Monday, September 26, 2011

Quilled tablecloth cake and Rich Chocolate Cake {Recipe}

When decorating birthday cakes, I love finding a way to make them a little less ordinary. 

My almost mother in law (Mr Di-licious and I haven’t made it down the aisle, yet) loves quilling. I’ve never done quilling myself but I thought it would make an excellent design feature for her 70th birthday cake.

Quilling is essentially rolled up strips of paper, arranged into beautiful patterns. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to emulate the effect with thin strips of fondant.  A couple of attempts later, I realised I really needed to use gumpaste. The strips need to be rolled out really thin, allowed to dry slightly and then rolled up– quilled.

I made a variety of different shapes in different colours as well as a stylised 7-0. The final design didn’t follow an existing pattern – it just sort of happened.  If you look closely you can see flower shapes in there.

The tablecloth idea was actually a work around.  Originally I’d planned to cover the whole ganached cake in white fondant but I wasn’t having a good morning with the rolling pin. Some days are like that.

Rather than admit defeat I used my cake turntable with the scalloped edge as a template and cut around it with a scalpel. I then ‘set the cake’ with the ‘cloth’ and let it drape. I used a cake dowel to create the eyelet holes.

 As with most things, invention is the mother of necessity. I think the final tablecloth look actually suited the cake so much better.  And being unusual, it attracted a lot of compliments from guests and the party gal herself.

Aside from looking pretty on the outside, this cake is di-licious to the core.  I’ve actually found a new favourite chocolate cake recipe courtesy of the very talented Rosie at Sweetapolita.  Her Rich and Dark Chocolate Cake has knocked my socks off.  It was love at first bite.

Moist and flavoursome without being overly sweet.  It’s perfect! And... it cuts like a dream.  I filled the cake with vanilla buttercream and covered the whole cake in dark chocolate ganache. Using a knife dipped in hot water we cut perfect slices of cake.

Olive and I snuck a couple of slices of birthday cake home for a tea party the next day.

For the benefit of Australian readers I’ve converted Sweetapolita’s recipe to aussie measurements. Fill with your favourite frosting or keep it deliciously simple with whipped cream and strawberries.  

Next time I’m going to try my hand at Swiss Meringue Buttercream and pipe pink ruffles just like Sweetapolita!

Rich and Dark Chocolate Cake
Makes two 9 inch cakes or standard 24 cupcakes

1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
2/3 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
¾ cup strong black coffee (I used espresso coffee but strong instant would work as well)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 9-inch cake tins with baking paper.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer.
  • Add remaining wet ingredients, and using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for two minutes. The mixture will be runny.
  • Pour the mixture into the two prepared tins equally.
  • Bake for approximately 40 minutes, rotating pans after 20 minutes.  Cakes are cooked when a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes and then turn out of tins. Allow to cool completely.
  • Cake can be successfully frozen by wrapping well in cling wrap.

For cupcakes, fill cases only half full – they rise a lot!  Bake for 20-25minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cute owl cupcake toppers

Hoot Hoot!!

How cute are these adorable owl cupcake toppers?

I whipped these up last week for a special surprise birthday delivery for my niece.

I've been making cupcakes for Hannah's birthdays for the last three years.  Its always interesting to look back at photos of earlier decorating efforts - I've come a long way.  Last year was sort of the pièce de résistance - the famed Golden Snitch cupcakes for her Harry Potter themed party.

This year we were getting ready for our epic drive to Byron Bay for my sister's wedding, so we didn't make it to Bendigo.  So no Di-licious cupcakes for Hannah.  At least, that's what she thought!

Last week I arranged to come and stay the night with Olive and I brought along half a dozen cute owl cupcakes - SURPRISE!

We both agree that the embossed ones make the greatest impact but the plain pink ones are cute too. I re-purposed a scrapbooking card embosser to create the embossing effect (cheaper than the cake decorating ones and a greater variety of patterns - and the perfect size for cupcakes toppers!)

The good news is these lil' owls are super simple to make using basic circle cutters that you've probably already got stashed somewhere.

The picture above is fairly self explanatory.  Start with a circle of rolled out fondant (around the same size as your cupcake) and then using a smaller round cutter, cut out a 'bite' to create the ears.

Using the wide end of a piping tip, cut out the whites for the eyes.

I pinched a tiny amounts of brown fondant and rolled them into balls for the eyes.

The beaks are hand cut using a scalpel but you could use a sharp knife.  I cut a strip of fondant as wide as I wanted the beaks long and then cut out long triangles.

To assemble you can use either water (applied with a thin, small artists brush) or small blobs of royal icing.  (The royal icing was most helpful for the embossed owls but water would have worked too.)

For the embossed owls, I rolled out the fondant first and then placed the embosser on top.  Using a firm pushing motion, I pushed the rolling pin across the embosser to create even pressure.  I then positioned the circle cutter to centre the design and then cut out the body.

I attached the finished toppers to the cupcakes by piping a swirl of royal icing on the underside and pressing onto the cake.  You could of course also sit them on top of a buttercream swirl or ganache dipped cupcake.

I hope you enjoy these little toppers as much as I enjoyed making them.

Happy [belated] birthday Hannah! xxx

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My sister's wedding cake: Kransekake {Recipe}

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Drive to Byron Bay for my sister's wedding so we could transport the wedding cake I'd made her. A six day break where we spent four days in the car. Insane right?

Did I mention I made a wedding cake?

Not your quintessential tiered, fondant creation mind you.  In a nod to our Norwegian heritage, my sister asked me to make a traditional wedding cake called kransekake.

If you haven’t seen one before, kransekake isn’t actually a cake; it’s a tower of eighteen sweet almond macaroon rings – think baked marzipan – ‘glued’ together with royal icing. 

Instead of cutting the cake, the bride and groom lift the top ring.  The number of rings that stay attached to the top ring is supposed to signify how many children the happy couple will be blessed with. 

The rings are then broken up into pieces (starting from the bottom) and served with coffee. 

The dough is a cinch to make but its the baking that brings many a cook unstuck, or should I stay stuck...the special kransekake pans are notoriously non-stick (despite what the box says!)  A baked kransekake has the tendency to stick to the pans like cement!

Through trial and error I've come up with a 'no more tears' method.  I used the moulds to shape the rings but tipped them out onto baking paper lined trays to bake them.  The result is perfectly formed rings with a slightly flat base (which makes stacking them even easier!). I feel like a kransekake genius!

In Norway kransekakes are generally decorated with small Norwegian flags or ribbons.  Very patriotic but not quite how I wanted to decorate my first wedding cake.  I took inspiration from this gorgeous cake and spent a couple of hours making 300+ sugar flowers to emulate the cascade effect.

Not one to blow my own trumpet (too loudly), I think pretty kransekakes are the way of the future. Check out this gorgeous one made by fellow Aussie blogger/baker Not Quite Nigella.

When I first shared a photo of the cake on my personal Facebook page, many of my friends asked whether I'd transported the cake assembled - em, no.  I baked the rings a week ahead of time and froze them.  The rings defrosted on the way to Byron Bay.

Di-licious at work, wielding the piping bag!

On the morning of the wedding I wielded my piping bag and put it all together in less than two hours. The ribbons were an afterthought..... if I were to do it again I probably would have ditched the navy rose on top.

When it came to ‘cuting the cake’, my sister and new brother in law tugged strongly and initially lifted up the whole tower and cake stand before the top ring broke free – much to the relief of my sister!

A word of warning: kransekake is highly addictive.  One guest apprehensively tasted a small piece to appease my dad who was singing its praises – and then couldn’t stop eating it! The whole cake was polished off!  You have been warned.

And to end on a gorgeous note, I can't help but share a photo of Olive as the flower girl.  She took her role very seriously!

Recipe: Kransekake (Macaroon Wreath Cake)

665g pure icing sugar
665g ground almonds
4 egg whites
10 drops almond essence

Royal icing
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 egg white

Special Equipment
eye dropper (for essence)
Kransekake ring pans (set of 6 with three ring tracks each)

  • Preheat oven to 200°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind together the icing sugar and almond meal (in two batches).
  • Tip into a large mixing bowl and then add egg whites and almond essence.
  • Mix together until the mixture becomes a smooth dough.
  • Break off approximately a quarter of the dough and wrap the rest in cling wrap to stop it from drying out.
  • Roll the dough into a long rope until its the thickness of your thumb.
  • Fit the 'rope' to the tracks of the ring pan and pinch off.  Smooth the join as best you can by pressing the ends together.  Repeat for the remaining tracks to create three dough rings.
  • Carefully turn dough rings out onto baking paper lined tray. Repeat with remaining pans.
  • Bake rings for approx 12-15min until slightly coloured.  They should be dry and firm on the outside but slightly chewy on the inside.
  • Allow to cool on tray for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Royal icing
  • Sift or whizz your icing sugar in a food processor and place into a mixmaster bowl.
  • Add the egg white and mix on low speed until egg white is incorporated and then on medium speed until icing is smooth.
  • Fit a piping bag with a small plain piping tip.
  • Load up your piping bag with icing,
To assemble

  • Arrange your rings on a large workspace in the correct ascending order. 
  • Glue your largest (bottom) tier to your cake stand.
  • Pipe a scalloped garland of icing along the top of the ring and attach the next ring (the icing sticks it together).
  • Repeat with remaining rings.
  • Decorate as desired.
  • Allow to set for at least two hours, then sit back and get ready for all the compliments to roll in!

Baking notes:
  • The recipe is simple enough – almonds, icing sugar and egg whites.  I cheat and use ready-ground almond meal and use a food processor to whizz the icing sugar with the almond meal so I don’t have to sift it (purists would grind the nuts themselves and sift it with the icing sugar). 
  • I've added almond essence to imitate the taste of bitter almonds.
  • The quantity of dough is deliberately generous. This means you can bake a test ring to work out optimum baking time (and taste test it!)  Left over dough can be made into small cookies and frozen.
  • Kransekake should have a firm crust and chewy texture.