Monday, 31 December 2012

Glittering Butterflies

When I was thinking about how to decorate a cake for New Year, what was weighing on my mind was how tough a year 2012 was for a lot of people.  The idea of making decorations that reflect the traditional New Year's celebrations of champagne and fireworks just didn't gel with me.
 I opted for butterflies instead. Beautiful, glowing butterflies : )
To me, they symbolize renewal and transformation. A butterfly has to go through the struggle of emerging from its cocoon - without the struggle, its wings are deformed and useless.
So, if you had a tough year in 2012, you'll have really strong and beautiful wings this year!

And now, on a less philosophical note...

Here's how to glitz up those wings:
(this is different to using luster dust)

 Roll out Tylose paste, and cut out butterflies

Transfer cut-outs to a disposable container, and brush with clear alcohol
....keep the champagne for later ; )

Sprinkle liberally with edible glitter

Use a dry brush to spread the glitter over the butterflies

Allow to dry 

...and decorate! 

I sincerely wish that 2013 is a beautiful "Butterfly Year" for all of you. 

Happy New Year! 


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Cheesecake

Oh, my gosh! Was that Christmas?
We celebrate Christmas Eve with my family, and Christmas Day with my husband's; but even a two day affair vanished in a flash of red, white an glitzy green as Santa's supersonic jet disappeared into the distance for another year.

I've already packed everything away; boxed the ornaments, swept up the scattered shreds of tinsel and tree leaves. And dumped the left-over leftovers into the bin. Now it's time to really unpack my presents: take them out of their boxes, plug them in and get mixing!  That might give you a hint about what I got this year, but I'll share more in my next post ; ) 

One final red-and-white share, though, before I get stuck into some New Year's baking.
I still had some glace' cherries left over after all the Christmas cakes were done, so I decided to use them up in a cheesecake: a baked cherry and almond, white chocolate cheesecake. 

Baked cheesecakes are so simple to make. And I love the fact that you can put one in the oven, leave the timer on, and clean the house/ play with the children / go out shopping for a couple of hours while it's baking and then cooling in the oven. 
For that to work, of course, you need an oven dedicated to the task (don't do this on the same day that you're supposed to be roasting a turkey!) and an oven timer.  And know how to work it... New Year's resolution, if you don't already know - figure out your oven timer! 

Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Cheesecake
recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Crust/ Base:

225g flour
1 tbs corn flour
125g butter
30g caster sugar
1 tbs milk
100g glace' cherries, roughly chopped (plus extra if you want to use them as a topping) 
50g slivered almonds


300g white chocolate, melted and cooled
2x 250g tubs cream cheese 
1 cup buttermilk 
3 eggs
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl vanilla extract, so just a few drops) 

Pre-heat the oven to 150'C
Grease a 20cm round springform tin. 

For the crust, cream together the butter and caster sugar. Sift in the flour and corn flour, and mix slowly. Add the milk; then the cherries and almonds and combine gently.

Roll out the dough onto parchment or a silicone mat, and cut to size using the base of the tin as a guide. 

(You'll see that I'm using my tin base upside down - this trick helps with removing the cake from this base once it is baked.) 

Flip over using the mat or parchment, and fit the base into the tin. Prick the surface with a fork. 

Bake at 150'C for 20 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate. 

For the filling, on medium speed, beat together the sugar and cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer. 
Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. 
Then add the eggs, one at a time - scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. 
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the melted white chocolate into the mix. 
Beat until incorporated. 
Pour onto the base.
Bake at 150'C for 50 minutes. Leave cheesecake in oven to cool completely.

Refrigerate in the springform tin for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight before serving. 

Top with more chopped cherries, if desired; or just serve as is. 

Have a super - but safe - New Year's celebration!


Saturday, 22 December 2012

(Christmas) Fruit Cake

I've never made a real Christmas cake. I think I must have been put off the idea, years ago, when I saw that a fruit cake should be made 1 to 3 months in advance to allow the flavors to mature.
Now, I'm the kind if person that starts buying Christmas presents in September, but making a cake that far in advance (unless it's going in the freezer! ) is something I just cannot bring myself to do. But I do enjoy fruity, boozy, nutty cakes (hmmn.... I have a few friends who fit that description, too!) so I have my version of a fruit cake that I bring out at this time of year. Conveniently, you can bake it one day in advance!
It's not as heavy and rich as a 3 month-matured Christmas cake, but (in my opinion!) it has just the right amount of spice, fruit and alcohol to capture the Christmas "spirit"  ;  )

An interesting addition to the ingredients of this cake, is a layer of marzipan/ almond paste that is baked inside the cake. To do this you half fill the cake pan with batter, lay down a layer of rolled-out and cut-to-size almond paste, and top with the remaining batter. As it bakes, the marzipan melts into the centre and adds a delicious layer of taste to the cake. A lot of people really don't like the taste of marzipan, so you can of course omit it.

Rich Fruit Cake

Preheat oven to 150'C
Prepare cake pans with baking parchment **

225g flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
1tbs golden syrup
100g glacé cherries, chopped
300g raisin/ sultana/ currant mix
50g slivered almonds
50g mixed peel, chopped
3tbs sherry + more
Marzipan/ almond paste for the middle layer.

**Wondering what size can tins to use? This recipe makes enough for one 20cm /8inch round tin; or a 18cm / 7inch square tin. Or 3 mini 10cm/ 4inch round cakes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time - add a tablespoon of the flour with each egg to prevent curdling.
Then add the syrup and sherry. Fold in the dry ingredients, fruits, peel and almonds.
Spoon half the mixture into the cake pan, followed by a layer of marzipan - the thickness of this layer depends on your taste - make sure there are no air bubbles under the marzipan. Spoon in the rest of the batter, and smooth the top.

Place a small ramekin containing water in the oven, this will help keep the cake moist.

Bake at 150' C for approx 2 hours (1 cake) or 1 hour (3 small cakes) - until the cake is firm.
(if you try testing with a skewer, you'll go through the marzipan layer, and the inside of the cake will seem undercooked, when it is in fact done).

Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the cake tins. Prick the surface of the cake with a skewer, and spoon some more sherry onto the cake while it's still warm.

The traditional icing is a layer of marzipan, then white Fondant....but that of course is up to you : )

A mini (10cm) Christmas cake 

Happy baking!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Cookies

If you were planning on making some decorated biscuits for Christmas, now would be a good time to start : )
Remember - it's a process that takes a couple of days, or more:
Day 1 - Make the cookie dough (see the index for various flavour options)
Day 2 - Roll-out, cut-out and bake the biscuits.
           - Make royal icing
Day 3 - Decorate biscuits
Day 4 - Add details (wet-on-dry)
Day 5 - Package completely dry biscuits....

That takes us to Christmas Day - just in time ; )

You can short-cut a few of those steps, of course (I've been speeding up the drying process in my oven - fan on, ultra low temp. or just the oven light for the tiniest bit of heat - don't tell anyone I'm cheating!)

And if you find yourself a little short of Xmas cookie cutters, take heart - there are plenty "festive" shapes you can make just out of round cutters. Here's a few ideas...

No glue necessary - just mush the two together at the join

Be sure to use a "sticky" dough if you're joining two cut-outs together. I did a few with a relatively dry dough, and a had a lot of snowmen loosing their heads... so I made a some owls...

...which I really enjoyed. Serendipity!

Another one of my favourites was this wreath:

And if you look in the gallery, you'll find some more ideas of what to do with round cutters for Christmas.

Happy creating!


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Ginger Buttercream

This is the last of the chocolate / ginger combinations, I promise!

(I do have another cake in mind that I think this icing will pair beautifully with... but I'll keep that on the back-burner for now!)

The cupcake recipe here is not my go-to for chocolate cakes and cupcakes, but I used it for this project because the inclusion of apricot jam in the ingredients just seemed like such a good fit for the buttercream.
And the buttercream was devised because I had a bunch of egg yolks sitting in my fridge, that needed using up!
There is no reason why you can't use Swiss meringue buttercream or even basic butter icing with these cupcakes (or anything else you might have in mind!)

I really enjoy working with these egg-based buttercreams. They are easy to pipe, silky smooth and positively delicious!

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

Pre-heat oven to 180'C.
Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases (makes 15 medium or 24 small cupcakes).

125g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup smooth apricot jam
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl vanilla, so just a few drops)
1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3ml bicarb
1 cup buttermilk.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla. Beat in the apricot jam. (Don't worry if it looks curdled).
Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarb together into a bowl. Use a whisk to mix them together.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the jam mixture, then 1/2 the buttermilk; another 1/3 dry ingredients; the rest of the buttermilk, then the last of the dry ingredients.

Spoon into cupcake cases, and bake for 15-18minutes.

Orange Ginger Buttercream

1/2 cup water
2 cups light brown sugar
6 egg yolks
250-300g butter, cut into small cubes.
1/2 tsp orange essence/extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh orange zest

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil, then on medium heat, let it continue boiling for  7 minutes.
Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment of your mixer, beat the egg yolks until pale and creamy - about 5 minutes.
Remove the sugar syrup from the stove, and slowly pour it down the side of the mixing bowl, into the beaten eggs, with the mixer running on low speed.
Add in the extract, zest and ginger.
Then, beat this mixture on medium speed until the mixing bowl reaches room temperature.

Swop over to the paddle attachment, and add the butter 1 cube at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.
Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Lustre Dust - Bling it on!

This is a very sparkly time of year, isn't it? A friend who's mom was a primary school teacher, said you always new when Christmas was approaching because her mom would come home from school covered in glitter every day. Do you think it is supposed to be evocative of snowflakes and sparkling icicles? And we, in the Southern hemisphere - glistening in the heat of Summer, follow right along with tradition ; )

So, here's how to bling up your edible decorations with luster dust.

Luster dusts are made using minerals such as titanium dioxide and mica. They are usually labelled "non-toxic", which actually isn't the same as edible! But the small amount consumed is generally nothing to be concerned about.

Luster dust can't be mixed into fondant or tylose paste the way that powdered colour can; the lustre can only be applied to the surface - the bling doesn't survive the kneading process.

You can use the dust dry, or add a clear alcohol to it and paint it on as a liquid. I'm talking about using it dry here.

Luster dust can be dry-brushed onto your decorations once you've already cut them out, or if you are making a lot of the same thing out of the same paste, a very easy way to apply the luster is to sponge it on....

(Using tylose paste)                           

Roll out the paste

Sponge on some luster dust

Use the sponge to "polish" on the dust

Cut out shapes

Luster dust comes in various colours. If you are applying a white or pearl dust onto coloured paste, it will make the colour look paler.
And if you want an intense luster - for example gold or silver, then it is a good idea to make your paste a corresponding colour first (yellow for gold; grey for silver) before dusting. 

If you re-knead the paste, the luster is lost, but the pigment remains, so you will have to re-luster after kneading.

....all done

Happy bling-ing!


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ginger Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Taking a few minutes break from baking -  I'm busy making basic vanilla cupcakes for a class (the last cupcake class of the year!!) and red velvet for a function tonight.
But right now, we're talking dark chocolate and ginger again. This time cupcakes, not cookies: sticky ginger cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache.

It really is one of my favorite flavour combinations. (And I'll be posting the reverse of this combination soon - rich chocolate cupcakes with ginger buttercream! )

This is a ginger cupcake recipe that I got from a gorgeous book - The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible, by Lindy Smith.
It creates delicious, moist cupcakes, with a little ginger zing. I pair them with dark chocolate ganache - poured or whipped.
Ganache is simply made by melting chocolate in cream. There are a couple of different ways to do this. Many recipes suggest heating the cream to just-before boiling, then pouring that over the finely chopped chocolate. I just put both the ingredients into a double boiler, and slowly melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. You can microwave it - but be patient: use a low power setting, and interrupt it often to stir the mixture. It is very easy to burn chocolate in a microwave.

But apart from that - ganache is really simple to make....and sublime to taste!
And you can then pour it, spread it, or whip it and pipe it. It's a great alternative to standard buttercream icing.

Depending on what you want to do with the ganache, you vary the ratio of cream to chocolate. For whipping and piping - use a ratio of 1:1, so 1 cup of cream to 250g of dark chocolate.

Here are the recipes:

Ginger Cupcakes ( from Lindy Smith's The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible)
(Makes about 15-20 depending on the size of the cupcake cases).

Pre-heat oven to 170'C
Line muffin trays with cupcake cases.

120g butter
100g dark brown sugar
60ml golden syrup
60ml molasses
150ml milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp vanilla extract ( I use Vanilla Girl, so just a few drops)
230g self-raising flour
1 TBS ground ginger
1tsp mixed spice

Gently heat the butter, sugar, syrup and molasses together in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved.
Stir in the milk and leave the mixture to cool.
When cool, mix in the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Pour the cooled syrup mixture into the well, and beat well to combine.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases - make them about 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Allow to cool before icing.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

250g dark chocolate, cut into small, even sized pieces.
250ml cream (it must be whipping cream - 35-40% fat)

Place both ingredients into a double boiler (a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) OR in a microwave-proof bowl.
Heat slowly, stirring frequently until all the chocolate has melted.

Leave to cool down to room temperature (if you refrigerate it, bring it back to room temperature, before whipping).

Using your whisk attachment on your mixer, beat the ganache until soft peaks form. Don't over-beat -  it may go grainy! The ganache will firm up some more after beating, especially if placed in the fridge.

Now, the hard part....try not to eat it all before using it to decorate your cupcakes : )



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas Colours and Royal Icing

Wow, it's been a super-busy week! And another one's coming!!

So here's a super-quick share:
Cookie baking and decorating season has arrived with a bang (and the occasional fizzle as our royal icing virtually melts in this humidity!)

For Christmas, I've been using the following gel colours (good for royal icing, buttercream, and tylose paste and fondant):
For red: a mix of Super Red and Tulip Red - the tulip red isn't bitter like other reds.
For green: Forest Green

I've included a Teal / Sky Blue mix in the icing we've been using in the classes, too. It's a beautiful blue that complements the other Christmas colours so well.

A word of caution with Sky Blue, though. Despite its name, there isn't much subtlety about this colour - even a small drop can result in a lot more blue than sky! Use restraint, only a tiny amount is needed to get a pretty, light blue.

And remember to add some Bright White to your white, to get that clean crisp snow-white appearance.

For brown royal icing I always add cocoa powder as well as brown gel colour.
I do this for a few reasons: To minimize the amount of chemical ("E-number") colourants we're consuming; to enrich the colour; and very importantly: for me if it's brown it needs to taste like chocolate!

So I add a tablespoon of sifted cocoa powder to 250g of royal icing, and varying amounts of gel colour to get the desired brown. Adding purely cocoa powder - without food coloring - seems to make the icing heavy and sticky. Which is manageable if you are using it on its own, but it doesn't work well in conjunction with the other non-cocoa icing.

Happy creating!


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Dark Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Drumroll ....finally: the moment you've all been waiting for...well, not all - maybe just a few of you...okay - the moment 2 of you have been waiting for ; )
My dark chocolate biscuit recipe!!

I love this recipe because it's really easy to make and makes great, super-tasty cut-out cookies.
One of the secrets to it is to use really good quality cocoa powder. I use the one from our local baking supplies shop, it is labelled "kapong". (Whatever that means - anyone know??)
It's dark and rich and delicious. But I've made these biscuits with standard-supermarket-variety cocoa, and they are still great.

The recipe here is my Christmas adaptation, with the ginger and cinnamon - just omit the spices for the plain chocolate version. (But then give the ginger version a try too, sometime - dark chocolate and ginger is a scrumptious combination!)

So, here it is.....

Dark Chocolate Ginger Cookies
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Preheat the oven to 180'C 

300g caster sugar
250g butter, at room temp.
2 eggs
540g flour
80g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt.
Vanilla extract
(omit the following spices for plain dark choc cookies)
2-3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon      
1-2 TBS milk, if needed

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
Sift in the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the dough just starts to clump. (If the mixture seems too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of milk).
Knead into a ball by hand, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Take out the fridge about 30minutes before you are ready to roll it out and cut out your shapes. Refrigerate cut out shapes for about 15 minutes before baking.
( For some basic tips on rolling out and cutting out cookies, see here).

Bake at 180'C for approx. 8-12 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the cookies).

If the baked cookies come out the oven with any bubbles on their surfaces, simply take a cake smoother or a palette knife and gently smooth out the surface while the cookies are still hot.