Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Easter 2010!

Happy Easter everyone! I have had such fun this week. I am really getting into the cake decorating zone. I have loved being really creative with this cake and have not missed baking at all.

I must say up front, that I sort of cheated on this one, and copied elements of this design from someone elses website who I admire greatly, she does brilliant work.

Hey, I am just practicing here, don't need to be coming up with designs as well as figure out how to execute! It is enough to just figure out the execution at this stage.

I love this cake. Loved figuring out how to make all the bits and then actually working on it. Loved it. Really appealling to my creative side, that I didn't know I had. LOL.

This cake was the first of many firsts. The first time I had tried the gluten free Orange and Almond cake recipe in the Planet Cake book. It came out well but I find most of the gluten free cakes a bit "wet" inside, I guess that is the lack of flour. Makes for a VERY moist cake though!

It was the first time I had worked with a white chocolate ganache. This was good but nowhere as stable as the dark chocolate ganache and I am tipping is going to be VERY rich and sweet in taste.

It is the first time I have done a design not taught to me by "Planet Cake", so I had to work out myself how to do the Rabbit, how to do the Rabbit bottom etc. I loved the challenge. I knew as I was nutting it all out before I even started, that it was going to be great. If I do say so myself!

Here are some pics of how it came together.

Doesn't look like much!

This is the "grass" border and my messy bench!

Here's the grass boarder once I  had hand cut the grass, yes, that's right, hand cut!

The start of my flowers and carrots. I ended up cutting some grass for the top rabbit hole and the carrots from a pasta machine. The things we do!

Starting the flower border

Ta da! The finished product. To the left is a rabbits bottom, feet and tail sticking out of the cake! I loved this bit. See pic below.

I absolutely loved making this cake. I can not wait for the next adventure. We are off on holidays for Easter for a few weeks but the next blog will be about a 40th birthday cake with a footy theme - a paid gig!

Happy Easter!

Some easter fun - cupcake style!

Okay, you know it wouldn't be right if I didn't post something chocolate at this time of year, particularily with my obsession with it!

So here are a couple of things that are really easy to make if you feel inspired this easter weekend.

This one is just your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe covered in chocolate ganache, grated dark chocolate and easter eggs.

I had left over ganache and grated chocolate in my fridge from a paying gig, so decided to put it to good use on Sunday afternoon.

So easy and effective. They must have been good because I came out of the bedroom at some ungodly hour on Sunday night to find the Workaholic surrounded by cupcake wrappers. Oh dear!  What was left for the rest of his staff on Monday morning went quickly. I personally, found them mega rich and indulgent but so easy to make. Go on, I dare you!

The second cupcake is really a muffin but I think you should turn it into a cupcake if you are going to try it.

I got the recipe from and it was called "Caramel Easter Egg Muffins". These were super easy to make and used basic ingredients with a bag of easter eggs and a simple melt and mix method.

You then put the mix in the cup cake wrappers and put an egg on top. The first time I made these, some readers on the Taste site recommended that you put the egg on top and it will sink a little to be in the middle rather than on the bottom, so I gave that a try.

Clearly, that didn't work.

The kids loved them though. I made another batch and just put the egg in the middle and they worked fine. I found them a little cakey, and if I made them again, I would put some icing on the top.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Practice, practice and more practice!

This week I was very slack on the baking front and actually didn't try a new recipe. It must be the first time in about 6 months. It felt a bit weird, but alas, I think it may be a prediction of the future.

You see, I have been practicing what I learnt at Planet Cake and that requires most of my time to be spent on the decoration, so I just bake the old favourites as the base to save time.

The baking is the easy bit. The designing, planning and execution of each decorated cake takes an enormous amount of time. I guarantee for every decorated cake you see out there, more than half of the cost of it would be in labour costs. Except for mine. I am pretty much charging at cost so I can get lots of orders and therefore lots of experience, then when I am famous, I will work on the rich! So get in quick! LOL!

The first cake was for a friend who is leaving town next week, as most people eventually do, in this transient town. Often they go back to where they came from originally, but this brave single mum is going to work even more remotely in NT. You go, girlfriend! She has made a big impact on the Workaholic's workplace and welcomed us with open arms when we arrived nearly 2 years ago. It will be weird not having her and Ruby around. Good luck and enjoy Prue and Ruby!

The cake was a big hit in the office and resulted in at least 2 orders for more. Yay for me! Thank you to everyone for your support and kind words in the office, you embarrased me!

Anyway, here are a few pics of this weeks practice!

Geez, I wish I knew how to get this right way up. It is right way up in my pictures software but turns itself back when I import it. Very frustrating!

Not a great background, but you get the idea.

Next week, being Easter week, was going to be lots of easter goodies, but I have a couple of paid orders and a road trip to pack for, so it may end up being one special easter cake - ie more practice!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My week at Planet Cake - The Finale!

Okay, it is with a tinge of sadness, I write this entry. I had such a great week in the "big city" immersing myself in all things cake and this entry represents my final for my first course at Planet Cake. All good things must come to an end. I am not sure how I will post about my ordinary little other cakes again!

This cake took 2 full days to make and it was a really great insight into how the professionals do their cakes. You see, according to the Planet Cake guru's, you should allow a minimum of 3 days to do one cake.

We also coloured our icing, covered our boards and made some flower petals and bamboo sticks from icing.

The next day we covered and decorated our cakes. Here is an action shot of me you do not usually get and probably will never get again! I had just stuffed up the covering of the big cake which you will see later on and was not exactly feeling photogenic. I also think many of us were fatigued from the week. It is a big week, bigger than I ever imagined and by Friday we were all stumbling a bit. I was certianly looking for the large size coffee on the Friday and just didn't feel "in the zone" the last day.

Once we had covered the cakes - here is the bit that broke my heart and makes me laugh all at the same time - we stabbed our cakes! It is amazing what you do to cakes that don't get seen, don't effect taste but make a difference to the outcome. We stabbed the bottom cake with 4 dowl sticks to make sure it would support the top tier. Cake decorating sometimes reminds me of that saying about the Duck looking calm and beautiful on top but underneath he is paddling madly.

We then pulled the flower together, prior to dusting it with powder.

Then I covered it with the "icing wrap" or "trim" and finished off the bottom of the cake. The pink wrap does have a textured pattern to it but it was very subtle and does not come out in the photos.

Tada! The finished product!

I had a great time at Planet Cake. I was so fortunate to be given the chance to do this course and follow my passion. I had to do it in another State, which meant a week away from my family, which was hard but the only way to do it, as you really need to concentrate. I would spend an hour or so writing notes back at the hotel - not something two small children would allow! I am so fortunate to have a supportive Workaholic and inlaws who stepped into my mothering role for the week. Thank you and big hugs to you all.

I have been back a week and have been too busy with misbehaving cars, last minute St Pats day cake orders and other things to practice anything I have learnt yet, but I have thought about it every day and look forward to getting stuck into it this week.

Oh, and I have booked two more days of their courses in May! Yippee! This time I am going to tackle novelty cakes, given I have kids and predict they will be wanting something pretty special for their birthdays from now on!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My week at Planet Cake Part 3

Hello, my Animal friends. I dedicate this entry to my God son, Patrick who is scarily obsessed with animals. His parents are at the zoo every weekend, I kid you not.

Anyway, Wednesday, the middle of the course, is known as "rest" day. We didn't have to ganache a cake, decorate a cake or stand up most of the day.

In fact the first half was very relaxing. We watched the instructor bake two cakes and make ganache. My mind wandered, I regrouped, it was great!

Then just before lunch we started piping. Never my strong suit. In fact, I usually do ANYTHING to avoid writing on a cake or piping. My girlfriend, Tammie can vouch for that, decorated a whole Llama cake but wouldn't do the eyes or the words! A few people struggled and really lost the plot. Some of us did okay and others just had the confident knack.

They say with Cake Decorating you should cross skill as much as you can, but like anything, there are some areas of cake decorating you are really going to take to and others you dislike. Given my already lack of desire for the fine hand required for piping, I decided to go in with an open mind. Who knows? Maybe they had invented some new way of piping in the last 20 years and it was all going to fall into place.

Ah......nope. Didn't happen! I will say this, we all had to practice on the stainless steel bench top before piping on our square. ALL of us where much, much, much better on the bench. The instructor said it all had to do with confidence. We were brave on the bench top because we were practicing. But once we went to the board, we got nervous because it was "for real". I think there is something in that.

Anyway, here it is. This shot was taken in the hotel room so some of it had been broken on the bus home, but you get the general idea. I personally love the ducks!

After lunch was much more fun. We modelled animals. I really enjoyed this and the boy figure of the day before. It is much like playing with playdough or clay, so maybe I am just a big kid at heart.

Here are the results. All made with icing, so all edible although I can't believe you would want to. Some of the photos are a bit blurry, but you will get the idea. The Lion was my favorite!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My week at Planet Cake Part 2

Day two at Planet Cake was a square cake. The square cake shape is the harder shape out of round and square, as it has all the sharp angles/corners. Or at least that is what you are aiming for. I think I did an okay job for my first time but it is on my list to improve.

Anyway, I intend to master the square, it appeals to my OCD personality! Nice and neat and sharp.

Before we start - everything on the previous exploding stars cake and this cake is hand made and edible, except for the wire in the stars and the satay stick through the figure!

This is when the fun began and we started making our figurines. Most of the class made girls, but I had promised my little boy, that I would make a cake for him today as yesterday's was my little girl's favourite colours, so I needed to do a boy figurine.

At this stage, it was all getting a bit "Master Chef" or "My kitchen rules" and the instructors where yelling out at various points throughout the day "5 minutes to go", "okay, you only have 15 minutes to do that, before coming back here". So I decided to just make sure I had enough time to have a go at each technique rather than perfect each technique, hence his hands are somewhat squashed on. Hands will need to be practiced a bit, not to mention, the lopsided grin. Ah, it's all good!

I am not really happy with the photos of the finished cake. There just wasn't enough time to get good shots. It is not like you are at home and can muck around for hours getting the right shot. By this stage we were running late and it was a matter of a few quick snaps and we were out of there for the day. See, the amazing thing about the Planet Cake workers was that, once we were gone at 4.30pm, they cleared up the kitchen and really got stuck into their cake orders. Most days they were in at 8am and finished at 9pm. I guess that is why they only run limited courses, as we take over their kitchen that week and they need to work long hours to catch up.

My week at Planet Cake Part 1

If I got hit by that proverbial bus right now, I would die a happy woman! (Aside from the fact that I would leave 2 small children and the Workaholic behind! LOL!).

You see, last week, I spent the whole week in heaven, Planet Cake heaven! For those who don't know, Planet Cake is one of the leading, if not the leading, designers of cakes here in Australia. They make cakes for all the celebrities, not just in Australia, but all around the world. What they don't know about cake decorating, is not worth knowing.

You may remember back to an earlier blog about all the wonderful christmas presents I got this year, and a weeks intensive course at Planet Cake was one of them. Oh, thank you, Workaholic! Many years ago, I dabbled in cake decorating but found the industry was full of 70 year olds and it sort of cramped my then, 18 year old, style. Now that the industry has had a bit of an update, and I am closer to the 70 year old mark than I was, and frankly, I am the one cramping 18 year old people's style, I felt it was time to take another look!

The week involved decorating 3 different cakes, using different decorating techniques, ganache making, modelling, piping and cake making. And to top it all off, you do all this in their production kitchen, surrounded by the real artists of Planet Cake who are busy creating master pieces for that weekend's wedding, christening, birthday or other celebration! So while you are absorbing all the information of the course, you also have the opportunity to see them at work and ask questions. They are so approachable, friendly and welcoming.

I have done a bit of cake decorating before, many years ago, some of you may remember, and it all came flooding back. Funnily enough, I used to struggle with air bubbles in the finish back then (20 years ago) and I still did this week! Some things never change. But I was more confident at removing them.  Anyway, being the first day, I wasn't taking as many photos in class, but needless to say, it went okay.

Now, I did say I was a bit shy in the camera stakes on the first day so didn't get every step, but tada! Here is the finished product and all my fellow cake enthusists! The centre is filled with silver balls to hide the cuts in the cake.

Day 1 down, what a full on, but rewarding day. I learn't so much and went back to the hotel and flopped on the bed for the rest of the night!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rustic White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Warning: This one’s a long one, you might want to make a cuppa first!

The Workaholic surprised me the other day by ordering me two Martha Stewart cookbooks, one on cupcakes (ofcourse!) and one on cookies. Thank you Workaholic!

I have a confession to make. I don’t often feature cookies or slices on my blog. I do make them fairly regularly. The Workaholic asked me why I didn’t do more or write about them and the first thing that sprung to mind to say was “there just not pretty enough”. Gasp! Can you believe I said that? How superficial of me!

The real problem, as a few of you can vouch for, is my OCD. I like things to be neat and ordered and presentation is everything. If it doesn’t photograph well, it can’t feature on my blog. Cupcakes and normal cakes seem to photograph so well and are quite easy to make pretty!

This is a bit of a shame really, as I have done some fabulous tasting biscuits, cookies, slice and more recently, tried a few more savoury things, but can not bring myself to put them on the blog. The savoury stuff, in particular, just does not photograph well, yet on the plate it looks scrummy!

Anyway, I am going to be brave here and start featuring some of the cookies, biscuits and slices and we are going to call them “rustic”. Okay!!!!!!!

Anyway, we had a bit of a break from the endless blue skies of Alice Springs recently and the heavens opened up for about a week, constantly. It was on one of those days, a cold and wet Saturday, when we were all starting to get cabin fever when my books arrived! Oh joy. I just love getting a new cookbook and spend hours pouring over it, planning what to bake or cook.

The kids and I piled onto my bed and snuggled down and dreamed. Poor loves have no option but to get into my passion! My five year old can even theme and group menus, such as “we could do this one, that one and this one for Valentine’s Day” or “these three would be good for Christmas”. If only I channelled his talents into good (ie the ABC’s and 123) instead of my evil baking, he’d be a genius!

Another confession of mine is that I tend to avoid things with nuts or fruit in them. I keep telling myself it is because I don’t like fruit or nut in baking, and that is true to a point. I would choose a non fruit or nut thing over a fruit and nut thing any day. However, when I push myself to bake with them, I usually find I quite like them. I just need to push past the mental block.

My eye was caught by a picture of a White Chocolate Chunk Cookie in the Martha Stewart Cookies book (page 172). The white chocolate just looked all gooey and chewy and yummy. However, it also contained walnuts and raisins! Take a breath, you can do this.

It was quite an easy recipe but it contained lots of good stuff to give it great texture, coconut, rolled oats etc.

I love a good cookie mix, especially one that features brown sugar. And this one does. So you do the usual butter, white sugar, brown sugar beating. Then add egg and vanilla and beat. Followed by the flour. At this point I have to taste the mixture. This is my favourite tasting batter, I use this one for my choc chip cookies. Must be the brown sugar.

I was a bit worried as the mix looked a bit dry, but I went with it, hoping the next lot of ingredients would add the moisture.

At this point you add everything else, coconut, white chocolate, oats, walnuts and raisins (although I didn’t have raisins so substituted with sultanas) and mix. The batter felt really heavy and dense.

The recipe calls for you to drop spoonfuls on a tray and slightly flatten. I did this for the first tray but the came out looking a bit misshapen and “rustic” so my OCD took over and I started rolling the mix into balls and flattening (pic below). In the end, to my surprise I thought these looked like they were trying too hard and I wish I had of stuck with rustic. No pleasing some people.

They came out of the oven smelling divine. I always take cookies/biscuits out when they are a bit underdone and let them harden on the tray. I prefer my cookies chewy. The white chocolate was all gooey and the combination of flavours of the chocolate, coconut, walnuts and fruit was beautiful, full on and very hard to stop at just one!


OCD Shaped ones!
Which is why, even though the Workaholic was out of town for a few days, I had to drop them into his work anyway and get rid of them before those 20kg I lost last year, flew back on! He received 3 phone calls to tell him how good they were – which probably just rubbed it in, given he was 2,500km away in Darwin! LOL!