Friday, April 22, 2011

Splendour in the grass

There is no finer tradition than creating traditions, and Easter is no exception.

This year we introduced Easter PJs as a special gift from Mr E.Bunny himself. There’ll still be an egg hunt on Easter Sunday but it’s nice to have a treat on Good Friday to kick start the weekend’s festivities (and gluttony).

Easter is also a traditional time for baking so it was inevitable I’d find myself making something di-licious.

It started as a special request from Mr Di-licious’ work colleagues – could I possibly whip up some cupcakes for the staff Easter morning tea? No worries.

I was kind of excited to dust off the cupcake papers again – these were going to be my first batch of cuppies for 2011.

Chocolate was the obvious flavour choice but the decoration required some thought. I wanted them to be in the spirit of Easter but appealing to adults and children alike.

What could be sweeter than some candy coated mini chocolate eggs nestled in a clump of buttercream grass?

If you can hold a piping bag then this design is a snap. Easier than a buttercream swirl, the grass is piped using the Wilton grass tip (No. 233) . Wilton has a great tutorial explaining the grass piping technique on their website.

Nestle a few candy eggs on top then sit back and enjoy the delighted reactions from young and old alike!

The cuppies were a hit at the office. They’ve also been thoroughly road tested by Olive and her friends with a double thumbs up for Easter goodness.

Perhaps these cupcakes might become part of your Easter tradition too?

From my family to yours, we hope you have a di-licious Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simpler cake decorating with fondant tiles

I guess it happens in every social circle but we’ve re-entered the zone of milestone birthdays – this time it’s the big 4-0.

In February three close friends were turning forty within a week of one another. I remember them negotiating dates for parties months before. Invitations were issued, RSVPs sent and before I knew it I had three cake orders, three weeks in a row – all for big celebration cakes.

I have this memory of my Dad’s fortieth birthday cake back in 1981. Mum ordered it from a bakery – it was a huge square cake, possibly chocolate, filled with mock cream and coated in chocolate sprinkles. Happy 40th Birthday Dennis was piped on top by a practiced hand. Whilst the fashion of cake decoration has evolved mostly for the better, a big square layer cake remains a classic for big celebrations.

My interpretation of the ultimate milestone birthday cake is a triple chocolate layer cake. Three 11inch square layers of di-licious chocolate cake, sandwiched with chocolate buttercream and all wrapped up in chocolate ganache.

Because there’s so much chocolately goodness, you only need a small piece, making it a breeze to serve up to a huge crowd. You know it makes sense.

We all love to dress up for a party and a cake is no different. Finding the right ‘outfit’ was part of the fun with the design process. Good planning is essential with any cake project and paramount when you have three on the go.

Sometimes the design can represent the recipient’s passion, match the party theme or simply match the party girl’s dress.

A red racing car was the obvious choice for Ferrari-mad John. I’d never made a fondant figure before but found  Cake Journal’s racing car tutorial invaluable. The little yellow Ferrari logo emblems were my own embellishment.

No one was surprised when games fan Marc decided to have a Game’s People Play costume party. A scrabble cake was the obvious choice but I wanted to make it a little more cryptic so I made a giant customised scrabble tile. I didn’t have a giant letter cutter so I improvised by printing out the M to size and used it as a template to cut out the letter from thinly rolled black fondant using a scalpel. Sometimes less really is more.

Birthday girl Kylie gave me a sneak preview of her party dress to inspire the colour scheme for her cake: red, orange and grey. I didn’t have letter cutters in the right font for her name so ended up freestyling, hand cutting them with the scalpel – pretty damn good if I do say so myself!

I love the platform that fondant gives a cake for decorating but covering a whole cake is time consuming (which makes it more expensive). How do you get the look of fondant without the headaches? Make a fondant tile!

Ideally you would make the tile a couple of weeks in advance to give it ample time to dry out. This would make it easier to place onto the cake. I bumbled my way through it and was able to cover up most of my mistakes with strategically placed candles and decorations. But practice does eventually lead to perfection. The tile needs to have a 1cm ‘seam allowance’ on each side so that it’s framed by the chocolate ganache base.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the tile is that you can keep rearranging the design. Once you’ve found the layout you like, take a photo and go make a cup of tea. Take a break and then look at the photo. It sounds strange but seeing the design in 2D makes it clearer somehow. You’ll quickly be able to tell if the design works.

If you use your phone to take the photo (I love my iPhone) you can also text the image to the ‘client’ for their approval. When you get the nod, use the photo as your design map to stick everything perfectly in place.

Then it’s time to party, quadragenarion style!