On to the plate

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


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13 Years On

Anni2It was our 13th Wedding Anniversary mid March. I feel very lucky. 13 years with the best man in the whole wide world. My love for this man has not diminished with the passing of time, only deepened.  Ok, enough of the mushy stuff. It’s enough to say it was our wedding anniversary.

There was no way I was passing up an opportunity to made a cake for an important occasion. Mr Fussy (when badgered) suggested a Jaffa (flavoured) cake. Now for those in New Zealand, we know what Jaffa is. It’s actually a hard coated candy with chocolate in the middle, and an orange flavoured coating. They’re great, and a bit of a NZ icon, and were great for throwing in the movie theatre. Not that I ever did that. Why waste a perfectly good lolly?

Our cake was half of David’s cake. Though I flavoured the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake with Orange extract, and I also flavoured the ganache with Orange flavouring (Robert’s Confectionary). And the buttercream also had orange extract. I did all I could to make sure the orange wouldn’t be drowned out by the rich chocolate cake and ganache.

TrimmedI’ve run out of patience having to trim the sides of all my cakes to make sure I’ve got sufficient space to ganache. I ordered more acrylic circles with an extra 2mm (all around) increase. But for this cake I had to trim the sides. I admit it looks tidy when it’s trimmed, but what a waste of time, and cake, albeit just a bit of cake is wasted.

For whatever reason, I ended up with a slight bulge in the ganache at the base. I did the usual poke a pin in it and flattened the bulge, but I decided it wasn’t worth my time to cover in fondant and risk more bulges. Plus it was only a 6″ cake, and smaller cakes are more prone to pleats as you ease the fondant over the sides. A 4″ high cake that’s 6″ in diameter takes a bit more attention than say a 4″ high cake that’s 8″.

The cake was only for us so I was completely at ease with having a naked cake for us. Plus naked ganached cakes have their own beauty. And really, other than the bulge which I dealt with, the ganache is pretty tidy. All but the top, can you see? I’ve got a tiny little trench just in from the rim of the cake. Again I felt there would be more work in filling the tiny dip than the dip itself bothered me.

The Cake Lace is made from Claire Bowman’s mix. I made this lace almost 12 months ago. I’ve had it stored as instructed and it was still as pliable as it was when I made it. That stuff is the best. I never ate it when I first made it. I had no desire to do so then or for this cake. Once the cake was cut, the lace itself was removed. Though I did take the left over cake into work and left the lace on that section of the cake. I’m not sure anyone ate it. I did suggest they treat it more as decoration than “food”.

So there we are. The cake had a delicate orange flavour to it. Nothing overpowering or strong, just enough to know it was there. Someone at work thought it tasted like lemon. Go figure.

All the petalsAs for the flower, well it’s hard to believe this was a magnolia cutter. It seems more like some star burst flower than a magnolia. I think I cupped the petals too much. I used the veiner as the guide and made formers from tin foil which I laid over the veiner. Never mind, it still worked out fine, even though it’s not the flower it was meant to be. I have a photo of what the petal looks like with and without petal dust. Yes it makes a difference. At some point I will embrace the whole petal dusting, but I think I’m a ways off from that yet. I also took some of the petals away, I decided with all the petals that I made the flower itself was bigger than the cake! It’s all about proportion, well that’s a consideration anyway.

Petal dustAfter having had some of David’s cake the day before, then a slice of our Anniversary cake, we were all caked out. The cake itself was very rich. I know this seems odd to say, but without the fondant, the cake was harder to eat. The fondant seems to combat some of the richness by the sweetness. I certainly found one slice to be more than enough. And I know my work mates were happy we couldn’t face another slice.Anni1

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50th Birthday Cake

50_HappyBirthdayHere’s the run down on making Greg’s 50th birthday cake.

Greg’s party was the same day as Jo’s son’s wedding. I had contacted Kathy and asked if she was having a cake for Greg. I was testing the waters to see if she might, and perhaps if she might she might also ask me. I just wanted to be on top of things in the planning department.

When you’re not immersed in making cakes you don’t realise the time that is spent researching design ideas or even the time it takes to convert recipe sizes. Or may it’s just me dithering over ideas, never totally sure of what I’m doing, needing to plan every last detail out and have a few options up my sleeve.

Anyway, the same day I sought Kathy out was the day I learnt when Jo’s son’s wedding was. I now had committed to making two cakes. Although at this stage the wedding cake was just bake and cover. Based on that I got to planning and realised that this was quite do-able. I just hoped I wasn’t going to have to head out of town to any customers the week leading into the events.

50_GeometricKathy and I had a chat and I learnt Greg didn’t like chocolate (secretly dying inside knowing I needed to ganache the cake prior to covering in fondant). But his favourite dessert was Creme Brûlée (which I’ve never had). I suggested the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake with a Swiss Meringue Butter Cream with caramel, to try and give some of that some taste of the melted sugar on the top of a Creme Brûlée. Next we got talking about the type of cake. Kathy said a square cake would be less feminine looking (I didn’t actually roll my eyes, but I realised this cake would take a little more loving in making). Finally we discussed colours and design. Kathy said she really didn’t know, but their house was decorated using greys, black and red (good Canterbury colours there – the red and black). I asked if Kathy liked geometric shapes which she did. I was forming a plan in my head as we spoke, which was better than having no clue from the get-go.

A couple of weeks out I got to making the decorations. I used Chocit for the first time at home. I’ve used it during Kevin’s class which he held in November, but I’d not used it since. I can’t speak highly enough of Chocit and the Atlas Mercato pasta roller that Kevin had recommended if someone was in the market to buy one. Gosh it was just so good to use, and the Chocit behaved beautifully. It rolled smoothly and it cut easily. I was feeling pretty chuffed that I was ahead of the game and had the “colour” sorted and would have a fairly simple job of the final decorating of the cake.

Then that coming Tuesday is when Jo asked if it were at all possible that I could make the Frangipani flowers for the wedding cake. It was just as well Greg’s cake was mostly under control (in my mind).

SourCreamVanillaBeanDryIngredientsI was able to finish work early on the Monday of the week of the party and I’d prepared all the ingredients on the Sunday ready for me to make the cake batter. The recipe was for an 8″ round cake that makes 3 layers and I was making a 6 layer 8″ square. I had to convert the tin size and then I had to divide all the quantities by 3. I was going to make two layers at a time an bake them together. The square Magic Line cake pans were ordered from Global Sugar Art in the States but with the lip all around the tin I wasn’t able to fit two tins side by side in the oven.

50_Bake vs FanI put the first of the 3 batches in the oven, each layer on separate racks. However the one on the bottom rack, closest to the oven door baked like a wedge, that is one side was much higher than the opposite side. The height of the shortest sides was too short for my liking. I plodded on and put the next two cake layers in. The tin that baked the “wedge” was not used with the following 2 layers, but even so the same thing happened to the layer that was on the bottom rack. I watched it off and on and I actually swapped it to the top rack just after it had been in the oven for 20 minutes to try and circumvent the lopsided baking. It seemed fine when I swapped the tins over, but when the cakes were done, the one that started on the bottom rack was again a wedge. At least the two wedges would sit nicely one on top of the other (top to top). But there’s no way I could cope with using two layers that were too short. I decided that I had no option than to bake each layer individually. And I would make another two layers to replace the two lopsided ones. I was in for a long night after all. Just as well I managed to finish work early!

Mr Fussy received a SOS call asking him to stop in at the supermarket to get more sour cream, the only ingredient I didn’t have enough of to bake the extra two layers, but I got everything ready and we were right on time with having the batter ready right as I was pulling the 4th layer out (being the second cake I baked as a single layer). I was stunned at the difference it made to bake the cakes as single cakes as opposed to using fan bake to bake multiple layers. The single layers never crusted on the outside edges, and rose significantly higher.

50_Building a towerThat same evening I also ganached the 8″ tier of the wedding cake and I managed to get Greg’s cake into two halves. I piped ganche around the edge of each layer and then filled the layers with Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream. At this point it was after 10pm and I got cold feet about putting the two halves together. If things went well I would want to fix it and that could mean an even later night. Instead I covered both halves with layers of gladwrap and put the cakes in the fridge.

SaltedCaramelSauceTuesday I trimmed both halves. At this point I was very grateful I didn’t put the two halves together the previous night. I didn’t have a knife long enough to trim the cake if it had been fully assembled. Now both halves were trimmed I added the poly dowels to the bottom half to support the weight of the top half. I added a 1mm cake card to separate the two halves. This was part of my plan. Knowing Greg didn’t like chocolate, the bottom half of the cake wouldn’t have a layer of ganache on it, and therefore Greg could have a piece of cake free of chocolate. I knew the cake would be cut in half horizontally making it again two halves.

50_The towerI took a deep breath and turned the top half over to sit on the bottom half. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was totally fine. Nothing slipped, nothing came away. Since there was no crisis I decided to plod on and I ganached it. Again I had cake cards that weren’t a 100% match for each other. I hate that. Means I have to fluff about so much more trying to get it right, and did I mention it was a square cake. You might think a square cake would be easier but that’s not the case. Square cakes have to be perfect, there’s no hiding a corner that’s slightly off. I didn’t set my expectations too high (haha!) and knew that it would be a softly softly approach to squaring everything up. So Tuesday night was not quite a slap dash. I did try to get things neat and tidy, but I wasn’t aiming for perfection. That would be Wednesday night.

Or Wednesday morning.

I found that if I used my tallest acrylic scraper and held it flush on one side, then add ganache to my other scraper I could then rest the one with ganache against the one flat against the other side and move it up the cake applying a little more ganache where needed and eventually giving a pretty good finish. I had to wait a little bit for the one side of the corner from each 4 sides to set up before I could repeat the process on the other side of the corner. This one was a little more difficult because I was using my left hand to scrape up the side of the cake, which isn’t so easy when it’s not your dominant side. Everything felt odd and it took a lot more concentration. But we got there, and actually it all came together. So the last thing was the top. I had been mulling over how I would ganache the top. I really didn’t feel I could use the upside down method with cake being so tall and heavy. Instead I ganached it up the right way and then put waxed paper over it, then a large acrylic square and applied a little weight and got the spirit level out and tried as best I could to get the top level. Then into the fridge it went. And out the door for a run I was.

50_Bit by bit Ganache

Top left is the first round of ganaching. Top right was applying more ganache to the top to even them up (the top cake board was ever so slightly smaller than the bottom). And the bottom photos show the results of my method for squaring up the corners.

When I got back I took the cake from the fridge and top the acrylic square off along with the waxed paper to see how well the ganaching went. Well not as good as I had hoped. I was in for some patching up. One corner was too low. Sadly I never quite got it right and thought that it would be good enough. It wasn’t. I can clearly see how that one corner isn’t right after applying the fondant. So lesson learned. You really have to get a square cake more right than you might be able to get away with a round cake.

50_Ready to fondantFriday rolled around and while I was completely on track, I knew covering the cake in fondant was going to be tricky work. I had no intention of draping the fondant, I was always going to panel the cake. And for kicks I decided it would be fun to have each side a different shade of grey. Thursday I had coloured the fondant. It actually took quite a bit of work, and even then I wasn’t sure it the change in depth was as noticable as I wanted. It was hot work, working the colour in and I decided it was fine if I alternated a light grey next to a darker grey. So here I was Friday night figuring out how I was going to get what was almost an 8″ square onto the sides of the cake without the fondant shape distorting. And of course I wanted to make sure that it was all the same thickness. As you can see from the photo I measured out my “square”. I used the perfection strips (for rolling cookie dough) to make sure I was rolling an even thickness. And the painters tape was my guide to the square size needed.

50_4 SidesThe first one was for the top of the cake so it was slightly easier but I had to shuffle the rolled out and trimmed fondant onto another cutting mat and then sort of shimmy it off that onto the cake at the very right point. It was now that I could see that corner that wasn’t as perfect as it should have been told the truth. The fondant did stretch a bit as I got it onto the cake so I needed to use a razor to trim the piece again to the right size.

The first piece for the side also didn’t behave as well as I’d have liked. This time the fondant shrunk back a little as I got it to the side. you can see how the piece doesn’t fit as well as it should. I learnt a few things after these two sides, which would have been nice to know right off the bat. Anyway the rest of the sides were mostly fine and fit well with a little bit of trimming. I made not real effort to try and blend the sides. I didn’t want the straight edges to weave which I suspected they would if I tried to rub the edges to blend them a bit more. Next I got the same cutters I used for the Chocit decorations and impressed the fondant making each side different. I had no plan at this point about which decorative pieces would got where, but thankfully on the Saturday morning it worked out and they seemed to fit quite well.

50_ChocitI just had the cake board to cover (which again was a little problematic with the black fondant drying out too quickly and cracking), put the ribbon on and work on the “50” for the top. I’d made cookies using the same geometric shape. I used my Wilton cookie numbers to cut out the cookies. On Saturday I rolled more black fondant (having added some glycerine to help with the drying out), cut out the 5 and the 0, then used the geometric shape to then cut the shape so the number was in the middle and then flipped the fondant piece and placed the cookie over the fondant. I can’t recall what I used to get the fondant to adhere to the cookie. Maybe some piping gel. I had to touch up the fondant piece a bit which I did by using the Color Shapers. Then it was time to let the fondant dry a bit before I piped some melted chocolate onto the back of the cookies and then put cake pop sticks on. This would allow me to put the cookies onto the top of the cake and know they were secure in the cake.

The drive to the party was uneventful, but all the same I asked Mr Fussy to stop part way there so I could check the cake. I was concerned the top half of the cake could possibly budge and try to make a break for it from the lower half of the cake. I know it’s not totally rational, but I’ve never delivered a cake that’s this tall and made in two parts so I needed to give myself some reassurance that all was well. And it was.

CookieTopperOnce we arrived I placed the cookie decorations on the top, took a few quick photos and then the cake was put out the back (away from the sunshine and Greg – who didn’t know Kathy had arranged for a birthday cake) until later in the evening. Cutting the cake was a bit fiddly but we got there. There were numerous treks between the bench I was cutting the cake on, to the sink where I was continually cleaning off the knife. I have a real thing for making sure the knife is clean between cuts. I don’t want to see cake crumbs ending up embedded into the surface of the cake as I make the next cake. It was quite a slow process but in my opinion always worth it.

And there ends my massive tale. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to make Greg’s birthday cake. And I for the most part I enjoyed all the learning experiences I got from making this cake.

50th Birthday Cake

Time for a quick photo and then it was time to get this cake away from the sun. I do like the shadow the cookie decorations created though.


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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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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.


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Movember 2014

Movember CakesA few weeks back I made a couple of cakes for Mr Fussy to take to work, and to trade a slice for a donation to his Movember page.

The cakes were the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake I’ve made several times now, it’s one of Summer Stone’s recipes over on Cake Paper Party.

My template. Notice I didn't roll the fondant big enough. Tut tut

My template. Notice I didn’t roll the fondant big enough. Tut tut


I decided to make the most of the opportunity to make cakes to complete two cake designs I’ve had my eye on for a while. The Startburst cake I first spotted when Natalie and I were looking at cake designs for Cameron’s cake. I took note of the link and then promptly ordered the cutters so I could make the cake. And it’s taken me over a year to finally get around to it.

The other cake was based off a Craftsy class by Allison Kelleher of AK Cake Design. This is based on the Colour Block Cake. In hindsight I wished I’d looked on Design Seeds to get a better grouping of complimentary colours. But it is what it is and while the colour combinations aren’t as pleasing to me as I wanted, there’s really nothing wrong with the cake.

Both designs too much longer than I had expected. I almost sliced my finger with the star burst cake. That cutter is quite narrow and every single piece would stick to the cutter and need to be eased out. And it was that motion that kept tearing at little snags in my skin.

It was also really difficult to get the timing right from having rolled the fondant through the pasta roller (uniform thickness is paramount here) and letting it dry out a little so that was easier to cut and release without the shape becoming misshapen. But then I still needed it to be flexible enough to lay against a round cake.

Happy enough with how this came out in the end. My finger has almost recovered - 2 weeks later.

Happy enough with how this came out in the end. My finger has almost recovered – 2 weeks later.


Before I began I had cut out the pieces and made the design I wanted to use. And thank goodness for having a template to refer to because there was more than one occasion that I felt I lost my way and couldn’t look at the cake and see where I was.

Not thrilled about how this was ending.

Not thrilled about how this was ending. And look at that awful elephant skin at the top. Just as well the cake was being completely covered.

As I suspected, as I moved around the cake, and I sort of started at the front and would do a pattern to the left of centre, then the right of centre, and then kept this going from left to right until I reached the back. The pattern wasn’t going to end as a complete pattern. I wasn’t really surprised but it was still disappointing. I looked and looked and tried to figure out the best way to make it seem less obvious. And I think I did ok, or at least made the most of it.

Lots and lots of triangles. I was losing heart.

Lots and lots of triangles. I was losing heart.

Sunday was spent colouring fondant to get a base colour and then rolling it out, cutting it, which took ages and then painting over the triangles. Of course I found it difficult to figure out which colours I wanted to put next to the other, and I wanted to mix things up a bit, so occasionally I’d change the direction the triangles were placed. The triangles dried out a lot quicker than I expected. A few of them cracked as I placed them. And there were quite a few I had to cut (with a razor) to trim them back to the right size. Unlike Allison, I brushed a strip of the fondant covered cake and then began to place the triangles. Allison showed brushing each triangle around the perimeter of the piece and then attach it to the cake. I think that’s so that you can ease them into place, or remove them if you decide you don’t like the placement of colour. I did pull a few pieces off and swap them out, but for the most part I just went with what I had.

The "side" I prefer best.

The “side” I prefer best.

As well as the cakes I also had some cookies as well. I wanted to try my hand at hand painting (again) some flourishes. I had previously printed out some designs, as well as the wording I wanted to use, then I used the KopyKake to help me with the writing, but I just went for it with the flourishes. As per usual I didn’t really have a well thought out plan and I wanted to keep practicing so I might have added a few too many on the cookies.

Anyway most of the cake and cookies were exchanged for donations and Mr Fussy has a little more cash for the Movember cause. Job done!

Oops, I can’t find the photos of the cookies. You’ll just have to settle for these ones that I took as I was making them.

 

The obvious cookies for Movember.

The obvious cookies for Movember.

 


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A tale of two cakes

Cake Paper Party recipes

Cake Paper Party recipes

The heading of this post is a little melodramatic. Although I did bake two cakes today (Saturday). When I began to follow Summer Stone’s blog, Cake Paper Party, the first post I read was her post on American Mud Cake. The thing is I’d already read it somewhere else and hadn’t realise it was Summer’s recipe. Although I’ve found a Chocolate Mud Cake that works well (Planet Cake) I was intrigued by the American version. Since I didn’t have anything planned for this weekend I decided I’d bake the Mud Cake. I’ll pop it into the freezer and use it later in the month. The other cake I wanted to try was the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake. It’s more or less a from scratch WASC cake. Even though I’ve got a couple of box mixes, and bought the White Chocolate pudding mix while in Canada, I’m still drawn to a from scratch cake. My problem was that Mr Fussy let me know on Friday night, after packing away the groceries, that there was no room in the freezer. He didn’t know what my plans were for the weekend, but the lack of freezer space was going to ruin my plans somewhat since I would have no room in my freezer after the mud cakes went in. The only option was to make the cake and then send him off to work with it on Monday.  I’m working at a client site otherwise I’d take it to work. With two birthdays from work colleagues this weekend it would have been warmly welcomed. Actually a cake at any time would be warmly welcomed.

A rouge block of chocolate has slipped into my "ganache" stash.

A rouge block of chocolate has slipped into my “ganache” stash.

The first cake I started was the Mud Cake. I’d pulled the butter and sour cream out for the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake (SCVBC – just because it’s a lot to write!) before heading out the door for a run, but when I arrived back, had breakfast and showered ready to make a start, I realised I needed more eggs than I had at room temperature, I had enough for the Mud Cake, but not for the SCVBC. So decision made. While I wanted to taste test the Mud Cake, and check the texture, I decided I’d just have to forgo that. As I write I realise that was a bad decision, I really do need to know how that cake baked and tasted. I guess I’ll have to make another!

A little something I collected in Bologna

A little something I collected in Bologna

Can I just say I’m so very very pleased with the Magic Line pans I bought. I watch in wonder as the cakes bake so evenly, and near flat. While I can’t say whether it’s the ML pans or the fact the pans are just 2″ that makes the difference, I know that 2″ pans bake so well and I can’t imagine going back to 3″ high pans, unless of course I want to make a Mud Cake that isn’t expected to be layered.

Flat! I have flat cakes right out of the oven.

Flat! I have flat cakes right out of the oven.

I ran the knife around the edge of the pans carefully so as not to gouge out the side of the cake as I’d done with Mum’s White Mocha birthday cake, another of Summer’s recipes. I tipped the cakes out and then righted them up the other way. I was thrilled with how straight the sides were, and while the cakes look a bit wrinkly on the top (there’s sort of an optical illusion going on in this photo), they have remained flat and not sunk. And they’re 1.5″ tall. That’ll make for a taller cake than I’d usually decorate, it’ll come to 4.5″ tall with frosting to be added. But still, I’d rather than them taller and torted them than worry the cake height wasn’t going to be a bit on the short side.

Hmm, hard to explain what's going on here. I didn't poke my finger in it. I really did bake like this.

Hmm, hard to explain what’s going on here. I didn’t poke my finger in it. It really did bake like this. Ok, so this is not perfectly flat, but it’s the closest I’ve ever had and for that I’m grateful.

We can give the Mud Cake a tick. There’s nothing in making that recipe that worries me and I’m very pleased with how the cakes turned out. Of course I have no idea the taste which is important, and why I’m likely to be making this recipe again in the near future. After lunch I got stuck into the SCVBC. While I outside putting the mud cakes in the freezer I grabbed the other 1/2 recipe I had for the sugar syrup that is used to make the buttercream. I poured that from the zip loc bag to a bowl and then put it in the microwave for 20 seconds. It didn’t really warm at all, but it took the edge off the chill. The butter was at room temperature.

Love me some vanilla beans.

Love me some vanilla beans.

Onto cake number 2. All my ingredients were at room temperature but I still zapped the butter for 20 seconds at two 10 second intervals. The method of making the SCVBC is the reversing method, so there’s no creaming of butter and sugar where you can smoosh the butter well and truly before adding the remaining ingredients. It’s important the butter is quite soft so that it will incorporate without needing the living heck beaten out of it. The extra beating that might be required I suppose could over work the protein in the flour and alter the texture of the cake. At least I’ve heard you can do such things.

Beautiful cake batter.

Beautiful cake batter.

It’s a pretty easy cake to make, in fact I like not having to cream butter and sugar. Once it was ready to go I weighed the batter and then did my sums. While the recipe uses three 9″ cake pans, I wanted to have some of the cake to try but not all of it. I figured out I could use 7″ cake pans (using .77 of the full cake batter) and the remainder would be split across two 4″ cake pans.

Even just nudging above the top of the 2" pan these baby 4" cakes still rose and baked flat. I'm so excited!

Even just nudging above the top of the 2″ pan these baby 4″ cakes still rose and baked flat. I’m so excited!

As it turned out, the batter in the two 4″ cake pans was a little more than 1″ before baking. I had expected the smaller cakes to bake quicker but it turned out that the 7″ and two 4″ cakes took 35 minutes. The other two 7″ cakes took 30 minutes. Go figure. I think the oven temperature had dropped just a bit, clearly enough to make a difference. It wasn’t until I tipped the 7″ cake out onto the cooling rack that I realised I’d not run the knife around the edge. I shook my shoulders and threw caution into the wind and repeated the same with the 4″ cakes. They all just slid nicely out of the pans.

I probably didn't need to add some electric pink to the frosting. Oh well.

I probably didn’t need to add some electric pink to the frosting. Oh well.

The three 7″ cakes are in the fridge and will be filled and covered tomorrow. Not sure how I’ll cover them, but Mr Fussy has requested the Passionfruit flavour for them, and the smaller cake to be strawberry. I’d ordered Nutrafresh freeze dried powder during the week and was eager to try it. I bought Raspberry, Blueberry, Strawberry and Passionfruit. I whipped up the 1/2 portion of Swiss Butter Cream. It takes my KitchenAid a lot longer to emulsify the butter and sugar syrup than Summer describes, but eventually we got there. Again I had my face pressed close watching for that magical moment when everything starts to get all cohesive and I knew it was going to work. I’ll use the same method tomorrow for the passionfruit frosting. Update, well it’s hardly an update when you’re reading this all at once. It’s Sunday and I’ve finished the 7″ cake.  I made the frosting and it took a very long time of nothing much happening. I knew that it wasn’t ruined, I just needed to add a bit more butter. I could see the texture changing very slowly and found that slowing the mixer rather than increasing the speed worked better.  I reckon it took about 15 minutes before I added more butter, and then after that had been worked in I set the timer for 4 minutes. If it hadn’t worked after 4 minutes I was going to add more butter. As if by magic, right on the dot of 4 minutes the buttercream came together. Phew. I did have to add more passionfruit flavouring, so all up 2 tablespoons.

Great texture. These cakes have baked so nicely.

Great texture. These cakes have baked so nicely.

I didn’t need the full batch of buttercream. I knew I wouldn’t. I coloured some of it, but when I was finished and took the cake outside to the fading daylight I could see the buttercream was still too green for what I thought it was inside. I’ve got left over buttercream now in the freezer waiting for another round of cake baking/testing.

Love how the lighting makes this cake look all shiny.

Love how the lighting makes this cake look all shiny.

As for the design of the cake destined for Mr Fussy’s workplace, I had been puddling about with a piece of fondant I’d left out to dry over so I could basically finger paint. Well I wanted a watercolour effect but I have to admit to touching it with my fingers and pushing some of the colour around. I wanted to see how easy this “look” was as I have plans to use it for my Pink Ribbon cake. I first saw this design by Allison Kelleher from  AK Cake Design on The Cake Blog. Anyway adding this to the cake was a bit of a last minute idea. I’d previously cut the fondant strips out and had them measured at 4″ tall.

A small portion of the fondant I painted with edible dusts and rose spirit (not Vodka this time).

A small portion of the fondant I painted with edible dusts and rose spirit (not Vodka this time).

The 7″ cakes I had trimmed to 3cm in height and added minimal frosting between the layers. I really thought the cakes would have been higher than 4″ finished. Sadly I didn’t check before I started to place the fondant panels around the cake. Oh well. It was just some practice and rather than tossing the “art” out I managed to find a way to use it even though it hadn’t been my plan initially.

A little sandwich after dinner. Still a very light but moist cake after a day hanging out in the fridge.

A little sandwich after dinner. Still a very light but moist cake after a day hanging out in the fridge.

As for waste not want not. The left over cake that was torted I sandwiched together and that become pudding. I was pretty pleased with the texture of the cake given it had been in the fridge for a day. Hopefully it’s still just as good tomorrow but I wont know, and Mr Fussy is likely to try palming the cake off without having to have another slice himself. I suspect 3 days in a row might be pushing it. As for me, well I joined the gym today. Last day of sweet treats for me. I’ve got 2kg to lose in 2 months and it’s time to knuckle down and reduce the amount of cake and increase the amount of exercise!

Dessert.

Dessert.


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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.

Untitled

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 😉