Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Go Diego Go!

I was asked by one of Oscar's school friend's mums to do a cake for her youngest son's birthday. She asked me well in advance (I really like this woman!) and she said "I will give you the theme and then you do what you want - cupcakes, normal cake, whatever". Like I said, love her!

Anyway, the little boy, Spencer, kept changing his mind between Wiggles big red car and Diego. Finally, two weeks out he confirmed "Diego!".

They only wanted a tiny cake as they were only having 8 people at the party, but I wanted to build a scene. I love scenes! A small cake wouldn't do. So I decided to pay them to take the cake (LOL!), and did a big cake for a small cake price. I will not get into the habit of doing this but it is early days, I am setting up business elsewhere, and I wanted to practice!

So, I channelled my years of watching Dora and Diego episodes with my oldest who was very into this Spanish speaking duo, and went with it. I pulled out the books and the toys we have and took it from there.

I have so much fun doing scenes on cakes. They are so forgiving and creative. Great combination.

Here are some more pics.

The cake was a huge success with the 3 year old, and the local pizza restaurant patrons that nightwhere all a buzz. Apparently it caused quite a stir.

The mum has already placed her order for the next cake in a couple of weeks time, this time for her birthday, and an entirely different theme!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Classic Black & White

I have had an itch for a while to do a black and white cake. I think they look great. Classic and simple.

However, what you may not know is that black and white is one of the hardest cakes to produce.

You see, black is incredibly hard to work with on its own. It is very soft and sticky due to all the colour required to get it that deep black colour. You need cornflour underneath it to stop it sticking to the bench as you roll, but if you get a speck on the top the black looks terrible and dusty.

Then, you add even more danger by working with white as the second colour. One slip of the black and your white is a mess. You can not cover slip ups, your work must be perfect.  No pressure!

I got my opportunity to "scratch" the itch when a lovely Maori lady ordered a 60th birthday cake for her husband, a tribal chief/leader in their community back in NZ. Her instructions were "do what you like but not outrageous or over the top". Black and white and stripes immediately came to mind.

Tribal chiefs need manly bold cakes, nothing soft! Not to mention I got to play with my black and white theme.

I had to be careful. I am a Collingwood supporter, who's traditional colours are black and white, and we are doing very well at the moment, so I could get carried away. But I couldn't just channel a footy team. So I varied the thickness of the stripes and I also thought it would go well with the "all black" or NZ colours, another team I am not as fond of!

All in all, I was quite happy with it and I think it was nicely understated. It was much appreciated by the birthday boy and his wife and is currently facebooking its way around NZ.

Who loves ya Baby?

Yes, yes, I know you have seen similar baby cakes before, but I wanted to post these ones as they are just so damn cute! And I think I am improving with each attempt, so I can sort of track my evolution through my blog.

Planet Cake are the originators of these little babies, which are copied all over Australia. Thank goodness they have a new cupcake book coming out in November!

These were for a lady who's friend recently had a baby boy. She didn't want to just have the traditional blue colours so I suggested a mix of blue, green and yellow. She was well pleased and I am sure the new mum appreciated the sugar fix. I know I would have at that stage of motherhood!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buttercream no more.............

In my last blog, I talked about learning lots about myself and the type of business I wanted to be. I think that knowing what you don't want to do is as important as knowing what you do want to do, sometimes, even more important.

I started back in cake decorating doing these types of cakes (pictured) for my kids a few years back. They end up coming together alright,I guess, but they are just not my thing. And, here's a newsflash, which I should probably keep to myself, they are actually HARDER and less forgiving than the fondant ones I have been doing.

I don't like them, I don't like doing them and I am making a clear stand now.

Besides, the fondant cakes produce a far better quality product and here is another news flash "fondant has moved on from the dry thick horrible stuff you ate at Aunt Thelma's wedding". It actually tastes really nice and yes, take it from me, kids do eat it. In fact, I find more of them ate the fondant icing at Oscar's birthday than they have eaten at my previous buttercream cakes. Not that I am encouraging a sugar craze, but then again I am not the food police either, I do make cakes for a living!

I know it seems a little harsh, and I am writing this a bit tongue in cheek in case you haven't picked it up, or you don't know me. 

The real bottom line: "Please don't ask me for a buttercream cake as refusal often offends". This is something I have done as a paid favour for Alice's best friend's birthday tomorrow, but it is not something I will be including in Baked by Kate going forward.

Now, buttercream topped cupcakes, you ask? A whole other story...............bring them on!!! In fact, I will be bringing on hundreds of them for an upcoming Fete. All in the name of community fundraising ofcourse.

Mwah, mwah!

Rules aren't always made to be broken..............

I am new at this business and I have been learning lots lately. What I will and wont do. When to say no (mmm, not really in my vocabulary, so may take a few goes to stick!) and that some rules aren't supposed to be broken.

I did this cake for a sweet young lady called Sam. Her three best friends are leaving town this week and she wanted to farewell them with a party and a cake.

Sounds simple enough? One problem, she didn't get around to asking me until Thursday afternoon and the party was Saturday night. Some of you may remember back to my earlier posts, whereby I explain that according to Planet Cake rules, these types of cakes require a three day minumum to produce. Yikes.

But she looked at me so sweetly and said I could keep it simple but do what I liked, so I was off and running.

Big mistake! Firstly, she wanted my strawberry white chocolate mud. White mud is less stable than dark and requires a white chocolate ganache, which is also less stable. To top it all off I had to bake and ganache all in a 24 hour period. An absolute no, no. The cake needs time to rest darling!

Anyway, I soldiered on with much cursing and on the verge of tears and thought back to all the stories my fellow cakers had told about doing the same thing.

I wonder why we all don't learn from those around us? I know I am constantly at the moment.

These are some things I am learning:

1. No last minute orders
2. Three days IS the minimum time required to whip up a masterpiece, which means I need a weeks notice, so that I can plan and design your special cake. You can't rush the process, my quality could suffer, which means I don't feel good about making the cake and you may not get my best work. It is an art.
3. I need to start defining my business more (more on this lesson next blog).

Anyway, here are some more pics of the cake. I am pleased as I got to try a few things I have been wanting to for a while:

1. pink "bling" sparkles (it is going to look fabulous tonight)
2. a same colour board to cake
3. cirles, circles and more circles
4. new funky letters

Cake tastings............

..........or any excuse to bake will do!

The last few weeks have been a bit quiet on the orders front, mainly because I have discouraged orders, while we are trying to sell the house. It's stressful enough trying to keep a house clean with two kids, let alone add my baking in too.

So, while we went back and forth with the real estate agent and various interested parties, I soothed my soul with some baking and testing of recipes so when I land in Melbourne, I am good to go with a variety of mud cakes.

This meant lots of taste testing for friends and the Workaholic's staff.

Here are some pics.

Caramel Mud cake

Filled with white chocolate ganache

Cut into cake serving sizes.

I had been looking forward to trying this caramel mud cake recipe for such a long time and it lived up to my expectations. My clear favourite.

Snickers Mud Cake and Cherry Ripe Mud Cake

This is a cross section of the Snickers mud cake. I did a Cherry Ripe mud cake first but wasn't happy with the amount of Cherry Ripe flavour in the cake. Nobody else seemed bothered, but being a big lover of Cherry Ripe, I really needed more flavour. So, when I tried the recipe for Snickers Mud Cake, I increased the amount of snickers bars in the actual cake, and then I chopped up some snickers into the ganache filling. This seemed to do the job, and this cake was a clear conversation starter in the Workaholic's office. I am still getting emails about it a week later.

Lastly, was the Strawberry Mud Cake.

I have had three attempts at this, and I am not sure I am satisfied but it was a clear favourite with everyone else. Part of the problem for me is that I don't "get" white chocolate mud cake. May aswell have a vanilla pound cake. Don't see the "wow" factor. But I am a dark chocaholic, so probably too subtle for me.

My first attempt at this was using artificial strawberry colour and flavourings. It is not really my thing. I prefer the real deal, however all the advice out there, suggests that the "real" strawberry flavour gets cooked out anyway. So, I went with popular opinion and used artificial products. The cake was a success and very "pink" but I felt like a fraud. All that artificial stuff!

So, I made some fresh strawberry puree and tried again. Only used the puree, no artificial flavours or colours. Guess what? No flavour! The popular opinion was right! Who knew?!

Attempt number three, was for a paid gig today, so I did a mixture of both, strawberry puree and artificial flavours and  colours, and the off cuts were YUM!

This is a cross section of the 2nd attempt with just strawberry puree.

Then, to add more strawberry flavour, I put the strawberry puree in with the white chocolate ganache. YUM!

And here is the cross section. Probably should mention that I was going for a marble effect rather than an all over pink cake!

So, after all this testing I now have many flavours to my arsenal of mud cakes:

- banana
- caramel
- dark chocolate
- light chocolate
- white chocolate
- strawberry
- snickers
- cherry ripe
- gluten free orange, to name a few

 but that's no reason to stop trying to create new ones.................