Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chocolate covered Birthdays... {Recipe}

Growing up, I remember always having chocolate cake for my birthday.  It was the one day in the year that I got to decide what kind of cake I wanted, and as far as I remember, it always had to be CHOCOLATE.  (Yes I am a chocoholic and am proud of it!)  It was always store bought cake from a delicious bakery near where we lived, and even when we moved, mum would go down to get that Chocolate Etoile cake for me.  What was there not to love about light spongy layers of chocolate cake smothered in rich, creamy chocolate mousse.  Ah yes, those were the days.

When I started cake decorating a few years ago, I decided that I would start making my own cakes, as well as my hubby's.  (He gets a chocolate cake every year too!)  This gave me the opportunity to experiment with different recipes (always chocolate!) and dress my cakes up the way I wanted.  Funnily enough, I love my cakes simple.  Just pure, decadent chocolate cake is what I want. 

This year, I decided, after much research, that I would use Julie le Clerc's recipe for her Valrhona chocolate pearl cake for my birthday cake.  This cake happens to be gluten free as well, so even better!  And oh boy oh boy, I think it is one of the best, most decadent chocolate cakes I have ever had!  Plus, on your birthday the calories don't count, right?

Since there is no flour in the cake, the bulk of it is almond meal, and you get that slightly nutty taste together with the chocolate, which I love. The cake is then smothered in dark chocolate ganache and covered in crunchy chocolate pearls.  Yuummmyyyy!!!   Julie le Clerc's recipe is available in her book, Favourite Cakes, available at Amazon.  (See website link on the right).

Another chocolate cake that I love by Kim Evans of Little and Friday.  She owns a couple of cafes here in Auckland and her chocolate cake is a must try for anyone who visits.  It is also available in her book, Treats from Little and Friday.  Try covering it in ganache and coconut as that how she makes her lamingtons.  Delish!

The third chocolate cake I love is this mud cake.  I found the recipe online and have used it several times to make my husband's cakes as I find it carves well and holds it shape for the 3D cakes I make for him.  If you have not tried mud cakes before, this is definitely one to try and it is rich and chocolatey, and it goes very well with the ganache.  Best of all you can put away your cake mixer, everything can be done by hand.  Always use the best quality chocolate you can afford because it does make a difference!  I have tweaked the recipe slightly.  (see changes in brackets below)

Recipe for Chocolate Mud Cake    (Recipe from www.exclusivelyfood.com.au)

250g chocolate (125g dark chocolate and 125g milk chocolate)

250g butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt with the butter)

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules/powder

188ml (3/4 cup) water

325g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain flour  (I changed it to 285g)

30g (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

550g (2 1/2 cups) caster sugar (I changed it to 500g)

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons (40ml) oil (any mild-flavoured oil) (I used canola oil)

1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract

125ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (not fan-forced).  Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Place chocolate, butter, coffee and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate and butter have melted, remove mixture from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl.
  4. Add the caster sugar to the bowl with the flour mixture, and mix well with a whisk.
  5. In another bowl, whisk eggs, oil, vanilla and buttermilk until well combined.
  6. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
  7. Now add the chocolate mixture to the egg and flour mixture in a three batches, stirring until combined after each addition.
  8. Pour mixture into your cake pan and bake for about 1 hr 30 min or until a skewer in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in pan before removing.  Make and spread the ganache over the cake.

Recipe for Chocolate ganache

250g chocolate (equal mix of dark and milk), chopped

125ml cream

  1. Heat the cream in a pot til scalding.  Take off heat.
  2. Add chopped chocolate and whisk till smooth and creamy.   
  3. Set aside to cool until ready to use or use warm to pour over cake.

What is your favourite kind of birthday cake? 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

24 hour Flash Sale!


Craftsy is having a 24 hour special on some of their classes!  Grab a class now!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FREE cake decorating classes online!

free modern buttercream cake decorating class at craftsy.com

Have you been on Craftsy yet?  They are offering a few FREE courses on cake decorating (among other classes) and all you have to do is sign up for a free account.  Carftsy lets you watch these classes on your own schedule, anytime, anywhere, and your access never expires!

If you are new to cake decorating, try these classes out to build the foundation for all your cake decorating techniques.  These classes are taught by experienced and professional cake decorators from around the world, so they know what they are talking about! :)

There's also free cake decorating recipes available.  Check out these links for a FREE Craftsy cake decorating class:

Modern Buttercream:
Free Online Cake Decorating Class

The Hand Painted Cake (how to paint on cakes):
Free Online Cake Decorating Class

Free Online Class - Basic Fondant Techniques

Free Cake Decorating Recipes at Craftsy!

Check these and more classes out now!  Enjoy! :)


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Baaaa.....how to make a cute little fondant lamb {Tutorial}

I was clearing up my flash drives today when I found some old photos I had taken when I made this little lamb quite some time back.  It is amazing how much we accumulate in photos that we forget where we stored them.  It was a lot easier with film rolls I think.  Much harder to misplace a photo album than a flash drive!

Well, thanks to these old photos, a little lamb is born.  :)  I must have made him when I first started playing around with fondant figurines and he is such an easy thing to make.  I compiled what photos I had so have a look and I'll explain along the way.

1.  You will need some white, pink and black fondant.

2.  Roll the body into a tear drop shape.  The arms and legs are sausages that are tapered at one end (kinda like a long tear drop).

3.  Flatten the bigger end of the arms and legs and stick a small piece of pink icing at the bottom.  I made the pink circle by pressing down on a small ball of pink, but if you want to be more exact, then use a small, round icing tip to cut out the circles.  I used the end of a dresden tool (at least that's what I think it is, to mark and texture the fondant on the body, arms and legs, but you can also roll or pipe tiny round balls and stick them on).

4.  Stick the arms and legs to the body with a little water or some edible glue and stick a piece of spaghetti or a toothpick down the middle of the body (not shown in picture).  If you are using a toothpick, make sure to tell the recipient about it as you don't want them biting down on it!

5-6.  Make the head by rolling a smaller ball of white into a tear drop.  Mark a smile using the end of a round icing tip.  I used the Wilton number 12 but use whatever you have.  Mark two dimples at the end of the smile with a toothpick.

7.  To make the ears, roll small pieces of white and pink fondant into tear drops.  Flatten them and stick the smaller pink onto the white.  Mark out the eyes with a toothpick.  Add a ball of pink for the nose.

8.  Glue the ears on and roll a couple of tiny black fondant balls for the eyes.  Roll some balls of white for the 'hair' on top of the head.  

 Baaaaaaa.....and your little lamb is done.

If you found this tutorial useful, I would appreciate some comments on it.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wanna get creative?

Craftsy Logo

Have you heard of Craftsy?  I am sure many of you have, but for those of you who haven't, let me tell you a little more.  Craftsy is a fabulous website that offers online classes on many different hobbies, one of which, of course, is Cake Decorating!  Each class can be viewed anytime, anywhere, through your own account, and you even get to print out the notes and materials on the classes that you've enrolled in.  Some of the classes are free too (yes FREE!), like the Modern Buttercream class (see link on right side of bar).  All you need to do is sign up and become a Craftsy member (and that's free too!).

If you've never been on Craftsy before, it is well worth the look.  I have learnt how to design a fabulously lifelike alligator handbag cake from the famous Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes, as well as make beautiful flowers from the amazing Nicholas Lodge.  Even Sharon Wee and Zoe Clark have lessons online too.  One of Sharon's classes shows you how to make an amazing castle cake and Zoe Clark has gorgeous lace cakes all figured out. Lindy Smith has just put up a new class on how to create a beautiful bird cage, which seems to be a very popular design now. Are you excited yet?!  I am!  You can view some of these classes here:

Vintage Cake Design: Sculpting and Stenciling with Lindy Smith

Elegant Lace Cakes with Zoë Clark 

Design Your Own Castle Cake

Classic Sugar Flowers Online Cake Decorating Class

Designer Handbag Cakes Online Cake Decorating Class

There are so many other classes to learn from too.  Go get creative! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Elmo, Dorothy and Books I love

 A quick post to show you my finished Elmo and his pet goldfish Dorothy on her stand for a student of mine.  She wanted one done for her son's first birthday and I am very pleased with how it has turned out.  I added tylose to my fondant to make it stronger and dry hard.  I also textured Elmo's fur using a Wilton tip 233.  You can pipe fur using this tip too if you wish but since it was going to be moved around, I thought it was safer to texture it.  Didn't want Elmo losing his fur when he was moved!  Unfortunately, (as seems to be always the case), I forgot to take any photos of the process, but I will try to do a tutorial to show you how I did Elmo. 

Thinking about how I started off with my first figurine, which was little Harry Potter (see post here),  I have learned a lot along the way.  I get lots of useful information through Youtube and the web, but also through books.  One book that I have found really useful for stand-up fondant figures in particular is Squires Kitchen's Guide to making Sugar Figures by Jan Clement-May.  In this book, she shows you the basics of figure modelling before going on to more complex figures.  The book is divided into chapters for Occupations (like builder, nurse and fireman), Hobbies (like horse rider, ballerina and footballer) and Celebrations (like Santa, bride and groom).  A very useful book to read if you want to progress in making stand-up figures.  If you are keen on making fondant animals, another book I love is 100 Fondant Animals for Cake Decorators by Helen Penman.  Her animals are easy to do and look cute too (which is sooo important)! I made this cute little zebra for an upcoming cake with her book.

If you'd like more details on these and other books that I read and love, you can find them on my blog through the Amazon link.  If you have any questions or comments, I'd  love to hear from you.  Happy decorating!  :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Barney Cake

I made this cake for my friend's little boy who was turning two.  He loves Barney and it was so cute watching his expression when he saw Barney on the cake.  I am glad he liked it. :)  His mum wanted something simple, a square cake with an edible image.  Since I don't own an edible printer, and I couldn't find a suitable edible image online or in the shops, I decided to make one out of fondant. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to make a fire truck cake {Tutorial}

When I made this cake for my friend's daughter, I did so with a lot of inspiration from the web, but with a lot of guesswork along the way too.  If I had known earlier, I would have got my hands on Debbie Brown's Children's Character Cakes book as it has instructions on how to make Fireman Sam and Jupiter (the truck), as well as other brilliant and well-loved characters.  It is a fabulous book to read through but I only managed to get it after I had to make the cake.  So this post is just my way of making the truck.  It may or may not be the best way, but it came together pretty well in the end and I was quite happy with the results.

The first step is