Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pumpkin Pies and Giveaways

It's the last week of November! I am truly excited that Christmas is just around the corner. That means Christmas decorations go up, Christmas music goes on and I get to wrap presents! I love love love to wrap presents. In fact, I was thinking about working in the mall this Christmas, doing the gift wrapping, that is until Mr S told me they probably only hire school students and pay them minimum wage!

Last year I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time ever with my high school friends in Wellington. Sadly, most of them have moved to Australia (why does everyone always move to Australia?!) so this year I decided just to have a small gathering and celebrate it anyway.

Though I didn't do much in the way of 'traditional' Thanksgiving food, just a roast chicken with roast veges and salads, I did make a pumpkin pie! To be honest, that was the only reason I wanted to celebrate!

Pumpkin Pie
I always thought pumpkin in a tin was so unnatural, but then I realised
it is just pumpkin puree and it tastes just like pumpkin puree!

Just a warning to those of you who have never made a pumpkin pie before. Do your research beforehand. You see, pumpkins are like $6 a kilo in New Zealand at the moment for some reason so I thought I'd take the easy way out (and try out what the Americans eat) so I popped over to Martha's Backyard (an American shop) and grabbed a tin of pumpkin puree for a whopping $6! There were pie bases there too but they were $6.50! I just couldn't bring myself to pay so much for a little pie so I went home and decided to make the base from scratch. Then, I looked at the recipe. Turns out I probably should have done the whole thing the day before it was to be eaten. My bad. It took a lot longer than I had planned to get the base and pie cooked and ready and that was in addition to the amount of study I needed to have finished and the rest of the food prepared all by 6pm!

Pumpkin Pie
My ugly pumpkin pie doesn't look like Martha Stewart's one!

So after tears, anger, frustration, finishing some study and giving in to stupid pastry problems, the pumpkin pie was finished. I don't claim to be a pastry goddess by any means, but this pastry was a MESS! I tried to make the edges fancy which resulted in a retarded crust that didn't even go up the sides in some places! (I know you can see it, I can't stop looking at it!)

Pumpkin Pie
Mmm pieee

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. So it was. It was yum. Most of the people I had invited had never tried pumpkin pie and they all agreed it tasted good, though the texture was a bit funny and there was a bit too much crust going on. Martha Stewart (whose recipe I used) said to eat it chilled the next day but I think I preferred it was room temperature the day it was made. Each to their own I guess!

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving got me thinking of things I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for all the wonderful blessings God has given me, like my husband, my cat, my family and friends, a roof over my head, clothes to wear and food to eat. I'm thankful for life's luxuries like being able to bake yummy things and blog about them later and I'm thankful for you guys supporting me along the way. Giving me your feedback on recipes you've tried. Emailing me photos of cakes you've decorated. I'm thankful that 312 people think I'm cool enough to be contributing to your Facebook feed, I'm thankful that 156 people like the stuff I pin on Pinterest and that 70 people want to hear what I have to say on Twitter. Thank you so much for your support these two years, I wouldn't be blogging without you!

Pumpkin Pie

As a thank you gift I am having a wee giveaway. The wonderful team at The Pretty Baker have given me this adorable little gift pack including: two pink tissue fans, a pack of zebra print treat bags, some cute pink striped straws and a whole lot of sweet white sugar pearls. This fabulous giveaway is valued at $34.95 and would be perfect for a little party!


Congratulations to Ronita Sharma, I will be in contact shortly.

If you would like to get in the draw, please leave a comment below stating what you are thankful for this year. Please include your name and email address.

Good luck! The winner will be picked at random using the generator and notified on Facebook on 7th of December 2012. Entries only open to New Zealand residents.

Monday, November 26, 2012

S'mores Cupcakes

Today is the Hobbit premier eve. How do I know this? Because I am a HUGE fan. I am a fan of Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, Peter Jackson, Howard Shore and anyone else associated with the fantasy action books and movies. Back in my teenage days my friends and I were kind of crazy fans. By "kind of" I mean we would wait outside of the filming areas for the actors to come out (stalking, some might call it?) we knew the words to every line in every movie (still do) we collected Lord of the Rings merchandise (five boxes sitting at my parents house) and we slept outside before the premier of the movies so we got the best spot to get signatures, shake hands and take photos of the actors. I have met almost everyone on Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortenson, Ian McKellon, Elijah Wood...even got a kiss from Orlando Bloom himself (I was OB-sessed with him). Living in Wellington (or Middle Earth as it is re-named this week) was amazing and now that I live all the way up here in Orc-land (heh, see what I did there) I can't go to the premier and it kills me.

I really wanted to re-read the Hobbit before I went to the movie so I asked my parents if I could go through my boxes of LOTR stuff. After going through countless action figures, signed books, videos and puzzles I finally found it but not before finding out that one of the boxes was badly water damaged. It just so happened to be the box with my photo album in it. So I took it home and salvaged what I could. I found this awesome photo which took me by surprise. All those years ago I baked my friend a One Ring cake, complete with Elvish and everything! The photos aren't very good but you can make out the "Happy birth-day Kylee" on top and the awesome costumes which I may or may not be wearing (I was Galadriel) This photo was so inspiring, I was a cake decorator even back then!

Fast forward 10 years and I'm still baking! This recipe was a really fun one that I had been dying to make ever since I made this goal last year. It has a biscuit and chocolate base then a chocolate cupcake which is covered in meringuey icing which is toasted on top. Seems like a lot of work but they tasted great so it was worth it! My only problem with them was how messy they were to eat, but that's not so much of a problem now is it?

Just to give you Kiwi's a heads up, S'mores are a tasty treat that our Americans enjoy by the campfire. It consists of toasted marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits which they call graham crackers. It is thought that the name S'mores is a shortened version of "some mores", as in, these are so gosh darn good give me some more!

S'mores Cupcakes

Crushed up biscuits with sugar and butter, squashed into the bottom of each cupcake case using bottom of a shot glass.

S'mores Cupcakes

Mmm look at those chocolate chunks!

S'mores Cupcakes

After filling cases with cookie crumbs and chocolate, toast in the oven for about five minutes. Mmm dark melted chocolate.

S'mores Cupcakes

I just want to pop that bubble!

S'mores Cupcakes

Before baking the cupcakes, sprinkle the leftover cookie mixture and chocolate to give it that extra crunch and taste.

S'mores Cupcakes

The cupcakes may look a bit strange but they sure don't taste strange!

S'mores Cupcakes

MacDonalds ice cream? Nope, that's just a yummy marshmallow seems like it's missing something.

S'mores Cupcakes

That's better! Toast that sucker! Be very careful not to burn the cupcake cases, I did this several times. It was a bit of a rush to be honest. Every now and then a cupcake case would catch on fire and I had to blow it out! Check out the recipe below:

S'mores Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes approx 30 cupcakes

Biscuit Base:
1 1/2 cups Biscuit crumbs (I used Digestive Biscuits)
1/4 cup Sugar
80g  unsalted butter, melted
250g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line two muffin tins with cupcake cases, set aside.
  • Combine biscuits crumbs, 1/4 cup of sugar and melted butter in a bowl.
  • Scoop 1 Tablespoon full of biscuit mixture into each cupcake case (keep the rest for sprinkling over the cupcakes)
  • Press the biscuit mixture in using bottom of a shot glass so it is nice and firm.
  • Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of chocolate crumbs over the biscuit mixture in each cupcake case.
  • Bake the cookie-chocolates for about 5 minutes or until the biscuit mixture is golden.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.
  • Add the wet mix to the dry mix and beat on a low speed until nicely combined (remember to scrap the sides of the bowl down) and continue beating mixture for about 2 minutes.
  • Add boiling water to mixture and stir to combine (if you used an electric beater this part would be messy!)
  • Fill each cupcake case three quarters full and sprinkle remaining biscuit mixture and chocolate crumbs.
  • Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean.
  • Let cupcakes cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

S'mores Cupcakes

Marshmallow Icing:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. 
  • Set over a saucepan with simmering water. 
  • Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. 
  • Transfer icing to a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip.
  • Pipe icing onto cupcakes (using this tutorial).
  • Use a kitchen torch to lightly brown the icing so it’s nice and toasty. Be very careful where you do this, I always use it on the kitchen bench right next to the sink. Take care not to set the cupcake cases on fire, I did that a few times, when it happened I just blew it out quickly and it didn’t affect the cupcakes.

Recipe notes:
I managed to make 34 cupcakes out of this mix. 24 were made as above, 6 just had the biscuit and chocolate base (not sprinkling on top) and 4 were plain chocolate cupcakes. The icing was plenty for all of them.

S'mores Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to pipe a round swirl on a cupcake

My goodness! Can you believe it is almost the end of November?! I feel like someone literally took my November away from me. Like, I don't even know where the time has gone. Is this an age thing? Because every year people say the older you get the faster the years flies by. It is crazy. Like cray cray, crazy! I am hoping that my whirlwind of a year winds down very soon as we get into the festive season (and my favourite time of year!) I've finally finished my placement at a very awesome preschool and my assessment went very well. Next week is another full on one and unfortunately (or fortunately?) until about the 15th of December my life is just one roller-coaster ride of excitement, cake decorating, study, baking, parties, weddings, birthdays after another. I am so looking forward to having nothing to do, but until then I can't afford the luxury of even thinking like that  yet!

Now on to the last cupcake decorating technique! To be quite honest with you I have no idea what you call this cupcake decorating technique. These were my other ideas "how to pipe a blob" or "how to pipe a poop" Neither sounded very appetising. Those two descriptions is what I want to say though, I even saved the video on my computer as the poop swirl and the blob!

This technique is used with a large round tip, I used Wilton's 2A and it seems to be just the right size. Both ways of icing are easy-as-pie but create slightly different looks. The icing I used was quite soft at the time, I could say that this was because it was the look I was going for but in reality it was because it was sitting in my lounge with all curtains but one drawn with a white sheet over top which pretty much made me my own little hot house to photograph and film my tutorials. It worked to my advantage though as I think it helped it seep together better.

IMG_7865 (833x1280)

How to pipe a round swirl (a.ka.a the poop swirl)

You will need:
Piping bag fitted with a 2A or large round tip

Start on the outside of the cupcake with your piping bag at a 90 degree angle. (I realise I didn't start on the outside, not sure why, perhaps too many cupcake made my mind fuzzy?)
Squeeze piping bag while gradually moving anti-clockwise around the cupcake, making sure that this is one continuous squeeze so the icing is not broken and using the same amount of pressure through the whole movement.
Overlap the edges of the line before until you reach the middle.
Stop squeezing and remove piping bag from cupcake.

How to pipe a blob

You will need:
Piping bag fitted with a 2A or large round tip

Start on the inside of the cupcake with your piping bag at a 90 degree angle.
Apply pressure to the piping bag and squeeze while slowly lifting until you reach the size of the blob you are happy with.

These two techniques are so easy to achieve and they make for quite a good plain cupcake look. I haven't experimented much with it yet but did try it out on my Hello Kitty cupcakes as well as the delicious French Toast cupcakes. The great thing is it doesn't take the attention away or create too much of a busy cupcake.

Well, we've reached the end of the cupcake decorating basics journey. This won't be the last tutorial though, I had too much fun with this one! Is there a technique or idea that you would like to see a tutorial on? Please leave me a comment or message me on Facebook if you have any suggestions and of course, if you have any questions. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you've enjoyed my tutorials and maybe learned a thing or two!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Moustache Cake

This year marks the first year my husband has ever participated in Movember. Granted, he did cheat and start growing his mo two weeks before November even started. Now we all know how Movember works right? Grow a mo, get money to raise fund for prostate cancer. I'm all for a great cause but I'm thinking I wouldn't mind starting up my own charity event to get the men shaving these as soon as possible! I would call is No-vember but that's already taken. How about No-Mo-vember? Too long? I'll put it this way. I. HATE. THE. MO. Plus he hasn't even started getting any sponsors for it yet so it's all for nothing so far! Kill me now!

Moustache Cake

Gross Mo's aside, I quite like fake moustaches. The ones you peel off and stick on are okay but I'm more of a fan of the hold up on a stick kind. Well last month my friend celebrated her birthday and I gave you a sneak preview of the inside of the cake. Her birthday was at the Mexican Cafe and was moustache mania! We all had to wear a mo to the dinner and even later when we went out dancing! Embarrassing when you go to the toilets by yourself but "cool" when you're with your group of friends who are equally mo'd up!

Moustache Cake
Me and Andrina

Moustache Cake
Andrina and Izzy (we got her the canvas photo of her cat) with Mo's!

I decided to surpise her with a quick cake I whipped up. Well, it was supposed to be quick, only, I had just one 6" tin and I wanted to make the inside of the cake to be ombre pink. This means cooking four separate cakes. One at a time. Very very time consuming, but so worth it! With about half an hour before Mr S said we had to leave I decided to try out a new cake decorating technique (great timing I know) and it turned out to be fast and fun! After all that piping I stuck a home made moustache on top and took photos as quickly as humanly possible without being hugely late (which we were anyway - no surprises there).The cake was a huge hit, everyone loved it especially the birthday girl!

Moustache Cake

Moustache Cake

Moustache Cake

Moustache Cake

Now I'm off to go do some much needed study. Tomorrow I am being assessed at my placement preschool centre and to say "I'm stressed" would be an understatement. So, wish me luck! You'll know how it went if I'm in tears on Thursday's tutorial post. Until then, have a great week bakers!

p.s. please send a razor so I can shave the mo in Mr S's sleep

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to pipe a rose swirl on a cupcake

Gosh that's a long title! Perhaps I should have gone with "rose swirl"? Or maybe I could extend it just for fun "how to pipe swirl on a cupcake that looks like a rose using buttercream and the 1M decorating tip" no? Okay then! Today's tutorial is one I know you're all excited about. You have probably seen the rose swirl before unless a) you've been living under a rock or b) you haven't seen I am Bakers Rose Cake (or mine for that matter) or c) you haven't ordered cupcakes from Petal before or d) you're not a big cupcake fan, in which case -what are you doing here! Just kidding, you can stay.

The rose swirl looks complicated but the trick to it is the decorating tip you use. The tip does it all for you, all you do is pipe from the inside out and voila! Pretty (and impressive) cupcake! Looks good with zero effort, I like that!

Usually you would use a 1M or 2D (that's very similar to 1M) tip to pipe this little beauty. I haven't tried it with any other large star tips but you can experiment (and let me know what happens).

Rose Swirl Cupcakes

How to pipe a rose swirl

What you need:
Piping bag fitted with a 1M or 2D

Start on the inside of the cupcake with your piping bag at a 90 degree angle.
Squeeze piping bag while gradually moving anti-clockwise around the cupcake, making sure that this is one continuous squeeze so the icing is not broken and using the same amount of pressure through the whole movement.
Keep the swirl nice and tight, almost overlapping as you pipe.
Once you reach the outside of the cupcake stop squeezing and remove piping bag from cupcake.
You are now left with a little indent where you finished the piping, this will no-doubt be only noticeable to you (you'll see it on every cupcake now that I've mentioned it) but if you want to fix it you can gently dot it with you finger so it is not as noticeable or attach a cute little fondant flower or heart or anything in the seam.

There you have it! Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I have used this method to show off piping skills in the past, people think there is some kind of secret, tricky, manoeuvre  to it but in reality the tip is doing all the work! It is so versatile, I've used it for Rosewater Pistachio cupcakes (even though they were a big fat failure), as well as farewell cupcakes and even covered a cake using this technique!

If you give this a go I would LOVE to see photos! Nothing makes me happier than when you guys show me the cakes and cupcakes you've made -honestly! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on Facebook.

Next week is the final (for now) in this basic cupcake decorating series. I'll be showing you how to pipe a poop. Oops, did I just write that?! Gross. Sorry. I'll be showing you how to pipe a "blob"...a blob that looks like a poop. You could say I'm teaching you how to poop on a cupcake! If anyone is still reading my blog after my awesome toilet humour I will see you next week, same time same place, have a lovely week ya'll!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to pipe a cupcake swirl

Things are finally getting interesting! In the last two weeks we talked about how to prepare a piping bag and how to fill it, now we are finally decorating! If you only learn one cupcake decorating technique this should probably be it. I'm going to be showing you how to pipe a simple cupcake swirl, it sort of looks like a Mac Donalds ice cream. What I love about the cupcake swirl is that you can pile it as high or low as you like...or as high as you like, did I mention that? I have been known to have some very questionable ratios of cupcake to icing but if you ask me, there is nothing wrong with that! Bring on the icing!

You can use any tip (pretty much) for piping a cupcake swirl, generally though, the fatter the better. If you want that typical cupcake look you will want a large tip which doesn't fit onto the normal coupler (like the ones in the past tutorials) however, you can buy a large coupler. I've never bought one, don't ask me why. I just pop my large tip into my cotton piping bag and pipe away. This will also work in a disposable bag but you will end up stretching it eventually which means they won't last as long (I suppose they're not really meant to last at all, what with the name disposable and all!) Usually people refer to the 1M tip for cupcakes, that is because it is pretty much magic. Wilton name/number all their tips for easy reference and this is by far their most popular one. It is also used to make the famous rose swirl which I will be going through next week. If you don't have a 1M tip, any large star tip will do. Enough talk! Lets get into it!

Cupcake Swirl

How to pipe a cupcake swirl

You will need:
Piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or large star tip
Cupcake (duh!)

Start on the outside of the cupcake with your piping bag at a 90 degree angle.
Squeeze piping bag while gradually moving anti-clockwise around the cupcake, making sure that this is one continuous squeeze so the icing is not broken and using the same amount of pressure through the whole movement.
Overlap the edges of the line before until you reach the middle.
Stop squeezing and remove piping bag from cupcake.

This is such a handy cupcake decorating technique, I honestly couldn't tell you how many times I've used it! You can leave it plain with just a swirl like these vanilla cupcakes or jazz it up a bit with a fondant flower like I did for this anniversary and these Hello Kitty cupcakes. You can also make yourself a cupcake topper to decorate an otherwise plain cupcake. The possibilities are endless!

I know you're all excited about next weeks tutorial on how to pipe a rose swirl. You will be amazed just how simple it really is to achieve! In the mean time, have a fabulous week! As usual, leave me a comment or message me on Facebook if you have any questions or if you just wanna say hi (that would be super sweet, just sayin')

Monday, November 5, 2012

Apricot Fudge Slice

This week on my Facebook page I asked you what recipe you wanted me to post, I was so surprised that Apricot Fudge Slice whipped Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes' butt with a whopping 10 against 3...unless you count my sneaky vote (did you see me using my real name?)

So here it is, you asked for it, so you shall receive.

Apricot Fudge SliceApricot Fudge Slice

This slice is probably one of my favourites ever.

Like ever, ever.

I always remember one of my mums friends from Upper Hutt who used to be a baking queen (she always had three or four baked goods in the pantry for her family's lunches) she used to make this slice for shared morning teas and I always thought it was some secret recipe. Little did I know I would find one just like it one day.

Apricot Fudge SliceApricot Fudge Slice

I stumbled across this recipe on Chelsea's site many years later and I have never looked back. It's easy to make, reasonably cheap and tastes awesome!

It's a nice sweet base with some tart dried apricots thrown in there then topped with sweet and tangy lemon icing and tonnes of delicious coconut. Ahh coconut, where would I be without you? Coconut makes everything good!

Apricot Fudge Slice
Recipe from Chelsea Sugar

125g Butter
1/2 C Soft Brown Sugar
1/2 tin  (200g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 C Dried Apricots, Chopped
1 Packet (250g) Plain Biscuits, crushed
1/4 C Desiccated Coconut, to decorate
  • Line a rectangular tin or casserole dish (approx. 20x30 cm) with baking paper and set aside.
  • Heat the butter, brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk on a medium heat until the butter has melted (make sure not to boil!)
  • Add the chopped apricots and crushed biscuits, I also like to add a bit of coconut in the mix too then mix well.
  • Press mixture into the tin and let cool before icing.

Apricot Fudge SliceApricot Fudge Slice
Apricot Fudge SliceApricot Fudge Slice

Lemon Icing
100g Butter, softened
1 1/2 C Icing Sugar
Rind and Juice of 1 Lemon
1-2 T Hot Water
  • Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  • Sift in icing sugar and add lemon rind and juice to the butter.
  • Mix until combined, adding water until consistency is light, fluffy and spreadable .
  • Spread icing all over the fudgey slice and sprinkle with coconut straight away and press it in a little bit so it sticks better.
  • Allow to set in refrigerator for a few hours before cutting into slices.

Apricot Fudge SliceApricot Fudge Slice
Apricot Fudge Slice

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to fill a piping bag with Icing

Welcome back to my series on cupcake decorating basics. Last week we went through how to prepare a piping bag with a coupler and tip. We're onto the second stage now of actually filling the piping bag with delicious airy fluffy icing. This one might seem a little obvious and there are many ways to do it but there are two ways I like to fill my piping bags, the first is with the piping bag in my hand and the second is with a tall glass or jar. You can use either of these techniques or whichever way you find easiest.

Rose Swirl

How to fill a piping bag with icing

Piping bag in hand
This is the most comfortable for me and works in pretty much all circumstances.

You will need:
Piping bag fitted with a coupler and tip

Hold the piping bag in one hand and fold over the edges onto your hand so it overlaps.
Spoon icing into piping bag, only fill about half way, if you fill it too much it will spill out the top and your icing will get warm and runny.
Push icing down the piping bag so it is all the way at the bottom.
Hold piping bag in hand so that it sits between your thumb and index finger, twist bag to remove air until icing bag is firm.
Squeeze some icing out to get rid of any air bubbles.
Now you are ready to pipe! If you stay in this same position it makes piping a lot easier as you have all control over the piping bag rather than having to use two hand to get the icing out. When you start to run out of icing just keep twisting the bag until there is no icing left then refill again.

Piping bag in a glass
This is a good way to fill piping bags if your filling is quite runny. I like to do this when piping macarons or meringues, keeps things a little tidier! 

You will need:
Piping bag fitted with a coupler and tip
Tall glass or jar

Place piping bag in glass and fold the edges over the sides so that is it overlapping the glass.
Spoon icing into piping bag, only fill about half way, if you fill it too much it will spill out the top and your icing will get warm and runny.
Remove piping bag from glass and push icing down the piping bag so it is all the way at the bottom.
Follow the rest of the directions as above.

Do you have a method of filling piping bags that you find works for you? I'd love to hear about it! If you have any questions feel free to comment below or send me a message on Facebook.

Keep an eye out for my next post where things are finally getting exciting! I'll be showing you how to pipe a simple cupcake swirl using the 1M tip. Hooray for actually decorating cupcakes! See you next week beautiful people!