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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



ANZAC Day 2014

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


ANZAC Day cake

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

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

Gumpaste poppies made using Bakels Red fondant with tylose.

Gumpaste poppies made using Bakels Red fondant with tylose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is one of my favourite handpainted poppies.

This is one of my favourite handpainted poppies.

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

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

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

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

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

The beginning of the field.

The beginning of the field.

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

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

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

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

Handpainting 3

Handpainting 4

handpainting 5

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


Live long and prosper – David’s birthday cake

I realise I’ve become quite lazy with taking photos. Don’t get me wrong. I’m taking lots of photos, but from my phone. Setting up shots is really time consuming. And when it gets to the point I don’t want to bake because I want to take photos, then something has to change. So you’ll get the same number of photos (overload), but they’re from my phone, unless it’s something I deem to be quite special, then I’ll take the photos on the dSLR.

Ok, that out the way, not only are these photos from my phone, my Macbook had packed up (I’ve had it just 6 months) and has gone off to Apple to be checked out. It’s no longer charging.  So these photos haven’t seen Lightroom either. I don’t have Lightroom on my work laptop.

Phew, now I’ve come clean, let’s get onto David’s cake.

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Live long and prosper

I had made the Planet Cake Mud cake a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer in anticipation of David’s birthday. I made two 6” cakes. The recipe is for a 9” cake.  You get two 6” cakes out of one 9” cake. It’s the first time I’ve made the mud cake recipe and I was pretty pleased with how it baked and cooled in the tin. I’d ordered the Planet Cake cookbook, but you can find another blogger who wrote out the recipe here.

I used a frosting recipe I’d spotted, probably over a year ago. I’m not sure why I decided now would be the time, but it was.

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Thick unappetising white sauce to become a silky frosting in another life.

The recipe makes the frosting starting from a white sauce. I know. Sounds disgusting, right? But it was weird and I like weird so I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave it a crack.

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Add that white sauce to the whipped butter and sugar and you end up with something quite unexpected.

Well the frosting turned out pretty good. It really was light in texture. The only thing is that there were a couple of small globs of the white sauce. While it seemed like it had all whipped up together (and it whipped up nicely like Swiss Meringue Buttercream) as I was frosting the cake, I spotted a couple of small globs.

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Texture of the mud cake.

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Oops, we’ve got problem. The ganache kept it all together.

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Crumb coated of sorts and ready for some frosting.

Getting back to the cake, Mr Fussy took the cake out of the freezer Friday morning (I was in Hamilton) and popped it in the fridge. I torted it Saturday when I was ready to frost it. Boy, that is one sticky cake. I got my knife stuck in the first layer (the bottom) on more than one occasion. So much so that in my desperation to extract the knife a bit of the side of the middle layer broke away. I wasn’t happy with that and it was putting me off the cake big time. Thankfully the middle cut and the cut to level the top layer (3 layers) was much easier. The cake really is as Kathrin said, like a brownie. It also had a much stronger taste of coffee than I expected. There was a lot of coffee (25gm of granules) but usually that disappears during baking and acts only to deepen the flavour of the chocolate. I don’t like coffee (and I don’t drink tea), so for me it was a little too much, especially when I hadn’t been expecting it.

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This is what I was aiming for at first, then Dave’s suggestion saw an addition of “Live long and prosper”. Very fitting for a birthday.

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Up to the second trace, now to trace the pencil (2B) outline onto the fondat by tracing over the same markings.

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Looks weird, and takes a bit of looking backward and forward between fondant and original picture to make sure you’re filling in the right sections.

  Backing up a bit, as I mentioned, I was in Hamilton Friday. When I got home the only thing on my mind was to hand paint the top of David’s cake. On the Monday I had cut a 6” circle of fondant and I’d printed out a black and white image of Spock. Dave at work spotted the image on my screen and suggested that I add “live long and prosper”. Good idea. I had to then decide where I’d place that, and what font/size I wanted, then I had to flip the whole thing over (I use Snagit, a screen capture (and more) application we use at work). The reason you flip it over is that you then trace the image onto baking paper and then the baking paper is placed onto the fondant, and you re-trace the image again, over the image you first put onto the baking paper. And when all is said and done, you’ve drawn the image 3 times. Twice on the baking paper (one each side) and then finally the traced image on the fondant.

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A sort of side-by-side comparison. Pretty close.

 I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. The only thing is that I didn’t get a very even coverage of Spock’s hair. I had some thinned out Sugarflair Liquorice which applied nicely to larger areas, but I ran out before I finished the hair, so I used the food gel without thinning it. That’s what did me in. I shouldn’t have been so lazy and I should have made up a little more thinned down black. You live and learn. And while it wasn’t quite as smooth as I’d have liked, over all I was pleased with how the image came out on the fondant, and I enjoyed the process. I must remember that I can take a bit of artistic license and could make some changes. I was thinking of adding some blue into the top but with the image sitting a lot to the bottom right it seemed like it would be trying too hard.

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Ombre sort of affecting lending itself to a sort of planet look. I used Americolor Sky Blue and Navy together and then took some of that colour and mixed it with the buttercream to get a lighter tone.

Instead I coloured the frosting blue. In some ways it reminds me of a planet, and with the theme being Star Wars, that’s kind of fitting. Not that I’d planned it that way.

I didn’t take a photo of a slice of the cake. I had flavoured the cream used to make a milk chocolate ganache with Lime oil. Mr Fussy wasn’t fond of it, but my MIL and I were quite taken with it. It was quite unusual to have such a flavour be quite bold, but not in the cake itself.

Even though we didn’t have the usual Paling family traditional dinner (yes you can laugh, I think it’s crazy – KFC with Christmas Pudding including custard), David was pretty pleased with having a birthday cake.

I put a round of baking paper between the cake and the fondant top so David got to take the top home with him, along with the rest of the cake.

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One last view of the hand painting. I have this on my new PME tilting turntable. Boy it makes it easier on the neck.

Now the frosting recipe says to have the cake the same day the frosting is made, but David managed to stretch the rest of his cake out to Thursday, his actual birthday. I forgot to ask him what it tasted like, and how he stored the cake. I suspect he wouldn’t know to put it in the fridge.

So that’s one cake for March done and dusted. Today is our wedding anniversary and I have made a cake, and we’ve had a slice, so that’ll be next week. Then Mr Fussy has a birthday at the end of the month, but he’s requested the Lemon cheesecake and no cake. Fair enough, and I like that cheesecake too!


The Movember Cake

A week has passed since I finished decorating the cake. Perhaps enough time to have forgotten how awfully the fondant was applied. You guessed it, it took me two attempts. Thankfully using Crisco on the ganache makes pulling the fondant off far less nerve wracking than putting it on. I had almost all of it completely smoothed over the cake when a small tear appeared. I couldn’t see a way to disguise it which lead me to pulling the whole lot off.

I suppose I should explain the cake was 5″ high, 6″ wide. That is pretty close to a Double Barrel cake, so I was somewhat nervous before I even go started. And as it turns out, had good reason to be.

I was happy with the shade of “gold” I had for the fondant, but it was 30degrees and probably not the best of conditions to be working with fondant (I think it dried out too fast) or modelling chocolate. I really do know how to challenge myself 🙂

Alright, here’s a photo, and a good close up so that you can see how painful it was for me.

Best Mo

elephants were here

I had a hard time with the moustaches. Not only was the modelling chocolate far too pliable, I couldn’t get mirror images of the moustaches. I tried using the dresden tool to mark the outline of the moustache and used this as a guide to cut with the craft knife. It worked best, but took me too many attempts where I screwed up my face before I had this wee brain wave.  I’ll know better for next time.

If we go way back, the ganache gave me no end of grief either. I used some I had previously made and had frozen (which I think had been another difficult batch). Adding this now room temperature ganache to the remainder I had from the previous week resulted in a curdled ganache. I fixed it using the same method I have previously written about. But on the Saturday morning when I was setting out to ganache the cake, I had to warm it a little to make it pliable, and that was enough to make it begin to curdle again. For all that, it applied just fine, and I’d say this was my easiest and quickest application, and I had a really nice smooth top using the upside down method. I didn’t take any photos because the sides were a little grainy looking, but I knew it wouldn’t be at all noticeable under the fondant. It was smooth, just not baby bottom smooth.

So the second attempt to cover the cake in fondant wasn’t perfect either. I ended up with a thin section which has started to pleat as I was smoothing the sides down during the application.

I couldn’t really let it go like that. I needed to do something to lessen the wincing I was doing. Mr Fussy was called upon for some ideas but had none. I’m not surprised 🙂 I didn’t want to add another colour, I loved the colour. So as you can see I made two sorts of collars. And I managed to get the fondant rolled through the pasta attachment on the KitchenAid in one piece. Hoorah!

The bottom collar was using a PME broderie anglaise cutter. My first time using it and it pressed nicely. I then rolled the fondant collar up and then unrolled it against the cake, having first brushed a little water to ensure it adhered. The top thinner collar was made using a friller cutter with a scollop and then once I had the top edge on I used one of my gumpaste tools to make the little fan-type impression.

Gumpaste tool impression

It still didn’t disguise all that awful elephant like texture, nor did adding in the modelling chocolate pieces. I just had to close my eyes and accept it was what it was.

Anyway, the cake and cupcakes went to work with Mr Fussy. He delivered them to Grant who was unaware that I was making a cake for him. Grant organises the Movember campaign for their work. He gratefully accepted the goodies and got busy with a bit of marketing and sold the cake slices and most of the cupcakes collecting some money for their Movember team.

MarketingI had filled the layers with Italian Meringue Buttercream I’d made some weeks ago and had frozen. It re-whipped up fine and smoothed nicely between the layers. I was itching to know when the cake was cut, whether it would be nice and dry or whether it would look a bit damp. After all, the cupcakes, which were thicker than each individual layer of cake, were baked perfectly. I was eagerly waiting for the verdict. But alas the cake looked damp. I can only put it down to the buttercream separating/weeping. I’ve been told the cupcakes were “delicious”, but no one that had a slice of cake made a comment to Mr Fussy. Mr Fussy works in a different section to Grant, and the “sale” of cake/cupcakes was made to Grant’s team first. Mr Fussy’s team leader sniffed out the baking and bought a cupcake and passed on his comment.


Where does that leave me? I’m happy with the cake. It really has the most pleasant vanilla flavour. I’ve made it agains this weekend and used Raspberry Emulsion with it. I’ve got the 4 individual 6″ cake layers double wrapped in Gladwrap and in the freezer.

Again I made cupcakes with the other third of the cake batter. I got 15 cupcakes, for some reason the batter this weekend yeilded more than last weekend. Mr Fussy says it’s the air temperature. The only changes this week were the use of the emulsion, Mainland unsalted butter instead of my favoured Lewis Road Creamery butter, and I didn’t quite have 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, probably about 20ml short, which I added cream to make up the balance. But I wouldn’t have thought those very minor changes would have made the difference.

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I’m back to the drawing board with the Ganache. This weekend I’ve made another. I’m using a different method, a method that required me to fish out the candy thermometer. I’ve used Whittaker’s 50% chocolate and Meadowfresh cream. It wasn’t looking good. Well it was looking glorious when I made it and put it into the container. But this morning the ganache was really soft. I doubt it hard hardened at all. I popped it into the fridge for most of the day. I pulled it out as I was preparing dinner. It certainly had gone solid. And I’ve just checked, it’s room temperature now and it would need a little warming to make it spreadable. I was a bit disheartened this morning when I checked it, but perhaps it will be right now that it’s been in the fridge to harden. I’m crossing my fingers!

2013-11-23 09.01.29As for the Raspberry Emulsion, it’s from Lorann, it has a sort of honey/raspberry flavour. When I sniffed the bottle it smelt like it had almond in it. But I can’t detect that at all. While there’s “something” in the flavour of the cupcake, I can’t taste it’s raspberry (Mr Fussy’s favourite berry fruit). Going back to that dreadful batch of ganache, I remelted some of it and used it in the last of my frozen (but now room temperature) Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC). The buttercream re-whipped up nicer than the one used for the Moustache cake. I’m not quite sure why, other than I left it on the bench for several hours rather than having popped it into the fridge to thaw out overnight before then leaving on the bench.

2013-11-23 09.23.26The chocolate added to the IMBC was a little bit warm and as it whipped it had a few grainy bits which played havoc with the 2D Wilton tip. It clogged it up. I had to scrape the buttercream off and re-pipe it with the 1M Wilton tip. But boy it tasted so good, so so good. Loved it. Mr Fussy said the cupcake in all its splendour did have a raspberry taste. Perhaps it needed that chocolate IMBC to bring out the flavour better.

And the remaining dodgy ganache was used tonight to make a chocolate sauce. In the sauce you can’t tell there was anything wrong with it. Waste not, want not.

Next year, if I’m still playing around with cakes and decorating, my Moustache cake will surely be better. I am almost of the belief that the homemade fondant has a little more elasticity and forgiveness since it applied much easier on the Canterbury Show Day cakes.

Grant also had a sausage sizzle during the week. I’m thinking he had quite a good week for fundraising for Movember. I’m glad the cake and cupcakes were able to help in a small way.

Sorry for the mix of photos from various devices/sources.


Show Day!

Darth Maul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One down, one to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halloween Cake


I have been thankful to find an excuse to make another cake where I can practice using new toys, and modify the ganache recipe.

We don’t celebrate Halloween. In fact we cringe when we see children roaming the streets as we drive home, hoping they wont waste their time knocking at our door.

In that respect, making a cake with a Halloween theme is ludicrous., except it gave me an opportunity to have another “go” at decorating. And besides, when else would I get to use purple fondant?

I started on Thursday night. Some weeks back Natalie and I had been in the supermarket and I spotted Pams brand had a Coconut Instant Pudding flavour. I bought it.

Last week while grocery shopping I saw Duncan Hines Butter Cake was now being stocked. I bought that too. I wanted to see what the difference in brands would be. I’ve tried Betty Crocker. And as it happens, I’ve got Pillsbury Cake Mix coming my way as well. I put in another order at Martha’s Backyard this week. They’ve got free shipping until the end of the year. There’s a number of different goodies I’ve ordered. I’m curious about certain things that other blogs constantly rate so I’m going to “sample”.

Thursday I baked the cake as I did last weekend the Madeira cake I baked for Breast Cancer. Except this was a box mix, which was doctored.

Torte and layer

These are the changes I made:

  • 1 x Duncan Hines Butter Cake mix
  • Extra Self Raising flour to make the combined box and flour 18.25 oz
  • 1 x Coconut Instant Pudding (just the dry mix)
  • Extra Vanilla Instant Pudding mix to bring the total Pudding mix up to 3.4 oz (thank goodness my scales go from one measure to another)
  • 2/3 cup of egg whites (I used the Zeagold liquid egg whites)
  • 1 x 250 gm pottle of Lite Sour Cream
  • 1/3 cup of Coconut cream with water added to bring the total volume to ½ cup liquid

I’ve found the Baking Tin Size Converter Calculator link no longer works. In the end I downloaded the app (it’s a paid app) to my work iPhone because I just can’t be without this tool in my life.

The recipe, originally from Rose Bake’s website is for an 8” round tin. I found a 6” and 5” round cake tin equals an 8” round cake tin.

I poured 60% of the batter into the 6”, 3” high cake tin and the remainder (40%) into the 5”, 3” high cake tin.

What I didn’t expect was the huge difference in time to bake. The 5” took 65 minutes, the 6” took 90 minutes, in my oven.

I was praying they would be cooked all the way through. It’s quite tricky to tell when the cakes are so deep. They rose a little over 6cm.

Friday I torted and filled them with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Mmmm, Italian Meringue Buttercream. This was my first time making buttercream using this method.

Alison, who often leaves me very nice and encouraging comments on posts, had flicked me an email with a link to Bronnie Bakes YouTube with Alison’s personal recommendation.

I decided it was time I gave this a shot. I had a whole lot of egg whites to use (my pouch of ZeaGold egg whites) and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’m so glad I did.

I also used my much loved (I’m quite enthusiastic about) Lewis Road Creamery Unsalted Butter.

I’ve used this butter in the making of Swiss Meringue Buttercream and found I didn’t need all of the butter. But I actually added 500gm of butter (not the 450gm in the recipe). I think that was more because I started to add the butter before the bowl was room temperature. It was close, but just a little on the warmish side of cool.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

At first I found the flavour to be quite different. In fact the sweetness was so different that I never tasted the butter. But after sneaking another taste I could tell it had a buttery flavour, but not a thick heavy flavour like you’ve just chewed a chunk of it.

I have to say that I prefer the Italian Meringue Buttercream. And thankfully it too freezes because I had way too much, even though it only uses 5 egg whites and my SMBC uses 8 egg whites (I would have had too much of that as well). I’ve got the left overs, which there is quite a lot of, in the freezer. It’ll be put to good use when I make my Movember cake.

Friday night I also made the ganache. This time I bought Meadow Fresh cream (even though Home Brand has no note that it uses water, and it says 35% fat), and I used Cadbury Milk Chocolate Buttons, which has 27% cocoa butter.

But alas the ganache was too soft. I started out by adding a half 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate. I couldn’t tell any difference other than it went darker. Then Saturday morning when it was confirmed the ganache was still too soft and hadn’t hardened, I added the other ½ block. After leaving it a while I still wasn’t happy, so I gave in and opened another 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate and added another ½. And now we were in business. It was still quite pliable in application but it was starting to firm up in the bowl. Each time I swiped some ganache off the cake and returned the extra to the side of the bowl, it would almost instantly “set”. Yay.

So here’s my proportions:

  • 750gm Cadbury Milk Chocolate
  • 375gm 60% Whittaker’s Chocolate
  • 375gm Cream

I still followed the same method of brining the cream to the boil having first melted (slowly in the microwave) the chocolate. I actually melted the Whittaker’s chocolate in my milk pan, but next time I’ll melt all the chocolates together.

The cream was added in 4 stages to the chocolate and incorporated using a wooden spoon. Then I got the stick blender out and gave the lot a good mix for a few minutes (I didn’t re-do this stage after adding the Whittaker’s chocolate).

Again I had too much, even though I ganached both the 5” and 6” cakes. The rest is in the freezer, and will, like the IMBC, make an appearance for the Movember cake.

It didn’t take too long to ganache the cakes. I slightly modified the method I used last week. I didn’t ganache the base of the cake card, instead I used the buttercream. I found that ganache on the bottom of the cake make it harder to extract a slice from the cake when it was cut. Funny thing is though, that while the cake was in the fridge for the prescribed 2 hours firming up, and it was at this stage upside down, the cake card started to lift from the cake (the bottom was now at the top). Needless to say that when I flipped the cake back up the right way, so the cake was again sitting on the cake card, it remained in place and hasn’t slipped at all.

Next came the covering of the cakes. Remember last week when I had that really awful bulge? Yeah well that was my fear this week, except that I had two chances to bulge.

Building a web

Working in dark colours means that I had to be extra vigilant about getting cornflour on the fondant. And though I tried really hard, I still managed to get a bit on the fondant. I forgot to wipe my hands after having laid the fondant over the cake! Oops.

The fondant covered nicely and I had no problem at the beginning. And I poked a skewer all the way through the centre of each cake (as I’d read during the week) so that as the cake came to room temperature air had somewhere to escape.

Although the cakes were at room temperature before I covered them. With the ganache behaving I had no qualms about bringing them out of the fridge and letting them get to room temperature prior to covering them.

The only moment that caused me some concern was after I had stacked the 5” on the 6”. I could see a bit of a bulge along the top edge. I used a pin to prick it and eased the air out.

Along came a spider

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to wake in the morning and lay in bed wondering if your cake is still in tact. I have to get up and put myself out of my misery. Even it had blown apart, at least I’d know. In fact before I went to bed last night I took photos, just in case things took a turn for the worst.

Mr Fussy and I often get to talking about how I will decorate a cake. He encouraged me to go with the purple, he liked my idea of adding an orange border at the base of each cake. This gave me a chance to use my new First Impressions Silicone mould which had been shipped to me from America (thanks Fishpond!). I’d had a little practice during the day and found that the “strand” released quite easily for the 5mm size, but not so for the 4mm. Still I hadn’t planned to use the smaller size, the 5mm is about as small as you’d want for a cake boarder. The smaller sizes might be good as accents, or maybe they would work if you were doing a petite cake.

The pearl boarder used a 50/50 mix of gumpaste to fondant. It was really cool to use this. I was able to pick up the strand by just one pearl and it would all hang there, and the strand was still quite moveable after a few minutes, so I didn’t have to rush to get it on the cake immediately. Though I wouldn’t encourage you to sit about and have a cup of tea first.

At first I was going to leave the cakes at this stage for the night, but then I decided I still had plenty of time (I was at this stage before cooking dinner) so I’d do the cobwebs.


For the cobwebs I used my Mankins Clay Extruder. I’ve used this once before on the cake I did for Cel, I had made the grass around the posts using it. The fondant I used was the same as I used last weekend, so it had a little Tylose in it. That didn’t seem to have any adverse effect with the strands. I cut them up and placed them on the cake. This was a very fiddly job, and someone might have better ideas about how to do this without as much grief. I got to use my new paint brush, my Colour Shaper soft taper “brush”. I found them online (and in store) at a local art shop. I used this to help maneuver the strands in place. Though getting them to the cake was a real hit and miss affair. I had started out using my water pen (another art shop purchase) to “paint” the water into the lines I wanted to use. But it turned out to be not enough water to give the right stick for the fondant. Or it just took me too many times (and time) to get the strand to the cake. In the end, having already done 2 cobwebs, I realised it was easier to use the water pen directly onto the fondant strip. I had a better strike rate at getting the strip to stick to the cake, but it still wasn’t easy. So I did a third one, as you do.

All the while doing this I felt that many many months ago I had bought “something” to use for Halloween. It wasn’t until I got to bed (early because I wasn’t feeling well) that it dawned on me what it was. I had bought the Alphabet Halloween silicone mould, way back in January this year.

This morning I re-coloured the reddish orange that I used for the pearl boarders to make it a more pumpkin colour, and made the pumpkins, and the “Halloween” letter set. The pumpkins came away really easily but I put the mould into the freezer for 3 or so minutes when it came to the word Halloween. It came away good for 2/3 of it, but the last bit was somewhat reluctant. I thought I had misshapen the word, but on closer inspection to the mould, it was exactly as it was meant to look.


I used my edible black marker to colour in the eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkins, and after photographing the cake, realised I should have done the same for the pumpkin in the word “Halloween”. Oh well.

I used the same mould to try and make the spider and web, the witches face/hat and the broomstick and the bats. All of which proved to be very tricky, even after a light dusting of cornflour in the mould.

Ahh yes, the spider. I got to make him on Friday evening. He’s all fondant for the body and head, the legs have florist wire in them, and I made them too long, but I actually think he looked more menacing with longer legs.  After rolling the fondant around the wire I used very small scissors to cut into the fondant to give it some sort of “hairy” look.  Dave at work said I needed to add a black stripe down the back. Mr Fussy agreed. I had to Google Black Widow Spider to see how the red was, then I cut out the red fondant and adhered it to the back with a bit of water. Saturday I brushed the body with some water and then used black sanding sugar to give some texture. I also used my stencil brush dabbed into black food gel to give the red a bit of a mottled look, similar to the photo I was using. I didn’t know what to do with the face, I couldn’t get a good look from the photos, but knew I had it wrong. I decided to make fangs, but it really just makes the spider look like it has buck teeth. I’ve got a long way to go with figurines. Not that figurines really spin my wheels, probably because I find them so difficult.

Creepy crawlies

Now this may come as a bit of a surprise to you all, but in the last 2 weeks, I’ve had no chocolate bars after dinner, in fact the only sweet treat I’ve had was a slice of the cake I made for Breast Cancer Awareness, and last night I had a Chocolate Caramel Cookie that Mr Fussy and I made yesterday afternoon (post coming). That’s a bit of a miracle for me, because when I have a chocolate bar, I usually have two! I’ve been very good at turning cake down at work, and even having salads for lunch. I’ve only had bread twice in the last two weeks, both times during the weekend. So I’m having a piece of cake tonight. Coconut cake isn’t my favourite flavour, but I want to try it out. I do find it a bit limiting when I’m trying new things in the kitchen not to sample, but I’m really bad at knowing when to stop! One swipe of the beaters becomes devouring the entire remains. So yes, I had a very small bit of IMBC and relied on Mr Fussy to tell me what the ganache tasted like. He said you can tell it has some dark chocolate in it, but it’s not really bitter.


I’ll have to update the blog post with a photo of the cut cake so you can see how it all panned out.

All and all I’m happy with the outcome. The ganache worked, eventually, the IMBC is a hit, the cake doesn’t have any nasty bulges and the decorations, from afar, look reasonable.

So for those that do celebrate Halloween, I know it’s a bit early, but Happy Halloween to you.

The dark sideUpdate: We’ve just finished dinner (yummy Saffron Risotto with Porcini mushrooms and chicken) and followed that up with a slice of cake.

I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed it. It might have been the nicest slice of cake I’ve had, that I’ve made. I ate it slowly to try and get a feel for flavours and  textures. Usually I inhale my food. I mean you’d think there was a race, and being the competitive (cough) type, I had to win. Anyway, the cake. I first had some cake without any ganache and fondant. It was lovely and soft, and moist, but not a wet sort of moist. The coconut flavour was obvious but not in the slightest bit overpowering. The IMBC was there but not intrusive, it was soft and delectable. The ganache, well that’s got to be the best ganache I’ve ever put on a cake. It truey was smooth, it wasn’t bitter, it wasn’t a powerful mouthful of chocolate, it just melded really nicely with the cake. And the fondant was still soft but not sticky, the fork went through it nicely. If anything the fondant could have been a mm thinner. If I were being picky, which I usually am. Mr Fussy said it was a really nice cake. All together the cake was a very pleasant dessert. The cake wasn’t that sweet so it offset the fondant, and the ganache was just the right amount of chocolate but not the star. I guess what I’m trying to say is this was a very well balanced cake.

Why do box mixed cakes have to be so much nicer in flavour and texture? What do they add that makes it so?

Given I don’t really think much of coconut, I’d have another slice (but I wont) again. Of course if I had the choice of that and caramel, well.  It goes without saying doesn’t it?

Piece of cake


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.