Tuesday, 20 November 2012

All about the dinosaurs


IMG_1496


Its funny how things happen in clusters sometimes. Like last week, which was the week of dinosaurs. No dinosaur cakes for months, then 3 dinosaur cakes in 1 week. Funny. So, I have now had a lot of practice at making dinosaurs. And I have decided that I like them. They can be made with a certain degree of 'artistic license'. They do not need to be exact replicas of certain breeds or have specially distinguishing features to make them look like a family pet or a famous animal. When you do a dinosaur cake for a child, it just needs to look like a dinosaur. And thats a vague description with a wide spectrum of possibilities. Awesome. Children do not normally mind that there are over 700 different species of dinosaur that have been identified to date, and that the ones I make probably are not anatomically correct to any one of those species, but rather a melee of features of dinosaur generalisation. They look cool, and I like them.


IMG_1491



While we are on the subject of children's cakes, I had to wonder last week, while making a cake which had 2 of the characters from 'In the Night Garden', who comes up with these characters. They are odd, and look rather senseless to me. But hey, who am I to judge. I remember one of my favourite childhood tv shows starring a talking donkey that lived in a giant apple. You surely have to be on some kind of hallucinogenic substance to come up with this stuff.



IMG_1499


I made an unusual cupcake box last week. I always find it fascinating when asked to bring together in one box of cupcakes, a lot of seemingly unrelated subjects. I have to wonder about the connections and meaning behind each element, which must be relevant to the customer and the receiver of the gift. Relevant to them but seemingly nonsense and mixed up to me. How things can change depending on one's perspective, and the background information which we possess. True in many aspects of life I think.



IMG_1502


It is autumn here in the UK. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with autumn. I love it for its beauty. its colours, which awe me every time I get out into the woods. The colours which nature produces just in death and sleep, the human imagination could barely fathom. Such beauty in creation and in its yearly destruction. So as I ran around last week I unusually burdened myself with my phone so that I could take some photos. And I'm glad I did. They turned out rather well and will serve to remind me of the beauty once we are in the full grip of winter and the colour had been stripped from the land. It is amazing how such beauty can be a by product of death and sleep. The winter brings the start of the end for much of nature but in its dying days it sends up a last hurrah in the form of a pallet of colours to numerous to be counted, and too vivid to be appreciated by any lens as much as it is appreciated by the human eye.


IMG_1464



IMG_1466



IMG_1473



IMG_1476



IMG_1482




IMG_1485



Orignal From: All about the dinosaurs

Monday, 12 November 2012

Pretty Pastels, and Cake International, Wow

IMG_1417

 Last week was a relatively quiet week for me. But still I managed to feel really busy. Go figure hey. I did a double height really pretty pastel birthday cake for the daughter of the owners of the coffee shop in Sale which I supply. I also did a boys birthday cake with a figure and a dog. Missing my favourite tools, it wasn't quite the face I normally try to go for, but it turned out cute overall.



IMG_1457

 And then the highlight of the week. Cake International at the NEC in Birmingham. Wow. It was the first one I have ever been to, and boy was it an experience. A lot of ladies and a lot of cake stuff. A LOT. I have never seen so many cutters and moulds. Everywhere there were cutters and moulds. I had been warned of this but it was something to see. Don't get me wrong. I do love a good cutter and a good mould. But I was looking something new. Different. Unusual. Hmmmm. However, I did become smitten by the airbrush though. The airbrush is a very cool tool. I am sure that some artistic talent and a lot of practice is required, and I think that I could meet one of those criteria. The effects with an airbrush are super cool and something that could not be replicated by a paintbrush (at least in my ham hand) very easily. And I guess I have to confess, I do like a good gadget. However, I refrained. At shows like that, where so many things are on sale, and appeal to the excited imagination of the cake decorator, one can go overboard and end up buying loads of things that will never be used. So all I bought were a couple of small items that I know I will use regularly. Boring huh? hehe.  



IMG_1445

The cakes on display in the competitions were unbelievable. I have never seen so many examples of real talent and skill. Honestly, I don't know how they do it. The details, like in Hagrid's house, the construction like in the teetering Irish cake, and the awesome wow factor in the huge under-the-sea themed cake, were just spectacular. Everywhere I looked there were amazing cakes. It made me feel rather inadequate and like an impostor who should not really be there. Wow.  
IMG_1433

After many hours there my poor, patient husband was rather caked-out. As was I, I have to confess. Cake International comes to Manchester next March, and as I will be able to go without having to sit in traffic for 3 hours (for a usually 1 hour journey) to get home, I will certainly be there! 



IMG_1429



Orignal From: Pretty Pastels, and Cake International, Wow

Monday, 5 November 2012



Orignal From:

Friday, 2 November 2012

Halloween Scaries and Daisies

IMG_1327


It was Halloween this week. All it translates into for me is making some halloween themed cupcakes and cakes, and feeding mounds of candy to the neighbourhood children. I find the trick-or-treating thing interesting. I never did it as a child growing up in South Africa, as children walking about the streets of Johannesburg is not really recommended. And braving 6 foot high walls, fierce guard dogs, electric fencing and personal security is not something many adults will volunteer for, let alone with their little ones in tow. So I have never trick-or-treated. I find it amusing to see the varying degrees of effort that goes into the costumes, and the varying degrees of manners that the children have. Some politely taking one little sweet, before you offer them another. Some grabbing a fistful and running off without even a 'thanks'.
IMG_1322

 
IMG_1321


And you're not seeing double. It is another Jagermeister cake. This time i managed to get the neck of the bottle up off the board and suspended beautifully. Thank you nice, firm madeira cake. Excellent for carving, and when made with real butter, super tasty! :)

 
IMG_1330

 

Orignal From: Halloween Scaries and Daisies

Wednesday, 31 October 2012



wedding_cake

So many people have asked me the question. So what was your cake like?? I guess it is a pertinent one as I am a baker and cake creator, so what would a cake me like that is made for me by someone else. Someone I have never met or briefed in any way. The cake was not that important to me really. I wanted a cake, yes. I wanted a nice tasting cake, certainly. But as for sugarpaste, decorations, and pearl spray... not really. Leave the sugar paste, give me something Italian, something traditional. Something I will never have seen or tasted before. And boy did they deliver. Out of a list of cake options (most of which I had never heard of before) we chose Mimosa Cake. A good choice methinks, and everyone ate the cake (after they had been begging for a break from the feasting) and everybody said how amazing it was. And it was amazing. Light as air. Like eating a sweet, fragrant cloud. heaven. I have to try to make one. Watch this space.



cake1





cake2



Orignal From:

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

My Wedding Cake

wedding_cake

So many people have asked me the question. So what was your cake like?? I guess it is a pertinent one as I am a baker and cake creator, so what would a cake me like that is made for me by someone else. Someone I have never met or briefed in any way. The cake was not that important to me really. I wanted a cake, yes. I wanted a nice tasting cake, certainly. But as for sugarpaste, decorations, and pearl spray... not really. Leave the sugar paste, give me something Italian, something traditional. Something I will never have seen or tasted before. And boy did they deliver. Out of a list of cake options (most of which I had never heard of before) we chose Mimosa Cake. A good choice methinks, and everyone ate the cake (after they had been begging for a break from the feasting) and everybody said how amazing it was. And it was amazing. Light as air. Like eating a sweet, fragrant cloud. heaven. I have to try to make one. Watch this space.


Wedding_JC_G_P1020007


Wedding_JC_G_P1010992

 

Orignal From: My Wedding Cake

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Halloween, Roses & Sunshine

IMG_1294



IMG_1295

 I had the pleasure this week of making a halloween pumpkin birthday cake. It was a carved cake which is such fun to do. I made a double-height 8" round madeira cake to start with. Madeira is really tasty, as its made with real (merveilleux fran├žaises) butter and loads of real vanilla extract. A match made in heaven to my mind. Madeira is also nice and firm (without being dry) so it holds up to carving really well and does not sink under the weight of sugarpaste, which is important when doing taller cakes. Regular sponge, when stacked up tall and covered with sugarpaste, will compress over a time, leaving ripples in your initially perfect sugarpaste finish. So go for madeira. Its yummy.



IMG_1290 copy

I also made a wedding cake this week. Unfortunately I do not have a pic of the fully assembled cake yet, but here is a photoshopped version to give you the basic idea. It was a cake that was a bit of a race against the clock, which is how it sometimes is when making lots of handmade flowers. They are very, very time-consuming but worth it once finished I think. One of the decorators on the Food Network's Planet Cake which was on this morning said that making a cake can be like childbirth. Hurts like hell at the time but as soon as you have the result in front of you (cake/baby) you forget the pain and smile at the sight of your creation. I like it. Its right.
IMG_1301 

The finish to my working week, at the close of this Saturday, was the run. Up at The Edge. In the sunshine. With Toby the dog. Up the long, steep hill, in one go. A big triumph for me, but sadly nobody there to grin at or giggle with. Just a quiet, breathless trot up to the final lookout point. Elation inside, sweaty panting outside, but nobody knows. It was gorgeous today. Sunshine but cold.

IMG_1304



Orignal From: Halloween, Roses & Sunshine

Sunday, 21 October 2012

All things for a Scottish Birthday

IMG_1242

So this week I had to make a birthday cake for a lady's 50th birthday. Her partner ordered it as a surprise for her party which was to be held up in Scotland which is where she's from. The brief from the gentleman was that the cake was to be 'All things Scottish', as the birthday girl is apparently 'very Scottish'. I did not know there were different levels of Scottishness, but thats fine with me.
IMG_1240

Its hard to sum up a person, and all that they are Nationality-wise, in a cake. I did not want to be too stereotypical but I also wanted to stick to the brief which was for a humorous Scottish theme. OK, I can do that. I ran it past my dear friend and neighbour who is Scottish herself, and she mostly agreed with what I'd been thinking, which was the Saltire (Scottish flag), thistles, highland cows, nessie, bagpipes, men in kilts and tartan. Now its not generally a good idea to put EVERYTHING on a cake. It can look cluttered and messy which is not the look I am going for. So I chose a couple of those elements, which I was able to do in the tight time frame provided. And I have to say I was pleased with the result. I love the highland cow. The extruder is great for long hair like that and gives a finish that is much finer and neater than piping with royal icing could be.

I do hope that the customer and the birthday-lady liked it. I certainly liked making it :)

Orignal From: All things for a Scottish Birthday

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Boozy cake, I like it :)

I think that I do work well under pressure. So as long as my plate is not already full to the brim, I don't mind the occasional last minute order. Especially when its a cool cake for a cool friend. So this led to me doing a Jagermeister bottle cake this week. I do confess that I think I may have been able to do a better job if I'd had more time, but I like how it turned out. I think its pretty cool.
Jager Cake Small

I also worked on  harry Potter Cake this week, which although it looks a little empty without the message, and the photo quality is iPhone 3 poor quality, you get the general idea. I was worried about Harry not looking like Harry, as people and especially faces of specific characters are rather hard to do unless you are a bona-fide artist, but I think all things considered, you can kind of see its meant to be Harry Potter, and I LOVE the scarf. its my favourite bit i think :)
Small Harry P

And last but not least, the anniversary cupcakes. Young love, especially only 6 month old young love is just so cute, if not a little gooey. But hey, if you love someone enough to put a condom on a cupcake, thats got to be true love right? I am sure that the couple involved know the story behind the representative image for each month, and as I don;t they are a little lost on me, but I can certainly appreciate the thought behind them, and go "Aaahhh sweet". Even at a banana condom ;)
Anniversary Cupcakes

 

 

Orignal From: Boozy cake, I like it :)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Kind of Celebrity Cupcakes

So, I got an email yesterday, at like 2am. When I was awake and reading it at 6am, I didn't quite believe it. I had to convince myself that it was not a hoax. But its true, this week I have made cupcakes for someone who is on the production team of Mythbusters! For those of you who do not know the show, this will not mean anything, but for those of you who do, I hope you agree with me that its SUPER COOL! So a nice lady on the production team of Mythbusters, based in Sydney Australia of all places, ordered 2 boxes of cupcakes for a guy who is on their team and is based just up the road in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Of all the places and all the cupcake people to order from. Its made my week :)
MBCupcakesPhoto

 

Orignal From: Kind of Celebrity Cupcakes

Monday, 16 July 2012

Almost, with cake on the side

So, things have been hectic. Every time I tell myself that I need to do a blog post (a thought which normally occurs to me when I'm in the shower, or running through muddy puddles in the woods, or trying to find a delivery location in a part of Manchester I've never seen before). Even now, I'm looking at the clock thinking I have to go deliver a cake in half an hour, but I'm gonna try squeeze this in before I go, as afterwards I'll be tired, hungry and desperate to relax after a busy day.
photo-59

So, it was my hen party a couple of weeks ago. Which means I'm almost married. And it was awesome. It still doesn't seem real, MY hen party. I was the HEN. Weird, even now. It was organised by a dear friend who did an AWESOME job, and a fun evening was had my all. I think I would have another one if it didn't mean I'd have to cancel this wedding and find someone else to marry. Honey, if you're reading this, I am not being serious.

So, the engagement figurine cake. Theres a story there. One I still can't really believe and I shake my head every time I think about it. The customer called up wanting an engagement for a family member, but only had not-much-money to spend, and wanting a 12" cake with figurines. So i explain politely that a cake that size, with figurines that take a few days to make, costs a lot more than that. So after some discussion, and discovering that she only needed the cake to feed 20 people (when a 12" cake feeds like 60 people), she opted for a 10" cake, with figures, for a VERY good price.

Later that day she text me to ask to put the order on hold as it 'may need to be cancelled', which I agreed to. The following day the order was re-instated, but for a 12" cake, at also a very very good price. So I made the cake, made the figures, and on the collection day at the collection time of 5pm, waited for the customer to collect. By 6:45 there was no news, so I called the lady to check she was still coming. She was not he way but a bit lost. When she arrived I discovered that she had been walking. To pick up a HEAVY, LARGE cake. She'd taken the train from where she lived into Manchester, and then the bus from Manchester to me, and then walked from the bus station. So I could not let her walk with this cake so I offered to drop her off at the bus station with the cake. So with the lady and the cake loaded into my car, we drove to the bus station, and on the way there, she asks me for a discount. While in MY car, driving with MY petrol. She wants money off an already very cheap cake. Holy moly I almost drove into a tree.

Needless to say I would not budge on the price, and after telling me that I'm a hard lady to deal with, I left her with the large heavy cake at the bus station. Knowing full well the cake and particularly the figurines would probably not make it all the way back in one piece. It was sad for me knowing my work was in danger of being dropped. But I have never been so affronted in my life before. The blatant disrespect for my work and my skill and my fair pricing was appalling to me. But it happens all too often in the cake business, it seems to be commonplace rather than rare, which is disappointing. Good cake isn't cheap, and cheap cake isn't good. How do I explain that??
550908_10151863043215523_1066720148_n

Also in the last couple of weeks have been some other cake projects, both for me and for the shop,in various shapes, sizes and flavours. I also enjoyed the revelation which was peanut butter buttercream that I made for an order last week. Paired with Coca-Cola cake and salted peanuts, it was pretty much my idea of heaven on a plate. Nyum! The only problem is that I don't get to try a slice, and it would just be weird to deliver a cake, and then buy a slice. Couldn't do it, it'd be wrong. So I just lick the icing bowl and that does me fine.
IMG_0958

 
IMG_0957

 
IMG_0722

So here's a little blog post, and more to come soon I hope.

Orignal From: Almost, with cake on the side

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pistachio Ice Cream

IMG_3635


I have been meaning to make pistachio ice cream for AGES. For as long as I can remember really. So, I finally go around to it. Finally got the nerve to fork out the dough for the pistachios (those little green babies aint cheap!) and finally got the fingers up for the task of much nut shelling. For some reason shelled pistachios are harder to find than the ones in the sharp little shells. Typical.


IMG_3614

I don't know what it is about pistachios that I like. Or that people in general like so much that they are willing to pay the large price demanded for silly little bags. So here's a bit of trivia about the pistachio: its originally from Iraq/Iran and has been a food source since 6750BC. The pistachio was supposedly grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon around 700 BC, so its seen some history and been part of an ancient wonder of the world. Impressive. Also, human studies have shown that 32-63 grams per day of pistachio nut can significantly elevate plasma levels of luteinalpha-carotenebeta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol. No idea what that mans, but hey. It sounds impressive.
IMG_3617

Its pretty much a typical ice cream recipe, consisting of a custard made with cream, milk, egg yolks and sugar. Lots of gentle stirring while the eggy, bubbly mixture slowly turns into a velvety, rich base which could really be used for any ice cream flavour. Just a hint, the mixture expands a lot once the egg yolk mixture has been added to the hot creamy milk, so use a big saucepan to avoid you having to switch over half way through cooking like I did. Its messy. But worth it.
IMG_3620

The roasted, pureed pistachios are added to the custard and the the mix is sieved to smooth it out a bit. It is still a slightly coarse mixture, but with that amount of nuts in it, that isn't surprising. And I liked the slight texture sensation. It is a gorgeous creamy, nutty ice cream. The only thing I might change next time is that amount of the sugar. I do think it could be dialled back some. Maybe from 400g to 350g, or even 300g. Next time...
IMG_3634

[print_this]

Pistachio Ice Cream

What you will need:

200g unsalted shelled pistachios
400g caster sugar, plus an extra 80g
700ml full-cream milk
300ml double cream
10 large eggs, yolks only (freeze the whites in a couple of batches and use them for meringues)

What to do:

Roast the pistachios by putting them into a dry frying pan over a medium to low heat. Watch them carefully and shake the pan so that the pistachios brown very lightly on all sides. Don't let them burn.

Put the roasted pistachios into a food processor with 80g of sugar and pulse-chop them as finely as possible.

In a large thick-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream to just below boiling point (you will see bubbles beginning to form at the very edges of the pan). Remove from the heat.

Put the egg yolks and 400g of sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for about 8 minutes, until pale and thick and doubled in volume. Wash the saucepan (this is to remove any milk residue that might be a bit scorched).

Add the warm milk and cream to the egg and sugar mix, beating on the lowest speed.

Return this custard mixture to the clean thick-bottomed pan and cook slowly over a very gentle heat until it coats the back of a spoon; this will take at least 15 boring but worth it minutes.

Remove the custard from the heat, stir in the pistachio paste, and then pour and rub the whole thing through a fine sieve into a bowl.

Leave to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine (in two batches if necessary, as it was for me) until frozen.

[/print_this]

 

Orignal From: Pistachio Ice Cream

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

un-a-MUSE-ing

So, I seem to have lost my blogging muse. I have sat here, in front of the New Post page, for ages, many times. And nothing. No inspiration. No drive. No muse to fuel my word-fire. I can't remember the last time I had a word-rich conversation that tickled my internal dictionary. So today, in there interest of starting, rather than looking blankly at the screen for half an hour before closing my laptop and giving up. Again.

So instead of words, here are some photos of this some work from the last couple of weeks.
photo-52

Virgin Media Corporate Cupcakes



photo-53 copy

Pink & White Wedding Cake



photo-54

Hello cutie Kitty



photo-55

Making Tiramisu cupcakes, and the Kahlua needed testing :)



Orignal From: un-a-MUSE-ing