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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A lot to catch up on – Lindy’s Gumpaste Recipe

Despite not feeling like I’ve spent a lot of time at home, I’ve got quite a few new recipes to share. I’m not sure how I’m going to get on top of it all.

Thankfully this week coming is my second to last flight to Hamilton. I now move from flying up Tuesday or Wednesday after work and returning on Friday evening, to leaving Monday after work, and arriving home 10pm on a Wednesday. I think these shorter trips will feel longer. But the good news …. I get to be home during some week day evenings.  And that means I get to potter around doing fun things like making flowers.

So today’s catch up is about Lindy’s recipe for gumpaste.

Some who have been around this blog for a while will know that I’ve tried a couple of different recipes.

I’ve also made Lindy’s recipe before too.

So what’s different this time?

This time I made a “commercial” batch of the gumpaste. The biggest difference to me was knowing the amount of water that needed to be added.

Lindy’s recipe produces a rubbery gumpaste. You can press it and it will spring back. I knew what to look for, but when I make a batch using just 100gm of fondant, the amount of water isn’t a measure and I seem to never quite get the right consistency, although it’s always been usable.

For me there were a couple of tests that would prove whether I finally had the recipe right.

Rubbery

Colours well

Rolls well

Can be fed through the KitchenAid on the narrowest setting (8)

Veins easily and holds the impression

Petal dust colours hold

So not much really 😉

Here’s a bunch of photos to keep you on the edge of your seat while I lead you on my journey.

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Dyocell Gumpaste Recipe – Commercial batch

Ingredients

  • 750gm fondant – I used Bakels, but you can use Satin Ice or other brands
  • 45gm water – heated for 35 seconds on high
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white fat – I used Crisco but Kremelta will also work
  • 29gm Dyocell

Instructions

  • Grease the inside of your stand mixer liberally with white fat along with the dough hook.
  • Pinch of sections of the 750gm fondant into the bowl
  • Heat the water for 35 seconds on high and tip into the mixer bowl
  • Add the 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable fat – I didn’t melt it, well I did, but such a small amount solidified before I had time to add it to the ingredients
  • Turn the mixer onto low – setting 2 on the KitchenAid and continue to mix until it is soupy. I mixed mine until it was all combined.
  • Use a rubber scraper (cover it with some white fat) to ensure all the ingredients have mixed together. Sometimes my KitchenAid mixer will not grab the bits right in the middle of the bowl.
  • Turn the miser onto 1 and gradually add the Dyocell over about a 5 second period.
  • Turn the mixer up to medium high, about 7 on the KitchenAid and mix for about 30-45 seconds. During this time the mixture will thicken and it will become harder for the mixer to work. Don’t overwork the mixer, you don’t want to burn the motor out. My KitchenAid was easily able to handle this mix without any signs of strain.
  • Use some white fat on a flat surface where you will tip the gumpaste out. Add a little white fat to your hands and pull the gumpaste off the dough hook and then using a rubber scraper or similar, get all the gumpaste out of the mixing bowl and onto the bench.
  • Gently knead the gumpaste until it is smooth. Apply more white fat to your hands and bench as needed.
  • Portion out the gumpaste into 100gm amounts. I rolled each portion like you would a dinner roll to reduce the uneven edges that might have a tendency to dry out.
  • At this stage I coloured one portion just to test how much the colour reduced in intensity overnight. You’re encouraged to colour a shade darker than you want because gumpaste has a tendency to lighten in colour as it sits.
  • Place each portion into a Mono lunchbag (yes, Mono brand, I’m being particular because this is what Lindy specifies) and twist the end and tie it into a hook knot. I’m not sure if that’s the real name, but where you’re tying a knot without feeding the end all the way through.
  • After an hour or so take each portion and re-knead it. You’ll notice some little bits of the Dyocell visible as little bumps in the paste. These sort of dissolve more or less during the second knead and aren’t noticeable when you’re kneading the gumpaste ready to roll and cut.
  • Place the bagged portions of gumpaste into an airtight container and leave to rest overnight in the fridge.
  • The following day take the gumpaste out of the fridge and bring to room temperature before using.
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Roll the gumpaste in a fashion that doesn’t leave jiggered edges exposed. This shows how I roll mine after kneading.

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This is the “knot” I’m trying to describe

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So that covers making it and colouring it. And of course tucking those little 100gm rolls into Mono lunch bags for save keeping in an airtight container. I use a Sistema container. Usually I use a smaller one that will hold two packets, but this one works too, for larger quantities.

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Use bacterial wipes to make sure your hands and under your nails are clean before handling the gumpaste. (Nicholas Lodge batch still bagged, top right corner, for comparison of colour for my own requirements)

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So it’s looking good thus far. Now the dusting. It’s a wonder I went this far. I find the dusting the least enjoyable part of making a sugar flower. But the experiment wouldn’t be complete without adding a bit of colour.

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Phew. I think I can comfortably give this “commercial” batch the thumbs up.

The Ranunculus veiner is one I  bought from Nicolas Lodge’s store, and the petal cutter is from a Ranunculus set I bought from Sugar Art Studio.

The pink is Cosmos, also bought from Nicolas Lodge. The method I’m using here to create a Ranunculs is from Jacqueline Butler of Petal Sweet.

And if you love Lindy’s gumpaste, but don’t want to faff about making it yourself, either in a more convenient 100gm portion or the commercial batch, then you can always buy it online if popping out to the shop is not convenient.  It’s good stuff.


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Christmas is coming!

Ok, the Christmas tree is up. Yes, I know, it’s still November. Mr Fussy makes it his mission to wear me down until I am exhausted and the Christmas tree goes up Show weekend. It’s been up for just over a week. It doesn’t make me feel at all like Christmas is coming.

Despite all that, this week I tackled a few Christmas projects. They were more to see how much I still need to refine, and allow me time to do just that. Plus I’m putting off making the Poinsettia gumpaste flower which I have planned for my Christmas cake. I did however get the red gumpaste made. And then used some of it to try my first “human” figurine.

I give you a very ample bossomed barrel chested  Santa. Needless to say he needs some a lot of refinement.

SantaAnd he has a friend. I made Mr Penguin first, he’s a portly little fella. He’s 7cm tall and possibly almost as round. I’d say he’s had a few too many Christmas Mince Pies.

Bluebird's the wordThere’s shots of every angle. And while it took me a while to figure out what didn’t quite make sense, you no doubt have figured it out quicker. His belt is a little insignificant for his waist and well, his waist isn’t anywhere near where his belt is. Yep, this is one of many things I’ll do better next time.


Fondant friends Santa and friendToo many piesFriday night I baked up the last of the VanillaVariation Cookies. I’ve had the dough in the freezer since August I think. I made the dough for the cookies for Cel’s maternity luncheon.

After they baked I rolled some fondant (and put through the pasta attachment) and then cut them out in the same shape as the cookies. You can see the dough really doesn’t spread. Those with fondant I piped last night. I didn’t really know what design to use, but they turned out mostly ok given my limited abilities and lack of imagination 🙂

Powder blueToday I got the airbrush out. My first foray into airbrushing. I’ve watched a few Craftsy lessons, enough to give me a head start. It’s quite tricky to know where you’re pointing given that distance to the object changes how much colour is being sprayed and just where.

These cookies are a mix of airbrush and royal icing, and for some I managed to mix the two mediums. I’d love to add more colours. That would require me spending more time protecting parts of the stencils. I just lacked patience for that today.

Stencils1Royal Icing gives a nice sort of velvet type look to the pattern. Getting the icing applied equally was a bit tricky. As I’d swipe the little flat plastic spatula type thing it would sometimes remove just a bit too much royal icing. I really didn’t think that would happen. I had some mishaps. The managed to get a little royal icing on and then nudged the stencil. Lining it back up caused some smudging. And then there was some bleeding (the red ornament). As for airbrushing, I got a bit too carried away on the bucket of the Christmas Tree and applied way too much. I tried to tidy it up by putting royal icing on it to help. And it did, even though it still looks a bit messy.

Stencils2Then I thought I would try and make the edges of the flooded cookies a bit tidier. My ability to pipe a nice fluid circle leaves a lot to be desired. However I’m such a novice trying to pipe boarders. It is what it is, and it could be worse. Given how long it’s been since I last made an effort to pipe boarders with royal icing, I’m going to give myself a 6/10 for improvement 😉

Mr Fussy has a lot of things to eat this week. There’s still Christmas Mince Pies, the Butterscotch cookies, now these cookies and the raspberry cupcakes.

 


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White Chocolate Mud Cake – part 1 of my project

Today’s baking is just the beginning of a project I have in mind for Show Day, that’s Canterbury’s provincial anniversary. It still baffles me why it’s called Show Day and not Canterbury Anniversary.

Never mind.

My project will be to decorate a cake, Mr Fussy’s project (during our long weekend) will be to clean the windows and erect the Christmas tree. Then we’ll decorate it. That almost pains me. I’ll divvy up all the decorations so we’ve just exactly the same, I’ll decorate ½ the tree, he’ll do the other ½ and I’ll try to keep my hands in my pockets and not fix interfere with his placement of the decorations.

Back to today though. My plan is to have a two tier cake both with quite separate decorations, but of course both Black and Red. I’m going for an 8” cake and 6” cake.

I wanted to make a White Chocolate Mud Cake. I’ve had a couple of recipes tucked away and just couldn’t decide which recipe to make. So I made them both.

Difference in batter consistency

Today I’ve made the 8” cakes, tomorrow I’ll make the 6” cakes. I need to decide which of the two recipes I’ll repeat. Oh the pressure.

Here’s the link for the White Chocolate Mud Cake I made first, this one I used Cadbury Dream chocolate, as the recipe used too. The second cake I can’t give a link to the recipe because you have to log into the site to get to the recipe (though it’s a free recipe). If you’re really keen then you can register for free at CakeStyle.tv.

Both recipes are from Australian websites. I used Whittaker’s White Chocolate for the second recipe.

Side by side comparison

As much as I worry a little when trying new recipes, I do love a good experiment. And today it was a battle between two Aussie recipes, and two different brands of chocolate.

The CakeStyle recipe has ½ a cup (125gm/ml) of sour cream in it. The proportions are slightly different, there’s 240gm of white chocolate and the same amount of butter for CakeStyle, and it has water instead of milk, but the water and sour cream more or less make the milk component.

The first recipe was for a 9” square tin and I was making an 8” round cake, so I expected to have some batter left over. Using the cake-o-metre application the 8” round cake would need only .80 of the recipe.

I weighed the batter and poured in the amount needed, then I decided to round it up to 1040gm. That gave me an unbaked height of 3cm. The cake took 60 minutes to bake. Well that’s when I set the timer for even though it said 1hr 10 minutes to 1hr 20 minutes.

Cadbury baked and cooled

I knew the oven temperature was right because I keep the oven thermometer in there. But I still expect to test the done-ness before the recipe states.

I used the same weight of batter for the second recipe, but I had a lot more batter left over. I made a 4” round cake as well. I ended up putting it into the oven 4 minutes after the 8” cake went in, and it took the same amount of time to bake. Both cakes took 65 minutes to bake. The recipe says it takes 2 hours. I’m not sure it’s a mistake given I had more batter that I didn’t use.

Since I had a bit of batter left over from both recipes I used it to fill cupcakes. I wasn’t aiming to make them as cupcakes, I expected the cake to be too dense to be a cupcake. What this allowed me to do is bake them both together and for the same amount of time. Just a little extra bonus for my experiment.

Baked cupcakes

Once the Cadbury WCMC had finished baking it was still a bit domed for my linking. I draped the tin with a clean tea towel as was suggested and as the cake cooked it flattened out. But then it continued to do so. So much that now there’s a little dip in the top. Boo.

The Whittaker’s WCMC also domed. Both looked so good half way through baking but then they both took off in the final stages of baking.

Whittakers baked

The Whittaker’s WCMC flattened too, but still has a small dome. Enough that I will have to trim it.

Both cakes were 3cm in height uncooked. The Cadbury one baked to 7cm at the highest point and the Whittaker’s 7.5cm. The Whittaker’s is slightly taller but as I say, needs to be trimmed to remove the dome. It still will be just a few mm higher and wont have a dip.

Ready for the freezer

As to texture and taste. Cripes, I don’t know. I tried and tried to tell a difference, I really expected a difference given the thickness of batters. But I was struggling. I thought the Cadbury WCMC looked a little more compact but it almost seemed lighter when biting into it, well lighter than it looked. But in all honesty, if you mixed them up I wouldn’t know one from the other. They did smell different baking. I preferred the Cadbury.

Both are a little crisp so I expect not only to be trimming the tops, but also the edges before ganaching them.

Mr Fussy also couldn’t say if there was a difference.

What I will say is neither has a real white chocolate taste, and both are less dense than I expected given how dense the Chocolate Mud Cake was for Cameron’s birthday.

Mudcake Cupcakes

So decisions decisions. Which will I remake for the 6” cakes?

I think if I had to make a choice (which I do), I would go for the Cadbury cake (the first one, the one with the link to the recipe), but I’m going to make the CakeStyle one, and what was so important that it tipped me to that recipe given I’ve just said I’d probably go for the Cadbury one. Well it was how it baked. I don’t want a dip. I suspect that even with trimming I’ll still end up with a dip. I need two 2cm layers from each cake and while I have that on the outside I think the middle is just under that. It’s going to annoy me so much that I may yet end up baking another cake. Being a perfectionist (or aiming for it) can be such a drag.

So while I’ve been pondering which recipe I’ll re-make, I spent the afternoon with gum paste making a few more roses. These photos are all taken from my phone, and yes I cheated by having Mr Fussy hold the roses outside against foliage, I imagine that helps with the illusion they’re real 😉 The white rose I made on Thursday evening. The lemon (in amongst the bunch in the vase, centre and left centre (bud)) roses were made this afternoon, and the yellow one was the largest one made today.

Tomorrow, while the 6” cakes are baking I’ll dust the roses I’ve been making. Dusting flowers isn’t something I’m keen on but it does finish them off (so would making leaves and adding a calyx mind you). And I should really do it properly. Not that I have any idea what I’m going to do with these.

Next weekend I’ll ganache and then decorate the cakes. Mr Fussy will take the 6” cake to his work, and I’ll take the 8” cake to mine. And then come Show Weekend, well I don’t know. But I’ll have a 3-day weekend to do something else, whatever that is. I’ll think of something.

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Halloween Cake

Halloween

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.

Halloween2

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.

Pumpkins

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.

Halloween1

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


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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.


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The breakdown of making a Fondant Frilled cake (Mum’s birthday cake)

This is going to be a long post I suspect. To try and make it less yawn-worthy I’ll separate it out into:

  • The Cake
  • Ganache and covering with fondant
  • Fondant Frills
  • Gumpaste Peony flowers

But a reminder of what the finished cake looks like, because as you’ll soon read, this cake did not look pretty during different stages, and perhaps more importantly the top tier was not meant to be frilled at all. You’ll read why it had to, if you make it that far.

Finished cake

The Cake

Given the number of really positive comments I’ve had when making the Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla cake using the adaptions from Rose Bake’s post, I was a bit perplexed because I didn’t want to make a box mix, but I wanted all the flavour that came with it, and it makes a really nice moist cake. I wanted all of that, especially because I was making the cakes a week ahead freezing them, then collecting them from Natalie’s on Thursday to begin decorating. I needed a nice moist cake that would retain it’s flavour.

What I had decided to do was make the WASC cake, but instead of sour cream I made up the instant puddings. The 8″ cakes were Butterscotch. The 5″ cakes were vanilla instant pudding with a Lorann Kahlua flavour. I swapped out the milk for buttermilk.

Friday night I made all the cakes. I used my 8″ pans that are 3″ deep and essentially had 4 layers of cake mix in the two pans. I also made the 5″ cakes, also in a 3″ deep pan, but I only had one 5″ pan. It was quite a long night, especially when I made lemon curd, waffle batter and got a crusty no knead bread underway, and all the while keeping up with conversation with Kade and Randall who were staying overnight on a whirlwind stop.

Bake me a cake

The cake batter came 4 cm up the pan and then the cakes rose almost to the top. Unfortunately the 8″ cakes dipped big time, in fact they sunk lower than the 4cm of uncooked batter. I had wondered about using a rose nail to get more heat into the pans, and on reflection I should have done it. The reason I hesitated was when using them on Cameron’s cakes it made the cakes cook on the bottom with a bit hollow, and I didn’t want that either.

8 and 5 inch cakes

After the cakes had cooled I double wrapped them in Gladwrap and then left them in the fridge overnight. The next morning I torted and levelled them, only to find one of the 8″ cakes was still stodgy in the middle. I couldn’t bare the thought of having the cake cut and seeing something that looked slightly undercooked. There was nothing more to do than whip up another two cakes. This time I put the batter across both 8″ cake pans. They cooked up fine. I was worried about trimming them while they were still so fresh and wondered if I should put them in the freezer rather than the fridge to get properly cold. I decided on the fridge.

Ganache and covering with fondant

I was making a white chocolate ganache. I’d found a link on Facebook where a very talented NZ Cake Decorator had provided her recipe. I made the ganache during the week to see what it was like, so I had time to change to something else if it didn’t work out. I have little faith 😉  No, it’s just this was too important to wing it.

torted and trimmed-2

I used the left over Valhrona white chocolate I had used with Mr Fussy’s Devils Dream Cake, some Cadbury chocolate buttons (has cocoa butter) and the balance with Nestles compound buttons. I really liked the method used and I’ll use this method again. I added a Lorann Caramel essence to the ganache. I might have added two. I had Mr Fussy as a taste tester and he couldn’t detect the caramel so I think I used both tiny bottles.  I’m not sure if I’ll use the recipe as is, I need to tweak it, or flag a white chocolate ganache and stick with chocolate with around a 50% cocoa percentage.

The reason I say that is it didn’t firm up as much as I would have liked. It was great to use. I found Ganaching the cakes much easier with this, but the pay off is it not setting firm enough. It does firm up nicely in the fridge, but it softens as the cake comes back to room temperature. And this caused me immense grief when it came to covering the cakes with fondant.

The only snag I had covering the cake with the ganache, came at the top. This is the very first cake where as I separated the cake card from the top (having brushed it with water to make it sieze and therefore “pop” off) it actually pulled the ganache off. I figured it would happen at some stage but was pretty peeved it had to be now. I had to re-warm the left over ganache to get it slightly runnier to more easily fill the void. As I moved the offset spatula around the top it kept pulling at the rest of the ganache. It was tedious work and I sort of gave up. It wasn’t until later when I was thinking about flipping the cake upside down for the fondant frills that I cursed myself not persevering and getting a perfectly flat top. I really needed that flat top when I was tipping the cake upside down.

I was pretty relaxed about covering the cakes. I knew the 8″ cake would have the sides completely covered with the fondant frills so I didn’t have to focus too hard on getting everything pristine, but that’s exactly what I needed with the 5″ cake.

My plan for the 5″ cake was to cover it and leave it perfectly plain, to then spray it with a pearl lustre dust and then pop the peony set on top, allowing the peony to be the focal point.

When it came to the 8″ cake I could tell I’d rolled the very edge of the fondant a little thin. I wasn’t too worried because I suspected this corner to end up as excess drapage.  Mr Fussy pulled the cake toward me and I unrolled the fondant over the top. And very soon the weight of the fondant was pulling and I was starting to see cracks all around the top edge. They smoothed out pretty nicely, but then as I smoothed the sides I could see that the fondant was too thin and I was getting some tearing. I’ve never had that before on the sides. I also had a couple of air bubbles that refused to release the air no matter how many times I poked at them. And then as minutes passed I saw that there were small bulges in several spots around the sides of the cake.

I’ve never had that much trouble with a round cake. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t panicking. You wouldn’t see it, but it would have been better if I could get the bubbles out and resolve the bulges. I put this down to the ganache softening too much.

ganached and covered-2

In the photo above you can see a bulge in the bottom left of the cake, and another right at the front top edge. And I’m not showing you the worst bit, where I attempted to patch a tear that I deemed too wide to leave alone.

As for that 5″ tier that I needed pristine. Well that turned out not to happen. I’ve never ever had to pull the fondant off a cake before, but I had to do it twice! Each time a bit of ganache came with the cake and I had to wipe it off with a paper towel. I ended up putting the cake back into the fridge hoping it would harden up enough to allow me a better attempt. Each time it pulled at the top edge and was actually tearing right off. I put this down to the smaller diameter with the same height as the 8″ cake. It was just too much drag.

While I sat waiting for the ganache to harden I wracked my brain about how I could still get the covering I wanted. I just couldn’t see how it was going to happen. And I’m too inexperienced to know what to do. So I did the only thing I could think of, I made a collar which I then rolled around the sides, and I made a circle for the top. Of course that meant I had a seam down the back, and one around the top. No chance of letting that be seen. Lustre isn’t going to make that disappear. So it was with a sigh of relief I had fondant on the cake, but disappointment that I couldn’t get the finish I was after.

Fondant frills it would be for the top layer too. I prayed I’d done enough smoothing of the ganache after the two failed attempts to make it flat. But nope.

Out of balance-2

So much for approaching the cake covering relaxed. Though if I’d been worried before hand I’d have been a basket case with the way it all played out.

This cake is the first cake I’ve put back into the fridge with fondant on it. I’ve read heaps of people questioning about refrigerating fully decorated cakes and I knew that it was fine, but the cakes would condensate when they were removed, and needed to be left alone to try otherwise you risked leaving fingerprint impressions all over it.

I wasn’t worried about working with a cake that was condensating (is that a word?), I needed to wet the fondant strips to adhere them to the cake, it made no difference to me. I just needed the cakes cold, as Maggie Austin says, but more so because that ganache had another chance to beat me.

Fondant Frills

One of the many Craftsy classes I’ve paid for is Maggie Austin’s Fondant Frills. I’ve seen a number of these types of cakes on Pintrest and I was interested in how the look was achieved. When the class came up on special I decided I’d sign up for it.

Maggie’s “secret” is to flip the cake upside down, you place it onto the upturned baking pan with a piece of cardboard (cake card in my case) between the cake and the pan. This way you get the frills neatly falling the right way, and that first row sitting proudly above the top of the cake.

Ombre frills

I started out with the 5″ cake. I was going to leave it all white with the option to either dust the edges of each frilled layer with a shimmer pink, or use a gold dust dotted here and there.

I pretty much held my breath while I set the cake up for flipping. It was do or die. And to be honest, with all the other things that had challenged me along the way I expected to find a few problems with the cake flipping. But I’m glad to say that it was ok. Okay until it came to flipping the cake right side up again, and only because the cake pan itself shifted a little as I took my hand away and knocked into the top frill threatening to bust it.

Having survived the first cake I was less concerned about the 8″ cake, except how long it would take to cover it with frills and whether the softening ganache was going to give me more problems. I also didn’t know how that uneven top would affect the cake. I did have visions of everything inside the fondant moving about and dislodging. Yes I’d had some worrying times during the Friday at work trying to figure out if there was another way of getting the frills on without having to flip the cake due to the uneven top.

There was, I could add gumpaste to the fondant, or modelling chocolate. But I’d mixed the gradient colours the previous weekend and I didn’t want to lighten them anymore. Adding something to the fondant was not an option. I was just going to have to suck it up. I guess I was slightly relieved when I did get the leveler out and see that it wasn’t as nasty as it felt when I ran my hand over the cake. But it wasn’t great either.

Oh, I should mention how excited I was that my KitchenAid pasta attachment had arrived on Thursday. I’d ordered it from Fishpond, a model you can’t get in NZ. It came from America. Except the first one never arrived and I had to request it be resent. I was expecting it to arrive later and was thrilled it was here in time for Mum’s cake. I practiced on Thursday night since I had fondant out and it was all going swimmingly well.

And then on Friday night it decided to misbehave and it was grabbing at the fondant. I managed to get one row on the 5″ cake before getting the pasta rolling machine out and doing the rest by hand. And I’ve got to say it’s a lot of work and more fiddly having to roll and try to pull the fondant away from the machine. I’m sure I’d have saved a lot of time if I could have used the KitchenAid. All up it took 1hr 20minutes to cover the 8″ cake. I didn’t time the 5″ cake.

Ombre colours

My 2nd and 3rd colours were a bit too close and it’s hard to see the change in the cake. In fact I can really only see 3 colours. The pink was also brighter than I was going for, it made it very girly.

One of the things frustrating me was that a moist finger (Maggie’s instructions were to moisten the edge of the fondant strip with a little water to your finger tip) used to then place the strip against the cake was sticking to the fondant. So when I was taking my hand away I ended up pulling a hole into the strip. You can’t see any of them because the next strip covered it. But my advice is to try using a water pen. I bought a set on Saturday having learnt my lesson. Though I can’t promise it will be the answer, but surely it will save you having to wipe your hands dry after moistening each strip prior to placing it on the side of the cake.

One of Maggie’s sayings is “embrace the imperfections”. Good gracious, there’s so many imperfections in this cake and the decoration that there’s a whole lot of embracing going on.

I know it sounds like just about everything fell apart, almost every element caused me worry and extra time and Mr Fussy a lot of questions I knew he couldn’t answer. But really it was ok. I’m glad I did it, I’ve learnt there’s a lot of questions, but not necessarily immediate answers.

As for that 8″ cake. When I was finally done with covering it I had Mr Fussy help shift the lazy Susan that I’d been using while adding the frills, while I flipped the cake and then manoeuvred the cake up the right way to sit it on the lazy Susan. Mr Fussy wanted to take the cake pan from the top as I was lining up how to place the cake onto the base and I said it was ok. Famous last words. As had happened with the 5″ cake, the cake pan slid and this time it did knock the top layer of frills, and bust them. So I spent some time trying to get them upright and standing on their own. If only I’d allow him to help me some more. Oops.

Fondant Frills

I was a happy camper when I got up on Saturday and saw no more damage had been done and the broken frills were still where I’d left them. I just had to decide what to do with the 5″ cake. Should I leave it as is or add some colour here and there? In the end, after adhering the ribbon (I had a tiny bit of fondant with a few drops of water and mashed it up, then painted the sticky glue to the bottom edge of the cake and the ribbon went on easily, for the cake board I used double sided tape), I sent Natalie a few photos and we exchanged emails and I decided to place the cake onto the 8″ cake, using bubble tea straws and melted candy melts as the “glue” to stick the top cake tot he bottom, before deciding whether I thought a splash of colour would make or break the cake. I decided, obviously, that it was fine as it was. I think more colour would have been a bit too distracting. And since I wanted the peony set to be the focal point the whole less is more thought sprung to mind.

Gumpaste Peony flowers

I loved making the flowers. I had a ball. The only thing was the how long it all took. Well it didn’t take long I suppose, but there’s so many stages.

  • Make gumpaste
  • Glue a styrofoam ball and florist wire (I hate my glue gun!), then use florist tape to cover the wire (there’s 3 x 20 gauge wires)
  • Roll gumpaste, cut, vein and frill. Adhere to the ball, then repeat.
  • Leave it to dry.
  • Colour
  • Steam
  • Glaze
  • Then pretty much repeat for the leaves
  • Attach leaves to the flowers and tape together.

This peony is not as large as you can make it. You can add another 3 layers of 5 petals, but they’re all wired. Not that I was against wiring, but I felt the size of the peony with the bud and leaves was in proportion to the cake.

Pink peonies

While I only used one Peony and bud, I made 3 sets in different shades of pink. I wasn’t sure which colour I’d used, but I decided on the lightest pink since the cake was an ombre cake finishing in a blush pink colour (on the 8″ cake). I also made some extra petals. Maggie often has extras to put on the table or stick onto the side of the cake. But as it happened I didn’t have space on the cake and I wasn’t staging the cake on a table so adding extra petals wasn’t needed.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with the extra peonies. However I was looking at lots of images of Peonies to see how other people have placed them on cakes, and came across a picture of a peony that was being sold on Etsy. This person was selling them for $50. I don’t know whose currency that was. And they didn’t have any leaves, I’m not sure about a calyx since I didn’t look further.  No, I don’t think my flowers will ever be good enough for sale, and I’ve not considered it.

Pretty in pink

While I made a couple of full set leaves (there’s 3 parts to them) I didn’t have room for it on the peony set since the flower itself was going to be placed almost on the surface of the cake, and the leaves would usually be a little beneath the flower. Or at least that’s how Nicholas Lodge showed assembling the flowers. I also signed up for his Craftsy class Classic Sugar Flowers.

Here’s a shot of the back side of the peony set I had on Mum’s cake.

Underside of the Peony set

While I’ve made a better job of wiring the leaves, I’m still from perfect. You can see the wire which you shouldn’t. I love how the flowers really come to life after steaming them.

Ok, so that’s a blow by blow account of making the cake. I am pleased with how it looks in the end, and glad my choice in decoration has hidden a multitude of problems. And you probably wouldn’t have known unless I gave a very (long) honest account of making the cake.

Sugar Peony

Last words, not that I’m promising it will be short.

Travelling to the restaurant was going really well. I was in the back of the car with a 16″ cake board on my lap with a large piece of that rubber type mat with the cake on top of that. The very last corner we rounded and the top tier dislodged from the cake and went skidding toward the frills. I hate living in a city where the streets are a mess. I guess I should be glad that we got that far before it began to unravel.

Natalie took the cake from me and then I spoke with the restaurant staff about the delicate nature of the top tier. They were quite keen to put the cake in the chiller and I asked they not. I knew the fondant would soften and droop. They really wanted to put it in the chiller since they couldn’t think where else there was enough space, but they said they’d find a way. Phew.

Then when the plates had been cleared from dinner the waiter serving our table realised the “delicate cake with the flower” was for our table. I spoke with him and again mentioned the top tier having come unstuck and said he’d need to be careful picking it up and putting it down. He said he’d have me help. But then he turned up with the cake, the whole jolly lot. The 16″ cake board with the rubber non-slip mat. Still you can’t really expect a young man to have thought that the cake wasn’t meant to be presented with all of that.

Unfortunately the cake was much too moist. Somewhere along the line the cake seemed to have gained some moisture, the cake wasn’t cakey as it had been when I’d torted and levelled it. I can only assume that some of the moisture in the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream and/or the ganache went into the cake itself.

Well that’s it for official cake “decorating” for the year, or at least until Christmas. I have no more birthdays now. It’s been a big year I guess. Cameron’s 21st, Dad’s 70th and Mum’s special birthday.

I’m going to be scratching my head looking for reasons to practice my new found skills. There’s only one way to improve, and that’s to keep giving it a crack. And given the amount of gumpaste I’ve made today, there’s a LOT of flowers to be made. But they better be pink and yellow. I see roses in my future.

And here’s where I wonder at what point I lost anyone who began this marathon journey reading this post.