Thursday, 25 December 2014

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Biscuits

Well, I wasn’t planning on posting anything on Christmas Day. And I very nearly couldn’t (a recent storm took out our internet connection). But, I made a plan and here I am :o)

Actually – it’s not much of a post, but I loved the way the chocolate draped itself on these mini Xmas-tree biscuits, so I felt compelled to share before their relevance expired!

And when I say “draped itself ”, that’s exactly what I mean. 
I couldn’t have done that  intentionally if I tried – my artistry with chocolate being pretty limited.
I dipped the cookies into a bowl of relatively thick melted chocolate, and the edges of the trees created the folds of chocolate as I turned them over. Pretty, huh?!

Gingerbread cookie recipe here

Have a lovely Christmas!


Sunday, 21 December 2014


I'm doing a "rustic" Christmas eve dinner this year. (And every Christmas to come, I've decided.)
I don't have enough stylish silverware and glassware to do an elegant table.  
So, lace-trimmed hessian for an overlay, twine-wrapped candles, and sprigs of rosemary at place settings will do instead. 
And what could be more rustic than serving pudding in a jar?! 

This is layers of sweet butterscotch sauce, topped with a creamy custard and finished off with cinnamon brittle. It is simply delicious! 

Pudding - in - a - Jar
Recipes by Tea, Cake and Create

Butterscotch Sauce

250ml cream
70g butter
200g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan and stir on low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Leave to simmer for approx 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick and glossy.
Pour into the bottom of the jars. Chill (not you - the butterscotch! You've got work to do!)

1250ml (4 1/2 cups) full cream milk
200g sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tbs corn flour
2 1/2 tbs cake flour
1 tbs custard powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cinnamon quills
peel of 1 naartjie (mandarin, satsuma, tangerine) - not essential, but adds a lovely subtle flavour.
pinch salt

Beat together the eggs and sugar until pale. Beat in the flour, cornflour, custard powder, vanilla and salt.
In a large saucepan, boil the milk together with the cinnamon quills and naartjie peel.
Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, then return to the saucepan, and stir on low-medium heat until the mixture thickens.
Allow to cool slightly, remove the naartjie peel and cinnamon quills, then pour onto the chilled butterscotch layer.

Cinnamon and Sprinkle Nuts Brittle

Sprinkle nuts are simply small pieces of peanuts. You can chop the peanuts up yourself, but the store bought "sprinkle nuts" have a neat uniformity to size and shape. Alternatively, use any nuts of your choosing.

200g (1 cup) white sugar
120ml golden syrup
60ml  water
140g sprinkle nuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs butter
1 tsp baking soda

Place baking parchment on a large cookie sheet.

In a medium-sized heavy based saucepan on medium-high heat, mix together the sugar, water, syrup, cinnamon and salt. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Use a damp pastry brush to brush down any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan.
Stir in the nuts.
Continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 150'C on a candy thermometer or until it reaches the hard-crack stage.
Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and baking soda.
Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet. Use two forks to separate and spread the mixture on the cookie sheet.

Allow to cool.
Snap into shards.

For serving:
Sprinkle cinnamon on the surface of the custard.
Top with shards of cinnamon brittle. (Don't do this step earlier, otherwise the sugar in the brittle begins to dissolve.)

Rustic table decor - check
Rustic pudding - check
... Now just to find enough jam tins to serve the coffee in  ;o) 


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Gingerbread House

I'm not sure why I haven't made a gingerbread house before. It might be because they look like hard work (and I'm on holiday,  see!?) and it might be because it won't last a day in the Durban humidity once it's constructed.
But, despite the reasons not to, this year I did.

I' won't share the template with you - because it was a bad one! (Whether the architect or the builder is to blame, I can't say!)
But I will share that using melted white chocolate would be my choice of "glue".
It's pretty much the only thing I'll do the same again next time.
So, yes - I'll be making one again next year.  (insert resigned, weary, what-am-I-doing-to-myself voice here!)


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Cookies: Babushka Dolls

Tonight's the night - time to wrap Christmas presents! 
My husband is out, so I can do his too (and also make sure they all get wrapped the way I like them to get wrapped. What, me... a control freak? Noooo! Okay, maybe a little. But I can control it!)

And so it's time to wrap up a few other Christmas things....

This year's Xmas cookie line-up. 
I had to sneak the Babushka's in there, because I didn't make them for Mothers Day, and I couldn't let a year go by without them! 

This is how I do their faces. By no means do I think that it is the definitive way of doing it, or the way they have to be done (see - I can relinquish control!), but it's a quick and easy, and gets cute results. 

Flood a round / oval for the face  (with flooding consistency royal icing)

Immediately pipe on (wet-on-wet, with flooding consistency royal icing):
- the rosy cheeks
- the hair
- the eyes.

Use a toothpick or scribe tool to drag the icing outwards  from the eyes to create the eyelashes.

Leave the face to dry, before piping on a little heart for the lips. Use piping consistency royal icing for this. 

Happy decorating (and gift wrapping)!


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Cupcakes and Sugar Pastes

When you're new to the world of cake decorating (and I don't consider myself more than a kindergartener in that regard) figuring out which sugar paste to use and when and why, can leave you feeling confused and confounded.
What makes it more brain-befuddling is that there seems to be some fuzzy areas.
What I call tylose paste seems to be another decorator's gumpaste, or even pastillage.
I've seen recipes for gumpaste that are the same as pastillage, and recipes for pastillage that are the same as mexican paste. It's enough to make your head spin!

This is what I use (as illustrated by this year's decorated Christmas Cupcakes):
Rolled fondant
Tylose paste
Modelling paste (which really is just a mix of the 2 above).
Modelling chocolate

These 4 are either easy to buy or easy to make.
If you want to keep it really simple, become familiar with the first three - they'll cover most of your cake-decorating needs; and then modelling chocolate adds another dimension to what you can do with your cakes.

Christmas cupcakes covered with  fondant; decorations made with modelling chocolate/ fondant mix , excl the snowflakes - those are cut out of tylose paste. 

Sugarpaste/ Rolled fondant* / Plastic icing/ Ready-to-Roll icing
Has a dough-like consistency and can be rolled out to cover cakes, cake boards or cupcakes, to give them a silky smooth finish. Dries firm, but not as hard as tylose paste or gumpaste.
It is readily available from baking supply stores, or large retailers in white and a variety of colours.
It is also possible to make your own; ingredients include gelatine, glycerine, glucose, icing sugar and water.

You cannot roll fondant as thinly as you can tylose paste/ gumpaste (see below), so although it can be used to make decorations, they won't be as delicate and need a longer drying time compared to ones made with tylose paste/ gumpaste.
Store in a plastic bag in a sealed container at room temperature.

(*Not to be confused with poured fondant - used to cover petit fours, etc. Used in this post, the term fondant will refer to rolled fondant only.)

Modelling paste
Fondant with with gum tragacanth** or tylose powder (CMC)**  added to it ( 1 tsp tylose per 250g rolled fondant).
Or made with a 1:1 mixture of fondant and gum paste or  fondant and tylose paste.
Used for edible decorations, modelled figures.
Because of the addition of gum trag or tylose, this paste maintains its shape well and dries harder than   sugarpaste.

Cupcake disc cut out of modelling paste; ribbon tree made from modelling paste. 

{**Tylose powder and Gum Tragacanth
Tylose is the trade name for CMC - carboxymethylcellulose. It is a synthetic alternative to gum tragacanth. (Gum tragacanth is dried sap derived from Astragalus legumes.)
Both tylose powder and gum trag do the same thing - they make fondant firmer and it will dry faster and harder.
If you add gum trag to sugarpaste, you will need to leave it overnight before working with it.
Tylose powder acts immediately.
They can be substituted for each other. Which of the two you use is personal preference. }

Gumpaste/ Florist Paste/ Flower Paste/ Petal Paste
Made with gelatine, glucose, tylose powder or gum trag, icing sugar, egg white and shortening.
Used for sugar flowers / edible decorations.
This paste is soft and malleable, can be rolled very thin and sets firmly when left to dry in air.
Store paste in a plastic bag, (with as much air squeezed out of the bag as possible) in a well sealed container at room temperature.
Cannot be used to cover cakes or cupcakes.
(I personally don't use flower paste; I use tylose paste instead).  

Tylose paste 
Made with tylose powder, icing sugar, egg white.
 Recipe here.
An extremely versatile paste.
Used for flowers / decorations, Can be used with moulds and patchwork cutters.
This paste can be rolled very thin and sets firmly when left to dry in air.
Can be used as a non-gelatin pastillage.
Use on it's own or in a 1:1 mix with rolled fondant for modelled figures.
Store paste in a plastic bag, (with as much air squeezed out of the bag as possible) in a well sealed container in the refrigerator.
Cannot be used to cover cakes or cupcakes.

Snowflakes cut from tylose paste

Mexican Paste
Made with gum trag / tylose powder, icing sugar and water (no egg white).
Can be rolled out very thin. Dries strong and hard. Use for cutting out shapes (letters, patchwork cutters)  and for modelling. Can be mixed with fondant for modelling.
Less elastic than gumpaste.
(I've never made / used mexican paste as tylose paste can fulfil the same function).

Modelling Chocolate/ Chocolate Clay/ Candy Clay/ Chocolate Plastique
Made with melted chocolate and liquid glucose or corn syrup. Recipe here.
Used for decorations, modelled figures.
Can be used to cover cupcakes and whole cakes (easiest if used in panels because it doesn't stretch like fondant).
Can be mixed with fondant - improves the taste and texture of fondant for both modelled figures and for covering cakes.

Bear and snowman made with 1:1 mix of modelling chocolate and fondant 

Marzipan/ Almond Paste
Made from ground almond, egg whites, icing sugar.
Substitute pastes may contain ground peanuts or lima beans as an alternative to almonds.
Used for covering fruit cakes underneath the fondant layer,  to prevent the fruit acids discolouring the fondant. Has a light golden beige colour.
Also used for modelling.

Rudolph design inspired by "My CupKates"

So, that's my take on sugar pastes. I hope it helps (a little!).
Feel free to question or comment below!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dora the Explorer Cookies

Normally by this time in December I'm completely over Christmas baking.
Fortunately, though, this year the repetition of red-white-and-green has been relieved by a number of non-Yuletide projects (thanks to a few friends who really didn't think the timing of their children's birthdays through very carefully!)

This was one of them:
Dora and friends cookies.

Making character-anything can be tricky. Their faces are usually so distinctive that a slight misplacement of a feature will stand out like a sore thumb.
Using something like a Kopykake projector would be ideal, but seeing as I don't own one, this is what works instead:

Print out an appropriately sized image, and dis-assemble it

Trace around the hair outline (use a scibe tool, non-toxic graphite pencil or edible marker.)

Outline where the eyes will go

Use piping consistency icing* to outline the hair   

Flood the hair area, using "10-15 sec" icing*

After the hair has dried, fill in the face

{Oops, forgot to take more photos along the way(...again!)}
Once the face has dried, fill in the eyes; add the other facial details; re-outline the hair. 

* For details on royal icing consistency, see here.

And giving credit where it is most definitely due: The style of these cookies is a direct copy of Sweet Sugarbelle's Dora set.

Happy decorating!


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing

It's not that I've run out of ideas by December, it's just that I feel compelled to Chrismas-ify all my old recipes. 
So, I'll add a bit of spice here, and a few festive fruits there. And, seeing as salted caramel is just so darn delicious, I threw some of that in too, this time. 
(While I'm thinking of it: salted caramel in a pretty jar - it makes a great hostess gift!) 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 175'C
Line 2x 12-hole muffin pans with cupcake cases.


2 cups cake flour
2 tsp bicarb. of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon, or 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp mixed spice
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded carrots
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
1 can crushed pineapple, discard excess juice
(...and why not add some dates? 1/2 cup of chopped pitted dates will do). 

In a large bowl:
Sift together flour, bicarb, baking powder and spices.
Mix in sugar.
Make a well; pour in the oil, lightly beaten eggs, and vanilla.
Mix together.
Add in pineapple, carrots, coconut and nuts (...and dates!) 
Mix until smooth. 

Spoon batter into cupcake cases - about 2/3 full. 
Bake for +/- 20-25min, until a skewer comes out clean.
Take cupcakes out of the muffin pans, and allow to cool.

Salted Caramel

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup fresh cream
Sea salt crystals.

Place the sugar and water in a medium sized heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Stir over medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
Brush the side of the saucepan with a damp brush often to remove any sugar crystals clinging there.

Bring the mixture to the boil. Leave to boil on medium-high heat until it is a rich amber colour. Don't stir - just swirl the saucepan occasionally.

Once the sugar has turned amber, add the butter and stir until it has melted completely.
(The mixture will froth up dramatically!)
Remove from the heat, wait a few seconds then add the cream. The mixture will froth up again.
Mix until smooth.
Grind in the sea salt - how much depends on personal taste. 

Allow to cool.

Cinnamon and Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing:
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create 

1/3 cup + 2tbs butter, at room temp 
1/3 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g Low fat plain cream cheese - use the denser kind (Woolworths, Lancewood, Philadelphia) - chilled
1/4 cup chilled salted caramel 

Beat together  the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. 
Add the cream cheese and salted caramel. Beat on low speed until they are mixed in. 

Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. 
Garnish with chopped walnuts/ pecans if desired. 

Happy (Christmas) baking!