Saturday, July 31, 2010

Who doesn't love a handbag?

As is normal around here, three more people left town this week. This town is very transient with people coming and going, some stay for a mere weeks, some for months, some for years (when they meant to come for one!) but eventually, most go back from wence they came.

Three ladies left the Workaholic's workplace this week and I saw that as a brilliant chance to have a go at a handbag and suitcase cake.

We have a lot going on at the moment. We had my parents staying, with mum recovering from a illness, the Workaholic in Darwin, our house going on the market and the usual life stuff. I didn't spend as much time or take as much care as I would have liked on these cakes, so I am looking forward to doing them again one day.

I did have a lot of fun though! I looooove making cakes. I know I am getting better at this cake biz as nothing is daunting and I just get in and have a go. As one of the Planet Cake teachers, Fran says "it's just icing, have a go. If it doesn't work, throw it out, start again!". I have also just realised that the handbag and suitcase is one of the steps in the Planet cake course program which I haven't done yet. I think I might have to apply for an exemption!

Here are some pics. The diamond pattern is actually fake stitching using a tracing wheel seamstresses use. It looked amazing and I need to take a close up next time.

The Briefcase

The Briefcase

The Handbag.

I had to laugh, while I was doing the cakes, I was also trying to finish up the final touches on our house for the inspections and real estate photos, so I got to the zipper on the handbag and stopped short of putting on the bit that pulls the zipper up and down. I thought it looked okay without it and I was pushed for time. But not the kids! They are becoming my biggest critics now. At six and three, they demanded that I finish the zipper! Even when I am making cupcakes and give them the "rejects" that are slightly imperfect, they say "Ohhhhhhhhh, muuuuum whhhhhhy dooooo I haaave to havvve the baaaaad one???".  Sheeesh. I am creating monsters!

Anyway, the ladies loved their cakes, the crew that work for the Workaholic are busy planning his farewell cake. They think it would be a good idea if they had a competition and the person who comes up with the most creative cake idea wins. Then I have to create that cake as the farewell cake. Mmmmmm, making my own farewell/leaving town cake? What's wrong with this picture? My sister in law thinks I have been cheated. She says if this was the movies the townsfolk would make a cupcake each with a design on it representing what we mean to them. LOL! I think there is a bit too much Days of our Lives/Sex in the City in the Carlton/Breen household. ;-)

Until next time..........

Gluten Free & Vegan Cupcakes

Last week was the week of dietary requirements for cupcake orders. I had one for a gluten free birthday girl and one for a vegan. Both tasted fabulous, so good infact,  I wouldn't even bother saying "gluten free" or "vegan" and just pass them off as a divine chocolate cupcake. They were yummy.

In fact, I would use either recipe as my standard chocolate cupcake if the flourless one wasn't so damn expensive using real chocolate and almond meal and 10 eggs! Yes, 10 eggs! Luckily, I have access to some free range chooks in friend's back yards.

It has been particularily cold here in Alice Springs so I think that inspired my toppers on the Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes above. Really, they remind me of a Melbourne autumn for some reason.

And here is the vegan chocolate cup cake. It basically uses white vinegar, water and oil rather than eggs, milk and butter and is so moist and lovely.

I have since heard that there is a recipe in Alaska called "Wacky Chocolate Cake" which is basically the same recipe. The Alaskins came up with it due to the long winters of isolation and lack of fresh supplies, including dairy. A long time family friend lived there for a while many years ago and she used to make it.

The original recipe calls for a dusting of cocoa and icing sugar but you know I can't resist a dob of icing. So I substituted nutalex non dairy margarine for butter in a basic hot water, butter, cocoa recipe I used to do in my childhood and dadaaaa! Yummy. I was probably a bit light on in terms of icing but this was just a test run. Needless to say the vegan and non vegans alike gobbled them up and I last saw them sneaking out my door on a cold Alice Springs night.......enjoy!

Okay, seeing as you are all being so polite, I will bring up the subject, yes, I have been a bit slack on the blog. As I said last time, we are leaving our beloved Alice Springs and the house went on the market this week, so I have been busy cleaning. However, I have also finally created a "Baked by Kate" page on Facebook, which has some positives, one, I can update quickly, two,  I tend not to drone on like I do here (see all good!), so for those of you on Facebook, please look me up and click "like" and help spread the word!!! Until next time, mwaaaah, mwaaaaah.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mataariki celebrations

I had the pleasure of doing my biggest cake yet for the biggest hearted people on this planet a few weeks ago, the Maori's.

The Alice Springs Maori community celebrate their traditional New Year, or Mataariki, in late June and asked me to do the celebration cake. They were expecting 350 people from places as far away as Mt Isa and Townsville, no pressure!

This is a excert from their promotional material:

"Maori New Year culminates with a cluster of stars "Mataariki" commonly known as as Pleiades which becomes more clear in the night sky at the beginning of winter. Maori have a strong traditional genealogical link to Mataariki which can still be recited by the most skilled of our elders back in New Zealand. Mataariki being the first creation of all things by IO (God) is obvious to our people to be the beginning of new things of new growth of new life.

In traditonal times much activity occured prior, the gathering, preservation and storing of food for the winter months, which was carried out with great celebration of serious and fun activity.

The welcoming of the new year was also a time of acknowledging the gifts, treasures, achievements and knowledge succeeded or not succeeded over the previous year, it was a time of consoling ones position in life and within the structure of family and community, it was a time of conciliation and resolution of forgiveness to seek to give, it was a time for a new beginning of venture and goals in life."

They held a number of events, celebrations, ceremonies and feasts over the weekend and it was all enveloped in their great open, friendly, welcoming nature. They are beautiful people.

I was asked to do the cake, which was actually five normal size cakes. Four were used to make the one above.

The cake was a bit of a journey. Firstly, I had never made a cake that big. Here is a picture of my hand (which is quite big anyway) and the base cake but it still doesn't do it justice, it was huge!

 Secondly, their original request was for the stars that make up the Mataariki to be on the cake.  Here is what that looks like (although this pic is on it's side):

So the design is fairly tricky without access to an air brush machine, which I don't have. Another challenge was that there was not a lot of internet information available and lots of it was inaccurate.
Then, once I had played around a bit with doing actual stars versus blured circles and everything in between and then settled on a combination, the night before the order was due, the client changed the order!!! Oh no!
Turns out they want some fronds over the top of the stars on the cake. I had the information second hand as the Workaholic took the details in my absence. Yes, you can imagine how sketchy it was. Anyway, we soldiered on.  The fronds, although I was very skeptical about them from a design point of view, once I learnt the meaning and symbolism behind it all, was all for it.
After all, sometimes it is about sentiment and feelings and not always about my precious design ideas...breathe, breathe, we can work through it. 
The fronds represent lots of things and I am probably not going to do it justice, but roughly, the bigger fronds are the mum and dad (or elders) who are protecting, teaching and growing up the younger fronds or children in the middle. The culture is about respecting the elders, the elders teaching the younger ones their ways and the right way to go and grow.  
Anyway, it sounded beautiful, the event was themed around both symbols, the stars and the frond, and so everything matched beautifully and looked great in context. Next time I would do a more thorough design consultation, as with a bit more prior warning, we could of come up with so many other designs to achieve the same symbolism.
I also did a "kitchen cake" which was meant to just give them some extra cake to be cut in the kitchen in case they ran out and not supposed to be seen in public. I repeat, it was not supposed to be seen in public. I decided to have a little fun at the last minute and spent five minutes throwing a silver fern on the top. Seriously, I mean five minutes, so don't laugh.....
I learn't something else about cakes here too. I ganached this one perfectly square (or rectangle really). Don't think I have done a better job. Put the cake aside on my dining table and walked away for about an hour to do some gardening. Little did I know, the blinds were slightly open and it happened to go from a cloudy morning to a sunny 25 degrees on a winter morning in Alice, and I walked back into the house to a completely melted cake on one side!!! (insert dramatic law and order music here).

On reflection, and with some weeks passed to work through my horror, I should of taken photos, it was most amusing. Anyway, some time in the fridge and some extra ganache made for an improvement. But thank goodness it was the kitchen cake.
Then, I learnt something else about my expectations versus the client's. My "kitchen" cake was whisked off me at delivery, adored, ooohhhed and ahhhed and placed right next to the main cake on THE STAGE!!!!! That was not supposed to happen! 
But who cares, love this cake business!
I have been quiet for the last couple of weeks, we have had friends staying with us and some camping trips while the kids have been on school holidays. I expect I am going to be even quieter on the blogging & cake front for a while longer as we are trying to do a few jobs around the house in anticipation of selling the house and leaving my beloved Alice Springs...... :-(
We made the decision a month or so ago to sell the house and travel around a bit of Austalia with the kids for a few months, before settling back in Mornington for 2011. Just recently we have been waivering, still not sure if we are going to go through with it though.......harder than I thought this leaving Alice business.