Summer & Winter Sports

Hello everyone!

This cake was a very very fun challenge! Months ago, I agreed to bake a cake for a colleague’s 50th birthday. It finally rolled around, and I coordinated with his wife as to flavour and decoration. Chocolate was the obvious choice, and two of his passions are cycling and skiing, so we came up with the idea of a mountain or hill cake, split on one side with a snowscape and a summer scene on the other.

I actually really planned out this cake:

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The chocolate cake I used was a chocolate mudcake recipe from a new book I got, Planet Cakes. I’ve heard of mudcakes being used before as good carving cakes, and since I’ve had so much trouble with my Devil’s food cake, I thought I’d try this one out. It was fairly easy to make. I made a double batch, and baked it in three different tins: one wide and shallow (about 10″ I think), two in my regular 8″ tins, and one in half of my Sports Ball cake pan (for the top of the mountain).

My tree idea completely failed and I had to replace them with others (more on that later).

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I also made a dark chocolate ganache to help keep the whole cake together. Chopping it was a challenge; luckily, Cooking Hints from Chris helped me out!

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The first time I made ganache in the summer, it didn’t set properly. This one did so I was super excited!

Then I started putting the cake together. Mudcake is DEFINITELY easier to carve and stick together using ganache. Ganache solidifies quickly as well, which was great.

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I made a winding path going around the hill. Then came the fun part: Making lots of vanilla buttercream icing and tinting it different colours for the real decorating to begin! I started with the summer side of the hill, and put in the dirt path. Piping the grass was strangely relaxing.

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View of the cake half-way covered:

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Then I made a second batch of vanilla buttercream but made it with 4/5ths vegetable shortening and 1/5th butter. This is because I wanted the snow side to be really white, and not have the yellow tinge that traditional buttercream tends to have.

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I crumb-coated the entire snow side first, and added extra white on the path. I wasn’t sure what I would use to make the snow texture different from the path, and thought about using sugar, white sugar sprinkles, and (what would have been ideal) desiccated coconut. But I didn’t have the last one, so I googled some images, and decided that a small star opening on my piping bag would do just fine.

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Piping those stars drove me crazy and my hand started hurting. But the effect was looking really cool, so I persevered 🙂

And quite suddenly, I was finished! The pine trees are made of fondant in a soft cone shape, and covered with dark green icing piped with my grass tip. This website helped give me a clue on how to do that.

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The next day, when I brought the cake in, my colleague finalized the figurines, which were of a skiier and cyclist, with her husband’s face superimposed.

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Overall, I am extremely pleased with how this cake turned out. It was really tough to plan and put together, and my respect for professional cake makes has increased a bit more. I spent six hours putting together this cake, but it was worth every moment.

Until the next time… -Jo

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The Arlésienne Cupcakes

Hello again,

My apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I was away on holiday with no opportunities to cook, but plenty to eat good food. The freshness and deliciousness of Greek food is leaving me hungry for more, although I certainly ate more than my fair share while I was there.

Upon my return, I wanted to bake something light and summery, so I leafed through my favorite cupcake book: Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman. It was a birthday gift from my boyfriend two years ago, and I am still discovering new recipes.

I chanced upon The Arlésienne cupcakes, which are inspired by the summer fruits and flavors from Arles in France: apricots, raspberries, and almonds.

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The batter was standard, if a bit thick, and almond-flavored. I love using almond extract, it has such a sweet scent to it. Then, we added chopped dried apricots and ground almonds to get more of that delicious summery taste.

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And then, the cupcake came together with fresh apricot for a topping, with raspberry jam nestled in the hollow, and a peeled almond.

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Something I love about these summery cupcakes is the lack of overly sweet icing. While icing on a cupcake can be such a delight at a special occasion, in the winter with a cup of hot chocolate, or a glass of milk; in the summer it’s just too sweet. Of course, the apricots shriveled slightly in the cooking process, and the jelly ran a bit, but even a day later, they still taste delicious.

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All this writing about cupcakes has made me hungry for one- time to skedaddle! ^_^