On to the plate

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


Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Frangipani Wedding Cake

Ok, deep breath. Another long post on the Frangaipani Wedding Cake I made for Jo’s son and daughter-in-law. The wedding was the 21 February.

Initially I was just making a 10 and 8″ American Mud Cake, ganached and covered in fondant with Tiff (Jo’s DIL) wanting to make the flowers.

I set my timeline which started the Sunday before the wedding. I offered Kathy to make a cake for Greg’s birthday knowing that I had time to do both cakes. The wedding cake being picked up the Wednesday before.

The Wednesday before (1.5 weeks out) Jo caught up with me and asked if there was any way I could make the flowers for the cake as well. Tiff had now realised that she was spreading herself too thin and didn’t have the time she expected to be able to make the flowers herself. Our communication continued by email and phone conversations that day. I wasn’t at work, but instead at a course.

Obviously I needed to know what the flowers were. Up until this stage I was only focused on making the cake and hadn’t asked how the cake was going to be decorated. Jo let me know the main flower was Frangipani and there were other flowers that Tiff had begun to make. A few photos were sent and I got busy searching YouTube and Google for any tutorials on making Frangipani.

As Jo has suspected, a Frangipani was a more simple flower to make (compared to a rose). I took a look at a finished cake that Tiff had liked the look of, mainly it was to show how she liked the flowers to be draped down the side of the cake. I started to calculate how many flowers I might need to make.

FrangipaniJo and I had another discussion the next day and I got to see first hand the flowers Tiff had made, and in turn I showed a sample I’d made the night before. I needed to test that the gumpaste I had was still suitable to use (it had been in the fridge for some weeks) and whether I had the right type of cutter to make the petals. My flower was much too thin, I wasn’t used to making a flower with thicker petals and I hadn’t twigged I was making it too thin until I had all the petals together. Anyway we decided I was on the right track and that we’d use all flowers I made. Now it was time to get busy, very busy, because come Sunday I was all about making both cakes and would have no time to spare for flowers. Though I still would have to dust the flowers, tape them and put them into an arrangement.

FillerFlowersI started making flowers Thursday night, made more Friday, now making filler flowers as well, and still reviewing several photos of other cakes with Frangipanis so I could make a stab as to how many I would need to make. I was also timing how much time it took and pretty much figured I could make 8-10 an hour. I really wanted to make 40+ but I made 34 as well as the filler flowers and 6 Calla Lilies, another flower I’d never made before. In then end I thought I had enough, maybe even more than I needed.

SemolinaSunday morning I was spent attaching wires to the Frangipani flowers. I knew I needed some to sit out from the cake, I didn’t want them all to sit flat against the cake. I wanted to create a sense of movement and lightness. But do you think I could find anything that explained how you’d wire a Frangipani? No. So I had to come up with my own method. It worked, but I wouldn’t say it was the right way, or the tidiest way you could do it. But it did the trick and for the most part the “attachment” would be hidden amongst the other flowers.

During the afternoon on Sunday I baked both the 10 and 8″ cakes as well as got all the ingredients together for Greg’s cake. I was thankfully allowed to finish work on Monday at 3:30pm which meant I could bake Greg’s cake Monday (more of that in a separate post).

AttachingWiresSunday evening I ganached the 10″ cake. That wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. One batch of ganache decided it wouldn’t soften evenly and I ended up with what looked to be a grainy lump. Thankfully I had plenty of ganache and I warmed up another batch which was perfect. In the end I heated the first batch enough that it melted completely and it was absolutely perfect for use the following day, which is when I ganached the 8″ cake. I used two 4mm cake boards instead of my usual acrylic rounds. The trouble I had trying to get a nice smooth finish is something I wont discuss, but needless to say I am not a fan of cake boards. They weren’t perfectly round, and they were just slightly different in size which also caused some grief, as well as having to do a lot more the following day to get everything smooth and even.

Tuesday I covered the 10″ cake in fondant. I was a bit worried because it was warm in the house. I had to believe the dam I had used in the layers to hold the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream was sufficient to hold it all together and I should not have any problems with bulges. The horror of what happened with Jasmine and Sam’s cake still haunted me. The covering was mostly straight forward, though there were a significant number of air bubbles. I did have one air pocket giving me grief, then somehow I managed to get a bit of ganache on the fondant. Well that made the it pretty clear what would be the front where I could hide the little speck with a flower or two.

BumpyCakeBoardWednesday was to be a really hot day, so when I woke earlier than I would have liked on Wednesday morning I decided I would get up and cover the 8″ cake. The house was cooler and I knew it would save me some potential difficulty that evening with the house being a lot warmer, and the ganache not as firm as I’d like. While the cakes didn’t cover as well as Jasmine and Sam’s, I was still happy enough, mostly because I knew I had a bit of leeway with flowers being added which I could place in such a way as to hide any small blemish. I guess you can hope that cakes will cover flawlessly but the reality is that it’s a pretty tall order. I guess I got really lucky with J & S’s cake, and given the other grief I had with their cake, I was owed some good luck somewhere.

As the days progressed my plans about what I’d do with each of the cakes changed. Not travelling on Thursday made a big difference, and while I would have managed had I not had the Thursday evening free, it did take a bit of pressure off.

So here I was Wednesday morning and the cakes were all but done. I just had to do the cake board, which proved to be a pain in the butt. It was my fault for not rolling the fondant thin enough which made it a bit of a mission, and not as tidy as I’d have liked. Then somehow I managed to cut my finger, which I hand’t noticed until I had the ribbon around the edge of the cake board. And you guessed it, I had somehow managed to get some blood on the ribbon. So off that came, and on went a plaster before I put new ribbon around the board.

Arrangements2I’d been chipping away at dusting the flowers each evening as I had time, then steaming them. Thursday morning (I woke early again!) I began to tape each individual flower and in the evening I started to make little bunches of 3 flowers. I created 4 arrangements and was mostly happy, except the top one. Friday morning I woke early and re-wired the top. I realised when you looked straight down on the arrangement that all the flowers faced frontwards. So I suspected I’d be re-wiring again.

While each arrangement looked fine, I had to think about how they would work together. I dragged the cakes out (they’d been up in the 3rd bedroom, the coolest room in the house) and started to play with how the flowers would fit together, mindful I didn’t want to mark the cakes. It was a tricky job and in the end I was no further ahead in what I was thinking.

Friday night I started to pull together all the things I’d need to be able to set up the cake at the venue. I wasn’t looking forward to dowelling the bottom tier. It makes me nervous. The cakes always settle a bit and what starts out as a perfectly level cake tends to dip a little in the middle. So the poly dowels have to sit a bit proud so that all up the top tier will sit level.

You can’t stop the days from rolling over and Saturday arrived and I was busy dowelling the cake. I had to do it several times because one or other of the dowels wasn’t at the same height and when I lay the ruler across the cake the ruler wouldn’t come into contact with one of the dowels. Talk about tricky!

Decorations1Jo had said the venue would be available from 10am. I knew the reception was at 4pm and guessed we’d leave home at 10am. Mr Fussy gets the job of driving (extremely carefully) while I sit in the passenger seat fretting about everything that could go wrong.

We left at 11am. And just like J & S’s wedding, we almost got collected by a car. And we hadn’t even left our own cul de sac.

It turned out to be a really lovely warm day. Earlier in the week the forecast was for cloudy weather with temperatures in the low 20’s. While I noticed how lovely and warm it was outside the venue, it never registered as being warm when we were inside.

I set about putting the cake together. I dithered about with the flowers. I had thought I’d start by placing the flowers on the bottom tier and working my way up. But I just couldn’t quite figure out how to get the flowers in the cake so that they sat against the cake at the right angle/place without adding weight and risking them pulling away from the cake, or ripping through the cake.

FrangapaniWeddingCakeI really was having a hard job trying to work it all out. In the end I got the top arrangement and the spray that fell over the side of the top tier sorted. And yet I still couldn’t work out where and how I would place the bottom arrangement. In the end I fiddled with the placement/angle of the wires and went to stick the flowers the side, but there was too much weight in the flowers and they more or less plopped out onto the cake board.

Having a hole int he side of the cake and still not knowing where the arrangement was going was creating a stressful situation for me. I knew I could “plug” the hole with one of the unwired left over Frangipanis, so I wasn’t getting myself too worked up, but I was still at a loss as to how to place the bottom arrangement. In the end I just held my breath and poked the wires into the top of the bottom tier right next to the middle arrangement. Then I just fussed about moving the individual flowers so that they faced different ways and weren’t too bunched up.

Each of the extra individual Frangipanis were used. I really didn’t think I would need them, but they helped to “shape” the direction of the arrangement.

In the end I was happy with how the cake looked with the flowers. I had taken a lot longer than I expected with the setup, and I was there doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing, but after all the time that had been taken to make the flowers I didn’t want to muck it all up by having them falling off/away or ripping through the cake due to their weight.

When I was finally sure that all the extra flowers I had attached (with Royal Icing) were now set on the cake we packed up and left.

Last time I made something for Jo (the Pirate and Princess cookies) she let me know as soon as she got home and looked at them how pleased she was. Not hearing from Jo about the cake made me start to fret that something had gone wrong. I had all sorts of visions that the flowers had fallen off or ripped through the cake. Or maybe the warmth led the ganache to soften and the fondant had slopped down, or ganache was running out from under the fondant. I kept looking at photos I’d taken from the venue and trying to determine just how close the cake was to the window, and just where the sun would have been by 4pm. Was it possible the sun had melted the ganache? It was awful wondering. I knew that Jo would have been very busy and in all likelihood nothing was wrong, but I couldn’t help the thoughts. I guess that if you did this regularly you’d have more of an idea of what risk there was in things turning bad.

I was extremely relieved when on Monday I received a text from Jo who was thrilled with the cake.

Wedding cakes, so much time and emotion are invested. It’s such an important cake, such a significant part of a wedding. I wonder if proper cake decorators ever get comfortable with setting up the cake and walking away and not worrying about how the cake is received. I doubt I’ll ever feel that way about any cake I make for someone other than myself.

Venue setupIf someone had told me I’d have made and decorated two wedding cakes within months of each other I would have scoffed at the idea. But here we are, and they both turned out just fine. I did however find a grey hair the other day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence!



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.


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


  • 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


  • 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.


Another birthday, but bucking the traditions somewhat

It was my MIL’s birthday on Friday and for birthdays on that side of the family, the tradition is to have KFC and Christmas Pudding. I kid you not!

Mr Fussy and I have run away the last few years for our birthdays, and I can tell you we’ve not missed that birthday meal one little bit. I was a bit shocked that my MIL decided against KFC this year too. But first we’ll start at the beginning which involved Waffles for breakfast using a recipe I’ve previously posted, and Caramel Sauce. I’ve also posted that too. Waffles aren’t necessarily “special” in our house, they don’t require some occasion to be made, but they’re not made every weekend either. Having Caramel Sauce on them for breakfast, is a little decadent and that did make them just a bit special. Just one note on the caramel sauce, I used the full measure of Fleur de sel salt. It really is a bit more salty than I’ve previously had, but I think that’s because the salt doesn’t dissolve and it seems to settle at the bottom of the spoon or jar, so you’re left with the last mouthful giving a full blast of salt.

Waffles with Caramel Sauce

Given that it’s still winter (but it’s on the way out) the berries were Sujon frozen berries. I drained the juice into a pot, added a few teaspoons of sugar and after it came to the boil added a bit of cornflour which I’d mixed together with a spoonful of the boiling juice. I let boil again for a few more minutes. It made a nice little sauce. Two sauces, now that’s getting a bit carried away.

I wont come as a surprise to you that I was pretty much over eating (and over-eating) at the end of afternoon tea.

During Thursday night I torted and crumb coated the cake. I used the White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) cake with lemon extract. And I used the left over Swiss Meringue Buttercream( SMBC) from Dad’s 70th cake. I realised that SMBC wasn’t quite the same as it had been pre-frozen. It almost looked like it was weeping some liquid. And I realised that despite adding a bit more icing sugar, it would be too soft to take the weight of fondant.

Friday night I made a buttercream out of Butter, Crisco and icing sugar, and I made it quite stiff. Funny thing is, I could take a teaspoon of the frosting and then roll it between my hands and make a sausage from it. And believe you me, I used it like that. With the stiffness of the normal buttercream, and the slippery SMBC, I was having a really hard job getting a good coverage. The buttercream kept pulling away from the cake as I was smoothing it. I kept at it and in the end just had to give up. I used paper towels to try and even things out and smooth as much as I could. But it wasn’t a flash job and I expected the fondant to show up every one of those uneven surfaces. I also expected the fondant to bulge, that the SMBC would burst through the buttercream and have its wicked way causing all my fears to be realised. But that actually didn’t happen.  There’s a lesson to be learnt here. The SMBC I made is perfect for use the day it’s made, but not suitable for freezing and re-using.

Covering the birthday cake

You can see how the teal SMBC has come through the outer layer frosting. I did end up with a few air pockets around the side (and one I missed from the top) but managed to press them out. The scissors were made with a silicone mould and took a really long time to get the gumpaste/fondant to fit and sit right given I had to basically cut out the finger holes before putting the mould into the fridge. I think each one (there’s only 5) took around 10 minutes each. I had coloured the gumpaste/fondant lilac. I had read purple fades and sure enough, these are now grey, a really non-descript colour anyway.

I managed to find a way to make some gumpaste Tulip flowers in secret. Not easy when your MIL lives with you and is always around when you’re home.  Unfortunately you can’t see the really nice dusting of white sparkle and the yellow and green powder around the base of each flower and up the centre of each petal (the yellow).

TulipsBut I got there, having to hide them away in a wardrobe out of sight. In fact, when I was making the Mexican paste patchwork scissors I had Mr Fussy on guard duty to tell me when my MIL was returning from church and then I hurriedly moved the lot into our bedroom and then had to wait until the coast was clear again to finish them off. It was tiring being all covert.

Patchwork scissor cutter

I made the cookies last weekend and put them into the freezer. I then used a silver dusting powder with vodka to paint the blades. I made sure the dust was non-toxic and food safe. But I forgot to check the petal dusts I used for the coloured handles. The magenta ones are NOT suitable for eating. The petal dusts were awful to use with Vodka. The dust clumped and wouldn’t brush on easily. The magenta on the other hand was really nice to use. I guess what makes it easy to apply is what makes it unsuitable for eating. I iced the cookies Friday night too (make caramel, ice and cover the cake, make waffle batter and ice and decorate the cookies – it was midnight before I got to bed). I thought it would be nice to pipe the royal icing to mimic the scalloped edge of the cookie. Yes it would be nice, if I could do it. I was busy getting my phone to take a photo of how badly I was doing when I dropped the phone onto the cookie ruining the royal icing. See that yellow cookies?  That’s fondant. I scraped the royal icing off (the next morning when I had a brainwave of how I might be able to recover my faux pa) and then cut out fondant using the same shaped cutter, just one size smaller. Then I added the white dots in the ugly scallops I’d piped. The cookie bottom left, well the disposable bag actually slipped right off the coupler. I decided that was the last sign I needed to pack up and call it a night. Not my best work. But I learnt some valuable lessons, and no one pointed and laughed – thankfully Smile

I woke on Saturday far too soon for someone who didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. I slipped out of bed to the kitchen to see how bad the cake looked, fully expecting the fondant to have bulged due to the soft SMBC. But it hadn’t. Win!

After everyone had left me to it in the kitchen I put in the plastic dowel so that I could then feed the wires from the Tulips into the cake.

Attaching the flower arrangement

This is called a floating arrangement. The stems are fake. They are a plastic tubing. I melted a Wilton Candy Melt to put over the cut end to make it less obvious what it was. I should have used royal icing or softened fondant but that was too much trouble for the time I had available. The ribbon is covering up the join from where the flowers and leaves are then attached to the fake stems.

We skipped lunch, really who needed it knowing afternoon tea was coming. I spent a little bit of time knocking up the Rosemary Flatbread and then it was time to lay it all out for afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea

After the cake was cut Mr Fussy was asking why I wasn’t taking a photo. See, everyone now knows that all food must be photographed. I was reluctant, it gets a little embarrassing, but I took his question as permission. So here’s the cake, and the only reason I’m really showing the photo is to show how much the buttercream and fondant are a perfect match. See I did something right, and I wasn’t even trying Open-mouthed smile

A slice of birthday cake

I was a bit disappointed in the flavour of the cake. I had flavoured it with lemon extract. I knew it didn’t have that flavour when I torted the cake and took a nibble of the discarded top. I flavoured the buttercream and I could taste that. Without the buttercream it would have been a pretty bland cake. So I’m not sure I’ll make this my vanilla cake of choice. Back to the drawing board.

And as if we’d not had enough sweetness in the day, dessert for dinner was not Christmas Pudding (which we do have in our pantry – bought after Christmas when they’re on special, with the sole purpose of having for birthdays), but a variation, a fruit mince tart. My MIL requested Silverside for dinner since it’s something my BIL doesn’t often get, and she knew he’d enjoy it. Anyway the point of mentioning this is the crockpot was in use with the piece of silverside, so I was without the usual warming method for a Christmas pudding, hence the fruit mince tart.

This side of the family don’t have any warm pudding without custard. Oh my, as if my belly wasn’t already full, custard as well? No thank you! I put a spoonful of whipped cream on mine. Yeah I know, hardly doing without the extra empty calories Winking smile

Fruit Mince Tart

I’ve now used the last portion of the pastry I made for the Lemon Meringue Tart. I should have made fruit mince tart in a smaller flan dish to give a little more thickness to the pastry since I emptied 3 pottles of Tasti Fruit Mince into this shell. And as you’d expect, once I cut into the tart the filling oozed out.

Boy, what a huge day eating non-stop. Well it felt like non-stop. There’s been left over tart for pudding tonight. At first I vowed not to have any, then as I was rejuvenating the custard I decided I’d finish off the last of the prunes and have custard with it, which progressed to me nibbling at the pastry since the tart was directly in front of me. I have no restraint when it comes to desserts. None at all.