Banana Bread

It might also be known as banana cake, or banana loaf, but I’ve always called it banana bread, although it’s not very bread-like. Banana bread is my favorite way of using up overripe bananas that got forgotten in the fruit bowl, and it’s a great for a snack with a glass of milk, or even for breakfast!

Normally, I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of banana bread, except that the loaf I made today was in my new apartment and my “fake” oven. It’s not really fake as such… but it’s a convection oven and I’ve never used one before. The first time I used it, it took me 30 minutes to cook mini-pizzas that normally only take about 10 minutes.

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So today I discarded my usual habit of trying things for the first time for an occasion, and decided to use my 3 overripe bananas to make some banana bread. I read through the oven manual several times to discover how to use it as a conventional oven, and was rewarded for my troubles – it CAN be used as a normal oven! And if I use the pre-heat function, it will even beep and tell me when the right temperature is reached! Guess I might not have to ask Santa for a small oven for Christmas after all 🙂

My banana bread smells yummy and is now cooling in anticipation of the in-laws coming over for a cup of tea later on 🙂

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Banana bread on my hand-painted banana leaf plate, ready to eat!

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Pre-Wedding Cupcakes

Hello again,

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I got an invitation to a colleague and friend’s pre-wedding garden party. She was getting married this summer, but wanted a big get-together with all the people that wouldn’t attend the formal wedding. A few weeks ago, I was chatting to one of her friends who was on the committee to help provide the food and drinks. That’s when I found out that this committee were all contributing to part of the culinary aspect of the garden party, and they wanted my advice on where to get cupcake decorations, tips for icing, and recipes. So I gave them my go-to basic vanilla cupcake recipe (you can’t go wrong with it!) and offered to make some fondant roses as decorations. I wanted the practice, and I thought this would be a nice way to help out.

Somehow, miscommunications ensued and I got put on the list to bake and decorate 20 cupcakes. My colleague said she was awful at decorating, so she suggested we team up – she would bake 40 cupcakes, and I would decorate them. Since I had just ordered a 1M piping tip from Wilton, and I was making the roses anyway, I agreed.

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So this entry is more about my epic decorating job than actual baking. It took me 3 days to make the fondant roses (I made my way through 4 Disney movies – Cinderella, Princess & the Frog, Wall-E and Tangled) and about 3 hours of piping and decorating. But I was very pleased with the results.

I made chocolate and vanilla buttercream, and iced half the cupcakes in each, so people could have some choice. The theme colours of the garden party were purple and yellow. I took a short-cut with the fondant and used store-bought yellow and pastel yellow. The pink was left-over from the pink champagne cake. Since I find purple a difficult color to blend into fondant (and preserve the color richness) I decided pink would do just fine.

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The garden party was lots of fun, and Michaelynn loved her eclectic mix of cupcakes in lieu of a pre-wedding cake!

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Can you spot my cupcakes? 😉

Chocolate & Caramel

On this stormy wet Thursday, I’d like to share with you the chocolate and caramel cake I made for a friend’s birthday. This was a surprise cake, as I coordinated with her fiancé what her favorite flavors were, and went from there. He told me, chocolate and caramel. So I turned to my friend Google, and searched for cakes with those flavorings.

The BBC Good Food website showed me a promising recipe. And it was a layer cake! I’ve wanted to do one of those for a long time, so it seemed everything was coming together.

So first, I made the four layers:

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What I loved about this cake is that it’s just two cakes, not four. Each layer is halved, with one half receiving cocoa (to give it a darker shade) and the other not. I was afraid this cake would end up way too tall, but by using half-cakes for each layer, it was fine. Also, using Wilton’s aluminum cake pans is superb for getting even-topped cakes.

Then came the fun part of spreading yummy caramel on three of the four cakes, and layering them to get the gradient:

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This cake used a ganache covering rather than icing, and it was the first time I used that too. It was quite warm and humid outside and there’s no air-conditioning where we live, so I don’t know if the ganache refused to thicken because of that, or if it was the right consistency. Personally I thought it was a bit too runny, but since I’m used to working with actual icing, it could just be a warped point of view. Anyway, I was able to spread it, and I did so in three layers. After each layer, I put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour, for the ganache to harden before spreading the next layer. As a final touch, just before we left for the birthday dinner, I added three (store-bought) sugar daisies to spruce up the cake:

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The restaurant where the birthday dinner was held, was kind enough to take the cake and prepare it as the dessert, at no extra charge. I could hardly believe I had baked the cake when they brought it back out!

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The cake itself was fairly rich, so you wouldn’t want to serve big slices. This cake was 9″ in diameter, and served 15 perfect-sized slices. So, if you like chocolate and caramel, and you want a decadent dessert, this is the cake for you!

Guitar Cake

Hi everyone,

Today’s cake is one I made near the middle of June, for my Dad’s birthday. I’ve wanted to make this cake for a while now, because he loves guitars, plays them (quite well), and I love listening to him play. I grew up with his strumming, and recently, he’s gotten himself in a small band with some friends. They don’t write music, but they play favorite songs, and occasionally perform at the school I work at, for teacher functions. So the perfect cake for him was a guitar cake.

My biggest challenge was keeping the secret from him. Since we live in the same house, and I can’t exactly bake and decorate a cake in my room, it was quite tricky. Luckily, he was rehearsing with friends the afternoon before his birthday, and so quite tired when he got home, so he went to bed early. Since I had been on a baking frenzy the whole week with things, it wasn’t odd for him to see me bake yet another cake.

The guitar I chose as my model is this one:

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So, I started with a 13″x9″ chocolate cake, which I cut into a basic guitar belly shape. I decided I would make the neck out of cardboard and paint it accordingly, as I didn’t have the time or the resources to make it out of anything else and support it properly.

I used store-bought rolled fondant, and colored it a basic orange. I covered the cake and tucked in the ends, then got out my newly purchased palette, and proceeded to paint in the reddish gradient. A simple vodka-edible food coloring powder mixture was fine. For the shiny edging, I added a drop of light corn syrup to the mixture – I find it makes the paint sticky and shiny. The only downside is that it stays that way, it doesn’t completely dry.

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Once all of this was underway and in various states of drying, I pulled out my cardboard and acrylic paints, and painted the handle. Because I didn’t trust my fine painting skills, I actually used white writing icing to make the scales and writing on the neck of the guitar.

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Then his big day finally came. Something needs to be said about that: Dad doesn’t like to celebrate his birthday. Never has and never will. So I kept things simple – I just invited my grandpa over for dinner, and made sure my brother was in attendance. We just had a simple quiche and salad, nothing fancy, and certainly nothing to arouse his suspicions (although they were kind of, because, well it was his birthday after all). So I guess you could say he was only half-surprised when I trotted out with his cake:

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The only, very cringe-worthy, eye-catching ‘disaster’ is the guitar strings. Between making dinner and finishing the guitar in secret, I panicked a bit with the strings (in fact, I had forgotten about them until I put the two guitar pieces together). So I went down in the sewing box, found some wire thread and pins, and voilà. So the guitar is quite an untuned one, but it served it’s purpose, and Dad loved it. The guitar neck is pinned to the cake with some pins, and supported by a block of styrofoam near the top.

And just for a comparison, here is the model and the cake side by side:

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Thank you for reading; and until next time!

Cakes So Far

It’s going to take me a while to get used to this layout and process of keeping a blog and making decent entries. I was nearly through with my first real entry (with photos and everything!) of the team birthday cakes I made from October to June, when the window froze as I was trying to add a link, and the whole entry was lost. So, I’m trying again.

The first cake I made was a nut-free carrot cake, with cream cheese icing, piped carrots and Wilton’s Candy Melts grass. I looked up a tutorial on YouTube on how to pipe carrots, and used regular Ziploc bags for the first time, as there was so little icing to pipe, I didn’t want to waste a proper piping bag.

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Next up, was our “Deputy Sheriff”‘s birthday, thus called as even though she’s an assistant, she keeps all of us in line. The cake is chocolate, with vanilla buttercream. I puzzled over how to make the shape of the cake for a while, until I realized that if I baked a 13″ x 9″ cake, I could then cut triangles out of the 9” sides, and place them at the top and bottom for the two other points. The rounded ends are made out of fondant balls which I shaped around the points. Although I was careful with the writing, I clearly still need practice :/ I used Google for some reference images and ideas, but no one’s tutorial in particular.

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Next up were our December birthdays, of which we had four, and this is the only birthday lunch I can’t find photos from. It was also a generic end-of-term potluck lunch. The cake I made was a velvet spice cake in a ring mold, which I then sprinkled with icing sugar for it to look like snow, and pressed in some small sugar holly berries and leaves for an extra-festive look. If I ever find the picture (I know I took one!) I will post it, but if not… well I’ll just have to make another, won’t I? 😉

My colleague and friend Jenna’s birthday was the next one up, and, knowing she loves chocolate, I decided to follow a full tutorial for a cake for the first time. Shortly before I had to bake this, one of the cake artists I follow on deviantART, ginas-cakes (http://ginas-cakes.deviantart.com) posted a tutorial on how to make a box of chocolates cake. Despite the problems I had with this cake, including the chocolateer giving me the wrong selection of chocolates, and my homemade fondant refusing to cooperate (I am still looking for alternative recipes), the cake turned out pretty good. And it was tasty, which is really all I can ask for!

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This brings us to my first non-cake birthday. This colleague wasn’t a big cake fan, so I went all out and tried something totally new: a lemon-meringue pie. Notes for next time: make pretty waves in the meringue instead of heaping it on, and continue practicing writing. Other than that, it was quite good for a first try (I had no idea they were so difficult to make!) and I look forward to making it again.

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Next came a double-birthday, so I decided to be reckless again, and make a tiered cake instead of two separate cakes. I found the recipe online (not sure of the exact website now, but it was on AllRecipes, or BBCFood or some such) and inspiration for the design from Beantown Baker (http://www.beantownbaker.com/2010/04/lemon-raspberry-layer-cake.html). This cake went down very very well – a white cake with raspberry jam between the layers, and a lemon buttercream icing. Topped off with fresh raspberries, it was very light and fruity.

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And then came the two most epic cakes I have made so far. Up next was another double-birthday, but this time, it was of the woman I work with, and of a colleague whose obsession with WWII was too good to pass up. With a three-day weekend ahead of me, I embarked on my longest cake-making endeavor yet: a replica Sherman tank (chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting – homemade attempt which ended up too tough to work with properly) and champagne bottle (pink champagne cake pink champagne frosting and fondant accents). The Sherman tank is mostly painted with edible a vodka-corn syrup-edible food coloring mixture. The champagne bottle cake is mostly done with colored fondant, although I hand-painted and wrote the label. The fondant champagne glasses are also hand cut and painted. The two cakes were assembled without any big drama; but the time I spent making them is one of the reasons why I’m not considering this as a career choice just yet.

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And this brings me to my final team birthdays cake of the year – a Black Forest Gateau. I had made one of these before, but I knew it to be my boyfriend’s favorite (he works at the same place I do) so I made it for him and my other colleague whose summer birthdays needed to be celebrated before we broke up for the summer.

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And so this is the end of this first blog. For most of these cakes I have photos of them at different stages of completion. In my future posts, I hope to include these, with a longer description of the stage at which the cake is at. But until then, thank you for scrolling through and checking these out!

Here I am…

I have always liked helping in the kitchen. I have fond memories as a child, sitting on the counter, helping Mom to bake chocolate chip cookies. This went on to being the first recipe she let me bake entirely on my own (by the age of 10), closely followed by cupcakes. When I went to university, I found myself with a lot of free time, and started exploring my baking hobby to a greater depth. With some help along the way, I discovered icing techniques, countless recipes, and started browsing cake decorating tutorials and Facebook pages for inspiration.

A friend suggested I start a blog to keep a record of my baking adventures, and as a sort of portfolio, should I ever decide to do this professionally. At the moment, baking is for me a sort of de-stress mechanism. Baking helps relieve day-to-day tensions I build up. This past year, I agreed to bake the cakes for the team I work with at school, for our birthday lunches. Even though these were approximately once a month, once or twice I found myself stressing about the cakes, and spending entirely too much time perfecting them. So for now, I am not taking commissions or orders; I just want to share my experiences with you.

As this is the first blog I’ve ever kept, I welcome constructive criticism on presentation and content. Things that seem obvious to me might not be to you, and I will gladly answer any questions you have. I will always reference my recipes or techniques to the websites/tutorials where I found them.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy reading through my blog.

Jo