Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spring is in the air

This cake was ordered many weeks ago by a repeat customer (oh, how I love those customers), who's only stipulation was the cake was really small and had a spring theme with some daisies.

The flavour of the cake was a new one for me, lemon poppy seed mud cake. Alice Springs fruit trees are in full bloom and everyone is giving me lemons (thank you), so citrus mud it was!

The cake itself  is only 7inches. Tiny! Not much you can do decoration wise, without it seeming crowded. I found this out the hard way when I made lots of flowers and then found the cake looked too busy, I wanted to keep it simple.

So I did. And was really happy with. One small problem for the poor birthday girl, even though it is September and Alice Springs, spring has not sprung and it would have had to have been the coldest, wettest Spring day in Alice on her birthday.

The horses are on the track!

Sorry, couldn't help it, it's the Melbourne in me coming out, and it is Spring Racing Carnival time!

Okay, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that a few weeks ago, I declared my dislike for buttercream to decorate any cake bigger than a cupcake, and my determination never to do another one. This is still true, but you will notice that buttercream adorns the cake above (and it is not as good a finish as my fondant ones - my point exactly!).

However, I had promised to do this cake before "the big stand" and even then, I had argued with the poor mum who ordered it not to use buttercream. She is a friend and one of the Workaholic's workers, and swears black and blue that her daughter, the birthday girl, will not eat fondant icing, so I have made an exception (one last time, so don't get any ideas!!! LOL!)

I love cakes where I can create a scene and put in lots of detail. Then the recipient has fun searching out all the detail. I used this cake as an opportunity to play around with some modelling. It was great fun. I got some of my inspiration from a very talented Townsville lady who owns a cake business called "Happy Cakes". She does so great "scene" cakes and some very girlie cakes too.

Here is some of the detail. Try not to look at the yucky buttercream icing finish. And while you are at it, imagine how much better this cake would look with the smooth, sharp finish of fondant. LOL!

All the fun of the fair!

I recently had the pleasure of creating and manning my second only cupcake stand.

The occasion was the Ross Park Spring Fair. My son goes to the school and they have this annual fundraiser in September.

Being my second attempt at a cupcake stall and, in my typical style, I had made notes from my first attempt on ways to improve. I was well organised and prepared days in advance, so I had a production line going on baking day, making improvements on the first bake off.  It is no mean feat to bake 250 cupcakes surrounded by two young children, the extended family who were visiting, along with the Workaholic's mate. Throw in selling a house at the same time and you have an extreme sport!

Luckily, I put my usually reluctant delegation skills into gear and had the inlaws minding the children the day before, which was baking day, and the Workaholic's mate on dish washing duty while he was waiting for the Workaholic to stop working and take him out for the day.

Note to self. Really must get a dishwasher AND a bigger oven. Many people come into my house and are incredulous that I have managed to produce cake art out of my kitchen. It is tiny, has no dishwasher and the oven is standard garden variety and fits just two trays of cupcakes in it.

To combat the above, I made the fondant toppers a week out, the icing and lemon curd a few days out and then on the Thursday night, I measured and bagged up all the ingredients.

On baking day, everything ran like clock work and I was finished by about 3.30pm after starting at about 8.30am. I had everything iced and wrapped waiting to go, except for my meringue based icing that has to be made on the day. Thanks to the local Bread factory that donated some old bread trays which I scrubbed and spray painted black. I lined them with some non slip mat and it made it so easy to stack and transport.

I decided to do a number of flavours, although was limited by Ross Park being a nut free zone. The flavours were Vanilla, Flourless Chocolate/Choc Mint (for the Gluten free), Vegan Chocolate (for the dairy, egg free), Sticky Date pudding, Snickerdoodle, Lemon Meringue and finally, Red Velvet.
I had so much fun on the day and got so excited to see my product sell. Prior to the day I had had a dream that I didn't sell a single cupcake. My girlfriend had laughed and said that I really needed to make double as 200 would be gone in 20 minutes. I ended up baking 250 and contemplated making more but was really nervous about not selling what I had, and then not being able to give lots of $$ to the school.

How wrong could I be!!  During the early stages, I had to nab the Workaholic and his mate to assist as I was three deep with people waiting. We ended up selling out in a little over an hour and it felt great! I have had a number of people stop me at school since that day and compliment me on the cupcakes, as well as some cake order enquiries.

This is me and Tammie, the teacher who's room I was raising the money for.

Each time I have done a stall or just a cake order, I have learnt something, improved something and cut down the time it has taken me to do the stall or cake. It is great fun. Thank you to my helpers and the buyers for the opportunity to follow my passion.

I look forward to doing it all again somewhere in Victoria in 2011!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The artist cake

In the two and a bit years we have been in Alice Springs, my father in law has been drawing and painting pictures or postcards to send to my children. Basically they get about two drawings a week. He is quite the talent and then he, or my mother in law, write little notes or stories on the back.

The kids love it and I think it is priceless. I have kept most of them and think it will be an amazing memory box to have of their grandparents in years to come.

To take the time and effort each week just shows the love he has for our children and they have a great relationship with him. He has started doing it for my new neice who lives in NZ too now.

He was up visiting us for his birthday this year and I had lots of ideas for his cake. He loves the Stuart Desert Peas, so I was going to cover a cake in them, he also loves the Ghan (the train that comes through from Adelaide to Darwin a couple of times a week), but in the end I thought the artist palette was the most fitting and achievable to do in secret while he was living in my house.

The cake board is my first attempt at "floorboards" or wood panelling with icing. I am chuffed with the result.

He was pleased with the cake but my kids could not understand why the cake had a hole in it! I had to explain what a palette was! LOL!

Happy Birthday Normie!

Just for fun

The Workaholic is leaving his job in a few weeks time and I want to send him off with a dessert table. After all, we have been supplying his staff with sugar fixes for over two years now, so seems like a fitting way to go out.

I have been practicing treats to fit the theme and this is one of the "practices"! I don't want to spoil the theme but basically this is exactly what it looks like, two toned icing. Essentially, you put two different coloured icing into the same piping bag, side by side, and pipe. Easy! Mmmmmmm.

Some other cakers talk about putting each colour in a seperate icing bag and then putting those two bags into one big one, but I like to live on the edge and just used one.  Seemed to work okay!

Oreo cupcakes - YUM!!

Okay, only those who have been living under a rock would not know about my serious chocolate addiction. I don't drink or smoke, but man, I can put a chocolate bar away in an incredibly short time!

Which brings me to combining chocolate and chocolate oreo biscuits into a little bit of heaven! I have been pondering Oreo cupcake recipes for some time, all over my Martha Stewart Cupcake book and the internet and nothing really grabbed me, lots of them just used a vanilla cupcake recipe and added Oreos, not very inspiring. I was thinking of inventing my own but got busy with other things, when loe and behold, a blogger I follow, Ma Cakes, posted a Oreo cupcake recipe using dark chocolate!!! How could I resist.

Luckily, the kind folk in Tennant Creek where in need of some Baked by Kate love!

It started with all these yummy ingredients....brown sugar, butter, beaten egg whites, chocolate, flour and crushed up oreos!

and ended here................

gotta love those mini oreo's you can buy now!!

Very rich and chocolatey (is that a word??), right up my alley!

Thanks Ma Cakes!  Her recipe is here.