Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to prepare a piping bag

It's here! I finally put together some useful video tutorials of how to decorate cupcakes using a piping bag and icing. I was umming and arring about whether to do a voice commentary but I honestly sound terrible on recorded things (maybe I do in real life too?!) So the videos have no sound, it's a bit like an awkward silence really. I thought about putting on some background music but I don't know what you guys like, One Direction? Kanye West? I wouldn't be able to please you all! So I've just written a little explanation along side it in.

Firstly, I want to state that you can ice a cupcake however you like using whatever you like or whatever you have on hand. There are so many ways to make cupcakes look beautiful and if you have a tool you like to use and it works for you then don't stop! For me, this is the way I was taught (by Wilton) and I find it the most comfortable way to pipe icing.

I usually use either my Wilton cotton piping bags (these are two very old and scungy looking piping bags but they are still working years on!) and I also use disposable piping bags which I use over and over! I just wash them with the rest of dishes. The only thing to keep in mind is if you're using royal icing, you don't want to be using that piping bag with buttercream otherwise it'll ruin your royal icing next time you use it to pipe!

The first video is pretty exciting stuff guys, hold on for the ride of your to prepare a piping bag! It might seem like a silly thing to go through but this is a key step in cupcake decorating, the sooner we get this over with the sooner we get onto piping swirls and roses and all sorts! If you feel like falling asleep during the video then by all means have a doze but I think you'll find it's actually very entertaining. When it gets to around 30 seconds and I am putting the coupler together I just couldn't get the darn thing to work! I could have re-shot this and made it look seamless and perfect but where's the fun in that? This way you can laugh at me (or with me?)

Rose Swirl Cupcakes

How to prepare a piping bag

You will need:
Piping bag
Coupler base and ring
Decorating Tips

Place the coupler base inside the bag and mark with a pen under the very first line where the coil starts.
Remove the coupler and cut where you have marked.
Push coupler base inside piping bag so that one of the coil markings is showing.
Place a decorating tip on the end of the coupler base.
Put the coupler ring over the tip and coupler base and screw in place to secure.
Now you can change decorating tips if need be, without having to change piping bags.

Stay tuned for the next video tutorial on how to fill a piping bag. Riveting stuff I know! Once you know the basics it makes cupcake decorating SO much easier! Let me know if you have any questions, you can comment on this blog post or send me a message on Facebook. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yellow Dessert Table

This year I only wanted one thing for my birthday, the Little and Friday cookbook. All my friends had it and told me about the amazing recipes and after trying Little and Friday's baking first hand I knew I just had to have it!

I decided for my birthday party to have all Little and Friday food at a beautifully decorated dessert table. I planned it for weeks and weeks without knowing what recipes I would actually use until I got the book on my birthday.

I invited a bunch of friends over for some karaoke and dance games (which I beat everyone at -naturally!) and we had a fun night of games, eating and drinking.

Yellow Dessert Table
Yellow Dessert Table

From the Little and Friday book I made cinnamon donuts, walnut date brioche and a huge lemon coconut cake. I also made my own caramel popcorn and filled some jars with chocolate mousse to finish the table off.

When I finally finishing making all the food and decorating the table I felt so relieved and so proud of myself. This was the first time I had ever made lemon curd, cinnamon donuts, brioche and caramel popcorn all from scratch!

Yellow Dessert TableYellow Dessert Table
Cinnamon, Date & Walnut BriocheChocolate Mousse Pots

The donuts weren't the easiest thing in the world to make. Firstly I tried using the dough hooks on my mixer for the first time which was obviously too-hard-basket for it so it gradually bounced its way off the bench (before I would catch it each time).

It was quite funny but also annoying and made the use of a "stand alone" mixer a bit pointless. As for the frying part, it was fun to start with but then I realised that having oil on an element meant the temperature changed ALL the time.

It would have been fine if I had a deep fryer but alas, I do not own one (can you imagine me with a deep fryer? I'd deep fry everything!) In the end these were by far the most popular item at the dessert table and definitely the most impressive.

Home Made Cinnamon DonutsHome Made Cinnamon Donuts

The caramel popcorn was fun to make too. I found a recipe online and tried it out, it seemed weird to read how it was done but once I followed the instructions and tried a few pieces of popcorn I was sold! I think this popcorn actually tasted more like salted caramel popcorn, I've posted the recipe below.

Salted Caramel Popcorn
Recipe adapted from NZ Favourite Recipe

4-5 C Popped Popcorn (I used one bag of natural microwave popcorn)
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
1 T Butter
1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Baking Soda
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and place pre-popped popcorn (try saying that 10 times fast!)
  • Place sugar, water, butter and salt into a small glass jar and microwave for 2 minutes.
  • Stir mixture until sugar dissolves.
  • Microwave for approximately 3 – 3 1/2 minutes until the mixture turns light brown. Be careful not to let it burn!
  • Add baking powder to mixture and stir in quickly, it will become frothy and double in size.
  • Working quickly, pour the mixture over the popcorn and mix with a wooden spoon, try and coat as many pieces as possible!
  • Tip the popcorn out onto a large sheet of baking paper and break up large chunks of caramelly popcorn, be careful when using your hands it is very hot! 
  • When popcorn is cooled transfer to a bowl to eat (heck, eat it warm if you want – I did!)
  • Store popcorn in an airtight container, it will keep for days…though mine didn’t, it was too yummy to last that long!

Caramel PopcornLemon & Coconut Cake
Me and Pecan

It was a lot of work to put this dessert table together but I have to say I think it was the most satisfying. I also decided to match the colour of my table and wear my favourite yellow dress, everyone thought this was very "me" but I told them they're lucky I didn't dress up Mr S and Pecan in yellow too!

If you're keen to try out some of the Little and Friday recipes go grab a copy of the recipe book in all good book stores, you won't regret it I promise!

That's enough from me for today, later this week I'll be starting a new weekly series of simple cupcake decorating tutorials. See you on Thursday, have a great week!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pecan's First Birthday

Even though I have done nothing this long weekend (today included) I'm still thankful for it. I should be studying but I feel like I deserve this holiday just like every other working person. What makes it even better is that today is a day off running (hooray!) only one week to go now until I run so far that I will most probably die. So far I have spent today looking after Mr S who has a terrible tummy bug (at the same time trying to steer clear of his germys!) as well as sorting photos and blog posts out. I wasn't going to blog about Pecan's birthday because a) people think I'm crazy and b) this is a food blog, emphasis on the FOOD part. Well, I don't care.

Pecan Cat

Pecan is my darling little kitty cat, I wrote about her here and here. Now I've started up a blog just for her. I know it sounds like I'm a crazy cat lady but it all honesty it's mainly just a way to get all my photos up somewhere apart from Facebook. You see I take hundreds and thousands of photos of her and they are too good not to share! In fact, I just checked her photo folder on my computer there is exactly 733 photos of her and lots of videos too! Okay so maybe I am a crazy cat lady.

Pecan Cat

Pecan Cat

It was Pecan's first birthday last week so we celebrated by making her a little party hat which she honestly didn't mind wearing. I'm telling the truth! (I know you don't believe me) She also liked to play with it so now it's another cat toy. We bought her a laser pointer for a little present and you wouldn't believe how nuts she goes for it! Plus I made her a little cat-friendly cake. This "cake" was made with Fancy Feast topped with cat treats. For months we have collected free samples of cat food which is for adult cats and I wouldn't let Mr S give them to her until she was 1 year old so her birthday marked the day she was free of kitty food too!

Pecan Cat

Happy birthday Pecan baby! Thanks for staying cute and fluffy! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

White Chocolate Raspberry Macarons

October is Breast Cancer Action Month and I managed to get in the action this year! Firstly, the wonderful team at Whittaker's sent me a block of their fabulous White Raspberry Chocolate. At first I didn't know what to do, eat it? Or bake with it? Dilemma! (or first world problems more like?) I decided to do both. You know, cos it's the right thing to do.

Look out for Whittaker's White Raspberry Chocolate in 250g blocks available now

The White Raspberry Chocolate came about as a school project from Samuel Marsden School as part of the Young Enterprise Scheme. Enter Whittaker's and some fantastic good quality ingredients and you get Whittaker's White Raspberry Chocolate made with 28% cocoa and chocca block full of freeze dried raspberry goodness. With 20 cents from every purchase going to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, you can feel good about eating chocolate (for once) too! Needless to say, each bite is heavenly. So the taste test was complete and by now my block was down to 150 grams.

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

I decided White Raspberry Chocolate deserved something just as decadent to pair it with so I whipped up a batch of Raspberry Macarons and filled them with Whittaker's White Raspberry ganache. My macarons didn't turn out the colour I had hoped (light pink) so I painted on some reddy-pink lustre dust to bring out the pinkyness. I decided to UP the raspberry tang and popped a wee bit of raspberry jam in the centre of each macaron before filling with the white chocolate raspberry ganache. To top it all off I drizzled some White Raspberry Chocolate over the macarons and the result was AMAZING. I'm talking melt in your mouth, I think I'm falling in love taste here! Mr S took them to work and we managed to make $30! How cool is that?!

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

Breast Cancer Ribbon Macarons

The second thing I got involved in actually didn't take much time at all. A friend invited me to help out the New Zealand Chef's Association with their fundraising cupcakes. They made 1200 cupcakes in the morning and when we turned up at 6.30pm they were decorating them. Although there were already lots of helpers (perhaps too many chefs in the kitchen -literally?) I managed to not get in the way and stuck some fondant hearts to iced cupcakes. Once the decorating was done (at lightening speed I can assure you) it was time to package. We got a little system going of putting the cupcake in the noodle box, closing the box and sticking the sticker on top. I am a HUGE fan of systems so I actually quite enjoyed this part! Who knew that I was some kind of noodle box ninja, perhaps in a past life I worked in a Chinese takeaways? I got those boxes finished at lightening speed and before we knew it we were finished. It took less than an hour to finish the whole process. Amazing!

Breast Cancer Cupcakes

Breast Cancer Cupcakes

Breast Cancer Cupcakes

Isn't it nice to do something for charity? I especially love it when charity and baking come together, I think it's a match made in heaven. If you see anyone fundraising for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation can I encourage you to give a little? You can also donate online. Every little bit helps!

After that crazy day and having spent all day in pre-school/work AND going for a run I think it's time to put my feet up and enjoy this long weekend. I'm off for a date night with Mr S for the first time in forever, just movies with junk food but it'll be nice anyway! What plans have you got for the weekend?

Monday, October 15, 2012

French Toast Cupcakes

Since forever I have been a huge fan of pancakes, waffles and French toast, I like to put them in the same category as they are all breakfast foods that I just cannot say no to.

I can remember when I was a teenager being called 'weird' because I liked to eat my French toast with fried bacon and grilled banana all doused in maple syrup.

'Ew' they said 'sweet and savoury don't go together' they said. Was I ahead of my time? Yes. Or rather, I had taste like the Americans -who are well known for such "weird" concoctions as peanut butter and jelly (jam) and peanut butter and chocolate.

I say they're geniuses!  I'll take my bacon and smother it in maple syrup any day!

When I popped in to Miss Melicious to pick up my book and of course pick up a few cupcakes to eat, I asked Missy if I could re-create one of her cupcakes and share the recipe on my blog.

I asked which recipe was okay to use and she just said "pick one!" Eeeeee! How exciting! So I took my book home and it was a tricky tricky choice, out of crazy cool flavours like watermelon and pumpkin pie I finally chose French Toast Cupcakes as I just knew I had to try them.

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The recipe is easy to follow and I promise I am not sugar coating this but these cupcakes were perfect! Soft fluffy cake, light airy sweet icing topped with sweet and salty bacon oozing with flavour.

It may seem weird to you but my initial reaction when I try baking this good in my house is to find a way to get them out of my house.

If I ate another one I knew there was no stopping me, soon I'd be the size of a house! I managed to get Mr S to take them to work and they were a hit there too!

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French Toast Cupcakes
Makes 12 Cupcakes


115g butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 eggs, separated

Maple Buttercream:
125g butter, at room temperature
4 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. maple syrup

Candied Bacon Bits:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. ground black pepper
12 slices bacon, cut into strips

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a muffin tin with cupcake cases. 
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together, set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine milk and vanilla, set aside.
  • Add egg yolks to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add dry ingredients in thirds alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, beat until combined.
  • Beat egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form, fold into batter.
  • Spoon mixture into cases approx. ¾ full and bake for 18-22 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Leave cupcakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Maple Buttercream:
  • Beat butter until light and fluffy,
  • Sift icing sugar into a large bowl and gradually add to butter.
  • Add milk and maple syrup until the desired consistency is reached. Add more milk if required.
  • Beat for 3-5 minutes until light, fluffy and creamy, but still firm enough to pipe.
  • Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip half way with buttercream and pipe large swirls on cupcakes, starting from the outside and working your way in.

Candied Bacon Bits:
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  • Line a rimmed baking tray with tin foil and place a wire cooling rack inside.
  • Combine sugar and pepper. Add bacon strips and toss in mixture.
  • Lay strips of bacon on the wire rack in one layer and sprinkle with leftover sugar mixture.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  • Cool before finely chopping and sprinkling on cupcakes.

Recipe recreated with permission from Miss Melicious Cupcakes

Monday, October 8, 2012

Miss Melicious Cupcakes Book Giveaway

Last week I was treated to an awesome night of cupcakes, slushies and entertainment. With a red carpet, burlesque dancers and balloon artists this book launch could only be for something as quirky and and fun loving as the Miss Melicious Cupcakes cookbook. As I've mentioned in my review of Miss Melicious cupcakes, Mr S and Missy go way back, small world huh?! Well I've kept in contact with Missy as she's being venturing into this new realm of writing a cookbook and now the day has finally come when it has hit the print. I think I almost got a bit teary eyed when the speeches were happening, everyone said how proud they were of Missy, I'm proud too!

Miss Melicious Book Launch
Cupcakes and Cookbooks!

Miss Melicious Book Launch

Miss Melicious Book Launch
My fave cupcake flavour Cherry Ripe with a raspberry slushy! Yum!

There were some special guests present too, including Colin Mathura-Jeffree who was totally sweet and couldn't have spoken any nicer about Missy and her cupcakes. Along with all the exciting entertainment was a very talented balloon artist who made me my very own cupcake bracelet! Too cute! As if dancers, balloons and great food weren't enough there was also a model painted Miss Melicious style walking around see if you can her, it was so well done it's hard to tell where the paint stops and skirt starts!

Miss Melicious Book Launch
Colin makes his speech

Miss Melicious Book Launch
Guess whose dress is painted on?

Miss Melicious Book Launch
Me (looking retarded) with my cupcake balloon bracelet

Mr S and I enjoyed the night as we drank slushies, downed cupcakes and flicked through THE cookbook to get a first look. I was overwhelmed by the amount of recipes Missy has managed to fit in her cute little book, over 40 recipes! With flavours like Pina Colada, French Toast, Creme Brulee and Bubblegum I actually cannot wait to get baking and try out all these crazy flavours, keep an eye out soon for a recipe post! It's not all cupcakes either, there are also recipes for cookies and whoopie pies! Are we spoilt or what?! If you can't wait to get your hands on a copy of Miss Melicious Cupcakes the book is available at all good book stores now! Check out the Miss Melicious Facebook page to find out what flavour cupcakes will be available each day in the shop as well as updates on her book and other exciting Melicious news!

Miss Melicious Book Launch
So many cupcakes!

Miss Melicious Book Launch

Missy has been generous enough to give one lucky Lydia Bakes reader a copy of their very own Miss Melicious Cupcakes book. All you need to do to get in the draw is head on over to the Miss Melicious website or pop into the store and tell me your favourite flavour. Please include your name and email address in the comments below.

Congratulations to Kirstie MacGowan. I will be in contact shortly.

Good luck! The winner will be picked at random using the generator and notified on Facebook on the 16th of October 2012. Entries only open to New Zealand residents.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rosette Cake

This whole running thing is really doing a number on me, now I know why the expression is run down! The last time I burnt out was just before my birthday party. I didn't run for three days and felt like a mix between catching a cold and being hungover (without the fun part of actually drinking!) This time it's turned into an actual cold. I thought I did really well running non-stop for one and a half hours on Saturday but on Sunday when I started getting cold symptoms and went for another run (only 35 minutes), that is when it kicked in. Stupid me! So now I'm sick. It's officially the uni holidays but I've decided to try and get some temp work while I can to make a few extra dollars. Sick or not sick I'm still blogging about cake, you can't catch my cold this way!

Rosette Cake

Rosette Cake

I made this cute rosette cake for my official birthday on September the 11th. I had uni that night and lucky for me we had already organised a shared dinner. I decided it was only fair that I bake and decorate my own cake, I mean it's me we're talking about here. I wanted to try out some cool buttercream techniques. There are a few on my to-do list but no one ever asks me to make a buttercream cake, it's always fondant covered! This one was super easy to do but I still had trouble with it. I think the main reason is because it's not strictly a perfect cake. Once you pipe the lovely rosettes there are gaps everywhere and you fill them by piping swishy bits all over the place (swishy bits is a very well known cake term don't ya know!) So after piping these swishes it leaves a funny spiky bit which I hated. I tried taking it off and piping it again, I also tried smudging it with my finger but nothing worked, I wasn't happy! In the end I had to stand back and look at the whole picture. It wasn't half bad. I just needed to see the whole thing not one tiny swishy part.

Rosette Cake

I decided the cake wasn't quite finished and rummaged around my office to see what I could find. I remembered my trip to Bunnings where me and Mr S sneakily took one of each shade of teal and yellow paint chip cards. At the time I had no idea what to use them for but funnily enough I used both for my birthday (you'll see the yellow shortly). I cut out diamond shapes from each of the paint cards and glued them  to the string and then stuck them together. So easy!

Rosette Cake

Rosette Cake

How to decorate a rosette cake:
  • Cover cake with a crumb coat of icing, that's a thin layer of buttercream the same colour as the roses you are going to pipe. Just so you can't see any crumbs.
  • Fill piping bag half full with buttercream equipped with the Wilton 1M tip (or a large star tip) on the end.
  • On the side of the cake, start in the centre and start the pipe a circle in a clockwise motion. The tip actually does all the work for you! I did two loops of my rose so it fitted onto the sides nicely.
  • Next to the first rose leave a little space and pipe the next rose.
  • Continue piping roses around the entire cake.
  • Use the same method on top of the cake. I did one rose in the middle then six around it but you could do any number on top.
  • Fill in the gaps using a swishy motion and try to make the swish match the rose that it is next to.
  • Stand back and marvel at your beautiful creation. Looks hard but it's actually easy!