Saturday, 15 September 2012

Le Macaron Tower - C'est Magnifique !



Righto - first off you must excuse my dreadful high school French in the title...hahahaha.


I know I have kind of disappeared off the planet for a few weeks but life sometimes just steps in and has other plans for you doesn't it.  Ive been busy in the cake world making both the macaron tower and the Speedo Swimming Man.  I also have another cake in the midst of completion right now in the form of a 'Give Way' Sign...

OK well first things first. We lived through the trial and error of making macarons using the French Method NOT the Italian Meringue Method and have made peace with it and found a groove with it somewhat with many more successes than failures.

With the macarons all made, I researched how best to construct the tower and there were two options for securing the macarons to the cone - you could either mount them to the sides by sticking them on with ganache or you could mount them on toothpicks inserted into the foam inner of the cone.

I opted for the toothpick version as I wanted the birthday girl and her friends to be able to pluck the macarons easily from the tower without the delicate shells cracking or breaking where they were adhered with chocolate.

I filled all the macarons the day before delivery and fortunately as it turned out I had made just enough. I used a small knife to pierce the board covering the foam cone then inserted each toothpick on roughly a 45 degree angle and then skewered each macaron in place.  I carefully worked my way around the cone using the turntable definitely helped with manipulating it smoothly.

The base was a thick polystyrene slab covered for the job in a classic design.  Upon completion of the last layer I was wondering how best to tie in the birthday girl's name etc and my Husband had the brainwave of the beautiful place card in front.  Elegant and in keeping with the design and feel of the creation.

My only caveat with this job was that it was insanely difficult to move by car.  I made my husband drive at approx 40km/h all the way to the delivery destination (fortunately no motorways were required!)  Every little bump or jolt in the car had me holding my breath as I held tightly to the base and the top of the cone.  A couple of the bottom Macarons slipped off but were easily slid back on when we arrived.

I am thrilled with the result it was absolutely perfect.  The birthday girl adored it and they started eating with gusto.

Flavours from bottom to top were:
Lemon, Lavender, Raspberry, Coffee, Mint, Blueberry, Strawberry, Coffee, Mint, Raspberry, Mint.

Lxx

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Random Macaron Ramblings and Things I've Learned


I've been thinking a lot about these little babies lately... They really are all the rage right now with everyone trying their hand at them - me included of course.

When I want to know about something I will read and read, search the internet, watch Youtube videos and practice practice practice.

The lists of the do's an dont's are as long as your arm with Macarons.  But these things I have found to be true this week as I have churned through 8 different batches of them in 2 days:  Remember I use the French Macaron Method - not the Italian Meringue Method.


  1. Don't get too hung on up your measurements - Ive started using about a 50/50 mix of Almond Meal to Icing sugar but I guess the split between two batches.  What Ive found is that its more about the 'Macaronage' (the mixing) than it is about the proportions in your mix.
  2. Ive discovered - thanks to my friend Karen - the BEST BEST way to sift that flamin almond meal is to firstly measure it out and combine it with the measured icing sugar then blitz in the food processor for about 2 minutes.  Ive discovered this works for 2 reasons.  Firstly it makes it all a lot finer and secondly, the dry Icing Sugar helps dry out the somewhat moist texture of the almond meal making it easier to sieve.
  3. Get yourself THIS sieve!  I could sieve almond meal all day long with this.  The key is to add only a few spoonfuls of it in at a time.  If you put to much in it glugs up.  I used an icecream scoop and scooped 1-2 scoops of mix in at a time to sieve and hey presto finished in a few short minutes.
  4. Macaronage : The artful part of creating that elusive texture just right for the macaron to be perfect.  Crisp on the exterior and beautiful on the interior.  Don't be too delicate here.  I must have watched about 15 videos on YouTube of people mixing macarons.  What was just the 'right' consistency.  The best tip I picked up was when you think you are runny enough but not too runny - get a teaspoon and take a spoonful of mix and drop it onto a small plate to make a macaron shape and see if it settles properly.  Any ridges should be assimilated by a quick tap or shake.  If not - then go back and work a few more turns thru your mix then test again.
  5. Piping the perfect circles:  I found a wonderful template online which was free to download and you just slide it under your baking parchment and you cover the dots with your mix - hey presto uniform shapes.  Just google 'Macaron Template".  Also I have found greater control piping with a smaller Wilton Nozzle on my bag.
  6. Righto - now we come that part where you want to get the little 'skin' on your macaron.  The skin is important in order to create the 'feet'.  However in my many experimentations I have also found it can also be the cause of cracked shells.  So, here's what you need to do.  Its a fine balancing act between leaving them long enough to sit to form the skin - anywhere up to an hour they say but Ive never had to wait that long.  But....here's the catch.  On pain of death do not wander away - start some other activity or get distracted.... because if you leave it too long and the skin starts to dry too much, you get a thick skin that will cause a cracked shell when it hits the oven. So keep an eye on them.  Pop back and give them a nudge every few minutes or so.
  7. Here's another little nugget of gold info I learned.  Some recipes say to get rid of any lingering little holes or peaks on your shells by slightly wetting your finger and then pressing them back in.  Yep this works on the uncooked shells - but BEWARE - if you accidentally leave any water on the top of your macaron - you will get a 'bubble' on the top of your shell when you put it on the oven.  So just be careful if you use this method.

Right - thats all I have to say on the matter for the moment.  I am by no means an expert but in the past few weeks I have made so many batches that I felt I wanted to share what I have learnt along the way.  Remember trial and error is all part of the learning process and to be honest thats why I love baking.  Its like an experiment.  Everything from the number of strokes you use to mix, to the warm and cold spots in your oven, to the relative humidity in your day or kitchen plays a part in how any given baked good will work on any given day.  Thats the challenge!!!

Happy Baking.  Above are the macarons I have created which will form the Macaron Tower I am in the process of completing.  Pics will follow next week of the completed tower - with NO MORE macaron ramblings I promise.

Lxx

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake - Sugar, Dairy and Gluten free


So, I've been hanging out at this great little cafe lately that serves a lot of Raw Cakes.  I always used to pass them by thinking they looked nice but wasnt very interested.  However, since getting on my sugar free kick, I've been very intrigued by the whole Raw Food Thing.  Your tastebuds just re-adjust to life without sugar.  Natural things seem beautifully, naturally sweet - an apple, a banana and if a turbo charged bit of sweetness is required perhaps a date.  Now we're talking!

Anyway, I digress... I have been looking at a number of raw food recipes lately and thought the deserts looked just beautiful.  Jewel colours, great textures, and on the good nutrition scale - off the chart !  I wanted to experiment today with a Raw Strawberry Cheesecake.  The bases are a mixture of nuts and natural Medjool Dates which provide both the sweetness and the 'stick' to make it all hold together.

The fillings tend to follow a set pattern too.  A mixture of ground nuts, sweetness in the form of honey, agave nectar, rice syrup or maple syrup, the setting and binding agent to hold its shape is usually virgin coconut oil and your flavouring of choice - fruit of some type.

I can't help thinking that raw food would have been diabolically boring before the advent of the modern food processor as it is this little beauty that transforms these usually bulky ingredients into smooth pastes and workable textures.

OK so here's how it goes - and when I say its simple - believe me its super simple.

You could make this in one springform cake pan as one large cake or I used stainless steel food prep collars to create 4 individual serves.  To be honest the four single serves could easily have been halved and served as a moon shape with a scoop of my raw strawberry and banana 'icecream'.  Perfect serving size.

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake
Ingredients
Base
1 Cup Raw Macadamia Nuts
1/2 to 1 Cup Raw Almonds
8 Fresh Medjool Dates - stones removed
Filling
1 Cup Raw Macadamia Nuts
1 Cup Raw Pecan Nuts
1/4 Cup Virgin Coconut Oil at Room temperature ( either liquid or soft)
1/4 cup raw honey  (if you prefer it sweeter just add a little more to taste)
10 fresh hulled strawberries
1 Also used one 15g Sachet of Nutrafresh Freeze Dried Strawberry Powder (you could easily just use the rest of your punnet of strawberries in stead)
A little cold water to help get the consistency right - add this last and just a little at a time until you get the desired consistency - remembering it will firm up upon chilling.

Method

  1. Blitz your base ingredients in your food processor until combined.  Remove lid and check if it holds together when you squeeze some between thumb and forefinger. If it does - you're done.
  2. I then pressed the base mix into the bottom of my steel collar moulds - you choose the depth - mine was about 1cm deep. Alternatively press into your springform pan that has been lined with baking paper for easy removal.
  3. Now you're ready to make the filing.  Start by blending the nuts to a fine texture then add your oil, strawberries and honey and check the consistency once combined.  
  4. If it is a little dry then you can now add a little water at a time and pulsing until you get the right consistency.  You don't want runny just creamy.
  5. Spoon this mix evenly into your pan or in my case the collars.  The mix is dense enough that it will hold itself well.
  6. Place in the freezer for at least an hour or two.
  7. When ready to serve remove to the fridge for about half an hour prior to serving and they will soften enough to eat easily.  This was divine served with my raw strawberry icecream...
Raw Strawberry Icecream
Ingredients
4 very ripe skinned frozen bananas
1 punnet of fresh strawberries hulled and frozen (alternatively use pre-frozen berries of your choice)

Method
  1. You need to have the bananas and the berries already frozen - so you need to have this recipe started in advance or keep these things handy in your freezer.  The riper your bananas are the sweeter your icecream will be.  This is the only sweetness in your recipe.
  2. Place bananas and berries into your food processor and blitz until they chip down, then you continue to blend and they will begin to melt slightly and they will form a beautiful creamy 'icecream'.  Anyone would be hard pressed to not think this was the dairy variety.
  3. You could easily experiment with flavours for this - vary your berries - keep the banana as your base as this is where the creamy sweetness comes from - add raw cacao perhaps, ginger, lemongrass or whatever berries you like - possibilities are endless.
  4. Once this is blended up I just put it into a plastic container then back in the freezer.  It thaws quick in the fridge so just move it into the fridge about 1/2 hour before serving it.
Happy cooking, or not-cooking as the case may be.  Play around and discover how wonderful raw deserts can be.  No sugar, no dairy, no gluten -  just the pure amazing flavours of nature.




Thursday, 16 August 2012

French Macaron ? Oui


I know I have posted before on the macaron but this post goes a little further towards de-mystifying this elusive creature and also experiments with some sensational all natural colouring and flavourings.

Firstly - only the French could invent something so delicious with the most simple recipe, that if you follow it to the absolute letter - doesn't work!!

Many of you out there, like myself, probably made these once fluked a good first batch and thought pfft whats all the fuss about ?  Its simple.  Yeah right.  Try another batch and see how that works out for you....  Thats where I was.  Fluked an awesome first batch - wrote em up and chalked them down to experience thinking I was pretty good and everyone else must be really really stupid.

Well that all goes out the window very quickly when you try to re-create that magic again and again and again and you get, cracked shells, soft insides, no feet, spread mess over whole baking tray, you name it I had it.  What was I doing ??? I was following the recipe to the letter why wasn't it working ???  After much gnashing of teeth, reading the internet, getting bogged down in technique, exact measurements I was about to give up.  Then I stopped, had a coffee and a deep breath and thought about the macaron.  And it is a 'RON'  not a "ROON"  save the roon for the coconut biscuit - these are strictly the gutteral, unmistakably French sounding ron.

It is French, no ? It looks simple, but isn't, no ?  It doesn't like to be copied exactly.  Once again...its French!  So employ a little French attitude, get a good old shrug happening and the curl of your lip and then tackle them again...

Measure your ingredients up front for the almond meal and the icing sugar (recipe to follow but I use 160g almond meal and 160g Icing/confectioner sugar) then commence the tedious job of forcing this unwilling mix thru a sieve.  This has to be the WORST of making the macaron.  The sieving is important as thats why the shells are smooth.  You will notice mine could definitely be smoother.  This is achieved by sieving your dry mix about 3 times.  Honestly life is too short for this task to be completed three times and if you have the patience for it  - more power to you and your aching hands and forearm!

This entire process is dramatically hastened if you can employ one of those fancy looking plastic scraper thingys you see all the masterchef people using as a spoon will take about 40-45 minutes but the scraper will bring it down to about 30 minutes.

Once you have your dry mix set it aside and we'll talk recipe and flavouring.

I was fortunate enough to be stumbled over in the blogging world by a wonderful NZ Company called Nutrafresh (http://www.nutrafresh.co.nz/)  who produce a wonderful array of almost Willy Wonka inspired great tasting sparkling fruit and vegetable powders.


We've all watched them on Masterchef make the puree, dehydrate or freeze dry it then blend to powder to create intense colours and flavours - well now we can have it at home all done for us.  No chemicals, no additives just 100% fruit puree or vegetable juices dried  and powdered to give intensity in flavour and colour.  As soon as I saw these powders I thought of the humble macaron and thought - Oui!  Thats gonna work brilliantly and you know what- it did!  Thank you Nutrafresh!

Here's What I did.  Using the French Macaron Method - notoriously more fickle than the italian meringue version but a lot simpler.

French Macarons  - Using Nutrafresh Fruit & Vegetable Powders

160g Almond Meal
160g Icing / Confectioner Sugar (pure icing sugar not Icing Mixture which can have thickeners added)
65g Caster Sugar  (approx)
About 4 Eggwhites...
1 level tsp Nutrafresh Fruit or Vegetable Powder of choice to colour or a little gel colour.

Method
These measurements make approx 2 batches of approx 10 Macarons (20 shells) each batch


  1. Measure your dry ingredients in a bowl and if you have a food processor blitz them for about 3-4 minutes with the blade attachment to try to make it as fine as possible.
  2. Using a plastic food scraper (not a spatula) or large spoon, press the mix thru a fine sieve.  This is laborious but there is no way around it.  If you have the time and/or patience 3 goes thru the sieve is optimal for really super smooth shells.
  3. Set your dry mix aside and here's where you need to go a little on trust.  Make a meringue - thats all Im gonna say.  Think about it.  Break about 2 eggwhites from large eggs - not the super XL ones - approx 60g but don't get hung up on that.  Whisk until they form the soft peaks.  Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of caster sugar in and keep beating until it starts to go a bit glossy.  Add about another spoonful of sugar keep beating and see if your peaks are getting good and stiff.  Taste your mix, is it sweet enough - if you want it sweeter add a bit more sugar.  If you are colouring your shells you add it here.  I used approx 1 level tsp of Nutrafresh Beetroot Powder for pink shells.  When I made the other batches I used 1 tsp of passionfruit for Yellow plus a little gel colour to deepen the hue.  Check its stiff enough that you can hold the bowl upside down briefly.
  4. OK here is where you have to trust your instincts and your feel for the mix you are about to create.  This is 'Macaronage' Magic time...
  5. Take approx 1/3 of your dry mix and add it to your coloured eggwhite mix, and using a spatula start incorporating it by pulling your spatula thru the centre of the mix to the edge of the bowl then scooping and turning it over on the the bottom.  Repeat about 25 times.  Look at the ooziness of your mix.  You are not looking for runny cake mix, you're not looking for too dry or solid.  It should be smooth with a little movement as it settles after each drag and turn.  Adjust and add a little more dry mix if its too runny.  DON"T overmix it - you shouldn't need more than 40 drag and drops - if you do - then you may be wondering why you have issues with the macarons later on.
  6. The next step is the piping of the circles.  If your piping skills need some practice then draw your circles onto the baking paper then turn it over so you can see them thru the other side.  The shouldn't really spread too much.  I usually get about 5 in each short line.  Fill your piping bag with the mix.  You'll know straight away if its too runny as it will be hard to fill.  I bend over the nozzle end of my piping bag and seal with a small rubber band then stand it in a super tall glass - easy.  At this point turn your oven to about 120C - its a slow oven you want.
  7. Pipe your circles.  If you have little tails on the top of the shells - when u have finished wet your finger slightly and push them down.  Now you need to let the macaron develop its skin.  No skin means no feet - remember that.  You need skin then feet will follow.  Sit the tray aside for anything up to half an hour.  Depending on the weather on the day skins may form quickly, but after half an hour they are still sticky - it's just not gonna happen - so bake them anyway they'll still taste good.
  8. Pop your tray in the oven.  Some people say never use your fan..bah blah bah - I always use the fan and its fine.  Just know your oven and know that you want a slow oven so they won't cook too quick on the outside but not so cool they won't rise.
  9. You'll know in the first 8 minutes if you have success, watch for the feet.  If you got a skin the feet will begin to form as the tops rise pulling up the skin creating the feet.  Then you just need to keep a watch - they will take about another 5-8 minutes cooking after the feet to ensure they''re cooked thru.
  10. When you remove them pull the baking paper off your tray onto a wire cooling rack.  I never wait too long before loosening them as I fear they will stick. Mine never stick.  Get a knife or a metal spatula and gently run it under each and just lift slightly.  Always pull a little to the side not straight up or you might just leave its insides behind.
  11. When they are cooled they are ready to fill.
  12. Repeat with the other half of the mixture.
Macaron Ganache Fillings
Blueberry + White Chocolate (enough to fill 10-12 macarons)

200g White Cooking Chocolate
100 ml Pure Cream
1 Level tsp of Blueberry Nutrafresh Powder for colour and flavour 
50g Fresh blueberries cut in half

  1. In your microwave - place your white chocolate squares and the cream and heat on 60% power for approx 2 minutes - remove and stir with a fork ensuring chocolate is fully melted.
  2. Stir through your Nutrafresh Blueberry Powder until fully incorporated.
  3. Mix in your halved blueberries - these will just add some extra texture and interest
  4. Allow the mix to cool and it will start to thicken slightly.  When thickened but not hard, use it to sandwich your shells together.
Passionfruit + White Chocolate Ganache  or  Beetroot & White Chocolate Ganache

Follow steps as above but omit the blueberries.  Unless you are serving your Passionfruit macarons immediately - do not be tempted to add fresh passionfruit to the mix as it will make the shells too soggy.






Saturday, 11 August 2012

Come with me, Under the Sea...


Its been a weekend of two cakes.  Two very very different cakes.  Both very definitely gluten free from beginning to end.  Both Chocolate Mud Cakes.  Both beautifully moist and totally de-railing my sugar-free run of the past month or so...doh!

This first cake was obviously a 21st cake but it was also my very first 2-tier cake which was a bit exciting.  The cake is in actual fact 3 cakes.  Two larger cakes on the bottom, leveled and filled with dark chocolate ganache, then crumb coat sealed with dark chocolate ganache.  The top cake was a double quantity baked in a smaller tin but with the sides lined high.  The top baked a little crisp but this was easily carved off when the cake was leveled, halved, filled with ganache then crumb coated with the same ganache.  Here are the finished cakes before assembly.


The brief for the cake was to incorporate both the underwater world as seen through the eyes of a diver as the birthday girl has just completed her Dive Master's course, and an above water element capturing the beach, lifesaving etc  in which she was also very competitive.

I was able to make a great many of the elements well in advance of assembly so that the final put-together would be more about placement rather than flat-out construction.  Here is a pic of many of the creatures and elements as I was making them.

I experimented with a new type of fondant on this cake too.

imgres.jpg

Its apparently quite new and has just arrived from the USA.  Rather than your boring non-descript coloured fondant- you can now choose your colour and your FLAVOUR with which to compliment your cake.  It was wonderful to work with.  It goes a long way, is not as sticky as traditional fondants but I have one word of caution.  If you are using it to create fondant figures that will require rigidity - this fondant will not give you that.  I created the Wooden Sign using this fondant and it looked fantastic.  Just the right colours - I was able to write on it clearly and easily but it just would not become totally rigid.  After two failed attempts at getting the sign hard enough to stand I had to resort to painting the back of the sign with tempered chocolate which then added the rigidity needed to keep the sign from tipping over.  Flavour and texture wise it is beautiful and ALL Gluten Free!

The cake was then covered in tinted blue fondant.  As I was using traditional fondant this time I decided to experiment by adding a flavouring to the fondant and added a few drops of butter flavouring to the plain fondant and it just lifted the flavour from plain sweet to something a little more interesting.  Both cakes were covered and then I stacked them.  I did not use dowels in the cakes as the Mudcakes on the base were so dense I was in no fear of any sinkage or collapse but I did have a cakeboard under the top tier cake.

OK - now we're talking.  Everything always looks so hokey as you assemble it.  I edged the cakeboard with black satin ribbon, centered the cakes then applied a light application of heated jam to the board to have the brown sugar stick to.  The light brown sugar was then sprinkled evenly all over the board.  This dries hard and stays well in place and looks exactly like sand.

Now to start positioning all the creatures and items.  This takes longer than you think as you have to think about which side to present it from, how it will look from all angles, what to do with spaces, gaps, uneven areas on the cake that need to be disguised etc.


I placed all the items on and rearranged them quite a few times until I got something I thought worked well.  Then I added the accents of the waves.  Dusted Silver Lustre Dust onto the waves, edging and some of the creatures to accent them and give them some shimmer.  I had to use 3 pieces of heavy grade florist wire which was wrapped.  One in the Palm Tree Trunk - to take the load from the fronds; one in the LifeSavers Flagpole; and one in the sign to hold it in on its jaunty angle.  My son was more fascinated at how I had managed to get the diver and the shark to 'float'.  They were just held in place with Royal Icing and wedged from underneath until dry and hard.

The birthday girl was very happy with her cake and that is the main thing with any creation isn't it ?

Lxx


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ditching Sugar, Cake Prep and Nutty Bliss Balls


Its been a rough month July.  I know many of you were partaking in "Dry July" where you give up the evils of alcohol for a month.  Well at my work, being healthy gym-goers and all that, we decided upon Sugar Free July.

I honestly thought it would be a bit of a doddle.  I thought to myself, I don't eat much sugar so it won't be that hard.  True, I don't snack on lollies/sweets only nibble at the cake crumbs usually and only 'test' the icing or frosting of my creations.  I had ditched sugar in my coffee some time ago and artificial sweeteners have been long banished so I figured it wouldn't be hard at all.  I was wrong!

The first week passed by pretty quickly and I was ok.  I was still having fruit (and don't start on about fruit being full of fructose - I don't care )  I see fruit and sweeter veges such as sweet potato, pumpkin and carrot as natural whole foods and continued to incorporate them in my diet.

Week two came around and by day 10 I was about ready to gnaw my arm off for a bit of sugar.  I guess I was hitting withdrawal.  I would get up walk to the kitchen, open the cupboards and the fridge - mentally say NO then walk away.  If absolutely desperate I would munch on an apple.

By week three I started to notice some interesting things.  I wasn't walking to the kitchen 50,000 times a day and night looking for things to nibble.  I was actually happy and full with my three meals a day.  I noticed my skin was brighter - it seemed happier. I was still having a banana every morning with my brekky and about 2-3 very small apples throughout the day.  I pretty much eliminated white bread (GF of course)- which I eat only very occasionally anyway, no rice or GF pasta.  No dried fruits just good old fashioned normal meals cooked from scratch.

By week four I started to notice some other new things.  I was far more even-tempered.  I had no PMS, and strangely no PMS breakout on my chin.  My energy levels were through the roof.  I felt unbelievably alert - like the equivalent of several coffees alert.  All this made me finally see what the fog of sugar addiction had done to me.  It has cured my nighttime kitchen meanderings - long may it continue.  I have now been prompted to delve further into RAW baking for personal reasons.  I still like sweet things but I don't want to overload with processed or refined sugars.

I made a batch of Bliss Balls yesterday to celebrate leaving Sugar Free July behind.  They contained no processed sugar or sweetener.  They used only dried fruits to obtain their sweetness.  I was a little nervous to try one.  Mostly because I was worried it would spark the insatiable food monster from within and I would end up on an eating spree - but surprisingly not.  I had my beautiful Bliss Ball last night.  Ate my usual dinner and was happy.  I think I have discovered a new way to eat and to regulate my foodie cravings.  Everyone is unique and if you can control your sugar and food cravings - fair play to you - I know I have a tendency to s l i d e down the slippery slope.  Im staying on track and gonna investigate this a little further.  I may even read Sweet Poison and see what all the fuss is about.

Does that mean I won't be baking anymore ?  No Fear!!!  I have two wonderful cakes in production right now :-)  Both due for next weekend.  One is a 2-tier 21st cake with an underwater & beach theme.  The other is Scrapbook Cake decorated with edible images.  Very exciting stuff.  Both are Choc Mud Cakes and GF.  I have been busy creating underwater creatures for the cake our of fondant so its been a fun week.

Just so you don't feel cheated on the recipe front - here's my recipe for:

Sugar Free Nutty Bliss Balls

Ingredients
50g Almonds, 50g Ca
shews, 50g Macadamias, 25g Sunflower Kernels, 50g Prunes, 50g Figs, 100g soaked dates, 2Tbsp Virgin Coconut Oil and 4 Tbsp Desiccated Coconut. 


If you are not using fresh dates you may want to place your dates in a bowl and just cover with boiling water and leave for about 10 minutes or so.  Drain off most of the liquid then add to your mix.


Blitz in the food processor, roll in coconut and chill 


= 110 Calories per ball & 2g Protein. 


Made 18 Balls. Keep em in the fridge. Ration them !





Lx

Saturday, 14 July 2012

1,2 Freddy's Coming For You...


Its been a few weeks since my last post and in that time my son has turned 8 and Ive had a wonderful couple of weeks on the beaches of Phuket in Thailand.

This post is about the cake I created for my Son's 8th Birthday - a Freddy Krueger Inspired affair.  Before anybody thinks I am an irresponsible parent - my son has never seen the film, but he is obsessed wtih all things gruesome and Halloween oriented so his choice of cake came as no surprise to me.

I wanted to create the famous hand with the knives on the fingers but that was hardly going to be enough to feed 10 children plus adults.  I came up with the idea to create the hand entirely from fondant and mount it on top of a loaf shaped cake like a stand.  I then created cupcakes with fondant toppers depicting the words from the wonderful theme song.  All inspired thru my searches on the wonderful Mr Google.  I used some cool techniques on this little project which I will talk u thru.  It is also the first time I have used my airbrush that Santa brought me - what a cool new tool that is !

Ok here goes...

This took a little bit of panning and preparation.  Instead of covering a cakeboard, I used a matt black core board that I purchased at Spotlight for about $6.  This was only suitable as the weight of the entire cake etc wasn't going to be too heavy.    I managed to locate some of the funky candles Ive been admiring on other people's cake creations also.  Matt Black cupcake wrappers completed the non-cakey items.

First up - my son isn't a big chocolate fan so the cakes are plain vanilla buttercake all gluten free.  I started work on the hand first.  I coloured some fondant a light brown colour and used my own hand as a modelling guide.  I knew I needed to make the cake and then have the fondant harden before mounting the hand.  I also knew I needed to have the hand curved slightly not straight so I dried the hand over the top of some scrunched up baking paper to allow it to hold its slightly curved shape.

While the hand was drying out I coloured some fondant a light grey colour and measured and cut out the knives for the four fingers.  Next step was to fire up the airbrush.  I used a dark brown in the airbrush to spray the hand and add texture.  It looked fantastic.  Then I added my silver food grade liquid and sprayed the knives.  Once these had dried, I modeled the silver plates for the glove on the hand, attached them and sprayed them silver also.  I created the rivets using the end of biro pen.  Perfect!  Now the conundrum - how to best attach the knives to the fingers without the weight of the knives either a) snapping the knife or b) snapping the finger from the hand...  I needed to get the hand off the board and into the air!  I made a Vanilla Cake in a loaf tin and covered with black fondant to make a type of plinth and centered it on the board.  It would support the length of the hand and fingers.

Using the loaf cake as a stand worked brilliantly.  I carved the cake a little on the top to support the slight curve in the hand and the and rested perfectly on it.  A couple of the fingers required the support of a toothpick thru them from underneath inserted in the cake just to prevent them cracking off.
The knives were then inserted into the middle of the fingers and held in place using tinted royal icing to really cement them in place.  I supported them on toothpicks until hard then removed the supports.

It was then time to really have some fun with the airbrush - getting the blood effect on the knives worked really well and I used a silver lustre powder to bring out the metallic pieces on the hand.

The cupcakes were just a basic GF Vanilla Cupcake topped with a vanilla buttercream icing using the technique in the icing bag of painting stripes of red colour inside the bag so that when piped it would create a red edging - very effective for my ghoulish cakes - then each was topped with its own fondant topper.  I managed to find a way to write on the black fondant with a tip from another decorator - I used my silver edible paint and a very fine paintbrush and handwrote the words - worked brilliantly!

Everything was then mounted onto the matt black core board - the candles were held in place with black royal icing and the cupcakes positioned around the hand.  The kids absolutely loved fighting over who was going to eat the knives and the fingers !!!

All in all a wonderful party and another cake success.

Lx

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Twilight + Bowling


Heck its been a busy weekend!
I've just surfaced long enough to breathe and write up this post.  June is crazy birthday month in my family and things are just cranking up with a few jobs on the go the get me into the groove.  This weekend just past I created a dozen Birthday Cupcakes with a Bowling them, A Twilight inspired 13th Birthday creation accompanied by 20 Twilight Cake Pops, a 65th Birthday Fruitcake for my Dad.

OK let me talk you through the CakePops first off.

I created 20 red velvet cake pops using a baking mold.  Meaning that rather than creating the pops by baking cake adding frosting mixing and then molding - I actually baked balls of cake.  I actually prefer this style of cakepop as I find the other too sickly sweet as who really needs cake plus frosting mixed then coated again in chocolate - overload!  So these were baked balls of red velvet cake coating in milk or dark chocolate then decorated.  Ax these were to accompany the Twilight cake I made half white and half black - tinting the dark chocolate black which looked excellent.

I had purchased at Spotlight a crafty cardboard flowerpot for a few dollars which I had spraypainted silver and affixed a Twilight image to the front of.  I then had covered a polystyrene ball in black felt and placed this in the top of the pot firmly then stuck the pops into the ball to create a bouquet.  Simple and effective.  These were stored in the fridge overnight.

On the day of delivery the kitchen was very very busy.  I created a dozen Red Velvet Cupcakes on Saturday morning for a 7th Birthday Party with a Bowling Theme.  I used the same Red Velvet Cake recipe as in one of my early blog posts from last year.  After cooling them they were piped with a cream cheese frosting that had been tinted either pink or blue - half pink - half blue.  I had made the toppers for the cupcakes earlier in the week and they were 3 Bowling Pins and one Bowling Ball for each cupcake with the Number 7 on one Bowling Pin each.

My most massive regret, and I will learn from this most definitely - was that I should have 'set' my frosting on the cakes by putting them in the fridge for a little while before fixing on the toppers.  Although the cakes were cool, as the icing was still quite fluid - the added weight of the toppers made the beautifully swirled frosting start to s l iiii d e...  Arrggghhh!  In addition I created a small fondant banner with the name of the Birthday Girl on it to attach to the top of the cupcake stand.

Next cab off the rank on Saturday morning was the creation of the Twilight Cake Books...  I had made a large sheet cake tin sponge and halved it to create the two books.  The party was for 20 so I needed enough cake for 20 girls - plus the brief was for sponge filled with fresh cream and strawberry jam.  This although simple, meant a last minute, one shot cake that would need to be made, filled, decorated and delivered all in one day - quite an undertaking.

I had prepared the cakeboard the day before covering it in white fondant and trimming with a black satin ribbon.  Then the chessboard was created and the two chess pieces were modeled and added.  I also created fondant 'plinths' for the 13 candles which added a nice architectural effect to the board.

OK so step one after cakes were baked, cooled and cut was to fill one with fresh cream and jam.  I kept thinking that the job of creating the books should be easy - it seemed too easy.  Surely I was just looking for potential pitfalls... well all went smoothly.  I had though through the order very carefully.
Cake filled then it was time to crumb coat it with a buttercream layer.  After the buttercream I added the white 'page' band to the book.  After this was comfortably in place - I used a large cakeslicer to transfer the cake from the bench to the board position which went smoothly.  The next piece of the puzzle was the black cover which was measured carefully, cut and lifted and placed on without a hitch.  The lower cover book edging was then added.

I worked through exactly the same process for the top cake book and then using a large knife made the mage indentations on the white fondant.

Now was the part I had been dreading - the titles and name...  I am not great with lettering.  In fact I am atrocious!  I scoured the internet for ideas on how best to do the Twilight lettering.  I tried cutting out the lettering font which I had printed off with a scalpel - nup that wasn't gonna work - way too fiddly.  There was nothing for it I was gonna have to freehand it....arrrgghhh!  I practiced and practiced.  Keeping the printed font in front of me so I knew the style I carefully wrote the titles and the name and was actually thrilled with the outcome.  A tad shaky in places but all good - the shakes were from the 4 huge cups of coffee I had consumed I think - hahahaha.

All was delivered safe and sound and the birthday girl seemed very happy which is the reason why I do this :-)


Enjoy
Lx



Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Foray into the World of Cake Pops...


Don't you think the Cake Pop is something that seems a bit Willy Wonka inspired ?  The thought of eating cake... on a stick!   OK - I'll be honest here I am approaching the much lauded Cake Pop with as much trepidation as the Whoopie Pie (and remember how much I loved those...NOT).

I have only been prompted to finally make them as I received a baking pan set designed for Cake Pops for Mothers Day.  In addition, I had asked my Son to try one of these recently at a cafe to see what he thought.  I didn't have one as it wasn't gluten free.  Imagine what a difficult request that was for him to fulfil.  One of the very few times I didn't need to ask him three times to do something...hahaha.  Well he LOVED it and has been begging me to make them ever since.

I have whipped a really basic chocolate cake recipe together and thrown these little gems into the oven.  Now theres a couple of different ways to bake these little babies.  You can bake them in moulds as I am doing today or you can make your cake then crumble t up once baked and cooled mix with some buttercream frosting then hand roll them into balls.  Either way we ultimately arrive at a ball shaped piece of cake.  The latter method however will result in a sweeter Pop as you're getting a mouthful of cake and frosting altogether then coated in chocolate.

My Pops will be cake only coated in chocolate so a little lighter.  I am also making mine Gluten Free.  See - anything can be made GF - no need to miss out on anything.  Thank goodness I have made them chocolate so I shan't be tempted to polish them all off.

Basic Chocolate Cake recipe
Ingredients
1 Cup Self Raising GF Flour
1 tsp GF Baking Powder
1 Cup Caster or White Sugar
2 Eggs
3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
3 Tbsp or 60g Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1/3 Cup Milk



  1. Preheat oven to 160 Celsius and lightly grease and line your cake tin or spray your CakePop molds.
  2. In a large bowl place all ingredients together making sure butter is slightly softened.
  3. Using an electric mixer use it to combine all ingredients together until well mixed.
  4. Pour into your cake tin or into your CakePop molds.
  5. Bake for approx 30 minutes - check for done'ness by inserting a wooden skewer.  If it comes out clean you're good to go.


I used this recipe to make the cake pops pictured.  VERDICT :  Can't lie - they look really pretty.  Impressive even for what they are.  Fiddly ?  Without a doubt.  Able to make money from them ?  Weeeeeeelllll....possibly depends on how they want them decorated.  They are deceptively time consuming - I think I made Spongebob in the same amount of time it took me to make 15 cake pops so go figure.   They are however nice to be able to offer something a little bit different and I think u could have real fun with them for parties or christmas etc.

If you give them a go - good on you.

Enjoy!
Lx

GF Chocolate Mud Cake


The most commonly requested cake I get asked for is Chocolate Mud Cake.  This suits me fine as I really don't like chocolate very much and so am able to easily work with it without feeling the need to 'taste' all the time...hahaha

Its also a great cake that suits being frozen and thawed or even just sitting for a few days.  The dense texture of the cake improves with time making it 'muddier'.  This is a cake that is actually best NOT eaten on the day you bake it but at the earliest the next day.  If you eat it on the day of baking it will be lighter and crumblier.

I use a variation on the Planet Cake recipe and of course its Gluten Free.  This recipe makes a BIG cake so is suitable for a sheet cake tin or two average cake tins if you want to layer this cake.  If you just want to make a dozen cupcakes half the recipe will do the job brilliantly.

Ingredients
220g Unsalted Butter
220g GF Dark Cooking Chocolate broken into squares
1 teaspoon of Instant Coffee Granules (this can be left out but a little adds extra depth of flavour)
125g GF Self Raising Flour
125g GF Plain Flour
50g Cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
480g Caster Sugar (ordinary sugar works fine too)
4 Eggs
7 teaspoons Vegetable oil (I use Macadmia Oil)
160 ml Water
100ml milk


  1. Set your oven to approx 160C.  You may need to reduce the heat a little more than that - just watch it.
  2. Grease and line your baking tin and set aside.
  3. In a microwave proof bowl or saucepan combine cubed butter, chocolate squares, coffee and water and gently warm through until melted.  If in Micro on 60% power for about 2-3 minutes keep watching it.
  4. In another bigger bowl combine your dry ingredients Flours, Cocoa and Bicarbonate of Soda (I never sift my GF flours as I find it makes no difference, however sift your cocoa powder as this often has little lumps in it.)
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in your milk, oil and eggs and stir until eggs are sufficiently broken up, then add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.  You only need a good spatula or wooden spoon for this not a mixer.
  6. Pour the mixture into your tin / tins or cupcake wrappers and bake for approx 1 hour.  Test with a wooden skewer.  This cake goes from a sticky skewer to baked quite quickly so after an hour for a large cake or half an hour for cupcakes stay close and check on it.
  7. Do not remove cake from tin straight away or it will crumble.  Its needs to cool in the tin before removal or it will fall apart - same with the cupcakes.
  8. This cake will freeze really well for up to two months - just defrost thoroughly at room temp over night then decorate.

Feel free to play about with this cake and the recipe.  I have successfully added additional chocolate chips or chunks to the cake batter to create little blobs of chocolate gooeyness in the finished product - you could add whatever you want just at the final stir through before putting in the cake tin.   Perhaps a little peanut butter swirl or some little blobs in there might be unreal....

Enjoy !
Lx



Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fondant Covered Gluten Free Sugar Biscuits


I have finally gotten around to making some beautiful basic sugar cookies - GF of course and then covering them in tinted rolled fondant.  I've really enjoyed playing about with some shapes and my new paisley rolling mat which gives the wonderful pattern.

These are ever so simple to make,  crispy and not too sweet so the fondant is the perfect complement and adds just enough sweetness to make a beautiful and not too overpowering cookie.

This recipe makes about 24 large cookie shapes

Ingredients
110g Unsalted Butter
200g Caster Sugar
1 Free Range Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
310g Plain Gluten Free Flour
1/2 teaspoon GF Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda (Bicarbonate Soda)
Pinch of Salt
30ml Milk


  1. Turn your oven onto 180C or 160 if Fan Forced.
  2. In a mixing bowl cream your room temp butter and sugar with an electric mixer or in a food processor until light and fluffy.
  3. Add your egg and Vanilla Extract and keep beating until combined.
  4. Unless your flour is lumpy, I never sieve GF flours as they are hopeless at going through the sieve.  So in a separate bowl combine your dry ingredients (Flour, Baking Powder, Baking soda and salt).
  5. Now alternate adding the flour and a little milk into the mixture until it pulls together to make a firm'ish cookie dough.
  6. Tip out of the bowl and bring it together using your hands then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for about 10-15 min to firm it up and make it easier to work with.
  7. Once chilled roll out your dough and cut your desired shapes and place on a piece of baking paper on a baking tray.  These will take 8-10 minutes to bake.  Leave them in until they start to colour just lightly.  If you remove too soon they will not crisp up.
  8. Wait until the cooked cookies are completely cold before attempting to ice them.
  9. Roll out your fondant icing and using the same cookie cutters cut the topping for each cookie and place on top and decorate any way you like.
These should store well for a few days in an airtight container.

Enjoy 
Lx




Thursday, 12 April 2012

Life's So Sweet at Fifteen


A somewhat last minute cake this week but still an absolute pleasure to create.

A phone call from my boss late on Tuesday afternoon - 'would you be able to make a cake for this weekend for my daughter's birthday ?'  After a bit of a chat and bouncing around ideas - I said yes.  The result above, is a lighter chocolate cake (not mud this time but still (!) chocolate...).

The cake has almost a lighter chocolate sponge texture to it.  I baked two separate cakes which were trimmed and sandwiched together with.....Nutella...ooooooohhh.  Yes - I did check for any nut allergies first.  I thought with the request for a lighter styled cake that the addition of a little hazelnut accent might be just scrummy.  I was right.

I then made a chocolate buttercream to which I added the rest of the Nutella and sealed the cake.  It worked well but the very oily nature of the Nutella was interesting to work with...all I can say is thank goodness the temperature has dropped or the cake would be leaking all over the kitchen floor.

The original request had been for a shoe.  Ive tried a shoe cake before and was less than impressed with my efforts.  I was hedging towards a handbag when I realised that with the lighter cake structure, it may not stand up to the carving and work that a mud cake can withstand.  Nope - I needed the cake, to be the cake, and so I was gonna need something for the top.

Ok back to the shoe idea then.  I thought I would give it a crack making it out of fondant and if it was a disaster I would revert to handbag idea.  I have learnt so much making this darned shoe.
1.  High heeled shoes take a long time to harden in position and need a lot of support in the arch.  Mine cracked in a couple of places.
2. Think very carefully ahead of time what you will use to support the shoe sole and front/top of shoe with as it may indent on the fondant underneath as it dries.  make sure it won't stick either...
3. I ended up having to make a brace for the under arch of the shoe to support it but this also ended up slightly cracked while lifting onto cake necessitating a small unobtrusive wedge at cake level to support the arch.
4.  To add strength I did insert a bamboo skewer through the heel of the shoe into the cake.

The cake itself covered in Nutella Buttercream then Pale Pink Fondant.  The shoe entirely edible from hardened modelled fondant.

I hope Ashleigh likes the cake and I hope it tastes as yummy as I think it will be.

Lxx

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Fabulous and Flirty at Fifty !


It was my absolute pleasure to make this cake for a wonderful girl I work with.

I had no clue where to start other than she was turning fifty (and a very very youthful 50 she will be at that !) I was originally thinking of something along the lines of a wrapped giftbox style cake and as I was googling images I came across the playboy bunny and thought what an awesome addition it would make and perfect for the flirty fun loving Rach.

Here goes...It is - you guessed it, a dark chocolate mudcake (what is it with these chocolate lovers ?) cut in half and sandwiched with a dark chocolate buttercream icing.

The same buttercream was then used to seal and provide the smooth base for the cake fondant to be laid upon.  Its strange actually as I had nearly always used a ganache layer previously as it certainly always looked like this was the way to achieve a really smooth finish to the fondant layer...however I have to say that now after completing 3 cakes using buttercream under the fondant, that I actually prefer the finish the buttercream layer gives when the fondant is laid on top.

The buttercream layer appears to be far more forgiving to any slight imperfections once the fondant is on the top, unlike the ganache which always seems to leave me wondering how I ended up with mysterious bumps.

The primary colour was a soft pastel pink which was used to cover the entire cake with enough left over to finish the base of the cake in the fondant "buttons"  I actually like this finish much better than the round "balls" I see a lot of people using.

I had invested a couple of months ago in a packet of Black Coloured Pettinice Fondant Icing.  It has been well worth it and has lasted me through many accent pieces and I still have enough left over for at least one more cake.  Of course you can colour your own fondant black but it uses up so much of the gel colourant and takes quite a bit of time to work it through.  The depth of the Pettinice Black is definitely worth keeping a packet handy.

This is also the first cake in which I have handmade a bow and twirls from Fondant.  The bow proved to be relatively straightforward and the twirls I wound around two handles that had been greased and removed when they had set.

I am thrilled with how it has turned out and hope the birthday girl loves it tomorrow.


Happy Birthday beautiful Rachel,

Lxx

Friday, 6 April 2012

Happy 18th and the Cartoon Cupcake


I haven't disappeared.

Quite a bit going on over the past couple of weeks.  It has been time to launch the new Les Mills releases of BodyPump and RPM at the gym so have been working flat out learning all the new choreography and getting that out there.

Somewhere in the midst of that I created this 18th Birthday Cake.  It was a Dark Chocolate Mud Cake (thank goodness so many request that as I just hate chocolate cake myself) but she wanted a giant cupcake as well.

Given that the party was for about 30+ guests a giant cupcake wasn't going to be big enough for the event so I made a large circular cake for the base and used the giant cupcake as a centerpiece on the top.  All the decoration was in tinted rolled fondant.

I didn't use a mold for the cupcake but instead just sculpted it freehand.  Both the cake and the cupcake were sealed using a dark chocolate ganache before the fondant was applied.

The board was covered in rolled fondant also.

The vivid colours and design were meant to evoke an almost 'cartoon' feel to the cake.  The cake board was edged in black ribbon.  This is definitely a cake which looked better in reality than in pictures.  Sometimes its difficult to capture a cake well on film.

Lx

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow


This weeks cake was a 1st Birthday cake that also fell on St Patrick's Day - hence the request for something soft and sweet combined with a little bit of the Blarney in the form of our lovely little Leprechaun.

The cake was a GF white chocolate mud cake covered in a white chocolate ganache then covered with tinted blue fondant.

Large white fluffy clouds were piped from royal icing and also used to secure the rainbow which was made separately from rolled fondant and dried to become rigid.  I had originally made another rainbow that was made from ribbons of colour but it proved to fragile to withstand being raised and held in the rainbow so I had to revert to the less crisp rolled 'ropes' of fondant to provide more structure to the arch.

The Leprechaun himself was made entirely from tinted fondant with the arms and legs secured with royal icing the day before delivery.

The one thing I am most disappointed with in this cake was the lettering in the name.  I did a test run on the piping of the name and thought all was good to go, but the heat conspired against me and we got a bit of seepage making it less crisp than it started out.

I hope the party was a success and this is only the first of many many wonderful birthdays to come for this beautiful little girl.

Lxx

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Spongebob and the Best White Chocolate Buttercream Icing Ever!

OK he's pretty cool right ?

I am loving how well this cake has turned out.  The simple design and bright clear colours really just jump right out at you.  The cake is for a 10th Birthday for a girl with a Spongebob obsession...I find it quite funny.

Spongebob has been created from a sponge - quite literally.  There were a number of challenges with this cake.  As the cake they wanted was a sponge cake it had to be made very close to the delivery day to ensure freshness.  I did not want to refrigerate the cake as once warmed up it would go stale faster than if it had not been chilled.

I felt a ganache was too heavy a thing to add to a sponge so I went with a white chocolate buttercream to seal the cake and create the base for the fondant.  This was just divine - but by its nature the buttercream of course has butter and chocolate in it and it has been incredibly hot and humid here this week.  I did not want the buttercream to slide off the cake nor go bad in the heat so I have had the a/c cranking for 2 days now.

Yesterday was wo-to-go day.  Cake from baked to partially decorated all in one day and not the way I prefer to work at all especially when the temp is hitting 35 degrees at my place!

Firstly I made a double mix of a basic sponge cake and baked it in a large sheet cake tin for about 50 minutes then cooled and turned it out.  When it was cool I cut out the template I had made for the cake and then carved the cake with a very sharp knife.  I was surprised how well the fresh cooked sponge cut and held as usually I work with chilled mudcakes.

OK - I had the basics now.  It was time to make the White Chocolate Buttercream.  I would need double the amount required to ice a dozen or so cupcakes so I doubled my recipe and this is what I used.  It was enough to place a buttercream in the middle of the sponge and also all over the cake with a little left over - perfect for the family to snack on with the sponge cut-offs...  Here is the recipe:  


White Choc Buttercream (double quantity recipe)
300g White Cooking Chocolate
220g Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
440g Icing Sugar (Confectioners Sugar)
1tsp Vanilla Paste
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Cream together using an electric mixer, the butter and half of the icing sugar, then gradually add the remaining icing sugar until all incorporated.

Melt your White chocolate - carefully as it has a tendency to 'sieze'.  I do mine in the microwave for about 2 minutes or so at 60% power but a double boiler method is pretty failsafe.
When choc is melted I stirred thru the Vanilla paste into the choc to really bring out a vanilla flavour.

Using the electric mixer, add the white choc and the Vanilla Essence to the bowl and mix until combined.  If it looks too stiff add a touch of milk and mix it through to loosen it.  If it is too 'loose' pop it in the fridge until it reaches the consistency you are after.

Enjoy !

I applied the buttercream as a 'sandwich' layer in the sponge by halving it and layering in the cream to give added moisture and flavour, before totally covering the cake in buttercream.

I had tinted all the fondants I would need the day before so I was now ready to go.  I had also already covered the cake board with blue fondant ready for the cake.  It was hotting up bigtime outside and I wanted to get this buttercream covered as quick as I could.  On with the yellow Spongebob 'skin' and worked with the already carved dents to create the sponge ripples and dents.

Then it was time to get moving with all the finer details... another progress pic below

He was getting there and the workable part of the day was lost to the heat.   cranked the ac in one of the bedrooms and moved Spongey in there to happily spend the night.

I completed the remaining pieces of the cake this morning and delivered the cake.  I hope Mia and her friends love it and enjoy eating it as much as I enjoyed creating it for her.

Lx

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Monster High & Turning 10


I was really pleased to make a wonderful Birthday Cake for a special girl who turned 10 this past week.  Her party is on this Sunday.

She likes Chocolate, Purple, Books and Monster High.  I had no idea what to do but a little google work and surfing through the wonderful internet and hey presto ideas galore.  Monster High was going to be the easiest theme to run with.

She was having a very "grown up" birthday party at Max Brenner (a chocolate desert restaurant) so the cake needed to be quite sophisticated too.  I created a large Chocolate mud cake using the recipe from Planet Cake with the addition of some extra chocolate pieces inside the cake.

After baking I froze the cake for 48 hours to aid in making the cake even muddier.  It was then halved and trimmed to remove any hardened edges from the baking process.

I then made a chocolate ganache with dark chocolate and pure cream and this was used in between the two layers and to seal the entire cake.  It was then returned to the fridge overnight to harden so it could be finalised the following day.

The cake was tall and elegant and the sides and top came out beautifully smooth.  Instead of hot knifing this time I used a small paring knife and gently trimmed the hardened chocolate to really crisp up  and neaten the edges - this worked well.

I then applied a black rolled fondant by Pettinice over the entire cake and smoothed and eased this into position.

Once the black fondant was in place I set to work cutting out the template pieces for the Monster High skull logo and the 2cmx2cm pink and white 'tiles' to make the harlequin decoration for the side of the cake.

I used the photocopied templates to cutout the skull with bow from the white fondant using a very sharp knife and left to dry slightly.

I then began applying the pink and white diamonds to the side of the cake.  Its important to accurately measure the height of your cake etc to get the right sized tile.  I then worked around the cake to create the wonderful harlequin effect.  I love it - I think it looks just wonderful.

Once the skull had firmed up a little I carefully transferred it over onto the top of the cake and eased it into position - this was much harder than it looked.  Then the bow was put in place.  Im very pleased with how it turned out but as always can see many little flaws in it myself.

I then just had to place the finishing touch on the top - the name - and it was complete.  I hope it makes her smile and I hope it tastes absolutely delish - It is gluten but not dairy free - it is definitely moist and gorgeous and I hope it sends the girls into chocolate overload !

Lx

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Banana Bread with Chia Seeds


OMG Have we talked about Banana Bread yet ?  Cake, Bread, Muffins whatever its all pretty much coming from the same place recipe wise just depending on whether you bake it in a loaf tin, cake tin or muffin cases.  I use the same recipe for all.

My Grandma's recipe actually - it NEVER fails works beautifully gluten free keeps well, freezes well and everyone loves it.

Its a horrid wet dismal day in Queensland this Friday morning - what can I do to cheer myself and you all up ?  Ohhhhhh Banana Bread or a cake ?  Who knows, but heres the batter thats gonna get us there and its going to transform the house into one big beautiful smelling banana heaven ready for my recorded episode of Private Practice which I need to catch up on.

Novice bakers cannot, I repeat cannot stuff this up its easy peasey and everyone loves it.  If you choose to ice it ( and it really doesn't need it - especially if you do it as a loaf or muffins) and a cake sometimes does cry out for a finishing touch, your choices are a cream cheese icing or chocolate whatever takes your fancy.

I have made an addition of Chia Seeds to the loaf this morning.  I have plenty in the house and I just love them.  They add extra fibre to the recipe, added protein and Omega oils.  This ancient seed with a texture thats hard to describe, but has me happily finding them in my teeth for hours afterwards, adds another dimension to the recipe and one which I hope you will like.  You can just leave them out if you don't have them.  This is a forgiving recipe.  Add other things to it if you wish, nuts, other fruit, other seeds - go crazy and experiment.

So here's how it goes...

Ingredients
125g Unsalted Butter
1 Free Range Egg
3 Tablespoons Milk
1.5 Cups GF Flour
1/2-3/4 Cup White Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Very Ripe Mashed Bananas
1.5 teaspoons GF Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds

Set your oven to approx 160 Celsius if Fan forced or 180 if conventional and grease and line either a standard cake tin or loaf tin.

1. Using an Electric Mixer cream the room temperature butter and sugar.  If baking for children or if your bananas are very sweet use the lesser amount of sugar quoted above.
2. Add the egg and beat well.
3. Warm the milk slightly and add the baking soda and stir until dissolved then add to the mix and combine.
4. Stir through the Mashed Banana and Chia Seeds until well mixed
5. Fold through the GF Flour and Baking Powder.
6.  Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for approx 30-40 minutes or until done when tested with a skewer.

Allow to cool completely before icing with your choice of icing or leave plain and it will still be wonderful.  These make an awesome mini muffin to pop into school lunchboxes.  I cling wrap mine and put them into the freezer and pop one straight into the lunchbox frozen - it is perfect by lunchtime.

Enjoy yours with a cuppa like Im going to do.  The rain is still pouring and the housework can wait.

Lxx

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Peace Love & Cake - Yeah Baby!


This week things have taken a turn for the 'hippy' and Ive gone all peace love and flower power on you.  The cake was created for a 60th with the theme being obviously - Hippy, 60's, Flower Power - you get the general idea.

The cake board is covered in a colour swirled light green fondant and each of the flowers was made from tinted fondant.

The large sheet cake is a chocolate mudcake again covered in a pink swirled fondant.  The grass around the cake is made using the Wilton "Grass" tip to create the effect.  It does so very well but I find it so incredibly hard to pipe as the holes in the tip are so small its a serious arm workout to get that icing out of the nozzle.

The Combi Van is not quite as smooth and polished as I would like but that said in the flesh it looks quite groovy baby.  I made a chocolate mudcake in a loaf tin. Cutting off a little from the end and using to make extra height for the van.

It is covered entirely with tinted fondant and fondant flowers.  I used the silver powder mixed with a little vodka to create an edible silver 'paint' which I painted the hubcaps and front lights with.

I used the piping bag to edge the windows and in hindsight I wish I had used fondant now as my hand was not very steady due to the awkward height and angle and I think it would have been a slicker finish without my wobbly lines - ah well, always something to learn for next time.

To complete the cake I sprayed an edible clear lacquer over the lake and board to add a little gloss and sheen.

I hope the Birthday girl likes her surprise cake and her surprise party tomorrow night.



Enjoy

Lx

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Chia Seed & Coconut Bliss Balls


Ooooh I love a Bliss Ball - there are so many different varieties around and they're so easy to whip up - crikey 5 minutes and you can have a whole plate full created in front of you.  The beauty of these healthy little balls masquearding as a truffle is their healthy ingredients, their dainty size and energy packed punch.

Im visiting a friend tomorrow who has just had her third baby girl.  What do you take a woman who is a fitness and health freak, already has two beautiful girls and a mountain of friends and family who have undoubtably showered her with beautiful baby gifts ?  I know, something for HER.  Healthy beautiful Bliss balls - easy to nibble to keep energy levels up between breastfeeds.

I had a good look in the cupboards plenty of beautiful dried fruits.  You need something thats going to form a sticky and sweet base and dates are perfect.  Sultanas, dried cranberries, figs anything you can find is good.  You can also add other exciting ingredients to add a little moisture such as peanut butter (assuming no allergies), apple concentrate, honey etc.  Seeds or nuts are also great for texture and crunch - almonds, sesame seeds, macadamias whatever you have to hand - I had Chia Seeds.

Heres the recipe blend I made today and after having nibbled three of them myself this arvo for lunch can honestly say they are gooooood.

Ingredients
3/4 Cup pitted Dates
8 pitted dried Prunes
1/2 Cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
1/2 Cup Sultanas
1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup  Dessicated Coconut in mix
3 Tablespoons Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Manuka Honey
1 Tablespoon Apple Concentrate
Dessicated Coconut to roll balls in to coat them.


  1. Place all ingredients into your food processor and blitz until a smooth paste forms and it pulls together nicely.  If too wet add more coconut.  It needs to be able to form a firm ball but not be 'wet'.
  2. Make teaspoon sized balls of mixture rolled into balls, then place in a plastic bag filled with a little coconut and shake to coat.  
  3. Place the coated balls in individual mini cupcake wrappers and refrigerate.


Voila !

Healthy, Energy Packed and brimming with fibre and goodness.  This recipe will make between 16-24 balls depending on the size you roll them.

Store them in the fridge - perfect with a cuppa.

Lx

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Disco Queen


I have managed to rustle up a cake for a friends daughter's birthday this week also.  She requested a disco mirror ball for her party as that was the theme.  Well that was gonna be a cool challenge.

I created a chocolate cake for the base cake and covered it in chocolate buttercream and then 'hot pink' fondant.


I created the ball by making 2 dome shaped chocolate cakes and sandwiching them together to make a sphere.  This was then coated in a vanilla butter cream.  I knew I was going to have to tile the cake with tile squares of fondant to create the mirror ball effect and buttercream would provide a better 'stick' than ganache which would harden too quickly.
I wasn't worried about the small gaps in the mosaic as I knew I was going to fill with silver sugar 'sand' to provide the glitter.  So the cake was tiled in the fondant mosaic then painted with an edible silver paint and then the silver glittery sand was sprinkled over the ball.  The photographs don't pick out very well the glittering of the ball but it does sparkle nicely.


It was a tough one and it is perhaps a little more Lego Death Star than mirror ball but I have a feeling the 6 year old girls will love it all the same.  How could they not ? - hot pink, chocolate cake and glitter - its all good.

Lx

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Summertime Peach Jam


Well its been a funny old week.  After making the Peach and Almond slice I went in search of some inspiration to make a Peach Jam.  Surprisingly not many recipes for it and those that I found all talked about it being a difficult fruit to make jam from as the pectin levels  are so low in peaches. Pectin is the stuff that makes a jam get a nice 'set'.   I was sure I remembered beautiful, flavourful peach jam that set nicely and burst with the flavours of summertime peaches.  I could do this.

Firstly choose your peaches wisely.  Too soft or over-ripe and and they will struggle to have enough natural pectin to set.  So slightly firmer fruit works better.  I like yellow peaches - call me old fashioned but thats the colour of a peach in my opinion.  When you weigh your fruit you're weighing the whole fruit skin, stones and all.  This recipe made 3 Jars of jam and I calculated it out to about 0.67c per jar.  It is refreshing to know that in this day and age of mass production that it can still be cheaper to crank out a few jars of beautiful - all natural - jam from your own kitchen and put them away for the dreary wintery days ahead.  Believe me when I say you do not need to slave over the stove to make jam - its remarkably straightforward.

Please don't forget to sterilise your jars and lids - you can either heat them in the oven on high heat for about 10 minutes - or you can put them through your dishwasher on hot - lids and all.  You can also use the plastic preserving tops you can buy from the supermarket in the baking aisle instead of lids.  Store your jam in the fridge.

Ingredients
1.5kg of firm yellow Peaches
750g White Sugar
Peel of one Lemon
Juice from 1-1.5 lemons (add to taste)


  1. Firstly you need to stone your fruit and give it a wash.  Run your knife around the middle of each peach twist and pull.  One half will come away and you will have to cut the flesh of the remaining half.  Its quicker than you think.  Don't chop it up too small 1/4 or 1/8th size pieces.
  2. Place all the fruit into a large saucepan.  You are looking for a big pot where the fruit will only take up about 1/3 of the pot if possible.  OK - add nothing else at this point - fruit only in the pot then turn your stove onto a medium head and let the fruit being to cook down in its own juice.  I think this is key to getting the peach jam to set not adding any water.  You will need to keep stirring at first to prevent any sticking until the natural juices begin to flow from the fruit and provide some moisture in the pot.
  3. Add your lemon peel (careful no pith - use a very sharp paring knife)
  4. Cook the fruit until it is cooked and tender.  At this point my fruit was still quite chunky and so I got out my potato masher and gave a few mashes to squash up the fruit a bit to release the juices and create a bit of pulp as well as chunks.  If you don't want a chunky jam you could attack it with a stick blender at this point to make it smoother.  
  5. Add all of the sugar to the pot on top of your fruit.  Don't be too appalled at the amount of all that sugar - thats what jam is!  Stir stir until the jam dissolves and you will see the moisture levels increase. Take the heat a little higher to a med-high heat where it should start to bubble away.
  6. At this point place a saucer into your freezer - you will use this to test if the jam has set and is ready for your jars.
  7. As the mix is bubbling add your lemon juice - start with the juice of one lemon and taste.  You want enough lemon flavour to bring out the flavour of the peaches and make them 'pop' but not enough that it tastes like a marmalade.  I found one and a half lemons juiced was just right but will depend on the size and juiciness of your lemons.
  8. After a rapid boil of about 10-15 minutes - take your saucer from the freezer and spoon about a tablespoon of jam onto it and place it in the fridge for a minute or two.  After a couple of minutes remove the saucer and see if the jam has set.  If its still runny continue boiling another 10 minutes then re-test. and keep doing so until you get the set you want.
  9. When you see the set you want - turn off the heat and using a ladle - fill your sterilised jars with jam.  If using the plastic jam seals as I have above these must be applied to the hot jam jars straight away as they tighten and use the heat to seal themselves.
I hope you enjoy the jam - I hope you give it a try.  Its isn't hard, it doesn't take long and its so satisfying looking at them lined up on your counter and in your fridge and knowing you made it.  

Lx