Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Spiderman Cookies

Confession - I like superhero movies! Ok, maybe it's the appeal of the actors that play the superheroes, but anyway - I'll watch them ; )
The one series that hasn't caught me, though, is Spiderman. But what do I find myself entrenched in this week? You guessed it - I'm getting ready for a very spidery party. There are so many little boy themes that I'd love to do, but my son is determined to celebrate his 5th birthday in Spiderman style. And who am I to argue!?

So, a few dozen Spiderman and related cookies later, I thought I'd share some tips with you on how to deal with a long cookie decorating session...

Give yourself enough time - cookies take time to dry, and not all details can be done in one session. And factor in the cookie dough having to be refrigerated at least 4 hours/ overnight before baking! (See this post for cookie baking basics)

Give yourself enough space - mental, and physical. It's hard to be creative when you are juggling too many balls, so clear the decks. And clear the table - lots of cookies need lots of room to dry if you want to avoid smudging and elbowing half-set icing.

Set up in advance. If I want to get cracking in the morning, then I will do a lot of the preparation the night before - colour the icing, get bags ready, glasses to hold the bags, etc. Then it is just a matter of filling the piping bags in the morning before starting. (See this post for cookie decorating basics)

Make enough icing! - judge how much you'll need of each colour, and have enough mixed. If you run out and have to colour more icing, you may not get the exact same shade, and royal icing is also best left for some time for the colour to mature, and for bubbles to rise to the surface. (Royal icing recipe here).

Get comfortable.
Have everything you need close at hand, apart from the cookies and icing: paper towel, toothpick, image inspiration.

Take a break. Once you've been going for a while, you'll need to stretch, snack and re-focus. Have some tea and an apple... ok - coffee and a cupcake - before start to lose the plot.

Make extra cookies - just in case you don't realize you've lost the plot until too late!

And if you're having a really bad decorating day, there's always tomorrow... unless the party's tomorrow, in which case there's always Oreo's and Iced Zoo's!

If you want to see a great tutorial on decorating a cookie with a Spiderman face/mask, visit


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Nutella Cake

We're back!
It was a wonderful holiday, but it's great to be back home... and baking!

I'd like to be able to tell you all about the Parisian pastries and marvelous macarons I learnt to make on the trip - but it wasn't that kind of holiday.... Instead of cafe's and museums we spent our time in EuroDisney and Alpine playgrounds!

(I could show you all the pictures, but I'm sure you're just here for the cake?!)

It's really interesting eating in a foreign country - and most of the French words I learnt in the past two weeks were food-related - out of necessity! I'm all for eating what the locals eat, but still - there are some things you want to avoid. Like ordering snails on your pizza ; )

In France they don't balk at having chocolate for breakfast - chocolate croissants, hot chocolate, and of course - Nutella. It was ever present at the hotel breakfast buffet - in tall stacks of single-serve packs. (Quite irresistible!)

For this cake, though, you'll need a whole jar!

Nutella Cake
recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

This is a deliciously moist vanilla cake that has rich seams of Nutella oozing through it.

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Grease and line a suitable cake tin: I use a rose-shaped silicone baking mould for this cake - it works beautifully, and complements the appearance of the cake. (When using a silicone baking mould, I simply spray it with baking spray, but I'll always place it in a conventional baking tin for support in the oven.) If you don't have something like that, no problem - any medium sized pan will do.

250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
180g butter at room temp.
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla (Vanilla Girl - 8-10 drops)
* I also added a few drops of Vanilla Girl Hazelnut extract - for that extra yum-factor.
350g Nutella

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
Add the eggs, one at a time, with the mixer on low speed. Scrape down the bowl between additions.
Beat in the vanilla extract.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately beat in the sifted dry ingredients and the buttermilk - begin and end with the dry ingredients.
Beat until just combined.

Pour a third of the batter into the prepared tin. Spread half the Nutella over the batter.
Repeat with another third of batter, and then the rest of the Nutella. Top with the remaining third of batter. (Try to resist licking the Nutella off the spoon until you have completed all the layers!)
 Use a bread knife to gently marble the Nutella through the layers. Don't over mix!

Bake at 180'C for an hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. (Well, free of batter at least - it will have yummy Nutella sticking to it!)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before turning out of the pan/ mould.
Dust with icing sugar and serve.

And if you choose to have a slice or two for breakfast - well, bon appetit!


Friday, 12 July 2013

Rubber Stamps and Cookies

Our bags aren't packed, and we're not ready to go, but tomorrow we'll be leaving on a jet-plane!
We'll be gone for two weeks, and then I'll be straight back and into my kitchen baking up a storm for my son's birthday party.
So much to do!

But first a holiday : )

And I'm squeezing in a quick "how-to" before I get stuck into packing.

How-to use rubber stamps on cookies:

You'll need:

  • Cookies iced with royal icing that have had at least 24hrs to dry completely
  • Non-inked ink pad - available at stationery stores
  • Gel food colour - usually black or brown, to make your edible ink
  • Clear alcohol - vodka, cane, etc
  • Rubber stamps - to be used exclusively with edible ink!

Mix the gel colour with alcohol in a ratio of 1:1
Use a large paintbrush, or pastry brush to evenly distribute this "ink" over the non-inked pad.
Test the stamp on some paper towel before applying to the cookie - some areas of the stamp may take up more colour than others.
When pressing down with the stamp on the cookie, be aware that there is often a dip in the centre of the cookie - so be sure to press down firmly on the middle of the stamp.
Allow the ink to dry, then
Add details with royal icing, or paint made from food colour and alcohol
 - I often just dry brush on powdered colours and luster dusts - or a combination of these.

Happy stamping!


Monday, 8 July 2013

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

Ooh, boy! School holidays are expensive! This is the first time I've experienced it - probably because this is the first long holiday that we've had with two children at home, who are now used to a whole morning of pre-school entertainment.
 In the first week, playdates, puzzles, painting, play-dough and Lego were enough to keep us busy; but week 2 took us to another level. We've gone out for ice-cream (frozen yoghurt) and for lunch (indoor play area); visited the animal farm (add 2x pony rides) and gone to the movies (add 2x popcorn).
Then there are all the extras that we buy every time we go to the supermarket because we're suddenly sooo hungry as soon as we're at the store, even though we had breakfast, second breakfast and a snack before we left home.
And because I was ready to crack by Friday morning, I went out solo for a bit of me-time shopping, and spent more money - on things for them!!

 I'm actually really enjoying the holidays!

Here's a great me-time grown-up indulgence:

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake.
recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Line an 18cm square pan with baking paper - making a cross of paper that extends above the sides of the pan facilitates removal of the cheesecake from the pan after baking.

Alternatively use a round springform pan.


100g butter, cut into cubes
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped roasted pecan nuts

Melt together butter and chocolate. Allow to cool.
Beat the egg and sugar together. Stir in the chocolate mixture, pecan nuts and flour. Mix until all incorporated.

Spread into the base of the prepared pan.
Bake at 180'C for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temp to 170'C


2x 250g tubs cream cheese
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl vanilla extract, so it's 8-10drops)

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft, then add the rest of the topping ingredients and beat until smooth.

Pour the topping over the base (after it has baked for 10 min).
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 45 minutes** at 170'C
**30 minutes, Megan - if you prefer the topping to be fridge cheesecake consistency : )

Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

Refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.

Top with fresh berries or streaks of chocolate to serve.

Enjoy - oh, I know will!

; )


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Art Deco Cupcakes & Purple Icing

Art Deco Cupcakes was a theme that was inspired by a cupcake that was produced in a vintage class - thank you Clare!

I loved the combination of colours and the design that Clare used that day, so it seemed like it would be a great idea to do a whole class in that style.

But, once I'd scheduled the theme, it was in the back of my mind that - actually, I had no real concept of "Art Deco"!
And once again, I landed up sitting at my work table thinking "what was I thinking?"! while waiting for inspiration to strike /smack/slap/ stumble into me (I'll take it anyway it comes some days! ).
Thankfully, there's always Google. Not much in the way of #Art Deco Cupcakes out there, but plenty of Art Deco images and patterns. Once I got going, I was struck by how Egyptian many of the designs were, and for a reason. Apparently during the 20's and 30's when Art Deco became popular, there was great excitement in the excavations and discoveries ( imperial looting!) happening in Egypt at the time.

But I only made that connection halfway through my demo cupcakes.
If I'd realized it earlier, the colour scheme might have been more obvious! Thankfully though, I'd managed to come up with a pharaoh-ean palette of royal blue, regal purple, gold and black without that insight. Or maybe that insight was already there - and just needed excavating?!

While the ancient Egyptians had to rely on soot, insects, plants and minerals to create their colour palettes, we have conveniently packaged E-numbers - aka food colourants!

Lets talk about purple(s).

Purple is notorious for changing shades. Especially if exposed to sunlight. Leave icing - buttercream or fondant - out in the light for a couple of hours, and you may well come back to a completely different shade of purple to the one you started with.

It is hard to see in the photo, which was taken a few hours after the first - but the middle colour was the worst culprit, and you may just be able to make out the faint pink marbling in that ball of fondant.

And on the above picture, the original colour was Regal Purple. The left hand piece shows the colour after a few days exposed to sun and air; the right hand piece is the flip side, that was protected from those factors.

Apparently the volatility of purple has something to do with the red colours in the base - purple being made from reds and blues. And red is unstable. There used to be a very stable red couring on the market, but the small matter of it being a carcinogen meant that it became an unpopular food additive!! 

I find that strange, though - because whenever my purples change colour, they seem to become more pink, which would be a loss of the blues rather than the reds....
And, I haven't had reds discolour nearly as much as purples do. But, on the other hand pinks definitely pale. 

What to do...

If you are using purple in butter icing, apparently the addition of milk helps prevent the colour changes.

If you are using fondant, be aware that it may be an issue - and cover all parts of the cake at the same time - I was involved in making a teapot cake once, where the spout was a very different shade to the body of the teapot because of the time elapse between covering the cake and making the spout!

If the particular shade of purple is very important for accuracy, make the icing up the day before, and see how it matures overnight.

Avoid exposing the icing to sunlight, if possible.

And, if all else fails - remember, it's cake. It will be eaten!