Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Basket of Flowers

Mum and I have recently starting going to some craft nights making cards with a great lady called Bev who works as a consultant for Close to my heart, it has been a great way to get out of the house for both of us and also a great way to meet some more people local to us. Anyhow a couple of Fridays ago mum and I hosted a party at her house for the same thing and I decided to make a cake, mainly because it seems lately every time I go anywhere I have to make a cake I look at is as practise but I also just really enjoy it. 

I was trolling through Facebook one day and came across this video and I thought that it looked really effective and shouldn't be too difficult to reproduce. I think under normal circumstances this would be true but of course on the day I decided to make the cake it was 30 bloody degrees and of course just like me the butter cream was melting so useless for piping.

But starting at the start I made a chocolate cake as I know most people like chocolate cake and it's only werido's like me who don't, so chocolate cake it was
 I used my trusty old devils food cake with chocolate butter cream for the crumb coating.

I made up about 4 lots of butter cream and coloured them and filled all my piping bags which I had already with my piping tips, including the Wilton 789 for the crumb coating and top layer. I used Wilton 104 to make the Roses, Wilton 352 for the leaves and just a generic basket weave and a generic round tip to start the roses, and a Wilton 1M for the purple flowers and also for the plan B roses. And of course as you can see in the photo my brand new Wilton Flower Lifter, I did have one of these years ago but with all the moving I lost it I was so excited when I ordered my new one.

First step after the crumb coating had set was to do the top layer, I noticed on the video above they actually used 2 different colours for the top coat, The cream foe the top and for around the side they used the same colour that they did the basket weave, but I didn't have time to do that so I just used the one colour, however hindsight I can see the difference it makes using the same colour and it looks much better. Never mind.

After my top coat I used my generic basket weave piping tip to pipe the weave, firstly I spaced out how many horizontal strips I would need to make then I piped starting from the very top every second line (3 in total) then I piped a vertical line at the end of my first strips, then I piped from the middle of my first strips over the top of the vertical line on the odd strips (3 in total) and then another vertical line, rinse and repeat. As you can see from the photo below, had I done the top coat in brown the holes wouldn't be so obviously.

Today was an incredibly hot day even with my air conditioning on full fan 16 degrees so I put the cake in fridge to stay cool while I piped my roses, I had piped roses before so I had expected this to be no problem and to just quickly make all the roses I needed, boy was I wrong I hadn't taken the heat into consideration and although I had no problem with the first rose the subsequent roses literally melted while I was piping and completely smushed together when I tried to move them from the rose nail to the cake. After an hour and a half, I am not kidding you, I still only had 2 roses so I made a plan B and used the Wilton 1M to pipe swirl roses.

The heat was not done with me yet, When I tried to pipe the Leaves ad the wee purple flowers the butter cream in my piping bag did not want to stick to the top coat of the cake as much as I pressed down consequently the wee purple flowers did get squashed and the leaves are quite right either, I am determined to make this cake again but I will try in the dead of winter I think.

Although as I saw it was full of mistakes with my critical eye the ladies at the party were amazed and loved the cake so I call it a success for Summer. But check back with me next year when I try again in winter and then I will do side by side comparisons.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Surprise Pinata

Shhhhh.......This was a secret mission of epic proportions. This year marked my favourite (and only) sisters 30th birthday, as she lives in Perth we were all sad we couldn't be there for her birthday or so we thought but my mum devised a secret plan and booked flights for my dad to fly over, so one of us could be there, and arrive on the day of her party and stay for a few days after, only a couple of us knew we didn't even tell my brother in law so it was a surprise for him as well.

I was thinking about how great it would have been if I could make her a cake and dad could take it as carry on luggage but lets be real this cake would have to survive the flight from Christchurch to Auckland and then from Auckland to Perth across straights and seas through 3 lots of security and customs, however dad was up for the challenge probably extremely reluctant but as I am the favourite child he put on a brave face for me.

My sister had decided on a fiesta theme and I know she had spent months in advance planning, organising buying and making decorations including of course a Pinata. Because of this I knew the cake had to be a Pinata both in shape and in action filled with candy. Luckily I had a group of friends coming over before dad was due to fly out so I got to have a practice round and I tell you thank goodness for this, as the first cake was a flop, literally the head fell off.

Not even thinking I made the cakes that I normally use chocolate devils cake and vanilla cake, I like these cakes cause they are always nice and moist and soft, of course I now realise that soft cake has no strength to hold itself up when sculpted.Whoops! Wish I had a photo to show you but it got lost when my last phone went kaput. But needless to say it looked quite a sight.

I didn't want to give up, I was so determined to make this cake a success so I thought about it and did some research into 3D cakes and sculpted cake I came up with the "American" solution which was to use pound cake. All the American cake show I watch the always use pound cake but it never really interested me because I always felt like a pound cake was so dense and wouldn't taste nice, but I thought hey I'm not eating it so it doesn't matter what it tastes like, bit cheeky I know but guess what it was an amazing success!

I bought a sheet pan cake tin so I could then cut out the shape I wanted. I did do a lot of research but every time I searched Pinata cake everything came up were "standard" shapes with candy in the middle, but I wanted a tradition Donkey Pinata shape with candy inside so I had to make up my own method.

I googled for a Pinata outline but didn't really like the shapes, luckily mum found a nice shape for me and we printed it off and then I simply cut out the shape on each sheet cake. I decided to cut the legs off as I thought the cake would have more stability which was a definite necessity with all the travelling the cake would be doing.

Next up I cut the belly out of the middle cake section. Making sure to still leave a border so the candy wouldn't just fall out.

Keeping the cake with the cutout flat on a chopping board I iced around the boarder and the head of the donkey and placed one of the other sections on top. Then flipping the cake over and exposing the other side of the cut out cake I repeated the icing of the boarder and head, but before placing the last section of cake on I filled the hole with candy, of course being a kiwi girl living in Australia I figured I would use candy the I knew she missed which was Jaffas and Pineapple lumps.

After placing the last section of cake on top I added in stabilising rods (I used cake pop sticks) to be fair I probably used far too many but I wanted to make sure the cake had the best chance of surviving it's trans Tasman trip.

Again still leaving the cake flat I crumb coated what I could and then I placed in the fridge for a good 2-3 hours to make sure it was really set cold. This way I knew it would be solid for when I placed it upright.

Because I didn't level my sheet cake (mostly because I thought it looked pretty level and then also because I tried with one and it became very crumbly) when I stood the cake up it was wider at the top than the bottom but luckily my trusty handy husband was onsite to help me and with excess cake we built up the side to make it even and then I could finish the crumb coating. Note the colour change, I ran out of icing and had to make and colour some more and of course you can never get it the exact same shade. Then it was back into the fridge to set.

While the crumb coating was setting I made up the icing for the top coat. My idea was to use the Wilton large Grass tip #234 in different colours layering up so it would look like the tasseled or fringed crepe paper like on Pinatas. At first I thought I was going to need to buy another 3 grass tips as I only had the one, but finally commonsense prevailed and I thought it would actually make more sense to buy 3 more large couplers as I can use these again later.

Notice I have gotten one of the items off my wishlist the purple Wilton (and therefore matching) piping bag holder. Tick. I set up all the bags with the couplers and after each layer of piping I just washed the piping tip and then placed it on the next colour, was a bit time consuming but I was committed. The crumb coating was set and now it was time to get piping.

I ended up piping from the bottom up this gave me the best outcome. I had the cake on one of my turntables and then just did one colour, one row all the way around and then changed colours and did the next layer. I used blue as the crumb coating so it would slightly show through the fringe and just give another colour.

Halfway through the piping I had to place the cake and the icing bags back into the fridge for about an hour as it was so hot the buttercream was melting fast and I was worried the fringe would melt together. 
When I got to the top I piped short fringes so it would stand up and just look a little bit different to the sides.

This doesn't happen very often, but after finishing this cake I was so happy and excited I was giddy! And I couldn't wait till the cake arrived in Perth and I could see my sisters reaction. I mean literally I was up into the very early hours waiting to hear of it's safe arrival.

Although I tried to make the cake to a certain size so it could fit in a container that we already had, this didn't quite pan out as the cake ended up quite a bit larger. and mum and dad were having to rush around at the last minute to find a suitable container, which luckily they managed to find and totaling 7 kilos it was at the maximum weight for carry on luggage so perfect.

The first obstacle was Christchurch airport security, it wasn't a busy day so as soon as this strange looking item went through the x-ray machine it drew in a lot of attention and ooos and ahhs and a brief conversations of how it might need to be confiscated for tasting. Afterwards they wished dad luck on his journey and then he was off to Auckland.

Straight through customs in Perth no problems as it was busy there, then it was into a cab and straight to the party, I still can't believe we all managed for such a long time to keep this secret but we did and as my dad walked around to the back of the house my sister caught sight of him she was stunned for a minute and then she realised yes this was real and then there was lots of hugging and tears. 

Then it was time to unpack the cake and how is this for my first internationally traveled cake, it was in perfect condition, not a stray fringe anywhere, Well done dad! She then got another surprise when she cut into the cake to find Jaffas and Pineapple lumps. I guess the really good thing is people realised it was a Pinata so it must have looked the part and no one could believe it had come all the way from Christchurch surviving a car ride, a plane ride and second plane ride a cab and a crazy and in shock sister, but I didn't dare ask what it tasted like crazy pound cake but I am so pleased with the cake I don't even mind. I guess I should find out for next time.

And another photo cause I loved it so much! I did have a video of the cake being opened but due to certain words slipping out I think its best I keep that to myself. But I am sure you can use your imagination.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Would you like some tea?

October brings with it my mum's birthday and finally I got to try out a teapot cake, I'll tell you now that it definitely did not turn out how I wanted or expected, but it's all lessons learned. And mum was thrilled and that's the main thing.

My very good friend from Germany sent me a Wilton Ball cake pan for my birthday, and I finally got to use it. I knew as soon as I opened it the first cake I would make would be a teapot.

Mum's favourite cupcake flavour is Red Velvet so I decided to trial making it into a cake. The cake was successful, but what I didn't think about was the crumb coating, normally with Red Velvet you use a cream cheese frosting which is what I made, but it doesn't set like buttercream frosting does, even though I put in it the fridge for a couple of hours, so it was not the ideal base for the fondant and therefore it didn't come out nice and smooth. I also found it made it much easier to rip the fondant as it was still wet, so this cake definitely had a "back" side.

While I had the cake in the fridge trying to set it I worked on the flower decorations. This was the first time I had ever used a flower veiner and I was pretty happy with the outcome. What I found was  it works better if your fondant is rolled a little thicker than you would normally have for other flowers. I did 2 different colours and also 2 different sizes, while I was making them I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to use them and what pattern I was going to make but I knew I wanted flowers somewhere.

While the flowers were drying I worked on the spout and the handle for the teapot, I used Tylose powder so they would set, but I messed up my calculations and I used too much so it dried out very quickly and had some small cracking but nothing to major. I threaded in a few toothpicks into the fondant for stability and also to help attach them to the cake. I also made up a couple of other bits a pieces for the cake, but wasn't really sure if I would use them, I ended up using the flat crinkle cut circle for the teapot lid with the bottom creation (which I wasn't sure whether it would support it's own weight, but it did really well so I was very happy.)The only decoration I didn't use was the lace rim for the base of the teapot and that was mainly because of the rip in the fondant which I needed to cover up.

I tried to smooth out the cream cheese frosting the best I could with a hot spatula, but it didn't set and was actually quite wet, this ended up making the fondant rip. Next time I will definitely use buttercream frosting for the crumb coating.

The final result was quite bumpy, but my mum was really stoked and loved the cake. I used the wee flowers as  a border around the teapot which covered up the small rip in the fondant, because they were a little thicker they were heavier and were a little harder to attach to the cake but I used my glue recipe and just had to hold them on the cake for a wee bit longer than normal giving the glue time to adhere.

The proportions were a bit off for the handle and spout, I think I thought the ball would be a little smaller than it was, next time I might try the "American" way and sculpt the handle and spout from rice krispie treats and do them a bit bigger.

The best part of mum's birthday was when my two and a half  year old son sang happy birthday he gave it such a good try then helped mum blow out the candle. Then he kept singing in an attempt to get me to relight the candle so he could blow it out again, and yip it worked! I was enjoying him singing so much I re-lit it 2 or 3 more times.