Thursday, January 13, 2011

Patchwork Quilt Cake

I was asked to make a cake for a 30th. This was for my husbands best man's/best friend's wife. We know her quite well and I happened to know, after a big girly chat about our hobbies, that she loved making patchwork quilts. BAM the idea was there! After lots and lots of sketches in my cake ideas journal (yes, I have one) I came up with the idea of a really tall cake, plain and simple with sewing supplies on top (cotton reels, buttons, needles etc)

I made the cotton reels and numbers about a week before to get them nice and hard and ready for the cake.

I baked three chocolate cakes in my 8inch pan and iced them with a chocolate buttercream frosting.

I covered a cake board in a really nice sky blue fondant and stuck a golden yellow ribbon around the edges (I stuck it on using Royal Icing)

Now, I'd never covered such a tall cake before and I came to find this was much harder than a normal height cake! I rolled out my fondant (also in that deep sky blue colour) and put piping gel on the top of the iced cake and the bottom edges (like normal) but not in the middle. BIG MISTAKE! It didn't stick to the sides of the cake properly because there was no piping gel there (and the buttercream had already set at this stage!)

Long story short, the fondant started ripping in places on the sides! Eek! What to do? Well, I decided it's a quilt cake, I'll put some patchwork fondant over the big holes! -Crisis averted!

It was really really hard to cut perfect squares in the fondant because I didn't have any square cookie cutters at that stage. If you ever want to cut squares out of fondant I highly recommend buying a set of Wilton square cookie cutters! I went a bit crazy at this point and took a quick mental health break. Then hubby came and reminded me we were on a tight deadline (this was a surprise birthday party) So I got back to it and all turned out well!

We arrived at the party and everyone gave me compliments and wanted business cards, I had only just ordered my business cards at that stage so unfortunately I had nothing to give out!

The birthday girl arrived and was completely surprised by the turnout her husband had arranged. She loved the cake and the cupcakes (I'll post them another time!) I made and we all sat down to enjoy a piece of cake.

Patchwork quilt cake? Piece of cake ;-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Raspberry Macarons

Oh how I love macarons! I know there's supposed to be a battle between the cupcake and the macaron but I don't see why we can't all get along...and all be eaten by me? I bought a macaron cookbook a while back, actually, I bought it before I even tried my first macaron! Luckily it was love at first crunch. I did a tonne of macaron research before attempting my first batch and to be honest, everything I read scared me! They sounded so hard and complicated! What I like about this recipe is that they've simplified it, none of this leaving eggs out for three days business! I'll get to that when I'm more of a pro...if that day ever comes!

My first attempt was for my 23rd birthday. I had a pink and brown theme so I made a batch of the chocolate macarons. Needless to day, they didn't turn out right. They tasted great though! I have now come to the conclusion that everybody screws up their first batch of macarons (if not, please don't burst my bubble) So my next attempt was for a family get together. My mum is Gluten intolerant so I like to try bake things she can enjoy too, thus Macarons are great for her! I decided on raspberry macarons, I followed the instructions very very carefully and wasn't too sure how they'd turn out.

I opened the oven and couldn't believe my eyes! They looked like REAL macarons, the right texture and height and everything! I made the raspberry white chocolate ganache next and I think I may have added a little too much colour but boy did it taste good! Next was the taste test...the verdict? AMAZING! Just like a store bought one. Most of the family had never tried a macaron, once they were asking for more I knew my job was done. That's me, spreading the macaron love around the world! (well, at least New Zealand!)

Raspberry Macarons
Recipe adapted from Womans Weekly Macarons and Biscuits

3 Egg Whites
55g Caster Sugar
Pink Gel or Powder Food Colouring
240g Icing Sugar
120g Ground Almonds
6 Raspberries, fresh or thawed

Raspberry Ganache:
1/4 C Pouring Cream
150g White Chocolate (I like to use good quality eating chocolate like Whittakers)
1 T Raspberry Jam, warmed and sieved

  • Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Prepare your equipment: bowls, spatula, whisks, piping bag and tips by washing in boiling water and detergent to remove any oil. Dry thoroughly before using.
  • Sift together the ground almonds and icing sugar, throw away the course bits of almond that don't fit through the sieve (or use it as a garnish).
  • Push the raspberries through a sieve to make a raspberry puree, it should make approximately 1 Tablespoon.
  • Beat egg whites in a small bowl on high speed until soft peaks form.
  • Add caster sugar one Tablespoon at a time, add pink colouring and mix until sugar dissolves.
  • Transfer mixture to a large bowl and fold in the icing sugar and almond mix and raspberry puree in two batches. Be very careful while folding the mixture, you want to mixture to be incorporated and one colour but not too runny. The batter should be smooth and slowly resume its shape when lifted up and allowed to fall back on itself.
  • Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 2cm round tip.
  • Attach baking paper to the tray using a small dot of mixture in each corner to secure.
  • Pipe small rounds about 4cm wide leaving a small gap between each one. I like to print out two pages of circles so my rounds are the same but you can estimate, just think it's about the size of a walnut.
  • Tap the trays on the bench and allow the macarons to dry at room temperature for 40 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
  • Bake macarons for approximately 15 - 20 minutes, keeping an eye out to make sure they don't brown too much. 
  • Cool on trays and fill with ganache.

Raspberry Ganache:
  • Chop chocolate coarsely.
  • Bring cream to the boil in a small pot.
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate, stir until smooth.
  • Add the raspberry jam and tint with a little colouring if necessary.
  • Refrigerate until ganache is spreadable.
  • Spoon or pipe small dots of ganache onto half of the macarons and sandwich together with macarons of the same size.

Pink Gingerbread House

Hansel & Gretel would be proud of my gingerbread house! I decided my contribution to the Christmas lunch would be all sweet (who would have guessed?!) and also decided I wanted to do something I'd never done before...make a gingerbread house! So first I gathered my tools and ingredients.

Pink Gingerbread House
Cake board covered in fondant, pink mini marshmallows, mushroom candies,
strawberry wafers, ice cream cones, lots and lots of Royal Icing and gingerbread

Pink Gingerbread House
Baked Gingerbread Walls

I got the dimensions off a picture I Googled (sorry I don't remember what they were) and doubled them. I just cut them out of paper then put the paper onto my rolled out gingerbread and cut with a knife. I probably could have cooked it a little longer as the walls weren't as hard as I thought they would be. I was a little worried they might get darker patches and not look cute and perfect then!

Next I piped a large L shape onto the cake board, I stuck two of the walls down (with the help of Hubby!) then piped another line opposite the wide wall and stuck that wall down. Lastly I piped down the last line and "glued" the last wall in place. Then it gets a little tricky as you have to get right in that little house and pipe into the corners to really glue it in place.

Pink Gingerbread House
Putting the House Together

Then came the scary (or so I thought) part....the roof! I don't know what I would have done if my hubby hadn't been there to hold them in place. I piped along all the edges of the top where the roof would go and stuck them on one at a time. We held the pieces together for at least a minute before I piped the top of the roof together. Then we took our hands off and TADAA! It stood up on its own! Now it was the fun part....DECORATING!

Pink Gingerbread House
Gluing on the Roof

My Aunty was having a pink theme for Christmas and I really wanted to stick to this as much as possible so when I was at the supermarket I was racking my brain as to what I could use that was strictly just pink.
I started with the door and windows, I separated some strawberry wafers and cut them to the right sizes. This was lots of fun because I got to eat all the odd bits -I love wafer biscuits!

Pink Gingerbread House
My Pink Gingerbread House!

I glued the doors and windows on with more Royal Icing (using a number 2 tip) and then outlined them to really make them POP! Still using the number 2 tip I made the roof by piping loops over and over again. I added a bit more decoration to the house with the icing before switching to tip number 21 (I think!) and tinted my icing light pink. I piped a little heart on the door (to make it more welcoming) and stars all over the roof.

Pink Gingerbread House

Now for the trees! I was originally going to make green trees but once I had started on the pink theme it just didn't really seem appropriate, so, pink trees it was! I cut the ice cream cones down to the heights I wanted and piped hundreds of little stars with the pink icing and tip 21. These looked fabulous! They were a little hard to move around and stick in place without ruining them though! I added some silver cachous last minute because I thought they needed it.

Pink Gingerbread House
Side with Trees

On the opposite side I piped down small blobs of white icing and stuck the pink mushrooms in. I loved how these looked, I think they looked more like little lamington trees! Lastly I cut up some pink marshmallows and stuck these to the cake board using more icing. These were actually really hard to use, next time I think I'll just pipe stepping stones!

Pink Gingerbread House
"Lamington" Trees

Pink Gingerbread House
Pink Trees!

Pink Gingerbread House
Roof Side

Pink Gingerbread House
Back of the Gingerbread House

Pink Gingerbread House
My Pink Gingerbread House!

What's a gingerbread house without gingerbread men? Here they are all buttoned up and ready to party in their new house! All in all I was ecstatic that it actually worked! I think it turned out fabulous and totally how I pictured it, next year I'll try and up my game again and think of some more creative ideas.

Gingerbread Men
Gingerbread Men