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July 25, 2017
Nicole

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IT’S A CAR! THE TORANA CAKE

torana-car

Cake making and cake design are a curious thing. Somehow we passionate and enthusiastic cake makers see a picture of a baking masterpiece and, more often than not, think “how hard can it be?”, or at least that’s how it seems to be for me. Gone are the memories of  all of those frustrating and technically near impossible designs that I’ve taken on which have nearly driven me mad, and left me swearing I’ll never bake again. Instead, all I see is another opportunity to create a work of edible art, with the reward of happy faces and much adulation waiting for me at the end of it. And so it began with the Torana Cake.
The Torana Cake was chosen by a good friend of ours, as a surprise, to mark her husbands upcoming entry into the half century club. Being an avid car enthusiast, and with a recently  purchased  “renovators delight” Torana, it seemed only fitting that a replica of this car be the cake for him. And so, when the idea was first put to me over a few glasses of champagne, my usual response kicked in, “How hard can it be?”. Having no idea about cars I didn’t really know where to start with this cake and so was relieved, and a then a little nervous, when I received photos of what the end product was to resemble.

rear-end-torana    front-end-torana

Fast forward a few weeks and the date of the 50th celebrations loomed large. In my mind I had a size and plan for this cake, based on the number of people it needed to feed, which I thought would work just fine, and set about getting boards and ingredients together to construct this motoring masterpiece. Enter the husband, my husband that is. Also a car enthusiast and wanting to show respect to the Torana, he offered to “help” me with the car specs and parts, to try and make this cake as true a replica of the original as it could be. Being a car novice I was quick to accept his offer, thinking I could use all the help I could get but not realizing how enthusiastic he was to become.
We set about sourcing some wheels to fit the car and found what we thought were the perfect thing at a hobby store, only needing fondant detail tread to finish them off, which my trusty helper was quick to get onto.

torana-tread   torana-tyres

The original size of my car was going to be on a 16×10 inch board base however, after sizing up the wheels, I was told that these were all the wrong dimensions and instead of finding smaller wheels we were now building a bigger cake! Husband plotted out a draft and decided he would source a new base board and work on the undercarriage while I was at work and I returned home to a 20inch base that had already been cut, shaped and wheel axles assembled. As he stood back admiring his handy work (it was pretty good I have to concede!), all I could see was a cake evolving that would be bigger than Ben Hur and feed twice as many as it needed to.  This was going to be the mother of all Torana cakes.

torana-plan    torana-base cake-base-wheels    base-board-torana

Looking at what I had to work with, it was time to get baking and create enough cake to construct the car and plenty of ganache to cement it all together. With my original budget definitely out the window, and construction way too far along to change, I gave in and got busy. We went with a chocolate cake and a combination of salted caramel and chocolate ganache between the layers and around the body of the car, before finishing it with the fondant detail. Creative cutting and wheel arch mouldings (we used recycled plastic drink bottles) were needed to get the cake even remotely looking car-like, but eventually it began to take shape and a Torana was emerging.

chocolate-cake  salted-caramel-ganache chocolate-caramel  car-cakecake-ganache  ganached-cake

With the cake cut and assembled and the ganaching done and set it was time for the real fun to begin, and with everything taking longer than planned given the size of this beast we were well and truly under the pump. This cake was huge and so getting the fondant rolled, cut and applied without major drama was no mean feat. Not knowing quite where to start, I began with the roof, figuring this had the smallest surface area and so would be the easiest to tackle. In comparison to the other panels I was right, but it still had it’s challenges with trying to get the roof and window frames in position as one piece without the fondant cracking and splitting in the process.

fondant-roof

Side panels, windows and the rear end were the next to go on with some crafty joinery needing to be used to bring it all together. There was much cursing of fondant, throwing up of hands and expression of artistic difference between myself and the husband during this process, but eventually with fondant in place, we were able to manage a smile and even a little happy dance as we started to see the end in sight.

rear-of-car   side-panel-car   front-view-car

We were getting closer but still had a lot to do and not much time to do it in. The bonnet needed to go on, the bumpers had to be finished, the rear flare shaped, as well as headlight details to paint, door handles and wheel arches to form and number plates to finish, and all with only about an hour left to get it done!

bonnet-car-cake   torana-cake

I won’t lie, there was a far bit of tension in our kitchen during the construction of this cake, and it made me realise why I usually cake decorate alone! I have to give the husband credit, he wanted so badly for everything to be perfect for this cake, with attention to detail second to none, but sometimes you just have to realize that it’s cake and all those tiny imperfections you see, no-one else is going to notice (unless they’re another cake decorating tragic like myself).  I’m pretty organised when it comes to cakes and have never been as close to the wire as with this one but, as with every cake I’ve ever taken on, it got done on time for delivery and we were off to the celebrations.

finished-car-cake   rear-of-torana-cake

Taking pride of place on the birthday table, this work of cake art attracted a far amount of attention and enough praise to redeem itself and make all of the stress worthwhile. The surprised birthday boy was also suitably impressed, with this cake, worthy of marking a milestone celebration.
I’ve heard people say so often with elaborate cake designs that they look too good to eat, but for me cutting into the cake and having something that tastes as good as it looks is as important as the “wow” factor the finished product brings. And as long as there has been a suitable amount of time for admiration, and plenty of photo opportunities taken before it’s cut, I’m a happy girl.

torana-car-cake   50-birthday-cake

cake-cutter cake-cutting cut-the-cake

chocolate-cake

This 50th birthday cake was a mammoth collaborative effort between the husband and myself, the first and quite likely the last I suspect, but I couldn’t have pulled it off without his help and design ideas. The Torana is by far the biggest cake I’ve done, and most time consuming, but in the end the result was worth it, especially seeing happy faces on great friends celebrating a milestone birthday. Happy 50th Mr Beggs!

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CREATING CURDS

fruit-curd

I’m not a fan of wastage in the kitchen and so I try and use up every ingredient to it’s full. Eggs are one of those things that often call for the equally valuable parts to be separated and the dilemma then is what to do with the unnecessary bits. Chickens work hard to give us these beautiful little ovals of goodness and so, when I have spare whites or yolks, they need to be used. The good thing about both parts of the humble egg is that they can be frozen to be used another day if you don’t have an immediate plan for them.

egg-for-curd

Egg whites can be easily frozen and thawed for future use. For easy measuring when you next need them, first freeze each egg white in an ice cube tray and then transfer to either a freezer bag or container. Once thawed, whites will beat to a better volume if allowed to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. They will keep frozen for up to 12 months.

Freezing egg yolks is not as easy as freezing egg whites as the gelatinous nature of the yolks causes them to thicken or gel when frozen. To help stop this, beat in either ½ tsp of salt or
1½ tsp of sugar per 4 yolks. Ensure you label the yolks according to whether they were mixed with salt or sugar so you know whether to use them for savoury dishes  or sweets and desserts. You can freeze the yolks for 3-4 months.

eggs

So why am I telling you this? Any of you who know me and follow my website and Instagram page will know I do a lot of baking and love using Swiss Meringue Buttercream as much as people love eating it. This often leaves me in a state of egg yolk excess and needing to find ways to use them. One of my favourites is to make fruit curds which can be stored in the fridge for ages and can then be used in so many great ways. I’ve used them as frostings for cakes, surprise centres for cupcakes, fillings for tarts, dolloped on yoghurt or ice-cream, flavouring agents for buttercream, fillings for buttery shortbread biscuits and drizzled over meringue for a twist to a pavlova.

   Lemon meringue cupcakes    Mini tartlets    Mini pavlovas

Curds are a great thing to have on hand in the fridge and also solve the problem of those left over yolks and abundance of fruit in season. My earlier post gave you the recipe for my Swiss Meringue Buttercream and so, now that you’re left with egg yolks aplenty, it’s only right that I give you my recipe for what to do with them. My favourite curds to make are usually citrus and passionfruit, but they do lend themselves to other things like mangoes and berries and probably a variety of other fruits that I haven’t even thought of.

lemon-curd

If you haven’t tried curds before give it a go, for as they say “waste not, want not”.
For the recipe, follow the link: Citrus and Fruit Curd

 

June 4, 2016
Nicole

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BUTTERCREAM BLISS

  ruffle-cake

With the surge in popularity of all things cake and baking in recent times, it’s easy to get bamboozled by all the products and gadgets out there. Similarly decorating cakes has become a task requiring artistic flair and an eye for the fabulous and decadent. Fondant cakes that were once all the rage have steadily been surpassed by the new “naked” fashion, and buttercream has edged out ganache as the way to fill and cover your sugary creations. Personally I don’t mind this one bit as I have had many fondant-provoked moments of frustration like when the size you’ve rolled out is not quite enough to cover the cake, it splits on lifting it off the bench to put onto the cake or the edges crack and bubble, leaving you with a ganache stained mess that you can no longer use. Enter my new favourite friend, the buttercream.

valentines-day-cake       blues-cake      floral-birthday-cake      confetti-cupcakes

When I first started using buttercream, my efforts consisted of the icing sugar laden butter mixtures, reminiscent of my childhood, that were never quite smooth enough and always way too sweet for my liking. Not satisfied with this situation and knowing there must be a better way out there in the baking universe, I began my research and quickly came across recipes that guaranteed I would have the smoothest, creamiest buttercreams ever imagined. I have to admit I was sceptical. Such claims had been made before with disappointment my only result but, determined to find my holy grail of frosting, I gave it a go and haven’t looked back. So what is this wonder of cake decorating you ask? It is Swiss Meringue Buttercream and it does truly live up to the claims. Sure, it takes a bit more time and effort to get the final product, but once you do it’s definitely worth it.

swiss-meringue-buttercream  stand-mixer  thermometer
To begin this recipe there are a few things you’ll need aside from the ingredients. You really can’t do it without a stand mixer, preferably one with a balloon whisk and paddle attachment. You will also need a candy thermometer or laser thermometer to check the temperature of your sugar and egg white mixture before you begin beating. A set of scales is essential to get the measurements right so that the final mix is perfectly smooth and creamy. And the last vital tool you will need is patience, which can be the difference between success and frosting flop.
I have had many requests for the recipe by similarly “frosting disillusioned” home bakers and so have decided to share it with you, as well as some suggestions for pimping it up a bit. I’ve found it lends itself really well to being flavoured and coloured which is another reason I love it (you’ll find some tips for this at the end of the recipe). This recipe does use quite a few egg whites so stay tuned for ways to use the yolks in an upcoming post, to avoid wastage. Here’s hoping this recipe will change your baking world just like it has mine.

egg-whites whisking-meringue meringue buttercream

For the recipe, follow the link:
Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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ANZAC CUPCAKES

anzac-cupcakes

Growing up I don’t think I really had a sense of how significant and important Anzac Day really was and is. Even though my Dad was involved in the Vietnam conflict he rarely spoke of it or it’s impact, as I’m beginning to realise is the case with so many of our veterans now and past. My recollections of Anzac Day as a kid was of Mum baking the most amazing biscuits…the Anzac biscuit. We loved these as kids but had no idea about where or how these tasty morsels came to be. As the years have passed I, and I think so many others, have learnt and become much more aware of the toll our service men and women face every day for us and it seems the tradition of Anzac Day is being embraced more and more by generations, both young and old.

Looking into the history of where this simple little biscuit came from, here is what I’ve found.
“The popular Anzac biscuit is a traditional, eggless sweet biscuit. Ingredients include rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water
It has been claimed the biscuits were sent by wives to soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation.
The army biscuit, also known as an Anzac wafer or Anzac tile, is essentially a long shelf-life, hard tack biscuit, eaten as a substitute for bread. Unlike bread, though, the biscuits are very, very hard. Some soldiers preferred to grind them up and eat as porridge. Father John Fahey, a Catholic padre serving on Gallipoli, was unimpressed with army biscuits. He wrote, “the man who invented the army biscuit was an unmitigated rascal. As an eatable there is little to choose between it and a seasoned jarrah board.”

Thankfully my Mum’s biscuits were never inedible and never lasted on the shelf more than a day, but were still packed with all of the elements of the traditional Anzac biscuit of years long gone. In my travels I have been fortunate to visit some of our war cemeteries overseas and I could never have imagined the impact of standing at the resting place of boys, some as young as 16 in WWI and some unnamed, could have been. I have an increasing respect and admiration for all of our military forces, past and present, for the job they do and the hardship they face both in service and on return. So on this Anzac Day I am taking the biscuit to another level with my Anzac inspired cupcakes. I have created a golden syrup & rosemary infused cupcake with brown sugar golden syrup buttercream topped with Mum’s Anzac biscuits (see Recipes for Mum’s Anzac Biscuits).

First step, make the cupcakes. These are my go to vanilla cupcakes.

vanilla-cupcakes

Next are Mum’s Anzac Biscuits…..

anzac-ingredients    golden-syrup  biscuit-mix  anzac-biscuits

Now for the buttercream….

buttercream

And the rosemary infused golden syrup for the cupcakes…..

cupcakes     golden-syrup-infused

Put it all together and this is what you get….

anzac-biscuit-cupcake

In this lucky and prosperous country of ours, may we never take for granted the sacrifices of the men and women that defend our values and withhold the tradition of the Anzacs, affording us the lives we are able to live today.

LEST WE FORGET.

 

 

 

 

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A SWEET LITTLE BABY SHOWER

shower-tea-cupcakes

As a 40-something mother of none and friend of many similarly childless couples, I’ve been to very few baby showers in my life. This hasn’t been intentional and, in general, I quite like children when they belong to other people and I can give them back. But, needless to say, this makes me somewhat under-qualified in the world of all things baby. So when a friend asked me recently if I could do some cupcakes for a shower tea, of course I said yes but knew this would take some research to bring me up to speed on baby themed baking. Thank goodness for the internet, where you can spend countless hours trawling through images, blogs and baking sites to draw inspiration for fantastic creations. As always I spent a disproportionate amount of time looking at pictures of cute cupcakes and adorable cake toppers for the quantity I needed to supply, but was able to convince myself it was time well spent in the name of research for next time! And so, needing to kerb my enthusiasm and remembering I was making 2 dozen not 20 dozen, I narrowed the options down and chose 4 cake topper ideas to go with.

baby-shower-toppers
The first thing I decided on, before even picking up any fondant or modelling tools, was the colour palette. When I think “baby” it’s got to be colourful, cute and a bit of fun and so, with that in mind, and without any gender bias to influence me, I decided to go bright and bold, rather than soft and pastel. Next choice to make was the designs, and I whittled it down to baby booties, prams, bibs and buttons to grace the top of my cupcakes. With some careful cutting, moulding and fine detailing the final product started to come to life and I was pretty happy with the end results for the cake toppers.

pram-cake bib-cupcake buttons-cupcake booty-cupcake

Knowing there would be Mum’s to be at the party meant making the cupcakes pregnancy safe was absolutely essential, so no fresh cream, cream cheese, raw eggs etc. etc. was also part of the brief to fill. I settled on my old trusty vanilla cupcake and also some red velvet ones to sit under a fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream scattered with confetti candy and then the oh so cute decorations on top and they looked adorable!

confetti-cupcakes     baby-shower-cupcakes
Delivery made and my baby shower cupcakes were met with lots of gushing and exclamations of cuteness, which always brings a smile to my face. Happy customers make all the effort worthwhile and I can now say that baby cakes are a new part of my ever expanding repertoire.

cupcake-delivery      shower-tea-cupcakes

Only question now is what’s next? Stay tuned folks!

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“SPLATTER” BIRTHDAY CAKE

birthday-splatter-cake

When I was a kid, many years ago now, 1st birthdays weren’t celebrated by smashing a cake. We didn’t have elaborate cake creations depicting scenes from favourite movies or shows like Frozen, Dora or Disney. And there was no such thing as paying tribute to a favourite team or sporting idol with your birthday cake. Instead we were happy with a sponge, filled with jam and cream if you were lucky (and not always fresh cream…anyone remember the mock variety?!), with the age appropriate number of candles on top. My, how things have changed. These days, cakes are carefully planned and constructed weeks in advance, with much time and effort going into the baking and decorating, only to be swiftly cut up and devoured on the blowing out of the candles.

This week my brief was to make a “Splatter Cake” for my niece’s 12th birthday. The birthday girl had requested a vanilla cake, purple on the outside with multi-coloured balls as the border and a “12” candle on top, splattered in various colours of “paint”. Compared to some other cakes I’ve been asked to do this one seemed relatively straight forward at first glance, requiring less precision and more “splat” to achieve the desired effect, and I looked forward to getting messy in the kitchen and creating a birthday masterpiece.

splat-cake   multi-coloured-cake

I have a few “go-to” recipes in various flavours that I use when it comes to a tiered or fondant covered cake. I usually go with something a bit denser than a sponge or butter cake to ensure it can stand up to the weight of the ganache or buttercream filling, as well as the fondant and decorations on top. For this cake I opted for a white vanilla mud cake with Nutella Swiss meringue buttercream between the layers and a vanilla buttercream on the outside.

vanilla-cake   nutella-buttercream-filling   vanilla-buttercream

I also wanted to create a little surprise inside and had decided to fill the bottom layer with M&M’s. A smaller circle was cut form the middle of the main cake to give me not only a top tier but also somewhere to put the chocolatey treats. After cutting, filling and covering the cake with the buttercream it went into the fridge to firm up before covering with the fondant. I do this so that it’s not too soft and squishy when the fondant goes on, and can be smoothed off easier to give a cleaner and sharper look to the top and sides.

sweet-treat-cake     chocolate-filling

With the buttercream firm, the next step was to cover it in the purple fondant, my niece’s favourite colour, and get ready to splatter. My “paint” was white chocolate, coloured with different shades of food colouring, selected from the many I have in my decorating drawers. One tip when colouring chocolate is to make sure you use a gel or powder based colour as water based colours tend to make the chocolate seize and you end up with a firm unmanageable mess, useless when you need a runny consistency to create the splatter effect. I used white chocolate melts rather than ordinary chocolate as the melts tend to set firmer which is what I wanted for the finished decoration.

purple-fondant      fondant-cover

My advice when you are ready to splatter is to make sure you cover your surrounding work area in paper, cling film or some other protection as this gets messy! Using a silicone pastry brush I worked with one colour at a time and splattered away over the cake until I got the effect I was after. It’s not often I’m expected to make a huge mess in the kitchen but there was really no other way to get this abstract splatter look onto the cake.

yellow-splatter   colour-splatter   splatter-effect

To complete the colourful, playful look for this cake I finished the borders with coloured fondant balls. I wasn’t particularly fussy about getting them all the same size as the splatter on the cake gave it a disorganised feel anyway and so the asymmetry of the balls kind of fit with the whole look. I went for bold, bright colours to stand out against the purple background and give the cake it’s finishing touch.

splat-cake    paint-splatter-cake

And so, with cake complete, it was time to deliver it to the birthday dinner and wait for the cutting to reveal the surprise inside. The birthday girl loved it, with the added bonus of a weeks supply of M&M’s to go home with as well. Not sure the parents loved the sugar high the kids went home on, but birthdays only come around once a year and I think they should always be celebrated with a special cake to mark each milestone. It also gives me an excuse to make something memorable for my nieces and nephews, not that I really need one!

surprise-cake   birthday-cake

Happy Birthday to my beautiful niece. Can’t wait to see what next years cake idea will be!

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SPARKLE 40TH BIRTHDAY CAKE

shimmer-balls
When my beautiful friend Nicole asked if I would do her 40th birthday cake, it was a no brainer. Nic and I have been friends for years and one of our common passions is food and cooking. We have spent countless hours discussing all things “foodie” and travelled to shows and exhibitions together to explore new products and find ideas to take home and put into practice. It was at one such show recently that we were awed by cake constructions that defied gravity, with artwork that could proudly sit on a canvas if it weren’t on a cake, and sparkle, lots and lots of sparkle. Having been dazzled by an array of edible glittery things, Nic had 1 main request for her cake….make it shimmer and shine! And so I set out to create a cake blingy enough to befit my beautiful friends big day.

silver-pink-shimmer          pink-cachous

I wanted to make the inside of the cake look a bit more special than a standard layer cake and, given the exterior colour palette was going to be silver and pink, decided to do a 2 tone interior of Pink Velvet and Vanilla White Chocolate Mud cake, sandwiched and covered in one of my favourite frostings and fillings, a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I had intended to take photos of the naked cakes prior to frosting but in my excitement to get onto the decorating I forgot, and so this is the rough frosted cake before and after being dressed in fondant (I’m sure you can all imagine a pink and vanilla cake without a photo!).

buttercream-frosting          fondant-covered-cake
With the foundations laid, it was time to get onto the job of taking this cake from plain white canvas to birthday bling. First step was to the change the base colour to silver and to do this I pulled out one of my many colour mists. These are essentially edible spray paints and they make the job of colouring big areas a whole lot easier. One tip though when using them, try and place your cake in a large box or semi-enclosed container as the spray does travel, or be prepared to clean a wide area around where you’ve done your spraying!

silver-spray-cake          silver-colour-mist
The brief was sparkles and so next step was to pull out the edible shimmer dust and get onto creating the silver sparkly top. To do this I used a wide, soft brush to dab the shimmer dust onto the cake. Be warned again though….this stuff will travel and if you don’t do it in a confined space you will continue to find it for days, even on yourself. To that end I would suggest doing it outside if at all possible or somewhere where you can easily wash the surfaces down. Don’t let that put you off though because as you will see the results are definitely worth it.

glittery-cake          silver-shimmer

They say diamonds are a girls best friend and so it seemed only right that this cake had a diamonte border at the base to add some extra twinkle and gleam. This was the one decoration on the cake that wasn’t edible but I didn’t think anyone would mind given the beautiful effect that it created, so beautiful in fact that I decided to wrap it around the middle as well, after all there can never be too much bling on a sparkle cake.

diamonte-trim          heart-detail

 The bottom half of the cake became the pink component. This was the labour intensive part of the decorating as I’d decided to cut out small heart shapes and use them to go around the cake in rows, 160 small hearts in total! And as if there wasn’t enough glitter covering my kitchen a few randomly placed extra sparkly hearts were thrown in for good measure. Rather than remind the birthday girl of the number of decades past, the cake was topped, not with a number, but instead with twinkling glitter balls to celebrate this milestone in a shining life.

hot-pink-heart      sparkly-trim      silver-sparkle-cake

Happy Sparkly Birthday to a beautiful friend.

beautiful-friends

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DUCATI MOTORBIKE CAKE

birthday-ducati-cake
I’ve always been someone who finds it hard to say no when asked for something and I also love a challenge, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. So when my hairdresser asked if I could do her partners 30th birthday cake at short notice, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Then when she told me her idea was for a cake designed in the shape of a Ducati motorbike I said “no problem”. It wasn’t until I walked out of the salon that 2 things struck me – one, I had never made a cake as detailed as this before and two, I didn’t even know what a Ducati motorbike looked like. Ever up to the challenge I set about researching motorbikes, looking at countless pictures and designs, and it was then that I began to realize just what I’d gotten myself into. This was going to be interesting!

finished-bike-cakeI had a week and a half to get the cake done and delivered in time for the birthday dinner and so procrastination was not an option. I’d been given the brief for the flavour of the cake and the colours, now all I had to do was make it come to life. The birthday boys’ preferred flavour was banana and walnut and the colour of the cake, red with black and silver detail.

banana-walnut-cake   banana-cake
Baking the cake was the easy part. I used my go-to white chocolate mud cake recipe, tweaking it with fresh banana and walnuts to get the desired flavour. As a contrast, and to cut through the white chocolate sweetness, I opted for a dark chocolate ganache to fill and cover the cake before decorating. At first glance the ganached cake looked more like a kangaroo than a motorbike and so I had to make some magic happen to get this cake looking like a lean, mean riding machine.

banana-walnut-cakes   ganache-covered-cake
The body of the cake was covered in fire engine red fondant and whilst it no longer looked like a kangaroo it wasn’t really screaming “Ducati” either. This thing needed accessories and some detailing as well as a couple of tyres and a badge before it was done.

cake-body
As I said earlier, I have no idea about motorbikes and so I had to go by pictures I’d discovered online to create the finished product. Fairings, fenders, disc brakes, side panels, exhaust pipes and shock absorbers were all discovered and created from fondant and sprayed silver to give that alloy look.

cake-decorations   bike-cake-detail
Handles, visors, headlights and seats were added to the body and finally this cake was beginning to resemble the pictures of Ducati’s I’d drawn inspiration from. All that was missing were the wheels. I had cut 2 small round cakes to serve as tyres and had already prepared the disc brakes and rims to go on them. The only thing left to do was to get the “rubber” on and give them some tread. This became a 2 man job involving a revolving cake stand, a husband and a ravioli cutter. Working with a steady hand the husband held the ravioli cutter to the “tyre” whilst the cake stand was turned, the results being perfect tyre tread.

wheel-cake    wheel-cake-tread
The final assembly was putting the wheels in place, attaching the Ducati badge and adding the Happy Birthday message. This had been my most challenging design cake yet but I was really happy with the result, as were the recipients of my creation who were still enjoying this cake, days after the party was over.

red-ducati-cake   birthday-message
For me, the flavour of the cake is just as important as how it looks and by all accounts, my banana walnut white chocolate mud cake was a winner.
I suspect I will continue to say yes to cake challenges in the future, without first really thinking it through, but as this Ducati birthday cake shows, you never know what you can do until you try!

finished-bike-cake

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HALLOWEEN TRICKS AND TREATS

pumpkin-cakepops

It seems like only yesterday that I was last creating Halloween treats inspired by all things scary and freaky and then, suddenly, here we are again, a year later and only a few short weeks away from that time of the year where it’s accepted and expected to take candy from strangers. When I was young we never really went in for trick or treating but, over the years, things have changed and with shops decked out in all things orange, black and spooky throughout October, Australians have picked up on this tradition and run with it. Getting dressed up in costumes depicting a favourite character and roaming the streets with bag in hand to hopefully be filled by generous neighbours has become one of the highlights of the year for many kids, much like Easter and Christmas.

pumpkin-cupcake     batty-cupcakes
Living in an inner city apartment, we don’t get the barrage of trick-or-treating kids to our door that our house dwelling neighbours might expect, which I have to say I’m kinda happy about. But I do have nieces and nephews that are more than willing to be my taste testers when it comes to some Halloween inspired baking (come to think of it the big kids don’t mind giving my spooky treats a try either!). Halloween themed parties seem to be all the rage these days too and so that’s all the reason I’ll need to whip up some devilishly sweet delights, inspired by all of the usual suspects we’ve come to associate with Halloween, this year.

spider-cakepop    
My kitchen is already in overdrive, getting cake toppers prepared to adorn cupcakes and designing new scary looking cakepops to make the kids go “yuck”. The benches are covered in chocolate melts, fondant of all colours, food dyes, sprinkles and edible glitters and any other decorating paraphernalia I have hidden in my cupboards, all ready to be turned into something eye-popping.

witch-cakepops    
Last year I created a Spiced Pumpkin Cupcake recipe which was a hit and so I plan on bringing that one back this year, along with gooey, slimy chocolate cupcakes and vanilla cakes with a “bloody” surprise inside (looks like blood, tastes like strawberry!). To sit on top of these creepy cakes there’ll be pumpkins, bats, spider webs, mummies and tombstones. Halloween would not be complete without witches, ghosts and ghoulish creatures and what better way to serve them than on a stick, cakepop style of course, so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

fondant-pumpkin-cake    spider-web-cupcake
If you’re having a Halloween party this year, these ghosts, ghouls and other spooky things would be perfect to fright and delight guests. If you want to make my Maple Pumpkin Spiced Cupcakes for your Halloween event you can get the recipe by following the link http://sweetlydecadent.com.au/spiced-maple-pumpkin-cupcakes/
Happy Halloween!

spooky-cakepops    mummy-cupcake

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A SWEET FINISH

The finished product

 

When I think about creating desserts to serve to friends and family, it not only has to taste great but has to look the part as well. There’s nothing quite so satisfying for me as hearing my guests’ “oohh and aahh” over something I’ve created when it arrives at the table and then the satisfying silence as my sweet finish is devoured and enjoyed. For many of my friends the highlight of a great meal is the bit at the end and so when planning a new recipe or dessert it has to live up to expectations. For me, I tend to find a lot of desserts way too heavy and sweet following a couple of courses and so the challenge is to create a dish that has some lightness to it without compromising on all those flavours and textures that make great desserts. I often use yoghurt in desserts in place of some or all of the cream and, for a recent dinner party, decided to use it in a pannacotta recipe I have that usually uses only heavy cream as it’s base.

The next step in designing this dessert was deciding on which flavour to go with. I love using fresh seasonal fruit in cooking and baking and these days you can pretty much find any flavour of yoghurt to match. You only have to peruse the supermarket chilled section to see we are spoilt for choice when looking at yoghurts, with so many great producers and innovative and creative flavours available these days. I love figs and so when I found a yoghurt that combined roasted fig and black plum, I had my inspiration for the flavour base for my pannacotta. My usual “go to” pannacotta recipe was about to get a fruity makeover and I also thought that a bit more texture was needed to make it complete and bring a bit of “wow” to the dessert.

Black Plum and Roasted Fig Yoghurt

I’m never one to take the easy road when it comes to cooking or baking and somehow always feel the need to go a bit over and beyond with a recipe. This dessert was no exception. Yes the creamy texture of the pannacotta combined with some fresh fruit was, I’m sure, going to be great but not amazing enough for my liking. I felt that the recipe could use a bit of crunch and so decided on adding not one but two elements to the final dish. I opted for a crunchy biscuit base as well as a nutty praline to add to the creamy star of the show.

walnut-praline

Not content with finishing there, I created a spicy cardamom infused honey syrup to drizzle over the top, using honey from my good friend Randall’s own hives that he keeps in suburban Sydney. I love getting my hands on great quality fresh produce from small producers as, not only do you notice the difference in terms of the flavour of the final product, but you also get that sense of satisfaction knowing you have supported the little guy.

Constructing the final product to bring to the table can largely be done ahead of time for a dinner party if you like or alternatively if you have all of the elements ready to go it doesn’t take long to do right before serving. Just make sure your biscuit bases are cut to size, your praline is crushed, the fruit is sliced and the syrup a little warm so that it drizzles nicely. If you don’t have the time of inclination you can leave out the biscuit and praline elements and still have a dessert that will have your guests singing your praises and wanting more. Hope you enjoy this recipe and it’s the sweet finish you were looking for.

Fig yoghurt pannacotta

You can view the recipe here.