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Showing posts from July, 2010

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…