had no visual clues as to how the cake was baking.

The recipe suggested the cake might take up to 2 hours to bake. The usual “every oven is different” caveat was given. At 90 minutes I checked the cake and yikes, it was definitely cooked. But was it over cooked? How could I know until I cut and ate the cake. The recipe did say it was better to over cook than under cook since the cake will take in moisture from the filling. In fact the cake would last 2 weeks! I wanted to test that too, but as you’ll see at the, I cut the cake this morning (Monday), it was baked Friday night.

For the first time ever I used an edible marker to draw a line (with the help of a ruler, I’m not that good!) before I torted the cake. Hello hollowed out bit. It was so weird. The very centre of the middle of the cake had this slight hole. I can only put it down to where I hollowed out the cake batter. The edges of the cake felt a little dry, but I expected I would also be trimming the edges and getting rid of it.

A bit of strawberry jam (I’m a Roses fan) on the top of each layer, and a bit of strawberry frosting on the bottom of the next layer so that it sits on top of the jam, and repeat. The cake was 10.5cm in height after I had finished filling the cake.

torting and filling

The new ganache method I used required two levelling stages. After having filled the cake then putting it into the fridge for 30 minutes I put the cake onto a bed of ganache which is applied to the cake board and at this stage you do your first level (but I levelled after filling as well, so 3 for me). And back the cake goes to the fridge so the ganache can firm up because the cake gets flipped again, and again rested onto a layer of ganache, where you level the cake a second time (a third for me). The light pressing I applied squashed a little bit of frosting out, and I also found that the cake wasn’t quite square on the cake board. I had to trim the sides a little more to make a gap for the ganache. By the time I had finished the extra trimming the edible marker line had been removed.

The ganache was pretty easy to do this way, even though the 30 minutes spells in the fridge seemed to make the process on the whole a long one.

I’d made the ganache on the Friday night. I really enjoy the method, which is nothing unique, but not the method I had started out using when I first began ganaching cakes. I added some Strawberry freeze dried powder to the cream and put it on the oven to boil. The “chocolate” was a mix of Nestles compound buttons and Cadbury baking chips which has 40% cocoa (from memory). Saturday morning the ganache was still a bit too soft. I had to microwave it a smidge but not a lot to get a really lovely consistency for applying to the cake. I was already a bit dubious about how well it would set up once applied to the cake. But it was a dream to apply. I only wish that as I was admiring my near perfect application while bending to put the cake back on the fridge shelf, that I looked to see it was on a collision course with the shelf above. Bugger. It didn’t take much to fix it, I didn’t give it a big knock, but it was enough to make a small indentation.

I headed out for the afternoon to take a class with Lindy of Cake and Sugar Art, so the cake was left much longer than it had to be (2 hours) before moving onto removing the paper and smoothing the top (which was the second ganached layer (top right in the photo set). Even though there were just a few tiny holes left by an air pocket, I really didn’t think the fondant would be sucked into it enough that you’d see it on the fondant surface, but I did as instructed and used a hot pallet knife to smooth the top, but it wasn’t doing anything about smoothing over the tiny holes. So I used a bit of ganache. This time swiping it over the cake, which had been in the fridge since lunchtime Saturday, caused the new ganache to set really quickly. I think the top looked better before I added a smear of new ganache. The photo bottom right is pre ganache smearing.

Another thing I learnt while talking with the ladies in the class at Lindy’s is that some brands in NZ add water to their cream. That of course wont be helping with the ganache setting nicely. And yes, the brand I used was one of those that adds water. You learn something new every day.

levelling and ganachingSo there we had it. I was pretty chuffed. The ganache looked great. I popped the cake back in the fridge so that it didn’t come to room temperature fearing the ganache would soften too much making the fondant application a nightmare as it did with Mum’s cake. The unused ganache which had sat out all Saturday night still hadn’t set, but had a slight crust, if that makes sense.

Also on Saturday I added both tylose and Super White powder to the white fondant. The cake height was 5mm shorter than the top tier of the cake I made for Mum’s birthday. You may recall I had to rip the fondant off twice and eventually wrap the cake with a collar of fondant with a circle top. I’d read comments on Cake Central from people with similar problems covering a higher cake being recommended to add some tylose to the fondant. And the recipe I was using directed me to do the same. In fact the article mentioned some brands of fondant have tylose added as standard. I’ve decided I wont add the white powder again. It made it seem a bit unnatural, almost too bright. And Bakels fondant is pretty white, at least I think it’s fine.

Sunday morning I checked the fondant by giving it a bit of a push and it was pretty hard, it had give, but I was worried I’d made gumpaste, which was my initial concern and why I didn’t add as much tylose as the recipe/method directed.

It didn’t take much work for the fondant to succumb to my kneading and then become pliable as it is sans tylose. I also did as Lindy had suggested, not roll the fondant quite as large as I needed to cover because the fondant would still stretch. So the 35cm I needed was just 30-31ish cm.

The cake covered well. My heart was racing (does that ever go away?) and I was having to work a little quicker than usual, just because I was still nervous things could unravel. There was a little bit of cracking going on, but nothing that looked like it was going to separate. Unfortunately there was a little of elephant skin happening around the sides which I completely missed. I was a bit disappointed but I was intending to cover the cake completely using one of the set of cutters I bought from Not Just Cakes by Annie.

And here folks, here’s where things turned pear shaped. After covering the cake well, and having time to check out finished heights of the cutter sets I noticed the side of the cake was looking a bit odd. And before I’d left to head back out for my second afternoon session at Lindy’s, the cake had a very definite bulge. Boo. By the time I returned at 6:30pm the cake had done some serious bulging. Double Boo. So my idea of spending the week at leisure decorating (remembering I was testing the longevity of the cake life) was going to be a total waste.

fondant and decorations

However I’d already made some pink gumpaste ribbons. And I had some gumpaste (sugar) flowers that I’d made during the week for practice, so I could still try and turn something pretty awful, semi-respectable. One side of the cake looked fine (or did until I used the flash on the camera and saw the ridges), the other, the beast.

Given I had so few choices for prettying up the cake, I couldn’t decide what to do. I had decided just prior to heading out the door for a run that I would throw some “things” on the cake so that I could cut it and portion it out to various family members. My MIL visits my BIL on a Monday so I needed to get the cake “decorated”, photographed, cut and packaged all before leaving the house for work (I have never had a shower so quickly as I did this morning, I promise I had time to clean and wash my hair despite having 15 minutes less time!).

Ribbons and flowers

And for the nasty photos of “what really happened to the cake to make it bulge”. Well I’m still not totally sure. I thought maybe some of the jam had peeked out and somehow softened the ganache and seeped through. But I think that (from a very hasty Google) with covering the cake with fondant while it was fresh out of the fridge caused it. And if that’s the case what I should have done was put a skewer into the centre (right through to the cake board) to give it a place to breathe from.
Cutting and dissecting

And the last words are about the texture and flavour of the cake since we had a slice tonight. It was overcooked. And perhaps it would have drawn moisture from the frosting and jam had there been more time, but I know 90 minutes baking in my oven is still too much (and I checked the over thermometer). Though I don’t know what is enough.

This was my first Madeira cake as well. I know it’s a more robust cake and crumb, but I felt the cake was still too solid. It tasted fine, the jam certainly helped give it a real strawberry flavour. So I can’t really say if the flavacol is worth it or not. The pink has sort of cooked out. You can see it’s pinker in the centre of the cake layers than it is toward the edge.

Let’s take a second to switch to something that, to me, is a bit more elegant, like I’d envisaged the cake would be, this is what I achieved during my two afternoons at Lindy’s class teaching us how to make a Magnolia flower with double blossoms.

Magnolia and blossom set

Mr Fussy makes a terrific hand model 😉

Lastly, but by no means least, make sure those you love are aware this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and encourage them to check out how to do a self examination for lumps.  Here’s a link to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation’s  e-Guide.

Oh boy, what can I do next month for Movember?  Eeek!  Better start looking at designs using moustaches.