A Final Taste of Summer

Greetings all!

We had a double birthday celebration this week, which was also the final week of school before the holiday. Since we are all responsible adults and we don’t eat TOO much cake 😉 I made a single tier mango cake. If you recall, I had made a mango cake a couple months ago, when I made the Yellow Car Cake, and it was very successful, so I thought I would make it again (and actually get to eat some this time!)

I have also been dying to use my Calla lily former set, that I bought months and months ago, so I though they would make the perfect toppers for this cake. So three days before the cake was due for, I sat and made several Calla lilies.

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They were quite tricky actually, because the fondant liked to tear, instead of sitting and sticking to itself nicely. I ended up having to make double the number of lilies after 2/3 of the ones in my first batch ended up cracked when I took them off the formers.

I tinged the vanilla cream cheese/buttercream icing yellow, for the colors to match better. Plus, we were all a bit feeling tired from the long two months of school, autumnal weather that was starting up (read: rain and chilly temperatures), so a bright cake was just the thing to cheer us up.

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I had some leftover green icing from the soccer cake, so I used that for the edging along the bottom. My ‘swirls’ are getting better, but I do still need some practice!

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I colored some more fondant green, and made several leaves, to back the lilies. I thought that white flowers on yellow cake might be too pale, and the green was such a complimentary color, that it would look good. I placed the leaves in the center of the cake, in a star shape.

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Then, I proceeded to place the lilies between the spaces of the leaves, in order to get a multi-point star shape. One thing I do need to work on is placing my center piece in the actual center of the cake. I’m close on this one but slightly off to the left.

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Close-up of the lilies:

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And ta-da! A finished mango cake with Calla lilies for decoration.

One thing I have learned from this though, is that fondant and regular icing don’t mix very well. While everything looks great in the above photos, the moisture from the icing leeched into the fondant (slightly) which caused the lilies to collapse a little by the time the cake was brought out to eat. It still looked (and was!) yummy, but the flowers weren’t as perky.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

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Pears & Almonds

Hello everyone!

Autumn has well and truly arrived in Luxembourg. It’s rainy, foggy, and chilly, which makes me happy to stay inside and bake. A part of me loves autumn for the changing leaves, sweaters, boots, and warm drinks, but part of me really does miss the warm summer days.

Last week, I tried to stick to my updating schedule (once a week) even though I hadn’t baked. That turned out to be a bit of a flop, as you lovely people seem to be more interested in my actual baking products than the tools that help me along the way. That’s totally fine, but it does mean there might be the odd week where there is no update because I haven’t baked anything worth posting about.

So without further ado, here we go with some pear and almond cupcakes.

The recipe is from the book Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman, and I mainly wanted to try it out because it looked delicious and I had some pears that needed to be eaten/cooked this weekend.

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The batter was easy to mix up, and included ground almonds as a partial flour substitute, which I always find interesting. It doesn’t alter the consistency very much, and provides extra taste.

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Originally, the recipe is for making jumbo cupcakes. As I don’t have a jumbo cupcake pan, only a regular one, I made regular-sized cupcakes. When it came to cutting the pears into quarters and pressing them into the cupcakes, the quarters had to be rather small. But no pear went to waste, for the parts I cut off, I ate ^_^

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The recipe did not include an icing recipe; rather, it called for making caramelized almond slivers, to top the finished cupcakes. So, I cooked these, and ended up with PLENTY to spare:

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I am definitely making a note in the book that the topping can be halved! Since I had so many, and I didn’t want any to go to waste, I deviated from the original recipe, and whipped up a small batch of almond buttercream frosting. This was also because the cupcakes didn’t look very pretty with just some sprinkled almonds over the top, and the pear sticking out. By covering it with the buttercream, I provided a sticky surface for (some) of the caramelized almonds to stick to, and generally upped the appearance of the whole cupcake.

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And finally, I took a leaf out of Theresa Helmer’s book. She is a cook and food photographer I follow on deviantART, and her presentations are always so beautiful. I had a few autumn accessories on hand, so I decided to set up my finished cupcakes with a bit more flourish than usual.

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Thanks for reading!

Tools of the Trade

Happy Sunday everyone,

First off, apologies for getting this up so late. It’s been one of those days where my brain just did not want to switch on and write up a post. But I owe it to my wonderful readers (YOU) so I hope you enjoy this update.

I had a bit of a break from baking this week (except for a loaf of banana bread yesterday, with some aging bananas!) but thought I would still do a blog post, but on something a little different. I am an absolute sucker for baking accessories, be they themed cupcake wrappers, fondant tools, cupcake toppers (edible and non), food colouring, piping tips, and finding the right kind of cake tin dimensions.

You’ve no doubt seen some of my favourite ‘tools of the trade’ in my overview photos before I get to work. I have to admit, I get all the help I can get when I bake and decorate. I liberally use YouTube videos, browse Google for recipes and decorating ideas, avidly follow bakers and cake decorators on deviantART…

Piping

Ever since I discovered how to properly use a piping bag, I’m absolutely mad about them. I love the wide variety of tips you can use to create the simplest and most complex designs. My excitement doubled when I discovered couplers and how to use them.

I generally use Wilton’s disposable piping bags. My reasoning is that, when I’m done, I don’t have the hassle of cleaning them out. They can go straight in the bin. While I know this can be wasteful and not eco-friendly, I find it difficult to wash buttery/greasy tools to begin with, and I don’t own a dishwasher to help me out. To be honest, I have never used a cloth or more permanent material, piping bag, so I can’t objectively compare the two.

When it comes to piping new designs, such as roses, I always refer to YouTube. Chances are, I will find a simple tutorial that shows me how it’s done – and I probably won’t even need the sound on. My other piping tools are the nail and plastic scissors I use when I make buttercream roses.

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Adding Colour

I love colour. Adding colour to cake can be tricky though, and I prefer to keep the food colouring to the decorating (unless I’m making a red velvet cake – that’s a different story). I used to use liquid food colours, but a couple years ago, a dear friend gifted me with a set of Wilton food gels (8 colours in a box), and I have been using those to add colour to icing and sugarpaste.

The advantage of using food gels over liquids is that you avoid the risk of turning your icing or fondant more runny or sticky. Gels blend more harmoniously with the icing/fondant. Their colours also tend to be more vibrant, although adding any colour to pure white might take a while.

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When I made my soccer-themed cake, I actually used a combination of gel and liquid for the green icing. This was mostly for an aesthetic reason- I wanted a grass green field, not a leaf green, and my gel was leaf green. I had some leftover liquid food colouring which was a darker green, so I added them both to get a lovely field colour.

Sometimes, I use edible ink markers or mix ‘paint’ using food colouring and vodka (it evaporates at room temperature, leaving the colour on the fondant but not affecting consistency) to add detail to a cake.

Fondant

I’m discovering my way around fondant, especially experimenting with making my own rather than relying on the store-bought stuff. I find that making my own, using a marshmallow recipe, yields better taste and texture than store-bought. I have lots of different things to help me work with fondant, although I don’t always use them all. I recently discovered that coating my hands with cornstarch is an excellent way to keep the fondant from sticking to my fingers.

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I recently bought this lovely set to help me make Calla lilies, and I can’t wait until I get an opportunity to use it!

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Baking Tins & Method

I bake a lot of different types of cakes, of different consistencies, and different shapes. These can sometiems call for using different baking tins or methods. My favourite baking tins are my 9″ round aluminum tins from Wilton. All I need to do is grease them with Crisco (vegetable shortening), dust them with flour, and the cakes will pop out with little to no problem.

When using a loaf pan, I prefer to line it with parchment paper. This is also because it is a non-stick material, which to me, doesn’t actually mean non-stick when using them to bake. I hate having to use a knife to loosen the cake because that can fragilise it.

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Cupcakes, obviously, have their own individual papers. I have used silicone moulds for some cupcakes, and they work very well- no need to grease or line them at all. I’m not sure how they would work for larger cakes though.

It would be a very long post to write about all the different baking accessories I have to help me along in my decorating. Suffice to show you my storage cupboard:

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The box at the bottom contains all kinds of themed cupcake wrappers and decorative papers. I am well-stocked for any festivities coming up! (With another box of stuff from the Craft Company on its’ way!)

So, even if this post was different than my usual ones, I hope you enjoyed having a peek into my supplies and seeing that it cake decorating sometimes just comes down to having the right tools for the right cake.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Soccer party for 20, coming up!

Today I’m excited to share with you all my first cake commission. At the Birthday Break last week, when I brought out my Rainbow Cake, a colleague asked Josh who made the cake. He pointed her in my direction, and she asked if I would be open to baking a cake for an event: her son’s birthday party. Josh was going to run the soccer themed party with fun games, so I figured, why not? Sunday birthday party meant I would have all day Saturday to work on the cake without time worries. Well, life got in the way a bit with that plan, and I unfortunately had to turn down going to watch the rugby (Luxembourg-Israel, practically down the street from me) but let’s move on. Cake.

Luckily, the cake boards I ordered from England (The Craft Company) arrived on Friday so I didn’t have to worry about lending out a foil-covered chopping board. (The amount of packing space in the box was absolutely ridiculous).

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I searched for soccer-themed birthday cakes online, and found a great one through Google Images. It linked me back to this website. I shared the photo with my colleague, who thought it looked great and worried it was too much trouble. Since I’d not gotten to use my piping grass tip since I bought it back in March, I was super excited to try and represent this cake.

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So I prepped my cakes (double batch of Devil’s Food Cake) and used chocolate buttercream icing to put the layers together and crumb-coat the whole thing. I used Wilton’s Sports Ball cake pan to make the ball.

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Then, I had to cut pentagons and hexagons to cover the soccer semi-ball. Wanting to do this right, I actually looked up a Youtube video. I had all kinds of mathematical operations to do to get this right, including using a protractor. Never thought I’d use one of THOSE in baking!

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Then, I got to the fun part – tessellation! Late Saturday night, after a lovely dinner with Josh’s parents for his dad’s birthday, I came home, cut careful shapes from fondant, and tessellated the soccer ball.

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This morning, I whipped up a double batch of classic white icing (using shortening instead of butter) and tinged it with A LOT of green food coloring to get a nice field color. I set myself up with The Little Mermaid 3: Ariel’s Beginning to keep me company while I iced, and got to work.

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I started by icing the sides of the field with a knife. That part was going to stay smooth. Because the cake and chocolate icing were room temperature, I had to be careful not to scrape any of the chocolate into the green. Once the sides were done, I put my grass tip on the piping bag, and started piping “grass” on to the top of the cake, around the ball.

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When I made the green icing, I unfortunately forgot to save a bit of it in white (before adding the food coloring) that I was going to use to mark out the basic lines on the field. I then remembered I had a bag of white Candy Melts, and looked up online to see whether it was possible to pipe them. Luckily for me, they are, although I will avoid it as much as possible because it includes putting them in the plastic piping bag and microwaving it until they are soft enough to knead to the right consistency and pipe. But for the purposes of this cake, it all worked out, and I piped the white field lines directly onto the icing.

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I finished this with a couple of hours to spare before the cake was to be picked up, and lots of spare melted Candy Melts so I piped a message onto wax paper and stuck it in the fridge, just in case. The cake looked fine without it, but this was a birthday cake after all. So after the letters hardened, I carefully peeled them off, and gently pressed them into the icing on the side of the cake.

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Overall, I was very happy with the cake. There are a few things I would change if I were to do it again (like adding a small cake board under the half-ball for extra support) and perhaps making a buttercream frosting for the white grass, for better consistency and taste. The parents were impressed with it, and Josh told me it was a success and delicious.

Thanks for reading! ^_^