Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2010

Spring-time mud madness

I just love spring.  Days begin to feel warmer, new growth appears in the garden (where my one year old pup hasn't already demolished the plants) and if you're in Melbourne, it has rained, and rained, and rained.

My daughter Olive has loved it - lots of muddy puddles to jump in.  Clearly its time to whip up a bunch of mudcakes!

Mud cakes are the modern wedding cake decorator's salvation.  They can be baked a couple of days in advance, allowing plenty of time for elaborate decoration.  Mud cakes tolerate fridge and freezer storage and being particularly dense, can be reliably stacked on top of one another or carved into fun shapes like teapots.

Mudcakes are also ridiculously easy to make - melt and mix. Gently heat your chocolate, butter and milk together and allow to cool.  Whisk up your eggs and combine with the cooled chocolate mix and then pour into sifted dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, pour into cupcake papers and bake.  Voila!

There are plenty of recipes out there …

Classic tea for two

One of the joys of cake making and motherhood are impromptu tea parties.

My almost three year old daughter Olive is well versed in the custom and loves it when I test recipes or decoration techniques. This time around I was experimenting with cake chemistry, a la Cake Journal

The lovely Miss Louise from Cake Journal has a theory of how to make the perfect domed cupcake - perfect for dipping in poured fondant.  She changes the traditional method of creaming butter and sugar together and instead whisks the  eggs and sugar together and melts the butter with the milk. 

I used my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe to see how different (and puffed) my cupcakes could be. 
Method-wise, I would go so far as to say Cake Journal's method was simpler and faster.  It was supposed to yield a runny batter which would benefit from using a jug to pour the batter into the cups but mine was still thick.  I ended up using my trusty ice cream scoop.

I filled the cups past the three quarters mark …

Pretty in pink

Isn't this one of the prettiest things you ever laid eyes on?

I made these beautiful (di-licious) hydrangea cupcakes for my friend's daughter's baptism.

The vanilla cupcakes with vanilla and raspberry buttercream were all the more special thanks to Neilsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract. I splurged on a bottle at Simon Johnson a few weeks ago after talking for half an hour with one of their sales team about how important a great tasting cake was. She assured me that my cakes would reach another dimension with this amazing vanilla. Well, she was right. These were by far the most amazing vanilla cupcakes I have ever made. The perfume, the taste - just di-licious!

I hope I can continue to produce cakes to this standard when I one day put up my own shingle. I have been consistently underwhelmed by the offerings of cupcake shops and wonder if the so-so cake is a product of the production process that making bulk cakes requires. Its something I'll need to th…

Playing with pretty

Last night I was feeling playful. I'm in the midst of creating Golden Snitch cupcakes for my niece's party this weekend and I wanted to take a break from wings and gold paint.
I showed you my first fondant roses recently and pledged to turn them into something pretty - and so here it is.
Very simple, but very pretty!
I also got myself a new cake decorating toy - an embossing plate.

In truth, its actually an embossing plate for making impressions on cards, but its also perfect for creating pretty cupcake size designs on fondant.
To see some really pretty cupcakes, take a look at Small Things Iced - a gorgeous bespoke cake maker and decorator in the UK.
One of these days I'll catalogue some of my favourite sites and blogs.....another project AFTER the Golden Snitches!

Sweet, petite, afternoon tea treats

I've been musing for a while about what market I might focus on for my 'future' cupcake business. And I seem to keep coming back to afternoon tea treats.

There seems to be a renaissance going on for girly get togethers over beautiful china, sparkling wine and pretty cakes. And why not? Many top hotels are advertising weekend High Teas, but they don't come cheap.

One of my close girlfriends recently received her grandmothers gorgeous china and was inspired to host her own high teas at home. They're now a much sought after invitation event.

She loves to make savoury treats but prefers to leave cakes to someone else. Hmmmm....that sounds like an opportunity!

This weekend she was hosting a birthday party for the same grandmother whose china she now cherishes and wanted it to be extra special. So she asked me to make two of my favourite cupcakes, in miniature.

The Lemon Delicious cakes are baked with lemon curd and topped with lemon buttercream and a little sugar flower.

Everything's coming up roses

Since embarking on my cake decorating journey I've been desperate to learn sugar flowers.

I've struggled to find a class nearby and I thought I had to buy lots of complicated cutters and tools - that was until I discovered David Cakes on YouTube.

This fabulous cake shop based in the UK has put together some really informative videos on how to make fondant flowers without cutters. And you know what - its pretty easy. If you can roll a small blob of fondant into a ball and flatten it out between your fingers, then you can create a gorgeous rose.

The roses above were my first efforts. And without blowing my own horn, I think they're pretty great!

They need to dry, and of course I should have used gum paste to ensure they dry out properly, but I don't care. I now know I can do them. Sure they don't have green calyxes on their bases, but on a cupcake - who needs one? Some hand piped leaves will do the trick quite nicely.

Stay tuned for a dressed up cupcake featuring t…

Cherry blossom finale

My couture cherry blossom cupcakes made their grand entrance on Saturday night to rapturous applause and lots of 'oohhhhh' and 'aahhhhhhs'.

The birthday girl was happy.

I was even approached by one guest about possibly doing her wedding cupcakes in January - a wonderful compliment!

The proof is always in the tasting and this time I achieved what I had set out to do - a very grown up Jaffa cake - Grand Marnier and Chocolate that was both flavoursome and moreish.

It was fantastic to receive such postive feedback on my work. It also confirmed for me that no matter how pretty the cake looks, its the taste that will always have the bigger impact.

Another original Di-licious recipe to add to the master file!

Crying over split ganache

I had a minor catastrophe in the kitchen this week - I split my ganache!

I followed the same method I've always used:
* 2:1 ratio of dark chocolate to cream
* roughly chop the chocolate and put into a bowl
* heat the cream to just boiling point in a small saucepan
* pour the hot cream over the chocolate
* stir until melted.

It looked fine. It was lumpy initially but did become smooth after a lot of stirring. I allowed it to rest overnight but the next day it had a film of oil over the top. I tried to remix it, heating it gently in the microwave on low power. It turned grainy and lumpy. I tried mixing in some more cream. It looked worse. It was unusable. Time to cut my losses and start again.

So what went wrong?

Ganache is a notorious for being temperamental. You are emulsifying two seemingly un-mixable ingredients with the aid of heat and aeration. A lot can and often does go wrong.

With a little guidance from some of my learned friends on Planet Cake's Tea Party Forum I came…

Planning a couture cupcake

One of my dearest friends is having a party to celebrate her birthday so I thought a great gift would be to make her some very special couture cupcakes.

I use the term couture a little tongue in cheek - I don't think they're a one off design, but the distinction sets it way above a basic buttercream swirl.

First thing to consider is flavour - a couture cupcake has to taste amazing.

My friend's favourite cake flavour is jaffa so I wanted to make a very special chocolate and orange cake. And orange doesn't get more special than Grand Marnier, that oh so beautiful french liquor. I did a test batch of cuppies using Lindt Intense Orange chocolate. They were nice but the dried orange and almond pieces kind of spoilt the texture a bit. So I'm modifying the recipe by using unsweetened cocoa instead and appling a coat of dark chocolate ganache under the icing.

Now we get to the fun bit - the design. I like to ask people what colours they'd like and any specific design …

Oh cardomom, sweet cardomom

Over the weekend I had my own little invention test and set out to make the ultimate cardomom flavoured cupcake.

Most people probably associate cardomom with the little green pods you find in indian curries (and let me tell you, they're fabulous in them!) but the ground spice from the seeds is also a staple of Scandanavian baking. (You can take the girl out of Norway but you can't take the Norwegian out of the girl!)

So it only seemed fitting that I make a cardomom cupcake to celebrate my mum's birthday.

I paid a visit to my friend Google and looked for some recipe ideas. Most favoured pairing cardomom with either orange or chocolate. Both combinations sounded great but I was really looking for a solo taste act.

It dawned on me that I could probably just add cardomom straight to my favourite vanilla cake recipe and I confirmed it when I found A Mingling of Tastes 's Vanilla and Cardomom cupcakes recipe.

My objective was to make a cake that really tasted like cardomo…

Say it with a gift cake

What's a birthday without gifts and cake? So why not kill two birds with one stone and present your lucky friend with a gift-cake?

Inspired by Sugarbloom's Tall Cupcake Tutorial, I thought I'd try my hand at covering a cupcake with fondant to make a birthday gift for a special friend. Never mind the fact that I had never covered an entire cake with fondant before....

Well, 9 cupcakes later I think I nailed it:
The mini cake is actually one of my lemon delicious cupcakes, coated in white chocolate ganache and pale pink fondant. I didn't make the pink and white flowers myself, but I did pipe the monogram (another first with Royal Icing mix).

The cake was packaged in a matching gift box with gorgeous Cristina Re vellum paper and brown grosgrain ribbon.

I sacrificed a lot of cupcakes along the way, but I did learn some things in the procees:
ganache is better than buttercream under fondantyou really do need to let the ganache set before you try to smooth fondant over itfon…

It's not as easy at it looks

I had to stiffle a giggle or two last night over MasterChef's CWA baking challenge. Anyone who is a baker knows that a seemingly simple recipe is anything but.

Never baked a cake? OK - impress 100 CWA members with lamingtons, fruit cake and scones. Oh and do it outside. The result? Entertaining TV with the inevitable train wreck at the end - scones you could use as hockey pucks, raw fruit cakes and burnt [cake] bottoms.

I was curious to know if the prep team made sure the ingredients for the cakes were at room temperature? It's an important question. Baking is all about chemistry and having all of your ingredients at the right temperature allows the magic to happen. Get it wrong and your mixture curdles - and your cake won't rise properly.

Sorry to get all technical on you but I've become very passionate about chemistry lately. It wasn't my strong point at high school - I barely scraped a pass on my VCE exams, but now you'll find me pouring over technical cooki…

Flight of the Golden Snitches

I have been making cupcakes for my niece Hannah's birthday for the last couple of years. This year she wanted a Harry Potter theme.

I have a small confession to make here - I have never read or watched Harry Potter anything. There is a back story to this but lets just say I can't. Harry Potter cupcakes, OK cool, I thought. Then she announced that she wanted Golden Snitches - what???

Anyway, brief lesson in Harry Potter folklore (there are university courses in the UK for this stuff now!) - Golden Snitches are a golden, walnut-sized ball with wings used in a semi-contact sport called Quidditch, apparently very popular with witches.

Ok - so she wants round balls with wings, coloured gold on top of cupcakes. I can do this.

One of the things I love best about cake decorating are the toys, I mean tools. This project allowed me to add a few more things to my arsenal. I tracked down a wing cutter and veiner to pattern the wings online at Iced Affair (arrived within 2 days! Really p…