Monday, September 28, 2009

George's Birthday Cake (Part II - The Disaster!)

Hm. 2 hours later I removed these from the oven. Almost unbreakable crust at the top, a middle layer of 10cm of just air, and then sticky black tar like substance at the bottom. Below is a picture of what happened when I tried to cut the cake level. What remained was a weird hardened doughnut and a round gooey mess with a big cavity in it. Oh feck.




George's Birthday Cake (Part I)

I've decided to jump straight from a single layered fondant covered cake to a three tier extravaganza for George's birthday on Friday. Probably this is foolish. We'll see...

Today is baking day. I used the Planet Cake chocolate mudcake recipe which should make enough batter for one 8" round cake. Just to complicate things I decided to make a 1 1/2 quantity and use it to fill three smaller pans - a 7", 6" and 5". Major baking time confusion has ensued... all three pans are in the oven and the internet is not giving me any love as I search for useful information about how to adjust cooking times for different tin sizes. It looks like I'll be stuck in the kitchen sticking skewers into cakes for the next hour...

All going well my plan is to make a blue, white and green cake covered in polka dots...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Planet Cake - Basics 101

Ta daaaaaaaaa!! Not bad for a first attempt at rolled fondant icing, no?! It was a fantastic day at Planet Cake. Previously I'd wanted to do a course but had baulked at the cost, so I'm happy to say that it was completely 100% worth the $$$.

The day started at 10am when we were presented with a heavy chocolate mud cake and a tub of chocolate ganache. The mud had to be split in three layers and filled with ganache, like this:


And then some more ganache, smoothed evenly all over and with perfect crisp edges (note that the time between the picture above and the picture below is approximately an hour - this was a NIGHTMARE!):


Next was a lot of fiddling, kneading and playing with the icing. Naturally I chose very sooky girly colours, yellow and pink. Oh, and and mine was an 'exploding flowers' cake not an 'exploding stars'...

Anyway, in order to create the 'exploding' effect of the cake several layers of icing were required. ARGH! Cornflour was everywhere. It gives me the heebie jeebies in a similar way to fingernails on a blackboard.

Now for some pink icing! Enormously challenging to get it to sit flat on the cake. More ARGH!

Now for the 'exploding' effect:


Now I've skipped a few steps - rolling out decorative icing bits and bobs and gluing them on, attaching sugar flowers to metal wire etc. This is where I got to be a bit more creative.


Look at all the cakes!

In conclusion, I need to start saving my pocket money for Basics 102.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mmmmm hippy food...

Our dinner on Thursday night, a variation on one of Jill Dupleix's recipes. It was delicious in a vego hippy kind of way.

Ingredients

1 eggplant sliced in half
300g baby spinach leaves
50g greek fetta (crumbled)
50g toasted pine nuts
1 big handful of chopped mint leaves
Good quality EV olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper

Dressing
3 tbsp tahini
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp cold water

Steps
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
  2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and place eggplant cut side down, spray with olive oil, and bake for 30 - 40 minutes
  3. Wash and drain spinach, and sautee over low heat in a frying pan until it wilts. Once it cools squeeze out excess water, and put it in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper
  4. Toss the fetta, pine nuts and chopped mint together in a bowl
  5. Make the dressing by just whisking together all the ingredients
  6. To assemble put the cooked eggplant on a plate, put the spinach on top, then the fetta mix, and then drizzle with dressing. Too easy!

One more sleep to go...

Until I go to my Planet Cake Basics 101 workshop! I'm going to learn how to make an 'exploding stars' cake that will look somewhat like this:



I'll post photos of my attempt tomorrow. Possibly it's a bad idea to have this photo here because you will know what the finished product is supposed to look like. I'm not convinced that mine will have a strong resemblance. Ah well, I've been wanting to do one of the planet cake decorating courses for years. I'm hoping that it will demystify ganache and fondant covering techniques for me so that I am confident to have a go on my own at home.

For more information about Planet Cake courses check out www.planetcake.com.au

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bye bye macarons



I think I'm kind of sick of macarons. I used to love them. They were the perfect bite sized piece of deliciousness. But now I'm over it. Maybe it was when it became impossible to actually buy anything from Adriano Zumbo due to his sudden Masterchef fame.

Anyway, I've decided that nougat is the new macaron. More specifically nougat from Nougat Royale. R arranged to have a dark chocolate, almond and cherry batch made up for my mum's birthday and it was melt in your mouth amazing. You can even order it the day before and have it delivered to your doorstep. Nougat for all!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes I still love America



Have a look at the Vanilla Bakeshop (who are unfortunately for me based in Santa Monica)

Their cakes are just a bit on the inspirational side if you ask me.

For example, who could say no to the Vanilla Lemon Berry cake, described as vanilla bean cake, tart lemon curd, fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries with creamy madagascar bourbon frosting. I would live inside this cake if I could...

Monday, September 14, 2009

May the best baker win!


At Alice's request (she is totally going to win the baking competition)...

MAGNOLIA BAKERY BLACK BOTTOM CUPCAKES
makes about 18 cupcakes (depending on size)

CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

340g light philadelphia cream cheese (not softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

CUPCAKES:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (preferably canola)
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Line two 12-cup muffin tins with 18 cupcake papers (this really depends on size, my muffin tins tend to mean that it's 13 cakes in total, which is annoying!)

TO MAKE THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING: In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE CUPCAKES: In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the oil and sugar. Add the dry ingredients into two parts, alternating with buttermilk and vanilla, and making sure all the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon the cupcake batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds full. Drop a small scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) of the cream cheese filling on top of each cupcake. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 30 minutes. Remove the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I can't wait to see what Libby creates


I've been perving on Polka Dot Cookies and Cakes' creations forever. Libby does some beautiful work, as you can see above! (Or on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/16806417@N05)

One of the best things about planning a wedding has been getting to meet with Libby and order a custom made cake and placecard cookies for our guests. Because I can't wait until February to see the finished products, I've managed to find another excuse to order from Polka Dot.

R's uncle is turning 50 and having a big birthday bash - HURRAH! We're collecting Libby's creation for that event on the October long weekend. I will take many many photographs!

More seven minute icing


Will I ever get the hang of this sticky bloody stuff?

I do think this week's attempt was a bit better than last. Inside is three layers of red velvet cake (freaking delicious stuff) with icing in between. It looked fantastic when it was cut up. As soon as the bright red knife came out of the cake everybody reacted like they were five years old again. It was great.

Do you remember the original Women's Weekly birthday cake book?

I'm sure there was a ghost cake in there that required this kind of glossy icing. I think I need to scour the second hand shops and get a copy. The new version just isn't the same.

Stevia and other wonders


Over the last two weekends I've been attempting to bake a birthday cake for a friend with autism. It had to be organic, sugar free, gluten free, yeast free, dairy free and casein free.

My first 3 attempts were not great. Each time I took a 'cake' out of the oven I'd go outside and give a bit to R to taste test. His (incredulous) response to v1 was 'WHAT IS THAT?'

Thankfully v4 was a success, mainly thanks to the discovery of Stevia. Don't ask me how an organically grown leaf can add sweetness without sugar, calories, carbs or chemicals, it just does. I bought the Nirvana Organics concentrate - 1-3 drops is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Whilst it was miraculous in the context of 'everything free' cake, I wouldn't recommend it for other baking. I'd prefer to stick to the texture and volume that butter adds to a recipe!

For those interested in recreating v4 of the cake, here it is (note all ingredients organic where possible):

3 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
150g rice flour
110 g hazelnut meal
2 overripe mashed bananas
12 drops stevia
1 tbsp baking powder

1. Beat eggs and olive oil together until they're fluffy and have some volume
2. Add stevia and beat well
3. Add bananas and beat well
4. Add hazelnut meal, rice flour and baking powder and mix
5. Pour into a greased 9 inch round baking tin
6. Bake at 180 degrees C for approximately 30 minutes, or until cake is browned on top and a skewer comes out clean

Monday, September 7, 2009

Practicing Peggy...


I just bought Peggy Porschen's Cake Chic and am feeling very inspired to have a go at making little scotty dog biscuits, but thought I'd better have a practice run at making the sugar biscuits and royal icing before I take on that kind of project.

WISE MOVE! It's a lot harder to work with royal icing than I had anticipated, especially when it's watered down to be runny in order to act as a filling. So I'm quite proud of my attempts, even though the stars look a little like they were iced by some enthusiastic pre schoolers...


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Devil's food for devilish dads


Father's Day involved a big middle eastern themed banquet in our back yard, followed by a most un-middle eastern dessert.

I've been ogling Magnolia Bakery's Devil's Food Cake with Seven Minute Icing for ages, and today seemed like the perfect time to give the recipe a shot.

The baking of the cake was fairly run of the mill, a classic chocolate cake recipe in three layers. The Seven Minute Icing, however, was absolutely chaotic and culminated with half my hair being plastered to my face by meringue, this stuff was unbelievably sticky.


Seven Minute Icing is a bit different from traditional butter icing because you need to beat all the ingredients over a double boiler for - you guessed it - seven minutes, and then another minute off the heat:
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
I really like this technique of 'cooking' egg whites, I also used it recently to make Gordon Ramsay's Chocolate Marquise.


In the end it was worth the mess and the second shower I was forced to have once the layers were put together and the icing was safely on the cake!

Rich dark chocolate cake filled and topped with squishy marshmallow is a winner. Even the 'I don't like sweets, I prefer cheese' Dad had two slices. I'll be baking this baby again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Stars and stripes...

Strawberry Shortcake. Yep, it really was this lurid on the plate. Thank you Bubba Gump's Shrimp House, how I love NYC!

Is this where my obsession with *All American* baked goods began? Perhaps I'd do better tracing it back to my discovery of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at the tender age of 10...

I hope Amazon is speedelicious and brings me 'Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations' soon.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0811853705/ref=ox_ya_oh_product

The most beautiful flowers known to man...


Having these beauties sitting on the kitchen table is making me smile. Screw red roses, RANUNCULUS RULE!